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Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Season In Review – The Inventory

Well, here I am, on my couch, dinner digesting, at 8:15…and it’s dark outside. What a bummer, summer is slipping away. I’m now about three weeks passed the one year mark for the purchase of my first road bike and I’m trying to objectively review my season, perhaps a bit early, but not by much. In the next couple of weeks the rain will be hitting us more frequently and I’ll grudgingly move my cycling indoors for another winter of spinning to stay in shape. Here are the results of that inventory:

First, my fitness level this year, when contrasted to last, has easily doubled. I’ve dropped about 14 pounds and I feel awesome almost every day, with the obvious exception of the day after a long ride (70+ miles). That alone has been worth all of the miles, the sweat, and pushing on when I would have rather laid down for a nice little nap. Add to that the fact that I feel like a kid when I’m on said bike and what more can a fella say?

I’m not done though. I’ve met some really great people who are a bunch of fun to ride with. I’ve got a fantastic bike that fits me like a glove (I was going to write “like silk boxers”, but let’s not get carried away) with equipment that is simply fantastic and reliable.

If that wasn’t enough, my wife has not only embraced my love of the new hobby, she’s begun to join me in it. That is worth all of the tea in China to me. I love riding with my wife.

On the actual riding side of equation, we were able to take our bikes on vacation and ride almost every day, in the mountains for crying out loud. I was able to put enough miles that I could have ridden from Michigan to Florida and back again – twice. My speed and stamina have both increased, though stamina quite a bit more than speed.

As far as my physique goes, my legs are lean, ripped trunks compared to last year. I finally have the legs I dreamed of when I started running more than ten years ago, they’re truly a thing of beauty. The love handles that I had struggled to lose every summer are a shadow of their former selves, as is my little 40-year-old man gut. My arms could use a little work, as they’ve been neglected for the better part of six months, but I’ll have a few months this winter to bring them back to their former glory. As far as health goes, I don’t even need to write about that. I’ve recovered from a full-blown, nasty cold in two days – the immune system is kickin’ and when that’s working well, it’s all good. My vitals are on the good side of awesome and I feel better than I did 15 years ago (I’d have gone with 20, but I’d almost drank myself to death – it should be obvious that I wasn’t feeling too good back then – I’ve gotta make the bar a fair height.

To wrap up the good side of the balance sheet, I’ve had an incredibly fun spring, summer and I’ll make the most of fall. It’s been a great year.

On the negative side of the ledger, I have to put my Tuesday night club ride, or better yet, my performance in it. I had high hopes of riding with the big dogs and I just haven’t been able to put together the right combination to bring it in. It isn’t for a lack of trying – well, technically it is for a lack of trying, I’ll leave the bullshit in the gutter where it belongs. I had to work harder to keep up with them. I should have been doing interval training and a friend of mine gave me a great one to do… The only thing between me and finishing with them was air and opportunity. When I boil it all down, I want what I’m doing to be enough, because I like how I train – to me, it’s all fun. And therein lies the rub. I didn’t want to give up the fun to get that fast. Properly stated, I hoped the fun stuff would be enough to get me up with the faster guys. It wasn’t.

Secondly, my knowledge of how bikes work needs to improve in a big way. I’m in that odd position where I’m just about intelligent enough…to be dangerous. Matt has to bail me out far too often. I’ll have to see if I can apprentice for him in the shop for a few hours a week.

Finally, and this isn’t much of a negative, I haven’t run a whole lot over the last seven months. In February and March I was faster than ever and had I kept up with it, I’d be in a much better position going into the winter… On the other hand, I had so much fun, it was absolutely worth it… And I’ve got the cold months to run my butt off.

I’ll have to think a little harder on that negative side, because that’s all I can think of for right now…

There is one last item that I really couldn’t put in either category – it fits in both. Cycling, specifically, has been both good and bad for my recovery. It’s been good because it clears my mind and relieves stress. The positive impact cannot be overstated. On the other hand, I’ve given up time running with several recovering friends on Saturdays for cycling because I enjoy cycling more than running. That’s a bad thing – my continued recovery depends on interacting with other recovering people – both newbies and long timers. I’ve taken steps to balance this out a bit better, but it isn’t quite the same.  This will change over the winter, when the bike will be relegated to a trainer and I’ll be back to running weekly.

So, why do an inventory of the season? Folks, I do this for my life in general and again for work – and it takes just a little bit more than I could fit in a blog post to work through…

In this case, figure you’re a store owner for your fitness. If you don’t know what you’ve got on the shelves, how are you going to keep the shop open? I keep stock of where I’m at.

Will A 56 cm Bike Fit A 6’2″ Man

Search term of the day, “Will a 56 cm bike fit a man of 6’2″?

Welcome to my shortest answer, ever:

No.

