Sculpting a Better You

George Kilpatrick on the leg press machine

George Kilpatrick, host of Inspiration For the Nation on Power 620 AM in the Syracuse, NY market, faced a few health related issues a few years back.  He responded by taking control of his life, changing his lifestyle, and getting fit.

In episode 2 of our series on health and wellness, we explore practical ways to address your fitness deficiencies.  No experts and no fitness gurus.  Just to average guys who have struggled with weight chatting about the lifestyle changes they made to reach their fitness goals.  You are never too old and never too fat to get started.  Take a listen to this before inking your 2019 New Year’s resolution.

For more information on the program hosted by George, visit Inspiration For the Nation.

Music in this episode is by Nicholas Mackin – The Beginning or the End under creative commons license.

Fighting the Silent Killer

Over the next few episodes of Life in HD, we will focus on improved health for a better life.  There’s no question that declining health (physical, mental, financial) poses a threat to your quality of life.  And if we want to experience a rich life full of special moments and meaningful connections, we must make sure that we are physically, emotionally, and financially able to do so.

Nearly half of American Adults have hypertension..including me.  And most of us treat it with prescribed medications.  Those can often come with side effects that impact the quality of life.  In this episode, I speak with alternative medicine specialist Dr Steven Helschien, founder of Level 1 Diagnostics, a comprehensive testing program to detect and prevent cardiovascular disease.  He talks about the bad habits that lead to high blood pressure, the side effects associated with prescription meds, and alternative ways to address the issue.

Information on the “hand grip therapy” mentioned in this episode can be found at Zona.  (Mention of this product does not equal an endorsement).

Information on Level 1 Diagnostics can be found in the link in paragraph 2.

General information on heart health and hypertension can be found here.

Music in this episode is composed and performed by:  “Butterfly Peace” by Rod Hamilton & Tiffany Seal under Creative Commons License.

A Star Child Suffers Winter Blues

I am trapped inside a fishbowl which, in turn, is trapped inside a snow globe. Before moving to the Syracuse, NY area some 25 years ago, I never considered myself a son of “the south”. Having been born and raised in Baltimore, MD, we considered ourselves as a north-southern city if there is such a thing. But southern is now how I see myself. The further north I go, the more southern I become.

Winter is traditionally a tough time for me. I was a child of the outdoors, an explorer, experimenter, and a menace. During the calendar’s coldest month of January, the average high temperature in Baltimore is 41 degrees Fahrenheit. In Syracuse the average high is 32 degrees. When you add windchill and lake effect snow on top of that, the affects of winter are a harsher assault on my genetic code. And these winters are long. Much longer than my soul can bear.

“Take up skiing,” they say. “Try ice skating or snowshoeing,” recommend others. For a Star Child born in May who believes the Universe’s greatest gift to mankind is the summer sun, you might as well suggest I swim with alligators. I remain obdurate in my refusal to embrace wonderland.

The deep cold of winter here has a profound affect on my psyche. It’s pretty enough; the snow that is. Postcard pretty even. But a 1 degree morning like this very morning in January is as equally disabling as it is beautiful. The near back-breaking snow shoveling and frozen limbs limit my exposure to 20 minuets of outdoor time. Enough time to shovel a path for my short-legged dogs to handle their business and enough time to create a trail leading to the bird feeders to care for my winged, wild pets.

Crestfallen with each snowflake settling on the ground, I’ve come to accept that I suffer from more than just “cabin fever”. That it is, more clinically speaking, Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. I didn’t need to spend money on a shrink to come up with that one either. The associated symptoms of depression, social withdrawal, hopelessness, and fatigue align closely with my personal experience. The noticeable mood swings, the desire to opt out of holidays, the crawling out of bed when I’d rather stay hidden beneath the blanket all point to SAD. And the only thing guaranteed to bring me true joy is a sunny day with temps above 70. The kind of day that I can wander about, soaking in views, receiving all that my environment has to offer. A seat on a park bench. A songbird composing notes. Wind rustling leaves. A walk around the lake. These are spirit lifting experiences for me.

