I’m into fitness, take 23: Dealing with pain

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The latest ache is nagging left shoulder pain, probably from increasing weight on my lifting routine.

One of my favorite columns at The Topeka Capital-Journal was one I wrote on Kansas legend Jackie Stiles, who shattered a ton of girls’ high school and women’s college basketball records in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Stiles’ work ethic was the stuff of legends, almost mythical. She was up at 5 a.m. training for basketball, cross country, tennis, you name it. The devotion made her an icon by age 20.

Unfortunately, she paid a heavy price. By her late 20s, Stiles was out of basketball. She’d suffered more than dozen injuries after college, many attributed to that tireless work ethic.

I’m obviously not Jackie Stiles. Two years into my fitness makeover, I’m even more impressed by what she put herself through. It took more than a decade of grinding for hours every day to wear her body out.

In the span of nine months, I’ve had several painful injuries. And my workouts aren’t comparable to Stiles’.

First, it was a painful heel bruise on my left foot. It was painful enough that I nearly fell down some mornings when I got out of bed. A few months later, it was a nasty shin splint on my right leg. That felt like somebody tearing a piece of paper inside my leg.

There have been aches and pains, sometimes my back, sometimes my calves. Nothing major, but they’re there. The latest is a sore shoulder, likely from taking it up a level in the weight room.

So how do I deal with the pain? Ice. A lot of ice. On most nights, I have an ice pack under my heel, one wrapped around my shins (preventative) and one wrapped around my shoulder.

It’s also important to rest. I rarely lift on the weekends, and I try to take a day a week off from running. The 110-degree temperatures make that much easier.

It might be even more important not to overdo it. That’s how I got a shin splint (that and wearing the wrong shoes). We all know our limits. When you hit that point, you stop.

If you don’t stop and keep pushing it, you’ll end up on the sideline. And you aren’t winning on the sideline.

When you average burning more than 1,000 calories a day, you can afford a day off here and there.

How to treat a lady: Stop settling, then you’ll get there

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An early Christmas gift: Tickets to the Missouri-Kansas football game. Missouri won, of course. I mean, Kansas sucks.

For a long time, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to get married again. After the first experience ended in separation after all of eight months and divorce in 20 months, I wanted no part of another one.

In the pre-Shana era (2003-2011), I had two serious relationships. Neither came close to marriage. Even if I thought about it early on, that faded fairly quickly for various reasons. I see now that those were the seeds of doubt, and I should have pulled the cord.

That’s a mistake a lot of people make – hanging on. It’s understandable. Everybody wants to be loved. Almost all of us need that special someone. Unfortunately, a lot of people choose the wrong person and end up unhappy.

With Charles during the Virginia days. More than 100 pounds ago.

TRAVELING MAN

From 2000 to 2011, I moved 13 times and lived in 14 residences. I started in Kansas in 2000, moved to Texas in 2002, moved back to Kansas in 2003, then to Virginia in 2007, Oklahoma in 2009 and Kansas in 2010.

Much of that can be attributed to my career in newspapers. I knew I’d have to move around to climb the ladder, and I did. Career-wise it paid off. I went from a 7,000-circulation afternoon daily to interviewing at the Virginian-Pilot (one of the best papers in the country) in the span of 6½ years. I had my choice of two of the biggest papers in the region (the VP and Daily Press).

I’m proud of that run in newspapers. There were tons of highs and I met some fine folks, many of whom are friends to this day.

But I moved because I wasn’t happy. I was lost and searching. I had my family, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted that special somebody. So much so that I dropped my column at the Topeka Capital-Journal, a gig I absolutely adored, to move to the mid-Atlantic for a girl. And so much so a few years later that I left another damn good (and large) paper in Tulsa for another girl.

The latter move I made despite not having a job lined up. That, my friends, is pure desperation.

Jan. 8, 2010, first date with The Shana. Man was I nervous.

PERSERVERANCE

I’ve written about 2010 a few times. It was brutal for the most part. Essentially, I had a mid-life crisis at age 33. I wanted to try a different career, wanted to settle down with the right girl and wanted to be home again.

