Fitness Quest and Crohn’s Update: July 2017

It’s been far too long since my last blog in February when I discovered that I was suffering from DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). The good news is that this issue seems to have cleared up completely – at least that’s the news I expect at my check up next month. My afflicted leg is no longer swollen beyond recognition and doesn’t ache more than the other one. Well, except for a tightness with my “IT Band” (Iliotibial band) which runs from the hip to the shin. This seems to coincide with a flare up of my plantar fasciitis (foot pain) in the other leg so I’ve put my orthotic inserts and bought new shoes. This, along with taking a break from extended walking/running, seems to be helping.

Speaking of running, I once again participated in The Rose Run in Petersburg, MI (my hometown) a 5K to support cancer research – which is also held in Los Angeles in October as well! Anyway, I set the goal of beating my time from last year and I did it! Only by a few seconds, but I was faster than last year. Remarkable because I made many mistakes including:  1) I didn’t train properly or at all and 2) I probably shouldn’t have run given the above mentioned injuries. But, I did it with the encouragement of my niece, who ran with me, and sheer stubbornness.

In Crohn’s news, I have moved to weekly injections of Humira. My doctor felt that my disease was progressing still with the DVT being a symptom of that and that we needed to up the dosage. I think it’s working and have had only one significant flare up since going to the new weekly regimen. Though I keep calling my case “moderate” my gastroenteroligist says I actually have quite a bit of damage regardless of how I feel about it. I think he’s always suprised that I seem to be able to maintain and even gain weight. Again, stubbornness I suppose.

In other news:

Nutrition: Still experimenting with macros and seem to have finally figured out what works best for me as I’ve been losing weight consistently for a few weeks now. Lower carbs, higher protein are working now. Still getting too many fats according to my tracking through MyFitnessPal but I’ll get there. If I can keep avoiding the drive-thru I can better control this.

Workouts: These have been going okay, nothing spectacular. Still kind of looking for the next challenge. I’ve done planking, push-ups, an “arms race” where I competed against a few other guys to see who could put the most size on their arms in a set amount of time (it wasn’t me), my 5Ks, and wall sitting. What’s next? I’ll let you know.

Attitude: Overall, still positive. I do find myself reminding myself of all my blessings more these days – probably middle-age malaise or my general disgust with the state of politics in the USA these days (no politics, stay calm…must control blood pressure).

Onward!

Advertisements
Rockwell Bodybuilder

Fitness Quest: A New Wrinkle and Warning

Those of you who have read my other blog posts know that I have a digestive disorder called Crohn’s. Though my case is well controlled and I’m responding very well to my current treatment (Humira) I’m always at risk of other complications. Well, one of those complications occurred this week and it wasn’t even one I was aware of: Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

DVT is a potentially serious and life threatening condition where, in the simplest terms, a blood clot forms in a vein (usually the leg) and blocks the blood flow. The result is pain and swelling of the limb – yes it hurts. In about 1 in 9 cases, if I’m reading the stats right, the clot will dislocate and move to the lung causing a blockage in the lungs (a pulmonary embolism or PE) and resulting in death. Scary stuff!  And it turns out that having an inflammatory bowel disease – like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis – is a risk factor. Other risk factors are sitting still in one position too long (as in on a jet), a hereditary blood disorder known as “Factor V” which causes blood clots, injury, and others.

The good news is that we caught mine early, I’m on treatment (blood thinners) and there’s a good chance that I’ll get over this without any ill effects whatsoever (there’s also a chance I’ll have post thrombotic syndrome, aka PST, a couple years down the road, but I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it). Only time will tell and it may be as long as 6 months before I’m completely out of the woods.

There’s a lot of information on DVT on the web. Sites I used to gather my information and stats are:

Mayo Clinic
Cleveland Clinic
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
American Society of Hematology

I urge you to check out the facts for yourself and watch for the warning signs. If you have a leg cramp or strain in your leg that won’t go away, notice swelling, get checked soon. I thought my leg pain was just from lifting a heavy object the wrong way and waited almost a week before deciding that something was wrong. If I had been aware of the warning signs I could have started treatment that much earlier (that’s the warning).

