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.

 

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 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!

 

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!

 

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!

 

Rockwell Bodybuilder

Crohn’s Update: June 2015

Thought I should update everyone on my Crohn’s and general fitness since it’s been awhile. The good news is that overall I’m doing well. The Humira seems to be keeping the Crohn’s in check, though I have had a few episodes of vomiting (3 since starting the treatment) and a few days of low activity causing me some intermittent pain and lack of appetite. These periods have coincided with me becoming overly tired or bad weather (thunderstorms). However, I haven’t had an episode which has kept me from work or other activities.

Also, I am lucky in one other way – I have doctor’s orders to avoid broccoli! His thought is that because it is a high fiber food it’s possible that it can get caught in the stricture (damaged area) of my intestine and cause the pain. I told him that it would be difficult but somehow I would go on without eating broccoli. I also offered to avoid a variety of other vegetables if it would help. He assured me to just test avoiding the highest fiber foods and he thought I could get by.

In the workout world, my elbow pain has subsided so I can lift again which is good. I still plan on running (walking?) in a 5K, the Rose Run, in mid-July. Not sure if I’ll do as well as hoped since I haven’t been doing my cardio as I should over the past couple months but we’ll see. My weight is not going up but it’s not going down too much either. However, I don’t feel as “fat” as I have and my pants are starting to literally fall off me. I’m hesitant to go down a size though because there are times I need the extra room due to bloating from the Crohn’s.

Time to set a couple new fitness goals I think…I’ll get back to you all on those.

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!

Fitness Update: February 23, 2015

Not much to report but I felt that I should post something since I have made a commitment to myself to post regularly. The past week has been pretty good health and fitness-wise. Even with a trip to Las Vegas (sorry, can’t talk about it because as we all know, what happens in Vegas…) I stayed fairly well focused on my goals and only over indulged one night and even made use of the hotel’s sparse but adequate gym. Adequate if all you need to do is cardio that is. And it was good to get away from the record breaking cold which has its grip on the upper midwest and northeast U.S. even if only for a couple days.

To start this week I felt good enough to move from the weight lifting machines over to the free weight room for most of my workout. I don’t really belong with the “big boys” anymore (if I ever did) but I like free weights better in general as I feel that more of the “stabilizing” muscles are brought into play. I even did good old fashioned squats for the first time in a long time and my knees held up well! Of course, I only had about 100 pounds on my shoulders – but it’s a start.

Medicine-wise things seem to be on hold. I have pretty much everything I need to start Humira – my sharps disposal kit, my talking training “pen,” and my nurse lined up to come give me my lessons on how to inject myself. Now all I need is the Humira. I’m going to have to call the pharmacy to see what’s taking so long – no doubt some sort of insurance issue. We’ll see. Good thing I’m still feeling well for the most part with only a little “grumbling” from my stomach here and there.

Now if I could just get warm…

Onward and upward!

Crohn’s: Pills, Pills, Pills – Which Ones To Take?

Well, my health journey continues with mixed results. I had my appointment with my gastro doctor to talk about my latest tests, discuss treatment, and to take some more blood for additional testing. We agreed that the best way to avoid future surgery was to start some new drugs one of which is Humira, which seems to be the latest “wonder” drug, and the other being Imuran (aka Azathioprine). I can’t start the Humira until my test for Tuberculosis comes back but he thought I could start the Imuran right away.

For those who don’t know, Imuran is an immunosuppressive medicine used to treat a variety of immune diseases to reduce the activity of the specific disease which in my case is Crohn’s. There are side effects, of course, but the biggest concern is that by it’s very nature it reduces the white blood cells in your system. Well, I leave the doctor’s, go to the pharmacy and pick up my prescription and take my first pill. Then it was off for an afternoon of filming “Necroland” (I’ll eventually be listed as a cast member on ImDB!).

As I was heading home from filming the doctor calls (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving) and he tells me that I should stop taking the Imuran. He had some of the lab tests back already and apparently that on top of my vitamin D and calcium deficiency my white blood count is already very low – as if I was already taking the drug. He’s not sure what to make of this and it may be a testing error but for the time being, and to keep me from getting sick with something else, we need to be safe and keep me off the drug. We may also have to hold off on the Humira but won’t know more until the rest of the tests come back in.

The good news is that I’m feeling pretty healthy for the time being (occasional queasiness and bowel issues but nothing major since last December) and I don’t have any other symptoms for some of the horrible diseases which a low white cell count might indicate (Google, a friend and a foe at the same time). So, we’ll keep on taking test and see what develops.

Oh, and I’m anemic – due to the Crohn’s – and really need to take my iron every day which I hate. If anyone has found a brand that doesn’t upset their gastric inner workings please let me know!

On the fitness front, things could be going better but I’m staying within my calorie goals and this morning my weight is back down (last week I was up four pounds). Strength could be better but I was able to increase weights in several lifts and am feeling confident enough to move back into the free weight room with the “big boys.”

This is the last week of my fitness challenge with a couple of friends. I’m not sure how they are doing but I have high hopes that I’ll win based on my weight loss alone. I haven’t seen much improvement in my various measurements though my pants are clearly looser my sleeves aren’t getting tighter. I’ll of course let you all know how that turns out.

Onward and forward!