To get there, I gambled. And I gambled big. The first six months, from May through November 2010, it felt like I was all-in with 2-7 off suit. Nothing went right.

Ironically enough, a breakup proved to be the turning point. The last pre-Shana relationship, the one that brought me home, finally ended in early December.

It was at that point that I finally decided I wasn’t going to settle anymore. No more trying to make it work. That’s not how relationships, good ones, should be. They should be natural.

I remember telling myself that day that I was never going to put up with bullshit again. I even looked in the mirror, a little like Stuart Smalley: “You are a good man with plenty to offer. You deserve the best.”

About a month later, Shana and I went on our first date. Seven months later, I moved because I was in love, not because I wanted to be in love. Eleven months later, I proposed to my soul mate.

I think about the last few years often and how quickly things changed once I decided to demand more from myself. This would be a lot happier planet if more folks stopped settling.

How to treat a lady: Tying the knot

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Shana and I before the Kansas-Missouri game in November 2011.

The No. 1 question after you announce an engagement: When and where is the wedding? No. 2: How did you propose?

I put a considerable amount of thought into popping the question. I figured something romantic and private was appropriate. Of course, the Romeo in me planned to do with it flair.

One idea was to write a blog and propose at the end. I suddenly missed having a newspaper column. That would have been perfect, if not somewhat cliché. Another was to include the three kids, each with a sign that read “Will you marry me?”

Imagine my hesitation – about the timing, not the asking – when we were talking last Friday night and shared a wonderful unspoken moment. It hit me, as Shana looked at me, just how deeply in love I am with this amazing woman. It was her look, which said the same, that led to the moment …

I asked her to close her eyes, thinking it was the perfect time to act. I went to our closet, where I’d been hiding the ring, and told her to open her eyes when I returned.

“Is this what I think it is?” she asked.

“Yes, will you marry me?” I replied.

Ever the crier, she cried. After a few seconds to gather herself, she said yes.

Simple, yet perfect.

How we began ….

I could tell this story all day.

Shana and I met in 1990. She was a senior during my freshman year of high school. I knew she was A-list. She was an athlete, smart, on the drill team, gorgeous and hot. The kind of girl all the guys dream about. The kind a freshman has no shot at.

I often joke that she wouldn’t give me the time of day back then. I was pretty much a baby, all of 5-foot and 125 pounds. I was also painfully shy and she had an A-list boyfriend who had a bit of a jealousy issue.

In other words, Shana and I never said a word to each other. She did smile at me once, on my first day of high school, a reassuring one that she probably doesn’t remember. Otherwise, I admired her anonymously from afar.

All in the family …

It’s amazing how everything fits together in this world. How the smallest thing can be the glue. For us, the glue was her mother.

Shana’s mom was (still is) a high school English and journalism teacher. She’s also my mentor. Through the years, she’s been a constant, keeping track of what I’m up to. That proved essential in the 20 years my fiancée and I embarked on lives far apart, sometimes thousands of miles.

Unbeknownst to me, Shana’s mom talked about me often through the years. “Ernie’s running for school board. He won this writing award. He’s an assistant sports editor in Virginia.” Without those subtle, brief words, Shana has no clue who I am.

All these years later, it’s fascinating that even though I was her mom’s “star pupil” and her sister a fairly close friend (she was a sophomore my freshman year), we didn’t speak until 2010.

It’s also fascinating that a few words built the foundation of a wonderful love story.

Building …

Romantics have the memories of elephants. It’s one of our quirks. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I remember the day Shana accepted my friend request on Facebook. It was Jan. 4, 2009. She lived in Kansas City, Mo. I lived in Williamsburg, Va.

She did not accept the request immediately. It sat there for a few days. Ultimately, even though we still hadn’t said a word to one another, she accepted my request. Why? Because she felt like she knew me after conversations through the years with her mother. Thanks mom!

