Tag Archives: fat boy program

Joy in Mudville: The Comeback

“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” Satchel Paige

“One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something” Nolan Ryan

Baseball is more like life than any sport it is a game that requires stamina and gives players who continue to produce a chance to keep playing longer than most other sports, even players that are not super stars.  But sometimes life like baseball presents every person situations where it takes everything that you have to keep yourself in the game.

The military is something like sports because in order to remain viable in the military you have to remain physically fit and in an age where the military is shrinking there is little grace given to the old veterans.  I am not going to recount most of my post-Iraq experience battling PTSD as well as a number of nagging physical injuries to my shoulders, left elbow, right knee and right ankle.  Neither my brain nor my body was responding the way I thought that they should and for the first time I discovered the connection between the two.  Jeff Passan wrote concerning ball players, particularly in light of the recent plight of Yankees great Jorge Posada and his battle with age and deteriorating performance “It’s a battle with the brain, with knowing and feeling you belong despite your body’s revolt. The two work symbiotically, and once one turns, it’s difficult to keep the other from following.”

That was true for me for the first time in over 25 years in the military.  I have shared my struggle with my weight recently but another hurdle that I faced was trying to get my head back in the game regarding my physical fitness.  I felt my injuries; they were nagging and took forever to heal. Gone were the days of taking a day or two off and then going back into my usual fitness regime.  I was old and I felt like it. Mickey Mantle said “I always loved the game, but when my legs weren’t hurting it was a lot easier to love.” It wasn’t until the spring of 2010 that my mind began to get back into the game and I began to test my body in ways that I hadn’t since Iraq.  I began to get back in physical shape and though my weight kept me from getting off the fat boy program my score of 265 for the physical fitness test portion was rated as “high excellent” not quiet the top level but not bad for someone on the comeback trail. I was just one pushup shy of the outstanding score and I stopped because I thought I had the number that I needed, I had more in me but quit.  As a result the spring of 2010 went down as my second failure.  In the Navy if you fail three times in 4 years you can be processed for administrative separation. For me this would have meant being forced to retire despite having been selected for promotion to Commander.  It would have been humiliating.

When I reported to my new command it became my goal to not only be in weight standards but to continue to improve my physical performance.  I had to. A failure on either portion would have probably meant the end of my career.  I had to dig deep and as the weight came off my physical performance became better and I began to feel like a whole person again. Even so as the time neared for the Physical Fitness Assessment I was concerned I could not take any chances on my weight and likewise could not do badly on the physical readiness test.  Nolan Ryan was right. I had to prove something and I wanted to prove something and I was willing to dig deep to do it.

As I mentioned before I came in 6 pounds below my maximum weight.  This afternoon I took the physical readiness test with about a dozen officers and sailors from the hospital.  As at many commands people wait until the last day to take the test so attendance today was light.  Another 700 or so will take their PRT in the coming days.

The weather this afternoon was wonderful. I have taken the PRT and the Marine PFT at Camp LeJeune in May before. Usually the weather is already uncomfortably warm and humid even in the morning. I had planned on doing the 0630 time because of this but I had been up late counseling a former shipmate so I elected to go in to work at my normal time and take my chances that the weather would cooperate in the afternoon.  When the time came the temperature was about 75 degrees with a nice breeze and bearable humidity.  I felt good and knew that I was going to do very well; the question would be cracking the “outstanding” barrier, something I had not done since shortly after my return from Iraq when despite injuries I pushed myself to make the grade. After than the injuries owned me and I went through several tests where I simply did okay, not failing but nothing to write home about.

We lined up and the first exercise was sit ups or crunches.  I have always done well in this event but over the past few years have really gotten my technique down.  In 2 minutes I did 101, well above the 85 that I needed for the highest score of 100 points.  I could have done more as I stopped about 15 seconds before the end of the time but you don’t get extra credit.  The next even was the pushup.  When I was young I struggled with pushups.  It really was a mental thing. Back then when I was 23 the Army required 65 pushups for the maximum score. Now at the age of 51 I still need 64 for the maximum score. I did 65 and again it came down to technique. I have worked to perfect my pushups to keep the best form using the most compact movements and breathing on every rep to get the most I can in 2 minutes.  Bad form ensures fewer pushups can be performed and if you don’t breathe you tend to wear out sooner and often not be able to go much more than a minute.  Despite exceeding the maximum score I don’t think that I am really in my best shape and I will continue to work.  Knowing that I had blown out the first two events all that was left was the 1.5 mile run.  For me the 1.5 mile run is too short. I tend not even to get into a good stride and have my breathing right until the 1 mile point, so I have always liked the Army 2 mile and Marine 3 mile runs better than the Navy variant and before Iraq would run 5-8 miles every time I went out.  If I really want to blow the Navy run out I have to turn on the afterburners. If I do this when I am in stellar shape I can nail the run in 9.45 to 10.45 minutes.  With the injuries I had not did the run since the spring of 2009 instead doing the elliptical machine or stationary bike.  That was not so much because I couldn’t do the run but it was a mental thing, I no longer believed that I could.   I finally realized that I could and today I ran the run in 12.31.  I decided that I didn’t need to push too hard. I knew the number of points and run time that I needed to get them. I was well under that time but well below what I know that I can do. Next time I will do better.

