I’ve endured a series of maladies lately.  First there was my extended hiking trip about five or six weeks ago that took a pretty good physical toll on me.  Due to taking directions from some mountain bikers for a “quick” side trip, our 6 mile hike turned into 16 miles.  During the last two miles of the hike, I started getting a burning pain on the outside of my “good” knee.  To this day, if I run much over two miles, I pull up with a limp and have to walk back.

Then there were the stomach problems that I developed a few weeks ago.  It began as a persistent ache in my belly and gradually got worse to the point that I could barely eat for about a week.  Sara diagnosed me as having an ulcer (a pot of coffee a day and stress has that effect).  She put me on some medicine and about a week into the medicine, I got better but…

Just as the ulcer seemed to be getting better, I woke up with vertigo.  I was in Orlando traveling for business at the time and didn’t think much of it at first.  I was just a little dizzy in the morning and then it would go away.  A few days in, I could tell that the symptoms were getting worse.  It eventually got to the point of persisting an entire day before I got much better.

Is this what aging is like?  I turn forty next year and it seems like my body is starting to acknowledge that the warranty is running out.  My biggest problem is that while I am turning forty next year, I still think I’m twenty-five.  Truth be told, I’m probably in better shape now than I was at twenty, but being in shape can’t always compensate for the additional mileage I’ve accumulated over those years.

Finally, this week there was another blow.  My grad school started up again on Wednesday and I watched one of my lectures for my data analysis class. I was terrified when the professor showed up on my computer – she couldn’t have been much older than 30… if that!  Her speech, mannerisms, and appearance make me think of her as a kid and I’m having a very difficult time acknowledging that she is my professor. 

I’m already older than my pastor and older than my doctor… now I’m older than my professor.  I think at the next Presidential election, I’m just going to vote for the oldest person regardless of their political affiliation.  I don’t think I can handle being older than the President yet.


As most of you know, I like to run.  I also like technology.  Throw in the fact that I’m a bit of a tightwad and the GPS/heart rate monitor/running watch I found online for about a third of what they usually cost was a trifecta for me. 

This watch does everything.  The built-in GPS gives me accurate distances and elevations during my run, it calculates my speed, my pace, how many calories I burn, and allows me to monitor my heart rate.  All I had to do was enter my age and weight into the watch, strap the monitor around my chest, and I was ready to pretend like I was the Six Million Dollar Man.

The watch has a ton of different screens that show various information (I think one of them even tells you what time it is – oh yeah, it’s a watch).  I settled on a screen that showed my time, distance, and my heart rate.  When you set the watch up, you enter your age and weight.  The watch uses your age to calculate your maximum heart rate then tells you whatever your heart rate is at that moment as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. 

The watch decided that my maximum rate was 183 beats per minute.  Before I set out on my run, I checked my heart rate – 65 beats per minute and 36% of my maximum heart rate.  Not far into my run, my heart rate jumped to 83% of my maximum heart rate.  A couple of minutes later, it seemed to stabilize at 90 – 92% of my maximum heart rate.  Then came a long uphill section… 93%… 94%… oh crap… 95%. 

What was about to happen to me?  It looked like I was quickly approaching 100% of my maximum heart rate at which point I would presumably tear a hole in the space/time continuum or spontaneously combust.  My escalating heart rate caused anxiety, which of course had the effect of raising my heart rate even more.  I glanced back at the watch… 96%… stupid watch.  I’ve done this exact run probably 400 times in the past four years with no problems and now this little piece of technology had me fearing for my life.

I don’t know if I ever topped 100%.  I was afraid to look back at the watch until I got into the downhill section – by which time I was back in the low 90s.  I guess this little watch will take some getting used to.  It was supposed to be a training aid, but it ended up being a quantifiable limitation.  It gave me a real number that told me I was close to giving 100% of all I had.  I don’t like that.  I’d rather believe there’s still more to give whether it’s actually there or not.  I guess that makes it a challenge.  I will reach 101%.   I’ve got to prove to that little piece technology that it can measure how fast my heart beats, but it can never measure how stubborn I am. 

While driving to work, I saw one of those signs that drive me crazy.  You’ve seen them:  the ones on the back of dump trucks that say, “Not responsible for windshield damage.”  Really?  So if the truck going down I-85 north of Atlanta… during rush hour… throwing rocks all over the interstate and the hundreds of cars behind it isn’t responsible for windshield damage, who is?  That’s like a rabid squirrel in a park wearing a sign around its neck stating, “Not responsible for infecting humans.”

That seems to be our position these days:  Not responsible for outstanding debt… not responsible for the actions of my children… not responsible for my health… not responsible for making my life count.  In fact, if you look to the people who really have it together you may notice a common trend.  They’re not necessarily smarter or blessed with better genes; they simply take responsibility for who they are, who they should be, and what they need to do to get there.

I’m in week 10 of P90X and at almost 37 years old, I think I’m in the best shape of my life.  The other day I was in the break room at work filling up my water bottle and a co-worker asked me about how it was going.  We talked about fitness in general for a moment and they complimented me on my commitment.  Their closing I’m not responsible comment was, “I just don’t think I could find the time to get in shape.”  They made this declaration while chewing on a donut.  I’m thinking, “How much time does it take to not eat a donut?”  Well if they can’t find the time to get in shape, I guess they’ll just have to find the time to get sick and be lethargic because that’s what happens when you don’t tend to your health.

Then there are finances.  People complain about bills piling up.  Did they not know they spent the money?  I have no sympathy for people who suffer with consumer debt.  If you spend more than you make, you can’t pay your bills – it’s that simple.  I know there are some unexpected expenses that come up, but that’s why you save and have a buffer for such occasions – you take responsibility.  “But what about the unexpected medical bills?” you ask.   See the paragraph above.