Treatment options for SAD include exercise (it helps a bit); medications (which I refuse); and therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy chronotherapy, and light therapy (none of which soothes my inner skeptic). Instead I chose a far more expensive treatment option. My wife Angela and I purchased a ocean-side condo in Florida. And while the holiday spent there this year was nothing short of magical, here I sit in Syracuse in January on a 1 degree day lamenting winter.

I plan to hit the gym at some point today for a pick-me-up, watch a soccer match later for mid-day entertainment, and begin planning for my next 2 therapy sessions in Florida this coming March and April. All in an effort to devise a plan to survive my 25th winter in the Winterfell of North America.

There is no real purpose to this post other than for me to finally, after 25 years, give voice to my sadness and acknowledge my difficulties.

My wife is inviting me now to get a manicure and pedicure and, at this point, I’m willing to try something new. If you also suffer from SAD and have words of wisdom to share, I’m all ears.

Thanks for listening.

The Road to 50: Useless Information

I believe I mentioned before that my wife Angela often says that my head is full of useless information. She claims that the data takes up important gigabytes of storage in my mental CPU meant for meaningful and useful content. She also says that I tend to vilify her in my blogs and she might be right. But not this time. Her assertion, in this case, is likely on point. I have a curious mind and I tend to hold on to information that cannot possibly advance my cause in the workplace or life in general. Or can it? I’ll come back to that. For now, here are some of my favorite bits of “useless” information:

The Bowerbird has swag
The Bowerbird has swag

1) One species of Bowerbird in Australia has a unique way of picking up chicks. The male Bowerbird builds intricate structures and decorates its nest with blue items. I am fascinated by the specificity of color. Is it not amazing that a bird will go through great lengths to find blue items just to get laid? That’s my kind of dude animal (or dudimal).

2) The Deepest point on earth is the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The deepest depth known to us to date is just under 7 miles. A long way down. Our oceans are relatively unexplored compared to the rest of our planet. I’d like to see as much interest in exploring the deep seas as we show in exploring space. Secretly, the little boy in me hopes they discover a real Godzilla down there.

 

 

Fly me to the moon, Let me play among the stars...
Fly me to the moon, Let me play among the stars…

3) On the Saturn moon Titan, the atmosphere is so thick and the gravity so low that a human could theoretically fly by flapping wings attached to their arms. Fly on Titan? Sign me up. Titan is the only object, other than Earth, in our solar system that has stable bodies of surface liquid.

4) Ancient Egyptians used crocodile poop as a contraceptive. Don’t ask me how I know this “crap”, I just do. I read it somewhere. About 2000 B.C. Egyptian women swallowed croc pellets for planned parenting. Croc dung  apparently contains alkaline like many modern contraceptive drugs so it just might have worked. If a woman told me she ate crocodile poo, I wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole. And there in lies the foundation of its true success as a contraceptive.

 

 

Dance with me Andromeda
Dance with me Andromeda

5) We are on a collision course with Andromeda. Seriously. In approximately 4 billion years (give or take a few hundred million), our Milky way galaxy will collide with our galactic neighbors in the Andromeda galaxy. Head on, full merge, galactic hug-fest. And our sun is predicted to survive the merger. This totally blows my mind and I hope that I am around to witness it. I’ll be soil by then but I hope that I am soil with consciousness.

Can this seemingly “useless” information benefit me in some way? The answer is yes. Research has been highlighting the benefits of life-long learning as a prescription for a longer, healthier life for years. A stimulated mind promotes a healthy brain and even an aging brain can grow new pathways and connections when challenged and stimulated. I’m sure that I will continue to take classes and perhaps take on the challenge of learning a new language after I turn 50, but I really enjoy learning about things that appear to have no impact or benefit on my daily life. That is until I find a way to work some of it into a conversation at a cocktail party. Angela acknowledges that my knowing a little bit about a lot might make me an interesting cocktail party attendee.

How about you? Do you have a favorite bit of useless information stored in your memory banks? Do you engage in life-long learning activities? Feel free to share.

The Road to 50: Heat Check

Limp Noodle

There’s a term that sports announcers like to use when referring to a shooter’s hot streak – the heat check.  The reference relates to the next shot that a shooter takes to test just how hot he/she is.  I too have a “heat check”.  It happens when I reach for my wife Angela under the covers to see if I can generate a physical reaction.  An equipment check if you will.  A good portion of the time, I am less interested in intimacy at the moment and more interested in the equipment appearing in good working order.

