What are you thankful for?

Fight Childhood Cancer Week continues! Yesterday, we did the what cancer means to you thing. Today, we talk thankfulness. What are you thankful for?

I'm thankful for a lot. I have amazing people around me. I'm employed. I don't have cancer. I have two healthy legs. And I can afford to donate money to charity.

I will be using the healthy legs to walk on Saturday in the Give thanks. Walk. at Carousel Center. I donated $36 to Jason's page (see below). Why $36? Because in the Hebrew language, numbers are represented by letters, and the word meaning "life" represents the number 18. So $36 is a donation to help save two lives.

Jason has put a ton of effort into organizing a team for this walk, so I'm asking that you donate to his page. If for some reason you'd rather my name be on your donation, here's my page, but I promise they go the same place and Jason should get the credit for the extra work he's put in here.

What does cancer mean to you?

Yesterday, we kicked off Fight Childhood Cancer Week with a little bit about the Give thanks. Walk. Today, we're jumping right in and talking about what cancer means to you. And to me.

I've lost relatives close and distant and friends close and distant to cancer. I've seen, up-close, someone go through chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant, even lawsuits (more details at http://drugguardians.com/drug/taxotere/). I would never wish any of it on anyone.

About 160,000 children are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every year, some getting mesothelioma diagnosis even. That number is defeatable. And once we beat cancer in children, we can better understand how to beat cancer in grownups. So start now. And leave your cancer stories in comments either before or after you donate (don't worry, when you click one of those donate links below, it will pop a new window and you won't lose this post).

Jason has put a ton of effort into organizing a team for this walk, so I'm asking that you donate to his page. If for some reason you'd rather my name be on your donation, here's my page, but I promise they go the same place and Jason should get the credit for the extra work he's put in here.

Stepping Off For Hope

It's the fall edition of Fight Childhood Cancer week on JoshShear.com (that beard thing will be back in the late winter/early spring)! This Saturday (which, coincidentally, is my birthday, which means you have to listen to me here) I'll join Team Jason's Disaster and a bunch of other walking a 5K to raise money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The event is called the Give thanks. Walk., and we're stepping off for an organization that picks up the tab for parents if insurance won't cover something.

Jason has put a ton of effort into organizing a team for this walk, so I'm asking that you donate to his page. If for some reason you'd rather my name be on your donation, here's my page, but I promise they go the same place and Jason should get the credit for the extra work he's put in here.

Cressey Performance

One of the cool new things I've found at work in reading fitness blogs and seeing what's up in the industry is a blog by Eric Cressey, who runs Cressey Performance, a Boston training center.

Cressey Performance is known for training pro (and, I imagine college and amateur) baseball players – particularly pitchers – and many of you know I'm a baseball nerd.

Cressey, who doesn't have a baseball background, fell into this niche entirely by accident. His own journey through fitness and mobility led him to be passionate about the field, and eventually his location and his methods caught on in the baseball world. Read his story the way he tells it. I haven't read too many career path stories that interest me, but his does.

To feed the baseball nerds among my readers (I'm looking at you especially, Tom and Mitch), check out what pitchers do during the off-season.

Personal Training: Here We Go

When I graduated high school, I weighed in at a slim, though certainly not wiry, 115 pounds. Sometime after that, I was taking 18 credit hours, working full time and editing the school newspaper. Exercise wasn't an option, and I would eat at any time I had the chance. At some point, I hit about 215 pounds. If you've not met me, I'm 5'3" on a good day; that made me really big.

The past few years, I've had my good seasons and my bad seasons. I tend to go between about 160 and 175 pounds; according to the Body Mass Index (BMI), that puts me on the lower side of obese – although social convention is such that you'd probably classify me as "thick," not obese. But social convention and health are much different.

Also, BMI is a bunch of hooey, as it doesn't take into account fat percentage and body type, classifying your average pro athlete as borderline obese and someone like Shaquille O'Neal as morbidly obese at 7'1" and 325 pounds and well under 10% body fat.

