Day 43 – Stop! This Ride Is Over.

Injuries are a fact of life. Some people have bum shoulders, sore knees or dickie elbows but me, I have the Holy Grail of injuries, a back injury. I have mentioned it many times before, sometimes at length other times as a reason to whine about my progress or make excuses for not doing a workout. However there is a serious side to my injury which for the first time in many years raised its ugly head today.

I had a serious back injury as a teenager, I had a rugby scrum collapse on me and being a prop that meant the strength of all 7 people behind me and all 8 of the opposition contributed to folding me in half. I was diagnosed with a slipped disc, a condition now referred to as a herniated disc. I wore a back support (read corset) for a few weeks and was cleared as fit. My injury never affected me again through an additional 11 years of rugby at an elite level, 14 or so motor vehicle accidents and numerous other athletic and potentially lethal endeavours. However, being the typical egomaniacal male athlete, after I stopped playing competitive sports I threw myself into the gym and pounding hundreds of thousands of pounds of weight around each time I stepped into the gym. I am not certain of the first time my back went out but I do remember the first significant time especially since I didn’t know what the hell was wrong or how to fix it.

Normally at this point I would expound on the huge weight I was lifting however the relevance seems to pale in comparison to the injury. All I will say is that I was on an incline leg press that I was unable to finish. The stack came down and although there are safety stops, I had them set too low and again, I was folded in half by the machine. I remember laying on the floor of the gym, breathless, in disbelief that my body had betrayed me. The next thing I remember is not being able to reach my feet to put my socks on and being in excruciating pain. I am not sure if I went to the doctor or if I took a few days off and recovered on my own. What I do recall is that after that point, my problems increased in frequency and severity. The one great thing about keeping a journal, online or not, is that you can solidify timelines with alarming accuracy and for the most part will surprise yourself at how fast time really does fly.

Flash forward approximately 5 years and you would find me on a gurney in the emergency department, my third visit in 3 days, being wheeled into the MRI and screaming bloody murder as they try to straighten my legs to get me into the machine. Being the size that I am getting me into the MRI is like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube at the best of times. This time I was in so much pain that the nurse popped two tiny blue pills into my mouth and I woke up 2 days later with an 8 inch scar on my back and a chunk of spinal disc in a plastic cup by my bed. I spent the next 4 months getting back on my feet, trying to rebuild my right leg that lost 30% of it’s mass due to the nerve impingement and trying to deal with both the psychological damage that the injury had done and the addictive effects of the painkillers. Fortunately I had a vacation in Australia that broke my dependence on the painkillers and since I was never one for taking painkillers anyway that was a narrow miss for me. The rest of the recovery wasn’t so easy.

It’s now 8 years later and my leg is still only about 85%. The history of time spent recovering from “back pain” is vastly down. For a long time, regardless of my weight I would intermittently have an issue. I found that a really good anti-inflammatory (arthrotec) and a good muscle relaxant (cyclobenzaprene) work wonders but the most effective tool I have found is actually my Costco inversion table. A couple of minutes on that will take days off my recovery time. So I was down to 2 days to recover from the pre-op of almost 2 weeks. However, the back still bothers me from time to time. This time however, has been the first time since the surgery that the pain has radiated down my leg again. That fact alone has scared me to death. I realized when I turned 30 that the time was approaching that I would have to stop wandering the earth at 275lbs plus and for the last few years I have had varied success in getting below that figure. I was 255 when I got married 2 years ago and although that is pretty good for me I can’t shake the idea that if I was 220lbs at least some of my pain would go away. My point is that I think in part my injury has been aggravated by my weight but also that I may in the long term be looking down the barrel of another back surgery. This time, to fuse the bones and get rid of the troublesome disc issue for good.