Virility is a major concern of men over 50.  We are far more concerned with having strength, stamina, energy, and a strong sex drive than we are in the degradation of youthful appearance.  The heat check, for me, is a way to gauge my virility.  Lately, I find that recovery from vigorous workouts is taking a bit longer, my energy is down, and I think about sex far less than I ever have.  And I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t a concern.  This is my new reality.

MenTalk

It’s a concern of many men but we just don’t talk about it.  When men talk about sex, the conversation is full of half-truths and gross exaggerations.  Rarely does the discussion center around issues or concerns.  I had a recent conversation with a friend who shared some of the same concerns and described experiencing similar psychological and physiological changes.  It was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone in the journey.

The saying is that men think about sex every 8 seconds.  While that claim has never officially been proven or disproven, I can guarantee you that it is a lot.  At least in our teens, 20’s and 30’s.  My friend pointed out that if we had focused our thinking and directed our energy on other things rather than the thought and pursuit of sex, we might be brain surgeons or astrophysicists today.

holding-hands-

When the fellas get together to talk about sports, their golf game, careers and family life, here’s what we are NOT talking about:

Andropause – the male version of menopause.  Yes, there is such a thing.  Also referred to as “aging male syndrome” (AMS), andropause happens roughly the same time that women experience menopause: somewhere between the ages of 35-70, but most commonly experienced in the early 50’s.  In its simplest form, AMS is the decrease of the male hormone testosterone.  Symptoms include a loss of energy, lower sex drive, decreasing strength and endurance, mood changes and erections that are less strong.  All difficult things to discuss with your homie.  I can imagine the conversation, “Hey Joe, how’s it hanging?”  “These days it’s hanging low and a little depressed.  How about you?”  Crickets.

Erectile Dysfunction –  While not a direct result of aging, impotence can come with age due to increase risk.  It can be caused by mental, emotional, or physical factors.  It can also be a side effect of certain medications or excessive drinking.  Concerns about developing ED could lead a man to perform the occasional “heat check” on his wife.  How do you even start a conversation about this with another dude?  It’s easy actually.  Just ask. “Yo, how’s your sex life these days?”  And hope that he is completely honest with you.  According to the National Institute of Health, 5% of 40 year-old men suffer from ED.  So if you’ve just finished a full-court basketball game with the fellas, bring up the issues of ED, and they all say there is no issue…the shortest person on the court is lying.

Attachment – Here’s an interesting one.  Apparently, as testosterone levels decrease and oxytocin levels stay the same, men tend to attach more to their partners after sex.  Testosterone can drive sex and interest in sex while oxytocin (the love hormone) is responsible for bonding partners and children.  A 2012 study that increased oxytocin in monogamous men found that they were attaching themselves more to their partners after sex.  So the conversation after shooting hoops goes something like this, “Yo, want to grab a brew or something later?”  “Naw man.  I think I’m going to stay home and cuddle.”  Crickets.

Recovery time – It used to be that the amount of time that you needed to recover for round two with your babe was about 15 minutes or so.  That was in your 20’s.  According to the Male Health Center, the “refractory period”, the time it takes to achieve another erection, can take 24 hours or more for men in their 50’s.    But if you’re like me, you don’t even want to think about it until next weekend any way.

The Premie – A University of Chicago study showed that 31% of men in their 50’s experience premature ejaculation.  There are two primary reasons for this: anxiety and penis-centered sex.  Penis-centered sex puts more pressure on the male organ than it can handle.  Actually, that sounds kind of fun, huh?  Anxiety comes with concerns over performance.  The pressure is daunting and can lead one to “fire one off” well before he or his partner is ready.

The possibility of interesting and helpful conversation exist if we would assiduously share our experiences and concerns with one another.  One thing’s for sure, I’m not telling you mine unless you tell me your’s first.

The Road to 50 (Intro)

Road

 

Back in May of 2014, I wrote a somewhat humorous post on the angst of turning 49.  Some 8 months later, I now sit 119 days away from turning 50 and the angst is still very real.  Considering that most of my friends and associates are about the same age, this is a conversation that I have had on numerous occasions.  Inevitably, the “age is just a number” comment comes into play.  As does, “you are only as old as you feel.”  To which I say, “bullshit”!

