Health Update

Posted by Andrew on Dec 12, 2016

LegoMan

I have some good news and some bad news regarding my health. The bad news is that I am still not 100% sure what’s going on in my knee. The good news is that according to my symptoms, the worst injury that I COULD have is the best one to get! I guess that counts as good news, right?

I went and saw my doctor last week and she confirmed that it did sound like a tear in the meniscus. I did all the tests and got poked and prodded and it seemed I looking at a knee injury. She was hesitant to refer me to a sports physician who in turn would refer me to an MRI and then possible surgery. She recommended me seeing physio (already booked for the next day!) and to take Advil every day to reduce inflammation. I am to see her again early in the new year if physio isn’t working. That will get the MRI show on the road, if needed.

Whew! One visit down and one to go. Got to meet a new guy at my clinic. He did very similar poking and prodding as my doctor and told me that there is a possibility of a tear, BUT. Apparently my left kneecap has very good maneuverability but my right (injured) kneecap is as stiff as a board. So we are not sure if it’s a tear or if it’s just muscles who are too tense which is causing pain. Or both!

Due to the fact that my knee has never locked up, I don’t feel “grit” floating around in there, AND there’s no unnatural clicking in my knee, IF there is a tear, it will be what is called a “radial” tear. This is where the meniscus has been torn like a piece of paper. It’s fixable through non-surgical means and is the best of the worst case scenarios.

What does that mean for me?

Advil. And stretching every day. 3 times a day. It sucks but if it keeps me from surgery then so be it. Back to physio later this week for a follow up to see if my kneecap moves at all.

I went and did legs on Saturday for the first time in a while. I forced myself to stay light by leaving my chalk and belt in the locker. Felt good to work legs again, but I am nervous as hell working them right now. Need to stay light and build that confidence up.

I will keep you posted on my progress. Hopefully I will be healed soon!

Ego Hurts the Most

Posted by Andrew on Dec 6, 2016

thendontdothat

I can't deny it any more. I am injured. A few months back I noticed that my right knee was giving me some pain. I had injured it many years before I started going to the gym so I was familiar with the pain. I just needed to pop some Advil and get back to it. The pain would subside in a few days and I would be right as rain.

This time the pain didn’t go away after a few days or even a few weeks. It got worse. Rolling over in bed could cause me to jolt awake as a searing burning pain shot up my leg. Just catching my toes and having my foot jerked to the right even a little bit would take my breath away. BUT! I had no pain when I was at the gym. It was weird.

I went to my massage therapist who had guided me back to health when my shoulder was giving me trouble. He tried a few things and gave me some exercises to do. I did them and the searing pain went away but there was still a dull ache that just never really went away. We kept trying different techniques for months. Finally this weeks’ session brought the bad news home. He’s out of options. I was told to get to a doctor and a chiropractor to get it checked out. He strongly suggested to only do “light weight” with my legs until we know what’s going on.

I did not take the news well. You would have thought he had told me "We are going to have to take it off right above the knee. Nurse, sharpen the bone saw. Here's a shot of rum and a stick for you to bite down on." It sure felt like it. Being told to back off means that I am not immune to getting hurt. The gym has saved my life. Not only is it a place where I can burn off some calories and get stronger; it's a mental thing as well. The iron is my therapy. To take it away (even briefly) is a scary prospect for me. When I talk to others about their injuries I give the same platitudes. “You will come back stronger.” “Gotta look out for yourself.” “Better to find it early before it got worse.” “It’s only a few weeks.” Those are excuses for other people. I am not supposed to get hurt! I have too much ego for that!

Last Saturday I went and saw a chiropractor who did some tests and confirmed: I do have some tearing in the meniscus. I won’t know for sure how badly it’s torn until I get an MRI which could take months. But in the meantime I am supposed to still get in to see my physician to get the ball rolling with the MRI. I see her on Tuesday. I am also booked to see a physio this week who will give me some exercises to incorporate into my routine.

I know it could be much worse. I have had other injuries which healed over time, but this one is freaking me out. Knees are something everyone is concerned about so I am extra twitchy when I think of what could be wrong. The good news is that no one has told me that I need to stop lifting heavy. Just need to be mindful of form (which I really should be anyways.) I’ve slowly headed back to the gym to do as much as I can without pain. Going to be a long road to wellness, but at least I am already in the habit of exercising so it won’t be too hard to incorporate any rehab I need to do.

I will keep you posted about my condition. Here’s hoping for some good news and a quick recovery!

A Story of Laughter

Posted by Andrew on Nov 7, 2016

kidslaugh

A few years ago we had a team meeting with our department. As there were several new members we were “invited” to do an ice breaker type of game. One of the games was to tell a story of the funniest thing that has ever happened to them at work. Here’s mine:

At the time I worked with a small team. One of the members was a former nurse who I thought a bit intense. (After a while we got to be friends and I found out that she was nowhere NEAR as scary as first impressions dictated, but that’s a story for another time!)

We were in Winnipeg for a conference in the middle of winter. Not a lot to do in our limited downtime so we decided to quickly go out for dinner. Someone knew of a great local Thai place and we all agreed.

We got there and noted that the name was “One Night in Bangkok”. We had all lived through the 80s so we were aware of the song. We even sang a little while we sat waiting for our food. The food was delicious. We paid our bills and went on our way.

