Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Forget to Rest at Your Peril, Fat Man

Time for a break.

After last night’s breakthrough I decided to take a break tonight.

Today, I forgot.

I was a mess at the gym. Started strong with 9 minutes on the stair climber and 3 sets of ball squats and shoulder presses, both with 25 lb dumbells. But when I started the bands, my shoulders just ran out of gas. I had several false starts on different routines, but when I could not complete any of the first four, I decided to take a pass and make it a cardio night.

That is until I had to quit after 10 minutes on the elliptical.

It’s a good time for a rest.

Hey, check out the link to the Step Out! walk to fight diabetes. I won’t ask you to read ads, but I do hope I can ask you to support my exercise habit from time to time.

You can pledge right online. Just go to my page on the ADA website. The thermometer will keep you updated on how we’re coming on our goal.

Diabetes is keeping an awful lot of fat men and women from running. It has its fingers on the Pennsy family and it probably has them in yours too. Let’s help out together, huh?


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

At Long Last, The Fat Man Does You Know What

I really needed tonight’s workout. It was a full day at work. I’m starting a new project - implementing a CRM system. It’s the kind of thing I love to sink my teeth into. It’s also the kind of thing that can completely absorb me. This is the part where I start working 12-14 hour days, losing sleep, and gazing blankly into space. I’m determined not to let that happen this time. I am going to stick to the discipline of my workouts. Who knows, I may even do a better job if I’m not obsessing about it.

Iron work today. I started with the machines and was wasted by the time I got to the free weights. I did manage to press out all my reps on the bench, but the dumbells were pretty much a failure. two sets of curls, but only one of shoulder presses. I felt good and wrung out.

My cardio workout was a double milestone. I did 8 minutes on the Stair climber. That’s not very impressive, but it is a personal best. On the treadmill, I ran two miles. Ran. Two. Miles. I can’t really put into words how happy that makes me. Almost 2.25 miles in 30 minutes. I’ve been wanting to run so much. Today I felt like I could run like Forrest. I stopped after half an hour which was my plan. It’s about two hours since I ran, and I don’t feel any pain anywhere.

I feel like a kid. I feel hope.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Chasing the Gremlin

Mrs P thought it was funny that my ankle felt better but my shoulder hurt.

“It’s like you have a gremlin running around sticking a fork into different joints.”

So, gremlin it is -- the naughty creature that does no real harm, but skitters around my body while I try to chase him out with cold packs and muscle cream.

The image kind of takes the sting out of the little fellow, actually. This one was drawn by an artist named Morthern. I found him on Gremlins Online. You can look for him there, or in whichever part of my body hurts next.

I went to Promatx at lunch today to try a mid-day workout. I asked Brad if he thought I should take a break between resistance days and he said I could probably alternate days, Bands Monday, Weights Tuesday, etc. The exercises are very different so following them one day after the other shouldn't do any harm. I'll experiment and see what my body has to say.

Of course now I have to find a way to get all this work in during waking hours. Maybe I’ll try to just get half an hour of cardio in everyday and alternate with the resistance training for a while.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tale of the Tape, The Fat Man Shrinketh


Body Fat %

Resting HR


L Biceps15.5160.5
R Biceps1616.50.5
L Forearm12.512.25(0.25)
R Forearm1313Ø
L Thigh29.5300.5
R Thigh3030Ø
L Calf20.2520(0.25)
R Calf20.520(0.5)

Counting on the Fat Man

My weight was higher this week than last, 366 instead of 362, but then I had just done an hour and a half of cardio before last week’s weigh in. I could easily have dropped that much water weight and more with a long workout. This Sunday was weights, not running. It’s probably a more reliable number. I hope I’m not rationalizing this. I worked out five days this week, and ate pretty cleanly, mostly fruits and raw veggies at the meetings and fish, chicken, and salads at night.

I got a body fat detecto-gizmo on Amazon. It looks just like the one that they use at the gym and the readings are close enough that I feel confident using it. My body fat today is 33.1 which is a little lower than two weeks ago. I’ll try to set a consistent time to take that reading so I can get a decent baseline.

Mrs P is going to get out the tape tonight and we’ll do some measurements. Of all the numbers in my life, those are the ones I anticipate will have changed most radically. There is just no debating the fact that my body looks and feels smaller.

The big news of the week for me is that on Friday I ran a full mile for the first time since starting my program. I expected it to be more exhilarating than it was, but it was in the middle of a thirty minute run/walk so I didn’t really have time for a victory dance. Next stop, 1.5 miles without stopping. I just hope it doesn’t take another three months to get there.

Working out was a huge mental boost for me this week. I had all the stress I expected and more at work, but being able to pound it out in the gym really helped me to stay human and sane. None of my “spells” this week.

