Category Archives: Fitness

Last Chance?

Sometimes a thing catches your eye and fills you with such a sense of absurdity that you laugh out loud.  Then your wife, sitting next to you on the couch, looks at you and seems about to ask what you’re cackling over but then lets out of muffled sigh instead as if to say “You know what?  Nah…”

But my wife would never do that to me.

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Nestled safely between box sets of Unsolved Mysteries and Lost is your LAST CHANCE!

As we sit next to each other on the couch in our family room I just noticed a DVD case on its side under the TV with about 50 other DVD cases.  Remember them?  There was a world before streaming.  This DVD says (in blazing, italicized letters no less) LAST CHANCE WORKOUT.

I’ve been doing so well with my fitness plan these past few months.  First I did Insanity Max:30 where I stripped a whole lotta’ fat off my frame and found out I have no muscle.  Now I’m doing BodyBeast where my aim is to bulk up and make some serious gains in mass.  Yes, I know I did it backwards.  I did it that way as a joke on my trainer.  Duh.  No, if I had been thinking clearly I would have done it the other way around.  Apparently you bulk first and then shred.  My trainer does both at the same time and he has telekenesis.  Guy’s amazing.  Sometimes he bulks in the morning and then shreds after lunch.
Just. Because. He. Can.
I got a lot out of the shredding part.  I got pretty lean – down to a set of abs that were almost perceptible to the naked eye.  In fact, it’s only because I know Im capable of doing that again pretty quickly that I don’t mind having almost completely lost them due to this bulk.  This is the part where anyone who’s actually seen me in the past month says “No way, man, you’re looking amazing!  Are you shred-bulking or bulk-shredding?  Whatever it is, sign me up!”  I’m eating a LOT of food these days.  I’m also lifting heavier and heavier weights.  My trainer ties  70 lb. dumbbells to his ankles when he does his 12 mi. run.  That reminds me that I’ve been meaning to ask him if I should do a little running while I’m trying to bulk.  He’d probably advise against it at least until I’ve been doing this long enough to know what’s what like, say, 18 years.

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This is the guy from BodyBeast.  He’s an Israeli named Sagi (pronounced Sah-GEE).  And that quote tells you he’s peddling some hard core bullshit even if he is unbelievably ripped.  My trainer friend looks kinda’ like him but not as douchey.

My point is that I’ve become very comfortable at this routine.  That’s comfortable, not complacent.  I enjoy what I’m doing and I enjoy seeing the results (not as quickly as I’d like but I’m the guy who stands in front of a microwave and yells HURRY UP!”).  And I’ll also admit that over the years I’ve been frustrated with fitness.  There have been times when I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and would never figure it out.  Not all of us were blessed to have gym access growing up on the streets of Compton.  I don’t know who I’m talking about since I’m from Newark but you get the picture.  Would I rather have figured this all out 20 years ago and been a stud with a full head of hair?  Would I rather have had girls beating down my door?  Would I rather have had a shot at achieving this goal earlier and getting it out of my way so I could legitimately cash in on my success and become a whale in my 30’s knowing I had already been jacked?  What was my alternative?  Oh yes, being me.  OK, so it’s not that bad.  But I’m comfortable with where I am with my fitness goals and progress here and now.  The downer in me says I’ll probably never reach my true goals but I need to murder him.  Bad downer.  Bad.

So why write all this?

How much do you have to hate yourself to do a workout called Last Chance?  I’m trying to picture anyone looking for a program.  “Let’s see… There’s Insanity.  Nah, too much cardio.  There’s P90X.  Nope, too many jumps.  There’s Tae-Bo. Too urban.  I guess I have no other options.  Oh look!  There’s a crazed woman on this box and she says it’s my last chance!  I don’t know what it is but something in her eyes is forcing my to believe it.  I’ll buy this DVD now because, having exhausted no other options, I realize I have no options left.  Thank God I found this DVD before it was too late!  What would have become of me?”

Yeah, that just happened.

