Category Archives: Fitness

Help! Help! I’m backsliding!

Sometime last summer, I once again started working out on the elliptical trainer in my home office, initially doing about 20 minutes a day.

Then, at the end of August, I discovered that there was an app on my iPhone that had been counting my steps every day for the past two years. I looked, and decided that following Doug Ross’ example of walking 10,000 steps a day was entirely feasible. I started doing it immediately.

Over the months, I built up and up. My morning elliptical workouts went from 20 to 25 to 30 to 35 to 40 to 45 and most recently to 50 minutes (which means I get in more than 6,000 steps before even leaving the house), with an occasional full hour on the weekends. I started adding a walk around downtown in the middle of the afternoon, and another 3,000-5,000 around my neighborhood in the evenings.

My steps-per-day averages climbed:

  1. August (before I started counting) — 5,737 steps
  2. September — 10,510
  3. October — 11,308
  4. November — 11,892
  5. December — 12,988
  6. January — 12,476
  7. February — 15,536
  8. March — 15,294
  9. April — 16,346

For the first eight days of May, I was averaging easily over 17,000. And I was feeling great. In all these months, I had not once felt sick. Various viruses, sore throats, ear infections and the like swept through our family without touching me. I carried on, going from strength to strength.

I felt an abiding sense of achievement.

Then came last Monday.

It was the day I put out my signs for James and Micah. My wife said if I was going to call attention to our yard with political signs, I should mow the grass — or at least mow the weird assortment of green weeds that substitute for grass in our yard. I agreed. And such was my feeling of well-being that I mowed the front yard on a week night. You don’t know what a huge deal that is for me. Normally, mowing our hilly, just-under-an acre property is an ordeal that ruins my whole Saturday, after dreading it all week. But last Tuesday — after having done my allotment of walking for the day, I mowed all the parts of the yard that could be seen from the street like it was nothing.

There was one incident, of which I didn’t think much at the time….

I had had a horrible time starting the mower. This was the first time this year, and nothing would happen when I pulled the cord. I pulled again and again. Nothing. There’s no little bulb to push to prime the engine, so I tried detaching and reattaching the spark plug. Nothing.

Finally, I just started pulling again and again, getting a rhythm going, and on about the 16th pull, it coughed. So I accelerated the rhythm, and finally it started. It wasn’t running great, but it was running.

So, when it came time to empty the bag to dump onto the compost, I was reluctant to stop the engine. So I bent down to detach the bag, and… got a huge cloud of dust, clippings and other debris that hit me in the face just as I was inhaling, going up my nose, into my mouth, down my throat and into my bronchi.

But I continued the mission, and afterwards tried cleaning my breathing passages out with a saline rinse. No big deal, right? Take a shower and forget about it.

Yesterday's pitiful performance.

Yesterday’s pitiful performance.

But over the next few days, I started losing my voice, especially in the evening. I started coughing at bedtime, and had trouble sleeping, despite all the drugs I could think of. I kept up my routine — in fact, on Tuesday I achieved an all-time personal high of 22,158 steps — 8.9 miles!

But each night I felt worse, and Friday evening I was really dragging when I tried to walk the neighborhood. I just barely went 12,000 that day. On Saturday, I had to finish a big project on my deck in the hot sun, and only got in 11,277. Pitiful.

On Sunday, despite all my busy running around and cooking out for Mother’s Day, I only got in 8,479. Yeah. Below the minimum.

And this morning, I felt like total crud, Ferris. Puny, weak, achy. And when, at the start of my morning workout, I had that thought I often have in the morning, “Why not quit!,” I did. I hadn’t done that in I don’t know how many months.

And I still feel pretty cruddy, just kind of low-grade out of sorts. Achy, in all the muscles I used on that deck-reinforcement project Saturday. And I’m wondering if I’ll even get in 10,000 today, or tomorrow for that matter. At 11:38 a.m., I’ve only done 1,768 steps.

So… this is when all of y’all tell me to get off my dead ass and on my dyin’ feet, to drop certain appendages and grab my socks, to acknowledge that the going is tough but, being tough myself, this is the time to keep going…

Although I really don’t feel like it…

Ha! I don’t even HAVE TO walk today, unless I want to!

Just keeping y’all current on my exercise routine, so y’all can in turn keep me accountable.16k

In February and March, I averaged more than 15,000 steps a day. So my goal for April was 16,000.