Back to the iron today. I returned to the weight machines to see how the week of resistance bands had affected me. To tell the truth, I felt a little weaker, but I was able to finish my sets by taking longer breaks between. I may try some combination of bands and machines to keep working the muscles in different ways

The ankle continues to improve, though my left shoulder feels a little sore. I don’t remember hurting it, just discovering that it felt a little queer. I’ll keep an eye on it the next time I do arm work.

Don't tell my horsey friend alykat, but I actually made my first trip to Keeneland this week and did not hate it. The grounds are beautiful. The athletes are beautiful. The girls are beautiful. I don't expect I will ever be a racing fan. I would much rather watch horses running naked in a pasture, but there are much worse ways to spend an afternoon in the Bluegrass than watching beautiful stuff while the guy next to you wins $200 on a $5 bet.

All things considered, a good day at the end of a good week. It’s nice to be the Pennsyltuckian.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fat Man, Heal thy Heel

The low grade soreness in my right Achilles tendon has lasted long enough to get my attention. it isn’t painful, just sore. Warming up usually loosens it up and it isn’t preventing me from working out, though I have had to shorten my stride considerably on the treadmill. I don’t want it to get worse, so I did some homework.

As you can see from this drawing that I found on, the Achilles tendon is really big. It attaches the calf muscles to the very short lever at the back of the heel and allows the foot to flex. If you can stand on your toes, thank Achilles. This is one butch rope of tissue.

According to Dr. Stephen Pribut, DPM (that's a foot doc for the acronymically challenged), "Soreness” in a tendon is not something to ignore or "run through". Tendons don’t get sore like muscles do. Tendons hurt when they are injured. In other words, the discomfort I'm feeling isn't the result of normal exertion like when I lift heavy weights and my muscles feel especially "present" the next day. If a tendon hurts, that's not soreness, that's pain. A painful injured Achilles tendon is something to take seriously and requires immediate attention. Otherwise it will just get worse. The tendon can even rupture (tear) and break completely leaving a runner with months of expensive rehab and NO running while the surgically repaired tissue heals. A ruptured Achilles sucks most profoundly.

Like everything else involving health and the internet, there is plenty of controversy about what to do about Achilles pain, but these seem to be consensus opinions.

Dr Pribut's first instruction is one everyone agrees with: rest. You don’t have to stop exercising, but slow down. Ease up on things that put particular strain on the tendon: Hill running, Sprinting, Deep stretches of the calf muscles. Shoes with too soft a heel can also cause the Achilles to stretch too far after the foot's initial impact when you're running or walking. Running on your toes instead of your heels will wack you up. I think mine may be the result of too long a stride. Shortening up and taking more smaller steps is helping me. This tendon is terrifically strong because it sustains tremendous force, even during something as simple as walking. Like the cable and pulley on a weight machine, the Achilles is always under strain whenever the foot is in motion. So rule one is - go easy .


In an article in the Jewish World Review , Marlene Cimons (who lacks an acronym, but does her homework) reports that ice after exercise and heat before bed will help control inflamation and relax the gastrocnemius which is a very impressive word for calf muscle. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory can help - cortisone is wicked bad. Don't let the doc shoot you with it to ease the pain. Cortisone will make you feel better for a while, but it also weakens the fibers in the tendon making it even more prone to tear or rupture.

Massaging the calf can also help. Heel lifts, tape, and elastic braces can get you through the day, but still, only rest will allow the injury to heal.

CoolRunning has some good stretches for prevention and maintenance for runners. When returning from an Achilles injury, wall pushups and hamstring stretches are especially important. I have had some really bad results from the towel around the foot thing. I think I actually aggravated the injury by pulling too hard. Your mileage may vary.


The amazingly named, recommends some common sense things (stay fit, go easy, check for injury after your workout) and one really interesting one. When you do strength training and run on the same day - run first. Strength training is based on microscopic injury and healing of muscles. Running after weakening your muscles with resistance training just sets you up for further injury.


In a wise and funny essay called How Not to Treat and Achilles Injury by a writer named Wiltsey, this advice makes a lot of sense to me:

“Pain sucks”--This might seem obvious, but if it hurts, back off. Cut down your workout to minimal, preferably rest. Although this is anathema to most training athletes, better to miss a couple weeks than your entire season, like me.

My doctor gave me a simple rule to live by- “Let pain be your guide.” Simply, if it hurts, don’t do it and back off. A good recovery program is a must. Consult your coach, or begin with 5 minute sets of walking and every few days add thirty seconds of light jogging.

Achilles pain is really easy to fix unless you get stupid. Then it's really easy to make really really bad. Take it seriously and take it easy until it gets better.

That's what I learned in school today..

My big meeting concluded on Thursday and I went straight to the gym. I had a lot of steam to blow off.