Flash forward to about six weeks later. Our Mastercard bills came in the mail for us to itemize and submit for approval. My co-worker opened hers and I could see from the corner of my eye that she was getting visibly upset. I didn’t want to pry but she was getting redder and redder and madder and madder. So I said “What’s wrong?” She turned around and with the fury of a tornado started in. “What is this charge for $15?!? I can’t believe the hotel would charge me for this!! ‘One Night in Bangkok’! I just switched by that channel. I didn’t stop and watch!”

I took about 10 seconds to process it and then burst out laughing. Which, of course did NOT help her mood. When I calmed down, I explained that no, One Night in Bangkok is NOT the adult Pay Per View movie charged by the hotel, but the very nice Thai place we went to. A good laugh was had by all.

Funny story to be sure, but it gets even better. I got a new corporate Mastercard in the mail a little less than a year later. I had to phone to get it activated. The guy on the other end asked me a whole bunch of questions that I couldn’t answer. What address is attached to the account? No idea. I work in the hospital, but was it Accounting who ordered it? I think their address is … never mind. Is there any other way to authenticate the card?

Sure, he says. Can you name a place where the card was used in the last nine to twelve months? I SURE CAN! One Night in Bangkok in Winnipeg last January. And I burst out laughing. My co-worker is now looking at me with a quizzical look. The guy on the phone gets quiet. “I am assuming there’s a story there.” “Oh for sure!” “And I see it there. Your card is now activated!”

We ended up buying her a custom shirt that said “One Night in Bangkok” on it for when she retired. I am not a great gift giver but that is easily one of my top five.

What does this have to do with the gym and fitness? Absolutely nothing. Just make sure to laugh as much as you can, it’s good for your core!

Note: According to this reddit thread the owner of the resturant passed away a few years ago. They played the song at his funeral. SO very sad and yet just so cool.

For those of you who don't know the song:

TLC for you and your ride

Posted by Andrew on Oct 31, 2016

bmi

First off, apologies for my absence last week. My computer decided to become less than helpful, so it needed a good scrubbing. Everything is getting back to the way it should be but it’s always an ordeal to reinstall Windows, especially after several years of neglecting it. I ignored the issues because it was easier to just find workarounds than to actually do what I knew needed to be done. Wow. That’s a perfect segue into today’s topic!

There’s an old mechanic tale about a person who comes into the shop complaining about a squealing noise coming from their car. The mechanic takes a look at the car. He diagnoses the problem and says that it will be $500 to fix it. The driver gets angry and says “I will save 500 bucks if I just turn up the radio really loud!”

It seems silly when viewed like this but a lot of times we hear warning squeals coming from our body. Our clothes stop fitting correctly. It hurts to get out of bed. Those stairs at work seem higher and longer every day. We are just tired and know that we need a change. But getting admitting there is a problem is the first step. Denying and ignoring the signs just delays the problem.

“Turning up the stereo” when your body is screaming for maintenance is incredibly common. We get used to the new normal and ignore the warning signs (or sounds) of our issues. Stop cranking the music in your body and listen. Find out what you need and go for it.

Your body is precious. It’s the only one you get!

BMI?

Posted by Andrew on Oct 17, 2016

bmi

Back after a week off for Thanksgiving. Hope everyone had a great holiday!

According to the Body Mass Index (BMI), I am obese. I have been obese since I was about 14 years old. When I was 14 I rode my bike everywhere. I would ride from my home to the nearest “big” town which was about a 50km round trip EVERY DAY. Once I did the ride in the morning with friends then in the evening my sister and I did it again. I think we went to buy some gum. This was no easy ride either. The hills were brutal and the road was full of twists and turns. But riding with friends made the ride go by in a flash. It got easier as the days rolled by as well. By the end of that summer I challenged myself to ride all the way from Penticton to my home (south of OK Falls) via Eastide Road sitting down in lowest gear WITHOUT SHIFTING. I did it.

The BMI is a simplistic way of measuring someone's health. It is a scale which looks at your height by your weight and tells you if you are too big, too small or just right.

My point is that I have a body type that is not “normal”. I am short but wide; some might call me “stocky”. I have always been “big” even when I was in the best shape of my life. I have been considered obese by the BMI scale since I knew what that word meant.

When I first started working out and seeing results one of the questions people ask is “have you lost weight?” The answer for me was yes, I had. But I didn’t lose as much as some would expect. I went from a guy with a big belly to a guy with a smaller belly and legs and arms like steel beams. Fat was displaced and muscle took over.

Some people don’t lose weight when they start exercising. How can this be? You’ve probably heard the old chestnut “muscle weighs more than fat” which is not really accurate as a pound is a pound. One pound of muscle takes up a lot less space than a pound of fat. So a person can get trim by building muscle but the weight on the scale is the same (or going UP!) The question that the people mean to ask is “have you changed?” but they don’t know how to ask.

The numbers on the scale are mostly meaningless. Your health is not tied to that number. Higher isn’t bad, lower isn’t good. It all depends on how you feel and how you look. To get a true measure of your health, talk to a professional who can use much better ways to gauge your health. Do NOT let a number define you.

Working on my own issues

Posted by Andrew on Oct 6, 2016

holidays

Funny that I called my blog “FIT into your dress clothes”. I named it that in honour of a book that I read talked about not obsessing about the number on the scale but focus more on how your clothes fit. Specifically your dress clothes. Fancy duds don’t forgive and won’t lie about your size. Workout clothes, shorts and some jeans all have wiggle room but a pair of slacks for the office does not.