Despite what nonsense people spout, 50 is not the new 40.  50 is 50 and it has a psychological impact on you whether you admit it or not.  My mind is too curious to carry on about my day, about my life as if nothing changes when that half-century mark hits.  I want to know what to expect both physically and emotionally in the months and years that follow.  I hope that, in understanding the possible impact, I am better able to deal with the change in life.  The Man Up blog will chronicle my journey of discovery and neuroticism, my thought process and emotional vicissitudes from today until May 20 (the 50 mark).  I hope you will join me and share your experiences as well.

50For a lot of men, the concern of aging isn’t out of fear of getting old.  It’s a fear of losing potency.  The image of ourselves that we hold on to is one of a strapping young, virile man with energy and stamina for days and it does not jibe with the image that we see in the mirror.  The number 50 is a marker.  A midlife marker that distorts our self-image.  We’ve likely lived more than half of our lives with key markers along the way: finishing school; getting that first career job, pair bonding, child rearing etc. Those markers are ones that we expect and plan for.  For many, at least for me, 50 represents the unknown.  How will my career wind down?  What will I do in retirement?  Can I retire the way I want?  Do I have enough resources?  Will I be alone?  When will I be alone?  When will I lose virility?  That thing about 50 being the new 40 is so untrue.  At 40, you still have relatively young children, a good 25 years or so of work ahead of you,  perhaps even another career move, and many more things to accomplish.  With 50, the window becomes shorter.  Younger, more talented people enter the workplace with highly developed skills.  Your years of experience in the new technology environment becomes less valued.  Technology itself begins to slip away from you.  Your music choices become more nostalgic.  People start calling you “sir”.  Dinner out starts at 6 o’clock.  You’re in bed by 9 p.m.  Multivitamins, Ensure and adult diapers are on the horizon.

50 one

 

50 represents change and, for men, change is not growth.  For men, change represents the loss of something.  In this case, the loss of time, the loss of virility, the loss of potency, the loss of effectiveness.  I feel like I can still walk up to a young Mike Tyson and kick his ass…in my mind.  But it doesn’t reconcile with my cracking bones, aching feet and arthritic knuckles.  Yeah, 50 is screwing with me.  I’m not going to lie.

For me, 50 is going to be a time of self-reflection.  From what will I derive satisfaction?  How can I be a better lover?  A better father?  A greater contributor to life, community, and business.  I will learn to live with a new reality.  Cope with the aches and pains and mood swings.

Quite a bleak outlook, I know.  I also know that we have advantages over our fathers and grandfathers before us.  We have better healthcare so we are living longer and healthier.  We have more tools in the tool box like the internet and access to research, studies and articles.  Greater income to do more things and acquire more shit.  We also have an openness and willingness to talk about how we feel and what we are going through with our partners and friends.

In the weeks to come, I will dive deep into the abyss to discover what lies ahead for me over the next 10-15 years.  Perhaps I’ll learn a few things that will help me cope and better prepare or discover the secrets to juvenescence.  Or consider it all rejectamenta and just drink more wine.

If you’ve already crossed that marker, I’d love to hear about your experience.  If 50 is staring you in the face, I’d equally love to know your concerns, if any.

Until next time Hominids…keep it on the good foot!

“Shut Up Before I Really Give You Something to Cry About”

Vikings RB Peterson

A recent exchange with a family member had me reminiscing about my childhood and how I was reared by extended family and…got me thinking about Adrian Peterson.

Peterson’s recent off-field activities have landed him in hot water with the law and on the wrong side of public opinion as it relates to child rearing.  His detractors emerged quickly as did his supporters.

The ass-whooping is lore in the black community and many of us have comical tales of having to procure our own switches and belts to aid in our corporal punishment.  There was something about having extra time to think about your transgressions and come to grips with your inevitable thrashing.  We have, over time, romanticized and accepted corporal punishment as a part of our hardcore upbringing.  If you’ve ever seen a stand-up routine from comedian DL Hughely and others, you have undoubtedly heard them joke about the subject.  Former NBA star, Charles Barkley, famously spoke out about the Peterson situation and claimed that it was an accepted fact that hind-parts were not off limits in addressing adolescent mischievousness if you were a southern black.

