Open Letter to Jason Surowiec

Dear Jason Surowiec,

When I left Japan back in February of this year, I felt like I didn’t really say thank you enough or really show my appreciation for the enormous impact you’ve had on my life.  Even when I first met you at HSL-40 at Mayport, FL, I saw what an extremely positive and supportive individual you were.  And it was at that point that I had already developed my ridiculous fear of disappointing you.

I was super excited when I found out you were going to be moving out to HSL-51 in Japan.  With such a small, close-knit society, it is always nice to have someone with a positive outlook show up when you live in a fishbowl.

Fast forward to March 2011 and you find us forward deployed to Misawa to help out with the tsunami disaster relief efforts.  I reflect on this time period for two reasons:

#1.  It was the first time I saw you with your shirt off.  Clearly, I like the girls, but it was probably the first time I realized how fit you were.  I remember thinking to myself, “That is the kind of fitness I want for myself.”  You even offered to take me to the gym with you which leads me to #2.

#2.  Looking back a little more clearly, it might have been my first taste of CrossFit…. had I gone.   I was so scared and intimidated by what CrossFit MIGHT have meant that I didn’t go.  But you invited me.  And that stuck with me.  You weren’t forceful or obnoxious about it.  You let me figure things out in my own time.  With hindsight being 20/20, I wish I would have asked more questions.  I remember you mentioned pull-ups, and I ran away with my tail between my legs.

These two things combined left me with a lot to think about.  I laugh as I think about what I was eating and drinking while we were in Misawa.  A few beers every night.  I was eating cereal like it was going out of style.  There was lots of crap from the mini-mart next to the Q we were staying in.  And then they re-opened the Burger King.  Yikes.

It took my until mid June of 2011 for me to actually come and talk to you about making a change.  In fact, it was 18 June 2011.  You gave me the link to Mark’s Daily Apple.com, and within a few hours, I had purchased Primal Blueprint off of his website.  I devoured that book pretty quickly, and it was certainly the beginning of my critical examination of conventional wisdom, the food pyramid or the plate, etc.  And even with this, you gave me a simple website and let me discover my own way.  It wasn’t until 19 July that Jaime and I came to our first CrossFit class.  We actually owe that one to Kelly Hermann. She got Jaime to go, and that got me to go.  But we were hooked after the first class.  Our first coaches were Cindy Larsen and Michelle Munroe McGrevy have yet to be topped by any box we have been to.  The camaraderie and community of the Atsugi CrossFit folks has left a high bar that we are still trying to find.  And every time Jaime and I would show up, your face would light up and you were extremely welcoming.  It is one of the things that kept us coming back.

And here we are in October of 2012.  Jaime and I are running a half-marathon this weekend as preparation for a full marathon in December.  We are CrossFit’ing regularly at our local box and even visiting boxes while we are on the road.  I have achieved my Level One Trainer Certificate and have found I want more of the same.  You have had such a positive impact on my life and by extension, Jaime’s.  I know I am not the only person you have affected this way.  And I can never say thank you enough.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!  I hope that one day I can find a way to repay you!

Your friend,

Clay Shane

My mentor, Jason Surowiec

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89th Day Update

So I started this blog on 11 July (well, I ACTUALLY started it sometime in 2011, but I REALLY started writing on 11 July), and it has been 89 days since I began my fitness journey.  I started with a clear goal in mind and an end date for when my fitness adventure would come to an end.  And while I still have my goals in sight and in mind, they are no longer the end of the road.  They are just sign posts along the way.  Mile markers on the highway of my fitness life.  When I get to 185 lbs, I won’t suddenly stop eating Paleo.  I am not going to give up on CrossFit.  My adventure continues and my new goals become inspiring, helping, and motivating others.

So where am I right now?  Take a look:

108 days of change: 29 June to 8 October

108 Days of Change from the Side: 20 June to 8 October

This morning, I weighed 211.6 lbs.  My waist was under 38 inches (37.9 inches to be accurate).  That means I am within limits for the Physical Fitness Assessment.  Woot!  The beginning numbers were 232 lbs and 42.5 inches for your comparison.