In other personal fitness news:

Workouts: mine have been pretty blah since the New Year. Most people get geared up and motivated but for some reason I didn’t. I’m back on track with my weight training again – only upper body for now due to the DVT (and with my doctor’s permission). However walking and running is out of the question until the swelling and pain in my leg start to subside. I did get some good hiking in on a recent trip to Las Vegas and Death Valley recently though before the DVT hit.

Fitness and Nutrition: for whatever reason even with my exercise curtailed and my diet being, shall we say, lax my body fat seems to be decreasing even though my body weight is going up slightly each week. Could be a broken scale, could be that I’m doing something right and perhaps that my low carb, high fat strategy is more effective than I thought.

Well, as always the only direction to go is forward. So I’ll keep on keeping on.

Onward!

P.S. and for those who are not faint of heart, below is a picture of my good leg and afflicted leg side by side.

dvt-022517
Can you guess which leg is swollen? Hint: it’s the one with no definition.

 

Fitness Quest: November 2016

I know that it’s technically December, but I thought if I’m going to keep track of my “Fitness Quest” I should try to update at least monthly. So here’s last month’s progress report (or lack thereof).

Workouts: workouts have been going okay. Nothing spectacular to report in terms of strength or size gains, but also nothing spectacular to report in terms of going back wards either. I’m injury free and getting in some form of exercise everyday.

As my facebook friends know, I’ve been doing a different type of “challenge” for the past three or four months. It started with the “22 Push Ups for 22 Days” challenge that a friend invited me to join to raise awareness for the problem of veteran suicide, then morphed to a 100 push up challenge that I created where a few friends and I worked our way up from the 22 push-ups to being able to do 100 push ups in one session, then it was working up to a four minute plank. Now I’m doing “wall squats” (aka “wall sitting”) and working up to being able to do that for four minutes. This one is pretty tough as it increases by 10 seconds each day. However, it was time to do something for the legs.

I continue my twice a week weight training sessions with my brother-in-law. Though we’re pretty good about doing them, they are feeling a little too routine for me. I’ll be talking to him about upping the weight or varying the reps some to keep it interesting. The good news is that I’m at the very least maintaining strength and think that I’ve gaining based on workouts and measurements (waist is still down, arms and chest are getting larger again).

Nutrition: After it was suggested to me by a new friend, I experimented some with a low-carb, high protein diet last month and unfortunately, moved away from it somewhere around Thanksgiving. Though I liked adding carbs back in (I missed bread of all things) I paid a significant price and my weight jumped back up in pretty short order. So, essentially in terms of overall weight and bodyfat I’m about where I was a year ago. I’m going to double down on this style of diet again – yes, I know it’s the Holiday season – and see if I can make some improvements before the start of the New Year. I’d rather not have to make some drastic unkeepable resolutions like the rest of the world on January 1!

Crohn’s: The good news is that there isn’t any major change in terms of my Crohn’s disease. The Humira seems to still be doing it’s job. I have noticed that as I get within a couple days of my next injection that I start to feel queasy inside again. Not sure if this is a real thing though or a psychosomatic response to knowing that I’m due for an injection. Weather changes seem to be playing a role again this year. We’ve had some dramatic swings in temps (going from 70 degrees to 30 degrees overnight) and such as winter comes on and I felt it inside.

Once again this year I did go to an annual IBD update to learn about the latest research in the area of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (of which Crohn’s is one). As usual, it was very interesting and informative. The main take away is still hang in there. Better treatments are coming soon (as in about 5 years).

Mental Health: Overall, I think I’m still doing pretty well here. I’ve been having some odd “stress dreams” for some reason but not sure why so I’ve given some thought to this. But things are going well with work, I don’t feel over burdened and despite the usual malaise of not being quite where I want to be career-wise I’m employed, have friends and family and overall am in doing pretty well. Heck, I even have a new car that so far is running like a dream so no more “when will it break down” thoughts which were part of my daily life for the last, oh, 3 years or so!

