I’m into fitness, take eight: At the gym

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I used to be afraid of the gym. It can be an intimidating place. Mainly, though, I hated the thought of everybody looking at the fat guy. I did all my weight training at home.

That all changed in August … by accident. A co-worker’s husband asked if I’d check out the Student Recreation and Wellness Center at Washburn, where I work. I was hesitant, but accepted, partly because they had a special offer – any time the temperature was above 90, you could work out for free (pretty much every day in August).

We went to the gym on Aug. 5. I have been there nearly every day since.  I’ve found that a lot of the things I feared about the gym are silly. Nobody is looking at you. If they are, they’re not working out. Or they’re impressed. At least that’s what I tell myself.

I’m fortunate to have access to the gym I do. As an employee, I pay about $15 a month for access to every machine you can imagine, plus a track to run around, basketball courts, climbing wall and a shower after working out.

And the gym is rarely busy. Maybe the students work out in the mornings or evenings. I know not many of them show up around lunch time.

The ones who do, most of them anyway, are great. It’s like a fraternity of people working out. Same faces, same routines, every day. Hell, some have even offered tips on lifting (so maybe they are looking at the FORMER fat guy).

There are few annoyances. Not that I’m an expert, but some things should be commonsense. A few things about bad gym etiquette:

STOP GRUNTING, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

I understand exerting yourself, heavy breathing. I get it. But, please, don’t grunt like you’re showing your “O” face. It’s annoying as hell. And it makes you look like a jackass.

DON’T DROP THE WEIGHTS

It’s right there on the wall. Rule No. 1. Don’t drop the weights. If you have to drop them, you’re lifting too much weight. And it’s not an impressive sign of strength. It’s a distraction.

CLEAN UP, YOU SLOB

You can be kicked out of some gyms for not wiping down the equipment when you’re done. At Washburn’s wellness center, the student workers often walk around and clean the machines. Still, they can’t do that their entire shift, so you should clean up. Nobody wants to sit or lay in a puddle of somebody else’s sweat.

DON’T BE AN ASS

I don’t think the guy meant anything by it, but he was lifting with a buddy, who told him he should ask me to spot for him on an exercise. The guy said, in earshot, “He can’t handle that weight.” I promptly walked over and picked up the 80-pound dumbbell with one hand and said, “Here.” The shocked look was awesome. Be considerate. And don’t underestimate people.

Despite the above “issues” at the gym, don’t be afraid to get out there. I regret not giving it a try a lot earlier. You might even find that you enjoy it.

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I’m into fitness, take 7: I did it (a 5K)!

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With one of my big inspirations, the girlfriend.

As I turned the corner for the final 50 yards of my first 5K, I thought about the long journey it took to get here. All the miles I’ve run the past few months, and in the past 15 months. All the weight lifting I’ve done this year. All the changes I’ve made in my diet.

But once I saw the large crowd, I thought of several people. There was my boss, and co-workers, cheering. They do that for everybody, but it struck me how awesome it is to have co-workers who don’t mind if I take a little longer lunch to get a workout in.

I thought of family. My father for helping me when I moved back last May, giving me a place to stay while I tried to figure out what the future held. Just as importantly, I thought about how he pushed me to work out last summer, to stick with it. How I miss our daily basketball games.

I thought of my brother, sister in law and niece and nephews, and my mom. All of them were at the hospital while I was running, attending to my mom’s husband, who had a small stroke Friday. Talk about irony.

And I thought of my girlfriend. My rock. The definition of support. There she was, clearly cold with her coat on, holding my work camera, getting photos not only of me running, but also of the event, helping me do my job. I thought, and think, I’m the luckiest man on the planet that she’s mine.

In short, I thought about how much good I have in my life. With those thoughts in my mind, it wasn’t a surprise that I ran the last quarter mile faster than I ran any other quarter mile.

In the home stretch ...

THE RACE

I thought about strategy a few minutes before the start. Mr. T’s line from Rocky III – “Strategy? Don’t need no strategy” – ran through my head. Ultimately, I decided I would start dead last, with “Welcome to the Jungle” on my iPod.

