Growing up, I was usually quite active. Not having a television for most of my childhood, mom pushed us outdoors when the weather was nice. No matter where we lived, it was quite the norm to be out all day and maybe get back in time for supper. This held while living in Seymour, Tennessee, and Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Fort Ritchie, Maryland, and Patch Barracks, Vaihingen, Germany (nicht Vaihingen an der Enz).
I also played many different sports: Little League Baseball in Seymour, basketball and soccer at Fort Belvoir, just basketball in Maryland, and just soccer in Germany. During my junior year of high school, I took up running on my own, eventually running 3 miles a day in under 18 minutes. I used my Multiplan skills I developed while working in the Comptrollers Office to record my times and calculate my time per mile.
My freshman year of college was at Johnson Bible College (now Johnson University). I went out and made the soccer team, this too had me running and staying in shape. As my father retired from the Army during this time and the family moved to Johnson, I stayed on campus when I went to the University of Tennessee. For a few years on, I continued to stay in shape by running.
In the summer of 1990 when I was 22, I changed my philosophy and goals. Being 6’5″ with a 31″ waist, I was quite skinny. Now I wanted to build some muscle. The Eubank’s Activity Center had a weight room and a few machines. I started to lift weights, eat more, and dug into magazines like Muscle and Fitness. By the time I married in July 1992, I was put to nearly 190 pounds from my start of 160 and had some strength. Shortly after getting married though, I stopped training.
After a couple of years of near inactivity and starting to have lower back issues, my wife and I joined Court South on Alcoa Highway. It was not only close to our house, it was on the way to my job at the University of Tennessee, Hodges Library, Systems Department. As I worked noon to 9 pm, I soon was taking my clothes with me, working out and showering, then heading to work. I would shave before I left home. I made a few gains in strength and size, but not much. For the most part, I kept my legs strong for ski season. Back then, my skis were 203 centimeters long and I was on Ski Patrol at Ober Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This took some leg strength to patrol for hours on those sticks.
During the year of 1997, we moved to Marion, Ohio when I took a job with Macola Software. When I first moved up, I played on a recreational league soccer team. Here my nearly 30 year old body could not quite keep up with the teenagers who also played, but it was good fun. I played the next year too and in the meantime worked out at the YMCA. Here I was doing arm curls with 50 pound dumbbells and I first started reading Ironman Magazine. Now my routines were taking a serious note, but I also did stupid things and eventually hurt my knees. A few job changes later and a move to Cincinnati, and I rarely worked out anymore.
I was on ski patrol at Ober Gatlinburg for 5 seasons. In the summer of 2000, I took the Outdoor Emergency Care class again to get on patrol at Perfect North Slopes. Though I did not have to take the class again, it being 10 years since the class the first time, I thought it was a good idea. Over the next few years, I did occasionally worked out and joined the Y on Poole Road for a time. I believed I was in good shape. After all, I did ski every winter and was on patrol.
Then something unexpected happened and I knew I had to change.
I was about 42 years old when one year during the beginning of the ski season I was riding in the sled during training. We came down to the bottom and I went to get up and I couldn’t. I tried several times to basically do a crunch to get to a sitting position. I couldn’t. I couldn’t do a bloody crunch, no matter how much I used my feet to get leverage. Eventually, I rolled out of the sled onto all fours and stood up. That was it, something had to change.
We had a stationary bike in the basement and I started riding it again. Eventually an interesting routine developed: 10 minutes of riding, 5 minutes of arm curls and crunches. Rinse and repeat 4 times. I also started reading Ironman Magazine again and doing some of the routines in it. Set by set, the dumbbells that had been buried in the garage came back out and into use.
After nearly two years, I started to realize I was out growing what I could do in the house. Not have a bench or a rack, it became difficult to do more serious work. I looked at getting the Marcy utility bench (yes, the one with the gorgeous model on the box), but realized I didn’t have the space to put it. There are three gyms near me, so I went by them all. The closest was quite and small and the biggest one (Planet Fitness) was too against serious workouts, so I wasn’t going to join there. I decided to wait.
A bit over a year ago, I looked again. This time I decided to join Stay Fit 24, though it was small. After all, I’m in my forties and my joints don’t need weights too heavy. I got a small booklet to record my weights and I took routines straight out of Steve Holman’s articles from Ironman Magazine.
I made good progress and my body adjusted to workouts again. I had a simple goal then: strength my right knee and get better flexibility. I had the manager Adam help me remember how to do squats and deadlifts again. I started pushing 300 plus pounds on the inclined leg press. I switched routines around when the page filled with recordings. The ski season of 2013-2014 saw me with more leg strength than I had in years and the turns were some much easier. I also skied faster through the crud than I had before. My months of work in the gym paid off.
My diet changed over the months, adding proper carbohydrates and more protein. I dropped simple sugars as much as possible. Breads and pastas were also removed. Gluten became a bad word. My body slimmed and my strength increased. The results were visible when I had my yearly exam for medical insurance as my waist was one inch smaller.
My abs, however, lagging during all this, despite all the crunches. I took the November planking challenge on Facebook. After two weeks of that, my abs woke up and I’ve been planking ever since. Awesome.
I have two current goals: squat and bench my body weight, something I never reached even when I was younger and workout all the time. To achieve the former will require more core strength. To build that, I now do wheel roller ab work and deadlifts. Using the Multi-Year iPhone app, I recently switched to a strength regime by lowering the reps per set. About every two weeks I hit a new personal record on work sets. The most recent record is 145 pounds for 8 reps and 2 sets on deadlifts. A new record on squats is getting close. I’m nearly halfway to my goal on both bench press and squats, and I’m determined to get there.
Why do I keep pushing? Why do I research new supplements and what foods to eat? Why do I choose to not eat certain things or eat at particular times? It is quite simple. Any time I feel like having that second doughnut or napping instead of going to the gym or skipping too many days, I remember that time when I couldn’t get out of the sled. I remember how it felt to not be able to get off the ground. I remember how weak and helpless I felt. I remember and push forward.