Wednesday, March 30, 2005

And we're off....

It's wednesday of my first week on Body for Life (keeping in mind that I started on Tuesday). I've been through two workouts and one full day of trying to stay on my meal plan. I've had problems getting enough protein, since we eat vegetarian at home. But I was way under my calorie target yesterday. I did upper body strength training last night. I really struggled on some of my lifts and had to reduce the weight a lot. I'm sore today, so I guess I accomplished something. I did an extended workout on the bike this morning. I felt like I really pushed it hard for 20 minutes. I went 30 minutes total, just to burn a few extra calories. I clocked my heart rate at 150 bpm at one point. I need to see if that's out of the training zone.

We got a set of calipers and a Tanita body fat scale from yesterday. Cheryl and I took several different measurements with the calipers and I did a series of readings with the Tanita to see if it was consistent. According to the Tanita, I weigh 183.7 lbs with a body composition of 22.7%. With the calipers, using one measurement, I got about 22%. Using the four reading system, I got more like 25%. Cheryl's body fat numbers were pretty good for a woman (I won't repeat them here, since she said she didn't want her weight published anywhere). We're supposed to do our "before" pictures tonight. There's a new tanning place within walking distance of our house. I'm thinking about getting some "color" for the after pictures.

But all of that is more the sort of thing to put on my web page, which I need to work on tonight. The purpose of this blog is to talk about the experience. Well, for two days, I haven't collapsed on the couch immediately after work. I was early to work this morning, thanks to the momentum I had going from my aerobic workout. I still need to sort out a lot of the details as I go, but I'm feeling good about being in the process.

I don't know if it's the best use of my time to be working on my body. It feels a little vain. But there are so many benefits beyond looking good in a swimsuit. And it's not just about being healthy. It's about setting goals and reaching for them. I look around me lately and I see a lot of out-of-shape people. I don't look down on them, but I don't want to be like them either. Being healthy feels more like being "me". To quote Shakespeare, "to thine ownself be true".

Monday, March 28, 2005

Tomorrow is the day

My start date for the Body for Life challenge is tomorrow and I just don't feel prepared at all. I don't have my meals planned tomorrow. I don't have my first workout plan on paper. I don't have all the supplements that I wanted to get. I don't have my before picture done. I'm not sure how this happened. I was way ahead of schedule for all this stuff, but the last week has just flown by. Cheryl is supposed to be starting the challenge with me tomorrow and I don't think she's finished reading the book yet.

I guess I'll put together some sort of meal plan for tomorrow and just go from there. I have some Body for Life ready-to-drink that I bought, so I can wing a couple of meals with those. I have a pretty good idea about the first upper body workout also. So, I can get through day one. Cheryl agreed to do our pictures on Wednesday. I have two options for the aerobic workout Wednesday morning, one being the stationary bike we bought over the weekend. If we make it to the weekend, I'll have some time to think and plan. I would postpone the whole thing another week, but I just don't see what that would accomplish. We would just have this same problem next week.

I've been waiting to do this for over a month now, holding off for the right moment, and now I just don't feel good about the way it's starting. I'm just hoping that taking the first step is the right thing to do. I'm trusting in my own ability and creativity to pull this off.

But at least it's finally in motion. I can't help but feel a little good about that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Good things, bad things and just...things

Today is Tuesday. In one week, I begin the BFL challenge. And I'm still sick. I've missed two days of work this week and I might be going for three. I saw my doctor yesterday. She put me on some antibiotics, just in case this bug is partly bacterial. She gave me some horse pills that apparently have the punch of a bottle of robitussin. She tells me I will be up and running in time to start my challenge.

I told her about Body for Life and she said it was a good program. Then she asked if I was aware of Bill Phillips involvement with steroids. She suggested that I read up on that to make a more informed decision about the program. So, when I got home, I punched up a few searches and found a lot of info. I finally settled in with an article from Outside Magazine that profiled Bill in a somewhat negative light, but told me a lot about what I wanted to know. And you know what? It doesn't change my plans at all. I don't really care if Bill is in this for the money, although it seems unlikely. I don't really care if he's made some mistakes. And I don't care if I don't end up looking like the people on the cover of the book. And I don't care if some writer from Outside magazine doesn't get what all the hype is about. If not every aspect of Bill Phillips' life is squeaky clean, it doesn't change the fact that this is a good balanced program. And I refuse to apologize for the fact that I want to like what I see when I look in the mirror.

