Feeling Great at 54

Today is my 54th birthday, and I want to reflect on how I feel and look compared to a few years ago; specifically before I began the process of undoing some unhealthy habits. So I will give a brief history of that process from roughly the beginning of 2010 until today. I won’t go into excruciating detail, but I will note the highlights, at least from my perspective.

Me with the 32kg

Snapshot of me in January 2010: All my suits were hanging unused in my closet because I couldn’t fit in the trousers; I wasn’t wearing the custom vests my wife made because I was too big in the waist; over the past couple of years I bought several pairs of dress slacks with expandable waist bands to wear to my day job in an office. Oh, and a couple of larger belts, too.

Me before

I was essentially sedentary, weighing in at 200+ pounds and about 30% body fat. These numbers are guesstimates, as I stopped weighing myself when I saw 199 on the scale for the first time in my life. To be completely honest, being sedentary wasn’t the only reason I was where I was physically; let me just say that 1) alcohol does contain a lot of empty calories and 2) you cannot exercise off or wish away a drink or two.

Snapshot of me in December, 2010: I’m skipping over how I finally felt enough shame and humiliation over how I allowed myself to get into the sad state I was in. I will say that a great part of it was realizing (thanks to my patient and understanding wife) that I was dealing with some serious family-related emotional issues (milestone one). Once I came to terms with that, I fixed myself emotionally and I was ready to fix myself physically.

I started eating better in May. I first picked up a kettlebell on June 21, 2010—an 18 kg (milestone two).

I ran a 5K in September, October, and November and a 10K in December. My times improved such that I ran the 10K with a 7:40 mile pace. An aside—when I first started to run regularly again (in August) my knees and shins hurt. I assumed it was because I hadn’t run regularly for several years. I was informed of barefoot/minimalist shoe running (by my wife) and lo and behold, no more knee or shin pain (milestone three).

By December I was feeling pretty good about myself. I shed a couple inches off my waist, about 40 pounds and was at roughly 20% body fat. My self esteem was higher than it had been in a while and my outlook on many things was much more positive (correlated to my self esteem?). Since I enjoyed training with kettlebells so much, I decided to become certified as an RKC kettlebell Instructor. (My wife and I decided to do this together; however, I’m relating this from my personal perspective.)

Snapshot of me in June, 2012: I certified as an HKC kettlebell Instructor in January, 2011. I certified as an RKC kettlebell Instructor in May, 2011 (milestone four).

Snapshot of me today, a personal revelation and summary: I have made eating well and staying fit a lifestyle and a habit. To prove my point, I want to relate this story. On June 12 of this year I had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia (men have a 1 in 4 chance of getting one, that’s just how it is). I was told not to lift anything over 10 pounds for four weeks as my recovery (that actually included our two middle-aged portly cats). I was a good boy and did what the doctor ordered.

Of course, I was back in the gym the day after my four weeks were up. I recorded my stats prior to and after the four-week period:

Before: 165.2 lbs, 10.3% body fat, 140.8 lbs muscle mass

After:     163 lbs, 7.5% body fat, 143.4 lbs muscle mass

I know this isn’t scientific, but since I had the ‘before’ data I frankly was curious to see how much my body fat and possibly weight increased. I assumed it would since I was essentially sedentary for four full weeks. I was surprised, but apparently I am doing something right as to nutrition and diet. Basically, I eat a “paleo” diet and practice intermittent fasting. Although I knew this, I have proved (to me, at least) that nutrition clearly is the most important factor in body composition.

Speaking of body composition, you can see the difference in my before (September, 2008; 200+ lbs, 30% body fat) and now (164 lbs, 8% body fat; that is a 32 kg (71 lb) kettlebell that just last week I was able to press overhead) pictures. It’s the kilt that makes me look thinner, I think.

From then until now, I have been constantly challenging myself physically and mentally and have experienced continual improvement. To all of you that have graciously taken the time to read this, I would like to say this, based on my experience:

You can get healthy and fit no matter where you are now and no matter hold old you are, and

Getting fit and healthy is a choice; staying fit and healthy is a mindset and a habit.


The Summit of Awesomeness

The Mister with the Masters

Mighty Melody and Karen

Last weekend we attended the “Summit of Strength” in Edmond, Oklahoma. This was the third of an annual a workshop featuring four of the best Master RKC instructors in the world. We were privileged and honored to attend what we are now calling the “Summit of Awesomeness.” We knew from attending last year to expect the best. You’ve heard the expression that “so-and-so person has forgotten more than I know”—that is certainly true of all four of the Master Instructors that were there. Last year was awesome. This year was even awesomer!

So what made this workshop so amazing? We rediscovered bodyweight prowess through a series of exercises, drills and progressions. We learned how to properly perform the bent press—a beautiful expression of strength, mobility and flexibility. We learned how to breathe properly and control our breathing—something that we all take for granted, but is extremely important for building not only endurance but strength, too (yes, you read that correctly). For Karen, the weekend was another step in trusting her body again post-cancer.

