Tag Archives: fitness

Challenging Myself

As a dad I face many challenges every day. Most of them involve living up to the expectations of my kids, my wife, and God.

Son, not making a fool of himself on the field.

For instance, this evening it’s off to the ballpark where I get the pleasure of serving as assistant coach to my son’s baseball team. The challenge here: until a few weeks ago neither he nor I had ever played baseball. He’s 9. I’m almost 40. The challenge lies in rising above myself and not worrying about the fool I will make of myself on the field. Because you see, this one is all for my little boy.  The reward is great though. He’s getting super good super fast and I’m learning quite a bit about a game I’ve never played. Somewhere in the recesses of both of our minds are visions of the two of us being drafted by the New York Mets. And we’re having lots of fun in the process.

Me, making a fool of myself (and demonstrating what a friend politely called “a natural tennis swing”) at the batting cages.

On the marriage front, I am always faced with the challenge of becoming a better husband. Daily I look around my house and my world and ask myself what I can do to make my wife’s life even marginally better. In the past year alone I have found myself tinkering with my homes electrical system, building props for the play, finally advancing in my career (ūüėČ), and shopping for produce at a farmers market at five in the morning on a Saturday. Every time I’m given a task I’ve never done before I find myself rising above my own fears and coming to realize that because she trusts in me I can do anything for my wife. And we’re having a whole lot of fun in the process.

So this afternoon when I got home from work I decided to challenge myself. Remember the pull-up bar? This one is a challenge to which only I am answerable. After hearing that friend of mine toss out the figure of 25 to 50 pull-ups a day, I decided to reach for the stars. I don’t expect to be as good as him ‚Äď certainly not right away ‚Äď but one cannot hope to achieve great heights without starting somewhere. The challenge is to complete 25 pull-ups within five minutes every day of every week. And of course, as I notice myself gaining strength, I will have to increase that number. A short while ago I just barely beat the clock. Five sets of five pull-ups with a little more rest between sets than I would’ve liked; but I did it. The reward, I hope, will be great.

And I’m having tons of fun.

Raising the Bar

Getting back to writing about my fitness goals…

I had intentionally stopped writing about these particular goals for a long while. ¬†In fact, my plan was not to mention the subject again. ¬†There’s only so much one can write about when it comes to a lifetime of trying to get in shape. ¬†And failing.

I have had the benefit over the years of a number of resources yet never felt confident that any of the information I received was either worthwhile or accurate (in other words, it wouldn’t deliver the results I wanted to see). ¬†In particular, the past four years I’ve been leeching off the training advice of a coworker who generously tried to help whenever he could. ¬†The problem, it turns out, was me. ¬†I always had some kind of excuse. ¬†Sometimes it was valid and oftentimes it was not.

About three months ago, having completed the¬†Insanity Max:30 program from BeachBody and having taken a subsequent Christmas break and some time off for the death of my father I committed to BeachBody’s¬†BodyBeast program.

The program started out great. ¬†I spent three weeks using fairly light dumbbells in what the program’s trainer calls the “Build Phase”. ¬†That is, you build yourself up to the next phase by learning the movements and proper form. ¬†In my case, even though it had been many years, I was re-acclimating¬†myself to these movements. ¬†Not entirely unfamiliar with weightlifting technique, I discovered that I more or less remembered proper form.

When I finished building I moved into the “Bulk Phase”. ¬†The goal of the whole program is to build solid muscle, something I have lacked. ¬†I started seeing results, especially after another friend who had injured his shoulder graciously loaned me some considerably heavier dumbbells. ¬†I’d buy my own but a full set runs around $500 and I don’t feel like dropping that kind of cash on something I wasn’t sure would benefit me.

Then came the callback… ¬†Two weeks ago today the guy with the bum shoulder called his weights back. ¬†He was recovered and ready to lift again. ¬†To my surprise (and not entirely unsure of whether he was just trying to be polite) he called that night and asked if we could workout together. ¬†His weights. ¬†His garage. ¬†In my ¬†mind I balked at the idea because I just didn’t love the idea of making a fool of myself. ¬†Don’t forget, I’m probably the most insecure person you’ll ever meet. ¬†Seems to me that most guys my age are not only either current or former champion athletes but also far more adept than me in a gym. ¬†This guy was going to kick my ass and then laugh about it. ¬†Or worse yet, he’d patronize me by telling me “good effort!”


A more solid pull up bar there never was.

