My Dyslexic Body-Image Part III; I Blame Me…

I closed Part II of this column by stating that I would argue that God is to blame for all my body issues – and all of yours.  In truth, I had no intention of making that argument, but the NyQuil had me in its grasp and it seemed like a great hook for Part III.

I want to acknowledge everyone who took time to privately email me over that idiotic statement.  I appreciate the discourse.

____________________________________________________________________

 The Sizes Of Me; Lots Of ings In My Life 

I stepped on the scale my first day of high school at 114 pounds – I was 5’7” tall.  Today, I’m still 5’7” tall – apparently I quit growing vertically that very day.  Since that day, I have spent at least one moment at every notch on the scale up to 240 pounds – for most of those moments I would consider myself to have been fit, whatever that really means.  Despite that fitness, I have never liked how I have looked.

And so the story began...

At any given period during my 40s, I might have weighed between 165 pounds and 190 pounds – depending on which look I was after, and which endeavors I was pursuing at the moment; running, cycling, bodybuilding, paddle boarding, heavy lifting – lots of ings in my life.  It all depends on my mood…

Where My Mind Drifts, My Body Follows

Sometimes I might want to be a bit bigger – more bulky, and I like it that way though that aesthetic requires a bit more eating than I care for.  When I’m bulkier, guys tend to feed on it as impressive.  The shirt sleeves are filled out and there is an obvious sense that I spend time in my weight room.  During my bulkier times, I tend to look pretty good in clothes, but you wouldn’t want to see me in a swim suit – not a sight for kids.

220 lbs.  Uhm, wake, eat, lift, eat, lift, eat, sleep. Not worth the price…

Other times I might be leaner, smaller, and have a more athletic look, and I like it that way though that aesthetic requires a bit less eating than I care for.  When I’m leaner women tend to feed on it as impressive.  The shirt sleeves might flap a bit, but the abs and obliques are in, so I don’t feel too bad taking my shirt off – right up until some male friend will ask me why I quit lifting weights.

Of course I’m never really in one of those places, bulky or athletic, for very long.  Usually I’m in transition from one to the other – my fitness dyslexia.  Sometimes running is calling my name, and a race is in my future.  Other times it’s bodybuilding; once you’re bitten by that bug, you’re hooked for life.  Other times still, my bike has been central – I have a 100 mile ride coming up in January.  More recently, I have been pandering to all of these aspects of my mixed up personality and my body is revolting – if not revolting.  I want it all, and I want it all at once.

A post-marathon 165 lbs., and getting ready chow down on some carne asada from King Taco...

I Blame Me

The truth is I’m not satisfied with my body, rarely satisfied with my activities, and never satisfied with how much, or how little exercise should fit into my life.  I suppose my cranial wiring just can’t be satisfied with the concept of being satisfied.  If nothing else, at least I’m consistent.   

I don’t really blame God for my body-image issues.  I don’t blame my mommy and daddy either; because they didn’t give me enough love or attention when I was a kid – they did, lots.  There is no blaming Kevin and Kerry Mets either; the two twins who beat the crap out of me at the bus stop the morning of my first day of the 1st grade.  There is only person to blame for my body-image woes; me, the king of myself, and creator of my own destiny(s).

Flipping The Switch

I am grateful, and sometimes in awe, that I know how to throw the switch from one ing to another; from running to bodybuilding, to some other ing, and back again.  However, these continual transitions and transformations have me pretty messed up psychologically and physiologically.  I think I spend more time in transit from one ing to another, than I spend in any fitness destination.  I need to get good with that. 

Somewhere between running a marathon and wanting to deadlift 400 lbs again. The ultimate conflict of fitness interest...

In the end, I work hard to remember that I am not on this Earth to look good, I am here to do good.  However, I can’t escape my relentless desire to look good while I’m doing good.  But even deciding which look looks best for me has been a life long struggle.  In the words of Steve Earle, “I ain’t ever satisfied…”

One Final Confession

I have to admit that at times I really do want to blame Kevin and Kerry Mets for some of my issues – but I don’t.  You get bullied and beaten up on your very first day of school – in front of all your new neighbors, and it stays with you.  I was bloodied that day, and that would not be the last time it happened.  Due to a course of bullying throughout my elementary school years, I became introverted – until I discovered all of my ings

My current bicycling legs. Here comes another ing...