I'm stepping off on a 12-week personal training journey, which will overlap with a more intensive program I'm starting in January. Basically, it's going to work like this. Once a week for 12 weeks, starting next week, I'll meet for a half hour with a personal trainer. I started yesterday with a preliminary session that gave me a workout routine, took my measurements, and came away with a sample meal plan.

Today I start with some cardio (a couple of tennis matches), and tomorrow I begin more of a cardio-plus-resistance training workout. I'm working with Roger at Gold's Gym in Dewitt. He gave me a couple of options on each muscle group, and also gave me some exercises I could do at home.

For me, the hardest part, I think, will be to control my eating. I've always been OK at eating decent foods, but portion control is an issue for me.

Beginning in mid-January, which is about 9 weeks away, I'll be doing a more intensive 12-week program, which involves small group personal training three times a week, as well as a diet plan.

In an effort to keep myself accountable, I'm blogging here, and there will be something going on elsewhere on the web, but I can't tell you about that yet (before the end of the month, I hope).

My goal is to drop some pounds and a bunch of body fat. My stated goal for the 12-week program is 20 pounds, but I'm willing to trade a few pounds for body fat, since muscle weighs more than fat.

I'll spare you the before pictures, unless and until they become interesting for my story. But here are the beginning measurements:

Weight: 169.7 (shoes on)
Chest: 40.5 inches
Waist: 39.5 inches at the navel (If you're buying me pants, though, get me a 33. 39.5 would be a tight hula hoop.)
Hips: 40.25 inches
Waist:Hips Ratio: 0.98 (This is a new number to me; the goal should be to get under 0.95.)
Bicep: 13.375 inches (flexed)

Body fat (skin fold/calipers):

Bicep: 5.9 (This, I'm told, is really good and shows I'm doing something right there.)
Tricep: 13.7
Subscapular: 18.1 (This is that roll of fat on the back.)
Illiac Crest: 20.1 (This is the love handle.)
Total body fat percentage: 23.1%

To give you an idea of what I've started eating...

Dinner last night: One baked chicken breast (baked in pear nectar); half baked sweet potato with a pat of low-fat butter substitute; 1/4 cup broccoli sauteed in 1/2 tsp of butter substitute and oregano

Breakfast this morning: 1 cup Special K with 1/3 cup 1% milk; 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese; 6 oz black coffee; 5.5 oz V8 vegetable juice.

Onward!

American Diabetes Association Seeks Board Member

This is cross-posted from the 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force blog. What strikes me about this board position is that the metrics are well-defined. You don't just have to show up to meetings and generally support and promote the organization. If you can't raise $1,500, you're responsible for donating it, etc.

***

Position Name: Leadership Board – at large member
Job Summary: The Leadership Board–Corporate Development member provides access to resources or constituents important to accomplishment of ADA’s mission
Reporting Line: Position reports to Chair/President of the Board
Time Commitment: 4 hours per month from Sept. 1, 2010 – Dec. 31, 2010; Two year term, repeatable for up to 2 years
Corp Recruitment member is responsible for:

  • Understanding the American Diabetes Association’s mission and programs
  • Attending the local Leadership Board, which meets 4 per year
  • Securing financial and/or volunteer support from the community and/or own company
  • Utilize community contacts to support priority events

Raising Dollar Commitment:

  • Market's financial goal for the fiscal year is $.5 million
  • Raise or personally contribute $1,500 or locate a corporate sponsor(s) of equal value
  • Generate support from own company or organization for priority fund-raising events; i.e., Step Out Walk to Fight Diabetes and The Tour de Cure.
  • Participate in at least one fund-raising event and serve on one Executive Committee

Recruiting Volunteers Commitment:

  • Recommending an assisting in recruitment of potential event or committee member throughout the year
  • Use existing relationships to leverage opportunities and open doors to support ADA in reaching its market's goals
  • Identify at least one non-participating company and create access for ADA

