Saturday, March 8, 2014

Too Much, Too Fast

I'm not the type of person who likes to follow doctor's orders, especially if everything's going well.  Three months after surgery, I took a hike.  I hadn't been out of the wheelchair for more than a month and had just got out of the walker.  But I needed to get out, and I completed the hike, slowly but surely.

Everything looked up.  PT was going well, and I was told I was well ahead of schedule.  Well-ahead...that's a shaky platform for sure.  Let me tell you how shaky.  Wednesday, I was doing some shoulder work with dumbbells.  Nothing heavy, mind you.  Just light weight for reps.  I put the 20-pound dumbbell on the floor after a set and then proceeded to pick it up.  Oh, the awful feeling of a replaced hip that wants to come out of it's next for a look-see.  This was a first for the right hip.  My left side experienced this first in the hospital and then again after I got home.  There's no pain to the joint itself, but the tendons and ligaments around it are surely made sore.  Stretched when stretching isn't approved.

Then, I caught a cold.  So Thursday, I'm stuck at home, can't breath, sore nose, sore throat, and aching, aching hips.  I haven't been back to the Y since.

I'm much better now, so I'll try to get to the pool today or tomorrow, but I AM NOT going in that weightroom.  Nope.  I'm actually scared of it.  Even the machines violate my hip precautions, and since both were replaced, I do have some serious precautions that I can't work around.  I'm going to stick to the cardio for a while until the hips get stronger and can take the requirements of working my body with weights.  If my surgeon only knew, I know  he'd tell me "I told you so."  I don't want him to know.

See you Wednesday for weigh-in and measurements.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Weekly Weigh-in and Measurements

Last week was my first week of serious iron time in five years.  Because I was hitting the weights (mind you, not doing heavy for limited reps, but doing lighter weights for 8-15 reps), I knew that the chances of "losing" weight was slim.  Muscle is 2.2 times heavier than fat, and I definitely brought back some atrophied muscles since last week.  With just doing cardio in the pool, I was averaging about 5 pounds lost per week, but some of that was muscle mass, and I don't want to lose what I've built in the past.  Going consistently to the weight room is the answer.  

Stepping on the scales, I weighed .7 of a pound heavier than last week.

Most people would freak out about this, but let me explain.  You build muscle to burn fat.  Simple enough.  Adding muscle increases your metabolism, and then you become a fat-burning machine.  I know this to be true because I felt it while working with a sport's nutritionist when I was doing Strongman.  It does take a few weeks to start cranking, so rely upon measurements rather than the scale during that time, and you'll see the proof.

So, I was measured on Saturday, so these results do not constitute results for a full week.  That's the cool thing.  Remember, I gained weight.  So how did I change over four days?

Waist:  LOST 1"
Thigh:  LOST 1"
Chest:  stayed the same
Arms:  GAINED .5"
Neck:  GAINED .5"

I'm excited about the waist and thigh loss.  That means I'm burning fat even after gaining weight!  And the gains in my arms and neck?  Awesome!  That's exactly what I want.  My arms used to measure 21.75", and they were tight.  Five years of neglect, they dwindled to 18".  One workout on biceps and one workout on triceps added a half an inch.  You see, the original fibers are still there waiting to be awoken from a long winter's nap!  I'll get the arms back to size, that's for sure.  

I'm in the middle of the second week of this routine, and it's been a slugfest.  I've not felt this sore since I was a teenager starting to lift for the first time.  I think it's worse this go around, as a matter of fact.  I can't wait for that to go away.

I'm also waiting for the "energized" workout.  That's the holy grail.  You feel great when you go in, you blast away your work, and you feel "high" when you leave.  

Last week, I had NO energy regardless of how I adjusted my diet  or what supplements I took.  This week's been a little better, but I'm still dragging more than I ever remember.  I guess it takes time to recover from surgery and to rectify the sedentary lifestyle I'd been living.  I know I'll get there, but it just takes time.  I'm not the most patient person, though.  I want to feel good NOW!  But since I'm doing everything right aside from an adjustment here or there, I'm confident those days are closer.

See you next Wednesday with new results!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Catch-Up Time!

As you can tell from the last post, five year's of nothing and pain meds can lay waste to a body.  Don't get me wrong, I was never a bodybuilder, and I have never wanted that look.  Strength was my game, and that's what I trained for every day.  But at 300 pounds, I was about as lean as I could get.  I might have looked awesome at 290, but at the expense of strength according to my sport's nutritionist.  "Feed the muscle, and your body and workouts will take care of the rest," he would say.

8,000 calories a day wasn't too much.  Strongman is tough.  It's not just raw strength.  It's bursts of power repeated over and over again.  Each event requires multiple reps or multiple feats.  It's not powerlifting for sure.  So I wasn't worried.

But then the shoulder injury and diagnosis changed everything, and here we are in the hospital five years later and I had turned into someone I hated, yet, oddly enough, denied.  In my mind, I was still strong.  In the mirror, I was "yuck!"  

I thank my Surgeon, Dr. Ronald Delanois, for making me aware of the obvious.  You see, when he replaced my shoulder five years earlier just after I got injured, I remember him saying to his Residents that he had NEVER cut through so much muscle to get to a bone in his life.  He then went on to tell them my story.  However, when I walked into his office five years later, his first statement after seeing me was "What in the hell happened to you?"  

