Fitness Quest: April 2018

Several positive items to report in my renewed quest for fitness since the discovery that I had a heart attack sometime in the past (likely, in my mind at least, in January of 2017).

Mental Health: first and foremost, my mood has improved considerably. Thanks to cardio rehab and the natural adaptation process that we all go through after experiencing major life events I’m happier than I’ve been in a while and am functioning again. At least in my opinion (my friends and co-workers may continue to disagree but that’s their problem). I am looking forward to the future for the most part again and not afraid that each day will be my last – even if it turns out to be.

Physical Health and Exercise: cardio rehab goes well and I’m making progress. I’m biking and walking like I should on days I don’t have rehab – even beating several other “steppers” in my weekly Fitbit step challenge – which I wasn’t doing for a long time. I get through my tap dancing each week without feeling like I’m going to pass out and I’m in general feeling more energetic.

More exciting is that my bodyfat percentage has been on a downward trend for about four weeks now even though my body weight has increased slightly. In bodybuilding this would be known as “making gains.” Not by huge amounts, after all I’m not a newbie or a teenager anymore, but a clear trend. It does mean that I’m not losing fat as is actual goal, but it means that I’m gaining more muscle than fat which isn’t bad either. Especially for someone who is in late middle-age (unless I live to be 130).

Last month I mentioned I was being tested for asthma and the good news is that my lungs are “normal” and have no obstructions. Something is still going on with my breathing though and my gastroenterologist has put me on iron thinking that my anemia could be contributing to the issue.

I do have sleep apnea, both obstructive and central, for which I’ll be getting a CPAP machine for this coming week (I hope). I have one more night of testing with various devices to see which will work best for me.

Crohn’s: speaking of gastroenterology, we’ve decided that my Humira may not be doing the best job for me. So we are switching things up and I’m going to Entyvio. The plus side of this is that I only get an infusion every 8 weeks (at home) instead of a weekly injection. I’ll be blogging more on this as treatments begin.

Nutrition: here’s the hard part. I’ve discovered something that I probably should have known all along. Sugar is bad for you. At least added sugar is. And like sodium, the stuff is everywhere. According to the American Heart Association men should restrict their added sugar levels to just 9 teaspoons a day (4 grams = 1 teaspoon) and women only 6 teaspoons. This means that if you have one 12 ounce can of pop a day, non-diet variety,  you’ve gone over your limit. Not to mention the mega servings most of us consume! I drink the diet stuff so that’s not a source of sugar for me, but my sweet tooth may literally be the death of me. Especially when you consider that sugar has inflammatory properties – which can aggravate my Crohn’s, which may have caused my heart attack in the first place!

Overall: I’m doing as well as can be expected and maybe a little better even. I thank God for each day I’m given and that I’m not worse off.

It’s an old saying but true: it could be worse. Oh well, it’s back to the grocery store I go!

Onward!

Mediterranean Diet

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Sodium, Sodium Everywhere and Not a Bite to Eat

Question: which do you think has less sodium, a medium order of McDonald’s French Fries or a small salad?

Answer: It depends. Are you going to put dressing on that salad? If so, the fries win. In fact, the fries win even if you go up to large size and small fries can win if you are looking at overall fats, too!

Surprised? Don’t be. Since discovering that I had a heart attack sometime in the past, I’ve been working harder than ever to get my diet in line. I was already doing pretty good in keeping my fats low and started cooking for myself and am getting a little more “Mediterranean” in my eating and food choices each week (more fish, more veggies, less sugar). So, I thought it was time to take the next step and reduce my sodium intake.

Ha!

I now understand the trials and tribulations of people with high blood pressure. Sodium is in everything that is even slightly processed. Fast food, sit down restaurants, frozen food, soups, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables (but not always), baked goods, lunch meat, you name it and I bet it’s got more sodium than you would think.

Fat free means “added salt.” Pizzas should be called sodium pies. Surprisingly, things that taste salty, like potato chips, may have less sodium than a small can of spring peas.

According to the American Heart Association we should be eating no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, 1,500 if you have high blood pressure. But, the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg each day (more at the AHA website)! And I know from MyFitnessPal that I’m somewhere north of that figure on any given day. How much is 2,300 mg of sodium? About 1 teaspoon of salt per day.

Now in my case, I do not have high blood pressure and my heart attack does not appear to have been caused due to any dietary issues (arteries, with the exception of the one where the damage occurred are clear and “beautiful” according to my cardiologist). It’s likely, in fact, that the heart attack occurred due to my Crohn’s. And, I could choose to side with some of the research out there which suggests that if you don’t have high blood pressure sodium intake isn’t really an issue. However, with one big strike against me, I don’t think I should risk a second. So, I’m going to keep doing my best to get my diet in line and that means lowering my sodium intake.

Now should we talk about the amount of potassium in salt substitutes and the effect that has on someone taking ACE inhibitors?

The struggle continues.

Onward!

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 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!

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Fitness Quest: October 2016

The past three months seem to have been a blur of activity. Which is probably a good thing since it is an indication that I’ve had energy to do things, and given my normal state of anemia (in part due to the Crohn’s) that’s a good thing. One concern I haven’t had is my Crohn’s as that continues to be under control by most accounts. The Humira appears to be doing its job and that’s a very good thing.

