Aug
12

One of my Heroes – Gone

robin-williams-80sMy parents had broken up a year or more before, and we didn’t have cable. Already at the tender age of four or five I was in love with aliens and I have a clear memory of staying late at someone else’s house being babysat for some reason or another when I had one of those magical moments of discovery that you do as a child. It occurred in a blessedly unsupervised moment while I was sitting on a dirty couch in a living room filled with toys and other child-related mess. I don’t know where everyone else was, I don’t know why I had so much time on my own right then, what I do remember was that a show started that I had never seen before. I guess it was on re-runs by then, but I remember the opening credits rolling over a black jeep and then a strange, excited, man in a reddish uniform.

I knew him as an alien right away, with that strange symbol on his chest, and just hoped with all my might that I could watch the whole episode before my mom came and got me. I didn’t quite make it, but I was immediately running around yelling “Nanoo, nanoo” at everyone I could.

Something about the performance stuck with me. And I recognised him right away when I saw the next show with him in it.

We didn’t get to rent very many movies back then, money was tight and the only place to rent them was in another town, but when I saw him disembark a plane and start cracking wise on his first impressions of army life in Vietnam, I was hooked. Beyond hooked. That movie changed my life – I wanted to be funny.

I was an awkward kid who wasn’t athletic and had a tough time fitting in, and I thought that if I could just make everyone laugh, they would have too like me. I tried a lot. Read joke books, jumped around like a moron to get a laugh, etc. It never worked and later I switched tactics, but I kept coming back to one man again and again.

He brought me to hysterics with his comedy even as he tugged at my heartstrings in performances like Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, and my favourite of all time; Dead Poet’s Society. There was a depth there that we all knew and recognised. He expressed his pain in his poetry – his performances.

When I met my wife and knew I was falling in love with her I even paid her the highest compliment I could, I stood on a chair and yelled at the top of my lungs, “Oh Nessa my Nessa!”

Like me, he struggled with drug addiction and depression. Even in his success he could find no solace and finally, it seems, saw no way out. I have known his pain and his hopelessness. I can only pray that his sudden, shocking death allows people to reach out and be public with their disease. Mental illness still has a major taboo and people who suffer usually suffer alone, misunderstood and in silence.

Get help. Tell people. Be public about it. Please.

Apr
18

A Crossfit Fan Club

Teresa Back SquatI want to tell you about a little bit of my inspiration.

You see, I have a Crossfit family. In it are men and women from all walks of life. We have firefighters, police officers, members of our armed forces, accountants, an optometrist, stay-at-home moms, social workers, and multiple oilfield workers. It is a glorious diversity that produces some of the coolest conversations and scenes I have ever witnessed. I have seen the quintessential “soccer mom” cheer on a truck driver through the last bit of a WOD that he was struggling through and I have seen a grandmother cheering a student through a new deadlift PR. It is a pretty awesome environment and I watch positivity and lives changed every day.

But even in this place where the amazing happens as a matter of normality, there are some who stand out. One is this amazing woman named Teresa.

Now, you can check here for her story in her own words, but this post is a little bit about what she means to me and to the people I talk to at the Machine Shop.

You see, recently, she had a celebration (BYOB, Paleo Potluck) for an amazing achievement. She had lost one hundred pounds. I know the struggles and the tribulations and life changes that one must go through in order to fundamentally change one’s life and body in drastic ways. But I can’t wrap my mind around 100 pounds.

But you need to understand more. You see, she throws the eff down. She goes into class and takes a look at the board, rolls her eyes at me while I whine about how hard it is going to be and then crushes it. She pushes herself hard, and she inspires everyone around her to push themselves hard because of it. Did I mention she rocked the Open? Oh hell yes she did!

She effing smiled at me after she did 14.5, like a mothereffing superhero!

Listen, those of you who know her know what I am telling you is true. Every time she rolls into class with her focus, determination, positive attitude, and smile, she makes you feel like it is OK to be there. She makes you feel with her laugh (even at my corny jokes) that “Yeah, we all know that is heavy and for a lot more reps than we think we are capable of, but Teresa is positive and going to throw down hard on this one, so I can too.”

Teresa, I missed your gathering. I’m really sorry and please understand that I had a good reason, I hope it was everything you wanted it to be. So I wrote this so that you knew that I was thinking of you. I also wrote this to give voice to a whole hell of a lot of machines that didn’t know how to say it.

