Fitness Quest and Crohn’s Update: July 2016

Wow! I knew I hadn’t been blogging for a while but I didn’t realize it’s been 3 months. I’ve been busy I guess but I haven’t forgotten my fitness goals and efforts. So, here’s the update for those interested:

Crohn’s – doing well. The Humira treatment seems to continue to work. I wouldn’t call what I’m experiencing full remission, but it’s close. I’ve had a few “queasy” days this summer but nothing major to keep me off work or anything. I’m due for another round of testing/scanning/probing this fall and I expect that I’ll here that my condition remains essentially unchanged from last year. Which would be the best news I could expect (the damage can’t be undone, but if further damage is prevented that’s all I need to keep avoiding surgery).

Fitness: I did pretty well again, for me, with the Rose Run 5K that I’ve been participating in. I beat my time from last year thanks in large part to the urging and support of my niece who ran with me. So this is the third straight year of doing better than the year before! My new goal is to get below a 30 minute 5K. I came in 4th in my age group with 5 behind me by the way. My official time was 41:55 and I’m several minutes faster than when I started 5 years ago. Not a huge change, but a positive one. Especially given how little I actually train for it.

I’ve been keeping up with my weight workouts with my brother-in-law. The weight is going up, my body weight is going down (usually), my waist is shrinking and my biceps are growing. Things are on track in this area.

I participated in a “22 Push Ups for 22 Days” to raise awareness of Veteran Suicide. On average, 22 vets in the USA commit suicide each day. This was a pure awareness campaign but I thought an important one. Plus, doing the push ups each day really seemed to up my feeling of well-being each day. I’m continuing to do them even though the challenge is over. I’m planning to work my way to 100 per day (in one set) by the end of the year.

Mountain Climbing: as a benefit of my increased fitness I took on the challenge of climbing the 2nd highest mountain in the contiguous USA (Mt. Elbert) when visiting Colorado this summer. Unfortunately, I only made it to 13,000 feet and was about 1,400 vertical feet short of the summit. It was a fun day nonetheless with a couple cousins who live in Colorado (they made the summit). The thin air was too much for me – or rather not enough for me. Next time, I acclimate at a higher elevation for several days. Next goal though is to fail to summit the highest point in the contiguous USA – Mt. Whitney in California.

Nutrition: as mentioned earlier, my weight has been decreasing. But, in my continuing quest to build muscle while losing fat I’ve been experimenting with my diet. My most recent experiment was to reduce my carbs significantly and increase my protein. There have been some conflicting studies on the effectiveness of this. But, I’ve known a couple people who really dropped the weight while doing this and my limited experience so far is that it does work. I’m still playing with how to add some carbs back in occasionally, since they have a place in the overall healthy diet and maintaining daily “energy,” so more on this later.

Mental Health: overall, I’m still a happy and positive person. Sure, I have my moments like everyone else, but I don’t have much to complain about. My “new” job is going well with supportive co-workers and supervisors, my friends are few but close, my family closer and my faith is strong. The only thing that threatens my well-being right now is the back and forth bickering on Facebook concerning the presidential campaign. Just a few more months…

So, overall things are good. I feel healthy, I look healthier, and I’m more active than I’ve been in a long time. Old age is still creeping up on me (I notice more daily aches and pains) but I’m putting it off as long as I can and hope you will do the same.

Onward!

 

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Fitness Quest and Crohn’s Update: April 2016

The good news is that I’ve been keeping busy since my last blog. I’ve actually completed production on two plays that I acted in (one in February and one in April), I’m feeling pretty comfortable with my “new” position at work (I’ve been in it since September so I can’t really call it new anymore I suppose), and over all my health has been good. Not great, but good.

My Crohn’s seems to be more active over the last couple months. I haven’t had much in the way of full-blown flare ups but I’ve had some significant pain on and off, digestive issues, and an overall malaise/weakness/weariness which are all signs of Crohn’s activity. Things have been mild enough that I feel the Humira is still working but something has been going on. I’m also suspicious that some of what I’m attributing to Crohn’s is actually gallbladder related as the pain is just below my right rib cage. However, the “gurgling” and assorted noises sure don’t sound like my gallbladder! On top of this I’ve been plagued with a on again/off again cough. Sometimes it’s a full blown cold, sometimes it’s nasal congestion, all the times is annoying.