Most importantly, we had a lot of fun. The entire weekend, we were encouraged to play and explore. So often we get far too wrapped up in reps and sets and getting through workouts instead of just enjoying the beauty and joy of moving well. We did handstands (something Karen hasn’t done since before cancer), crawled around the gym, climbed ropes (Michael did while Karen stood in awe), played with pull-ups and hanging leg raises, watched as others bent nails, (some for the first time) and of course played with heavy kettlebells. Michael had so much fun, he set a PR by pressing a 32 kg (71 lb) kettlebell. We made many new friends and reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. It was an amazing and awesome experience.

But the best part of the weekend is not only did we learn how to improve our own training and awesomeness, we came home with an abundance of ideas to help all our awesome clients get even more awesome!

What if

What if you knew you couldn’t fail?  What if you knew for sure that this time, this would really work, that you would finally be successful?  What if you chose to be brave?  What if you didn’t let fear overtake you?  What if you believed in yourself?  What if you didn’t fear failure?  What if you didn’t fear success?  Yes, success.

There’s a certain amount of responsibility that comes with achieving success, reaching a goal.  If we don’t reach that finish line, we still have an out that not becoming successful affords us.  Reaching the goal, achieving success, we have to live up to ourselves.  We have to keep on being successful, keep on achieving.  And that can be a very scary thing to some of us.  “Jeez Louise, accomplishing this seemingly monumental goal is scary enough, but once I do, you mean I’m gonna have to do it all over again???  And something even bigger and better and even scarier???  Um, no.  No thank you.  I think I’ll stay where I am, thank you very much – even though I’m miserable.”

Think about that.  Does this sound familiar?  Is the fear of being successful, of being accountable to your future self holding you back?  Instead of letting fear hold you back from an awesome life, what if

  • you trust yourself
  • you choose to be brave
  • you live joyfully
  • you are grateful
  • you believe in yourself
  • you build upon the seemingly small successes that achieve each day
  • you live with determination
  • you stand up for yourself

What if you take the time to dream about what you really, truly want for yourself?  What will your life be like?

Share your thoughts with us!  We are here to help you live the sisu way:  with determination, character, strength of will, perseverance and courage.


Michael owning the bottoms up

Growing up, I wasn’t very athletic, at least in the traditional sense. In grammar school I was usually the last to be picked for a team. In high school, I was the kid who always raised his hand first, sat in the front, and walked around with an armload of books (I guess I was weight training and didn’t realize it). I got on the cross-country team because there weren’t any tryouts, and I figured I knew how to run—little did I know that running over three miles at a time was not quite the same as running away to hide playing a game of kick the can.

As an adult, I considered myself one of those people with a “fast metabolism” that could eat anything he wanted and not gain any weight. So I really didn’t exercise much, other than roller skating at the local roller rink once a week depending on where I lived. About 10 years ago I began to realize that I didn’t have the “fast metabolism” like I used to. It probably had nothing to do with an essentially sedentary lifestyle, a desk job and stress with the desk job… Then about five years ago, I had gained about 40 pounds—my trousers didn’t fit, my belts were too small, my shirts were a bit tight around my stomach.

I had “exercised” off and on; I had some dumbbells and a barbell that I used every now and then, I bought a push-up gizmo and a pull-up gizmo and an “extreme” program, but I never stuck with anything. I always had an excuse to put it off—too tired, too late after work, got something else to do, it’s boring, it’s too much work to work out, I really don’t look that bad anyway.

In April 2010, Karen started an online kettlebell and nutrition program. At the time I thought kettlebells were “for women” so I paid no attention. I figured it couldn’t hurt to change the way I ate so I started the nutrition program in May. I lost about 10 pounds in a month, just eating better. What a concept. Gradually, Karen convinced me to give a kettlebell workout a try (in the way that a loving wife convinces her husband to do what’s really good for him when he thinks he knows it all and resists her in every way). On June 21, 2010 I picked up my first kettlebell and I haven’t stopped training with them since. I am stronger, leaner and have more endurance. I truly feel good about how I look and feel—not only on the outside, but more important, on the inside as well.

I enjoyed training with kettlebells so much that I decided to certify as a Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) instructor. I made the decision with trepidation, as the certification is three days of physical and mental endurance and strength. I wanted to prove to myself that I could finally do something athletic, something physically demanding that was well above average. I passed the certification in May 2011, about a year after I decided to get myself fit and healthy and about ten months after I first picked up a kettlebell. For me personally, it is an understatement to say that was a life changing experience. Indeed, it was a life defining experience. Being healthy and fit is a lifestyle for me.

Better yet, Karen and I are doing this together. We certified together, we train together, and we train others together.

This is SISU

Several days ago, I was thinking about my “cancer adventure”. Nothing unusual – I think about it at least once a day. I thought about what my life would be like today if I had given up, if I hadn’t kept trying to reclaim my health and my life. And then I came across this video on Facebook.  This is exactly what “sisu” is all about.  Let me know what you think. ~Karen