But it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. ¬†For the past two weeks, almost every night around 9:30, he and I have been lifting heavy weights in his garage. ¬†I’m noticing tremendous gains. ¬†Even if I’m the only one who sees it, the muscle is there and getting bigger. ¬†What’s more important is that an increase in raw strength – something I had almost overlooked as a goal – is also improving. ¬†This past Sunday my friend called me as I was on my way home from graduation. ¬†He told me to swing by his house. ¬†He had a present for me. ¬†He had heard me make one of my trademark excuses. ¬†“I¬†could do pull up’s… if I had the proper bar with the right clearance.” ¬†So he made me a bar out of a length of pipe he’d picked up from Lowe’s. ¬†He completed the bar with mounting brackets and told me to stick it onto the cross timber of my kids’ playset in the yard.

And so for the past four days, with no¬†actual excuse in sight, I’ve been doing pull up’s. ¬†I heard a statistic about a year ago that said only 1% of grown men can properly do a single pull up. ¬†That sounds high to me; but then again I’m talking about real, solid, proper-form pull up’s – the kind where you dead-hang from the bar before lifting yourself completely up to chest height. ¬†I certainly had a hard time for the longest time. ¬†Callouses, gripping the bar right, what muscles to engage, etc… ¬†But when you shed those excuses – or rather, when someone takes them away from you – it all comes down to how committed you are. ¬†I WANT to do pull ups. ¬†Another friend told me today that he knocks out 25-50 a day every 2-4 days. ¬†That’s impressive. ¬†No comparisons here. ¬†That would be insane. ¬†But man, I’d love to get to that level.

Toward that end I gripped the bar this past Sunday. ¬†Remember that strength I mentioned? ¬†It must be growing, especially in my forearms and upper back. ¬†I nailed 5 of them. ¬†And as if to knock me back down I tried a sixth and struggled hard. ¬†I’ve been experimenting and discovered that I can knock out five at a time, take about three minutes, and knock out another five. ¬†Can I do more than that? ¬†I’d probably need more of a break between the later sets. ¬†Should I try? ¬†I see no reason not to. ¬†Just a short while ago I hit fifteen in three sets of five over about five minutes.

But without a friend like the guy who threw this bar together for me I wouldn’t be able to try. ¬†And if he’s reading this (which he probably isn’t) I want him to know how much I really appreciate that¬†and the time he’s investing¬†and the camaraderie. ¬†I’m certainly having fun. ¬†I’ve had a few personal goals in the past few years. ¬†One of them was to move into school administration before I turn 40. ¬†Another was to get shredded before 40. ¬†In both cases I’ve been motivated by a desire to prove myself. ¬†Very few people have any measure of real respect for teachers. ¬†It’s sad but true. ¬†Even those with the best of intentions generally let on that, in their minds, teaching is something you do when you can’t do anything else. ¬†I know my fellow teachers know what I’m talking about.¬†¬†Likewise, very few men have any measure of real respect for a man who is weak. ¬†They may be polite and tell you athletic ability, broad shoulders, and curling prowess are overrated but deep down we all know differently. ¬†It’s man’s nature to respect power and achievement.

I got the admin job. ¬†I’m excited to finally show my family and friends I’m actually a really talented guy who is competent in¬†the formation of youth. ¬†So what if some of them needed to see a title attached to my name in order to believe it. ¬†I’ve always considered myself mentally strong. ¬†Maybe those same people will finally see that strength in me too. ¬†So what if some of them need to see a strong body to believe it. ¬†Who knows? ¬†Maybe I’ll get jacked before I’m 40 after all.

When Good Friday Eclipses Easter

Regular readers to this page know that I have a condition known as degenerative disc disease. ¬†This is sometimes called disc and joint disease or DJD. ¬†It was precipitated by a genetically inherited “bad back” on my mom’s side of the family (her brothers have both suffered similar fates) and a traumatic injury to my back when I was four years-old. ¬†The whole thing came to a head for the first time when I was 23 years-old and I had my first spinal fusion at the L5-S1 level. ¬†Fun. ¬†Thirteen years later I had another spinal fusion at L4-L5 (the adjacent level).


This pic is tired, I know. ¬†I’ve used it before but it shows the current state of my spine in case you didn’t know.

I had really hoped that I would be able to avoid another fusion (or at least the symptomatic back pain and debilitating sciatica for at least 5-10 years at the next level. ¬†So far, I think I’m doing well in that regard. ¬†I got more serious about my health than I ever have before. ¬†Hell, I started eating vegetables and lots of them. ¬†I took up running before realizing that it required one to run. ¬†The thing I’m proudest of, however, is that I got serious about getting jacked. ¬†I haven’t had the kind of success I had hope but I’ve done OK. ¬†You see, it’s important for me that I build up ever single muscle in my body in order to safeguard my spine. ¬†It’s not really a vanity thing – not really. ¬†Still who wouldn’t love being almost 40 and looking like one of the¬†Jersey Shore crew on summer vacation? ¬†I won’t lie, that’s a cool prospect considering I looked far from that from the time I was about 15 until recently. ¬†But I stepped it up and looked into things I had never done before, all the while remembering the lessons learned from surgeries and physical therapy. ¬†In other words, I’ve been doing all of this safely. ¬†Currently I’m doing a program called Body Beast designed to bulk up. ¬†I figure the more muscle the better.

