Sunday, November 3, 2013

Choo Choo, Mudder Fuggers!

I've been in the midst of my lifestyle change for nearly three years. During that time, I've been trying new methods of staying active and proving that I could do new, unfamiliar activities. Indoor rock climbing. One-hundred-and-six-degree Bikram yoga. And most notably, 5K and obstacle runs. I've always been fat, and even after losing more than 100 pounds, I still am. But I've really grown to love running, even if I don't have the most speed, most stamina nor best form. After running an obstacle mud race in March, my buddy and running mate suggested we do Tough Mudder, a 10-12-mile mud, dirt, water, ice, electric shock and ice bath filled obstacle course that requires not only physical strength and endurance, but also mental grit. It took a week, but I agreed to run!

Months of running, gym time, rock climbing and yoga led us River Ranch, Fla. It was finally Saturday Nov. 2, the day we'd been waiting for since March. The team had assembled, we'd obtained our running bibs, our faces were painted, the pre-race instructions were given and we were off! Trent, Kyle, John and Ally ran ahead while Gabe, Leanna and I brought up the rear. Throughout 12 grueling miles, we ran, jogged, walked, trudged, dealt with rain, sloshed through mud and muddy water, crawled through water while being electrically shocked, climbed over walls, ran up a half pipe, fully submerged ourselves in a container full of ice, and one of us even did most of it all while barefoot. It wasn't a pretty run on my part. I was the slowest person on the team and the last to cross the finish line, but goddamn it, I finished that mudder fudder!

Finishing Tough Mudder was important. The ends are almost always important. But it was the means by which I finished that make me most proud of myself and, more importantly, most grateful to have run with my teammates and thousands of runners I didn't even know. Before running, every participant took a pledge that stated that we understood Tough Mudder wasn't a race but a challenge, would make teamwork and camaraderie our top priorities and were to help our fellow Mudders complete the course. Just like with the other aspects of Tough Mudder, I definitely was not underwhelmed with the execution of that pledge.

Whenever I was tired and walked instead of ran, complete strangers, having seen “Randy Love” on the back of my shirt, would address me as such and encourage me to pick up the pace. My upper body strength is decent but I'm still approximately 270 pounds, so I would not have been able to climb the walls or make it up the half pipe had it not been for my teammates and the random runners who TOLD me I was going to climb said walls and then helped me over the obstacles. When I was nearly finished with an obstacle and needed a mental or physical push or pull, Gabe, Leanna and whomever else was nearby grabbed my hands and got me through. During mile 10, after climbing through an inclined muddy pipe, and 90 percent of my get up and go got up and left, I can't even count how many strangers yelled something like, “COME ON, RANDY LOVE! YOU GOT THIS!”

Approximately four hours and 15 minutes after we began running, Gabe, Leanna and I ran across the finish line the same way we ran across the start line: together! Our white shirts tainted grayish brown, we hugged it out with me knowing without a doubt I would not have finished without them. I'm physically fit to an extent, yet I'm still 50 pounds over weight. And no matter how much I enjoy running, even I have my limits. I wish I could say thank you to those girls in that team with the black and orange shirts who, every time they passed me, yelled “IT'S RANDY LOVE!” I want to buy a drink for the team who let me have some of their vodka and Red Bull. I want to be Facebook friends with the group from Jacksonville who walked the mile with us in the chest-deep muddy water. I wish I could give a coat and some hummus to George, the man with “Mediterranean blood,” who we had to coax into jumping in the ice bath. I want to thank Gabe and the Mudder volunteers who pulled me up Everest. I want to wish well the man who hurt his knee and had to pull while in the 11th of 12 miles.

It's now Sunday evening. I'm home, typing while laying in my bed and watching TV. My legs and feet are sore beyond belief. My right elbow hurts a bit when I bend it, and I'm constantly finding bruises, cuts and scrapes on multiple parts of my body. Tough Mudder was one of the most grueling experience I've ever had, one that's left hobbling when I walk. I should want to spend weeks in bed watching TV. Fuck all of that noise. I can't wait to heal so that I can get back to my workouts. Because when – I said when, not if – I compete in my next Mudder, I want to finish earlier, contribute more and not have to be the one who needs lifting out of or over an obstacle. Tough Mudder, I'm coming for that ass in 2014!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Let's get dirty!