By coincidence, I noticed the April edition of Outside magazine on the newstand recently (and when I say "noticed", I actually mean it stopped me in my tracks). It features rock climber Sara Carlson on the cover. She's very pretty, has long blonde hair, a very shapely body, and she's not wearing a stitch of clothing. As a photographer, I have to say it's a beautiful shot and I have no objection to displaying the female form for artistic purposes. I just wanted to point out the mild hypocrisy of poking fun at Body for Lifers and our before-and-after pictures, then putting some heavenly body on the cover to sell more magazines. Of course, maybe that was just a one time thing. Nope, the March edition features surfer Sonya Balmores on the cover with her athletic bod displayed in skimpy bikini. I might add, again as a photographer, that the picture of Sonya uses a composition of figure and background that tends to draw your eye to certain part of her anatomy, and it isn't her face. Once again, I don't object except for the hypocrisy. I bet if they could get Kelly Adair on the cover, they would.

Anyway, while surfing for further info, I found John Hussman's page ( and, in particular, his "Body for Life Support Page". He has so much info that it was almost like reading another book, but he filled in a lot of gaps for me and answered some of my major questions. I had so much research to do this week and John's page probably cut it by two thirds. I've already decided to incorporate some of John's tweaks to my aerobic workouts. I'm also considering some limited use of creatine in my strength program. Cheryl and I are going to start mapping out the diet tomorrow. I still have a lot to do (I'm about halfway through setting up a home gym, I have supplements to buy, etc.), but I'm feeling good about getting everything ready by Tuesday. Now, I just need to get well.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I can't believe this...

Maybe it's an Irish thing to believe in omens. I'm five generations removed from the emerald isle, but I still look for signs that I'm doing the right thing. It doesn't take much. Recently, while driving somewhere in my car, I was pondering a decision I needed to make. A song came on the radio that seemed to provide the answer. When it was over and I changed stations, the same song was playing. On the grand cosmic scale, it wasn't a huge deal, but it helped me feel better about what I had decided.

So, here I am about to embark on the Body for Life Challenge. After a month of contemplation and planning, I finally pick the start date and publish it on my web site. I start this blog, a first for me, I might add. And now I'm sick as a dog.

Let me put this in perspective. This is my first sick day from work in over three years. I'm never sick. My fitness has deteriorated over time, but my health has always been good. I have eight days to recover before my proposed start date. Cheryl and I were planning on doing our "before" pictures this Sunday (yes, I know, it's Easter, but we thought we could work it in). I know this is petty, but I've lost weight over the last four days. I'll probably gain most of it back when I get over this, but it seems unfair that my healthy weight won't be my starting point. Damn!

I guess I'm going to proceed as if all of this will work out...and wait for an omen.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Don't take the defaults...

Working with computers can give one a warped view on life. I install software every day where I'll ask, "Are there any special settings required?" Often, I'll be told, "Just take the defaults." What this means is, on a series of computer screens where you are given options, don't even bother looking at them. Just click "next" over and over until you're finished. And when you're done, you get the same thing everyone else got...except those people that didn't take the defaults.

I think life is like that. We are given choices every day and often we just take the defaults and get what everyone else got. For some decisions, this is appropriate. For instance, if the question is "do I rob this bank" or "should I drive on the left side of this road instead of the right like everyone else", I daresay the default is a better choice (the defaults being "no" and "no", in case there was any doubt). But sometimes we take the default when we really should make a decision. It would be easy for me to say, "Well, no one else around me looks and feels ten years younger, so why should I?" If you take enough defaults like that one, you can default yourself right into the grave.