I’m 6’0” and have a perfectly awesome 58 cm bike, a 56 was too small for me. I believe my ideal size is between 58.5 and 59 cm, but those sizes aren’t available… Other important measurements: cockpit length: the distance from the nose of the saddle to the bar top (some use seat post to bar top). Crank arm length and about a dozen others. Get measured before you buy, then get the bike fitted to you. It’s not a cheap process, but it is worth it.

Big Daddy Jim’s Self Evident Truth #4: Sweet, Sweet Sleep

I can remember back when I sobered up all those years ago, how difficult it was to sleep.  At first, sleeplessness was caused by DT’s (scroll down – it’s in the second batch of symptoms), and let me tell you something, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – it’s a horrendous awakening.  Later, though, after I left treatment (a shout out to The People of the State of Michigan who funded my stint in treatment 20 years ago – Thanks, it worked and you got your money back, several times over) the reasons for my insomnia were more insidious – and getting a hold of those reasons to rectify them was no easy task.  You see, unlike a normal illness in which you are prescribed a pill of some form, or offered corrective surgery, there is no removing a drunk’s will to get drunk.  They’ve been trying since roughly ten years after they first invented alcohol and they still haven’t found a way around that.

In the circles I run, there’s a common phrase that we love to toss around:  “You can sober up a horse thief, but when you’re done you’ve still got a horse thief”.  In other words, once Dawn Farm sobered me up there was still a trainload of shit that I was trailing behind me that had to be cleaned up.  I was 22 years old, coming up on 23, and I was faced with a stark reality.  I had no marketable skills, only a partial education (dropped out of college for various reasons), no job, no money, no car and I was at the end of mom and dad’s rope.  Not only did I believe that I didn’t have a future, I didn’t possess the skills to build one either.  In other words, there was a lot to lose sleep over.

Now, before you old drunks chime in with the “Son, I spilled more than you drank” hoo-haa, don’t mess with me.  If you hadn’t spilled so much, you’d have sobered up decades ago.  They call that alcohol abuse where I come from.

Now, and here’s where it gets important;  I knew I wasn’t capable of “thinking” my way out of my predicament.  My best thinking landed me before a judge (and the aforementioned People of the State of Michigan) and in treatment for addiction.  I looked to older sober men for advice on how to live right, on how to clean up the wreckage that I’d created in my drinking years – and to maintain a decent, productive life so that I didn’t ever have to go down that path again.

And so, Big Daddy Jim’s Self Evident Truth #4:  Sleeping is difficult with a pile of crap on your chest. 

Now that may read humorously, I smiled when I wrote it, but there’s a lot of truth in those eleven words when you really break it down.

Starting at the beginning, when my life was run amok by self-will and pleasure-seeking, I left a lot of very important things go by the wayside.  When I flunked out of college, I had a good excuse so I shrugged it off – an excuse, by the way, that will not see the light of day on this blog, one because I’m over it, and two because to label it would mean to give it legitimacy as an excuse and it has none.  Suffice it to say it was a touch worse than mommy setting me on the toilet sideways.  More importantly, I used the alcohol to medicate the pain away instead of dealing with it.  To put a metaphor to it, my life was a wreck because I tended to shrug off all of the important things that needed to be dealt with right away.  Every time I did that, it was as if someone took a shovel and dumped a fresh load on my chest.  To avoid smelling that through the night, I’d simply drink more so I could pass out peacefully.  The more I drank, the more crap piled up, the more reason there was to drink.

If you think you’re dizzy after reading that last sentence, it’s a lot worse when it’s happening, trust me.  So, here’s where the horse thief comes in, and why a pill won’t fix what ails a drunk:  When I put down the jug, I still had all of that shit, from years of drinking, piled up on my chest – sitting there stinking to high heaven.  To add to the problem, my capability of dealing with messes at that point did not equate to a shovel which I could use to remove the pile that I’d sculpted over the years – I had a teaspoon when I needed a back hoe.  And that’s why I needed help to get my life sorted.

Sadly, it doesn’t end there though, and this is where the normal folks can start to relate…

Once I cleared that mountain from my chest I did sleep well.  I slept well for years.  Fortunately (or unfortunately in some cases), life isn’t stationary.  It moves and changes, ebbs and flows.  Once I had the pile removed and I could function like a young adult I began to grow.  I started with a decent factory job and that grew into a job in the inspection department at another plant which grew into a marriage, which grew into a construction job, which grew into a management position, which grew into the management of a branch division, then kids and so on…  With each of those changes came new responsibilities and new problems (or piles).  I had a tendency, especially back then, but still even now, to not know how to shovel all of that stuff off of my chest before I turn in for the night.  Over time a spoonful here and a spoonful there starts to amount to something – and unlike real shit, life shit doesn’t dry up and stop stinking.  Life shit stinks until you deal with it.  That said, I still need advice and perspective on how to deal with life’s new challenges because I don’t know every damned thing.  As I grow into bigger and better things, new things must be dealt with and sometimes I just don’t have the answers…  Well, when I don’t have the answers I tend to do that which I know – leave some of the mess on my chest.  The more there is, the harder it is to sleep.