Next time you walk into class I need you to know that you aren’t just surrounded by machines, you are not just surrounded by your Crossfit family, you are not even just surrounded by friends…..you are surrounded by fans.

And I’m a huge one.

Mar
01

My Fitness Journey – So Effing Motivated!

That is my baby girl extending out to Thrusters at the cabin with a little log I found her this summer. We worked out together almost every day. It was awesome.

That is my baby girl extending out to Thrusters at the cabin with a little log I found her this summer. We worked out together almost every day. It was awesome.

So I have been documenting my Fitness Journey here on my blog. To get everyone up to speed, you can go back to the beginning and start reading from there to get a better understanding of what is going on, but basically, I was a skinny kid that turned into a fat adult, started doing Boot Camps with gorgeous, amazing and talented wife, kept going when all my life I had quit much sooner, and finally tried out Crossfit at the Machine Shop. Then I started going to Crossfit regularly. Then I went through the trial and travails of trying to figure out this Crossfit thing.

So where am I now in regards to this fitness journey thing?

I have an incredibly supportive family at the Machine Shop. They support me online, in private message, and in person. They offer rides when I need to be heading to an Open workout, they hit me up with tips when they see a deficiency in my movements, and most importantly they keep things light during class so that I can stay out of my head.

Coach Angie has told me more than once that “You think too effing much!” and I think it is my major weakness. In my life I spend all of my time obsessively analyzing everything. I was blessed with some intellectual capacity and it is both kind of awesome and kind of a curse. Basically, anytime I become interested in a complex system of any type, I tend to focus on it and read/watch/listen to everything that I can until I feel like I understand it.

My interests focus in the historical/political and religious/theological realm with pop/geek/nerd culture and macro-economics as hobbies. See? Only a really compulsive guy could possibly spend thousands of man hours learning about these topics.

So you are rightly asking yourself what the hell this has to do with fitness? Well, it characterises my approach. I listen to Crossfit podcasts, read Crossfit articles and blogs and books, and watching every video there is to watch about Crossfit. I may bring it up in conversation and in social media, like, occasionally as well.

This doesn’t mean that I became awesome at Crossfit, as much as I have become a student of the sport. It is a thing of beauty, it really is. An actual scientific definition of fitness, and a training methodology designed to most efficiently achieve that definition. Functionality and performance twinned and constant variance the rule. It is truly amazing.

My journey through Crossfit has been one of fits and starts and periods of great strides and moments of everything “clicking” and periods of inconsistency and plateaus. It has been amazing and it has become a huge part of my life.

I walk around with whip marks from practicing double-unders, blood blisters on my forearms and my shoulders from Atlas stones, calluses and blisters on my hands from pull-ups, torn thumbs from hook-grip, and a general awful soreness a lot of the time. And I can’t stop. I miss it when I don’t go and am constantly thinking about it.

But that’s not the motivation. You see, the motivation doesn’t come internally, or from how awesome Crossfit is, or even how amazing the Machine Shop family is. It isn’t because of how much growth I’ve had or even how my quality of life has improved. Basically, it is about my family.

You really can do this shit everywhere.

You really can do this shit everywhere.

Because of Crossfit, I don’t have chronic pain and am a better husband. I was so wracked in pain and self-loathing that I was nowhere near the man I should have been for my wife. And since she is the most amazing woman in the entire universe, she doesn’t deserve that. She deserves more than my best, but at the very least she should get me at my best. Further, I was on a rock solid trajectory of a lifetime of miserable pain and ill health that would lead to multiple surgeries and likely an early tobacco and shitty diet induced early death, which would have seen likely years of languishing on and depending on her for care. I feel like it is my responsibility to do what little I can to ensure that that either doesn’t occur or at least is much lessened. And frankly, I want to be deadlifting and squatting well into my retirement.

And then there is my little girl.

I mean, having kids changes everything, right? It is cliché, but it is so because it is true. When she started walking around, I was so out of shape and in such pain that I couldn’t really play with her that much, or at least didn’t really want to. But seriously, I want to. I want to be able to carry her while sleeping to bed upstairs every single time she needs me to. But maybe more than that, I want her to have a better relationship with food and fitness than I have had. I don’t want her to have to struggle with this her whole life like I have. She loves Crossfit, hangs at the box and chats up the owner all of the time. She is in Crossfit Kids (sadly, at another box) and is engaged in a fitness journey of her own. She has already told me that she is going to win the Crossfit Games.