About a year ago I was at my standard weight, hovering around 200. ¬†I have a medium sized frame so that’s not impressive. ¬†But when I got serious-serious I dropped down to 173 with¬†Insanity. ¬†I felt great knowing that I could complete something most men (including many athletic men) attempt and give up because it’s hard. ¬†I took heat for it, good natured I believed. ¬†Then I decided it was time to build up. ¬†I’m going back toward 200 but this time hard-core, solid muscle because I need it. ¬†I’m up around 187 after two months and again, I feel great. ¬†I’m enjoying seeing results (even if I’m the only one who sees them).

So why is God screwing with me?

Just when it seems I’m doing something good for myself, for my health, sacrificing time away from sleep or from my wife and kids to get in that workout I need to do I start to notice twinges of pain here and there.

About a year ago I began to experience what I knew was Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS. ¬†It’s not painful just uncomfortable. ¬†Fortunately it only hit me at night so my job and family life wasn’t affected. ¬†I looked it up and it seemed to be a common side-effect of spinal fusions at L4-S1. ¬†Then in the past few months (following around the time of my dad’s death) the symptoms morphed into painful leg cramps that strike in the middle of the night.

Time to see the surgeon.

I went for a visit to a man I trust with my life. ¬†Hey, I’ve never let anyone cut me before nor even put his hands inside my body. ¬†That’s how much I trust this guy. ¬†He’s Mayo Clinic trained.

I love his response after looking at my X-rays. ¬†“I can’t know what’s in the box until I open the box. ¬†But before I cut you let’s run some tests.”

I had a nerve conduction study first.  This showed no nerve damage.  Praised be God.

Then it was time for the Myelogram CT.


Me after my Myelogram. ¬†See, it’s not that bad. ¬†I’m smiling.

This past Thursday (Holy Thursday) I went to an imaging center and had a dye injected into my spinal column so images could be taken. ¬†The procedure is painful in itself. ¬†The after effects aren’t pleasant either. ¬†I went home and went on bed rest for 48 hours. ¬†My dear sister, an RN, came to town for an Easter visit and was put to work as my caretaker. ¬†This consisted in lying on the couch watching 85 episodes or the 1980’s-90’s crime documentary¬†Unsolved Mysteries while drifting in and out of sleep.

On Good Friday I had an opportunity to unite real physical pain with the crucifixion of Our Lord.  I was truly thankful.

Then came Holy Saturday. ¬†And… unfortunately it still felt like Good Friday. ¬†Throughout the day I tried to make myself believe that the pain was dissipating and I could do things like mow the lawn. ¬†I had been told that by 48 hours I’d be golden. ¬†On Saturday night my wife, kids, and I got dolled up and headed to the Easter vigil – a tradition for us. ¬†Unfortunately I made it into the first of seven readings before the splitting headache got the best of me and we had to leave. ¬†A consult with the surgeon’s office on a Saturday night uncovered that my puncture wound from the Myelogram hadn’t healed and I was leaking spinal fluid into my body, thus causing a spinal headache. ¬†He called in an awesome script and after more rest I felt better.

Here’s the thing. ¬†For the Christian the pain of loss and agony of death on Good Friday makes sense because of the promise of resurrection and joy of a new life and a glorious body on Easter Sunday. ¬†Tomorrow I’m going in to have something called a blood patch performed. ¬†They’ll take blood from my arm and inject it into the puncture wound to clot and stop the leaking of fluid.

I think I can take it that my Easter is coming a bit later? ¬†That’s OK because I know myself and I know I deserve a bit of a longer Good Friday.

I’m writing all of this because I’ve received comments over the years from people who’s been faced with spinal problems and have apparently been helped by reading about someone else’s experience. ¬†I’m also writing to ask prayers. ¬†Pray the procedure goes well. ¬†It’s not a big deal. ¬†But also pray I can get back to my Body Beast. ¬†LOL. ¬†I’ve only got five more weeks until I look like Charles Atlas (in my mind) and I am pumped about that. ¬†Of course, since it’s just me who’ll notice the difference I suppose I can convince myself I look that good now. ¬†Yeah… that’s it! ¬†It’s an Easter miracle!