I had lunch with a good friend the other day and mentioned Body for Life to her. I told her I hoped to be in the best shape of my life when I was finished. She said, "Don't you think it's just normal that, as people get older, women get large around the hips and men get soft around the middle?" Honestly, I might have begun to think that until recently. But no more. No more excuses. No more defaults.

I'm currently down with respiratory infection. I want to start my challenge on a Tuesday so that my bowling night (Monday) will be my off day and Saturday and Sunday will both be workout days (better for me since I work weekdays). I briefly toyed with starting this coming Tuesday, but that's not going to happen now. So, Tuesday, March 29 is my target date. I'm a little worried that my aerobic system won't be fully recovered by then (I've had this before and it can put a dent in your aerobic capacity for weeks), but I think I have to go ahead as if I'll be ready by then. I have a lot to do. Cheryl and I discussed doing our before pictures next weekend. We also discussed entering as individuals rather than as a couple. (Actually I'm not sure if the couples category is even available, there's not any info on it, or a checkbox to check or anything. Anybody know how it works?) This puts my completion of the Challenge on June 19th. Hmmm, it's strangely inspirational to see it in print.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

What the bleep....

I just watched the movie "What the Bleep do We Know". It's just come out on DVD. My wife, Cheryl, and I saw this in the theater when it came out. It was recommended to us by our good friend, Lisa Lynne. Lisa is a Celtic harpist and composer of new age music. Check her out at We only see Lisa once a year, when she comes to St. Charles to play at a local street festival. On her last visit, she told us that she just knew we would get a lot out of this movie. I've been waiting for it to come out on DVD ever since I saw it, so that I could take more time with it.

What does this have to do with Body for Life? It has to do with inspiration. The movie is filled with references to quantum physics and biology, but, beneath all that science, it's about how our perceptions create our reality. With respect to our bodies, our body image often has a huge effect, either positive or negative, on our physical body. One of the experts points out that aging is caused by various cell receptors' inability hold on to proteins and that this inability is largely due to psychological factors.

A particularly haunting segment in the movie involves the studies that Masaru Emoto did with water crystals, as outlined in his book, The Message from Water. Emoto demonstrated that water's crystal structure responded to blessings or affirmations by becoming beautiful and symmetrical. On the other hand, when hate messages were taped on the bottle that contained the water, the crystalline structure was random, chaotic, and very ugly. What does this have to do with Body for Life? Our bodies are 80 to 90 percent...water.

My wife, Cheryl, is now reading Body for Life. She is signed up for the challenge as well, but...I signed her up. I don't know what her commitment is going to be. Perhaps she'll have her own blog before long.

The realization

During my rare free time, I like to browse bookstores. I like the feeling that I'm in the presence of life-changing ideas and that they are waiting to speak to me if I just pay attention. Well, it was during one of these bookstore safaris that Bill Phillips book, Body for Life, jumped off the shelf and knocked my world sideways. As I paged through it, I realized two things. First, I saw that I resembled the before pictures much more than the after pictures. Second, I understood in a flash of insight that my body had become an anchor in a life that desperately wanted to move forward.

Twelve or thirteen years ago, I was a distance runner. I was never particularly fast, but I had a lot of heart. I completed the 20 mile distance five times and even finished one marathon. At my peak, my aerobic capacity was in the 70's and my resting heart rate was around 50. Lately, however, I'm getting winded going up four flights of stairs. I checked my blood pressure at the discount store today and it was 128/92. The little placard on the blood pressure machine says that's in the borderline range between healthy and unhealthy. Borderline? How did I go from elite athlete to borderline?

I had actually started a weight training program on my own before I encountered Body for Life. My thinking was that building some muscle mass would boost my metabolism, which along with my biking and martial arts, would start reducing the abdominal fat that's been driving me crazy for the last three or four years. I also had some vague ideas about increasing my aerobic exercise to something more than walking two to three times a week. But, since reading Body for Life, I'm thinking bigger. I'm trading my vague ideas for specific goals and I'm aiming a lot higher. I'm thinking about those washboard abs I never had. I'm thinking about a better way to eat. I'm thinking about a life with more action and fewer excuses. And, yes, I've signed up for the Body for Life Challenge. The competitor's guide came today.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.