It’s the start of the year and you might want to get into fitness so I’m sharing what I normally do as part of telling my recovery story and maybe that will be helpful to you. If you missed the first parts, you can check them out: The Cyclist, YK2HR, Swim, Bike, Run, Nap, and Typical Workout. I shared a bit about this part of my journey but there’s a little more to the story.
About a year into my recovery journey, I found that even though I was exercising regularly I wasn’t making a lot of progress losing all the extra weight I had gained over the years. I lost some weight and then.. stuck. I was holding steady around 235lbs and feeling a little frustrated. Something needed to change.
Abs are made in the kitchen. That’s it.
After several experiments, I found that cardio is not made in the kitchen. Neither is the ability to swim stronger or bike up hills faster. Sexiness may or may not be made in the kitchen; it depends on the day.
After checking around for tools, I got into MyFitnessPal and started tracking what I eat. I wasn’t being obsessive about food or starving myself, I just didn’t have a clue how much I was ingesting. Slowly I adjusted my total calories and began to be mindful of my diet. Instead of eating for the moment, I began to eat for the journey.
As an Albertan (that’s in Canada), I was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I began to learn more about eating healthy – not with some weird diet but just a more balanced diet. I started to cut back on the amount of meat I was eating. The I watched the documentary Vegucated. By the end of that documentary, I gave up meat for good. I’ve never felt better.
I think the reason this big change has made such a difference in my life is because I wasn’t just after a short term gain. I needed a new way of life. I did drop weight while also getting stronger, faster, fitter – down to 198lbs – but the best part is I now have a greater sense of integrity. I consider myself a man of compassion and conviction and switching to a plant-based diet is more in harmony with who I am as a person.
A bonus change has been that my enjoyment of food has opened way up. Food I would have never had before, just on principle, I now have part of my life. Except brussel sprouts because they’re from Satan. At the same time, my cravings for treats has dropped way off. I’m a new person!
In an upcoming post, I’ll share some what works for me when it comes to food. Meanwhile, here are some good resources I have found helpful in making this lifestyle change.
Forks Over Knives – Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called this doc “ a film that can save your life.”
Vegucated – This documentary follows three meat-and-dairy-loving New Yorkers as they try to stick to a vegan diet for six weeks.
Hungry for Change – The film also de-bunks diet and weight loss myths, as well as explains ways to stop bad habits and get healthy.
Food, Inc. – A look at the practices of global food production that puts profit before your well-being.
I’ve been learning a lot about narcissism. You know the idea that nurses and doctors, when they’re learning about diseases, start to think they have diseases? Well, I got to thinking, which is always a bit dangerous so I took a quiz just to make sure I’m not a narcissist. This was the report:
So the good news is, it seems I don’t have psychopathic or sociopathic personality disorder. But now I wonder if maybe I’m coming in too low… Being lower than an American is really positive I think, since I’m Canadian, but should I work on getting up to a score of 10 or so?
What would be your score? Find out: Am I a Narcissist?
As part of my wellness journey, I completed the YK2HR 2014 – an epic three day, 500km, ride from Yellowknife to Hay River in the Northwest Territories. After I recovered, I needed a new goal. I had a decent bike, I was a swimmer… what to do, what to do?
I decided that I was going to do triathlons!
(I am NOT in this picture!)
There are several different triathlon levels – starting with Tri-it, a 300 m swim, 10 km bike, and a 2.5 km run to the Ironman 3.86 km swim, 180.25 km bike, and 42.20 km (marathon) run. There are also ultra-Ironman events – races over multiple days. I decided I would start at the Sprint level which is double the Tri-it distance.
My first thought was, I guess I better start running!
When I was younger, I used to run like the wind but then I starting cycling and then driving… It had been a long time since I had done any running. Since a race means moving between the swim, bike and run without resting, my first attempt would be a short, but moderately intense, bike ride and then I would do a little run. The ride was great, I parked my bike, switched shoes and I was off to the trails near our home!