My wife and I also watched a movie last night about aliens.  It stars Amy Adams.  I think it’s called Arrival.  Not bad.  The two aliens were called Abbot and Costello, no joke.  Unfortunately they weren’t remotely funny.

Mr. Euclid

First, thank you to everyone who has continued to offer their prayers for my family following the death of my dad two months ago.  They mean so much more than you know and I pray for each of you daily.

I want to tell you all that Dad’s been quite active lately, at least in my mind.  Over the past month especially he’s been showing up in my dreams.  As I told me wife today, the dreams make absolutely no sense on one level and more sense than anything I can think of on another.

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Artist’s rendering of a shape

Last night I went to bed as normal.  At 4AM I awoke from the following dream.  My father and I were in a very ethereal setting.  I can actually still envision all of this.  It’s almost like we were on a cloud but it wasn’t that hokey.  We were looking at, really examining, an equilateral triangle that was simply floating in the air in front of us.  He was instructing me on the properties of the triangle.  His words made perfect sense to me and I never liked math.  Dad was an actuary with a savant’s knowledge of all things mathematical.  I distinctly remember him saying (in this dream) as he had many times when he tried teaching me geometry in high school “According to Mr. Euclid…” referencing the Greek father of geometry.  What are you getting at, Dad?  Triangles?  Really?  Is it the Trinity?  I already believe in the Blessed Trinity.  Remember?  You taught me the sign of the cross as a four year-old when you taught me my first prayers.  Were you trying to show me something else?  Are you popping into the dreams of other people too or is it just me?  This is so strange.

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Hairy but solid

Another thing that’s going on (and I really don’t think the dreams are related) is that my Restless Leg Syndrome has intensified.  It’s now gotten to where the muscles in both legs cramp up about halfway through the night.  I get out of bed and, like this morning, leg down to see that my toes are curled and I have to physically unbend them.  It’s painful.  But, I’m getting it looked into.  This morning I’m going for an EMG/nerve conduction test.  I’ve had several of these done before.  Read about one of my experiences with it here.  In the meantime, enjoy this picture of my leg.  It may be the cause of great pain right now but at least it still makes my trainer jealous as all get out.  “Your calves seem to eat everything in sight” he told me.  Trainer?  My offer still stands.  I’ll happily trade you my calves for everything above your waist.  Then again he could just be messing with me…

I Hesitate to Tell You that My Life is Bizarre

Being a writer is tough.  I know.  I asked one once.

Sometimes your mind spins in a million directions throughout the day as you take in one seemingly improbably event after another.  You think to yourself: “Damn, this is gonna’ make a great blog post when I sit down to write it!”

But hours later when you sit down to write it you hesitate.

You’re not sure if you can’t prioritize or perhaps you’re thinking back and realizing it only seemed funny to you.  Sure, that cat who was minding its business on the couch in the waiting room of your doctor’s office should not have been slapped by that child who should not have been there and is probably a satanist.  Wait a minute, that actually is funny.  You think back again.  Perhaps you hesitate because you can’t remember and you start to feel like Julianne Moore in Still Alice.  If you haven’t seen it, don’t worry.  Spoiler alert: she battles Alzheimers Disease throughout the flick.

Tonight I hesitate for one reason.  I don’t know that you’ll believe the things I’m about to share.  But hesitation is only good for a moment then it becomes angry and spiteful not unlike Christina Aguilera.  Oh well, here goes…

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I cut the cord!

Our microwave broke right before Thanksgiving.  It was three weeks outside of the warranty.  Lowe’s wouldn’t touch it.  An appliance reply lady said it would be cheaper to buy a new one.  We’ve been using a borrowed microwave from my wife’s aunt.  The woman actually has at least two of everything you could ever need in her house.  She lives alone and does not know how to use most of her things.  I contacted General Electric where I received some of the best customer care I’ve had in a long time.  A service rep informed me that they would essentially pay us for the full cost of that microwave.  All I had to do was peel a sticker off the inside.  Oh, and I had to provide proof of purchase.  Done and done.  Oh, and I had to cut the cord off the microwave and send a picture of it.  Rachel at GE did not explain this one to me very well, nor even exactly what kind of picture she wanted.  I experimented before settling on the picture you see here.  On closer review, perhaps I was not supposed to pose with the cord?  Why bring this up now?  Well, after emailing the pictures to GE I got another reply from them that they had not received the pictures.  Turns out the email was still in my drafts folder.  No, I did not take new pictures.  Yes, the check is on its way.  Go GE!  You bring good things to life.

