Tag Archives: physical fitness

Physical and Emotional Readiness

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This week I passed my Navy Physical Fitness Assessment, or PFA. I did my weigh in and met my Body Composition Assessment or BCA, having lost eleven pounds since my last weigh-in on April 18th (and 17 since Memorial Day). I also did a lot better on the Physical Readiness Test completing 73 sit-ups and 51-push-ups while doing well enough on the stationary bike to get an overall score of excellent. Since I am 57 and a half years old that made my week. A lot of my success has been a combination of doing a much better job of my diet as well as disciplining myself to walk or run as much as I can nearly every day. On a bad day I typically walk at least six miles and most days I shoot for nine to ten miles or more, sometimes in combat boots.

Since Memorial Day I now keep track of my steps, distance, time, calories burned, and sleep on a Garmin Vivofit 3 device. That device and the Garmin app for my iPhone allow me to track my fitness better than I have in years. I highly recommend to any of my readers who struggle with keeping track of their weight and physical fitness to get a similar device from either Garmin or Fitbit. They do not cost that much and at least for me they challenge me to achieve my daily and weekly goals far more than anything else I have used in my life.

Anyway. I have been extremely busy at work, and since I struggle with sleep due to a combination of PTSD night terrors and recently diagnosed sleep apnea for which I will be fitted with a CPAP machine next week I am very pleased with my weight loss and overall physical fitness.

In normal times simply doing this for health would be a good enough reason to try to stay in shape, but as a military man I know that it has to be about more than that.

The fact that I am 57 years old and am getting raw scores better than people younger than me on the Physical Readiness Test makes me quite happy. I try my best to neither look or act my age, and most of my sailors, as well as many other officers and chaplains are surprised to find out just how old I am. In fact I am the oldest active duty Navy member on my base.

There are a couple of reasons I work so hard at this: first, I need to for the sake of my health, and second, because I believe that the President is going to lead us into a terrible war and that I could well end up back in harms way. If I am correct and that happens I need to ensure that I am in the best physical shape possible and make sure that I have more physical endurance than I had during my last combat tour in Iraq in 2007-2008. I have served and trained on the Korean DMZ and I know that if war breaks out there it will be more terrible than anything seen since before I was born. Compared to it our wars in Vietnam and the Middle East will be child’s play and the cost in lives, and treasure will be appalling.

I have been to war and I hate war. I am scared to death of how cavalier President Trump seems about war when he engages in rhetorical games with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Likewise I am appalled to see how how unserious the majority of Americans are, including many in the military, about being prepared for the worst. I am and will always remain a critic of President Trump. I do not feel he has the moral character or emotion maturity to lead this country, but he is the President whether I like it or not. I could have retired from the military years ago, but I have felt that it was my place to continue to serve. I never anticipated a man like Donald Trump being President, but now I feel that I have to remain in order to care for my sailors, marines, soldiers, and airmen when the war breaks out. I see it coming and I hate it. There are times that I want to retire, sell everything and move to Germany to get out of Trump’s America and to the disaster that he is leading us, but When I think of those young men and women who will be going into harms way I know that I have to remain. If I remain I have to be both physically and emotionally ready for the coming war.

Lieutenant General Hal Moore who fought in the Second World War, Korea, and Vietnam wrote:

“There’s never been a noble war except in the history books and propaganda movies. It’s a bloody, dirty, cruel, costly mistake in almost every case, as it was in this war that would end so badly. But the young soldiers can be and often are noble, selfless, and honorable. They don’t fight for a flag or a president or mom and apple pie. When it comes down to it they fight and die for each other, and that is reason enough for them, and for me.”

I would like to be wrong about it, but as a historian I see war coming, probably sooner rather than later, and because of that I am doing all that I can to ensure that I can be there for those young men and women who will be on the front lines. If war does not come I lose nothing. I will be in great physical shape and that will help me emotionally as well. That being said I cannot shake the feeling that President Trump is leading us to a military disaster and that many Americans, military and civilians, not to mention Koreans, Japanese, Chines, and others will die in the war that he and Kim Jong Un will bring upon the world. Judy and I talk about this reality. Recently she asked me if I would resign my commission or retire if war came. I told her that I couldn’t because I care too much about those young men and women who don’t need cheerleading chaplains, but chaplains who will be there for them when all else fails. Of course she knew that.

Frankly, I really do want to be wrong about this, but I can see it coming as plainly as I can see anything.

