My Gym Space

About a week ago, I wrote a post about how one does not need large amounts of equipment or machines in order to get a complete workout. The post was entitled “How Much Do You Need,” and you can read it here. I thought as a follow-up, I’d stick my face on front of a camera and show everyone where I spend my fitness time. A little over a year ago, I used to enjoy a large, open space downstairs that I used as a makeshift karate dojo. I lost that space as we are currently renovating our basement. When I moved out to the garage, I also lost that space as we had to store our basement stuff somewhere.

I still have my punching bag in the garage with a small space to actually use it but I have no weights or access to cardio as it’s getting too cold for cycling. As a result, I’ve taken to working out in the gym space located in my office tower. As you’ll see in the video, there are limited weight machines, some cardio machines and a full spread of free weights. ☯

Take A Break And Relax With This Post

Given the hectic demands of modern family life, it can be pretty easy to forget that it’s important to take time for yourself. In most cases, we get so tangled up in the requirements of our daily grind that we tend to overlook our own self-care and care of our home. I can relate to how easy that can be. For example, one of the few “benefits,” if they can really be called that, of the pandemic quarantine when everyone was pretty much sequestered to their home, is that I had far more time to do some reading, writing, playing the daily challenges on some games and playing with my kids. With some aspects of society slowly returning to normal, that extra time has disappeared and my ability to self-care seems to have disappeared with it.

Taking breaks and finding the time to relax is important. Because as they say, you can’t help or take care of others until you’ve taken care of yourself. Don’t ask me who “they” are, I have no clue. But this is a very true fact and it applies to work, leisure and family life. If one doesn’t take the time to let one’s head cool, it gets difficult if not altogether impossible to properly manage one’s daily grind and responsibilities.

Work is a great example. Any productive job will be a roller coaster of busy-ness. one week may be pretty tame and you have plenty of time to catch up on things and the next week will feel like the job is literally trying to drive you to drink from all the added pressure. And that’s why, even when it’s busy, you can and SHOULD take time for coffee breaks and step away from the computer. Whether you actually get coffee or not is irrelevant. The act of walking away from your computer or work for even fifteen minutes gives you the opportunity to recharge, get some fresh air and will actually increase one’s productivity.

Some there are and those are they, who are often inclined to believe that taking a break when they’re busy will cause the work to grind to a halt or make things worse. But let’s be realistic, here…. The work will still be there whether you take the break or not. Fifteen minutes won’t make a measurable amount of difference in the workload BUT it may make a measurable difference in your productivity. And that’s where the important difference lies.

The same applies to your home life. Maybe you have work to do at home. Maybe you have a spouse who needs your attention. Maybe you’re a parent and have to help your kids with homework and play with them. It can seem pretty daunting, especially if you work long hours, do shift work or usually end up needing to bring some work home with you. By the time the family meal is done and everything is cleaned up and you’ve squared away the kids, you’re likely too tired to commit yourself to work.

It can be all the more difficult if your life includes anything extra. Let’s use an example like, oh, I don’t know…karate! Although an experienced practitioner can train at home, it stands to reason that most students need to attend class. Finding time to do so with everything I’ve described can be a bit difficult, especially if you know that stuff is piling up and waiting for you. Not to mention that despite the fact that those activities are important to you, your family may not understand and often resent your absence.

That’s why communication is important and integral, in both personal and work circumstances. Most of the time, unless you’re being radically unreasonable, communicating and explaining your needs will go a long way towards helping others understand what you need to take better care of yourself. Once that communication has been achieved, you can work on some self-care, which in turn will help you to better help others.

Although I totally understand that it’s often easier said than done, take your breaks. Indulge in some self care. No matter the time constraints, the workload or the home responsibilities, you owe it not only to yourself but to everyone in your entourage to ensure that you’re refreshed, relaxed and can give them your best you. Working or stressing yourself into an early grave is pointless. After all, you only live once. That we know of…😉 Food for thought…☯️

I Think I Need More Coffee To Write This Post…

Ah, coffee…. I try to imagine how different my life would be without caffeine. I don’t think I like it. But in all seriousness, caffeine plays an important role in many people’s daily routine. I remember consuming coffee for the first time when I went to college. To be honest, I remember thinking that it didn’t seem to be doing much to lift the tired fog from my mind. But then again, I also had blood sugars to contend with AND the college’s cafeteria coffee was mostly brown and water. So, there’s that…

