Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Hockey Life: Going for walks

There was a point last Thursday, during my second walk of the day, where my body nearly overruled my mind. It was hot. It was muggy. I was tired, but I still had another 12 blocks to go. For a moment, all I thought about was getting back to the house, cranking up the AC and plopping my fat butt in my recliner.

It would have been so, so easy.

But then I remembered why I started taking my walks three weeks ago. Sure, the need to give myself insulin shots every night played a role. So did the need to finally take my health seriously. The biggest reason, though, goes beyond both.

About the moment I was hitting that so-called wall, I reached into a back pocket and pulled out my phone. Rather than make a call to someone to come pick me up, I punched out a text message to my Twitter feed:

"I do this so I can play hockey with CMS 37 some day. Getting closer with each step."

In less time than it took for the message to appear online, my resistance to taking one more step dissipated. Those last 12 blocks didn't seem that long. My legs felt lighter. And, if memory serves me, a cool breeze washed across my face. The purpose, thankfully, was restored.

*  *  *

For as long as I can remember, I've always been a big guy. After graduating from high school, standing 6-foot-3 but weighing 230 pounds, I've continually gained weight. During my 20s, when I was fairly active, it came from drinking lots of beer and plowing through plates of chicken wings. As my activity level waned during my 30s and 40s, my weight ballooned.

The low point, so to speak, came when I topped 400 pounds. Honestly, I never knew how much I weighed, as the doctor's scales topped out at 400. On the outside, I'd joke about it to the nurse or the doctor. Deep down inside, though, I was horrified. I was living on borrowed time.

One would think, or so I thought, that watching Colin grow up would motivate me to do something about my weight. And, at times, it has. I'd drop some weight, to the point where I could weigh myself and say, to anyone who cared to listen, that I was heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, my weakness for food and disdain for exercise would win out. I'd gain back the weight I had lost.

I've followed this unhealthy cycle for the past decade. As a result, my attempt to control my Type 2 diabetes with ever-increasing doses of medicine failed to achieve the desired result. At my last doctor's visit, with Colin in the examination room with me, I learned that I had to take the next step -- nightly injections of insulin by sticking a needle into my midsection.

It was then that I knew what I'd been doing wasn't nearly enough. Not even close. The puzzled look in Colin's eyes drove home the point

*  *  *

It took me a few days, after filling the prescription for the little glass vial and hypodermic needles, to summon up the courage to give myself that first shot. I loathed getting bloodwork done. I hate needles. I hate getting shots. And, now, I'd have to give them to myself.

Two months after that first shot, which took me about 10 minutes to do and left me bruised, I now complete the process in less than two minutes. That fear of needles has become an afterthought. I knew, though, that I needed to do more. That's where exercise, in the form of daily walks, and a healthier diet, heavy on fresh vegetables and far fewer carbs, come in.

Over the past six weeks, I've built up my walking routine. At first, the walks, around the neighborhood or near Colin's school, ranged from 14 to 20 blocks every other day or so. Last week, I logged nearly 16.5 miles (250 blocks) in six walks, ranging from 32 to 60 blocks, over four days. If it weren't for being under the weather for two days, those totals would've topped 20 miles and 325-plus blocks.

That one walk, which reached nearly 3 miles, was a turning point. I could've given up, slowed my pace and accepted, with a ton of regret, that this was yet another failed attempt. Thankfully, I refused to surrender and I sent that text. It was just that simple.

I fully understand that this will be a long process. I didn't gain my weight overnight, so I know losing it will take time. But between taking my walks and eating healthier foods, I've begun to see the results. And, unlike before, I'm keeping my eyes on a realistic prize.

Some day, within the next year or so, I will hit the ice to play hockey with Colin. And, on that day, the first of many when I pass along more of life's lessons, I can't wait to see the look in his eyes.

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