Every so often I think what it would be like to come face to face with the Mets brothers now – what I would say to them.  Of course I would probably just thank them.  After all, everything I am and everything I have, I might just owe to them. 

Lastly, though I might like not wholly like how I look at a given moment, through writing this series I have come to discover that it’s not so much that I don’t like how I look.  I’ve come to learn that I ain’t ever satisfied with how I look…  Be well, and thank you for reading these past three columns.  rc

Oh, and there is this from Steve Earle — enjoy!

The real gift of fitness….

Black Friday is almost upon us.  Shopping season begins in earnest this Friday, and in this weakened economy, all our hard earned money will soon be flushed down the toilet of under-appreciation.  Before you go spend money on fitness gifts for your loved ones this holiday season, please read this column from the past.  I put it up this time last year and it rings true now more than it did last year.

Please check back this Friday for Part III of,  My Dyslexic Body-Image; I Blame Me.  Peace.  rc

______________________________________________________________________________________

How deep will you reach into your pockets this gift giving season? Not as deep as last year I would say. Will your list of holiday recipients be shortened in this difficult economy? Very likely. And those for whom you do buy for, is it safe to suggest you will choose your gifts more wisely than in years past? Indeed.

The economy is slowing down. Still, the American requirement to give at holiday time is now a habit deeply etched deep into our psyche; one forged in the red, white, and blue traditions of consumption, guilt, and one-ups-manship. Giving from deep pockets, even if those pockets are empty, is a habit not easily stopped.

It’s the time to give again. Expectations born from history are at an all time high. Pockets, ironically born of that same history, are more shallowthan they have been in decades. Decisions are difficult. Guilt grows. Stress increases. What to do?

In recent years, fitness related gifts have been pretty big during the holidays. Retail exercise devices such as strength training machines, cardio equipment exercise balls and mats, DVDs, and even personal training sessions have been placed under the tree, stuffed into stockings, and placed beside the menorah with the best of intentions.

Take a quick inventory of your house; check your guest room, your garage, your basement, or your patio for a moment. Those are the areas where home workout gear is usually stowed – lost, to be truthful. Go ahead, measure the dust on the BowFlex. Pick the boxes of tax returns up off the treadmill and see if the sales tag is still attached. Has that exercise ball even been inflated yet? The exercise mat has certainly made a great dog bed, hasn’t it?

With that glimpse of history, I suggest that giving fitness related items this holiday season would not be a wise investment of your weakening dollar. Still, fitness should be at the very top of your giving priorities – most everyone needs improved fitness and wellness. Though your past intentions have been good, you may have been placing the wrong fitness gifts under the tree. You have been giving things, which are the wrong things. The things you give are expensive, unused, and not what the recipient has ever really needed.

This year, the economic conditions are just right for you to change directions, and give creatively, economically, and from the heart. This season, give your loved ones energy, time, and commitment, to aid them in tier quest for improved fitness. These are not only free, they will offer much more meaning – and utility.

Below are just a few examples of possible giving, that will cost you nothing, and will likely help your loved ones more than any BowFlex or any Pilates ball ever would. These are just examples of gifts that give, but do not cost. Consider that; gifts that give, but do not cost.

  • Encouragement

Go out on a limb, give the gift of encouragement. A treadmill is nothing without a reason to use it. Skip the $500 – $4,000 price tag, and give your loved one a $1.25 greeting card; one with a hand-written list inside of the many reasons to take a long walk, to go for a jog, or to do push-ups, squats, and crunches during TV commercials. Remind them, in your own handwriting, of why it is important to move. Let them read your words, from the outside looking in, of who benefits from, and what the dividends will be paid from exercise had. Encourage them to just do it, and on behalf of their loved ones as well as themselves – and don’t be afraid to name names. Encouragement might be a beautiful gift.

  • Time

Dig deep; give the gift of time. Don’t have $400 dollars to buy your loved one a gym membership this year? Be their baby sitter for 2 evenings per week so they can hit the fitness trail at the local park, do the afore mentioned jog or walk, or the TV time workout. Buy them a card, and in that card place an IOU for an amount of time that they would not otherwise have. Cover for them at work if you can. Pick up the kids from them and take them out to dinner. Or, take over their car pool one day per week if you can. Offer to mow their lawn, do their grocery shopping, do their laundry, and just give ‘em some time. Time doesn’t have to mean time to exercise either. Perhaps they already exercise but struggle to find time to pre-cook or prepare healthy meals for the week. That kind of time could be just as valuable for some.