The short version is, “I have to clean up my shit”.

Heart Rate App Review Update

I wrote about a new Heart Rate app that I downloaded for my iPhone a few days ago.  I should have clarified that the app I looked at is from Azumio…

In addition, I also included my heart rate zones for cardio that the program kicked out.  I had no idea if it was accurate or not and I surely doubt I’ll ever get tested to find out if it is…  But Elisariva just happened to have been tested recently so she checked out the app and reported back:

“Okay – I got the right app. I found it fairly accurate in reading my pulse and it set my AT at 160, the test I last took read 158. Close. My zones 1 and 2 were a bit high, but that is likely due to my over training that I am still fixing. The app had the zones where I should be, I am still repairing that damage. For people starting out or curious…it is a good app.”

So there you have it, from someone a whole lot more knowledgable than me about the mystical ways of the heart rate.

Thank you for checking that out.

 

A Good Night To Have Friends…

I had a great club ride last night in some conditions that can only be described as pleasant but miserable at the same time.  The weather had been fair but cloudy all day with a mild 8-10 mph breeze from a heading of south-southwest but the clouds broke and the breeze picked up as start time approached.  I did my warmup 5 miles with Mike again, only this time, we headed south for a mile to test the tailwind.  We rode along, pedaling easy and chatting for the first quarter of that mile when the conversation turned to how easy the first couple of miles were going to be – and how tough the next 15 would be…  As we started up a small roller I checked our speed, figuring somewhere around 21 as easy as we were pedaling.  We were at 25.5, uphill without breaking a sweat and holding a conversation.  We laughed about how brutal the middle stretch of the ride would be when we turned around to head back…  Oh how little did I know, we drastically underestimated the suckiness.

We’re starting a half an hour early now to make up for the shortening of the days so the group would be shrinking as it does at this time of year.  After Mike and I finished the warmup, we both dropped our leggings off at the car as the sun was warming us up nicely…  There’s no way they’d be necessary.  We mingled about for a bit before heading out with about 12 in our group (it’s normally around 30).  The first mile was easy waiting for everyone to catch up.  I took the first pull at 1-3/4’s of a mile so I could (hopefully) fall to the back and hide.  Recovering from a cold, I’d hoped I could spend plenty of time at the back.  As I peeled off and faded back, two of the guys slowed to let me in ahead of them – this was not a good sign.  We turned north, the wind at our backs, and took it up to 26-27 mph for the next four.  On the fourth headed north, it was already my turn to pull again – not a good sign.  Then we made a hard left into a hard cross-headwind…  Speeds dropped from 27 to 19-20 and pull length dropped in half.  The next 12 miles were brutal.  With every gust even the faster guys were laughing, and as it got harder, we had a couple of the same guys stay to the back, doing half or 1/3 duty.

Now I get it, if you can’t pull, you can’t pull, so you cling on the back and let everybody else do the work.  Unfortunately for me, I don’t possess the ability to shirk what I feel is my duty like that.  I just can’t do it.  I’d spoken to Mike about it (remember, this guy was a Nationally Ranked Triathlete in his day – he’s fast) who actually recommended I hide at the back to make it to the end…  I tried.  I really did.  I skipped one pull and felt like a complete ass for letting one of the other guys do the work that I should have been doing.  It just is what it is I guess.  In any event, with the remnants of my cold, I fell apart at 19 miles and took the shortcut that knocks 3 miles off of the 32 mile ride…  I’d hoped to rest for a few miles and then latch on with the group to help the rest of the way but I ended up beating the fast guys back by about two or three minutes.  I didn’t find out until afterwards that less than a mile after I dropped, the group splintered and about 5 of the remaining 8 guys formed a group and took it easy on the way back…with the wind at their backs.

All in all, it was a really good ride and I can tell you, for that first 18 miles, with the wind in our faces, it sure was nice to have friends.

When Losing Weight Isn’t 80/20 Diet to Exercise…

There are few things in life that drive me nuts more than someone misstating the obvious.  For instance, when the media says that the current economy is good and sites some obscure part of it that isn’t edging along at a snail’s pace as evidence…  In short, who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?  Right.  Next would be faulty science that’s meant to touch every aspect of human existence.  Global Cooling (and it’s red-headed step-child) would be a good example.  If we comb the internet for anything relating to diet and exercise, one of the first things you’ll find is the claim that it’s an 80/20 ratio, Diet to Exercise.  Meaning 80% of losing weight has to do with diet and 20% has to do with exercise.

