jayfurr: (Default)

high blood pressure


My blood pressure is really high despite taking daily doses of hydrochlorothiazide and losartan. 155 over 97, and so on. I’ve been on said meds for years, and nonetheless, nothing seems to work. My mom was the same way — she had absurdly high blood pressure and I think they had her on everything under the sun at one point in time or another.


I’ve tried to cut back on caffeine again — not that I’ve gotten up where I was about five years ago, but I worry that I’ve still been doing too much, especially by taking Excedrin for my ever-present headaches. I was also taking Sudafed every day because I wake up every day really congested and stuffy — another fun product of heredity and biochemistry — and my P.A. told me to immediately stop that.


Stopping the Sudafed didn’t have any effect on my blood pressure, though. After a week I’m still just as high as ever.


I should eat less and exercise more. I understand that exercise by itself doesn’t have much to do with blood pressure, but weight does. I’ve been very depressed, yada yada, and have blamed that for my lack of exercise and for my weight gain. But it’s probably time to get off that horse and get busy whether I have the mental energy or not.


I just got off the phone with my P.A.’s medical practice — I made an appointment for Friday and gave them my medicine dosages and my readings. We’ll see what they say.


Until then, though, it’s probably time for a good aura cleansing or something. Anyone know any practitioners of white magic? I’ve checked Yelp locally and none of the local wizards have decent ratings — all 1.5 stars and so on. Or perhaps I need to start taking colloidal silver. Or maybe just buy some leeches and offload a pint of excess blood every morning.


Hmm.


 


Who knew?

Jan. 20th, 2016 02:39 pm
jayfurr: (Default)

TriglyceridesI just got done with a fasting cholesterol check at my family doctor’s office.


It turns out that even if you are taking drugs for high cholesterol, curling up in a fetal position in a dark room after working hours every day and getting absolutely no exercise DOES NOT HELP KEEP TRIGLYCERIDE LEVELS DOWN.


Who knew?


 


Energy

May. 10th, 2011 08:35 pm
jayfurr: (Default)
Four weeks ago today I had my last cup of coffee. I don't know how long before that I had my last caffeinated soda, but I definitely haven't had any since.

Many people have asked me: "why???" Or "Dear God, why????" As though life without caffeine is life not worth living. I've answered the question before in more detail, but I'll briefly answer it again: when I tried going cold turkey the withdrawal symptoms were so severe that I realized I had a serious addiction. I don't know if giving up tobacco would be this hard, not as hard, or even harder, but in any case, if the two are even in the same ballpark I'm glad I never ever started smoking. I had to wean myself slowly off caffeine instead of going cold turkey and finally felt ready to go the rest of the way ... four weeks ago. Even then, I had rotten withdrawal symptoms, but I stuck with it, and after, I dunno, three or four days I felt mostly human again. I'm staying off caffeine because I don't like the idea of being held hostage by such a strong chemical dependency.

I don't feel like my head is stuffed with cotton balls, I don't feel sick and dizzy, I don't feel like you used my head as the ball in a rugby match. I'm even proud to say that when I'm training (I work as a technical trainer), I don't stumble and stammer my way through class. I like to think I'm still fairly eloquent and glib. That used to be my excuse for drinking so damn much coffee, anyway: have to be perky and enthusiastic about whatever the heck is I'm training on, even if it's something I've trained on so many times that I can just about put my brain on idle and just mouth the words.

I'm very, very glad to find out that I can do my job without caffeine. I'm pleased that I can get up in the morning, drink a cup of water, take a shower, and be more or less at 100% efficiency without a slow booting up process.

But I'm not so happy about one aspect of my 'recovery' from caffeine addiction. I have no imagination and no creativity. I get by fine during the day so long as I have meaningful work or activities to do, but come the evening, I just have ZERO get-up-and-go. I don't want to go to the gym or work out in a hotel fitness center. I don't want to sit down and blog or write -- and that's a shame, because it used to be a source of some self-esteem that I could write about the Breast Cancer 3-Day (or, as it's now known, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure) and later on find out that half the paid staff of the 3-Day were sharing my blog entries around and acting like I was some kind of celebrity when I showed up at local Get Started meetings. But I haven't written any blog posts at all in weeks -- and my LiveJournal would be moribund if it weren't for the daily "My Tweets" summaries of my activities on Twitter. And I have to say, I'm only posting on Twitter so people don't think I'm dead. I don't have any urge to roll up my sleeves and gibber incoherently on Facebook and Twitter and similar places as I once did.

If it strikes you, gentle reader, as weird or banal that I'm bemoaning the lack of my normal gormlessness, I ask for your forgiveness. I've never claimed to be a great blogger or Tweeter -- but I used to enjoy doing that sort of thing nonetheless. Now I don't. Each evening after work, I either sit around at home web browsing while doing loads of laundry and dishes and so on, or, if I'm on the road traveling, I have to fight like crazy the urge to come back to the hotel, grab a bite to eat, and then just ... go to bed.

So, in conclusion, I'm functional -- I can work, do my 3-Day training walks, get chores done, and so on -- but anything that requires creativity is just ... gone. I hope like anything that this, too, shall pass.

Energy

May. 10th, 2011 08:31 pm
jayfurr: (Glern)
Four weeks ago today I had my last cup of coffee. I don't know how long before that I had my last caffeinated soda, but I definitely haven't had any since.

Many people have asked me: "why???" Or "Dear God, why????" As though life without caffeine is life not worth living. I've answered the question before in more detail, but I'll briefly answer it again: when I tried going cold turkey the withdrawal symptoms were so severe that I realized I had a serious addiction. I don't know if giving up tobacco would be this hard, not as hard, or even harder, but in any case, if the two are even in the same ballpark I'm glad I never ever started smoking. I had to wean myself slowly off caffeine instead of going cold turkey and finally felt ready to go the rest of the way ... four weeks ago. Even then, I had rotten withdrawal symptoms, but I stuck with it, and after, I dunno, three or four days I felt mostly human again. I'm staying off caffeine because I don't like the idea of being held hostage by such a strong chemical dependency.

I don't feel like my head is stuffed with cotton balls, I don't feel sick and dizzy, I don't feel like you used my head as the ball in a rugby match. I'm even proud to say that when I'm training (I work as a technical trainer), I don't stumble and stammer my way through class. I like to think I'm still fairly eloquent and glib. That used to be my excuse for drinking so damn much coffee, anyway: have to be perky and enthusiastic about whatever the heck is I'm training on, even if it's something I've trained on so many times that I can just about put my brain on idle and just mouth the words.

I'm very, very glad to find out that I can do my job without caffeine. I'm pleased that I can get up in the morning, drink a cup of water, take a shower, and be more or less at 100% efficiency without a slow booting up process.

