Slow and steady wins the race?

IMG_3301

No. There’s no winning the race for me. But, there is finishing the race. The picture above is from the Peachtree on July 4th – the world’s largest 10k. 60,000 runners.  I was slow as all hell, but I finished. That’s my wife and daughter with me.

Crossfit is definitely making a difference fitness wise. I don’t think it will make me a faster runner or help too much with endurance because we really don’t do too much aerobically, so I will have to work on that on my own. But, in the past, I have focused mostly on aerobic exercise and it hasn’t helped with the weight. But, Crossfit really has.  It kind of feels like one big plateau because there is not any day to day loss that I can see, but the weight is coming off –  very, very slowly. I am down around 265-ish (+/- 1 pound). That’s from the 302 at the beginning of April, and even 16 off of my previous all time high.

Over the past couple of weeks, I think as I have tried to add weight, I have focused a little less on form as I do some of the exercises which has, unfortunately, hurt my efforts. From my now almost three months of Crossfit experience, as the coaches repeatedly point out, work on getting the motions down first – the weight will come later. I have done a little forearm muscle damage as I have done poor form power cleans. But, I have lightened the load and I feel like the movement is becoming a bit more natural.

I have addressed it a few times in previous blogs, but this morning’s class was a recurring example of why Crossfit, or at least Crossfit Alpharetta, is a phenomenal place for people of all fitness levels. Itr wasn’t the normal weight portion that we started with today.  It was a 5 minute piece where you did as many pull ups as possible unbroken, and then once you stopped, you did as many more as possible in the remaining 5 minutes. I think there were 7 of us. I can’t do a pull up, so I was doing ring rows. Another person was doing band assisted pull up, a couple more were doing regular pull ups, and 2 more were doing chest to bar pull ups, but on rings (pretty unbelievable to watch). Each person giving their best effort. After the weight portion of the class, you go in to conditioning. Today’s was a 20 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of a 200m run, followed by Russian kettlebell swings then sit ups then start over. It was 20 and 20 of kettle bells and sit ups, but mine was scaled to 15 and 15. I’m using a 20 pound kettle bell, while others were pushing 60+. I ended up with 6 rounds, while some ended up with 9-10. But, as we passed each other occasionally on the run portion, it was “way to go Jack (or Grace or Jessica or Andy or Dan or Christine or Will)…”  Each person giving their own personal maximum effort.

It is this type of encouragement that is keeping me on track and allowing me to becoming a healthier person.

Hey big guy

Oh! Hey d-bag!

Seriously, I am so effin sick and tired of people thinking it’s ok to use the “big guy” greeting. I know I am big. I am frigging working on it. Do you really feel it’s necessary to remind me (and really make me feel like %417)?

I do understand that sometimes a reference may not be meant in a mean way. And, it’s probably not. But, honestly, knowing that doesn’t make you feel any less crappy.

I don’t need to run off and find a “safe place.” But, if you are not going to be cognizant of how your words might come across as a bit hurtful, I’d like to put you there.

Some inspiration

I started following an Instagram Account – @howtotransform. It is people’s transformations over time. In many cases, it is big to healthy. But there are also really inspiring photos of anorexic to healthy and couch potato to healthy. I have to say, each one of those transformations gives me motivation.

But, there was one in particular that hit me the other day as I wrestle with this plateau – https://www.instagram.com/p/BkZiyEAHogO/. If you are reading this, trust me, it is worth checking out. Pictures at day 22, day 263, day 367 and day 565. I rarely post pictures on Instagram, and I don’t think I have ever commented until this week. But I saw that time progression and realized that she did not go from her day 22 pic to her day 565 pic in the 9 or 10 weeks that I have been doing Crossfit. That’s a year and a half!

Chipping away, day by day. Maybe seeing slight improvements here and there. But, staying at it when you might otherwise want to give up is what got her from day 22 to day 565.

So, thanks for the inspiration! It makes me realize that you have to be in it for the long haul.

 

 

Immigration

Two years ago, right before the explosion at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, my family and I were in Istanbul on a Friday and Saturday. It was during Ramadan, on Friday night before sunset when we walked around a part of the city with dozens of restaurants with patio seating. There were thousands of Muslims sitting at those tables eyeing the food in front of them waiting for the signal that it was sunset so they could dive in.

