Sunday, October 20, 2013

Of Volunteering and Veterans

My church did something really cool today.  Instead of preaching and learning the word of God, we put it into action by volunteering throughout the community.  I was tasked with mowing the lawn for a Vietnam-era Army veteran who has a bad hip and is awaiting hip replacement surgery.

Originally, I was slated to share the job with another guy from my church... a guy who happens to be an Air Force veteran.  Being a Marine veteran, I thought the whole thing was really cool... two vets helping out another vet.  Shortly after finding out the scope of the project, a third guy from the church showed up.  His job was to take pictures of the various volunteer projects in action.  Being a doer, I fired up the mower and started tackling the task at hand.  The photographer/videographer took a few pictures of me mowing while he was talking to the Air Force guy.  After the flyboy and the photographer chatted for a few minutes, the photographer said that he was going to his next site.  Flyboy then informed me that I appeared to have things under control, so he was going to hit a different volunteer site.  Amused, I finished the job by myself, realizing this was a perfect analogy for the US Military.

-The Army can't complete its mission and calls for help.
-The Air Force shows up, but as soon as the photo op is over, they're gone.
-The Navy is nowhere to be found.
-The Marine Corps accomplishes the mission with no fanfare, because the press has left.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Getting Fit - A Year in Review

It's been about a year since I started exercising, so now is a good time to look back and see how I actually did as compared to how I expected I'd do.

When I chose to start a regular exercise program last year, it was done after numerous false starts over the years.  I'd never been a big fan of working out or running, but surprisingly, those are the core activities of my routine.

I made three major deviations from my past attempts that I believe helped make this attempt at a healthier lifestyle a success.  First, I actually spent some money.  I went out and bought new gym shoes, gym clothes, and swim attire.  I did this because I don't like to waste money.  The second change was to NOT have a workout partner.  Historically, I figured that a workout partner would help me stay motivated to continue.  In reality though, if either one of us voiced any desire to skip a workout... well, you get the picture.  Finally, I brought music.  I have a workout playlist on my smart phone, filled with upbeat music that helps keep me focused.  (No eye of the tiger though.)

With all of my aforementioned false starts, I knew that not sticking with it was a real possibility.  But when I started this time, I didn't envision that.  I did, however, envision more muscle mass, and more strength than I actually have.  I know that part of the reason I'm not quite as developed as I expected is because I missed so many workouts during the summer.  The overwhelming majority of this was unavoidable.  (The point is that I never quit.)  The other reason I haven't progressed as much as I thought is that I simply underestimated how difficult it would be to put on muscle mass as a middle-aged guy.  (That, and the fact that I've always been on the slender side.)

I still haven't reached all of my original goals.  I can't do a set of 50 perfect push-ups.  And though I have successfully completed a first class Marine Corps PFT, I usually end up about 10 points shy of a first class.  I can, however, swim a mile without much effort at all.  I'm not breaking any speed records, but speed was never part of the goal.

Regardless of whether or not I've progressed as much as I envisioned a year ago, I've stayed with it.  I look better, and I feel better.  I'm pleased that I've made it a year.  I've been doing it long enough that I can confidently say that I've actually made a more active lifestyle change.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Carhartt Convert

I grew up wearing Levi's.  I loved their 501's (until the buttons would blow out), and I can't count how many pair of 550's I've owned; but over the years their quality seems to have diminished.  I used to be able to wear Levi's for years before they disintegrated, but lately they seem to barely last a year.  With that in mind, it was time to try something different.  I figured that I'd do a side by side comparison and bought two pair of Levi's and two pair of Carhartt's on the same day. Neither pair of Levi's lasted a year before blowing out the knees.  Both pair of Carhartt's lasted over 18 months.  One pair is on its way to two years with no holes or thin spots.  Better yet, Carhartt jeans are generally less expensive than Levi's.  Double score!

I also grew up on those one-size-fits-none cheap socks you get at Wal-Mart.  I've got relatively small feet, and was tired of having the heel of cheap socks sitting well above the heel of my foot.  I had good experiences with Carhartt's jeans, so I figured it would be worthwhile to try their socks.  I'm glad I did.  The socks fit perfectly!  They're also slightly thicker at the ball and heel, and they provide just the right amount of arch support.  Yes, they're more expensive than some, but they're absolutely worth it.

As my old t-shirts and flannel shirts wear out, I suspect I'll try Carhartt shirts out as well.  Hey, they've done this well with jeans and socks...