Fitness Quest: Total Eclipse by My Heart, Part 2

I cried.

While waiting for my brother-in-law to come pick me up and take me to the Emergency Room I just lost it. Why was this happening? Why couldn’t I cope with this? What have I done with my life? Is this really it? Is it over? Just a few of the many thoughts flying through my mind as I tried to digest the news I had gotten earlier in the week. My heart was damaged.

I had suffered a heart attack. I thought I was having another one now.

Now, interestingly enough, this wasn’t news to me. As I blogged earlier (Total Eclipse By My Heart) I knew that I had apparently suffered a heart attack some time in the past. The echo cardiogram had indicated reduced heart function. I had learned this more than a month earlier and seemed to be handling the news well. But, earlier in the week I had an appointment with a cardiologist. She recommended a heart catheterization to investigate further (for those who don’t know, this is a procedure where they actually insert a “tube” into your heart to find out what’s going on. I’ll spare the details, but there’s more info here). The test was less than a week away. But for some reason the news was really hitting home now.

As often happens with people in my situation, I became hyper aware of every little twitch, pulse, pang, twinge, tightness, tingle, etc. of my body and my chest in particular. And trust me, for a middle age man in his late fifties – there are a lot of them. Finally the feelings – some brought on by my medication – became too much and I thought my heart was failing. Add a feeling of impending doom (another warning sign of a heart attack by the way) and I just lost it. I called family who immediately rushed to respond (thank you) and then just blubbered like a baby. Something I hadn’t done since my father passed away four years ago. I miss my dad dearly, but I’m not anxious to see him again if you know what I mean.

Fast forward several hours to the University of Michigan Emergency room and I’m lying there talking with a wonderful head resident – who’s name I wish I had taken note of – and she’s advising me that there appears to be no immediate issue with my heart. In fact, if they didn’t know about my earlier diagnoses they would have thought I was in very good health, but that sounded like it has been a life changing event and maybe I needed to find someone to talk to about it.

She was right of course.

This news was, and still is, life changing. One week I’m hiking through the mountains of Colorado, hanging out with Olympians (more on that story here), feeling like a teenager who just discovered the gym, a little sore but full of energy, on most days, and enjoying a relatively active lifestyle. The next, I’m lying in an emergency room surrounded by people who are literally dying and thinking that I might be one of them.

One day I see myself as a strong, healthy “old man” who can bench more than most twenty somethings. The next day I see myself as a feeble old man who’s days are numbered and has one foot in the grave. I moved mentally from someone who was eager to tackle the next challenge and change the world to being someone afraid that there was no more to offer. No more opportunity, no more chances, it was time to sit down and wait for the end.

These emotions, thoughts and feelings are not unusual. According to the American Heart Association it takes anywhere from 2 to 6 months for a person who has experienced a “hard cardiac event” to come to grips with what has happened. My mood improves each day – occasional panic attacks aside. I’m sleeping through the nights now. But, I’m still “hyper aware” of each little pang and twinge.

And aware that my life has, and has to, change.

  • Diet – which I have always been trying to improve – is not literally a matter of life and death for me. And I still have trouble sticking to it! Do you know how much sodium is in like everything?
  • Roller coasters – a passion for me – are now something I probably should avoid (sadly, at first my cardiologist thought they’d be okay. But on re-thinking and researching a little more she decided that I probably shouldn’t open myself up to “potential exposure” of a different type of cardiac event).
  • Probably should find a travel buddy for long hikes in the woods. Which, to be fair, is always a good idea anyway.
  • No more heavy weight lifting. In or out of the gym.
  • And, I’m undergoing more tests. Do I really have asthma as one doctor once thought? I’m a heavy snorer (so I’ve been told), better check for sleep apnea. Maybe my Crohn’s treatment is part of the issue. Time to re-evaluate my medication.

But, I do have a new perspective on life. At some time or another we all must come face to face with our mortality. Once we do we have two choices: 1) give up and wait for the end or 2) embrace each day as a gift and work to make the world a better place than we found it. I’m choosing option 2.

Filters are off – or at least subdued – no more polite agreement on political and moral issues. I don’t need to be rude, but I’ll stand my ground more. I’ll smile more, I’ll say hello more, I’ll…well, you get the idea.

Stay tuned. My story isn’t over just quite yet.

Onward!

Wally-Bicep Still Got It

 

 

 

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Fitness Quest: Goals for 2018

In the time honored tradition of setting resolutions (aka goals) for the New Year, I’ve reviewed my fitness goals from 2017 and made some adjustments for the new knowledge regarding my heart health (see my earlier post here regarding details if you’re curious). In the interest of keeping myself accountable, here they are:

1. Fast food no more than once a week. Obviously heart health is now, and probably should always have been, my number one concern. Crohn’s is second. Mediterranean is my mantra for the year and means less reliance on “convenience” and more self sufficient eating and disciplined meal prep. Both of my major health conditions – and probably others I’m not fully aware of – will benefit by putting an emphasis on vegetables and fish in my diet. I’ve already started to make the adjustments and am actually looking forward to a more varied diet. 
2. Increase cardio. Back to 10,000 steps everyday – minimum. Even if it means walking around the living room at night. I know that 10,000 is just a number, but it is a sign that I’m moving through the day. Pending approval from my cardiologist, I’ll be spending more time on treadmills and bikes this winter and still looking forward to running the occasional 5K.
3. Goal bodyfat percentage of 15%. I can’t sugar coat it. I’m fat and not getting thinner. It doesn’t matter how much muscle I have if it’s hampered by just carrying my own extra bulk. 15% seems to be a good ideal for a man in his late fifties. I may never actually see my abs, but I plan to at least feel them!
4. Keep strength up – 250 for 10 reps on bench. Again, pending my cardiologists approval as it’s possible that heavy lifting might be off the table for me. Of course, if I’m strong enough 250 won’t seem like heavy lifting, will it?
5. Put size back on the bis. Hey, I have to have at least on vanity goal, right? With the lower bodyfat my historic goal of 18 inches may not be possible (maybe with a pump). But if I don’t lose size my arms might at least look like 18 inchers if they’re lean enough. 

These are written down and in my wallet as a reminder to me everyday.

I hope you all have a happy, healthy, and productive 2018.

Onward!

2018 Goals

Fitness Quest: September 2017

A busy month for me as it turns out that was pretty good all in all despite getting back some iffy blood tests from my doctor on Monday. Nothing terribly serious, but we’ve got a couple things to watch regarding my liver enzymes as they spiked which is an indication of liver damage which is one of the side effects from my medication. So far no word on an ultra-sound to check things out, so I’ll follow-up. The numbers aren’t very high above the normal range. Everything else was pretty good though except for my iron and vitamin D levels. So back to the supplements. Ugh.

Crohn’s Update: In addition to the above, I’m actually feeling pretty good these days. I have energy it seems – which may be in part to the iron, vitamin B and other supplements. But I’m not complaining. Still not “normal” by most people’s standards, especially in the bathroom if you get my drift, but pretty darn close I think (i.e. no accidents or emergencies in a long time). Met with my new gastroenterologist and like her a lot. Very good doctor/patient rapport and she did her homework on my case before coming seeing me!

Workouts: I got all my weight workouts in despite a tough rehearsal schedule for the show I’m in (It Came from Mars at the Toledo Rep). This included two on Thursday, one before rehearsal in the gym (shoulders and back) and one after rehearsal with my brother-in-law (chest). In the past week I’ve been feeling particularly good. I’m waking up better in the morning and getting my daily push-ups (up to 30 per set) and concentration curls (gotta build that biceps peak) each morning.

Results are coming with my weight training, though slower than I’d like (naturally). My arms – the left one at least – are back over 16 inches cold and I think look a lot better (more defined – they are also harder it seems). Probably more importantly, I’m getting more reps in per set with my bench and increasing weight in other lifts. Not at my strongest yet, but not bad for an old man (8 reps at 225 for three sets currently). The goal is still 25 continuous reps at 225. Getting there slowly – thought my brother-in-law and training partner is getting stronger by the workout lately. 

