My Fitness Story

I’ve never been much of an athlete, but equally, I’ve never been much of a couch potato either. As a kid growing up in the rural Midwest, I spent a lot of time running around in the woods, fishing, hunting and doing what any kid in my situation would have done. I also played baseball, basketball, tennis and even a little track and field. I was never really that proficient and did more bench warming than floor time.

As an adult, I was marginally active. I had a very stressful job with long hours that commonly took up 6 days a week. But my metabolism was still pretty high. When I graduated high school, I was 6’3″ and around 140-150#. I was slim and could eat anything I wanted and never gain a pound. This would follow me through my mid 30’s.

I made a decision to join the USAF when I was 34 and knew I had to meet some minimal fitness requirements and thus began doing some running, push-ups and sit-ups. By the time I shipped off, I was in fair shape and was able to meet the PT standards with flying colors the first week of BMT. This began my new appreciation for being fit. But it would be short lived. Before ever reaching my first duty station, I began a battle for my life when I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, first being diagnosed as Rhabdomyolysis. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. All forms of Guillain-Barré syndrome are due to an immune response to foreign antigens (such as infectious agents or vaccines) where the immune system begins to attack the myelin sheath of the nerve cell. In my case, a flu shot is thought to have triggered the condition, since I had not had any signs of infection or sickness in recent history leading up to my sickness. I had, however, just received my inoculation shots for the military just two weeks before. I now can no longer get ANY vaccines without the risk of having a reaction. Hmm, flu shot or die… not a hard choice to make. The first symptoms for me began as numbness in my hands and extreme pain in my calves to the point I couldn’t button my shirt and running/marching was very painful. In my case, the weakness and abnormal sensations spread to my arms and upper legs. These symptoms increased in intensity until my muscles couldn’t be used at all and I nearly became totally paralyzed at the lowest point of my condition. I spent a month in the hospital, several days in ICU and was sent home with a cane and took nearly 6 months to recover. I still have residual effects from the episode (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and have had two reoccurring attacks, one which put me back in the hospital for a week. It’s something I have to live with, not knowing if or when another attack will occur, but then again, I have the same odds of getting hit by a bus on any given day.

One of my Doctors from the USAF told me that when I did finally recover, I would be best able to combat any attack if I was as healthy as I could be. It makes sense and probably good advice for anyone, healthy or otherwise. So as soon as I was able, I set out to get back in shape. I must admit, the first two years were painful, frustrating and hard to deal with. Running 400 meters would many times prove to be a feat in and of itself. But with time, my body began to heal. I never fully recovered, but I learned how to do with what I had and did what I could do.

Around the summer of 2006, a good friend of mine was talking non-stop about “Crossfit”. (See http://www.crossfit.com/ ) It was like listening to someone who had just had a religious conversion. I was looking for something a little more challenging in my own workouts having primarily become a runner and lacked upper body strength. I finally let in and let my buddy help me get started with Crossfit. Slowly, I began getting results that I was looking for. The first year was very slow and progression was hard to see. I many times had to adjust my workouts so drastically, they didn’t look much like the original prescribed work out of the day (WOD). But around August of 2008, I found that I was getting pretty close to doing the WOD as RX’d without scaling back nearly as much.

So that’s how this blog came into being.

I can’t always do what some of the monsters at Crossfit do, but I’m holding my own. My metabolism has tanked, and I now hoover around 200-210# which still isn’t bad on a 40 year old with a 6’3″ frame.

I must thank my wife for being such a trooper in all this. We just got married in June 2008 and she has been CF’ing with me since August of 2008. It’s not something she’s used to, but she is really giving it her all and I owe a lot to her, not just in encouragement, but also for putting up with me. I am blessed to not only have married a beautiful woman who is very much into being healthy, but she’s also a Certified Nutritionist as well! Nothing like having your own dietary expert in the house!

I built my home gym after getting tired of waiting and fighting over equipment at the local YMCA. Our local Y is very convenient and well equipped, but like many modern gyms, is not always CrossFit friendly. There’s nothing like being able to yell, scream, play loud music, drop weights or just generally goof off in your own gym. I highly recommend anyone serious about wanting to be healthy and fit building their own “Garage Gym”. I pretty much followed the CrossFit Journal on building a garage gym to a “T”. (See CrossFit Journal, September 2002, “The Garage Gym” )

That’s it. My fitness story. It ain’t much, but it’s mine.

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