Change of Scenery


Part of me feels guilty for taking a trip while “out of work.” But the truth is, I am on sabbatical.  I am taking the time I need to recuperate and get my head back into the game for a grand 20-year (maybe more) finish to this life.

When I left that horrible job and horrible company, I contacted a great friend of mine and asked if a visit could be arranged.  The response I got back was, “of course, but come in September”.  So, here I am.

I have been in San Antonio for 2-months now, but it feels like so much longer.  Perhaps it is the heat, humidity and general urban experience.  Urban living is so unnatural, at least to me.   Getting stuck in traffic, being separated from my beloved nature (trees, mountains, water), walking the concrete jungle, and facing my fear of crime, are experiences manufactured by the complexities of modern civilization.

After making some arrangements, the cat and I left for Santa Fe, New Mexico on Friday the 13th. Luckily, we didn’t die or get slashed by Jason on the trip, but we did arrive in Santa Fe for lots of rain.

Gorgeous New Mexico, food for the soulThe contrast between San Antonio and Santa Fe is mainly in size, beauty and temperature.  Both towns have a remarkable history with native peoples, the Spanish and numerous governments over the years.  The added benefit of Santa Fe include the nearby pueblos, fantastic scenery, and the milder summers (but cold, snowy winters).

Roughly 48-hours in and my soul is happy for the change of scenery.  The intimacy, closeness of nature, abundant arts and culture, and a culinary scene to inspire wannabe cooks, are taking their effect on rejuvenating my soul. With inspiration and relaxation in abundance, perhaps it is hard to truly feel guilty about taking this trip.  Perhaps this trip is an important stepping to the next 20+ years?

Push Through It!


If working out was easy, everyone would be a triathlete.  Heck, the world would be a much better place as the food industry wouldn’t be trying to cram sugar laden food down our throats. But this isn’t a post about the sins of the major food processors.

No, this post is about the transformation and journey one will experience as they move off the couch and into the gym, outdoors on the jogging path, and/or on the saddle of your bike.  This is also a good time to disclaim the concept of seeing your doctor before doing any rigorous exercise.

Reflecting on the Painful Past

As I reflect on the past few days and the agony of sore quads, a bit of dehydration, and stomach discomfort, I look back to my first journey and the pain, the emotions, and the experience I had when I was in much worse shape.  It was not a walk in the park.  In fact, I was moody, in pain, couldn’t catch my breathe, and wanted to walk away from it all so many times.  But I didn’t.

This time, I know what is ahead.  Right now, it hurts.  Right now, I lose my breathe easily.  Right now, my heart rate peaks very quickly.  Right now, my muscles are fighting to stay in bed.  Right now, I am thirsty and hungry.  Right now, I am drenched in sweat.

But tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that, I will experience these things a bit less.  Pretty soon, I can climb a flight of stairs with vigor without losing my breathe.  Pretty soon, my muscles will be upset when I DON’T exercise.

Don’t Be One of the 95%

As we embark on our fitness journeys, we will go through stages.  I understand why a lot of people go to the gym and give up after three sessions.  In fact, one of my personal trainers told me once that if he could one client through six sessions, they would be a client for over a year!  That conversion rate, less than 5%.  Yup, less than 5% of clients go beyond six sessions.  That’s a lot of people saying goodbye to their fit future.

Take My Advice

Just push through it
from Brainy Quote

For anyone who is new to this and just embarking on their fitness journey, my advice is this:  “Just push through it! The reward at the end is far sweeter than you think.”  It is true.  Becoming a triathlete saved my life and it gave me a life I never thought possible growing up.  Being fit makes it super easy to do things.  Being fit makes you look different walking down the street. Being fit gives you confidence.

While the first few sessions will suck and that voice in your head will try to convince you to go back to the couch, don’t listen to it.  Listen to me, “push through it” because you will thank yourself later.

Let’s do this together.  Subscribe to my Blog, join me on Twitter. Leave a comment, share your goals. Let’s create a community.

Stretch People! Stretch!


stretches for triathletesOMG! It hurts! It hurts so much a grown man wants to cry! Just cut my leg off, PLEASE!

Seriously, it does hurt.  My left quad has a pain like none I’ve felt in a long time.  Why? I overdid my workout and I didn’t take the proper care post workout.

Yes, I had a nice thick luscious protein shake within 30minutes of my workout end.   BUT, I didn’t stretch. Nor did I foam roll.

Stretching is a great way to wind down from your workout.  It is also a great way to get into the workout mindset.  Stretching is about preventing injury to cold muscles and it also helps worn muscles to recover post workout.

So, stretch! Even better, foam roll! A combination of foam rolling first, then stretching will help keep your limbs from cramping up.  Also, drink a protein shake and drink plenty of water.

Stretch again before you go to bed.  Some athletes also start and end their day with a good stretch.  If you need some inspiration, check out these stretches for triathletes.