I work from home most days so I am not “dressed up” when I am at work. I have been wearing shorts and a t-shirt to work for most of the summer. I had to go into the office last week to do some things in person. As always, I prepared my clothes the night before so that I am ready for the next day. I have just gotten off a weeks’ holiday where diet was the last thing in my mind so I figured I would just try on my clothes before I attempted to put them on the next day. And horror of horrors: None of my dress pants fit. Not one pair. Talk about a shot to the ego. The last time I had put on my dress clothes, they had been snug but wearable, now the button wouldn’t even acknowledge where it was supposed to go.

I am gutted. I work my ass off in the gym to make sure that I never reach my previous size so to backslide this much is a giant smack of reality. So now I take a long look at myself. Breathe. Call it my “bulking” phase, or “getting ready for hibernation” or something to make myself feel better, but all smiles and chuckles aside, it’s hard to process this. Especially when I know that it’s all my own fault. No one forced those beers into my hand over the summer. No one made me have too may house fries at the local pub. The local pizza place didn’t call itself. This was my doing. So, I am going to reset and re-focus.

Of course I had to go out and buy some new, larger pants for my work, but I vow that those will disappear very quickly. Just need to refocus on what is important. Being back to a normal routine instead of eating holiday food will help but the mindset of health needs to be back in the forefront. Just need to reset, refocus and concentrate on what I know is right for me.

Everyone has their down days. Everyone has their weaknessess. It's all about overcoming them. I will keep you posted with my progress!

How to lose weight in 2 easy steps!

Posted by Andrew on Sept 26, 2016

tips

After I was going to the gym for a while and being more careful with my diet, my body started to change. People started to notice. Lots of “how much weight have you lost?” (A question which drives me insane but that’s a post for another time.) One person in particular asked me “Ok, so what’s your secret?” I said “Eat less and exercise more.” They laughingly told me where to go.

Occam’s Razor states that if there are multiple theories or explanations about something the simplest one is most likely to be correct. (Apologies to all scientists and mathematicians out there whom I offended with that last sentence.) In this case, this person wanted me to tell them of some magical formula that would cause them to get fit while not having to put in the work. “Sell me a pill, a soup, a shake, a wrap . . . ANYTHING to make me fit.”

Two of the best selling types of books are cooking books and diet books. Basically one tells you how to make delicious food and the other tells you how not to eat it. I am truly astounded at the number of diet books which are out there. So many different ways of telling you to eat less and possibly exercise more.

Sadly there are no shortcuts. Hard work reaps the rewards. Anything else is just snake oil designed to take your money. To get in shape there must be sacrifices. “Good genetics” doesn’t get you to the gym at 5:30AM, only discipline, dedication and an eye on the prize gets you there.

But if you want to know my REAL secret, I can share it for $24.99. Just send me an email.

My First Powerlifting Competition

Posted by Andrew on Sept 16, 2016

yay

I went to watch my first power lifting competition in 2015. I wanted to support a few friends who were competing. I also wanted to get an idea of what happens at one. It was exciting, inspiring and motivating. The small crowd was enthusiastic and encouraging and extremely friendly. I learned a lot of what to expect. I asked a ton of questions and was given straight and educational answers.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I knew I had to do one.

Like a first time parent with a “birth plan” I had ideas of what I wanted to do. I had “my song” all ready to go. I was going to crank it and get pumped before every lift. But much like a birth plan everything went out the window when it was game time.

Problem 1: My singlet didn’t have pockets. Problem 2: I had no place to keep my headphones. But probably the biggest problem of all is that I totally forgot about my entire plan until I was home and decompressing.

The tunnel vision I got was incredible. Once I got backstage and was amongst other competitors and with my coach, I was in the zone. There was nothing else going on. I had to focus on going out there and beating all my previous bests. No mistakes!

The way the rules work is that I get three attempts per type (squat, bench, deadlift so 9 lifts in total). If I miss all three in one type than I am disqualified from the full tournament. I could still do a partial tournament but that was NOT my goal.

I was able to add more weight to each lift but I cannot remove weight from my next lift, so picking my starting weights is crucial. Too heavy and I blow my first attempt and my confidence and I may not recover.

I am also required to listen to the commands of the judges. The bar needs to stop moving for them to tell me to go. Squats and bench I need to wait until after they say "rack" before I put the bar back.

There are 3 judges. Each one has a switch. They flick a switch if a lift is good or not. White is good, red is not. The black box you see in the video with six lights represents their votes. Majority rules. You want to see 3 whites. You do NOT want to see 3 reds.

My previous heaviest weights were:

  • Squat: 385lbs
  • Bench: 245lbs
  • Deadlift: 405lbs

    I had done a lot of training since those PRs, so I was confident in destroying those records.

    First lift: squat 375lbs. Easy starter weight just to get me on the board. I walked out there like I owned the place. No problem. I had this! I dropped down and back up again. The Voice of God said "NO LIFT"

    It didn't count because I didn't squat low enough. First one failed. Weight was good and easy. Just didn't break parallel with my depth. I was surprised and disappointed. Truly an ego-smashing moment because of all the 3 exercises the squat was the one I was least worried about. Had to reset my brain and focus!

    I walked backstage in kind of a shock. My coach encouraged me and other lifters told me that it was pretty borderline. I was frustrated because it was supposed to be a gimmie lift.

    Second squat 375lbs again.

    3 Red Lights. Roxanne would be pleased, Sting would not.

    This one didn't count because I racked before they told me to. You can see my coach's reaction in the background. It was a stupid mistake and I was gutted. Made the weight easy. Made depth easy. Just lost my concentration at the end and blew it. The walk backstage and the waiting for my final attempt was an eternity. Kiarra (my coach) was quietly texting and I knew she was chatting with Teresa who was in the audience. They were very concerned. I was too, but I was not talkative.

    When I went up for my third and final attempt the announcer said "Give him a big hand. If he misses this, he's out of the competition." Teresa and Kiarra were mad at that, but it's not like I had forgotten!

    Final attempt 390lbs

    Since my weights weren't the problem, my coach upped my weight for the final lift so I could actually have a challenge. It worked. I did it! My coach's reaction in the background makes me laugh every time I see it. Both her and Teresa were so nervous for me. I wasn't nervous. I was focused and determined not to get scrubbed for something stupid.

    First bench press 220lbs

    A lot of people (myself included) start training bench by going fast. Drop the bar to the chest and get it back up as fast as possible. In competition the rules state that you start the downward movement on your own time, but once the bar touches your chest it has to be motionless before they give the command to press. It could be a fraction of a second or it could go for longer. Having the bar stop ensures that you are using your full power to get the bar up and not any momentum or cheating.

    Thankfully my coach trained me in pausing at the bottom of all my benches so my bench presses were all textbook perfect.

    First one was 220lbs which is warm up weight for me. Did it well and got on the board so my confidence was high.

    Second bench 242lbs. Almost a personal best. Easy-peasy.

    Final bench 253lbs. If you look really close, you can see that I started to move the bar towards the rack before they told me to so technically they could have not counted that one. But they did so I am grateful not to have that one scrubbed on a technicality.

    First deadlift 374lbs. Textbook deadlift. Easy!

    Second deadlift 390lbs. Added some weight and did it again!

    Third and final deadlift 413lbs. Coach added 10kgs. Go big or go home. Did it! Flawless.

    I broke all my own records and learned a ton. It was an amazing day. The whole thing took over 6 hours due to how many people there were. There was a 4 year old who deadlifted over twice his body weight and there was a 57 year old who lifted over 300lbs!. It's why I love the sport. It's truly all inclusive. We were there to compete against ourselves. I wasn't rivaling anyone else there but me and my own mental state.

    I will do it again next year for sure!

    Here’s a video I put together showcasing the day.

  • Millions of Peaches

    Posted by Andrew on Sept 12, 2016

    yum

    “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

    ― Dita Von Teese

    Speaking as an Okanagan resident, the thought that someone could possibly not like peaches is a completely foreign concept to me. We brought home a box of peaches a few days ago where each peach was the size of a baby’s head. We have the greatest peaches, tremendous peaches. No one grows peaches better than us, I guarantee it. People say we have the best peaches. Oh dear. I may be watching too much American election coverage. Moving right along.

    I understand the quote. You can’t please everyone all the time. It’s not possible. Another quote that I have heard in my career is “If you aren’t pissing someone off, then you aren’t trying hard enough.” Canadians have a reputation for being “polite” and “non-confrontational”. It’s a reputation that we are proud of. We often compare ourselves to our (sometimes) loud and rude neighbours to the south and feel a sense of smugness that we are not like that. However, sometimes making changes or trying something new is uncomfortable. It pushes us out of their comfort zone and into something scary and unknown. It may be a fantastic change or it may be a flop. But we don’t know unless we try.

    When I first started exercising my coach put in a few sets on the Roman chair. For those of you unfamiliar with this device, here’s a good demo of what it’s like:

    ugh

    It’s as bad as it looks. Keep in mind that I had about 40 extra pounds in front of me, so bending over and having my whole weight pressing into the support made my abdomen hurt. Not hurt in a good way, but bad pain. It hurt my lower back and made me want to hurl. I hated it. My coach kept putting it into my programs. I would try it once and then just skip it. Finally I got up enough courage to say “I really don’t like the Roman Chair, can we do something else instead?” and it was gone from my routine; replaced with some other core work.

    Not every exercise is going to work for everyone. Some people love group classes, others like to work out alone, some like heavy weights others like cardio. Mixing and matching is a great way to keep things interesting. Finding your “peach” can be a matter of trial and error, but once you have found it, it will be sweet.

    New New Year?

    Posted by Andrew on August 29, 2016

    apple

    The last few mornings I have taken the dog out for his morning walk and the air feels like Fall. It’s still August for a few more days but the morning air is turning crisp.

    I adore Fall. It’s probably my favourite season. We get warm, sunny days and cool nights. The leaves start to turn and the best fruit is ready for harvesting. (Apples, of course!) One quote that I have heard about living in my area is that you know you are from the Okanagan if you don’t consider fruit fresh if you haven’t picked it yourself 10 minutes ago. There is truly nothing like the crack of biting into a sun-warmed apple fresh from the tree. In fact, I just pulled the first apple of my backyard tree just this week. Tastes like happiness. Yum!

    Change is a major part of September. Days become shorter. Kids end their summer vacation and head back to school. The weather turns and we go from beach days to more indoor activities. Cold glasses turn into warm mugs. Sweaters come out and shorts become rarer. Orion appears in the sky in the early morning.

    But I digress. September is an extra special time for me because it includes both my birthday AND my “re-birthday”. Four years ago I was staring down the barrel of a major milestone birthday. I looked in the mirror and I was not happy with what I saw. I was pretty miserable and depressed. I decided to get a gym membership for our family at the Kelowna Family YMCA. Part of the membership is to get paired up with a coach. I got paired up with a young kinesiology student. The rest, as they say, is history. She was learning new things and I was a sponge ready to be a guinea pig. Her coaching took me from couch potato to competitor. Our first appointment was in September. I started going to the gym regularly in September. My addiction to endorphins and self-improvement started in September. September has become the New Year for me and I celebrate it every year with open arms. Bring on the fall and bring on the new change.

    Also, we bought our first house two years ago and moved in officially in September, so that was another massive life changing event which is fall related.

    January 1st may be the traditional New Year’s celebration, but for me, September is the real New Year. Happy New Year, everyone! Get out there and make a change for the better. Don’t wait until January. Do it in the Fall and beat the rush.

    Saying Goodbye

    Posted by Andrew on August 22, 2016

    heritage funny

    I cried this Saturday night. I am sure that I was not the only Canadian to shed a tear (or two) while they watched the quintessential Canadian band play their last song of their final concert. The ending of an era was not because the band is going into some fake “retirement” or breakup of the band. The end is because their lead singer has inoperable brain cancer. It was assumed their last show ever and it was extremely emotional for everyone who watched it.

    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) played the almost three hour concert live in its entirety with no ad breaks. The Prime Minister of Canada was there paying his respects. It was a nationwide phenomenon. In short, the country shut down in a way not seen since the Olympic gold medal hockey game of 2010.

    Unlike some of their Canadian band counterparts the Hip never really sought out the approval of our American friends. They were proud to be Canadian and didn’t try and break into that much larger and financially lucrative market. They were OUR band and we loved them for it. They mention Tim Horton’s, prime ministers, hockey players, the plight of indigenous people and the CBC. They were one of us; singing about both the mundane and extraordinary parts of Canadian life. One of their albums is named after horse droppings left on the highway. Can’t get much more Canadian than that!

    Their tone was somber yet sometimes playful. The lyrics were stories; the music catchy. You could put them on just to groove along as you drove but if you actually listened to the words they were deep and meaningful.

    The Hip’s music has so many special memories attached. Their songs to me will always be driving my little red Datsun pickup truck to and from my job pumping gas at Petro Canada blasting my cassette copy of “Up to Here”. Or driving around with my friend in his souped up VW beetle wailing along to “New Orleans is Sinking”. Or obnoxiously playing “Little Bones” over and over again on the grade 12 geography trip to Banff. But most special of all was that my wife and I played “Ahead by a Century” when we drove my first child home from the hospital for the very first time. The Hip was part of the soundtrack to my life since I was an early teenager. I am so very happy and proud that I am Canadian and that I shared a few hours with the rest of the country while we said goodbye.

    “Don’t you want to see how it ends?” Gordie asked in The Depression Suite. No, not one person in Canada wanted it to see it end this way. But we are glad that you gave us a proper farewell. Thank you Gordie and the boys for 30 years of memories. Your legacy will live on for generations.

    Not going to lie, I completely lost it when they played Fiddler’s Green. The song emotionally destroyed me even before the concert because it is about Gord’s nephew who died as an infant. It is about how the boy is going to Fiddler’s Green which is the afterlife for sailors. The lyrics were all the more painful when we were reminded of Gord’s own mortality.

    Fuck cancer, donate to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research

    H10B?

    Posted by Andrew on August 15, 2016

    h10b.com is an unusual url for a website. Where did that idea come from?

    Many years ago my family was visited by a cousin of mine who happened to be a member of a large city’s law enforcement unit. He told us many stories that kept us entertained for hours. But one really stuck with me.

    My cousin has the same last name as me. Four letters yet there are infinite ways to mispronounce it. Just when I think I’ve heard them all, I hear a new one. (It’s pronounced hee-ob in case you are wondering.)

    My cousin had given his business card to someone. The card has his name typed in block letters on the front. Later the person called the office to complain that my cousin was trying to hide behind his call sign and not give his real name. The person who took the call wasn’t sure what they meant so they asked for an explanation. The caller irately said “Yeah, it’s got his first name and then his call sign ‘h ten b’.”

    That story stuck with me and when it came time to pick a URL, that was the one I went with.

    Know when to take the leap

    Posted by Andrew on August 8, 2016

    WARNING: This post may be a bit graphic and may not be safe if you just ate lunch. Proceed with caution.

    I grew up in a small town. There's not a lot to do in the sticks so I spent many summers of my youth out at the Skaha Bluffs just north of Okanagan Falls, BC. (Not to be confused with the climbing/caving area just south of Penticton.) These were cliffs on the edge of the lake just off of Eastside Road. Back in the "good old days" if it were sunny and hot cars would be parked up and down the road and the cliffs would be covered by dozens if not hundreds of thrill seekers and spectators. People would come from all over to visit this landmark.

    The cliffs were straight down. There were relatively no obstacles all the way to the very, very deep water. There were several different jumping off points described by their approximate height in feet. The lowest was the "20" which was about the height of a tall high dive, the "40" and the "60" which were increasingly scary heights. Finally you had the "Max Air" and the "100" which were the truly frightening jumps.

    First off let me describe the Max Air. It is a piece of rock set back from the 60 but about a dozen or so feet higher and about 10 feet back. While sitting on the 60 you can turn around and look up at the Max Air. In order to jump it you must take a running start and then leap at the exact right time to get enough momentum to clear the 60 (and the people sitting on the 60). Otherwise you will bounce off the 60 and hit the water badly or barely miss the top of the 60 and then slide down the side of the mountain for about 60 feet and get the worst case of road rash imaginable and THEN hit the water badly. Needless to say this was a highly respected and not often attempted jump.