Once I had done my morning workout on the elliptical today — I’m doing at least 50 minutes a day on that now, which starts me off with more than 6,000 before I even leave the house — I had achieved my goal for the month!

I don’t even have to walk another step today if I don’t want to. But I probably will anyway.

So… can I do 17k a day in May? I think maybe I can.

I’m just so danged virtuous…

Hey, alla you kids get offa my campus!

Horseshoe

The Horseshoe.

Part of my daily routine of getting in at least 10,000 steps (and preferably 15) is to take an afternoon walk around downtown, usually through the USC campus and around the State House before heading back to ADCO.

This has been particularly peaceful this week, with the kids gone for spring break — even though it’s not, you know, technically spring.

I suppose I’ll be tripping over them again next week. But it was nice to have it mostly to myself for awhile…

The Russell House -- a student center with no students.

The Russell House — a student center with no students.

Thomas Cooper Library.

Thomas Cooper Library.

Watch out, Shute! I’m coming for you…

Brian Shute. Don't you think he looks scared? I think he looks scared...

Brian Shute. Don’t you think he looks scared? I think he looks scared…

As y’all know, my usual standard for “getting in shape” involves getting my weight down so I can “wrestle Shute.” (For the uninitiated, that’s a reference to “Vision Quest,” which I love because I, too, was a high school wrestler.)IMG_3359

That means getting under 168.

Yeah, I know — I’ve set that goal before, and when it wasn’t that far away. This time, when I started working out on the elliptical and walking around town, I was up to 187, which is big for a guy with my frame. (Which is about where Louden Swain was when he started losing, since he was in the 190 class.)

But now, averaging more than 15,000 steps a day (in February, so far) and sorta kinda following a paleo diet, I’m as close as close can be.

Note my weight yesterday, at right. Remember when, in the movie, Louden strips off his shorts and blows out all the air in his lungs to pass the weigh-in (below)? Well, I’m right about at the point where a good exhalation would do it.

This morning, I was back up to 169.5. Probably that bucket of popcorn from going to see “Black Panther” yesterday. But give me a couple of days.

Then, Shute better watch out…

My most intense workout yet

intense workout

Yesterday, wanting to get a jump on my steps for the day and knowing I’d be busy later, I set my elliptical trainer for a full hour’s workout, instead of my usual 45 minutes.

I also decided I’d try to push the speed, and see how many calories I could burn (the machine calculates that based on, I guess, my weight, time, speed and resistance level). Usually I stay around 60 rpm and tend to get about 10 Calories per minute. The one time I’d ever done 60 minutes at once before (the previous weekend), for instance, I’d burned 609.

But on Saturday, I’d done more than 500 in 45 minutes, and I was curious whether I could maintain that pace for an hour.

I did so without ever breathing hard — although there was a lot of sweat. I also did it with a relatively slow average heart rate — 119 bpm. (Which sort of surprised me. I had looked down in the last few minutes of the workout, and it was at 135.)

The result? 671 calories.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I didn’t get to do a second workout, so my total for the day was only 11,460 steps. Before that, I’d done more than 15,000 each of the three days in February.

I’m going to try to top 15k again today. We’ll see…

Henry and Mac: ‘Who’s that?’

Henry Mac

I’m still doing the 10,000 steps-a-day thing — actually, averaging more like 12,500 the last couple of months. I do more than half in the morning before heading downtown, on my elliptical.

Then, most days, I take a walk downtown in the afternoon — usually around the USC campus and then a lap around the State House before heading back to ADCO. That puts me well over my goal, and whatever I do the rest of the day is lagniappe.steps

Inevitably, I run into people I know. Funny thing is, they usually don’t know me. I always wear a hat, plus my flip-up shades, to keep the sun out of my eyes (I hate glare, something that has kept me indoors most of my life). Then there’s the fact that I haven’t shaved since Christmas Eve. So everyone I run into says “Who’s that?” Earlier this week, for instance, that happened with Dwight Drake as he was walking back to Nelson Mullins from the State House.

I also run into people I don’t know, make new friends. Yesterday, I was crossing the Horseshoe when a USC cop was taking down the U.S. and state flags. He was struggling to handle the SC flag alone — holding it above his head while he tried to neatly fold it lengthwise — so I went over and helped him. As we folded, he asked whether I was a professor (the beard, I’m thinking), and I told him no, and we chatted and learned we had a mutual acquaintance.  I’m not sure the triangle we folded the U.S. flag into was quite regulation, but we got the job done,  more or less the way you see honor guards at military funerals do it in the movies.

Then today, I ran into our governor. His bulldog puppy had just run to the top of the State House steps — I overheard someone say “11 seconds” — and photos were being taken to mark the occasion.

As they were descending, I said “Hey, Henry,” and he squinted and said, like everyone, “Who’s that?” So I told him, and he came over and we talked about the dog. He’s about 11 months now. News reports have called him “Mac,” but I think Henry introduced him as “Mac II.” Anyway, neither of us brought up politics, and after a moment I continued the walk.

Exercise is making me more sociable…

Imagine the flip-up shades being deployed, and you can see why the incognito thing works.

Imagine the flip-up shades being deployed, and you can see why the incognito thing works.

HOW many guys are passing the new Marine fitness test?

'The fitness test? You can't HANDLE the fitness test!'

‘The fitness test? You can’t HANDLE the fitness test!’

I don’t intend to get into the underlying issue of women in the infantry — I’ve intended to ever since that mandate came down from civilian leadership, but I just haven’t felt up to the huge and predictable argument that would lead to — but in reading this I felt motivated to make some remarks on general fitness in the Marines:

New physical standards established so women can compete for combat posts in the Marine Corps have weeded out many of the female hopefuls. But they’re also disqualifying some men, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

In the last five months, 6 out of 7 female recruits – and 40 out of about 1,500 male recruits – failed to pass the new regimen of pull-ups, ammunition-can lifts, a 3-mile run and combat maneuvers required to move on in training for combat jobs, according to the data.USMC-logo2

The tests, taken about 45 days into basic training, force recruits who fail into other, less physically demanding Marine jobs. And that, the Marine commandant says, is making the Corps stronger.

The high failure rate for women, however, raises questions about how well integration can work, including in Marine infantry units where troops routinely slog for miles carrying packs weighed down with artillery shells and ammunition, and at any moment must be able to scale walls, dig in and fight in close combat.

The new standards are a product of the Pentagon’s decision to allow women to compete for frontline jobs, including infantry, artillery and other combat posts. But Marine leaders say they are having a broader impact by screening out less physically powerful Marines – both men and women.

“I think that’s made everybody better,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the AP in his first in-depth interview on the subject. “We’re trying to raise everybody’s bar a little bit and we’re trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we’re all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job.”…

I have a series of reactions to this:

  • These new standards are only eliminating 40 out of 1,500 male recruits? That doesn’t sound like the Marines to me. They’re supposed to be the few, not the 1,460 out of 1,500. Were the ratios always like this? If so, that sort of tarnishes the image I have in my head of the Marines as an elite force. Even the Army, at the very height of WWII, was rejecting a third of draftees. I really that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but still — wouldn’t you think more Marine recruits than that would wash out, if standards were what they should be?
  • Assuming for a moment that we’re all in agreement that women should be in foxholes, I don’t think we have any reason to look at 6 out of 7 women washing out of an elite light infantry unit as bad news. Seems to me that the best argument always advanced for letting women in is that we should treat people like individuals — that we shouldn’t say, just because most women lack, say, the upper body strength to keep up with male Marines, that all women should categorically be barred. Shouldn’t we make exceptions for, say, the Lady Briennes of Tarth among us? That always seemed a good argument to me. (I,for one, would not want to be the officer deputed to tell Lady Brienne she was out, especially since Ser Jaime let her keep that Valyrian steel sword). Besides, if six women don’t make it, the more honor to the seventh.
  • What happened to the notion of “every Marine a rifleman?” Should Marines keep the feathermerchants who can’t pass a test that 97 percent of male recruits can pass? What’s this about “other, less physically demanding Marine jobs?” When did the Marines start offering such jobs? I’ve always known the Army had places for the less fit — or at least they did in the days of the draft, when things like food service weren’t outsourced to civilian contractors and you could always put a sad sack to work peeling spuds or policing the area for butts — but since when is that an aspect of the Marines? They’re the point of the spear, are they not? Let the swabbies do the paperwork, right? Every marine is a rifleman.

I should probably stop there before I offend the Air Force, too.

But when I hear that almost all male recruits can pass the new physical requirements, it makes me think that even I, at my age, might have a shot. And I really like to think of the Marines as having higher standards than that…

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.