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!

 

 

Walking Across America

When planning to walk across America, my first objective was to do some research.  You know, talk to people about how they…wait, what?  You know, pick the brains of those that, uh, oops, where are those people?  Do they exist?  Yeah, it isn’t something that you can really research, at least from a living first hand perspective.

So, back to the drawing board.  What is it going to take to plan to walk across America.  I guess at this point I can only assume.  I have no idea what kind of toll it will take on my body, specifically my legs, ankles, knees, and feet.  I mean, I’m not 25 years old anymore.  Heck, I am not even 35, or 45.  I am 55, and will be walking on freshly stented legs.  Will they hold up?  Will I get blisters on my feet?  What will the terrain be like?  How about the inclines?  Will it be like my treadmill?  So many questions, so few answers?

I’ve determined that I have to plan for just about everything.  Exhausting heat, frigid cold, unbearable inclines, heck, even animals and bugs that you really don’t want to have to deal with.  I will have my trusty back pack and a wife who has the knack of preparing for things (although this one might be a bit different, just saying).

Here is what I came up with, it is February 20th and the walk starts in seven months and eight days.  From a training perspective, I am in first gear and I need to push it into second gear quick.  I need to get some real street miles in, 10-15 per day.  I need to push the core stability training up a notch, and I need a fantastic nutrition plan to not only maintain my already low weight, but increase it a few pounds even during the intensive training.  All of this for 6 months of 20 miles a day in heat, cold, wind, and hills.

Can it be done?  It has to.  This is more than a challenge, it is a calling, and I have committed to it like nothing I have committed to in my life.  It is not for me, or even about me.  It is for the many people that this walk could potentially inspire to help them make a change in their lives, and to get them to treat their bodies and hearts properly, so that the body and heart responds in kind.  It is about changing a culture.  It can be done!chuck-north-berwick-law

Is It Really Fitness?

I read an article today with fitness in the title.  In a nutshell, it stated that you didn’t need to go to the gym to lose weight.  Ok, that is probably true, but my question is, without exercise, are you really getting fit?

For some, losing weight can be a great goal.  You feel better, look better, fit in some of your old favorite clothes better, and above all, it should improve your health, or at least a couple of your risk factors.

Being fit however, isn’t just about being thin (or thinner than you were).  Muscle volume and muscle quality is also important.  Strength, combined with range of motion is key to performing daily activities, and avoiding injury.

The older we get, especially the 50+ crowd, the more muscle mass we lose.  It is a scientific fact.  With less muscle, we have less power and strength, and I’m not talking about the power or strength (two different things by the way) it takes to throw a 16 pound shot put.  I’m referring to the ability to get in and out of a car, vacuum a house, paint a room, load and put away groceries.  These tasks, and many more, all take a coordinated effort, to a varying degree, to perform.  If our muscles have deteriorated, are not regularly used, and the range of motion has all but vanished, there is a greater risk of injury.  Elderly people who have poor muscle tone and injure themselves, either don’t recover very easily or quickly, or don’t recover at all.  Most of us have seen that with loved ones.

So, when thinking about losing weight, I encourage you to consider a fitness regimen that includes improving stability (core work), strength, power, and flexibility.  If you do, you will truly be…FIT.  Of course, prior to starting any new exercise program it is recommended to check with your doctor.

Chuck

It Starts With The Heart

TV Experience

We were featured on Fox 2 News here in Detroit on Saturday morning, and it was a very cool experience.  It was an honor to be included and thanks to Charlie Langton and Fox 2 for having us.

I will say, I was a bit nervous prior to the event, however once we were on the set, it felt somewhat natural.  Charlie is a professional and welcomed us with his usual zeal.  The rest as they say is history.  We had fun, although we were discussing a very serious situation.  I have to say, there is a lot that goes into producing the news.  The content, the timing, the organization, it is endless.  It made me appreciate what goes on behind the scenes to get the finished product.

It was nice to have our organization, Walk For The Beat, highlighted, and great to have Dr. Kazziha from Cardiovascular Consultants, and Brittani Staley from the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority join me on the set.  Of course, I always feel better when the good doctor is nearby.

It was a great experience, although it was only a few minutes in length.  Perhaps in the near future, we will be highlighted in a segment that provides more insight into our organization, what we do, and our plans for our walk across America.  Until then, check out our website at http://www.walkforthebeat.org.

Chuck

fox-2-feb-4

Current Reality

Depression, anxiety, and a feeling of hopelessness affects a lot of people.  Many people are fighting these feelings, and they can be caused a host of different things.  The loss of a loved one, the lost of a job or even a change in jobs, financial problems, retirement, and poor health are some of the things that can lead to depression.

When someone has anxiety or depression, all the logic in the world may not be enough to bring them out of it.  One thing that occurs is that in their mind, whatever current reality the person is dealing with, seems like a permanent reality.  But is it?

One example is that many people obsess over losing a job.  Sure it is important to make a living and be able to put a roof over your head and food on the table.  However, does it mean you are going to be unemployed forever?  Many people didn’t even like their job, but are now upset they don’t have it, and the feeling of hopelessness creeps in.  Just remember, this isn’t necessarily your permanent reality.  You have the ability to bounce back and potentially bounce back better than you were before.

This holds true for many of the causes of depression and anxiety.  People feel their current reality is one that will last forever.  In the vast majority of cases, it won’t, however that piece of logic often doesn’t resonate with a depressed person.  That is where the professionals come in, along with patience, understanding, and love.

These feelings are real and they can be debilitating.  These feelings are stressful and of course that has consequences on your heart health.  Educating ourselves in this area is important, both for the people who have these types of feelings, and their loved ones.