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I'm half the man I used to be
Some advice from a guy who has been there about how to approach getting healthier

There was a time that if you suggested I go for a run I’d look at you like you were a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

Even after I lost 130 pounds 37 years ago and started bicycling 10,000 miles a year and trying not to embarrass myself in Jazzercise classes, I abhorred the idea of running.

Today, if I don’t go for at least a two mile jog — or at least a fast walk on any given day — I’ll go crazy.

It’s a far cry from the days when I tipped the scales at 320 pounds and walking a flight of stairs would almost put me down for the count.

Everyone offers you advice on how you should go about changing your course.

And what works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

Keeping that is mind there are a few things that, from my limited perspective, that hinders many from stepping up their game when it comes to exercising.

1.You need to go to a doctor first before starting an exercise program.

That might indeed be solid advice, but get real.

If you’re like me, there is no way I’m going to let anyone see me at 320 pounds.

I didn’t see a doctor until after I lost 130 pounds and then it was because I was strapped to a backboard.

It’s kind of like hiring a cleaning service to clean your home.  Before the first time you interview the person at your home and show them what needs to be done you clean the place because you don’t want anyone to know how big of a slob you are.

Granted, if you have a serious health issue seeing a medical professional before you start is common sense.

But if you don’t have a health issue, thinking you have to see a doctor first before you stop taking elevators to go up one floor and use the stairs is a stalling tactic.

2. Get advice from people who look ripped or who are young and have the “body” you’d like to have.

No disrespect, but the instructors that I have benefited the most from will never make the cover of “Men’s Health” let alone “Muscle & Fitness.”

They simply have to be students of movement, understand the dynamics of stretching, have a full understanding of muscles and how they work, get the ins and outs of anaerobic and aerobic exercise, and be able to tailor exercise routines to the baggage, if you will, that we all bring.

I do not have the perfect body, whatever that is supposed to be. I have my body.

The goal is to make it work the best it can be for me. If it somehow my body becomes more appealing, that’s fine. The goal should be to be healthier, stronger, and more flexibility and not a figment of your imagination or that of someone else.

3. Take a good look in the mirror.

I guess that works if you did not become overweight until you were an adult. But what I weighed in the sixth grade is what I do now — 178 pounds.

You don’t need a mirror to tell you the truth about yourself. You already know it if you are being honest with yourself.

Besides, I know of more than one person that after looking in a mirror closely then looked at other people and decided they weren’t all that bad because others were a lot heavier.

4. Listen to what others say.

Wrong. Ignore people especially if you’re trying to find the impetus to get started on an exercise program. You read that right. Ignore people.

They have a nagging habit of stating the obvious. Someone telling you that you are fat isn’t going to inspire you to lose weight.

5. You can have the body you want.

It’s the perfect advice to set yourself up to fail and quit.

You can only have one body — your body. You can make it the best it can be but you can’t change nature.

If you look at my feet you’d probably have a heart attack like my primary physician almost did when he saw my right bunion for the first time. He thought it was infected from a casual look. He even characterized it as the worst bunion he’d ever seen until he had me take my other sock off.

I have hammertoes. I have an interesting shoulder issue. I have mild spine curvature. I have persistent pain in specific locations of my body

I haven’t let any of that stop me.

And, for the record, if I ever get a one-pack, let alone a six-pack, I’ll be dancing in the street.

There are three basic body types. Mine is an endomorph. To give you an idea of what that means, John Goodman is an endomorph. As an endomorph I have a strong tendency to accumulate body fat with minimal muscle definition.

Experts are right when they say dropping weight is hard to do for an endomorph regardless of how many exercise and diet routines you try given you can morph into the Pillsbury Doughboy if you let yourself go.

Of course, what I’ve always wanted to be is an ectomorph — a skinny build and the ability to eat like a bottomless pit and never seem to gain weight.

It wasn’t until perhaps 15 years ago I kind of made peace with myself that I am what I am.


6. Exercise like hell.

They really don’t utter those exact words but they imply it giving people the wrong impression. They think they have to go one-on-one with Stephen Curry in a pick-up basketball game, train like a Navy SEAL, or bench press a Greyhound Bus.

There’s a lady in town who managed to shed over 80 pounds by simply walking her dog for upwards of an hour every day. That was almost 30 years ago. And after she lost the weight she has kept on walking as she discovered what most people do when they really get into an exercise program — the endorphins, peace of mind, and elimination of stress is unparalleled. She has never gained any weight back.

The bottom line is do what works for you but be consistent and try to build it into your life more than just once or twice a week.


7.  Devices like Fitbit can make a difference.

I guess they do if having $100 less in your pocket and becoming obsessed with numbers makes a difference.

If you can’t tell if you’re pushing yourself too hard and you have to back off, you need to get back to basics — listen to your body and not get wrapped up in numbers.

How I got to where I could jog/run for 6 miles without stopping was to get to the point it was a little bit too much to breathe then I’d walk.

When I recovered — you can determine this when you can feel your heart is no longer pounding as if Buddy Rich is on Red Bull playing the drums and your breathing no longer sounds like the Santa Ana winds whipping up a canyon — I repeated the run then walk process until I completed the route.

It took a little over a month but I was able to go 5 miles without stopping. It didn’t require Tim Cook to come up with an app.  


8. Don’t step on the scales everyday as it is self-defeating.

Like hell you’ll ever see me follow that advice.

I still remember like it was yesterday when I stepped on the scale at the end of my seventh grade year and I saw the number 240 pop up and — then years later as a 29-year-old after dropping down to 190 pounds to start my eight grade year — the scales when they stopped at 320 pounds.

Between 190 and 320 pounds I never looked at the scales. On my 29th birthday when I stepped on them for some reason, I vowed never to let a day pass that I did not weigh myself.

Since then I have religiously weighed myself every day and marked the weight on a calendar without fail. I completely get that weight is not an indicator or how healthy you are.

It was music to my ears last Saturday before I donated platelets that the Red Cross phlebotomist noted my heart rate was 56 and blood pressure was 114 over 84. Those are the numbers I put stock in.

I’m anal about my weight because I don’t want to every go through what I did for a third time — ballooning up to a weight that makes living more of a chore.

I treat the scales as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Besides it’s a great feeling knowing I’m roughly half the man I used to be.


9. It is about being healthy.

Well, that’s partially true. But it reality it’s about lifestyle.

I’ve discovered that exercising and diet — they go together — has allowed me to do things I never would have thought possible whether it is being perched on a 13,000-foot peak; bicycling over Tioga Pass, or taking a 16-mile round-trip hike to sit at the base of a glacier at 14,000 feet.

I don’t tire easily and I certainly don’t starve as I polish off 3,000 plus calories in a typical day. I can’t remember the last time I had a headache and I rarely get sick. It’s also easier to be focus and to think.

Believe me, I know all of the excuses not to do something. But the key is — as Nike’s marketing gurus say — is just do it.