Tuesday, November 27, 2018

CrossFit Makes Us Better

If I were to tell you CrossFit makes you better, I would understand if you assumed I was talking about improvements in the gym.   Most people see CrossFit as a workout routine.    CrossFit will make you better in the gym but it goes way beyond that.   CrossFit can change your life and make all aspects of your life better.

It is incredible that what you may only see as a workout routine can change and improve every aspect of your life.   It does this by not only changing you physically but by changing your very mindset.   Every day you go into the gym and you look up and the whiteboard, see what the workout of the day is and many days your heart drops as you think to yourself, "there is no way in Hell I can do that."   You think to yourself the workout is too long, it's going to be too intense, with movements that hurt or that you can't even do.    You do the warm-up, get instructions from your coach and get all of the necessary equipment set up and are just dreading what is coming up--sensing your impending doom.

Then 3...2...1...Go! The workout begins.   It's as bad as you imagined--often worse.  Then you reach the wall.  Your lower back is screaming at you.   Your lungs are about to explode.  Suddenly, you break through that imaginary wall and you keep motoring on.   People finish before you and encourage you to keep pushing.   Finally, you are finished and as you crash to the ground gasping for air people come up to give you fist-bumps and accolades.

Something happens as you lay there recovering.  You are transformed.  Physically, yes.  But even more so, emotionally, mentally and even to some part, spiritually.   You realize you accomplished something.  Yeah, it was only a workout but it was an accomplishment that part of your brain did not think it could do twenty minutes earlier.

This happens every day you go to the gym.  Day after day.  Accomplishment after accomplishment.   The workouts don't get easier but you realize you are doing them faster.   You're lifting more weight.  You are doing things you could not have done before, such as pull ups or rope climbs.  

Your sense of self-worth improves every day by crushing these workouts and you start looking for ways to improve outside of the gym.   Many time these improvements are things you could not have imagined doing before either due to lack of confidence or because you were just in a rut.

Gregg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, has said that CrossFit will either make your relationship better or be its demise.   You will either work on it to make the relationship better or you will realize you can do better.     CrossFit has improved my relationships by giving me the confidence and the realization that I needed to do improve at it and by pulling me out of the rut.  And now my marriage is as good as it's ever been in it's twenty-five years, if not at it's best.

One of the ways that got me into the gym every day and past the fear and trepidation that I faced in the workouts was simply by scheduling in my Google Calendar the days and times every week to go to the gym.   This took away the excuses of being too busy I would make I would make in order not to go.   In order to improve my nutrition, I put "Grocery Shopping" and "Meal Prep" on the calendar.  One day, as I was making adjustments to the calendar, that realization of me being the best possible version of myself needed to flow over into other aspects in my life.  I realized that if scheduling my workouts took away my excuse of being too busy worked then I should put down a "Date Night" with my wife, Abby, once a week.

That was a short four months ago and the returns of dedicating a couple of hours to Abby once a week have been incredible.    We are talking, sharing and tending to each other as never before.  We are like newlyweds but with the knowledge and wisdom that comes with twenty-five years of marriage.    We are spending so much time with each other it is making our kids jealous.   "Another date night?!?" is something we always hear.   Abby points out they will be out of the house soon and we will just be left with each other.

This sense of self-betterment has gone past just my relationship with my wife.    We now have a family movie night every Tuesday night where a different member of the family gets to pick what we are having for dinner and what movie we are going to watch.   So instead of going to our own corners of the house, we have eat together around the dining room table, talk and then watch a movie together.

It doesn't stop there.   I have time set aside for prayer, Bible reading and  confession in order to better my relationship with God.   I make it a purpose to call my mom at least once a week.  I even pick-up and clean up around the house much more than before.

CrossFit will not only teach you how to lift and how to squat in order to make you healthier and fitter.   It will give you the confidence you need to better all aspects of your life.    Yes, the physical aspects are wonder.   It's great to lose weight, improve your health, your nutrition and your mobility.    It's even greater when that passion to do better transfers over and you gain the joy of improving your relationships.  It is because of CrossFit and Abby and I are better.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Markers and Goals

Quite often when people are on a health and wellness journey like I am, they are told to set goals.   If their coach is good, they will tell them to set quantifiable goals.   For instance, instead of saying, "I want to do handstand push-ups" they will help you set your goal to "I want to do 5 non-kipping handstand push-ups" or instead of "I want to improve my deadlift" you should make your goal be "I want to set a new deadlift personal record of lifting 350 pounds."      So while my overall goal is to get healthy as I improve my fitness and enjoy every moment of it, I can still break my goals down to those smaller quantifiable goals but they are also in bigger, more overall goals.