In November, I ran my first mud race. It wasn't a traditional one; it was zombie-themed. Instead of having copious amounts of obstacles, the race only boasted about 10 obstacles but a lot of zombies chasing and grabbing at you. My friend, who also ran the race, kept talking about wanting to do an all-out tough mudder, an idea about which I politely nodded. I'd seen tough mudder YouTube  videos and heard about how grueling they could be. So the idea of running one honestly frightened me.

But after I ran the zombie race and did better in it than I thought I would, I became more open to the idea of running an all-out, balls-out (figuratively) mudder. Lucky for my friend and I, someone at the event was passing out fliers for the Dirty Food Adventure Run on March 9. After much contemplation, self-doubt, visions of mediocre, dirty glory and desire to continue to do new things, I decided to run this race. I decided to face my fear of failure and looking stupid and inept in front of people who seemingly know what they're doing. I resigned myself to that fact that I would have to push myself harder physically than I have ever before. By doing this race, I'm setting myself up to run approximately four miles while completing nearly 30 obstacles during the run.

I'm confident in my ability to go the four miles. I've done three 5K (3.1 mile) races, and in each of those, I ran most of the race and walked for a while to catch my breath and re-up on energy. Adding another mile to the race doesn't seem like it would be the tricky part. What will really test me is the obstacles. More specifically, the climbing obstacles. From the video that I saw, there will be two different forms of rope wall climbing, cargo net climbing and a jump into some deep-ass water, followed by a swim in said water. So there's where I need some help. I've recently taken up rock wall climbing to help build my strength. But if any one has any advice on what I can do to best prepare for the climbing obstacles, please feel free to share. Also, I need someone to teach me how to swim. Hooray for stereotypes.

Below is a link to a video someone took of while running the race. If you, my tens of readers, have any tips for me on what I should do to prepare, let me know. And if you have words of encouragement, send them my way.

Brandon D.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pig speech...continued.

On Tuesday, my friends hosted what I believe is their seventh annual Christmas party. What has become a tradition is passing around peppermint pig, listing the things that year for which you are thankful, then pummeling the pig with a tiny hammer. Although I named quite a lot of people, things and experiences for which I was grateful, there are some I forgot to list. And the party was full of things for which to be thankful. So here we go.

I'm thankful that the crew is back together. Having to hang out with portions of the crew at different times and not mentioning those times to other crew members really sucked.

I'm thankful for people loving me exactly like I am but who will always encourage me to better myself.

I'm thankful for my NE Florida crew, Central Florida crew, Tally crew and all the friends and family that are out there.

I'm thankful for people who are on the same DRANKIN level as I am.

I'm thankful for gifts that come from the heart and that fit the recipient like a glove (figuratively speaking).

I'm thankful for people who buy a shit load of pizza when you have the drunk munchies.

I'm thankful for people who don't get mad when you get shit wrecked wasted, brown out, get lost in their two-bedroom condo and then mistakenly barge into their bedroom like Chester the molester.

I'm thankful for coconut water and Pedialyte.

I'm thankful for some of the most delicious brownies ever.

I'm thankful that said friends' floor is a surprisingly comfortable to sleep.

And I'm thankful to get to live the life I live with the people I know. And I can't wait to continue this journey.

Happy holidays,
Brandon D.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fear and self-loathing in Jacksonville

I've been eating better for two years and working out for almost as long. As I have gone through this process, I've tried to keep my workout routine varied and ever-expanding. I want to push myself to do things I never thought I would be able to do, things I never thought I would WANT to do and things that would push me out of my comfort zone. Since I have a slightly crippling fear of heights but want to gain some climbing abilities for an up-coming four-mile run and obstacle course, I decided to try my hand at rock wall climbing.

