Progress Report #1 – One Month

This Friday marks one month since I started my return to the gym.

And so far, it’s been going pretty well.

I think I could be doing better, though.  I’m only going about 3-4 times a week, and that’s good for now.  And I only started weights in the third week, after meeting with the trainer.

However, last week was a complete washout.  I fell ill with a mild case of bronchitis, and that put the kibosh on any gym activity.

But today I’m ready to get back on the horse, so to speak.

I’m not noticing any physical changes yet– although the second time I did my upper body routine, I did like the way my arms looked. 🙂  Let’s hope that continues to improve.  I’m tired of having needles for arms.

AND– the last time I weighed myself, I noticed I had dropped about 7-8 pounds.  THAT felt great!

But– it’s all relative.  I just have to keep it up.  And I will.

Today will be cardio.  Tomorrow will be lower body and cardio.  Thursday I’m going to attempt getting up early, and will do upper body.  Friday will be cardio and whatever else I need to do… or am able to do.

Thanks for all the words of encouragement… it means a lot!!

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Changes

Hello again… hello!

So yeah… It’s been a long time since I last posted something here.

But I’ve been pretty busy for the past few months.  Busy with work, chorus, family… and busy with myself.

You see, ever since I moved last year, I have been slowly and steadily fixing things that I didn’t like about my life.  And when I say slow and steady, I MEAN slow and steady.  These things don’t happen overnight, you know.

For instance, I finally opened a savings account– and actually started putting money INTO that savings account.  That’s huge.  I haven’t done that in years– especially those years when I was living in my old place.  It isn’t much yet, but I’m hoping it will grow into something I can use for– I don’t know– a trip?  Maybe even a long vacation?  That’d be really nice.

I’ve also been paying off some long-standing debts that have been hovering over my head.  I still have a few to catch up with, but I feel like I’m in a better place now than I’ve been in a very long time.

But the biggest changes have been with myself personally.  No, I’m not dating anyone (yet), but I finally decided to stop being a lazy ass and do something about my physical health.   I joined a gym.

It’s taken me over ten years to muster up the will to do this again.  My first foray into the world of physical fitness started in about 1995 when I was still living in Kenosha.  I had joined the local Gold’s Gym (which it isn’t anymore),  formulated a really good plan, and stuck to it for almost a year.  By the time I moved to Chicago, I was down to 190 or so pounds, and was really starting to show the effects of my efforts.

After moving to Chicago in 1997, I joined a Bally Total Fitness club.  Big mistake.  First, the club I joined was in the River City complex downtown.  I’m still not 100% sure why I went there, but I was a traveling sales rep at the time and I was never stationed in one particular area; so I could easily drive there any time I wanted.  The problem was, I let them rook me into the most expensive contract they had, which cost me a fortune.  I think I was paying something like $100-120  a month, and on top of that I hired a personal trainer.  HE was great– well worth the money — but I don’t know WHAT I was thinking getting sucked into that deal.

Well, as luck would have it, I lost that job about a year later, and I wasn’t able to afford that astronomical monthly fee.  I tried (and tried) to get out of it, but I was locked in for at least another year.  I was so upset with Bally that I just stopped going altogether.  When I finally paid off the membership, I told them to shove it and quit completely.  My love affair with fitness had ended.

In the ten years or so that passed since then, a lot has happened in my life– the most significant being the death of my father.  His passing was a wake-up call for me.  He wasn’t born with diabetes… he contracted it due to his lifestyle.  And after the diagnosis, he let himself go.  He went from weighing over 250 lbs. around the time of his diagnosis to over 450 at the time of his death.

I recount this, because I realized recently that if I don’t do something about my health now, I will end up just like him.  OK, I wouldn’t get quite so heavy (at least I hope), but I’m most certainly a prime candidate for diabetes, and I do NOT want that in my life.  And as 40 draws ever nearer, I realized that if I don’t do something about it now, I never will do anything about it.

So … I’m doing this.  And it’s not easy.  It’s hard work.  There are days I have to drag myself in.  There are other days where I look forward to it.  Thankfully I’ve done this before, so I know what to expect… but I really want this to work.  This may be my last chance to make a difference for myself.

