Bob’s Story

The Beginning

Hi everybody! Welcome to my first attempt at a blog/testimonial chronicling my bizarre journey to find a lifestyle of fitness and, well, health that seems to have eluded me all these years. By way of introduction, I’m THAT guy…you know the type…decent student, high school athlete, big sports fan, member of every club and organization available, could seemingly eat anything at will and still not put on any weight…yeah, THAT guy! The thing was, I never really liked to workout, even during the season (football and javelin, by the way, in case you were wondering). I was always able to get by with just my natural ability…no long hours in the gym, or on the track…no amped up nutrition scheme to fuel my inner beast…just plain old good breeding. So, why, may you ask, am I bothering to fill you in on all of this background info? Funny you should ask…

bob1

Flash forward 35 years…no, that’s not a typo…I’m one of the “Elder Statesman”…half a century and counting! In all those years I never learned a thing about health and fitness no matter how much the Air Force (30 of those years) kept trying to get me to get squared away. So, where did that leave me? The train wreck you see in the “Before” shot to the right. I went from 155 lbs back when I was THAT guy, to a whopping 250 lbs last November! 3 lbs a year? That’s not too bad is it? Yeah, well, 50 of those pounds packed on in the last 5 years or so. I set myself up! Crappy diet, no exercise…Yup, that’ll do it! My cholesterol was through the roof…I had high blood pressure…gout…triglyceride levels that were even higher than my weight! I noticed my bathroom started to look like my Grandmother’s used to – pill bottles everywhere! My doctor’s kept telling me that I was on about the highest dosage of stuff they could safely give me without causing some serious liver problems in the long term. All because I was THAT guy – never worked out, could care less about nutrition.

“Dad, you should come to CrossFit with me! It’s really fun, and the people are great!” 25 year old, enthusiastic, athletic daughter’s can REALLY be annoying…and persistent:

Her: “You get to do all these really cool exercises like burpees, and you even get to lift weights!”

Me: “I’m too old for that.”

Her: “No you’re not! We even have people that are at least 40!”

Me: “How many?”

Her: “Like…two, maybe.”

Me: “Ha! Anyway, I’m too out of shape to exercise like that without hurting myself.” (NOTE: the irony of that statement rips your lungs out when you actually write it down)

Her: “Just try it…I have free passes.”

Me: “I’ll think about it.”

The next morning I stepped on the scale – 250 lbs! WTF?! That can’t be right! Let me move my belly out of the way and see if I’m just reading that wrong…oh, wait…

Me: “Hey! What time is that class?”

Her: “Yay, Dad!”

Me: “If I get hurt, no Christmas presents for you this year!”

 

Enter CrossFit Lakás

Working out in somebody else’s garage was not something I had expected, but it was kind of cozy, in a masochistic sort of way. There were pull up rigs, barbells, weight plates (I think they call them bumpers now because they’re rubber instead of the old rusty steel ones I used in High School), medicine balls, gymnastic rings and these crazy looking cannon-balls with handles (aka – kettlebells). Just like a regular gym…except for the kids (no, I’m not referring to the 20-somethings that were working out with me) and a really big dog named Sally watching us work out.

In case you’re wondering why I decided to start out when I did (pushing 50 REALLY hard, and right before the Holidays), well, besides really bad timing, I would have to say it was because of the 30 years of inactivity and excuses. I need a shove sometimes to get moving. Nicole, my daughter, had been doing CrossFit for about 2 months at that point and absolutely loved it! She was making noticeable gains in her fitness and strength in that short time and I guess I wanted a piece of the action. Besides, she was able to shove really hard now! Thanks for shoving me, Nicole!

 bob2

I came across these journal entries from early on in this endeavor that I feel illustrate exactly how life altering getting serious about fitness can be. I’ve added amplifying remarks where appropriate in order to give you a more complete picture of what was going on in my mind, and more importantly, what was going on with my body.

Nov 20, 2012: 250 lbs, Cholesterol 187, Triglycerides 263, HDL (Good Cholesterol) 46 

After attending 2 classes with Nicole, I decided to go ahead and take a swig from the Kool-Aid pitcher. I did my baseline workout…in a word it was ugly, but it was done…poorly…sometime around 11:30 minutes. I thought I was going to be really sore, but surprisingly it wasn’t too bad. Now, don’t get me wrong – I was in pain…I even found myself wondering if Motrin was Paleo-friendly (is it?).

As a quick aside, I was a stalwart non-Paleo guy. Why change the way I eat? Look how well it was working for me…

Nov 26, 2012: 246 lbs 

So…due to some weird quirk of fate/tidal anomaly/seismic shift, and in spite of all my efforts to the contrary, I still managed to lose weight this week. It wasn’t like we had a Tofurkey or anything either – it was a full-blown traditional Thanksgiving meal complete with plenty of beer to wash down the evidence…we had so much food we ran out of places to put it on the table (and there are only 4 of us!). I might be on to something here…

That something was doing CrossFit! I started out just going 2 days a week because that’s all I could handle. It took me 3 days just to get over the previous WOD!

bob3

Dec 01, 2012: 245 lbs 

The “Twelve Days of Christmas” – I hate that song! Now I have yet another reason! That workout was tough…and even I have to admit – kind of fun (in a masochistic sort of way)! Admittedly, I was using minimal weights where indicated, and I’m still pretty bad at jumping rope so I only did 50 jumps per iteration. Even with that, my calf couldn’t quite take it, and I pulled up lame for the jumps about halfway through (I did as many as I could during the last couple of rounds). I’m still not fully recovered. Back at it tomorrow!

Wait a second! I think this might have been the point where I gradually started to actually like working out for the first time in my life. At the very least, it was the point where I showed I had commitment to make this thing work.

Dec 04, 2012: 243 lbs 

Clean squats (or squat cleans?)…whatever…I realized as they were going over this workout that I haven’t lifted a barbell in about 25 years! As visions of traction danced through my head, I decided that discretion is the better part of valor and so I concentrated on my form with lighter weights. That brought back memories of why I stopped going to the gym in the first place – intimidation. Young guys (and gals, I guess, too) hate not lifting the most weights, running the fastest, jumping the highest, etc. When confronted with half-hidden smirks from the big gym rats I found it too easy to pursue other forms of exercise (like beer drinking). Which got me to this point. There was none of that during the workout – it was great! I’m seeing that Crossfitters seem to be way more about encouraging than competing (at least with others in the box – there’s a whole lot of competing with yourself!). I needed that.

There it is in a nutshell! I was too self-conscious about working out so I didn’t! That’s just damn embarrassing. So what the heck moved me to do this now? I think there’s a chicken and the egg thing going on here. Which came first, me not caring about what anybody thought anymore (because I got old and ornery)? Or, just maybe, because CrossFitters are incredibly supportive and committed to improving fitness – EVERYBODY’S fitness?

Dec 06, 2012: 243 lbs 

If I haven’t mentioned it yet today – I hate running. When I retired from the Air Force I vowed to never run again unless something very big was trying to eat me. So the prospect of running uphill, BOTH ways (I’m not making that up!) while carrying anything heavier than a stick of chewing gum was not on my top ten list of things to do before I die (or be the cause of it)…and it was cold…and did I mention that I hate running? Yeah, so…it’s a damn good thing Nicole has been doing this for a while…she carried the medicine ball about two-thirds of the way for the WOD…I had all I could do to make it back up the hill in what must have looked REALLY odd to the neighbors (I suppose they must be used to it by now, though). The rest of the workout was like a rest for me…kind of like hitting yourself in the head with a 2 x 4 because it’s less painful than hitting yourself in the head with a hammer…did I mention I hate running?

It’s not always sunny with flowers and puppy dogs running around. I started to let a little self-doubt creep in. I felt like an anchor for the class to drag around. Yet, they still encouraged me to get better than I was the day before.

Dec 12, 2012: 243 lbs 

Sadly, Crossfit Lakás refuses to relocate to a place where you can run downhill both ways…or at least somewhere flat. So, I was forced to suffer the slings and arrows of that damn uphill run (three times!). I did notice that my first lap was significantly easier than the last time I ran (see my earlier post). Maybe there’s something to this whole working out thing…or maybe it was because I wasn’t carrying a medicine ball…I’ll get back to you on that one. The other two laps were further hindered by an insane amount of pull ups (read that, more than 1), and deadlifts (so named because that is your state of health upon completion). Now about these deadlifts…the last time I did one (ONE, mind you, NOT 36), I lifted 365 lbs. So let’s fast forward 33 years to today – there was still a “3” and a “5” in there, but neither were the first digit. Alas, by the time I was done with the entire WOD, as I lay there on the floor grasping at fleeting sips of air, I hoped the deadlift bar would collapse and put me out of my misery. It was then that I realized that there was not enough weight on it to do any real damage. So, I gathered myself up, passed Low Fives all around (I couldn’t get my arm up high enough to perform the High version of Five), and said “See everybody Saturday!”

I’m back! See what a little bit of encouragement can do?

bob4

Dec 18, 2012: 243 lbs 

Terrible day yesterday. Lower back and knee still protesting from Saturday’s WOD…made no progress on my 50-By-50 campaign…great work opportunity fell through…woke up for no discernible reason in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. There was no way I was doing anything resembling a squat, so, no workout for me. Instead I had a cheat day…

Whining complete…back at it tomorrow!

Whoops! The world was conspiring against me that day…

Jan 07, 2013: 243 lbs 

Writing…it’s what I do at work…that’s why I usually don’t want to make entries (my lame excuse, anyway). I made it through the Holidays with a zero-sum game going (no loss, or gain of weight). The bathroom scale has a BF percentage that is suspect – it went up. My activity level is up (based on my fancy-schmancy Nike Fuel Band), but so is my beer consumption. That’s going to be a hard one to work on – my friends are enablers. I’m going to take a crack at a pseudo-Paleo diet coupled with an extra day in the sweatshop to see if I make any gains (I suppose I should say losses).

I had been doing a lot of reading about the Paleolithic Diet, and since I didn’t seem to be making any headway on the weight loss (my ultimate goal), finally decided to give it a crack. It was a little tough at first – I love sandwiches with cheese, etc. I also started going to CrossFit 3 days a week at this point. If nothing else I noticed I was recovering way better after the WODs than I used to. That, dear readers, is progress!

Jan 14, 2013: 243 lbs 

Time to get serious! OK, not completely serious, just about working out and eating right. So, I haven’t lost or gained any weight in the last three weeks, which I suppose is good in a way, but I am also not making any progress towards my goal of “50 by 50”. I need to be down to 200 lbs by May 9th, which on the surface shouldn’t be too hard, but I have a penchant for big-bodied beers…which explains the big-bodied beer belly (Quad B’s). I won’t be cutting beer out completely, but even I admit I need to cut way back (too many empty calories). I think I’m also going to add a few more “50 by 50” goals, specifically sit-ups, push-ups and jump rope (50 unbroken count by May 9th). I figure as the weight goes down, the Quad B’s decrease making it easier to sit-up and push-up. As far as the rope jumping – I really need to practice! I’ll keep you posted…

There it is! “50 by 50”…drop 50 lbs by my 50th birthday (May 9th). Notice I haven’t really made any progress on the weight loss, but I was starting to perform better anyway.

bob5

Jan 22, 2013: 241 lbs 

Good breakfast…good lunch…decent WOD (scaled back maybe a bit too much, but I did work my butt off doing it)…making headway on the beer consumption (only two, interspersed with two pints of water)…blew it with the pasta for dinner (but it was REALLY good Chicken Cacciatore)…Don’t judge me!

Ha! The weight started to slowly drop…and I was starting to feel guilty about poor diet choices! Where the Hell did that come from?!

Feb 14, 2013: 237 lbs 

One more reason to hate this day…Hallmark should start a “Get Well Soon” line of cards for CrossFitters…I don’t even remember what exactly we did, but it involved deadlifting, kettlebells, holding a weight over my head, lunging, medicine balls, pull ups, sit ups, running and freakin’ burpees…Jeff did great dragging my ass around and covering for me. If anyone needs a great recipe for Motrin Shooters hit me up on Pinterest…as soon as I figure out how that actually works.

Laid off making journal entries for a few weeks there, but not my commitment to getting this thing done. I was starting to see some progress on my own…clothes fitting better…less winded doing work around the house, etc.

Feb 16, 2013: 237 lbs 

I stopped posting journal entries and really started doing work out posts from this point, so I’ll continue about one sample entry a month so you can see my progress along the way. I picked this date because it was the beginning of the “Whole Life Challenge.” 8 weeks of eating clean, exercising, doing mobility work and just taking care of myself. That was a LOOONG time! I was surprised I actually signed up for it in the first place, let alone actually sticking with it (sort of, I still had the occasional beer during the challenge). The baseline work out for this was AMRAP 12 of 5 Burpees, 10 Sit Ups and 15 Air Squats – I ended up getting in 6.5 rounds – and was dying. More work needed.

BTW: 50 unbroken singles while jumping rope! One goal down, three to go!

Mar 17, 2013: 227 lbs

St Paddy’s Day Massacre: Not a great time (figuratively or literally), but I figured I would pre-emptively expend a few pints of calories that I will inevitably have throughout the day’s shenanigans…and quite frankly, I have gone entire years without doing that many sit ups, push ups and distance running (100 sit ups, 100 push ups and 2 miles running)…so, I’ll count it!

31:22 on the time, by the way. I actually started doing this on my own now. I think this was the point where I turned the corner from trying to make excuses about why “I couldn’t go to work out today”, to “I can’t wait to go do the WOD today!”

Oh, yeah…I did 50 unbroken sit ups this day, too! Two goals down, two to go!

Apr 13, 2013: 222 lbs, Cholesterol 151, Triglycerides 116, HDL (Good Cholesterol) 62

April was a busy month! CrossFit Lakás moved into their new, shiny box. I felt like a kid in a candy store doing WODs in there for the first time! It also marked the end of the “Whole Life Challenge” – thank God! We re-accomplished the baseline WOD. I ended up getting a little over 7.6 rounds in. Not a great improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. There was a completely unexpected benefit, however. Look at the numbers from my blood work! Holy Crap! I actually thought they would go up because of all the fat (butter, eggs, bacon – lots of bacon, etc) I was eating. They plummeted! All except my HDL – it took off! This combo of eating right and CrossFit is definitely working for me.

bob6

May 9, 2013: 219 lbs

Happy Birthday to me! 50 years…half a century…18,250 days! Well, as you can see, I didn’t meet my “50 by 50” for the weight or the push ups. 31 lbs ain’t too shabby, though. I decided to readjust my weight loss goal (push ups, too) to coincide with my CrossFit anniversary – Nov 20th. It looks like I may need a course correction, so I started my unlimited membership and have been hitting the box 4-5 times per week. I even keep doing the St Paddy’s Day Massacre on the weekends…I still hate running – just sayin’…

May 27, 2013: 218 lbs

First Murph…#5 band for the pull ups (I figured out how to kip after the first round…didn’t need to use the other band I set up)…it was awe inspiring to see the efforts of everybody involved today…and humbling to do it in honor of our fallen brothers in arms…

Memorial Day. Murph. The Holy Grail of WODs. Never in a million years would I have ever thought I could accomplish anything as physically daunting as this – 100 pull ups, 200 push ups and 300 air squats, sandwiched between 2 one mile runs! Yet, there I was right in the middle of the best support group known to mankind – CrossFitters!

bob7

Jun 16, 2013: 216 lbs

St Patrick’s Day Massacre – Hershey Style: Spectacularly clean, spongy track at Hershey High School; did the push-ups on astro-turf (dating myself there – I think they just call it “artificial turf” now)…my “training partners” (ie – HS friends from way back) motivated me to do better by them not being able to finish the workout (neither could their kids)…cut about 2 minutes off my time (there is even video evidence somewhere)…I know they’ll be able to kick my ass next time so I’ll have to keep training!

I blew away my life-long friends when they saw me. 34 lbs down. I proceeded to run them into the ground doing the “St Paddy’s Day Massacre.” Maybe I’ll take it easy on them next time…yeah, right…who am I kidding? They won’t even bother to come out next time.

Jul 10, 2013: 216 lbs

DNF: (For those not hip with the lingo…the irony does not escape me…that means “Did Not Finish”)…the (second) worst possible outcome for a WOD (death being the first). I know everybody who reads these posts are used to a bit of light-hearted banter about how much this WOD sucked, or how I would like to punch Dr Tabata in the face (provided I was still able to lift my arms after one of his namesake workouts), but this isn’t one of them. I was debating whether to even bother posting this, but I realized that this message may be applicable to all the folks that read these even if they’re annoyed by seeing what I did in my workout…Don’t ever let your ego overrule your body! Your ego may be loud and obnoxious, but that is no reason to give in to a damn good argument. If your foot, back, shoulder, quads, spleen, or in my case, head/balance/consciousness throws in a counterpoint – it would be prudent to listen. Don’t get me wrong here, work through your issues, but you know a good argument when you hear it (or feel it in this case). Let me tell you, it is completely mortifying laying on the mat while everybody else are working their butt’s off to get through Fran…I realized, however, it was WAY better than being the first CrossFit Lakás member to have 911 called for them! See you tomorrow!

Life lesson here. Don’t let your ego get in the way of what your body is trying to tell you.

You’ll get these minor setbacks along the way…don’t sweat them (OK…you’ll be sweating a lot – I was using the term figuratively).

Jul 19, 2013: 216 lbs

Sweet Jesus! I know I dropped a band from the initial baseline (sometime in November, I think)…so I got that going for me, which is nice…but, 40 unbroken air squats, 30 (nearly) unbroken sit ups – (anybody remember how bad I did with the 60 sit up “buy in” at the beginning of the year?)…20 push ups (I stretched at the 10 and 15 point…don’t judge me!)…10 banded pull ups with a #4 band, instead of a #5 or more…I actually don’t remember my initial time but I’m pretty sure it was in the 11:00 timeframe! Where the Hell was this crap when I was 20?!

6 minutes and 2 seconds! That, ladies and gentlemen, is measurable progress! I don’t have the exact initial time, but it was somewhere around 11 minutes and 30 seconds. If I knew how to do a back flip I would have knocked a few out then!

Jul 25, 2013: 216 lbs

To date I’m down 34 lbs. My pant size went from a 42 to a 38 (I even got into a size 36 the other day, but they were a little more snug than I like). I went from “XL” shirts to “L”…and they don’t look like sausage casings on me, either! I did my first unassisted pull up since 1981!

Now, as you can see, I’ve stagnated on my weight loss. I still like beer way too much. My friends are older ladies and gentlemen and don’t have the drive to take their health by the horns like I did. So they stuck to the path of least resistance – after all, isn’t that why they got health insurance, so they can just take a pill to get healthy? When you’re done working out the Happy Hour crew will be here waiting for you! To their credit, none of them was as far gone as I was, so good on them for holding it together over the last 30-40 years.

