Monday, August 22, 2011

Rubinstein plays Liszt

Sony has issued a 2-CD set compiling many of Arthur Rubinstein's Liszt recordings.

My review of Rubinstein: The Liszt Album

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fitness Update: August 21

I had my first session with my trainer, Bryan, on Thursday. This was preceded on Wednesday by a fitness assessment – the results of which were worse than I thought. Because I intend to maintain a modicum of privacy, I won’t go into all the details here. But suffice it to say we have our work cut out for us. I weighed in Wednesday at 216#. As stated before, I hope to get my weight down to 180# - although hitting that number is less important than improving my Body Mass Index, increasing my lean tissue, and greatly reducing my body fat percentage. We put together a fitness plan and Bryan confirmed that a goal of losing five pounds a month until I hit my target weight is realistic. I also signed up for Progressive’s Healthy U class – although the next available session is February 16th.

During my Thursday morning session, Bryan put me through a series of exercises including working with free weights – the first time I’ve done this in years as my balance is not the best. This was followed by some stretching, and then I went into work. I did no cardio during that session, although my heart rate was elevated during the strength training. I plan to arrive ten minutes earlier for my next session to get in a cardio warm-up beforehand.

I felt mostly OK for the rest of Thursday, just a feeling of mild shakiness and a somewhat “tight” feeling – I became progressively stiffer during the day and was beginning to feel sore by the evening. (I bought Ibuprofen at Costco that evening.)

I felt rather sore Friday and Saturday – and Friday morning I encountered spasms in my right hand between my thumb and index finger. I don’t believe these were caused by my workout – but are related to use of the computer mouse. There was no pain involved, just involuntary contractions. They recurred slightly on Saturday and were gone by this morning. Also this morning, I repeated the workout with Dan and felt fewer side effects than before.

I will be doing cardio and abs Monday afternoon and have another session Tuesday morning.

I will be reporting weekly on my progress. As this is a family friendly blog, I will not be providing shirtless beefcake (or in my case, flab cake) pictures. Small variations in weight of a pound or two are meaningless, but for the record, here’s where I stand:

8/18/2011 weight: 215#

Monday, August 15, 2011

My Most Important Project

Those who know me personally know that I’ve long battled my weight. I won’t lapse into politically correct speak of “body-issues.” I have no issues with my body save for one: I’m fat. I’ve long made peace with my other “issues”, including baldness, allergies, and aging.

I haven’t always been fat. Despite being the shortest kid in the class, and the last picked for the team, my body was height/weight proportionate during my pre-adolescent years. That all changed when I was about twelve. There were a number of factors that led to my weight gain: my best friend moved to another area, so there was no more horsing around on his jungle gym; my parents divorced, and in my sadness, I fulfilled myself by stuffing my face and zoning out in front of the television. I am also the inheritor of an endomorphic body type from both sides of my family.

My adult height is 5’9”. My weight has yo-yoed over the decades. I was at my slimmest when I was 19: dirt poor, I was working at a grocery store in Massachusetts as a cashier. The constant physical activity brought my weight down to 134#, but the combination of continuous handling of (germ-ridden and filthy) cash, walking to and from work, and poor nutrition (I was practically living on potato chips, dip, and pop) meant that I was near constantly sick. Between being underweight and sick, I actually began to fear that I had AIDS – until I realized I hadn’t done anything likely to transmit the virus. At the time, people were always commenting that I was too skinny. But after years of being overweight, that was a comment I was very happy to hear.

With several changes in jobs and eating habits, my weight increased and by 1987 I was what would be considered a healthy weight. I remember a co-worker commenting that I’d gained a few pounds and “it looks good on ya’.”

But soon that was surpassed and by 1992 I was fat again and had little in the way of muscle tone. It was at that point that a friend of mine told me bluntly: “Hank, you’re fat - get off your butt and join the gym” whereupon he shoved a flyer in my face advertising gym rates so cheap even I could afford them.

Thus began my first serious attempt at physical fitness. I did not use a trainer, but borrowed books from the library and watched what others did. I was particularly inspired by a man in his ‘70s who was remarkably fit and strong. Paradoxically, my weight did not decrease over those months. As the fat was replaced with muscle, I actually gained a few pounds, but the shape of my body changed for the better. By spring of 1993, I was in such good shape that the gym actually hired me as a part timer.

In autumn of 1994, I moved back to Ohio to take care of my grandmother. There are numerous differences between Massachusetts and Ohio, but the most relevant to this post is that the cost of car ownership and availability of public transportation in Massachusetts meant that I walked a great deal more there – even if it was just to the bus stop. Upon returning to Ohio, I bought my first car – at the age of 27. And it was at this point that I began to gain weight – despite still belonging to a gym. The muscle largely remained, but layers of fat began to accumulate. I returned to Ohio weighing 168#, but 1996 I weighed 176#, 180# in 1997, 190# by 1999, until I hit 200# to coincide with the end of the millennium. That increase continued over the next decade. Despite my weight gain, my most recent blood pressure was 108/76 –nearly miraculous considering the shape I’m in. My cholesterol is slightly elevated, but steadily improving over the last several years. I’ve never taken medication for either of these.

I started off 2011 weighing 225#. At that point, I decided to ditch my usual New Year’s resolution of losing weight, and pledged to finish my Will. But I also decided to change my diet – not so much for health reasons as for ethical ones. Much of this was brought on by seeing two films: Food, Inc and The Cove. I dropped whatever food I could that derived from mammals: Red meat, pork, dairy products. I also cut back on my intake of carbonated beverages, replacing Pepsi with green tea. My dinner, which would have been a meat dish, along with carbs and a serving of vegetables, became poultry or fish, along with a double serving of veggies.

Since mid-2010, I had been doing Yoga which didn’t affect my weight but made me feel better. And, I kept up my standard workout routine, which was 30 minutes of cardio, work on my abs area, and a bit of nautilus - as much as I could make time for between work, taking care of the dog and keeping the house in order.

After starting my new diet, I immediately started dropping weight: from 225# on New Year’s Day to 210# an April 1. Then nature played an April Fool’s joke on me and my weight loss hit a brick wall. For the next two months my weight hovered between 209# and 212#. In June, Dan & I went to Disney World for a week, and I went off my diet. I also messed up my right ankle, and had trouble keeping up with my cardio workouts. By August 1st, my weight was back to 217# and I’d had enough. With the stock market tanking in the wake of the debt fiasco, I decided to take some of the money I’d been investing in other money – and invest it in myself. I'll be working out with a personal trainer.

I am 44 years old. The older I get, the harder it gets to bring myself into some kind of acceptable shape. I have no illusions about transforming myself into some kind of Adonis with washboard abs and all the prerequisites of a “perfect” body. But the time to act is now – and this is not about vanity. It’s about the determination that 2011 be the approximate half-way point in my life, not the two-thirds mark. This is so important that I am putting all other priorities aside, including my reviews, the Horowitz Project, and all but the most necessary work on the house.

I will up the ante on myself by reporting on my progress in this blog over the coming months.

Stay tuned.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: The Bionic Woman, Season 2

As a child, I watched both The Six Million Dollar Man and its spinoff, The Bionic Woman. But quickly became more enthusiastic about the latter. While I was entertained by Steve Austin's derring-do, I cared about Jaime Sommers.

Click here to read the rest of my review