  • Partnership

Give the gift of partnership. Even if your fitness is more advanced than that of your loved one, give of yourself and workout with them. Don’t have them do your workout, do theirs with them and encourage them along the way.  You will both benefit from the investment of your time and partnership. Lead by example and go with them for a walk, or a run. Give of yourself and show them the way. If you don’t know the way yourself, give them the gift of your commitment – your partnership, participation, and assure them that you will learn fitness together.

In troubling economic times, when we really need to check ourselves – to take inventory of how we live, how we spend, and why we spend, could there be any better holiday gift than a gift that gives but does not cost? Sounds downright old fashioned to me, and profoundly appropriate under the current economic circumstances. Make this holiday season an old fashioned one; give of yourself and make a real difference. Be well. rc

My Dyslexic Body-Image, Part II…

This is Part II of a 3-part column I will be posting over the next several weeks.  Comments are open, and private emails are also welcome so long as they are mindful and constructive.  Please check back Friday, November 26th for the final installment of why I blame God for my poor body-image…

____________________________________________________________________________________

The Belly Of The Beast

When I’m introduced to someone I have not previously met, as I was at a social function over the weekend, I always cringe and brace myself if I’m introduced as a fitness trainer because I know what’s going to hit me next;

 “Oh really…?  That’s great!  What can I do about my belly…?  I just hate all this flab!”

It never fails.  Notwithstanding that the woman who asked this question of me Friday evening was 5’9” and might have weighed all of 125 lbs.  She looked like model, an athlete, or both, but was unhappy with her belly.

Because of my vocation, that question is ever-present in my life – regardless of the size and shape of the person asking it.  When given a chance for advice, that belly question is asked by nearly everyone.  It shows me that there are few people who have a completely positive body-image.  We all have high desires, if not a high willingness to earn our bellies away.

A Judgment In The Belly Case

There are times when I think I look good, or as I often say, “ahead of the game for man near 50”.  But those times are few and far between.  More often than not I am critical of how I look.  The fact that fitness is my livelihood fosters a continual sense of urgency when it comes to keeping my own body in shape; belly included.  Expectations from the outside can be high…

I have often said;

“In the end, nobody will be judged by the shape of their abs, the tone of their arms, or whether they do sinister justice to a pair of jeans.”

Though I believe that value, and I try and live that value, my day-to-day living is not done “in the end” – it’s done in the middle where the human beings who surround one another, breathe in oxygen, and exhale judgment in equal portion – belly is often front and center of that judgment.

Religion Casts A Shadow

One of my (many) issues with western religions is that we are taught from an early age that the eyes of God are upon us and that we are being judged.  Being taught from a young age that someone who I can’t see, and who I don’t even know truly exists is judging me, makes it quite easy to believe that all those around me who I can see, and can also see me, are also judging me.  I suspect I’m not alone in this.  In-turn, I tend to regularly judge myself, and I don’t often judge myself favorably.  Expectations from the inside can be high…

That’s just what religion does, belly included.

Complemented By Compliments

The conundrum: I like getting compliments about how I look, though I don’t usually receive them well.  Internally, the immediate sense of validation I receive from a compliment is instantly thwarted by that judgmental Roy inside of me who knows I could look better; less body-fat, larger muscles, a more athletic look, a more fit look, not good enough compared to the magazine covers, whatever.  Besides, the person complimenting me is probably lying because they feel sorry for me.

I even try to compliment myself on occasion.  I mean, I do workout hard, I workout consistently, and I eat pretty well that I look good – not that looking good matters.  I might look in the mirror and like what I see, or parts of what I see – for a moment.  It won’t take long though, to find more bad than good, and then negativity and depression take hold.  By the way; the scientific term for that personality defect is, Being Jewish.

I try hard to remember, I am not on Earth to look good, I am here to do good. I force myself to take refuge inside that thought regularly, and it’s a very warm and comforting place.  Refuge be damned though, it doesn’t take too many TV commercials, too many magazine covers, or to many movie trailers to remind me I don’t look as good as I should, and looking good should be a moral priority.   I wonder if Stephen Hawking or Mother Theresa ever had internal discourse such as mine…?

To be continued…

______________________________________________________________________________

Please check back next week for Part III of this column.  I will attempt to make the case that God is to blame for all my body-image woes…  and yours 🙂

Oh, and there is this from Steve Earle (Mike Coalson is to blame this week);

My Dyslexic Body-Image, Part I…

This is Part I of a 3-part column I will be posting over the next several weeks.  Comments are open, and private emails are also welcome so long as they are mindful and constructive.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Is A Picture Worth A Thousand A Million Bad Choices…?

