Friday, March 13, 2015

Working and Working Out

What luck I've happened into!  Last year I was given all the personal training I could handle, at a beautiful—frankly high-class health club, which happens to only be a mile from my front door.

I was by no means perfect throughout the year (who is?), but I made the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity, where I could work out as much as my mushy body would allow, with the support of my family in not having to work for a wage, and with the support of my team of experts at Five Seasons, keeping me safe and on track.

I lost over a hundred pounds and have become a hundred percent more functional over this year and, in service of progress, I wanted to get my very first job, ever.  But who would pick a 27-year old applicant with no work experience and an incomplete college education, for a job that doesn’t serve fries on the side?  In another strike in my view of golden luck, the brilliant and beautiful management at Five Seasons, having seen my evolution and tenacity throughout last year, took a chance on me and hired me to the Member Service Desk—as great of a first job as I could imagine, let alone hope for.

In examining just how great a situation Fortune has found for me, I get to work with the team member friends I've made and get to see all my member friends as they visit throughout the day.

The average commuting worker probable spends accumulated day over the course of a year, sitting in traffic; my trip to work is four minutes and a stoplight.  Then after work we, the responsible people who take care of ourselves, often go to the gym, and for the average person it means a fresh round of commuting hell.  I literally clock out at the gym.  My terse commute to the gym laughs at my commute to work!

Now my job may not be a wage at which I can start a family, but it’s a wonder starting point in the work force, one with real responsibilities (Everyone leaves at night and leave me with the keys to the Club!), and at a fantastic company that—you never know—routinely hires from within.  I look at it as if I’m putting in my time, building up my work ethic like I built up my body. 

As I get used to the routine of working—now that it seems like my work is satisfactory and my tenure is open-ended—I feel much more comfortable behind the Member Service Desk.  I find that I have been planning better and getting more accomplished with my reduce amount of free time, that I don’t have as much time to sit and examine how (low) I may be feeling.  I am also starting to add to my number of workouts per week.  Pretty soon I’ll be back to where I was last year; only now with a full-time job, a little bit of pocket money, and a lot less time to be tempted with the tasty treats at home.  I predict a good run of weight loss in the near future; I can’t wait!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I’m Alive!

I have been in survival mode for the past six weeks—far too sensitive to engage my emotions, far too busy to reflect in writing.  You see, in the service of ever-improving, I’ve started my first job ever, at where else but Five Seasons!

I am working at the Member Service Desk—the front desk—alongside some great people.  To the incoming member, it may seem like we just greet and check people in, exchanging car keys for locker keys if required (This forever member was guilty of thinking this).  But when members go on to do their business we’re billing lessons, answering questions, taking and delivering messages, selling snacks and drinks, signing members up for club events, swimming lessons and tennis classes, making gallons of coffee, and keeping the lemon water jug filled in addition to the shear horror that can be fielding phone calls.

Time passes quickly when we are busy, and it gets crazy during the rushes of the day.  The biggest rush I consistently work is the 6 o’clock dash.  A lot of people get off of work and congregate at the club; on some days the large tennis programs meet and the front drive is a parking lot of parents dropping off their lil’ tennis players.  I remember walking with this flow last year thinking, “This is something!”  Working opposite this flood I think, “This is nuts!”

I can do little but check-in from memory familiar faces as everyone hustles past the desk, but the phone rings as well and at times it rings consistently enough that the three holding lines fill, and still it rings!  Then a kid wants a Powerade and I retrieve his desired flavor and his account number, while a member is waiting for his car keys with a look that may not be impatience, but mimics it because they’re tired from working out and ready to go home, and you pick up a hold that you imagine is hating you for making them wait for five minutes only to hear it’s a swim class signup you know will take another five, and you take deep breaths, telling yourself that you’re doing as well as one can and you don’t suck at your job, only to look to your side to see that Powerade’s buddy decides he wants one as well, quick and now as he is late for practice!  It’s a wonderful, breathless pandemonium, and I feel like a quarterback constantly calling audibles to prevent getting run over by the opposition.

But when you get the child signed up for swim lessons, and you record as many tennis kids that streamed by as possible, and you and your trenchmate work through the holds and no calls ring to replace them, you take a moment to realize that the rush is over.  You thank your proficient training and your wits, the fellow standing next to you and the general patience and good nature of the members.  You go replenish the water, clean up the lobby, and get ready for the next rush.

