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Make time to exercise everyday

January 13th, 2010 1 comment

When I was growing up, a lot of the time I was kind of chubby.  I was born into this world tipping the scales at 13 pounds!.  THIRTEEN POUNDS!  Talk about challenged from birth!  I’d love to take responsibility for weighing this much when I was born, but it’s not like I sucked all of the fat out of my mother or forced her to eat whatever she did.  Maybe I’m just a mutant?  SuperFatBoy!

When I was in 5th grade, I can remember during one of my subjects, we were reading alloud, and one of the sentences was “Ben has fat fingers”.  The whole class laughed (I was the only Ben in my class).  It’s funny the things kids remember and how it affects them.

When I was 9, I can remember my Step-mom cooking fast meals for us, yes, she would include carrots as a side dish, but the main course would be something like Macaroni and Cheese.  It was delicious the way she made it!  But, it was also extremely unhealthy.  I can’t remember my parents focusing on nutrition and fitness as I was growing up, either that or I was just a typical kid who knew better than his parents.  Probably both are true.

Around 13 years old, I found something I loved to do that required energy.  I started to go to the local park a few blocks away.  They had two tennis courts there.  On the court closest to the border of the park, on one side of that court, they had a green wood section up against the border fence, probalby 3 times as high as a standard net, but it had a white line where the net should be.  And so, I started to teach myself how to play tennis by playing tennis at twice the speed against that wall.  I’d bring a few set of new balls, and I’d practice aiming at different spots just above the net line.  I”m not sure I tied together that it was helping me loose weight at the time, but I knew that I would come home drenched in sweat.  Around that time, I also started eating  slimfast shakes for dinner. I had just become tired of being the chubby kid

I’ve gone back and forth with weight my entire life, up and down…But not anymore.  It’s healthy back for life.  That’s what I have written on reminders around the house, along with a very short list of the things that I need to keep doing, it says:

My Health Back for Life
Weight: 205 (lean)
-Healthy Diet: low fat, low carbs, low sugar
-Regular exercise (gym, walking)

Core Muscle Strength (build it / keep it)
-rehabilitiation
-Education
-Repetition

I know it may seem simple, but it’s amazing how when you have a positive reason and reminder around the house, how useful it is.

My wife Anna and I go to the gym on a fairly regular basis, but there are nights where if I”m the one cooking dinner, making time, while possible, is not something I want to do.  So, here are some of the things I now have at home and do at home to keep things moving along for my health:

To Buy:
1. Swiss Exercise Ball: You can get these at $10 at target.  Don’t buy the more expensive ones, they won’t give you anything useful.  I use this ball for a bunch of exercises I do, and truly there are even more I don’t currently do mainly because of my back.

2. 10lb Medicine ball: I use this to increase the difficulty of some of the core exercises that I do.  This 10lb ball goes for around $30 at Target.

So,that’s it!  $40 plus tax.

The exercises I’m going to list are in no particular order, although I like to stretch first (and sometimes after as well, depending on how my back is feeling:

1. Hamstring Stretch (lying down):  This is one of the exercises my rehab specialist recommended I do at least once a day.  I do 15 seconds per iteration, 3 times per each leg with a 5 second break between the stretches.  Its important to try to get your foot parallel to the ground as much as you can as that serves to stretch out the hamstring even more.  Additionally, I use a small rolled up hand towl under my lower back at the top of the sacrum to make sure I hold proper form (the back tends to want to do the wrong thing with this stretch, it protects your back).

2. Piriformis Stretch: Yet another rehab recommendation.  I included a picture of where the piriformis is located (think lower glutes).  I use the rolled up towel again just above my sacrum for good form.  The goal here is to keep your back on the ground, put one foot on the opposite legs outide knee area, and lightly push the knee that is crossed over toward the opposite leg until you feel tension in your glutes (that’s the piriformis stretching).  According to my rehab dude, the piriformis is an often overlooked muscle to stretch, and this exercise does it safely.

3. Piriformis stretch #2: warning: This can be a difficult stretch for some.  Again using the towel just above my sacrum, you’re on you’re back.  Start by having both knee’s bent (Feet by your glutes), and bring one foot so it’s just in front of the other knee.  You can move it so that your calf is touching the other knee, but so that that leg is below the height of the other leg (the one still with foot touching your glutes or so).  You then hold the leg in front of the other leg comfortable, and while doing this, push the stretched leg (you’ll feel it) with the other leg toward your chest.  Make sure to keep your back neutral while doing this, and take it slow.  The first you do this, you may not being able to stretch it very far, but keep working at it over time.