But I'm not so happy about one aspect of my 'recovery' from caffeine addiction. I have no imagination and no creativity. I get by fine during the day so long as I have meaningful work or activities to do, but come the evening, I just have ZERO get-up-and-go. I don't want to go to the gym or work out in a hotel fitness center. I don't want to sit down and blog or write -- and that's a shame, because it used to be a source of some self-esteem that I could write about the Breast Cancer 3-Day (or, as it's now known, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure) and later on find out that half the paid staff of the 3-Day were sharing my blog entries around and acting like I was some kind of celebrity when I showed up at local Get Started meetings. But I haven't written any blog posts at all in weeks -- and my LiveJournal would be moribund if it weren't for the daily "My Tweets" summaries of my activities on Twitter. And I have to say, I'm only posting on Twitter so people don't think I'm dead. I don't have any urge to roll up my sleeves and gibber incoherently on Facebook and Twitter and similar places as I once did.

If it strikes you, gentle reader, as weird or banal that I'm bemoaning the lack of my normal gormlessness, I ask for your forgiveness. I've never claimed to be a great blogger or Tweeter -- but I used to enjoy doing that sort of thing nonetheless. Now I don't. Each evening after work, I either sit around at home web browsing while doing loads of laundry and dishes and so on, or, if I'm on the road traveling, I have to fight like crazy the urge to come back to the hotel, grab a bite to eat, and then just ... go to bed.

So, in conclusion, I'm functional -- I can work, do my 3-Day training walks, get chores done, and so on -- but anything that requires creativity is just ... gone. I hope like anything that this, too, shall pass.

jayfurr: (Applefest)
I haven't had coffee in over a week. I've had some small amounts of chocolate in that time, but no morning cup of coffee, no noontime cup of coffee, no afternoon coffee, no caffeinated soda, none of that. The woolly-brained dizzy feeling has finally gone away -- in the morning, I just have a cup of herbal tea and a big cup of water and I'm good to go. No need to drink even a small cup to be functional.

I think I'm sleeping better from not having all that lingering caffeine in my system at the end of a day.

I'm hoping this helps reduce my blood pressure and hope it also increases my hemoglobin. Unless I'm grotesquely mistaken, coffee/caffeine interferes with iron absorption. As a thalassemia trait human, I'm always going to be borderline anemic, and that makes the Red Cross very unhappy since I'm also O Negative. They call all the time letting me know how desperately they need my blood, but the last 13 times I've tried to donate I was just a bit too low. They need 12.5 grams of hemoglobin per deciliter of blood, and I've been coming in at 11.8 and stuff like that.

I've also got a bad cold, but it didn't start until Sunday and so I don't think you can blame the lack of coffee for my acquiring it. It's just one of those things. A lot of people around my office have one, unfortunately.


jayfurr: (Applefest)
I haven't had coffee in over a week. I've had some small amounts of chocolate in that time, but no morning cup of coffee, no noontime cup of coffee, no afternoon coffee, no caffeinated soda, none of that. The woolly-brained dizzy feeling has finally gone away -- in the morning, I just have a cup of herbal tea and a big cup of water and I'm good to go. No need to drink even a small cup to be functional.

I think I'm sleeping better from not having all that lingering caffeine in my system at the end of a day.

I'm hoping this helps reduce my blood pressure and hope it also increases my hemoglobin. Unless I'm grotesquely mistaken, coffee/caffeine interferes with iron absorption. As a thalassemia trait human, I'm always going to be borderline anemic, and that makes the Red Cross very unhappy since I'm also O Negative. They call all the time letting me know how desperately they need my blood, but the last 13 times I've tried to donate I was just a bit too low. They need 12.5 grams of hemoglobin per deciliter of blood, and I've been coming in at 11.8 and stuff like that.

I've also got a bad cold, but it didn't start until Sunday and so I don't think you can blame the lack of coffee for my acquiring it. It's just one of those things. A lot of people around my office have one, unfortunately.


jayfurr: (Vortex)
I've gotten a lot of queries via email and Facebook and Twitter and so on asking why on Earth I'm trying to give up coffee.

I think the number one reason is that it disturbs me to be in the grip of an addiction so strong that abstaining one day makes me feel sick as a dog. That can't be healthy.

A secondary reason is that I've really had a lot of problems with sleeping in recent years. NO, I do not have sleep apnea. I know this for a fact. I did a formal sleep study with overnight visit last year and there's no sign of apnea at all. I do not need a CPAP machine. I suspect that the reason I'm so wakeful all night is that for years I've propped myself up with massive amounts of coffee all day. When I train I take a quart bottle of cold coffee into the training room with me -- and that only lasts until lunch. Then I refill it. That's a lot of coffee. Wonder if it could have an impact on my sleeping?

You might say "Then why not cut back to a reasonable amount? You don't have to go to extremes -- going from drinking two quarts a day to drinking none."

My response: see reason number one, above.

I tried going cold turkey back before Lent. That didn't work at all. So I cut back to one cup a day for Lent and thought, after a month of that, that it was time to go cold turkey again. As a result, I spent yesterday feeling fairly rotten. I was dismayed to realize that even having "weaned myself down" to a single cup, removing that single cup still gave me bad withdrawal symptoms.

I didn't have any coffee today, either. That means I've had no coffee at all since Tuesday morning. I actually don't feel all that rotten today. I don't feel great but I don't feel appallingly awful either. With any luck, that means that by the weekend I'll be past this and able to keep on going.

I'd like to know that I don't suffer from addictions and addictive thinking. I'd like that, but even if I remove coffee entirely from my life I'll still have habits I'd like to break.

In the end, I think a lot of my desire to lose weight (which I did, successfully, dropping from a guy who had to wear XXL t-shirts to a guy who fits comfortably into an L and considers an XL to be 'baggy'), lower my cholesterol (by eliminating meat and by exercising more), and so forth owes a lot to the people I've met doing the 60-mile 3-day breast cancer walks for Susan G. Komen For The Cure. The determination and will of people with cancer to fight the disease and reclaim their lives has inspired me, someone who doesn't have cancer, to place more emphasis on my own health.

Saying "I wish, back when I was younger, I had..." is so lame after all. But I wish I had. That being said, I'm doing what I can now.


jayfurr: (Vortex)
I've gotten a lot of queries via email and Facebook and Twitter and so on asking why on Earth I'm trying to give up coffee.

I think the number one reason is that it disturbs me to be in the grip of an addiction so strong that abstaining one day makes me feel sick as a dog. That can't be healthy.

A secondary reason is that I've really had a lot of problems with sleeping in recent years. NO, I do not have sleep apnea. I know this for a fact. I did a formal sleep study with overnight visit last year and there's no sign of apnea at all. I do not need a CPAP machine. I suspect that the reason I'm so wakeful all night is that for years I've propped myself up with massive amounts of coffee all day. When I train I take a quart bottle of cold coffee into the training room with me -- and that only lasts until lunch. Then I refill it. That's a lot of coffee. Wonder if it could have an impact on my sleeping?