One of my friends -- looking at you, Trent! -- is an avid climber is constantly preaching the glory that is supposed to be climbing. He has been constantly telling me how much of the body it works and how it breaks the monotony of gym workouts. But I can be a pretty vain person at times. As much as I tell myself that other people's opinions don't matter to me, I put way too much emphasis on what I think of me. My appearance, my behavior, my actions and how well those actions are executed. Even when I started my #GetRight plan, It took me a month and a half before I worked up the courage to step into a gym. It took me about five months after that before I would go into the weight room and attempt to work out with the people who looked like the worked out for a living. Those same apprehensions always made me say thing like "that's nice" or "I'll do it one day, I swear" whenever my friend mention the benefits of climbing. But if there's one thing I hate more than looking like a loser doing something in front of a crowd of people who are well-experience at said activity, it's letting fear and apprehensions keep me from doing things.

As soon as I stepped foot into the rock gym -- I do mean as soon as-- I knew that I would not come out of this venture with the highest of self-esteem.I don't lack the strength to climb, but finding the right hand and foot holes and not being afraid of the fall proved more difficult than I expected. I got the privilege of watching more experienced climbers practically sprint to the top of the wall while I had to talk myself into climbing higher than the halfway mark. Starting courses that were supposed to be easy but not being able to climb even a quarter of the way made me thing twince about what I've really accomplished while on my #GetRight plan. I just hope no one saw me frozen for 45 seconds in the middle of the wall, too afraid to climb up, climb down or just let go.

But today's activities weren't horrible. If I had to evaluate my performance, I'd say I did OK. Eventually, I got acclaimated with the wall and was able to climb higher and faster. I got an amazing workout; my arms and thigh are still ringing. Despite the self-deprecation and awkwardness, I want to go again. Like, now! But the climbing brought me back to reality. For the past week, I've been riding euphoria waves after celebrating two years of good living and at least 105 pounds lost. Although I've had some amazing progress, I'm constantly reminded that even after 2 years of living right, I'm still more than 50 pounds overweight. Sure I'm able to run now, but in the time it takes me to run two miles, some of my friends can run 3.1 miles. I enjoy lifting weights, but my bench pressing weight is atrocious for someone who has worked out for almost two years. And when I see 18-month before-and-after weight loss pictures of people who now have rock hard bodies, I have to take a 30-minute time out to tell myself that I started at a much higher weight and that's why I'm not in Randy Love g-string shape.

Guess who won't be deterred, though. Take your time; I'm hourly. This guy!!! I'm going to go back -- with a partner, a group or by my damn self -- and I'm going to do better than I did today. I'm going to eventually climb with ease, find better climbing route, not being afraid of the height, and not worrying about how I am percieved in a room full of experiensed climbers. I want the muscle game, strength and agility climbing will give me, and I want to conquor this run/obstacle course next year. I guess I just had to face my fears and struggles head-on before I could progress. I feel a lot better now.

Until next time,
Brandon D. Oliver

P.S., I had no idea climbing would be so uncomfortable on my bat and balls!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happy Two-Year Anniversary to Me!!!

 Imagine a man who couldn’t climb two flights of stairs without being winded. A man who wore long shirts to hide his inevitably appearing butt crack when he sat down. Someone who refused to go shopping with people so he could avoid the envy of being the only person who couldn’t find clothes that fit. That guy was me two years ago before I decided two years ago today to change my less than ideal situation. I had spent the better part of 26 and a half years eating fast and junk food, avoiding physical activity and remaining stuck in my ways. But on November 30, 2010, I took the first steps of quite the eventful, life-changing Journey.

When I embarked on my #GetRight plan, I first decided to give up fast food, vending machine items and sodas. Living in Palatka, Fla., giving up those items is basically like eliminating 80 percent of available food and drink from my diet. I forced myself to cook more, incorporate more fruits and veggies into my diet, and eat five smaller, healthier meals per day as opposed to three huge fattening meals. To keep from getting bored with eating only sandwiches and fruit, I have spent the past two years looking up new and healthy recipes and stepping out of my comfort zone to find more diverse foods that wouldn't pack on the poundage. And what I thought would be the hardest part of getting my shit together -- but turned out to not be that bad -- was limiting my alcohol to only Fridays and Saturdays. But fuck that policy on my birthday and holidays.

