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An Attitude of Gratitude; The Gifts Of A Life Lived In Recovery

I woke up this morning with a spring in my step. It took a minute to get rolling, but my heart felt happy. Usually that’s a fair sign I’m doing something right (and thankfully I stopped worrying about “the other shoe dropping decades ago). There’s a lot of good going on in my life right now. My wife and I are riding a fun streak. My daughters and I couldn’t possibly be better, happier. Work is difficult, but they pay me a lot of money to deal with difficult. My fitness is good and I fell healthy. And, between cycling and bowling, I have a more friends than I ever have at any point in my life.

My sponsor’s sponsor told me three decades ago (literally 30 years), “If you keep coming back and working the steps, you’ll get to a point you’ll think life can’t get any better. If you keep coming back, six months later you’ll realize it did get better. All on its own.”

I’ve been there so many times I’ve lost count. And here I am again.

I love it when this happens. Better still, I know why it happens – and the keys to allowing it to continue. Rocket science this isn’t. And for that I am grateful.

Without recovery, a life this good simply isn’t possible for me. Good orderly direction is the key to my peace, happiness and contentment. And I’ll keep coming back, just to see how good this can get.

Back Pain: The Mattress or the Pillow? It Was…

So, I updated my post from yesterday in which I explored the idea that using the wrong pillow may have been to blame for some intense back pain that I was ready to attribute to our new mattress.

Long story short, we picked up a new mattress the other day. My wife and I keep two pillows each on the bed, I’m assuming because it makes the bed look more inviting. When I go to sleep, one pillow goes betwixt the bed and the wall and I sleep on the other. Well, when we put the new mattress on the box spring, I grabbed the wrong pillow when I went to sleep that night. Three days later and I was in a whole lot of pain. Two AdviNol would knock the edge off, but it wouldn’t go completely away.

I thought it was the mattress.

I reasoned, at 2 in the morning after being woken up by the pain, that it might just be the pillow. I put my pillow on the floor and laid my head directly on the mattress… and my back pain started to fade. I grabbed my other pillow, the one from behind the bed, and used that one instead. I woke up a couple of hours later feeling much better.

Last night I used the proper pillow again and woke up pain-free. I slept like a brick and feel like a Hundred Dollars this morning. Err, sorry, inflation. Call it a Buck-thirty. Anyway, Niall posted a comment on the blog yesterday that really mattered, so I wanted to share it here:

Your pillow is a mattress for the head and equally as important as the actual mattress.

Friends, my experience backs that up exactly. I’ll never look at pillows the same again.

Back Pain: Is It the Mattress or the Pillow? An Overnight Experience in Pain.

My wife and I picked up a new mattress a while back. I’m a soft mattress kind of guy. My wife likes something a little firmer, so we compromised on what we felt was a great medium.

We got it home and I LOVED it. My wife, not so much. It was a little too firm and it hurt her hip and back. She went through quite a bit of pain and after a short test period, decided to trade it in for a soft mattress. I was ecstatic. The current one was good enough, but a true soft mattress? Oh, it was going to be awesome!

We got everything worked out and picked the new, upgraded mattress we wanted, agreed to terms and the exchange procedure and signed on the dotted line.

We took back our medium mattress and picked up the new one last week. We put the required mattress protector on, then our sheets, then our pillows… then went about the rest of our day. That first night was spectacular.

The second, after bowling a little too excessively Friday evening, was a little rough. I figured it was too many games and didn’t worry about it. I loosened up after a bit and forgot about my tragic tail of pain and woe the night before. I woke up Sunday in a lot more pain. It was brutal. I took a couple of Advil/Acetaminophen pills and, after a cup of coffee, fell asleep on the couch. I woke up fine and put it to too much bowling on Friday and Saturday (I took my wife and daughter for a few games Saturday).

After watching my favorite quarterback on my new favorite team with the Super Bowl last night, I crashed… and woke up at 2am in agony. This was not bowling. I was worried it was the mattress… I didn’t want to have to go through the return process again.

Then I realized I’d been using the wrong pillow. It was one of those “just dawned on me” things. I switched pillows to something less bulky and heavy and fell back asleep. I woke up a couple of hours later feeling like a new me. My back pain was gone.