You might say "Then why not cut back to a reasonable amount? You don't have to go to extremes -- going from drinking two quarts a day to drinking none."

My response: see reason number one, above.

I tried going cold turkey back before Lent. That didn't work at all. So I cut back to one cup a day for Lent and thought, after a month of that, that it was time to go cold turkey again. As a result, I spent yesterday feeling fairly rotten. I was dismayed to realize that even having "weaned myself down" to a single cup, removing that single cup still gave me bad withdrawal symptoms.

I didn't have any coffee today, either. That means I've had no coffee at all since Tuesday morning. I actually don't feel all that rotten today. I don't feel great but I don't feel appallingly awful either. With any luck, that means that by the weekend I'll be past this and able to keep on going.

I'd like to know that I don't suffer from addictions and addictive thinking. I'd like that, but even if I remove coffee entirely from my life I'll still have habits I'd like to break.

In the end, I think a lot of my desire to lose weight (which I did, successfully, dropping from a guy who had to wear XXL t-shirts to a guy who fits comfortably into an L and considers an XL to be 'baggy'), lower my cholesterol (by eliminating meat and by exercising more), and so forth owes a lot to the people I've met doing the 60-mile 3-day breast cancer walks for Susan G. Komen For The Cure. The determination and will of people with cancer to fight the disease and reclaim their lives has inspired me, someone who doesn't have cancer, to place more emphasis on my own health.

Saying "I wish, back when I was younger, I had..." is so lame after all. But I wish I had. That being said, I'm doing what I can now.


Coffee

Apr. 13th, 2011 08:47 am
jayfurr: (Coffee at Nickels)
My main Lenten vow for 2011 was "cut waaaaaaaaaaay back on coffee."

That may not sound like much of a vow; people seem to think that a Lenten vow involves completely abstaining from something. The real purpose of a Lenten vow, in my opinion, is to work for several weeks on things that might be getting in the way of you having a proper relationship with God (or your choice of deity).

If you watch so much television, for example, that your laundry goes undone and you're never in a state of reflective peace, maybe you should drop back or eliminate TV for a few weeks and see if it positively changes your life.

Similarly, if you work as a trainer and regard coffee as Perkiness Fuel, keeping you bouncy and cheerful... but are actually drinking quarts of the stuff each day and you've built up a huge tolerance, requiring ever greater amounts to really feel revved up, well, that's not a good situation. Ideally, humans aren't supposed to require constant infusions of coffee alkaloids to be able to function, you know?

I had the sense to try going cold turkey on coffee a few days before Lent began. Just to see if it would make for a suitable, workable Lenten commitment.

Boy, howdy, did that work out badly. I had massive cranky achy sick headaches that left me feeling like someone had crammed cotton or perhaps steel wool into every compartment inside my head.

So I said "Okay: revised and official Lenten vow: no more than one cup of coffee per day. No caffeinated colas or energy drinks. No caffeinated tea. As little chocolate as you can possibly manage." Each morning I get up, have one cup, head off to work, and that's it for the day.

Even that regimen was hard for the first week. I felt mega-groggy by the end of each day, but kept on going. The situation improved after that: today, for example, I have not yet had a cup and I'm functioning. (Yes, I probably will get a cup before I go in to the office for today's class. I don't want to spend the morning slowly waking up -- I want to be wide awake right now.)

I've been telling myself that the final piece in the puzzle would come when warm spring weather arrived and I could get out on my bike and ride 20 miles in to work, or go out and run five miles. Then my knee got injured and I've been taking it easy. But I still think that replacing a big chemical caffeine boost with the boost that comes from exercise and physical fitness will be the step that lets me strip out the coffee from my life altogether.

I have a physical therapy appointment today at 6. I hope I have good news to post thereafter.


Coffee

Apr. 13th, 2011 08:47 am
jayfurr: (Coffee at Nickels)
My main Lenten vow for 2011 was "cut waaaaaaaaaaay back on coffee."

That may not sound like much of a vow; people seem to think that a Lenten vow involves completely abstaining from something. The real purpose of a Lenten vow, in my opinion, is to work for several weeks on things that might be getting in the way of you having a proper relationship with God (or your choice of diety).

If you watch so much television, for example, that your laundry goes undone and you're never in a state of reflective peace, maybe you should drop back or eliminate TV for a few weeks and see if it positively changes your life.

Similarly, if you work as a trainer and regard coffee as Perkiness Fuel, keeping you bouncy and cheerful... but are actually drinking quarts of the stuff each day and you've built up a huge tolerance, requiring ever greater amounts to really feel revved up, well, that's not a good situation. Ideally, humans aren't supposed to require constant infusions of coffee alkaloids to be able to function, you know?

I had the sense to try going cold turkey on coffee a few days before Lent began. Just to see if it would make for a suitable, workable Lenten commitment.

Boy, howdy, did that work out badly. I had massive cranky achy sick headaches that left me feeling like someone had crammed cotton or perhaps steel wool into every compartment inside my head.

So I said "Okay: revised and official Lenten vow: no more than one cup of coffee per day. No caffeinated colas or energy drinks. No caffeinated tea. As little chocolate as you can possibly manage." Each morning I get up, have one cup, head off to work, and that's it for the day.

Even that regimen was hard for the first week. I felt mega-groggy by the end of each day, but kept on going. The situation improved after that: today, for example, I have not yet had a cup and I'm functioning. (Yes, I probably will get a cup before I go in to the office for today's class. I don't want to spend the morning slowly waking up -- I want to be wide awake right now.)

I've been telling myself that the final piece in the puzzle would come when warm spring weather arrived and I could get out on my bike and ride 20 miles in to work, or go out and run five miles. Then my knee got injured and I've been taking it easy. But I still think that replacing a big chemical caffeine boost with the boost that comes from exercise and physical fitness will be the step that lets me strip out the coffee from my life altogether.

I have a physical therapy appointment today at 6. I hope I have good news to post thereafter.


jayfurr: (2010 3-Day Walker)
I'm one of those cocky jerks who takes pride in having walked multiple Breast Cancer 3-Day walks without ever needing to board a sweep van or SAG bus. I have nothing against the sweep vans, nothing against the buses, and respect those who give their all and still have something untoward come up like a shin splint, stress fracture, severe blisters, etcetera, and as a result, wind up on the van or bus. Things happen. Injuries occur. But I'd just as soon they not happen to me... and so I train, train, and train some more.

