Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Five Freaking Pull-ups!

Last fall, I started adding some cross training exercises to my normal running routine.  Due to the colder temps and some nagging pain in my hamstrings, I had backed off from much of the work.  But prior to doing so, I had accoplished one of my goals of running a sub-30 second 200m dash.  Unfortunately, I had not been able to achieve my goal of doing 5 freaking pull-ups in a row!

In the last couple of weeks, I have started stopping by the local playground again and attempting a few pull-ups, chin-ups, dips and extensions.  My success has varied from week to week depending on my comfort level after having played basketball the night before, and periodically the tendinitis in my wrist and shoulder flare up making some of the exercises impossible.  But I continue to toil away in the hopes of actually achieving that impossible dream!

When I was young, I hated pull-ups.  I dreaded that day every year for the presidential skills testing, when the gym teacher would call me up in front of every person in the class, girls included, and order me to do as many pull-ups as I could.  Other guys would walk up there and rip off 10 or 15 pull-ups like it was their job.  Eventually, the moment came when the teacher would call on me and I would sulk my way to the bar, reach up and grab it, then grunt and groan, kicking my legs like I was riding an imaginary bike, failing to get my arms to bend more than a couple of degrees.  Eventually, I would fall back to the ground and return to my seat only to hear the snickers and whispers from the other kids in the class.  It was humiliating! 

I remember being in my friend's basement and seeing that his dad had installed a pull-up bar in one of the doorways.  Much like me, my friend struggled with pull-ups.  He might have been able to do one or two, but not much more than that.  When I asked what the bar was for he informed me that his dad wanted him to do 10 pull-ups by the start of freshmen baseball season.  "Shit!", I thought, ten pull-ups!  It might as well have been a hundred for me; there was no way I was going to be able to do that!

So, I was excited when I started this process and was able to do 3 pull-ups.  I even got all the way to 4 pull-ups in a row when I was going to the playground regularly.  And I was super excited when I headed out for a run and trip to the playground this morning.  My tendinitis had been doing great, and Katie was busy last night, so I was not able to go to basketball because I had to watch the kids.  All of that added up to me feeling pretty good about my chances for 5 pull-ups today.

I jogged my way down to the grade school.  My body started to warm up; I was moving at a nice easy pace since I ran 8.3 miles on Saturday and was still a little stiff.  When I was a couple of hundred yards away from the school I saw another man enter the street and start walking.  At the time I did not thnk much of it, but I would see him again.  I jogged all the way to the playground and slowed to a walk a few feet from the pull-up bar.  I caught my breath, shook out my arms and prepared for what I thought could finally be the day I did 5 pull-ups in a row.

I jumped up and grabbed the bar.  The first pull-up went easy, the second as well.  By the time I got to the top of the third pull-up, my mind began to race with the thought of achieving my goal.  The fourth pull-up was tough, and as I descended to start the fifth pull-up, I got nervous.  Then I started pulling back up to the top.  I was really tough.  My arms were on fire and I didn't think I was going to make it.  I felt my legs start to come to my chest as I attempted to engage my abs, trying to pull every last once of strength I had.  The bar crossed over my eyes and I let out a pretty loud grunt (especially for 4:30 in the morning) as I struggled for those last couple of inches.  And then finally I raised my chin and set it ever-so-gently on the bar, and smiled.  I had done it!!!! I had finally done 5 freaking pull-ups!!! 

After I put my feet back on the ground, I turned around smiling and immediately saw the guy that I had passed earlier run by me on the playground.  I thought it was a little strange that this guy was running through the playground, since it is not the most direct route to anything.  Maybe he was a little curious about what I was doing on the playground.  Maybe he was even more curious about what all the grunting noise was about.  Maybe he thought about coming back there for a few pull-ups of his own.

But do you want to know what the one feeling I was NOT having upon seeing this guy?  Embarrassment!  For the first time in my life I was not embarassed to be doing pull-ups in front of others.  No sir, I just did 5 freaking pull-ups!  Next up? Ten pull-ups!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Messed Around and Got A Triple-Double

Let me preface this post by first saying I greatly dislike Facebook and hearing about friends getting hurt.  However, recently both of these things have provided me with the good fortune of finding another athletic outlet that I thoroughly enjoy.

While scrolling through my wife's news feed on Facebook I read about a friend of ours getting injured in a basketball game.  Unfortunately for our friend the injury is relatively severe and requires surgery to repair.  But I was very curious about this basketball game in which he was injured. 

