Monday, March 25, 2013

Adjust - Find the Balance, Repeat Steps 1 & 2 Again and Again and Again

Usually winter-time training goes pretty well for me. My wife sends me off to Maryland to stay at my family's place. I get to paddle and see my family and she gets to do...nevermind, I don't want to know what she gets to do while I am away!!

These past few months of training for the Carolina Cup have not gone as well as planned. There has been a lot of upheaval and so many curveballs have been thrown in my direction that my eyes almost well up with tears every time I think about clicking on that button that registered me for the Graveyard Elite race instead of the Money Island Open race. The Graveyard race takes you out in the ocean and the last time I raced in the ocean off Wrightsville Beach I got pummeled. I expected to spend a lot of time in Ocean City trying to get acclimated to wavy seas but didn't make it there once...

As I have examined all that has gone wrong I have divided up things that are my fault, my wife's fault, my mother's fault, and the fault of TOoMC (Things Out of My Control).
Me: 473
My Wife: 0
My Mother: 0
TOoMC: maybe 1 but really 0

I have had to adjust to many of my own mistakes and try to find some balance in life to continue progression and to keep things on an even keel. Here are highlights of a few tests and trials:

As soon as I got back I rushed out to paddle and went into the wind using a 9" blade because I was panicked that I was behind my mileage schedule. End result - dangerously shore shoulders. Anybody reading this who is a paddler is shaking their heads thinking what an idiot...I know I know.

My offseason time in the weight room might have been too much. Being that it was winter I spent a lot of time lifting weights and running and standing on medicine balls. I introduced a few more exercises into my weight routine that focused on getting my shoulders stronger. The transfer from land to water did not feel very good. During my last re-entry into paddling after a long hiatus, from November to January, I did not feel as uncomfortable getting the paddling muscles into a smooth flowing motion. This time around it was quite different and quite uncomfortable. I knew I should have dropped a day of weights and gone into the hot yoga room!!

This trip I took Eli Mongrel with me. Eli is such a sweetheart but he is a HANDFUL! My wife and I decided that winter in Oxford would be good for trying to work on the separation anxiety with the mongrel because the building where I would be staying would be empty of occupants and my mother's house has no full-time neighbors on either side. Well, there were plenty of cars in the parking lot on weekends and my mom was in Florida on vacation so she wasn't around to help out with the process. I don't mind a dog barking his head off as long as he isn't bothering someone else and/or flailing against his crate. Coming back from a paddle and finding Eli with a bloody snout or completely busted out of his crate did not make the process easy.

When my mother finally returned from her trip she was exhausted and on the verge of getting sick so I didn't want to leave Eli with her for too long. Eli Mongrel is not a comforting companion for the very tired individual, especially an individual you love and who has bent over backwards all of their life for you! My paddles were either kept too short or I went too fast because I was worried about the mongrel bothering all of Oxford's winter-time population, which was more than I expected this year. Also, the water was just too cold to keep flowing over Eli's private parts when I took him paddling with me!! Damn recessed deck!

My board was full of water. This one hurt. My 12-6 DEAN got dinged on the nose while in winter storage, not by me, and out of curiosity I tipped the tail end up to see if any water was inside of it. WOW, was I surprised!! There were microscopic hairline fractures along the seam at the tail where carbon fiber joined what looks like balsa wood. I cut those out and tipped the nose up then watched the water really flow out of it. I left it at an angle and traveled back to Chicago to pick up more gear, hoping I would be able to patch it when I returned.

Unfortunately, there was still some dampness around one of the holes so I needed some sun to dry the surface around the ding. Sun has been hard to come by this year! As I began to panic I began to smear Marine Tech on the holes and dinged the bow again moving the board around to find sunlight so I smeared more Marine Tech on the board. All the dings were fixed and sanded except for one. I tried to rush things and just created more work for myself. I knew, at the very beginning, I should have cut the tail off and let the board drain and the foam dry completely. Such is happening right now so the board should be ready to repair when I get back from my 2nd unexpected trip back to Chicago.