So until tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Running and Writing My Way through the Dog Days of Summer 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Not much to write about today, well actually there is but I needed to take a break for the night. We are in what some people refer to the Dog Days of Summer, the month of August. For a lot of people August seems to drag, the late summer heat seems to take something out of a lot of people. I’m a little bit tired today, but part of that is that I have started running again after about two years trying to play around at the gym, which did nothing for me. I have always liked running, but after I broke my leg back in 2012 foolishly tried other ways to keep in shape, and curtailed my running. Mind you the injury had nothing to do with running, so I am back hitting the pavement. Friday I ran for the first time in about a year or more, 3.2 miles at a slow 10 minute mile pace, and today 3.6 miles at the same pace. The first half of today’s run was painful, my legs felt like lead, but as I kept going it got easier and I felt good when it was all over. But that is normal for me, even when I was young, the first mile to mile and a half has always been harder than what follows. So I will continue to run. I may not get back up to half-marathon level, but I’ll throw in a 10K once in a while. 

As always I am continuing to write on my vast Civil War project, and right now I am focusing on what will be the second book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Race, Religion, Ideology, and Politics in the Civil War Era. It is a challenging subject because there is just so much there to dig into as religion butressed racial attitudes, economic theory, domestic politics, and even foreign policy from the 1830s onward; and truthfully we haven’t completely left it behind, which makes the study of it so pertinent today. 

But anyway, I didn’t feel like writing about politics today, frankly I needed to take a break from it today, so when I got home I just watched the Olympics with our younger Papillon, Izzy snuggled against my leg as a drank a beer.

So until tomorrow, have a great night. 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

Juiced and Loving It

Former Major League Baseball slugger Jose Canseco wrote a book in which he described his use of performance enhancing drugs, or steroids. The book not only detailed his use but made accusations that many players were using such substances helped to reveal a culture in MLB that saw many players using while owners and management turned a blind eye. My version of being “juiced” to borrow Canseco’s book title is far different. I prefer citrus and other fruits run trough a blender to anything that I might have to inject with a needle. I don’t like needles or shots. 10 years of allergy shots  given 1-2 times a week as a kid cured me of that.

For 30 years in the military I have struggled with being in my weight standards. My problem is that I am undertall. just a bit about 5 and a half feet tall with a barrel chest and thick body build.  But in the military which is ruled by tall skinny people with the exception of Army Chief of Staff Ray Odinero defines undertall as overweight, even if you are in otherwise excellent physical condition and can kick ass on the Physical Fitness Test. The older you are the harder it gets, especially when the services are downsizing, no pun intended.

Since I entered the Army in 1981 until now the standards for physical readiness have increased. In fact to score an equivalent score to what I needed to get a maximum score in the Army in the 1980s I have to do as much or more. My weight limit is basically what I had to meet when I was in my 20s. Now I don’t know about you but not many people in their 50s are anywhere close to their physical condition when they were in their 20s and most civilian employers don’t care so long as you can do the job.  As a 52 year old in the Navy I have to meet weight, body fat and physical standards that are little different from when I first entered the Army over 30 years ago. I am not complaining but that is the way life is, as some say in the Navy “choose your rate choose your fate.” I chose to continue to serve as an old person in an organization which is designed for young people. The men and women that I entered the military back in 1981 are almost all retired or have otherwise left the military. I am now a dinosaur. When I entered the Army if you were over 50 you were exempt from the standards. the same in the Navy. It is not that way now. Fat people are easy targets when ranks need to be thinned, no pun intended.

My body type is a prime target. I am for all practical matters a fireplug. Depending on my height on a given day I can be 66” or 67” tall, which in the Navy is a difference f 5 pounds. Thus if I go beyond the maximum weight on the weigh for my height in I am subjected to a Body Fat Composition determined by a highly subjective measurement of my abdomen and neck.  In the year following my tour in Iraq when I was physically, emotionally and spiritually a wreck I tipped the scales a bit too heavy and was taped. I passed the physical fitness test with aplomb both times but because I was over my body fat I failed both times. In the Navy if you fail 3 times (weight/body fat/PT test) in 4 years you are out.

Thus I ended up on what I call the “BCA (Body Composition Analysis) Death Watch. This means that if I fail the weight standards again before 2014 I am out. As I mentioned I am have a fireplug body build. Even way under my official weight limit I am not skinny and since my neck is not thick if I fail the weight limit I am probably going to be near, at or over my body fat limit no matter how hard I try. Thus I need to be under the weight limit.