Speaking of who, he unintentionally provided some big motivation this week. During our Sunday workout it was pretty obvious that he had his “swole” on – as in his short sleeve shirt was stretched to its max. Turns out he’s gone through a recent growth spurt sometime in the last three months, if not in the last couple weeks, especially in his arms and chest.  He now leads our “arms race” by a little more than an inch and is still growing. It’s a mystery to me why after several months of essentially the same workout he grew, though I’ve read somewhere that muscle growth occurs in spurts and isn’t a straight line gain kind of thing. He thinks it’s just from being consistent which is true as we’ve rarely missed a workout in the past year or so, I think maybe he adjusted his diet somehow or perhaps unbeknownst to us he was “belted by gamma rays*” though he isn’t turning green. However, instead of being jealous (okay, maybe a little) as I may have been when we were younger, I’m finding myself motivated to hit it harder in the gym and other workouts to catch up. Or at the very least, not fall farther behind. So even though we shouldn’t judge or compare ourselves to others, a little competition between friends is a great motivator it seems.

 

Cardio: thanks to my sister, I’m really stepping up my step game (pun intended). She’s been pushing a weekly “workweek hustle” on Fitbit and gotten several others to join in. I used to think I walked a lot during the day but now, whew! I’m also working harder to keep up with her.jacobsladder-3-full

Discovered a new cardio device at the College gym called “Jacob’s Ladder” (here’s their website – I’m not reimbursed for this endorsement btw) If you haven’t used one of the things and have the opportunity to do so – DO IT! One of the toughest cardio workouts I’ve ever had and it also works the arms and legs at the same time.

 

Nutrition: I met my protein goals most days this week, thanks to Muscle Milk and protein bars (again, not an endorsement – research all supplements before using). I’m surprised at how difficult this is. Especially without increasing fats, which unfortunately, I have not mastered. However, I have cut down on my carbs including simple sugars considerably. Turns out you can live quite well without french fries. Who knew?

Other Cool Things this Month: got an unexpected and random compliment on my triceps; had a pleasant conversation with a cashier about Fitbits – the young ladies really like the leather band it seems 😉; and had another good conversation about working out in general late in the week with another friend. 

All in all a surprisingly motivating week.

Onward!

*obscure reference to lyrics from a Marvel cartoon show in the 1960s. Bonus points if you know which one and just saying “Hulk” doesn’t count.

More bonus points if you know where the featured image is from.

 

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!

 

Rockwell Bodybuilder

Fitness Quest Update

Well, my quest for fitness is still ongoing – as I suppose it should be for the rest of my life when I think about it – and the good news is that I’m starting to notice some progress. I’ve entered into a pact of sorts with my sister and niece and we are all working on the Couch 2 5K program. Not doing it strictly by the book but I’m surprising myself each week that I’m going a little farther and faster each time. In addition I’m also walking during lunch at work and am up to 2 miles. The heat makes it a little difficult as I do get a little sweaty now so I’m taking a fresh shirt with me to use while walking so I don’t make the rest of the office suffer from my presence when I get back. Again, I’m seeing progress in my speed and distance.

Not seeing much progress on the weight loss though which is frustrating as according to MyFitnessPal I’m staying under my calorie goals each day, plus all the extra cardio. However, I’ve noticed that my “macros” are still off and I’m not getting enough protein and worse still I seem to be substituting the protein with fat. I’m going to have to do a better job on my meal prep I think, especially for dinner.

I’m also a little surprised at the number of fitness apps I’m using now: MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, MapMyWalk, and my Jawbone UP2. Plus, I’ve put together a small group of like minded Facebook friends (which I really appreciate and enjoy), have a fitness board or two on Pinterest and still check out Bodybuilding.com on occasion. I think I have actually crossed the line from dabbling in fitness to starting to live a fitter lifestyle. Now if I could only get the biceps to grow again. I mean, a low heart rate is great and all, but you can’t flex your heart (or at least you shouldn’t)!