Looks like we have to move again. (Our building was sold and the new landlords are awful and do not deserve one penny of our rent!) Gracie's mom has permitted us and the two hairy mongrels to return to her house in Ogden Dunes so my employment plans for the summer are up in the air again. I am back in Chicago trying to see if I can work something out, but my wife has graciously allowed me to return to Maryland for the summer if opportunities await there. And it is still so dang cold here in Chicago that the thought of going out on Lake Michigan doesn't really excite me, but I have to in order to get some more miles under my belt. Eli went swimming this past Saturday and his body felt like a block of ice when he got out. It was so extreme that I got a little nervous that the cold would affect him physically. However, he did not even shiver and his tail wagged for more. (We left the beach after feeling his body.) The dog is a lot tougher than we all thought...unless he is out of sight of his momma!

Where has global warming been this year? Last winter spoiled me. I haven't be able to man up and get out on the water on these cold dreary days. Although I wish it wasn't, this one is still my fault because I have the gear to be out there and still be safe.

I think I have complained enough today...

The best part about venting my whines is realizing that I still cannot wait for the Carolina Cup weekend to arrive!! I am doing a paddle clinic with Danny Ching, as are a lot of my paddling buddies, racing out in the open ocean, which is always a great learning experience, getting my Level 3 certification in Paddle Fit, which might help me earn a shekel or two, and getting the opportunity to see old friends and family and possibly make some new ones. How can getting ready for any part of this upcoming weekend be a bad thing? There is only one answer to this question:


Having to adjust to the circumstances life throws at you, if you react properly, increases growth. When you don't react properly you dig some deeper holes, but...if you, again, adjust, there is great potential for growth. I am working on that great potential now!

I am still growing and learning how to become a better Christian, husband, son, dog owner, paddler, business man, friend, and family member. During these recent trials I have discovered a lot of areas where I still need work. This is good, sometimes hard to accept but good nonetheless. I hope that on the other side of April 27th I will have worked hard enough so my growth is noticeable to others and I can have a positive effect on those around me.

All the while I will be open for advice from others to make this positivity happen!!

Come on spring!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Yet Another Formula to Determine Healthy Eating...BS!

Watching the news on CBS This Morning brought to mine and the world's attention that another formula has been introduced to the public to help one decide whether a food item at some markets is healthy or not. The NuVal system ranks foods from 1-100 with 100 being the best score. During the segment, there were pros and cons raised about yet another scientific way to determine whether certain foods are healthy or not. Some argued that the way the NuVal system is calculated remains a mystery and doesn't deserve the credibility those behind it seek. NuVal says it is very necessary for the health of the general public so they know what they are getting when they purchase food that is put into some sort of container. Why is yet another formula necessary? It's not. Try not to eat foods that come in containers is a great way to ensure healthy eating. Making healthy eating simple is what is necessary. I think the First Lady has it right by speaking about growing your own ingredients and having healthy options available at places like Walgreens, which makes me wonder why she doesn't get nearly enough of the press she deserves...

Why doesn't healthy eating get enough press? I am not talking about Lean Cuisines and Healthy Choice meals; I am talking about Farmer's Markets and roadside stands. Whole Foods has the image as the epicenter of healthy eating but the fact that they sell Tropicana orange juice that has a TON of sugar in it, in my humble opinion, destroys their credibility. If they only sold oranges and/or fresh squeezed orange juice then they would earn some credibility as an institution that cares about the health of its customers but they really don't. They will sell whatever they can, according to their misconstrued guidelines, to keep building a masked image and really fancy stores. I wish I didn't go there but I still do. Whole Foods has the best produce and the best fish in Chicago but I certainly don't think any of those do-gooder hipsters working there have a clue of how the machine works. If they did; they might not work there or they would at least bathe and lose the attitude.

