When possible I try and run on the shoulder of the road rather than the sidewalk. The sidewalk “panels” can raise and buckle based on the ground shifting or tree roots. And this morning I hit one of those little lifts with my foot with about half a mile to go in my four miler. Just like that, I was on my way down.
Then something curious happened.
My abs engaged, and my hips fired forward, and my step cadence increased, and before I knew what happened, I was back on my feet and running. My hands had not even hit the ground. Now, I know that I did not look graceful (there was a car at a nearby stop sign that almost certainly saw me – wonder what they thought), and I know that I’m a clumsy oaf.
But I also know that I was able to quickly engage my body in such a way that I did not fall down. And I could feel it happening.
Seems like a silly thing, I know, but my core is stronger than it has ever been. My balance, which I suck so badly at when we work on it at the gym, is improving. And I was able to divert disaster in a way that I’m convinced I could not have done even six months ago.
I learned something this morning. Functional fitness doesn’t just mean picking up heavy things or running away from something or jumping over something. It also can mean remaining on your feet when there is every reason to bust your ass.
The one time in my life when I semi-seriously lifted weights, the guy that was teaching me had been a Division 1 football player in college. He was legitimately beasty. And his lift was the back squat – he worked on it, and on our squat day (at Gold’s Gym in Newport News, Virginia) people would come and watch him squat. He pushed me, and he taught me the technique. I fundamentally understand the back squat movement in a way I don’t most of the other things we do, because I’ve done it before.
We also don’t do it much in our gym. Crossfit focuses a lot on the front squat, and I’m sure there are good reasons for that. The front squat is much harder because of how you have to hold the bar. It requires a good front rack and a lot of grip. None of that on the back squat – put that sumbitch on your shoulders, drive through your heels, down and up.
We’ve had a drop-in working at Celebration Crossfit for the last few days – Dave from New Jersey. Dave from New Jersey looks kinda like Superman. He’s about 6′ 3″, six pack, runs faster and lifts heavier than everybody else. This morning, for squat day…
…I was working with him, and that’s a good thing. Going heavy is easier when you’ve got somebody there that just assumes we’re adding weight. And I just decided that today was a day I was going to push more than my body weight. Some days are not the day – today was the day.
After I get through the weight and the half marathons this winter, maybe my next goal is going to be to squat something absurdly heavy within a year.
Roughly three years ago, I was in the best shape I had been in for years. I had been consistently running and using Weight Watchers for about 9 months. I had lost a bit over 50 pounds. I had just run my first half marathon (the 2013 Rock and Roll Virginia Beach). And I felt as good as I had in years. Those were exciting times. I was a runner!
And I was almost exactly the same size I am right now, in 2016.
We know how that turned out, don’t we? My weight plateaued around the first of October, on the lead-up to Ragnar Tennessee. I ran that Ragnar and basically fell off of the training wagon. I gained 10 pounds over the holidays, but did manage to run a 15k in December, another half marathon in March, and my 5k PR in April. And then it all blew to hell and I started gaining weight, and all but about 5 pounds of what I lost went right back on, just like that. So, in February of this year I made the pound-a-week commitment, and in April I joined Crossfit and got serious about the commitment – and it has worked well:
But I am beginning to feel the challenge of doing well.
What prompted me to get serious about this, now and before, was that it is truly difficult being morbidly obese out in the world. (Quick parenthetical – this is not whining or an attempt to get anybody to feel sorry for me or any other morbidly obese person. Nope I did it to myself, and I completely get that, and I own it and have and am owning it. Doesn’t change how difficult it is.) Finding clothes to fit was challenging to impossible. Airplane travel was excruciating, and that was even before it was embarrassing if I couldn’t get the seat belt buckled. Just moving around could be hard, much less keeping up with my kids. I wasn’t sleeping well. My blood pressure was high enough I could feel it, and I probably needed medicine badly. So many things are not built for obese people – rides at amusement parks, booths at restaurants, kayaks for if I want to take my kids out to experience that, mattresses that wear out in a fraction of the time they are supposed to, etc., etc., etc. … I could go on and on. These were the things I hated, and these were the things that kicked me in the ass and made me actually do something. Twice.
