Humbling Experience

Jefferson Awards

When I decided to walk across America for heart disease, I knew it was the right thing to do.  When we decided to start a nonprofit to help others, it sure felt right, although the red tape, regulations, and legalities made me wonder a bit.  Since that time, there have been moments when I thought, geez, it would have been much easier to retire and play golf.

Retirement dreams come in all sorts of sizes and packages, but I’m really not ready for that.  Yep, I ditched the corporate America job, and as I said in my book, I pretty sure I am heading down the right path.  It is a calling, it is what I am “supposed to do”, and in turn, it is probably the hardest thing I have ever done.  It requires reinventing yourself, and at age 54, I wondered if I was up for the task.

My first thought was to improve my value to the newly formed organization, relating to heart health, of course.  I figured it was probably too late to go to med school, so the idea was to learn about fitness, an integral part of heart health.  I studied for, and passed, the National Academy of Sports Medicine exam to become a Certified Personal Trainer, which, is no easy task.  It took about 6 months and was as hard as any college class I have taken.  Either that, or studying when you are older is harder (probably a combination of both).  At least this time I was sober when taking the exam lol, just kidding, we did drink a bit in college, but I never took an exam drunk, at least as far as I can remember.

Anyways, with my CPT in hand, I decided to get another accreditation, this time another three-letter acronym starting with the letter “C” CPR.  That was easy.  So, move on to the next step, get certified to teach CPR.  Done.  The last piece is to become nutrition certified.  I have that in the plans for the next few months.

All of this knowledge will help our organization, and help me help others learn how to live more heart healthy, but it is a long tough road.  Who would blame me for either semi-retiring, now at age 55, or going back into the familiar world of telecommunications?  Believe me, I have thought about it often.  Fold up shop, give our money to another worthy charity, and take the path of least resistance.

Then came the Jefferson Awards, which is a pretty big deal, after all, Joe Torre was being honored for his good work, and was the keynote speaker.  Other national honorees over the years include John Glenn and Condeleezza Rice, holy cow, this is a big deal.

My friend, and one of Walk For The Beat’s board members, whose heart is in the right place, happens to work for Vodafone.  They are a large telecom company  with a presence here in the United States, and they happen to be a sponsor for the Jefferson Awards.  Therefore, they participate, and internally select “exceptional employees” to represent their company at the ceremony.

To be considered an exceptional employee, you must demonstrate that you did something good for your community.  Mark told our story to Vodafone, he was nominated by a peer, and we were selected for an award, and a grant from the company.  How cool is that?  In doing so, we were invited to attend the Jefferson Awards, which was being held in Washington D.C.  Excellent, this would provide us some visibility, a couple of days in the nation’s capital, and a few bucks to put towards our cause, or at least that’s what I thought would be most beneficial.

Not so fast mister.  Sure those are nice things, but what we walked away with was more valuable in our humble opinions, and I use the “humble” word, purposefully.  Let me start by telling you about the Jefferson Awards.  They honor people and organizations that have dedicated their lives to helping others.  We were able to listen to 60+, one minute speeches from these good folks, about what they are doing, and of course why.  it was awe-inspiring.

For about two hours, it was an endless stream of tears, not so much in listening to the challenges they faced in their lives, but for the impact they are having on others.  One that really has stuck with me, was a young girl, now probably in her mid 20’s, who was bullied in Jr. High School.  It was so bad, that she wrote a note to her parents telling them how much she loved them, but she decided that she couldn’t take living like that anymore.  It was a suicide note.  The bullies convinced her that she was worthless.  She attempted suicide, and fortunately, she failed.

Many therapy sessions later, she is a sophomore in college, and one of her counsellors asked her to talk about her story to a group of kids who were identified as having a similar experience.  Low self-esteem, etc.  That catapulted her into a new passion.  She found that she is really good at these types of speeches, and figured out that she can help many others, who share the same feelings she once felt.  From there she started a nonprofit organization, and has dedicated her life to this mission.  Truly extraordinary!

These stories came fast and furious, with each one being as impactful as the one before.  Mark and I were touched.  We later talked about what is important in life.  I had been through this “epiphany moment” after my coronary artery disease diagnosis, and now it was cool to share that feeling with my friend, although on a bit different level.  He asked if working the old 9-5 job was really what mattered.  Where should priorities lie?  What is truly important in life?  We just touched on those things a bit while walking around D.C., but I sense that Mark was doing a bit of introspection, which is good now and then, in my opinion.

I am a bit older than Mark, and my kids are grown and out forging their own paths in life, but Mark has a 4 year-old.  My advise, since I am such an experienced sage now, was that yes, your job is important.  You have to provide for your family and there is tremendous value in that, both for your family, and your own personal satisfaction, knowing that when you look back, you provided a good life for your loved ones.  The questions then remain, what more can we do to “make a difference” in the bigger scheme of things?  What should we do?  How do we prioritize it?  And of course the big one, what fulfills us?  Those are some pretty deep questions, and I know this, my story has not yet been fully written.

I have a two-year head start on Mark, and I know where I am going.  The Jefferson Awards only further cemented the notion that we are doing the right thing with our time, money, and effort to help people avoid, fight, and deal with all the issues surrounding heart disease.  It’s my thing since it affected me, so now my advice is find your thing and follow your heart.  I guess when it is put that way, there really isn’t any question about it.

Chuck

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Always A Way

Taking steps towards good health

I’m proud of sister-in-law Mary.  She leads an active life, more active than most, and I think she will tell you that a lot of that activity is self-induced.  She has a full-time job and has a very busy social calendar with events, etc.  There are a lot of people I know like that, most everyone these days, and many say they are too busy to exercise.  But does that have to be the case?

I won’t tell you how old Mary is in fear of retribution, however she has a few years on me.  Let’s just say she isn’t a millennial.  So, with all the activities going on in her life, how does she have time to exercise?

First off, if you have been following along, we classify walking as exercise.  For those that aren’t necessarily looking for that beach body physique, those of us 50+, walking is a great exercise with many benefits including relieving stress.  There are more than 10 muscles being used at the same time when you walk, and the heart is one of them.

Mary found time in her busy day by getting up 40 minutes early and hitting the pavement.  She jokes that the first time she ventured out, that she only made it to the cemetery, which is only about 300 yards away.  Over time, however, she has added a little more distance each week and now her morning stroll extends upwards to two miles.

She is a phone person.  In the old answering machine days she once left a message on our machine that nearly used up the whole tape, with the message at the end to simply call her back, lol.  Let’s just say she like to talk and is good at keeping a conversation going.  Anyways, she uses this time to get in her daily call with one of her boys, something she values very much.  This keeps with her active go-go-go lifestyle in that she is using the time to accomplish other tasks as well as getting in her exercise.

Two lessons can be learned, three if you are new to this blog, 1) walking is exercise, 2) start slowly and you will be surprised how all of a sudden you are walking a couple of miles a day, and 3) you can fit it into your day with a little extra discipline.  I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about a 4th lesson, walking can be enjoyable.

Have fun and be good to your heart.  Take a dedicated walk every day, the cemetery can wait.

Chuck

 

It’s Golf Season, Skip The Cart

Golf season is upon us in Michigan.  The piano music you hear during the Masters commercials says it’s so.  The grass is turning green, sort of, and drying out a bit after a very wet early spring.  All in all, the time is here.  So, when you decide to go play the first round of the year, how about walking?

Golf was not intended to be played riding a buggy in a zig zag motion from shot to shot and from tee to green.  Golf is an outdoor sport, and one of its charms is connecting with nature and the beautiful surrounding that most golf courses feature.  The sound of gas powered golf carts, along with those pesky concrete golf paths, violate that charm.

A standard golf course is over 6,000 yards, tee to green, 18 holes.  This doesn’t count the wayward shots into the woods, or the walk between holes.  When you add it all up, walking 18 holes, will net you approximately 4 to 5 miles, or more, worth of steps (8,000 to 10,000+ steps).  Add in the potential elevation changes, and the warm up and actual swings you make hitting the ball, and you have performed a fair amount of exercise for that day.  Carry your bag, and you can truly say you had a good workout.

First and foremost, check with your doctor before any exercise regimen.  This includes the exercise I described above.  Our target audience is the over 40 crowd, and possibly those with a higher risk of heart disease, but as we found out on more than one occasion lately, heart disease doesn’t discriminate.  Most people don’t know they were at risk until it is too late.  That is why I continue to advocate regular doctor visits, and knowing what questions to ask your doctor.  It can be a matter of life or death, seriously.

Once cleared by your physician, head to the course and consider walking.  A pull cart might be a good way to start, and once you feel like you can handle it, consider carrying your bag (lighten it up of course).  You may find golf more enjoyable, and ironically, you may even play better.  I know for sure, that you will get more exercise, good exercise, that way as well.  Enjoy the season!

It Starts With The Heart!

ChuckDSC_0071

 

 

Are All Weight Loss Plans Good For You?

Female Doctor Nutrition LabelMaintaining the proper weight as we age is certainly a good thing.  A good rule of thumb to see if you are the proper weight for your height is the BMI formula.  BMI stands for body, mass, index.  It is not the end all be all, but it will tell you if you could stand to lose a few pounds.

The BMI formula is:  your weight/your height in inches squared x 703.  For example, if you are 6 feet tall (72 inches) and weigh 170 pounds, it would be 170/(72×72)x703, or 170/5184 which equals .03279 times 703, which equals 23.05.

That number falls in the normal category.  18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal weight, 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while over 30 is considered obese.  Again, it’s not the end all be all, which means it doesn’t mean you are unhealthy or at high risk for disease if your BMI is say 26. but it gives you a general idea of where you should be in terms of weight.

With that said, and you believe that you should lose a few of those excess pounds, the question is, how do you go about it?  There are dozens if not hundreds of programs out there, are they all good?  Are they all safe?  Do they all work?  Is any weight loss good weight loss?

The answer to the last question is yes and no.  Gotcha didn’t I?  Your probably thinking, what do you mean, yes and no?  That doesn’t help me.  Allow me to explain.  Sure, if you are overweight, losing that extra weight is good, but it is possible that more harm than good could be done in terms of your health, if you go about it the wrong way.

From a fitness perspective, it is important to first determine your goal.  Why do  you want to lose weight?  To look better?  To fit in an outfit for an upcoming event?  To improve your long-term health?  All are good reasons.  I favor the last of course, but regardless, there are many ways to go about it.  Then there is the question of how much weight you want to lose, and how fast you want to lose it.  I suggest being realistic here and making smart decisions.  For example, excessive, quick weight loss may not be healthy, and it may not be sustainable, which means you will be back in the same boat in a couple of short months.

We advocate a sensible program for losing weight.  This includes a well thought out and executed exercise program, along with monitoring calories while keeping a close eye on where those calories come from.  This includes having a sensible ratio of carbs, fats, and protein.  That way, you will accomplish your goal, and it will be easier to maintain over the long haul.  After all, good health that lasts a lifetime is what we all should strive for.  Here is a common understanding of weight loss, burn more calories on a daily basis than you take in, and you will lose weight.  It isn’t rocket science.

I will close by telling you what I tell everyone, check with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or before starting any exercise program.  Also, to get more detailed information about a good nutrition plan, check out our friends at StrongerUFit.com.  The testimonials will blow you away!

 

Why Walk Across America

Someone asked me the other day why I plan to walk across America.  To be completely honest, I had to stop and think about it for a minute.  Where did this idea come from and why are we pursuing it?  I know the answers, but I really didn’t explain it all that well for one reason or another.  So, here is my Mulligan so to speak.  Here is my “why”.

Some people know the story leading up to this crazy idea popping into my head.  I was diagnosed with peripheral artery disease which severely affected my ability to walk, and later it was also determined that I had a main heart artery affected, that would have, if gone untreated, severely affected my ability to live.  All were treated, and all are still a work in progress.

The main arteries in my legs were stented to allow blood to flow down to my feet, which is a good thing by the way.  However, there are ancillary arteries that cannot be reached by the method used to place the stent.  There is still blockage in those arteries and still cramping and discomfort when I walk quickly, attempt to jog, or walk for a long period of time without resting.  I was told that walking would help create new arteries in place of the bad ones.  A natural bypass.  Walk, walk, walk I was told.  So I did.  Rain, snow, sleet, didn’t matter, and Roxy, our dog, was typically a willing participant.

During a blizzard in the early months of 2015, I decided to walk to the Sugarbush Tavern for dinner.  Roxy was smart enough to stay home, and they don’t allow dogs there anyways, so I was on my own.  Up until that point, I had a thought that just would not go away.  I continued to nag at me, day after day.  No, it wasn’t my wife’s voice I was hearing in my head, similar, but a different type of nagging.  The thought was, what could I do to give back to people in need, people who are heading down the path of heart disease?  I was lucky.  They caught my condition in time and I was treated.  I avoided what Dr. Kazziha says would have been a sudden death.  Why me?  Why am I still here, when others were not so lucky.  Sure, it could be fate, but I kind of think it is more than that, and thought about it everyday.

