Playing Hookie on Life

Playing hookie

If you write a blog, are writing a book, or are a journalist of some sort or another, you are always looking for content.  Invariably, if you are paying attention, someone will say something that gives you exactly what you need for your next topic.

Sometimes, it hits you immediately.  Sometimes it sinks in later that day, or even in the dead of night.  Somehow in regards to the latter, your subconscious was paying attention (that is funny right there), and didn’t let it slip by.  This happened to me today.

In getting a final tune up at my doctor’s prior to our departure for sunny California on September 14th, my doctor, who is awesome by the way, said “doesn’t it feel like you are playing hookie on life”?  It immediately resonated with me because I always play close attention to my doctor.  After all, she did originally set me on a path to get treated, and just in time I might add.

Here is the definition of playing hookie, according to some “slang dictionary”: Play hookie (verb): Skipping school, missing classes, taking as extended lunch, skipping out of work for the day/afternoon just to have fun. (It kind of fits here).

So, once I processed that comment, my first thought was, yes, it does feel that way. After all, we will be taking a hiatus from work (although for more than just a day/afternoon), we sold our home, so no need to pay taxes or mow the lawn.  A lot of life’s responsibilities with either be put on hold, or are gone for good. But then I thought, many of those things have been replaced by other responsibilities, and some are much larger in scope, although most are likely temporary.

For example, the planning of the route across America; the setting up places to stay; monitoring my health throughout the trip; making sure I am eating right and getting enough calories; RV maintenance and troubleshooting (there is always something to fix); promoting the event; keeping up with filings, regulations, etc., and of course, figuring out the finances for this endeavor.  I didn’t even mention the physical demands this walk is going to take on my almost 56 year-old body, or planning for the unexpected (unwelcome critters, trouble, ailments).  It didn’t take long to realize that life didn’t get all that much easier, it just changed.

Now, am I happy that a lot of those mundane tasks and obligations are gone?  Absolutely. I do realize however, that the next 7 months or so are not going to be a walk in the park, no pun intended.  We will be doing what we can to enjoy the moments and take in all the beautiful scenery and people this country has to offer.  In that regard, it will seem like we are playing hookie, however, we do have a lot of work in front of us to make this a meaningful adventure.  By that I mean to keep the purpose of the walk front and center, and to inspire others to get up and get moving.

Our goal is to make a bit of a splash in opening people’s eyes about what it takes to be heart healthy.  We want to inspire people as I stated above, but more than that, to bring heart disease to the collective forefront of people’s minds.  We feel that many have lost focus on their own heart health, and that heart disease has become somewhat overlooked as of late.

One last comment before I conclude.  I have often believed that people should take a reprieve from life’s crazy demands.  I had thought that six months to a year away from everyday life, to go do something, anything, that they want to do, would be awesome, especially when you are in your early 40’s (hey, maybe 56 is the new early 40’s).  In theory, it makes so much sense.  In practice, I realize that it is hard to do.

Whether it be financial constraints, job demands, kid obligations, or anything else, breaking away from it all, midlife, is difficult.  But why can’t it be done?  Think about what is holding you back and look at your priorities and see if it is right for you.  I will bet, in many cases, not all, but many, that it makes sense and will be one of the most fulfilling things you do while on this crazy ride called life.  Give it some thought, even if only for a brief moment.  Consider all the details.  If it doesn’t feel right, or you are just not comfortable with the risk, then don’t do it. Maybe it is something you can reassess down the road.  Sometimes it is all about timing.

However, if you do find the courage to jump in head first, make a good plan, and then do it with gusto and don’t look back.  It may help you avoid that end of life regret that you didn’t take a chance in life, or chase a dream when you could.  Just a thought.

Cheers!

 

What Changed?

IMG_20170520_092447.jpg

Most days I am asked a question or two about heart disease, the planned walk across America, or just life in general.  The other day, I was asked a question that seems common and natural, however, I had never been asked that question before.

This question made me stop and think for a moment.  The answers, and there are many, are well-known in my mind, I just never had to format and communicate them in order to make sense of it all.  I will attempt to do that here, as my mind can be a jumbled mess at times.

First, the question.  It was, “what has changed for you since being diagnosed with heart disease?”  See, I told you it was a logical question.  Well, here is the answer…EVERYTHING.

Ok, I can be a little more specific, and try to focus on the root of things.  After all, everything from my job to my house to my future has changed.

The first thing that was impacted was my overall outlook.  I am still working on quite a few of those details, however, priorities have changed.  What may have seemed to be important before, like work, my golf scores, so many other details in life, still have importance to some degree, but they have been moved down the list.  The golf scores priority has moved near the bottom, as has my desire to play the game.

