Absent Cause

It’s been a few months since I’ve last sat down in front of a blank page/screen to do any writing for myself: 3 months since my last blog entry and virtually nothing by way or journal entries, written or typed. After the election climate, all the perpetual coverage in the blog and news feeds, I felt like every possible thought I could have on political matters was already being dissected and disseminated in much greater detail and clarity than I would muster. Not only that, I started having some health complications that had me in chronic pain and knocked me off the workout routine I was starting to actively pick up again.

The holidays gave way to the new year, and I was spending every waking day trying to muster the energy to get out of bed and just focusing on making it through until the part where I relax at home with my best friend before going to bed. I got locked in a zombie-like routine, and doing much of nothing beyond work and watching TV. Having only unplesant things bouncing around in my mind and not wanting to actively think about them, .

With the turn of the new year came the start of coverage with my Covered California health plan, and after a month of roughing it out I finally went to go see a doctor about the abdominal pain I was having. I had an ultrasound done, which came back clear, and no real resolution to what was happening.

Having missed the hitting the ground running at the milestone of the new year (which I’m sure many others did because of the current social-political landscape) I set a soft target for my birthday. I’d focus on getting myself put back together, healed up, and actively set to get to myself back to where I was physically before winter. That didn’t play out as planned; the things were going on with me alleviated but still persisted, and every week it seems I’ve been having some other temporary flare up with various symptoms.

Looking back at the past three months, the cold early nights of Winter, the rainy weather, and all of the things breaking down with my body have backed me into a mental-physical rut. Constantly in varying degrees of pain, unable to workout like I used to, and feeling defeated, as if this crappy state has become the permanent new norm. Much to my own disappointment and personal embarassment, my mental strategies for dealing with this all have been proving very ineffectual.

Now at the final day of February, I’m reaching my frustration limit. My whole goal was to journal progress with this blog, yet lately, I’ve lost so much ground that seems impossible to make up with no foreseeable improvement in personal condition that it’s highly tempting to hit the delete button and give up blogging altogether. But thanks to present circumstances commandeering my internal monologue, this blog is the last bastion of my psyche that refuses to give up. Without it, I would be in a state where I’ve given up on myself completely, and I can’t abide that.

A few days reflection and seven paragraphs later, I don’t really have a plan moving forward. All I know is that come tomorrow, another month will begin to tick away, and need to start doing things differently and get back to task, even if it feels like physical hell every step of the way.

No-Measurement Monday Check In

It’s Monday morning, and I’ve instructed myself to crank out a quick update before heading into work to get the week started. Looking at the blog archives, I see that it’s already been two weeks since the last time I posted something. Typically, Mondays are the days where i’m supposed to crank out a weekly measurement/stat/photo update on the progress with the weight loss efforts, but the thing is…I really hate doing it. As much as I’d like to be the type of person that’s really into physiological quantification, rigorously tracking activity and nutritional intake and steadily heading towards peak physical fitness, the reality that’s become very evident over my past updates is that I’m not. Even with all the tools I’ve collected over time, from analog tools like tape measures and body fat calipers to smart phone apps and wifi connected smart scales, there’s no out-the-box solution to fully automate that capture. At some point, it still requires sitting down in front of a text editor and compiling all that information. Like most people that aren’t professional athletes/body builders, it’s not exactly my favorite thing to do, especially since body changes, even when implementing a better diet and copious amounts of physical activity, is still a gradual process that fails to deliver on the instant-gratification level modern life has made us accustomed to.

