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!

 

Advertisements
Rockwell Bodybuilder

Fitness Quest: Weight Loss, Running, Weights, and Crohn’s

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new blog so I figured at the very least I should update everyone on my continuing quest for greater fitness as I move through middle age (better than the alternative, right?).

The good news is that there is no news. My Crohn’s has been pretty calm since I’ve started taking Humira several months ago. Sure, I have a grumble here a little constipation and/or diarrhea there but no days long bouts of intense pain and lack of energy and overall “pushing” just to get started for and through the day. I have a CT Scan on Monday and hopefully it will show that there has been no significant progress of the disease putting off the day I’ll need surgery for a little longer.

On a tangent – I attended an IBD Patient Update hosted by the University of Michigan IBD team and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America with participants from Henry Ford Hospitals and Baylor University. A lot of good information from this session. I finally learned that my medicine may costs about $40,000 a year for those who don’t have insurance (yikes!). No cure is on the horizon but several potentially game changing treatments are in clinical trials. It also reaffirmed that given what could have been that I’ve been very, very fortunate with my Crohn’s. It turns out that 44% of patients with Crohn’s have required surgery by 9 years after diagnoses. Me, I’ve gone about 30 so far. Surgery, if it goes well, often does provide relief. But too often it is temporary and then there are a host of potential complications. Most that I don’t even want to think about but may discuss later.

I haven’t been running lately, trying to rest my shins and recondition them before running again. The pain was getting pretty bad. However, I am keeping up with my walking and watching my diet. I need to move from just counting calories to better tracking my “macros” though. I think if I up my nutrition that I’ll make better gains in the weight room and with fat loss.

Speaking of the weight room, it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve started lifting again regularly. I was pretty sore after the first couple workouts but I’m doing better and my lifts are getting heavier. I’m also working out about once a week with my brother-in-law again and he helps to push me simply by staying ahead of me in his bench press. Though this should not stop you from trying. Friendly competition never hurts as long as you don’t get hung up on the fact that some people will always be better than you at something. In fact, I’m still “competing” with a couple friends to see who can do better over the course of time in terms of fitness goals. Celebrate other peoples success and you’ll be happier in the long run (trust me).

So, overall, I’m down in weight about 15 pounds since this time last year. I’m stronger, faster, and feeling pretty good overall. Not where I want to be, who is after all, but getting a little closer each day.

Onward!

Fruits and veggies

Road to Skinniness: The Road Less Traveled

It should not come as a shock to anyone who’s ever known or paid attention to me (or has read this blog) that I’ve had a long time interest in health, fitness, bodybuilding, etc. This interest goes back quite a ways to my first flirtations with the gym and working out in high school, through a more serious attempt during college, up to the current day. Yet, during all this time, even when I was at my strongest and curling more than 100 pounds and benching almost 1.5 times my body weight (when I weighed close to 240) I don’t think there was ever a time you would have called me muscular. Sure, I had big arms and a big chest but I also had (have?) a big butt and big gut to go along with them. In my quest for size and strength I only gave lip service to fat loss. So even though I could bench more than 300 pounds (which is why I’m glad I write down my workouts – it’s hard to believe that I was once capable of this) I couldn’t run around the block without the risk of heart attack. Though my arms taped at just over 17.5 inches in circumference when flexed (4.5 inches more than the “average” man’s) my biceps lacked peak – though my tris were pretty well defined – in short, I was big but not built. I wanted to look like a bodybuilder but I looked more like a Bluto (from the Popeye comic strip).

Over the years I’ve tried a variety of workouts with varying consistency. I always blamed my lack of consistency, genetics and even my Crohn’s for my lack of progress. Well, people with Crohn’s much worse than mine have made better progress (see my earlier blogs on Peter K. Vaughn and Peter Nielsen for examples) and I know men who have made dramatic changes in their physiques in the course of a few months.

Well, today in the grocery store I finally had a revelation. My problem has been in front of my for all these years. Why do I not look the way I want? Because I eat the way I want!

I’ve been told this over the decades by at least two personal trainers (maybe three), a nutritionist, friends, family and God only knows how many books on exercise, weightlifting, diet, and nutrition.

So, what am I going to do about this? Well, I’ve already started.

Now that I have my caloric intake under control I need to improve the quality of what goes into my mouth. I loaded up on fresh (or as fresh as we get now days) veggies and fruits. I avoided the sugary treats, and I have enough to last the week. I chose Greek yogurt over regular because it has fewer calories and more protein (need some dairy after all). Tomorrow I plan my meals out so that I’m not caught in a situation where I “have” to go through the drive-thru and I’m taking another look at my supplement plan. Currently, I’m not taking anything except iron and calcium that my doctor prescribed. I’m thinking of adding back in a multi-vitamin and fish oil. Possibly some glucosamine as well for joint health.

I currently feel  better than I have in years so I’m determined not to squander this feeling. I may never lift 350 pounds again (or maybe I will, who knows) but I bet I still have time to see my abs. At least two of them…

Onward!

Body Illusions

I’ve always had a problem, unrelated to my Crohn’s and other health related issues, in that I tend to measure my successes against other people. I suppose we all do this to some degree, but it can really be a problem/bother when working on physical changes. Not so much with weight loss, I don’t really get worried if someone else loses weight faster than I do (even when competing with them a la “Biggest Loser”). But with things less under my control. Like “why don’t my biceps look like that guy’s” or “why can’t I bench as much as him?” and other things like that.