More than half a decade would pass and energy drinks had become a new trend, although I had never tried them. Then one day, a Red Bull representative came knocking (not literally) while I was managing a big box pharmacy. The company had agreed to provide some shelf facings for the product to be displayed and the rep wanted to offer me a sample so that I would be able to speak to the product’s quality, flavour and effectiveness. When I mentioned I had Type-1 Diabetes, he surprised me by offering me a can of sugar-free Red Bull. It was all down hill from there…

Over the years, caffeine has played an integral role in my effectiveness in karate, work and even my personal life. I’ll admit there are a few times I may not have made it home if I hadn’t downed a cup of coffee before getting behind the wheel. For the past 20 years or so, I’ve had a roller coaster relationship with caffeine, often trying to quit at the most inopportune times (like taking a course or travelling for long distances). So, what is the good, the bad and the ugly of coffee?

According to an article by Healthline.com, caffeine actually works due to its effect on the brain. It “functions by blocking the effects of adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter that relaxes the brain and makes you feel tired.” Well… f$%k me…. Here, I thought it just jacked up one’s heart rate, causing increased blood flow, which makes you more alert. See, even an old dog like me can learn new tricks. Moving on…

Caffeine can kick in quickly with the average cup of coffee often taking only about 20 minutes to kick in. Another article by Healthline.com lists a number of benefits related to caffeine consumption, including but not limited to improved energy and reaction times, weight loss, improved physical performance, protections from certain health conditions (including Type-2 Diabetes) and coffee just happens to be very high in antioxidants, making it the ideal beverage to consume on a daily basis.

You’re probably thinking, “Alright, Shawn…. What’s the other side of the coin? You never list all the benefits of something without listing what’s bad…”. Well first of all, thank you for paying attention. I love that shit. Secondly, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two “energy shot” drinks.” Bear in mind that exact amounts vary from drink to drink and the key words are “most” and “healthy.” But we’ll get to that…

Drinking more than what’s basically indicated in the article can lead to side effects including but not limited to:

– Headaches;
– Insomnia;
– Nervousness;
– Irritability;
– Frequent urination;
– Fast heartbeat; and
– Muscle tremors.

I don’t know about you, but none of those sound like a spa treatment. Not least of which is the fact that caffeine can be addicting. You start by consuming a cup in the morning before work and months later, you’re downing a full POT while getting ready for work, then grab an extra large through the drive-thru on your way to work, followed by more coffee during coffee break. And that’s all before 10 am…. I may or may not be speaking from experience.

For the most part, energy drinks have become my go-to caffeinated drink and have been for the past few years. This is for a number of reasons, including the fact that it’s cold and I can get it down my gullet way faster than a hot coffee. there’s also a slightly higher caffeine content than your average cup of coffee, which can help when you’ve spent had the night up due to your insulin pump or fluctuating blood sugars keeping you up. There’s also the fact that energy drinks usually carry a whole bunch of extra stuff on board, like increased B vitamins and minerals.

The down side is that depending on the energy drink, you can find yourself consuming ingredients that could affect blood sugar levels. Further, besides making your urine a weird fluorescent colour, you start getting addicted and needing the additional stuff you get out of energy drinks. So, it’s important to mindful. Why is this important? Well, I usually only allow myself the luxury of energy drinks because I get them on special at my local corner store for cheaper than a cup of coffee. Otherwise, cheap, stubborn Shawn won’t buy them. Last Thursday, I went into the store and noticed they weren’t on special so I didn’t buy any. It’s been a few days. I fear for society’s well-being…

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with caffeine consumption, provided you don’t take in more than what’s recommended and safe for you and that the side effects don’t outweigh the benefits. If you find yourself experiencing some of the side effects listed above, it may be a sign that you need to cut back. We’ll see how long I hold out without my daily energy drink. Just one more vice to work on…☯️

Be Wary Of Your Vices…

I was pretty much a stranger to alcohol until much later in life than any of my peers. I had my first beer at the age of 23, when I travelled to Japan. Prior to that, I had never consumed alcohol as some of my family members had faced alcoholism and had medical complications as a result. Being as that I was finally controlling my blood sugars and making some headway into proper health by my early 20’s, the last thing I wanted to do was introduce alcohol into the mix.