I did a light warm up on the treadmill, then spent a long time stretching. I’m not noticing any increase in flexibility yet - but I am definitely feeling a much shorter recovery time so I can tell that stretching after warmups and after the workout itself is making a difference.

I worked out with the resistance bands and really tried to hold my form while going as fast as I could, snapping each rep against the resistance of the band. It still feels ridiculous when I do it, but my doubts all disappear the next day when my body lets me know that the exercises have done their work. I’m going to do a session with machines and some free weights on Saturday to measure my progress and keep my chops up.

And I guess I better spend some more time on the elliptical for a while.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Punching Rubber and Musings on my Inner Fat Man

I am still surprised at how much the resistance bands wear me out.

The movements Brad taught me emphasize velocity. Each one explodes from its starting point. So you start a chest press with the handles at your shoulders, then punch both arms straight forward as fast as you can. I have tried this kind of movement with weights and it is very hard to keep them under control. It also bangs the joints. The resistance bands don’t seem to stress the joints at all. And sitting here three hours after my workout, I can feel that my muscles were just as surprised as I was.

A nice half hour of intervals on the elliptical finished off the sweaty part of the night, then stretches, a sauna, and shower.

I’m still pretty stoked about yesterday’s weigh-in, but there's thin ice ahead. The next few days are going to be stressful at work. I am only planning to take Wednesday off at the gym, but getting there tomorrow is going to be a squeeze. We will be working in the conference room for most of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday which means little walking and lots of noshing. I’ll make sure there are plenty of veggies in arms reach. I really don’t want to backslide now.
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. - Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

A lot of the men at the gym workout in front of mirrors or watch themselves as they do curls or whatever. Maybe they’re watching their form, maybe their just admiring how great their muscles look. I don’t really look that great yet, so I avoid the mirrors. But here at home, I find myself feeling new shapes and ridges in my shoulders and arms that I’ve never felt before. my knees are actually smaller than my calves. My body is changing and it kind of fascinates me to watch the changes.

And sometimes I wonder, when my body has completed this strange metamorphosis, will I change on the inside? Will I be more confident? More assertive? Will I become a bully or a gentle giant? When I stop thinking that people see me as fat, what will I imagine that they see? What will I see?

Just like the sub-300 pound mark and the sub-40 inch waist, I guess I’ll have to wait to find out.

I’d hate to do all this work and just find a skinny fat man inside.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fat Man Bragging

January 19
Weight 405
BMI 49.3
Body Fat 43.8%

April 20
Weight 362 (Down 43 lbs/11%)
BMI 44.1 (Down 5.2 pts/10.5%)
Body Fat 33.5% (Down 10.3/23.5%)

I am fittn’ to bust.

Today I did my cardio. Knees and ankles all felt great. I did 96 minutes total. 6 on the stair climber and 30 each on the bike, the elliptical and the treadmill

I have also decided that while I admire Jeff Gallaway and find much wisdom in the things he says, I seem to feel better if I do some gentle stretching both after a 6-10 minute warmup walk and after my workout is finished. So there’s my conclusion after that brief experiment.

The weigh-in was such a shock that I looked to see if something was blocking the scale. I was hoping the week’s change of pace would pay off, but was not prepared for that kind of result. It seems like the fat melts in big bursts, not on a gradual smooth curve. I am really looking forward to seeing how the resistance bands might alter my results. they are much more of a cardio challenge than the weight machines have been (at least the way I’ve been using them).

And just look at that BMI! Soon I won't be Morbidly Obese any more. I'll just be plain old obese. Now hows that for a goal?

I’m going to go mow the lawn now. I feel so good, I don’t want to sit still.

By the way, check out today's Pennsyltuckian for a review of a book I really enjoyed. Maybe you will like it too.


Book Review: Through the Outhouse Floor

Here's a thought experiment for you.

What if Garrison Keillor and Erma Bombeck had a daughter, married her off to a former Navy Submariner, and sent them both to Africa to translate the Bible into a language that until recently had no written tradition?

You might wind up with a book as honest, compelling, and moving as Through the Outhouse Floor by Barbara Thomas.

In the preface of her charming memoir of a missionary family's life among the Komo people of Zaire, Thomas relates a conversation that informs the tone of all that follows. Soon after her arrival in Africa, she commiserated with a more experienced missionary about the inadequate preparation she had received for the difficulties of her new life. "Why didn't they tell us what it's really like?" The answer was that writing about the daily difficulties and anxieties of life in the mission field had always been considered an unseemly sign of weakness - an admission of human failings among people whose ministry can at times seem something more than human to those of us who choose to stay home in the land of iPods and liposuction. It has not been considered "fashionable" to talk about such mundane details.

Ms. Thomas' writing fills the void with rigorous honesty. She and her husband Paul both discerned a call to mission work early in their lives - before they had even met they wanted to carry the Gospel overseas. Once they were wed, they began the long preparation for work as linguists in Africa - translating the Bible into Komo.