For years I have been saying to Katie that I wished there was some sort of open gym for basketball in our little town.  I knew there was an open gym for volleyball, a sport I can play but do not receive great joy when participating.  There is also a softball league, but I don't really know anyone on a team and can't seem to find enough other interested parties to form my own team.

I am not the greatest basketball player.  For a long time in my youth I was taller than many of my friends and played in the post on most of my basketball teams.  By high school, my friends had surpassed me in height and I had failed to develop my ball handling skills in order to transition to the guard play that my average height warranted.  Nevertheless, I continued to be passionate about the sport, and I continued to play for teams at the YMCA and church league.

I really enjoy the game of basketball.  I enjoy the physical challenge of running up and down the court at "high" rates of speed.  I enjoy the minor physical contact, the trash talking, the cheering, and the oohs and aahs when somebody makes a great play. Overall, I REALLY enjoy the physical competition of the game.

Suddenly, upon learning of my friend's injury, while concerned for his well-being, I became extremely excited about the prospect of a local basketball game!  I asked around to some of our mutual friend's and came to find out that there is an open gym for basketball on Monday nights at a church just down the street from our house.  I immediately asked Katie if I could go.  She responded, "Of course you can!"

My first night at the open gym was last Monday.  I was a little nervous upon arriving.  I did not really know what to expect.  I knew there was only one other guy that I would know for sure, and I had no idea what the competition would be like.  When I showed up at the church I was a little taken aback that the floor of the gym was a multi-purpose carpet.  When the portable hoops were brought out I began to warm up.  I was not shooting very well to start, which had me a bit worried, but as we lined up to shoot freethrows for teams, I nailed my first one and it felt great!  Oddly enough my team had no real inside players, so I found myself playing down low among the trees.  Again, I REALLY enjoyed playing in the post.  I was dominated by some much taller players, but I knew they were having to work hard for every point and rebound.  I even managed to scrape a few rebounds together and make a few buckets to help the teams cause.  I had a behind-the-back pass that brought a few cheers from the teams on the sidelines; that made me pretty proud!  When the night was over, I was so excited to have participated.  I had soooo much fun!

The next couple of days I was pretty sore.  I stuck with my runs, but at a reduced rate since some of my muscles were recovering from being used for the first time in years.  I played again last night, and while I did not have as good of an all-around game, I still had a blast. And again, I am sore as hell today!

The most amazing thing that I find in all of this is how my brain works.  At the root of this whole health and fitness thing is the idea of becoming a better person.  Losing weight, eating right, running, biking, those are all efforts to improve myself.  And I strive to do better in each one of those endeavors.  The basketball is no different.  Last night, I was getting beat off the dribble by a number of other players.  I used to pride myself on defense, and I always thought I had pretty quick feet, but last night showed me otherwise.  So what do I start thinking about?  I need to start jumping rope to work on my foot speed, and I am sure there is going to be some benefits to my other athletic efforts.  So why not?!  I haven't jumped rope longer than I had not played basketball, so that experience may be a post in and of itself. 

So, while I don't think I played well enough to score a triple-double, I think I am going to try and get to that level.  I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Breaking News: Weight Watchers Watches as McDonalds Goes Healthy

On heels of its overwhelmingly successful campaign in New Zealand (see here ), Weight Watchers has given the go ahead to label the entire McDonalds menu as "healthy".

No spokesperson for Weight Watchers were available for comment, but many of them could be seen counting their money all the way to the bank.

A spokesperson for McDonalds, between snickers, was quoted "We always new we were the healthy alternative, now we have the Weight Watchers label to back it up."  When asked how its menu could be considered healthy, the spokesperson retorted, "Look, you can get more than half your daily value of calories, fat, sodium, and sugar from one Double Quarter Pounder w/ cheese.  If you pair that with a large fry and a coke, you're set for the whole day.  Then you have the rest of your day to work it off.  We are doing you guys a favor, healthy and time efficient."  Questions about past attempts to improve upon a "healthy" image for McDonalds with the introduction of fruit, yogurt, and salads were responded with indignation and the comment, "Yeah, we're probably going to stop carrying that crap; nobody buys it anyway.  Besides, who needs it now that the Big Mac is as healthy as a spinach!"