Spanking2

And it’s not just a black thing.  CNN reported that in a 2012 national survey, that half of women and three-quarters of men in the U.S. believe a child sometimes needs a “good hard spanking”. But there are physical and emotional consequences with each swing of the switch.  In that same report, CNN reported that numerous studies showed detrimental effects on trajectories of brain development, increased aggression, a decrease in cognitive ability, and decreased levels of gray matter.  We aren’t simply beating the shit out of our kids, we are also beating the potential out of them.

The emotional effects are equally damning.  We don’t know how every swing of the belt, swat of the paddle or bare hand whacking shaped the relationships that we have, or don’t have, with our elders.  I often think about how envious I am of friends and associates who have very close relationships with parents, grandparents or other care-givers.  I wonder if my own relationships might be closer and more fulfilling had a different approach to discipline been used.

The day that the Peterson story broke, my social media timelines were flooded with comments like “I got my ass whooped as a kid and I turned out just fine.”  Hell, I think I may have written something similar.  The truth of the matter, though, is that we have no idea what or who we could have become had a different parenting approach been taken. For the record, I have no doubt that AP loves his children.  He just needs a different approach to raising them.

My own approach to child-rearing in general and, more specifically, disciplining, differs vastly from my own upbringing.  Love, encouragement, and currency has been the general rule of thumb in the Lee household.  And I suspect, indeed hope, that the yield will be long-lasting, love-filled, close relationships with my girls.

What do you think?  Does/did your parenting style differ from that of your elders?  Do you agree or disagree with the research?  Have a funny ass-whooping tale to tell?

Throwback Thursday: Innovation and Motivation

Old-school TV knob replacement
Old-school TV knob replacement

Those of us over a certain age remember this multipurpose tool as an effective replacement for the worn and broken television knob.  Yes children, televisions had knobs that were used to tune into different channels…all three or four of them.  After a few years of twisting and turning the knob too and fro, the plastic slot that fit over the tuner stem would wear and/or crack, rendering the knob itself useless.  Enter the handy set of pliers from dad’s tool box.  The tool sat on the television stand at the ready when it was time to navigate from The Price Is Right to the day-time soap operas.  I imagine those of you from families that could afford to replace the television did so in earnest.  For others like my family, we used the pliers until the metal stem of the tuner itself wore down.  The pliers, because of their multipurpose use, exist today.  The television knob…not so much.  It, as you know, was replaced by the remote control unit.

As far back as the late 1800’s, inventor Nikola Tesla described remote control technology in a U.S. Patent and Zenith Radio Corporation created the very first television remote in 1950.  These disruptive innovators endeavored to solve problems and enhance comfort and convenience.  Today, Panasonic has developed voice-activated televisions with facial recognition technology.  Tomorrow remote controls will join the TV knobs in tech heaven.

Examples of innovation and useful disruption on various scales are all around us as models of how we can and should live our lives.  A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry.  Innovation is a new method, idea, product, transformation, metamorphosis, etc.  This is all scale-able to the personal level.

astronomyCenturies ago man looked at the moon and said, “damn it, I want to go there”!  And we did.  That’s innovation and motivation on a large scale.  As artists, creators, educators, leaders, managers and contributors, we should always endeavor for disruption and innovation.  Unless your position in life requires obsequious service, you should push yourself, your craft or your organization toward transformation.  Self-motivation is the time-proven cure for stagnation.  Ensconced in comfortable positions, happy to collect a pay check or simply survive to the next day is a reality for many.  Sameness can be as comfortable as an old fuzzy blanket.  Comfortable yes, but not necessarily useful or healthy.

Motivation pushes us to achieve at higher levels, feel more fulfilled and improve overall quality of life.  People who are self-motivated tend to be more organized and have more self-esteem and confidence.  Be it intrinsic motivators like having fun, being interested or creating personal challenges; or extrinsic motivators like money, power or high marks, self-motivation can help you take control of many aspects of your life.  Take a moment to take inventory of your life.  If there is a way for you to be more useful to yourself, your employer, or your organization, do it.

TV knob

The TV knob wishes it was still relevant.  The TV knob wishes it could have found a way to be of continued service to manufacturers.  The TV knob wishes it hadn’t just hung around and waited for the remote to replace it.  Don’t be a TV knob.  Get out there and shake shit up.