This is a self-portrait without pretense. In their home, a case of Malaria is as common as a head-cold. She and her family are tormented by insects, bullies, international conflicts and local bureaucrats. Privacy seems non-existent. Surprise visitors appear in the windows, stroll through the front door, and invite themselves along on bone-jarring journeys over (usually) impassable roads. Komo hospitality is far less reserved than the kind practiced in the American Midwest of her youth, and Thomas is candid about resenting the imposition. At times she can appear to be peevish or even downright selfish.

Much of this modest author's power comes from her willingness to share her own flaws. That candor about the flesh's weakness helps us to trust her when she turns her attention to the spirit's strength.

But don't let the hardships fool you - this is a very funny book (its title comes from an anecdote about a decaying privy, after all.) In one scene after many years in the forest, she explains to her queasy visiting mother-in-law that the fat caterpillars her son has carried into the house taste just like lobster if you cook them right. In another, she and her husband, Paul share a romantic stroll under the setting African sun. In their hands they carry pails to collect dung for their garden. After a chilling night when Paul awakens to discover a burglar reaching through their bedroom window to steal their short-wave radio, the family acquires a fiercely protective German Shepherd and quite publicly names him Nkoki Bakukuba - "Biter of Thieves".

Through all these events, Thomas trusts in God's plan for her family and for the village of Lubutu that comes to be their home. She sees herself as a sort of a pioneer housewife quietly going about the business of raising a family while her husband does the important work of translating and preaching the gospel.

She says that she is writing to give people a realistic picture of the difficulties missionaries face and she succeeds, but her book shows us much more than that. Through the Outhouse Floor is a love story. Barbara Thomas loves her family. She loves the African people, and she loves God. She writes about love without sentiment and without lyricism, and in so doing takes us on an open-eyed journey of personal sacrifice and transformation that opens the mind, softens the heart, and gives the laugh muscles a good long workout.

As a 21st century liberal Christian, I am philosophically uncomfortable about missionaries. In a way, the entire enterprise smacks of paternal colonialism. Is is appropriate for the western church - so plagued by it's own deep flaws - to set about exporting our religion to other parts of the world? What makes our culture so superior to the ones we seek to transform?

Thomas leaves such theoretical meanderings to folks like me with nothing better to do. She is busy being a mother, wife, friend, neighbor, and citizen in a community where she is the only white woman for miles. She tends her garden, teaches her children, and comes to love and admire the Komo people whom God has called her to serve.

She sets out to be a missionary to the people of Zaire, and winds up being their sister in Christ. Now that's a mission even this left wing nut can get behind.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gum-Banz for Pennsy

If you didn’t grow up in the region of Pennsyltucky where I was raised, you probably never heard of gum-banz. They’re those rubber loops you use to wrap around a bundle of one dollar bills or hold your ponytail in place or shoot at your little sister. Folks from other places call them “rubber bands” but that just seems like a waste of letters to me.

Today I learned to exercise using great big gum-banz. It looks like something a sissy would do. Any sissy who can do the workout Brad taught me today, can have my lunch money anytime.

Let me describe this workout to you, because it sounds as crazy as it looks. Trust me, it isn't nearly as funny from the inside.

You start by bouncing a medicine ball - this ball is about the size of a basketball and weighs 6 or eight pounds - I don’t remember. You hold it up over your head, and slam it into the floor as hard as you can. Then you catch it and do it again. After about 90 seconds of this, I was warmed up and beginning a good soaking sweat.

Next is an exercise where you hold a ball with handles on both sides. You stagger your stance, then twist and reach down, as if you were picking up a watermelon. You explode up and across your body and reach high in the opposite direction.

Then we put the balls away and got out the resistance bands. Brad showed me how to clip them through a snap hook on the wall and do chest presses, rows, squat presses, oblique twists, and some crazy thing that I swear he made up on the spot. You bend down, press up, bend to the right, press up, bend to the left, press up, then bend down again. It was the end of the workout and I think I did two.Brad considered the prospect of giving me CPR on the floor of the gym, then agreed to let me stop for the day. He couldn’t think of a name for this last devilish exercise so I just suggested we call it the Bradley.

Oh, we also did my first real bench press with a barbell and everything. I felt like a kid again. Though I seem to remember benching a lot more weight when I was a kid.

I made my way to the treadmill with my shirt soaked, my arms numb, and my lower lip hanging helplessly from my slackened jaw.

My neighbor on the next machine chuckled knowingly. “Well, how was your session with Ol’ Blood and Guts?”

“That guy just whipped my butt with a big rubber band.”

“Yeah, he’s good at that.”

He is, actually.

