Friday, August 09, 2013
Retiring in good shape.
Seems to make sense, doesn't it? Retiring in good shape. But what does that mean? Being able to bench my body weight? Able to run a 10 K in under an hour? Or simply be able to get through a day of ordinary activity without unreasonable fatigue, pain or injury? For me, being in good shape means being able to do a couple things I've gotten a lot of pleasure out of: bicycle touring and backpacking. I like being out and on my own, and using my own resources to get from one place to another. Hard to practice doing these things in an ordinary day. It takes time to get away from the house and into the woods and down the path. For me, being in good shape means being able to take off on an extended trip. Tomorrow. But it's hard to know if I'm ready to go.
I thought I was ready to go when 1) some kind of pinched nerve symptoms surfaced and I learned my right foot was weak. Physicians have identified potential problems but no partcular problem. I'm working with a great physical therapist to restore the foot strength. I think it's getting better. Then 2) the shoulder I had surgery on about a year ago and which I thought was doing fine developed a lot of pain after simply carrying a fairly heavy bag a short distance with that hand. The pain and difficulty reaching out in front of me has almost completely disappeared over a month's time, but I'm suddenly aware that this kind of thing could happen again with the same minimal sort of work. Again, my physicial therapist is helping me work to stretch and strengthen the shoulder to make it able to handle that kind of load, and more, as I expect it would need to on a long backpacking trip.
My body weight, blood pressure, and lipid profile are all OK. People say I'm trim. I walk 1-2 miles a day just in the course of doing errands in the neighborhood. Supermarket, library, even medical visits. I rarely drive. I prefer mass transit so I don't have to deal with traffic and don't have to park. I've been off my bike because of the pinched nerve problem, though I think, if I set the bike up with a bit more upright position, I'll be able to ride around the neighborhood soon. Haven't done any 10 mile hikes recently. Have had trouble "fitting" it into my activities.
People around me sometimes say I'm asking for too much. Since my day to day life is pain free, and I can do everything I have to, including some plumbing, painting and plaster work around the house, they say that I don't need anything more. Not true. I'm not happy sitting at a desk doing work on a computer and otherwise simple walks around town. I like being outdoors and doing things. My problem seems to be telling someone who's never done it that I'm looking for help in preparing to hike or bike for weeks at a time, camping along the way.
Nevertheless I'm feeling optimistic. The Appalachian Trail is calling me, looking for a meetup next April, giving me another chance to try to walk from Georgia to Maine. I think I can be ready. Now that will entail being in shape.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Last October, about 8 months ago, I set a goal to lose from 170, a high I'd reached by not paying a lot of attention to what I ate, down to 155, what I recall as my high school weight. About 15 pounds in 8 months. Spark showed me that my weight loss was a saw toothed decline, more or less along the intended line, There was a spike from 159 to 163 while my wife and I were visiting in England and I was eating those wonderful English breakfasts every day! Another spike, from 156 to 163 occurred when I changed my activities after developing some leg pain associated with a diagnosis of a pinched nerve. There has been a sharp drop from that peak over the past three weeks as I've engaged in prescribed physical therapy. The amazing thing, unfolding before my eyes, has been seeing my scale reflecting weights under 155 for the past three days. This is a brand new low. I have not see 155 in many years. I've seen 157 or 156 a few times, but never maintained that weight to the next Sunday before. Now I've been at or under 156 for a week.
Can I maintain this? Maybe. For much of this last 8 months I've noted my weight stubbornly sticking around 160 pounds. My suspicion is that I've adopted a diet that is maintenance for 160 pounds. If I can hold onto what's happening right now, I may be able to enjoy eating and still be on a maintenance diet for 155 pounds.
My scale measures body fat. I think it does this poorly. Mine has stuck at about 27%, plus or minus 1%, throughout this entire weight loss (and gain) period. That suggests to me that I've likely lost muscle and fat in equal proportions. My new challenge is something that fits nicely with my therapy for a pinched nerve in my leg and with therapy over the past year for recovery from shoulder surgery. I'll now add some strength training for upper and lower body as well as core. This fits with what the professionals want, and also with my own goals of having the strength to do a through hike of the Appalachian Trail next spring. My next challenge will be trying to find a way to get a clear exercise plan, fitting my own needs, into my Spark plan. And I'll be working to reduce body fat without increasing weight. Hopefully that will indicate a larger percentage of lean body mass, that is, muscle.
So, today is a monumental Sunday. The first in years where my weight has finally fallen to (and below) 155 pounds. After years of paying some attention to diet, and 8 months of closer attention. I'm really pleased. I'll go out and celebrate with a walk through one of the local parks! And begin work at changing my mix of fat and muscle while keeping my weight right here.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Decided, today, to do a little walking and take a cue from Colin Fletcher, a very practcal but sometimes almost mystic man who has hiked lots of miles and written a lot of books. I'm reading one now:
and am a devotee of the backpacking guide he wrote with Chip Rawlins:
olin-Fletcher/dp/0375703233 Colin's advice is to take time to see what's around you, and to just let the walk unfold on its own without a lot of your own expectations driving things.
So, although very urban, today's walk was only loosely planned and did take advantage of the Custis Trail, one of the urban forest gems here in Arlington VA. Very early in the hike a totally unexpected find - likely from the drenching rains of the past few days: huge mushrooms outside the local library:
These guys are 5-6 inches in diameter and seemed to be only in this one spot.
Here's a closup showing how unusually thick they are - way thicker than a portabello in the grocery store:
. I left them in place. But they look like they'd make a meal, easy.
The Custis Trail is a mixed use trail, for bicycles and pedestrians. Blacktop, well signed, and with some short but steep hills, the trail attracts enthusiastic riders of skinny tire road bikes who attempt to make the best of speed possibilities. Having biked this part of the trail myself, I could only smile tolerantly as guys whizzed by enjoying the thrill of speed, and demonstrating their skill at not quite hitting slowpoke pedestrians.
Near my place, the Custis Trail parallels Interstate 66, a road with continuous, noisy traffic. But parts of the trail are behind one of those sound walls you see near interstates. I was totally amazed at how much the walls cut the noise of the road. By 90%, perhaps. If you're looking for forest solace next to a freeway, the barriers really help.
My own bikes are a mountain bike and a touring bike. Neither has a good body position for this pinched nerve problem I'm attempting to heal. However there is a shared bicycle program here called Capitol BikeShare that rents, inexpensively, bikes with an upright posture, like a comfort bike, from over 200 unmanned bike stations around the area. . I think that getting with this program will get me out on the roads and trails until I'm ready for the more forward posture of my own bikes. The nearest bike stand is only two blocks from my home.
So the walk was a good one, and added 4 miles to my Virtual Appalachian Trail Hike. Nice day. Keeps me moving!
Keep safe --
Monday, June 24, 2013
Today agreed with my surgeon that an elective procedure would be better delayed until after this pinched nerve problem causing leg pain has been resolved. This is actually a good move as it gives me time to reconsider doing the surgery at all, and also lets me try to find a strategy to do a through hike of the Appalachian Trail next spring.
Physical therapy (for this pinched nerve problem) was positive today. The imagination of the therapists in finding new and wonderful exercises to do seems boundless. Nevertheless, after an hour and a half I was a little tired, but feeling positive. We'll just have to see what the future brings.
So things have decompressed a bit. We'll look forward just a day at a time and do what's possible to make the big hike happen.
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