I’m highly susceptible to images – it’s my disease. Well, it’s one of them.  Since my adolescence, many images have collected in my mind to influence the millions of individual choices which have unfolded to make me the me I have become.  The image below was the first image to truly impact the direction of my life.

Dave Draper, bodybuilder supreme from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and yes, even the 2000s. If nothing else, he’s certainly been consistent.

I first saw the image above when I was 13 years old, BSE (before Schwarzenegger exposure).  Though the existence of Arnold Schwarzenegger would become central to my life in later adolescence, and kept me at its draw for nearly a decade, the picture above was the gun that started the race.  To this day that race continues, though I now run it half-heartedly, and care much less about crossing the finish line.  Still, every so often the picture above gnaws at me.

In the era of Seattle Slew, Dave Draper looked part human, part race horse and I wanted what he had badly.  I just had to have it – I just had to have this look of lean, vascular, muscularity.  From the moment I first saw that image, everything else in my life would become secondary to the pursuit of achieving that aesthetic – especially all the people and all the things which should have come first. 

Qualification Of The Aesthetic

It’s simple, one can’t get that extreme, lean, muscular, and vascular look without the use of drugs – in particular, the steroids of that era; Primobolin, Deca Durabolin, Testosterone Cypionate, Winstrol V, and similar vehicles for enhancement. No matter how hard one might train, and how clean one might eat; that look required drugs.  I just didn’t know.

For too many years I hit the gym like maniac, ate like a lunatic, and lived a life of social celibacy in belief that I would look like Dave Draper.  The bodybuilding magazines of my youth told me I was on the right path, and that steroids were not required – but their protein powders and supplements would make all the difference.  I had just enough want, and just enough youth in me then, to believe the lies those magazines told me.

My Identity Mask

Though I never achieved that lean, muscular, Dave Draper look, after several years, several thousand eggs, countless cans of tuna, and a lot of squats, bench presses, and pull-ups, I was able to build a respectable physique.  Those puffy arms, flared shoulders, and swollen quads would become my calling card.  Being the gym guy, in an era when there weren’t too many gym guys around, became the identity by which all around me would know me.  Though I was not Dave Draper, I felt like I had arrived in this world, and that I mattered because my arms filled out my shirt-sleeves, my chest heaved, and my physical peers were few.  And then… skydiving set in… 

Summer 2009, making one last Draper Attempt before resigning myself to a more balanced life -- under 200 pounds...

Life Outside The Palace

From 1993-1996, unable to workout due to fractures in my vertebrae from my skydiving accident, and no longer giving a rat’s ass about such niceties as saturated fat and sugar, my waist swelled from 31 inches to 42. My arms shrank, my chest began to sag, and the only identity I had ever known would soon be lost.  As my double chin grew, so did my shame.  I became relentlessly apologetic to anyone around me for my poor physical appearance, and did so at every opportunity.  Simply put, I hated myself because I hated what I looked like – or what I didn’t look like.

No matter that I was a great father to my toddler girl during my overweight period, or that I coveted my life like a diamond, and that I was kind and giving to anyone around me – I wasn’t the arm guy anymore and therefore I felt as worthless as shit on a shoe.  My depression would only lead to more depression.

Perception Of Loved Ones; Lessons Learned From Rocky I – Rocky III

In my life I have been fit, fat, and fit again.  Through all phases of my form, those who have loved me have loved me, and those who have loathed me have loathed me.  My physicality has never mattered to them.  Sadly, I have only come to know this recently – and it’s still hard to accept.  I am always apologetic of my appearance when I am in anything less than tip-top shape.  I am apologetic, not so much from vanity, but from insecurity – but mostly because when I was 12 years old, I saw Dave Draper and came to believe that anything less was not acceptable.

During my out-of-shape period, I had a wife who loved me, Buddha belly and all – and I didn’t believe her. I had friends who had appreciated me, arm size notwithstanding – and I didn’t believe them.  I now have a fiancé who I apologize to every single day of my life because my abs are currently more like a 4-pack than a 6-pac and she could care less and still, I don’t believe her.