Much like I wrote at the beginning of the month, I’m still back in the high 190/low 200 lb range that I spiked up to at the end of August. For the majority of this month, I’ve been avoiding even stepping on the scale — knowing that the number it’s going to read out lacks context and doesn’t account for the trade off in fat to muscle that my increased running and body weight training has been causing, it feels pointless to take a measurement that I know is inherently inaccurate. I tell myself that I should at least fall back to the tape measure & photographs, but those are tedious and time-consuming to take as well. Yet, despite the lack of activity with written updates, activity in real life has stayed steady. I’m still steadily moving ahead with that pursuit of personal purpose and power I most recently wrote about. I’m looking at 10 miles a day for the rest of the month if I’m going to meet the 200 mile goal again for this month (which I fully intend to), and have been upping my game with the non-cardio workouts; over the past week and half, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a new friend who’s a professional yoga instructor, and he’s both forced and inspired me to raise the bar for myself. In addition to the body weight routines and 7-minute workouts I’ve been doing, I’ve also (finally) started actively targeting abdominal/arm muscles and general flexbility with the aim of being able to pull of advanced yoga poses and handstands like he can.

Even 90°+ degree weather won't stop me
Even 90°+ degree weather won’t stop me

More noteworthy than any set of measurements and photographs I could post is the feedback I’ve been getting in direct conversations with people, having recently started making a change from my ascetic & hermetic ways of the past few years. Though I regularly allow RunKeeper to cross-post my activity logs to my social media accounts, outside of the occasional Facebook Like and Twitter Favorite, I don’t usually see much by way of commentary. Yet, in “catching up” with old friends & acquaintances conversationally, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see it routinely being brought up by the other party.

Kyle convo

Greg running conversation

It’s validating to hear that my desired intent, to inspire even just one person on even the smallest level, is taking place out with these updates, even if I’m not immediately made aware of it.

Personal Purpose: It’s About Power

Over the past weeks, I’ve been myopically focused on my running and fitness. That race to [two hundred miles][1] before the end of the month of August consumed as much time as it did energy, and in the past week of recovery and return to my training, I’ve been mentally organizing all of the non-fitness related things I’ve been meaning to write on, and at the top of the list landed a recent meditation I had on the purpose of this blog.

As I’ve acknowledged many times before, I’m painfully aware of what a terrible web presence I’ve built over the past few years. I’ve reduced myself to a repeated string of unsympathetic lamentations, an addict of melancholy rumination, mentally-emotionally damaged goods unable to regain control of his own mind and thoughts. I’ve still been wrestling with the idea of unpublishing and deleting it all, but I always ultimately conclude that I can’t just give up — after all that time spent trapped in that lesser place and invested in attempts to write about it all, to suddenly and conveniently sweep it under the rug would be very disingenuous.

But where before when I took to writing about weight loss and battling depression I mainly did so to help myself make sense of it all and to earnestly self-express (even just in some largely unexplored corner of the WordPress space), as stated on the about page, now my the purpose for my efforts on both fronts stems from something else: now, it’s about power.

I re-read my writings from 2014, and they’re largely focused on trying to wrap up the loose strings in my mind and mustering up the courage to take that new self I tore myself out of my old life from to find out into the world and subject it to trial. The ones throughout this year have been of a self-coaching tone, motivations to seek out and embrace more intense challgenges for myself — physically, mentally, and emotionally. When my inner monologue starts dictating to my hands now, it feels more self-confident than it probably ever has. Though there’s still so much left to go on my journey of personal development, I believe that I’ve learned and made enough progress to speak on things with at least some degree of authority on account of personal experience. As if I’ve finally qualified myself as someone who actually has something worth saying.

Throughout the majority of my life, I’ve known myself as weak. Emotionally dependent on others, physically weak and soft (and drastically overweight/out of shape), socially inept and cowardly sycophantic. Every time I felt myself strong and capable, it felt like a borrowed power, not my own but a result of the synergy with whoever I had in my life at the time. Treading through the depths of depression and conquering a borderline personality disorder, abandoning my personal relationships and living in perpetual isolation in search of life without external influence — all of that effort has brought me to this current present, a place of strength and an unshakable holistic grasp & understanding of myself…an a renewed sense of purpose. The polar opposite of the person I was just a few years ago.