Each year since 2008 -- my first 3-Day year -- I've anxiously awaited the end of the long Vermont winter and the beginning of what, to me, is "3-Day training season".   Unlike the lucky folks in Florida and Texas and California, we simply can't start training in Vermont the minute the 24-week countdown to the Boston 3-Day in July starts.   In March we still have snow piled high along the shoulders of roads.  Our sidewalks may have been plowed... but may also conceal black ice in patches that will yank your feet right out from under you.  I lost a cell phone to black ice on a walking path just a few weeks ago, obstinately determined to go for a walk outdoors despite the frigid weather.   On a stretch of apparently bare and clean blacktop along a community recreation path, my feet went right out from under me and I came down hard flat on my back.  I was fine, though a bit shaken, but my Droid smartphone, in my pants pocket, was not so lucky.

Yesterday, with temperatures in the high 50s and sun everywhere, my wife and I went out for what we thought would be a nice eight-mile training walk on a recreation path in Stowe, Vermont.    What fools we mortals be!   After a few hundred yards we realized why everyone we'd seen heading down the path was coming back only a few minutes later and leaving.  There was six inches of snow along long stretches of the path, tromped down by snowshoers and skiers, but snow nonetheless.   And not even just in the shady spots.   Pretty much everywhere.   The clean dry pavement at the beginning of the path was a deceptive lure, getting our hopes up... but once around the first bend, GOTCHA.

We did two miles... a mile out, and a mile back... on that path, planting our feet carefully.  It wasn't all that slippery, surprisingly.  It was kinda slushy... providing reasonably good traction but simultaneously doing a bang-up job of getting our shoes and socks just plain soaked.    So there we were in shorts and t-shirts, tromping along on a warm (to us, anyway) sunny day through endless fields of snow.   Eventually we gave up and turned around and went home.

It may have been a blessing in disguise, though, for what it's worth.   I've had another, non-weather-related, cross to bear lately: an uncomfortably painful and stiff left knee.

I never had a knee problem in my life until this winter when I decided to start training for a 5K by doing laps on an banked indoor running track.   The gym alternates the track direction daily to avoid having runners putting too much strain on their knees by always running in the same direction with the same banking, but I was playing it smart, only trying to run every other day... which meant that when I ran, I was always running clockwise.   And somehow, that really put a strain on the iliotibial band on the outside of my left leg, right where it meets the knee.  The second to last time I tried to run it started stiffening up painfully after a couple of miles, but I finished my 3 miles and went home.  By the time I got home, it was so stiff and painful I literally could not put my weight on it.

The next day it was fine and I thought "OK.  That was odd.  Hope it doesn't happen again."  And two weeks later, when I said "That's a long enough break, let's try running again" it became stiff and painful after two laps.    I stopped cold and went home, feeling very gloomy.  I thought, naively, that the leg would benefit from some cross-training: walking, maybe some bicycling, before trying to run on it again.  And I took a wait-and-see approach.

The leg didn't give me any trouble when I did a few 3-Day training walks at our local mall in March, nor did it stiffen up when we did a four-mile walk outdoors on the Burlington bike path last weekend.  But on Friday, I tempted the fates by sitting down on our crunch board at home and doing a series of crunches... and apparently pulled so much on my I-T band that within an hour I was limping and in great pain.

"Just !%%#!@$ great," I said.  I sat down at a table with an icepack around my knee and my foot up on a chair and thought dark thoughts.  Eventually I realized I was out of ideas and called a local physical therapy clinic to ask for an appointment.   I feel a little weird about asking for help with a problem that seems to only occur when I do certain injurious things.   When I go in after work on Wednesday for my appointment, for all I know, my leg may feel absolutely fine.    I wonder: are they going to have me run or do crunches or something to start it hurting so I can point and say "Yep, that's where it hurts?"

Sigh.

Friends who are runners act like this sort of thing happens to runners all the time, but that doesn't make me feel all happy-happy about it happening to me.  I have a hugely pessimistic attitude right now about my leg.  If I manage to make it hurt that badly just by running three miles, or, for God's sake, doing a short abdominal workout... wow, that's just pathetic.   And I have a fear that I'll keep injuring it and eventually get told that I need to really cut back on any activity that'll stress my leg, indefinitely.

The reality is almost certainly much less gloomy than that.  But I do tend to think gloomy thoughts when a reversal like this comes along.  It's a personal failing of mine.

So as I said, above, having to terminate yesterday's training walk after only two miles may have been a blessing in disguise.  Walking a full eight miles the day after making it hurt so badly that I couldn't walk on it might not have been such a smart idea.

I can't make up my mind how to think about this.  I walked just under eight miles on Thursday night -- eight miles on the roads of our little Vermont town -- and had no pain afterwards.  I did crunches the next day: severe pain within a few minutes.    Did the walking followed by the crunches do it, or was it the crunches alone?  I don't know.  I may never know.  My knee felt mostly okay after our two miles yesterday and it feels mostly okay today, but (perhaps because I'm thinking about it) it does feel a little tender.

I really, really hope I don't get told by the physical therapist to cut way back on the walking.  I like long-distance walking.  It helps keep my weight down, it keeps my blood pressure low, and it toughens up my feet and hips so I don't have any pain or discomfort when the time comes to actually walk 60 miles in 3 days.   If I had to give up long distance walking on the advice of a doctor, I'd be one sad guy.   As far as I can tell walking isn't what caused it.  It was almost certainly the running on a banked track after a lifetime of not being a runner... and the crunches may have exacerbated things on their own.   The eight miles the previous night probably had nothing to do with it... I wasn't stiff at all afterwards.

But I don't know.   And that peeves and annoys me.  I want to be healthy and able to do my normal very active summer stuff: walking and hiking and kayaking and you-name-it.  I don't want to be laid up every time I step outdoors and do anything that raises a sweat.

So I'm looking forward with nervousness and anticipation toward Wednesday's physical therapy appointment.  I want them to wave a magic wand and make it all better, or failing that, give me things to do that will keep it from recurring.  I do not want to have to cut back on my walking and I really don't want to get told that the walking caused the pain ... especially if it didn't.   But if it did, then I need to know.

Yes, I'm getting very neurotic, aren't I?

 
jayfurr: (2010 3-Day Walker)
I'm one of those cocky jerks who takes pride in having walked multiple Breast Cancer 3-Day walks without ever needing to board a sweep van or SAG bus. I have nothing against the sweep vans, nothing against the buses, and respect those who give their all and still have something untoward come up like a shin splint, stress fracture, severe blisters, etcetera, and as a result, wind up on the van or bus. Things happen. Injuries occur. But I'd just as soon they not happen to me... and so I train, train, and train some more.