Setting my iPod to Guns n' Roses for the start

The last time I was nervous, I mean sick to my stomach nervous, was my first date with the girlfriend. Before that, you’d have to go back to high school before a baseball game. During the first quarter mile, I thought I might throw up.

A quarter mile in, I was still dead last, and fine with that. Then my stomach settled, my legs loosened and my mind relaxed. I moved past a few runners.

A few blocks later, sweat was dripping down my face. I love that during a run. Makes it feel like a good workout. About a mile in, I felt great, running faster as we crossed 17th Street and jogged through Washburn’s campus.

Halfway through, I’d passed several runners, which gave me a little confidence. Then as we jogged on the south side of campus, the course veered back to the north. Damnit, a steady incline for more than a block. I was told this was a flat course. My ass!

Moving up the pack with cat-like speed and reflexes. So much so I'm a blur.

At two miles, I was tired. Pretty much worn out. In full snot rocket mode. You know, holding one nostril and blowing snot out the other. Yes, it’s disgusting, but I’m not stopping to blow my nose. In fact, I’m not stopping for anything, period.

That’s what I told myself. You’ve put in too much work, run too many miles, crunched too many situps, pushed too many bench presses and cut out way too much cheese (as in all cheese) to stop now.

At about 2 1/2 miles, relief came in the form of a small cup of ice cold water. I’d kill to have these kids on Shunga trail handing me a cup of water during my daily runs. That got me through the next quarter mile.

I could feel my face get hot. I’m sure it was bright red. My left heel was aching. I swear I heard a voice from my shoe screaming “You masochistic son of a bitch” as I hit the 2 3/4 mile mark. No turning back now. Run it out. And I did.

There have been promotions, writing awards, sports section awards, wins in big games, some great moments in life. Finishing that 5K without walking ranks right up there. To be able to share it with family, friends and my girl … priceless.

Somebody get me a beer. And an oxygen tank.

PAY IT FORWARD

One of the best things about this fitness/lifestyle change is the support I’ve received from so many people, whether it’s a “you look great” or somebody asking how I’ve done it … it means a lot. Every compliment is HUGE.

I’ve really enjoyed sharing my story with folks. It’s awesome to have people ask about fitness. When I weighed 300 pounds less than two years ago, people asked if I wanted my meal supersized. Now they’re asking which lifts I do at the gym.

I tell people this often, and I mean it. If I can do this, you can do this. It’s worth it. Seeing your quality of life improve drastically is something everybody should experience.

You might even pass me at a 5K someday.

With the west side sign, or as the gf says, the Washburn sign.

Big 12 rankings, Week Four: The professional wrestling edition

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The (last?) Big 12 season is under way. As we head into October, this week’s rankings are brought to you by professional wrestling ..

1. OKLAHOMA (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Missouri 38-28 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Ball State

THE RUB: The Sooners are stylin’ and profilin’ after avenging last year’s loss to Missouri …

2. OKLAHOMA STATE (4-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas A&M 30-29 | THIS WEEK: Bye

THE RUB: Impressive comeback by the Cowboys on the road. The offense resembles …

3. BAYLOR (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Rice 56-31 | THIS WEEK: At Kansas State

THE RUB: The offense looks great. The defense does not. Baylor doesn’t stink anymore, but the Bears have been the Honky Tonk Man of the Big 12 since its inception …

4. TEXAS (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: At Iowa State

THE RUB: Like Kevin Nash and his bloated contract and ego helped derail WCW, the Longhorns may destroy the Big 12 …

5. KANSAS STATE (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Miami 28-24 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Baylor

THE RUB: Still not sure what to make of the Wildcats. Nice win at Miami, which beat Ohio State. Then again, Miami lost to Maryland, who lost to Temple by five touchdowns at home. Thus far, Bill Snyder has coached like The Brain …

6. TEXAS A&M (2-1) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Oklahoma State 30-29 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Arkansas

THE RUB: Imagine that, the Aggies are overrated. A lot like this guy …

7. IOWA STATE (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: Vs. Texas

THE RUB: The Cyclones have been a surprise and have a chance to show they’re legit this week against Texas. A loss could resemble this …

