Monday, December 27, 2021

2021: taking stock

Yes, I've used this pic before. What can I say? It's so apropos.

It's the final week of 2021, so the time has come to assess the year—its events, my goals (and whether I fulfilled them), and how the past points me toward the future.

1. The Year in Review

I guess we'll start with the elephant in the room: this past May, I suffered a full-on ischemic stroke, which is a way of saying that blockages of circulation led to the killing of certain brain cells. I am now officially brain-damaged, but my recovery is probably somewhere around 90 to 95 percent. My fingers are still clumsy on keyboards when I type, so I know I'll never again type anywhere near 142 words per minute. I type fast enough to write lengthy blog posts without taking much longer than I used to, so I guess I'm okay even with my reduced abilities. Physically, I still have balance issues on stairs and when crossing creeks via those stone footbridges (jinggeom-dari in Korean), and while I can break into a short jog when on a bike trail, I can't break into a sprint or even a regular run. I haven't tried getting back onto my bike; I admit I'm kind of scared to try.

In the latter half of the year, my right shoulder mysteriously began aching. I held off going to the doctor because I thought that, like most of my aches and pains, this problem would go away after a while. It didn't, though, so I eventually visited the local orthopede and got diagnosed with frozen shoulder (called "50s shoulder" in Korean since it strikes people in their fifties). According to the physical-therapy videos I've watched online, the problem can last up to two or three years before the shoulder eventually unfreezes. I don't want to spend a chunk of my life with this problem, so I'll be doing the recommended therapy exercises over the coming year to try to accelerate recovery.

On a brighter note, I've enjoyed not having to deal with scholastic debt; I got rid of that debt in December of 2020. Took my time paying down my credit-card debt, but that, too has been manageable for a while, now. Next step is to begin investing; once I get my chunk of cash at the end of my current work contract (which got extended because our team is making the jump to a franchise branch of our company), I'll dump a few thousand dollars into investments, and we'll see what happens. With the global economy sagging the way it is, I'm not expecting much return on investment, but you never know. If ever there was a time to buy low, that time is now.

The pandemic rages on, but mostly in the minds of fearful, power-hungry politicians. Variants of COVID are becoming more communicable but even less deadly than they initially were; this is apparently consistent with what modern epidemiology tells us about viruses in such situations. I remain uninfected, although I do wonder, sometimes, whether I might have caught the virus at some point over the past two years. Both of my coworkers had COVID scares recently; my Korean coworker actually got infected, but my American coworker was merely tested for the virus after his daughter may have been exposed to it: he tested negative. It makes one wonder how one should feel about the virus and China: the urge is to blame China for unleashing this pestilence upon the world, but the pestilence has proven to be pestilential only for certain narrow demographics, i.e., the very old and the already-sick. US deaths from COVID are presumably around 800,000 now, but many of those deaths are more "death with COVID" and not "death from COVID." Statistics are definitely inflated. I think we ought to open everything back up, stop placing infected people in hospital beds when they don't need to be there, and either let the disease run its course or give people the option to take pills (only recently made available in some quarters, from what I understand).

This year, I've corresponded with my brothers only rarely. David doesn't really talk to me anymore; I don't know what sort of passive-aggressive bullshit he's up to, but I'm not going to beg him to talk if he doesn't want to talk. Sean has been more verbal, but even with Sean, conversations are extremely rare given how busy he is as a professional musician. I've probably talked more with my buddy Mike, over the past year, than I have talked with my brothers. Same goes for corresponding with my French family.

Saw "Dune" in the theaters, right before South Korea clamped down and decreed that only people with vaccine passes may patronize cinemas. I find myself wondering what it'd be like to move back to the States—specifically to a red state where pandemic restrictions are minimal. There are times when I'm sick enough of people in general to consider living as a hermit somewhere, but I don't yet have the cash reserves to indulge in such a life.

Did plenty of walking, especially after the stroke in May. Walked the east coast of South Korea from mid-September to mid-October; the route I took ended up being only 610 kilometers long, not the 720 kilometers that the east-coast trail is purported to be. At a guess, I went off book and followed some shortcuts that I shouldn't have. And while it's tempting to go back to the coast to figure out where I went wrong, the coastal walk, as a whole, was something of a turn-off, and I have no real desire ever to do a walk like that again. Too much traffic; too much civilization. Not enough quiet nature.

2. Meeting This Year's Goals

I set some goals for myself after I got out of the hospital in late May. A quick recap of the goals I'd set and where I hoped to find myself by the end of this year:

1. 50 pushups
2. 120 seconds' planking (front, 2 sides)
3. 2 pullups
4. walking: 30 km at 4.8 kph
5. building staircase, B1 to 26: 3 times
6. weight: 128 kg to 100 kg
7. fasting blood glucose: 95
8. resting heart rate: 65
9. blood pressure: 120/80

Those were the goals. I can judge my accomplishments by two standards: did I meet my goals, or did I meet my goals and maintain them? By the first standard, I did pretty well except for my strength-related goals. By the second standard, well, there's room for improvement, but the trends remain favorable.

