A Health Update

On Tuesday I had a consultation with a gastroenterologist. I have long suffered from acid reflux; there are times at night when I am trying to sleep that it becomes intolerable.

I used to eat Tums or Rolaids like candy. Although there is an over-the-counter antacid that usually relieves all the effects, I would prefer to understand and fix the root-cause. Unsurprisingly, the top item on the doctor’s list was to lose weight.

I’ve definitely packed on the pounds again after stopping the regular workouts I was doing in Texas. Once Josh had left Gold’s Gym, they had no quality trainers. After returning to Canada – I just didn’t go anywhere. Nor have I ridden my bicycle even once.

There is a Goodlife Fitness gym in the building where I work and I am signed up there. But it is hard to describe how I feel about it – it just doesn’t feel like a place that I want to work out at.

Life is hardly worth living after reading the lifestyle changes items from the doctor:

  • No chocolate
  • No peppermint
  • No alcohol
  • No caffeine
  • Nothing acidic (tomatoes, citrus juices)
  • Nothing spicy
  • Decreased fat
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Elevate head of bed about 6 inches
  • Lose weight
  • Stop smoking

Smoking is easy to stop when I already don’t do it. I’m not super-big on chocolate or peppermint either. I don’t drink a lot of booze; but I certainly don’t mind the occasional tipple.

Caffeine! Cruel fate! Why must thou mock me?

As it turns out, I had run out coffee last weekend. So I have not bought a new tin. I have broken down and bought the occasional beverage at Tim Horton’s.

There are no two ways to slice it. I really need to change-up my diet and exercise more with the goal of losing weight in mind.

The Bad News About The Gym

Last week was brutally stressful. Even with the “Good” Friday Christian-torture-porn day off…

Friday afternoon, I was in the local Good Life Fitness to begin getting myself back into shape. I learned that I have a long row to hoe ahead of me. I am basically right back to my worst condition. I am about the same weight and body fat percentage as when I met my first personal trainer – the very cool Patrick – back in Texas.

I tipped the scales at 262 pounds and about 32% body fat!


Getting Back To The Gym

At last!

It has been a long time and all the work that I put into my body with Patrick, Isaac and Josh has been lost. But that does not need to be a permanent situation.

I’m going to get it back.

On Friday, I signed up for Good Life Fitness. The gym takes up the entire second floor of the building where I work.

I’m on-call this week, so I start working out this coming Friday.

CN Tower Stair Climb For Charity

Moneris buildingMy colleagues and I at Moneris began climbing the stairs in our building as an afternoon break and for some extra fitness. One day, seemingly as a joke, someone mentioned climbing the stairs of the CN Tower.

That quickly became a serious idea. We looked at our stair climbs as a form of training.

The CN Tower stair climb for charity has been around nearly as long as the CN Tower itself. Normally, the stairs are reserved for maintenance personnel only (and it shows on the inside). But once per year, people climb the stairs from outside the tower, up to the observation deck. The donations raised benefit the United Way.

There are 1,776 steps and 145 flights in the CN Tower. We have 21 flights at work and managed to get to the point of climbing, coming down the elevator and climbing again 4 or 5 times. By our math, that was about one CN Tower worth of climbing.

The Moneris DBA Stair Climbing TeamI’m probably in the worst shape of the entire team. At the 96th flight, my right knee was hurting enough that I couldn’t put much pressure on it. That definitely slowed me down.

My time was 35 minutes and 14 seconds.

I’m proud of all of us. We raised $500 for the United Way. We’ll likely do it again next year – faster.

Back To Gold’s Gym…

My plans did not workout (hahahaha, get it?) as I had hoped.

I remain very upset with how Gold’s Gym Irving has treated my three awesome trainers. However; the distance to Texas Family Fitness in Coppell is a deal-breaker. I have not worked out in quite some time and I have returned to some very poor dietary habits.

The only way to overcome this and lose this re-gained weight is to workout every night after work. The only way to do that is to swallow my pride and return to Gold’s.

Fortunately, the new year is always the best time to join a gym. There will be great deals on membership fees.

Nearly Back To Square One


I’m floating around the 240 pound mark again. It’s been years since I was that heavy.

Getting over to Texas Family Fitness regularly is a big challenge. I’ll definitely need to check with their personal training options to see if I can get myself back on track. Damn do I ever miss Patrick, Isaac and Josh.

I may be heavier than I want to be but at least I haven’t lost my leg strength. I can still press over 800 pounds. The range of motion in my shoulders still limits what I can do with my upper body though.

It cannot be said enough! UGH!

Fitness Stumbles


I tried to get my remaining personal training sessions refunded. What the large print giveth, the fine print taketh away…

Barring that, I thought I would workout the remaining sessions with one of the remaining neophyte trainers. Bah again! What a wretched and miserable experience! Nobody there can hold a candle to Patrick, Isaac or Josh.

So I quit Gold’s Gym completely.

Yes, this has taken a toll on my health. My weight has begun to rise again. I cannot deny the convenience of how close Gold’s is to my house. But I cannot deny how angry I am with their management.

We stumble in order to get back up. Yesterday I joined Texas Family Fitness in Coppell. It is a half-hour bike ride away instead of three minutes. But I have to get back up and get my weight back under control.

A Big Change For My Fitness

Gold’s Gym has done it to me again.

For the third time now.

…And for the last time!

I have had three fantastic personal trainers. Three times, Gold’s has forced their hands and made them move on in order to better their career and finances. I believe an employer should be helping build-up and employee. They ought to be encouraging – and compensating appropriately – the employee for their skills improvements.

Gold’s refuses to do this. They want me to pay more for personal training but not compensate the trainer. They are just pocketing the extra cash.

I’m going to miss training with incredible people like Patrick, Isaac and Josh. But now, I’m going to carry on my own. I hope I can keep up the intensity.

More Personal Fitness Records

Wow! I am still blown away by the progress of my workouts this year.

I’ve been working out with a trainer for over 3 years now. At first it was my body fat percentage that was dropping. When I first started working out with Patrick, I was measured at 34% body fat. Definitely obese at over 250 pounds (I may have even exceed 260 pounds at one point).

As much as my food intake habits have changed; that remains my weakest link. I’ll sometimes break down on my willpower and order a pizza from Dominos…but generally, I try to keep my protein consumption high and my fat consumption low without sticking to some given diet plan.

It is great that Isaac has started recording my personal record attempts. This drives my determination and inspiration; it also serves as a means to analyze myself afterward. Are there ways I can improve my stance or technique?

Here are my recent videos.

This is 225 pounds squats using a Smith Machine. This helped me practice getting a good depth with the squat since it can sometimes feel intimidating getting so low to the ground with a lot of weight on your shoulders.

On February 8th, I did sets of Romanian deadlifts using 110 pound dumbbells. This is currently the heaviest dumbbells available at my gym as they recently got rid of their bigger pieces (I am not sure why). The limiting factor for me with this weight is my grip. I am quite certain that I can get a few more repetitions if I used wrist straps.

Early February was an awesome time for personal records at the gym! On February 11th, I did a leg press set of 1080 pounds. That was my heaviest leg press weight yet. Best of all, I actually got several reps. Man! What a rush that was!

We tried to add 50 pound and do 1130 pounds. I managed to get one small rep but I tried a slightly deeper second rep and failed. The sled came down and pinned me into the back rest. I wasn’t hurt; the safety blocks did their jobs. It took two trainers and me pushing to get the sled off of me though!

Back on January 14th, I managed to get a single deadlift of 305 pounds. So close to the magic 315 pounds that six plates would be! Just under a month later, February 13, I managed to get two sets of one rep at 315 pounds!

There are two more fitness videos to post. I’ve signed for more sessions with Isaac and we’ve got our sights set on even bigger records.

Personal Fitness Records

As 2012 flickered to an end, I wrote about some of the more important changes in my life. I mentioned my weight plateau combined with my strength gain.

225 pound deadlift 2During last week’s workouts, that strength gain was made apparent. I broke 3 personal bests. What a great feeling!

Previously, I had managed to deadlift 225 pounds. This is 4 plates of 45 pounds plus the 45 pound bar. On Monday, I matched that best lift weight and was feeling good about that.

Isaac started adding weight; we put two 25 pound plates on and I managed to do that with a strange ease. Then two 10 pound plates…

Then two 5 pound plates…

I switched grips to an over-under style. That helped out tremendously – especially given how fragile my shoulders are. It is so easy to strain them when I workout hard.

But I managed a single lift with that 305 pounds. That is just a mere 10 pounds away from simply using six 45 pound plates! That made me feel invincible! Awesome!

This is the video that Isaac took of that lift. It is just a single rep, but it is still my current personal best:I am looking forward to getting that extra 10 pounds added!

That was just the Monday! I went on to out-do myself on leg presses by doing 810 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps. I have done heavier; but I have never gone that heavy with that many reps.

On Friday, January 11th, I did my best decline chest press with 195 pounds of weight:

Who knows what the next few weeks at the gym will bring? Hopefully some more solid gains like these!

Update On My Health

It has been well over a year since I posted about the state of my fitness program. My first training, Patrick, has since moved on to a new gym. He is doing really well there – we keep in touch – and is mastering orthokinetics to better assist his clients.

Isaac is my current trainer. In fact, he used to be Patrick’s trainer many years ago. We get along great and have made tremendous progress lately. According to this post, my body fat percentage was 17.3%. Unfortunately, the measuring device we use now is less accurate and it puts me at about 21% fat. Isaac emphatically states that I’m definitely lower than that in actuality.

I’ll be purchasing a set of digital callipers to start getting the more accurate body fat numbers again.

This past week saw my weight hit it’s lowest number since…since I don’t how long. I managed to get 213.8 pounds. I’m currently back up to 216; but so long as I stay around the 215-pound area for awhile, I’ll be happy. Once that is stable, then I will aim for a sub-210 weight.

At some point, I will have to get some current photos of myself. It would be nice to see a comparison over time.

Bicycling Around The World–The End (Of Posting About It…)

Like my dearth of recent blog posts in general, I have not provided an update on my cycling since December.

One big problem is that the bike computer I was using fell apart a few months back. I was using Excel to track my weekly progress. The last entry I had made was on February 22, 2011 for 2871.5 kilometers (for those of you who refuse to learn metric; 1784.267 miles). My last Streets & Trips check was for 1440 miles, so I’m quite sure that I easily exceeded the crow’s flight distance from Dallas to Seattle.finalCyclingChart

Another reason to stop tracking the distance is that I could easily see that I was making very linear progress. There was very little variation in my week to week distance. So tracking this began to feel redundant.

The large plateau here was my month-long vacation to Australia. The smaller taper at the end was the trip to the Dominican Republic combined with some inclement winter weather that forced me to take a bus to work a few times.

Still, this was a mildly interesting experiment.

I recently had to replace the tires on my bike and I was stunned that I had worn the tread away to nothing! That really drove the point home for me of just how much I ride and how dependent on the bike I am.

threadbareOf course, I had to take a picture of the old tires!

I wonder if I’ll ride my new tires to this point of destruction too?

Two Years Of Working Out

Somewhere between the middle and the end of January 2009, I walked into the local Gold’s Gym that was a few blocks from my apartment. The management had big plans for the place and I can barely remember what the old gym looked like back then.

I had a fitness assessment with a trainer named Patrick. I had no idea that this would be the start of something awesome.

The sales pressure (not from Patrick) to buy personal training sessions on top of the membership was a bit on the hard side. But I did it and bought some sessions – and have not looked back since. I keep renewing sessions with Patrick – who has since been promoted to Fitness Director – and my life has been completely changed by it.

It was tough at first. My diet was terrible (it still needs work). I used to get breakfasts at IHOP on my way to work 3 or 4 times a week. It took time to wean me off of that addiction; now I will go to IHOP 3 or 4 times a year. Perseverance has paid off and I do not doubt that I am in the best shape of my life now.

The time has come to take the next big step. Gold’s is starting their annual Transform Your Life contest and Patrick convinced me to sign-up for it. I am also trying to convince my friend Mark to join this too; the personal competition will be helpful to us both.

The last remaining challenge for me (like a lot of guys) is my belly. This means another big correction to my diet and Patrick will be guiding that very carefully for the duration of the contest. Hopefully, it will turn into a lifestyle change that I stick with for the remainder of my days.

Later today, I’ll be having some "before" photos taken for the contest. I’m anxious to see what the next 12 weeks holds for me and my body.

Bring it on!

Diving Into 2011

I intentionally delayed my first post of 2011 so that I would not get caught up in the hype of summarizing 2010 (though my hero Paul Randal did make an excellent summary of the books that he read during 2010) or making silly resolutions.

I have a few things planned for the first half of this year – yes, this are dangerously close to being called "resolutions." I think they are different though.

More Ray Tracing

I am really enjoying experimenting with this. It is fun to see what can arise visually from one’s "programming" efforts. I’ll be exploring POV-Ray’s color_map feature as it is something that I see used quite often but didn’t grasp. A shout-out must go to Friedrich Lohmueller again for helping to explain color_map in an approachable way.

I am going to be purchasing Daylon Graphic’s terrain editor Leveller program in the very near future. I am excited to see what I can create with this. One of the key reasons that I chose this program is that much of what it produces can be exported to POV-Ray.