For example: there’s this guy I know who from my earliest memories of meeting him gave me a big case of bicep envy. Of course, over time memory does embellish things, but back in college on the rare occasions I would see him flex I remember being struck by how high and peaked his biceps were – to the point that you could even see the split in the peak. His arms weren’t especially large at the time, about 16 inches or so, but to an even skinnier me they seemed huge. Over the years I worked on my biceps until eventually my arms were just as large as his were back then. But, to my surprise, my arms didn’t look like his at all. I knew that I had muscle as I had gained strength and my arms were hard to the touch, but instead of high “peaks” my biceps retained a flatter “football” shape. Back to the weight room…

Some time later we began to work out together. Doing a heavy bench routine that we both responded well to – though to be fair he responded much better to than I did. By this time however, though I was still envious of his gains (his arms swelled from about 16 inches to well over 18 inches in just a few months – mine from just under 16 to about 17) I was also truly happy for him and his gains (though he never really gave the impression of caring about gains in size the way I did/do). But I noticed something else. Once again, my arms never got the peak I so desired but the peak that he had in his youth was not nearly as evident either. When he flexed I could see that his biceps were still decidedly more peaked than mine, just not as much as before. What happened? Science tells us that you can’t change the shape of the muscle, so why weren’t his now much larger arms (and solid) more dramatic as they were before? That’s when it occurred to me. It’s an illusion.

What caused his arm growth wasn’t this time so much a change in his biceps but instead that his triceps grew to match. As a result, the biceps did not stand out as much because they were balanced by the larger muscle underneath. This is part of my issue as well since my triceps actually to a degree overshadowed my biceps (something my friend had to point out to me).

These body illusions occur in other ways, too. I know another young man who when you meet him you realize that he is fit. You know, wide shoulders and thin waist, the classic “V” shape. But he’s not very large so fully dressed you don’t think of him as being overly muscular. It wasn’t until he posted a “selfie” on Instagram one day (which apparently is a thing you are supposed to do nowadays) that I realized he was very muscular – complete with six pack – and looked huge. I know he’s not “huge” but a lack of body fat actually adds to the illusion of size when there isn’t anything else for a point of reference (like another person).

I once play Lenny in “Of Mice and Men” and if you’ve read the book you know that Lenny was a big hulking brute of a man. I’m not so much of a hulk. I was going to be aided in creating the stage illusion of size by wearing some thick books (I was already the tallest in the cast except for one guy), but I went to a personal trainer friend of mine and asked what do I do to add size quickly? He suggested just focusing on the back and shoulders as those muscles will give the greatest illusion of size.

Where am I going with all this? I’m not sure. The big lesson is don’t compare yourself to others. That way leads to disappointment especially when you don’t understand that some of what you admire or envy in another person is an illusion.  Instead compare yourself with yourself with your training and fitness goals as there are fewer illusions involved (except for the self-deception many of us have when looking in a mirror – but that’s another topic).

Also, I’ve been talking about physical illusions. There are other illusions too. For example: like many Crohn’s sufferers, I try to give the illusion that I’m not in some sort of pain or discomfort every day. I have a feeling that this is true of many other people with other conditions physical and mental. So maybe when approaching someone else we all should keep in mind that the person we see on the outside is just an illusion. We can’t know what’s going on inside – they may be in just as much pain as we are and perhaps should be treated as such.

Onward!

How Much Can the Average Man Bench?

Somewhere recently I was either blogging or telling someone that at one time I was actually able to bench press 350 pounds (1 rep only, never tried again, and I need to find some documentation on this – you know how memory plays tricks I know I was at 315 once for sure).  Which got me to wondering what can the average guy press? Not important in the everyday world but I’ll bet that if you talk to someone who’s obviously muscular sooner or later you’re going to ask “what can you bench?” More than any other exercise or activity it’s the universal measure of strength in most people’s minds.

The truth, as best as I can figure from my research, is actually somewhat surprising for me. When asking “how much can the average man bench” the short answer turns out to be no one really knows because the average man doesn’t do bench presses! This is hard to believe on Monday’s at the gym of course when it seems that every guy in town is waiting for a bench, but I’m sure it’s true. So, from the few studies that have been done I’ve found that among those men who do bench press the stats look something like this:

Pounds the average 175-pound man (aka : average weight, average height is 5’9 1/2) can bench press at one time:

Age: 20-29 – 180 lbs

Age: 30-39  – 158 lbs

Age: 40-49 – 143 lbs

Age: 50-59  – 128 lbs

Age: 60-69 – 116 lbs

Note: taking an average from this gives the result that the average male, ages between 20 and 69 can bench press 145 lbs.

So, from the above I was way above average ranges, not only for my age group but for all age groups! Of course I’m above average height (in North America at least) and well above average weight as well. But, even at my heaviest weight, the fact that I could bench press more than I weigh (by about 70 pounds – you can do the math) also puts me well above the average man who cannot bench his own bodyweight. Of course, at least one article I read said that to be considered strong a man should be able to bench 1.5 times his body weight. In my case that means that currently I’d need to get my bench up to 340 pounds in which case I should just go for my old max of 350 lbs. Or, I suppose, better yet, get my weight down to 200 lbs and then I only need to get back to a 300 lb max! Since I’m several years older option two may be the most reasonable.  But I know that even in my current out of shape condition I’m still above the norm of any age group – not bad for a geezer!

Sounds like a new goal for me. Onward!