The spokesperson followed these comments up with, "Look, this is just the beginning.  Our products are going to start being carried at all of the Weight Watchers meetings.  We have plans to move into the supermarket aisles under the Weight Watchers name.  Frozen 'Happy Meals'; doesn't that just sound delicious, and healthy!"

"After that, we are going to move our way into the schools; have you seen the junk they are feeding those kids!  And it is really important that these kids are learning about healthy eating.  If they are not going to get it at home, McDonalds will give it to them!"

In light of these new developments, it has been rumored that Morgan Spurlock, creator of the hit film Super Size Me, and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, are collaborating on a project tentatively titled, The Slow and the Dead, a expose about the dangers of food borne illnesses and homecooking.

The general public has embraced McDonalds new healthy menu with an insatiable vigor.  Deep Fried Franny, a long time McDonalds customer could hardly contain her 300lbs of excitement, in her spandex and Disney sweatshirt, "This is the break I have been looking for!  I have been interested in trying a healthier diet, now I don't even have to change a damn thing; they have already done it for me!"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Obsession with the Scale

One of the members of my weight loss support group expressed some disappointment when the scale did not reflect the loss that she felt she deserved after working so hard to lose weight. With the idea of support and concern in my heart, I responded thusly:

"I would encourage you not to get frustrated if you don’t lose any weight.  Instead just focus on getting to the gym, watching what you eat, and enjoying the effort that you are able to put in.  The scale is useful for accountability, but it does not define success!  Success is living a healthy lifestyle, being a good example to your kids, and pushing the limits of your physical abilities.  If you can manage to do those things, you can count yourself as a winner, no matter what the scale may read!"

Pretty good, right?  I thought so, too.  The only problem with this is that I am completely unable to follow this advice myself.  I am completely obsessed with the scale.  I weigh in twice a day.  Once, before I go to bed, to see how I have done for the day, and once, in the morning, to see how much I have lost overnight and to see where I am at for the week.  When I am eating my third slice of pizza, I am thinking about how good it tastes, but I am also thinking about what the scale is going to say when I get home!  When I eat well, I don't think about how healthy I am being or how good of an example I am.  I am completely thinking about how good it is going to feel to have a lower number when I stand on the scale!

In that lies the issue.  The scale can be a source of gratification; it is a relatively tangible "thing" to hang my hat of success.  The scale is also the overseer passing judgement on every poor decision that I have made.  The scale can also be the crazy ass thing that has no idea how hard I have worked only to display a minimal loss, if there is a loss at all!  Many days I really like the scale for its affirmation of my dedication.  But many other days I hate the scale for judging me or failing to get in line with my efforts.

I wish I could take my own advice and just be happy with the effort that I am putting in, but it really hard.  If admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, then let this be my first step. 

- "Hi, my name is Brian."
- "Hi Brian!"
- "And I am obsessed with the scale."

Now, does anyone know what the other eleven steps are? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Proud Papa

As soon as he finished the kids' fun run at the Kirby Derby, my son said "I want to run the 5K next year."  Immediately, Katie and I thought that we might be able to run a 1/2 mile or so with Bubba, drop him off with some family or friends, and then pick him up for the last 1/2 mile or so.  Bubba just as quickly protested that he wanted to run the whole way.

We explained to Bubba that would require a lot of dedication and effort.  We tried to express that there are many grown-ups that can't even run that far.  He replied that he understood what it would take, as he has seen Mommy and Daddy train for our races. 

So, the family committed to the training.  We went for a one mile training run this past summer.  Bubba did amazing.  He ran almost the entire way and was very impressive.  A few weeks later, we all went for another run.  Bubba did not perform quite as well.  He struggled to run, he whined some, but he still completed a full mile.

Since that run, training had wained.  The weather had turned cool.  I began to wonder if it was wise for a 5 year old to be running 3.1 miles.  I wondered if Bubba was as committed as he was last spring.  But a few weeks ago, Bubba began to request more often and more vigorously for another training run.  Not only was he requesting another training run, but he said that he wanted to go farther.

So, we took advantage of the nice weather this weekend and decided to go for a 2 mile training run with Bubba.  We bundled up a bit, as it was still a little cool out.  We borrowed our neighbors jogging stroller so Sissy, who also says she is going to run a 5K, could jump in for a ride when she needed it.

As soon as Bubba started out, Katie and I began the coaching.  "Don't go too fast; you want to save our energy."  "Keep your arms up close to your body.  Don't flail them around like a superhero."  "Take nice deep breathes, not short fast ones."  Honestly, with all of the "advice" we offered, I am surprised he wants to run at all.
However, he did great!!!