Each year since 2008 -- my first 3-Day year -- I've anxiously awaited the end of the long Vermont winter and the beginning of what, to me, is "3-Day training season".   Unlike the lucky folks in Florida and Texas and California, we simply can't start training in Vermont the minute the 24-week countdown to the Boston 3-Day in July starts.   In March we still have snow piled high along the shoulders of roads.  Our sidewalks may have been plowed... but may also conceal black ice in patches that will yank your feet right out from under you.  I lost a cell phone to black ice on a walking path just a few weeks ago, obstinately determined to go for a walk outdoors despite the frigid weather.   On a stretch of apparently bare and clean blacktop along a community recreation path, my feet went right out from under me and I came down hard flat on my back.  I was fine, though a bit shaken, but my Droid smartphone, in my pants pocket, was not so lucky.

Yesterday, with temperatures in the high 50s and sun everywhere, my wife and I went out for what we thought would be a nice eight-mile training walk on a recreation path in Stowe, Vermont.    What fools we mortals be!   After a few hundred yards we realized why everyone we'd seen heading down the path was coming back only a few minutes later and leaving.  There was six inches of snow along long stretches of the path, tromped down by snowshoers and skiers, but snow nonetheless.   And not even just in the shady spots.   Pretty much everywhere.   The clean dry pavement at the beginning of the path was a deceptive lure, getting our hopes up... but once around the first bend, GOTCHA.

We did two miles... a mile out, and a mile back... on that path, planting our feet carefully.  It wasn't all that slippery, surprisingly.  It was kinda slushy... providing reasonably good traction but simultaneously doing a bang-up job of getting our shoes and socks just plain soaked.    So there we were in shorts and t-shirts, tromping along on a warm (to us, anyway) sunny day through endless fields of snow.   Eventually we gave up and turned around and went home.

It may have been a blessing in disguise, though, for what it's worth.   I've had another, non-weather-related, cross to bear lately: an uncomfortably painful and stiff left knee.

I never had a knee problem in my life until this winter when I decided to start training for a 5K by doing laps on an banked indoor running track.   The gym alternates the track direction daily to avoid having runners putting too much strain on their knees by always running in the same direction with the same banking, but I was playing it smart, only trying to run every other day... which meant that when I ran, I was always running clockwise.   And somehow, that really put a strain on the iliotibial band on the outside of my left leg, right where it meets the knee.  The second to last time I tried to run it started stiffening up painfully after a couple of miles, but I finished my 3 miles and went home.  By the time I got home, it was so stiff and painful I literally could not put my weight on it.

The next day it was fine and I thought "OK.  That was odd.  Hope it doesn't happen again."  And two weeks later, when I said "That's a long enough break, let's try running again" it became stiff and painful after two laps.    I stopped cold and went home, feeling very gloomy.  I thought, naively, that the leg would benefit from some cross-training: walking, maybe some bicycling, before trying to run on it again.  And I took a wait-and-see approach.

The leg didn't give me any trouble when I did a few 3-Day training walks at our local mall in March, nor did it stiffen up when we did a four-mile walk outdoors on the Burlington bike path last weekend.  But on Friday, I tempted the fates by sitting down on our crunch board at home and doing a series of crunches... and apparently pulled so much on my I-T band that within an hour I was limping and in great pain.

"Just !%%#!@$ great," I said.  I sat down at a table with an icepack around my knee and my foot up on a chair and thought dark thoughts.  Eventually I realized I was out of ideas and called a local physical therapy clinic to ask for an appointment.   I feel a little weird about asking for help with a problem that seems to only occur when I do certain injurious things.   When I go in after work on Wednesday for my appointment, for all I know, my leg may feel absolutely fine.    I wonder: are they going to have me run or do crunches or something to start it hurting so I can point and say "Yep, that's where it hurts?"

Sigh.

Friends who are runners act like this sort of thing happens to runners all the time, but that doesn't make me feel all happy-happy about it happening to me.  I have a hugely pessimistic attitude right now about my leg.  If I manage to make it hurt that badly just by running three miles, or, for God's sake, doing a short abdominal workout... wow, that's just pathetic.   And I have a fear that I'll keep injuring it and eventually get told that I need to really cut back on any activity that'll stress my leg, indefinitely.

The reality is almost certainly much less gloomy than that.  But I do tend to think gloomy thoughts when a reversal like this comes along.  It's a personal failing of mine.

So as I said, above, having to terminate yesterday's training walk after only two miles may have been a blessing in disguise.  Walking a full eight miles the day after making it hurt so badly that I couldn't walk on it might not have been such a smart idea.

I can't make up my mind how to think about this.  I walked just under eight miles on Thursday night -- eight miles on the roads of our little Vermont town -- and had no pain afterwards.  I did crunches the next day: severe pain within a few minutes.    Did the walking followed by the crunches do it, or was it the crunches alone?  I don't know.  I may never know.  My knee felt mostly okay after our two miles yesterday and it feels mostly okay today, but (perhaps because I'm thinking about it) it does feel a little tender.

I really, really hope I don't get told by the physical therapist to cut way back on the walking.  I like long-distance walking.  It helps keep my weight down, it keeps my blood pressure low, and it toughens up my feet and hips so I don't have any pain or discomfort when the time comes to actually walk 60 miles in 3 days.   If I had to give up long distance walking on the advice of a doctor, I'd be one sad guy.   As far as I can tell walking isn't what caused it.  It was almost certainly the running on a banked track after a lifetime of not being a runner... and the crunches may have exacerbated things on their own.   The eight miles the previous night probably had nothing to do with it... I wasn't stiff at all afterwards.

But I don't know.   And that peeves and annoys me.  I want to be healthy and able to do my normal very active summer stuff: walking and hiking and kayaking and you-name-it.  I don't want to be laid up every time I step outdoors and do anything that raises a sweat.

So I'm looking forward with nervousness and anticipation toward Wednesday's physical therapy appointment.  I want them to wave a magic wand and make it all better, or failing that, give me things to do that will keep it from recurring.  I do not want to have to cut back on my walking and I really don't want to get told that the walking caused the pain ... especially if it didn't.   But if it did, then I need to know.

Yes, I'm getting very neurotic, aren't I?

 

Knee

Mar. 18th, 2011 09:41 am
jayfurr: (Phantom)
A couple of weeks ago I went for a run at the indoor track at the health club. My left knee started hurting during the run... and when I got home it had seized up so much that it hurt like CRAZY and didn't want to even bend properly. It hurt a lot less by morning but was still a bit sore for a couple of days.

As a consequence of this, I took two weeks off and didn't run. I did do some walking and had no knee issues (but did slip on ice in the dark and killed my cell phone when I landed flat on my back and apparently crushed it in my pocket, but insurance paid for a new one). So yesterday after work I said "Time go to to the gym."

And within a HALF MILE the damn thing began hurting again. And I wasn't able to run through it. I had to stop. It was either that or disable myself. The pain was increasing that rapidly.