The only formula the consumer needs is: how many ingredients are in the product I am purchasing? The smaller the number the better! According to the NuVal system a box of Post Healthy Classics Shredded Wheat and Bran has more nutritional value than an avocado. Does this make sense? A food that comes in a bag in a box is better for you than something plucked off a tree...Sure, avocados have fat in them but it is monounsaturated fat that is important for the body to prevent diseases like cancer and heart disease (for more on the explanation of fats see The Big Book of Health and Fitness by Dr. Phil Maffetone, Chapter 4). The ingredients in the cereal didn't just come off the stalk and into the box.

Also, the fat in an avocado has a richness that makes you feel full. Cereal in the morning never worked for me as an adult. I was always hungry a half hour later, even if I ate a huge bowl. Just like anything marked low-fat or non-fat doesn't work well for me, because it takes FOREVER for me to feel full! Give me a couple scoops of full-on-fatty yogurt and it will only take a quarter of the amount to feel satisfied compared to that low or non-fat nonsense. The good fats in yogurt help the active body recover and make the stomach feel satisfied. Trust me, I was 225 lbs less than a year ago...

Another point in the healthy formula nonsense is the guidelines for eating. If you are overweight your stomach has expanded. A few ounces of almonds aren't going to do much for one attempting to make a change. The stomach has to shrink and this doesn't happen overnight. Cutting down what was once considered a normal eating habit over time as one attempts to eat healthier and exercise is better than starving oneself. A gradual process is better in the long run than quick fixes. Trying to get someone to eat skimpy portions after a long road of making unhealthy choices is setting someone up for failure. For me, the process worked well as I made gradual adjustments over a long period of time. Add some patience to common sense and you have the best formula for improving overall health.

Trusting the source of your information when building your common sense is very important. I trust Dr. Maffetone. His writings determine my thought process when it comes to making purchases at the store, the farmers market, or the roadside stand. I cannot wait for Farmer's Market season! How come the oranges at roadside stands in Florida aren't as pretty as the ones in Whole Foods (yet they taste the same)?

Eating healthy can be a pain in the butt and expensive but a few extra coins and scrubbing a few pans should be well worth the long-term benefits. I think NuVal, like other nutrition agencies, has good intentions but I wonder who funded their research. So much bad is masked by corporate advertising and fancy colored packaging that it is often difficult to make the right decisions, especially if the consumer is under time restraints. A vet once told me that makers of certain dog foods pay to have other vets say how beneficial their products are to the health of pets. Imagine how bad it must be in the human world where greed and the almighty dollar determine most decisions...If the consumer uses their own brains to make healthy choices when purchasing food our nation would be a lot better off and we wouldn't need politicians telling us what size drinks we can purchase.

Eat healthy a pass it on to the next person!

Check it out the information for yourself:

The most interesting fact CBS reported is that the NuVal system is only available to retailers for a price, making healthy eating, in the grand scheme of things, even more expensive than it already is.

Monday, March 11, 2013

SUP and the Evolution into the Healthier Lifestyle

If you had told me a year ago that a person can limit themselves to only one drink and still enjoy themselves I would have nodded along in agreement then walked out of earshot and told the next person that you were certifiably insane. As the point of embarkation for me to evolve into some sort of businessman approaches, I am working on a mission statement that will explain my intent to improve the wellness, fitness, and overall health of any potential client interested in or needing to make a change. All the doctorates in the world can explain theories and offer advice to an individual but it is only when said individual decides for themselves that change is necessary that change will occur. For anyone who has known me for some time they can appreciate the fact that I can now walk into my wife's bar in the middle of a Chicago winter and order a ginger ale instead of a beer and not feel awkward at all. (I may still act awkward but I no longer feel it as well...)

I have finally found an activity that has stuck with me and inspired me to find the time to enjoy it to the fullest. I know I have touched on this in previous posts but it wasn't until the other night when I sat in bed reading and enjoying a single serving of armagnac that I came to fully appreciate the change that has occurred deep within my soul...and this change had to go DEEP in order to achieve success! As I slowly sipped, I felt no anxiousness concerning the fact that I was not going to have another, which was always part of the problem before. In the past, when I would put limits on myself, as I neared the stopping point I would break into sweats wondering whether I would adhere to my proposed maximum intake or how bad my hangover would be if I slid by the proposed maximum intake by just a few drinks. Most of the time the results were not pretty and neither was the next day, even if the next day was sunny, 80 degrees and the water temperature was in the high 70s.