So what do I do now? I was off my feet for 4 days, which in this day and age is unheard of for me. I am walking with a cane again just in case my leg decides to give out on me (in reality I am sure it won’t but I am not going to gamble with that) and the pain is still causing cramping and a weird stiffness throughout my quad muscle. I have to admit that my first reaction was to walk, then jog then run to drop the weight as fast as possible but the PT in me just can’t give up that weight training piece even if it is only with bodyweight. So the solution for now, get my back better, stretch the quad and the lower back to get rid of the cramping and get back into it as soon as possible. I am looking at almost 12 days of complete rest, not an ideal situation, but I think ti quit now would be a massive disservice. Maybe the smarter thing to do would be to take my diet seriously for once and put the 270’s, 260’s and 250’s behind me for good. You see, just like most people who use exercise as their primary method of weight control my lack of control over my diet is my failing. Ask anyone who had purchased a beachbody product and they will probably lament you with tales of “loving food too much” or being “addicted” to food and being “unable to control” themselves. It’s a common theme that I see on a daily basis with people at work who participate in our Biggest Loser competition but let’s just be really honest for a second… If your life or the life of the people you love depended on you controlling your diet and you could keep that reality in front of your face 24/7 they anyone, and I mean ANYONE could lose the weight. The problem is that we get distracted and fail to realize the importance of what we are required to do.

Simply stated, we fail to pay attention to what should be our priority. In reality you should treat your weightloss like a Harry Houdini escape. The sooner you get out, the sooner you can get back to life, and if you don’t, you die. I guess people (myself included) don’t realize that weightloss isn’t about quality of life necessarily, it’s about length of life and if you were asked to trade 10 years of your life for a year’s supply of pizza would you really do it?

I’m thinking that I probably wouldn’t any more…

Thanks for letting me vent and if you made it down this far congratulations… Have a cookie! 🙂

Day 66 – Biggest Loser Finale Day

Back and Biceps

scaleI am responsible for running a program at my workplace for people interesting in losing weight. Although it is called the Biggest Loser the similarity ends there. There is no set workout schedule, no training only weekly information and motivation from me and the accountability of the weigh in. This is the 3rd installment of the program and to date our participants have lost a total of 153lbs!

The purpose of my doing the P90X program was not primarily weight loss. I stated from the start that I took up this program as a challenge both to see if I could do it, but also to confirm to myself that regardless of how I may feel every day from a pain perspective, that my body is still capable of amazing things even after my (now long past) back surgery. I remember talking to a guy at a gym I used to go to who had a similar scar on his back (this was only months after my operation) and he was 8 years on. He was playing squash every day and told me that he was doing the things that he did before his back started giving him problems. I aspired to that, but at the same time I was concerned that it may take the 8 years to get back to “normal”. Well, it is now 8 years down the road and I suppose a few months ago I would have complained that I was not capable of things I would have done before my back problems. However, today I would be proud to say that I can do things that I would probably not have attempted back then, even though I would have been 8 years younger!!

So Bob was the biggest loser, he swept the last month and the final grand prize. I think the program has proven it’s value, not only to the winners, but also to the participants who have an accountability system in place which is helping them control their weight. It amazes me that even though we work in a Health Care institution, we have practically zero fitness programs or facilities at work. In doing the nutrition course I am finding that the vast majority of the health problems people have are caused by, not only aggravated by, diet and lack of exercise. I was floored to find out that 77% of cancer related illness is CAUSED by diet. Isn’t it common sense then that we should be working harder on prevention than on curing? Can you imagine the effect on the economy if even 25% of hospital visits, prescription charges, doctors fees and so on were cut by people being healthier? If nothing else, imagine the effect on your income tax rate!! Canada in 2008 was projected to spend around $180 Billion  on healthcare. Even if we could cut those costs by a mere 10% we could (apparently) eradicate homelessness (cost:$3.5B) (ref: ) we could ALSO provide day care and early childhood education from age 2 to JK completely free for every Canadian family which (although figures are up for debate) would cost somewhere in the region of $10B. That would still leave $4.5B for infrastructure repairs, increases in salaries for teachers and the police and to employ enough judges, court staff and jail space to ensure than anyone caught using a gun in Canada or selling drugs to kids is jailed for the remainder of their natural lives.

But I digress…

Day 52 – The Hamster Dance

Kenpo, my favourite.

I bought the individual packets, not the tub.