20160617_200017

It was at that moment I truly had an epiphany. These people sitting at those tables – they were me and my family, but instead of having been born Irish Catholic in Philadelphia, they were born Turkish Muslim in Istanbul.  We had a guide for the night and the next day, Ali Yalniz. I have met a lot of people in my life, and he was among the nicest people I had ever met. And, in much the same way I sometimes say that I am a selective Catholic, I think Ali had a little selective Muslim thing going for him. Despite having decent free public schools for his kids, Ali was sending his kids to a private school because he wanted the best for his kids. In another land, in another culture, in another religion, Ali was me, wanting the best for his kids and willing to sacrifice and work his butt off to get there.

20160618_122535

Last year, my son and I traveled to India so that he could shadow doctors for two weeks to help shape his future. Part of the reason we were there (which could not have happened without the assistance of a good friend, Dr. Priti Bloor who was born in Ahmedabad where we stayed and had family and friends willing to take us in) was because many of the opportunities available in the US were offered only to women and underrepresented minorities. There may have been a little bitterness that we had to travel to a country where we were an underrepresented minority to have the opportunity with only limited availability here. But, he was taken in by some outstanding doctors who took the time to explain the procedures he was able to watch at the operating table. There was tremendous culture shock for us outside of his hospital rounds in seeing the day to day life and struggles in India. At one point, we travelled to Palitana, a holy place for Jains, in a way similar to Mecca for Muslims. In 100+ degree heat at 5:00 am, we started a 3.5 mile hike with 3,000+ vertical steps to the top of a small mountain where over 900 Jain temples have been built over the centuries (and one Mosque in honor of some Muslims who saved the temples when other groups of Muslims had invaded). It was a rough few hours making it to the top. Clearly looking out of place as the only non-Indians we saw that day (we were two of nine non-Indians we saw during our entire 16 days in Gujurat), a Jain family “adopted” us. The father spoke good English as he travelled to Dallas once a year for work. The young teenage boys had clearly been learning from their father. But we spent a few hours with them going to parts of the temples we never would have ventured on our own. In a very brief time, we learned a little about their religion and their customs, and some about their own hopes and dreams for their kids. Again, like Ali in Istanbul, these people were me. They wanted a good life for their family.

IMG_1336

This year, though his university, my son is volunteering in a house (really a compound) in Texas – a house that has been around for almost 40 years which temporarily houses immigrants that have come to the US. As part of the compound, there is a women’s house, two “disabled” houses, a clinic and a warehouse to support the facility. The warehouse also functions as a men’s house. My son is living in the men’s house (men and women are not allowed in the opposite’s house except for religious services), eating rice and beans with the residents for almost every meal, and doing his best to help these people. In some cases, it is helping them get papers to be able to work. In some cases, it is to help them get medical services. Six days a week, he delivers drinks and sandwiches to the day laborers waiting on corners. He has come to be happy when they are not there because they have gotten hired for the day. When they work, for the most part, they are sending what they can to their families back in the native countries. Because they want a better life for their families.

TX

All of these people are me. Whether they were born in Turkey or India or Mexico. I happened to be born an Irish Catholic in Philly.

I am 53. For the most part, I have voted Republican throughout my life. I describe myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. So, very  much torn between two parties. I voted for Gary Johnson in 2016 – not because I thought he had a chance to win but because I didn’t align with Trump or Hilary and have hopes for a viable third party some day. I would like a party that wants many of the good things that Democrats and Republicans want, but wants to make sure we can pay for it. I have voted Republican because, while I am socially liberal, I want to be fiscally responsible and the fiscal issue has historically won out.

But, honestly, while Trump has made a fair amount of fiscally responsible moves, some of the other actions that he has either done or at least has taken a laissez-faire or even callous approach to are now  pushing my own internal needle a little left.

I don’t want to be associated with the far right or far left. I think (and maybe I am wrong) that I fall into a space where so many less vocal (than the extremes) Americans fall – right there in the middle. Doing what is right but not without consideration. And, while I say that I feel like I am like so many Americans, and I know I am making some assumptions here, but I feel like I am like the majority of world citizens. They want to live a good life, and want what’s best for their families. Whether they are in Ahmedabad, India, or Istanbul, Turkey, or Southwest Atlanta, or Detroit, Michigan. We are all the same – just born in different places.

And, if that better life involves coming here to America (where my grandmother and a few of her 12 siblings chain migrated to in the late teens and 20s in the early 20th century), bring it on. While we need borders, we need them to be welcoming, not scary. Come in, sign your papers that you’d like to be a US Citizen, get a social security number, start paying taxes and start vesting as a citizen. Go ten years without incident, become a fully vested citizen. Add to this melting pot of cultures that makes the US great.