My decision making process is still not functioning at 100%. I can make a bad choice quicker than a lizard's tongue can reach a fly but those moments are much rarer now than in previous years. Getting out on the water is very important to me. Having my body function at its fullest potential in order to receive maximize benefits from time on the water, for not only fitness but pure enjoyment as well, heavily influences the decisions I make. Too many beautiful days were spent behind drawn curtains in front of awful television programming. There is too much beauty in this world to miss out on due to ugly decisions. Finding something that works for the individual, whether it be religion, stand up paddling, rock climbing, jogging, playing a musical instrument, painting, or macrame, having a vested interest in an active pursuit to influence the mind in a positive manner is key to making changes. Ultimately, the individual has to make the decision to change, but getting influenced in a beneficial way helps. Expensive talking-only sessions may seem cheap, not as in price but as in worth, compared to bringing activity into such an equation.

I know this because I have sat on those couches and had those talks and I do not care much for that route. Talking heads offering advice on theories they have only studied and not tested through personal experience is great if it works for you but what if it doesn't? There must be active alternatives available and that is what I hope one aspect of my business will be. Anaerobic and aerobic activity can have positive influences on the mind and body and I am evidence of the benefits of stand up paddling. Since I have taken up the sport as my number one hobby I no longer have the desire to smoke, no longer struggle with the need to drink alcohol, have fallen under 200lbs for the first time in 4 years, and have had my wife ask - "what's up with this sex everyday stuff?" I'm sorry for such openness but there is no other way to describe the benefits of an active lifestyle on the mind and body, especially the over 40 mind and body!

Even Keel Fitness, a stand up paddling based outfit offering clients the resources to pursue a healthier and more fit lifestyle should be coming soon to shorelines near you. This business will cater to the needs of individuals, not only fitness needs but logistics as well. If you want to paddle Even Keel Fitness can make that happen, no matter where you are!

See you on the water soon!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Trusting and Earning Trust En Route to Wellness

Who is the proper authority that has the best information available to help you improve your overall well being? YOU ARE!

All the figures, statistics, data, and so-called counsel available seems overwhelming. As I do my own research I can't help but laugh at the programs some suggest as the best way to get healthy and fit. I laugh because I did similar programs and know they did not work for me. I also get a little bummed out when I read about some programs because I wish they would be beneficial but deep down I know they are beyond my capabilities. What I have found important is the fact that I recognize that I am an individual and unlike anybody are you. What may not work for me might do miracles in the life of another. We all have to learn to TRUST ourselves as overseers of our mind and bodies.

At one point in my life I worked with a personal trainer. I was living in New York City, working all day in an office, and feeling the life getting sucked out of me all the while my stomach was expanding against my belt. I signed up for some early morning sessions two days a week. I lasted two weeks. After three of the four sessions I was coming back to the office and throwing up. I discussed my post-workout traumas with my PT who's only response was a shrug of the shoulders and a suggestion that maybe I wasn't eating right. I have worked out plenty on my own, pushed myself to extremes, but have never had to throw up after a session. This trainer had no interest in coming up with a program that was best suited for me. He had too narrow of a focus of what he thought worked for others and it definitely wasn't suited for me and he made no plans to adapt his strategy to benefit my best interests. No wonder he was available...

I considered several approaches to endurance training before deciding to go with Dr. Phil Maffetone's. After the first few sessions of training I thought he was kook but not because the sessions felt bad; they felt weird. Training according to a Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) felt completely strange. I could paddle at a somewhat enjoyable pace but I could hardly break into an easy jog without breaching the maximum heart rate according to my MAF. I wondered how any of this could benefit me but upon further examination I decided to let go of my inhibitions and TRUST the program I had undertaken. Quite soon I came to realize that putting my body in motion, especially at a slow to moderate pace for long periods of time, felt really really good. Down the road, as in 6 weeks later, I reaped the benefits.