Not only is rest week a great break from the hardcore workouts but it allows you to really enjoy the workouts rather than forcing yourself through them doing as much as you can. This extra enjoyment makes Kenpo an amazing workout. I got my recovery drink in the mail the other day and so I put some in my workout drink today since it was pretty hot in the basement. First let me just say that it really is not just hype about the drink, it has a good balance of nutrients but more importantly it really does taste great. Not since the first time I tried Met-Rx have I been impressed with the taste of a fitness product but I was truly floored by the taste of the recovery drink. I ordered mine direct from BeachBody and although it took longer than expected to arrive (by about 5 days) it was well worth it. Each packet makes 12 ounces which is about 350ml but I found that when I mixed it in my drink bottle (PureHydration bottle) which is 500ml it tasted just as good, not watery at all. By the way, I have a ton of reusable bottles, both composite plastics and stainless steel and I have never found one that keeps hot things hot or cold things cold like the PureHydration bottle does. It is literally mind blowing how good this bottle is. I had cold water from my cooler at home in the bottle which is black sitting in my Jeep. The bottle was in direct sunlight for over an hour and was hot to touch when I got to it. I opened the bottle and the water inside was just as cold as if it had come directly out of the cooler. Nothing much impresses me to be frank, but this really was amazing.

So I am into rest week 2, feeling fine, but starting to get a little apprehensive about what to do after the 90 days are up. I have a gym membership that I want to maintain because I love to bench and the equipment allows me to do lots of variations that I can’t do at home. However, I don’t think that I want to go back to my old weights routine. I have come too far to slip back into that static strength stuff. So now I have to develop a training method that works both weights and the P90X methodology into a single package. Ideally I would like a system where I could do the workout at home or at the gym so if I feel like throwing in a DVD instead of going to the gym one day it would fit with my program. Then I will market the system as a whole revolutionary fitness breakthrough and make millions of dollars. That is one plan anyway. You see, the problem is that people who love the gym almost always love it for the social aspect as much as the workout. I don’t necessarily mean social interaction but rather social exposure. I enjoy the gym for social exposure, seeing people, listening to them, doing that man-nod thing to acknowledge them but I definitely don’t want to interact with them. Ewww. So if you can take the precise approach of the P90X and mix it with the ability to be in the gym with the other gym rats and cardio queens you would surely have a winning combination. Especially since in order to get that type of workout you have to be with a personal trainer. If I can provide a personal trainer quality workout regime that can be done at home or at the gym or even in a hotel room but more importantly can be done in ALL locations I am sure some people would go for it…

THINKING......I’m gonna let the hamster in my head run the wheel on that one for a while…

Area 51 – Bodyparts (Abs, who knew?)

I will put up before pictures but at the moment I can’t stomach them so these will have to do. Just goes to prove that anyone can find some abs, even if it is only one or two! I am having a hard time imagining that I will be significantly different than this at the end but I hope that at the very least my final pictures will be even a slight improvement over today.

Core Synergistics – The wannabe workout.

Core is a weird workout, it’s not difficult enough to be a real challenge which is good for rest week but at the same time you get the feeling that the moves you are doing are just the cast offs that didn’t make the show. They are the red headed stepchild of the other 3 weeks, they are the returning houseguests that didn’t make it in to the house again this season. Although the quality is there and the workout is still a good one, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for the exercises that didn’t quite make it on to the first team.

My weightloss has stalled, I have weighed about the same for 2 weeks running now and although I feel like my body is still changing I would like to see a better reflection on the scale. People say that numbers don’t matter but in fact that only really applies to people who are already at their desired bodyfat level or who are working out with weights for the first time. NOT the first time in a while either, but the first time. Even then, the ability to put on weight as muscle is so incredibly difficult that saying that you are “losing fat and gaining muscle” is completely bogus. In actuality, and any bodybuilder will attest to this, you are always either gaining muscle OR losing fat but to do both at the same time is insanely challenging once you are past the first few months. For this reason I know that my stagnant weight is nothing to do with muscle gain, but is more a reflection of my “alternate” food choices over the last couple of weeks. It may not seem like much to say that I had one bowl of low fat ice cream and fell short on my vegetable intake for 3 or more days but at this level when you are trying to balance your diet carefully those things have a huge impact.

So this is how Rest Week 2 looks on the Classic Program:

YogaX     √Done
Core Synergistics     √Done
X Stretch
Core Synergistics
Rest or X Stretch

Day 50 – REST WEEK 2 BEGINS!!!