Bubba ran almost a full 2 miles.  Sure he had to stop and walk a few times, other times he wanted to take a drink of Gatorade, but for the most part he ran a good bit of the distance.  He seemed to enjoy it, and we forgot to do a few of the things that make running with your kids fun.  We did not do any skipping (a family favorite).  We did not do any sprints (another family favorite).  But we did have a nice time, with good weather, jogging with our son and daughter.

When the run was complete, Bubba was visibly tired.  Katie and I told him that there are many adults that could not do what he did that day.  We told him how proud we were of the work that he did.  On Saturday, my son made me one proud Papa!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Music in Motion

I am not much of a music listener.  Sure, I have a sizable collection of music, but it is mostly on CD's because I just don't care that much to load them on iTunes.  I also enjoy taking in a good live show of almost any genre of music, but rarely do I buy music to listen to at home.  For the most part I listen to talk radio at home in the mornings and in the car.  My rationale for this is that I do not get the opportunity to watch the nightly news, read the paper, or check the news online, so my only real source of current events is talk radio and it serves me pretty well.

There is one consistent time in my day that I listen to music, and that is on my iPod when I am out for a run.  The heart rate monitor and the sportband have gone by the wayside, but the one technological consistent in my fitness has been my iPod.  I thoroughly enjoy having music to listen to while I am running, and sometimes biking (yes, I know it is dangerous, but it is completely necessary when riding solo and I turn the volume down in order to hear the cars approaching).  I have a mixed bag of music loaded on my playlist.  Some of songs may need to be put on the shelf, but others I find to be just the right tune to keep me moving.

While this may upset some of my Russian fan base (I had 2 Russian visitors to this sight just last week, or maybe it is the same person twice), I have 3 songs from the Rocky IV soundtrack, Hearts on Fire, Burning Heart (I just realized those are saying exactly the same thing), and No Easy Way Out.  I am sure that I have completely romanticized these songs from my childhood, but when I hear them come on the headphones I begin to imagine myself running up the side of a snow-capped mountain, finally reaching the summit, and yelling, "Drago!"  I might just put these songs on repeat the next time I do hill repeats!  As a side note, did you know that Dolph Lundgren gave up an opportunity to get his doctorate in chemical engineering from MIT in order to pursue an acting career?  I think he should have stuck with the engineering.

There are few other "oldies" such as Baba O'Reilly and Reign Over Me, but the largest contingent of music on my iPod is in the rap/hip-hop genre.  This usually comes as a surprise to most people, but I love rap music!  Some of my favorites are Erase Me by Kid Cudi, Hero by Nas, and Not Afraid by Eminem.  There are 3 songs that I have downloaded recently that I really enjoy.  The first is Run This Town with Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Kanye.  I just feel like this has to be a staple in any runners playlist even though the lyrics have almost nothing to do with actually running.

The next song is Lighters by Bruno Mars ft. Eminem and somebody else (sorry).  It is a song about achieving in the face of adversity and doubt.  How can anyone struggling to lose weight NOT listen to this one?!

I have a Christmas gift card to iTunes to thank for my most recent addition to my playlist, Ni**as In Paris by Jay-Z and Kanye.  It has absolutely nothing to do with anything that I would be familiar with, but I love it nonetheless.  I played it for my wife this morning and she just simply smiled and shook her head at me.  "Nobody know what is means, but it's provacative!" 

So, now you know.  I don't listen to much music, but when I do it certainly keeps me going!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Out With the Old, and In With the...

...Holy shit, I gained 8 pounds over the holiday break!

I don't even know how to feel about it.  I want to be shocked, but considering the eating and drinking I did of my own volition, shocked is the last thing I should be.  I should probably be happy I didn't gain 12 pounds!

I want to feel disappointed, and I do, but I really try to avoid this emotion as it just makes me want to eat more.

I want to feel nonchalant about the whole deal; just write it off.  But it is 8 f*^%ing pounds!!!  All the pants that I got for Christmas are difficult to button!  It is no time to be nonchalant!

I want to be forgiving, and blame the whole thing on the respiratory infection that I got a week before Christmas.  Sure I needed to take a couple of days off to recover, but I ran one time over the entire 10 days!  Laziness is difficult to forgive!

I guess for now I am settling on determined.  I am determined to lose this weight and more in the coming year!