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Limey, you’re a terrible friend.

I had friends over this past Saturday and decided to get creative with my bar.  Say hello to Mr. Limey.  He’s British, naturally.  I thought the evening went beautifully until my wife informed me after our guests had gone home that I was a little drunk.  Limey was supposed to see to it that I kept it classy.  Bastard.  He hate me because I’m also Irish.  The next day my wife changed her words a bit to say that I wasn’t “drunk just talkative”.  I’m not sure which is worse.  My apologies to my guests that night.  I thought we had a good time.

My workout is going very well (I think).  I’m on week 3 of BodyBeast.  This is the first phase and it’s called “Build”.  The next six weeks after this are called “Bulk”.  Then the final three weeks are called “Beast”.  I don’t like to brag – because there’s precious little I can honestly brag about – but somehow I was blessed with calves the size of Howitzers.  Think I can skip leg day and continue to work on my pathetic chest?  I think that’s a distinct plan.  Seriously, though, calves?  I only know one person who says “Man I wish I had calves like yours” and he’s a trainer.  I’m also never sure when he’s pulling my leg.  No one walks around saying “Gotta’ get huge calves!”

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Thanks, God.  Couldn’t have made this my biceps?

Finally, it is Ash Wednesday.  Or at least it was until an hour and five minutes ago.  At midnight on the dot, this Daddy went straight to the fridge.  As a Catholic, Ash Wednesday is one of our two fasting days.  I’ve gone days in my life where I’ve eaten less.  But when someone tells you that you can’t eat; that’s when you want food.  Also, I’ve been up around 3000 calories a day on this BodyBeast diet.  To drop down to almost nothing really was painful.  Thank God a day is just a day.

And thank you for reading this far.  I’m off to bed.  I’m sure there are many more bizarre events to happen for me tomorrow.  Don’t hesitate to share this post with others.

One Badass Workout

I promised to keep you, my two loyal readers (Mom got bored), up to date on my progress with my new bulking/shredding program called BodyBeast which is designed to get me huge and ripped.  Previously I would have thought those were two things I wanted to avoid.

Last week I finished week 1.  True, I had spent the two previous weeks messing around with it.  It usually takes me a week or two to get things like a new diet under control (especially when that diet has me jump from about 1700 calories a day to 3400).  I had done some of the workouts using limited equipment I borrowed from a friend and a stability ball I picked up at Walmart.

Last week, though, I was set and committed.  It’s either going to happen or it’s not.  What motivated me was the knowledge that if I had been so committed in the first two weeks I’d be approaching the end of the first phase right now.  OK, just get it done.

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That’s what I’m talking about!  A nice looking set of dubmbbells and plates right there.

On Friday I went to the trainer’s house.  Yes, the point of this workout is that you don’t need a trainer and you do it all at home.  But, I like the guy.  He’s given me great advice and stuck by me while I wallowed in the many failures I’ve endured trying to get into his shape.  Most of the time, he hasn’t even laughed too hard at me.  He and I ran through a 45 minute workout on the pavement of the driveway behind his house.  We each had sufficient weights, each had a stability ball.  He has an awesome pull-up bar rigged up over his 8 foot fence and that came in handy.  At the end of the routine I was pleased to discover that he judged my form to be great and he was impressed at my ability to complete a pretty tough workout.  Did he have a drop of sweat on him?  What do you think?  Nonetheless, I felt confident that I was doing something good.  If this guy, who is a training god, came very near to expressing pride in his wannabe-protege, then I can’t be too off.

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A closer look.  These range from 10’s on the left to 40’s on the right with a set of interchanging weights in the middle and some plates for the bar.