Once I had travelled to Japan and Okinawa, where the refusal of something offered is frequently seen as an insult, I allowed myself to enjoy some drinks and came to find that there was nothing to it. In fact, I even got reasonably tipsy on a couple of occasions and never really noticed the negative effect it was having on my blood sugars. Even when I brought up the fact I shouldn’t be drinking beer to the Okinawans due to my Diabetes (which is called toonoogio in Japanese, FYI) they offered me sake instead, claiming it was better for someone with my condition. Alrighty, then…

When I returned to Canada, I slid off the rails a bit. I may have written about this before but to be honest, who remembers? So confident had I become in my newfound enjoyment of beer and alcohol, I started enjoying it liberaly, much to the dismay of anyone in my immediate surroundings. Things came too a head one night at a party where I decided to fight some guy who was hitting on the little sister of the girl I was involved with. The evening pretty much ended there and it was a bit of a wake-up call for me.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t still enjoy the occasional drink when out playing pool or something. But that first incident showed me the potential danger I could be to others and how vulnerable I was leaving myself. Things didn’t TRULY reach a head until some time later, when I was at party in the woods at a small cabin my friends had nicknamed “the camp.” This was a small , homemade log cabin built by one of our friends and his brothers and was the usual site for any social get-togethers. it’s main feature was that it had power and a wood stove, and a small fridge for storing beer and drinks.

I mean, what could go wrong? Cramming a dozen teenagers/20-year olds into a small wooden structure in the woods and let them drink copious amounts of alcohol, right? As one might reasonably expect, there were fights, arguments, uninvited groping and people drinking far more than they should then wandering off into the woods to alleviate themselves of their liquid burden. It was late fall and although there was no snow, there was a frost on the ground and it was cold. The path to access the cabin required a ten-minute walk at sober speeds and led to the house of the guy who had built the cabin.

That’s when it happened…. One of our friends, I’ll call him “Luke,” was sitting on one of the old truck benches we used as a couch and was staring off into space. When I say staring off into space, I don’t mean the kind of idle staring that you get from being bored or thinking deep thoughts about something…. I mean his head was lolled to one side and his gaze was empty and without conscious substance. A couple of us approached him and asked if he was okay. No response. I pinched the loose skin at the side of his neck in an effort to elicit a pain response. Again, no response. Then his gag reflex kicked in and he trickled vomit out of his mouth like a baby spitting up.

This was the final sign to what I feared; Luke had alcohol poisoning. When someone isn’t conscious enough for the vomit to actually fly out and it just comes out at a slow trickle, you know it’s bad! I didn’t know what he had drank or even how much. I only knew that his life was in danger and I was one of only two people among the group who were sober. I was completely sober for two reasons. The first is because I drove to the location and if watching multiple after-school specials during my childhood has taught me anything, it’s that you don’t drink and drive. The second is that I’m extremely paranoid and worry about being in the forest while intoxicated, as you never know what might happen. Who’s laughing now, everyone who’s ever told me to lighten up?

I enlisted the help of my sober counterpart and a couple of the others who weren’t falling all over themselves. Luke was a bit of a hefty fellow, to say the least, and I would never have been able to get him down the walking path and into my vehicle without some help. It took about half an hour to get him through what would have been a 10-minute walk. Time was ticking and I knew that if I didn’t get him to a hospital soon, he could potentially die. We got him loaded into my vehicle, which was a 1983 Toyota Tercel hatchback. There was only room for four people, so I took the sober guy and one other.

It was the fastest I had ever driven in my life, prior to becoming a police officer. I was white-knuckling the steering wheel and since we were on the Quebec side needing to cross over back into New Brunswick, I kept praying I wouldn’t encounter any law enforcement as Luke’s life could literally depend on NOT being delayed. I crossed the bridge to New Brunswick and gunned it to Campbellton, which was where the hospital was located. I made it there in just over half the time it would have taken, under normal circumstances.

When we arrived at the hospital, I took responsibility for Luke by digging out his wallet and finding ID and a health card and contacted his father to attend the hospital. He was wheeled into the main area of the hospital where I couldn’t follow. When his father arrived, I explained what had happened and how we came to be here. He was brought back behind the door I couldn’t access to be with him. At the time, I remembered thinking how rude it was that he didn’t thank me for saving his son’s life. In retrospect, I realize he likely had bigger concerns on his mind…

With nothing left to do and no one who needed me, I left the hospital. I dropped off my passengers and headed home. I didn’t sleep that night as my mind was occupied, wondering what had become of Luke. Had he survived? Was he okay? Was he conscious? I considered calling the hospital to ask then reconsidered since I was not a member of the family and it was likely that no information would be shared with me.