I wonder if it’s too late in life to have abs?

Onward!

P.S. the Humira seems to still be doing the trick for my Crohn’s. I’ve only had one significant flare up in the past couple months. It lasted for a while but was never to the point that I was incapacitated more than one morning.

Fitness and Crohn’s or No Crohn’s Update

Well, after another week of staying within my calorie goals, increased cardio, exceeding my daily steps, and the weight room what’s my reward? I’ve gained 4 pounds…

However, my waist is slightly smaller (half inch), I’ve lost some size on my chest, which I presume is fat loss, and my arms are a tad bigger plus my bodyfat is down 3% and though not at an all time low I’m almost there. Hurrah!

In the gym my lifts are increasing and I’m feeling stronger each week – not quite back to my old form but making progress. Feeling pretty good the day after my workouts as well and actually felt pumped after my last workout this week (how I’ve missed that feeling).

By the way, since I started to not trust my usual scale I’ve moved to what I’m calling  “Dave’s Three Scale Method” (trademarked!). This consists of weighing myself on my usual Tanita electronic scale, and older model Tanita scale and a “regular” bathroom scale ($7.99 at major discount retailers).

On both the electronic scales my bodyfat is down (good). On the older electronic scale and the “regular” scale my weight is down as well – though the “regular” scale still shows me as 10 pounds lighter than my usual scale. I used the scale at my gym this week once as well – a supposedly more accurate “balance” scale. That one is broken as according to that I’m wasting away at an alarming rate and am well below 200 pounds close to my “skinny” high school weight (no way true).

In continued Crohn’s news, after 30 years of believing I had Crohn’s my belief has been confirmed. I have Crohn’s. My doctor has recommended that I now start taking Humira because though, according to him, my symptoms don’t really suggest it the colonoscopies show that my Crohn’s is not mild as I’ve thought. It’s actual more moderate to severe based on the damage already done. So, in an effort to continue and avoid surgery he thinks we need to get me into a full remission (or as close as possible). I’ll know more on this next week after I meet with him.

The adventure continues – onward!

Reflections on a Visit With a Doctor

I recently started seeing a couple of new doctors (general and a gastro) and I just want to know one thing,when did they start letting teenagers practice medicine? Yeah, I’m officially getting old everyone looks like a kid to me these days…but despite his obvious youth I have to admit I liked both of them (her and him) and am willing to trust them with my overall health care. I especially liked that the first doctor wasn’t sure how to maintain my health with my disorder (Crohn’s) and sent me to someone else who knew more (the gastroenterologist).

Anyway, things went well, and there were no real surprises. Still some of the same old concerns (Crohn’s – which is being rechecked again, overweight, a touch of asthma and now a patch of eczema to add to the ever growing list). Then we started talking about my workout routine – or lack of it. Here’s where the doctor asked me a question that I don’t think a health care professional had ever asked me before: what exercise do you like to do?

Believe it or not, I don’t think I ever really thought about exercise in terms of liking it or not but mostly as a means to an end. Want bigger biceps? Lift. Want lower bodyfat? Run.

So what exercise do I like to do? I’m still thinking about it. On on hand I do like lifting – especially when I’m making progress. There’s a certain thrill from watching the weight on the bar go up, pushing myself against a previously immovable object and then moving it. You know what I’m talking about I’m sure. Plus, you know, the bulging biceps.

Running…eh. Never liked that. But I used to enjoy bicycling (unless it’s on an exercise bike). Then I kind of run out of exercise options. Sure there are the sports, but I don’t really like basketball and most everything else takes some sort of organized team (not too many guys playing games of pick-up rugby/soccer/hockey you name it in my neighborhood). Rowing/canoeing/kayaking I like but you need a river/lake…golf gets expensive…softball is seasonal.  I would like to swim more but don’t have good access to a pool.

I’m in a quandry. What else can I try? I do agree with my doctor when he said “if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it.”

So here’s my question for all of you – other than weightlifting/bodybuilding what do you enjoy doing? I’m looking for ideas!