We didn’t start chatting until 18 months later, when I moved from Tulsa to Melvern to be closer to home. Jobless, I had plenty of time on my hands. If not for that, I may not have seen the post that kick-started this adventure.

She was considering whether to move with her kids to Overland Park, Kan., and asking for opinions from Facebook friends. Of course, I sent her a message telling her about my gamble to move home and how I felt taking risks was important in life. I also sent her the song “Live and Learn,” a Darius Rucker tune about taking risks.

Two years later, I live in the apartment she moved to.

Tying loose ends …

Though we exchanged messages on Facebook, we both were going through the motions of relationships that took months to end. We did speak briefly at a high school football game in September 2010, and I insisted on a hug (I am a hugger, but come on, I am a man).

Naturally, she gave me a hug that screamed “Come and get me.” Oblivious and, well, stupid, I did not hear said scream. And on we went for the next few months.

Finally, after exchanging text messages for hours on Christmas Eve, Shana had had enough of the subtle hints. On Jan. 4, 2011, two years after accepting my friend request, she texted: “I want to hang out. Beer and basketball Saturday.”

The rest is history …

I could fill hundreds of pages about the last 18 months. About how we were adamantly opposed to marriage (we both have bad marriages on the resume) at the beginning. About the tools she’s giving me to go from obese to strong and healthy. About her kids and how I love being a male role model.

Instead, I’ll just say everything happens for a reason. I’ve always believed in fate. That waned a bit after moving from Tulsa and because of relationships that didn’t work out. But I wouldn’t trade any of that now.

Who we are is what we’ve been through and how we’ve grown. I’m truly grateful to share my life with the woman I see as the most beautiful on the planet. That’s how it should be when you find the person you’re meant to be with.

I’m into fitness, take 22: I did it!

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At 199 pounds, 111 pounds lost.

I did it. Two years later, I did it. I weighed in at 198.8 on Monday. As written in previous blogs, my optimum weight is 188 to 199 pounds.

In the months leading up to that breakthrough, I wondered what I’d do once the scale finally tipped in my favor. Tears? Possibly. I mean, hell, losing 111 pounds is life-altering.

I didn’t cry. I smiled. Then I asked the girlfriend to share the moment as I stepped back on the scale. After all, she’s been a big part of this project. So have all of you who read this blog. Your support has been amazing.

My first thought after that weigh-in was that I’ve got about 10 pounds to go to get to where I want to be. I’ve come this far, I might as well shoot for 188.

A few moments over the past two years …

This photo is from September 2009, right before I moved to Tulsa. I left to be closer to home, continuing to chase happiness. I weighed in at a shade under 300 pounds here.

From the beginning of 2010. I wasn’t in Tulsa long, but I can tell you where Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Taco Bueno and several other junk food eateries are located. It’s also why I swelled to 310 pounds, possibly more, rather quickly.

From June 2010, about a month after I moved back to Kansas. Don’t let the smile fool you, I was miserable. I’d lost about 40 pounds to weigh 270 at this point but was in the midst of a breakup and off-and-on relationship that summarized my willingness to settle for bullshit.

From September 2010, right around the time I moved to Topeka. After a summer of weights, running and playing basketball with dad, I’d dropped another 30 pounds to weigh 240. I was still miserable, though, working a part-time job and still engaged in said relationship.

From April 2011, a few months after I started dating the woman who has changed my life. I had not lost any more weight, but I was happy. I’d secured a full-time job and finally decided that I deserved somebody amazing to share my life with. When I started thinking like that, boom, it happened.

From July 2011 during a trip to St. Louis, I’d actually gained a few pounds and weighed 247. It was once I got back from this trip and moved in with the girlfriend that I got serious about eating healthy.

From September 2011, my first 5K. I went from 247 on July 17 to 230 in late August, all by cutting out dairy and soda (plus a high-octane workout program). By late September, I’d dropped another 10.

From November 2011, trying on my tux for the Bow Tie Ball. One of my prouder moments during this project.

From April 2012, at 203 pounds. That was five pounds ago.