Stretching and foam rolling is not only a meditative way to keep your muscles in good shape, but they will also keep a grown man from crying. Get to it!

 

Tear It Down


give yourself a breakTear it all down.  Go ahead.  It is okay.  Just be a merciful.

After a disastrous first half of 2019 and the need to establish a more positive path forward, I needed to tear myself down.  I needed to reduce myself to my most basic self.  Let go of adult responsibility (to a point) and let my inner kid out.

  • Dairy Queen, oh yes!
  • In’N’Out double double with animal fry, heck yay!
  • Sleeping in till noon, why not?
  • Binge on Hoarders, sure!
  • Wear my pajamas all day and not even shower, YASS!
  • Look for a job, hahahahaha! no way jose!

Let the boundaries, let the rules, let the adult critic inside take a week or two off. Let’s be a kid again. Eventually, the adult in me will come back, fresh and new, and help me rebuild and move on as we near the 2019 holidays.

What will this adult rebuild?  Not sure yet.  Between junk food binges and Hulu outages I have been exploring thoughts.  Some of these thoughts are more realistic than others.  One thing is certain, a career change is imminent.  The new career will not be dependent upon the technology that is tearing up our society.  I have spent so much of my life behind a computer, I feel my time is served.  I just need to listen to myself a bit more and let Mr Adult in me formulate a plan and find more balance between what is real, myself, and that technology no one can escape.

 

Reflecting on Spirituality


Nature is my spiritual placeOur spiritual beliefs are a key part of accomplishing goals.  For many, many years I considered myself an atheist.  I only went to church when I was forced to, mainly for a family friend’s event.  Instead, survival from the family dysfunction was my spirituality.

When you live in a household without the stability, love, and nurturing psychologists claim a child needs (read The Absentee Mother for more), you revert to survival which includes being the invisible kid, having no preferences for your birthday, and going with the flow.  Since I couldn’t be me as a kid, I lived in a fantasy world in my mind.

Then I found anthropology.  Through this discipline I learned that humans have created numerous belief systems over the thousands of years of our existence. Believing in one god or multiple gods separated cultures spiritually.

Religion has been used as a means to profit. During Manifest Destiny, Christianity and other European religions were used to classify the Native Americans as savages and that the “land” needed to be civilized.  It was all in the name of profit, expansion, and nationalism.

If you believe in god, that’s great!  You believe! If you believe in many gods, that’s great too!  Having a spiritual platform is key to happiness.  Even atheists have a spiritual platform; they may not even know it.

For me, I reflect back on my life and recognize my own makeshift spiritual ways.  While honesty, hard-work, and perseverance align with my need for survival as a child, I realized something deeper after I graduated from college.  My need for nature to be an important part of my life hit me like a Greyhound bus one morning.

Nature is our life blood.  Without trees, oxygen, sunlight, vegetables, and animals, we simply do not exist.  In fact, many ancient religions incorporated nature into their beliefs and practices.  Agriculture required an understanding of the earth’s cycles.

What has come of this reflection is something which leans toward Stoicism.  A philosophy from 3rd Century BC, it is a belief that logic is the way, not our emotional reactions.  The world is unpredictable, but we do not need to be unpredictable as well. In fact, we can find happiness in failure.   We only control what we can control.

As I said before, I always believe hard-work, truth, and perseverance are key to a good life. Due to my childhood, my emotions tend to get in the way at times.  Therefore failure was never a good option and when it did happen, I lost myself almost entirely.  Of course, you get through it by understanding, learning, and adjusting.  Sounds a bit stoic?

For me, nature is my church.  A good hiking path, a grand canyon view, a creek-side rock are all places I can let my soul go and listen to myself.

Stay tuned… more on this later.

A Significant Detour


I look back at my triathlon experience of ten years ago with great admiration.  All the pain, every cheer, every milestone and every race brought a perspective to life that I would never have thought I would experience as a kid who hated PE class.  But, it didn’t last.

The Great February Illness

In February 2012, I got sick.  I was at my prime and the lowest weight of my adult life, under 200 pounds.   As it turned out triathlon had become an addiction.  The months leading up my sickness, I was desperate for a PR and was trying to keep up with the more “professional” athletes. My body said “no more races.”

And so, began a steady and slow return to life as an obese adult.  The weight came back on over a few years.  I still managed to ride the bike and get some runs in, but I was not seriously training on a regular basis, nor was I working with a trainer.

The Workaholic is Back!

In late 2013, the workaholic returned.  I joined a local company as a sales analytics and operations guru and this role turned out to be far from a 9 to 5 role.  The CEO had an extra special personality and required some baby-sitting, as did the Sales VP.  I remember the day I walked into the office and said “F*ck it!” to self care and working out. It was simply too hard to protect your lunch for a nice ride.  It was difficult to ride in the evenings as you got stuck on deliverables and winter brought darkness at 4:30pm.  With an occasional ride on the weekend, my attempts to stick with an intensive workout schedule went out the door. That was a mistake.