Work With The SharePoint Team

I have proposed to my manager that I leave the DSD team for the last quarter of our fiscal year and incubate with the SharePoint CSS team. We help that team a great deal since SQL Server is the back-end storage support for it and few SharePoint engineers really understand the nuances of that.

My goal is to be the first point of contact for all things SQL Server related. After directly assisting with their cases; I will be producing training and exploring ways to improve our data collection and analysis tools. I am hoping that ultimately both CSS teams will benefit from this in the long run.

Improve The House

This coming May will mark two years of house ownership. It is time that I make my mark with this place and turn it into my home instead of just a place to store my stuff. This goal is still very fuzzy on details and I am open to ideas in the comments (Oh! That could be a mistake…).

Keep Working Out

back workout 12-22-2010It is around this time that my second anniversary of hiring Patrick as a personal trainer is due. I have made a lot of progress. I have no doubt that I am at the healthiest that I have been in at least 20 years.

This picture was taken by Patrick on December 21. He says that my back is getting into great shape and now has some clear definition. Of course, I cannot see my own back so I’ll try taking some pictures here at home (I’ll spare the global community the horror of that and keep them for my eyes only!).

My last body fat percentage was 17.3%. I’d like to get just below 15%. My diet is the toughest obstacle there, I have always known that. The fact is, I dislike a great deal many vegetables; I find that their flavours are unpalatable. I also dislike cooking; so I am often consuming quick and dirty options like frozen dinners (even brands like Healthy Choice probably do not stack up to doing it yourself).

There are new tools that are helping me. Gold’s Gym now has an online food journal that can total calories, fat and other dietary statistics. This is giving me quick visual feedback – especially when I slip and consume some fast food or make a poor snack choice. I also bought a Polaris watch to monitor my heart rate and compute calories burned.

Read More Books On Religion

Last night I finished Bart Ehrman’s excellent Misquoting Jesus. The subtitle, "The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" drew me in right from the start. I have a certain conservative, Christian friend who immediately rolled his eyes upon hearing the title. It is sad that people dismiss things out-of-hand without first seeing what the subject is really about.

Textual criticism is a fascinating subject and it is a shame that our children do not learn about in school.

I need to finish Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures too.

He has a superior style of writing that takes a complex subject and makes it accessible to the lay-person.

Sam Harris (another hero of mine) recently blogged the Afterword that he wrote for his Letter To A Christian Nation. Both are excellent reads. I was very glad that my father read Letter twice while I was visiting him in Australia last year. I will definitely be reading Harris’ newest book The Moral Landscape very soon.

To be fair to my former Christian beliefs, last year I read Patrick Glynn’s God: The Evidence. This was, unfortunately, pitifully written. It was unconvincing on all levels. To me, it felt like just about every chapter stopped short. Almost as though Glynn believed that he had presented his "evidence" sufficiently for anybody to connect the "obvious" dots together. He failed. Badly.

I have many others in my ever-growing queue thanks to Amazon constantly recommending purchases.

Bring It On 2011!

In one month, I’ll be heading to the Dominican Republic for a week to attend a friend’s wedding. All the old crew from my Proctor & Gamble slumming days will be there and we’re all looking forward to ensuing mayhem we’ll cause. A vacation is a great way to start a year!

So now, we’ll see what the next 50 weeks bring!

Bicycling Around The World – Part 5

It has been a little over four months since I posted an updated map of how far I have cycled since April. The biggest reason is that I rebuilt my machine that had Streets & Trips 2010 installed on it. However, I remedied that yesterday and plotted my latest distance of about 1440 miles.

image001Wow! I am almost in Seattle, already in Panama and into Quebec from my house in Irving. When centered on my apartment in Etobicoke, I am nearly in Mexico and just outside of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

I am using Excel to keep track of this progress. It fascinates me how linear the chart is. So all this bike riding doesn’t vary much from week to week…it covers me going to and from work, the gym and grocery shopping.

I’ll probably take the bike into the shop for a complete overhaul in January. It could probably use the tune-up.

It Happened Faster Than I Imagined…

810 pound leg press 01

Back at the end of April, I wrote about leg pressing 590 pounds. At the time, it seemed like I had achieved something impossible. At the beginning of this month, I completely crushed my previous personal best of 650 pounds.

900 pounds! I managed two sets of 12 reps at that weight.

An astute observer will notice that this picture is only 810 pounds. That is true, this photo is from an earlier set. We added one more plate on either side after this was taken.

My sights are now firmly set on getting at least 1000 pounds pressed before the end of October.