Coming down from 396 to 192 has definitely been the experience of becoming a new me. Exercise has been a key tool during my weight loss and fitness journey. I don’t believe it is 100% necessary to exercise in order to lose weight, but it sure does make things a damn site easier and healthier. And, since fitness was an equal goal with weight loss, it was a necessary component for me.
Along the way I have reaped countless benefits from exercising, the difference is like night and day. But, the most real and fundamental one is not often mentioned directly in articles about the benefits of exercise.
From the time I was 14 until I was 21 I had an infection from an ingrown toenail in my right big toe. The pain it caused was severe enough that for years I had to walk with a cane and cut the toes out of my right sneakers. The infection survived countless Epsom salt baths and five operations. My circulation was so poor at 396 pounds that the infection never fully cleared. After six months of T’ai Chi Chih, which was my first exercise tool employed in my weight loss battle, the infection was gone (along with 50 pounds of excess weight.) I was able to stop using the cane, wear normal shoes and stand without pain. The scar on my toe reminds me of the days when I was a cripple. I also went to a weight loss clinic to help me in losing weight. Considering that I had a good one, this clinic helped me a lot in achieving my goal.
After I had been studying Aikido for three years I was doing something stupid to earn extra money. A local museum needed someone to deconstruct a storage space they were vacating. My wife (then fiance) was working for them at the time, which is how I got the job. So, there I was, alone and unsupported tearing down 15 foot high shelving units in a dark room with a metal floor. Oh, and I happen to be afraid of heights. I had worked some construction before, so I had a working knowledge of what I was doing, but not enough to deal well with the shoddy job that had been done putting the huge shelves up in the first place. These things were supported by 2X4’s, were seven feet wide and four feet deep, weighed a ton and were screwed into the plaster dry wall. Formula for disaster. So, as I was at the top of a ten foot ladder one of these eighty pound monsters pulled loose and fell on my head. I managed to slide it off of me backwards, saving my head and injury, but the shelf flipped and cut the ladder out from under my feet. I was pitched into free fall, backwards toward the 2X4 littered metal floor. Because of my Aikido, and fitter condition, I was able to toe off of the tumbling ladder. I spun in mid air and caught myself enough to make the fall fairly soft. I was spared landing on my back, which would have likely resulted in a life long injury. Somewhere in the fall something hit my pant leg hard enough to tear a one inch hole in my shin along side the bone. I have a tattoo there now that says Shugyo in Japanese which is a martial art practice of having a special training session where you push past the point of your endurance. It reminds me that training saved my back that day.
When I was at my most sedentary I would hang out at a my local gaming club and not walk the 40 feet to the corner store for soda, chips and candy. I would wait until someone else was going and give them money to bring me junk food back. After a few years of exercise I was staying in Alaska with some friends. It had snowed a foot or tow and we walked a mile through the snow at night to get to an Italian restaurant, decide we didn’t feel like Italian, walk a mile back to the house and made steaks and salads. That was a damn fine meal.
A couple of years ago I worked with one of the best Olympic Power lifting coaches this country has ever seen. For five months we worked together brining my squats from 140 pound singles to 320 pound sets at a faster pace. The explosiveness I gained still remains in my Aikido, and I keep it up by focusing on rapid calisthenics for my own routines.
In every fitness method I have tried – Martial Arts, Walking, Body Building, Power Lifting, Running, Yoga, Group Programs, Fasting, Meal Tracking, Point Watching; I have always been looking for a way out. A way to resolve my fitness issues permanently and without continuing effort. Each method I hoped for a way to finally ‘win.’ Thanks to bringing exercise into the core of my life I have finally been able to give that false dream up. Today, I live. I live fitter and continue to seek out fitness knowing that the only final solution comes with the grave and that life is never done while one is alive. Today, each day, is a celebration of being able to walk to the dojo, help friends move couches, shop for my mother and work with a clear mind. Today, when someone asks me what the benefit of exercise is I smile and reply, “Freedom.”