    The "100" by comparison was pretty tame. It was just high. Very, very high.

    Here's a picture from the water which shows the approximate path one takes when jumping from the various heights. The 60 and Max Air face to the left of the picture. The picture doesn't actually include the 100 as it's a bit more to the left, but it gives you an idea of what I'm talking about.

    Bluff Map

    I am not sure how old I was when my friends and I first went out to the bluffs but none of us drove out there; we rode our bikes. We started on the 20 on the first year and I think we maybe braved the 40. Of course our parents had NO idea what we were doing.

    The next year we got braver and worked our way up to the 60...eventually. By the time I was 14 I was doing the Max Air and one fateful day late in the summer I did the 100...4 times in a single day. Why? That's a story you will have to buy me a drink to find out!

    Psyching yourself up for a jump that could seriously hurt or kill you is not an easy task. It took a lot of mental prep and zen like thinking to get myself ready. When I jumped...it was insane. The difference between the 100 to the 60 (or even the Max Air) was incredible. I felt like I had a year of extra hang time up there. I actually got about 2.5 seconds of free fall to contemplate my choice before the water and I connected. Lifetime.

    During my second 100 foot jump I landed a little wrong with one foot. As I was swimming to the surface I wondered what was wrong with my leg. I wasn't in any pain, but it felt very off. I had landed flat footed with my left foot (not toes pointed like you were supposed to) and my shoe had split from toe to heel and it was now firmly wedged around my left thigh. I was completely unharmed otherwise but it was a great reminder; if the water can split rubber like that, what could it do to my skin?

    All my subsequent jumps that day were good. But I felt like I had nipped at the devil's heels enough and my luck may not hold out much longer so I thought "never again."

    I had great friends who I jumped with. We made sure that we were safe. No one jumped under the influence of anything. No one jumped alone. We never pressured each other to going higher than we were comfortable with. You get good at jumping. You can anticipate when the water is going to meet you so you are able to tuck things in and make sure nothing hits the wrong way. Doing a new jump was building upon the knowledge gained from the previous 100 jumps of the lower height. We knew what we were doing and we respected the water.

    Failing a jump hurt. And the higher up you went, the more it hurt. Holding your arms out to your sides even on the 20 was like getting a hard slap along the underside of your arms that stung like mad. Arms out on the 60 was risking bruises. On the 100...well, that would be bad.

    Speaking of bad, every summer some idiot would show up and do something stupid and get his dumb ass severely injured or killed while out at the bluffs. Of course this brought a chorus of "close them down" and "not safe for anyone!" Of course no one ever reported the thousands of safe jumps which happened every year.

    One evening a car load of people showed up just as we were leaving. One guy in particular was yelling about how he was going to jump. We saw how drunk he was so we thought we'd stick around in case he needed help (and let's be honest, to watch and see what happened). He proceeded to the top of the 100. He stood there for ages; drinking the whole time as he stared over the edge. He drank at least 6 beer while he was standing up there, contemplating his jump while his friends cheered him on. Keep in mind he was slurring and walking sideways when he arrived so those six beer didn't help with his mental state. We just watched and waited. We were fairly convinced he would turn around and walk away.

    After an eternity he jumped.

    He was nowhere near prepared for the hang time. In his panic he kicked out his legs out for balance. He hit the water with his legs straight out. He looked like an L when the sickening "splat" echoed around the bluffs. He sank amongst a sea of bubbles. We waited. And waited. It was so long that we took off our shirts and were ready to jump in and pull him up but he eventually bobbed to the surface. He swam to shore, climbed out and... flexed his biceps and let out a defiant yell and then staggered along the slippery rocks. We relaxed and waited for him to come to us since he appeared to be mobile. To be frank, we were amazed he was still alive. After an age he finally climbed his way back up to the top where we were. We were able to see the damage up close.

    The skin on the back of his legs had basically exploded from the impact. His muscles were shredded beef. I was truly amazed at how little blood there actually was coming from his legs considering the damage he had done; but his legs were in very bad shape. His face was a horror movie. He had bitten through his tongue and cracked one of his front teeth clean in half. Blood ran down his chin like a fountain. I cannot even imagine what catastrophic destruction he inflicted to his more...er "delicate" bits. His friends piled him into their car and took off for the hospital 20 minutes away.

    So what in God's green earth does this have ANYTHING to do with exercise?? Quite a bit actually. We had rules for jumping. We were careful. We knew our limits. This is the same with exercise. Sure you can walk into the gym and see some guy banging out 315lbs on the bench and you think "yeah, I want to do THAT!" You lay down and fire up the weight and it caves in your chest like a Mack truck the second you unrack it.

    Last week I talked about pushing your limits, but one must be realistic and SMART with their goals. Get a trainer, preferably, but if anything talk to the people at the gym, do research, find out what can and cannot be done. The guy doing 315 on the bench might have taken 5 years to get to such weight. He started benching the bar. No shame in that. Start small, start smart, lock onto a target and work your way up to your goal. It may take months or even years, but slowly breaking down your barriers is the smart way to get stronger. Don't jump off the 100 on your first day; you may end up as someone's object lesson years later.

    A few years after this story the bluffs were fenced in and "closed down". But good things never die. After several decades people still trickle out there. It's nowhere near the tourist destination it once was but I made sure my legacy continues. Here's a shot of my 13 year old son getting ready to jump off the 40 (which he did like a champ!)

    Bluffs

    Push the limits!

    Posted by Andrew on August 2, 2016

    Push!