If I’m sleeping on a firm mattress, it doesn’t matter what kind of pillow I use, it’s going to cause me some severe pain. On our new mattress, though, it didn’t compute that the pain could be caused by it. My body said otherwise, though. Until I switched my pillow and could feel my body relax and the pain and tension ease. I was shocked at how quickly everything changed. And how much better I feel this morning compared to yesterday.

Update: It’s the next morning. I woke up with zero lower back pain today. Zero. No AdviNol, no trouble bending to the floor to pick something up… in fact, no bending to the floor to stretch my back out enough to walk around! Two days ago I was wondering if I was just getting old and the pain just caught up with my active life. Today I feel ten to fifteen years younger than my 51 years.

All because I changed my pillow.

Also, please see Niall’s comment below, as he is a professional.

I’m Pretty Sure I Know What My Last Words Will Be…

I’m pretty sure I know what my last words will be. The only question is when they’ll be uttered, or “thought” if that’s all I have time for…

I’m looking at either, “Oops”, “Shit” or “Watch this”…

My life’s goal is to skid into my casket in a cloud of dust shouting, “Wow! What a ride! I don’t have anymore left. I’m out.”

I don’t know if it’ll work out that way but I do know this; when my number is punched I’ll be able to go out knowing I gave having a good, fun life everything I had. That will be good enough, and for that, I am grateful.

Recover hard, my friends. We only get one lap.

A Public Cycling Announcement from Fit Recovery…

It’s cold as a well diggers di… erm… hands outside. It’s cloudy, windy, crappy, sucky… and generally not nice.

But spring is just around the corner, baby! Let’s get fast today! Hit the trainer and bust out a record ride today. Let’s get it done, my friends!

WOOOOH!

The Time to Get Ready for the Spring Cycling Season Is Upon Us: And That Time Is Every Day! Only FASTER! Edition

This post is for you, Jeff.

In one of the most inspiring moments ever, and in one of the greatest lines ever uttered by a Vice President of the United States, right next to Dan Quayle instructing a child to misspell the word “potato”, Kamal Harris inspired me to kick it into high gear for spring when she stated, “It is time for us to do what we’ve been doing. And that time is every day.”

Now, if you haven’t seen the clip (shame on you), you have to get the picture in your head right for this too, as she started shaking her head slowly when as she said, “And that time is every day” with the most serious, straight face I’ve seen from the VP. It was moving. Something.

SO! The time is upon us to get ready for springtime. We’ve just got a month and a handful of days before we’re outside again. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to start pushing the big gears – well, actually big up front and little in the back, but you catch my drift! That bike ain’t gonna pedal itself into the wind once all of this ice thaws, baby. We need to start pushing those hard gears now so when spring does roll around, we’re not the one trying to throw a lasso around one of the other riders for a tow, we’re with the lead group, dishing out the pain!

Can you feel it?! Spring is coming!

Well, that might be going a little far. It’s going to be 22 today. That’s -5.5 C in Moose Latin. But let’s not get lost in the weeds, baby! It’s time to get motivated! It’s time to eat some freaking salads and lose that Christmas cookie fat! It’s time to get those legs used to pedaling hard into the spring wind! Our legs are the change we’ve been waiting for!

So here’s the “And that time is every day” workout schedule:

  1. We don’t take more than two days off per week. Go with a Tuesday and Friday or something.
  2. So, technically, the time is not really every day, it’s kinda “most days”. Still, “And that time is every day” would make a good t-shirt… or jersey.
  3. Monday is an easy day. Tuesday off. Wednesday is “grind a hard gear” day. Thursday is a moderate day. Friday off. Saturday intervals followed by an easy to moderate spin after the interval workout. Sunday is a moderate to hard day, hammering the bigger gears.
  4. Do some push-ups and sit-ups three or four days a week.
  5. This will get your ass in gear so when it really comes time to hit the road hard when the snow and ice melts, you’re not trying to grab onto someone else’s pocket when the pace gets a little hectic.

Let’s get it done, my friends! Ride hard!

WOOOOH!

Somebody pass the cucumbers and carrots!

A Fantastic Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad in 500 Calories Or Less

The hardest part of being an aging athlete is getting the fuel right so we don’t bonk, but also not eating our way to being too heavy for a 16-pound (7kg) race bike. Finding the right balance isn’t easy.