And almost all of that goes away for me starting at about the size I am right now. My blood pressure and other health indicators are fine. My clothes fit, and I can buy new ones in the regular-people sections of department stores. I fit in cars and airplane seats. I sleep like a rock, and I’m not scared of rides when I take my kids to Disney World. The world is opening up because I physically fit in it better.
We had our National Sales Meeting this week at work, and many of our sales team had not seen me since I began losing all of this weight. I spent the week fielding compliments and questions about what I was doing and how it was working so well and what was my secret. So I just also LOOK more normal. I notice it in pictures, too – the person in that picture is a big dude, but not a morbidly obese dude.
And this, this feeling of success, is dangerous as hell.
When I’m comfortable, there is less pressure. When I’m not constantly put out by my weight, it is easy to not be concerned about my weight. I can have that piece of bread, or slice of cake, or doughnut, or Dr. Pepper. I can order the gnocchi instead of the fish at the Italian work dinner because I have earned it, or some such nonsense. I can be less than diligent because the consequences of being less than diligent are not immediate and actively bad. For a short period of time, if I want, I can have my cake and eat it, too. In the past, that has been it all it took to push me back the other way and put the pounds back on. But this time, I anticipated the problem and did some things differently:
I set a big goal. Often you hear the advice to set small, very achievable goals – lose 20 pounds, lose 10% of your body weight, etc. And that can be good advice if you tend to be overwhelmed by a big project that will take a lot of time. What those small goals do for me is give me a feeling of having succeeded, which means I can dial back the effort. So, instead, I set a big goal – 100 whole pounds – and, now that I’ve gone a ways down that path, I’ve started to communicate that goal. I talked about it in an “about me” presentation to my company leadership last week. If asked, I told my sales team about it. I’m making a point to say “thank you, but we’re just getting started” when I am complimented. This should help keep me on my toes.
I took pictures. Lets look at this again: You can see why I might be a touch self-conscious about ever being seen without a shirt on. But, by having taken those pictures, I get to do two things. First, I get to celebrate how much progress has been made. But also, I get an objective look at how much progress there still is to go. I get real visual reminders that I’m not done yet, and not to act like it.
I have made it harder to backslide with tools. I use an alarm clock that doesn’t have a snooze button. I don’t bring things into the house that I shouldn’t be eating so that I won’t be tempted by them. I have a strict no-alcohol rule on work trips and dinners – I have nothing against the alcohol itself, but it conspires to convince me to make poor choices with food when I’m drinking it. I have gotten rid of many of my fat clothes – getting bigger means buying clothes.
Here’s the thing – I am now approaching some semblance of normal for my size and build. But I’m not even half way to where I need and want to be. So I can’t relax, even though I want to. That way a 350 pound man lies, and I’d rather not have to come face-to-face with that guy.
Hi there! It has been awhile, and you probably thought I had fallen off the wagon. That would have been a fair thought – it has happened before. BUT – nope. Just got busy. And yesterday, for the first time in awhile, I took some pictures.
So, as of Saturday morning I’ve lost 43 pounds, and things have been going well – more on that later this week. So my first reaction when I looked at the front-facing picture here was disappointment. I still look like a really fat guy.
But then it hit me – this isn’t the end, this is the middle. And this is also why we take pictures. So I went back to the original set I took and:
YIKES I WAS FREAKING ENORMOUS
No, seriously – wow.
So, obviously, you can see that my gut is significantly smaller. The overhang at the bottom is more pronounced, largely because there is less pressure to hold the whole thing up. My boobs haven’t changed much – I’m very self-conscious about my boobs – and that little roll under my arm is still there. You can really see it in my face, and particularly my cheeks.
So … progress is being made. These pictures both make me feel good about what I’ve done and also let me know that I’m still enormous and have a lot of work to do. Which is what they are designed for.
I deliberately don’t suck anything in on these pictures, though I do a lot of sucking in in my clothes. And my wife doesn’t like that I don’t smile in these pictures, even though that could make them cheesy as hell. So, for reference, and until next time: