Category Archives: Health & Fitness

This section is to discuss health & fitness. Specifically mine of course!

Motivation Towards Fitness

Getting motivated and staying in that frame of mind once you get there isn’t easy to do, at least for me. Clearly everyone is different when it comes to this and I’d like to talk about what its like for me.

When it comes to fitness its like work to me. I have to exert myself and work against the laws of physics, particularly the law of conservation of energy where the total energy of an isolated system remains constant—it is said to be conserved over time. To me in this context it means that I’d rather be doing as little as possible and not expend excess effort thus working up a sweat and heating up my body with an increased heart rate. Again that’s too much like work.

However, the physical benefits I gain from exercise do outweigh my desire to do as little as possible. Beating back diabetes has to be at the top of my list of benefits followed by a host of other medical maladies that are associated with being overweight.  Plus there is the psychological aspect of how you look in the mirror as it relates to overall confidence in yourself. I feel a lot better mentally about myself when I see that I don’t weigh 260lbs like I did when I was at my worst 11 years ago.

Getting to the point of my message here is that the motivation required for me to engage in and accomplish fitness goals only comes from within me. Other people find motivation by watching and speaking to others who are at a place they wish to be at, or with friends and family who are on the same journey together to get fit. It could be that others derive their motivation from watching top fitness professionals and amateurs alike on TV, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook et al. and aspiring to be like them. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as the individual sets reasonable goals for themselves that they are likely to achieve. Setting an impossible goal will only lead to failure and disappointment. Mitigate your expectations and take them in small steps, one at a time on the road to your goals and you’re more apt to achieve them.

I’m one of those people who cannot derive motivation from others around me, or on the view screen. Watching others attain their goals or work toward them does nothing for me. I’m happy for them and encourage their continuation toward their goals, but it won’t motivate me to get moving toward my goals. Rather, I have to want the desired effect of fitness more than I want to sit around conserving energy as much as possible. It’s a desire to out balance the benefits of fitness vs. the consequences of obesity and the health risks that come with it. That’s what motivates me to continue exercising and to stay as healthy as I can.

Staff Sgt. Antonio J. Curry, a drill instructor aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot

Nothing short of an actual Marine Corps Drill Instructor will motivate me to do what I need to do to stay fit. Even someone playing the part of a DI, an actor, or a civilian led “boot camp” DI can’t do it for me. I’d have to be in USMC Boot Camp all over again to be motivated by an outside force to do what I know I need to do.

One thing that helps me continue exercising beyond the health reasons I’ve covered already is finding a routine or program that I enjoy doing. For years I was strictly lifting weights and doing bodybuilder type of stuff. The exercises to grow my muscles large and look like the guys at the Mr. Olympia contest. Though, I am not, nor have I ever come close to looking like them, but it was something I was doing as a means to get fit. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with lifting weights and building large, strong muscles. But I was finding that it wasn’t helping me get to where I want to be physically with my body. For a while, on and off, I’d do about 30 minutes of cardio on an elliptical machine before or after my weightlifting routines. I found that when I was doing that combination that I was going in the right direction towards my goals. But doing cardio, the same thing, for 30 minutes straight really sucks. It’s tiring and more to the point, boring. I had stopped doing the cardio portion of my workouts over a year ago just because it was so boring and I hated every minute of it.

About a month ago I finally came to the point that what I needed was a change in what I was doing. While my muscles were getting stronger and bigger with the weightlifting, my body fat percentage was creeping up again. Weightlifting for me doesn’t get my heart rate up high enough, and on the few occasions that it would, its not sustained for any significant period of time. The key to burning fat is getting an elevated heart rate and sustaining it for a while, or short periods with a short break in between, like HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training.

My gym, Anytime Fitness, this year came out with their own Workouts app that is filled with pre-made programs of all types. There is a program for just about any fitness goal one could want and allows you to create your own as well. It’s very nicely designed, elegant, intuitive and easy to use, I really like it. As I was pursuing though it I decided to try their fat loss pre-made routines which, so far, is mostly all body weight cardio exercises and has had no dumbbells or barbells incorporated into it. I’m now into phase two of the plan after a month or so of doing it and I’m quite happy with it and it’s doing what I need it to do which is get my heart rate up, sweat a lot and burn some fat. The numbers don’t lie either as my scale measures weight and body fat percentage and I’m seeing my numbers drop as I wanted them to.

Additionally, since I don’t want to lose too much muscle mass while doing all this cardio-type exercise, I’ve incorporated a second program from the Workouts app with kettle bells. It’s a lot of cardio exercise as well, but with strength exercises too. I’ve never used kettle bells before and I’m finding that I really love using them. It’s vastly different from dumbbells and barbells in how they feel and how to use them. Best of all I can do these exercises at home without having to go to the gym. Obviously that means I have to have my own set of kettle bells with which to use. I’ve been slowly building up my kettle bell collection and it’s coming along nicely. My gym does not have any kettle bells there which I think is unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. So what I’ve been doing is the fat loss program 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and then kettle bells on the other 4 days of the week. I go to the gym on the fat loss program days because there are some things there that I need which I don’t have at home. There are also a lot of exercises that require me to be jumping up and down. I live on the third floor of my apartment building and I don’t wish to be rude to the neighbors by jumping and making a lot noise while I workout. Lastly, there are my gym friends that I like to see and talk to while I’m exercising and that’s why I go in several days a week too.

The combination of body weight cardio exercises and kettle bells is showing dividends for me and is steering me on the path that I want to be on towards my fitness goals. These programs take the boredom out of exercise that I get when I run on an elliptical for 30 minutes and helps time pass more quickly as I punish myself in the gym, or at home.

According to the Achievements app on my iPhone, which is paired to the Apple Watch, I am now at 28 consecutive days of exercise of 30 minutes or more. In a few hours from now I’ll make 29 days in a row.

In addition to the changes in my workout routines, I’m also tweaking my diet a little here and there so that I can get to where I want to be. A proper diet is essential to the whole fitness thing. You can’t out train a bad diet as they say.

My motivation comes from my desire to be healthy verses my desire to do as little as possible. Having an exercise routine that I enjoy helps that a lot and having a flexible, but sensible, diet also contributes to my successful motivation.

Here’s How I’ve Effectively Beaten Type II Diabetes

Last month The County Press, our local newspaper, ran an article on me and how I overcame diabetes. Here is a link to the story and here is a link to download the pdf article.

Boot Camp 1997

After I left active military duty in the US Marines I landed a job as a 911 dispatcher in my hometown county. The job is a sedentary one where you sit at a console for 10, 12 or up to 16 hours a day for a shift taking emergency calls and sending the appropriate responders out and later on being promoted to systems administrator, taking care of the 911 center and all of its technology. It’s a fulfilling job helping people out that are in need. But it also takes a toll on you physically if you don’t do something to mitigate the non-active times.

260lbs in 2006

Like most people I fell victim to sitting around for long periods of time and eating too much junk food. When I graduated Marine Corps boot camp in 1997 I weighed 160 pounds. I left active duty in May of 2001 and by 2006 I weighed 260 pounds. That’s 100 pounds of added weight over a decade I had put on. I was 28 years old at that time and when I had to renew my driver’s license that year they took an updated photo of me. When I saw it I was totally disgusted with myself for going from a trim and fit Marine to what I had become.

I decided at the time to start dieting and eat only healthy foods and reduce caloric intake. I didn’t follow any particular plan or fad diets and just made up my own as I went along. I basically ate a lot of vegetables and some cereals and drank water or iced-tea. As I recall I restricted my calories to between 700 and 1200 calories a day. After about 9 or 10 months I had lost 91 pounds and weighed 169 pounds.

While I had lost a lot of weight, I still didn’t look good. During that time I had done absolutely zero exercise. So while I lost a lot of body fat, not all of it, but I also lost a lot of muscle mass as well. Someone remarked that I “looked like an AIDS patient” because I was so gaunt looking.

That kind of highly restricted diet of very low calories, especially for a 6 foot tall man wasn’t healthy nor sustainable in the long term. I then slowly began eating a bit more again and eventually slipped back into eating too much and too much junk food and put on some weight but not nearly as much as I had before.

Me at Castaways restaurant in 2010 in decent shape.

Then I joined a gym at the behest of a friend and we became workout partners. I was renting part of a house from his aunt and uncle and he ended up moving into one of the other apartments in the house downstairs so we ended up living under the same roof as well. After work we’d meet up at the gym and workout. Then we started eating very healthy and finding creative ways to have some variety and good tasting food too. This worked out well for a long time and I started to get into decent shape.

As time went on my friend had moved out and back to college and I fell off the exercise wagon because I lacked enough motivation to continue on my own. Over the course of a few more years I put on more weight and ended up around 220 pounds. By this time I had moved into the city much closer to work and the gym but I wasn’t going to the gym.