In terms of my fitness efforts, well…due to the previously mentioned feeling of malaise I haven’t been working out like I should. My weightlifting has been spotty at best, I haven’t been getting in my walks regularly, and as far as running goes…I don’t. I have had an attempt or two and now that spring seems to actually be here I really need to get back on track. I’ve been averaging less than 10,000 steps per day for some time and it’s time to get that count up at the very least.

On the plus side I’m at my lowest body weight this century! I have been tracking my food and macros so I think that is really helping. I’ve noticed that I’m not getting enough protein and too many fats so I need to reverse that. Especially since the protein will help me to retain/build muscle which becomes more critical as I approach yet another birthday next month.

I have goals for the summer which includes some mountain climbing on a trip to Colorado. If weather and conditions permit I hope to finally summit Long’s Peak – one of Colorado’s 14,000 footers. I had gotten as far as the Keyhole once in the past but due to a storm was not able to push on to the peak. Fortunately, I have a cousin who is an avid climber and he’s offered to take me up when I’m out there. But, in order to make it I’ve got to be in good cardiovascular shape – especially since I’m not used to the “thin” air – and my legs have to be strong enough to tackle the 15 mile round trip (half of it uphill).

The good news is that I won’t be lugging as much fat on the mountain. Wish me luck.

Onward!

longs-peak-aug-31
Long’s Peak 
In the Boulder Field of Long's Peak
Me in the Boulder Field of Long’s Peak back in the mid-eighties
Fruits and veggies

Crohn’s Update: February 2016

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you all (or at least those who may be interested) on how my life with Crohn’s has been going. In brief: very well!

I did have a small flare-up in January which lasted two-three days, but it was mild even by my standards (no vomiting, “controllable” diarrhea, a lot of grumbling, gurgling, and gas). So, the Humira seems to still be doing the job.

I’m taking my vitamins each day (B12, Iron, Calcium, D, multi-vitamin) as per my doctor’s recommendations, and I’m trying to pay much, much closer attention to my diet. My macros are still off as I’m getting more fats than proteins but I’m getting better. I have been in touch with another fellow “Crohnie” though and he says that when he flares up he finds that the fatty, greasy food seems to go down better just like I do. I haven’t seen anything in the literature about this, so it may be imagination, but it was good to hear that someone else has the same experience I do.

Everything else is going fairly well, too. My new job (which I’ve started in September) has been enjoyable and I feel that I’m in the swing of things with a supportive supervisor, staff and colleagues (always a plus), I’m keeping up with my workouts for the most part, and I’m in a play again with a different theatre group which is turning out to be a real joy (“One Slight Hitch” by Lewis Black at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, February 12, 13, and 14 – www.toledorep.org for tickets and showtimes).

My spirits are good and I’ve found time to take some vacation time with my family (New Orleans over Winter Break and a weekend in Chicago with my brother last weekend). So I’m certain that the relative lack of stress right now has helped to keep things calm in my digestive track.

Goals for the new year are pretty much the same as always: health and happiness. Looking to lose fat, build muscle, etc. like everyone else. I do want to also spend more time with my spiritual health and get back to being more studious of the Bible and my faith. I think that this helps with my overall calmness and happiness as well. Probably very important in the coming year. Election season you know…

Onward!

 

 

Rockwell Bodybuilder

Fitness Quest: The Benefits of Becoming A Fitness Fanatic

One of the blessings of constantly searching the internet for workout ideas, plans, diets, etc. is that you run across postings by interesting and often inspiring people (we’ll ignore the dull and uninspiring for now who seem to be much, much more prevalent). One person I found is Davy Barnes, a business owner by day and an aspiring fitness model/bodybuilder pretty much the rest of the time. He posted something a few weeks ago that I think sums up why so many first picked up a weight and become addicted to it. Though I imagine this is true of runners and pretty much any other dedicated athlete I chose a bodybuilder because I like to pretend I’m one whenever I’m lifting weights. He has, of course, given me permission to share this with you.

In his words…

“I remember when I used to consume toaster strudels, Mountain Dews, Chips, energy drinks, etc. every day. I was nothing bu skin and bones and couldn’t have been healthy. I hated that and finally one day I decided that was going to change. I have worked HARD for six years. A lot of people just see the results, but don’t see the endless hours at work, in the gym or in the kitchen…I don’t think a lot of people understand. To me Bodybuilding or Fitness is not only about your physique or how you look in the mirror, although that is a great reward; it is a way of developing a connection between your body and mind! It’s a way of building a stronger character and persona!

