Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Restarting the Blog--I am not a mellow man, Part 2

In June of 2016, just after setting some personal bests in two of the four powerlifts, and following four serious years of structured programming and requisite training nutrition, I visited my physician and got just terrible news. Despite the effort in the gym, including some grueling conditioning work that I thought could account for the enormous number of calories I consumed to support my powerlifting gains, my blood chemistry was really screwed up. My doc, uncharacteristically, called me at home the evening my labs came in and my blood lipids were extremely out of balance indicating an extreme health risk. Doc literally (I expect that's a correct usage of a word that is mangled all the time) told me that I needed to change my diet that night. Not next month, next week, or even tomorrow; I needed to change my diet at my next meal.

In response, and because I am a GREAT medical patient, my wife teamed with me and we tackled a month of the Whole 30 elimination diet. The diet in not complicated.  Whole 30 purports to eliminate most foods from groups that have been linked with inflammation and blood sugar/insulin resistant syndromes. These includes sugars and certain grain-sourced starches, eliminated for 30 days.  Many find these changes very difficult to tolerate, especially in the first week of the program. Neither Angela nor I did; we struggled instead with sheer eating boredom in the last two weeks as we both anticipated adding back sushi, pasta, and wine to see how we would newly tolerate those things. Neither of us cheated once and I lost a substantial amount of bodyweight.

Already moving better after a month of eliminating sugar, grains, and other inflammatory foods and beverages, Angela suggested I investigate an activity that I started while in law school in San Diego in 1986: boxing in a pro gym. Of course, in 1986 the pro-boxing gym was a largely unexplored space for fitness-focused amateurs with little or no aspiration to competition. Peter Depasquale wouldn't publish The Boxer's Workout until 1990 (aimed at the so-called "white-collar boxer"), so if a civilian wanted to box, it was either hang a heavy bag in the basement, or show up a local pro-gym and work one's way into the population of amateur and professional competitive athletes. And that's just what I did after meeting Irish Billy Murphy, head trainer at Irish Spud's Murphy's Boxing Gym, and father of the namesake, Spud. Spud was a just little older than me and I trained with both men until Spud's tragic death in 1988.

Irish Billy Murphy continued to train me into the early 1990's, even allowing me to spar with a variety of professionals including world-ranked light heavyweight, Ramzi Hassan. These sessions were about far more than merely being the lone white color guy in the guy staying in shape. I learned more about seeing through sweat and pain and about the intelligence and vision of these exceptional athletes. The experience peaked as I watched local San Diego super welterweight hero 'Terrible' Terry Norris prepare at "our" gym for the fight that ended Sugar Ray Leonard's professional career. After passing the bar, Billy told me he would not help me get my amateur card, probably owing to the way he processed his son's death. While I desperately wanted to compete, and was a strong amateur candidate even at 28 years old, I now appreciate his foresight. And by 1993, we had moved to Seattle to start our current life chapter.

Since those halcyon days, boxing exploded in our physical culture and a wave of gyms opened across the country that could train both elite competitors and fitness devotees, side by side, changing the culture of boxing in a positive way.  At Angela's insistence that I revisit my fascination with boxing as a healthier pursuit (at least dietarily, haha), I found Arcaro Boxing, near Seattle University on Jefferson Street on Capitol Hill.

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Many Essays on Restarting this Blog: Part One--I am not a Mellow Man

I started writing a blog when it became fashionable to write a blog. Amateur writers the world over were leveraging blogging platforms from Wordpress and BlogSpot that made it easy to self publish essays nobody or everybody could read.  I had an interesting core theme focused on being a middle-aged surfer in Washington State, living in Seattle, raising a young son with my wife. We built a beach house on the Washington, achieving a lifetime dream, and I blogged every step of it. As the dream emerged to the morning reality of two mortgages, tuitions, car repair bills, and the general costs of middle-class life forced us to put the house on the rental market to help with the budget.

One night, in the midst of an evening of bourbon-fueled dismay, I obliterated that four-year piece of work. While the bourbon-fueled part is not a usual element of my way of working through problems, the dismay has been for years. My passion, its peaks and valleys both, has cost me. Some friendships, the bonds of which were probably never meant for the long haul anyways. Some prestige at work as I have needed to reach my mid-50's to recognize the value of tolerating approaches to problem solving for which I previously had no patience. Most importantly, my moodiness put me in debt to my sweet, smart girl for understanding and working with it. As a result of her clear-headedness and practicality, and my resolve, we always end up on our feet.

Despite such support, I blew up four years of gentle, introspective writing for reasons I can barely fathom now, eight years later. So almost immediately I started Plain Old Dad, in an effort to refocus my thinking on fatherhood and my physical health and fitness. Some really great essays here, but mostly filler posts to keep track of a song I liked, or a quick video of me participating in one or more of my myriad tours through my fascination with Physical Culture. After retiring from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a 10-year white belt to have total knee replacement, I thought I had gained some essay-writing and even video-blogging momentum as I decided to pursue lifetime powerlifting personal bests as I recovered from my knee surgery.