Today, it was back to chest and tri’s.  This time, though, I’ve expanded my arsenal.  From yet another friend I managed to borrow even heavier weights.  For many movements lighter weights aren’t a bad thing.  I’m thinking of shoulders.  At the end of a workout, you try lifting more than 15-pounders in a military press over your head.  It’s hard!  But for chest workouts, I can definitely go higher than the 20’s I had maxed out with.

A note on all these friends who have weights to spare…  It seems a universal truth to me that in America when a young man enters his 20’s and has a trifle bit of spare change he invests it in weights.  He uses the weights religiously for a short while, then trails off.  Evermore the weights remain in his possession until his wife, who long ago gave up caring what he looked like naked, puts them on eBay for extra Christmas money.  Either that or he repurposes them into a coffee table in his pseudo man-cave.

Anyway, I’m definitely feeling this.  It’s going great and I feel great too.  I also was one of those who had weights once.  My excuse was the two spinal fusion surgeries I had so I’m going to stick with that.  It’s been years since I lifted anything and it’s taking some time to get back into it but I feel it coming back to me.  Drop a prayer now and then, if you would, that I don’t injure myself and that I complete these twelve weeks so I can be “beastly”.

A (Long) Short Story for the Trainer

If you’ve read even a tenth of the thousands of posts I’ve made over the past few years then you know of my obsession with getting swole as the kids say.  Tonight I’d like to write a short piece in tribute to a friend who usually reads this blog (though he never comments).  I’ve mentioned him before, needled him with my words, had fun at his expense.  Most of the time I think he’s gotten a kick out of it.  Sometimes I think I pissed him off.  Always, though, I’ve been grateful for his help.

My friend’s name is Joseph.  We work together, teaching different levels of the same subject to high school students.  When I first met him almost four years ago the thing I noticed was that the guy is pretty much in shape – the kind of shape all men want to be in.  Many achieve that shape in their teens and lose it.  Some gain that shape later in life as a result of a mid-life crisis.  I always wondered about how to get that shape but never seemed to have the right tools, knowledge, or plan.  Stifling my raging jealousy I asked if he would train me (having found out he actually had done that sort of thing).

And then I spent two and a half years not taking his advice all the while wondering why I still looked like a creature from a 1950’s horror movie and he, well, he looked great.

Ultimately I discovered a program called Insanity.  I mentioned to him that I wanted to give it a shot.  To my surprise he praised the program highly and said to go for it.  He did warn me that it would be one of the hardest things I’d ever done.

I shrank back a bit nervous but undeterred.  I tried to keep all of his maxims in mind.  The biggest phrase he repeats again and again is that it takes time.  You know what I did?  I adopted the attitude that I would probably finish the 60 day program and still look like shit but that I would promise myself to be satisfied just for finishing something that hard.

What’s funny is that this guy actually offered unsolicited compliments along the way, commenting on how noticeable the change in my appearance was.  This was funny to me as I couldn’t really see it.  Oh, I convinced myself I could see dream results but I wanted to believe that this was in my mind lest I find myself getting let down again.  I also knew not to ever compare myself to him.  He’s worked out a long time and it shows.  To mirror his results I’d have to do this until I’m 60.

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I ran out of media room on WordPress so I’m using whatever files I have.  It’s a gym.