With a more subdued pace of activity in between the peaks of flow, a shift thus quickly passes.  It is a great first job!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Loser Winners of Five Seasons, Unite!

I had the chance this week to introduce myself to the winners of Five Seasons Family Sports Club’s “Be a Loser” contest, and they are a great group of individuals!

Starting my second year, I am the young veteran of the class, and am fortunate enough to represent the Cincinnati club.  Having lost over 100 pounds last year, with maybe a hundred more to go, I have the experience to hopefully help and guide our wonderfully motivated new winners.

Representing Crestview Hills, Northern Kentucky is Brandy.  Brandy is a single mother who wishes, in getting fit, to reduce the risks associated with being overweight, including diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Chicagoland brings us two winners from two clubs:  Teresa from Northbrook, and Nader from Burr Ridge.  Based on my personality and journey, it’s hard for me to believe that someone on a similar path could have confidence, but Teresa strikes me as someone with a cool confidence and a wonderful personality to match.  She had been very active in her past, but due to life’s unfortunate circumstances has become encumbered by her weight.  Already a wonderful blogger, Teresa has turned over a new leaf and is documenting her adventures here: <>

Nader is a husband, a father, and a teacher.  Whether we realize it or not, we’re going to be an inspiration to many people, just by being seen in the Club so often—always ever reducing in size—throughout the year.  But Nader also realizes that, as an authority figure as a parent and educator and with childhood obesity being near record levels, he can be a role model by getting fit and losing weight.

Last but certainly not least is Dayton’s Jen.  I haven’t had the pleasure of talking to Jen yet and, as a mother of five children, I can appreciate that she is undoubtedly busy!

Always the nervous Nelly, I was reticent to make the calls but, though I literally broke a sweat in doing so, I was amazed at how easily the conversation went, at how similar the winners’ early beginnings were to one another and to mine.  They are all eager to begin the process, are hitting the gym hard with a goal of ramping up their number of workout days per week.  They all had questions about their diet, and are feeling their way through the eating day with the help of their nutritionists.

The experiences are so similar that I suspect they are near universal; in that way we are not unique, and I don’t want them to ever feel alone.  We are in it together and to that end I want us to support each other—if our distance precludes meeting in-person—by phone calls, texts, and emails; because I know that a supportive community is what separated the success of last year from my past attempts at weight loss, and kept me going through the inevitable rough patches.

Here’s to having the rough patches distant from each another, the good times plentiful, and to the pounds melting away!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Septum Work

On the morning before New Year’s Eve, I went under the surgeon’s scalpel, undergoing a left septum reconstruction.  I had been put under general anesthesia twice before, but was still surprised how I felt very alert and relatively fine one moment, and how the next moment the sensation of consciousness become the interpretation of just one sense—Feeling: an acute pain, dulled by a powerful analgesic.

I could discern that it wasn’t the pain of an accidental trauma, but the intervening efforts of a doctor; that though I was feeling much worse than when I awoke that morning, the great probability was that, in a short period of time, I was going to feel so much better than I had felt previously.

The next sense to come online was Hearing—the beeping of monitoring machines, the quiet rush of the attending nurses, a soft moaning that I turned out to be making.  The feeble and unconscious attempts to convey…I don’t know what, let the nurse know that I had returned to the land of the living.

I opened my eyes, which was to be the last of the faculties I’d possess that day.  Smell was blocked by the packing that ran painfully deep, down the length of my nasal cavity.  And without Smell, piggybacking Taste hadn’t the breath to work.

Once awake, I was far too uncomfortable to even relax, let alone rest.  So I kept my eyes opened, sent the nurse for ice chips, brought her back to raise the head of the bed, and tapped out ditties on the bed rails, all to let her know that I was ready to go.

Like the proverbial moss-less stone, I was ready to roll.  And after having my bed rolled out of the recovery room to put on my clothes, and having my wheelchair rolled to my awaiting car, I was spirited home to my convalescence bed, with its deep, opiate fueled healing-slumber.