On one hand, I ride a bicycle (one of my five) around 8,000 miles a year. That’s a low-side average. When you’re pushing out 300 miles in a week, it’s easy to not pass on that most excellent double pulled pork barbecue bacon burger with fried onion straws. With fries. Ahem. Therein lies my problem.

When I started cycling at 41, after running for the better part of a decade, I jumped my mileage up quickly and lost a massive amount of weight. I’m 6′ tall and went from 172 pounds down to the 150s. I was skinny. My wife finally said, look, mister, you better do something about this skinny thing you’ve got going on. I like you with a little more meat on those bones. Folks, there’s nothing quite like permission to eat. And eat I did. Now, at 51, I’m pushing 185 and I’m big enough that it’s time to do something to fix it. I used to eat at Subway regularly, but when you do the calorie math, I’m looking at a 1,000 calorie lunch and a 1,500 calorie dinner. Throw in a few muchies here and there, and all of a sudden, BAM! 185 stares back at you on the scale.

I started looking at salads from Wendy’s. The half-size Spicy Chicken Caesar was appealing so I gave it a go. With a piece of fried, spicy chicken. Looking up the calorie content, I’m right around 490 calories. I drink water with my lunch to save unneeded calories. I dropped three pounds in just shy of two weeks. My cardiologist probably wouldn’t be too happy with the “fried” part of the chicken, though. Then I got to thinking… that’s $35 a week just in salads at Wendy’s.

I started thinking about saving some money, because $7 for a freaking salad pissed me off a little, even if it was very tasty. Then, of course, fried

Now, if I butterfly chicken breasts, I can get at least four lunches out of a package of chicken, plus dressing and croutons… I’m looking at about $4 per lunch – and I don’t use the cheap, nutrient-void iceberg lettuce. I use the good stuff; baby spinach, spring mixed greens and a romaine heart here and there.

The key to making your own salad is getting the chicken right. Not enough seasoning and you’ve got a boring hunk of flavorless chicken. Too much and it tastes gross. Cook it too long and it’s dry. Raw will obviously get you sick (or worse).

The best seasoning for chicken is McCormick’s Montreal Chicken seasoning. Montreal Steak seasoning works, too – but go light on either. Also, if you’re really feeling adventurous and want fantastic tasting grilled chicken, is the Grill Mates Applewood Smoked seasoning, again from McCormick. Go with the applewood first, then a light dusting of Montreal. This is the easy part; lightly sprinkle your seasoning over the chicken. I find that too much is overpowering, so be judicious. While I love “heat”, as in spicy seasoning, I find too much salt off-putting.

Next is the actual cooking of the chicken, and this takes some patience and practice to get right. First, I like to butterfly boneless chicken breasts so they cook fast. The only thing worse than over-cooked chicken is under-cooked chicken. The key to juicy chicken is a properly pre-heated grill. We’re aiming for 500+ degrees F (260 C). So, immediately after you get the grill lit (or you get the charcoal going), clean the grill surface with a wire cleaning utensil. Inspect the grill to make sure no pieces of wire stuck to the grill, then wait till the you’re up to temp.

With the grill up to temp, place the chicken diagonally across the grill with the seasoned side down. I know, I know… it looks better. Shut the lid and let it go for about three or four minutes. Make sure the grill isn’t flaring up on you. When you come back, the top side of the chicken should be turning white, as though it’s starting to cook. Flip the chicken, diagonal again. and let it go for another three and check the meat. You don’t want it to be too rigid (over-cooked) or rubbery (under-cooked). The chicken will bend a little bit under it’s own weight if you grab it with tongs on either end of the chicken but not if you grab it in the middle.

Until you get the “feel” of what a cooked piece of chicken feels like in a pair of tongs, I’d cut a piece in half, the thickest piece, to make sure it’s cooked through. The chicken should be a consistent color throughout – no darker center (that’s good for steak, not chicken).

Once the chicken is done – but just done, because you’re going to reheat this, presumably in a microwave oven at work, I place them in a storage container and immediately in the fridge for the next few days.

Now, for the reheat, I like to place a damp to wet paper towel over the chicken when I reheat it. This helps keep the meat’s moisture locked in so it stays juicy. The goal is to get it just hot enough without hammering it to death in the nuker.