    I have been doing standing bicep curls for several months as part of my routine. My weights have steadily increased but then I got to the point where I was pushing...but not too hard. I could do my 3 sets of 10 while it was not easy, it was comfortable. Today I decided to up the weights by 10 pounds. (Which is a lot for arms.) I thought, why not? I bent down to pick up the bar and oh dear...it was HEAVY. I thought "Great. I'm going to do one attempted rep then fail like a total spaz then have to do the Walk of Shame over to the racks to get new weights and everyone's going to point and laugh. I AM GOING TO FAIL! This SUCKS! Why did I do this?! I was fine the way it was before. Why did I change?"

    I took a deep breath and curled my arms and ... I did it! Then I did it nine more times. And then I did 10 more for another two sets. The feeling was incredible. I blew through my plateau by a huge amount. But that got me thinking; what the hell took me so long to try and push myself a little bit further? Was it my lack of ability? My stale music playlist? My lack of new gym gear? The lunar cycle? Nope to all! All in my head. My mind was holding me back in fear of failure and looking foolish. It took a bit of courage and determination and I found the spark to get over the hurdle.

    Take chances. Ignore the negative that tells you that you will fail. True failure is not trying your best; or not trying at all. And if you dig deep enough, you can find that you have more power in you than you can possibly imagine. Get out there and kick ass!

    Crank it up!

    Posted by Andrew on July 25th, 2016

    Tunes!

    I love music, all kinds of music. My phone has a large memory card almost completely dedicated to music. Of course of those thousands of songs I listen to maybe 100 of them or so regularly, but that’s not the point! Music is powerful. It can tell a story, it can make you smile, laugh, cry, think and dance. A song can take you back to a place or a time with perfect clarity. Music is universal bonding agent. One of my favourite examples is in the movie Almost Famous. A band has been in a fight with all the members and everyone is mad at each other in a confined space. Everyone is angry in their own little world. “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John starts playing and … well, watch for yourself:

    Think about other great moments in cinema which have iconic scores. The two note cello of the Jaws theme. Rocky running up the stairs to triumphant music. Kevin Bacon dancing in a warehouse to the quintessential 80s movie soundtrack. Try to imagine what Star Wars would be like without the music. Watch when Luke looks out at the twin suns of Tatooine with the volume muted and no French horn playing the Force Theme in the background. It’s nowhere near as powerful. The music makes your heart ache for an adventure.

    Disney theme parks have thousands of speakers playing music which does not change in volume no matter where you are located in the park. This is an astounding feat of engineering. Why put all that effort into something that no one really notices? Walt himself said “you’d miss [the music] if it wasn’t there.” Music defines us; makes us who we are.

    Music at the gym is no different. Most of us wear headphones when we work out alone. Almost every class has music either playing in the background or is an active part of the class. Music is a distraction; it takes us away from the stress we are putting on our bodies by helping us concentrate on something else.

    Sometimes we get a song that makes us feel invincible. A song that we will play for years on repeat. The right song can get the blood pumping and the muscles vibrating. It really doesn’t matter what song it is or who the artist is. There’s no shame in your pump music! Crank it up and feel the power flow through your headphones into your brain.

    My playlist is all over the place. I have obscure British industrial like the Qemists or something more mainstream like Rammstein and Marilyn Manson. But on occasion I get the urge for 80s pop and I blast Roxette like there is no tomorrow. She DOES got ‘the look’! When the right music hits there is no stopping me. Sometimes I even time my lifts to hit when the beat drops.

    Go and make yourself an action star. Make sure you have the right soundtrack for the movie of your life. Let it inspire and drive you to bigger and better things.

    Grow your garden

    Posted by Andrew on July 18th, 2016

    Raspberries

    Two summers ago I moved from a small townhouse to a full-sized house. The size of my lot increased from a couple hundred square feet to a quarter of an acre. As a kid I grew up with a huge garden which my mother tended to. I just reaped the benefits as plants and I do not get along for the most part. But with all the new free space I wanted to give my green thumb a chance to shine!

    In the spring of my first year at the new place I went to the store and bought everything that looked interesting. I got a blueberry seedling, raspberry twig, a few strawberries, peppers, tomatoes (large AND cherry), lettuce, snap peas, a whole spice rack worth of spices and kale. I also planted a few fruit trees.

    One tree didn’t survive the winter. The peppers didn’t live long enough to produce. (Planted too early; frost got em!) The berries didn’t produce a thing. I think I got one strawberry and a bird ate it! But the tomatoes and spices took off.

    This summer is a whole new story. The strawberries have matured and exploded. There’s enough to share with the birds, even! Raspberries have just come into season and are so, so good in smoothies. I get a couple handfuls of those per day. One of the apple trees has a few apples on it, but the other has one very sad and lonely apple on it.

    What does my tooling around my garden have to do with exercise? When you first start exercising only you know what you’ve started (unless you tell someone). A lot of people don’t even tell anyone that they’ve started a fitness change in case they are unsuccessful.

    When you put seeds into the ground, you are hoping for the future. There’s no instant gratification. When you start an exercise plan you are hoping for a change in the future. You are planting seeds of a future you. You may feel different, but no one will notice right away. Your garden will look like it did before you started.

    If you ignore your seedlings during the first crucial few weeks they will probably die. If you are not out there watering and weeding and helping them along they will not survive. The same concept applies with exercise. If you are impatient and think “I’ve been working hard for two weeks and nothing to show for it!” and then stop, your efforts will wither and die before you even get to the good part.

