Sunday, November 11, 2012

First Post!

It's rare that I get to say the words, "First post!", but this is, after all, my blog...

I have thought about starting a blog in the past, but I never knew what to write about. My family? Well, only my family would be interested. Computer programming? Yeah, I've been a geek since the days of the Apple ][+ (crap, now I feel old) but there are so many better technical resources out there, and I really don't want a blog to become a collection of personal bookmarks. Photography? Again, there are already a lot of resources out there, but I will probably slip a few tidbits of knowledge in here. Physical fitness? Ah ha!

A bit over a year ago a good friend of mine, who also happens to be named Paul (go figure...) got me into running. At first it was a painful experience, but with time and the right pair of shoes I started to enjoy it! Then came cross training, a membership at the local YMCA, boot camp, and yes, races!

I do not claim to be an expert on fitness. I'm just a guy who has been traveling down a path to better physical condition, self discovery, and a longer—more active—life with my beautiful family.

If you have read this far and are still here, Thank You! My introductory post is going to run a bit long.

So, the big question: Why a blog? In this age of Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, do blogs make sense anymore? I think they do, obviously, or I wouldn't be writing this. Social media is about sound bites—short memorable messages—and not long-form essays. As a child, I hated writing essays and now I'm doing this voluntarily. My mother and my English teachers would be proud! Or faint in surprise. I'm not really sure which...

Up until I was five or six years old, I was a string bean. Oh how I wish I could turn back the clock on that! At some point I started to gain weight. I became less active and more introverted. I was picked on mercilessly. Endlessly bullied. Yeah, the big bad "B" word that everyone is so afraid of talking about today. Sadly, the bullying was not limited to the other children in my class—a couple of my teachers treated me the same way or turned a blind eye on the ones who instigated it. If I retaliated in any way, I got in trouble, not the person who actually caused the problem. This was my life right through high school.

I was the one wearing hand-me-down clothes that everyone laughed at.
I was the one wearing thick glasses.
I was the one with large ears that everyone flicked like a paper football.
I was the one you saw getting beat up on the playground during recess almost every day.
I was the one with no real friends.
I was overweight, depressed, and unable to do a damn thing about it.
I felt like no one cared.

Trust me when I say that childhood depression is very real. I survived it—barely. If you're a parent, understand this one thing: Children have an extremely fragile psyche. They feel everything you and I do, but they do not have the experience to understand how to process it, which makes the feelings that much more intense. They don't have the words to describe what they're feeling, which is why they lash out. Listen to them. Observe them. Don't be so wrapped up in your work that you don't have a relationship with your family.

After high school I went to a community college. That was actually enjoyable because I found people with common interests. No one bullied me! Amazing! Even though I felt better about myself, I still was heavy. I had no direction or willpower. Quite often lunch consisted of two Bacon Double Cheeseburgers from Burger King from the drive through on my way home from class.

After that I transferred to RIT as a sophomore. I used the weight room and other facilities, but the trainers there were mostly other students, so they really couldn't give me the help I so desperately needed.  While attending RIT I met this girl... She accepted me for who I was. I was shocked that such a pretty girl could see past all of the defenses and excuses I had thrown up over the years. She actually wanted to help me improve myself. Someone wanted to help me? Really? Why? Am I worth the bother? She must be crazy.—those were the thoughts going through my mind at the time.

After college I moved to the Boston area for a job. And the girl.

Okay, okay, mostly the girl!

At that time I had hit my peak of about 250 pounds. My blood pressure was high (190/80). My cholesterol was high (250 or so). The doctor warned me that I was at high risk for a heart attack and all sorts of other nasty things. Yikes!

The doctor told me to start walking every day. I did that. I even started lifting a bit. By the time I got married three years later I was down to 175 pounds. I know, losing 75 pounds is a lot, but it wasn't healthy. I was basically starving myself. My face looked gaunt in our wedding photos and I still had a lot of belly fat. I was dehydrated. Over the next seven years I gained back a fair amount of that weight. I think I peaked at 215 or so. I wasn't really weighing myself regularly, but when I did, the number scared me.

At that point I started to walk again. It helped, but not much. I needed something more. I decided that I would run. Yeah, out of the blue. I had never been able to run my entire life, and here I thought I could start the next day. How well do you think that went?

I got about 100 feet down the road and nearly passed out.

Okay, that was a bit of a buzz-kill, but I kept trying. I was able to do a mile after a few months, but my knees and hips were bothering me all the time. I remember reading somewhere years ago that when running, ever footfall puts about a half-ton of pressure on your joints. I was feeling every ounce of that.

I talked with a friend of mine about this and he suggested that I change my shoes and my running style. He said that I need to land on my forefoot and not my heel. I would need different shoes for that because normal sneakers are built up too high. At his suggestion I bought a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes. I don't think I could have gone any more radical than that! I read all those warnings about starting with shorter distances and completely ignored them. The first time I ran with them I felt phenomenal. I think I ran three miles that day. I had no joint pain!

I woke up the next more and couldn't move. My calf muscles were shot. It took about a week of ice and ibuprofen to take care of that, but I realized that my joints were fine. This was just my muscles getting used for the first time. Or overused and abused in this instance. I started back at it and built my distance back up.

The same friend told me about these military-style obstacle races that he'd been running. Words like "Spartan" and "Tough Mudder" were unfamiliar to me. He said that we (both of us and our spouses) should sign up for this one called "Ruckus". We'd like it, he promised...

The end of this story is really just the beginning. I'm about 185 pounds. I bought size 36 pants for the first time since I was 14 years old (I just turned 40). I'm nearly off my blood pressure meds after 12 years. I have completed five races in the past year, and I'm already scheduling for next year.

This blog is my journey. It is about who I've been, who I am, and who I hope to become. It's about my amazing wife and supportive family. It's about inspiring others to achieve what they think is just out of their grasp.

Thank you for joining me.

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