Seattle or Bust

I moved to the greater Seattle area.  I had family in the area and needed a reset. But after AricInTraining - Skagit Classic Map17 years of life in Santa Barbara, CA, moving anywhere else was rough, especially a place with at least 5-months of rain and no sun.  I have to say, Washington state is a gorgeous place to live.  I see why everyone wants to live up there.  But with all of these people, traffic, cost of living, and jobs became more and more of an issue.  Seattle’s I5 is a freeway that going one mile can easily take 30+minutes, on a good day.  Riding the bike was a rare event here, as was hiking and even going for a walk after work.  The best moment is that I did finish the Skagit Spring Classic. The 27 mile ride through some exquisite, but soggy country side was proof I still had it in me. Of course, I didn’t walk for a few days after that.  But as time went on, my remote job drove me into isolation and my diet started seriously south in terms providing nutrients over junk.  After two years, I had to make a change and save my life.  The miserable me left rather quickly for Boulder County, Colorado.

The Gorgeous Front Range

Boulder County, Colorado is a gorgeous place.  It is also in the Front Range of the eastern slope of Rocky Mountains.  Boulder is where Mork and Mindy (Wikipedia) lived. Boulder is also where very serious cyclists can be seen cycling in a blizzard, further proof you can do anything when you are prepared!  What drew me to the area is not only the beauty, but the cycling culture.  Boulder County has hundreds of miles of recreational paths.  From the apartment I was living in Louisville, I could access that network from my door.

AricInTraining with Cookie Monster JerseySo why didn’t I ride? Yes, after two years of Colorado living, I only managed to get a handful of rides in, the longest of which was about 10-miles.  As it turns out, my head was bigger than my muscles.  That 10-mile ride did me in.  My legs screamed, “give us a break”, while my head said, “let’s go 100!” Now, keep in mind, Denver is the mile high city and I was living at 5,360 ft above sea level.  I was not used to the altitude.  I was also not used to the extreme dry air and the pounding sun.  Dehydration is too easy.  I was living in one of the most gorgeous areas of Colorado and found myself stuck in my 400 sq ft community garden plot rather than on the bike.

Horribly Sick

Then came January 2019 and my health went south very quickly.  I returned from a friend’s visit in Santa Fe, New Mexico over the holidays to Louisville and became very sick with severe cough, fever, stomach issues, lack of energy, tight chest, inability to focus, and extreme pain in my left calf.  After a week of not getting better, I went to urgent care.  Well, they were quick to diagnose it as bronchitis and sent me home with an inhaler and some antibiotics.  I got better, better then I didn’t.  The chest tightness wouldn’t go away and neither would the cough.  Life as a coughing zombie was the new normal, which was tragic as I just started my dream job in analytics.   After a second visit to the urgent care, I was diagnosed with asthma, given more inhalers, more allergy meds, and a word of caution to get out of town after an allergy test.  The doctor suggested there might be something in my apartment trying to kill me, including my cat.

Allergy Meets GERD

After following the treatment for a few weeks, I got better.  I was learning about asthma and its triggers and inspecting my apartment for what might be killing me.  What I kept finding was a fine grey dust all over the place, almost like lint when you wiped it up.  Then spring came and I turned off the heater.  Then I started to get much better.  The tightness in the chest and the cough subsided.  Long story short, the allergy test revealed a severe allergy to ragweed and dust mites.  I was also diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea and GERD (severe acid reflux). The first key to understanding what happened became the allergy to dust mites as the sleep test revealed a large amount of dust in the air and the air quality really started coming in to question. The second became my own eating habits with too much coffee, too much refined food, and just too much food.   At this point, I had had enough of Colorado and decided to head for lower altitude and better air.

I ended up in San Antonio, Texas where I am typing this today.  Not the prettiest city, but it does have a lot to offer.  The cyclist isn’t the best, nor are the “bike routes”.  But the people, the food, the accessibility, and the cost of living are easy to handle.

I have eliminated coffee and sugars for the last seven days and am feeling really good. My energy is coming back and my stomach feels more like it should. I am also monitoring the amount of food I eat in one sitting and am learning when to stop.

What’s the Point?

So, what’s the point of all of this?  I wrote a really, really long blog post about my significant detour from the wonderful life of triathlon. If you’ve read this far, I congratulate you.  For me, the point of all of this is to make sense of the last few years as I come to another fork in the road along my journey of life.  It makes me realize that I never gave up.  I may have digressed, I may have had some bad times, I may have been living in an apartment trying to kill me, but I persisted through it all.  I didn’t let the negativity win.  The voices in my head certainly challenged my resolve many times, but at least I pushed through it.  I realize a change in attitude and a return to regular training is in order.  Where it goes from there, we’ll see.  Stay tuned and see where Aric ends up.