I’ll be blogging about my progress here.  Since I haven’t been blogging much lately, I figured this was as good a reason as any to resurrect the old Launching Pad.  Might as well make use of it, right? 🙂

The Parade-less Pride

This past weekend was Pride Weekend in Chicago.

I was really looking forward to the weekend’s festivities.  In addition to the parade itself on Sunday, there was the CGMC concert on Saturday night, and my friend Tracy in Sweeney Todd at Loyola University on Friday night.  It was definitely looking to be an action-packed week and I was ready for it.

The show on Friday was wonderful.  Tracy was awesome and I hung out with her afterward and met some of the cast.  Later I joined the Feast of Fools boys at Big Chicks and we did a bar crawl through Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater that ended with me getting home late and a bit drunk, but still happy that I had a great time.

Saturday was recovery day (thanks to Friday!) but I was still able to get out and do a little shopping.  Then of course, Saturday night was the CGMC show, which was absolutely wonderful.  The chorus changed its Pride concert venue from the Athenaeum Theatre to Lakeview Presbyterian Church for this show, and it allowed the chorus to perform “Naked” – without any audio enhancement.  The result was a rich, wonderful show that the audience (and chorus) enjoyed immensely.  I wished I could be up there singing with them.

I joined a group of the chorus members out for a drink or two after the show and we were all psyched for the Pride Parade.  I was planning on joining them as we marched our annual march from Belmont Street to Diversey Parkway.  The Chorus was teaming up with the Illinois Lottery this year and we were planning on bringing 100 people to not only show our support but to sing out, loud and proud.  It was to be very exciting.

But for me, this was not to be.

When I awoke on Sunday morning, I felt my chest burning and my lungs heavy.  It was difficult to breathe.  I started coughing continuously. And the more I did to try to get ready, the worse it got.  I knew this feeling, and I knew it well.  I was having an asthma attack.

Foolishly, I thought maybe I was just hungry, so I started making breakfast.  I drank some orange juice and things seemed to settle a bit, but as I kept working and preparing my food, it got worse again.  I had another attack.

Defeated, I grabbed my Albuterol inhaler and took a couple of puffs.  The attack subsided but my heart was racing.  I knew this was a bad sign.  I ate my breakfast and tried to calm myself down, but it was too little, too late.  I had another attack.  So I puffed again and sat down.

By now I was running late for the parade, but I also knew there was no way I could do it in my current condition.  I sent messages to our chorus General Manager and another fellow member, letting them know I couldn’t make it, and got back into bed.  I slept for about four hours.

This was the first time since I attended my first Pride parade in about 1993 that I didn’t attend Chicago’s Pride parade.  If I had a different excuse I suppose I would feel better about it, but I guess my health is as good an excuse as any.  One thing  I knew for sure- my asthma is no longer just something I “might” have to worry about in the future.  It’s something I definitely need to worry about — NOW.

My mom had asthma throughout most of her life but let it go untreated and unchecked until it was almost too late.  Granted, she smoked throughout most of her life, too– but chances are she would be in the same boat she’s in today — with COPD/Emphysema— whether she smoked or not, simply because she let her asthma go for so long.  I don’t want to end up like that, and I know she doesn’t want me to end up that way, either.  So I’m doing something about it today.  I’m calling my doctor and we’re going to get me scheduled for a pulmonary exam.  I can’t deny the obvious any longer.  Asthma is a hereditary disease.  I have it.  I have to live with it.

I just want to live with it — and not die because of it!

So my pride weekend was a bit marred; but it wasn’t without its good moments.  And if I had to take something away from the weekend that was positive, it’s that I learned something important about myself and I will do something about it.  I guess that’s part of taking pride in living your best life.

I need a massage

I’ve been told by more than one person lately that I’m far too negative.  I focus on everything that’s bad and let it eat at me until I can’t see what’s good anymore.  In some ways I guess I knew this, but I never realized how bad it was until very recently.  I don’t like that about me.  I never have.  It’s something I need to be more aware of and something I need to fix.

I’ve felt alienated by a lot of people lately — friends, acquaintances, and co-workers alike.  I’ve felt much more alone and much less social.  And as the weeks have passed, I’ve become concerned that something was at the root of all of this.  I didn’t realize how much of that root involved me and my own outlook on life.

Talk about a spring awakening! 

