Saturday, December 31, 2011

52 Hikes in 52 Weeks; Inaugural Hike - Big Creek

Okay, here we go.  Today marks the first hike for "52 hikes in 52 weeks."  Today, I picked up my friend Daniel and we headed out to Big Creek, near Hoodsport, WA.  Much of this hike is walked through an old growth forest on one side, and through a recovering logged forest on the other.  Big Creek meanders all the way down the ridge.  Mt Washington and Mt Ellinor can be seen at one point on the trail, but the most attractive thing for me is the forest floor with all the moss and lichen on the trees.  The trail is well maintained and nurse logs are trimmed back, making this hike very easy to navigate.

I didn't have terrible difficulty on this trail, but it was tough enough to get my blood pumping and my legs working.  The 2.5 miles up were pretty much a steady rise in elevation.  Much of the perspiration and burn was very similar to my workouts at the gym.  This indeed is exercise at it's best.  Being out in the wilderness with the cool air and the sound of the creek cascading down a lot of small falls make it worth the drive to get out there.

It seems this trail is pretty popular, and for good reason; it is beautiful.  The campground was closed, but we parked just in front of entrance.  Daniel and I showed up just after 8am.  By the time we got back down, there were a lot of cars at the entrance.  All told, between all the sightseeing, picture taking, and milling around, I think we were out on the trail for 2.5 hours; not too shabby.

At the entrance to the Big Creek Campground.  Normal trail is a 4.6 mile loop, but we hiked 5.4 because we had to park the car near the main road.

The trail is well marked, thanks to a diligent crew that does an excellent job maintaining it.

One of the many crossings of Big Creek you will see.  This was right at the beginning.

This bridge was very slippery in the morning.  I love bridges like this.  I'm looking thinner.

This part is the meat and potatoes of the trail.  It's a good elevation increase.  Look at the angle of the trees.  The photo is misleading.

We made it!  This is the halfway point, where the trail branches off to head toward Mt Ellinor.  Stay tuned!

Which way?

On another bridge crossing Big Creek.  This was the best one.

I love beautiful waterfalls, especially cascading falls like this in a rain forest.

Another bridge, next to a giant boulder.

Coming toward another crossing of Big Creek, as the trail meanders around the ridges.

Someone has a sense of humor.

Another one.

It's difficult to see, but Mt Ellinor is in the distance.  Mt Washington is on the right.

Taking a moment to look up through the canopy into the sky.

Another fine example of good trail maintenance.  Always stay on the path.  That foliage on the sides is very fragile.

Another pretty picture from Big Creek Trail.

Evidence of the raw power of nature.  This is flood/wind damage.

This is a lookout on the way up to the trailhead.  This is Lake Cushman.  Mt Ellinor is in the distance on the right.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Temptation, Jealousy, Inspiration

I just want to take a few moments and put some thoughts of mine into words.  Among the many things that I have experienced in my lifestyle change, some things that stand out are the subjects of temptation, jealousy, and inspiration.  Many of these things can be inward, but some come from the outside, oftentimes from others that I come into contact with.  Many times, people understand the program and they get it.  Other times, it seems that people just don't appreciate the effort that goes into a program like this.  Radically changing your lifestyle for the better, after years of not caring for yourself, is a big task.  It is not to be under-estimated, or under-appreciated.

Occasionally, I run into people who try to tempt me to eat foods that are not conducive to the diet.  Most of the time, they inadvertently do so, but there are times when I hear the phrase, "Don't try to be healthy right now," or "does this food meet with your approval?"  Other times, it has been suggested that it is okay if I splurge "just this once."  The problem is if I did that for every friend I come in contact with, I'd be splurging a lot more than the once-a-week dessert I've allotted myself.  Most of the time, I can simply explain it away, but some times it seems that some folks think I'm being a snob for not choosing to tear into a slice of Domino's pizza or getting after a cheeseburger and deep fried french fries.  When asked if I wanted to eat at Burger King, a friend was shocked when I said I'd rather eat at Subway.

Does this come as that big of a surprise?  I work out at the gym 6 days a week.  I regulate my caloric intake and monitor the foods that I eat.  I abstain from foods like McDonald's Big Macs and Jack in the Box cheesy potato wedges for a specific reason: they are fattening, unsubstantial, nutritionally deficient, and unsatisfying foods.  If you spent as many hours on the elliptical machine every week, as I do, you'd opt for a salad on occasion too.  It is too hard to put as much effort into my daily workouts to just throw it away on empty calories and deep fried fat.  I'd rather eat a stick of butter.  Oddly enough, they have managed to deep fry that as well.

Another reason I avoid such foods is because after my body acclimated to the fact that I am no longer eating deep fried or greasy foods, they no longer agree with my system.  I recently ate a plate of eggs, bacon, and toast.  The eggs and toast, by themselves, are good and nutritionally dense foods, but the bacon disagreed with me.  When you stop eating a ton of grease for breakfast, you start to develop a certain intolerance for it.  Without going into detail, let's just say that certain things aren't as... solid... after eating greasy bacon.

I've also noticed jealousy from others who have been less than successful in their attempts to lose weight.  Someone actually sent me a message on Facebook demanding that I not post my weigh-in results or blog updates because it was upsetting to them.  Yeah, believe it!  My response was essentially that I have made fitness a priority in my life.  I work hard everyday to make sure that my weight goes down - not up.  Most of the time, I get a lot of 'likes' on my updates and congratulatory comments from friends of mine.  It's not easy losing weight; this I know to be true.  It is especially difficult during the holiday season.  So many distractions, treats, good food, and deadlines all compete for my time and appetite all at once.  The holidays were traditionally my time to really go whole hog and just gorge myself into a stuper.  This year, I did much better and did the two most important weight-loss exercises you can do at the dinner table: the fork put down and the table push off.  At least, I think that's what they are called.  Either way, the demands on the quality of person I am, as far as the dinner table go, were especially high.  When people respond to all this with jealousy, it just confuses me, but in the end, I feel sorry for them.