It took a couple of days for my stomach to unclench and it really only happened when I had gotten word at work that Luke would be absent for a few days to recover. We worked at the same place, in case vI hadn’t mentioned that. This meant that he had survived. It wasn’t until a week later that he caught with me at a local magazine store. I remember that I was reading an article on Wing Chun in an issue of Black Belt Magazine when he walked up. He shook my hand and thanked me for saving his life. I rather think the hospital staff saved his life, but I guess it’s a matter of perspective. He asked me how he could ever thank me and all I could think to say was, “Don’t ever put yourself or anyone else in that position ever again and we’re square.”

I moved on to different things and different people after that. The event seriously altered my perspective on the people I surrounded myself with, and the activities that I allowed to happen around me. I became the puritan who opposed the consumption of alcohol and the use of drugs in my presence. This made me an outcast in the groups I had previously associated with. But I didn’t care. I had been scared straight and didn’t want to ever expose myself to that kind of a situation again. Even today, I usually won’t enjoy a drink outside of my home. And when I do, I have my one drink and be on my way. The world is too dangerous a place to allow anything more.

I think about Luke once in a while and wonder what ever became of him. Did he change his habits? Turn his life around? The focus of this post isn’t about my intervening in the situation. It’s about how quickly one’s vices can get out of hand, often with deadly consequences. Most people will be inclined to defend their choices. But it isn’t until you’re in the mud that you realize you’re sinking. And by that point, it can be too late. Moderation is key. I often enjoy a glass of wine of a vodka soda in the comfort of my home. I do so for the relaxing effect, the flavour experience and because I feel safe at home. But i have the distinct pleasure of knowing that I‘ll never find myself in that kind of a situation unless it’s to once again come to someone’s aid. And neither should you. Food for thought…☯️

What’s It All Mean?

This is one of those fun posts where I get to explain and clarify that I am not a doctor or trained medical professional and the information contained herein is strictly for entertainment and reference purposes. Although I research things ad nauseam, and try only to quote from reputable and peer-reviewed sources, one can never be too sure. This is why I always say that anything you may be wondering about should always be discussed with your doctor or medial practitioner to ensure you don’t do something or change something that could have a serious impact on your health.

Now that I’ve gotten the pesky disclaimer out of the way, having type-1 Diabetes has meant that I’ve found myself having to consume different medications throughout my life. And a lot of these medications will come labelled with instructions or warning that can be concerning and off-putting. If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely often wondered what some of these labels mean or what happens if you don’t follow the instructions they indicate. This mostly refers to pills, but also apply to some liquid medications and can be prescription or over-the-counter. I’m going to try and address some of the top ones I’ve seen, in this post.

“Take With Food…”
Let’s start with the most basic one, and an instruction that we can find on numerous different types of prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements. I’ve learned the hard way that when a bottle indicates that certain pills should be taken with food, those instructions should be followed without exception. If you find a label that says “take with food,” this is an indication that there may be components of the pill or medication that will cause severe stomach upset, nausea or heartburn if taken on an empty stomach.

I remember one instance where I had started the habit of taking my daily multivitamin first thing in the morning. This makes sense, right? Since one should be having breakfast during the first hours of their day, it would make sense to take a capsule that needs to be taken with food during breakfast. But on a particular morning, I was running late and I popped a multivitamin and chased it with an energy drink and dashed out the door. I was minutes away from my work destination when I started to feel nauseous. It got back to the point where I began sweating and had to pull into the parking lot of a local business and threw up all over the lot.

The combination of an empty stomach and carbonated drink didn’t sit well (pun intended) and I emptied what little contents were in there, multivitamin included. Most sources I’ve found have stated that so long as you don’t take your medication no more than about 30 minutes prior to eating, it should be fine. And eating something that will adequately coat your stomach and trigger the digestive process is best. This helps your body to absorb and metabolize the medication faster and avoids the embarrassment of bystanders watching you retch all over a parking lot.

“Take On An Empty Stomach…”
Here’s the flip side… Some medications will actually REQUIRE that your stomach be empty when you take them. A supplement my doctor recently prescribed has this instruction on it, and I got curious. What, exactly, happens if your stomach isn’t empty when you take this medication. This one is what prompted this post, actually. According to a post on NHS.uk, “As a general rule, medicines that are supposed to be taken on an empty stomach should be taken about an hour before a meal, or 2 hours after a meal.”

So the big question becomes, what happens if you don’t. Although forgetting to take them on an empty stomach on rare occasions shouldn’t do harm, per se, doing it as a habit could mean that your medication won’t work as intended, could be adversely affected by certain foods or other medication or may even CAUSE adverse affects against other medications. Taking on an empty stomach allows your medication to be absorbed into your system before other foods or medications join the party to potentially screw things up.