Now I am just going to make sure that I model a lifestyle that values such things.

That’s it that’s all everyone, thanks for those of you who have followed this blog series, my first about Crossfit. And watch for me during the 2014 Crossfit Games Open.

Feb
27

My Fitness Journey – Figuring it Out

I love you more than CrossFit.  Well, not really...I love you more than burpees.So I have been documenting my Fitness Journey here on my blog. To get everyone up to speed, you can go back to the beginning and start reading from there to get a better understanding of what is going on, but basically, I was a skinny kid that turned into a fat adult, started doing Boot Camps with gorgeous, amazing and talented wife, kept going when all my life I had quit much sooner, and finally tried out Crossfit at the Machine Shop. Then I started going to Crossfit regularly.

So what is the next step? I basically kept doing Crossfit. I made a bunch of mistakes, like trying to go heavy too fast, or listening to the interwebz as it pertained to movements instead of my awesome coaches, but overall I started to see improvements.

That being said, I wasn’t very good at it.

Frankly, I’m still not.

I was scaling everything and still finishing in the bottom third of men in each class. Also, Crossfit women are effing beast-mode, mmmkay? Crossfit will humble you. Don’t believe me? Come in and get your ass handed to you in a WOD by a woman who seconds before the buzzer goes says something like “I wish I had found this in my fifties.”

So, I cheated for a few months. In Crossfit I have seen it called being a “clock whore.” Your ego gets in the way and you start to take shortcuts. There are a lot of reps that get counted that were not quite there yet, and you might even skip a bunch of reps and move onto the next thing giving the impression that you are going a lot faster than you really are.

Then I decided that no matter what I was going to make sure I did all of the reps and tried to get the movements as close to grade as I could from then on, but I kept my weights really light so that I could still make decent times. So I might have had a decent “Nancy” but I did it at 65-75 lbs instead of the prescribed 95 lbs, or my “Fran” was done with a band, that sort of thing.

But my progress seriously stalled. So I had a long conversation with some of my coaches about what my deficits were, and in the end, most of them could be solved, but it would require a more solid foundation of strength in order to build on them. So, as the months progressed, I decided to let the time clock be damned and start going heavier and heavier during the WODs. Strength started to come, but very slowly. At first I was pretty happy with this as I hadn’t made any kind of performance gains in a while but it was going pretty slowly.

In the end, I started listening to the Barbell Shrugged podcast and they discussed nutrition and performance, a lot. And so, I started reading a lot about it. To be fair, I am still a major novice as it pertains to nutrition but I have learned a lot.

Cigar and ScotchAnd then there were the cigars. Deep, lustrous, beautiful, flavourful, cigars.

I knew they were holding me back, but I didn’t want to quit. I still love them.

But at the beginning of this winter I started the process of quitting cigars and in few weeks started to feel better during and after WODs. And in the New Year, I started to change my nutrition. I made some Paleo-esque changes, with a major focus on upping my fat and protein intake for performance, recovery, and to build strength. It is a work in progress, but if this last testing phase is any indication, it is starting to work. I am hitting PRs in all my lifts, but quite a lot. Even in goats of mine like benchpress.

Further, my body is changing. I had slimmed down and had a little muscle definition earlier in my Crossfit journey, but now I was starting to gain weight. I think I will never have a six pack, but I am starting, little by little, to build muscle, which is cool.

And the best part? I really don’t give a shite about what I look like in the mirror, I am doing all of this so I can perform better. All my goals are oriented to that end.

So, I am creeping up on the strength benchmarks that I set for myself more than a year ago, and am starting to do more and more WODs as prescribed, which for a mid-thirties newbie with some health conditions like me is pretty cool, if I do say so.

And now, I have another motivation for my diet, lifestyle changes, and training.

I have signed up for the Open.

 

Feb
07

My Fitness Journey – Fighting the Fat Man

You're cool, but are you "Overhead squatting with a tree cool?"

You’re cool, but are you “Overhead squatting with a tree” cool?

So I have been documenting my Fitness Journey here on my blog. To get everyone up to speed, you can go back to the beginning and start reading from there to get a better understanding of what is going on, but basically, I was a skinny kid that turned into a fat adult, started doing Boot Camps with gorgeous, amazing and talented wife, kept going when all my life I had quit much sooner, and finally tried out Crossfit at the Machine Shop.

So what now?