Anyway, I finished Insanity, took a tiny break of about two weeks for my dad’s funeral, and started my current program – BodyBeast.  This one is designed to bulk me up.  I still have mixed feelings about my progress.  And I have mixed feelings, too, about whether I will ever achieve the look I’m after.  What’s interesting though is that the trainer enthusiastically invited me to work out with him this week.  He wants to see the workouts, offer his advice, and, I suppose, his encouragement.  I’ll admit I’m a little nervous.  It must be kind of cool for him getting to watch someone who is where he was 20 years ago.  It’s not so hot for me knowing I’ve got 20 years to go but from him I’ve learned not to focus on that.  My true fear is that my performance – either the ultimate results or just in the gym here and now – will be disappointing to him.  I did a back and biceps workout tonight, lifting weights for about an hour, following the program.  I feel pretty good.  I don’t know how I’ll feel in a few days standing in this guy’s house watching him run circles around me with heavier weights, more reps, and a blood-thirsty look in his eyes.  Have I mentioned that he turns psychotic when he works out?  But if I keep his own words in mind I should be fine.  It’s all about fixing my form, doing what I can, doing something at all, and waiting 20 years.  He said to me once: “Don’t look at a scale, don’t take measurements…  Do your pants fit better than they did a month ago?  Then you’re doing fine.”  Well, my pants certainly do fit better these days.  And for that, I am grateful.  And I offer my thanks for the help and a prayer that he doesn’t demolish what’s left of my morale.

I’m going to be the badass-est 60 year-old on the beach.

The Beast Stirs

I was going to call this “The Beast Awakens” but I feel like that’s been taken already.  Also, once you read all the way through you might scratch your head and say “what beast is he talking about?  What’s he stirring?  Why am I still reading this dude’s blog?”

It’s time once again to return to a topic close to my cardiac muscle.  I’m talking about what I’m currently doing in the gym.  OK, I don’t actually go to a gym.  I work out at home.  I used to belong to a gym that was open 24 hours a day and provided fitness.  I don’t like to mention actual names lest I get sued.  I used to think how cool it would be being able to work out at 3AM when the rest of the world sleeps.  I can’t even imagine the joy in my heart as I’d get out of bed all bleary-eyed, put on my gym shorts backwards and upside down in the dark, and drive off to the gym in a semi-conscious state resembling intoxication only to drop heavy weights on my foot.

Who thought up this concept?

Also, I don’t like gyms.  Lots of fit people there.  I’m nothing if not easily shamed.

A few months ago I took on a personal challenge in the form of a workout called Insanity Max:30.  Well, over the course of two months (and then an additional month where I simply continued the program because I didn’t have anything else to do) I shed some serious bodyfat.  I didn’t really add any muscle which was one of my hopes but I was pleased with the results.  I’ve learned to try focusing on whether I feel good about my progress.  If I focused on externals, I would be miserable.  I’m the one who never sees progress in myself and always believes that the super-fit people of the world are only condescending to me when they offer their compliments.  Kind of like: “Good boy!  You’re not nearly as fat as you used to be!  So proud.”  Yes, I’m sensitive to that kind of thing.  I’m also not likely to believe I can actually achieve the real goals I have in mind so I want to underestimate my results.

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I’m using dumbbells.  These things just look strange.

All that aside, I have moved on to the newest program from the same people.  This one is called BodyBeast.  The stated goal is to help you get huge.  I’m torn on this.  I’ve always wanted to be bigger and yet smaller at the same time.  Maybe I’m schizophrenic.  What I mean is I’d love more solid muscle and less non-solid composition.  This workout is performed using weights (dumbbells) and is done at home.  I borrowed dumbbells from a friend who wasn’t using his anymore.  By the way, it seems to be true that most men at some point in their 20’s will invest in a set of weights.  It’s almost part of the man code.  Whether you ever use them or not, you must buy them and make sure they’re prominently displayed in your garage.  “Look at me!  I do muscle stuff.”  I myself once had an entire set complete with bench and all.  I even used them at one point.  The thing is, I never knew if I was lifting effectively or even the right way.  Could explain why I failed to reach the goals I had in the past.

Oh… this program also calls for a bench.  They’re kind of pricey so I opted for something called an anti-burst stability ball.  Buying this made me laugh.

I have not seen results yet but it’s only been a week.  Also, you might remember that I said I don’t ever see results and I tend not to believe those who tell me that they see results.  But I will tell you two things about this program I’ve noticed already.

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I wish I looked as good as this dude from Cocoon.  I’d love to know what program he’s using.  I’m not even close.