According to a post by HealthLine.com (one of my favourite sites), “Generally speaking, it takes about 2 to 4 hours for food to move from your stomach to your small intestine.” This can depend on a variety of factors since, as you all know, every human body is different and one’s metabolism may differ from others. So if you’re starving and need to eat prior to taking these medications, you should wait at least a couple of hours to let your digestion take place, first. These days, I grab the medication that requires an empty stomach as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning. Then, by the time I’m prepped and at work, I can take my other meds and have a light breakfast. It can be a bit convoluted depending on how busy my day is, but one’s health is worth it, right?

“Do Not Take If Pregnant, Have Diabetes, blah, blah, blah…”
This one kind of pisses me off a bit, because I see it on almost ALL over-the-counter medication, whether it’s sinus or cold meds, nasal spray, multivitamins… you name it! The everyday OTC products that people grab on the fly when they may be feeling down or trying to address a specific condition usually spit this warning out at me, every time. And yes, you should ALWAYS read the information label to anything you consume. That’s YOUR body you’re dumping that stuff into. You should know what’s contained within. But I digress…

According to an article posted in the endocrinology section of Healio‘s website, the issue is that a number of inactive ingredients contained in some of these medications can raise blood pressure or blood glucose by virtue of carbohydrates or even alcohol content. The best example is NyQuil, which includes 10% percent alcohol. Taking these medications without considering their content could mean spikes in blood sugar or raises in blood pressure, both of which can be an issue for someone with Diabetes. Depending on the labelling required by the prevailing health authorities in your respective country, you may not even be made aware of these inactive ingredients.

Just because some of these meds can raise blood sugar, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them, According to an article posted by Everyday Health (Wow, I’m heavy on the links today!), some medications that may affect blood sugars can include corticosteroids, beta-blockers, statins (which I take), Niacin, antipsychotic meds, some antibiotics and certain decongestant meds. If you have a cold and grab a generic, store-brand bottle of cold caplets, you may not be considering that the decongestant may cause a spike in your blood sugars.

All of this is to say that one should be mindful and inform themselves when taking something that may fail to work, affect something else you’re taking or affect your overall blood sugars. If in doubt, speak to your doctor before taking anything. I know that the current state of the world makes accessing one’s doctor a near impossibility (especially for something like a medication consult) but a good alternative is talking to your pharmacist. Although doctors are extremely educated and knowledgeable, pharmacists specialize in the ACTUAL pills and meds you take, and can offer insight into possible substitutions, side effects and more.

And let’s not forget the usual outlying problem, where certain medications may not directly affect insulin itself, but can affect how your body processes and uses insulin. This can be critically important for overall blood sugar control. At the end of the day, be sure to read all information available on the meds you take, consult your doctor or medical practitioner and don’t forget to test your blood sugar regularly. Forewarned is forearmed, so if you know something may cause your blood sugars to spike, you can adjust accordingly. ☯️

How Much Do You Need?

There’s a prevalent belief that one’s workout area needs to be elaborate, containing a vast array of different equipment and machines. One needs to have access to a bit of everything in order to ensure the best variety of exercises and the best for one’s health & fitness. People will pay through the nose for expensive gym memberships and access to equipment they would either not afford or refuse to pay for, within their home and some of the extra services like saunas or steam rooms and towel service. But that’s all a load of bullshit… And here’s why…

It may be great to have access to a wide variety of equipment. After all, I won’t be a hypocrite and try to convince any of you that i don’t occasionally take advantage of the gym at my office, since it does have the elliptical machine I enjoy using and a variety of free weights I don’t have the space to keep at home. Wake up late and need to get yourself up and going? No time for a visit to the gym? All you need is a small space, even if it’s only about 8 foot by 8 foot. In that space, you can do push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches and a wide variety of dumbbell exercises. All without the availability of gym machines and complicated and expensive equipment.

If you practice martial arts, you should be able to perform all the exercises mentioned in the previous paragraph as well as practice all of your punches, kicks and blocks from a stationary post. Doing one’s forms shouldn’t require any more space than a small, open area and doing them with a bit of oomph will have you sheathed in sweat before you know it. All of this can be done without big, expensive gym memberships or vast arrays of equipment.

Let’s not forget some of the old faithfuls, like going for a run or cycling. Even going out for a brisk walk can be a good alternative, especially if you’re on a break day or trying to nurse an injured limb back to health. Anything will always be something more than nothing, right? So, the answer to the title’s question should be that you need very little in order to focus on your fitness and make a change. There’s should be no excuse behind why you don’t exercise regularly.