I have two theories about the cause of the pain. Either I need to do a lot more post-winter-layoff limbering up, doing things like bicycling and road walking, before I just stick my knee out there on the track and begin pounding away at it, OR, I have some sort of unfortunate health condition that may contra-indicate running. I can feel some sort of tendon (I'm not an anatomist) flexing and popping on the left side of my left knee and that's really where the stiffness and soreness is centered.

The snow here in Vermont is rapidly melting; it's hard to believe we got a 29" snowfall less than two weeks ago, because a week of above-freezing daytime temperatures has knocked out most of it. Thus, it may be possible in the very near future to do some bicycling -- 17-18 miles to work a couple times a week should be good for me and hopefully gently flex that knee WITHOUT the pounding of running.

And if it still hurts after I do some bicycling, then I guess I'm going to have to go to a physical therapist or sports medicine professional and ask for advice. I feel pretty lame whining about pain after so little running, but I guess that's what I get for trying to start thrice-weekly running at the age of 43. :(



Knee

Mar. 18th, 2011 09:38 am
jayfurr: (Phantom)
A couple of weeks ago I went for a run at the indoor track at the health club. My left knee started hurting during the run... and when I got home it had seized up so much that it hurt like CRAZY and didn't want to even bend properly. It hurt a lot less by morning but was still a bit sore for a couple of days.

As a consequence of this, I took two weeks off and didn't run. I did do some walking and had no knee issues (but did slip on ice in the dark and killed my cell phone when I landed flat on my back and apparently crushed it in my pocket, but insurance paid for a new one). So yesterday after work I said "Time go to to the gym."

And within a HALF MILE the damn thing began hurting again. And I wasn't able to run through it. I had to stop. It was either that or disable myself. The pain was increasing that rapidly.

I have two theories about the cause of the pain. Either I need to do a lot more post-winter-layoff limbering up, doing things like bicycling and road walking, before I just stick my knee out there on the track and begin pounding away at it, OR, I have some sort of unfortunate health condition that may contra-indicate running. I can feel some sort of tendon (I'm not an anatomist) flexing and popping on the left side of my left knee and that's really where the stiffness and soreness is centered.

The snow here in Vermont is rapidly melting; it's hard to believe we got a 29" snowfall less than two weeks ago, because a week of above-freezing daytime temperatures has knocked out most of it. Thus, it may be possible in the very near future to do some bicycling -- 17-18 miles to work a couple times a week should be good for me and hopefully gently flex that knee WITHOUT the pounding of running.

And if it still hurts after I do some bicycling, then I guess I'm going to have to go to a physical therapist or sports medicine professional and ask for advice. I feel pretty lame whining about pain after so little running, but I guess that's what I get for trying to start thrice-weekly running at the age of 43. :(



jayfurr: (Scuba in a shortie)
"Some people" take my blog entries about dietary discipline, avoiding coffee, avoiding sugar, trying to get more sleep, trying to run more, etcetera, etcetera, as a sign that I either like torturing myself or that I'm intentionally wearing a hair shirt.

I can see why one might think that, but that's not why I'm always gibbering and jabbering about self-control and self-restraint and personal health and exercise and stuff.

It's because I'm at the stage in my life where I look back and see YEARS of "mañana" attitudes: "I'll work on losing weight one day soon." "I'll get in better shape soon." Some day. Tomorrow. Maybe next year.

I'm not satisfied with where I am in life. I'm not satisfied with the state of my health. I don't like having to take drugs to control my cholesterol, heredity or not. I don't like needing to take Ambien now and then to get to sleep at night. I'd like to be healthy, well, in good shape, and not hostage to a witches' brew of prescription drugs (gemfibrozil, Niaspan, and Ambien are three too many). I'd like to be in good enough shape to run a road race and not embarrass myself.

It's not because I want to torture and humiliate myself. It's because I'm sick and tired of making excuses and saying "Well, sure, some people can do that, but not me. I'll never be able to do that." Whatever "that" is.

Everyone has a friend who talks a big act about "I'm gonna do it. This is the year!!!" And whatever it is, by the middle of January they've given up.

I don't want to be that person. If being involved in the various Komen breast cancer walks has taught me anything, it's that life is a precious gift and it's damn stupid to treat it like an inexhaustible resource. You don't know if there'll be a next year. You don't know if next year you're going to be looking back wishing you'd made the most of things while you had the chance.

I had a very minor stroke at age 33... I don't want to let myself go and have a major one at age 43. The time to get my act together is NOW.

jayfurr: (Scuba in a shortie)
"Some people" take my blog entries about dietary discipline, avoiding coffee, avoiding sugar, trying to get more sleep, trying to run more, etcetera, etcetera, as a sign that I either like torturing myself or that I'm intentionally wearing a hair shirt.

I can see why one might think that, but that's not why I'm always gibbering and jabbering about self-control and self-restraint and personal health and exercise and stuff.

It's because I'm at the stage in my life where I look back and see YEARS of "mañana" attitudes: "I'll work on losing weight one day soon." "I'll get in better shape soon." Some day. Tomorrow. Maybe next year.

I'm not satisfied with where I am in life. I'm not satisfied with the state of my health. I don't like having to take drugs to control my cholesterol, heredity or not. I don't like needing to take Ambien now and then to get to sleep at night. I'd like to be healthy, well, in good shape, and not hostage to a witches' brew of prescription drugs (gemfibrozil, Niaspan, and Ambien are three too many). I'd like to be in good enough shape to run a road race and not embarrass myself.

It's not because I want to torture and humiliate myself. It's because I'm sick and tired of making excuses and saying "Well, sure, some people can do that, but not me. I'll never be able to do that." Whatever "that" is.

Everyone has a friend who talks a big act about "I'm gonna do it. This is the year!!!" And whatever it is, by the middle of January they've given up.

I don't want to be that person. If being involved in the various Komen breast cancer walks has taught me anything, it's that life is a precious gift and it's damn stupid to treat it like an inexhaustible resource. You don't know if there'll be a next year. You don't know if next year you're going to be looking back wishing you'd made the most of things while you had the chance.

I had a very minor stroke at age 33... I don't want to let myself go and have a major one at age 43. The time to get my act together is NOW.

jayfurr: (Coffee at Nickels)
On Sunday I randomly decided to skip having a cup of coffee. When I got up that day I felt awake and rested and didn't really see why I'd need one. And at first, there were no consequences... I felt fine. But partway through Sunday afternoon I began to feel kinda... weird. Like I'd stuffed my head with cotton balls. But I said, "Well, I'm probably just dehydrated," and drank a lot of water.