One of CrossFit's fitness models is called the "Sickness-Wellness-Fitness Continuum."   The basic philosophy according to the journal article "What is Fitness" is "nearly every measurable value of health can be placed on a continuum that ranges from sickness to wellness to fitness."    So, a measure of sickness can be seen in high blood pressure, high body fat,  high cholesterol or a high A1C.   And the better those numbers are they healthier you are and the healthier you are the more fit you are going to be.

Currently, I am sick.  I have Type II diabetes, my HDL levels are too low and I am over weight.   So, health-wise, some of my goals are:

  • to get my A1C under 5.7 without being on medication.   
  • to get my HDL over 40 without medication 
  • to get my body fat under 20% 
  • to lose at least 45 pounds
Some of those goals have changed over the last 3 months.  I had to get off of the diabetes medication first.   My body fat and weight loss goals were much smaller, and more attainable.   For instance, instead of having the loft goal of losing 45 lbs, I sought to lose five pounds and get to 220, then 215, 210 and now I've hit a mile marker of getting under 200 pounds!

After getting "well" my next overall goal is to get "fit."  It has been by getting more fit, that I have become healthier after all.    As my health markers have gotten better my ability in the gym has also gotten better.    My run times have gotten faster.   My lifts have gotten heavier.  I am able to do more burpees.   I feel better at the end of workouts.  So, just as I have health goals, I have fitness goals.   And just like my health goals, they are lofty, but broken down into more attainable goals.
  • Twenty-unbroken pull-ups, but first, get A pull up
  • Twenty-Unbroken double-unders, but first, get A double under
  • Participate in a competition--but first, feel comfortable participating in The Open in February
I believe having goals are important in life.   They are ways to track that you are progressing as opposed to regressing.  The most important thing to remember while you are attaining these goals is to enjoy every moment.     You may think this is difficult when you are passing up chocolate donuts or dying during a workout because it can be a struggle; however, moving forward and attaining those goals makes everything worth it.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Why CrossFit

Last week when I weighed in on Day 90 of my 30 day Paleo Challenge, I learned in I have lost 23 lbs and about 4% body fat.    I was pleased with my results and I did what any red-blooded American would do.  I posted it on social media. Since then I've had several people ask me how I did it.    I give them the short, but what seems like a cheap answer--CrossFit.   There is more to it than "CrossFit" only because CrossFit itself contains so much.   If I had to break it down simply there are three things that attract me to CrossFit and have helped me on my journey.

1. Fitness-- When people think of CrossFit they think of the CrossFit games.  The problem is, they imagine shirtless behemoths doing crazy workouts that should not be humanly possible.   Yes, a large aspect is fitness.   But the images men and women who could stand in as Greek God's should not be what you think when you think of CrossFit.   The image you should picture are average people of all ages, genders, shapes and condition getting off of the couch and doing "constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement" and doing it across "broad times and modal domains."    Simply put-it's a variety of physical movements that help us get healthy and be able to do what we need to do to function in life and keep us out of the nursing home done in a way that anyone can do.

2. Nutrition-- While people think of working out when they think of CrossFit, they are missing a big part of it.   The foundation of CrossFit is nutrition.    Yeah, you'll get stronger and faster if you just workout but you will not make the gains that you want without focusing on nutrition.    The nutrition component is very simple but not necessarily easy.  I requires us to stop eating bad carbs and the sugars we are addicted to.     Eat meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.   And to take it to the next level--keep intakes to levels that support exercise but not body fat.   I had been back to the gym for several months, but my journey did not start in earnest until I focused on nutrition.

3. Community--  The third side of the triangle of CrossFit that has helped me on my journey is "community."    The CrossFit community is all about support and encouragement.   The mutual suffering everyone goes through in the daily workout creates a bond and that bond creates a community.   It's a community that does not leave anyone behind nor forget anyone.    In many gyms you may go, everyone is in their own world, ear buds in plugging away on the treadmill.   In my community, I can count on everyone to encourage me to do my best and keep moving on.   I can rely on messages from people when I've been gone awhile wondering where I am and encouraging me to get back to the gym.   It's this support structure that has encouraged me.

CrossFit is pushing me to get healthier.  It is encouraging me to get fitter.   And it is making my journey a fun one.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

What's Your Why?