So don’t wait! Whether you want to lose weight, get fit, build muscle, improve blood circulation… whatever! If you have a friend who knows martial arts, train with them! If you have a bicycle, get out and peddle! If you have a small area of open space, do some exercises at home! Jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, burpees… You can’t go wrong. If you wait until you have the money for a gym membership, your chance at good fitness may be passing you by. Food for thought…☯️

Conquering The Challenges

Sometime at the beginning of the summer, I wrote about trying an app called “The Conqueror Challenges.” The premise behind the use of this app is pretty simple. Once you have it installed and create an account, you can sign up for virtual marathons. These marathons (at least, that I’ve seen) have been as short as 26 kilometres all the way up to several thousand kilometres. You pay a nominal fee and you are able to choose a time limit (weekly amounts) to complete your challenge.

It’s a fun and interesting way to contribute to one’s overall fitness. The organization that runs the app plants a tree for every 20% of the challenge you complete. You get post cards and updates as you progress. For example, I completed the Mt. Everest virtual marathon, which involved travelling 64.2 kilometres. I gave myself a 3-week timeframe, but I was done within the first week. 64.2 kilometres racks up pretty fast on a bicycle.

At the end of your challenge, they ship you an actual medal depicting the challenge you were on. They’re pretty sweet, made of metal and usually have some special aspect to it specific to the challenge. For example, my “Marathon to Athens” medal has a slot with a Greek coin inside it. A reproduction, of course. But neat, nonetheless.

My swag, so far. #5 is in the mail and I’ve almost completed #6

The app syncs automatically with my Runkeeper app and will include any distance-related workout, such as running, walking or cycling. The St. Francis Way medal you see in the photo above was 502.8 kilometres. One of the best ways that this app keeps you motivated is that you pay money but lose the medal if you don’t complete the challenge in time. Nothing lights a fire under your ass like knowing you’ll actually lose money you’ve paid, if you get lazy and skip a few days of working out. Plus, you get to learn a great deal about all the different countries that are featured in these challenges.

I’m having a blast with these and they’re definitely conversation starters for those who see them. If you’re looking for a way to keep yourself on track, I highly recommend this. As long as you keep your goals realistic. I gave myself an 8-week timeframe for the 502.8-kilometre challenge. It would have been ridiculous to try and have it done in 2! But as long as you keep it realistic and consistent, you’re good to go.

Doing things in a virtual environment is the way of the new world. Why should marathons be any different. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to increase my fitness and new ways to exercise. This one has been loads of fun and it doesn’t hurt that I get a bit of bling to brag about, after the fact. ☯️

I Want To Live…

I want to live. Makes sense, right? Most people do. Most people have the opportunity. Not many people fight for that privilege. And I know what you’re thinking…. Why should someone have to fight for the privilege of living? Well, I don’t mean fighting for the privilege of staying alive because of oppression, war or famine. I mean fighting for the privilege to live against something that came to be, completely out of one’s control. If none of you have guessed that I’m talking about Diabetes at this point, let me clarify: I’m talking about Diabetes.

One of the best things about living in modern times, is that Diabetes is no longer an automatic death sentence. If you were diagnosed with Diabetes prior to the creation and distribution of insulin, that was pretty much it. I’ve written posts about how long a Type-1 can survive without insulin, even if they completely eliminate carbohydrates and continue to exercise. So I won’t get into that part, since that’s not what this post is about. Needless to say, insulin isn’t JUST about lowering blood sugar levels.

People have often asked me why I push so hard when I exercise, or why I do so much. I’ve had folks commenting on the fact that by the time I’ve completed a workout, I look like a wet cat who got stuck in the rain. Sometimes, it’s can be belittling or condescending; as though they’re suggesting that I shouldn’t be a sweaty mess in a public place where other folks can see. It’s almost akin to those who make fun of an overweight person in the gym for trying to get in shape. Granted, not EXACTLY the same, but the concept is the similar.

I learned from a very young age that Diabetes would show me no quarter. If I let up my guard, even for a day or two, it would find a way to swoop in and make my life difficult. Maybe this difficulty would come in the form of high or low blood sugars, which typically fuck with my entire day. Or maybe it would simply make me more susceptible to illness and make my day-to-day interactions all the more dangerous. Or perhaps it’ll take something simple like stubbing one’s toe and turn it into an automatic, infected toenail. Just because it can. Diabetes shows no mercy because it has no emotion.

