Life

Turning Over A New Leaf

If you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed that I’ve mentioned a few times about working out and running. Well I have been doing just that. My wife Corina and I have decided to shape up and get fit.

I think I had a few moments of clarity on this whole process. I had gained weight, maybe 8 pounds over my regular weight in the last year. For about the last 8 years I’ve weighed the same. I gained most of my weight in college and never really lost it. I always stayed roughly 235 until this last year. At about this time I was at work and overheard a co-worker talking about how he had lost 40lbs and had altered his diet, started biking and just generally got healthier. It was that day the light went on for me. I decided that tomorrow was the day I would start and began working towards my goal.

My goal is to get to 200lbs. I know I’m going to have to work hard to get there, but I finally feel like something inside me has changed. I feel driven towards my goal. My wife had been trying to lose weight for awhile now and had some success, but now we’d be going on the path together. I had kinda been horrible in that regard, she was trying to make healthier choices, but I wasn’t necessarily interested in doing the same at the time. So now we’re working towards the same goal and it seems to be working so far.

On the 16th of October, I started tracking my calories with MyPlate, an app that I had used before to lose some weight with some success. I’ve found it even easier to use than it had been before. Now I could easily track on my iPhone, iPad and computer. I created a pinned tab in Firefox that is always there so I can track my caloric intake. In the first week and a half I lost 6 lbs.

I started using RunKeeper to track my comings and goings. While I may not have been running, something like a trip to IKEA certainly is worth tracking given how many kilometers you end up walking there. I track bike rides, when I go roller blading and now when I use the treadmill at the gym.

I went out and bought a Kinect for my Xbox along with a few games. Corina had mentioned the idea of wanting to try Zumba, so I picked up a game for that. I also picked up Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012. I personally really like this game. While originally I had kinda thought the Kinect was a gimmicky concept to compete with the Wii, I’ve definitely found it is so much more than say WiiFit. It’s basically interactive workout. It can see what you’re doing and suggest how to correct it. It really is the next evolution past workout videos as far as I’m concerned.

I started going to the gym on the weekend. There is a gym at work that I had used maybe twice since I started there, so I figured I’d finally start getting some use from it. I’ve mainly stuck to the treadmill, as I have a goal to do the Jingle Bell Run 5k in Cambridge in 2 weeks. I’m actually amazed how well I’ve been doing. The first week I ran 1.6k, second week 2.7k, third week 4.7k. This week I wanted to do a 5k without including warmup and cool down in the distance. I was able to run 5.1k in 31:38, which I’m pretty proud of. I had to stop for 30 seconds, but aside from that was able to do the whole thing. My soccer conditioning definitely helps. I find I can recover quite quickly and keep going, even after today’s run I still had more to give in my legs.

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I also picked up something called a FitBit. It’s basically a fancy pedometer then you clip to your belt. It can track calories burned, how many flights of stairs you’ve tackled and miles walked. I bought one for myself and Corina as an early birthday present and I love it. I have barely taken the thing off since I got it, as it also allows you to track your sleep too. To me this thing was the missing link to calorie tracking. On MyPlate they have settings for sedentary and light activity for calculating calories. I chose sedentary, as I pretty much sit at a computer all day. What I discovered with the FitBit was that I was burning a lot more calories in a day than I thought. I already took the stairs every day, but now that was being tracked. I broke 10000 steps this week after playing soccer. The FitBit gives you badges for progression, so I definitely have goals to shoot for that are attainable within the framework of my everyday life.

Now have I cut out all bad food? No, but I am now accountable for it. I know that if I have a bad day food wise that I have to offset it. If I know I’m going out to somewhere at night, I know to save calories during the day so I can indulge a bit at night. I’ve found one of the biggest things for me has been kicking drinking pop. This is all tied to my change earlier this year to quit caffeine. I had cut down drinking pop already, but now I don’t really have anything luring me back to the dark side.

So far I’m down 11 pounds since I started and have been quite encouraged by the results. There have been good and bad days, but I’ve been keeping positive and moving forward. Corina is doing great as well. I just want to keep moving along on this healthy path as it feels great doing it. I’m challenging myself in ways that maybe I’ve never done before and my body is meeting the challenge and then some. I’m looking forward to being stronger and faster on the soccer field and shocking some people next summer, that’s for sure.

Red Lights and Friday Nights

I have a story to share about what happened to me on the way to CinqASept Guelph this evening. Now this is a story that I probably wouldn’t typically share, but the circumstance was a bit too crazy to let it pass without sharing.

I had talked with Corina about going to CinqASept Guelph, which is a local social meetup that takes place on Friday nights 5-7pm at Casey’s in Guelph. So we formulated a plan that involved taking 2 cars as Corina didn’t wish to partake in the post event karaoke that was planned.