I didn’t have a real problem with this until I came back from Iraq in 2008  Then everything went to hell. I gained a lot of weight, suffered from PTSD, severe depression, loss of faith and had a number of nagging physical injuries that I kept re-injuring. I self medicated with beer and donuts. Tasted great, made me feel better but made me fat. Nothing like 4-6 hot and fresh Krispy Kreme Glazed donuts with a couple of good amber lagers to wash them down just before bed. However as good tasting and satisfying as the combination is it is not healthy and I don’t recommend it, unless done in severe moderation which was not my habit back then.

Now it has been a couple of years since I failed a BCA. I have worked hard, but not without struggle. I gained more weight than I wanted to after I broke my leg last summer and was really afraid to do much on it. However as it healed I began to test my physical endurance and helped by a switch of running shoes, enabled me to really get back in shape. For the first time since before I deployed to Iraq in 2007 I ran over 7 miles last weekend. I have developed a really good conditioning regimen that exercises all of my body and supplement it with running on the beach near my apartment. But exercise is only part of the equation. The other part is diet.

Since I gained more weight than I wanted over the winter I had to find a way to shred it without resorting to starvation type diets. What I found was my blender. Yes most parts are edible. Actually no, it was what I put in the blender and what I am now loving. My mix which produces about a liter of juice follows:

2 medium Ruby Red Grapefruit, 1 Banana, 1 Medium Navel Orange, 2 cups Strawberries (Halved)  8 ounces water

I lover this. I drink this during the day rather than eating donuts and high fat/sodium junk foods and then follow up with a healthy dinner, low in fat but rich and balanced with appropriate amounts of proteins, carbohydrates etc…. Once in a while I will splurge and have a big burger or pizza and an occasional dessert but generally I have switched over to healthy items taken in moderation. I also did not have to stop drinking beer which I have with dinner every night. The result was that I lost weight and feel better. In fact after I passed my weigh in today I had more of my juice before going out for a big burger reward.  When I came home from dinner I made another batch of juice. I like it and plan to continue it because like I said I like it. I figure now why not? If I keep up my physical conditioning while watching my diet I will be better off and in the fall during the next Physical Readiness cycle I will not have to change habits.

For physical conditioning I alternate running on the beach with doing a type of circuit training that I designed to fit me. I have a course that is about 4/10th of a mile. I run it and at a predetermined point stop and do 25 sit-ups, 15-20 oblique sit-ups on each side, 70-100 flutter kicks and 15-25 push ups. I then stand up, start running and repeat. I try to do this for at least an hour pausing only to tie my shoes if they come undone. In an hour this means I run about 4 miles, do 150-250 push ups, 250 regular sit ups, 300-400 oblique sit-ups and 700-1000 flutter kicks during the work out. As I get in better  shape each week my number of repetitions has increased on each exercise and my running distance has increased. It is a good thing. I have to think my old assistant who was my body guard in Iraq, RP1 Nelson Lebron for helping me figure out something that would work for me. Nelson is a beast and has been on Team USA and the All Navy Team in Mixed Martial Arts and was a Gold Gloves Boxer.

My blood pressure and cholesterol always surprise my doctors because they are better than most people younger than me. Part of this has to be genetics but part is conditioning, diet and hard work.

As far as overall physical condition I am happy and pleasantly amused that at age 52 I can outdo many younger people who should by all accounts leave me in the dirt.

Reward (But in Moderation): The American Burger at Rucker John’s Emerald Isle

I am blessed that I have recovered from injury and am back in shape. It has taken a lot of work but it is worth it. I feel better and it is a good thing. Tonight I celebrated with a big burger and a couple of beers at a local restaurant. Tomorrow I will do my juice, get in a strong workout and eat a healthy dinner. However I may continue my celebration with a dinner at the local Mexican restaurant before going back to salads, soups or small pasta dishes with an occasional steak or burger.

Here’s to health.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, Military, PTSD, sports and life