My diet had gotten really bad and I was consuming a lot of soda pop and other sugary foods.  I had developed a sinus infection and had to go see my doctor because of it. At the time I was getting suspicious of my health and started having some of the common symptoms like extreme thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision and neuropathy of the feet. While I was at the doctor’s office I asked the nurse to check me for diabetes. She took a blood sugar reading and said “oh my” and quickly walked out of the room around the corner where the doctor was sitting. The next thing I heard was him shout “What?!” My reading was well above 500mg/dl where normal is considered to be below 100mg/dl. He immediately put me on medication and told me to lose weight and eat right. I knew I had to do it without him telling me so, I mean don’t we all already know what we have to do?

For the first year or two I didn’t take the diagnosis too seriously and only made very minor changes to my diet which did not have much of a positive effect on my sugar levels. I was still above 200 on every check of my sugar.

In 2015 I finally decided to start regarding my diabetes seriously and cut out all the junk from my diet and I re-joined the gym. The knowledge I gained over the years about exercise and proper diet would be brought back into play and in a years time I lost 45 pounds and with the guidance of my doctor I eventually was able to come off of diabetes medication altogether. My hbA1C which is long term sugar readings are now at levels that are consistent with someone who does not, nor ever had diabetes. My last reading was 5.4%, compare that to when I was first diagnosed where it was over 10%.

My VA doctor was so happy and proud of my accomplishment to come off of medication like this because she said that most people never achieve what I have. Well I think that’s because most people are unwilling to do what is necessary to beat back the disease that they, like me, gave to themselves. A proper diet and exercise combined with a lasting discipline is what it takes. I don’t say that its easy, because it isn’t. Keeping your diet in check is the hardest part; much harder than getting to the gym and lifting weights.

I’ll always be a diabetic for the rest of my life due to the damage I’ve done to my pancreas over the years, but as long as I continue to eat right and exercise like I am right now, I will be a ‘diet-controlled’ diabetic.

Losing Weight

The key to losing weight is no secret and people ask me all the time how I did it. Put most simply, burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight. It’s how I dropped 91 pounds in less than a year’s time. But there is more to it if you want to do it the healthy way.

First one has to keep in mind that you didn’t get heavy overnight and therefore you won’t lose all the excess weight overnight either. It takes time.

One of the things fitness and medical experts will tell you is to drink more water and exercise. The exercise can be anything that gets your heart rate up, be it cardio like jogging, walking or running to anaerobic exercise like lifting weights. The reason for this is because there are two ways the body loses weight, 1) through the breath and 2) through urine. A common myth on how we actually lose that body fat is that you poop it out or sweat it out. That’s not true. When your body burns fat (or muscle – catabolic state) through the process of biosynthesis it converts that fat into energy and the by-product of that conversion is CO2  – carbon dioxide. The body eliminates CO2 when you exhale and when you urinate.

When you’re told to get your heart rate up, pumping faster and working up a sweat, you’re also breathing harder and expending energy and thus increasing the amount of CO2 you’re eliminating from the body which is the fat. The same goes for drinking more water since CO2 is dumped into the bladder and washed away by water when you go to the bathroom.

So if your goal is to lose weight you need to exercise a little as well as eat properly and that means getting your heart rate up and breathing heavier for a period of time.

At the gym in 2016

If you decide to lift weights as a form of exercise it can help speed up the process as you build muscle mass. The increased muscle requires more energy to build and maintain and thus helps you burn more calories and excess body fat. Plus you’ll look a lot better in the mirror or on the beach too.

Fitbit Surge

Another thing I did this time was to purchase a fitness tracker. I bought a Fitbit Charge HR and then later a Fitbit Surge. These help track calories burned, steps taken, floors climbed, track workouts, runs, bicycle rides and measure your heart rate. You sync it with your smartphone or computer and get a great display of all your results. The fitness tracker really helps me keep my goals in mind and at the forefront of everything I’m doing. With the smartphone app and the website you can also track all your food intake and see breakdowns of the nutrients and calorie counts. This is extremely helpful in planning your meals out and staying on track to meet your daily food goals. I strongly recommend investing in one whether it be a Fitbit, an Apple Watch or other tracker. It’s just one more tool you can use to help you on your fitness journey.

Sugar

I discovered an interesting thing about my body and sugar after effectively being “off of sugar” for the past 2 years. Sugar is a lot like some drugs in that your body builds up a tolerance to it and over time you need more of it to get the same effect, feeling or rush that you did the first time you had any of it.