Powerlifting for me has always been an adjunct to training for another sport, especially rugby, where for some dumbass reason I was attracted to playing Prop, a position dominated by men (and women) who tend to be much larger than myself. But I have always been ironminded and have always enjoyed the thoughtful, structured way in which powerlifters trudge through their progressions in pursuit of sometimes disappointingly incremental gains.  To me, powerlifting was a far more internal, even introverted pursuit.  But the dietary demands of the sport changed my health for the worse.

No longer able to "eat to recover, eat to break plateaus, eat to gain," I hit lifetime personal bests at 455 deadlift and 445 squat. My best bench press ever at 320 happened years ago while still playing rugby, and I barely trained it this time around topping at 285 later the same week as the these two lifts. Similarly, my best overhead press happened four years ago at 210 and I barely touched 200 this time around. While I remain immensely proud of the discipline I engaged to get there, I veritably walked out the gym at the end of my peak week, into a Russian sauna to recover, and quit lifting cold.

After my four year foray into serious powerlifting training left me 30 pound overweight (by my standards; I was 65 pounds overweight by the U.S. Government's ridiculous BMI standards), I needed a change. Still feeling vigorous and healthy, my sweet wife reminded me of the fun I had boxing my way through law school and into my first job as an associate attorney in San Diego in the early 1990's. I've been a devotee of fight sports, especially boxing, since my youth when I was regularly taking beatings from the neighborhood polacks on my way to and from school. A discussion that day with Ms. Tres_Arboles lead to a day of driving from gym to gym in the greater Seattle area. And then to my (re)introduction to Tricia Arcaro and a new pursuit at Arcaro Boxing. Where I previously sought to get as strong as I could by 53, I now wanted to make Light Heavyweight by 55.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Never Be Average Pt 1

I have one phobia. Fear of being average. Or is it fear of being ordinary? Or maybe it is just a fear of being normal? I don't know. But here's a look at how one gnarly old guy strives for exceptionalism. Join me and it's a movement. Never be an average guy.

Fifth Single

Five Singles at 405, on 30 seconds rest. Except this one which I decided to video.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Since I've been reduced to writing twice a year, I find myself wanting to reintroduce the thing every time I deliver an entry. This time is no different as I find myself in San Diego, the city of beaches, in which I believe I finally left childhood behind and began to vaguely understand manhood.  That process only took until my mid-20's, yet here I am 25 years later, again rethinking things as I watch my 16 and half year old son look at his first colleges with new eyes. Eyes far less influenced by my thinking and input.

As a kid, I rode the first urethane wheels into a board-sport revolution that sowed the seeds of my golden dream. As I carved swooping turns on the extensive, paved hills, on the closed roads surrounding Hartford Reservoir No. 6 on Talcott Mountain, wind blowing back my long stringy locks, I formed a lasting vision of myself at home on the Elysian fields of southern California's beaches. At nine I knew I wanted to surf, to live in shorts, Vans, and t-shirts.  The vision was so strong, it pulled me west, away from my first true-love (or so I thought at the time) relationship, and into the fray of Mission, Pacific, and Ocean Beaches. A place where I would taste the glory of living in the ocean, of loving again, and recovering myself into manhood.

And so now, my son is also, seemingly, magnetically drawn to blue skies, sand, regular swells, and boardwalks flowing with rivers of fit, beautiful people. We've seen the University of California at Santa Barbara where he really stood out in a recent baseball prospect camp. We've rolled through the muscular, modern architecture of UC San Diego while, having a deep whiff of the view from the bluffs above Blacks Beach and Scripps Pier. And he just completed yet another prospect camp at the University of San Diego, my graduate school alma mater, and home to a perennially strong baseball team and startlingly selective undergraduate college.

I am so gratified by his aesthetic. Of course my very few readers will ponder, "how flippin' hard is it to decide to attend college in a beach town?" Well, if it were that common a decision, then these schools would receive far more applicants for each entering class than they already do. But they don't. And places like the University of Wyoming are fully matriculated (no offense meant, but that would never have worked for me).  So the boy has developed an aesthetic I can really appreciate, and has done me one better by engaging that aesthetic in surveying his undergraduate choices where I could only have made that move after college.

And thus the theme of the post. Is there a better way to test, proof, and succeed in life than to try things out, keep the things that work, and discard those that do not? I cannot believe there is and perhaps that bears out my interest in science and inquiry, rather than faith. And on a far less profound level, it leads me to wonder how much longer I can live the way we do now before I reiterate...all the way back to the sands of sunny Southern California.

Happy New Year and may there someday be peace on Earth.