Monday, July 11, 2016

Hellboy & Friends

Hellboy is still in action, but at a total weight of 18.4#, I needed something a little kinder to my joints for everyday use.  "Silver Sagan" fits the bill nicely, at a total weight of 9.4#.  Not one to be left out of the fun, my 8-year-old son is getting started with a little shovelglove of his own, "Mjolnirsson," coming in at 3.4#.

Sorry for the lack of updates.  I'll post some soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

"It's Been Such a Long Time..."

As soon as I sat down to write this post, Boston's "Long Time" immediately started playing inside my mind.

Yes, indeed, since the last time I posted here, "It's been such a long time.  I think I should be goin', yeah.  Time doesn't wait for me; it keeps on rollin'.  Sail on, on a distant highway, yeah, I've got to keep on chasin' a dream.  I've gotta be on my way..."

Specifically, it has been almost a year since I built my "Hellboy" shovelglove, began working out with it, and enthusiastically started a blog.  What have I accomplished since then?  Well, quite a bit, both personally and professionally.  In terms of weight loss and shovelgloving, though?  I'm embarrassed to admit, not so much.

About two weeks after last posting here, my family seized the opportunity to move back to our true "home," in the northwoods, on the southern shore of Lake Superior.  I accepted a position of employment five hours north of where we had then been living with our four children and one dog.  For my first several weeks on the new job, until I could move our entire household here, I lived alone in a tent, making the 5-hour drive south every weekend to be with my family and to move all of our things into a storage garage.  For the rest of the summer, we expanded to two tents (plus a smaller one for food storage), and my whole family lived at a campground near my place of work.  Finally, after about two months, we completed the process of purchasing a house, and have been busy settling into our new home ever since.  The 126-year-old Victorian is a grand building with great bones, but has required a good deal of sweaty, tender, loving care.  (BIG thanks to my wife for the hard work she has done to beautify our new home!)

At any rate, it's with some amount of humility that I must confess that, throughout this process, my shovelgloving screeched to a halt, and my adherence to No-S has been spotty, at best.  In addition to the tumult of moving, starting two new jobs (one full- and one part-time), building up a tattooing business on the side, and fixing up an old house, I also suffered a back injury in November 2015 (not from shugging!), which put quite a damper on my ability to exercise for several months.  This condition has improved to about 90% of baseline now, but has also been joined by a somewhat severely impinged right shoulder.  I have at least managed to not gain weight, but am still hovering right around the 240-ish pound mark.

Well, "Time doesn't wait for me; it keeps on rollin'."  And with my 40th birthday now just two months away, it is definitely time for me to get back on track with achieving my previously-stated goals.  I am perfectly comfortable acknowledging my human-ness and forgiving myself for temporarily falling off-course, but for the sake of accountability, I've decided to re-emerge here and, once again, publically state my intentions to do the work and make these dreams a reality.

In addition to having recently rejoined the excellent, old karate dojo of my youth (this time with two of my own children as classmates), I will be resuming shugging, Monday through Friday, stretching nightly before retiring for the evening, walking often, and committing once again to the No-S habit of sensible eating.

Please stay tuned for regular updates, including workouts, progress pictures, and weigh-in's!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Break it down.

 So, how does this work?

The methods I'm implementing in my quest for less fat, greater strength and vigor, and a generally improved state of wellness are centered around the daily habits of "No-S" eating and "Shovelglove" exercising, in addition to some daily walking, or "Rangering".  I encourage you to go to the source by clicking on the links to Reinhard's webpages for more information.  In a nutshell, though, here's how this whole thing breaks down...

[Note:  Talk to your doctor if you have any medical concerns or pre-existing conditions which may contraindicate your application any of the diet or exercise information contained in this blog.]

The No-S Diet

No snacks, no sweets, no seconds, except--sometimes--on days that start with "S" (Saturdays, Sundays, and special occasions).  This means that, Monday through Friday (known as "No-S" or "N" days), I eat three meals a day, one plate or bowl each, without going back for seconds; I do not eat snacks between meals; and I do not eat sweets.  I do my best to make my meals relatively strong, lean, and clean, with an emphasis on whole, natural foods--vegetables, meat, fruit, nuts, dairy, and a little grain--but sometimes it's pizza, or a burger and fries.  As long as I adhere to the No-S guidelines, it's cool.