I survived. In fact, I felt well enough that I started thinking seriously about giving coffee up for Lent. I'm not Catholic; I'm a United Methodist, and we're not required to give something up for Lent. Some people do as a way of focusing their spiritual discipline on a closer relationship with God; cutting out something that might have been a distraction, as it were. Others do it simply because it's a good time to try to get a particular monkey off your back: alcohol, coffee, dessert, television, smoking, whatever. I suspect I drink too much coffee: as a trainer, I drink black coffee all day to stay perky and engaging... or bouncy, or whatever you want to call it. And I probably drink too much. So, I thought "Let's try this for a couple of days and see if it'd be something that I'd have a hope of doing for six whole weeks."

Then Monday happened. We got TWO FEET of snow late Sunday night and Monday morning. The snow was so bad that Interstate 89 through our area was closed due to jackknifed tractor trailers and cars that had run off the road. Conditions were just about as bad as they could be: the swirling and drifting snow made the road almost, but not entirely, impassable. At times the visibility was near zero. Unfortunately, I had to clear my long driveway with a snowthrower and then drive all the way to the office anyway to fetch my laptop, which I'd left docked at the office on Friday after looking at the weekend forecast and seeing rain. Yes, I should have swung by on Sunday to get the laptop when I was at church near my office, but I didn't think ahead. Dumb of me.

So the round-trip to my office on Monday took two hours and change, taking surface streets the whole way and staying off I-89. No one was at my office when I got there -- the big parking lot had been plowed but the place was deserted. Our inclement weather policy tells people to work from home if the weather is bad enough, but no email was ever forthcoming officially saying anything like "The office is closed." I guess people just checked the weather, called their managers, and told them "I can't make it in." But I got my laptop and headed back out, feeling really, really, really cranky and wrung out. And the cotton-balls-in-head feeling was worse than ever. How much of this was due to the snow and the stress, and how much was due to the lack of coffee, I can't authoritatively say. But I do know that I felt rotten.

So, when we stopped on the way home at the one gas station we saw open to fill our gas cans so we'd be able to keep our snowthrower running, I gave in and purchased a cup of coffee. I added enough 1% milk so I could quickly drain it and get back on the road heading home, and as I drove home I quickly started to feel a bit less cranky and wrung out and woolly-headed. I never got to feeling all better, but felt better than I had. And that didn't make me feel good about the whole giving-up-coffee thing. If, 36 hours into my coffee fast, I was already feeling miserable, and only felt better after giving in, what did that say about my ability to make it for six weeks?

So today, I woke up again feeling fairly awful. I decided not to torture myself and just had done with it and made a cup of coffee for myself before my morning shower. But that's it for the day. If I can't go cold turkey, at the very least I had better work on limiting my intake. As rotten as I felt yesterday, snow or no snow, that tells me that my body was really not happy about my trying to go cold turkey. And that tells me how bad my problem really is. I've got to scale back so I'm not absolutely poisoning myself. Your body isn't supposed to feel that bad after you go ONE DAY without coffee.

So am I going to give coffee up for Lent? No, I don't think so. But I'm going to try to limit myself to one cup a day and see how that works for a couple of weeks, then maybe go to a half cup, and so on. I really don't like the idea of being this dependent on the stuff.

jayfurr: (Coffee at Nickels)
On Sunday I randomly decided to skip having a cup of coffee. When I got up that day I felt awake and rested and didn't really see why I'd need one. And at first, there were no consequences... I felt fine. But partway through Sunday afternoon I began to feel kinda... weird. Like I'd stuffed my head with cotton balls. But I said, "Well, I'm probably just dehydrated," and drank a lot of water.

I survived. In fact, I felt well enough that I started thinking seriously about giving coffee up for Lent. I'm not Catholic; I'm a United Methodist, and we're not required to give something up for Lent. Some people do as a way of focusing their spiritual discipline on a closer relationship with God; cutting out something that might have been a distraction, as it were. Others do it simply because it's a good time to try to get a particular monkey off your back: alcohol, coffee, dessert, television, smoking, whatever. I suspect I drink too much coffee: as a trainer, I drink black coffee all day to stay perky and engaging... or bouncy, or whatever you want to call it. And I probably drink too much. So, I thought "Let's try this for a couple of days and see if it'd be something that I'd have a hope of doing for six whole weeks."

Then Monday happened. We got TWO FEET of snow late Sunday night and Monday morning. The snow was so bad that Interstate 89 through our area was closed due to jackknifed tractor trailers and cars that had run off the road. Conditions were just about as bad as they could be: the swirling and drifting snow made the road almost, but not entirely, impassable. At times the visibility was near zero. Unfortunately, I had to clear my long driveway with a snowthrower and then drive all the way to the office anyway to fetch my laptop, which I'd left docked at the office on Friday after looking at the weekend forecast and seeing rain. Yes, I should have swung by on Sunday to get the laptop when I was at church near my office, but I didn't think ahead. Dumb of me.

So the round-trip to my office on Monday took two hours and change, taking surface streets the whole way and staying off I-89. No one was at my office when I got there -- the big parking lot had been plowed but the place was deserted. Our inclement weather policy tells people to work from home if the weather is bad enough, but no email was ever forthcoming officially saying anything like "The office is closed." I guess people just checked the weather, called their managers, and told them "I can't make it in." But I got my laptop and headed back out, feeling really, really, really cranky and wrung out. And the cotton-balls-in-head feeling was worse than ever. How much of this was due to the snow and the stress, and how much was due to the lack of coffee, I can't authoritatively say. But I do know that I felt rotten.

So, when we stopped on the way home at the one gas station we saw open to fill our gas cans so we'd be able to keep our snowthrower running, I gave in and purchased a cup of coffee. I added enough 1% milk so I could quickly drain it and get back on the road heading home, and as I drove home I quickly started to feel a bit less cranky and wrung out and woolly-headed. I never got to feeling all better, but felt better than I had. And that didn't make me feel good about the whole giving-up-coffee thing. If, 36 hours into my coffee fast, I was already feeling miserable, and only felt better after giving in, what did that say about my ability to make it for six weeks?

So today, I woke up again feeling fairly awful. I decided not to torture myself and just had done with it and made a cup of coffee for myself before my morning shower. But that's it for the day. If I can't go cold turkey, at the very least I had better work on limiting my intake. As rotten as I felt yesterday, snow or no snow, that tells me that my body was really not happy about my trying to go cold turkey. And that tells me how bad my problem really is. I've got to scale back so I'm not absolutely poisoning myself. Your body isn't supposed to feel that bad after you go ONE DAY without coffee.

So am I going to give coffee up for Lent? No, I don't think so. But I'm going to try to limit myself to one cup a day and see how that works for a couple of weeks, then maybe go to a half cup, and so on. I really don't like the idea of being this dependent on the stuff.

jayfurr: (Hiking inna dark)
Carole and I routinely dispute the question of when seasons officially start. I've tended toward the point of view that the seasons start at the moments of equinox and solstice, basically cleaving to the strict astronomical definition, while she tends more toward a definition of June-July-August being summer, September-October-November being fall, December-January-February being winter, and March-April-May being spring.