I don’t physically train for health or the vanity of appearance. I do it to prepare myself for martial arts training and high-level outdoor activities. I keep writing about myself not to be known or understood, nor the hope that my experiences might be of help to others other there, but rather the firm belief that they can.

The August 200: A Month of Workouts in Review

Torso Shot, Side View

August was a very active and noteworthy month for me. As I detailed in a DayOne journal entry I shared on the 31st, I walked/hiked/ran a cumulative 200 miles throughout the month, most of them running, an average of 6 per day without any daily lapses in physical activity. It wasn’t until the last week and a half that I realized how close I was to 200 mile mark, and really started pushing myself, bumping my daily range from 3-5 miles up to 8-10 miles. That, and the arm &and core training I started trying to take up, really put the beat down on my body — but it was well worth it, for it’s a lot stronger than it used to be.

August 2015 Weight Trend
August 2015 Weight Trend

In regard to weight, I burned off about 10 lbs, and apparently put them right back on. At the start of the second half of August, I was weighing in at the low 190’s — 191.7 lbs was the lowest I saw register on the scale during my weigh-ins. As I started aggressively chasing that 200 mile goal, running longer distances in spite of chronic lower back & leg muscle soreness and starting bodyweight/dumbbell workouts, my weight started to trend upward again. At the end of the month, I was back to weighing in between 197-199 lbs. Still being mostly unfamiliar with the degrees to which muscle growth affects weight, it felt like I hadn’t done enough working out to explain so many pounds gained. I pulled out the tape measure and took my usual targetted measures, and didn’t find myself changing input values much from the last time I took them.

Yet, despite what the scale and the tape measure imply, those pounds have got to be mostly from muscle. My legs, from the glute down, have an improved tone that I didn’t have last month. Even though I still have a relatively high concentration of abdominal fat, the paunch is smaller than it’s ever been. And where it used to muffin-top out in all directions, now it only hangs (slightly) from the front; the “love handle” flabs have significantly reduced.

Torso Shot, Side View

When I take a glances in the mirror these days, I can see the beginnings of musculature poking through the body fat I’ve still got left. If I poke my fingers in towards my abs from the front, they travel through far less fat before hitting the muscle wall. Despite the lack of a massive shift in quantitative inch and pound measurements, I feel much more compact and hardier than I did just one month prior, and the improvements in my physical form & awareness (and pant fits!) show it’s been a vast improvement.

Yesterday I took the day off from all physical activity and took in calories indiscriminately. Today, I’m going to focus on easing myself back into activity with walking & yoga; tomorrow, it’s back to regular training. Let’s see if I can make September a 225-250 mile month.

Invalid-ated

It happened as if to spite me: last week, I was back on track, made my progress update, and had a good & active remainder of the week. Saturday, I forced myself to walk over to Hillcrest and catch this year’s San Diego Gay Pride Parade for the first time in years, on account of this year’s big Supreme Court decision. I sold myself so well on the significance of it that when that thunderstorm rolled in, I headed out in nothing but jeans and a tee. I expected high humidity and light showers. Instead, the region got hit with unusual record rainfall for the month of July. I ended up leaving the parade early and headed back home for that very same reason – not having anticipated so much water, I didn’t have any adequate protection for my phone, and I wasn’t eager to adding having to replace a cell phone to the budget schedule. After returning home, drenched to last inch, I changed into some dry clothes and had a drink with friends who had been running late stayed at the apartment once the rain started to fall while I did a load of laundry. They soon headed out to the festivities, but I had clothes in the dryer and was feeling tired enough for a nap. And then’s when I got sick.