Let’s stay on the subject of golf for a moment.  It has been a passion of mine for nearly 50 years.  Some would say I have become an accomplished player, winning my high school tournament, playing in college, and competing in local events.  I even went as far as attempting to qualify for the US Senior Open when I turned 50.  I liked to play, and when I played well, it brought great satisfaction.

However, when you come to grips with your own mortality, as a friend once put it, it makes you realize that some things aren’t as important as you once believed.  Now a days, whether I shoot a 68 or the dreaded double snowman 88, I don’t get too excited, or get too upset.  After all, it is just a game.

I think that describes it pretty well.  The priorities have become family, purpose, and being a better person to all I come in contact with.  As I said, I am working on some details, but overall, that tops the list.

With that said, family is the biggest part of being a better person.  Being engaged in conversations, being present, being there if someone has a need or a problem are all ways to be a better person, and who better to do that for than family?

From a work perspective, money is no longer the major driving force, as it has been in the past.  Thinking that way may have led to some of my issues.  I was employed in a high stress job for years, and certainly it took its toll.

Today, I do the things that I like to do, with people I like to work with (not that some of that didn’t exist throughout my career, but perhaps I now look at those relationships in a different manner).  I look forward to going into the office and doing what I can to contribute.  In the old days it was a grind, with the constant pressure (and reminders) of the monthly quota that would hang over my head as a member of a sales team.

Enjoyment/satisfaction is another area that I could say has changed.  I now take the time to realize something cool is happening around me, or a scene like a beautiful cloud in the sky (nature’s miracles).  I have a better sense of appreciation for things like that.  This probably has slowed my mind down a bit as well, which is also calming.

Overall, it is all perspective.  That is what changed.  I looked at myself at age 55 and wondered what I have accomplished on this earth, and what more I could do, knowing now, that you never know which day will be your last.  I think of the people I love, and in turn, I try to do the things that would make them happy.  Heck, I even smile at complete strangers whenever walking through a store.  I remember a line Dolly Parton once said, “if you see someone without a smile, give them your’s”.

All of these things are a work in progress, but the foundation has been set.  I’d like to think I was a good person before all of this happened, but as with most, if not all people, there is always room for improvement.  I now work everyday to be a better person for all of those that I come in contact with.  If we all did that, what a wonderful world this would be!

 

 

Why Should We Exercise

plank

We have attempted to tackle the reason why people either don’t start exercising, or they start and somewhere along the way, stop.  I have spoken to quite a few people who, for one reason or another, do not want to go to a gym to workout, and they do not have workout equipment at home.

Neither of those (we will call them excuses for now) should prevent you from exercising. There are so many exercises you can do in a 30 – 45 minute workout routine (3-4 times a week), that can get you in pretty good shape, without the aid of a gym or expensive exercise equipment.

The first step to any exercise program is to get clearance from your doctor.  Our audience is typically the over 40 crowd, and as we are well aware, the older you get, the more health risks there are.  So, it is always a good idea to make sure you are healthy enough to start an exercise routine.

The second step is to set a goal.  What do you want to accomplish?  Do you want bigger muscles?  Do you want a thinner waistline?  Are you preparing for an athletic competition or event?  Your goal will determine what type of exercises you should be doing and how you should perform those exercises.

For simplicity sake, let’s assume you want to lose some weight, firm up some body parts that for whatever reason (gravity), have begun to sag a bit, and get in overall better health.  All good reasons.

Here is a partial list of some really good exercises you can perform, without weights, kettle bells, dumbbells, bands, machines, etc.:

  • Air squats – one of the best all around exercises
  • Planks
  • Side planks
  • Lunges
  • Floor bridge
  • Push ups
  • Walking/running
  • Balance drills
  • Yoga poses

Weight bearing postures can actually build muscle, which is important to anyone over 40, as we lose a certain percentage of muscle tone each year.  You could add some dumbbell exercises to your routine to assist in strengthening certain muscles.  All it takes is a couple of 5 or 10 pound dumbbells to get started.  Heck, you could even start with a jug of laundry detergent, anything to add resistance.  It is funny, but since we sold our house, I don’t have any exercise equipment in my new living space.  I used a jug of detergent the other day to do shoulder raises.  It weighs about 8 pounds and did the trick. You can get creative here, but make sure the weight is correct (not too heavy for a particular exercise to where you may injure yourself), and it allows for the proper form (also to prevent injury).

Once a good routine is designed, make time in your schedule to exercise.  Put these times in your calendar and treat them like an important business meeting.  In other words, set a high priority to exercising and try not to miss a session.  Once that first session is skipped, it is easy to blow off others and before you know it, you are back to being a couch potato…don’t miss!