Happy Easter to all of you reading this! ¬†In the Catholic liturgical calendar, Easter lasts for seven weeks so enjoy every minute of it. ¬†Remember the Lord is risen indeed. ¬†This isn’t a spiritual resurrection. ¬†He conquered death, destroyed that bastard. ¬†He is all-powerful and lives and reigns forever and ever for you and me.



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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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”.

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.

mustang parc gym

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.

old man gym

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.

Of Broken Toes and Broken Dreams

“Ever have your spirit crushed, Mr. H.?” asked a student once.

OK, work with me. ¬†It’s called a literary device. ¬†Sure, no student ever said that but it’s possible that one could have. ¬†More to the point I need to set up this next bit.

“Kid,” I said, “I’m a Mets fan. ¬†Every year since 1986.”

See, wasn’t that cute?

In all honesty this past Thursday I had more than my spirit crushed in the form of a few small bones in the toes on my right foot.

At the Catholic high school where I teach I also assist in other ways.  One of those ways is to transform our very large gym (one of two, I might add) into a worship space for about 1200 people who gather once a month for mass.  I arrived early on the day in question.  It was just before 7AM.  I had really high hopes of starting a new workout that day too.  The thing is that my trainer clued me in to the secret of working out pre-breakfast.  Factor in a lengthy commute and my need to be there at an ungodly hour and the workout last out to a few extra minutes of sleep.

Boy am I excited about this workout, though. ¬†After everything I’ve tried I’ve always felt that nothing has worked for me. ¬†I have a vision in mind fueled by a desire for better heath vanity. ¬†I now know that there are no easy fixes, that I should have done this when I was a teenager. ¬†See, back then I had the time. ¬†I had no social life thanks to a lack of friends or a personality, so I could have been pounding my societal aggression in the gym for hours on end. ¬†Instead I was – come to think of it I really can’t account for my teenage years. ¬†Must have blocked them. ¬†I certainly wasn’t drinking, getting high, or dating like the cool kids. ¬†But I squandered those years – years when I could have been setting myself up for success. ¬†It’s hard, damn near impossible, to achieve the kind of success I want at my age. ¬†The people I know who’ve done it can all maintain it. ¬†That’s always easier to do when you reached it in the first place. ¬†But when you’re married with kids and a job, not so easy to get started.

But this new program… ¬†Having reached the conclusion that I need to be happy with whatever gains I see; I was really eager to jump into this. ¬†I might only lose a few pounds, probably wouldn’t really put on any muscle but I’m OK with that because it’s better than nothing and if I achieve my potential I can’t be disappointed in what my potential actually was.

But it needs to start another day because I was tired that morning.

I walked into the gym to discover a group of kids even more eager than me already rolling out racks of chairs to set up on the gym floor.

“Kids, I love the energy!” I shouted as I put my coffee down. ¬†You’ve got to praise them at every step. ¬†It’s easy with these kids. ¬†I love them like my own. ¬†And like a proud dad I feel the urge to encourage them because they are so awesome. ¬†And I mean that. ¬†“But hang on a bit because we have to roll the floor mats out first.”

Then I proceeded to walk them over to the side of the bleachers where a giant machine on wheels resides. ¬†“This baby here contains enough floor matting material to cover the whole gym so we don’t scuff up the floor with the chairs,” I said as I motioned for them to give me a hand wheeling it into place. ¬†The thing weighs 1,000 pounds fully laden.

Did I mention they’re eager kids?

In their eagerness they pushed the rack really hard before I had a chance to get my foot out of the way.

Ever hear bones break? ¬†It’s not a pleasant sound.

I looked down to see a hard graphite wheel rolling up onto my foot and then… staying there!

“Love you kids but get this thing OFF ME!!!” I shouted.

They pushed and after what seemed like an eternity it rolled off.  The other side.  Taking an additional pounding blow on another toe.

I tried to act tough. ¬†Who complains about broken toes of all things. ¬†I finished helping the kids and even taught a class before seeing the school nurse who instructed me to go home and elevate it. ¬†It was in her office that I first removed my sock. ¬†Oh God, it was so gross…

And because I knew I’d need to see a doctor, it turns out I do indeed have two broken toes and will be wearing a boot for the next month.

On the upside, I’ve been wanting to introduce a Bermuda-themed look into the school dress code for some time. ¬†Think about it. ¬†These kids already love me for my style. ¬†It’s the most amazing thing. ¬†Remember those teenage years I mentioned? ¬†Yeah, they seem not to matter now because the teenagers of today look up to me. ¬†Do you know how gratifying it is to have 500 teenage boys literally trying to copy everything you’re wearing? ¬†I’m apparently a trendsetter. ¬†Let’s see how they dig shorts with my tie and jacket…

But that workout will have to wait.

Just like another Mets World Series win.

I think God’s trying to tell me something.