So I meet her at her work and I start leading the wrong way, thinking Casey’s was in another part of town. We stopped, conferred on where it was and Corina took the lead driving. She took us through a crazy residential detour but we came out into a part of Guelph I knew well. Coming up to the Hanlon Parkway Corina proceeds to turn the wrong way, as I tried to honk at her to not turn.  So we ended up split up, but at this point we were both able to figure out how to get to Casey’s from there.

I make my way up to Stone Road and go up a few lights and am pretty close to my destination. I’m coming up to the light in front of Stone Road Mall when I had a momentary lapse in judgement and ended up running a red light. All I can really reconstruct was that I believe I was looking over towards Casey’s and since it was just off Stone Road on Edinburgh Rd, so I was wondering if Corina would find it as I told her it was on Stone. I turned my head, looked up and saw a yellow light and I was going too fast to stop in time so I went right through it.  As I sailed through the light I noticed there was a police cruiser sitting in the inside lane on the opposite direction. As I passed I immediately looked in the rear view to see the cruiser pull a U turn around the median and turn on his lights to come after me. I immediately signaled into the right lane and prepared for the inevitable.

The officer comes up and I immediately apologize for my error. He asks the usual, license and insurance, and asks me what happened. I told him straight out that I couldn’t recall just what happened at the very instant before, that I hadn’t been up in that area for awhile and I think I was just looking away from the road for a second when I looked back I saw the yellow light and couldn’t stop in time.

He goes back to his car to presumably write me a big fat ticket while I waited. He comes back to my car and tells me that it would be a $325 ticket and 3 demerit points, hands me back my license and insurance info, then asks me what team I had on my tuque, to which I replied Manchester City. He then said he wasn’t going to give me a ticket and goes back to his car.  At this point I wasn’t 100% sure whether I had heard him right given the road noise, about whether he was or wasn’t going to give me a ticket, so I decided to wait. I didn’t want to chance the fact he said he was writing the ticket and drive off. About a minute passes and he walks back to my car and tells me that he wasn’t giving me a ticket, at which point I thank him graciously.

Now I have no idea whether he was a Man City fan, a soccer fan, hater of Man United or what, but I was absolutely floored. I then went on my to Casey’s, which at this point couldn’t have been much more than 200 metres away from where I was pulled over.

Manchester City Tuque

Now I’ve been called a lucky SOB on more than a few occasions in my life, but this one even shocked me.  I showed up at Casey’s, at which point Corina was there waiting and had actually seen me pulled over, so I was definitely in the doghouse.

I feel like an idiot and it really makes me realize how easy distracted driving mistakes can happen.  I’m happy that I didn’t get in an accident or anything serious came out of the event first and foremost.  I don’t believe I’m a bad driver, sure I may speed a bit more often than I should. I’ve only ever gotten a couple tickets for speeding in 10 years of driving and never had any major infractions, so maybe the officer decided to be lenient having looked up my driving record.   All I can say is thank you to this nice Guelph Police officer, it was definitely appreciated, whatever the reason you decided to let me off with a warning for.

Quitting Caffeine

It 3 weeks ago I was on Facebook and ran across a post by my friend Lucas Duguid(@octopusred on the Twitters) mentioning that he was on day 1 of quitting caffeine. I myself had been thinking for awhile that I wanted to lay off caffeine, but seeing Lucas had started on his own journey to conquer his addiction, I decided that I would try too. I know I’ve always heard the mantra when it comes to stuff like that, why not today? It seems very easy to want to begin a new week, or month, or year by turning over a new leaf, but that is just really delaying things. So I figured starting Thursday, November 10th I would no long ingest caffeine.

Now I don’t wish to position myself as a hardcore caffeine addict as some folks may be, but I definitely have my vices. Repeatedly in the past I had tried to cut out pop, carbonated beverages or soda as the American folk like to call it. I’ve been a longtime fan of cola beverages in particular. In my house growing up we typically had Diet Pepsi, and I subsequently became a big Pepsi drinker when I got older. My favourite was fountain pop Pepsi, I always loved the extra zip the drink usually had. But over the years it has been said over and over that sugary drinks like Pepsi are quite bad for you, of which I have no doubt.

So the few times I had tried to quit drinking pop I would suddenly gravitate to drinking more coffee. I found that I had grown to really like coffee, after taking years to acquire a taste for it. Over time I also discovered a cycle that would develop. I would start drinking coffee on a regular basis, then after a month would just start feeling terrible. I’d eat food and often have indigestion, regardless of what kind of food it might be. So I would make a concerted effort to ramp down my coffee consumption, and invariably go back to drinking pop.

