Thursday, May 23, 2013

My 3 Stage Process to Well Being

If you want to improve your overall health and wellness you HAVE TO make changes. The severity of these changes depends upon your current condition. To evaluate your current condition you have to take an honest look at yourself both physically and mentally. The physical evaluation may seem obvious but many people have come to accept their current physical state and in doing so they have put themselves at risk. Other than possible health-related risks, the most dangerous risk is complacency. Being complacent leads to a mental deterioration because the mind is tricked into thinking: I'm fine living the way I am and in reality such may not be the case. If the mind becomes rigid in its acceptance of unhealthy living, no matter how slight it may be, the soul, where your conscience resides, will have a hard time keeping you balanced. This I write not with some online degree in a Walgreen's frame on my wall; I write to you because I have been there, done that, struggled, and worked my tail off to make changes and live by them. What I can tell about my past experiences in trying to be healthy and well organized in my time management in order to do so is that it is dang hard! I can also tell you that when the mind has a stronger influence on the way you live more so than the soul health and wellness is an uphill battle.

For most of my life I have never used a scale to determine how I felt about myself; I used my belt line. In fall 2011 I realized that I needed to buy all new pants. Size 34 just did not fit me anymore. All my play'a clothes looked like tightly wrapped bandages unable to contain their contents. And here is what is scary...I was okay with that. I figured oh well, I am 42 now and that is just the way life is supposed to go. Oops, that kind of complacency was dumb. At 42, I just didn't feel like working that hard and making any more sacrifices in order to stay well. To make a long story short, a story I have often told over and over, stand up paddling helped change all that. Adding a new element to my lifestyle helped me return to a better way of thinking. I took on a mindset that changed my way of living and right now I am really happy with the results.

As I look back on where I was in June of 2012 to where I am now in the waning days of May 2013 I have come up with a philosophy that sums up the process. Achieving positive change should take place in three stages: sacrifice, moderation, and reward. How long one must endure each of the three stages depends upon how hard they are willing to work.

-What you have been doing isn't working so you need to get rid of what is holding you back from being well.
-Often this mainly has to do with eating habits but it can also mean sacrificing comfort.
Sacrifice means just what you think it does. Giving up things that one thinks might be valuable to them but really aren't. I strongly feel that this is NOT the time to take one day and eat whatever you want as a lot of nutrition experts might suggest. Now is the time to be disciplined and NOT return to the way things were AT ALL. It's just too easy to backslide when living the wrong way isn't far enough in the past. As your body gets healthier the mind will only get stronger. Use this period as a time of growth. Walk across the coals for a while and come out stronger on the other side.
-Getting off the warm comfortable couch to go make your body move around in various positions and at various speeds, especially during inclement times IS a sacrifice. Time is precious to many of us and when we forego a little bit of peaceful down time in order to make ourselves healthier and more fit it should be defined as a sacrifice. Giving up one thing in order to take on another, especially if the other makes you better, will definitely make you stronger.
-Enduring through the Sacrifice Stage on your own is extremely difficult. Often one needs support from either a loved one, a trainer, a hobby, or a group in order to get through the rough times. The Sacrifice Stage is not a lot of fun but very necessary to get the body re-tuned. The harder you work during this phase faster you can move on to the next.
-Staying strong and staying active will get you through this self-imposed boot camp and into the Moderation Stage as not only a healthier person but stronger person and moderation requires strength...

-This stage is when you notice positive changes but understand, without hesitation, that there is still a long road ahead with lots of work to be done.
-Once you notice and feel the positive results from all the hard work required by the Sacrifice Stage you should be strong enough to start incorporating more fun things into your weekly routine without making them habitual or regressing into a complete backslide and having to start all over. You should notice positive results when you are: going well beyond the norm in your exercise routine and making better decisions about nutrition. Also, exercise becomes a HABIT NOT A BURDEN. This could mean more time and more mileage on the treadmill, more reps with stronger weights, you actually want to go workout rather than having to make yourself go workout, more interest in active pastimes than reality TV, and you don't look back when you pass the frozen pizzas at the grocery store. Best of all, your current wardrobe is fitting just a bit looser.
-When I reached this stage last year I allowed myself one slice of pizza a week and an occasional Reese's Cup. I never bought more than a slice of pizza and one Reese's package because I still knew that I could revert back to my old harmful ways if tempted enough. When I did indulge in some fun I knew that I still had to make up for it in my workouts the next day. You are not out of the woods but the woods are getting thinner and you can start to see some daylight breaking through the canopy.
-During the Moderation Stage you don't have to deprive yourself ALL of the time, but you can't let up either. It is still important to somehow and in some way make up for the moderate payoff's you give yourself while working toward greater achievements.
-It is just as easy to fail during the Moderation Stage as it is to fail during the Sacrifice Stage. This happened to me last fall. The celebration of my engagement was a little too extended and a little too often and I wound up reverting to some old habits. Cold weather started setting in and it got ugly. I had to start the sacrifice stage all over again and that sure is never fun! By not adhering to moderation I lost a lot of the positive momentum I had gained during all those months I had worked so hard. A few days after the wedding it was back to sardines and raw vegetables until my positive progression became a habit.

