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.

 

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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: 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
Trap Bar

Trap Bar – Finally Used One

Well, today was quite a day for me training-wise. Because of the ongoing pain in my left elbow I’ve been focusing on lifts which don’t involve movement of the arms. Most of these lifts, oddly enough, focus on the legs. So after squats, calf presses, leg presses, I actually still had some energy (but I was starting to feel it) and there in the corner of the gym I saw it – an unused trap bar.

Even though I’ve been lifting for more than 30 years now I have never used a trap bar. What’s more I’ve been wimping out and not deadlifting like I should so I figured why not give it a try? And guess what? Like Mikey of the old Life commercials – I liked it! It was nice to do deadlifts without hitting my shins against the bar and if it weren’t for the fact I had a little trouble holding my grip I could have gone heavier.

Plus, in other news, I learned about the Jefferson Lift (aka the Jefferson Squat or the Jefferson Deadlift) as well today. I didn’t give it a try yet, but I will next leg day and let you know how it goes.

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!

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!

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!

Stupid Weight Lifting Tricks…

Okay, I probably shouldn’t even admit this one – but I tried something I hadn’t done in a long time but I’m curious if anyone else has done some odd or downright stupid things in the pursuit of muscle… So, today I had a long drive to drop off something to someone on the other side of the state – we met halfway, but it still meant a little over three hours on the road. Since I would be in car with essentially nothing to do but drive on the expressway and listen to the radio I took along a 15 lb dumbell and performed curls (one arm at a time) while driving to see how many reps I could get in! I learned this trick from my training partner who was once in retail and spent a lot of time on the road. He developed some extreme bicep peaks during this period of time (I know much is genetic) as well as muscle stamina so I’ve occasionally done this on long trips. Of course, I don’t recommend doing this as driving is an inherently dangerous activity and requires concentration. But, on those long stretches with light traffice (I never do this in the city and/or heavy traffice, construction zones, while merging, etc) I figure it’s probably a safer activity than talking on the cell phone and much of the other crazy things you see drivers doing these days. So, on reflection I promise not to do this anymore (unless I’m the passenger) but does anyone else have any odd/weird things they’ve tried in the pursuit of muscle? It might be entertaining to share stories!