At least, I was off for about 150 m when suddenly there was a sharp stabbing pain in my calf. I don’t know what happen but it hobbled me. I limped back home, discouraged and nearly in tears.
Fortunately – at least it seems fortunate now – the triathlon in Yellowknife was cancelled that year. That meant I had almost a year to heal, train, and invest in gear. I found a wetsuit for a great price, got a triathlon-suit (a once piece that you can wear for the swim, bike and run), and new runners. The spandex level in my clothing rose by 67%.
My first event was the 2015 Kelowna Apple Triathlon. It’s an open water swim in Lake Okanogan, a challenging bike route, and a really nice run through parks and along the lake. It was a great race.
Afterwards, we had lunch and then hit the road for home. We got about five hours down the road and all the muscle soreness and exhaustion hit us so we got an emergency hotel room, with a hot tub…
Before the summer was over, I finished two more triathlons – Vancouver, BC (swim in the ocean with bonus cuts on my hands from barnacles!) and Terwilligar in Edmonton, AB which was a pool swim.
Since then, I have continued to train for triathlons. In 2016, I moved up to the Olympic level (1500 m swim, 50 km bike, and a 10 km run) at the Great White North Triathlon. I plan to stay at that level for a couple years. What’s nice about these distances is that I can go hard, finish well, and then get home for a nap!
In my next post, I’ll share what I do to train for triathlons.
(Me (the sexy one in the middle), my wife, and sister at the Vancouver Triathlon 2015.)
This is based on an article I wrote for EdgeYK Magazine in the spring of 2014. I’ve edited it slightly as it refers to an event in the past.
No one gets to where they want to go alone. That thought kept coming back to me as I prepared for YK2HR 2014 – an annual, 500 km, three day bicycle ride from Yellowknife to Hay River.
Years of family life and a stressful, sedentary, job meant my weight had been continuously climbing. My blood pressure was rising and my latest tests indicated other risks were looming. Then came 2012 – a perfect storm of loss and discouragement. The year started with my mom’s death. We knew it was coming but I was still devastated. Six weeks later, I had a huge crisis at work that left me reeling. So there I was: unhealthy, grieving, and wounded. I entered a dark cloud of discouragement and depression. It was at its worst in the quiet times – in the middle of the week – and the rest of the time it was a chore to drag myself around and be functional. One week turned into a month, then two months…
It’s been said that everyone has a story that will make you cry and many people have stories that will bring you to your knees. As stories go, I know mine is on the lighter side. But what made all this really challenging for me is that I was the pastor of the Yellowknife Seventh-day Adventist Church. Getting knocked off my feet a couple days a week and having a persistent dark cloud does not a good pastor make; it just made things worse.
The First Step
Through my work, I can access a confidential and free care line. Getting the courage to call is another story. Thankfully, I got desperate enough to pick up the phone. It was September 2012. That call was my first step to recovery. After listening, the counsellor suggested I had serious depression and I should seek medical assistance. That was the proverbial straw. I had to make a change.
Break Away Fitness
I’m not opposed to medication for depression but I also know that exercise is very helpful. My first stop was the gym, Break Away Fitness in Yellowknife. It took time, but I lost nearly 40 pounds, dropped pant and shirt sizes, and all my health indicators are normal to better than normal. Setting goals, using tools like MyFitnessPal, and participating in challenges kept me motivated. The thing is, something more happened. I found community. The gym owners, Kelly and Carey, were a huge blessing to me and I made many new friends. Let me introduce you to them…
One of the first friends I made was Alyssa Mosher, a CBC reporter. She interviewed me for a challenge I had organized. There’s nothing like making a public declaration of your goals to make you determined to achieve them. I just hope that when she gets super-famous she remembers the little people. You can find her on Twitter – @ammosher.