So, as I walked and braved the elements on that cold blustery day, all I could think about is, what could I do to make a difference, oh, and how good it felt to walk.  If I could walk in this snowstorm, I could walk anywhere at anytime.  I could persevere.  That’s when, without warning, the idea struck me.  It made so much sense.  A guy who has repaired legs will walk across America.  Surely, this would provide inspiration for others.  It would bring attention to a problem that has fallen into the background in America.  I could make a difference.  I felt a certain euphoria overcome me.  This is the answer to that nagging question.  Game, set, match!

That’s it.  That answers the why question.  To summarize, I wanted to make a difference.  Is there a little bit of selfishness there?  Yes.  I also didn’t want to leave this earth before I made my mark, and this was the best way to do just that.  I also realized, after the heart scare, that I could leave this earth at any time, so no time like the present.

My hope is that we can pull it off.  That other people notice, and that heart disease gets the attention it deserves.  People need to care for their bodies better, understand the risks of their lifestyle choices, and learn about heart disease.  It is the number one killer in America, and 80% can be avoided.  We can make an impact. We will make a difference.

It Starts With The Heart!

Chuck

 

 

 

 

Is Walking Really Exercise

 

During recent speeches I have given on heart health, we invariably get into a discussion about my recovery from heart disease and the subsequent procedures.  I explain that my first step in recovery and getting back into shape was simply walking.

When I say that, people typically ask me what else I did to get into shape.  Did you lift weights, bike, swim, surely you had some elaborate routine to recover from 5 procedures and 2 serious complications in 9 months?  Uh, well, not really.  Sometimes I wonder if I missed something.  Should I have been doing more?  Not according to my doctor, and my situation may be a bit different from someone without a freshly stented left anterior descending artery.

Let’s take a closer look at walking and see if it really qualifies as exercise.  I can tell you this, first and foremost, without question, it is better than sitting on the couch.  Ok, that’s a given, but what does it do for you from a fitness standpoint?  Well, I guess we have to start by defining fitness.  Good old Webster says it’s the quality or state of being fit.  Well, that doesn’t help much.  Let’s try the new fangled Dictionary.com.  They refer to fitness as the capability of the body of distributing inhaled oxygen to muscle tissue during increased physical effort. Ok, that is a little better.  I interpret that as being able to move freely, without restriction, reasonably without resulting in exhaustion and without overly taxing your heart and various muscles, that is being fit.  In a tangible sense, it may mean being lean, having some strength and endurance, and being able to perform daily tasks without getting sore or injured, or even becoming out of breath.  I think that covers it for the sake of this discussion. Certainly there are different degrees of taxation of the cardiovascular and muscular systems, but for now, let’s stick with this definition of being fit.

Now that we know what fitness is, how does walking help?  Here is a list of muscles used in order to walk: all four muscles that comprise the quadriceps.  Hamstrings (back of upper leg), and glutes (butt muscles).  Tibialis anterior (front side of shin, lifts toes off the ground).  Calf muscles (lift the heel off the ground, includes the gastrocnemeus and soleus muscles).  Abdominal muscles support your torso as well as stabilize your pelvis while the muscles of your back work to maintain posture and keep your body in the upright position. Your shoulders are exercised continually as you swing your arms back and forth.

Whew, I didn’t even know I had all those muscles.  Now you know that there are a lot of muscles involved to move the human body through something as simple as walking.  But, does it really do the things I mentioned above, such as create endurance and strength?  It can.  Walk at 3.5 MPH on a treadmill for 20 minutes and check your heart rate?  It will probably be over 100 beats per minutes.  Put the incline up to say, 3%.  Tell me how you feel the next day.  Go on a 2-3 mile walk at a brisk pace pumping your arms, or better yet, carry a 2 or 3 pound weight in each hand while walking and pumping those arms.  How did that work for you?  How did you feel the next day?  If you are not used to it, I bet various muscles would be pretty sore, which means they are being worked.

Let me sum it up this way:  walking is good exercise.  It won’t build large body builder type muscles (actually, it can for certain muscles if you add variables such as steep hills and increased pace to your walks), but it can instrumental in getting you “fit”.  Here is another thing to consider, a 160 lb person, walking 3 MPH, burns 85 calories and hour.  Increase it to 4 MPH, and you burn 92 calories an hour.  At 5 MPH (slow jog), you burn 116 calories an hour.  Remember, calories are a form of energy, it takes considerable energy to walk a mile at any pace.