So what am I going to do about all of this?  I’m working on that, but I think there is one way I can start to get back to my center and work my way out:  Get a massage.

For the past few months or so, I’ve been hounded by a friend of mine in the Feast of Fools community to get a massage.  And although I know his heart is in the right place, I’ve done just about anything and everything possible to avoid doing it.

Thing is, he’s absolutely right.

In fact, he’s told me on more than one occasion that I should look into regular massages.  Not only would they help me relax, he says, they would help me to focus more and be more attuned to the things that need attention in my life.

Surely I can’t argue with that logic.  At times my life feels like I’m teetering on the brink of disaster.  Just the slightest gust of wind or sesmic jolt could send this house of cards on a freefall that will never end.

So an hour or so of complete silence and the hands of a good masseuse can’t be a bad thing.  I just need to get my shit together long enough to make an appointment and do it.

Of course that’s easier said than done.  In this economy, where grocery prices are skyrocketing and gasoline is more expensive than gold, things like a massage seem like a distant luxury.  But groceries can’t relieve my aching shoulders.  Gasoline can’t lull me into a meditative state.  Well, I suppose it could, but I’d kill a few thousand brain cells at the same time.

So my goal for this month is to get this massage taken care of.  And the sooner, the better.  Because I really need to start relaxing and enjoying life again.  I need to smile and laugh more.  I need to be a better friend and a better person in general.  Then, once I take this step, I may decide to take other steps.  The more steps I take, the better I will feel about myself, which hopefully will be recognized by the people around me.

I don’t like who I’ve become lately.  And if I don’t like myself, there’s no way other people will like me. 

Winter hates me.

It’s far too easy to say that I hate winter. At this point, after the winter we’ve had around here, EVERYONE hates winter.

We’ve had more snow this winter than any in recent memory. It’s been bitterly cold, then warm, then cold, then warm and humid, and then cold again– over and over and over.

I’ve been sick three times with any given number of respiratory ailments, and no sooner than one leaves, another takes its place.

But through all of this insanity, I’m managed not to slip and fall on the icy sidewalks… Until today.

So instead of believing that I hate winter (which I do), I think it’s time to realize that something even bigger is afoot.  Winter hates ME.

I woke up a little late today so I begrudgingly decided to take my car in to work. I say begrudgingly because it meant I had to scrape yesterday’s ice and snow off the windows, and that’s never a fun job when you’re in a hurry. Also, since it had been there a couple days, it was bound to be glued to the windows and therefore a bitch to remove.  I was right.

I also decided to drive because the conditions were really icy and I didn’t feel it would be in my best interest to walk on everyone’s ice-packed sidewalks. See, in my neighborhood there are the responsible residents and the lazy residents. The responsible residents shovel, salt, and then shovel again after the salt breaks up the snow and ice a bit more. Their sidewalks clear up in a day or so and turn into safe walking surfaces for everyone. The lazy residents let everyone trample the snow until it’s smooshed into a thick glacier-like substance, and hope that maybe the temperature will rise so it will turn to slush and get brushed away by the constant traffic of people’s feet. This works fine in theory, except if the temperature decides to dive even lower the next day, which turns that solid glacier into solid ice. Not fun at all, folks.

So I chose to drive to avoid this. And it went great… until I got to the parking garage. I had to park on the roof, which never pleases me, but it’s better than nothing. I got out of the car and dodged the ice around me until I reached the doors to the elevator. I stepped up on the curb and then saw what eventually brought me down. A smooth, shiny sheet of ice.  I couldn’t avoid it.  There was no way around it.  So I stepped.

CRASH!

I hit the ground, directly on my right knee.

Now I should mention that I have pretty bad knees. Always have. My knees have always popped when I bend them, and once in a while I even tear a little cartilage if I’m not careful when getting jostled around on the El or while… um… horsing around. The tears last for weeks and are incredibly painful, and unfortunately the only thing I can do is wear a brace and wait for it to heal.

That’s how it feels right now.

I don’t know if I twisted it or just bashed it hard against the concrete. If it hurts worse tomorrow (which I suspect it will) I may have to visit the E.R. Great way to start off the new year!!!

So this winter has been very unkind to me. I’ve been its bitch, and I’ve submitted over and over again. It’s taking its toll on me something fierce…

But even still, it hasn’t beat me yet!