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The Inspiration Inclination.

So, back at the end of August, on the day that I shaved off that big mustache that wasn’t as popular as the absence of it, I weighed myself. This is not unusual in itself, because I weigh myself every day. I know that people say that a person shouldn’t weigh themselves every day, but this is something that I’ve done for years and it’s the just the way that I am.

Anyways, on that last day of August I weighed 209 pounds. It’s not the most I’ve weighed in my life but I was headed in that general direction. And quite frankly, I didn’t really like the way I was feeling. Riding my bike was not as enjoyable as it had been in years past and I just didn’t feel comfortable in my skin.

Now, I’ve always had a “cub gut”. I will always have a “cub gut”. There is a picture of me playing basketball at 7 or 8 years old with my Dad’s cousin (we called him Uncle Bill) and when I posed for the picture it looked like I had a little tyke-sided basketball under my shirt. My abs have always worked undercover and they will always continue to do so. I am a realist and I know that I’m never going to be the chiseled type. My only goal was to feel comfortable in my own skin. So I decided to start doing something about it.

Removing the daily 75 minute commute each way was a big step in the right direction. By working from home three days a week, I had the opportunity to get out and do something instead of spending daylight hours behind the steering wheel. So I ramped my alarm back to 0500 ET (I always write that in military time so that I feel disciplined about it) and started getting up early and going for a walk. After a few weeks of doing this, I started riding my bike again. I found myself wanting to tackle hills I hadn’t climbed before. I found myself wanting to get out and feel the fresh air. My body thanked me after its initial confusion. The daily weigh-in, which never left my routine, did not result in disagreements with the scale. There was no drop-kicking. If the number crept back up, I decided I need to work harder.

I didn’t crash diet. I’ve tried that before and it has never worked. SlimFast did not enter the picture. Protein shakes did not become part of my routine. What I needed was a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. So what did become part of my routine was keeping track of everything on an app that our friend Jeff introduced us to, MyFitnessPal. I have written about this before and I have found it to be very valuable to this whole approach. It tracks my calories in, calories out, water intake and my weight, and it syncs between my iPhone, iPad and any computer with a web browser. I have no excuse for not keeping track of these things. It even has a barcode scanner that looks up nutrition information for you!

When the daylight hours grew short and the weather didn’t lend itself to bike riding, Earl and I joined the gym. Other than a break during the holidays, we have been going to the gym on a regular basis.

My area of concentration has been weight loss. I set reasonable milestones along the way and I even changed my goal once when I felt happy about where I was headed.

On the first of September I weighed in at 209. This morning I weighed in at 178.4. I have lost over 30 pounds.

I haven’t reached the number I have as a goal yet, but I’m in the ballpark. I took my blood pressure the other night and it was 120/82, and that was after a day at work! Ten years ago I was on daily medication because I had chronic high blood pressure. My weight yo-yos a little bit still, I’m sure I’ll clock in a little over 180 within the next week, but it just keeps me more determined.

Folks are starting to notice the weight loss and I find it flattering when someone says something. The folks that have always seen me with a beard or with the big mustache wonder why I’m clean shaven. It’s part of the effort; a more disciplined approach to my morning routine helps me get on track for the day and having a naked face helps me stay that way.

For the first time in many, many years, I am looking forward to the longer days so I can start walking or riding my bike in the morning before work without risking getting hit by a car. In the meantime, Earl1 and I are going to keep doing what we’re doing and holding tight to the effort.

It’s good to feel good, both inside and out.

1 Earl has made amazing progress as well and while I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to talk about his goals and achievements, I will say that he is impressing me VERY much with his efforts. I am very proud of him.

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60 Minutes.

I have been struggling with getting to the gym the last couple of days. As I write that sentence, I’m not sure that “struggling” is the right word to use but it’s the first word that comes to mind, so that’s what I’ll go with.