I met Andy Wong, an avid cyclist and organizer of the YK2HR ride, and I started to pick his brain about buying a bike. He went one better and offered to sell me one of his used bikes, a Trek hybrid. I used to cycle in my youth so returning to riding was transformational. As the cycling season ended I planned to invest in a new bike over the winter; something lighter and fitted just for me.
Ron Ogilvie changed my plans. I told him about my new biking goal and he encouraged me to do YK2HR 2014. I was hesitant. I love to bike but I hate camping. (Personally I think camping is against God’s will – Jesus said he was going to prepare a room for us so we can dwell with him. A room – not a tent or a camp site.) Ron’s persistence wore me down. I committed to the ride.
Preparation is Half the Battle
After I committed, I realized how unprepared I was. A high quality road bike also meant cycling shoes and pedals, clothes for various kinds of weather and, most importantly, padded bike shorts! That last item has inspired my sister to call me a MAMIL (Middle-aged Man in Lycra).
As YK2HR got closer, I gave more attention to stretching and massages – hey, it’s harder than it sounds. To be ready for NWT roads I would regularly go up and down on a teeter-totter while my wife threw dust in my face.
When I started to exercise I realized there was more I needed to do to see the changes I wanted. I started to look closely at my diet – I became intentional about how much I ate and what I ate. The game changer was Vegucated, a documentary on iTunes and Netflix. It’s a low budget documentary where three people are invited to try a plant based diet for six weeks. It wasn’t new information – Seventh-day Adventists have been talking the plant-based diet since the early 1900s – but it was the right information at the right time.
By the end of the documentary, I made the decision to go with a plant based lifestyle. Keep in mind that I didn’t see this as a “diet.” I committed to it as a way of life. I will confess it’s not easy to be vegetarian in the NWT if you keep your mouth open when you ride a bike. The biggest challenge has been eliminating added sugar. I keep telling myself I’m sweet enough on my own…
As I look back on where I’ve been and forward to where I’m going, I believe the best is yet to come. Check out my next post for what happened after YK2HR…
Do you find yourself struggling in your relationships? I’m a huge fan of Dr. John Gottman and his approach to helping people have healthy relationships. The following is for intimate partnerships but I am convinced they are valid for all relationships, just toned down to respect platonic boundaries. I hope these 7 principles help you have stronger relationships.
Struggling with anxiety? Stressed out? Can’t stop worrying or thinking about something? Can’t focus? Feeling upset? Sometimes we feel like we’re caught up in a tornado of thoughts and emotions.
The exercise below is a quick and easy method for feeling more centred on a tough day. It’s also great to practice at times when you’re not as stressed so you know exactly how to use it when you need it the most.
If begin to notice thoughts coming into your mind, that is COMPLETELY normal. Our brains are designed to think but we can learn to refocus our attention. Take this as an opportunity to be kind to yourself and not judge. Just notice that you are having thoughts, then, redirect your attention back to the present moment.
1. Sit in a comfortable upright position with your feet planted flat on the ground. Rest your hands on your thighs or on your desk.
2. Notice your breath. No need to breathe in any particular way. Just bring attention to each part of the breath- the inhale, exhale, and space in between.
3. Bring awareness to each of your 5 senses. One at a time, for about one minute each. The point here is to focus on the present moment and how each sense is being activated in that moment. The order in which you pay attention to each sense does not matter.
Hear: Begin to notice all of the sounds around you. Try not to judge the sounds- just notice them. They are not good or bad, they just are. Sounds might be internal, like breathing or digestion. Sounds might be close by or more distant like the sound of traffic. Are you now hearing more than you were before you started? You may begin to notice subtle sounds you did not hear before. Can you hear them now?
Smell: Now shift your attention to notice the smells of your environment. Maybe you smell food. You might become aware of the smell of trees or plants if you are outside. You might notice the smell of books or paper. Sometimes closing your eyes can help sharpen your attention.
See: Observe your surrounding and notice the colors, shapes and textures. If you really look, you may notice things that have gone unnoticed.
