Wednesday, March 09, 2016

From humble beginnings (PCT d - 70)

I may have mentioned previously that it's been almost two years since I first joined the Capital City Health Club, in an attempt to get my healthy sorted out. When I first started going, I was in such poor shape that I had trouble walking to the end of the driveway at home, or walking to the end of the street.

At the time, I was keeping a journal (diary) of sorts. Here is an extract of what I wrote at the time (April 5th, 2014).
"So, I arrived at the club at about 5.20-ish. I was lucky enough to find a parking spot close to the building. After 4.00 pm, you're lucky if you can even park within sight of the club, it's so full. At that early hour though, there weren't that many other fools about. I checked in (they didn't have a key fob with barcode for me on Monday). I went in to the changing area and put my 'stuff' in a locker. After an obligatory shower (more like a lick-and-a-promise), I walked into the pool area. The floor was very slippery, especially with wet feet.
My first destination was the therapeutic pool. Unlike the lap pool, the water is warmer and they have a neat little circular area where the 3½ foot deep water current flows in a clockwise direction. The idea is that you walk counter-clockwise and have to overcome the gentle resistance of the water. It felt really good to be in the water after such a long time.
The first thing, before any walking, was to let the water carry my weight and to just float for a minute. The water came up to my neck. It was so warm and felt so good. My shoulders began to relax right away.
I started walking my laps around the circular pool. The current wasn't very strong. Eventually, I figured out that the jets were in the outside wall of the doughnut shape, and that walking along the outer edge produced greater resistance. I didn't count the laps. I had to keep my eye on the small clock to make sure I wasn't late for work.
After a while it was time to try the hot tub. At first it was quite hot but I quickly got used to it. The heat on my arthritic knees felt really good. I sat there for about five minutes before heading back to the therapeutic pool.
By now, the hard-core early swimmers were leaving and I was almost on my own. There was a wall with water jets and bubbles coming out of it. I sat in front of the jets for a couple of minutes. The tiny bubbles would get trapped in the hairs of my back and chest, and would tickle when they eventually escaped. That was fun. After a few more laps around the doughnut it was time to get out and head to work. When I finally got onto firm ground again, my legs felt really heavy for a moment, like an astronaut who has been in space so long, his muscles have started to atrophy. When the astronaut first lands back on Earth and is subject to gravity for the first time, he can't even hold up his own body weight and has to be physically carried out of the re-entry capsule.
I didn’t say anything about how it felt to walk through water. With the water depth being 3½ feet, it comes up to your elbows. If you hold your arms up you can keep your hands out of the water, which reduces the ‘drag’. Either way, with the increased resistance of the water compared to air (where we normally walk), I felt like a big T Rex or Godzilla, with the bulk of my weight in my lower half. On Wednesday, my second day, it was slightly different. Then I felt like a robot, with very angular movements, not smooth and fluid; and certainly not natural-feeling. After that, it simply felt like I was a little bit drunk, with mostly straight and forward movements but the occasional sideways falter.

I figured out an easy way to keep track of how many laps I did of the doughnut-shaped therapeutic pool. Every time I passed a certain point, I’d use the tip of one finger to wet the concrete edge. On the fifth pass, I’d use my whole hand to make a print; like tally marks on a sheet of paper. It was then easy to see when I’d reached 20 laps. I counted the steps in each lap – 40 – so I knew that I’d walked the equivalent of 800 steps. Even with a reduced stride length of just over a foot, say, that would be 300 yards. Those are some tangible, measurable numbers that I can use as a baseline to measure my progress. On a typical morning I can comfortably repeat the 20 laps three times.

When I’m standing at the ‘deep’ end of the therapeutic pool, there is a curious flotation effect on my stomach, and my swinging man-boobs touch my stomach in a way that they normally wouldn’t. Normally, gravity makes everything hang down lower. In a medium where everything feels four-fifths lighter, my stomach floats up, thus making my moobs touch my stomach. Weird! Sometimes, I can really feel the arthritis in my left knee. After swimming a few times, it felt swollen, as if I’d been walking many miles and it was wanting to be rested. No chance! It’s taken years to get myself up and motivated. A little discomfort isn’t going to stop me now. Of course, I also know I should pay attention when my body is talking to me. A five minute dip in the hot tub each morning was well received."
So, from those humble beginnings, I am now at a point where I'm contemplating walking 100 miles in seven days; a quarter of a million steps versus 2,500 or fewer. I'm walking to work regularly again. I've started hiking up hills and mountains. I've come a long way since 2014, and I know there's still a long way to go (sixteen more months until July 2017).

I'm grateful to all the people who have helped me along the way, some with tangible help, some with moral support and encouraging words, some with sound practical advice.

My heartfelt desire is to reach my own next important major goal (being 178 pounds by July 2017), then figure out how to motivate and inspire others to achieve the same kind of results. With two-thirds of the American population being overweight, and one-third being clinically obese, honestly, there's a fair possibility I'm talking about you. With sufficient will and motivation, YOU can do it too! I'm not that extraordinary, really. I just have a fierce determination to succeed this time, and I'm not going to let anything stop me!

I also want to learn more about "metabolic syndrome", "insulin resistance syndrome", or simply diabetes. Having worked in the British NHS (National Health Service) and seen what effect it can have on a person's life, I want to help people avoid some of the pitfalls of it and lead healthier lives. Perhaps there's a career change ahead for me? Who knows? Having been pre-diabetic myself, and come back from the brink, I want to help others do the same.

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