Tag Archives: family

The best dates are Sweat Dates

Over the last 4 years, my family and I have dealt with a lot on the health front.  Four years ago, my son was diagnosed with a papilledema, a condition normally associated with a brain or spinal tumor (he did not have one).   I had a near death experience due to a heart condition (I made it obviously but if you want the full story you can read it here) and we topped it all off  with my wife’s battle with breast cancer, including the treatment, double mastectomy and reconstruction that comes with it (she has been cancer free for 2 years now and you can read her story here).  And that is just with those who live under our roof.

When you are confronted with these types of health crises you are forced to look at your health so to say healthy living is a priority with us would be putting it mildly.  It is woven through everything we do, everything we eat and in just about every conversation we have – my sons just love that part.

It also has led to a phenomenon we refer to as:

The Sweat Date!!

As we have traveled this road to health, we have begun working out together on a regular basis.  My wife and I are both BeachBody Coaches so often these workouts are conducted in our living room our outside on the deck but whatever the workout, we are spending between 30 – 60 minutes with each other pushing, motivating, teasing and sweating together.  They have become my favorite part of the week and when I really stop to examine the benefits of the sweat date, there are 5 key benefits that stand out to me in regards to working out with your significant other.

Feel better:

I know, obvious but true.  There is all kind of research out there about the effect of exercise on mood, mental health and of course, overall health.  More than all of that though, doing something with your partner for the long term benefit of you both is uniquely rewarding.  There is something to simply sharing the fight.

More Relationship Security:

In our BeachBody business, it is amazing to me how many men are insecure about their wife getting in shape.  Quite candidly, it blows me away.  Why would a spouse ever be against their significant other getting in better health?  But I can assure you, it is a real occurrence and happens way more often than you would expect.  However a shared journey to being fit builds bonds of security in a relationship as couples travel the road together.

Time spent together:

My wife and I have a blast when we work out together.  It is between 30-60 minutes where we are sharing an experience, working towards a common goal and in many cases, have a common enemy (yes, I am talking about you Autumn Calabrese!!!)

Autumn

Healthier eating:

When you focus on health together rather than just exercise, you have to spend time on your diet.  This is so much easier when you are attacking it as a team.   Meals can be prepared for the family and not for an individual who is ‘dieting” (I hate how we use that word) and if you are going through the effort of putting in the exercise you are way less likely to want to compromise those gains by letting your diet go to pieces.

Side benefit of the Sweat Date:

Couples that play together……..well, play together.  Let me spell this out for you, you are exercising, building confidence and connection together.  When you exercise, endorphins are released improving mood as well as health.  You are sharing experiences together.  All of these contribute to a heightened sense of connection in all kinds of ways.  Yeah, we call them dates for a reason.

So there are my top 5 reasons to make time for Sweat Dates in your relationship.  I promise you, if you make your family’s health a priority together your relationship will grow in all of the right ways.

Not all travel is equal. How Hurricane Katrina changed this RoadWarrior’s perspective

Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina made land fall and was on a collision course for The Big Easy, New Orleans.  Millions of people were rushing to I-10 to find a way out of the area.  Thousands were holding firm and about to get a rude awakening as Lake Pontchartrain would no longer be held back by its levees.

The date was August 29th and I found myself on I-10 as the only civilian vehicle participating in a caravan of Red Cross vans, Power Company repair trucks and tree trimming companies heading in to Louisiana as millions were trying to get out.  Basically, anyone who could make a buck off of the impending disaster was heading east from Houston and everyone else was heading west.  I had no idea what a life changing event I was driving towards.  Experiencing the aftermath and the human stories of Katrina changed the way I looked at our society, our government, charity and those receiving it.

Reality sinks in:

About 2.5 hours in to the 4 hour drive from Houston to Baton Rouge, I realized that I was literally the only non-emergency service provider headed east.  It was a very surreal moment.  One that made me question what I actually did for a living at the time.  I provided fully furnished corporate apartments for business travelers and families relocating, at least most of the time.  However natural disasters, hurricanes in particular, create a unique area of opportunity for that segment of business.  My goal was to get as close to New Orleans as possible, rent as many apartments as possible and somehow figure out who will be staying there (that is usually the easy part actually).

Once I got within 30 miles of Baton Rouge, things began to change dramatically.  Trees were down everywhere.  Nothing had power.  The radio signal from the local stations was intermittent.  Cars were on the side of the road where they decided to either wait the storm out or ran out of gas depending on the situation.  Parking lots of gas stations were full with families who had no other place to “camp” for the night.  I was heading into a refugee camp.