Fitness is an important part of ANYONE’s lifestyle. It’s no secret that someone who doesn’t exercise regularly will face a host of health problems too numerous to list here. But staying fit and active is an important part of life and all the more so for someone with Diabetes. Again, from a young age I recognized this, especially in light of my doctors telling me I’d die due to Diabetes complications before I reached my teens (I’m now well into my forties, in case you were wondering).

I guess where I’m going with this is that there are a number of different reasons to work out and go to the gym. Some people want to get fit, some want to get muscular and some want to lose weight. hell, some people go to the gym simply to be social and see certain key people they may associate with. And that’s fine. At the end of the day, whatever your reasons for training consistently will never be bad. Anything will always be something more than nothing. My point is you’ll be able to easily discern who’s training to get fit and who’s training to save their lives.

That’s what I do. I train in order to save my life. I train because if I don’t, Diabetes complications will reach me all the sooner and take away something that I need in order to live. That’s why I’ll spend an entire hour on a cardio machine at a high level and end up soaked and breathing hard. That’s why I rarely take break days or rest days. Diabetes never takes a rest, so why should I? I push myself because I’m trying to stay ahead of a condition that will ultimately end my life, despite all the therapies, despite all the available resources and despite all my efforts.

And that’s the ultimate punchline of my existence. This is a race against time and a race against a condition that I will inevitably succumb to, despite my best efforts. But like trying to outrun an oncoming tornado, I have to try. I need to give it my all because I refuse to let it take me down. I have too much to live for. I owe it to myself and to those who matter in my life. I’m fighting against complications. I’m fighting against organ failure. I’m fighting against death. Besides, I’m well aware that there are those who push and train harder than me, anyway. But my efforts are mine and mine alone.

So, the next time you see me breathing hard at the gym, it doesn’t mean I’m “out of shape” or new to working out. When you see me walking away from a machine looking drenched like an alley cat left out in the rain, it isn’t because I couldn’t handle the exercise I was doing or I was doing too much. It’s because I’m fighting for my life. And if you don’t come out of that fight bloody and covered in sweat, you’re not really fighting. And you will lose. Ask yourself why YOU do it. No matter what your reason, you should never judge someone’s efforts or appearance when trying to better themselves. Whether it’s someone trying to get slimmer or fitter or someone who is simply trying to prolong his life long enough to see his children into adulthood. Food for thought… ☯️

Sure, Get Right In The Way…

Kids are amazing and they have no shortage of clever quips and imaginative ideas. Sometimes the amount of stuff my oldest son comes up with kinda scares me, especially when he starts talking about some of the “advanced” weaponry he builds with his legos and various other toys. If he ever gets a mountain fortress and a swivelling chair while petting a white cat, we may have a world domination problem on our hands. But getting them interested in the things you do can be the biggest challenge. For me, it’s been getting my children interested in martial arts.

My oldest son Nathan had some moments of interest where he would emulate some of the movements and techniques I would practice during a given workout. It was cute, considering he used to do this prior to being a toddler. I have a great video clip where he comes out of his room and sees me training, and immediately drops into a horse-stance and does a kiai. I used to show that video to EVERYONE, as I absolutely loved the precision and ferocity he did it with.

My oldest son, Nathan

This happened without my efforts to try and encourage him to do it. It gave me a slim hope that he would show some interest and perhaps prowess in karate and I would be able to start teaching him from a young age. I’ve seen the results of “forcing” children into karate, firsthand. The results are never positive. For this reason, I’ve always been an advocate of allowing children to make their own choice when it comes to sports and extracurriculars. That being said, Nathan has never shown an interest in learning beyond the occasional bout of floor grappling or “wrestling.”

When my second son, Alexander was born, he began to show some active interest almost immediately. As soon as he was able to walk without falling over, he would follow me around and do what I do. At only 2-year’s old, he currently practices punches, kicks and even lifts little 3-pound weights when I do resistance workouts. Although letting a small child use weights isn’t ideal, 3 pounds isn’t significant and it’s hilarious watching him do arm curls, trying to imitate me. Watching him on the punching bag is even better.

Beyond both of these scenarios of ultimate cuteness and adorability, one of the biggest issues is finding the time to do a proper workout when you have two small, rambunctious children clambering all over your legs. A good example was a few nights ago, when I was trying to do a short, weight workout in the living room. I’ve bring doing this push-up challenge called “Bring Sally Up,” lately (it’s been going well, BTW. Thanks for asking…) which requires the use of YouTube, since that’s where the video is. I prepped myself with a pair of shorts and a dry-fit hoodie with the hood up, which allows me to retain more heat and get a better sweat on.