It must not be a selfish, self-centered activity but rather a tool to build confidence and strength to go through life. It can help motivate and lift those up around you who are maybe overweight, depressed, sad and looking to change to a healthier lifestyle. Many people confuse bodybuilding with only lifting weights, drinking protein shakes, juicing [steroids], flexing in photos or for girls but I look at it as a much broader experience! For me it is a continuous process of self-betterment in and outside the gym! Because of bodybuilding I am able to be more successful at other aspects of life; I am more disciplined, organized and focused at achieving my goals. I’m not lazy and I learned the most valuable principle-hard work always pays off!

Because of bodybuilding I can reach thousands of people all around the world to deliver my message, inspire and motivate to live a fuller, healthier and exciting life, to chase after goals and dreams and most importantly, be a witness to others. Even the Bible has verses stating to take care of our bodies and to eat healthy. Besides that, with all of the unhealthy food choices and diseases now days, it motivates me to eat even more clean every day! As hard as it is, I try not to be the guy who puts down anyone who may be unhealthy or overweight because, hey, at the end of the day we are all in this together!” 

Now, Davy is very good at what he has been doing and dedicated (see the picture I’ve included for evidence of this) and he’s gaining recognition and followers on social media and from what I can see, his message has remained unchanged. I like that.

He has chosen bodybuilding as his method of relating and dealing with the world and I think that anyone who looks to improve themselves could do much worse than begin a regular program of exercise – even if you choose not to build a Mr. Olympia worthy physique, you’ll end up stronger and healthier for the effort. I think this is true of any physical pursuit whether it be weight lifting, running, yoga, or whatever. As long as you focus, are patient, and stick with it you’ll develop not only your physical toughness but your mental toughness as well (presuming you avoid drugs, etc.).  You’ll be able to endure during difficult times, set goals, push your limits and continue long after others have given up.

And these are traits that can carry you through most any other part of your life as well, personal or professional.

Onward!

Davy Barnes Progression

Starting upper left and then going clockwise, Davy Barnes in 2007 (when he first took up weights), 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Patience, perseverance, and hard work paid off for him. You can find more about him on Facebook @davybarnesbodybuilding (aka Davy Muscle) and Instagram @davyb2333

 

Christmas 2015

What a difference a year makes!

Last year at this time I had just resolved a year long “crisis of faith” started by the passing of my father on Christmas day 2014. I had recommitted myself to a new fitness regimen by simply walking more and I had been re-diagnosed with Crohn’s.  And, this blog was less than a month old. So much has happened since then…

First, and most importantly, I still have my faith. This has and continues to be sorely tested given all the horrible events that we have witnessed in 2015 both world wide and at home. But, I have an understanding that God provides us with the tools to be better human beings. It is not up to him to solve all our problems we are not his pets. We are his children and the best way sometimes for children to learn is to allow them to figure things out for themselves. I firmly believe that if we truly commit to our faith – without perverting it for our own selfish desires and the principles of faith, hope and charity – the world would be a better place, regardless of your religion.

Second, my health is pretty darn good thank you. I started Humira as my only treatment for Crohn’s and this, along with watching my diet better, has proven to be a very good move. I have not had a major flare up since starting the treatment (there have been very brief “upsets”) and my energy is better than it has been for years. I’m stronger in middle age than I was in my thirties and that’s a bit of a miracle right there!

Third, I may not have achieved all my fitness goals but I’ve clearly made progress. I’m back in the weight room and rebuilding some muscle that I lost in 2014 (the tape measure and my lifts prove it) and I now not only walk but actually run. I’m even planning on doing some mountain climbing this coming June (Long’s Peak). A feat I don’t think I could have even considered a year ago. Old age isn’t for sissies as they used to say and it isn’t for being bound to a bed or a wheel chair. Stay active, stay strong, and I’ll show those tight skinned whipper snappers that a few aches and pains aren’t going to keep me down. Heck, I don’t even miss the hair on the top of my head anymore…okay, maybe a little.

Fourthly, I’ve committed to expressing my creative side in different ways. I continue with tap dancing, I’m working on my play writing again (slowly but surely), and I find time to audition for plays that I want to act in.

Fifthly, I did have some challenges and disappointments professionally this past year. But, by staying true to my work ethic and with some good fortune I’m still happily employed. The reality is that none of us is guaranteed work in this day and age regardless of how well you do your job and sometimes you are viewed as just a number on a spreadsheet. It doesn’t help to worry about it, but be smart. Keep the resume up to date and keep sharpening your skills!