8. MISSOURI (2-2) | LAST WEEK: Lost at Oklahoma 38-28 | THIS WEEK: Bye

THE RUB: The Tigers are young but talented. The defense has been abysmal. The Oct. 8 game at Kansas State might define the season. A loss, and the season might look like this …

9. TEXAS TECH (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Nevada 35-34 | THIS WEEK: At Kansas

THE RUB: Up next is Kansas. Sort of like a bye week. Who’s decision was it to bump Mike Leach? …

10. KANSAS (2-1) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: Vs. Texas Tech

THE RUB: This is one of the few chances at a win KU has left on its schedule. The Hawks are to the Big 12 what this guy was to WCW …

Week Three Big 12 rankings: The Seinfeld edition

Week Two Big 12 rankings: The awful music video edition

Week One Big 12 rankings: The Kingpin edition

Preseason Big 12 rankings: The Star Wars edition

Big 12 rankings, Week Three: The Seinfeld edition

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Going into the fourth week of the season, the Big 12 is 24-2. Not bad for a conference that’ll likely implode this week. The Week Three Big 12 rankings are brought to you by Seinfeld (for last year’s Seinfeld edition, click here):

1. OKLAHOMA (2-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Florida State 23-13 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Missouri

THE RUB: Yes, the Seminoles played much of the second half without their starting quarterback, but the Sooners still won a huge road game a top-five team. Looks like Oklahoma will be saying this to the other nine teams in the Big 12 …

2. OKLAHOMA STATE (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Tulsa 59-33 | THIS WEEK: At Texas A&M

THE RUB: Anchored by their 42-year-old quarterback, 19th-year running back and Dez Bryant’s clone, the offense look unstoppable. Nobody wants this …

3. BAYLOR (2-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Stephen F. Austin 48-0 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Rice

THE RUB: Suddenly the Bears look legit. Too bad they’ll be in the Mexican League next year. But, for now, it’s this time of the year in Waco …

4. TEXAS A&M (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Idaho 37-7 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Oklahoma State

THE RUB: We’ll find out this week is the Aggies are for real. For now, thanks to A&M, the Big 12 is experiencing …

5. MISSOURI (2-1) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Western Illinois 69-0 | THIS WEEK: At Oklahoma

THE RUB: That Arizona State loss hurts even more after the Sun Devils throw one away Saturday at Illinois. Think Oklahoma remembers last year’s loss at Mizzou? The Tigers have no hand …

6. TEXAS (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated UCLA 49-20 | THIS WEEK: Bye

THE RUB: Anybody outside of Texas not hate the Longhorns right now? Maybe we’re all …

7. IOWA STATE (3-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Uconn 24-20 | THIS WEEK: Bye

THE RUB: Believe it or not, it is Iowa State …

8. TEXAS TECH (2-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated New Mexico 59-13 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Nevada

THE RUB: Tommy Tuberville vs. Mike Leach. You’re talking apples vs. onions …

9. KANSAS STATE (2-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Kent State 37-0 | THIS WEEK: At Miami, Fla.

THE RUB: Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Snyder …

10. KANSAS (2-1) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Georgia Tech 66-24 | THIS WEEK: Bye

THE RUB: Ladies and gentlemen, KU’s defense …

Week Two Big 12 rankings: The awful music video edition

Week One Big 12 rankings: The Kingpin edition

Preseason Big 12 rankings: The Star Wars edition

I’m into fitness, take six: Finally, a 5K!

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First off, I apologize for being on hiatus the past two weeks. I blame work and life. It’s not that I’ve slacked off on the whole fitness thing. In my last blog, I noted that I hit 220 pounds on the scale. Since, I’ve dropped down to a little less than 218 pounds. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

I also wrote about the rewards a few weeks ago, milestones included. I reached another one today. For the past few months, I’ve been gearing up for our 5K run at work (the Washburn Alumni Association Fun Run). That included clocking more than 80 miles during the Sahara-like August we had.