The push-up challenge is about three and a half minutes long and at about the first minute mark, I raise my head just a touch to see a tiny, red-headed grin peeking into my hood. Hilarious, but obstructive. Then, as I was working through a set of dumbbell exercises, he was trying to emulate them with his 3-pounders. It would have been adorable if not for the fact that he was crowding my space and I had to keep moving or altering my sets in order to keep from cold-clocking him with a dumbbell.

I got the workout done, but it goes a long way towards showing how exercising with children involved can be complicated. The important thing is not only teaching children proper fitness safety as it pertains to proper stretching, not overdoing it and the dangers of the equipment you use, but trying to get it done for yourself in a safe, controlled manner. Kids don’t always get the potential dangers of exercise, especially with equipment. There’ll always be an excuse NOT to exercise but your children shouldn’t be one of them. ☯️

Becoming Ill Will Make You Sick…

I don’t think I need to point out that the pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down, with the number of infected fluctuating and outbreaks coming and going with the kind of frequency one would expect from sailing on rough seas. A constant to and fro of cresting a swell and slipping into the depths, only to surface for air long enough for it all to happen again.

I’m certainly not here today to argue the merits of vaccination versus not. There are enough forums on the internet for people to argue about all of this without my involvement. I’ll reserve judgement in that regard since it doesn’t pertain to the actual topic of today’s post. It’s no surprise that most hospitals, at least here in Canada, are facing critical capacity issues as the number of infected patients are overfilling the ICU’s to the point where there is no room for anyone with any other illness than COVID-19. For the most part.

I realize that I can’t back this claim with anything more than what I’ve recently read in Canadian news releases. But the most concerning that I’ve read in recent days is from here in Saskatchewan, were ICU patients have had to be air-lifted to Ontario for care because we no longer have the in-Province resources to do it. Let that sink in for a moment. The second largest city in the Province, with two very large hospitals, no longer have the available staff, resources and room to accommodate potentially dying patients. Setting aside the statistic that the outstanding percentage of COVID-19 ICU patients are unvaccinated for the moment, this new development is frightening in more ways than I can put into words.

Throughout my entire life, there’s been something of a comfort knowing that if I became ill or faced complications with Diabetes, I could attend my local hospital for treatment. During my teens and into my 20’s, it wasn’t unusual for me to become suddenly ill from dehydration, requiring the intervention of an IV drip for a couple of days in order to bring myself back to health. Although one never enjoys laying idle in a hospital bed, it was something I knew was always there and waiting, should I need it. As well it should, but that available resource appears to be disappearing.

It’s no secret that hospital waits have become exorbitantly long, even prior to the pandemic. The best example I can think of, is when my son slipped on the steps of our landing and struck his head. He had a gash on his head, so we rushed him to the emergency room, fearing he may have a concussion (despite having not lost consciousness) or other injuries that we couldn’t identify or treat. Despite explaining that we had a toddler with a head injury, we waited for almost four hours before finally throwing in the towel and simply going home. By then, Nathan started getting fidgety and playing as normal anyway, so our fears were alleviated somewhat. But still…

It’s a fitting example of how low things have become in the health industry and COVID-19 has made it worse, since the majority of hospital resources are allotted to dealing with the pandemic. Any and all medical requirements short of immediate trauma are being rescheduled and/or cancelled. This includes organ transplant surgeries and dialysis treatments. For someone whose immune system is already spotty at best, this scares the shit out of me.

When you consider that a lot of this concern and strained resources comes as a result of people choosing NOT to be vaccinated, one needs to wonder where the line is drawn between “my rights” and “doing what’s right.” I can’t help but feel that if a loved one of mine died as a result of having their organ transplant cancelled because the ICU is overflowing with unvaccinated patients, I might feel some kind of way about that.

Freedom of choice is a staple of any modern, civilized society. It’s up to the individual to recognize that even when it seems or feels that they’re not being offered the choice for something, they really are. Do you need to eat out at restaurants? No. Do you need to go to bars or pubs? Certainly not. Do you need to join sports teams or participate in extra-curricular activities? Definitely not. None of these are your “right” and none of those things will save your life.

There’s a running joke in my household, whenever the boys are playing rough with each other or doing something stupid (which they often do). Either my wife or I will remind them not to get hurt, because there’s no hospital service to lean on, if they do. They’d essentially be at the mercy of my very limited field medic training, which is rudimentary at best. Light help them, if they break a bone and I have to set it myself. It’s almost like being back in medieval times, where becoming sick or injured is basically tantamount to the end of one’s life. Scary time to be alive… ☯️