To add some cherries on top, Jaime and I ran 12 miles this past Sunday.  I try not to think about it, because that number just seems ridiculous.  We even signed up for a half marathon next weekend (it’s nice really, because now we don’t have to map out a run).

A lot of folks have sent personal messages letting me know that I have motivated them in one way or another.  And these messages mean the world to me.  It is one reason I have kept on trucking.  I will keep posting my progress and thoughts if you guys will keep letting me know how YOU are doing.  Either in comments (click on that little speech bubble at the top of the post) or e-mails to madclay@me.com.  Thanks again for everyone’s support!

 

Fitness Prize Winner!

So the announcement winner of the Ozeri Epicurean Digital Kitchen Scale has been a little overdue. *Go ahead and imagine a drum roll in your head*  And the winner is:

Kelsey Balch!

Her idea trying out a new fitness class is a fun way to get out, get active, and find something new that you might like.  Thanks for the great comment, and the scale is on its way!

And the other piece that I had promised a few weeks ago… pictures of the travesty that is the shaved front of me.  The pictures on the left are 20 Jun at 232 lbs and the pictures on the right are 1 September at 217.6 lbs.  The change is coming slowly but surely.

Looking like a shaved polar bear…

Side view: Not too different from the last comparison… just hairless

Short and sweet tonight.  Thanks for checking out the blog!

You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

Trying to stay active with our local box even though I am 5,000 miles away (at least that is what Google Maps says), Jaime and I have signed up with the box’s Paleo Challenge.  50 days of eating clean with zero cheats.  Yikes.  The funny thing is I have been eating really well with the Premade Paleo and finding salads with plenty of chicken or some other sort of protein on top.  I’ve seen plenty of red velvet cakes, brownies, ice cream, cookies, soda, you name it, and not really thought about twice about them.  I didn’t want them.  I didn’t crave them.  But a few days after this Paleo Challenge started on 11 September.  On Day One, the cookies in the lobby suddenly looked much more delicious.  The Coke machine I passed on the way to my room suddenly seemed really tantalizing.  The Zingers in the snack machine looked like they were about to fall through that little coil-holder-thingee and into my hand.  I made it to my room without giving into the temptations, but I was stunned by my inner voice that had suddenly turned evil and clearly against me.

But it lead me to this realization: if you have made the choice of your own volition to make a healthier change in your life, you have made a mindset shift which makes losing weight, gaining muscle, losing fat, or getting fit natural and infinitely easier.  When an external force is applied to your decision making, it is taken out of your hands and it suddenly gets a lot harder.

So what is the point of all of this?  When you are ready, make that decision to change.  But YOU have to be ready.  The only way you can get yourself into the right mindset is be committed to yourself and to your goals.  To that end, once you have made that choice, start immediately.  Don’t wait until the first of the month.  Don’t wait until after the weekend. Don’t wait until Monday. Hell, don’t wait until after the next meal.  Make the change then.  Own it.  And when you slip, and you eat that cookie in the lobby (and are disgusted with yourself because it wasn’t Otis Spunkmeyer at all… somebody put Chips Ahoy in there… jerks), you reflect on what lead you to that slip, and you get back on track right then and there.  Don’t rationalize yourself into going to Five Guys and getting the double bacon cheeseburger.  And since you ate that, you might as well go to Cold Stone.  Not that I know about that from personal experience.  Reflect on where you are and where you want to go, and start again.  Right now.

Excuses, excuses

So I have started writing this post at least four times now.  Thanks to the folks who have shown enough interest to actually write and ask where the update is.  That kind of support is amazing and awesome.  To be fair, trying to get in shape just leaves you kind of busy as it turns out.  And so does going to Six Flags and riding A LOT of roller coasters… with no lines to wait in them.  But more on that in a second.

