Friday, August 24, 2012

Progress and frustration

I'm now closing in on the one-month mark of my "cardiac event". That's a nice way the medical types use to refer to a heart attack, which happened to me on July 27th.

So far, both stents are doing what they are designed to do with no side effects and follow-up tests (EKG, ultrasounds, etc) indicate that there's no permanent damage to my heart. Praise God for that!

The progress is that the cardiac rehab is going well. I'm not back to the level of exercise I was doing just a few months before"event" but I'm far stronger than I was when I first started a couple weeks go. I guess I think I'm stronger than I really am, though.

More about that in a moment.

I did pack on some pounds recently. I was out of the gym for the most part from late May to early August. Before that, I was working out 3-5 days a week and working out pretty hard, focusing on weight circuits to both tone up and trim down after many years of weight lifting and little cardio.

But, that approach has changed this month. Now I'm doing almost all cardio workouts. It is working...check out this comparison:

I was just over 220 pounds the day of the attack. I'm now just under 210. It's not a huge difference yet, but it's a start.
I am eating better. I thought I was eating well before but now know that just because a frozen meal has the word "Healthy" in it's brand name doesn't make it good for you. I never worried about salt/sodium before - but those things are often loaded with it.

I've switched to fresh and frozen veggies and I'm now - ugh - cooking the meats myself and am trading out pastas for brown rice or baked potatoes. (side note - top the 'tater with plain Greek yogurt instead of butter & sour's really good...)

OK, now the frustration.

I never did go through the depression the hospital said I would after the attack. I guess I just recognize that this happened for a reason and God's doing something to me or through me with it. I'm not going to whine about it.

I have found myself frustrated with how far behind this has set me when it comes to being athletic and in terms of my personal strength. Remember, I was planning to start Shaun T's Insanity workout program just three days later when it all happened.

This morning, while trying to push myself on the elliptical machine, one of the nurses in the cardiac rehab center got on my case "You need to slow down. That's too many steps per're going to raise your heart rate too much."

She was cheating because she looked at the computer screen. They have me hooked up to that little electrical octopus-looking contraption that measures my heart rate and other vital signs in real time.

I felt fine and know that I'll have to go all out for three minutes at a time if I do ever get strong enough to try Insanity. I'm just trying to move forward and get back in shape.

"Slow down!"

Grrrr......fine. I'll slow down. A little. For now.

Then, after my cardio workout, she said those sweet, sweet words I've been wanting to hear from her for a couple weeks now: "Do you want to do some free weights?"

I thought you'd never ask.

I was so excited to get back to some weight training. I camped out at the weight rack area while she finished up getting blood pressure readings for one of the octogenarians on a treadmill.

When she was done, she came over and got me started on my "weight training" by handing me....two five-pound dumbbells.

Five pounds.

Seriously? I''ve got books at home that weigh more than that. Five pounds?

It's hard to concentrate on your arm curls...that I was doing with 30-pounders a few months ago...with little more than a Q-Tip on steroids as my resistance. She wasn't budging, though. If I wanted to do this, I was doing it with the dumbbell that she was ok with. Not the one I was ok with.

So I did the routine in all of three or four minutes and called it a day at the gym.

Patience is not my strong suit, obviously. This leads me to Romans 5:1-5.

1) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

3) And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulations worketh patience. 4) And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

5) And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

So, my question for you: what trouble, trial or difficulty ("tribulation") are you experiencing that you may be viewing incorrectly?

God may not be punishing you. He may be strengthening you or preparing you for something later in life.

He may be putting you through a tough time because someone else needs to see you remain strong in faith and needs to learn from your journey through it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Climbing Back Up to the Past

I'm now in my second week of cardiac rehab, and it's an interesting experience.

The first and most obvious thing about my thrice-weekly workouts is that I'm generally the only one in there who is under the age of 105. I'm also the only one in there who was bench-pressing 250 (on a machine) just three months ago.

That's part of the frustration I'm dealing with, post-heart attack.

I was on a roll when it comes to my fitness up until the end of May. That's when I moved back to Grandview and, unfortunately, stopped going to the gym because of time constraints.

Working out has been part of my lifestyle for most of my life. I've studied fitness, subscribed to the magazines and used a variety of exercise approaches. I've also had times where I got out of the habit and got out of shape...but have always been able to refocus, get back in the gym and get back in shape.

It's not that simple this time.

I've been shocked, repeatedly, at how tired I get now. It's frustrating. The doctors and nurses keep telling me I can make a "full recovery", but right now I feel like that's light years away. I'm doing a fraction of the cardio workout I was capable of just a few weeks ago.

And that "full recovery"? That's apparently not an absolute term. One of the nurses told me today that I'm not going to be able to go back to weight circuits and heavy lifting. I'm supposed to be content with cardio machines from here on out.

We'll see about that.

Even though I'm just two weeks removed from a serious heart attack, I'm already deciding what fitness and work and spiritual goals I should be setting for myself. I'm still eyeing that Insantity workout that I just received - we'll see how my recovery goes, but I'd call it a victory to complete that program within a year of my "cardiac event".