This is just the sort of thing I wanted to add to my routine. It is a full-body workout with plenty for the limbs and the core. If my muscles were used to the weight machines, they are going to be doing some very new stuff. I’m going to stick with the bands for a week or so until I feel like I’ve learned them, then I’ll start mixing weights back in.

It is a fantastic spring day in the Bluiegrass. I came home last night and did some cleanup in the yard, then got out the old hand clippers and gave the hedges a haircut first thing this morning. Its the first time I’ve done any real yard work since I started going to the gym. I could feel a real difference in my strength and endurance. Nice to be able to do something around the yard and not wind up gasping for air.

All in all, a good day for the Fat Man.

Peace, and happy Passover.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Adding Sleepy Back Muscles to my Workout

Did I say I did about ten minutes on the stair climber Tuesday night? That was obviously a lie. I may have spent ten minutes figuring the thing out, but tonight I did three minutes (a new personal record, by the way) and my butt was certifiably kicked. I felt like one of those guys behind old Judah Ben Hur. I spent most of my post-weight-lifting cardio on the elliptical, followed by a long slow stroll on the treadmill, just to see if the knee would stay settled down. It’s been a little over two hours now, and It feels pretty good.

I introduced a couple of new exercises into the weight regimen. Brad suggested that my program was imbalanced, placing too much emphasis on pushing (chest and arms) and not enough on pulling (shoulders and back). My back has most of the history you might expect from an obese middle-aged man, so I’m eager to do whatever will strengthen things back there. I tried a couple of new machines. Both are rowing machines. On one you pull handles straight toward you horizontally and on the other you lean forward with your chest on a bench support and pull up diagonally. I was able to pull a reasonable amount of weight, and completed my sets. Sitting here at my keyboard, I am feeling (yes, I’m going to say it) muscles I didn’t know I had. High in my back, between the points of my shoulder blades, I can tell that something was working that isn’t used to it. It isn’t sore, exactly. Just kind of alive in that jolted suddenly awake way that Molly gets when you sneak up on her during a nap.

I'm going to try the cable rowing machine next time.

Saturday morning, Brad is going to teach me some free-weight exercises, just to change up my routine a little. Maybe that will get the fat furnace burning again.

It feels good to wake up sleeping muscles. But not as good as running that first full mile is going to feel. Patience. Patience.


Caught from Behind -- for a Day

The Boogerman got me.

I am determined not to write a mental health blog or a depression diary or anything like that. There are plenty of great ones and my voice won't add much to that river of information.

Still, I am running for my life and that means acknowledging the things I'm running from now and again.

I am running from a bipolar disorder.

Yesterday, it caught me.

My reaction to my meeting with Brad really surprised me. Everything he had to say was good news, but it hit me as if he had said, "Give it up, Fatboy. You're going nowhere fast." I knew something was wrong in my head, but the Bipolar Boogerman has been so quiet since I started working out that I guess I dropped my guard. I've been taking my meds, and combined with the well-documented mental health benefits of exercise, I guess I figured I had the old man licked.

Looks like he can still catch me from behind when he puts his mind to it.

My mind was racing Tuesday night. No way I could have gone to sleep. I was up until 2:30 reading and writing. Mrs P made an appointment for us to take Molly to the vet Wednesday morning and by the time I woke up, I was certain we were taking her in to put her to sleep. She's a very tired, old lady and like so many big dogs, she has a lot of trouble with her hips. I latched onto the idea of losing her and crashed into the trough of the emotional wave that had kept me up so late the night before. I was a bear to Mrs P all morning, and by the time we were in the exam room with the doctor, I was breaking down sobbing as I told him about Molly's troubles. He and my patient wife discussed the science while I held my Golden Retriever close and prayed. It turns out I was the only one in the room with euthanasia on his mind. Doc and Mrs P arrived at a plan after considering several options, then Molly had some blood drawn and got her nails done. We pulled out of the parking lot with our little old granny dog happily gazing out the back window of my car.

I had lost all sense of emotional proportion and I knew I was screwed. I went back to the house and instead of just dropping the ladies off and going on to the office, I got my computer and went inside. In the living room, my heart was racing and I called in sick for the rest of the day. I had a good lunch, a Healthy Choice® frozen thing, then went to bed and slept for about nine hours. When I woke up, my dog was still alive, my wife hadn't left me, and I had been suitably humbled by my old nemesis - the Boogerman isn't melting away any faster than the fat man is.

This morning I feel much better. I'm sure my knee will appreciate the day off, and my thoughts and emotions are much more clear. Nobody is dying here. Not today anyway.

The fact that this episode hit so hard comes as a real surprise to me. I usually notice the warning signs and am better prepared. On the other hand, the fact that it passed in about a day is something I take as a very good sign. The old man may have knocked me down, but this time I had a really good reason to get back up, and that's what I've done.