This was a victory for me but I cannot rest. I avoided the failure that would have ended my career but I cannot fail again.  There is nothing like living on the brink to provide a little extra motivation.  But as Satchel Paige said “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Military, philosophy, US Navy

A New Start…Life off the Fat Boy Program

Back in Standards 

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Bob Feller

One of the biggest effects of my post-Iraq PTSD crash was how I tried to cope with this multi-faceted beast. Of course psychologically and spiritually I was in the toilet so much so that I was in the midst of a spiritual crisis so great that I was for all practical purposes an agnostic.  I struggled to hold myself together during 2008 and early 2009 trying to believe again and keep in shape. To compensate for my lack of belief, depression and the other nasty effects of PTSD such as night terrors, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, flashbacks I threw myself totally into work on the critical care units of the hospital I was serving. I finished my Masters Degree program and worked hard to better our hospital’s Clinical Pastoral Education Program and served on various committees including the Ethics Committee.  It was too much and the collapse deepened so I sought other coping mechanisms. I turned to comfort food and drink as a way to cope, especially food that was bad for me and way too much very good beer.

After my physical fitness test and weigh in during April of 2009 I lost all control of the latter two. While I had been drinking more since my return from Iraq than before the deployment in the spring of 2009 it became a problem.  I would leave work and on days when the Norfolk Tides were in town I would take to my season ticket seat in Section 102 Row B Seat 2 and seek refuge from my problems.  The ballpark and baseball helped bring some peace to my soul, but it would only last for 3 hours.  At the ballpark I would drink two to three beers with a chili dog and fries and maybe a pretzel, peanuts or ice cream.  After the game I would swing by the Krispy Crème Donut shop on the way home and pick up a dozen hot and fresh glazed donuts. I would then get on my computer and write on this site. While writing I would down three to six of the donuts with another two to four beers and repeat the cycle the next day for the rest of the home stand. On other nights I would go over to get donuts and drink more beer with them often after eating a heavy meal with very good beer at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Town Center.  By November I weighed 194 pounds and though I passed the PT test with a very good score for someone my age I was way over my weight and body fat limits. Thereafter it was a struggle to get below 180 pounds. I failed my next body composition assessment by a percentage point and though scoring well enough to qualify for the DOD waiver which would have taken me off of the program it was not approved.  I weighed in weekly and continued to improve my physical condition to the point that I was within the body fat standard by the time I left that duty assignment I transferred before the next official physical fitness assessment and got to my new assignment after the period was over.  Thus I remained on the program.

To those that have never experienced life in any military branch Fat Boy or Girl program it is humiliating, at least if you are a military professional.  There is a stigma to being fat because the military is run by tall skinny people.  Those of us of the under tall variety understand this stigma very well even when we are within standards.  I know a good number of good Soldiers, Sailors and Marines put out of the military because they did not meet their service body fat and weight standards.  Many like me are those suffering the effects of war and just trying to cope with life.  Others are men and women who are suffering the effects of time with shrinking bodies due to spinal disc compression and other injuries, illnesses and the slowing of metabolism which conspire against them. The military is a young person’s game and 51 year old 30 year veteran relics like me are in the minority.  For me the physical requirements are little different than when I first went on active duty in 1983. Back then I thought that when you got older you would catch a few breaks. Well in the age of budget cutting and a shrinking military force those standards continue to tighten and few breaks are to be found.

Bursting at the seams in my Summer Whites in 2009, this was not a comfortable uniform at the time, now it is very loose

While I had lost weight and body fat I was still over my weight limit.  The body fat measurement in the Navy is the measuring tape around the neck and the fattest part of the belly.  It is a terribly subjective and according to many scientific studies inaccurate test.  Nonetheless if you are over the weight limit you must be taped.  I didn’t want to go through that again so I decided that I was going to start really eating healthy and diversifying my exercise regimen.  When I arrived at my new assignment I weighed 184 pounds and during the winter added a few more pounds. At the beginning of January I bought a digital scale and began to weigh myself several times a week. I stopped the comfort foods except for an occasional hamburger or piece of pizza.  Even if I ate a hamburger I omitted the fries and held the cheese and mayo. I began to look at the nutritional information on everything that I ate even looking up restaurant data to ensure that I had the healthiest food that I also liked, it does no good to eat healthy if you hate what you are eating because you don’t stick with it.  I cut back on my drinking a lot, even going to Yuengling Light Beer at home.  I counted every calorie and measured calories burned. If I went over on one thing I compensated rather than continuing as if I had not.