That was an eye-opener for sure.  After surgery, he told my wife, Sherry, that I could not stay in the shape that I was in or I'd have to have my hips re-replaced in two years.  I was ordered to drop weight and get back into shape.  At 385 pounds, I was probably the heaviest bilateral total hip replacement he'd done, and that holds true for most Orthopedic surgeons as well because it's a difficult recovery in itself at a normal weight.  But, it had to be done.  

I took that challenge and changed my eating habits during the month in the hospital.  I chose better foods.  I continued that after I returned home.  Even though I couldn't workout or even walk, for that matter, I decided to lose as much weight by eating healthy as I could.  The result -- by the end of December, I'd dropped about 30 pounds.  

I was also determined to get back on my feet and start doing some exercise too (let's call it "movement").  Fortunately, I was healing well, and I started to get ahead of their projected schedule.  I'd walk more, and I even went on a few hikes (though my Physical Therapist wasn't happy about that and put a stop to it).  I also went to the gym a few times and lifted my upper body in my wheelchair.  I was embarrassed, so I didn't go back.  But any activity was better than none.  The result was that I'd dropped another 5 pounds during January.

Now I was confident.  I joined the Family Y in February and started walking in the therapeutic pool.  I went from a 30-minute workout to an hour workout in a few days as I started to get my lungs back.  And I started lifting again -- this time, on my feet and doing both my upper and lower body without breaking my hip precautions.  Thanks to Freddy Lopez who was visiting Berris Sweeney for a week, I had a solid workout program.  And thanks to Scott Barker, a sports nutritionist from Greenville who I met on Facebook a long time ago through Tim Garriss, my diet is now right.  

Over these past four weeks, I've averaged a 5-6 pound loss per week.  I was down to 326 pounds last week for a 60-pound loss altogether since my surgery in October.  My goal is to drop another 50 by the end of May.  

Though I know I can do it, I need everyone's support and encouragement.  It's going to get tough as I go through the soreness and growing pains of weight loss.  Thank goodness I'm no longer on any pain medication.  I came off that over a month ago and went through some horrible withdrawals.  Hence, part of my "labors."  But I'm back on my feet now and ready to fight the battle with 100% ME.  

I'm trying to keep muscle and get rid of the fat.  Now, if that means I come a bit short of my goal, my surgeon won't mind because the muscle will help stabilize the hips and the rest of my body.  So, we'll see where this takes me.  In the long run, it doesn't matter, though, because I'll end up looking better than ever.  Sherry has never seen me below 300, she reminds me, and I think she's excited about the day I step on the scales and weigh 275.  If I'm lean at that weight, I'll be victorious.  

I'll post my daily workouts as if I'm writing a diary, and I'll post my weekly weigh-in and measurement numbers every Wednesday (hey, that's tomorrow).  Some weeks, the inches will decrease while the weight stabilizes.  Some will show drops in weight.  However, that's OK because muscle weighs a lot more than fat.  The measurements are as or more important than the weight in the beginning as my body adjusts to re-firing the muscles that have atrophied.  

For a visual, here's me in August 2013.  It isn't pretty, but it's where I started.  Even though it's not the best picture, it shows you what kind of shape I was in when I started this journey.

And, oh I am the day of surgery.  A whopping 385 pounds!

The Hard Road

In October 2013, I wheeled myself from my hospital recliner to the bathroom, and I sat and stared at the mirror shocked at the image I saw in the reflection.  "What happened to me?" I thought.  "This isn't me."  For the first time in five years, I saw the end result of five years of doing nothing.

Step back five years.  Before being diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis, I was a competitive Strongman.  And five years before that, I was the number one prospect for the Sydney Olympics weightlifting team as a super-heavyweight.  I was big, but I was massively strong and lean for my size.  I was an athlete and was proud of it.  

But by October 2013, I was a shadow of that old self -- a huge, fat shadow.  Call it depression, lethargy, loss of desire to move forward, or fear of the pain I lived in, I lost my way.  I ate like I did when I trained for Strongman.  My Sports Nutritionist had me on 8,000 calories a day, and I needed every one of them to build muscle.  I even leaned up then.  But without the work, I still ate big thinking I was invincible to "fatdome".

Return to Halloween 2013.  Five years of surgeries including joint decompressions, a shoulder replacement, and bilateral total hip replacements had left me a shell of a man with little hope.  How would I drop the 100 pounds my surgeon ordered by May?  I couldn't even stand on my own or dress by myself at the time.  I was immobile and was tasked with the impossible.  I pounded my fist on the counter.  "I will never be me again!"

The next day, I watched the movie "Hercules" on TV.  The old movie with Steve Reeves, not the new one.  Suddenly, he became a hero to me.  Here was a god/man who lived a belabored life.  He had to overcome all kinds of obstacles, and no matter what he faced, he always overcame.  No matter how much he was hurt, his strength always returned to him.  That's when I decided to face my own "labors."  And I made my personal motto "That Which Won't Kill Me Will Make Me Stronger" in mental preparation for the work and pain that lay ahead during my journey to return to who I once was.  That's what this blog is all about, and I invite you to join me every day in order to keep me accountable so I keep fighting and win this battle.

Obviously, this is an introduction, and I've already journeyed a while and fought a few fights.  The next few posts will catch you up, so you can see how far I've come so far.