Thursday, February 18, 2016

Annual Birthday Assessment

    This is intended as my birthday post, I'm a wee bit late, as I seem to be time warping this month, and am amazed that February is more than half over already. About a decade ago, I've lost track of exactly when, I made a vow to myself that every year on my birthday I would be healthier than I was the previous year. The more years that pass, the more difficult this becomes. Not because I am losing the desire, or slacking, or throwing in the towel. To the contrary, it is because I am damned healthy, and the fitter I get, the smaller the gains are. I keep tweaking my life and lifestyle, dialing it in, seeking perfection, always aiming high.
    I will start with the physical aspects. This year one of the easiest, most visible gains has been in the swimming pool. I know, it just goes to show what a jock I am. I have been increasing my swim fitness to a level higher than it was at my peak for the 5k swim of my long triathlon. I'm easily swimming 2+ miles every time I am at the pool, which is at least 3 times a week. On my birthday I cut it short, aiming for 1-1/2 miles so I could get to dinner with my boys and their families. I swam that 1-1/2 at a goodly pace, Olympic distance Tri pace, and it felt good. As I climbed out of the pool I realized that 1-1/2 miles = 54 laps, on my 54th birthday. Accidental though it was it seemed appropriate. Today I hit the pool and went for steady rate distance, getting in 100 laps in 1 hour 40 minutes. Not too shabby. One goal this year is to swim the Portland Bridge Swim: 11 miles down the Willamette River. I have a lot of training to do. One benefit is that swimming hard lets me eat damned near as much as I want.
    I am being consistent with my triathlon training, despite not being able to run for a while due to injuries, and what seems to be the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in several joints in my feet (those bastards hurt like hell, by the way). But, I am religiously keeping up with strength training and plyometrics, in conjunction with cycling workouts at least 5 times a week. My current weight is hovering around 162, which has been my happy weight now for almost 2 years. Oddly, I am at the same weight I was in highschool. at 5'10" this gives me a BMI of 23, which is considered "normal." One of the few times I like being called normal.
    I will say, this last year my arthritis has reared its ugly head more and more. Hands, elbows, ankles, and feet being the most noticeable targets. I still avoid pain meds for the most part, just popping the rare Nsaid if something is really hurting. I notice that there is a weird ache that lives in the long bones of my arms, especially along the full length of the ulna. The same weird ache lives along both collar bones and likes to remind me of it when I swim. I do look at other people and wonder what it would be like to live relatively pain-free. But it is a reminder of a life well lived, I think. And as long as I can manage it with nutrition and exercise I plan on doing what I do until I'm 100 or so.
    One key in much of what I have been yammering about has been the continual tweaking of my diet. Honestly, I hate the word "diet" as it always conjures up images of proscribed foods and gimmicky fads. I have been vegetarian now for about 2 years. In the few years before that I was rarely eating meat. I am mostly dairy free, cheese being the only exception. I rarely eat wheat, avoid all processed foods, and consider high fructose corn syrup to be the devil incarnate. My original reasons for giving up wheat and meat was quite simply to attempt to get my joint inflammation under control. It seems to help, and it has rid me of the chronic heartburn I had for 20 years.
   The one thing that has me most pleased this year is that I am free of all prescription meds. I had kicked the anti-depressants to the curb over a year ago, but was still reliant on a sleep aid. Honestly, I think this is the best sign of continued great health that I could have. Yes, being fit, strong, slender, and might I say, sexy, is all good an well, but feeling of sound mind is far better. It is a gift to feel stable, relaxed, and confident. Of course there are days when I let the lunatic out into the sunlight, but now she is more of a Muse, a companion, and half of the balance of light and dark, Yin and Yang.
    This last year I have built some cool shit, had some fun, damn near wrecked myself on a trail run, gimped through the summer, enjoyed my life as it is, made plans to keep increasing the pleasure of my life, added to the value of my home, set goals both small and large. I have built a solid foundation of health and wellness in all aspects of my life, and I aim to keep building, bit by bit. I can only imagine where I will be this time next year.

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