I went down at about 3 PM, waking up briefly at around 6 PM to get up and go retrieve the clothes from the laundry room. Back inside the apartment, I went right back to sleep for the rest of the day. Sunday, I woke up in the midmorning hours and had a cup of coffee while I planned out my day, then immediately hopped in the shower. When i got out and toweled off, I ended up taking a nosedive into my bed and not waking up again until 6:30 PM. By that point, the fatigue had begun to heavily involve cold sweats, muscle aches, a headache, vertigo…all sorts of fun symptoms. I was up for long enough to go, with great pains, out into the world to refill a 5 gallon water jug and pick up something to eat for dinner. I ate, hydrated, and went back to suffering in sleep. Monday, I made it into the office and got a couple hours of work in before the headache and searing pain in my eyes put me laid out on the office couch, trapped in a forced sleep state, actively fighting against the pain in my head and eyes and trying to gain enough composure to survive a drive back home.

Yesterday, I woke up feeling better than I had the day before, but still light in the head and heavy in the eyes. I sent a message to the boss, and grabbed a few extra hours of sleep. That seemed to do the trick; as the rest of the day ran its course, I found myself feeling gradually better and more “like myself” again. Today the same holds true, and I think I may have enough strength back to be able to get back to my running this evening.

After all that, sounds like the worst part about being sick these past days was all the physical pain and discomfort. Truth is, it was all (even the migraines) manageable. To me, the parts that caused me most trouble were the forced & sudden disconnect from my “self” (going from 5-8 mile daily runner to bed-ridden & incapable), the acute awareness of all the lost time, and the existential resentment of having the luxury to be able to lie in a bed and ride it out while for so many people out there, a simple natural temporary illness can be ruinous on so many critical, sometimes even fatal, ways.

Being physically incapable of exercising like normal and being too exhausted to write (or merely even think), trapped in a state of weakness and incapability, not being able to fight the fight for self-improvement…that’s what really made it such a miserable past few days for me.

Also, 4 days spent sleeping and waking up only to use the bathroom and eat…I don’t even want to look at my scale right now..

As Close to Paleo as I Get

As it turns out, four bean salad is pretty awesome. Make a giant bowl of it for the week, nuke a Casual Gourmet red pepper chicken sausage (get ’em from Costco), and throw it on a bed of greens. Flavorful, filling, and economically efficient.

  

Pushing Past the Plateau

Things on the physical front have been moving along in the same manner as my cognitive-behavioral efforts have: undocumented online, but still moving along steadily. I clicked into the cateogry archives to see when my last weight loss related entry was posted, and was surprised by the category description that loaded in the page header:

 

After some quick elementary school level mental math, the realization that I’ve been at this for three years now and am nowhere near completion started to nag at me. I haven’t updated since April to give myself time to focus on doing the work so that I’d actually have an update to make – March & April, I was having another one of those episodes of “unhelpful thinking”, and I overeat as a stress reliever in that mental space. For the past three weekends, I’ve kept telling myself “one more week” of activity before I start posting again.

Comparing my measurements and photos now to those back in March/April, there isn’t much difference on a surface level. I’m consistently weighing in a couple pounds lighter, and the targetted measurements at each body part is still more or less in the same range as before. Even though I’m still a ways off from a flat stomach & abs, all the activity has definitely had a great effect on me below the waist: I’ve started to build that desired “thigh gap”, and all of my leg muscles feel far more toned and strengthened.

Even though my running activity is higher now than it was when I first started occassionally running a couple miles as far back as 2010/2011, my body isn’t as responsive to my running activity as it used to be. Even with increased activity and dietary improvements, I’ve hit a wall. Though most people balk at the fact that I run 20 miles a day and would label me as highly active,, my insights from AddApp – a third party health data aggregator/parsing service – tell me otherwise.

My 5.2 miles that I try to do daily is only half of what I apparently should be doing each day. And both in my writing and to myself, I’ve been saying for a good while that I need to step up my game. Lately, I’ve taken to trying to wake up early in the morning to go for at least a short 3 mile run, clocking in over 8 miles for the day once the evening run is completed. So far, it’s definitely been testing my endurance and resolve. For the past couple weeks, my calves have been screaming at me for a break as soon as I step foot out the door.

Even then, that’s just a start. I did a search on bodybuilding.com for profiles that had my age/height/goal weight and a “fit” target body fat percentage, and pulled four random photos from the first page of results.