Aside from the negatives, I think the best feelings to come out of losing this much weight (so far) is that it has inspired some people I know to do the same.  I have had some really good conversations with friends, coworkers, acquaintances of mine, customers, you name it!  There are people I visit maybe twice a year that have seen me recently and had to double takes because they almost didn't recognize me!  When I tell them about my program, the exercise, the blog, the goals I have, they always give me the two thumbs up and tell me to keep going and not to give up.  I feel that situations like these really help bolster my confidence in the program.  Oh, I can know all the stats, the blood pressure, oxygen consumption, body mass index, and all that good stuff, but I think the results that really get my blood flowing are when someone that hasn't seen me in a few months tells me I'm really looking good or tells me I'm looking leaner.  Things like this help to keep me inspired because I know I am doing the right thing.  As long as I'm on this path, I will continue to spread the word and continue to focus on the positives because a positive attitude is of utmost importance on a journey like this.



Hike To Heather Lake

Jeff was over for the holidays with his family, so on Christmas Eve, we hatched a plan to take a short hike to Heather Lake, just east of Granite Falls, WA.  Since Jeff won't be in town for at least another few weeks, we wanted to get one last hike in together before the new year starts.

I met Jeff at his in law's house some time just after 7am and we went and got breakfast before heading out.  When we got to the trail head, we were happy to see that it was not raining, so instead of wearing my snow parka, I settled on my fleece jacket shirt thing.  We did run into some sleet that began to fall when we hit the snow line, but it didn't last long.  The unseasonably warm air felt great on my bare skin (after I ditched the jacket).

The trail is not long, and not really hard.  2.3 miles in with 1100 feet of elevation gain was what we found.  Most of the trail headed upward with very few flat areas.  On occasion, we'd go down a bit, but those respites were far and few between.  Almost to the very end, we ran into compacted snow and some ice.  It wasn't treacherous at all, but gave me a chance to see how well my boots performed with less than ideal traction.  The deepest snow drift we found was about 4 feet deep.  There was enough snow on the ground to make me think that in a couple of months, we might be able to come back and down a little snowshoeing around the lake.    

Fitness-wise, I didn't have much trouble with this hike at all.  I did need to stop semi-frequently to wipe the fog from my glasses.  For the most part, however, I was able to keep my heart rate up between 130 and 140 bpm, which is in my fat burning cardio range.  My legs got a good burn from the non-stop upward travel of our ascent.  When I hit the gym tonight, I'll take it easy on the cardio machine since I got a good workout in this hike.

At the trailhead. Jeff and I make ready to head out.

Encountering snow at about the 2500 foot level.

Jeff and me at the the end of the hike.  Heather Lake is in the background.

Heather Lake is a good sized little mountain lake.  You can see it is partially frozen in this picture.

Another view with some gorgeous mountains in the background.

I just had to take this picture because in spite of all the snow and ice everywhere, it was relatively warm and there was so much green foliage.  Makes for great contrast!

Jeff standing amidst all the snow that we found.
Happy new year!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Water Filtration

When Jeff and I take to the foothills surrounding Mt Rainier, we are going to be working really hard.  We will burn fat, carbs, and among other things, we will need lots of water.

One thing I learned a long time ago is that you need a way to treat water before drinking it.  There is no way that we could pack 10 days worth of water around the mountain with us.  The solution came to me on Christmas Eve, when I was unrwapping gifts given to me by my parents.  It was in the form of the MSR Sweetwater filtration and purification system.

The stock photo to the left is a good representation of what you get with the system.  You get a water filter cartridge, hand pump, suction and discharge tubes with the necessary accouterments to get water from a source and get it into your water bottle, hydration bladder, milk jug, etc.  You also get the water purifier solution, which treats the water to eliminate viruses and junk.

After filtration and purification, water from virtually any source is safe to drink.  This will make it possible for Jeff and me to stay hydrated at every part of The Wonderland Trail without the need to carry more than a few liters of water at a time.

This system isn't the lightest or fastest setup out there, but at only 14 ounces, it is good weight.  The amount of average weight savings will be enormous because we will carry only what water we need for a particular stretch of trail.  Whenever we get to a stream or river, we can top off or completely replenish our supply of water.

The system works in two stages: filtration and purification.

To use, you simply attach the suction and discharge hoses to the system.  Then drop the suction hose (with float and pre-filter) into the water source.  Experience has taught me to always always purge a system like this before collection begins.  So pump some water out to make sure no foreign particles made it into the hoses, pump, or after the filter.  Then attach discharge hose to the water bottle with a supplied adapter or into any open container.  Begin pumping.  The water pumped out is filtered down to .2 microns.

After filtration, it may be necessary to treat the water further to prevent viruses from doing harm to you.  I haven't read the instructions on the bottle yet, but I do know that the 2 ounce bottle treats 80 gallons.  You basically drop a few drops in your container, shake it up, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  Presto!  It will probably be necessary for each of us to carry a system like this.  That way we will have a spare in case one fails.  At the very least, we will each need a bottle of solution because we will each go through 30-40 gallons of water during the entire trip.

We will have plenty of opportunities to test, and possibly fail this system, while gearing up.  If it works, it comes with us.  If not, then it gets tossed in favor of something else.  I have read a lot of good reviews about this system though.  We will see.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Week 9

It's week 9, and I'm now 30 lbs lighter than when I started!  To think I've come this far in such a short amount of time is amazing to me.  The irony is that I didn't think I would do well at all [this week] as far as the scale goes.