The only real disappointment I had recently were the results of the US election. But, I can rest easy in knowing that whatever happens it’s not my fault! I just keep hoping for the best and expect the worst like a lot of other people and at least the darn commercials have stopped.

Summary: Life is good and the only way to move, as always, is forward.

Onward!

 

 

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!

 

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!

 

 

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!

 

Fruits and veggies

Crohn’s and Fitness Update: Still Here

It’s been a while since I posted so I thought I’d catch everyone up with what’s going on with me health and fitness-wise.

Crohn’s: I’m past my “starter” doses of Humira and on my regular dose now for almost two weeks. Not feeling as good as I did with the starter kit and I’m thinking that maybe one shot every two weeks won’t be enough. I’ve got a couple more shots before I see the doctor next so we’ll see what he thinks.

Fitness: My left elbow has been so sore that I have avoided any lifting for the past week (even when I just do legs the arms seem to get involved a little). This morning was the first morning in quite a while that I did not have any obvious pain in the arm when I woke up so  my resting it seems to be working. However, I’ll probably end up seeing another doctor about this too…

Diet: Oddly enough, I seem to be losing more weight when I eat more than what MyFitnessPal says I should. Not sure why, especially since my exercise is down I should be gaining weight. There’s no way I’m in “starvation” mode with the 2,100 calories a day I’m eating but I’m going to be playing around with my calories a little more to see what happens.

Overall: Stress levels are moderate – some concerns about work but nothing I haven’t been through before and some new opportunities are presenting themselves. Keeping active with outside interest so all in all I’m doing okay.

More later – onward!

AACT Fest Weekend

Those that know me know that one of my passions is theatre. I’m not a professional actor so I get my “fix” through community theatre and this weekend I experienced one of the community theatre’s biggest events – an AACT Fest.

For those who don’t know, AACT Fest is a theatre competition among community theatres held every two years. The competition starts at the state level (this past weekend in Owosso, Michigan) then the winner moves on to a regional competition (in a couple weeks in Midland, MI), and finally the winner of the regional goes onto national competition (this June in Grand Rapids, MI).

Now, astute readers will notice that all three levels of competition are in Michigan this year – a rare opportunity for theatre goers in Michigan to see some of the best community theatre around. This year’s Michigan competition was won by Players de Noc (Escanabe) and their production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape and Holland Civic Theatre’s, Revival at Possum Kingdom Community Church by Michigan playwrite Linda LaRoque.

My personal favorite, which came in third and will be the alternate entry to the regional was The Amish Project by Jessica Dickey presented by the Farmington Players. This was an extremely moving drama based on the Nickel Mines schoolhouse shootings in 2006. There was not a dry eye in the house when this show was finished. A total of eight groups competed (Monroe had submitted but was the ninth entry and the organizers limited the field to eight for reasons I don’t completely understand but were well within their rights to do.  So we have to wait until the next festival to enter again).

By now you may be wondering what this has to do with my quest for fitness. Not much except that I went completely off the diet wagon this weekend! I traveled with my good friend Bob and unfortunately, I think we are both enablers of each others bad eating habits! We passed a Ponderosa Steakhouse on the way into town, a fading restaurant chain that has a great buffet, and that’s where we went for lunch on Saturday. Well, it was a good thing that we were limited on time because three platefuls and several desserts later I was still ready for more! Plus our hosts, Owosso Community Players feed us well at the afterglows – oh and did I mention Roma’s Back Door? A great Italian restaurant steps from the theatre…

Interestingly enough, the damage may be controllable as I don’t appear to have gained weight yet and I’ve upped my cardio and strength workouts this week so I’m burning more calories. Also interesting, to me at least, is that I could put away so much food this weekend. My Crohn’s usually limits my intake. There has been many a meal eaten out that came home with me because I started hurting – but not this weekend. My guess is that this is because the Humira is doing its job and my insides can take more because they hurt less.

So, I need to be even more careful with my food intake than I used to be…I can’t imagine how fat I could get if the brakes are now off my digestive system (so to speak). Time will tell!

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!