Course Correction

course correction

Hi guys.  I thought I would check in since it has been a week or so since my last post.  I have begun the process of course correction in an attempt to address the lack of work ethic and the 6 pound weight gain that resulted.

Before I could begin to right the ship, I first needed to understand where and how things went wrong this summer.  This is the time of year when I am most active and carry the fewest pounds.  Not so this year.

The first issue is that my aerobic exercise was way down.  At the recommendation of my doctor, I ceased competing in triathlons and, therefore, stopped training.  So swimming, biking, running and brick training went out the window.  At least to the degree that is required to be race ready.  I also strained a calf muscle and that had me sidelined for the better part of a month.

The second issue was that I did not adjust my caloric intake to reflect the decrease in aerobic exercise.  I continued my merry ways of eating, drinking, and snacking despite the fact that I was burning fewer calories.

I knew that, if I was going to get back on track, I needed to return to a healthy balance of resistance training, aerobic exercise, and smart dietary choices.

This past week, I returned to my normal resistance and strength training routine of working the major muscle groups in my arms, back, core, torso and legs.  No problem there.  Just a matter of focus.  I had to remind myself that we lose roughly 1% of muscle mass a year after age 40 and even more after age 50.  So if I am going to keep things tight in the middle ages, I need to be vigilant with regard to strength training.

To get back on top of my aerobic game, I ventured to my local running apparel shop to get properly fitted for running shoes. I attribute some of my running injuries to improper foot gear.  I was fitted for a shoe with proper width, some stability support and appropriate cushion.  I ran three miles without issue and felt pretty good.  I round things out with cycling, treadmill and plyometrics.

Perhaps the most important part of my course correction plan was addressing my inner demons.

Salt monster

Fans of the classic Star Trek series will remember the “Salt Vampire”.  You remember this chick?  Bones McCoy was whipped over her and ignored the fact that she was literally sucking the life out of the Enterprise crew.  Remember her?  Well that bitch lives inside of me.  Clawing at me from the inside, driving an insatiable need and desire for salt.  No manner of exorcism can expel her.  She sits inside me demanding chips, nuts, olives, crackers…anything with salt.  And it comes at anytime of day with unpredictable consistency.

This past week I attempted to limit my calories and alter my palate.  I adjusted to reasonable portions for lunch and dinner, eliminated salty snacks and added fresh fruit as a substitute.  I also added more lean and organic proteins to my diet for proper muscle building.  And I adjusted the point of consumption of wine downward from 7 days a week to 3.

While it is still early in the process, I have loss 2 of the 6 pounds that I have gained and my muscles feel tighter and stronger.  It is at least a sign to me that the ship is now headed in the right direction.

If you are willing to share, I ‘d love to know about your inner demons.  Do tell.

 

Now I’ve Gone and Done It

Bloated

That’s it.  I have managed to accomplish something that I haven’t done in quite some time.  I’ve gained 6 pounds.  And in the summer no less.  Weight gain for me usually occurs during winter months when my activity is low and my consumption is high.  So why now?  Why summer?

My last post asked, “have we forgotten how to have fun?”  Apparently, I have not.  Wine consumption is up.  Food consumption is up.  Snack consumption is up.  And all are outpacing my ability to burn calories.  What’s worse is that I feel like I am spiraling out of control.  This is not a didactic post.  I am looking for some motivation as I am genuinely vexed.  I know what I have to do but just can’t seem to do it.  This, in a sense, is a public shaming.  I should wear a pig nose and sit in the public square.

We all fall off of the wagon and stray from the path.  I am no different.  One could say that knowing and admitting is half of the battle and, with that in mind, I plan to use that knowledge to right the ship before the end of summer.  I will be assiduous in my effort to decrease inputs and increase outputs.

I will reduce wine intake by 30%, reduce caloric food intake by 200 calories and increase cardio exercise to 3 30-60 minutes sessions per week.  Weight and strength training will remain the same.

If you have had a successful rebound, I’d love to hear it.  If you see me post pictures of wine or food on social media platforms, politely ask me if I’ve had an appropriate amount of calorie burn that day.

It’s time to take control and seize the day.  Who’s with me?!