As winter became spring I noticed a difference, I was weighing less and all of my clothes continued to get loose to the point that things that I could not get into during the fall were baggy and some nearly falling off.  As the date approached my scales had me near the limit for a half inch below my real height just in case I got a bad measurement on my height, five pounds is five pounds.  I felt a lot of stress over the week and could feel every muscle in my back completely tense to the point that I was in pain. I weighed in Friday at 169 pounds and was six pounds below my weight limit and one pound below the lower height limit.  I have lost all 25 pounds that I gained during that horrible period of my life. On Monday I will take the physical fitness test something that I never have a problem doing well on.  When I do that I will be officially off the program.

Last night I was invited to do the invocation at the Navy Nurse Corps Birthday Ball at Camp LeJeune. I eased into my Mess Dress Blue uniform which last May I could barely squeeze my body into and in which I looked terrible.  The uniform was loose and fit very well. I went to the ball and had a wonderful time with my colleagues from the Naval Hospital and their guests.  I made sure that I had a friend take the picture which accompanies this post.

For me this is a comeback. I still have my struggles with PTSD but on the whole on the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of life I am doing much better. Yes I still struggle at times and experience some of the manifestations of PTSD and of my spiritual crisis but I am not collapsing when something shakes me like I was between 2008 and even into 2010.

Had I failed the body composition assessment I could have been separated from the Navy and while I probably would have been able to retire it would have been a most humiliating way to leave the service.  Instead as long as I am alive and haven’t done anything incredibly stupid I will be promoted to Commander on September 1st and continue to be able to serve God’s people in the Navy for years to come. Of course I cannot fail a physical fitness assessment for the next two years but now that I have my diet stabilized and composed of things that I like and live in a place at the Island Hermitage where I love to run, walk and bike I do not expect to ever fail that again. My goal is to get back to the weight that I was when I was commissioned as an Army Officer in 1983, 158 pounds and keep it there. Thus my task is still incomplete.  I have succeeded in my first goal and now it is time to complete the deal and live healthy from here on out.

Today is a new opportunity and I am putting past failures behind.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, healthcare, Military, PTSD, US Navy

Back in Commission: Padre Steve’s Long Journey Back

Padre Steve is Back in Commission

Today I know that I am back fully in commission.  I have been feeling this for a while and have seen some extraordinary progress since my “Christmas Miracle” and even since Lent began.  Like an old battleship worn out by service and damaged in battle was for the better part of two years doing my best to stay afloat and survive after my return from Iraq.  During that time if something could go wrong with me it seemed like it did, physical, psychological and spiritual…such is PTSD and all the other stuff that one can return home from war with.  For those that are new to this website or just happened to stumble by I have a lot of stuff on that ordeal posted here.

I have felt good since Christmas and with the exception of being knocked down by a kidney stone for almost a month have been doing pretty good for the most part.  I have been very careful to make sure that I am not just entering a manic period but have been really to be careful so I don’t build myself up to crash later.  Since I have crashed hard a number of times at points during the aforementioned ordeal when I thought that I was doing better I am really conservative about such comments.

USS West Virginia in the 1930s

Personally I am lucky and blessed that I have good people at work who have kind of protected me from myself over the past year as it when apparent to them that I was going down.  In a sense I was like a damaged ship pulled out of action in order not only to be patched up but fully overhauled.  I was damaged and not a lot of my systems were working right.

Now of course even a ship that has been fully overhauled and even modernized to make it equal to new ships is immune from problems, after all there is only so much you can do with an older platform.  I am living proof of that fact; there are things that while better than they were are not up to the original design specs.  At the same time despite everything I am in remarkable health and my physical, emotional and spiritual life is coming back together faster than I thought it would even after the Kidney stone ordeal.

Damage to the West Virginia

I had a yearly physical health assessment last week and all of my numbers were those of a 30 year old so I guess fifty is the new thirty. Yesterday I weighed in and was found to be within the DOD body fat maximum which combined with a high score on my Physical Readiness Test (PRT) or what common is called a PT test.  It is funny, the numbers that I have to make on this at age 50 in the Navy are not much less than then what I was required to do as 21 year old in Army ROTC or 23 year old Army Second Lieutenant then was 68 push-ups, now 65, then 69 sit ups, now 85.  Then I needed a run time of about 12 minutes and 30 seconds for a two mile run to get the maximum points.  Now at age 50 I need slightly less than 10 minutes to get the maximum score on a mile and a half run.  Today I did 90 sit-ups, 61 push-ups and my run time was about 12:15 (converted from a Life Fitness bike.)  I did the bike because of the low number of people running the “early bird” session and because I still have occasional ankle and knee problems.  I need completion to do really well on the run as it motivates me better than running alone or with a small number of people. I came one push-up short of an overall outstanding on the test so I have something to shoot for next time.