Not until today, 11 days before the Fun Run, had I run even two straight miles without walking at least a little bit. But, finally, after months of work, I ran every bit of a 5K, three miles.

Here’s a little trip through my mind – and body – as I ran today …

Closing on the start, my mind trying to focus on the task at hand: my daily power lunch (3 miles of run/walk, 40 minutes of weights and at least 300 situps). Shit, a gusty wind. That’ll be great to run into. Oh well, at least it’s not 150 degrees. Time to start, the iPod set on the song it always is at the beginning of these runs …

About a quarter mile in, body not feeling so great. No sweat beads on my forearms yet, usually a sign that I’m getting a good workout in. Starting to think not running on Saturday and Sunday was a bad idea. Then again, I did Tae-Bo Sunday and realized that Saturday consisted of two hours straight of this …

Moves like Jagger Saturday at Winefest

And, yes, I’m drinking. But focus, that’s dancing. And, according to the girlfriend, it was much better than this …

About a half mile in now, beautiful day, body feels better. Legs not hurting. Still hoping to make it to the halfway point without walking. Up next on the iPod, Michael Buble. Do I like Michael Buble? No. But I find that his music makes me run faster in hopes that the song will end more quickly.

Now I’m at three quarters of a mile, still feeling decent. Good sweat beads on my arms. Workout definitely on …

Almost halfway done, just a quarter mile left to the halfway point. Slowing down a bit … is that a god damn cramp I feel in my calf? Really? Seriously? I knew I didn’t drink enough water today. Then I catch a break on the iPod …

Finally halfway home, might as well keep on running. As I turn …

Knew it. F#&king wind. Straight out of Twister. Tired, legs a little sore, a little feeling like a cramp in the ribs developing. Let’s at least get to the two-mile mark.

Nearing two miles. Suddenly a bicyclist comes flying by, nearly plowing over me. Seriously, dude, I wish you nothing but the best …

Oh, and by the way, coasting on your bike is not exercise. Just sayin. Anyway, past two miles, thinking, I can do this shit. Need a little help from my iPod. Shuffle goes first to Alison Krauss. Uh, no. Then Ben Folds Five. Uh, no. Ah, hell yeah, this’ll get me to 2.5 miles …

Wow, just a quarter mile left. Fully expect to slip or be run over by somebody on a bike. Nope, just a couple of jackwagons jumping their remote control cars on the sidewalks. Would love one of those in my scar-tissue ravaged knees. Seriously, I will …

Yes! Fifty more feet. 40 … 30 … 20 … 10 …

I’m exhausted. Covered in sweat. Panting. Body aches. It feels great. Bring on the Fun Run.

Big 12 rankings, Week Two: The awful music videos edition

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So many horrible music videos, so little time (not to mention a dwindling number of teams). The Week Two Big 12 (minus-3) rankings are brought to you by god-awful music videos so bad that Vanilla Ice didn’t make the cut. As always, the weekly rankings don’t reflect my predictions for the season, simply how the teams have performed up to this point:

1. OKLAHOMA (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: At Florida State

NCAA renegades of the 1980s (and 90s, 2000s, and pretty much every other decade) play on the road against Free Shoes U this week, though news of Oklahoma bailing on the Big 12 may overshadow the top-five showdown. Before you leave Sooners …

2. OKLAHOMA STATE (2-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Arizona 37-14 | THIS WEEK: At Tulsa

Mike “Iceman from Top Gun” Gundy finally found a Stoops he can beat. The Cowboys move up two spots after an impressive performance. Are they are their way to the Pac-76 with Oklahoma? Looks like the Cowboys and Big 12 are heading …

3. BAYLOR (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: Vs. Stephen F. Austin

I understand the Bears are fighting for their BCS lives right now, but be who you are Baylor. Apparently, after that upset of TCU, the Bears are ….