Listening to the body is the best way to determine whether a program works for you or not. I used to love the phrase "pain is weakness leaving the body" but these days I am not a big fan of feeling pain during my workouts or on any of the days after. Being a little sore is different than being hurt. Feeling weird is different than feeling bad. YOU are the authority when it comes to your own body and a personal trainer, or anybody you work with in the fields of health and wellness, should be a guide, not a dictator.

Just the other day I was at the gym working on fun balance exercises while a PT was putting a woman through hell only a few feet away. The woman struggled to move from one exercise to the other while her PT stood over her staring down like a gargoyle. After her session was over the poor woman could not walk the fifteen feet to the entrance of the women's locker room. Her PT barked at her to sit down. She obeyed and when she looked up at him I could read her face. There was no sense of enlightenment or wellness; there was only defeat. I hate seeing that look on a person's face after they are supposed to be doing something good for themselves. After my own bad experiences with a personal trainer and witnessing several friends experience a lot of emotional turmoil resulting from sessions with a personal trainer I wanted to address the TRUST issue.

TRUST when it comes to diet can be even harder to obtain. Deciding what to eat, if you want to listen to what others say, can make your head spin until you get so hungry that you will take whatever is quick and readily available. Use common sense to develop a sense of trust when it comes to food. Keep food simple and balance all the food groups and you cannot go wrong. Does it really make sense to fill the body with only one aspect of nutrition, such as protein, when we are made up of some many complicated parts? Using your body, say in terms of energy levels, sleeping habits, and levels of comfort, will determine the best methods to TRUST when it comes to nutrition.

*QUICK DIET TIPS I HAVE LEARNED TO TRUST: I would like to suggest that you trust only food that has ingredients you can pronounce and know what they are. Also, eat food you prepare not what is prepared in a big building hundreds of miles away from where you reside. (Paraphrased from: Food Rules - An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan) Also, be careful with low-fat and non-fat because these items will leave you still feeling hungry!

Learning not to trust certain suggestions can be as difficult as learning what to trust. I have always admired Laird Hamilton so when he came out with a book I rushed to the bookstore to buy it. Being that he is the ultimate Alpha Male in terms of looks and athletic ability I thought to myself - that is my kind of program. After looking at a picture of him and reading about his accomplishments who wouldn't think such? Well...I heard a little voice say skim the book before buying it, so I did. Laird doesn't like cheese. If I recall correctly he doesn't see any of the value of having cheese in the diet. As it turns out Laird and I are not in accord. A late night snack of a few apple slices and a couple cuts of good cheese will satisfy my cravings and hold me over until morning. I see a big benefit of keeping cheese in my diet. I ate a lot of cheese on a 28 day Outward Bound trip and got in the best shape of my life! Putting that book back on the shelf was a huge disappointment. I had been so excited about purchasing it but then decided Laird's way was not my way.

I still go to to research various aspects of diet and fitness but I am very frugal about what I take away and apply to my own lifestyle. Laird has been on the ocean all his life and has developed some super-hero like physical and mental qualities to be able to do what he does. Coming to grips with the fact that trusting many of Laird's suggestions for wellness wasn't the best idea for me was a disappointment, but a very healthy decision on my part.

Think of your body as an instrument. When you are out of sorts it is usually as obvious as an out-of-tune guitar being strummed. When it is in tune you should recognize that good feeling. While this cliche may be much overused it is a good example of how to recognize ways to TRUST what works and what doesn't work. The path to wellness should start to feel better and better as you progress in positive directions just like a guitar string starts to sound better as you tune toward the correct pitch. As your instincts develop you will soon be able to recognize what is working and what isn't whether you are on the journey alone or with a guide. Just make sure you are the one giving the final go-ahead for each step because you have learned to TRUST what does your body good!