I know, I know… I’m on another rant.  I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I do take responsibility for what I do, what I say, and who I am.  I challenge you to consider that area of life where you are struggling.  Are you really taking responsibility?  Do you own that struggle or are you playing the victim role?  If you aren’t actively doing something about it, then you may as well be running down the interstate with a sign on your car that says, “Not responsible for failures of the driver.”

I ran in my church’s 5K last weekend and had a decent time (23:26).  That was good enough to win my age group… I’m not sure how many people were in my age group, but I know there were at least three because a friend of mine won 3rd

I started running with regularity four years ago.  During the first two years, my times improved in each race.  I thought this running thing was easy – you just keep running and you get faster.  I was essentially following the Forrest Gump training regimen.  My times kept getting better until this very same race two years ago, when I ran a 21:52… and I haven’t broken 23 minutes since.

I was a little frustrated last year when my time took a u-turn and I got slower.  What’s this?  I didn’t get faster!  How can this be?  So even though I wasn’t anywhere near my personal best, at least I didn’t get slower this year and for some reason I was content with that.  Is that what I’ve come to – damage control?  Am I resigning to look back on my past as my glory years and be content with getting older and slower?

Since I started running, I had a goal of running a sub-20 minute 5K.  With each passing year, the probability of me doing so diminishes.  As I age, I’m starting to accept that there are some things that I may never accomplish.  That’s hard for me to admit.  Maybe with age I’m getting wiser… or more lethargic.

I know this isn’t very motivating so far.  What I’m basically saying is give up on your dreams because you might not be able achieve them… well, not exactly.  Instead, what I want to say is rather than give up on your goals, you need to have the right ones.  When we’re young, we’re invincible and can do anything (or at least that’s what we think).  Add a healthy dose of realty in the form of kids, taxes, bills, a career, and aching joints and we start to realize a few limitations.  Sometimes those limitations are just mental barriers that we have to break through, but at other times they are wakeup calls reminding us to train our focus on the right thing.  If you try to do everything, you probably won’t achieve anything.

Could I run a sub-20 minute 5K?  Probably, but that would require several more hours of training per week, which would take away from time at home, limit my availability for helping with homework,  interfere with responsibilities outside the home, and leave me even more exhausted each night than I already am.  Would it be worth it?  I guess I’ll never find out because I’m not willing to sacrifice the important stuff just so I can run a little faster.

I’m now one month into my P90X program so I thought I’d give an update on my progress.  So far I’ve lost 6 pounds and dropped my body fat percentage by 3%.  I can really tell a difference in how I look and I’ve been able to tighten up my belt another notch.  I’d like to tell you that I feel great, but I don’t… I hurt… all over.  Actually, I’m exaggerating –  the soreness isn’t that bad.  In fact, it’s no worse than what I get from my regular workout.

I’m going into Phase II of the program with mixed emotion.  The good thing about this phase is that I can now have three carbs a day (up from one per day).  That means I can eat cereal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch.  I never knew a sandwich could be so good.  The bad part about this phase is that it consists of a new group of exercises that would make Jack Palance quiver in his unitard.  About 30 minutes into yesterday’s workout… after several reps of all kinds of different forms of pushups, I had to do one-arm pushups.  That is exactly what it sounds like – a pushup with one arm behind your back.  After that, I did airborne pushups.  That’s like a regular pushup, but you have to push up with enough force to go airborne – hands and feet off the ground.

While the workouts are demanding, I’m glad I’m doing this.   It’s not so much to get in better shape (although that is a nice benefit).  More than anything, I just want to prove that I can do it.  Sara thinks it’s a mid-life crisis.  Maybe so, but I can think of worse things I could be doing.  If anyone is thinking about this program and serious about committing some time and sweat, I highly recommend it. 

I’ve written quite a bit about career, family, and significance; but I have not dedicated many postings to physical fitness.  I feel that physical conditioning is important to your overall mental state and believe a tough workout is one of the best stress-busters out there. 

I’ve been in pretty good shape most of my life.  I’ve lifted weights since I was a kid and started running fairly seriously about four years ago.  Since I’ve gotten kind of bored with my regular workouts and am always up for a challenge, I decided to give P90X a try.

For those of you who don’t know what P90X is, it’s a pretty hardcore exercise/fitness regimen designed for people who are already in decent shape and have hit a plateau in their workouts.  The workouts last an hour to an hour and a half every day for 90 days.  This means I have to get up at 5 am every morning and torture myself for next three months.

I just started the workouts last weekend and today I feel like an 18-wheeler ran over me, backed up, and ran over me again – all while baseball-sized hail was falling on me.  The workouts are tough.  On the first day, I did an hour-long chest and back session that was followed by a 16-minute abdominal workout.  The 16-minute ab workout was non-stop and included over 300 repetitions.  There was one point where I fully expected an alien to emerge from my searing stomach.

Overall, it seems to be a good program and I think that as long as I stay committed, I’ll see some great results.  The worst part is the instructor.  He’s one of those wax-figure motivational guys that I find incredibly annoying.  About 45 minutes into my first session, I decided that if I ever met the guy in person, I’d punch him in his ridiculously square jaw.

This program also includes a nutritional guide.  The first phase is a high protein/low carb diet.  That shouldn’t be a problem for me – I’ll take meat over pasta any day.  Interestingly, I actually have to increase the amount I eat; I just have to eat the right things.  For example, Monday morning’s breakfast included eight (yes eight) egg whites.  That’s a lot of eggs.  Without any bacon or biscuits to go along with it, I felt like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke.

I’ll let you know how it goes.  Below are some examples of before and after pictures (actual results may vary).