Last week, I said I had a cold or was feeling kind of sick.  I had hoped that it would have been over by now, but whatever attacked my immune system must have weakened it enough to allow something else to invade my system.  Now, whatever I have has moved into my lungs, causing tightness and a lot of chest congestion.  It sucks!  I've been able to mitigate it with cough syrup and Ibuprofen, but it has definitely had some negative affects on my gym performance.

This week, I did some pretty heavy work, moving around big 130 lb batteries.  Even with help, those things are big, cumbersome, and can be painful to transport and maneuver into position within tight quarters.  So, my back had a little twinge for a couple days afterward.  I decided to forego exercises that could exacerbate the problem and just let my muscles and nerves get cozy with each other again.  Since Ibuprofen is good for treating muscle inflammation, I've been taking some each morning to give me some help, and it has worked.  My back feels fine now.  I just hate it when my old injury gets inflamed.

On top of all this, my left knee is still giving me some problems.  I've been taking it pretty easy with that as well, but on Wednesday, I either jammed it or banged it into something at work because it just freaking ached all evening long.  I tried to take some Vitamin I (code for Ibuprofen) and give it a soak in a hot bath tub, but to no avail.  After resting for an hour at home, I got up to see if it was still going to give me trouble.  It hurt pretty badly, so I put the kibosh on the gym for Wednesday night.  I returned on Thursday with a vengeance, however, because my knee felt a lot better after a good 8 hours of sleep.  And yes, I did manage to sleep for more than 8 straight hours on Wednesday.  I'm sure the cough syrup helped with that.

For the rest of the week, I've been waking up with the worst sore throat and a lot of chest congestion.  Each morning, I've had my ritual of clearing my throat, nose, sinuses, and coughing up such large loogies that my gag reflex kicks in and I feel like I'm throwing up.  Believe me, that really sucks!

Last night, I was on the elliptical, running 45 minutes while watching episodes of Gold Rush, and I noticed that my chest, specifically my lungs, were starting to feel a little tight.  I pushed through the workout after slowing down a bit, and after coughing up yet another big loogie (thank God it was into the trash and not on the floor), I was able to resume my workout at full force without issue.  Needless to say, working out this week has not been fun.  So, I'm taking the next couple days off.  At this point in the program, I would be working out on Saturday, but I want to give my lungs and body a couple of days relaxation before hitting it on Monday.

On the note of exercise, I'm stepping up my cardio workout times.  The whole point of a cardio workout is to get your heart rate up and keep it there for a good amount of time.  I don't use it to target muscle groups in my legs per se.  That's a byproduct of getting my blood flowing.  But rather than increase the elliptical machine's resistance, and thus raising my heart rate beyond what Jeff has determined is my target range, I'm going to simply work out longer at my current levels.  As a natural course of progression and evolution, I increase the resistance over time anyway simply because I normally run at 150-156 strides per minute, and that's a good pace for me.  Over the last few weeks, my stride has remained the same, but the resistance has increased from level 7 to level 11; this is to keep my heart rate up.  Working out at level 7 for me would be way too easy, and I'd be surprised if my heart rate went above 120 at this time.  Level 11 at the same speed gets me into the 140 bpm range.  Over time, the resistance level will also increase, as does my speed.  The important thing, however is to increase the duration of my workouts from 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Aside from getting to burn over 1000 calories, instead of 730, this will also help me work on my endurance, which will be extremely important if I'm to hike around Mt Rainier in just 10 days.  My weight this week is 286 lbs.

Merry Christmas, and have a wonderful new year!  See you in 2012!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week 8

Can you believe it?  I've been working my butt off in the program for 2 months now, and I've lost 27 lbs!  I'll take that victory any day!  When I started this program, I didn't think I would break 290 lbs in December!  My January 21st goal weight of 287 lbs is within striking distance, and if I remain vigilant, I might be able to get there by the end of the year.

Of course, I did have some unexpected, and unwelcome help along the way.  I've been sick as a dog all week.  I started to feel like I was getting something last Friday, but usually the symptoms go away after a day or two; not this one.  I've felt like crap all week long, and feel like crap right now.  Wednesday was the worst.  I felt like dog meat all day long, and it was the first time I seriously considered not going to the gym.  I just wanted to skip it that day and make up for it some other day.  However, after considering it, I decided to go anyway.  If I can find a reason to skip the gym because I'm feeling under the weather, how easy could be be to skip it because my muscles ache, or my joints hurt?  How easy could it be to rationalize not going to the gym because I just don't feel up to it, or that I can put it off until "tomorrow?"

No, I am resolved to go the gym even if I feel like utter crap because it is so much of a priority in my life right now that discomfort cannot be enough to cause me to skip it.  Besides, being at the gym ain't what I consider comfortable even when I'm feeling fine, so what's the difference?  I can feel like crap at home, or I can get out and bust my ass and feel like crap while burning off the calories.  Unless I'm physically incapable of going, I'm injured, on my death bed, have to work late into the evening, or my wife/kids are in the hospital, I'm going to the gym to get my workout in.

If I'm honest, I did feel a little better when I got home on Wednesday evening.  It seems that working out gave me enough of an endorphin rush to offset the sickness I was feeling, and I slept well that night.

I made a milestone weight loss goal on Saturday.  I jumped on the scale, and it read 289 lbs.  I had to go do something else, hit the gym, and come back to some good breakfast before jumping back on the scale and seeing it still read 289 lbs.  I lost a lot of weight this week.  I might chalk some of that up to not having much of an appetite since Sunday, but I definitely made up for that starting Thursday night.  Each night since Thursday, I've enjoyed some pretty big meals, probably due in part because of the fact that I was getting my appetite back and realized I was starving.  Normally, when people recover from sickness, they gain some weight back.  But since I got some momentum going with this week, I'm going to work hard to keep the weight off and just go like hell.