I make sure to drink plenty of water, and limit my coffee intake to 2 or 3 cups per day.  I've never really been much of a soda drinker, but yes, soda and sugary fruit juices count as sweets, and should be reserved for "S" days.

When the weekend, a holiday, or a birthday arrives ("S" days), I cut myself a little slack, and may sensibly indulge in some dessert, a snack, and/or a second helping of something particularly savory.

That's it.  That's the diet.  No counting calories.  No measuring or weighing portions.  No calculating macronutrient ratios.  All you have to count are plates:  1, 2, 3.  The rest will work itself out.


Wrap an old sweater around the head of a sledgehammer.  This will help prevent damage to yourself, your property, and any inattentive bystanders.  You now have a shovelglove.  If desired, cover with duct tape (but not too tightly, or you'll defeat the purpose of the sweater padding).

Set a timer for 14 minutes.  Spend that time using your shovelglove to mimic real world working movements, such as shoveling, chopping wood, churning butter, pounding posts, stoking a furnace, scratching your back, etc.  Stop when the timer goes off.  Do this Monday through Friday, and take the weekends, holidays, and birthdays off.

Because I already owned a 16-pound sledgehammer, and because I've already built up a pretty solid foundation of strength over a lifetime of physical labor, weight training, and calisthenics, this is the weight I've started with.  However, let me emphasize that--even at what seems to be a relatively small weight--this level of resistance has proven to be quite challenging!  In fact, I am planning to obtain a second, lighter sledgehammer (10- or 12-pounds) at some point in the near future, and to alternate between heavier and lighter sessions.  For the average adult male, I would recommend starting with an 8-pound hammer, and for women, a 6-pounder.  Allow plenty of time (a year or so) to build up to a greater amount of weight, or just carry on with what you're using indefinitely.  If you hurt yourself by using too much weight--or if you make the sessions absolutely suck--you're not going to stick with it anyhow.

Trust me, doing it the way I've described is enough.  My sessions with "Hellboy," as I've named my shovelglove, have felt good, but have also been quite humbling.  I grew up on a (hobby) farm, and am no stranger to shoveling, wood splitting, and many of the other movements imitated while shovelgloving, but this is one heck of a great workout.  It is amazing how effectively this seemingly small weight can work a person out, when almost all of it is leveraged at the far end of a stick.  Although I started out by repeating movements 21 times to each side, I've found that repetitions in the 7- or 14-range work better for me with this level of resistance, and allow me to cycle through my list of movements more effectively.  Make no mistake, I am huffing, puffing, and sweating like crazy by the time my 14 minutes are up.

A typical session for me includes the following movements, each performed 7 to 14 times to each side, and repeating the cycle until my 14 minutes are up...

Churning butter
Pounding fence posts
Paddling a canoe
Stoking a furnace (or spearing a dragon)
Chopping a tree
Scratching my back
Hailing my comrades (sort of a one-handed curl, then thrusting overhead)

There are countless other movements which can be integrated or substituted into this list.  In order to make these most effective, it really helps to engage the imagination and visualize yourself actually performing the activity.

In addition to shovelglove, I also walk ("Ranger") at least 30 minutes per day and do a bit of stretching. 

That's it.  That's the exercise plan.

You don't need to follow a complicated or unsatisfying diet in order to lose weight.  You don't need to buy expensive equipment, shell out big bucks for a gym membership, or sacrifice hours of each day in order to work out.  In fact, I submit that, in the long run, you will be far more likely to achieve your goals of eating healthily and exercising effectively if you keep things simple, as described above.

That's good news, right?  So get to it!  Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment below to let me know how it goes for ya!.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Meet the Shuggernaut.

juggernaut (n): 1. A huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution.  2. A Marvel comic book character who, once in motion, is unstoppable.

shugger (n):  A practitioner of the exercise method known as shovelgloving, whereby functional, once-common movements such as shoveling, wood chopping, and fencepost pounding are performed with a padded sledgehammer.