I think going to the gym and doing my thing on the elliptical machine alongside two dozen or so other people is running against my somewhat loner/introverted nature. On one hand, I like going to the gym because there is something to look at; there’s plenty of televisions thrust all over the place, there are people of all shapes and sizes and types milling about doing they’re thing. It surely beats working out in the basement and looking at nothing but cinder block walls, but there’s still something about going to the gym that feels invasive to me.

Perhaps I need a little bit of alone time one night this week.

One of the beautiful things about being a cyclist is that I get to see the world at a slower pace, under my own power, and under my own terms and from my own space. The last time I rode bike with another person was when I rode with our friend Thom in Virginia back in 2009. I liked riding with Thom, he’s a good guy, but for the most part there’s not a lot of people that I would want to ride with. My whole “space” kind of works that way. I like being alone and there’s very few people that I can feel comfortable being alone with. I know that doesn’t make sense if you think about it broadly, but that’s just the way my mind works.

Another one of the issues I have with working out at the gym is that there are reminders all over the place as to how much time has passed. There’s a clock hanging on every wall (which aren’t in sync and kind of makes me a little crazy) and the elliptical machines have a display showing how much time you’ve been doing your thing. The timer is in a location whereas it can’t be easily covered with a book or something. The other night I tried working out with my eyes closed but then I got into a song I was listening to and I was worried that I was swaying around like Stevie Wonder. I’m odd, but I don’t want to be perceived as strange.

It’s the first 10 minutes of working out at the gym that I dread. Once that timer that refuses to be obscured is in the double digits I start to feel a little better. Once I’m beyond the 30 minute mark I feel like I might be onto something. It’s not until the last three minutes of working out that I am actually enjoying myself. But the truth of the whole thing is, I really like how I feel after I work out. And that’s what keeps me motivated. It’s how I feel after 60 minutes of feeling overwhelmed, bored and frustrated all at once and I don’t think the elated feelings come from finishing the workout, I think it’s a boost in self-confidence fueled by the fact that I just got something done when I could have easily said no.

So I’ll keep doing this 60 minute workout routine thing until cycling season returns to The Empire State. I need skis for my bike.

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Planet Fitness.

So last night Earl and I joined the gym again. We are now card carrying members at Planet Fitness. A 24 hour, seven day a week gym is the only way to go. Can’t sleep? Go run on the treadmill. Need to relieve stress? Go run on the treadmill. Reality television blaring on the tube in the living room? Go run on the treadmill.

I was a little hesitant to join Planet Fitness again because we had a little bit of a falling out when their accounting system couldn’t handle two men sharing a checking account (only one membership would debit the account properly, the other one just accumulated late charges) and there was some yelling involved to get it all settled. I thought we might be banned for life. So I took the safe approach and signed up online where the website looked particularly flashy but not very technically savvy, figuring I could get my membership in without setting off the alarms. I was right! There was no one from the Planet Fitness security force ready to escort us out when we picked up our membership cards last night.

While I prefer to workout at the very least at home or better yet, riding my bike along over creation, the weather is getting to where it’s not going to be practical for much longer. So we need the gym to fill in for the snow-laden months, plus I can work on building up some muscle once I reach milestone 4. (I reached milestone #3 today and I’m quite happy).

Last night Earl and I walked side-by-side on treadmills and it was quite enjoyable. I am looking forward to heading back there again tonight.

Cozy.


So yesterday after Earl and I returned from our getaway weekend, the weather turned very warm. We woke up to nearly freezing temperatures, by 3:00 p.m. it was almost 70. It turned out to be a perfect day to get a bike ride in. I ended up riding just shy of 25 miles in about two hours.

I opted to take the “really hilly route”, as I like to think of it. It’d been a while since I’d ridden up a few of the hills I found along my route but it was a good workout for the arms and legs and I felt a good sense of accomplishment after the climbs.