USS California 1945 after her rebuild

This will be enough to take me off of the “fat boy program” which I so ignobly entered last fall after my summer crash. Back then I was put on the “Fitness Enhancement Program” where I had weekly weigh ins and taping for body fat and a program called “Shipshape” which is about healthy living.  That was humbling and for me even humiliating because that has not happened to me in 28 years in the military and I pride myself in being in great shape, in fact the EOD techs that I was assigned with asked my assistant “what kind of steroids I was using” because of how I ran and how well that I did on the PRT.   Now I am not where I want to be on any of this yet, I think I have farther to go.  So I am working to keep my life in balance and take a lot better care of myself; especially in diet and exercise although I still have problems sleeping.  Part of what I learned over the past 5 months is that I have to be consistently consistent if I am to get the weigh off, lose body fat and both get back in shape and then keep it off.  I am not where I want to be yet but know that I am not going back to the way that I exercised self care prior to this as I never want to be in that situation ever again. My plan is to continue to lose about 2 to 3 pounds a month and take off about 4 inches from around my waist by late September or early October. I think this is totally doable doing what I am doing now and I plan on continuing to do it.

USS West Virginia 1944 after the rebuild

So anyway going back to the old battleship metaphor I have been thinking about that a lot. I wrote an article a while back titled “The Battleships of Pearl Harbor.”  Of course as almost anyone who has seen the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!” knows that the attack on Pearl Harbor was pretty bad.  If you had the misfortune of watching “Pearl Harbor” sorry it does not do the story justice.  Anyway, I digress. The point is that there were two battleships in particular that were heavily damaged and sunk, The USS California and USS West Virginia. Both were salvaged, refloated and sailed to the West coast where they were not only repaired but modernized with the latest in air and surface search radar, fire control systems, formidable anti-aircraft batteries and large anti-torpedo bulges that increased their survivability.  When rebuilt they resembled the fast modern battleships of the South Dakota class. The two ships spent a long time in the yards but the price was worth it. At the Battle of Surigo Strait the West Virginia and California led the battleships of the US 7th Fleet in annihilating the Japanese Southern Force led by Admiral Nishimura and a follow up force of heavy cruisers. In the battle the two ships sank the Japanese Battleships Fuso and Yamashiro and most of their escorts with the exception of one destroyer the Shigure.  Later they participated in every major operation leading to the defeat of Imperial Japan.

Today I feel like the West Virginia or California. I am older than most of the people that I work with by a large margin, I came back damaged from Iraq and was not able to do half the things that I was capable of doing before Iraq.  Now I am out of the yards and have passed my builders trials and in action again and this my friends really makes me happy.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, Military, philosophy, PTSD, US Navy

Waiting on Results and Planning

I completed my comprehensive exam today and I am full of joy.  I used 6 hours and 12 minutes and maybe a bit of change of the 6 hours and 15 minutes allotted. I think I did okay, certainly well enough to pass.  I want to “pass with distinction” but I did not time myself as well as I could have and my last answer was not as well developed as I would have liked.  Oh well, 4 questions, any of which could have been developed into a thesis or book in 6 hours 15 minutes…I guess I should be satisfied.

So now that the exam is done I wait on results.  Presuming that I am right and that I passed it I will officially graduate on February 15th in Washington DC.

My biggest challenge now is to kick myself back into shape and lose the wait that I picked up over the summer thanks to my friends at Krispy Kreme.  Nothing like 3-5 hot and fresh glazed washed down with a beer or two before bed to pick up some wait.  Tastes great…really filling.  I am pleased that my PT is coming along, especially now that I have time to do it.  This week I have decided to vary what I do and went to a class on body shaping, those girls who lead that shit will kick your ass.  I kept up but it was work.  Today I went to a spinning class.  That too when you do it right takes a lot of effort. However I will kick this in thee ass and be off of the fat boy program as fast as I can.

Next on my agenda is to keep working to recover from Iraq and deal with my PTSD related issues.  I am getting”top cover” from my boss to do this and I am grateful.

Next comes my board certification as a Clinical Chaplain in the hospital setting, with luck that will be done by the spring sometime.  I have a few other certification  type things that I am working on and all should be good when I get them done too.

Finally I am looking at writing two baseball books one on the Negro Leagues.  Over the summer I met Sam Allen, one of the remaining Negro League players who lives in the local area.  I also want to do one on the minor leagues.

I guess that’s enough to put on the table for now. Tonight we watched Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bedazzled and since I don’t want to wake up like Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral by oversleeping my alarm and saying a certain four letter word in a variety of ways as I dash in to work I should get ready for bed.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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