After sleeping for most of the day, I awoke to the terrible feeling of being late with my painkillers.  Never again would I miss a dose, as I set reminder alerts on my phone.  Urinating Mountain Dew, I was as dehydrated as I could ever remember being.  But as I tried to sip water I discovered that it is impossible to complete a proper swallow without your nasal passages open in the back of your throat.  To create that pocket to transport food and drink down the esophagus, you have to create a vacuum, and without free-flowing air through your nose, you can’t. 

I tried and tried to push the fluids, but they inevitably went down the wrong tube, and I would choke and cough and it caused pain to my poor lil’ nose.  I worried about triggering another vocal cord dysfunction episode, where your vocal folds spasm shut, mimicking an asthma attack, and for which the way to overcome it is to take slow deep breathes through the nose.  If I have a VCD attack, I thought, I’m done.  Trach me fast or tell the life squad to take their time.

Thank goodness I didn’t get an attack, and after taking a strong tablet of oxycontin, I was out for the night.  I woke in the morning dry, tired, and swollen.  I could barely talk and my throat was hoarse.  I was glad to make my way to the ENT and get the packing taken out.  When he first removed the right side’s wadding, it felt like he was pulling a magician’s never-ending handkerchief out of my nose; no wonder it was uncomfortable!

After he shoved medicine-soaked cotton pieces up my nose and vacuumed all the nastiness out, I could finally breathe through my left nostril!  I felt a cool, wonderful tingling in my left septum, as though my brain and body were saying, Finally, it’s right!

The rest of the week was spent recuperating.  I couldn’t use my CPAP machine and expected the exhaustion of crap sleep to creep up on me.  But sleeping propped up on four pillow, with significant weight loss and a corrected septum, I felt rested.  I was down the next day, New Year’s Eve, and couldn’t mix bubbly with my narcotic, but in the first early morning of the new year, I was back at Five Seasons!

Laurie had a special holiday group training session and although I couldn’t participate, she made sure that a recumbent bike was brought in so that I could be in the midst of the action, a member of the group.  I was so thankful to Laurie for this because the Club was as busy as I had ever seen it, and I wanted to be, not with a lot of nice, determined strangers but, with my people.  As they conducted their grueling circuit, I pedaled at half effort, not even breaking a sweat but breathing great.

Still on painkillers, I was a little out of it.  I felt fine talking to my friends, but could tell by their reactions that I was missing some of their cues in the conversation.  In less colorful turn of phrase, I let them know that I was “high as hell,” and they understood.  Most were glad to see me back so soon, a few cautioned me about going too fast.  But I wanted to minimize any physical regression as much as possible, wanted to stay in some semblance of the routine that helped me so much this past year.  And I wanted to be in a position to be ready for the following Monday, for a momentous occasion in my life—the first day of my very first job! 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Operation Stay Well

I have a pinched nerve and can’t feel my left hand (and can’t touch-type for the first time in forever!); I’m switching from an anti-depressant with a nasty withdraw; I have sinusitis for the second time in this still young winter—because of a deviated left septum for which I’m going under the knife Tuesday morning.  And of the five people in my household, I’m the healthy one!

Yes, it’s that time of year, when illness runs rampant, and I’ll glad to be out of the contagion area as often as possible—yet another reason I love going to Five Seasons.  In years past, it always seemed like I was the first to go down with a holiday bug.  Not just once did I spend Christmas Eve on my snifflin’ own, while the rest the fam made merriment with our extended kin.  But not this year!  With all the body redeeming exercising and healthy eating, I have (touch wood) staved off illness, and it was me and my never-sick-but-now-sick dad who made the trek to Christmas Eve.  I seem to have developed a boost in my immunity which I need to continue (fingers crossed, popping mega-doses of Vitamin C) through my operation time, early Tuesday.

And when the doctor removes the packing from my nose, possibly as early as the next day, I’ll have to a hopefully brief interlude during while I’ll have to take it easy.  I can’t imagine a doctor who wouldn’t return a willing patient to light walking, and before I can run again I’ll walk and walk, all the while working with my Five Season’s team to address what is cause of my lingering pinched nerve.  Maybe just resting will resolve the issue.  Then, sometime is the new year, I will get clearance to do full exercise, and the new and improved 2015 Me—with a trimmed down exterior, more confidant handling, and a redesigned breathing system—will give it all I got, and I’ll be ready for all challenges.