Call me the black sheep, but I’ve never been anywhere near that ratio.  In fact, in my case it’s more like 30/70 – the other way.  As far as my diet goes, I really don’t follow one with a few exceptions.  I quit drinking pop on a daily basis years ago and for good reason.  I was swallowing over 4,000 calories a week in soda alone.  That’s more than a pound a week that either has to be worked off, or ends up as a spare tire.  This doesn’t mean I won’t have a Coke from time to time, because I still do – it’s just a rare thing.  As far as food goes though, I eat whatever I want (or whatever is available).  The only trick that I can boast is portion control.  When most of my running buddies are heading back for their second helping of chili, I’m wrapping up my first and I’m done.  This depends greatly on the length of my workout for the day of course – if I’m just running seven miles, then one bowl is the cutoff.  If I’m riding 30-40 and running six or seven then I might hit the crock pot for seconds, if I’m still hungry.

I also turn down deserts as often as I eat them.  If I’ve been lazy – or more to the point, if I haven’t been pushing as hard as I should, there’s an 95% chance I’m turning down desert.  As well, when I do succumb to the occasional piece of cake, you can bet it’s a small one…  A size that most people would turn their nose up at and quip, “why bother”.

I’m that guy.  I’m the one you look at and wonder, “why is he so lucky”.  I’m the guy that people look at and say, “that’s just not fair, how come he gets to look like that.  I haven’t looked like that since I was in high school for crying out loud”.  I’m that guy.

I don’t apologize for it, and it’s no skin off my back that people think it’s unfair.  I know better and that’s all that really matters to me; my ass is bought and paid for with lots and lots of blood, sweat and miles.  Now maybe it’s not fair that I get out of work early enough that I can go for an hour-long ride in the evening before dinner.  Of course, whoever would think that would shudder at the mere idea of waking up with me.  Getting into the office between 5&6 am (after a 45 minute commute) takes a little bit of discipline.  At least for the first two or three years, after that it’s fairly easy.

The truth is, luck and fairness have little to nothing to do with anything.  My gene pool is decent, but it’s not as good as you’d think either.  The reality is that I burn calories like they’re going out of style.  Since March, my easiest month, I’ve burned between 26,000 and 35,000 calories each and every month.  That’s 7-1/2 to 10 pounds worth of calories.  Many complain that they don’t have the time for that (I would argue that they’re not willing to make the time, but let’s not split hairs, eh?).  Well folks, that’s the discipline.  I don’t want to eat like a rabbit so I have to burn a bunch of calories so that I don’t have to.  It is what it is.  You don’t have to like the rules, but one way or another, we’re all playing by them and weight is one of those that you can’t really cheat.  So I say go ahead and have that hamburger.  Hell, have two.  Have some macaroni and cheese (Kraft of course) while you’re at it…  But if you want to keep that butt lean and mean, you’d better do something to knock that off your gut or you’ll be wondering what your shoes look like before long.

Either that, or we can do what my buddy Jim suggests…  We can all head down to the donut shop and tell each other lies about why we’re fat and have a grand old time.

***  For the sticklers:  My diet/exercise plan is not for everyone.  It does work for me though.

App Review – Asphalt 7

Ladies and gentlemen (I can include ladies in this for a reason – stay tuned), I bought a $0.99 racing game for my iPhone over the weekend called Asphalt 7.  The only other games on my phone are Where’s Perry (from Phineas and Ferb) and the Angry Birds smorgasbord and my daughters play the games more than I do.  Generally I deprive myself of games because I had a little bit of a solitaire problem about 12 years ago that needed to be rectified so I’ve stayed away for fear of developing new bad habits.

Solitaire notwithstanding, I am a Gran Turismo freak.  Maybe even a super-freak.  Well, after I downloaded iOS 6 for my iPhone 4s, I received several free apps (such as Find iPhone) so in checking them out I just happened to see Asphalt 7 as one of the featured apps on the app store main page, so I clicked on it…  And found that I could be test driving a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder on my phone.  For a dollar.  That’s a lotta car for a dollar.

Folks, in my world it just doesn’t get any better than that.  I plunked down that dollar faster than you say Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 Spyder.

Fortunately, I’ve been maintaining sanity with it so far, only playing during the evening hours when the wife is away – and I’ll have to maintain a constant vigil because that game is fun.  I won’t bother getting into the specifics of the game, but it’s a lot like GT only better – and for my phone!  The graphics are fantastic and it’s fairly easy to pick up but definitely challenging enough to be a lot of fun.  Oh, and you can win a Ford Mustang GT 500 too…  Oh my.

If you happen to be into race car video games, it’s well worth every penny.

So, for the bit about the ladies…  My daughter, a young lady, loves the game almost as much as I do – we now fight over my iPhone.  Kids…sheesh.