Taste: You can do this one even if you have food in your mouth. You may notice an aftertaste of a previous drink or meal. You can just notice your tongue in your mouth, your saliva, and your breath as you exhale. We have tastes in our mouth that often go unnoticed. You can run your tongue over your teeth and cheeks to help you become more aware.
Touch: Last one. Bring your attention to the sensations of skin contact with your chair, clothing, and feet on the floor. You can notice the pressure between your feet and the floor or your body and the chair. You can observe temperature like the warmth or coolness of your hands or feet. You might take time to feel the textures that you noticed by sight a moment ago. You can feel several objects on your desk to fully focus your attention on the present.
When finished, pause to notice how your body feels in this moment. Compare how you feel now with how you felt 5 minutes ago- what has changed? Try this exercise next time you’re feeling overwhelmed. This can be useful to use before a test or speech, too!
I’m not sure how to best reference this information. It seems a number of people write about it but I haven’t found a source yet. I found the above at http://www.clayton.edu/Portals/541/docs/Five%20Senses%20Mindfulness%20Exercise.pdfwhere is says, “Exercise adapted rom: Clayton State University, Counselling and Psychological Services, Edgewater Hall, Suite 245, 678-466-5406
We are a disposable culture.
This isn’t always a negative. When I was younger, I used to babysit my sisters and my mom never had disposable diapers. That was okay because I can handle cloth diapers but the problem was, I didn’t know how to fold them. One night, I was babysitting and I ran out of diapers; the only ones left were the freshly washed ones in a laundry basket – unfolded. I had to call the neighbour lady to help. That night I would have killed for a disposable diaper!
Beyond some conveniences we appreciate, think about all the stuff we just use up and throw away. Even this MacBook I am using to write this will one day be disposable (hopefully resealable or recyclable but still I will dispose of it for a new one).
We have become so used to disposing of things, even our most sacred and cherished spaces have been invaded by disposable culture.
We were created for relationship. Love and belonging are the two fundamental human needs. And yet, our relationships are disposable.
Now I’m not talking about the ebb and flow of people that come in and out of our life. I’m also not talking about necessary boundaries to safeguard ourselves from abuse.
I’m talking about the intentional disposing of people in our lives because they have become inconvenient, hard work, or we just can’t be bothered to make the effort. Once disposed of, we often look on those people with contempt.
Marriage is when two become one. Sadly, one often decides to dispose of the other.
Parents have teenagers they don’t know what to do with so they dispose of them from the house. Over the years, our home has been a safe place for half dozen disposed teens.
Friends dispose of each other over some of the most ridiculous things.
Most heartbreaking is when someone makes the choice to dispose of a baby – before or after he or she is born.
What if God was like that? We would be doomed.
Fortunately, we have a Good, Good Father and he’s not like that. Actually, he not just not like that, he’s on the opposite end of the spectrum. Here are a couple of things he says to us:*
“Even if your own mother who nursed you disposes of you, I will never dispose of you.”
“I will not dispose of you even until the end of the age.”
For those who trust God, we desire to have Christ’s character manifested in us. What I have noticed is we usually frame that within bad habits and choices. Sure, those are important, but we worry about them and without even a pause we dispose of people like we throw away used diapers.
Can you imagine what your life, your church, and the community you live in would be like if we had just 20% of God’s non-disposable character?
*Isaiah 49:15 and Matthew 28:20. I modified a couple words to make the point but the meaning is the same.
When I saw this, I asked Shannon what typically happens when the child fails to live up to making the narcissistic parent “look good.” Unlike a healthy parent who does their best to love and encourage their child regardless of how they perform, a narcissistic parent will turn “love” on and off like a faucet depending on how the child meets their expectations of fulfills their need to be the spotlight. Of course, this isn’t really love at all but a manipulation and/or punishment.
*Note that in the title, I spelled “favourites” the correct, Canadian, way.