In order to understand what was going through my head one must understand how filled with doubt and self-loathing I was. You see, when for the first like 30+ years of one’s life one spends an inordinate amount of one’s energy being ashamed of one’s physical appearance and abilities, one develops certain habits mentally that are MASSIVE BARRIERS TO THE FITNESS!!!

So, in my case I began every physical enterprise with the understanding that I was probably going to suck at it, and probably embarrass myself, because I was too skinny/fat/weak/undisciplined to succeed. In a very real sense, even though I had lost all of this weight, I was still a fat guy. It was my identity; it was how I identified, and what I expected of myself. I was mentally defeated before I began. It was only by luck and happenstance (to my way of thinking) that I had made it this far and eventual failure was surely inevitable.

I even remember posting on my Facebook account once something like, “I know everyone who is complimenting me on my weight loss is trying to be nice, but each time you do, I am reminded that I am probably going to put all of it back on at some stage.”

See?

I just assumed that my fitness had a shelf life.

I was going to put the weight back on, and everything would go back to the way it was. And as certain as I was about that, I was terrified of it. I didn’t want to go back. I liked who I was becoming, and I started to notice something huge: I hadn’t thrown my back out in almost a year. In fact, my back pain had slowly dissipated. It was more traumatic memory than present reality now. I still had some low level pain and whenever I did anything that heavily recruited my back muscles I felt excessive pain, but it was much, much, better. Because of that, my personality improved, my outlook on life got more positive, and every aspect of my life started to look better.

My marriage improved.

I improved as a dad.

Seriously.

My family bore the brunt of the effects of my chronic pain. And now it was getting better. Now, I could pick my daughter up and carry her around, play horsey, and throw her up on my shoulders at a parade without wondering if I was going to be laid up for a week afterwards. Now, I didn’t just lay like a lump on the couch unable to really do anything and taking it out on my intelligent, caring, reason for living.

Me, in cat form.

Me, in cat form.

I mean, my friends still call me the Human Grumpy Cat, but part of that is personality…..and the fact that the things they do are stupid and annoying.

So I felt like I had a lot to lose this time. And there was a point of diminishing returns for the joy in my new fitness, even as I saw the improvements, I was so sure it was going to go away at some stage that I basically tainted all of it with regret. For example, I saw my pain going away as a bad thing because when it came back I was going to be haunted with the memory of how good this was.

So, with the support of my loving bride, I decided to talk to Angie about it, which we did while running next to eachother at one of the last Boot Camps of the summer. Basically, when I told her about my “inner fat man” she said to me between huffs and puffs that “You have no idea how often I hear that….it goes away.”

I was pretty gobsmacked.

So, I decided to sign up for more Crossfit, starting with eight sessions a month.

Feb
05

My Fitness Journey – What the Eff is a WOD?

Thrusters with cement

Doing thrusters with a block of cement at the cabin this summer. I am an addict.

To bring everyone up to date: I had a terrible foundations for fitness, had begun doing Boot Camps in the park with my beautiful bride, kept at it longer than I had ever stuck with anything, and even had to find something new to do, when I discovered The Machine Shop.

Now let me perfectly clear – I liked Boot Camp. I liked it quite a bit. It was social, which I liked; it was scheduled, which I needed; it was variable/always changing, which kept me from getting bored; and it was hard work, which I needed in order to feel like I was accomplishing something. All that being said, it never struck me as particularly hardcore or “rock and roll.” There was something missing, and though I found something that I would endure, and even sometimes look forward to in order to see my buddies I worked out with, I didn’t LOVE it. But I didn’t know what it was.

So then that fateful Wednesday in August rolled around that I was scheduled to come in for a Crossfit Beginners class. We did a warm-up, much like we would have done at Boot Camp, so I was pretty familiar with some of it. Then we grabbed PVC pipes and started to practice doing an Overhead Squat.

I had never so much as lifted a weight before except in a couple of abortive attempts to get in shape by going to the gym. And that pretty much led to me faking my way through some kind of barbell curl while staring in the mirror and trying not to make eye contact with anyone, and alternating that with gazing at the complex, antiseptic, machines littering the landscape like pieces of modern art – just as expensive and baffling.

I always felt so intimidated at the gym because I not only didn’t know what I was doing, no one talked to each other, and I felt like I was being judged for not wearing a muscle shirt and backwards ball cap, which, I assume, is the uniform of the gym. So, I would stop going right away.

What I felt like at the gym.

What I felt like at the gym.

Hmmm, that was off-topic, wasn’t it?

OK, back to Overhead Squats. Pretty soon our trainer/coach came by and watched us perform a few squats and then allowed some of us to get a bar. I was chosen because she said I had “good mobility.” I simply nodded and said, “Yeah” while thinking “What the eff is good mobility?” So I grabbed a 45 lb bar and soon she said to add two ten pound plates, which felt pretty heavy in a position that I had never been in before.

Then, she announced the WOD. My first thought, “What the eff is a WOD?” Second thought, “Just act like you aren’t gobsmacked by every second word that comes out of her mouth and get to the end of this.” Seriously, I thought she was speaking another language as she rattled off acronyms “The eff is an AMRAP?” and started demonstrating wall balls and explaining to us that Overhead Squats would be in the workout.

I can’t remember the breakdown or how long it was or anything.

What I do remember was hoisting what I thought was an endlessly heavy bar over my head for what I’m pretty certain was the gazillionth time when suddenly it hit me, “Workout of the Day!”

I nearly dropped the bar.

Why couldn't they just define their terminology for clarity at the outset? Oh, because they aren't nerds.

Why couldn’t they just define their terminology for clarity at the outset? Oh, because they aren’t nerds.

Then I remember afterwards gasping for breath, my muscles screaming at having been used in such a vicious manner, and covered in more sweat than I thought was possible.

I thought to myself, “There is no way I am going to do this again!”

I went home and promised myself to look for another Boot Camp somewhere.

But there was nagging feeling that I couldn’t shake. I felt like I had discovered a hardcore new workout regime. I felt like all I wanted to do now was lift that barbell again. I wanted to lift weights; I wanted to prove that I could throw down again. I wanted to get better at what I did. It was gnawing at me. I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to try it again, but maybe just one more time.

Then my wife asked me, “So, are you doing it again?”

Feb
01

My Fitness Journey – Something New

Push upsSo I had lost a bunch of weight, and now my Boot Camp trainer had gone and quit.

So what do we do now?

There was now a crew of about four or five of us that became pretty good buddies through Boot Camp. I decided that we should try and keep our little group together. So, I called a meeting over beer and wings, which is how all good life decisions should be made. The most important thing to come from that meeting was that I discovered buttered chicken wings. Amazing.

Also, we decided that we were going to try and work out together while looking around at some other options.

We started meeting a few times a week at a city-run rec centre and using their weight room and indoor track as we started to try and do our own programming. It was OK, but we really didn’t do anything that we really didn’t like or challenged us (so, no burpees, like ever!), didn’t know what we were doing, and some of the commitment started to slip.

So, we started losing ground.

Little by little.

I felt that I had made a pretty major life change in that we were seeking something to keep going, but we were still all so new and young we quickly realised that doing it on our own would simply not last. So, we decided to go online and find Groupon coupons for other Boot Camps and go and try them out as a group until we found one we liked.

I found one in suburb of the city we were living in, for fairly cheap, and twice a week, so I picked it up. I convinced the others (so I thought) to do it, and we made plans to meet up and join this new one. I also signed up for three months at this Boot Camp, and noticed that with this there was an offer for one free class of Crossfit at a place called Crossfit Machine Shop.

Frankly, I didn’t know what Crossfit was, had never heard of it, and wasn’t that interested.

So, I started working out in the Boot Camps over the summer. Sadly, only one other person survived the transition from my old Boot Camp (I still miss those guys) but away we went. And of course, we started to meet people and make friends, it was nice.

Our trainer was different though….

She was super nice and super knowledgeable – like our previous one – but she had some muscle on her frame. Just standing still you could tell that she was strong and very confident in that strength. You could also tell that she was also a little bit of a nonconformist.  There was some unconventional hair colours, some tattoos, piercings, rock and roll t-shirts, and the occasional f-bomb dropped. That, and you would catch her rolling her eyes (when she thought we weren’t looking) whenever someone (me included) gave her some bullshit story about why they really couldn’t work that hard that day…

Then we had a Boot Camp at the gym, which I found out wasn’t a gym, it was a box. And it was called the Machine Shop. But there weren’t any machines in there. They had barbells and dumbbells and racks galore, but no machines. On that day we used sledgehammers, flipped tractor tires, pulled weights on ropes, lifted weights, and ran on concrete. All in this industrial park area of town. And the facility wasn’t much to look at, it was a truck bay with a little office over-top of it. We cracked open the truck bay doors and went to town. There was spray paint on the walls, buckets of chalk, and our trainer’s business/life partner was this muscled up looking guy in a toque that leaned against the wall and made really inappropriate jokes throughout the whole thing.

I loved it and them – immediately.

I have to say, both the trainers had muscle and were clearly fit, but they didn’t look like the people on the bodybuilder magazines. Were they smaller? Yes. Way smaller. But their bodies looked like they were ready for anything, not just for show. They looked like they were warriors, ready to take on life no matter what it threw at them. They just looked strong and capable.

But pretty soon the summer was coming to an end and I had to find the next thing. So, I talked to my trainer and asked if I could try “that Crossfit thing.”

She scheduled a time, on a  Wednesday soon.

Jan
31

My Fitness Journey – Getting Over the Hump

Kettle bell side to sidesSo to recap, I had a pretty terrible foundation for fitness and then I started to do a Boot Camp style workout four days a week. I started dropping weight and feeling generally better, and people starting noticing a difference in me.

I kept on going to Boot Camp, even after my beautiful and adoring wife chose not to. I was having fun still, and I had made a couple of workout buddies that were helping me to stay motivated. A few months went by, and we had to move indoors as the weather turned to fall.

Then it struck me: aside from martial arts, I had never stuck with any kind of workout regime for more than three months. I stuck with the martial arts because I was pretty angry as a young man and I got to hit things and other people without consequence. But nothing else had stuck. Everything had a shelf life of about three months, give or take. After that, I ran out of willpower, got bored, lost focus because I was starting to look and feel better so I started to tell myself that skipping workouts wouldn’t matter, etc. Then one workout would turn into two, which would turn into three, and down it would go.

BurgersThis is part of what contributed to my yo-yo dieting and exercise. I would gain weight, try the latest workout video, try and develop a training regimen based on what I knew from martial arts, diet a bunch (the more extreme the better – it only counts when you hate your life), and lose a bunch of weight. I routinely lost 30-40 lbs in a summer, I just could not keep it off. And by this point I was so beaten down by the effort that I just assumed that I would gain it all back again this time as well.

I was resigned to my fate, you see, I now saw myself as a fat, unfit, person. When I closed my eyes and pictured myself, that is who I saw, what I pictured, and in all of my dreams of the future that is who I was. I was going to have chronic back pain, be fat, and hate myself and be miserable about it. My only pleasure would be in my intellectual pursuits and the rush that came with eating.

Oh and there is a rush, especially when the food is junk or decadent. As I was wolfing down that hamburger and fries as fast as I could, only pausing for breath, I could forget how shitty I felt about myself for a few minutes. And when something was going crappy in my life, I could snack and feel pleasure for a few fleeting moments. But it was a roller-coaster, even as I was cramming my face with food there was always the feeling of dread that ruined it, the knowledge that I was making the problem worse, and that later I would be enveloped with a crushing guilt. So those of you who have never struggled like this before, think about it; eating is our only pleasure, and even that pleasure is tainted so that we cannot fully enjoy it. Fun, hey?

Medicine Ball Push-upsBut I digress. I started to find that I didn’t want to quit right then. I wanted to keep going. It was bizarre. Why? Well, it was social, for one. I like talking to people. I got to meet up with people and we started to become friendly. I looked forward to seeing them.  They shouted encouragement from time to time, gave me someone to set my times and progress against, compete with, and crack wise with. Most importantly, we could talk about this shared experience together, I wasn’t going through it alone.

It also has a trainer that would keep on top of you, correct your form, push you when you were lagging behind, and tell you what you were going to do that day. This is so important, as the trainer will have you do things that you wouldn’t do yourself, but probably should, and can give you advice as you go along. You build a relationship with your trainer. You start to feel comfortable, and they get to know all of your quirks and issues, and can help you around them. For example, I sprained my ankle early on and if I hadn’t had a trainer, I would have quit. But she helped me to train around it.

I found that having a schedule was important to me, knowing in advance that I would have a class at a certain time allowed me to plan around it, and so I could make arrangements. Also, working out in the evening, after work, was huge. I had done the early morning thing so many times and it is just so easy for me to sleep in. I know all the clichés (it sets up your whole day, makes you feel great for the rest of the day, gets it out of the way so you have your whole day, etc.) but it doesn’t matter if I don’t go. I also find that while not all, a large percentage of people who say that early morning is “the only time I can work out” never do work out.

And variety…oh man, variety. Not knowing what the workout was going to be, not getting sick of it, was so important. I always got bored or just straight up hated the workout regime I was doing. I would get to the point where I would dread starting it because I would know it was something I just had to grind through. Especially those damned workout vids! I would get to the point where if I had to listen to that lame joke that guy on the vid said one more time I was going to become homicidal.

Ring dipsSo long story short, we moved inside and I kept on working. Months started to pass. I still felt great. I liked going, I invited my friends. The winter dragged on, I lost some more weight. At this point I had lost about 45 lbs, down to about 190 from the 235 that I started at.

Something still nagged at me though, I had hit a wall in terms of how much improvement I was getting, and there seemed something a little…..unmanly…a little “not quite rock and roll” about the whole thing. I mean, I didn’t care that much and my life was changing, even if I still did pretty much eat like crap (just less on workout days) and I felt great and looked much better. I thought I would do Boot Camp forever.

Then, with no warning…about a year into Boot Camp, our trainer went out of business. And I had nothing.

Now what was I going to do?

I knew I wanted to keep working out, but I couldn’t afford a personal trainer and I didn’t know if I would like some other Boot Camps based on the horror stories I heard.

So now what?

Jan
31

My Fitness Journey – Boot Camp

Fat MeSo in part one I basically explained the background of where I came from in regards to my physical fitness. To recap:

I had some injuries, and some hereditary physical health problems which made those injuries much, much, worse and was in chronic back pain. This, added to my history of depression, meant that I was filled with self-loathing, never wanted to leave the house, never wanted to talk to anyone, and was angry all the time. And because my physical appearance and physical pain lead to emotional pain, I ate to fill that gap (I used to do drugs and drink for that, but now it was hamburgers, pizza, and chocolate) and self-selected away from the things in life that would open me to being mocked for my weight. I refused to go to the beach, swim, or anything wherein I might be pressured socially to take my shirt off or do anything physical.

I would make jokes about it, but that was simply my way of getting out in front of the mockery to lessen the emotional pain.

And my friends would make fun. I kind of became everyone’s fat friend. There were comments and whether it was real or not, I felt people staring at me, at my bulging belly, and at everything about my physical appearance that I hated.

And I hated. Oh did I hate. I fucking despised the guy I saw in the mirror. He was weak, he was ugly, he was undisciplined, he was lazy, and he was miserable. He didn’t deserve anything nice in life, didn’t deserve to be loved, and could not understand why anyone would want to be his friend.

More fat me.So, then enter Groupon.

It was coming up on a summer and I had left Seminary without being sure that I was every going back. I wanted to do something that allowed me to soak up a lot of sunshine, and hang out with my wife. So, I found a Boot Camp Groupon for $20.00 that would give you unlimited sessions over the course of a month. I talked my wife into coming with me, and bought two. I arranged for babysitters for Trinity and we decided we would trudge out to a park on the south side and do these four nights a week.

 

It was terrible.

I could hardly get through ten push-ups with terrible form. I couldn’t run for more than thirty seconds at a time. I couldn’t jump. I had to shake out my legs and rest after each air squat.  I felt like garbage at the end of each workout. But….I was having fun. The workouts were varied, which helped because I wasn’t getting bored, but mainly I was bonding with my beautiful wife through this shared suffering and though our form was terrible and we were likely trying to do more than we should have, almost by accident we started to lose weight. I started at about 235 lbs. jogging my fat ass around the park and doing squats and burpees and pushups and sit ups in the hot sun and clouds of mosquitoes until I nearly puked 4 nights a week.

Kettle bell side to sides

I did make the decision that I wasn’t going to diet this time, as I always failed on my diets, and I wasn’t going into this to lose weight, I was going into it to hang out with my wife and do something together that was outside. However, because I was coming so close to puking while I was working out, I was eating less and slightly better (read: no greasy, heavy, foods) so I didn’t embarrass myself publicly. So, kind of by necessity/accident I was eating slightly better. And when I started to see results, I started to try to select better foods and less of them even on days I wasn’t working out. Which, I guess, led to more and better results.

And what were the results? Well, basically the fat started to melt off; in a couple of months I dropped 35 lbs. and dropped to 200 lbs. And I started to get stronger and fitter and get faster. I also suffered through what I thought was shin splints that I ended up finding out later was a sprained ankle.