Work toward an even keel and enjoy a smooth ride in your life...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Practice, Then Preaching

I have been wanting to write an entry that offers some justification for my methods as not only tired but true, not just in the improvement of speed over the ground on a stand up paddleboard but in terms of overall health and fitness. While it has not been that long, I have already felt much better, had more energy, and even lost weight. For the first time in 4+ years I weighed in at under 200lbs. Normally I don't care about how much I weigh, but when racing in the 12-6 class every ounce you can shed is going to help speed you up. At the six-week-out mark from the Carolina Cup I plan to make a conscious effort to shed as much weight as possible without going nutso over the process. This weight-loss plan isn't going to be some sit in a Listerine bath like mixed martial arts fighters trying to make weight; this is just going to be a no-processed food only healthy meals with fresh ingredients type undertaking. If I don't lose any more weight I am certainly not going to get upset over it because, hopefully, my strength and conditioning training will make up the differences.

Another thing that has been wonderful is the fact that I have not taking any kind of anti-inflammatory medicine for any type of pain in 2013...I think. (I know I haven't taken any since I got back from Paddle Fit certification in Florida but I might have taken an Anacin in early January.) Nonetheless, I am really happy with the fact that I am avoiding ingesting medicine made by some company that certainly doesn't give a rat's behind about my overall well being, especially when I have been hitting it HARD at the gym. On the days I do power workouts, I put my body through some pretty rigorous training with 3 circuits of weights and 4.5 miles of cardio in as short amount of time as possible. I feel it the next day, but instead of taking an Aleve and hoping for the best I have been listening to my body and either walking, resting completely, or doing really light jogs on the treadmill the next day. Also, I have to believe that eating healthy, meaning eggs, sardines, avocados, smoked salmon, organic peanut butter, broccoli, juice concoctions, and bananas contributes greatly to the body healing its self. So far it is working, but these days I am certainly being tested.

The last week has been crazy! I have been in the car quite a bit and it continues this week as well. Chicago to Oxford, Oxford to Pittsburgh, Chicago to Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh to Oxford. The week has been very physically taxing from being in the car for so long but there was an emotional toll, although one with a very happy ending, as well from helping out in a small way getting a beautiful rescue dog to her forever home. I just wanted to get to Maryland and paddle but things don't always go as planned so adjustments need to be made.

Then when I got to Maryland and put some maintenance in on my DEAN 12-6 I found it had taken on quite a bit of water at some point in its history. I started draining it Saturday morning and on Sunday night water was still dripping out of a ding in the nose, although at a much slower pace. AND it is damn cold in Oxford. This wet and windy cold is much more off putting than the cold in Chicago. This has meant no paddling for this cold-weather wuss. More adjustments, meaning more walks and time at the gym. Fortunately, 55 and sunny appears to be only a few days away and maybe my board will be drained of all water by then...

The point is I am adjusting, remaining consistent to the lifestyle I am trying to promote by still getting my body moving when I can and as it allows and eating healthy meals when I am exhausted and only want pizza. The back is a bit sensitive to the long car rides but that just means it needs a bit of spoiling and not with over-the-counter pills but maybe some heating pad action, a nice stretchy walk, some exercises using very light weights, cold showers, omega-3s in sardines, and a nice hefty glass of red wine at night to help with circulation. I like helping out with the circulation!

I think I am getting my point across but still, please excuse any discombobulation in this post. I hadn't posted in almost a week so I wanted to maintain a sense of consistency with my blogging to coincide with a consistency in the improvement of my overall well being. Anybody who knows me well knows I can lose stride with the greatest of ease...that ain't happening yet. Plus, I have to get ready to jump in the car and drive to the Pittsburgh airport. At least I have a good 7+ hours of traveling to plan my nice light workout for tomorrow. Trying times lay ahead but maintaining what I have started to will help me through the crazy patch so I can come out on the other end with a paddle in hand and a healthy body to put into motion!

Don't let life get you down; keep at it. (And eat some sardines instead of popping a Motrin!)