I'm hoping to keep the weight loss trend continuing through Christmas.  I made it through Thanksgiving without gaining so much as a lb.  In fact, I lost a lb over the Thanksgiving Holiday thanks in part to Jeff's advice and some self control.  With the holiday weekend, I might be delayed in my Week 9 update, but I'll post it when I find some time to get to it.

As the new year approaches, so does the hiking program.  The goal is 52 hikes in 52 weeks.  I have some books that list different places to hike and when it is possible, but I'm also interested in getting some snowshoeing in during late January into early February.  I know some weekends will not be feasible, so I'll have to find time to do short hikes during the week on some days as well as wrapping two separate hikes over long weekends out camping or backpacking.  I have a lot to prepare for.

My Week 8 update video is below.  I think my face is starting to thin out a little bit.  Until next time, Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 16, 2011


So here I am.  I don't feel especially well today, but was able to get to work and get some hours in.  I made it to the gym and gave it all I had before driving home and washing the car.  Now, I'm sitting at my computer - a bottle of G2 on my desk in front of me, Ibuprofen coursing through my veins, and I'm gagging from the aftertaste of cough syrup I just had.  Still, I'm alive, able to blog, and I've got a few things to say.

I don't really want to steal Week 8's thunder because I made some really good progress this week, despite the fact that I've been sick since last Friday.  I jumped on the scale and the weight it showed me was 289 and some change.  DANG!!!  That's 6 lbs from last week, technically.  Yeah, you'd be amazed at just how quickly you drop weight when you have no real appetite and feel like throwing up after workouts that seem a whole heck of a lot more difficult because you're wheezing instead of breathing.  Either way, I'll take it!

So, what is so important about this 289 number?  Back in the day, I was gaining weight like very quickly.  I put on over 75 lbs in a few years without really noticing it.  But on July 15, 2007, I had an awakening of sorts.  I realized I needed to lose weight, but as many things were back in those days, my first attempt was an epic fail.  Still, I think it's good to look into history and see just where I've come since then.  Mind you, I've lost over 25 lbs on this go-round (the most I've lost out of any attempt I've made) and I have no intention of quitting.  But sometimes, I just wish I would have stuck with my original plan instead of starting and failing every time.  The thought of failure this time sometimes haunts me.  I mean, I've failed three other times.  What's a fourth?  But the stakes are higher this time.  Instead of blindly going into this on my own, I have help.   I have created a network of support and accountability that I didn't have in any of my previous attempts.  Lastly, I'm constantly learning new things about weight loss, diet, exercise, and how the body works in general.  I also have real inspiration and motivation this time.

So, with that said, I'm going to post my old entry from Myspace (can you believe that?).  I'm going to put out a disclaimer here.  Back in those days, I really had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting into.  My advice was coming from personal trainers that were no more qualified to manage my weight loss plan than I was.  Back in those days, I would have given a lot to have someone like Jeff to manage my program, but I didn't think anything like that existed.  So, if you read things that jump out at you like wrong information, bad science, and utter stupidity, please understand that as far as diet and exercise go, I was pretty stupid.  Oh yeah, I was also a lot more cynical in those days, so the language isn't really work friendly or family friendly.  Okay, now that's out of the way.  Here you go:
No, I'm not blogging about a Mustang engine.  289 lbs; that's my current weight.  It's too much!  Before getting married, I weighed in somewhere between 200 and 215 lbs.  Before that, I weighed about 190 lbs; that is, before the doctors messed with my physiology by putting me on mood levelers (seems to be the thing with doctors these days, isn't it?  Point of note: I don't take any medications anymore.  Among other things, I didn't really need them, but you know pill pushers...). 
I have old pictures of me at 190 lbs.  I was probably 17 or 18 years old at the time, and I was in a lot better shape.  Before I got married (just over 3 years ago), I was walking a lot, doing a morning workout routine, and eating somewhat better than I do now.  Somehow, between the time I got married, and now, I gained somewhere in the neighborhood of 74 to 89 lbs. 
Let's face it.  I'm a fat ass.  I've extremely overweight.  I'm not eating right and I'm lazy.  I shouldn't weigh this much.  I should weigh a lot less than I do now.  Before I got married, I used to keep the weight off by walking a lot, doing about 100 push-ups each morning, and a few sit-ups.  But now, I can't even get past 15 push-ups, and I'll be damned if I can do a good sit-up anymore.  Lifting 289 lbs off the floor with my arms is extremely difficult.  I should only be able to bench press 225 lbs or so (At least, that's what I benched in high school).  So, pushing all 289 lbs of fat into the air is technically way out of reach.
There used to be a time when I could hike 5 miles (with a 70 lb pack) in only a couple hours.  Now, I doubt I could even hike a mile with said pack.  And that's in a whole day! 
I'm thoroughly disgusted with myself!  I'm unhappy with how I look, feel, and weigh.  I'm only 26 years old!  I should have a lot more energy than this!  I shouldn't have the body of a 45 year old pregnant man!  Gross! 
 Freaking sick!  Pathetic and gross!  It's time to change, damn it!  Time to cut the sugar intake to nill!  Time to cut off fast food...for good!  Time to eat more salads, a few less carbs, and moderate meat intake.  Time to go to the gym and burn all this shit off my body!
Stefanie, if you're reading this, I'm counting on you to motivate my fat ass to get up and go to the gym after I get home from work. 
Lindsay, if you're reading this, I'm counting on you to suggest something healthy to eat when I suggest we hit up the choke-and-puke.
Jeff, you've accomplished a lot with your plan.  Please, share your secrets and possibly some of your meal ideas.  I beg you!
Well, it will be tough.  With my job, it's often difficult to pack a lunch, but I've got to do it.  I think eating a couple ham and cheese sandwiches and some yogurt for lunch is better than wolfing down a million calorie burger and fries.  Before I reach for soda, I need to reach a couple feet over for the water!  It's cheaper anyway!  Before I settle into my recliner to watch 3 hours of TV, I should get my shorts and tennis shoes on, and hit the gym for an hour! 
So, here it is: As of July 15, 2007 I weigh 289 lbs.  My birthday is September 22, 2007.  I'll be 27 years old.  That gives me 2 and a half months to set a reasonable goal.   I think that's reasonable.  Between diet and some excersize, there's no reason I couldn't lose 50 lbs by my birthday; and it'd be one hell of a present!
So, that's my current weightloss goal: 50 lbs by my birthday!  Wish me luck!
As you can tell, some of the motivation was there, but my methods were seriously lacking.  50 lbs in 2 months?!  Yeah, right!  Well, to be brutally honest, I did lose 20 lbs in that attempt, getting myself down to 269 lbs, but I starved the hell out of myself to do it.  I didn't develop good eating habits.  Instead, I just got sick of feeling hungry all the time, and quit.  "100 lbs to Rainier" is proving to be the most successful weight loss attempt I have made to date.  With the help of Jeff, I've seen some great results and couldn't be happier.  I'm doing this better, smarter, and more deliberate that my attempts before, and it is working.