Picnic Table jumpsActual Doctor quote: “I’m not sure how you were running on that. Actually, I’m not sure how you walked in here today.”  My theory is that I had been in such intense and chronic pain for such a long time that I had just learned to deal with the pain. That, and since I was waking up my entire body from atrophy and a completely sedentary lifestyle, I was already in such intense pain from the workouts that I thought maybe this was just part of that. I really didn’t understand the difference between soreness and injury pain.

It was about this time that due to family commitments my beautiful wife stopped coming with me and the moment of truth was upon me; would I continue on without her?

Jan
30

My Fitness Journey – The Beginning

Young MeSo growing up I was always very, very skinny. Not slim, not slender, but skinny. I wasn’t very athletic at all, I didn’t play hockey or baseball (which made me a black sheep in my family) and wasn’t interested in participating in most of the crap they had us do in gym.

Frankly, my reticence to do so was based on the fact that I knew I was weaker than most everyone else because I was so much skinnier.

As I got a little older I participated in a fair bit of martial arts, and definitely built a little muscle and endurance, but was still ridiculously skinny. During that period, I could do pull ups all day long and not really every hit the wall and doing 50 push-ups in a set, unbroken, multiple times, was nothing for me.

I met my wife and she eventually started feeding me, and I went to the oil patch and did a very physical job that required a fair amount of physical strength. In about six months of working there, I put on about 60 lbs. of lean muscle and in most ways was quite a bit stronger than I had ever been before.

Then, I decided I wanted to go to school to become a Pastor. You can read about how well that went here.

I didn’t really have a fitness routine as much as I did a very physical job and was super young, so I ate like crap (and I ate lots of it) and got away with it. I felt good and looked good, I thought.

One major factor in all of this was that I was in a pretty big roll-over while at work in the oil patch wherein I broke a couple of ribs and hurt my back quite badly. During the recovery process and the subsequent injuries and re-injuries that happened multiple times each year for the coming years, I found out that I had scoliosis (curvature of the spine, hampering recovery efforts, and ensuring that the healing process from any injury takes far longer and is less successful than with the average person) and osteoarthritis (painful calcium/bone shards that build up, usually on the joints and feel like someone is stabbing you with a needle if you move wrong).  Both conditions meant that my back was always going to be bad and weaker than it was, and they were degenerative, they were just going to get worse with time.

What does all this back stuff have to do with anything? Well, it made any physical activity extremely painful, and if I forced myself to do something (help someone move, bend down to pick something up, hold my daughter for too long, stand for too long, sit in an uncomfortable chair, sleep in a bed that wasn’t exactly perfect) my back would likely get re-injured and I would be in terrible pain and unable to do almost anything but lay on the couch for days at a time. Not only that, but I was in chronic pain ALL THE TIME. Like, taking so much Tylenol and muscle relaxants and whatnot that my doctors were worried about the continued toxic levels of these drugs on my liver, but I needed them just to get through the day.

I talked to a pain specialist and my doctor about my options, and they suggested surgery, but the surgery might not work and would eventually mean that my back degenerated even faster (think wheelchair) than it already was, and when discussing drugs, when I mentioned that I wanted narcotics as only a last ditch effort because I was a recovering drug addict, they simply wrote “drug addiction” in my file and at each subsequent meeting wherein I spoke about my pain, they assumed that this was drug seeking behaviour and didn’t even want to help me.

So, I did not want nor did I have much of an opportunity to stay active, but I continued to eat like I was a young buck working the rigs every day. So, I packed on the pounds.

Each academic year I basically only ever lifted a book, and each summer I would try and diet and exercise like mad. But I was fighting a losing battle. A couple of summers I injured my back so badly that I couldn’t exercise at all.

So I got bigger and bigger and bigger. At my peak, I was (at 5’10”) and crested around 240 lbs. To put that into perspective, when I started working in the oil patch I was 127 lbs. (no, seriously) and I left the patch at about 185 lbs.

Fat MeAnd frankly, I hated myself.

I hated the way I looked.

I was super fat. And I was in so much pain that I was a super-giant asshole to pretty much everyone, with my own family bearing the brunt of the crap. I was just angry and aggressive all of the time.

And I couldn’t do anything physical at all anymore. If I did, I would always have to weigh doing that thing against the fact that I would likely be completely laid up for around a week.

I couldn’t play with my daughter very much because I couldn’t bend and I was so out of shape that I didn’t have energy to run or whatnot. As she got bigger, I found that I ran the risk of throwing out my back just carrying her to bed.

So that’s where this begins.