Exercise: Since my last update I did complete my personal “100 Push-Up” challenge. A few friends joined me which helped as we kept each other honest. At the end I was able to do 100 Push-Ups in less than three minutes which by most standards is a sign of excellent physical fitness and strength. I noticed huge benefits in a short time just by being consistent with the push-ups. Triceps are larger, arms are “harder” overall and I have definition and size in my chest and delts that I don’t think I’ve ever had (I can now “roll” my pecs which is pretty cool actually). However, in some ways they did take a toll and the last couple days were as much an exercise in mental toughness as physical strength. I took a break this past week and will be putting a lower number of push-ups into my regular routine going forward.

Another thing I discovered with these last two push-up challenges is the support I’d get from friends and family by going “public” (I posted daily on Facebook my progress). I learned that I actually inspired a few others to try and improve their own fitness, and I never thought I’d be a fitness role model, and I didn’t mind the comments about my weight loss and increase in overall “buffness” (the occasional “hey, you’ve got some tricep action going on there” while wearing a long sleeve shirt and “wow, you can tell Dave’s been working out” while wearing a short sleeve shirt and “you lost a lot of weight” from people who haven’t seen me in a while).

The next challenge is going to focus on core strength and tightening up the middle. I may never have a true six-pack but by golly I can have a flat midsection. I’ve also got a side challenge already in the works with another friend who works out but has been lax lately. He was lamenting that his shirt sleeves were getting too loose. So we’re going to see who can put the most size back on his arms by the end of January. Sadly, I’ve got a long way to go to fill out my sleeves again, too!

Weight workouts are going well. We, my brother-in-law and I, got back up to a 250 pound bench press and now backed down to about 180 to focus on increasing reps. I want to start getting some weight training with the legs going again. I just need to figure out how to get this back into my schedule.

Cardio could be better. I haven’t been running but for the most part I’ve been walking and at least getting 10,000 steps in each day. I did participate in a 5K Fun Run/Walk during the annual NACAS Conference and was only a couple minutes off my best time earlier this summer. Not bad considering I hadn’t planned on running at all during it!

Nutrition: Despite my research and trying new things I still struggle with getting the proper nutrition and keeping fat off. Most of this is discipline – I need to stay away from the drive-through – some is lack of planning. I find myself too often not packing lunch or having a dinner plan. I’m starting today to fix this. You can’t control your weight (i.e. bodyfat) without complete control of your diet. Only I can change this.

I had an interesting conversation with a fit young man at the annual NACAS Conference and he suggested I try a “keto” or low-carb diet. This is something I’ve been sort of trying on my own to a small degree anyway, lower carbs and upping the protein, but I also reduced fats which he suggested may be the wrong way to go. I’m doing some research and will be giving a more hard core low carb diet a try this week. Giving up carbs will be difficult – but I’m tired of looking at this belly.

Mental Health: Overall, attitude is good. Like everyone else I do have those moments of doubt and worry. However, in general, life is fairly good. A lot of people have it a lot worse than I do and I do remind myself of that every day. I do need to make time for some regular prayer/meditation however to clear my head at the end of the day (or maybe the beginning).

So, in keeping with accountability, I’ll be posting more often here on my Fitness Quest and hopefully other things as well. Until next time…

Onward!

 

A Journey of 10,000 Steps

So, I’ve started using an UP 24 (by Jawbone) which like Fitbit and other devices along with the appropriate telephone apps is a device to aid and push a person towards better fitness. In a very basic way though it’s a glorified pedometer that does some other nifty things too (it lets me know how often I wake up at night for example – usually once) and one of the first goals to achieve is taking 10,000 steps through the day.

My first day I did okay and took over 8,000 steps. So 10,000 should have been easy right? Wrong! I got to 8,000 only because we went to see “The Lights Before Christmas” at the Toledo Zoo (yes, yes, we saw the “Lights BEFORE Christmas” AFTER Christmas so sue me). The next day (Saturday) I only got in about 1,800 steps. Granted I was at home and not at work but clearly I needed to step up my game so to speak (“step up” get it?). So today I took a walk around town…and when I say around town I mean around the entire town. I followed a path that roughly estimated the city limits of the small town I live in (actually near) and after about an hour in the cold guess what? I only added about 4,000 more steps to my daily total. This left me without about 2,000 more steps to take.

So, on a whim I came up with a different idea. Instead of walking around town, what if I walked around my yard? I paced the perimeter of my yard off I discovered I could get in about 400 steps by doing this. Then I thought what if I also went around my house? Bingo – another 200 steps. What if I went around every bush and tree? Well, what do you know I could get almost 1,000 steps just by tracing a path in my yard. Then while walking around, counting to myself I had a thought. Gosh, this is almost like a labyrinth.

Now many of you may know that labyrinths, patterns drawn on the floor of a church, were a tool used by many early Christians, and presumably other religions, for meditation and prayer purposes. It’s also my understanding that many of these early Christians used the labyrinth to take the place of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There’s a nice article on labyrinths at the Washington National Cathedral’s website if you want to know a little more: http://www.cathedral.org/worship/labyrinth.shtml

So all in all, I’m pleased with my day. I got a little healthier by getting my steps in and stumbled on a way to clear my head and meditate and prayer in my own backyard. No the only question is what will the neighbors think when they see me wandering around and muttering to myself. I better get one of those blue tooth headsets so it looks like I’m on the phone.

Onward!