The truth is, I have always had those reasons. A wife I love and who loves me beyond all reason. A job that challenges me every day. A house full of animals who teach me about affection and honesty. A workplace full of talented colleagues who teach me about honor and perseverance. Only now that the fat man is running, I realize that I might actually have a role to play in all that as well. I can be a person who is worthy to stand with all those people and even benefit them once in a while.

A fat man running is a fat man who has decided to stay alive for one more day.

It's good to be alive.

Eat my dust, Boogerman.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You Talking to Me? - or the Tale of the 300 lb Chicken

I worked cardio tonight. About 7 minutes in the stair climber, 30 on the elliptical, 30 on the recumbent bike, and another 15 on the treadmill to cool down. The left knee and right Achilles' tendon both felt better afterwards. Still trying the stretchless workout. I haven’t noticed any ill effects yet.

Are you talking to me?

Tonight, I feel stranger than I have since I started working out. I met with Brad, the owner and head of Promatx today for my quarterly progress review.

We talked about nutrition, of course. I have some things I can do better now. Need to work harder on eating more small meals throughout the day. Right now, I have carbs in the morning and fats and protein in the evening. I need to even that out some.

Having a trainer tell me that I need to eat more was a real shock. But there was an even bigger one.

“What is your goal?”, Brad asked.

“I want to lose 200 lbs.”

“How would you feel about changing that?”

We had just measured my body fat,and it turns out that in order to reach my target weight, I will have to lose almost 50 lbs of lean muscle along with the fat. I was confused. So what should my target be?

Based on my current lean body weight, if I get my body fat down to 18% (not bad for a man of 47) I would weigh 304 lbs! Were I to get down to 10% body fat (pretty fit for anyone of any age) I would weigh around 277.

These numbers have really rattled me. Especially when I consider that since I started working out, I have gained 19 lbs of muscle and lost 53 lbs of fat.

See what’s happening there? My lean weight (in red) is increasing almost 40% as fast as my fat weight (blue) is going down. I don’t have the patience to work the figures at this hour, but it appears to me that if my muscle weight keeps increasing at this rate, I will be at 10% body fat at right around 300 lbs.

I am going to be a trim, muscular 300 lb man. That sentence freaks me out for reasons I can’t even begin to explain. The words seem so incongruous - pounds -- I can’t even picture what that will look like. It certainly won’t look like anything I have ever imagined myself being.

It’s one thing to count your chickens before they’re hatched, but I’m starting to realize that there’s a very big chicken waiting to peck its way out of this blubbery shell and the bird scares me a little.

Jeremy Likness has posted a series of before/after pictures of himself as he reduced from 30+% to 10% body fat. (245 to 188 lbs)

Frankenpennsy will be 6 inches taller and 112 pounds heavier. - It that even possible? And will I really look that imposing in robin's egg blue underpants? This may send me to the shrink a few months early.


Stormy Monday

I listen to SRV and Albert King and I understand why Robert Johnson went to the Crossroads.

Last night at the gym? Feh. Could have been better.

I’m sticking with just lifting weights for my upper body. I set new Personal Records on several weight stations today. The Shoulder Press is still at 50 (2 25 lb dumb bells) but that is a new exercise I'm trying this week, so I don’t expect those muscles to be ready to grow yet.

Cardio was half an hour of intervals on the elliptical. I really need to stay off the treadmill, but I want to run so much. My knees just aren’t interested in my fitness goals right now.

My weigh-in was a disappointment. I gained three pounds. I’ve been eating too much red meat and too many “healthy” snacks like nuts (and maybe a cheeseburger or two). I need to stick to fruits and other low fat things when I want to nosh.

My last plateau was after a 20 lb weight loss, so this may turn out to be a pattern. I want to pay close attention to see if there are behavioral factors too. Do I “reward” myself with food when I’ve lost that much? I’m not sure, but if so that’s a pattern worth changing.

I hate having to pay so much attention to my food. Thinking about eating just makes me want to eat. I’ll find a way to deal with that - one that doesn’t involve chocolate or a drive-through window.

Today is my quarterly review with the trainer. We’ll take measurements, body fat, BMI, all that. I’m looking forward to it. In spite of the small set-backs, I know I’ve made real progress in the last three months. I’ll be glad to see what the new numbers look like.

I’m thinking that one way to work through a plateau is to do something different - to change the exercises that my body is getting used to. I’ll ask for some counsel in that area tonight.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Expert du Jour - Jeff Galloway

I did ninety minutes of cardio today. A long, gentle run/walk on the treadmill, and a half hour on the elliptical. I really wanted to do 10K on the treadmill, but the left knee said it was time to step off, so I did. I wasn’t really paying attention to speed at all, just trying to listen to my body - run when i was ready, stop when it was time.