Yoga – Rest Week 2

I made it to rest week 2. I learned from rest week 1 not to expect much of a break but rather to understand that the rest is only to give you a break from pullups and free weights. I thoroughly enjoyed it last time and felt a great deal of recuperative effect from it. This time around I am in a position where my body is sore, I am feeling tired and a little battered but since I know how good the week off will feel I am filled with confidence for the last 30 days of the program.

I am also deep into my nutrition course and learning about the kinds of lipids, proteins etc. and coming to realize just how delicate of a balance good nutrition really is. The human body is an incredibly resilient thing, forgiving even the most ridiculous dietary mistakes however I now understand why when people finally get their diet right they say that they have more energy than they know what to do with. It is largely because it is virtually impossible to accidentally get your diet right. I don’t want to sound negative towards the honest attempt to eat right but in reality even the “more fruits and vegetables” approach leaves gaping holes in the dietary requirements. I would estimate that without specific nutritional knowledge and counselling that a person “eating well” would be able to get around a 75% on the “right diet” scale. The balance of vitamins and minerals, the combinations of nutrients and hydration is so specific that in order to get towards that 100% right diet you really have to examine every single piece of food that your diet contains and combine it specifically with the dietary components in the right amount at the right time. It is something that is extremely complex and worse of all, it is something that like exercise is constantly changing as new discoveries are made. Now, let me just explain that in order to be a healthy person that 75% diet is more than enough. To push past that 75% takes a little more work and a little more time but the benefits are definitely noticeable. To get to the point where you are bursting with energy and feel like a million bucks you are going to have to push past that 75% and up into the 80’s. It is not simple, it is however easy once you know how to build the right diet for yourself. There are several tools included in the course that help you to figure out exactly what you need to hit those high numbers and I will share those as time goes along. I have a new found respect for nutritionists and dietitians though, I can tell you that.

It’s funny, I consider myself someone who knows a lot about working out and nutrition. Reading the Personal Trainer manual for the CanFitPro program I realized that I really do know my stuff in the gym. Reading the nutrition book I realize that I really have a lot to learn about food.

So I kicked off rest week with a yoga workout in an air conditioned basement. It was over 40 degrees today with the humidity so we had the air on in the house. It didn’t stop me from sweating bullets but it did make me uncomfortably cool. Hopefully the humidity will break tomorrow so I can get the basement door open and enjoy the warmth of the afternoon as I do Core Synergistics (I think, I had better check on that!).

I have to admit that when I do Yoga I can see myself in the mirrors on the wall and I am amazed that during this process I have dropped a few pounds and a few inches but I have really maintained my size. I thought when I started that I would shrink as I usually do when I increase my cardio workouts but this time I am happy to say that I appear to be the same size. In fact, I may not be, I may appear so because of my lower bodyfat levels but the most important thing is that I don’t feel smaller. I know, it is an ego thing but when you have spent your life being proud of your muscular size it becomes a defining characteristic of who you are. I am glad that I have not lost that feeling.

Day 45 – The Turn

**Note to future self – That Nutrition course is bullshit, most of what you will hear is bullshit. Paleo is the answer to the lipid hypothesis lies and deceit. I can’t believe the state we are in due to the Canada Food Guide or the Standard American Diet – August 2011


Plyo – August 7 2009

Today is a milestone. I can’t believe that it is half over already and that I have actually managed to stick with the program. I don’t want to come off as arrogant or egotistical but I am certainly proud of myself so far and just a little bit impressed with my achievement. I feel younger and have less pain than I have in a long time and I am hoping that both those conditions will continue to improve. It is a great feeling getting out of bed in the morning and not having back pain, something which I can say I actually experience every so often now. I can’t remember any time since my surgery where I have had more than the occasional pain free day so this is a major improvement for me.

Plyo was fine, I am really enjoying it. Although today at the end of the workout I felt a little like I had not tried hard enough. During the workout my legs felt really heavy almost as if I was dehydrated but once I was finished I felt like I wanted to do more. It is a really weird phase that you go through when you are trying to modify your diet and you are missing something. Depending on who you are and what your tolerances for things are it can be a glycogen shortage, a deficiency of something like potassium or zinc or something as simple as dehydration. Whatever it is, you are robbed of short term energy so have a hard time being functionally effective during the workout but after a very short rest, usually 3 or 4 minuntes, you feel completely recovered. Very frustrating.