This season on HBO's show "Hard Knocks" followed the Cleveland Brown's during training camp.   In the first episode, linebacker Christian Kirksey, tells his teammates to take out a piece of paper and write down their "why?"   Why do they play football?   Then take that paper and put it on their nightstand, on the ceiling, wherever-  so that it's the last thing they see when they go to sleep and the first thing the see when they wake up.  Is it for the money?  Is it get family out of their situation?  Because football is your life?  That why they are reminded whenever things get tough.

Find your why he says.   At the end of the episode, players were in their hotel rooms.  Writing down their why and putting them wherever.

So what is my why?  Why am I on this journey?  Why am I trying to improve myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually?   Is that one question or several?   I think for me--it is several questions that can be boiled down to one answer.

To get to that answer, we have to go back to my childhood--to when I was five years old.   My grandpa was the Cubmaster for the local Cub Scout pack and I was so eager to join.  As a brand new wolf cub, one of the first things things you learn is the Cub Scout motto--"Do Your Best."

Somehow in today's world, that's meant as if you do your best you'll win and get a participation trophy and somehow no one loses!   That's not what it means though.   As a only child of a single mom in small town America "Do Your Best" meant things are going to be tough.  You are going to face your own "Hard Knocks" but always do your best because that's the only way you are ever going to succeed.   There are no participation trophies.   No free rides.  No handouts.  The only way to succeed is by doing your best and at the end of the day, even if you've done your best and failed, you can take pride in the fact that you put in the hard days work.

But does that answer the question--What is my why??  Yes--my "why" is because I was raised to always do my best.   I was raised to become the best version of myself.    I must continuously work on myself and better myself.   I owe it to my family and my loved ones.   They don't care--they love me for who I am--but I still owe it to them to strive to become better.  And I have a long road ahead of me.

 And that is not easy by any means.   There is also a self-destructive nature to myself where I don't do my best and I end up making things more difficult for myself.   I am very lazy and that's what led to my health issues as well as my spiritual issues and family issues.     Every day is a challenge.

That was the point of Christian Kirskey's exercise.   We need to be reminded of what our "why" is even if it means writing it down and posting it on your ceiling where you can see it when you wake up.

Monday, October 15, 2018

A New Start

I've always used this blog as a little peek inside my spiritual journey.    I've fallen out of the habit of blogging over the years partially because my spiritual life was crap but also, because of my career, I am hindered by what I can say on a forum such as this.    There are people who would take something  I believe or an opinion I have and twist and turn it and potentially use it against me.  It's also difficult to come up with different topics about what's going on in my spiritual life without sounding like a broken record.  I still leap the same hurdles, have the same vices and sins that I've always faced.

Therefore, I'm going to expand on the blog and talk about my journey as a whole--not just spiritual, but my journey to improve my health, my physical capabilities, emotionally, mentally, as a father, a husband and as a person.   This blog will serve sort of as an open journal into my life that maybe can motivate others as well as myself by the act of journalling.

I think I am at good place right now.   I have goals set that I am slowing making but with a long long road ahead of me.  Ironically, this all was set in motion by being in poor physical health and it was that poor physical health that helped me raise a sinking ship on the mental and spiritual health I was facing.

In July of 2015, I went to my doctor for a routine physical and was diagnosed with pre-diabetes.   I faced that by continuing my diet of fast food and not working out.   It really came as no surprise when, in August, 2017, a follow up physical showed I had full blown diabetes.   The good news was, I didn't need medication but I could deal with it with diet and nutrition.    I started doing better.   I cleaned up my nutrition.   I actually made it to the gym.  I did well enough that three months later the doctor said he would not have to see me again for six months.

In those six months, I fell back off the boat and stopped going to the gym and ate fast food as much as I did in the past.  As a result, my health markers also crashed.  My A1C, which measures your blood sugar over time, rose from 6.7 (which is considered controlled) to 8.3 (which is not controlled.)   As a result, I got put on 2000 mg of metformin daily.  

The side effects of the medications as well as other effects of the diabetes, that were already occurring to me such as skin conditions and signs of kidney disease have encouraged me to get my act in gear.    I've made to the gym more times in the last six months than I have the last 2-3 years.   In the last three months, I've eaten clean about 85% of the time and lost about 20 lbs.  

So, this is my journey--one that I'm dedicated to and become pretty opinionated about.    And this is my invitation to you to peek in and see what's going on and hopefully become encouraged to make changes in your life.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Negan vs Rick--Who is Worse

My sister, Maggie and I, have been watching AMC's The Walking Dead for several years but this year things seem to be different.   There as been no shortage of action, drama or gratuitous violence just like in years past.   So why do things just seem so blah?