4. TEXAS A&M (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: Vs. Idaho

Still think the Aggies are the most overrated team in college football without a leprechaun mascot. When it comes to the Big 12, Texas A&M is …

5. MISSOURI (1-1) | LAST WEEK: Lost at Arizona State 37-30 in OT | THIS WEEK: Vs. Western Illinois

Poor Missouri fans. How many games do the Tigers lose like this? This has got to be the feeling by now …

6. TEXAS (2-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat BYU 17-16 | THIS WEEK: At UCLA

Remember when the Longhorns destroyed teams like Rice and BYU? Remember when the Big 12 felt this way about Texas? …

7. IOWA STATE (2-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Iowa 44-41 in 3OT | THIS WEEK: At UConn

HUGE win for Paul Rhoads and the Cyclones. A perfect day for their fans (who in the hell thought it’d be a good idea to put this woman in a music video based on the 48-hour long Lord of the Rings trilogy?) …

8. KANSAS (2-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Northern Illinois 45-42 | THIS WEEK: At Georgia Tech

I haven’t heard otherwise, so I’ll assume Bob Davis survived the call of Saturday’s fourth-down score to beat the Huskies. Despite the win, KU is not going to be very good this year, you know it’s true …

9. TEXAS TECH (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: At New Mexico

Are the Red Raiders bound for the West Coast? Tell me again why they fired Mike Leach? Because they did, they deserve what has to be the worst music video ever produced …

10. KANSAS STATE (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Bye | THIS WEEK: Vs. Kent State

Don’t worry, EMAW, they’ll move up the rankings if they manage to beat a crap team by more than three points. As far as that opener against Eastern Kentucky, it was …

Big 12 rankings, Week One: The Kingpin edition

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An undefeated start for the Big 12 (minus-3) in Week One. Enjoy it while you can, because this league isn’t going to be around much longer. This week’s rankings are brought to you by the comedy classic Kingpin, circa 1996. As always, the weekly rankings don’t reflect my predictions for the season, simply how the teams performed last week:

1. OKLAHOMA (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Tulsa 47-14 | THIS WEEK: Bye

The rub: Ho-hum, another blowout. The Sooners are off this week before a showdown of epic proportions against Florida State. Biggest showdown since …

2. BAYLOR (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat TCU 50-48 | THIS WEEK: Bye

The rub: Which is more impressive, that the Bears actually won, or that they scored 50 points on the Horned Frogs’ defense? Almost as impressive as …

3. TEXAS A&M (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat SMU 46-14 | THIS WEEK: Bye

The rub: Ironic that the Aggies pounded a team that expressed interested in joining the Big 12. SMU of the early 1980s, yes. SMU of the last 20 years, no …

4. OKLAHOMA STATE (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Louisiana-Lafayette 61-34 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Arizona

The rub: Playstation 3 offense, Atari defense. At some point, the latter is going to result in …

5. MISSOURI (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Miami (Ohio) 17-6 | THIS WEEK: At Arizona State

The rub: The Redhawks won 10 games last year and are the preseason favorite in the MAC. Still, Missouri’s offense looked mediocre, operating like this …

6. TEXAS (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Rice 34-9 | THIS WEEK: Vs. BYU

The rub: Don’t let the 25-point spread fool you. The Longhorns led just 13-9 late in the third quarter. Up next is BYU. Texas might need to bring in a distraction …

7. TEXAS TECH (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Texas State 50-10 | THIS WEEK: Bye

The rub: Would have been a lot better had the Red Raiders defeated the Texas State Fightin’ Armadillos from Necessary Roughness. I still don’t think Tech is going to be very good. Might want to bring in Vanessa Angel (or Randy Quaid) …

8. KANSAS (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat McNeese State 42-24 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Northern Illinois

The rub: Give the Jayhawks credit … they won a game. It might be the only one they do. The rest of the season will look a lot like this …

9. IOWA STATE (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Northern Iowa 20-19 | THIS WEEK: Vs. Iowa

The rub: Like Kansas State, the Cyclones needed a late touchdown to beat a Football Championship Subdivision school. Could have been worse, but the Clones looked like they’d been …

10. KANSAS STATE (1-0) | LAST WEEK: Beat Eastern Kentucky 10-7 | THIS WEEK: Bye

The rub: We were there. What they hell was that? One of the ugliest football games in the history of the world (slight exaggeration). Fail. Little like this …