Work or work out?

Ages ago, I developed a hypothesis that I wanted my work to be my work out. At the time, it was a wrongheaded attempt to ignore the fact I was doing neither, but it turns out I also wasn’t completely wrong about the notion.

As part of my effort to improve my health, I have been researching, learning about, and engaging in the idea of natural movement, especially as it pertains to the fact that, even when we work out, we’re often incredibly sedentary in the intervening time, effectively undermining some of the best benefits of our work outs.

Now, I grant, it’s nearly impossible for us moderns to return to our hunter-gatherer roots, but I think we can make specific changes to how we approach physical activity that allow us to utilize some of their genetics we inevitably carry.

One of the biggest changes I’ve made pursuing that goal is to make sure I eat after I engage in physical activity. In short, I work out first, then I eat. It turns out, that’s the pattern our bodies are designed to follow rather than the bell schedule three meals a day. In fact, that’s where exercise “hangry” comes from, and we would do well to listen to it.

The second thing I have changed is how I exercise. I walk a lot, but I have made my walking less structured and more free-form. I sometimes carry awkward things. I have the benefit of having a 185 acre farm with few dedicated paths, so I force myself to walk in the unimproved areas to get the benefit of climbing and having to work my way through.

The result of these changes is that I am working my body more the way it expects to be worked, thereby increasing my overall fitness.

My goal from here is to increase the amount of manual labor I do on the farm, meaning that I intend to forgo the use of labor saving tools when it is possible and safe in favor of doing the work by hand. This labor follows the same pattern as the rest, and I expect it to magnify the results I am already achieving.

In the end, the answer of work or work out is yes, do both. Do as much as you can. Get up and move around often. Lift and carry heavy things. Eat when your body says it’s hungry. Sleep when it says it’s tired. The benefit is there. Pursue it.

DLH

Movement vs Exercise

A long time ago, I started getting fat and it started getting me in trouble with my job in the Air Force (Air National Guard). At the time, I adopted an exercise routine that, despite what some people believed, was quite focused and rigorous. There was a point where I was walking several miles a day for months. During that time, I lost maybe five pounds but ended up gaining dozes over the long run.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that adopting a sleeping habit that actually fits me and adjusting my diet to fit my metabolism and nutrition needs has paid huge dividends, but one of the most important changes I have made is to stop exercising and start moving.

What do I mean by that? Well, I still walk a lot, but what I’ve discovered is that the things I am doing that I can feel almost every time I do them are not exercise in the classical sense. I do body weight squats, modified push-ups, simple getting up and down off the floor, Tai Chi, and Yoga, and I am convinced that these activities help me as much as all the walking I do put together.

And the fact is that the science supports that it is our lack of general movement over aerobic calorie burning that has gotten us all into trouble. One of the reasons that exercise programs like CrossFit end up being so effective is because they so often focus on movement over other kinds of things.

So, my challenge to you is to just get up and move. Don’t worry about duration so much as frequency, and make it movements you don’t already do. Try it for a couple of weeks, and see how you feel. I’m convinced you’ll thank me for it.

DLH

A wheeze on the wind, or the sound of a fat boy running

So, it turns out that, after years of trying to ignore it into going away, the simple fact is the best way for me to jump start the process by which I’m not going to be perpetually fat, tired, and sick is by running.

Yeah, I know, running…

To be fair, I used to run. For a few years in my 20s, I ran 2-3 miles nearly everyday. Then I stopped. That in itself is a long story, but one that likely helped set the stage for where I am now. Now, 20ish years later, I’m going back to the thing I once did, I guess.

One day, perhaps even soon, I hope to document the research that led me to that conclusion so that, at the very least, it’s out on the internet for anyone else searching for answers to judge for themselves, but for the moment let’s suffice it to say that running engages the specific biological pathways that help reduce fat around the liver, which fat is likely one of the main culprits of my complaints.

In several important ways, this running is going to be, lacking a better way of describing it, medicinal running, and the best way to describe this phenomenon is to do so by what it’s not going to be. Unless something in my own psychology changes, this running isn’t going to be about 5ks or marathons, not about PRs or ever increasing distances, and not about proving myself in any other way but one.

Along with a controlled diet and plenty of walking to complement the running, this effort will be about weight loss. It’s a ham-handed standard, I know, but the fact is that at my current weight–295lbs and counting, for those keeping track at home–it’s the single most effective way for me to measure whether what I am doing is achieving my primary goal.

I appreciate every piece of advice I’ve already received about this undertaking, and I always want to hear more of it, but please understand that I hear and evaluate any of it through the filter of what I already know I am trying to do. It may be that something you say helps me advance that cause, and I want to hear it, but please don’t be disappointed if I decide it doesn’t fit with what I am trying to do. It’s not that I haven’t listened. It’s that I am very focused on what I am trying to do.

To that end, I also plan to post a weekly update documenting my progress so that interested parties can keep track and so that I can have a log of what I’ve been doing for my own use. If you are keeping track and don’t see that update, please ask. I need the accountability.

For now, this is what it is: a fat boy running for his life. Literally. Stay tuned to see how it works out.

A matter of motion

A little over four years ago, I bought a Fitbit One. I bought the device because I was just on the tail end of having lost 65 pounds, dropping from around 340 to 275 over the course of a couple of years. That weight loss was mostly the result of specific dietary changes, especially the near elimination of soy from my diet as the result of an allergy to soy proteins.

My theory behind buying the Fitbit was to help me keep the progress of that weight loss going and to help me achieve a minimum level of fitness. Four years later, that very same device tells a tale, and its not one I wanted to hear.

It turns out, way back in 2013, I did a lot of research into what a “minimum level of fitness” would mean for me. After all that research, I concluded that around 5,000 steps a day, a mere 35,000 steps a week, would meet the goal I was trying to achieve.

Now, I know what the multitude of “experts” say. I read many of them, and I concluded that, and the end of it all, your mileage may vary as far as their expertise is concerned. My conclusions were based on me and my fitness level at the time, and I’m sure, if I had followed my own advice, it would have made a difference.

You see, the story that Fitbit tells me is that, based on my own determinations, I should have walked about 7.5 million steps by around now. Instead, as of today, I’ve walked a mere 2.3 million steps. Even allowing for the fact that I didn’t use my Fitbit at all for six months last year, the fact is that I’ve walked less than half the amount of steps I determined I should have to achieve a minimum level of fitness for me.

The fact is that I am a quintessential example of the modern sedentary lifestyle. Sure, I run a farm, but my physical output comes in fits and starts, and for a while now, not as frequently. And the fact is that this reality starts with not bothering to walk a measly 5,000 steps a day.

It would be easy for me to make some kind of grand pronouncement here about how I’m going to change all that, but I’m not going to. The story my Fitbit tells me is that the changes I need to make to be even minimally fit are hard, and what it is going to take for me to achieve that goal may be beyond my grasp right now.

But, now I know, and knowing is its own kind of power.

DLH

So, what’s this all about?

It’s sometimes hard to know where to begin an explanation of something that has been coming my whole adult life, so I will start with the event that triggered the birth of this blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital for almost a week as the result of acute pancreatitis brought on by a dangerous elevation of my blood-borne triglycerides. The condition was serious enough the doctors opted to reduce my triglyceride levels by removing them using a process called plasmapheresis. The whole experience was the most intense and painful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life, and I realized that I am willing to do extreme things to never have to experience it again.

That brings me to the reality of how I ended up in that state. The circumstances that lead to my hospitalization were not just the result of some unexplained biological malfunction, although there is also that element to the story. Instead, a large part of how I ended up in that state began decades ago when I, for a variety of reasons I suppose I may get into over the life of this blog, chose to stop taking care of my body.

In fact, over the past decade, I had pretty much given up on taking care of myself at all, most often with the excuse I had more important things to do. I didn’t. Instead, that excuse was worse than an excuse: it was a lie.

This blog will be my documentation of the refutation of that lie. Over the course of the next weeks and months and, perhaps, even years, I plan to document my journey away from the lie of not taking care of myself toward the truth of taking care of myself so I can do all the things I do better. I want to share this journey with anyone who cares to follow along for the accountability of it, for mutual encouragement, and to provide a place to document the things I discover along the way.

As to the name of the blog, once upon a time, I considered myself to be a rambler, or as the Irish call it, a rover. I tend to wander without being lost, and have long believed that the journey is more important than the destination. I suspect my journey back to health will follow the same meandering but purposeful path so many other parts of my life have.

So, this is all about finding my way back to a place I should have never left: healthy and productive. I invite you to join me on that road.

DLH