Stay tuned for Week 8 update.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Week 7: My Comments

This post consists of my comments from James' progress as well as his week 7 update.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to re-evaluate James in a few areas, including BMI, body composition, resting heart rate, and blood pressure.  When James first say me, I calculated his BMI to be 41.9.  As of yesterday, his BMI is 40.0.  When I tested him, his body composition was 34.7% fat.  Now, he is down to 32.9% fat.  When I first assessed him, his resting heart rate was 84bpm.  His resting heart rate is now down to 66bpm.  His blood pressure when I took it the first time was 132/80.  As of yesterday his blood pressure had dropped to 120/56.

What does all this mean?  We'll tackle each one at a time.

BMI:  Body Mass Index isn't necessarily a way of measuring body composition but rather as a way of making a preliminary judgment on the health risks of the individual.  It is used by the CDC to track overweight and obesity and is also used by some health clubs and fitness professionals as an easy way to track progress.  However, the down side to BMI is that it does not take body composition, bone density, or frame size into account.  If you were to take a reasonably sized body builder and calculate his BMI, they would be considered obese, but they could have 6% body fat, which is quite low.  Despite these flaws, it provides an easy way to track progress and improve James' motivation.  For his first upcoming goal, we want him at a BMI of 39.0.  He is currently 40.0.  He's getting there!

Body Composition:  Far more important than weight alone or BMI, we want to know how much of his body is made up of fat (approximately) and how much isn't.  When I first measured him, his body fat percentage was 34.7% and he is now down to 32.9%.  For the upcoming goal, I want him to be at or around 29.7%.  I would say it would be acceptable for him to be 29-31% body fat when he reaches 287lbs.  Ultimately, we want him to be at about 10-12% body fat when he is done, a tall order for someone who started out at 34.7%, but with patience, determination, and unyielding commitment to a better lifestyle he CAN reach it.  At the very least, I want him to drop below 20%.

Resting Heart Rate:  Imagine the benefits of having your heart last longer and, thus, you lasting longer.  Resting heart rate (RHR) can be, in a way, indicative of your cardiovascular health, and to some extend say something about your fitness level.  While some people genetically have lower resting heart rates, the majority of peoples' RHRs are affected by their level of fitness.  The ideal RHR is 60-80bpm, with 60 being better than 80.  Above 100bpm at rest is a condition called  tachycardia, and below 60bpm at rest is called bradycardia.  Tachycardia is an indicator or a risk for cardiovascular disease.  When the heart pumps so rapidly at rest, it does so inefficiently and less blood gets pumped through the body per beat.  An efficient, healthy heart doesn't pump so rapidly at rest, and more blood gets pumped per beat.  Bradycardia doesn't really produce symptoms until it is below 50bpm, but can lead to cardiac arrest (not enough oxygen getting to the heart), fainting, shortness of breath, and even death.  Now, keep in mind, very fit individuals can have a RHR of below 60 and not have any problems.  Their hearts are so efficient that it is OK, as they pump so much blood per beat.  Personally, my RHR is 48, and I am fine.  James' RHR is now down to a healthy 66 from 84.  This means that instead of beating 120,960 per day on average, James' heart is now beating 95,040 times per day on average.  That's 25,920 beats, or contractions, that his heart does not have to perform each day.  That difference would now take James an extra 6 hours, 32 minutes, and 43.6 seconds, for a total of 30h 32m 43.6s, to get up to what he was doing in just 24 hours when I first tested him.  Imagine how saving 26,000 beats per day would impact James' health and longevity.

Blood Pressure:  When I first measured James, his blood pressure (BP) was 132/80.  While technically not hypertension (systolic 140+ OR diastolic 90+), it was high enough to concern me and warn him of the possible risks of allowing it to climb further.  I last measured his BP at 120/56.  Rest assured, this is a perfectly fine blood pressure.  When I last had mine checked, it was 112/60.  I know James is concerned about hypotension (too low blood pressure), but rest assured you are absolutely fine.  Technically speaking, hypotension is having a systolic pressure (the top number) below 90 and a diastolic (bottom number) below 60.  In that regard, you might have hypotension (if it is confirmed again), but keep in mind if you do not have any symptoms (lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, chest pain, shortness of breath, severe upper back pain, fever above 101 degrees F, etc) then you are just fine.  Now to define some terms, systolic pressure, or the top number, is the pressure that is exerted against the arterial walls (e.g. the interior lining of the aorta) when your heart pumps blood out.  Diastolic pressure is when your heart has pumped its blood and it is resting.  During this stage is when the arterial pressure is at its lowest.