For those who don't watch the show; The Walking Dead is about life in a world where a virus has taken over and changed people to zombies.   The show has centered around Rick Grimes, a former sheriff deputy along with a group of survivors he has joined forces with.   The first couple of years focused mainly on surviving against the zombies--or "Walkers"--along with some interpersonal drama.  Then over the years, they have had skirmishes with other groups with the last several years going against "The Saviors" led by the bat carrying bad guy, Negan.

So, what has made this year different?  Rick's group has been at war with The Saviors since the first episode of this season which means there has been plenty of action.    When the show started, Rick's group were always the good guys.   They were either fighting against the walkers who were trying to kill them or  other groups that were trying to take advantage of them.    That is how Negan and the Saviors started out.   They were a group of bad guys who were trying to take advantage of Rick's group through extortion.   Ricks's group had to scavenge and provide for the Saviors or be punished.  Rick's group has grouped up with other survivors and are fighting back against the Saviors.    In a world where it's every man for himself and where survival is everything, the actions of Rick's groups are not always morally right.  

My theory is if the show had followed Negan from the beginning then he, along with the Saviors would be the good guys and Rick's people would all be the bad guys.   That is the problem with The Walking Dead now---it does not seem like there is anyone worth rooting for anymore.  Everyone is a bad guy.

As I was thinking of this, I realized I have seen this thought process in fellow police officers--including myself.    After some time on the job, it is really easy to see everyone as a bad guy and lose all sense of empathy for people.    We continuously scan waistbands for weapons or watch hands because hands will hurt you.    You have to have your guard up because there are people who want to harm you.    It's very easy to become judgmental towards people when you are continuously living in a red or orange zone.

It seems especially difficult working overnights when the most people are home in bed and the majority of people you see are up to no good, drunk or high.   It seems as if everyone is telling you lies.    They will tell you they've only had a couple of drinks when they are falling down drunk.    They will lie about their identity, what they are doing or who shot them.

The cynicism it causes in police is sad.   We start to question everything.   We ask if victims are really victims or are they making up their story.    It's how shooting victim's end up in handcuffs with a K9 walking around their car checking for drugs.

It's a fine line.   Yes, you have to be cautious and watch hands and waistbands.   You can't see everyone as Rick and Negan because if you do, you will miss all of Jerrys and Ezekiels.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Screwtape's Temptations

Several years ago, I started reading "The Screwtape Letters," a novel by C.S. Lewis that is composed of a series of letters from a demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood.   In the novel,  Screwtape gives advice to Wormwood about undermining faith and promoting sin.    It is not an easy read and I gave up on it.  I think I should try to read it again because I think it could give me more insight on what is going on in my life more than any self-help book possibly could.

About a month ago, I was texting back and forth with my wife and she sent me a text.   It said something to the effect of, "The devil works overtime on getting to you."   The statement caused me to pause and reflect on my life the last few years and I believe God gave me the grace to catch a glimpse of the spiritual warfare that is going on for my soul.  The exciting part of this grace is being able to realize that the devil may be putting in overtime on getting my soul but God is working even harder keeping it.

When I say, God's given me a glimpse at the spiritual warfare it has not been I've watched a great battle between legions of angels and demons.   It is not a sideline view of Gettysburg taking place in the cosmos.   It is more like a realization of the supernatural battle that is going on around me.   By that, I mean, I have seen temptations to sin being presented to me and walked towards those temptations.  Then obstacles were placed in front of me that prevented me to succumb to those temptations.

If it had occurred one time, I would have chalked it up to circumstances.   Twice would have been a coincidence.  I saw it repeatedly happen to me though.  It was enough that I was struck by how often it was occurring to me.

I sure a theologian would say something to the effect that God may give us graces to make decisions not to sin but He would not present physical obstacles to them because He gives us free will.  To this, I would present the counter argument; I literally gave God permission to remove these obstacles.  

Several years ago, I learned a prayer from Mark Hart, a catholic youth speaker and I have been repeating this prayer for the last couple of months.   The prayer goes something like this, "Lord, I grant you permission, to remove anyone, or anything, that keeps me from you."

This is a very powerful prayer.  It is a very difficult prayer to say too.   You may think it's a easy prayer.  After all, we ask God in different prayers, "not my will, but Your will be done" or  "lead us not into temptation" but this is different.   In this prayer, you are giving power over to God.  You are asking Him to remove something from your life that is already there.  

I encourage you to include this prayer into your repertoire of prayers.   I say we cause Uncle Screwtape to work double time.