You can find information online about the exercises I mentioned above, or you could seek the help of a Certified Personal Trainer to get started.  Blend in some weight resistance as I mentioned above (push ups, air squats, both of which are body weight resistance), or dumbbell work such as shoulder presses, bicep curls, and bench press exercises.  Include core work to strengthen the all important stomach and back muscles. These include the plank, side plank, air squats, and floor bridge exercises mentioned above.  And don’t forget to elevate your heart rate with some cardio work (walking, running, jumping jacks, bike riding).

Once you get the routine down, you can add resistance as you get stronger.  This will continue your improvement and build your strength and endurance, which in turn will reduce the chances of injury performing daily tasks, tone up your muscles, and most likely reduce that waistline.

Give it a try and good luck.  Remember, we want fitness for a lifetime, not just until that big event that we want to look good for.

Bust Through The Status Quo

Lady Running

We have written articles about exercise over the past handful of months, and many people have commented that the information made a lot of sense.  After further checking, we also have found that many people still have not changed their habits.  That is, their habit of remaining sedentary.

Nobody disputes that exercise and physical activity benefits the human body, and that a sedentary lifestyle does the opposite.  So why is it that people just can seem to move from the status quo, TV watching, relaxing lifestyle that they may have become accustomed to?

The majority of people diet and exercise to look better.  I have always felt that was the wrong reason.  Sure, we all want to look our best, but really, what is more important than your health, and why is it that improving or maintaining your health is way down there on the priority scale?

Here is some information to try on for size:

40% of Americans say they perform no leisure time physical activity at all.

We also know that 1 our of 3 children in America are obese.  There is a strong link between TV watching and obesity.

Researchers estimated that physical inactivity accounts for 6% of the burden of heart disease, 7% of type 2 diabetes, 10% of breast cancer, and 10% of colon cancer. Inactivity also causes 9% of premature mortality.

There is a correlation between sitting and the chance of dying early.

Think about that for a minute.  Dying early?  Holy cow, how much more severe can you get than that, and yet people still love the couch potato lifestyle.

What’s it going to take to get you moving?  I have some ideas…

  1. Get a dog.  They love to walk and you will be busy following after them.
  2. Find an outdoor hobby.  Hiking, kayaking, biking, golfing (without a cart).
  3. Join a group that does any of the above.  Socializing helps.
  4. Put these activities into your calendar.  Scheduling them works.
  5. Be logical.  Prioritize your health over most everything else.

Number 5 makes so much sense.  After all, what is there if you don’t have your health?  Here is to your health and breaking the status quo.  You will love your new lifestyle and guess what, you may fit into those jeans a little better as well.

As We Age, Exercise is Even More Important

 

It’s funny, not ha ha funny, but funny in a different sort of way, but as I talk to people about exercise, they  invariable say, “I just don’t have time to exercise”.  I am really tempted to say, that’s ok, you will have plenty of time when your dead, but I refrain, after all, my job is to encourage them to exercise, not scare them.

I figure the problem is one of a handful of things.  Either a person doesn’t want to exercise, he or she has trouble prioritizing, or they don’t see the importance.  After all, they must figure that they have lived for this long without any type of fitness program, so why is it so important to start now?

It is important because as we age things break down.  Think about a car for example, always my favorite analogy to the human body.  Over time, wear and tear occurs on all vehicles. We know that to be a fact.  At some point there will be problems.  We change the oil and do tune ups.  Put in fuel regularly, and change all the fluids.  Those things are regular maintenance so your car lasts longer and performs when we need it.

The same is true with our bodies.  We put in fuel (sometimes good, sometimes bad.  What happens when we put bad gas in our car’s fuel tank?).  The older we get, the more important it is to stretch and strengthen our muscles.  Doing so, like the car, will make them last longer and perform when we need them.  Our muscles become less elastic, and we actually lose muscle mass as we age.

I have a saying, “time waits for no one”.  Basically, it’s nature.  Our bodies age.  The question is, how fast do you want it to age?  Your body, if treated properly, and it is never too late to start properly caring for your body, can give you 50, 60 70, 80, and even 90+ years of dependable service.

So I ask, what kind of quality of life do you want in your senior years?  If you dream of an active retirement where you play golf, travel, play with the grand kids, start caring for your body now and you will increase your chances for that fun and active lifestyle, throughout your life.  You can always start by simply walking, as we have said many times, and build from there.  Just do it!

Good luck, and drop me a note anytime to discuss or simply give me a progress report.

It starts with the heart!

Chuck

 

 

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