Maybe I’m just slow, but it didn’t really dawn on me until earlier this year that I was a caffeine addict. The realization just never hit me because I was never one of those people drinking a pot of coffee a morning or downing 5 Cokes a day.  On average I’d say I’d have 1-2 caffeinated beverages a day, with a max of probably 3.  I didn’t frequently have a Pepsi as a pick me up, I usually just had it because I enjoyed it. On mornings I’d be dragging my ass I’d pick up a large McDonalds coffee and feel a little bit more alert for the morning.

What Are The Effects Of Caffeine?

Many people rely on the well known effects of raised alertness, a sense of increased concentration and an ability to alleviate tiredness, but aside from these potential benefits, many negative effects occur as a consequence of consuming caffeine.As a stimulant of the central nervous system, caffeine interferes with responses and interpretations to and from the brain. It increases the production of the stress hormone, hence a feeling of being more alert, can increase acids to the degree of potentially causing a stomach ulcer, alters the anatomical function of the blood vessels and strips the body of vital calcium supply. As a result of these actions people are more susceptible to osteoporosis, irregular heart rhythms and serious illness and pain from the gastro-intestinal tract.

From BeatingAddictions.co.uk

Actually Quitting

I decided to quit pretty much cold turkey. As I mentioned I don’t believe I was heavily addicted drinking 1 or 2 beverages a day, so I didn’t find I suffered from any of the major symptoms, but it did make me realize I did actually suffer with them before.

Symptoms Of Caffeine Withdrawal

Headaches, memory alterations, irritability, tiredness and nausea can all be caused during the period of withdrawal, to be expected when giving-up caffeine. Symptoms of withdrawal may last up to four days.

I have gotten headaches on a semi-regular basis since I was probably 8, but I would never have specifically pinned them on caffeine withdrawl, since I never actually realized I had a problem. Since stopping caffeine, I find I have had less headaches, and if I have had one, the severity is a lot less than before.

I’ve also found that my stress level has dropped dramatically. I simply don’t feel as tightly wound as I did only 3 weeks ago. I find I sleep better and feel more refreshed getting up in the morning.  The only drawback is those mornings where I might have been out late the night before and could use that morning pick me up and can’t do that. I’ve also felt I have more energy in general.

I’ve been firm on my insistence on not ingesting caffeine, but I haven’t given up pop. I’ll drink non caffeinated drinks like root beer, ginger ale, Sprite etc while avoiding cola. I realize if I want this to stick that quitting everything at the same time is just a recipe for failure. I’ve started drinking more hot chocolate, which is obviously sugary and has small amounts of caffeine, at least allows me to replace coffee.  I’ve also had one decaf coffee as well.

The more I’ve read about caffeine the more it really bothers me. I’ve found over the last couple of weeks it just makes me realize how many people are caffeine addicts as well. Places like McDonalds, Tim Hortons and other food chains have a vested interest in keeping you caffeinated. It’s what keeps you coming back. If you’re interested in learning more about caffeine addiction, I suggest checking out OverCaffeinated.org for info.

RIP The Dude

Yesterday was a pretty shitty day for me.

It wasn’t supposed to be, but as it turns out the die was already cast on Friday for my life to change, I just didn’t know it yet. Corina and I spent the weekend in Halifax and had a pretty good time. we flew out Friday afternoon and flew back Sunday night to Hamilton. I drove down the 403 to Paris, excited to go pickup my dog, The Dude.  I walked up to my parents house and sneakily opened the front door, hoping to surprise him and Wally, my parents dog. I opened the door and nothing happened. I just figured the dogs were outside.

My Mom and Dad walked over and said we’ve got some bad news. At first I thought it was someone in the family, my mind not immediately entertaining the thought it might be my dog. My Mom started to explain that something had happened to The Dude. I immediately thought he must have run away and something happened. He was a notorious runner and this was always my biggest fear with him.  But that wasn’t the case at all.

On Friday he had been playing in the backyard with Wally and my Mom called them back in and Dude didn’t come when she called. She went out to check on him and he was lying on the ground by the fence. My Dad was just getting home on Friday so they both took him to the emergency clinic in Paris. They tried to help him but he had gone into a full shutdown. He apparently had an aneurysm on his heart that burst and all his organs shut down on him.

I was immediately mad at myself for not giving him his heartworm medication on time. He usually gets it the 20th, but with how hectic life had been with Marlene’s funeral and everything it got forgotten until Friday, the day we left for Halifax.  I know it probably had nothing to do with it, but he had heartworm for the 2 1/2 years we owned him and we had him on the medication year round in an effort to kill the heartworm and extend his lifespan.