And lastly, I’m talking to more people. Which has turned out to be good for me (I don’t know how the people I’ve talked to feel about it). I made a goal to not be the wall flower anymore. This has lead me to some interesting conversations with strangers and to even adding a few new friends. And thanks to social media I’ve even reconnected with people who I thought were long in my past. The only difficult part of social media is learning to ignore the negative and argumentative people…of which there seems to be an endless supply.

So, to sum up, I’m looking forward to 2016. If it’s like the past year it will be a wild ride, but I’ll be better for it. I hope you will be better for it as well.

Onward!

 

Life Along the Recycling Center Route

So as I’m pulling out of my drive to go to work this morning I see a large box lying in my yard from Bodybuilding.com. My first thought was that perhaps it fell off a delivery truck or that maybe Santa just missed my chimney.  But no, it was empty so I’m sure it came out of the back of someone’s pickup as they headed to the recycling bins. There was also half a sleeve of raisin bagels lying nearby. Upon further inspection I also found an unopened sample size of some Cellucor pre-workout – score!

Because of this discovery I’ve learned some important lessons today (and a couple not so important):

  1. Roadkill bagels taste better than store bought bagels.
  2. Don’t mix pre-workout with Diet Coke.
  3. If you do mix pre-workout with Diet Coke it turns out that you can type up to 150 words per minute (my keyboard is starting to melt).
  4. Based on the size of the box someone in my town is trying to get jacked up to Hulk like proportions. Let’s hope he, or she, has only good intentions for their new found strength.
  5. If you are going to the recycle center you should really make sure that all your boxes are properly secured in the back of your pick up. At least I hope the box wasn’t just tossed out the window…

Okay, so maybe I really didn’t eat the bagels or take the pre-workout. However, I’ve been toying with the idea of adding back some protein supplement into my diet and maybe trying a pre-workout again. So I’ll take today’s finding as a sign from the universe. I happen to have some sample packs that I have never used and should still be good (I’ll check the expiration dates first of course). I’ve never been a big fan of supplements but think that they do have their place. In the past pre-workouts have left me a little too jittery so I’ll be trying things slowly. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

By the way, a quick update on my Crohn’s – everything is still going well with the Humira. I’ve had some mild digestive “upset” here and there, but nothing that could not also be from normal indigestion/heart burn. I’m getting stronger from my workouts and except for the usual aches and pains of middle age feeling pretty darn good.

Onward!

P.S. – Please don’t eat bagels found along side the road!

 

Talking to Strangers

As children we were all told by our parents or guardians “don’t talk to strangers.” This warning was practical advice for children, because there is danger out there for all of us and a particular evil that preys on the young. However, this warning – right or wrong – also goes against our natural human curiosity and trains us to become more guarded in the information we share. Again, this may all be well and good, but as adults I think that we need to be re-trained to do the opposite. To reach out and on occasion at least, talk to strangers.

I consider myself an introvert. Those who know me may find it hard to believe, and probably think I never shut up, but I find it difficult to strike up a conversation with people I know well and nearly terrifying to speak to someone I haven’t met. If they approach me I don’t have much of a problem (though I’ve been told I can come off as cold and aloof). But to start the conversation…well, let’s say that there are many a times when I pull the tactic of just hanging back and waiting for someone else to notice me in both social and professional situations. Like most wallflowers, taking the risk of making a new connection is a learned and forced behavior.

However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that I need to talk more to strangers. We live in an ever increasingly complex world and to navigate this world we need to be able to draw upon a wider range of knowledge and experiences both professionally and personally. Google is great, but it doesn’t replace the first hand experiences of someone who has lived through something.

So, I’ve started ignoring my mother’s advice and am trying to talk to at least one “stranger” each day. This may be as simple as a quick “hello” to someone in passing and with the holidays on us I can certainly greet more folks with best wishes for the season. Sometimes, it’s more involved, like noticing an interesting article of clothing or someone doing an activity and making a comment on it and striking up a conversation. Sometimes the conversation is brief and you never see that person again. However, sometimes you “hit it off” and find yourself with a new friend. More often than not, I’ve discovered that the results are somewhere in between.