I hate myself most days, even now, because despite my physical accomplishments, my current condition (which is way ahead of the game), and my fitness acumen, I still don’t look like Dave Draper, and it’s not even the goal anymore.  It was an image that captured me in my youth and never let go.  That’s on me – I’m an adult now and I own it, but I’m just not sure, all these years later, how to release it. 

To be continued…  rc

__________________________________________________________________________________

Please check back in a week or so for Part II of,

My Dyslexic Body Image; I Need A Kind Of Therapy Which Does Not Yet Exist 

Oh, and there is this very trippy tune by New Texicans.  Please take a moment to enjoy this gem…

No Post Just Yet, But Soon…

People often ask me,

“Roy, why are you so hard on yourself?”

My response is usually,

“Because somebody has to be….”

If I'm not hard on myself, who will be...?

I have two completely different columns written and ready to post on Friday.  I will only put one of them up.  I won’t decide until then which one I’m going to use.  In either case, the reader will get to know me just a little bit better — maybe a lot better.  Be careful what you wish for…

Oh, and there’s this from The Verve — the greatest pop song of all time.  Peace.  rc

The Art Of The Ordeal…

One more from the past this week — very busy and writing has not been a priority.  However,  I intend to have a new column up on the subject of (my) body image, Friday, November 12th.    Please check back then.  Comments are open and welcome this week.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

I’m not exercise obsessed as many who know me suggest.  Together, art and beauty are my passion, exercise my medium.  And no, it’s not so much about the beauty of the human body which lures me into my daily movement.  Rather, it’s about the beauty of the actions involved in forging the human body – my attraction is to the workout itself as a form of art.

My solitary exercise, strength training in particular, is an artistic joy. The process of creation, through movement, has better connected me with my artistic side than any other medium, including writing and sketching. Art through back extensions, lunges, peddling, and sprints…? I find beauty through movement, and art from that beauty.

A point: the act of weight training, to me, isn’t so much about lifting weights. It’s about motion. Scarcely, it’s about painting a picture on the canvas of my body. More so, the real art lies within the brush strokes arisen from a kinetic grace I have learned to master through decades of practicing hundreds of exercises.  I enjoy the movements of exercise and feel my most creative when executing them. What I seek to create is not the perfect body at all, but the perfect workout – one repetition at a time.  If the body is a byproduct, than I get to win twice.

I understand most people will never embrace exercise in this way – strength training in particular.   However, if you are an individual who wants to benefit from strength training but fails to connect with it, perhaps the disconnect is in your approach and your perception of what those exercises are meant to be – let it be art.

Don’t think of it as weight lifting.  Rather, think of it as just moving – with weights in your hands and at the ends of your feet. Fact: weight training really is just the act of controlled movement, of stretching and contracting muscles – no different than yoga or Pilates. The weight themselves enhance the stretch. Secondarily, it should be about how much you lift. Primarily, it should be about how well you lift – how well you manage and control the movement.  Fluid, like water.

Too often people expect results from exercise overnight, and when the results don’t arrive, they swiftly dislike exercise because there is not a positive to associate with those actions. If this is you, this may be a good time to forsake the concept of the changing body, and pursue the perfect workout.   In my late 30s I began to explore the workout, rather than my body, as my creative release.  Since that time my connection to, as well as the aesthetic flow of my body has risen in a favorable way. I’m pleased with both the cause, and with the direction.

There can be art in exercise. With art comes joy. Where there is joy, there is always the desire to return. Don’t just do squats, perform them. Don’t just run sprints, decorate the street with them. Don’t just swim laps, paddle into poetry.  If you’re going to move your body, strive to move it artistically, and I will suggest better things might happen.

Don’t get me wrong, even within beauty there can be intensity. There should be sweat. There must be challenge. There can be power too.

All too often, the beauty in power and sweat are obscured by anxiety. Power and sweat display much more beautifully when they arise from artistic cause. Make today the most beautiful workout you can – intensely beautiful.  Make today’s workout powerfully graceful – challenging, yet seamless and fluid.  Live your creative side through each movement of your exercise today, whatever discipline of exercise you choose.

These are some of the words which I use regularly to guide each workout into art – in and out of the gym: grace, seamless, fluidity, mastery, intensity, reflection, sanctity, poetry, concentration, dance, connection, prayer, and joy. To know these as you workout, is to know art through movement.  Be well. rc 

________________________________________________________________________________________

I will be back in ten days with a fresh column, please check back then.  Oh, and speaking of beauty there’s this from John Hyatt… Enjoy!