A month and a half after revamping my diet, I joined a gym and forced myself to go there four to five times per week. It took me that long to work up the courage to step all 370+ pounds of myself into a building full of people who could run miles, do different versions of pull-ups and push-ups and bench press what looked like a gajillion pounds. But getting my shit together was all about conquering my fears and pushing myself to new heights. So I made myself spend at least 90 minutes a day in USA Fitness after I got off work, sacrificing my evening frolicking time but probably saving myself some money. After a month of working out and a first week of being more sore than a new hooker just before dawn, working out became easier and shockingly very exciting. Light working out lead to intense working out, which lead to distance running, which lead to a once unthinkable desire to participate in various 5K races.

It's been two years and my body has gradually shrunk by at least 109 pounds. Since the mere thought of stepping on a scale two years ago would have made me shit myself, I don't know what my weight was on that November day two years ago. But I know 370 pounds was the lowest amount that I could have weighed. I was wearing 4X shirts, and my size 54 pants didn't actually fit waist level. After some hard work, sacrificing a lot of things that once brought me joy, periods of self-doubt and self-deprecation, body envy, reading health blogs and tons of advice from people with workout and food knowledge, I made it down to 261 pounds. (Side note: I'm currently hovering between 260 and 270). I'm finally able to find clothes in stores and sections that don't read "plus-size," and it is way more gratifying than I thought it would be. Wearing XL shirts and size 42 pants is AMAAAAAAZING!!!

As mind-blowingly orgasmic as the aesthetic Team #GetRight results are, the other weight loss benefits far outweigh them. I am way more energetic than I once was. Seriously! It's like I smoked a joint full of Five Hour Energy: Life Version. Sitting down for more than an hour makes me restless. I've done three 5K races and found out I love camping (but only for 24 hours or less; I don't shit in the woods). Along with the abundance in energy came an adrenalin shot of confidence. Now, when I say "I'm the shit," I actually believe it. When I go to the beach, I take off the undershirt I would have worn two years ago. Healthy eating and regular physical activity has made my immune system as impenetrable as Alcatraz. My hair and skin is just as healthy as the rest of me. I've been introduced to lemon water, Greek yogurt, hummus with pita bread and a host of other uppity items. I trip over and run into things in the gym because I'm too busy checking out myself in the mirrored walls. And my stamina, flexibility, endurance and sex drive have shot through the roof. Too bad I'm not getting laid right now. MESSAGE!

Though amazing, the #GetRight journey has not been easy. I came into the weight loss plan knowing I couldn't undo overnight what took more more than a quarter of a century to do. But I wasn't prepared for how long this process would take. Or how often I would hit a bump in the road. Plateaus can go fuck themselves, fuck their mothers and then go fuck themselves all over again but in a different orifice. Spending weeks busting my ass, giving up McDoubles and having all kinds of food guilt when I decide to have a cocktail only to see that I haven't lost any pounds makes me want to savagely beat a baby. A baby human! And that's why I'm glad I had people, some of whom had already experienced what I was feeling, who gave me workout/eating advice and or boost my spirits right before my fist hit the babies' cranial soft spots.

It's been two years, and I can say, without ego, that I have accomplished tremendous feats. But my #GetRight plan is not complete. I'm closer 270 pounds in this ten-pound weight range on which I'm currently plateaued, so I still have about 50 more pounds to drop. But for now, I will enjoy the moment. I would also like to express my gratitude to all the people who have encouraged me, given me advice, recommended weight loss blogs, offered exercise tips and have "liked" my countless Facebook and Twitter workout posts instead of unfriending me. I also want to encourage everyone else who is on Team #GetRight. Keep doing what you're doing, and keep bettering yourself, whether you're getting right your health, finances, company you keep or whatever.

This has been an amazing journey that has surprised me countless times. And I don't plan on stopping. LETS DO THIS!!!