For example, recently while traveling I noticed a young man at the airport with an athletic bag and a college sports team. I approached him and asked if he played for that team and this began a conversation as we walked through the airport and I learned about his business, which happened to be in a field I’m interested in but outside of my usual work. We exchanged names and a quick Google search later (surprisingly easy to do and not at all stalker-like…) and an invite on LinkedIn and I have a new connection. Will be lifelong friends and best buddies hanging out at the mall after work? Not likely, but I have no doubt we’ll stay in touch and who knows? The old me would have just walked on without taking the chance. But because I reached out, maybe we’ll one day share information that will benefit one or both of us in some way.

And speaking of Google and LinkedIn, what a marvelous world we live in with the advantage of social media. I know that social media has taken a beating in the news and among some circles as an outlet for bullying, pornography, etc. However, used properly it’s power for sharing and making connections cannot be denied and for those of us who are inherently shy it is a “safe” way of making and maintaining contacts we would otherwise never have.

Don’t get me wrong. There is no – I repeat, no – substitute for good old fashioned face to face human contact. We need to meet other people, be friends with other people, love other people, to thrive as humans. Even our rivals and enemies have the potential to make us better. But for those who find it difficult to talk in person and/or are shut in, social media provides at least the semblance of human interaction. Thanks to social media I now have friends, followers, connections, etc. with people I never otherwise would have any contact with. I communicate regularly with people throughout the USA, Canada and much of Europe. Our bond may be as simple as we all have the same disease (Crohn’s), are interested in the same things, or maybe met once in an airport, hotel, amusement park, or hiking in the woods (all places I’ve met people who are now friends).

My point is that, as we say in NACAS, make “connections that count.” Why don’t you go out and make a couple new ones today.

Onward!

 

 

 

A Year of Blogging

WordPress has told me that I’ve now been posting this blog for a year (since November 19, 2015). So I thought maybe I should reflect just a little on what’s been going on with the blog.

First and foremost, I enjoy keeping the blog. For me it is a little bit of a journal of my life and a way to occasionally vent and/or muse about things. I started out focusing only on my fitness journey but soon changed things up to cover a wide variety of topics including my life with Crohn’s disease, comic books, leadership and management, and whatever else strikes my fancy at the moment.

Here are a few stats I find interesting:

I’ve made 68 posts so far.  33 in 2014, 28 in 2015 and the rest are dated 2013 or earlier and were imported from another site.

Over 1,000 visitors (I’m sure many are repeat) have been to the site and looked at things 1,680 times.

The most views on one day occurred on December 2, 2014 with 49. The blog entry was “Peter K. Vaughn – Profile in Crohn’s Courage” from the day before.

The most popular time to read my blog is on Sundays at midnight.

I have 35 regular followers (thank you).

I’m read from all over the world now (sort of). With most views coming from the USA.  Followed by Italy (where I have a friend), then Ireland (another friend), Italy (yep, I know a guy there too), Germany, the UK, Russia, India, Switzerland, Portugal, Singapore, Pakistan, France, Croatia, Denmark, Bangladesh, Australia, Netherlands, Greece and Argentina.

In 2014 the top 5 blogs where:  “Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – a New Wrinkle (115 views),” “Peter K. Vaughn – Profile in Crohn’s Courage (58),” “Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – Step One Completed (45),” “The Day After…Thanksgiving (39),” and “A Day in the Life of a Crohn’s Flare Up (39).”

So far in 2015 they are: “A Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes (56),” “Early Inspirations (43),” “Crohn’s Update: Humira (31),” “January 25, 2015 Update (30),” and “When is an Arm Considered Big? (23).”

Overall Top 5 Posts:

Peter K. Vaughn – Profile in Courage (59 tie)
Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – A New Wrinkle (59 tie)
A Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes (56)
Reflections on A Visit With a Doctor (47)
Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – Step One Completed (45)

Not surprisingly, most of the most read posts have been in regards to my Crohn’s disease. Not the direction that I had intended for this blog, but it seems to be the one that people are interested in.  After Crohn’s fitness/bodybuilding has the most reads, social issues, and then coming in last my thoughts on management and leadership. To be fair, all the stats are not kept in WordPress as my blog is cross posted to other social media sites. So, for example, my posts on management do much better over on LinkedIn than on the site here.

So, as interesting as this all is what will I do? I’ll keep posting things as I like and hope some folks have enough interest to follow along and even comment on occasion. Watch for more about Crohn’s and fitness and I’ll be talking more about roller coasters and my play writing pretty soon.

If you’d like to see me post on a particular topic just let me know. Chances are I’ll be glad to share my thoughts and opinions (of which I have many).

Onward!