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

PT and Bumping into Old Friends at Camp Swampy and Getting Carded at Applebee’s

The Main Gate at Camp Swampy

One nickname that Camp LeJeune North Carolina bears is “Camp Swampy.” This is because of the marsh like conditions of some of the base, the normally abundant rainfall and the propensity of said rainfall to accumulate wherever it falls. It is somewhat like the Tidewater, a polite name for “swamp” is in Virginia, only with more rain and in the spring and summer the humidity, mosquitoes and other vermin that love the conditions.  However, because it is a Marine Corps base one can find people doing PT at any time of the day or night in a variety of forms.  Of course the Marines at Camp LeJeune PT in any weather and Chaplains assigned here, even those with the Navy are kind of expected to do the same. Of course each Chaplain does so within his or her physical constraints. Despite being 50 years old I am still in pretty good shape and have the psychological need to try to keep up with people 20 to 30 years my junior so when I do my PT I am serious about it.  In fact when I was stationed with Navy EOD I did so well on the physical readiness test that an EOD tech asked my assistant Nelson Lebron “what kind of ‘roids is the Chaplain on?”  I found this funny since I don’t do this but I can tell you at the age of 50 and being subject to all sorts of minor bumps, dings and nagging injuries I can understand why some professional athletes would use substances such as HGH, but like the rest of the Navy-Marine Corps team I survive on “Vitamin M” or as it is commonly known to laypersons as 800 mg Motrin.

My normal or abnormal regimen is to do what I call “distance interval training.” Interval training usually entails combining some kind of cardio with exercises that work various muscle groups interspersed throughout. I first did interval type training in high school football practice, back then we called them “grass drills” where we ran in place and whenever the coach blew his whistle we would drop for pushups, sit-ups, flutter kicks or any other exercise that could put us on the ground.  I saw a variation with the Marines early in my Navy career that entailed sprinting and then dropping for whatever kind of punishment the leader determined.  Back then I preferred to run long distances up to 20 miles in training for half-marathons and marathons.

However a series of nagging overuse injuries took me down to 5-8 miles a run before I went to Iraq. In Iraq I picked up a few more injuries and it took me a while to recover so after I was assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth I built my runs back up to 3-5 miles but I didn’t find that this was working for me anymore. So I went back to something that I hadn’t done since high school, interval training but I didn’t want to give up running.  I devised a plan that works for me and what I need it to accomplish.  I am now adding the P90X fitness program to fit in on alternate days.

Now I run about 3 miles but every 100-200 yards I drop for a set of 15-25 pushups get up and then do one of 5 different sets of abdominal exercises, 15-30 regular crunches, 40 oblique’s, 15-20 crunches with legs up at a 90 degree angle, 60-100 bicycle crunches and 50-100 flutter kicks with sets of pushups between each of them.

With Paul Rumery in Sicily, he has the hair

It has taken me a while to get settled at Camp LeJeune and begin to plan safe routes to run this and I am just getting back into the groove. Today I went out at lunch amid threatening rain. About a third of the way into the workout the rain came down and I continued to run, the rain was actually quite refreshing and by the two third point of the run I was soaked, my orange Baltimore Orioles t-shirt and gray running shorts must have weighed 5-6 pounds.  As I got up from a set of crunches I wiped off my sunglasses, no I didn’t need them I just like to look cool and as I wiped them off on my previously mentioned soaked Orioles t-shirt I started to run and a car pulled alongside where I was running, the window rolled down and I heard a familiar voice, LCDR Paul Rumery, the Chaplain who had relieved me on USS Hue City in 2003 and who had taken me to dinner the last time I was in Sicily with EOD called out “Hey Steve wild man I knew that it had to be you!” I pulled up and went over to the car, we had a brief talk. Paul had a brand new Chaplain with him who he told that I was a “wild man.” Paul let me know that he didn’t know that I was aboard Camp LeJeune and said that we needed to get together.  It was good to see him and I hope that we do get together soon. I picked up the run again and took it back in to the hospital where my now squishy running shoes and waterlogged clothing dripped of my mud stained body. A Marine Staff Sergeant came up to me and said that I had leaves on the back of my head. I laughed, said “I’m not surprised” and commented “if it ain’t raining we ain’t training.” The Staff Sergeant asked about my workout and was suitably impressed. I then ran into a Corpsman who had been assigned with me at 3rd Battalion 8th Marines back in 2000-2001.  He and I talked for a while. It’s funny what a small world it is when you are stationed in a place like Camp LeJeune.

After work I stopped by the local Applebee’s for a beer and a burger and I was carded by the server. I thanked the server who told me that they and to card anyone that looked under 30 and when he saw my ID and age he was surprised. I must say that since there are so many Marines and Sailors here it is not uncommon to be carded and since I don’t dress my age I can see why I get carded. I must say that it appeals to my vanity.  I guess part of this must be due to good genes as well. Whatever it is I will take it.

Tomorrow I will drive up to Virginia as I have a specialty appointment and assessment to figure out what might be causing my auditory processing disorder.  I haven’t understood speech well since returning from Iraq and the additional Tinnitus is at times deafening.  Hopefully they will figure it out and find something that will make it better.

So anyway, until tomorrow….

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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