I really do think the personal training industry needs to be licensed, like nurses, therapists, and dieticians are.  This lack of licensure in the industry has thus far allowed minimally educated fitness enthusiasts to call themselves fitness professionals, or dare I say it, fitness experts.  I am not trying to knock this lady trainer that James got to work with twice, but based on a lot of the description he has given me I have to question her qualifications as a fitness professional.  For starters, you don't do any trunk flexion (the motion done during a sit up or when people improperly bend down to pick something up) for someone who has or has had a herniated disc.  Many of the exercises she wanted James to do involved trunk flexion.  

My biggest problem, however, is that this lady trainer is trying to push supplements on him.  She probably has a quota to meet, but quota or no quota, PERSONAL TRAINERS SHOULD NOT PUSH SUPPLEMENTS unless they are a registered dietician.  Even then, anybody who knows anything about nutrition also knows that supplements tend to be poor quality and should only be used when dietary methods of obtaining the needed nutrients are not sufficient.  Given that James is eating quite a bit more than the minimum of 1500 calories and that he is doing so by eating a variety of different nutritionally dense foods, I would have to assume that he is getting the nutrients he needs.  If I wanted to give him a specific nutritional recommendation, I'd refer out to a dietician, not try to make assumptions off my limited knowledge.  The thing is, I have much greater education in the field of nutrition than the regular personal trainer does; I've taken the following classes:  Basic Nutrition, Sports Nutrition & Weight Control, Developmental Nutrition, and Theory and Treatment of Eating Disorders.  You know what?  None of that makes me a registered dietician, nor as knowledgeable as one.  Certainly, none of that makes me qualified to recommend a nutritional supplement.  If you're lucky, a chain gym trainer may have taken Basic Nutrition.  The most important thing, though, is that nutritional recommendations fall outside of a personal trainer's scope of practice (unless they are a registered dietician, too).  If you recommend and sell a supplement to a client and the client is injured or killed because of the supplement, then YOU as a personal trainer are responsible for that person's injury or death, right along side the gym you work for and the people who made the supplement, but you as the "salesman" will bare most of the burden of responsibility because you pushed it.

On a different note, James came with me to the gym yesterday where I instructed him more on technique and on methods of improving the efficiency of each work out.  I taught him how to perform a proper deadlift with a barbell.  Amazingly similar to doing it with dumbbells, but the bar makes it easier to do more weight.  We did some squats, but I want him to keep with the dumbbells on those.  We did some bench press and some bent over row.  I taught him the concept of supersetting, which allows him to perform a different exercise involving a different muscle group while he is resting the muscle group he just worked.  For example, he can do squats with dumbbells, which mainly target the front of his legs, or his quads, then immediately after he finishes that set of squats he can work the back of his legs by doing deadlifts.  That is the front/back method.  Alternatively, he can do the upper/lower method by performing a set of squats with the dumbbells and immediately moving into a bench press afterwards, and likewise he can do deadlifts and then bent over rows. I'm going to allow him to practice supersetting just with the exercise I have prescribed him and once he gets a feel for the intensity level, we can start to incorporate more sets or more exercises into his routine and seek out further results.

One of the best things about not seeing James for every single workout is that I can visually track his progress quite easily.  It's just a matter of seeing how much smaller his gut is compared to my previous memory.  I would certainly recommend that he take upper body pictures of himself, without a shirt, with his gut in full view so that he can take pictures later on and he can visually track his progress for himself.  It was a great motivator for me when I undertook the challenge of losing weight.

Somehow I ended up wanting to do a 1 rep max on the leg press when James and I were at the gym.  This wasn't the leg press that has a pulley system that makes the weight easier to lift.  This was the plate loaded one, where you put the weight plates on either side and you push the sled up and down a shaft without the assistance of pulleys and other crap.  I found my 2 rep max, of 830lbs.  I used an equation to estimate my 1 rep max to be 855lbs on the leg press.  Pretty darn good for anyone; well above the 99th percentile for leg strength.  I never train my legs for strength; it comes naturally.  Fun stuff, but totally irrelevant for James' program.

That's it for now.  If you want to hear me rant more about supplements and lesser educated personal trainers, you can always comment on this blog and I will be sure to rant about anything you can think of.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Week 7

For this week's update, I have some information, a few gripes, and some good news that I feel needs to be posted here.

To begin, I've been working out at Vision Quest for a week now, and I like it.  The only thing I disliked about this week was the fact that they insisted on having a personal trainer work with me (two sessions come free with your membership).  While I had no problems with the personal trainer, I rather disliked the sales tactics and so forth to try and get me to sign up for additional training sessions.  First off, I have a ACSM certified health fitness specialist, who monitors my progress and gives me the direction I need to make the healthy lifestyle changes I've made to date.  Second, since Jeff has lost over 100 lbs, and kept it off, he is intimately qualified for my situation, given I have a large amount of weight to lose.  Third, the current plan is producing good results that I feel are satisfactory.  The healthy drop of 2 lbs per week is more than enough to keep me motivated on continuing my current plan, with no outside interference from another person, who may or may not be aware of certain things that Jeff already knows and has taken into account when he developed my "exercise prescription."

The sales tactics went so far as to try to use my wife against me.  To quote, "If your wife is on board 100%, then she won't have a problem spending $210 for 6 thirty-minute sessions.  After all, she does support you and your goals, right?"  There is a fundamental flaw in this rationalization: I'm seeing results.  23 lbs of weight loss in just 7 weeks isn't small potatoes.  In my failed attempt at "The Century Club Challenge," it took me 4 months to lose just 15 lbs.  My wife and I make large financial decisions like this together.  We weigh the pros and the cons, and normally sleep on it before discussing it one last time.  Finally, after a good night sleep, we come back at the issue and discuss it.  Once the decision is made, it's final.  Given that the cons of spending a lot of unnecessary cash on personal training sessions outweighed the proven system we already have going, we decided not to spend the money.  After speaking with Jeff about it, he agreed that mixing someone else's methods with his would not be a good idea.  Jeff isn't just trying to compete with someone else.  He is making sure that the exercises I do will not aggravate an old injury I sustained 4 years ago when I herniated a disk in the lumbar region of my back.  In fact, half of the exercises that the personal trainer wanted me to do were rejected by Jeff, based on the fact that he said he'd never ask someone with a herniated disk to do them.  Sound advice from a man who really knows his stuff!  Okay, so with that over, I plan on continuing as we have been because some good things are really happening for me and my body.