When I go for a bike ride I tend to ride north and/or west, especially at this time of year. Riding up into the small villages of Holland Patent, Barneveld and Remsen seems like a natural for autumn; the leaves are gorgeous as they change to brilliant colors. The scent of fireplaces and wood stoves fill the air and there’s just a feeling of coziness as I ride by the historic, rural houses. It’s the same feeling I had when we lived in our first house together. That house was built in 1854 and had the fireplaces and the type of kitchen that just begged to be filled with the smells of baking cookies. It’s probably odd that one would feel cozy on a long-distance bike ride, but that’s exactly how I felt yesterday.

Yet another reason that this really is my favorite time of year.

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Cookie.

It has been six weeks since the last time I had an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie from Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s been four weeks since I’ve stepped into the Dunkin’ Donuts near work. I wish I could say that I don’t miss the occasional cookie one single bit, but that would be a lie. I do miss the cookie. I just don’t miss the calories (FYI a hamburger from McDs has less calories) associated with eating the cookie. Even though I ride my bike a LOT these days, I still feel like I’m not doing enough exercise. I envy these folks that can afford to spend three, four, five hours in a gym on a daily basis, grunting and making noises as they fling hundreds of pounds of weights around like it’s nobody’s business.

Skipping the cookie and eating healthy in general has been good for me. My body has some sort of threshold at around 194 pounds. Above 194 and my blood pressure gets weird and I occasionally get little rumbles in the chest area that are not scary but just noticeable enough to encourage my head to say “you’re getting at the upper end of the spectrum, bippy.” Below 194 and the blood pressure settles down to a reasonable level, the rumbles are gone and I have more energy. So skipping the cookie has been a good thing.

But I still miss the taste of a cookie.

Some have suggested making similar cookies at home with Splenda. Not a fan of Splenda. At all. Anything related to the chemical wizardry of Sucralose gives me a headache. I’m suspicious of stuff that tries to circumvent the laws of nature by claiming you’re eating no calories. The only thing worse than Sucralose for me is that Olestra stuff; feel free to ask me to point out the tree along the Thruway that was a makeshift porta-john after eating chips with the cleverly marketed “O-lean” the next time you see me in Albany.

I don’t want fake cookies. I want a real cookie. I’m going to need to schedule a couple extra hours of workout time to take care of this craving.

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Rest.

I didn’t work out this morning. The rational side of me knows that every body, no matter how fit or how bionic, needs a break from working out once in a while, but the irrational side of me feels guilty for not working out this morning. So apparently my way to combat this is to drink extra gallons of water so as to flush the guilt away. I’m trotting back and forth to the rest room like crazy today but I don’t see any guilt in the urinal. I bet that’s not a sentence you read very often in a blog.

My hip is pretty sore after that fall I took on my bike on Saturday. I just realized that I didn’t write about that here, I posted about it on Facebook. That’s not a habit I would like to get in; falling nor posting things only to Facebook. The fall was because I maneuvered a railroad track crossing in a bad way and got my tire caught in one of the slots for the rails. My cyclist instincts kicked in though and I was able to twist my feet out of my pedals and kick the bike out of the way on my way down. I landed hard on my left hip though. Three drivers stopped to make sure I was ok and that was very much appreciated. I continued on with the ride afterwards and rode again yesterday, so all is well but I’m still pretty sore today.

I think taking a rest on a Monday might not be the best way to go, because I need something to kick start the whole Monday experience and the past several Mondays have been acceptable after a workout.

Maybe I just need a nap.

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Goals.

So in mid-August I set some health-related goals for myself. Today I conquered the second goal and because of this, I am feeling quite good today.

The first goal was to stick to a plan while not going off on some weird diet tangent that promised to reduce me to the size of Twiggy in a month but then would blow me up to twice the size if I inhaled anywhere near a Pop-Tart.  I believe eating normal, regular food but at reasonably sized portions (I call it “Leave It To Beaver” portions) is the way to go. With the help of MyFitnessPal (as recommended by our friend Jeff), I can say that I have gone for over 25 days of sticking to my plan. Goal #1? So far so good.