1. 50 pushups (gave up)
2. 120 seconds' planking (front, 2 sides) (gave up)
3. 2 pullups (gave up)
4. walking: 30 km at 4.8 kph (accomplished very early on)
5. building staircase, B1 to 26: 3 times (reached goal before December 16)
6. weight: 128 kg to 100 kg (goal almost met [100.5 kg], not maintained)
7. fasting blood glucose: 95 (goal met several times, not maintained)
8. resting heart rate: 65 (goal met, not maintained)
9. blood pressure: 120/80 (goal met, not maintained)

The strength goals got tossed out the window once the shoulder pain became too much. Now that I know this frozen-shoulder problem is going to be with me for up to two years, though, I'm going to try strength training again in the upcoming year, but by finding ways around my problem, perhaps by doing certain exercises in a limited way, with only partial range of motion (half-pushups and the like). I will also be adding certain resistance-band-related exercise goals to the list after I figure out which ones to add.

Meeting my walking goal was the easiest of all the goals. Getting back into distance walking was a high priority for me, so I concentrated a lot on that from May onward, and I kept myself moving throughout the week, not just on weekends. Staircase training was harder, but I did hit the 3-staircase mark right before my December 16 doctor's appointment, so I consider that goal met. As I mentioned before, I'll be doing a maximum of 1.5 staircases from now on because I know that that's enough to get me into decent cardiovascular shape. I might get a wild hair and try doing three staircases again, but probably not for a while.

Things like heart rate and BP are a function of weight, so as long as I get back on track, come January, and continue to lose weight, I ought to see better numbers in those areas. Same for blood sugar: staying on a decent diet like carnivore ought to help radically with both fasting glucose and A1c. It's all about minimizing the carbs. I'm taking it easy right now, having decided to enjoy the final two weeks of the year, but things will crank up into high gear once January 2 rolls around. Overall, I'm a lot healthier now than I was when I had my stroke. I'm going to make sure that that trend continues.

3. New-year Resolutions

For 2022, the focus is going to be on body recomposition. This is kind of the next phase in training. I'm starting to meet the basic requirements for a healthy body, so now it's time to focus on recomposing my body. What this primarily means is losing body fat and gaining muscle. The bathroom scale is going to be much less of a factor, this year, than it was last year because, per unit volume, muscle is denser than fat, so if I'm losing fat and gaining muscle, I probably shouldn't expect much change in weight. Nevertheless, I've set 90 kg as my goal weight (that might go down to 85 kg, depending), and I aim to reach that weight by the end of July next year. The carnivore diet will be key, but exercise will also be crucial, especially exercise of the muscle-building kind: when you increase your muscle mass, you increase your metabolism, which means you burn more calories even when you're just sitting around.

So getting back to my goals for the coming year:

1. 50 pushups (same goal as for 2021)
2. 120 seconds' planking (same goal)
3. 2 pullups (same goal)
4. walking: 30 km at 4.8 kph (maintaining)
5. building staircase, B1 to 26: 1.5 times (maintaining)
6. weight: 85-90 kg (pref. by the end of July)
7. fasting blood glucose: 95 (maintaining)
8. resting heart rate: 65 (get there and stay there)
9. blood pressure: 120/80 (get there and stay there)
10. body fat percentage: ???? (I'll get back to you)
11. ketone count: 1.5 or higher (I'll get back to you)

For new goal #10, I'll need to buy one of those scales that can measure your body fat. I don't know how accurate these things are, so I'll have to research them. Once I get such a scale, I'll need to measure how much body fat I currently have, then figure out what a reasonable one-year fat-loss goal might be. For goal #11, I need to buy a decent ketone meter, but on Amazon, they seem to be out of all the good ones. So this goal might have to wait.

In terms of walk projects, I'm thinking I'd like to walk all 20-something legs (425 km) of the Jeju Olle path, which follows the perimeter of Jeju Island, but if I need a vaccine pass to get on a domestic flight, then those plans will be scrapped. Instead, I'll likely do the Four Rivers path again (since it's my old friend at this point), or I might do a combination of lake walks and a walk to the Andong Dam. I'm still mulling my options. Aside from that, I can only hope that, in 2022, the world's politicians let go of their fear, release their death grip on the levers of power, and allow their citizens to breathe free.

This coming year, I'm also going to take up Spanish. My buddy Mike wants to hike the Camino de Santiago when we're 60 (let's hope the pandemic is declared over by then), so I figure that at least one of us needs to be able to speak some Spanish to help us get around. A polyglot Brit named Olly Richards (eight languages, degree in applied linguistics) has an interestingly designed story-based Spanish course that I plan to take; I hope to be at around intermediate level by the end of next year. If I apply myself, it can happen.

So there's my year in review, plus a look forward to 2022. I forgot to mention that 2022 will be, in principle at least, the year that two of my book projects will come to fruition. I also hope to start learning more about things like video podcasting, photography, and videography, all in an effort to establish an online presence and start selling some books. I will also be joining Substack early next year, so stay tuned for more news on that.


John Mac said...

It's been a helluva ride--thanks for letting us all tag along here on the blog. In a twisted kind of way, you had a stroke of good luck--a lifestyle-changing event that has led you to overall better health and hopefully prevented some future medical disaster. You have a lot of accomplishments to be proud and I'm sure you've been an inspiration to many of your readers.

That Jeju hike sounds great. I wonder if the ferry from Busan requires a vaccine pass?

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, as always, for being my most faithful commenter.