I will leave you with this suggestion.  If you don’t track your steps, start.  Set a daily goal.  Start with say 5,000 steps.  At the end of the day, if you are short, go for a walk and hit your goal before hitting the sack (you will probably sleep better).  Increase it by 1,000 steps (about a half mile) every two weeks until you get to 10,000 a day (about 5 miles).  Here is a helpful tip, if you work at a desk, get up once an hour for 5 minutes and go for a brisk walk.  Over an 8 hour day that is an additional 40 minutes of walking.  Your employer shouldn’t mind because you will be healthier, more energetic, and probably more productive.  40 minutes of walking at 3.5 MHP is over 2 miles (over 4,000 steps) of walking during the day, that you wouldn’t have done otherwise.  You will burn, approximately, an additional 150-180 calories a day, depending on your weight. So now, you are not only building strength and endurance in all those muscles we mentioned above, but you are probably losing weight too.  Now do you agree with me that walking is exercise?  All that’s left is to do it.

Enjoy, and always check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to begin an exercise program.

 

Live to Eat, Or Eat to Live?

I had a conversation the other day with someone about what is and what isn’t healthy in terms of food.  We batted around a few things like potato chips, soft drinks, lunch meat, etc., and agreed on all the different foods we discussed.  It’s not rocket science after all, and most of the information out on popular foods has been known for quite a while (although sometimes things change, like with eggs).

At the end of the conversation, the man I was talking to said, “but every now and then you need to eat something that tastes good”.  Although I agreed with him, and stated that it is ok to have a cup of ice cream once or twice a week, or a cheeseburger once or twice a month, does eating healthy mean you have to live on a diet of cardboard?

There are many foods that I like that provide flavor and satisfaction to the taste buds.  Fruit, in moderation, is an example.  I say moderation because of the sugar content.  Yes it is better than processed sugar, but it is still sugar.  We can get into that later.

As for the aforementioned fruit, blueberries are my favorite, primarily because of the nutritional value, and, I find them delicious.  I make multi-grain pancakes now and then, and add blueberries and pecans to the mix.  Top them with some natural butter (Kerrygold, the low sodium version), and real maple syrup, and I’m not sure if there is anything that tastes better.

I know that some people don’t like seafood.  I do, so that makes it easy for me.  Salmon cooked just right, topped with garlic and lemon, or with a dab of that Kerrygold butter and herbs, served with brown rice drizzled in olive oil with garlic and pepper is a great healthy combination that can taste, if prepared properly, fantastic.

If you like meat, that’s ok.  On thing that is recommended almost unanimously is to consider what you eat, eats.  In other words, natural beef or chicken (beware of the word natural, it is not something that is regulated) that is free from hormones, etc., and is free range, grass or grain fed is the healthier choice.  Personally, I try to limit red meat to once every one or two weeks, but that’s just me.

For snacks, peanut butter is my favorite.  I asked someone in the know once if I could still eat my staple PB and J sandwiches (wheat bread and natural jelly), and stay heart healthy.  She said, yes, which made me happy, but then said “eat them without the bread and the jelly”.  Of course, then they are not PB and J sandwiches, are they?  So, I improvised.  Slice a big red apple and smear peanut butter on the wedges.  You don’t have to believe me, try it for yourself, it is a satisfying and nutritious snack.

I won’t lie to you, eating healthy is not all that easy.  It takes planning, will power, and discipline.  Your brain, stomach, and taste buds will be fighting you at first, and they can be very formidable opponents.  It’s kind of war of attrition.  The longer you stay at it, sooner your enemies will give up and actually join the home team.  They will begin to appreciate the flavors of healthy foods.  In my case, it is kind of a matter of survival, so my brain joined with me first.  I have since won over my stomach and taste buds, although I will say, they get what they want every now and then.  That’s ok, remember, moderation is ok.

One last thought along the lines of moderation in regards to healthy eating, you can designate a couple of meals or even a day during the week, where you are going to go off the board and have an unhealthy favorite.  Like that greasy cheeseburger, with an order of fries.  Or maybe add some potato chips (my personal favorite) along with a sandwich.  If it keeps your taste buds happy, then it is a win-win.

This blog isn’t necessarily about dieting.  That is another subject and one that I believe best in the hands of professionals like a registered dietician or your doctor.  Doctors can advise you based on your personal health situation, although many are not actual dietitians.  Walk For The Beat does partner with Stronger U in this area, and more information is available upon request.  They provide information to help their clients reach their goals through nutrition and diet (for the lack of a better word).  As for us, WFTB, we focus on the heart, because in our humble opinion, it all starts with the heart!