The thing I am most excited about and was taking up a lot of my time was this CrossFit Level One Trainer Course.  I was spending a good amount of time reading the associated guide so that I could pass the test at the end of the two-day class.  I had not seen any of these courses offered in Hawaii, so when I finally received a quota for the class here in Augusta, I immediately started looking for places close by and in the right timeframe.  Atlanta had been an option, but it filled up too quickly.  The only two remotely realistic places to take the class were San Diego and Orlando.  Well, as it turned out San Diego wasn’t that realistic either.  The Orlando class was already filled, so I sent a very whiny, pleading e-mail (thanks to Jason Suroweic for guiding me down that path) asking if there was anyway I could get in.  They were super helpful in taking my $800 for the course (a $200 military discount…SWEEET), and then I had to figure out how to get to Orlando.  Which takes me to last Friday.  The folks in my class actually let me out a little early so I could make the two and a half hour drive to Atlanta (because the flight out of Augusta was $300 more which the kind folks at Best Western Mount Vernon Inn were extremely happy to help me store… in their cash register.).  So doing the math: a two hour drive to Atlanta, getting there one hour and a half hours early, the one hour flight, one hour to get off the plane and get another rental car, and a thirty minute drive to the hotel… well, it actually adds up to being an hour longer than if I had just drove.  DOH!  You live, you learn.

Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  What an incredible experience.  The coaches (Chuck Carswell, JMac, Lindsey, Courtney, Leah, and Joe) were awesome, helpful, patient, and really contributed to that whole Community of CrossFit feeling.  The information put out… and the way it was presented… made ten times more sense than the Level One Guide I had been poring over for the past two months.

Me and 59 of my new best friends.

A couple of highlights from the weekend: I stayed awake and took notes (take THAT Army communications school), I hit a Personal Record (PR) on Fran of 9:35 (one of the slowest in the class, but whatever).  Fran is 21-15-9 reps of 95 lbs thrusters (think front squat that flows into a shoulder push press) and pull ups.  And I ran 8 miles on Sunday morning before class… which happens to be the longest I have ever run in my entire life.  Took the exam and felt pretty confident walking out that I passed.  We find out in a week or so.  Needless to say, walking today has been painful and difficult.

Okay, so this has already gotten longer than I expected.  So I will post more about my excuses tomorrow.

Only eight more days until I am reunited with my beautiful wife and we can start another adventure!

Travel Week #1 Update

So I have been in Augusta, GA for about a week now.  When I take a left out of my hotel, I am greeted with Wendy’s, Arby’s, Five Guys, and Olive Garden.  If I take a right, I get McDonald’s, the Devil (Krispy Kreme), Chick-fil-A, and a whole other host of Satan’s eateries.  So long story short: THANK GOD FOR PREMADE PALEO!

I ended up getting an entire month’s worth of food which luckily has not thawed out in my fridge.  So I have gotten this question pretty often:  Is it any good?  In short, it is AWESOME.  It is like down home Southern cooking in my hotel room.  A little example of the awesomeness:

Premade Paleo after 6 minutes of prep.

So these things are set up to be one portion of protein and two sides.  The protein has ranged from the White Meatloaf to Homemade Sausage to Poblano Hamburgers.  The sides include Tomato Bisque and Sweet Potato Home Fries and Roasted Broccoli. There are so many options that they don’t get boring.  And it is hard to screw up portion control like this.

So the eating has gone well.  What about the marathon training and the CrossFit?  I actually haven’t missed a WOD or a run.  Well, I missed a Saturday WOD because my alarm decided not to go off, but it was a silly WOD anyway.  At least that is what I am telling myself.  The box has been awesome and everyone has been really supportive.  And it is huge.

The ginormous box of CrossFit 4 Everyone.