    One day you will get your first “you look different” from a co-worker or friend and your world will change. Your seedlings have sprouted above the ground and all are able to see your results. This can take weeks or even months. But the first little sprout starts a fire that is very difficult to put out.

    Some things like the strawberries and raspberries are not visible for years. When I first started in the gym I was doing small weights and just figuring out what I liked. I tried several routines before I finally did my first deadlift and decided that I was on the road to heavy things. I didn’t walk into the gym the first day and say “in three years I will compete in a powerlifting competition!” Not at all. I tried all sorts of things. Some worked, some didn’t. Some I didn’t care for. Others I loved. Nurture what’s good. Discard the bad. But you must never discard burpees. They are like kale; horrible but very good for you.

    Get out there and grow your garden! Today’s seeds are tomorrow’s bounty.

    Running away from food!

    Posted by Andrew on July 11th, 2016

    When I was in elementary school we did a unit on diet and exercise. I recall a diagram of how long it would take each activity to burn off a certain number of calories. Memory being what it is, I don't recall the exact numbers, but it was something like 30 minutes of biking to burn off 100 calories. I remember thinking "That can't be right. The diagram must be wrong!"

    Flash forward a few decades and I started to learn more and more about the stuff on nutrition labels, but I still didn't realize how MUCH a calorie actually was. I had no problem eating breakfast then at coffee time getting a double-double (two cream and two sugar) with a muffin for my "snack". Any idea how many calories that is? Stay tuned for the answer. Looking back now it was no real surprise why I was having trouble with my waistline.

    The stunning a-ha! moment came during a period when I was training too much. I was going to the gym every day (alternating upper and lower body) and Wednesday night I would do a 1 hour bike class and then take an hour long intense TRX class. I had a fancy heart rate monitor (very much like a FitBit but nowhere near as sophisticated) which measured my heart rate and calculated my calories burned. During those two hours I would burn between 1300 and 1500 calories. At the end of those two classes I looked like a drowned rat. I felt like I was beaten with a stick. I had to drag myself home where I wouldn't get to sleep until midnight, 1AM because I was so wired from the evening's exercise.

    One night my daughter was in the kitchen when I got home. She asked how the classes were and I proudly exclaimed that I had burned through 1500 calories that night. She said "Now you can get a Blizzard." It stopped me in my tracks because she was right! You can work and work and work as hard as you want, but it is FAR too easy to blow it all by having that treat. Two hours of exercise negated by 15 minutes of treat.

    So it’s all diet then? What’s the point of exercising all that work can be wiped out by a bad meal? Exercise is important for muscle building, heart health, mental health and self image. Exercise boosts the metabolism so that the calories you bring in are burned more effectively. You can’t outrun a bad diet, but exercise does help!

    I am NOT saying never to indulge. Life is all about balance, after all. But "treats" used to be something that you got rarely. Now it seems that treats are everywhere; almost impossible to ignore or pass up. My recommendation is to leave your treat until the end of the day. It’s far too easy to have a treat in the morning and then by night…have another one because the first was long forgotten.

    Oh, in case you were wondering:

    XL Double-Double: Approximately 300 Calories
    Fruit Explosion Muffin: 340 Calories
    Total: Approximately 640 calories or easily 1/4 of my daily intake ... for my "snack"!

    Here is an excellent video regarding this topic:

    Wet Seat - No Problem!

    Posted by Andrew on July 5th, 2016

    I ride my bike to the gym in the morning. This morning the sky was gloomy and it was unseasonably cold. I threw on a hoodie and headed to the gym. I love the ride in. It's short (less than 10 minutes), but at 5:20 AM the traffic is non-existent. I got to the gym right as the doors opened at 5:30 (perfect timing!). Today was a lower body day. Did 335 lb squats. 6 sets of 5. Then went and did other things. By the time I was finished, I was FINISHED. But I still had to ride home.

    As I was doing my thing in the gym I kept peeking out the window. I noticed the skies had opened up and it was raining pretty hard. But when I was done I had my shower and very gingerly crept down the stairs towards the front door. It was still raining. I wiped off my seat and got going. Got home soggy and wet, but it got me thinking.

    I'm not made of sugar. I didn't melt. But how often do we use tiny excuses to justify self-destructive behaviour? It's too hot. It's too cold. I'm tired. I'm hungry. I'm full. It's raining...the list is endless. Would I have skipped today if it had been raining as hard on the way in as out? Probably not. But I have spent the last few years shutting down that voice down. I know that the withdrawl from my gym addiction would be worse than the inconvenience of being wet. I wasn't always like this.

    What are your excuses? And what do you do to silence them?

    Welcome to Andrew's Blog

    Posted by Andrew on July 4th, 2016

    Welcome! As the son of an English teacher I have always had a love of writing. I find it to be the second best therapy there is. The first being the gym, of course. It wasn't always the gym, but that's a story for another day.

    How did I get here? That's a long story that will be dished out slowly as I try and make a narrative of a life that isn't over yet and I'm still trying to make sense of it all. I will do my best to make some sense out of it while making it as entertaining as possible. Short version: depressed, fat, tired and at the end of my rope. Decided to try exercise. Got the best trainer ever and poof! a little over 3 years later I have successfully performed in a competitive powerlifting meet. (I told you it was the SHORT version!)

    I have slogged through a lot of stuff to get where I am. I have made mistakes and slips aplenty. But I have come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before. I hope that I can pass some of my learnings along to you.

    Make sure to subscribe to my Instagram and Twitter account or like my page on Facebook to stay on top of things in my life.