-Brandon D.

P.S.: Being able to better see your penis is a huge plus. Too bad others aren't seeing it. MESSAGE!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Reason I Want Nice Things

For as long as I can remember, I've been fat. I have no problem being called fat because it has always been more accurate than saying something asinine like "big-boned" or "husky." I have always made it a point never to put myself down for being obese. Frankly speaking, I am too awesome, droll and worth-wild of a person to let my weight bum me out. Not to say there weren't times -- many, many times -- I wished I wasn't fat. So on Nov. 30, 2010, something in my head ignited, and I decided to stop wishing and start taking action

When people began to notice my body shrinking, they would always ask what made me, after nearly 26 and a half years, decide to lose weight. Not wanting to get too personal or take up too much of anyone's time, I would always spout off something generic. "I just wanted to get healthy." "I figured the time was right." But since I feel more comfortable writing than speaking, let me tell you all why I really decided to get my shit together.

I push myself in the gym, I suck in the chilly autumn air while on my three-mile runs, and I continue to shun the foods I used to love, all because longings and desires deep in my mind, heart and gut. The vain, superficial desires to which I cling but dare tell no one because admitting I want the things losing over 100 would afford me would make me sound vulnerable.

But I can't help it if I want to go into any store and find any shirt, blazer or pair of pants in my size. I want the "Big & Tall" sign to no longer be my beacon when I enter a department store, and I want to no longer have to pay $1 or $2 more for my size.

When I'm out and about with my more active and athletic friends, I want to be be able to keep up with them. Though I scoff when they tell me about the rock walls they climb and the hard-core, nearly physically impossible obstacle course they plan to run, I secretly long to do those things with them and be able to hold my own.

When I board the plane, I don't want to be faced with the ultimatum of paying for two seats or having to leave the plane. And, not to be too demanding, I'd like to be comfortable in whatever window, middle or aisle seat I'm assigned.

Although calling Shotgun is usually a display of victory, I don't want people to let me sit in the front seat of their cars because they think I will be more comfortable and or that it will free up more room in the back seat.

When I'm at a club or bar, I want to be the man the sober women approach. I want the quirky, attractive woman in the restaurant to send smiles and batted eye lashes across the room to me. I want the ladies in the supermarket to eye-fuck the shit out of me as I reach to back of the top shelf for the last Arctic blue Gatorade or bend down to find the Lipton green tea. Vain? Yes. But women don't tend to flock to someone who can crush them. I thought my wit, humor, individuality and authenticity could over-shadow my size, but I guess I was wrong.

I find children repulsive, but if the day comes when I want to have some of my own, I don't want to decide against procreating because I'm afraid of passing along my fat gene.

Whether the remainder of my life is long or short, I want it to be as healthy as possible. Numerous people in my family have diabetes; my late grandfather even had his legs amputated because of it. I do not want to spend the last days of my life in someone's hospital bed or wheel chair. And dying from an obesity-related stroke or heart attack in my 30s is not how I envision my story ending.

Although I'm getting in shape so I can be as healthy as I can be, I can't deny my ulterior motives. Some of my motivations to shed pounds seem reasonable while others are a bit absurd. But when people ask why I always eat Subway and why I'm in the gym four to five times a week, I want to clue them in to why I'm really busting my ass to drop down to 200 pounds. But my vocabulary fails me, and all I mutter is "I want to be a little healthier."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Public Men's Room Etiquette

Aware as I am that this country is more diverse than I can possibly imagine, I thought one thing was common knowledge among a large portion of the U.S. population. Though never taught in a classroom and rarely spoken aloud, bathroom etiquette whilst in the men's room should be -- or so I thought it was -- firmly ingrained in the recesses of the brains of all American human males ages 13 and higher. (I've lived in or been to another country so I can't speak for their men's room practices.) It's come to my conclusion though that numerous men either don't know or simply disregard the rules of the public toilet. 

As I am a man who seeks solution and enlightenment rather than condemnation and judgmental verbal barbs, I present to you the (cue movie trailer announcer voice) MEN'S ROOM ETIQUETTE MANIFESTO...

