Saturday, June 28, 2014

Getting Old Really Sucks!

I may be exercising and eating relatively healthy, and I might be far healthier than most men my age (and a lot of men far younger than me), but that doesn't mean that I'm immune to the ravages of time.  A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with back spasms.  It hurt bad enough that I stepped out of bed and nearly fell to the floor because of the pain.  I missed two weeks at the gym because I didn't want to aggravate the injury.

Yesterday, I went to a whitewater kayak clinic.  I haven't been in a boat for quite a while, but I didn't do anything strenuous.  My aging body once again objected, however, and I pulled a muscle in my side.  This was during flat water warm-up exercises!  When I pulled the muscle, I heard and felt the pop.  I was able to complete the class, but I paid for it.  Immediately after I got out of the boat, the muscles started seizing and inflaming.  It got to the point where if I twisted wrong, took a deep breath, laughed, coughed or sneezed, the pain nearly dropped me to my knees.

I think this means that I need to adjust my exercise routine to add some core strengthening and flexibility.  I hope to return to the gym Monday, but that depends on how quickly my side heals.  All of this leads me to one conclusion... getting old really sucks!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Words of Wisdom

Most of you probably know that I volunteer for the Humane Society.  Each month, I go to the humane society, pick out a dog, and take it to a retirement home to visit the residents.  Last week, I was asked to do an interview.  The guy doing the interview is doing his thesis for his Masters Degree.

I was asked how I started volunteering, how long I've been doing it, and how I select the dog that I take.  He asked me about some of my more memorable visits and some of my favorite residents.  I asked him about his thesis project.  At the end of the interview, he asked me what I consider the most important question he could ask:  "What is the one thing you would say to anyone who's thinking about volunteering?"  I replied with these words of wisdom (paraphrased, of course)...

"We as a society spend far too much time keeping up with the Joneses.  We spend all of this time working, so that we can buy a bigger house... so that we can afford that shiny new car.  We seem to have forgotten that life isn't about things; it's about relationships.  I'm fortunate to have realized at a relatively young age that I have enough, while I'm in a position to give back.  It doesn't really matter how you choose to volunteer your time.  What matters is that you do something.  Life's to short to waste it on things, when you could invest it in people."

The interviewer kind of paused for a second and said "That's a great statement."  It was apparent that I caught him a bit off guard.  I've never thought of myself as a sage.  What I said in the interview is simply a philosophy that I try to live by.  His reaction kind of made me realize though, that my philosophy is something that's sorely lacking in our society.  Maybe, just maybe, if I say it here, where anyone and everyone can see my words, it could make a small difference to a few people.  And maybe if it made a difference to a few people, it could have a domino effect.  I don't expect that to be the case, but I can always hope.

Like I said, life isn't about things.  It's about relationships.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Year in Review

It's been about a year since my older daughter and grandson moved back home with me.  It's been a bit of an adjustment.  My wife and I had just gotten used to having some evenings to ourselves.  We had a guest bedroom and a storage room.  Not anymore.  We had to adjust to becoming built-in babysitters while my daughter was at school and working.  We had to get used to the baby waking up in the middle of the night.

Since then, my daughter has completed school and has landed her first job, and the baby is growing by leaps and bounds.  He's walking and talking, and he has a wonderful relationship with his grandparents... a relationship that wouldn't be nearly as strong if they hadn't moved back in.  Furthermore, due to the fact that my wife and I were able to provide for my daughter and grandson, they didn't have to go on welfare.

Recently, I had a revelation.  Over the last hundred years or so, the family has changed a lot, most of these changes, in my opinion, are for the worse.  The extended family is nowhere near as strong as it used to be.  This, I think, is primarily because the extended family isn't as available as it used to be.  Yes, we've had to give up some things with my daughter and grandson moving back in.  But overall, I think it's a good thing.  I may have lost a guest room.  We might have lost a storage room.  We certainly have had to spend a lot of money keeping additional food on the table and clothing on their backs.  But I'd absolutely make the same choice again.  Life isn't about things.  It's not about a big house, or a fat bank account.  It's about relationships.  And what's resulted from the return home is that my relationship with my daughter and grandson are far stronger than what would have been if they'd have tried to tough it out on their own.  I hope that, in addition to strengthening the bond with my daughter, and forging the relationship with my grandson, that I've instilled these values into both of them.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fitness Report

It's been a bit over a year and a half since I decided to get in shape.  As a former Marine, I decided to use the Marine Corps' Physical Fitness Test (PFT) as a guideline for my progress.  It's kind of funny... I've always considered myself a relatively healthy, active guy, but when I started exercising, I couldn't run three miles within the allotted time.  I kept at it though, and within three months I was able to pass a Marine Corps PFT.  Within six months, I scored a first class PFT.  Within a year, I was in better shape than I was at 25, and in the best shape of my life if you account for aging.  I've hit a couple of plateaus during this time.  One plateau lasted over three months, but I was eventually able to plow through it.  I'm still riding the second one, which has lasted almost six months.  It's theoretically possible that I've peaked physically.  It's okay if I have peaked, but I hope that I haven't.  Regardless, here are a few things I've learned along the way.

-Be willing to change your routine.  I learned this early on.  When I started, I was running in minimalist shoes.  I'd read a lot about minimalist running, and heard that it was the way to go.  It didn't work for me though. When I decided to start running with standard running shoes, my run time improved significantly and I stopped injuring myself.  I recently made another major change to my routine with the hope that I can break through my current plateau.  I haven't been using this updated regimen for long, but it seems to be working so far.

-Listen to your body.  This kind of relates to my previous statement.  When I was doing the minimalist running, I hurt my feet frequently.  I listened to my body, and when my feet hurt, I stopped running and rode the exercise bike until my feet healed.  On days when I was unusually tired, I gave myself permission to take it easy.  On days where I felt particularly energized, I pushed myself a little harder.  When I was sore from the previous workout, I backed off a bit.

-Variety is the spice of life.  Every now and then, I don't feel like lifting weights.  Sometimes I suck it up and lift anyway.  Other times, I swim.  What's important is that you do something.

-Goals are good.  When you attain one goal, set another.  I have one goal that I set early in this journey, and I still haven't hit it.  That's okay.  There are several other goals that I've hit along the way.  The point is that you always need to be striving for something.

-Give yourself permission to relax.  Maybe you're sick.  Maybe you're on vacation.  If so, that's okay.  Don't sweat missing a workout or two.  That said though, I don't recommend skipping workouts if you're just starting.  Don't skip workouts until you're at a point in your lifestyle change that skipping out seems like a disappointment, rather than a treat.  Also, don't skip more than a week.  And if you do skip, give yourself a little slack that first day or two back at the gym.

-Be prepared for the occasional backslide.  This kind of ties in to my plateaus.  When I hit each plateau, I actually backslid a bit.  This has partially been due to the change of seasons.  When spring hits, life tends to get a bit busy for me; as a result, I tend to miss a few workouts during this time of year.  Not only do I not make progress during this time, but I actually find that my run time is a bit slower, I can't do quite a many pull-ups, and my bench press suffers a bit.  This is part of the game.  Again, keep at it.

Overall, I'm glad I've started hitting the gym again.  I feel a lot better.  I hope that it will add quality as well as quantity to my life.  Please understand though, I'm not here to preach, and I'm not here to brag.  My reason for writing this today is to share my progress with anyone who may care.  And if I'm really lucky, my words will help someone else who's decided improve their physical fitness.