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Serious as a...

"You are lucky."

Those three word are among the little I remember of Friday, July 27th. A nurse said that to me very matter-of-factly. I'll get to that shortly.

I keep meaning to blog more (more than once a year). I might have a reason to be on here regularly now. I have some surprising challenges ahead of me in the next several months. I turned the big 4-0 last December and it really wasn't a big deal to me.

Everyone tells me a look younger than I am and I'm in better shape than most guys my age. Up until the time the kids and I moved back to Grandview in late May, I was in the gym 4-6 times a week and was on pace to lose the extra weight I put on in 2010. I'd gotten up to about 230 pounds and was weighing in around 210 when we moved back home.

The last few months have been a mix of immense blessing and trials. Just a few days before moving, an accidental fire damaged the home we were moving from. No one was hurt, praise God, but there are ongoing issues regarding the insurance and finances.

Other than that, it's been a great time. I'm now the Program Director for KLJC and am half of the afternoon show team. I've also managed to get a part-time job as the News Director & radio anchor for Missouri News Horizon. MNH is a non-profit journalism organization that provides statewide news coverage to radio, tv and newspaper outlets around Missouri.

I get to keep my hand in news and work full time in Christian radio! My children get to go back to Blue Ridge Christian School and we've been able to resume attending Southland Baptist Church - our church family.

Things were settling into place better than I could have imagined. I was even ready to start Shaun T's Insanity home fitness program on Monday the 30th. I was ready to amp up my fitness routine and take on a new challenge.

Boy-oh-boy did I get one. Just not the challenge for which I planned. Back to that Friday I mentioned above.

I took my car in for an oil change and then walked over to a fast food place. Suddenly, I wasn't feeling well. Have you ever had that feeling? A lump in your throat when something's wrong or you're worried or have some other emotion. I'm talking about that physical feeling. Tightness, pain, dry throat, discomfort in your upper chest.

Crank that up by 10. That's what I felt for a few minutes.

Then, waves of pain shot through my chest and, at times, my shoulders.

I managed to get my car, pop a couple aspirin and drive home. By then, it felt like a red-hot vice was squeezing my chest and pain was shooting down my left arm at times. By now, it was hard to breathe.

I sent my brother, Chris, a nonsensical text. He called, came over and then took me to the E.R.

At  the ripe old age of 40, I was having a serious heart attack. I remember some of the E.R., the tests and then an ambulance ride to Research Medical Center but much of the day is fuzzy.

I remember waking up on a table in the room where I was being treated. I asked how much was left in whatever was happening and was told they just finished up. As I was being moved from the table to a stretcher/hospital bed, the nurse looked down and said very plainly "You are lucky."

I didn't know what that meant until everyone filled me in later that night and the next day: there was a 100% blockage of one of my heart's arteries. The doctors had put a stent in me in that room. Another blockage was still happening - 90% - but that would have to wait until Monday. It turns out that I was still having the heart attack during the procedure, so they didn't want to push my body that far.

So, I rested for a couple days and, instead of starting my Insanity workouts, I was having a second cardiac stent installed in my chest. I could barely walk to the bathroom.

It didn't make sense. I'm 40. I've never been a smoker, have a history of being an athlete but a bad family history on my dad's side of the family is what trumped when it came to my health. Lousy genes, basically, won out over weight room circuits and bench presses.

So, I have to decide where I go from here. I choose to deal with it as both a reality and as a new challenge to get past. God has a reason for things like this. I don't know what it is but He left me here to accomplish something still.

I'm amazed at how quickly I get winded and how physically weak I am, so there's a great deal of physical rehab to do. The doctor says I should, eventually, make a full recovery if I'm smart about my next several months.

I've also, because of this heart attack, been reminded of just how blessed I am. I see other parts of my life clearer.

My church family is checking on me each day and has provided meals and other help that's been, literally, a Godsend. If you aren't involved in a church that cares for people like mine, then send someone over to visit with us. We'll show you how it's done. Southland's people are eager to serve others.

Both of my jobs are giving me the time off needed to recover. My parents and brother stepped up to run errands and drive me around when needed. From grocery shopping to just getting things from the kitchen when I was too sore to get them myself for a few days, I've been very fortunate to have this much help. That is lucky.

Sometimes, God uses what we think are bad situations to enact His greater plan. It's easy to forget that and it's easy to wallow in self-pity. Easy, but wrong. Giving God the glory in ALL things is what we often say we want to do...when times are good. Keeping that same outlook when times are rough is harder, but still what we should want to do.

I don't know why I had a heart attack at a young age. I don't know why my personal goals are being delayed (or maybe derailed) by this. It might be to bring about a change in me. It might be so God can impact someone else through my situation.

I don't know and God doesn't owe me an explanation.

For now, I'll focus on 1) getting healthy, 2) getting back to work and 3) keeping my mind and heart open to any direction regarding how my ordeal should be used for God's glory.

Oh, and I'm not sending that Insanity workout box back just yet...