The rest is just building a salad. I like the aforementioned spring mix and baby spinach, a small handful of croutons, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and some Caesar dressing. Now, for the dressing, I have two favorites. I like Newman’s Own because all profits go directly to charity. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Ken’s Steakhouse Caesar Dressing its props. That dressing is amazing.

Enjoy! And remember, more lettuce than chicken!

Fitness and Recovery from Addiction: I Could Have One But Not The Other…

I could have recovery without being as active as I am. It just wouldn’t be as fun.

I couldn’t have fitness without recovery, though. Without the recovery, I’d already be on the wrong side of the grass.

Thank God I found the path and chose to stay on it.

On Fit Recovery Approaching 1,000,000 Hits

In the very near future, Fit Recovery will cross the millionth hit marker since I thought the blog up and published my first post a little more than a decade ago.

A million hits.

I received several comments over the years suggesting I should write more (or even exclusively) about recovery. They say all of the cycling stuff is a distraction from the good that I do writing about recovery. Believe it or not, I’m not lost on the idea but there are two distinct problems with that suggestion:

  1. Every single post on my top ten list for each year has something to do directly with cycling with one exception; I wrote a post about tight belt syndrome because I had it, struggled with it, and fixed it. That’s the one outlier. I’ve always figured it’s a good thing that the cycling posts bring the eyeballs to the recovery posts. I could be wrong about that assessment, but see #2.
  2. I really love writing about cycling, fitness and an active lifestyle. My daughters like to say I’m the most active dad they know. I write about recovery to freely give away that which saved my bacon and I write about cycling and fitness because it’s fun. One of the greatest things recovery has given me is the ability and cause to enjoy life – and I mean really love it. I try to pass on that passion in both topics.

And so it is what it is, my friends. I’ve actually been working on a little more substance around here, and a little less fluff. In the end, doing something good is more important to me than doing something fun. The key for me with writing fit recovery is that I can have both – it’s just a matter of figuring out the balance.

Thank you for reading, and for those friends I’ve made over the years, thank you for being the cherry on top.

In the end, recovery and fitness are both all about the friends we make. And blogging, too for that matter.

Because Nobody Ever Whiskey Throttled a Road Bike… A Funny Cycling Story for a Tuesday.

Several years ago, in July, my brother had his family up from Florida visiting my mom. I had One Helluva Ride early in the morning (100 miles starting in Chelsea, MI and rolling through Hell, MI and back to Chelsea), so I stopped by on the way home to say hello. After a fair amount of conversation, my brother said mom had told him I rode 100 miles with my friends earlier in the day… he asked if I was nuts. I assured him I was quite sane and explained 100 miles on my $6,000 road bike wasn’t quite what he remembered when he drifted back to riding a dozen miles on our 35 pound steel Murray Baja’s back when we were kids. He asked to see it, so I took him out and pulled my amazing race steed from the back of my SUV.

As one would expect, for anyone who thought top of the line was an aluminum mountain bike, his eyes popped open in shock. I offered for him to pick it up (I think it was around 17-1/2 pounds at the time). His jaw dropped. I smiled. He asked if he could give it a spin and I said, “absolutely”.

He threw a leg over the top tube, put a foot on one of the Look pedals as if it were a regular platform pedal, and pushed off to do a lap around the cul-de-sac… and I looked on in sheer horror as he damn near toppled over in the first five feet. He wobbled dramatically, trying to hold on to the intractable steed. It was the ugliest “bike ride” I’d ever seen – the closest I’ve ever seen to whiskey throttling a bicycle. He wobbled around the cul-de-sac a little more, a look of determined panic set across his face… he couldn’t figure out how to put a foot down with the saddle pegged so high. He slowed to a crawl and tilted the bike, putting his right foot out to stop gravity doing its thing… and the gambit worked. Curse words followed, then “How in the f*** did you ride that 100 f***ing miles!”

Note to new cyclists: Jumping from a mountain bike, where the handlebar is a little higher than the saddle to a performance race bike where the saddle is 5″ above the handlebar is a bit of a stretch. Especially when you haven’t ridden a bicycle in 25 years. I would recommend not starting out with the bicycle aimed at a fence.

If you think I’m being silly, just in case, you should probably have someone video tape it. Some $#!+ is worth seeing over and over and over again.

Ride hard, my friends.