The second goal was to get my weight to Army standards. Now I know I’m not in the Army nor have I ever been in the Army (back then they would have asked, I would have told…) but I figured that the goal of being within Army regulations was a good milestone along this path I had plotted for myself.  So this morning I felt quite good to see that the scale gave me the number that put me within regulations. I even jumped on the scale three times to make sure that the number was consistent.

I don’t like throwing out numbers, but I’m going to:

29 Aug 12: 209.0 lbs
05 Oct 12: 191.8 lbs

Watching what I eat because I record everything I eat has been a really good first step. Earl and I have been walking after supper at least three times a week for the past several weeks. We recently moved our walk from the nearby high school track to the mall, where there’s more to see, it’s warmer and we can be like old people racing around the perimeter of the mall.

I have also pledged to continue cycling until the snow plows chase me off the road. When that happens I’ll move the road bike into the basement (for days when we can’t see beyond the front porch) and start taking the trail bike out on days when we’re not having a blizzard. If the snow becomes an issue this winter, I’m going to take up snowshoeing. I hear that’s a great cardio workout.

My next goal is known to only Earl and me and I’ll probably peacock (using peacock as a verb sounds a little dirty) when I reach that goal, but for now I’m feeling good and I’m feeling more _balanced_ than I have in a while.

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Meditative.

So as predicted to myself this past weekend, I have started finding my meditative center again through my cycling. I went for an hour ride this morning before work, but it felt like the ride was only five or ten minutes long. As a result, I have felt pretty good today and I have been productive at work. My stress levels are lower. I’m handling things better. Thing are all good, and for the benefit of another blogger, less squishy.

Because the United States insists on playing God with the position of the sun in relation to the time, it is now pretty dark when most folks are getting up for work, and it will continue to be like this until the second week of November. This is unfortunate in many ways, one of them including the fact that there are folks that would like to exercise in the magic of the autumn morning breezes to give their day a kickstart. I saw several other cyclists, walkers and joggers as I made my rounds today. Exercising in this manner requires dressing up nearly like a Christmas Tree. You have to be as reflective and noticeable as possible, lest you get hit by a driver who is busy trying to send a text message on their 2005 flip phone while speeding along at 60 MPH.

Since I re-entered the cycling arena nearly 12 years ago I have noticed a considerable decline in my safety comfort level while riding the streets and roads of the area. I have to be more cognizant than ever of what’s going on around me. I obey all traffic signals and signs and I ride my bike as if it were a motor vehicle that is being powered by human means (but not Taco Bell gas). My bike is fitted with a very bright headlight, a flashing tail light, about a dozen reflectors and reflective tape. My cycling jersey has reflective tape on it and my shoes have the same. To make me even more noticeable, Earl brought home a fluorescent safety vest from work that I wear over everything. I can’t help but think that folks can see me, however, there was one close call this morning where a car came speeding down the hill on the non-motored side of the white line that denotes the shoulder of the road. I quickly veered into a driveway to avoid having to eat some gravel.

Of course, we have the other side of the coin of all this as well. There’s a part of me that thinks that common sense would dictate that when one saw me with all this gear on, riding a decent bike and following the rules of the road, then I must be someone that knows what the heck I’m doing on a bicycle. However, every once in a while someone will blare their horn right behind me or slow down to my speed and just tail me down the street. I find this disconcerting. I appreciate that they’re considering my safety and welfare but on the other hand, I think I’m showing signs that I know what I’m doing. Perhaps I’m a little cranky. I guess it’s the effort that counts.

The ride this morning lasted just around an hour. The last third of it was in the rain. Luckily I had my rain gear on. The rain was quite enjoyable and didn’t bother me in the least. It didn’t snap me out of my meditative state, in fact, it helped the situation. I enjoyed it so much that I took a break from work this morning and walked for 15 minutes in the pouring rain.

And it felt good.