I’ve just got to stay well…

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Liberating Week of Personal Progress, Part One

Woody Allen once quipped, “80 percent of success is showing up,” and throughout this year I’ve tried, I believe without fail, to take every opportunity this once in a lifetime experience has afforded me.  I’ve reiterated it often enough that it is one of my themes, but I cannot but be healthier—physically and mentally—the more time I spend at Five Seasons, and so I’ve committed without thinking—whether it be a 6:30am group with Laurie, a spur of the moment lunchtime walk with Joseph around both banks of the Ohio River, or in a second of the day workout, hitting the heavy bag in Stephanie’s kick boxing class—to drop everything that is inconsequential and give attention to what I had neglected for far too long, my health and fitness.  For I will likely never again have the flexibility of so much free time, without being in school or having to work, and if I—nay, when I—get it right, I will never again have to lose so much weight.

Agreeing to do everything that my team thinks will help me improve and knows that I can do has made me greatly more functional, leaner, and keener to try new things in order to get more experiences out of life.  So when Joseph asked me to speak at the Newport HeartChase committee meeting for their mission moment, I didn’t over think it, and I didn’t freak out realizing that I’m nervous enough walking around each day, let alone preparing to speak before a group of strangers.  Instead, I decided that since I was going to talk about a subject I know better than anything else—myself and my journey—I wouldn’t think about it at all, wouldn’t imagine all the ways I could stuttered and stammered my way to total embarrassment.  I told Joseph I’d love to.

Not being preoccupied on my little speech on Wednesday seemed to spur my active mind into attempting new things.  For the first time ever, I did my first load of laundry!  It’s probably ridiculous that a 27 year old man-child hadn’t ever washed his own clothes (especially when Mindy told me that her 10 year old son does his own laundry!), but the laundry room is the domain of my grandma, and she seems to like for me to be reliant on her as a way of feeling needed.  Well, Nana had been out of town visiting her sister, and at first it was alright because I had enough clean gym clothes.  Then Nana decided that she was going to stay a further four days, and I began to get nervous, trying to figure if I had sufficient outfits remaining in my dresser drawer, contemplating whether I could get by wearing once sweated-in clothes.  When Nana decided that she wasn’t coming home until after Christmas, the solution became starkly apparent: it was time to do it myself.

It doesn’t matter if it’s cooking a new recipe, building a desktop computer, or teaching oneself to launder one’s clothes, it takes so much longer to do things for the first time.  Mistakes are darn near guaranteed, techniques are yet to be developed.  I focused completely on not ruining the gym clothes I spent so much money amassing that I didn’t think about how much clothing constitutes one load of laundry.  I had figured out the right water temperature to not ruin my polyesters, but I smushed two weeks of dirty clothes into the washer.  At the end of the wash cycle the clothes were sopping wet (there were too many of them to spin the excess water out) and there was a soapy soup at the bottom of the tub.

Not knowing any better, that this was wrong, I flung the dripping articles into the dryer, and turned it on.  I walked away, coming back an hour later to a stopped machine.  Done, I thought, expecting to feel nice and warm freshly cleaned clothes, but reaching in and feeling the same sodden mess.  The newb figured out his mistake and halved the load, in the process at least doubling his time.  Yet at the end of a long afternoon, I returned upstairs with what had been a source of great angst, and instead of being tired I felt excited and liberated.  Liberated from having to rely on others for what I can do for myself.  And this feeling set off a chain of events that lead to a week of great progress…

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Five Seasons One Hundred

Reaching one hundred pounds of weight yesterday, and to record it on my trainer Laurie’s birthday, was such a special and wonderful feeling!  Laurie is so mature that she wished for me to set the big goal to coincide with her big day, something I wouldn’t want to have done, lest it overshadow my birthday.  But I’ve always admitted that my guide on the path to fitness is in all perceivable ways a better person that I, so I did my best to add to an amazing person’s day of celebration.

What a relief it was to stand on the scale and see the feedback of success; what palpable jubilation was returned when I sent the photo to Laurie!  Surely past the point of needing the validation of her abilities, she was just happy for me, happy that I had achieved what I had worked so hard for. 

I will analyze why I’m pleased about my weight loss in a post in the near future.  As I will myself to peck out a few lines with my pinch-nerved numbed left hand, battling a bit of the winter blues, I just want to ruminate on the genuine joy with which Laurie hailed me in person on her birthday.