-There is no talking. It's a men's room, not a smoking lounge. There's no need to chill out and regale someone with tales of your life. It's not that we don't care about the UFC fight or the burgers you grilled on Labor Day. On the contrary; another man might have the perfect seasoning combination to make those burgers pop. But the men's room is no place to discuss that. Or anything else! Shut the fuck up, handle your business, and get out as soon as you can. 

-The no talking rule applies to friends and family. I could be talking to my buddy as we are (what we think) randomly walking around the office, but once we reach the men's room door and realize the other also needs to hit the head, all talking ceases. And during our time in the restroom -- especially when the down-there parts are exposed to air -- nary a word is to be spoken. Once we're both zipped up and out of the restroom, the conversation can resume. And if you walk into the men's room and see someone you know, simply acknowledge their presence by nodding without looking them in the eye. Which brings me to my next point...

-Do NOT make eye contact. Specificity is needed; don't let your eyes make contact with any part of anyone else's body. Not all bathrooms have the barriers between the urinals. And if I quickly (less than one second) scan my surroundings and notice you trying to get a view of my bat and balls, I will break the rule of silence and yell accusations and insults as loud as I can. Was your glance at my Duke Rainier Worthington III really worth the public outing?

-Stay out of the middle. Just like in every other instance (except sex), personal space is a very big deal. If there are an odd number of urinals, never is it acceptable to use the even-numbered urinal(s). If there are three urinals, don't use the second; if there are five, don't use the second or forth urinal. The even-numbered urinals are there simply for decorative purposes and are not meant to be used. If some inconsiderate chap decides to release his golden river in an even-numbered urinal, use the urinal at least three spaces away. If there are only three urinals and someone is at the middle urinal, use the stall. 

The exception to this rule is if you're in a public bathroom with a plethora of urine receptacles. Choose whichever urinal you'd like as long as it is at least two spaces away from the next person. If you can, choose the one closest to the ends. 

-Don't use a stall if you only have to pee. Unless motivated by the even-numbered urinal predicament and the urinals are in working order, you should not be in a stall if all you have to do is pee. Be a man, and stand at the urinal. No one wants to look at your member. No one wants to critique your stance or the way you count the wall tiles in front of you. Not to offend, but using the stall to pee is seen by many as a sign of weakness and insecurity.  

-FLUSH THE GODDAMN TOILET! Even though it's not your bathroom, clean up after yourself. If you take this years Browns to the Super Bowl, why would you not flush the toilet? ... I'm waiting! Why...would you not...flush...the fucking toilet? This is a public restroom, and you are a gigantic bag with which one douches if you leave the restroom unsuitable for future users. Five days ago, instead of using a portable toilet that molested my sense of smell and sight, I took a piss NEXT to the portable toilet, much to the chagrin of the people driving along A1A and the Hispanic family 20 feet away loading their car. Please don't make me have to make this choice while in a public restroom. Along with flushing the toilet, don't leave solid objects in the urinals, throw away your trash, and quit splashing water everywhere. Behave like a respectable man.

-Wash your hands!!!!! I don't care if you have to poo, pee, or just blow your nose, washing your hands is something that should be first nature. Not second nature; first nature! Think about it. When you leave the  public restroom, you're going back out into and interacting with the public. You'll be touching a lot of what everyone else has to touch, and I'm pretty sure everyone would appreciate not having to come in contact with your urine, penis, pubic hair, poo, ass and or snot residue. Don't do your business, leave without washing up, and then have the gall to shake people's hands. Take the 10-30 seconds and clean your hands. I will judge the fuck out of you and alert as many people as possible if I see you leave the restroom without washing your hands. And if possible, when leaving the bathroom, don't make direct contact with the door knob/handle. 

Guys, have I missed any restroom rules? If so, post them in the comment section. Ladies, I'm aware there is a beehive of rules and regulations surrounding the ladies' room. If you're allowed to divulge your rules, what is a no go when it comes to the ladies' room? 

Thanks for listening and (hopefully) sharing,