Weigh in tomorrow - I peeked at the scale today and am officially at a plateau. I have my quarterly check in with the trainer (Brad is my new man - Jordan is off playing professional football which I find to be incredibly cool). I’ll see what his thoughts are about how to get the fat burning motor started again.


I read a book this week, Running - Getting Started by Jeff Galloway. He’s a blogger and a columnist for Runner’s World and a 1972 Olympian, so I figured he had some valuable things to teach me. And so he did.

The thrust of his message to beginners is to avoid the pitfalls that make most people give up. He suggests a run/walk approach where you begin a run by walking at a very slow pace, then gently work your way up to short runs, stopping to walk again before you become breathless and tired. in this way, you avoid “overdoing” that causes the kind of fatigue and soreness that discourages so many new runners.

He had some things to say that surprised me. He does not think runners should lift weights, especially lower body exercises because they build up heavy muscle that you’re just going to have to haul around when you’re running.

He is also very much against stretching, (except in the case of IT band injury) which really caught me up short. His position is that stretching almost always does more harm than good, reduces your performance, and increases your recovery time.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone suggest that stretching was bad for you. Still, this is a very respected and experienced dude. I’m going to experiment with the no stretch thing for a couple of days, but it still sounds really weird to me.

It is a good book, though. Gallaway obviously loves running, and loves helping others to run. His passion shines from every page. I don’t intend to spend too much time reading books about running, but I think this one will be useful to me for a long time.


Still, a good day to be Pennsy. Thanks to lynross for posting this beautiful photo on Webshots. The Bluegrass flora are starting to bud and bloom. I sure do love me some Kentucky today.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Fat Man & his Wife Do It in Public (for the first time!)

Mrs P and I shared a cool experience today. I go to the gym straight from work. She usually arrives a little later. Today, She walked in the front door when I had been on the elliptical for about 30 minutes.

I have been telling her about the machine - my early difficulties, how gentle it is on my joints, what a great workout it is. She had not tried it. We’re both a little clumsy and self conscious about looking foolish, so we are shy about trying to do new things in public.

Well, today, she walked up to me, batted her big brown eyes and said, “Show me how this thing works.”

I was so proud of her!

I stopped what I was doing, and moved down the line to a place where two machines were empty side by side. I tried to remember all the things I had done wrong early on - don’t rush, don’t lock your knees, keep your balance, stay in control - then she stepped on to the foot pads and I showed what all the buttons did. We walked together side-by-side, a fat man running and his lovely bride, sweating through life together. And neither of us gave a rat’s patoot who saw us or what we looked like. She looked like the prettiest girl in the gym. And I probably looked like the happiest boy.

After a week of constant griping about my sore swollen, chafed, strained, aching, limping parts, it was really nice to just enjoy a walk with my sweetheart. It felt like Valentine’s day.

Only the air smelled like liniment instead of chocolate and roses.

Smelled pretty good, too.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Aches and Pains

I turned into the grumpy old fat man today but can't remember why. Someone slipped me a roofie and beat my legs with pipes at lunch time. The knees were stiff and the right ankle had a strange tightness in the Achilles' tendon. I had planned to just work upper body today, with light jogging after.

A whole day of work didn’t seem to achieve anything. The upside of all that frustration is that I usually set new personal bests on the weights, today I improved my curls, flies, and shoulder press.

I stretched after lifting and hit the treadmill- walked/ran quarter-mile intervals for two miles. The ankle felt gradually better as I warmed up -- It actually felt easier to run than to walk . When I was done though, I could tell that I had been favoring my right leg. My left knee is hurting, my mysterious right ankle hurts, my old right knee thing is better, but just wanted to join in to be sociable. a sauna and a shower made my head feel better, but not my creaking joints.

Much as I hate to, I am going to back off the running for a while. Walking and the elliptical are going to have to be my cardio workouts until I lose some serious pounds.

I sure feel good from the waist up, but man I could use a soak in a jacuzzi.


Monday, April 7, 2008

The Angry Red Monster "down there"

It had to happen sooner or later. In the aftermath of yesterday's run, I discovered that angry red monster between my legs -- no not that, you cheeky monkey -- I mean chafing thighs.

I immediately flashed back to attempts to run in high school and college. Inevitably, this it what sent me back to the La-Z-Boy. It aggravates two of my key fears - being fat, and getting hurt while exercising. I don't think it qualifies as an injury per-se, but it will definitely knock me out of the game if it gets much worse. Given my size and my genes, I expect this is always going to be an issue for me, so I did some research. Powders and Vaseline are both recommended to prevent rubbing, but my experience with powder is that I sweat it off, and vaseline just seems to make my thighs sticky. This results in more friction and a sort of deep fryer effect. There are lots of home recipies that people like, but the one I see the most is a combination of 1) Spandex compression shorts and 2) Body Glide, a fearfully expensive product that an awful lot of runners swear by. It turns out that this isn't just a fat man's problem.