Who is the Shuggernaut, you ask?  Well, I'll tell ya.  He's an almost-39-year-old husband of one, father of four, Registered Nurse, licensed tattooist, painter, sculptor, martial artist, and 2004 University of Wisconsin graduate, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Promotion and Wellness, as well as multiple certifications as a personal trainer.

Now the humbling bit...

Standing at just a shade under 6 feet in height, at the time of this writing, he's also about 40-or-so pounds overfat, currently tipping the scales at a decently-muscled-but-big-gut-bearing weight of around 240 pounds.

Seems a bit ironic, doesn't it?  Here's a guy who knows just about everything there is to know regarding how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and a fit, functional body, and he's struggling to lose a bunch of fat just like everyone else.  Here's the crazy thing about "experts" that a lot of them don't want you to know, though:  We're human, too.

A solid decade has passed since transitioning from single college dude to working professional and family man, along with the stress of several job changes, geographic moves, financial struggles, births of children, deaths of friends, and other types of adventures Life likes to take us on.  Throw in a heaping dose of chronic pain from years of intermittent, sporadic, and alternating overtraining and undertraining (including plantar fasciitis, knee and low back pain, whispers of rotator cuff injuries, and, most recently, the start of sciatica and some hellaciously tight psoas muscles), and what are you left with?

Well, for many people, you're left with the beginning of the end of the story.  A lot of folks my age who experience similar challenges and setbacks just chalk it up to "getting older," and passively submit to the resultantly inevitable, swirling decent down the drain of mortality's toilet.

Not this guy.  Yes, I am a fat guy in his late thirties who's still strong enough to do some stuff (until his back goes out or he runs out of breath), but who is held back from fully enjoying a life spent in a truly fit, capable body.  That said, if I do have a superpower, it's the ability to keep going, one way or another, no matter how bad it hurts.  It's true that this very proclivity--used unwisely over the years (e.g., sporadic overtraining)--is the very thing that caused many of the aches and pains which now beset me.  However, properly harnessed and used for good, this tenacious optimism--the undying faith in myself and the unshakeable belief that I will not only regain but even exceed the vitality I enjoyed in my youth--cannot fail to carry me forward.  My knowledge, now tempered with the wisdom and prudence that comes with age and experience, is about to usher in a new era of vibrant strength, power, and athleticism in my life.

Patience is the key.


A 16-pound sledgehammer--combined with the habit of sensible eating--is the tool.


Or, more specifically, one 14-minute workout at a time, five days a week.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Fourteen minutes a day.

Several years ago, I stumbled across the online writings of a nice fella by the name of Reinhard Engels.  He's a computer guy who decided to share what he'd learned about eating right and exercising sensibly with the world, free of charge.  The core of his philosophy is the development of reasonable habits which can be maintained for a lifetime.  No crash diets.  No extreme exercise programs.  No puritanical rules forbidding you from ever enjoying life's simple pleasures.  Just the integration of simple, sustainable, and even enjoyable habits into one's daily life.  I encourage you to click on his name, above, for more information about his "Everyday Systems." 

Going forward from here, I will be regularly updating this blog with progress photos, notes, and training tips, along with plenty of rambling thoughts, commentary, and miscellaneous brain droppings about health, fitness, food, life in general, and how to get the most out of our time on Spaceship Earth.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment below.  I look forward to sharing this journey with others, and hope it might help a few folks who happen to find themselves walking along a similar path.

Meet Hellboy.

And unto me, a savior is born.  At a total weight of about 18-pounds (counting the hickory handle, the 16-pound steel head, and the old sweatshirt and duct tape safeguarding the world from any potentially errant swings), this is my newly constructed "Shovelglove"--appropriately and affectionately named "Hellboy."

In case of emergency, kick ass.
Stay tuned for the unfolding saga of a now-approaching-middle-aged guy who is determined to enter his forties looking like a superhero.