Since I adjusted my daily diet to be healthy and free from as much sugar as I could I am averaging around 50 grams of sugar per day consumed and that is for the whole day! That’s about as much sugar as is found in a 20oz bottle of Mountain Dew, of which I used to drink several per day, then factor in all the junk food and sugar-laden food I was eating and it was no wonder I gave myself diabetes.

The interesting thing I found was that one day not too long ago I checked my sugar and I was at a low 57mg/dl and 60 is typically the lowest you want to get to before you start having low blood sugar problems. I felt just fine and had no adverse effects at that reading, but I thought I should eat something to raise it up a little. I haven’t had any candy in a long time and I thought why not now? There is a candy box outside my office door and I bought a pack of Rolo’s. I didn’t bother to look at the label to see how much sugar was in it. I ate the candy and after a few minutes I physically felt the rush of sugar throughout my body and even a tingling in my eyeballs! I looked at the wrapper and saw that the little package had 30 grams of sugar in it! That was almost as much sugar as I consume in a whole day now and I consumed it in a matter of minutes. Plus that first Rolo I had was so super sweet too. I wasn’t used to milk chocolate anymore and it didn’t taste nearly as good as it once did.

I used to hate dark chocolate because it was too bitter, i.e. not sweet enough. But now, I buy 90% coca dark chocolate to have with my espresso once in a while. A single serving of that, 4 squares, contains a mere 3 grams of sugar. That is totally acceptable to eat for me and with such a minimal amount of sugar in it, it tastes great and tastes just sweet enough to enjoy. I don’t seem to enjoy milk chocolate anymore and especially with the ultra high sugar content of candies I don’t want to like them anymore since it is a determinant to my health now.

Final Thoughts

As the newspaper article title suggests, and quotes me, ‘your doctor can’t do it for you,’ it is solely up to you to take control of your diabetes and weight. Your doctor can only make recommendations, encourage you and give you medications. Medications can only do so much to help mitigate the problem and oftentimes lead to adverse side effects as well. Only you can control your exercise levels and what you eat and both are the keys to success.

Lastly, I have extra incentive to maintain a healthy diet and weight and that is I am and forever will be a diabetic. That means if I stray back into my bad habits I’ll have blood sugar problems again and worse yet I could lose toes, feet, legs to amputation even go blind or even die. I’m going to die someday, but I don’t want it to be because I failed to control my diabetes, and until then I want to retain my vision and keep all my body parts in tact.

Adventures in City Riding

Since I have had my new bicycle, I have been enjoying riding it all over the city. A few days after I bought it, I went back and bought a speedometer/odometer for it. As of this writing I have logged 97 miles, averaging about 8-10 miles per day of riding; weather permitting of course. I’m not as hardcore as I used to be therefore I won’t go riding in bad weather or rain. But I have been riding to work nearly everyday and leaving the truck sit. I have found that it takes me only 5 minutes longer to ride to work than it does to drive the 2.2 miles.

I did some figuring of my driving since March this year. In March I drove 1,620 miles, used 139 gallons of fuel, averaged 13.7mpg and the average cost of fuel was $3.75 and I spent $521 on that fuel. This was what truly compelled me to move into the city and get a bicycle. Then in April, the month I moved into town, on the 15th to be exact, I drove 1,006 miles, used 91 gallons of fuel, averaged 14.4mpg and the average cost of fuel was $4.12 and I spent $375 on that fuel. Although the average cost of fuel was higher, I drove 600 miles less and I cannot figure out where I did all that driving in March. Then in May, things got even better. I drove 1,038 miles, used 85 gallons of fuel, averaged 15.2mpg and the average cost of fuel was $4.23 and I spent $360 on that fuel. So far this month, I’ve only filled up once and spent $64.01 for 15.391 gallons and I averaged 17.3mpg on the last tank.

Yesterday I had to drive to work and the reason was two-fold. First it was rainy and cold and second I had to bring the bike into the shop for a tune-up. After 80 miles of riding the cables had stretched and needed adjustment. They told me that was normal for a new bike and that now it should last much longer before it needs adjustment again. Thursday, riding around it was getting bad enough where it would jump gears on its own between 3rd, 4th, & 5th and on all 7 gears the de-railer was out of adjustment. So I dropped it off in the morning and picked it up after work and it is much better now.

I took it out this afternoon for a 12.7 mile ride across town. Every time I go out, I try to go down a different street that I hadn’t been on before. This helps me learn the side streets better and also gives new scenery to view. The town is only about 2.5 square miles so I must zig-zag all around to get the distance I want without leaving the city limits.

I must say that I am really glad I moved into town and got the bike, I feel so much better being able to get out and ride around, feel the wind in my hair and see the town up close.