I managed to find one source for giant spandex shorts (now there's a phrase that shouldn't be spoken out loud) so I'm going to try that combination. (Another $35 investment - I guess that makes up for the bargain I got on my shoes). I don't plan another long trot until next weekend, so I'll have time to heal (I'm trying triple antibiotic ointment which is Mrs P's panacea, and some time on the elliptical until the swelling goes down.

I'm doing several things wrong "down there" as it turns out. cotton shorts are a bad plan for a big sweater because they get wet and stay wet, making them rub all the more. Some folks even get chafed, bleeding nipples (pause for my head to stop spinning) when they run in cotton tee shirts. Baggy shorts make things worst, because they rub, and they ride up your leg. Also, boxers may let the boys swing free in the breeze, but they also let them rub against the thigh, creating even more friction, chafing where no man should ever chafe, and in the worst case I care to think about, causing a hideous condition called testicular torsion which sounds like something that happens when you sit on an electric drill. I'll be switching to something a bit less cottony and more snuggly at once.

Oh and I have a great fitness tip for travelers. Don't do a long run, then sit in a car for four hours. Mrs P and I had to take a trip to Southern KY yesterday after the gym, and by the time I got back home, my knees felt like they were full of broken glass. I'm thinking that a long run followed by cramped stillness in the passenger seat of a Malibu is a really bad combination.

I slathered on the Ben-Gay, but the pain still kept me up most of the night.

Today's workout will focus on the upper-body, I think.


Fat Man Running by the Numbers

Today, was a good day for me. While Charlie was running under the cherry blossoms in D.C., I was on the treadmill doing a run/walk of 4 miles in 55:56. I actually ran more than I walked - three quarters of a mile at a clip a couple of times. Very slowly, 4.5 mph, but picking them up and putting them down. So, a little math. at this pace (13.9 mph) I could complete a 5K in just under 45 minutes.

On the other hand, if I could actually jog the whole way at 4.5 (the running speed I did today) I could finish in just under 43 minutes. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable goal - to run an entire 5K race by June. I think I can do it.

The 10K in July may be a different story...

Oh, and the weigh in was not great, but I did not experience the dreaded backslide. Lost one pound this week (probably during today’s run!) I’m at 369 and counting to my next milepost, 90% of my original body weight will have dripped onto the treadmill belt in just 5 more pounds. What a day that will be.

I’ll probably celebrate with a Mint Oreo Blizzard.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Recovering from Runner's Knee - One Expert at at Time

It’s been a while since I have taken the time to post. That usually means I’ve been goofing off, but not this week. I made it to the gym six out of the last seven days, which has been my plan all along. I’ve actually been spending a lot of time researching runner’s knee.

Sports medicine turns out to be a lot like nutrition -anybody with a keyboard and an internet account can be an expert. I have read every possible variation on how to treat this injury, from ice to heat, from compression bandages to surgery. The one that finally made the most sense to me was Dr. Lewis G. Maharam on Runner's World. (It is me, or does The Running Doc look like he could be Christopher Hitchens' sober younger brother?) Basically he says, “Look, your knee hurts because the muscles around it aren’t strong enough yet. Until you fix that, you will just keep hurting your knees. Here are some exercises that will help you make them stronger.”

I know -- just another expert. But this one made even more sense than the last one who seemed to make sense so I gave his treatment a try. I also started stretching for a good long time before and after my workout, and slathered the old Ben-gay® on quite liberally.

The aroma does not make me particularly popular on the gym floor, but the cure is working. I have decreased my range of motion on both the leg presses and extensions to focus on the quads without grinding my knee cap any further. I’m also spending a lot of time stretching the hamstrings and the groin. Stretching the quads will have to wait until the knee is better, unless someone can suggest a way to stretch your quads without bending your knee.

I’ve also put the ice pack back in the freezer. It may be that it’s done all it was going to do, or it may be that it was just making the joint stiff, I don’t know. What I do know is that knee feels better when I get home, and feels almost fine when I wake up in the morning.

I may keep the little knee strap for a while. (Pennsy's knees are - well - meatier.) It’s kind of a mental crutch and Mrs P thinks it makes me look sexy.

And that, as they say in the Visa Commercials, is priceless.

The last two days, I’ve tried splitting my workouts, upper body one day and lower body the next, with half an hour of cardio after. I don’t exactly have a program yet, but at least I have a plan.

I have snuck a peek or two at the scale this week, and it looks like the lighter workouts are going to show up at my weigh-in tomorrow. I would rather not slow down the weight loss, but I thought it made sense to slow down and get the knee back in shape. I really want to be up and running soon, but I want to be ready.


I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. –George Bernard Shaw

( Is it me, or does GBS look like he could be SC's older drunken brother?)
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