Neither of us is really all that "right" when you get down to it. It all depends on where you live, latitude-wise. Here in Vermont fall seems to last for about a month, from mid-September until mid-October, and then we get right to the gray depressing skies and leafless trees that make up a weird season that doesn't really feel like "winter" because there's no snow on the ground, but certainly isn't "fall" either because the leaves have long since come down. Winter starts when we get the first sizable snowfall and lasts until the end of March at the earliest -- and can carry on until May if we work it just right. Along about mid-April or early May we usually start another of Vermont's weird seasons, "mud season", where the ground is still frozen but there's enough rain falling that the top layer of soil basically liquefies. With frozen soil a few inches down, the water has nowhere to drain away to and simply turns the top six inches of every dirt road to impassable muck.

So, yeah, in Vermont it's more meaningful to think in terms of the actual climatological conditions outside:

Warm and sunny: Summer (a couple of weeks here and there in July and August)
Tons of New Yorkers and New Jerseyites driving around photographing trees: Fall
Gray and miserable, with no leaves on the trees but no snow on the ground yet to brighten things: Despair
Lots of snow and cold: Winter
Cars stuck in the mud: Mud season
Maple festivals everywhere: Early spring
Still an imminent possibility of a late-season blizzard: Spring

But there's another way of looking at it that I think is most relevant of all: light versus dark.

Now that daylight saving time runs almost eight months out of the year and 'standard' time is only a bit over four months long, running from early November until early March, 'standard' time seems like a real misnomer, doesn't it? And since that period coincides with the four coldest months of the Vermont calendar (usually) and the darkest time of the year, the start of daylight saving is also the start of The Bleak Dark Time, when both Carole and I are inclined to just pull our heads in, cover our eyes with a blanky, and say nothing at all to anyone until it's all over.

And that's precisely what we've got to avoid. This year I've decided to do something different. I'm going to try to exercise every day -- making use of the 'fitness center' in the mazy depths of the ground floor of my office building here in Vermont when I'm actually working out of the office, going to the gym that Carole and I belong to (and rarely actually use) on the weekends, and trying to get my butt down to the hotel exercise room when I'm on the road.

My stress level has been high enough lately that my manager did what amounts to a formal counseling session with me one day on the phone, advised me to get my stress under control, and even signed me up for an online stress management class on our company's internal online learning website. I guess she's serious. And I know that my blood pressure was a lot lower when I was working out on the treadmill every day a year ago trying to get my weight down to 180 pounds. And I've let my weight creep back up to the 190s (especially in the last month, when I've been fighting a cold)...

So: my thought is that if I start regularly working out again, doing 900 or so calories' worth of fast walking on a treadmill each day, I'll probably be less stressed, get my blood pressure back down, AND get my weight back down to the 180-pound level that I sorta think it should be at. That's the goal, anyway. I've created a stickk.com commitment contract to help enforce said dedication -- if I don't make my weight loss goals, I'll be out $50 a week each week that I fall short. With that sort of impetus pushing me, I hope I'll rediscover the dedication that helped me with the first big weight loss push, the one that took me from 235 down to 180.

And most importantly of all, I won't let The Bleak Dark Time knock me for a loop again.

jayfurr: (Hiking inna dark)
Carole and I routinely dispute the question of when seasons officially start. I've tended toward the point of view that the seasons start at the moments of equinox and solstice, basically cleaving to the strict astronomical definition, while she tends more toward a definition of June-July-August being summer, September-October-November being fall, December-January-February being winter, and March-April-May being spring.

Neither of us is really all that "right" when you get down to it. It all depends on where you live, latitude-wise. Here in Vermont fall seems to last for about a month, from mid-September until mid-October, and then we get right to the gray depressing skies and leafless trees that make up a weird season that doesn't really feel like "winter" because there's no snow on the ground, but certainly isn't "fall" either because the leaves have long since come down. Winter starts when we get the first sizable snowfall and lasts until the end of March at the earliest -- and can carry on until May if we work it just right. Along about mid-April or early May we usually start another of Vermont's weird seasons, "mud season", where the ground is still frozen but there's enough rain falling that the top layer of soil basically liquefies. With frozen soil a few inches down, the water has nowhere to drain away to and simply turns the top six inches of every dirt road to impassable muck.

So, yeah, in Vermont it's more meaningful to think in terms of the actual climatological conditions outside:

Warm and sunny: Summer (a couple of weeks here and there in July and August)
Tons of New Yorkers and New Jerseyites driving around photographing trees: Fall
Gray and miserable, with no leaves on the trees but no snow on the ground yet to brighten things: Despair
Lots of snow and cold: Winter
Cars stuck in the mud: Mud season
Maple festivals everywhere: Early spring
Still an imminent possibility of a late-season blizzard: Spring

But there's another way of looking at it that I think is most relevant of all: light versus dark.

Now that daylight saving time runs almost eight months out of the year and 'standard' time is only a bit over four months long, running from early November until early March, 'standard' time seems like a real misnomer, doesn't it? And since that period coincides with the four coldest months of the Vermont calendar (usually) and the darkest time of the year, the start of daylight saving is also the start of The Bleak Dark Time, when both Carole and I are inclined to just pull our heads in, cover our eyes with a blanky, and say nothing at all to anyone until it's all over.

And that's precisely what we've got to avoid. This year I've decided to do something different. I'm going to try to exercise every day -- making use of the 'fitness center' in the mazy depths of the ground floor of my office building here in Vermont when I'm actually working out of the office, going to the gym that Carole and I belong to (and rarely actually use) on the weekends, and trying to get my butt down to the hotel exercise room when I'm on the road.

My stress level has been high enough lately that my manager did what amounts to a formal counseling session with me one day on the phone, advised me to get my stress under control, and even signed me up for an online stress management class on our company's internal online learning website. I guess she's serious. And I know that my blood pressure was a lot lower when I was working out on the treadmill every day a year ago trying to get my weight down to 180 pounds. And I've let my weight creep back up to the 190s (especially in the last month, when I've been fighting a cold)...

So: my thought is that if I start regularly working out again, doing 900 or so calories' worth of fast walking on a treadmill each day, I'll probably be less stressed, get my blood pressure back down, AND get my weight back down to the 180-pound level that I sorta think it should be at. That's the goal, anyway. I've created a stickk.com commitment contract to help enforce said dedication -- if I don't make my weight loss goals, I'll be out $50 a week each week that I fall short. With that sort of impetus pushing me, I hope I'll rediscover the dedication that helped me with the first big weight loss push, the one that took me from 235 down to 180.

And most importantly of all, I won't let The Bleak Dark Time knock me for a loop again.

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