I've already noticed that I sleep better at night, and my wife tells me that my symptoms of Sleep Apnea have pretty much disappeared.  I really feared the idea of needing to use a CPAP to sleep properly, and this was part of my motivation to start losing weight.  It is my belief that if I need a machine to help me sleep, then there is something terribly wrong with my life and it needs to be addressed.  Fortunately, Jeff's program has made it possible for me to fall asleep faster, sleep all through the night without waking up because I'm snoring as loud as a freight train, and wake up after 7-8 hours feeling refreshed and ready to start the day.  5 AM comes really early no matter who you are, and when I'm able to get out of bed and start my day, instead of hitting the snooze bar, that's a good thing.

Lately, I've been noticing that I have more energy throughout the day.  Before, I'd come home from work feeling completely exhausted.  With no desire to do anything, I'd just sit on the couch and watch way too much t.v.  Oftentimes, I'd get home around 4pm and not leave the couch until 9pm unless I was getting dinner, taking a bathroom break, or getting up to rummage around the cupboards for a bag of chips or something to satisfy my sweet tooth cravings.  Nowadays, I spend much less time sitting at the couch watching t.v. and more time at the gym.  I have the energy to come home and actually do stuff with my kids or take care of projects around the house instead of holding down the furniture all afternoon.  When it's time for me to go to bed, that's the only time I start to feel sleepy.

I'm better balanced.  Not only does my body feel great from eating a balanced diet of nutritionally dense foods, but my mood seems better balanced than before.  I never suffered from severe depression, but I do have my days when I just want to shut the world off and go away into a dark hole somewhere.  Before starting this program, it seems that I would feel this way 2-3 times a month and it would normally last a day or two.  I haven't felt this way since starting the program.  It is possible that either the food, the exercise, the fact that I'm too busy to feel sorry for myself, or a combination of all three things has made this happen.  Either way, I'm happy about it.  Life is so much more enjoyable when you don't have feelings of self-loathing and anger knocking on your cranium every week or so.  I also think that being at the gym, despite the fact that there are a lot of people around me, gives me time to just plug into my headphones and be in my own world for an hour everyday.  I'm sure this helps my sanity more than anything because I have me, my music and an outlet to release excess energy and life frustrations in a positive way.  My wife commented that she's noticed this change in me as well.

The last time I went to the doctor, I was in for a routine checkup.  He took my blood pressure and told me that I had pre-hypertension and that I should do something about it before it gets out of hand.  If I didn't get it under control, it could lead to heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and the need to take blood pressure medications to help me stay alive.  Again, the need to take something to keep me from blowing a heart valve into orbit was something I didn't want to have to endure.  When Jeff conducted his initial assessment of my overall fitness, he measured my blood pressure at 132/80.  My diastolic pressure was okay, but the high systolic number was elevated to a pre-hypertension level, which Jeff determined to be borderline and at risk.  In fact, when I first started the workouts, I noticed that after an intense cardio exercise, my respiration would take awhile to get back to normal.  I knew this wasn't a good thing and that I needed to continue to get in cardio.  Now, almost as soon as I get off the elliptical machine, my breathing returns to a pretty normal state and I can speak normally without feeling shortness of breath.  That's good!  It means I'm doing something right.  Jeff measured my blood pressure today and found results of 120/56; that's much better.  The diastolic number seems a bit low to me (hypotension), but we'd need to measure my BP over the course of a couple days to get a really accurate number.  Besides, low blood pressure isn't really worried about as long as symptoms of low blood pressure aren't present, such as temporarily going blind (my wife had this happen when she was pregnant) or fainting, or even going into shock.  The big one I was worried about was that pesky systolic pressure, which has dropped to much safer levels.  I hope to get it a bit lower in the upcoming months.  Of course, I do invite Jeff to comment on this because he is much more knowledgeable in this area than I am.  My knowledge extends mostly to reading stuff from the Mayo Clinic and so forth.  In other words, don't take my dissemination of information as gospel.

Lastly, I'm getting stronger.  I'm able to bench press, lift, and otherwise do exercises that were out of my reach just 6 weeks ago.  I'm putting on muscle mass (I know because my pecs and biceps are getting bigger) while at the same time dumping fat from my body through intense cardio and fat burning exercises.  All in all, I seem to be striking a good balance so far.

This morning, I was feeling a little bloated, and probably was.  My weight on the scale was 295.  I had weight myself the day before and it was 294.  So, I figure I'm somewhere in between.  Jeff still recommends I eat more food because I need the calories and the nutrition contained therein so I don't starve myself while dropping the weight.  More than ever, I need to make sure I'm taking in enough calories and nutrients to keep my body healthy and get those vitamins and minerals I need to maintain my health without the need for supplements.  Jeff could write and entire thesis on his opinion of supplements, but I'll leave that for him, should he decide to do so.  The important thing I need to remember is to not get seduced by the idea of starving myself just so I can make numbers each week.  In the end, a number is just a number, and when it comes to the scale, that number can vary quite a bit.  Believe me, I know.  I'm learning to not be disappointed when the scale doesn't give me good news, but to focus on the overall goal at hand.  In the end, my waistline will speak for itself.


Zombies Hate Fast Food

I know this really isn't related to working out and losing weight per se, but since I'm a big fan of the zombie genre, I had to order a water bottle with this printed on it.

If you're a fan of zombies, and are currently losing a lot of weight, like I am, then you get this joke.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vision Quest A Go

Just dropping a little note tonight about my gym changeover.  If you read my last entry, you know that Bally's jumped ship and left me out in the cold.  Well, I went over and signed up for Vision Quest on Monday evening.  Got a workout in.  I like the place.  It has everything I need and nothing I don't.  Went in tonight to work with a personal trainer (you get two free sessions with your membership, so why not?).  Then did some cardio work on the elliptical.

I think I will like it at this new gym.  The staff is friendly, the price is down to earth, and it's easy to get to.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 6

Gosh, it's week 6 already!  I must be doing something right because the weight is falling as fast as the time goes by!  Seriously, I weighed myself this morning and the scale said 296 lbs!  That's 20 lbs lost today!  To be quite honest, and at the risk of sounding a little conceited, I'm proud of that accomplishment.  I made a goal, and I'm well on my way to achieving it.

I really haven't had any setbacks so far.  Don't worry.  I'm sure they will come when I drop even more weight.  Right now, I'm just burning off a lot of excess fat that would otherwise be hanging off my gut.

This week, I had a surprise waiting for me at Bally's.  As of December 8, Bally will be closing up shop.  LA Fitness will be assuming my membership, and from what I understand, it's not good for me.  Since I'm a lifetime member at Bally, month to month, with a rate of only $10 a month, LA will not honor it.  When I asked the "fitness counselor" (fancy name for salesman), he curtly said that the rate is just too low.

So, I'm pissed off that Bally just left their loyal paying customers out in the cold like that; literally.  What a crappy time to sell off your assets!  This is Christmas shopping season.  Do I look like I have a bunch of extra money lying around to go signing up for gym memberships and getting locked into contracts?  Really Bally?

I had to go gym shopping, so I checked out the three players in my area: LA Fitness, Allstar Fitness, and Vision Quest.  LA Fitness certainly has a nice facility, but it's farther away and they want to triple my rates.  I'm not digging it.  Plus, the atmosphere is so.... eh, Starbucksy.  I'm a redneck deep down, so hanging out with a bunch of hyper-caffeinated gym rats is not my idea of a good time.  Allstar Fitness has a much nicer atmosphere.  It feels warm, professional, yet family oriented.  Their equipment is second to none, and their facility is very big.  They have free towel services, pool tables, flat screen t.v. in the locker room with leather couches, a rock wall, and even a smoothie bar.  Of course, after the grand tour of this facility, which is very nice, I found out they wanted $200 up front and $55 a month!  Jeez!  This is Tacoma, after all.  We aren't exactly rich!  When I told the "fitness counselor" that the cost is way too much, he told me that we were sitting in a 17 million dollar facility.  I told him that wasn't my problem and to have a nice day.  I won't be going back there.  Who needs a damned t.v. in the bathroom anyway?  On Friday, after my usual workout, I made my way over to Vision Quest to have a look around.  Vision Quest... sounds like something you do while meditating and smoking reefer.  It's an odd name for a gym, but I guess it's appropriate since I do have a vision.  I walked in and was immediately greeted by the manager of the place.  I walked up and shook his hand and told him, "you look like the guy I need to talk to."  He showed me around the place.  The building is owned by the city, and it's a bit older, but it isn't junky.  Their equipment is all new PRECOR and as an added bonus, there are t.v. screens in front of each machine.  Helps pass the time when working out to watch some television; Comcast cable, I might add.  This gym is all business and no bullshit.  They have just what I need and none of the superfluous "amenities" I don't.  Give me cardio equipment and weights.  I'm good.  The best part is that since Bally is closing up shop, Vision Quest is offering a special deal for displaced Bally Club members, like myself.  $70 one time start up fee, $10 a month (month to month, I might add - no contract BS), and a once a year $49 maintenance fee.  The maintenance fee works like an American Express maintenance fee.  The fee is there, but your rates never change as a result.  Otherwise, your gym could jack your rates up as they see fit.  I brought a flyer home to show my wife, and her first reaction was, "Hell yeah!"

In other news, I hit a couple of small "yay me" milestones today.  First, after getting home from work, I found an old pair of Carhartt jeans with a 42" waist in my closet.  I decided to try them on and they fit perfectly.  Glad to know I now have a decent selection at the stores.  It's hard buying jeans for a 44" waist with a 32" inseam.  It'll be a lot easier to get 42x32 jeans, as that's the size most stores normally stop at.  Here's hoping to be in 40" jeans by February!  Another nice thing is that I'm on my last belt notch.  Gonna have to start drilling holes in my belt or buy a new one.  I've been needing a good sturdy belt for concealed carry anyway, so I'll probably buy a new one.

This upcoming week, Jeff kicks my workouts up a notch.  I go from lifting weights 2 days a week to 3.  In addition to that, I have cardio workout all 5 days a week.  Jeff includes what he calls "grey cardio," which is just because he highlighted it grey on the excel spreadsheet document.  It's more intense cardio, which includes steeper treadmill inclines, longer times, etc.  Lastly, he's adding another day of workouts each week, so that brings it up to 6 days a week that I'll be hitting the gym in one fashion or another.  I think I'm ready for it.  I almost already feel guilty for not going to the gym two days a week in a row.

We are officially in Christmas Season mode at our household now.  The tree is up, the house is lit, the decorations adorn our walls and flat surfaces, and the music has changed from rock, country, and pop to Christmas carols.  The kids love it.  I'm confident that as Christmas approaches, I will be able to maintain discipline and not overdo it on the amazing food that will be served by my mother.  She's a wonderful cook, but she knows I'm limiting myself.  So, no offense intended, Mom, if I don't eat you out of house and home this year.  I still love you.

With all that, I have said all that needs to be said for this week's update.  My video is below.  Pay attention to the pretty lights.