Friday, June 02, 2017

Everesting and other projects

I'm joining my building's gym tomorrow. You can't watch that previously linked video on motivation and not feel both shamed and motivated. If a guy with cardiomyopathy and leukemia is climbing up steep Canadian mountainsides for the Spartan Challenge, what the hell am I doing, whining about achy feet? For the past couple weeks (has it been that long already?), I've been pondering what I can do to continue the weight-loss trend that I began on the trail. The big, practical question has been whether I can maintain the level of exertion that I had during the big walk. The best, most realistic answer is Probably not, but that's mainly because there's no way for me to go back to full-time work and spend 7-9 hours, on average, walking along a local trail while carrying 15 kg of extra weight.

The approach I've come up with is multipronged. The whole purpose of signing up for the gym is to get into weightlifting and strength training. My building's gym offers once-a-week free personal training to its members, and I'm going to take advantage of that in order to learn various exercises and perform them correctly. Correct form is crucial when you're trying to gain muscle mass. By building muscle, I can attack my weight through the metabolism angle: muscles consume more energy, so the more I bulk up, the brighter my basal metabolic rate will burn, thus keeping the weight down even when I'm resting.

Most of my cardio will probably take place outside the gym unless the gym happens to have my two favorite pieces of cardio equipment: (1) a good flywheel rowing machine and (2) a good elliptical. I'm not a fan of treadmills, and I quite frankly dread those step-climber contraptions, both the pedal type and the revolving-stairs type. I'm flirting with the idea of taking up running again (what with a perfect park being right next to my building, complete with its own one-kilometer path), but that's not likely, given my old, bashed-up knees. (Perhaps, down the line, I'll bite the bullet and buy myself a bike, given what I now know about Korea's awesome bike paths. I'd still like a fatbike.)

So instead, I've come up with "Everesting," which will involve a tiny bit of homework before I can do it. The idea, here, is to climb the staircase equivalent of Mount Everest over a period of weeks or months. To this end, I need to confirm Mount Everest's height (in the past, I've seen both 29,141 feet and 29,028 feet). Second, I need to confirm how long it takes the average climber to climb Everest, assuming such climbers actually start their climbs at the very foot of the mountain. I suspect they don't: I think most climbers' base camps are rather high up. Next, I need to do the math to see how many times I have to climb up my building's huge staircase to reach the height of Mount Everest. After that, I have to plan my "hike up the mountain," so to speak, which won't be done every single day. More likely, it'll be a Tuesday/Thursday thing over the course of a year.

Additional cardio will be my usual creekside route, but I'll be walking 28 staircases at a pop instead of my usual 14. I'll switch this up, on occasion, by walking my old long route, which involves 5 hours' hiking and 33 staircases, one way. (This route takes me all the way out of Seoul and into Gwacheon City.) If I truly wanted to be badass, I'd do that long route while climbing staircases in both directions, i.e., 66 staircases total.

Finally, since I started this jump-rope thing, I might as well continue that. On YouTube, the Zen Dude Fitness guys offer great tutorials and jump-rope challenges for the asking.

So my workout schedule, for the time being, is going to look somewhat similar to what I was doing during my training period before the trans-Korea walk, except with the major addition of weightlifting five or six times a week. One strength goal that I'm setting for myself is to be able to do at least one legitimate pullup by the end of this year. The most pullups I've ever done in a row, back in my Swiss heyday, is seven. If I can work my way back up to that, twenty years later, that'll be quite an achievement. Expect plenty of curls and lat-bar pulldowns in my future before I even think about approaching a real pullup bar.

For my creek and staircase walks, I'm going to amp up the pain by buying a weight vest to simulate having a backpack on. If the weight vest begins to cause knee problems during my building-staircase climbs, I'll lay off. But I won't remove the vest for my creekside walks because those walks have such a large horizontal component. My knees ought to be able to take the strain when I'm outdoors.

At my company, our department is being moved up the street to our headquarters office in about a month, which will mean longer walks home for me. On the bright side, there's a haedong geomdo training hall in the area where I'll be moving, so once I'm in better condition, I want to join it and start swinging a sword (watch a demo video here: Jedi training at last!). If I can also find a boxing gym and a taekwondo or hapkido training hall, I'll join those as well. But martial-arts training won't be happening until next year at the earliest, so that's not an immediate concern (I'll be 49 next year!).

Anyway, I've got a lot on my plate as my self-rehabilitation continues. Pray for me.

ADDENDUM: some of you crotchety old scolds are noting that I didn't utter a word about dieting. Think about this: during my walk across Korea, I lost weight at a rate of almost a pound a day while still eating about the same amount, calorie-wise, as what I'd been eating before the walk. The radical increase in activity ratcheted my metabolism up to a higher gear—no dietary change needed. And despite having planned several fasting days, I ended up fasting only a single day out of my 26 days on the road, and on some of the days that I was eating MREs, I would supplement the meal with convenience-store food. In theory, had I been more saintly in my eating habits, I could have lost even more weight. But if I'm to be honest with myself, the key to weight loss, for me, will never be to cut my caloric consumption down to something ridiculous like 1600 calories per day. No: I need to keep my activity level up instead. I'm not saying that I plan to spend the next couple of years eating only Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but I'm certainly not going to starve myself. I will, meanwhile, do what I can to eat a bit more mindfully. There's little use in flooding my body with junk.

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