So, in this era of “where was your outrage when Obama and Clinton did these same things,” and “Trump is a fascist,” and “The Democrat created these issues,” I say screw the blame. We know what we know now. Fix the problems.

Those kids in the detention camps – they absolutely could be mine. I just happened to be born Irish Catholic in Philly. Those people seeking a better life? They are you.

As I said, I am a selective Catholic which may translate a little into “I don’t know the Bible all that well.” But I do know the whole “whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto Me.” This is probably a little anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, anti-Jew, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu and anti every other world religion, but I do believe there is one God – Christians have him in the Trinity, Jews as the Father (same one as in the Trinity), Muslims in Mohammed, Hindus in different representations of the same God. But, it’s all the One. It just depends a little on where you were born.

So, yes. Be kind and welcoming. We are much more similar to each other than we are different. That’s us out there being turned away. Those are our kids being taken from us. Not literally. But, if you and your kids were born elsewhere, you’d probably try to make it here too.

I don’t think it gets easier…

My impression now of Crossfit is that it is never supposed to get easier. It is supposed to always be a challenge – an effort towards continuous improvement.

Slowly, very slowly, the weights I am lifting are increasing. If I went back to those weights from the first couple of weeks, I am sure they would be easy. But the point is to push yourself to do and be better.

Part of what we did today was Power Cleans (barbell from the ground to your waist then hip swing with the barbell landing at the top of the chest/shoulders) at a heavy weight, followed by sets of power cleans and burpees in a series of 15 each, 12 each, and 9 each.  Two months ago, in all honesty, the 45 pound barbell was a struggle. Today, 105 was a struggle. But that’s improvement. I still can’t do a decent burpee, but I have gone from stepping back and forward one foot at a time to jumping back and forward with both feet. Again, improvement.

So, I had some satisfaction. There was another guy there today, Eric. He is also a coach. (There are always at least a couple of coaches in the 5:30 am class that, even though they are not officially coaching are always coaching and trying to make sure you are improving.) He must have hit a PR today. I think I heard him say 315. This guy has been doing crossfit for (I think) something like 6 years. And the guy is still working on continuous improvement.

So he hits 315 and I hit 105.  Everyone else in that room hit somewhere in between my low and his high.

I have to say that is a really cool thing about crossfit. I sincerely believe that every one of those people in that class get satisfaction out of doing their best and are genuinely encouraging of and satisfied when seeing each other do their best.

 

Scratching and clawing

This is hard frigging work.

I think I enjoy working out now, but that doesn’t make it any easier. And, honestly, as I make some progress, I realize just how far I have to go.

8 weeks ago when I started doing Crossfit and we had to do burpees, I would slowly bend over and go back one leg at a time and up one leg at a time. If it was 20 burpees, I could do maybe 4 in the time it took others to do those 20. Today, it was sets with 15 burpees. I am still not able to do the push up part of the burpee, but now I can actually jump my legs back and forward, and it is maybe 7-8 to their 15. That’s in between set of “power cleans” where I still have issues with form, but I have gone from the 25 pound barbell, to 35, to 45. Today, I did a few sets with 70. Again, huge progress for me, but the next lowest person is about 90, on up to the mid 200s.

And, the weight loss – it truly is scratching and clawing to get a pound her and there. Today, after the workout, I saw 269 on the scale. April 13 was about 302. It had hovered at 272-274 for the past two weeks, so I am thinking maybe I have broken the plateau. But, again, it is progress.

Regarding the nutrition and the search for the answers – to a certain extent, I have said f&%k it. If it takes me two weeks to lose a pound, so be it. I do know for a fact that I am getting healthier as I am struggling.

It might take me years, but I will get there. And then stay there.

Don’t pay attention to the scale

scale

That’s a lot easier said than done. My frustration continues to build as I have been in this two pound range for I think a little more than two weeks. I easily have another 90+ pounds to go, so the weight should still be coming off. Working out regularly. Eating right.

And, I am really disappointed with the nutrition guidance at the moment. I had really followed it to a T and now the thought is that I am in “starvation mode,” which some swear by and others call BS. Apparently, you can really slow your metabolism down by eating too little. But I have followed the nutrition guidelines given me, and now I can pay for a plan to get myself out of starvation mode.

I paid for guidance which apparently put me in starvation mode, and now I can pay for guidance and make an investment to get me out of starvation mode.

It’s this kind of BS that has contributed to me giving up in the past. But, I think the best thing for me to do it to do some real research because there’s clearly no “one size fits all” nutrition guidance that works for me.