All I can really say is I’m pretty devastated about this. He was my dog. After Corina and I got him I spent a year working from home doing freelance and pretty much ever since then he was my dog without much doubt. He followed me around the house, and pretty much lived for when I came home after work at the end of the day.  I loved The Dude so much. I just feel so shitty that I couldn’t be there for him at the end. He was there for me, always waiting and super happy when I walked in the door.  He helped me through the hardship of losing my mother in law just by being The Dude and being there.

Our house feels so empty without him here. We bought this house and about a year later got The Dude so much of the memories of this place involve him.  I sit in my office and get out of my chair and look to see where he would be lying behind me so I don’t trip on him. When it was dark in the office I would shuffle my feet across the carpet so as not to step on him when I couldn’t see him. I did that last night.  I woke up this morning and looked for him before I stepped out of bed. Usually he’d be up in my grill at the side of the bed looking for me to give him a pet first thing in the morning, or over harassing Corina to get up and let him out.

He was an old dog. We had no idea how old, but I always liked to think optimistically that he was on the younger end of things. He was a rescued dog from a kill shelter in Ohio, but we didn’t know much more than that. Either way we believe he had a tough road to end up with us. I knew he was old, but never wanted to believe that we wouldn’t have a few more years with him. He was always a vibrant brute of a dog. He fashioned his own doggy door through our screen door with his head, he was always just strength and power even though he was old.

I think most people who ever met him fell in love with him. He was a dog who often had a happy grin on his face and was always so happy to meet you, be it on the street or at our front door. You were a new friend and possible new source of pets and cuddles.  He loved surfing out the back window of the car. I used to love seeing the reactions of kids and adults alike as they saw his friendly face hanging out the window with his trademark bandana on.

But now we soldier on without The Dude, the dog of many names. When we adopted him his name was Chance, as dubbed by the people who had him in foster care. When he was initially rescued they had called him Kirby. We got him and he subsequently became The Dude, after Jeff Bridge’s character from the Big Lebowski. I have no idea why I named him that, it just kinda came to me. He had many other nicknames I tagged him with, with my favourite being Mr Harrooo, after the sound he made when he howled.

Rest In Peace Dude, I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you in your time of need.

The Power of Lucky Bamboo

I may be crazy, but I’ve long believed in the power of lucky bamboo.  I’ve had a bamboo plant for 8 years now, typically in my office. Now according to Chinese tradition, the number of stalks has meaning.  Typically the rule is you want to avoid having odd numbers of bamboo shoots, as it is bad luck except for the number 8.  Here is a list of meanings I grabbed from About.com.

  • Two stalks represent love.
  • Three stalks represent Fu (happiness), Lu (wealth), and Soh (long life).
  • Five stalks represent the areas of life that represent wealth (e.g., spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, and intuitive).
  • Six stalks represent good luck and wealth.
  • Seven stalks represent good health.
  • Eight stalks represent growth.
  • Nine stalks represent great luck.
  • Ten stalks represent perfection.
  • Twenty-one stalks represent a powerful blessing.

Now I bring this all up because I’ve long found my fortunes are often tied to this plant.  In the past when one stalk would be dying I would typically have a string of bad luck, at which point I would remove the dying stalk and replace it with another one and I would find my fortunes would change. You can typically buy them at a grocery store, so they aren’t that hard to come by.  I have found myself heading out to buy a replacement bamboo shoot in an effort to change my luck.  I would say this cycle has played out in my life at least 5 times now.  I’ve left work in the middle of a day to buy a bamboo shoot to try and right my luck.

It’s pretty easy to get busy and forget about a plant sitting in my office, but seriously this is freaky.  Up until tonight I was unaware of the negative connotations tied with having 4 stalks until I researched it.

4 Stalks are always avoided because the Chinese Four sounds similar to the Chinese word for Death.

I had a pot of 5 bamboo stalks and one had recently started dying.  So I was down to 4 stalks. As I’m sure many people are aware, my mother in law recently passed away from Cancer, so my wife Corina and I have been dealing with difficult things for awhile now and I can’t say rushing out to buy a bamboo shoot was a top priority. I then discovered today that while I was away for the weekend my dog, The Dude, passed away of a heart aneurysm while at my parents house(I’ll address that in a future blog, I just needed to spit this one out first).  Both of these passings occurred while I only had 4 healthy bamboo stalks!  That is just straight up fucked up.

As soon as it dawned on me after we got home I rushed over to Zehrs and purchased 3 more bamboo stalks and planted them.  I may be totally crazy, but that shit just totally happened to me.