I drove to Aiken, South Carolina to get my six mile “long run” in.  I have done all of my training runs around the hotel in Augusta, and there is a serious lack of sidewalks.  And/or decent driving by the locals.  Seriously.  It is scary.  I am pretty sure they are actually TRYING to hit me.  So I drove to Aiken and found Hitchcock Woods.  It is not as ominous as it sounds except for all of the horse poop on the trails… and the six inch deep sand.   It was like running on a beach that was invaded by horses… except with trees… and no water.  Or bikinis.  I slept in late so I missed the morning run and I certainly was not running in 91 degree Georgia, so I waited until a little later in the day.  Unfortunately, I waited a little TOO long.  I started running… in the woods… at around 7:20 p.m.  I should probably point out that sunset is around 7:30 p.m.  I knew it was stupid when I started, but I was going to enjoy my new running environment.  Plus you have 30 minutes after sunset of twilight, right?  Well, I didn’t do a map study of the woods and ended up four miles into my run and still heading away from my car.  And it was starting to get dark… REALLY dark.  Fortunately, right as I hit about 4.2 miles, I popped out on a road, and thanks to the Nike+ Running app, I was able to follow the map back to my car.  

Thanks Nike+ Running!

Alright, so I have been eating clean, made it to a whole bunch of CrossFit WOD’s, and ran 28 miles since my last update.  What are the fruits of this labor?   I weigh 213.2 lbs and my waist is 38.2 inches.  The post last week? 217.6 lbs and a 39.3 in waist.  I would TOTALLY post a picture of this, but I decided to, ummm, trim my chest hair for my reunion with Jaime at the end of the month.  And I ended up shaving a little too close.  I can’t even begin to explain how awkward my chest looks right now.  Its like somebody held down a grizzly bear and shaved its belly.  Seriously.  I will prove it later this week.

Overdue Update… and Win a Fitness Prize!

Okay, so it has been a few days between posts lately.  To be fair, I have been legitimately busy. All kinds of friends have been rolling through town and all of their visits have been awesome.  Even one of my favorite people in the world, Ryan Hayes came by and WOD’ed with us.  So to make it up to y’all, I am even have a fitness-related contest.  Keep reading below.

Gassy, Jaime, and Me at CrossFit 808

And where am I now?  Augusta, GA.

Just for my own sake, I will state the date: 28 August 2012. I weighed in at 217.8 lb (from 232 lb) this morning.  My waist is down to 39.3 inches (42.5 inches).  Progress is certainly being made.  But let’s be honest, I am not going to hit 185 lbs by 19 November.  And I am pretty okay with that.  My newest app (more on that in a second) says that I can hit that goal weight by 19 December.  And in the end, I don’t care about my weight.  As I mentioned before about turning the corner, the mindset I have right now is worth more than any number on a scale.  Because I know that I am living a healthier, more active lifestyle.  Weight is just a number, but my fitness continues to improve and everything else will fall into place.

Going to school for a month in Augusta, GA, I was terrified of the terrible food choices around me.  Okay, who am I kidding… I AM terrified of the AWESOME food choices around me.  Chick-fil-A (if you are not politically motivated in your eating habits), Hooters, Waffle House, Denny’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and a metric butt ton of awesome BBQ joints all within two miles of my hotel.  It is extremely easy to fall into the “Vacation Mentality” of eating when you are away from home for a month.  So in an effort to combat this, I ordered Premade Paleo meals (www.premadepaleo.com).  I am sure these are popping up all over the place, but these guys cook 10 Paleo meals a week, package them up, and ship them off.  If you are in Atlanta, you can pick them up or have them delivered to your CrossFit box.  If you aren’t in Atlanta, they FedEx the meals on dry ice.  And all it takes to prepare is a pot of boiling water (or in my case, a microwave).  I made the mistake in March of just eating whatever I wanted to do, and I am on FEP right now because of that.  That is changing.