Personal Nutrition by Sarah Long

I have finally been studying for the Nutriton exam and learned a lot about carbohydrates today. Tomorrow I have to finish lipids and then get on to protein. I did about 25% of the course over 2 days, I think by the end of the weekend I should be over 50% done. The course itself is very interesting and raises a unique approach to nutrition that I think most people don’t realize is the way your diet should work. The theory is that you take all the calories and vitamins and minerals that you need for the day and find the foods that will give you enough of those requirements. That usually entails some lean protein, lots of fruits and veg for minerals and vitamins and some complex carbs to meet your glycogen store requirement. Once you have met all your requirements you will have a few discretionary calories that you can use for “free” food, stuff that you can eat because you already met your dietary requiremetns for the day. Those discretionary calories are what you would use to eat things like chicken wings or a slice of pizza but once you do the calculation above you come to realize that in fact if you are meeting all your dietary requirements you are already eating enough food that you won’t need to eat garbage like that. The actual calculations are a little complex due to the specific vitamin and mineral requirements for the specific individual and their lifestyle but the basic point that comes out of every calculation is the same: Eat what your body requires and you won’t need to eat anything else. You also probably won’t crave anything bad because cravings are basically a manifestation of some deficiency. Really fascinating stuff.

Day 3 – Better Late Than Never

Shoulders and Arms plus Ab Ripper

Gluten Free Living - ya it sucks but so does indigestion
Gluten Free Living - ya it sucks but so does indigestion

We had a busy day today driving to Hastings for a family get together and after all was said and done it was 7pm when we got through the door at home. However I am still in the romance phase with P90X and nothing was going to stop me from getting day 3 out of the way and getting to bed. Having said that, I was exhausted as soon as I woke up and managed to get through the day without the use of my right hip flexor which I am fairly sure turned to stone overnight. Everything below the waist hurts. Some things above the waist felt like they hadn’t hurt enough yesterday and so were looking for a little more sympathy today. This rolling, cascading carnival of pain that runs through your body is certainly challenging and makes even the most mundane of daily tasks like getting into the bottom drawer of the refrigerator at work seem insurmountable.

In recent months I have developed a sore shoulder at the gym, so much so that I have an ultrasound appointment to get it checked out so I was understandably concerned about Shoulders and Arms. It was a sore workout. I can’t really supinate much with my left arm so the out and in curls were a challenge. I also am used to doing significantly more weight but in shorter sets so it was difficult to get accustomed to the 15-20 reps I was doing. All things considered, it was a pretty good workout. Usually at the gym I blast my shoulders with military press for almost 30 minutes by themselves so I am not entirely convinced that this workout will get me any results, X or not. However, I am open to a new approach to my physique and I will see what  happens. If I feel like I am losing some strength in any of my workouts I can always substitute some heavy lifting once in a while if I am so inclined. However, I think that as much as this is a workout change, it is also for me a philosophical change in my approach. So for now I will submit to the process and see where it takes me.

As for the workout, the movements were predictable, most of which I have done in the gym myself at some point. I am not a fan of the tricep pushbacks, I feel that you can’t really get a good extension with a significant enough weight to really see a change but maybe that is just me. I also wish I had a dip station I could do hanging dips instead of the bench dips. I was quite proud of myself, I managed to contain my sobbing to a short period during bench dips when I really felt like I was going to come apart like a rotisserie chicken.

Ab Ripper took my by surprise again. This time I was able to do more, I counted at least a 10% improvement over the first time. But my abs feel like they are made from crushed glass that is ripping my internal organs apart as I move. I was unable to get off the floor for a few minutes after we finished. So much so I was still laying there when Nicole had headed upstairs for her recovery drink.

One more note. I am not following the diet. I know, I know, each time I come across a site where someone says that I think “you idiot, diet is the key, THE KEY DAMMIT” but in my case I have a legitimate excuse. I am studying to be a certified nutritionist and I am designing my own program. Now since the P90X program was developed by nutritionists I am going to see if I am anywhere close to the level of knowledge that it took to create the program. I have analysed my requirements and am able to determine exactly what I need given my personal situation. It is more as a lab with a controlled subject (me) doing a controlled exercise program (P90X) so that I can see exactly the effects the nutritional changes are making to my body. The other gotcha in my case is that I don’t eat wheat. So following a program that calls for wheat based products becomes problematic.