-You've reached it when you are accomplishing goals on a regular basis, and even going beyond what you thought possible, and making good healthy decisions feels natural.
-A reward isn't just a Snickers bar or a day of eating whatever the hell you want; a reward is a new pair of boardshorts because everything else you own is falling off you! Eating isn't really a reward anymore because your body needs just about everything you can grab because you are working so physically and mentally hard in other areas of your life.
-I knew I had hit this stage when I could go visit my wife at work in her family's bar and drink ginger ale without worrying about it. Oh yeah, previously if ever I walked into her bar or any bar I was ordering a cold beer no matter what time of day it was. Not an issue anymore. It feels good to have the strength to do this now when it was definitely an issue not too long ago in Spring 2012.
-A Reese's Cup isn't a reward any longer because you don't have the craving for them anymore. Your body is so attuned to receiving what is right that a bowl of Greek yogurt and honey feels like a major reward. To be honest I don't know if I have ever reached this stage before in my life until recently. Everything feels so different. All the decisions I had to battle over in the Sacrifice Stage are no longer sacrifices; avoiding the bad is now the norm. It's crazy what a little hard work will do for you!

So this is what I came up with. People have asked me what happened in my life over the last year and I often have trouble explaining it in detail. Sure I can say "I started stand up paddling" but there was a lot more to it. SUP just enabled me to stick it out through all of the difficulties in the different stages, including multiple Sacrifice Stages over the last year. My soul is in charge of my body NOT my mind. Hopefully, now I have a premise should others wish to make changes in their own lives and seek my help to aid with the process. I'll make no bones about it, at the start the road seems long and hard and it damn sure is, sticking with it you'll reach new places that open up a world of new opportunities and harmonious feelings. And when you get there it feels pretty good too!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Laziness leads to Itchiness

I was growing bored of cracking open eggs, peeling back the lids of sardine containers, and cutting up avocados. While attempting to ready myself for a race season in the 12-6 class I decided to make a focused effort to drop back down to the fighting weight of my mid 30s...or at least get as close as possible to said the weight of days past. This required A LOT of sacrifice on my part and a larger budget for food products because it is ridiculous how much more expensive it is to eat healthier, especially when you try to do it the lazy way and purchase pre-prepared, non-processed, healthy items. Those trays of pre-cut raw vegetables are such a rip off compared to buying a few heads of broccoli, cauliflower, and a couple cucumbers and making raw snacks on your own! To fill in the blanks of a self prescribed heavy raw and omega-3 based program I found quite an appetite for Clif Builder's Protein Bars. The vanilla-almond flavored ones are too die for! The chocolate-mint flavored ones taste like ice cream. Not only did these particular protein bars taste good but they filled me up, kept me energized, and seemed to help my body recover from intense workouts. This Clif Builder's bars also fed and satisfied my ever-present desire for sweets. I was hooked.

Soon enough I found myself eating a protein bar for breakfast and either dinner or my late-night snack. By no means was I starving myself. Throughout this program I never fought to stave off hunger pangs. I seemed to be doing everything the right way. I was down to 193 by the Carolina Cup. I wasn't feeling any ill effects so I decided to carry on with this program and try to lose a little more weight for the Midwest SUP Championship series.

Another factor that played into dieting is the fact that I ordered a new 12-6 from MHL Custom in Puerto Rico for the 2013 race season. The first thing owner, shaper, and designer Nick Leason said to me was "you should be on a 14." Of course he's right but the first race board I ever bought was a 12-6 and I like 12-6s a lot. They are easier to manage when you are constantly looking for storage in tight places and the class is much less crowded than the 14s. I tried one of the MHL 14s that was much narrower than anything I had ridden before and loved it! Paddling that board had to be as close to a magic carpet ride as one can get and I tried several brands of boards over the course of the weekend in Wrightsville Beach. Nick agreed to take that 14 design and shrink it down to a 12-6, which translated into: my days of eating ice cream remain further down the road. This board is going to be the 2nd or 3rd narrowest board I have ever paddled, depending on what the final width will be (which I am too afraid to ask what it is). I just need it to get here and get my feet on it and start training so it can be the fastest board I have ever paddled! Guaranteed, it will be the most beautiful board I have ever paddled!

After the Carolina Cup it was back to Chicago and right into an invitation from my ol' buddy Matt Lennert to sign up for a triathlon that will take place on June 2. It will be one of the largest triathlons to have a SUP leg instead of a swim leg. I eagerly said yes without fully grasping the fact that after the SUP leg there will be a 24 mile bike ride and a 6 mile run. Training for this has been exhausting. There are so many more things I would rather do than ever get on a bicycle, watching TV rates as the number one thing I would rather do! After a training session, I have no desire whatsoever to wash vegetables, then cut them, then dig around for various containers in which to store them. Grabbing a protein bar has been much easier.

During this time I have also been doing a lot of waiting. Waiting for my new board to arrive, waiting for a small-business loan to go through to be able to start a business, waiting for the bank to get my debit card right because they screwed it up the first time, therefore waiting to be able to pay for my orders, therefore waiting for my orders to go through so I can start getting gear, waiting for my logo, waiting for the gear to arrive so I can put pictures of other things besides me on my website, waiting to officially launch my website, waiting for Lake Michigan to warm up to a tolerable level, waiting to hear about possible sponsorships which would be a dream come true, waiting for movers to help my wife and I move out of Chicago to Ogden Dunes, Indiana, waiting to figure out what our permanent living situation will be in a few months...and so on.

I don't do well with waiting...the last thing I want to do after all that described in the previous paragraph is make food and wait while I eat before cleaning up after myself. Yes, that sounds dumb and I know it is but I bet you do dumb stuff too! A protein bar solved many of these waiting problems by giving me immediate satisfaction. I told myself I was to eat no more than two of those per day. Well, in the last two weeks I was sometimes eating three of those a day. Immediate satisfaction for my appetite felt therapeutic during the stressful waiting period. In my head I knew all the protien couldn't be a good thing. Have you ever read the ingredients on one of those packages? That stuff ain't natural!

During the last two weeks I developed a major hot spot on my right arm just above the elbow around my tricep. The itch would pop up and last for quite a while. Over the course of, according to my GPS, 13.5 miles of racing at the Carolina Cup I got a good farmer's sunburn on my arms. I thought the itch might be sun related. However, there were no outward signs of skin trauma. What was going on was under the skin. I tried to combat the symptoms with Cortaid and Lubriderm. Nothing worked for long periods of time. Saturday night I had a flare up in the middle of the night that popped me out of my bed as if I was being stung by a small fleet of Itchy Wasps (there was no pain just crazy itchies). I was able to get back to sleep but the first thing I did when I woke up the next morning was put on my white coat and hit the internet to research Web MD type sites.

I found a few possibilities of what I might have and started to do some tests. The first thing I did was run scalding hot water over my arm to see if I had a histamine problem. Running scalding hot water over chigger bites and poison ivy is a euphoric-like experience that uses up all the histamine in the body and leaves one itch free for 8-10 hours. (It is the single most amazing remedy I have found on the world wide web!)  Running hot water over my arm only further irritated the itch and caused the first bit of epidermal layer agitation. Not histamine related I deduced...

The other possibility I read about was a protein imbalance. I thought back to Saturday and realized Saturday was a 3 protein bar day...hmmmmmm...there might be something to this protein imbalance thing that isn't so good for me. Luckily, on Sunday I was to meet Matt up in Evanston for some paddling in the morning then go to North Avenue Beach and meet my buddy Clem for an afternoon session. I decided that I would NOT eat any protein during this day of intense activity and try to use up all of whatever might be in my body to see if that helped. Also, I tried to eat as little as possible so my body would use up ALL of the fuel needed for energy. By the end of the day I was used up and STARVING.

Next, I prescribed myself an overdose of carbs. The best part was wondering where I was going to get my medicine McDonalds or Bacci's over sized pizza slices. I chose Bacci and feasted to the brink of gluttony. The slice wasn't even that good but my body needed the carbs. Here I sit writing this on Tuesday morning and I can report that I have only had one minor little itch that was eased away with a light brush of a fingernail. On Monday I ate only foods that I prepared myself, no shortcuts. Too much synthetic material going into my body did not sit well. One bar a day is fine. I like those Clif Builder's, especially for the way they take away my craving for sweets. I just can't let them take away my sense of what is true nourishment for the body and what isn't. Back to the grocery store today! It is hard to argue that there was a protein imbalance causing me to suffer through some very annoying symptoms.

This dieting has been a good thing for me because I am on the path to getting back to a normal weight. It is not like I am trying to drop to an absurd weight class like some MMA fighters do; this is me getting back to the old me (which is damn hard being over 40)! For the most part I have handled things properly and not made bad decisions during the sacrifice period of attempting to get in tip-top shape. Life sure got in the way at times and I lost my common sense when it comes to following the simple rules of eating, like the five ingredient rule or eat only foods that contain ingredients you know how to pronounce. At no time has anything ever been bad save for the itchy breakouts on my right arm. It just goes to prove that listening to your body with a keen ear can keep you headed down the best path for your overall well-being. Sure, some of those side routes with the signs reading SHORTCUT look good at the entrance but that way can be much more dangerous. Staying true and focused on the correct path may seem like more work at times but it is only through the bad that we can truly comprehend the value of the good. In lay men's terms...make your own meals and eat a well balanced diet and you will do great!

Summer is starting to feel like it has finally arrived here in the Midwest. I cannot wait to race this season on the new board being in as good a shape as I was in my younger years. Maybe next season I will stay in the 12-6 class but after that I think going to skip right on over the 14 class and get on an MHL Custom unlimited so I can hit my mid 40s and start enjoying gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream once again, all while trying to maintain an even keel mind you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Post Carolina Cup Recap

Phew...I'm glad it's over but I really didn't want it to end. I wanted the race to end but I didn't want the experience to end. Being at one of the biggest, if not the biggest SUP race on the east coast, for the first time was a wonderful getaway. I got to demo a lot of great boards, learned A LOT from the Danny Ching technique clinic, met some business contacts, and learned a lot about what not to do when trying to earn a little coin from this ever-blossoming industry. I have very little to complain about and really when it comes down to it there is only one complaint - the change of the course in the Graveyard race. Why? I still wonder why at night when I go to sleep thinking paddling thoughts. Oh well. The course was beautiful and fun but, in my humble opinion, we went the wrong way. Nevertheless, I am glad I made the trip.

The board I had been sanding and patching for the months leading up to the Cup did not sink, nor did it spring a leak until the very next day. Mission accomplished. After working so hard to get that board ready I felt I owed it to myself to get a new board...a custom board. It's ordered and should be here by June.

Another thing that has been keeping me busy is trying to get organized and start a business. That ball is rolling and I now officially have a name and a tax id #. Even Keel SUP FIT will be hitting the shores of Lake Michigan as soon as the weather warms up the water temperature...and as soon as all my gear arrives. I am nervous as hell and excited. I have always wanted to start my own business and now I have almost everything lined up to make that happen. The only thing that will keep me from paying the bills is me. It will be a Sole Proprietorship which means that I will be the only one responsible for the successes and failures. The buck starts and stops with me and that is the way I like it. Of course, I can blame my wife if I really need to make myself feel better, but hopefully I won't have to do that too often.

In the last few months I have learned so dang much and I want to take the time to pass on the knowledge to friends and associates but there is still much work to be done before I can sit at the computer and say that I am working. At the moment the burden feels kind of heavy but getting help and advice from a lot of friends is lessening the load. Ben from SUP Annapolis, Dawn from OC Sup Fitness, Ron and Sandy from Walk on Water in Ocean City, Matt from Starboard, Kathy from Stand Up DC, my mom, my wife, and many others have been very helpful and encouraging and I appreciate your time. Nathan, on the incredibly fast Speedboard 14, gave me a nice bit of encouragement to start writing my blog again. Of course there is always my cousin Neil to thank and to blame for getting me into this SUP mess in the first place. Without him I could just be enjoying life cooking meals and cleaning the house but noooooooooo...I have to paddle as much as possible and now I have to take all the benefits I have received from SUP and encourage others to reap the same. Thanks a lot, Neil! I might be coming to you for a loan soon!

More to come as things unravel...or maybe I should say unfold. I have to go try and open a bank account that won't take all {if any :)} profits with their monthly fees!!

I'll keep everybody updated as things progress. I will say one thing...TRX...go start doing it NOW!! What a great workout!!