4. Leg Lifts: Now we get into the beginning of the exercises!   No more towel under the lower back.  The picture to the left shows the starting position.  The idea here, is to keep your back neutral while dipping the extended leg (along with your back) down a few degrees, then back up.  You’ll be using your abs and back to do the work.  I do 10 per side twice (10 left, 10 right, 10 left, 10 right).  There’s a slightly more advanced version of this that I do now.  You see how her hands are on the ground to stabilize herself?  I now take my hands, and hold the medicine ball with both hands (arms extended) out past my head (above my head, if i was standing, my arms would be making a say 15 degree angle with the ground, this helps to also work your upper abs.

5. Bridge plus heal dig: We’re now no longer using the towel under the lower back / sacrum.  You lie on your back with your legs resting on top of the ball. To add difficulty, just put the heels of your feet on the ball.  Raise your hips and buttocks off the floor into a bridge .(A)  Tighten your abdominal muscles.Keep your hips and glutes off the floor while you pull the ball closer to your buttocks with your feet (B). Dig your heels into the ball for traction and to engage the muscles along the back of your thighs (hamstrings). Hold for three deep breaths.  Hold for two seconds and then return to the starting position.  I do two sets of fifteen.

6. Bridged Leg Lifts: In between my Bridge plus heal dig sets,  I do 10 of the bridged leg lifts pictured to the left (10 per leg, alternating).  This helps to really work the muscles even more.  Your muscles should be tired by the time you finish your second set of Bridge plus heal digs.  If not, try adding a few more leg lifts.

7. Superman Variant: This exercise felt great on my lower back.  You start in a crawling position with your knees and hands on the ground.  While keeping your back neutral, you lift one arm out in front of you, slightly above horizontal while simultaneously raising your alternate leg straight out behind you (slightly above horizontal).  If this is your first time doing this, be patient with yourself.  It will seem awkard (since your muscles dont’ usually do this naturally).  There’s a more advanced version where you take the swiss exercise ball underneaht your belly (positioned so you’re balanced on it.  Your arms will be in that same crawling starting position, but your legts will start out extended, with only your toes touching the ground.  The exercise is mostly the same, but although this might sound easier, it’s more challenging to balance on the ball and with your legs extended.

8. Exercise Ball Roll out: You start on your knees with the excise ball in front of you, you bend slightly foward at the butt, but will maintain a neutral back otherwise.  You put your hands on the ball, and allow your feet to come off the ground while your hands/forearms roll onto the ball, the ball rolls foward (To a comfortable point), hold it for 2 seconds, then back slowly to starting position.  Keep your abs flexed, this one works both your abs and back.  I do just one set of 15.

9. Squats with Exercise Ball:  This is the last of my rehab exercises.  This is just a form of a controlled Squat against a wall using the exercise ball.  You back up to a wall and place the exercise ball somewhere between the top of your sacrum and mid back (Depending on your ball size).  Spread your feet apart a couple inches more than shoulder width and slightly out in front of you.  As you come down (similar to the picture), make sure to allow your but to stick out (toward the wall) but maintain a neutral spine.  Come down until your knee to hip is horizontal to the ground, hold for two seconds, and then return to starting position.  This works the lazy hamstring (never gets enough attention).  I can see the definition that this exercise alone has brought!  If this is too easy (make sure it is first), you can do the same exercise, but put weights in your hands, but even if you don’t have weights, just do the regular exercise regularly.

10. Side Plank: If you’ve ever done yoga, you may recognize this exercise.  The goal here is to hold the position illustrated to the left.  I usually try to hold for 10-15 count per side, then repeat.  This is a great stabilizer exercise.  If you find it difficult to hold yourself up with an arm, you can do a variant where instead of your arm extended downard completely, you rest on the elbow to hand like this.

11. Oblique Curls:  The exercise Ball is great for doing regular curls and Oblique Curls.  Here’s an illustration of how to do them to the right.  I do about 10 per side, then repeat, and i try to hold the up position for a second or two.

12.  Desk Chair Replacement (exercise ball):  I tend to unfortunately sit a lot at work and at home in front of a computer desk (what can I say, I’m a geek).  So, rather than let my core be lazy, at home at least, I use the exercise ball (on carpet) as a chair replacement.  It will tire you out quickly, so start with small stints at first and increase as you build endurance.  It’s very important when doig this to make sure that you are sitting with proper posture (neutral spine).  At first I wasn’t sure I could trust the ball (not to suddenly deflate, and have me fall), but I’ve built trust with it (heh), keeps the abs and back firing to hold you in position.

Well, that’s it for now.  These exercises have served me very well, and they’re something you can do everyday not even having to leave your house.  There are a ton more of the swiss ball exercises out there (google!).  Hopefully you find them as useful as I do!

Categories: Ben, General, Health Tags:

Breakfast #1 – Ben’s Veggie Chicken Scramble

January 12th, 2010 1 comment

I’ve become a lot closer to older sister Melyssa in the last 6 months.  She’s a great inspiriation to me.  She went from being out of shape to running marathons (no small feit).  And, although she may not know it, one of the offhand comments she made to me got me to thinking.  She said “Do you ever make yourself a hot breakfast?”

I had gotten in the habit of just eating Honey-Nut cheerios with light soy milk, which… is good, whole grains in the cheerios, Protein and Omega-3’s in the Soy Milk, only 70 calories for the soy milk, and the honey-nut part sweetens it up a bit.  But, it’s somewhat carb heavy and as a result of not having a lot of protein, it doesn’t usually keep me full for very long (That’s not horrible, but I sometimes like to feel full.  I’ve had to redfine full in the last 3 months.  Most of my meals are one cup of food.

So when she spoke of hot breakfast it got me to thinking what I was craving.  I’ve streamlined the proces quite a bit so it’s not very timely, but has a load of veggies, some good seasoning, a bit of kick, and a load of protein.

So, first.. the veggies.  I’m VERY lazy when it comes to food (generally).  And, I tend to over-organize, so…One thing I found I Could do is make a veggie mix, for the week…cut it all up, mix it up, and seal it in a tupperware container.  This way, when I went to make my eggs (during the week), its not as time consuming.  My veggie Mix routinely consists of

1. Garlic: I take fresh garlic from the grocery store, peal the cloves myself (to taste, I use around 8 large cloves, I love garlic), and then mince it up into tiny pieces.
2. Red Bell Pepper:  They tend to carmelize in the pan, sweet, good for you, I used two large peppers, core them, de-seed them, and slice them into small pieces.
3. Green Bell Pepper: More Crunch, flavor, greens, I used 1-2 large peppers depending on the size, core them, de-seed them, and slice them into small pieces.
4. Sliced White Mushroom: I love mushrooms, I added a whole small supermarket tub of these to the mix, guessing its around 2 cups, they’re pre-sliced and cleaned.
5. Zuchini: More crunch, greens, pick up the flavor of whatever you cook, yum, I used 1-2 small zuchini. slice and quarter them.

So, that’s the veggie mix, I combine all of those ingredients in a tupperware container, mix it by spoon, then top it and shake it up a bit (think salad shaker).  The longer it sits in there, the more it picks up the garlic, …MMMMmm.

Chicken: I also use precooked and sliced up chicken pieces from Costco.  They come in a two-pack for around $8.  I measure out three ounches of chicken, and then cut it into smaller pieces.

Cooking:

I spray a nine inch frying pan lightly with pam, and add around one cup of the veggie-mix and the three ounches of chicken:

I also added some of this wonderful local garlic based seasoning, Garlic Dude Dust:

I can’t say enough good things about this seasoning mix.  It’s good on just about everything, is low sodium (yay!).  My sister originally bought it while she was down visiting, and we’ve since become addicted to it (heh).  We use it in soups, eggs, our stuffed peppers.  It’s a great product, and well worth it.

I let the chicken brown a bit (even though it’s already cooked) and absorb some of the flavor of the seasoning and veggies.  Also, the mushrooms have to loose some of the water, and I want that to cook off so the eggs don’t end up too runny.  Additionally, the red peppers will carmelize.  Cook as long as you want, I think I end up cooking and turing/mixing these for 5 minutes or so.

After the chicken and veggie mix is done, I leave it in the pan, and add one cup of Real Eggs (Costco sells six 2-cup cartons in one box for around $7 , cheaper than eggs, is mostly just the egg whites plus some flavoring and color.  They can tend to taste a bit salty, so no need to add any salt).  This is what your pan should look like at this point:

Once I’m done frying it up (eggs aren’t very wet anymore),  I scoop it into a medium sized bown, and immediately top it off with an eight to a quarter cup of this fat-free shredded cheddar that mylocal grocery store sells:

And after the cheese had melted a bit (say one to two minutes), I mix the cheese into the eggs (almost like a binding agent), and then top it off with 1-2 tablespoons of Pace Picante Salsa (mix it in), and after this, it’s done, healthy, tasty! EAT!