CrossFit 4 Everyone

The next step that has amazed me ABOUT me is that the first thing I did after I got off the plane… and drove two hours from Atlanta to Augusta… and checked into my hotel… and took a five hour nap… is I drove straight to CrossFit Downtown Augusta and paid for one month of CrossFit classes (oh, and added the business in Yelp so I could check in every time I went).  Not only that, but they have a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class.  And since I have an abundant amount of free time, I will be checking out the free beginner’s class tomorrow… and if it is something I like, another $50 a month will get me jiu-jitsu classes.  Maybe another awesome CrossFit sport? Why is this signing up for the classes such a big deal?   When I left Japan in February, I had a big plan.  I was going to go to Arkansas and WOD with a box there.  I signed up, but it ended up being too scared/intimidated to go.  There was a box in Newport, RI that was less than a mile from my hotel room.  At least, I think it was, because again,  I was too scared/intimidated to actually go.     So not only did I sign up, but I did my first WOD with them today.  It was a blast!  It was their Obstacle Course Day with things like Ninja Warrior Challenge and Tarzan Rope Swings.  I am excited to see what the next month brings.

And not to make this post as long as possible, but I want to introduce two iPhone Apps that I have really been enjoying:

  • Lose It!  This was suggested by a friend in Honolulu (thanks Nancy Smiley!).  It is a great way to keep track of your nutrient intake and is actually how I have been logging my meals and workouts.  It also has the added benefit of being free.  While it is very similar to Tap & Track, you can actually add new foods to the App by “scanning” the bar code with the camera.  Love it!
  • Slim Kicker. Okay, so those of you that know me personally know that I LOOOOOVE gadgets.  AND video games.  So why not turn fitness into a HUGE video game.  While is a way to track your calories, it turns your fitness goals into points and rewards.  Eat something healthy?  Get some points!  Complete a challenge like cutting out soda for a week?  Get some points! For a more tangible reward, upload a picture of a reward… like that Five Guys Burger… and it is all yours once you get enough points.  It is like a boss fight that fills your belly.  Give the Slim Kicker calorie counter a try!

Okay, and now on to the contest.  Who wants to win an Ozeri Epicurean Digital Kitchen Scale?

Just leave a comment with your suggestion for a fun, creative fitness or diet challenge (like one you would add to your Slim Kicker app).  The winner will be announced after a week.  

I quit…

Okay, not really.  But at any given point on any given day, I think I will NOT go back to CrossFit.  The stress of thinking about what the next WOD will be dominates my thoughts.  The still-aching muscles cringe (i.e. cramp up) at the thought of being abused again by the folks at CrossFit 808.  I think that I can’t muscle through another workout.  And yet, I still go.  I still show up.  I’ve always thought half the battle is putting your clothes on and just showing up at the gym.  Today actually turned out to be one of the days where I only fought half the battle… I showed up.  Fortunately for me, Jaime ALSO showed up.  The 50/30/25 reps of Wall balls, Pull-ups, and Double-unders looked miserable.  I wanted to turn around and go home.  Jaime talked me through it, and just as she said in her pep talk, I was extremely glad I stuck around and finished the WOD.

On another note, I feel like I have turned the proverbial corner:

  • It is easier to eat healthy than it is to eat crap.
  • As I am planning a month long trip to the mainland, the first thing I did was set up workouts at a local box and find more CrossFit gyms in all of the cities that Jaime and I are visiting.
  • I FEEL lighter.  Does that make any sense?  I weighed in at 219.2 lbs this morning… down from 20 June’s 232 lbs.  But I feel like I could fly if I started running fast enough.  I love that feeling.

The kicker here is the mindset that is settling in nicely.  It makes everything better and makes me feel better.  It makes me feel that all of my goals are attainable.

If anybody has been checking the food and workout log, I stopped updating it as I started using the Lose It app on my iPhone.  It is a little easier to access at work and easier makes all of the difference in the world sometimes.

Hindsight is always 20/20…

So one of the great things about you reading my blog as I achieve my goals… or in some cases, make mistakes, poor choices, and take a couple of steps backward… you can learn from what I am doing and hopefully avoid some of the same pitfalls.  I have written about choice and routine.  I took full responsibility for falling off the wagon (or mindfully stepping off the wagon).  But I honestly don’t think I had a full understanding of my anti-progress.  I guess that would be digress.