First, the diet is intense.  Far from feeling hungry and eating things I dislike in abundance I have to take in about 3400 calories a day.  The problem is that they come from “clean” sources.  I could easily do that many calories by sucking down fast food and I’d probably enjoy myself too.  This program, however, insists I get 3400 calories from an enormous amount of food that seems to lack calories to begin with.  I’m struggling to get the calories but eating way more than I ever used to.  This may be a problem.  Also, I have an innate fear that eating this much will undo whatever results I saw from the previous routine.

Second, the workouts are insane.  Six nights a week I stream videos from my laptop featuring an Israeli trainer named Sagi (sah-GEE) who, though pleasant and inspiring, also uses a healthy dose of insult to motivate.  “You want to get big?” he says while pointing at the screen with an arm that can barely be raised above his waist for sheer size, “then do this movement right or I will come into your home and crush you.”  Perhaps I exaggerate a bit but you get the point.  Again, I have the constant notion that I’m not lifting properly or lifting heavy enough weights and then my insecurity takes over and I wonder if the next 12 weeks will produce any results at all.  At best I might look like a somewhat less-soft version of myself.  At worst, I’ll get huge in completely the wrong way.  But, I’ve made a commitment.  No matter what else, I take my commitments seriously.  Even if I know it’s not getting me anywhere, I stick with it because that’s who I am.

So, in twelve weeks I’ll come back at you and let you know how this has gone.  You can be assured that I will have completed it.  I may have also gone out of my mind and chucked a dumbbell at Sagi but I will finish what I start.

Meanwhile if any of you lovely readers have suggestions or similar stories about your own fitness routines I’d love to hear them.  Share away.

Another Why I Write

You (both of you) have been eagerly awaiting an update on my new workout so I’d like to take a moment to share.

Actually, my mind is a jumbled mess right now so I’d like to take a lot of moments to share (and sort) a lot of things.  Indulge me?  Look, I’ve been through a lot lately.  Consider it your work of mercy.

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If I didn’t blog, how would you ever see fun pics like this?

At work today where I joyfully bounced around between the spiritual battle raging all round us as relayed in Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and the concept of authentic freedom as being something wholly different than license; the subject of this blog came up.  I don’t hide my blog from my students but I sure don’t advertise it either.  “If you can find it, you can read it,” I tell them.  I just like to keep things by and large separate on this one front as I feel I can be more authentically free that way.  A student asked “So why do you blog?”  I thought about it and said “I blog because I need to.”

The truth is that I do love to write.  As I said to my trainer-friend recently “Some men can move heavy weights around.  I play with words.”  Looking back I truly hope he didn’t take that as an insult as I always wanted to be able to one of the former and I greatly admire men like him who actually can move heavy weights around.  Weightlifting gives you an enviable body.  Writing can, well, let’s talk about that…

I write because I am a twin.  Sound odd?  OK, I was born, in all likelihood, speaking a secret language that only one other person understood.  So I spent the next few decades trying out different forms of communication to get my message across to a larger audience.  That period of monosyllabic grunts was kind of awkward for sure.

No?

OK.  Here it is.  I write because I love to write.  I don’t know who reads it and I don’t always care.  After my dad died I got a comment on a post about his funeral.  A woman said she had been reading for years and felt that she knew me and wanted to convey her sympathy.  I was touched.  I have never met her but we have a connection.  Words, you could say, are sacramental.  They make real in the physical world that which is invisible — namely our thoughts.  And when we write we are committing our souls to posterity.  It might not ever be very good writing but a piece of my mind and heart will live on as long as there are eyes to see it.  I have seen this so clearly over the past two months while reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my son at bedtime.  I have become enthralled with these books, with Lewis. I said to my son: “How amazing to think that this man wrote these books so long ago.  He’s dead but the thoughts in his mind are still speaking to us.  His brilliance lives.  The soul lives.”

To me, it’s fun.  I know what I’m capable of.  It is probably the only area of my life where I feel any measure of confidence.

I certainly don’t always feel that confidence in the gym (or the home gym as the case may be).  And that’s where we end for this post.  Did you really think I’d ramble on for 2500 words about a mess of different subjects with no underlying theme?  Ha.  Guess again.