The first 48 hours:

Like everyone in Baton Rouge those first few hours, I think I was in shock, I was in “Get it Done” mode for the first 48 hours.  It was a whirlwind of driving from apartment community to apartment community looking for available units.  All phones were down during that time, no one had power and the internet was not nearly what it is today which meant that if you wanted to rent an apartment, you had better be at their office door…..with a check.  I managed to do my job well and secured about 200 apartments across Baton Rouge.  I never even made it close to NOLA as the highways were closed by LA State Troopers just south of the city.  Troopers who did not take very kindly to me wanted to drive around their barriers via side streets to “go rent apartments”.

I was fortunate that I had gone in prepared for what I thought would be the ‘worst’.  Those first few days I lived off of peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, apples and bottled water that I had brought in with me.  The back of the Explorer was packed like I was heading in for a camping trip…because I basically was.  I “slept” in the back of my car as there was not a room to be had.  Truth be told, the families displaced from Katrina needed the space more than I did anyways.

It was during this time that I learned what texting was and how to do it.  You could not have any type of a phone conversation but if your phone got a signal for 30-seconds, text messages would arrive and send.  They became my lifeline to the outside world.

“First responders” arrive:

I spent the first night that week in sleeping in the back of my Ford Explorer.  The next few nights were on the floor of a vacant apartment that I had rented that fortunately for me, had power and air conditioning.  By the time Friday (day 6) rolled around, I had finally secured a hotel room in Baton Rouge.  It was here that my most frustrating local moment occurred.  As I was checking in to the Sheraton, the first bus of FEMA “First Responders” was rolling up to check in as well.  I was furious.  It literally took everything in me not to tee off on these folks.  I had managed to get here nearly a week earlier than these “first responders”, families were going hungry, McDonald’s had managed to restock their stores (at one point, they literally could only make hamburgers as they were out of everything else, including fries) but our government’s first response was just arriving after 5 full days?

The Good:

Let’s start with the good I saw during this tragedy.  On two different occasions I saw displaced families being adopted while shopping at a WalMart.  Families who were literally trying to figure out how they were going to prepare the little food they could acquire being told by the family in front of them that they would not have to sleep in their car that night.  That they would be the guests of the random family they had never met but now would call them host.  It was by far the best thing I saw through this tragedy, the not so random acts of kindness between families who were sharing an experience of sheer devastation.  It was His love in action and it was beautiful.

At the time of Katrina my boys were 5 & 3 and both playing baseball.  I was the head coach for both teams and I knew I had to somehow make this a bit more real for these kids and their families.  My employer at the time was offering to double any donation we made to the American Red Cross.  For one Saturday, our boys and their families manned a lemonade stand at the ball fields to raise money for the ARC.  For one Saturday of hard work and sweat, those your 3 & 5 year old boys raised over $2,000 for the hurricane relief.  I hope they still remember that they can and do make a difference.

The Bad: 

I saw looting of stores.  I saw young children crying, just wanting to get out of the heat of the Louisiana summer.  I heard neighbor screaming at neighbor over their position in line waiting for gasoline.  I was called all the names you can imagine when some folks found out I was renting blocks of apartments for “companies” to use but the most disheartening was the same night I saw the first responders roll in.  After 6 long days, I decided to blow off a bit of steam by heading down to the casino.  As I walked in, I saw a woman who had just gotten her FEMA relief check cashing it at the casino cage and heading to gamble.  I have no idea if she won or lost but I could not stick around after that.

The Indifferent:

Surprisingly, the hardest circumstance for me to deal with through this process was returning back to Dallas after a week of being immersed in the devastation of Katrina.  I was literally angry at those who could just go about their day.  I remember my church put together a food/water/clothing/cash drive to help the refugees who had displaced to DFW.  As I served in the donation line I got more and more disheartened with every fresh faced soccer mom who did not have the time to even get off the cell phone as we unloaded the token case of water from the back of her suburban.  I know now that this was a me thing and the folks who did give should be honored and treasured.  They did not have to do anything (and several didn’t) but at the time it felt like so little.  Much like what I can only imagine a war veteran experiences, I felt like I needed to go back and do more.

After that first week of chaos, I spent a great deal more time in Baton Rouge as we hosted over 100 families displaced from the ExxonMobil refinery in St. George’s parish as well as over 70 FEMA employees brought into the area to oversee the long term recovery efforts.  It is from these folks that I saw the real heart of the people of Louisiana.  Say what you want about the “evil oil companies” but I have personally witnessed the incredible way ExxonMobil took care of their folks and to this day still go out of my way to buy  my gas from them.  Housing their families that were displaced, bussing the employees to and from the plant since most had lost their vehicles as well as their homes, basically setting up an entire city so the families could handle the business of getting their lives back together – ExxonMobil went above and beyond what I witnessed from any other company.

My absolute favorite memory of the entire 2+ years I spent housing folks displaced from Katrina occurred about 2 weeks after the storm had moved through.  Getting items in to Baton Rouge was a challenge so we were furnishing the apartments for ExxonMobil families as we could.  As items were delivered to us, we would get them dispersed to the apartments.  Every day we would get another item and every day, there were men and women who would join us in delivering night stands, lamps, kitchen ware, whatever to everyone’s apartment.

Understand, we were paid to deliver these items but the wanted to help and to stand on their own again.

I remember it was a Wednesday morning when a very special truck pulled in.  Those of us who were organizing things knew what was on the truck but did not think twice about it.  It pulled in like any other and we swung open the doors to the audience we normally had……all the kids who had been displaced.  When they saw what was inside they erupted in joy, singing and dancing.  The TV’s had arrived.  In a weird way, that was when I knew they were going to be OK.  Things would eventually get back to a new normal.  The TV’s had arrived, and life was good.

Happy Birthday!!! – A year’s worth of blogging lessons

It is hard for me to believe but today marks the 1 year anniversary of the very first post on RoadWarriorFit.net.  I remember posting with a very specific goal in mind, providing a resource for travelers who want to put their fitness and health at the forefront of their travels.  What it has ended up being?   A completely hot mess and a total work in progress.

There are definitely a few things I have learned over the past 12 months that I want to share with all potential bloggers.  These are the things I wish someone had told me that I would learn over the first year so go ahead and do them now.

Just write: 

When I began the prep work for this blog, I had all kinds of ideas of categories for posts.  Reality has been that it has been a random collection of my thoughts and observations over the last year.  Candidly, I think it has turned out for the better that I did not stick to the ‘script’ but the key to that evolution has been to just write.  Some topics never see the light of day but none the less, you need to write.

Sometimes you have to break the rules: 

One of my first blog posts was on the Guardrails that every RoadWarrior needs to have in place in order to keep yourself true on the road.  When it comes to writing blogs though, see lesson number 1.  Write, write, write.  Rules be damned.   Don’t worry about which ‘tag’ you haven’t written for in the last month or that the content on this ‘tab’ is stale.  Just write.

Get a Swedish Fitness Model/blogger to follow your blog early:

fitness on toast

So I have no idea how this happened but very early on, I had a Swedish Fitness model and blogger follow my blog (you can see her posts at Fitness on Toast – I recommend it, I actually really have enjoyed following her travels).  I think it actually may have been my post on the motivating factor of an empty water bottle that attracted her attention.  Regardless, it has led to a slew of attention from the European Fitness Fashionista/Blogger set and I would like to specifically thank FitnessonToast, Alys, Akvilee, faceandfortune, The Keen Peach and others for their support.  If I believe my own hype, I am actually a big deal among the European fitness and fashion blog set and I chose to believe my own hype.

Laugh at yourself:

SNL 1

My second most read post, and by far my most popular based on Twitter/Facebook, was about #snowleopardpants.  They have fueled a fantastic date night, raised thousands of dollars for Love Is Louder Than Cancer and taught me the hard lesson of not internet shaming anyone for their fashion choices.  However they never would have shown their power if I was not willing to completely release all pride and let the #snowleopardpants power shine through.

Share the real you: 

People read posts that reflect your actual experiences, not the ones you wish you had.  My original idea of posting a variety of workouts you can perform that conform to the resources available to you at various levels of hotel standard has still not materialized.  Drinking more water at conferences?  Two posts, hundred plus reads and counting.  The story of how Being fit nearly killed me?  By far the most popular and most read.

Study your stats: 

I know that if I post on Wednesday, you are the most likely to read this.  On Monday…not a chance, which is ironic considering that our anniversary is falling on a Monday so I have to honor the date.  Oh well, here is to re-blogging on Wednesday.

Don’t obsess over your numbers: 

OK – this one may just be me preaching to me but you can’t obsess over how many followers/likes/page views you have.  It is not healthy.  You need to blog for you not for the followers.  That being said, thank you for clicking on all of the links here so I can obsess further on why you clicked on how I nearly died but didn’t on combining sightseeing with your travel.

Enjoy the evolution: 

RoadWarriorFit.net is nothing like I thought it would be when I started this.  Thanks to all of you and your feedback, it is so much better.

So thank you.  Thank you for letting me process this crazy life on the road.  Thank you for ‘listening’ to my occasional rant.  Thank you for providing me with the accountability loop necessary to keep myself on track while on the road.  And most importantly, thank you for sharing the journey with me.

Here is to another year of travel, fitness, diet, health and wellness.  Looking forward to spending it with you.

The upside down life of a RoadWarrior

Everything is always changing.  When it comes to life (and particularly your health), there really is no such thing as homeostasis.  So after this long holiday weekend, I decided it was time to review my rules for traveling fit and in the process realized the application of one of them was not producing the results I was hoping for.  You can read all about all of my guardrails here but for this post, I am going to focus on just one:

“Rule #3:  Don’t eat anything fried – For the most part I avoid anything fried while on the road (there is a wonderful place in Fort Lauderdale that has lobster corn-dogs that I make an exception for though…unbelievably good and you can check them out at http://www.coconutsfortlauderdale.com).  What this also means is I do not do ‘cheat meals’ on the road as my cheat meal usually involves something fried.  Those are saved for being at home with the family where we can enjoy it together.”

When you spend 60-80% of your time on the road, you find that some of your world gets completely turned around.  Most people see travel as a reason to let go, have fun and not pay quite as much attention to what they are putting in their body or how much they are exerting themselves.  I have found over the recent months that this relationship has flipped itself on me.  I am hyper aware on the road but not giving it the same attention at home.

Dessert every night? – No problem, it is a treat that I am home.  Besides, I made it so how bad could it be?

Cooking with rich ingredients? – No problem, I am not home to do this every day.

2500 Calorie Breakfast? – No problem, it’s a treat.  Besides, when I am not here the boys are eating cereal if we are lucky.

Portion Control? – Are you kidding me, we never eat the leftovers so it needs to be eaten now.

Snacking late at night? – I never do this on the road so this should not be an issue, right?

I realized this weekend that the mentality that most people have on the road when it comes to calories I have adopted at home.  The idea that the small splurge will not hurt the long term plan is actually a valid one.  The problem for any RoadWarrior is that you need to be disciplined both on the road AND at home.   Couple all of these excuses with a strong desire to serve my family and my love of cooking and basically every weekend has become a ‘Cheat Meal’.  Heck, just this weekend I made both Chocolate French Toast for Breakfast and Inside Out Apple Pie for dessert on the same day (pictured below but man were they good).

image  image

My idea of a splurge is turning into a habit of rich meals when home and deprivation on the road.

Not good for anyone.

So as we are half way through this year, I am reassessing how my road habits can become better home habits.  What are you evaluating?  Where are you strong and where do you need help?

Just a bit of musing for a Monday.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road.

The ‘Dad Bod’ Myth

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist” – Keyser Soze – The Usual Suspects

So lately there has been a lot of chatter around the ‘Dad Bod’ and how it is actually more attractive than a lean physique.  This all started from a Blog post (the pesky bloggers ;-} ) by a student at Clemson University, Mackenzie Pearson, who was commenting on the interests of her roommate when it came to the male physique.  To give credit where credit is due, you can read her post here.  Since this was posted back in March of 2015, I have seen it covered by MSN, The Today Show, Health, GQ, ABC, CBS and CNN.   Ms. Pearson should give a clinic on how to pick a topic to go viral.

But Seriously??  This is a thing?!?!?

Pearson defines the Dad Bod as a ‘nice balance between a beer gut and working out’ – I call it a medical tragedy waiting to happen.

AAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Where do I even begin?   It is especially troubling to me that the men she is describing in the blog are not even dads.  They are young men who should be in their prime.  I can confidently say that the majority of the people that I see on my Facebook feed look considerable different now than they did in high school/college.  I know I do.  They call it your physical prime for a reason.

Dear Frat Boy – Your ‘Dad Bod’ is trying to kill you!!  Literally.

Now I am not at a single % body fat, I enjoy my wine and beer but I also know that I cannot allow myself to have any excuse to carry extra weight around, especially around my mid-section.  You see, that fat that is around your middle is known as Visceral Fat – and it is the most dangerous to carry around with you.  It actually directly increases your chance at developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and even sleep apnea.  How?  According to WebMD, here’s how:

  • Abdominal fat breaks down easily into fatty acids that are processed by the Liver and your muscles. Neither of which likes the material it is breaking down.
  • When the liver breaks down the fatty acids, your LDL levels (the bad Cholesterol) spikes.
  • When your LDL levels spike, insulin becomes less effective – causing blood sugar levels to spike (read: increased chance of developing diabetes)
  • Hormones released during the processing of the fatty acids also create constriction of the vasculature system – leading to heart disease and potentially stroke.
  • Even the sheer weight and volume of the fat can push against your diaphragm and result in difficulty breathing and if severe enough, sleep apnea.

Now ladies, I have a specific message for all of you.  Do not let us get away with this excuse for not taking care of ourselves.  This is not about getting to the point where we will be staring in the next installment of Magic Mike but we should want to be around for as long as possible.  Besides, who said all dads were soft and pudgy?  Last I checked, Hugh Jackman, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Bradley Cooper, Daniel Craig, Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Gossling and even Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson are all dads.  If we are talking about their examples of ‘Dad Bod’ – then I am all in.

I think my sister in law put it best “This is just an excuse for Frat Boys to party on the weekends”

Happy Father’s Day and I will see you on the road!!

Travel like a 2 year old!!

All across America today, families are getting ready to hit the road for the Memorial Day weekend.  According to AAA, this unofficial start of summer will see more than 36 Million people on the roads.  For most this means drive through, gas station and convenience store food that is overloaded with salt, sugar and preservatives.  But it doesn’t have to be, you can travel different!!

You can travel like a 2 year old.

If you are a parent, I want you to think back to when you had a toddler.  If you are not a parent, I want you to think about any parent you have ever seen traveling with a toddler.  When you are traveling with a toddler, you bring everything but the kitchen sink to keep them occupied and happy.  You sling a bag over your shoulder that has a capacity the rivals anything Mary Poppins or Hermione Grainger were ever seen carrying.  Toys, extra socks, towels, books and………….A SNACK BAG!!

Why is it when we get older we stop carrying a snack bag?

Now I am not advocating that you pack a Tupperware full of Goldfish and Fruit Snacks but packing for your health is a smart idea for everyone, not just the little ones.  A snack bag is one of the key things that I bring with me on every trip, every trip.

So what do I pack?

  • “Granola” Bars – I personally prefer the Kind and Clif varieties but pack whatever works for you. Just be sure to watch the calorie and ingredient lists, some bars are nothing more than well marketed candy bars.
  • Nuts – You can get single serving packs of Almonds in all kinds of flavors or you can just pack your own small servings.
  • Jerky – Great way to get protein in the bag that won’t spoil
  • Peanut Butter – There are several brands of peanut and almond butter that is sold in individual servings. Great with a piece of fruit from those dreaded conveniences stores.
  • Shakeology – I take the individual packets so when I am pressed for time and looking for something more substantial than a snack that I am not a the mercy of the drive through or the airport concession.

image

Now my list is focused on what will make it through TSA at the airport.  If you are heading out in the car, this list expands exponentially with the simple addition of an insulated lunch box or small cooler.

So get out there and enjoy the holiday weekend but remember to pack that snack bag!

See you on the road!!

How being fit nearly killed me – but ultimately saved my life

I know it is hard to imagine but I literally almost died because of my fitness – not because I was morbidly obese or a couch potato but because I was too fit for one part of my body’s own good.  It’s true and 3 years ago my body showed me exactly how much I could take before it gave out, literally.

To tell the story adequately, we need to jump in the time machine and head all the way back to 2009.  I was an overweight dad who had decided to take up karate with my kids.  Now if you know me at all, I am not big on doing things half way.  I am either going to do it or not.  There is very little room for ‘in between’ in my psyche.  I was going to earn my Black Belt in American Karate, period.  I am sure if I am being honest my desire was in no small way spurred on by the fact that my eldest son was in training for his Junior Black Belt at the time and there was no way I was letting him earn it without me being on his heels.

After one particularly ‘hard’ session back when I was an intermediate belt, I found myself completely drained and every joint from my lower back down was in pain.  It was then that I took a long hard look in the mirror – they are everywhere in our Dojo – and realized that I had become only a reflection of the physical man I used to be.  To top it off, I was watching my son train harder than he ever had as he prepared for his black belt test and was quickly coming to realize, there was no way I was going to make it through a Black Belt test if I stayed in the shape I was….and that shape was soft and round.  I knew I had to make some major changes if I was going to ‘survive’ my black belt test and I was determined to do so.    Cue the Rocky Theme music now!!

I set myself on a path to not let my traveling lifestyle be an excuse for being out of shape.  I started watching what I ate for the first time ever (God I miss Fish & Chips).  I became disciplined about working out.  I incorporated weightlifting, running, HIIT cardio and kickboxing all back into my routine.  Eventually the weight started to come off and I started to feel good again.  When all was said and done, I dropped about 30 lbs.  Three years later I felt good, I felt strong, I felt ready.

I felt like I was ready for the next big hurdle, my black belt test.

In order for you to get a feel for what I was facing, let me describe to you the way a Black Belt test works.  It is a two day affair where Day One is the ‘easy’ day physically.  You are required to do all of your Katas (think choreographed shadow boxing fights) at least 3 times, including at least one Black Belt level kata.  Along with that you have to break 5 boards in under 2 minutes using a variety of techniques and finish it all off with a verbal presentation on why you are deserving of the rank of Black Belt.  No problem.  Easy peasy – we got this day.

Day two is ‘slightly more intense’ to put it mildly.  It was by far the hardest day of my life physically.  It starts with self-defense techniques of your own design.  Now these are not demonstrations, they are self-defenses.  It is the closest you will ever come to being attacked without actually being attacked.  You job is to prove the techniques work in most dire of circumstances….and it is your attackers job to simulate the most dire of circumstances.  Once those are done, you do them again….over and over and over again.  Follow that up by a ‘quick round’ of grappling (mine lasted nearly 5 minutes) and then we get to the actual sparring portion of the test, fifteen 2-minute rounds with a black belt or black belt candidate with 30-seconds of rest between rounds.  Oh yeah, and if your round is not considered to be at a Black Belt level, you get another until you have amassed 15 Black Belt level rounds.  But wait!!  There’s more!!  Not only are you sparring a fresh opponent every round, but at the end you get to do multiples (meaning you are sparring more than one opponent at the same time)!!

Now do you know why they don’t let Beginner and Intermediate Belt ranks watch Black Belt tests!?!?

So on a hot July night in 2012 I bowed on the mat for the second half of my test and everyone was in a jovial mood.  I think we all thought it was more of a formality than a physical test at this point.  If you have done the work to that point, you have already earned the belt, you just needed to show it and I was prepared to do so.  Up first were the self-defenses.  I picked my attacker (where this sadistic tradition came from I do not know) and of course picked the biggest guy in the room.  Go big or go home.  Bring on the 6’ 4” – 230 lbs-er!!

The first attack was a Rear Bear Grab from behind (think big hug from behind that traps your arms by your sides).  My body moved just like it should, muscle memory kicking in and taking over for the brain, I escaped and countered in a flash.  I helped my attacker back up from the ground, fixed my Gi and then I felt it.  Something was not right and I knew it immediately.

My heart was racing and I could not bring it back down.

“That was normal right?”  After all, adrenaline had just flushed through my system as a 6’ 4” – 230 lbs man had just attacked me from behind and was continuing to do so from all kinds of angles with all kinds of weapons.  “It’s normal to have your heart racing.  It’s what your body needs.  Blood to activate muscles.  This is normal.”  – the mantra kept running through my head.

After about 20 minutes of continuous attacks, it was time for grappling.  Evidently since this is one of my passions, they decided to add it to my test….all I had to do was to get out of one person’s guard and submit him.  However the ‘one person’ was the one person in the dojo that was the most superior grappler.  Easy enough.  The key to grappling is to relax and slow things down so when you need to explode, you can.  For the entire 5 minute session, I was trying to concentrate on bringing my heart rate down and just couldn’t do it.

“It’s just the adrenaline.  It has to be.”

I finally submit “Thor” – (seriously, when The Avengers came out he did an appearance at the Dallas premier as the Norse God) and get a reprieve long enough to gear up for sparring.  Now I don’t tell anyone but I know I am off my game and even used the restroom as an excuse to buy an extra 3-minutes to get it back together.   Below is a picture of me and my “corner man” in the break.  Nothing is wrong is it?  Heck, I am even smiling knowing what is about to come.

028

“Let’s get ready to rumble!!!!!!!”

It is finally the time we have all been waiting for, the sparring section of the test, the part where everyone fades and struggles.  The part I was determined to shine through and not fall off like so many have before me.  I think my wife described it best.  I started off sparring at about a 7 out of 10 for me.  I did not have a lot of the flash I normally did but I was effective.  By round 7 I had degraded to a 5 out of 10.  By round 10 I was about a 3 out of 10 and by round 15 I was “drunk boxing”.  In fact, in my last round my sparring partner (same guy who was attacking me earlier ironically) did not punch or kick me once and I still fell down 3 times.  I was literally dying at that point and did not know it.

After that round, things got real bad, real fast.

This is where my body started to give out.  I had been training hard for this so it was used to being abused so it took a long time to break.  I would routinely push my heart rate to the 180 – 200 BPM range in order to train anaerobically.  It was ready for a lot but it was not ready for what I had just done.  After my sixteenth round, I passed out on the mat.  Immediately the group knew something was wrong and 911 was called.  I was taken to the local hospital where for a short time I came to and was responsive but not quite entirely there.  The cognitive tests they were conducting were not going like they would hope and then it happened.

 I crashed, literally.

My body literally shut down in just about every way you could imagine. To top it off, my eldest son was there witnessing the whole thing.  I was in trouble and thank God the medical professionals who were present brought me back.

If you want to find an upside, at least my wife and I got to experience what it is like to fly in LifeFlite Helicopter.  She will have to tell you about that experience because I do not remember it (I do have the picture to remind me though – so there’s that).

When we got to hospital #2, they immediately were concerned about aneurisms and/or stroke.  After all, I had just been repeatedly kicked in the head by some top level black belts and was slurring all of my words before I lost consciousness.  Because of that, they decided to keep me in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator until they could learn more.  I spent 36 hours that way and my corner man snapped the picture below to document the process.

photo 2

I was dying and because there was not an obvious cause (like obesity, heart disease, etc.), the doctors were struggling to come up with a diagnosis.  After nearly 2-days of doctors, neurologists, internists and other specialists, they had determined only that I did not have an aneurism.  Fortunately, that was enough to bring me out of the coma and pull the tube (Dear God that sucked).  This is also when friends stopped planning on how to support Joy once I was gone.  I only wish I was kidding about that last statement.

At this point, the medical focus turned from my brain to my heart.  I was blessed to have an amazing medical team including the head of cardiology at Baylor Medical Center on my team.  Eventually they identified the issue as Atrial Flutter.  Now granted, it took 3 days and at least 5 doctors to get to this diagnosis but at least we got there.  It all stemmed back to the first attack in my self-defenses and the elevated heart rate.  My heart stopped beating like it should and never actually allowed for the lungs to oxygenate my blood.  I basically suffocated myself through excursion.  Think about that for a second….because I was fit, my body could handle the lack of oxygen in the short term but not for the 90 minutes plus I put it through.  And because I was fit, my medical team had a hard time identifying why I was there to begin with.  Because I was fit, I nearly died and the medical profession had no clue why.  It is easy to diagnose someone who is obviously morbidly obese – someone who is physically capable, not so much.

Fortunately for me, they were able to surgically repair the defect and I no longer have any restrictions on training.  However the fact that my fitness got in the way of a diagnosis has never left me.  I cannot tell you how many times Doctors and Nurses commented on the fact that they do not get many “healthy” people in the ICU unless it is a function of acute trauma.  The fact that I could take punishment and push my body to the brink got me through that mess but the fact that it also confused the heck out of my medical staff was incredibly frustrating.

More relevantly, I travel for a living and train for fun.  I was routinely getting my heart rate up above 200 bpm in hotel gyms, conference rooms, lobbies and anywhere else I could manage a training session while I traveled.  Being fit meant I could make it through short term sessions (truth being told, I had felt the experience of an elevated heart rate before and had stopped my workouts before any serious damage was done.  Not very often but it had happened).  God blessed me by keeping me safe in those remote training sessions and putting the right people around me when I did crash out.

My fitness allowed me to push through the pain.  Push through the shortness of breath.  Push through the brink of death.  I am quite sure it ultimately saved my life.