Categories: General Tags:

Worst Day of My LIfe

January 12th, 2010 No comments

I thought it was about time to add a post, and due to the relatively recent changes in my lifestyle, I’ve Lost around 50 pounds!  Some folks have asked me “Dude, …were you eating?”.  I laugh, because I have been eating, very well in fact.  I just educated myself about the right foods to eat, when to eat them, regular exercise, and decided….. it was time.

The big catalyst for me was back in September of this past year (2009).  I had been working out in the yard a lot, including moving 3-4 truck loads of dirt into the back yard to fill a troublesome pond for preparation for sod back there.

1. Shovel dirt from truck to wheelbarrow
2. ‘Barrow the dirt from the driveway to the back yard and dump.
3. Spread the dirt around, and Slam it into the ground with a heavy iron tool to build a good base for the sod.

So, my lower back was starting to hurt.  It all came to climax when while at the local dogpark, I bent down just a bit to clean and fill the water dish, and BAM!  I felt that horrible sharp pain in my back, ..I had (again) pinched a nerve.  The amount of pain is difficult to describe.  The only thing I think might compare is being stabbed in the back with Crocodile Dundee’s knife.

The load of just standing causes horrible pain and you’re not sure what to do to relieve it.  Do you lie down in hopes that the decrease in pressure will make it subside? Risking maybe not being able to get up?  Do you stay straight in the hopes that no bending will help it to calm down?  It’s a horrible feeling.  Fortunately, somehow, I was able to get Kumo back onto the leash and waddle home.

The Next Morning is a day I will never forget.

As I woke up, I could feel that my back was very sore.  Not a good sign I thought to myself, ..typically those first moments as you wake up are the best your back will be that day.  So, I could feel sharp discomfort as I tried to get myself sitting up.  Once I managed that ,I realized that as soon as I tried to put any weight on my right foot (right side back pain), I had to immediately lie  down again.  Anna was at work, and my phone was downstairs….Shit.

It was then that I also realized I had a migraine headache…pulsing, aching, …hot.  So, knowing that I wasn’t going to do anything upstairs, and I had a dog downstairs in a crate that needed to go out…

…I crawled.  I crawled from our uptsairs bedroom, down the hallway, down the stairs backwards, over to his crate, let him out, over to the back sliding glass door, and let him go outside to TCB (Take care of Business, we tell him to ‘Get Busy’, he knows what to do), all the while my head is POUNDING, …I finally break down and am actually tearing up from the pain.

I manage over to the sofa, and roll myself up onto it and lie down.  My phone was on the table in front of it.  I call Anna to tell her what’s going on.    At that moment, I had no idea I’d be stuck on the couch for a month.

I had ruptured my L5-S1 disc in my lower back, and there was a moderate sized protusion putting (a lot of) pressure on the nerve root (…..ouch).

Finally, relief came when I started taking Celebrex (a very strong non-steroidal anti-inflamatory pill), and it came fast.  In several days, I was up walking around again.  Made a doctor’s visit up north, and he said one of the things I could do was to get a shot in my lower back of Steroids (Cortisone), which was much stronger than anything i could take orally.  Anxiously, I agreed to the procedure (done on 10/17/09).  Although I was very nervous while I was on that operating room table, on my stomache, with an undoubtedly massive needle looming over my L5-S1, ..it made all the difference.

I was mobile again and not on Celebrex (good for short time, bad long term, can cause vascular problems, heart attack, stroke…ya know, bad stuff).  During that week, I decided, I was going to make a lifestyle change.  Get my body fat under control, build up my core muscles (abs, back, surrounds), and get fit and stay fit, for life, including what I eat.  I may not be able to fix my back completely, but there are things I can control.

When I first went in to the doctor after the disc rupture, their doctors scale read 253 (WHAT!  Two Hundred and fifty three pounds!  I’m 6’2″, but that is ….well…fat..).  Today?  I weigh:

200lbs (~3 months later).

The blog entries that follow this one will be about how I did it, and the tools that have brought me success.

My back still hurts a little now, think I may need another shot, but I’m healthier than I’ve ever been during my adult life.

ben at 207 pounds

ben at 207 pounds

Categories: Ben, General, Health Tags: