Using Relationships as Motivation
Saturday, June 14, 2008
My last entry in this fitness journal was February 12, 2008. I am writing on June 14, 2008, Flag Day, one day before Father's Day, two days before my 48th birthday, and one day after the untimely death of NBC Washington Bureau chief and moderator of "Meet the Press" Tim Russert. What is actually one-third of a year feels like a lifetime in terms of progress, emotionally and physically, which I'll do my best to share in a coherent way. As in anyone's life, there are peaks and there are valleys, from which we all learn and grow. One aspect of such growth comes from the management of relationships, and these relationships often act as the basis for motivation to stay physically and mentally fit. As I have stated earlier, the emotional thread of life has a direct impact on the physical health of the individual, a cause-and-effect relationship that can take a positive, healthy form, or it can manifest itself in destructive and counterproductive ways. Let's explore, shall we?
First let's measure physical progress. Today's current weight: 173. That's a loss of six pounds from my last February entry. Given how difficult it has been for me to get below the 175 benchmark, I feel like I am making lasting changes that will lead to improved body composition. The one trick that seems to have the greatest impact on weight for me (with all other factors remaining stable) is that I need to keep dinner light and late night snacking to a minimum. When I am able to achieve these two goals, the scale invariably rewards me the next morning. If I must snack, yogurt, fruit, or lean meat such as turkey or chicken is the way to go. These foods reduce insulin and cortisol buildup while revving the metabolism. Also, they are low in calories, so if I have achieved a calorie deficit during the day, I can enjoy an evening snack without jeopardizing my progress for the day.
Knowing the diet was good and lifting was translating into a reduction in body fat, especially around the midriff, I asked my son to snap a sideways-look of me shirtless. My then-wife did the exact same thing to/for me ten years ago, when I weighed over 200 pounds. I still keep that picture on the pantry door to act as a disincentive for late-night snacking. I took the old-1998 image and compared it to the 2008 image. The contrast was visible, especially in the posture I was maintaining in both images. I can't post them here due to employment considerations (it might not be smart for a public school teacher, even a male one, to post shirtless images on the internet). Still, I was rewarded visually for what is essentially ten years of reverse aging.
In late February of this year, I met a special someone online, starting out as an email exchange. We progressed to a telephone conversation, and eventually met for coffee. The friendship grew more serious after several dates. During this time, I continued to work out, making advances in the amount of weight I was lifting at the gym. Knowing that I was involved with someone in a relationship acted as a strong motivation to break the barriers to which I has been held. I simply made the choice to move to the next weight level in free weights. I found the advance challenging, so I lowered the number of repetitions while staying with the heavier weights. Let's compare weight levels with the ones I posted in early September of 2007:
This new person throws a mean Frisbee, stays in tip top shape, beats me in the salary department, and has a razor sharp wit (a good thing), keeping me on my toes in every aspect of life. It is very easy to think too far ahead, obsessing about how to make things work over the long-term. It's too early for that. We need to build the foundation of the relationship first. Then we'll see if we can build a house together. Either way, the relationship is the motivator, either to attain someone in the pool of available people, or to keep that person once you have brought him or her into your world. Every repetition I count or doughnut I deny is done as a way to improve myself for my new significant other. To be sure, physical attractiveness is not, nor should it be the only or determining factor in the quality or duration of a relationship. But to keep the physical aspect of what is commonly known as "chemistry" on the front burner, it helps to make sure you don't "let things go" on the fitness side.
Tomorrow is Father's Day, followed by birthday number 48. I try not to let the number 50 scare me. As long as I am making progress, I do not fear the Reaper. On that note, I am saddened by the death of Tim Russert, which apparently was caused by a plaque embolism in a major artery, leading to a massive heart attack. While the loss for his family, the news media, and the nation is tragic, I hope people will begin to discuss how his death will stimulate interest in coronary heart disease, and maybe we'll find ways to detect and fight it. The number of people who beat this silent killer is tied to the overall health of the nation. In the meantime, reach out to the ones you love and who love you. Let them know how important they are, not just on Father's Day, but every day. The relationships that you have in your life are the real important things. When you work out, do it for yourself first. Keep your loved ones in mind too. They want to keep you around for as long as they can.
Epilogue: Saturday, June 28, 2008
the relationship I mentioned above was not to be. In spite of my best
efforts, I failed to establish a balance between sharing and withholding
emotions. Still, the loss of a relationship is a time for reflection and
growth. Experiencing such loss can be compared to grieving the death of
a loved one, but time does ease the pain. In spite of the inherent
"aloneness" that starting over can bring, I am not lonely, as
I am supported by family and friends, and I am comforted by the fact
that the Almighty has a plan. I just need to stop trying to figure out
what it is! As I close this entry, I am about to hit the park with Frisbee
in hand, where I plan to channel the grief into physical energy that
benefits both mind and body.