I need a bit of a course correction every now and again. The WODs are helping immensely. I’m still eating fairly well, but not as well as I should. I know I need to cut back on the beer. Maybe it’s time for another challenge…

One last thing, remember THAT guy from the beginning of my musings? He’s not coming back!

bob8

 The View From The Floor

There is not nearly enough emphasis on the aesthetics of ceilings these days. Sure, it’s not like you can hang pictures on them or anything, like that stalwart sentinel of vertical construction – the wall. Walls are colorful. Cheerful. They’re festooned with ornate doors, drapery, artwork and maybe even a tapestry or two thrown in for good measure. Ceilings? Nada. They’re predominantly white, or some shade thereof, such as egg shell, antique, snow, contractor’s, ivory, ultra, chalk, pearl…you get the picture – no originality. Case in point, a few weeks ago I was gazing up at the ceiling at CrossFit Lakás. Their ceiling is just that generic, industrial base coat white with a few “accent” girders running across. The only visual relief is the heating and ventilation ducting which is rumored to actually be functional…but there is no proof – the air conditioning is never on. This brings me to the reason I had all this time to contemplate the ceiling – I was flat on my back at the time.

As a somewhat experienced CrossFit athlete (about 8 months now), and having recently completed a half-century of respiration, you’d think I would have known better. Not so this day. It started out like any other mundane work day – I dragged myself out of bed, cleaned up, got dressed for work, fed the dogs, grabbed some breakfast – the regular routine. After an exhilarating day sitting at my desk, I was really looking forward to a good session at the “Sweat Shop.” The WOD for that day was scheduled to be “Fran” – a bitch if ever there was one. We started out with a 500 meter row for time. I’m not the most gifted CrossFitter around, and being saddled with stubby little legs doesn’t make for a good recipe for rowing. Nonetheless, I posted an OK time. Did I mention it was Swedish sauna hot? No? Well it was! The Mid-Atlantic States were in the midst of a serious heat wave with temperatures in the mid-90’s and humidity to match. I couldn’t have been more wet if I jumped in the Chesapeake Bay. So now that I was “warmed” up, it was time to get my Fran on…21-15-9 rep scheme, barbell thrusters and pull ups…daunting, but doable. I loaded up the barbell with the prescribed weight – 75 lbs. The anticipation was growing. Heart pumping. Sweat literally streaming off my body. 3-2-1 Go! I cleaned the bar; got down in a good squat and launched up into the best thruster I could muster (sorry, I had to do that). Lights out! Almost anyway. I dropped the bar and staggered backwards to find a box to sit on. Coach came over to see if I was OK and I told him what happened. My head was still swimming a bit but I got back up and lightened the weight on the bar. The clock was still running so I grabbed the bar and knocked out two more thrusters before the thrusters knocked me out. Done! I sat/slumped/crumbled onto the box. Coach made me lay down on the floor – he’s a wise man. Thus began my contemplation of the ceiling.

I was trying to figure out what had just happened to me. I ate well that day, and was pretty well hydrated.  I got about 7 hours of good quality sleep the night before, and yet, there I was leaving a Sweat Angel on the floor in the middle of a WOD. I’m still left pondering this outcome, but there is one thing I know for sure – “DNF.” For those not hip with the lingo…the irony does not escape me…that means “Did Not Finish”…the (second) worst possible outcome for a WOD (death being the first). I know everybody who reads these posts are used to a bit of light-hearted banter about how much this WOD sucked, or how I would like to punch Dr. Tabata in the face (provided I was still able to lift my arms after one of his namesake workouts), but this isn’t one of them. I was debating whether to even bother posting this, and then I realized that this message may be applicable to all the folks that read these even if they’re annoyed by seeing what I did in my workout. Don’t ever let your ego overrule your body! Your ego may be loud and obnoxious, but that is no reason to give in to an argument. If your foot, back, shoulder, quads, spleen, or in my case, head/balance/consciousness throws in a counterpoint – it would be prudent to listen. Don’t get me wrong here, work through your issues, but you know a good argument when you hear it (or feel it in this case). Let me tell you, it is completely mortifying laying on the mat while everybody else is working their butt’s off to get through Fran…I realized, however, it was WAY better than being the first CrossFit Lakás member to have 911 called for them.