While I’m definitely much closer than I was a couple years back, there’s still so much more to go before I get there. I’m going to have to start implementing weight training, yoga, and crossfit into my routine, both long overdue additions. Not having much core/upper body/arm strength, I’ve been procrastinating and focusing soley on running to avoid dealing with the heavy soreness and pitiful performance that you have to overcome when you’re first starting to build muscle groups.

It’s a struggle, this quest for physical fitness. One of the biggest things I’ve learned from the process is a broader sense of compassion and understanding to extend to others. I know very well how hard it is to get motivated, to take that intial action, to stay focused and not fall back into bad sedentary & dietary habits. Then there’s the time, mental, and financial investments. Learning basic nutrition and anatomy, building a diet, having to go grocery shopping, having to cook, having to clean up, having to track of perishables and minimizing waste…it’s a lot of extra minutae to have to deal with. It makes me especially sympathetic to single parents who don’t have a family/friend support network to fall back on. The demands of modern life can easily make daily survival and personal health mutually exclusive.

Bringing my focus off the world at large and back on to myself, all there really is left to do is to get it done – and according to my Withings smart scale, I’ve officially hit the point where there’s actually a point in post updates to this blog category as of July 2nd. Time to push on up to the next level.

Regaining Momentum

Last month, physically, was a massive setback. Most of the first quarter of 2015 has been spent wrestling with light medical complications, stress eating, personal disinterest, and good old fashioned laziness. In the process of clawing my way out of the recent funk I’ve been in, I’ve been treating my workouts less like to-do list items and more like militaristic mandates – get the work done, no matter what.

In truth, what really helped snap me back into focus was an email update I got from Memoir resurfacing a post from last year. Finding myself in the present weighing almost 10 lbs more than I did back then, I immediately started to get back to running regularly, in addition to adding light dumbbell and body weight activities.

When I stepped on the scale this weekend, I was fluctuating between 198-202 lbs., which is halfway back to where I left off when I was on top of my game late 2014. Normally, this is where I’d put together one of those “Measurement Monday” posts, but I’m not exactly eager to begin quantifying myself since I’m still in the process of losing weight I’d already very recently lost before.

Even without the numbers, there’s still some noticeable improvements taking place. Though I’m not back to my record lightest at 192lbs, my clothes fit me closer to the way they did then rather than the last time I was in this present weight range. The dude-boobs are withering away and starting to take on the shape of pectoral muscles, I’m starting to form curvature in the gluten and getting rid of my flat “office ass”, and I’m slowly and steadily building the lump on my arms.

As long as I don’t falter on my commitment to not breaking again, it shouldn’t be before long until I’m back to the old peak shape and pushing the record further.

Going the Wrong Way

Last weekend, I resolved to actively get back on task with the fitness efforts, to undo the damage I did over the winter and resume making actual progress. The very next day, I had a stumble while I was a mile and half into my run and gave myself a moderate ankle sprain – enough to where the pain resulting from the application of even the slightest pressure causing me to have to take the day after off from work.

Through the rest of the week, I’ve been getting around with a funny gait. It’s healed quickly enough to where I’m able to walk normally, but even now I’m still feeling random spasms that tell me that trying to get back to running so soon would be a poor judgement call. Being effectively benched for the week and not being able to practice my better exercise habits, my nutriotional ones have followed in suit.

In other words, I’ve been indulging heavily in food, and have undoubtedly added even more pounds that I’m going to have to make up for. The turn of the new year did very little for me by way of inspiring that sense of change and a fresh start. However, the passing of another birthday has more than made up for it. Even with a bum ankle, there’s no shortage of alternative action I could have taken to keep myself aligned with the long-term goals. It’s very easy to rationalize inaction, and that’s something that I should be much more efficient at managing by this point in life. Especially since I know where I ultimately end up, in this very place I find myself now: feeling like I’ve failed, and angry at myself for having afforded myself weak excuses.