2018 goes out a lot better than it came in

With the year drawing to a close, I would be remiss if I did not revisit where I find myself now after the past couple–and really the past few–years of illness and struggle.

One of the most important health changes I have ever experienced happened in the form of starting a mild anti-depressant at the end of September. The changed I experienced upon beginning that medication is real and enduring and has enabled nearly everything else that has happened since then.

The biggest subsequent change has been to dedicate myself to a series of dietary and exercise changes in the hope of wrestling my life back from my health. I have virtually given up process sugars, modern grains, and processed foods. I have begun an intermittent fasting regimen. I have starting moving more than I have in years.

Specifically, I am walking and using a bike trainer, and plan to start running and attending a yoga class after the first of the year. If those efforts go well, I plan to start trail hiking and purchase an e-bike for longer-distance rides sometime in the next year.

I have begun using light therapy as part of a daily program that involves waking up using light instead of sound and also using a therapy panel as part of my daily routine. The effect this has had on my mood and energy level cannot be understated.

Perhaps most importantly, I am confident that I can do the things I plan for the first time in a really long time. I am hopeful for the new year, and those are strange words coming out of my mouth.

More will follow.

DLH

A time to run and a time to not

Some of you may recall my post from a few months ago now about what I termed “medicinal running”. Granted, I said I was going to provide regular updates, but didn’t, so I figured I would provide them all at once.

From a therapeutic standpoint, I believe the running was doing what I intended, albeit slowly, just like everything else about my current ordeal. I got to the point where I was slogging (jogging very slowly) about half a mile 3-4 times a week. Not spectacular, but it was something.

You’ll notice I said was. While I was able to maintain the 3-4 times a week for about two months, I proceeded to develop an injury in my left foot that got progressively worse until I stopped. I’m okay to walk, and once it stops hurting, I can run 2-3 more times before it starts hurting again.

The moral there, I suspect, is that I’m just too heavy to run right now. That said, I have more than tripled my walking steps average over the same period, and I’ve lost 9 pounds during the same, so this hasn’t been a total loss. If I continue to lose weight, I plan to try running again at some point and once I have better shoes.

DLH

Walking away

Don’t worry: I’m not quitting.

No, instead, this blog is about a realization. It’s one I’ve stated here before, yet at least for me, I’ve realized it in a new way.

As far as my physical health is concerned, walking is going to be what saves me.

Once upon a time, I was a walker, a rambler in the truest sense of the word. Starting in junior high, I started walking to school any day I could, a journey of several miles. Once high school was upon me, I walked except when the weather was the worst for four years despite the distance.

Along the way, I developed an affection for trail hiking that carried me into my mid 20s. Then, a lot of life happened–the details don’t matter so much–and I kind of quit. It wasn’t a sudden thing, just over time, I walked less and less and hiked less and less, until I wasn’t doing it at all.

Since I got sick a year ago, on the days I’ve been able to walk, I’ve felt better, but walking every day has been a challenge for a variety of reasons. My new realization is that I’ve failed to deal with those reasons, and that is what is keeping me from walking.

I’ve decided to change that. First up is dealing with one of the colder Ohio winters in recent memory. It turns out that, since I got sick, I can’t stay warm like I used to. Cold weather takes it out of me, so walking in the cold is a struggle. That’s also an excuse. We have the technology for that, and it’s time I started using it.

So, next week, I have an extreme sports designed balaclava, cold weather over-mitts, and wind-pants arriving. They should do the trick most days when the temperature is below freezing an help eliminate one more excuse.

Next up will be rain gear. And, before you know it, I’ll be rambling along again like days of old.

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

Grocery rambling

When you’re trying to rebuild your stamina, every little bit helps, and so it has become a thing that going to the grocery is part of my weekly undertaking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also there to buy groceries, but the extra steps and just being out help me improve from one week to the next.

The take away? Don’t underestimate the little stuff when pursuing your fitness goals. It all adds up if you keep at it.

DLH

Abnormal weather can mean a new normal

I have to admit that I am looking forward to the weather coming at the end of this week and next week, even if it as abnormal for this time of year and represents what will likely be an early spring and hot, dry summer. Selfishly, warmer, dryer weather means better chances to get outside and walk, and that’s something I really need to do.

The weather also has me thinking about my garden and the springtime activities on the farm. We have a lot of work to do this year, and the earlier we get started, the better.

What kind of things does the arrival of spring make you think about?

DLH

Checkpoint

Today turned out to be a pretty good day, despite the fact I’m tired and a little sore now.

The day started with my second quality walk in as many days. It was a lot colder this morning than yesterday, so my pace was much faster, resulting in a higher heart rate. Other than some muscle fatigue toward the end, I tolerated it well, and that gives me hope I’ve turned a corner.

This afternoon, I had my second follow-on appointment since I was in the hospital. We went over the results of my¬†blood draw from Friday, and most of my numbers look really good for someone who was so recently sick. There are a couple of things we’re going to keep an eye on, but I don’t have to go back for a month, so that’s a good sign.

Finally, Keba and I wandered around our local Kroger while they filled a new prescription I’m starting to replace an old one. It ended up being a second walk for the day, leaving me tired and sore but contented.

As impatient and restless as I have been about recovering, I’m surprised and pleased with the sudden progress I seem to be making over the past few days. Now, the task is for me to restrain my enthusiasm so as not to overdo it.

DLH

A longer walk

For a variety of reasons, I felt better this morning than I have for weeks, so I decided today was the day to go on my longest walk yet. The result was that I was able to walk about a mile, and though I was tired at the end, I managed to complete the entire circuit without stopping or falling over.

This gives me hope for my plan and for the notion that I am actually starting to recover. Now, to not overdo it in my excitement.

DLH

Plans of attack

Philosophizing is all well and good, but at some point, transformation is about actually doing a thing.

In this case, the first order of business is for me to get moving, and for me getting moving means walking. As things currently stand, I’m struggling to get to the end of my driveway (.3 miles, almost exactly) and back before I’m ready for a nap. That said, it’s a start.

But, it’s only a start. As I mentioned when I started this blog, I am a rambler, and rambling is a state that I want to return to. I’m not sure what kind of times or distances that means just yet, and I’ve yet to consider what kind of payloads I might add along the way (I’m fascinated by the idea of “rucking” for a variety of reasons), but I know that I want to be able to walk further and faster not only than I can now, but than I have been able to in a really long time.

I know some will ask where the muscle-building aspect of this plan might be, and I will be honest when I say I’m not sure where that might fit in with what I am thinking right now. I’m not dismissing the need, but rather, I’ve always had a certain aversion to traditional weight training, so I have to yet find what works for me.

This plan will take on more flesh as time goes on, and I plan to update it regularly with my progress, successes, inevitable failures, and updates.

DLH