24 July to 6 August 2012:  These are basically the days that I was on leave and basically ate whatever I wanted and while active, did not make a conscious effort to work out.  No CrossFit.  No marathon training.  Plenty of beer.  Tons of crappy, refined food.  So basically two weeks of living my bad lifestyle again.  On 24 July, I weighed 219.6 lbs.  On 7 August, once all of my friends were gone, and Jaime and I began running full sprint and jumping back on the wagon, I weighed 226 lbs.  My waist went from 39.5 inches back to 41.5 inches.  After close examination of the photos from those days (I am taking them every day), it was a very clear difference.

Today, 14 August, I was back down to 221.0 lbs.  I am hoping to be below 220 lbs by the end of the week.  So what is the point of all of this?

We will always have vacations.  Extended periods where we are away from home… in the middle of the move, long business trips. And if fitness is truly one of our priorities, we cannot throw it to the side for the sake of relaxation.  There is a definite mind set that I want to adopt for the future.  Without the mind set, it just me writing a bunch of words in cyberspace.  The proof is in the pudding.  Mmmmm, pudding.

We will always have special events: birthday parties, special catamaran cruises, bachelor parties and weddings where the drinks are frees.  While I don’t think one day will set you back like two weeks of debauchery will, we have to be aware of the cumulative effects of not taking care of ourselves.

Let’s make good choices!

 

2D1: Choice

It is funny that about nine days ago, I  came up with this particular topic: “Choice.”  One reason it is funny is because I was tired the night I started writing about it and then chose go to bed.  Another reason is because it began this particular nine day stint of not writing.  Not only did I not write, but I did not eat well… I did not work out…. I did nothing to set a good example for anyone.  Another post I want to write about is “Routine… and or habit.”  Because I totally derailed from the awesome routine I was on.  I will save that for another post.

How often have you considered outlawing fast food?  You probably labeled it the “McDonald’s Bill.”  If these folks weren’t selling this crap… and by crap, I am referring to the awesome french dies at the previously mentioned McDonalds (and by the way, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers fries are ten times better), if they weren’t selling this crap, I wouldn’t have to eat it.  Or a Wendy’s Frosty.  Or take for example the ban on the size of sodas in New York aiming to reduce the amount of the sugary crap people drink.  This ban or even the ridiculous notion of outlawing fast food takes away one critical thing that everyone needs to make a real, positive change in your life.

CHOICE.

Choice is key because it is in your control to change bad habits into good habits.  Bad food choices into good food choices.  You have to own it.  If a positive lifestyle is forced upon you, and it is not your choice or what you want, eventually you will slip back into old, damaging patterns.  And once you make the choice to change, you have to be committed to it.  Otherwise something as simple as  friends showing up for a week long visit or a party that you have been invited to or any other number of “special” occasions that seem to happen at least once or twice a month.  If you aren’t committed to your choice of changing, your choices will reflect this.  For instance, I love to use these instances to rationalize my decision…otherwise known as my poor choice.  “Ooooh, it’s Gabe’s birthday… it only happens once a year.  We need to celebrate.  With cake… and beer.”

This all comes full circle.  Our friends Leah and Angelo, on a whirlwind tour from Japan to Australia to New Zealand to Colorado to Hawaii to Korea, stopped into see us.  I took leave to spend as much time with them as I could.  I made a conscious choice to not making it to CrossFit workouts.  I made a conscious choice to drink beer.  To eat crappy foods.  I made a conscious decision to not take the time to write in the blog.  Those aren’t the right choices for the change I have committed to.  After breaking a string of good, healthy decisions, it was hard to make the next right decision:  to start right back up once they left.  I would like to think in the future, I will make wiser, smarter decisions on these special occasions.  Jaime and I ate healthy meals today.  Did a brutal CrossFit workout today.  Baby steps.  One foot in front of the other.

It is important to remember that every step of this journey requires a choice.

P.S.-Alexis/Thor… send me your addresses, and I will send your prizes for calling me out on my…umm…extended break.