Reaching People Commitment:

  • Participate in at least one program/advocacy event
  • Work to create relationships with new corporations

Candidate Profile:

  • Lives or works in the board area
  • Possesses resources and contacts that can help impact the success of the local ADA

Staff Resources:

Director: Tom Czajak (315) 438-8687 x3666, tczajak@diabetes.org

Some Facts About Diabetes

» Total: 23.6 million children and adults in the United States—7.8% of the population—have diabetes.
» Diagnosed: 17.9 million people
» Undiagnosed: 5.7 million people
» Pre-diabetes: 57 million people
» New Cases: 1.6 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older each year.

Healing, Part II

You're born, you die, and in between there's maintenance.

— Tom Robbins

The being born thing kind of happened to me, and the die thing is going to happen to me as well, so ostensibly, I'm probably in charge of the maintenance thing. I mean, one of the three isn't too much to ask of someone, right?

Clearly, I'm not real good at the maintenance thing. I watch my weight do weird things, I've been known at times to develop odd sleeping and eating habits, and I'll put my body through athletic feats it's not at all interested in. And after that, I get on my bike and ride 10 miles.

Dumbass.

So I've been eating better and trying to get on a regular sleep schedule (no TV's helping that, as it happens – not only am I not tempted to stay up and watch another History Channel special, I haven't been laying on the couch all day).

And I'm asking the good people down at Armory Massage to help me out with the stupid crap I do athletically.

When I wrote about my first visit, I mentioned that Melissa Heavener had found something in my hips I couldn't feel, and as I drove downtown Saturday morning for an hour-long session, I found it: my left hip was against the seat back, but my right hip wasn't anywhere close.

Melissa did a lot of work on my hips and lower back, and I feel like I'm learning to move again.

In general, actually, I'm learning a lot about my body. Where things are, where things were, where things are returning (hopefully).

And I'm learning something about massage therapy, which as a field is something new to me (it's relatively new as a specialty in general, actually). It's really an athletic challenge, and Melissa told me that most therapists can handle only 20-25 hours of massage work a week. Which, by the way, is a lot. Imagine if you spent three hours a day, every day, at the gym, not including your stretching, warm-ups, cool-downs, and refueling/rehydration breaks.

You'd be on the low end of that scale.

That's just crazy talk.

Anyway, I'm paying a lot more attention to my posture. And I may restructure my workstation at the office (although I've put it in a fairly comfortable setup, it turns out).

Healing

Those who know me, know I'm very active. It's not just the twice a week tennis, the occasional bowling league, the cycling around town, the summer softball league, and my preference for walking to places when possible.

I'm also active in CNYSPaRC, 40 Below and other things as they come up.

Armory Massage signOften that stuff comes with lugging a laptop or two around with me, or sometimes books to tide me over while I'm between, say, a meeting and a hockey game.

All that activity came to a head in early February, when in the middle of a tennis match, my neck said, "we need to talk."

So I've been limiting my activity for a while, and finally, I decided to take a leap and do something I've never done before: get a professional massage.

Melissa Heavener at Armory Massage had signed up for a Twitter account and connected with some folks in the Syracuse area, and so I had at least a little peek into her personality and the information she was imparting to people, and her rates seemed reasonable enough (hey, you go find me some licensed professionals who charge $65 an hour for their time), so I got in touch.

I made a 30-minute appointment, though Melissa spent a fair bit longer than that with me, if you include a medical history, taking pre-massage questions, and a bit of after-care discussion and chatter.

I went in with very little in terms of expectations. My entire "experience" with professional massage had come from "Friends" and Rush Hour 2, not exactly, um, yeah, you see where I'm going with that.

After going over some medical history (definitely nothing invasive), she explained to me that the injury was probably the result of a bunch of things coming to a head, rather than an in-the-moment action.

Weight-wise, she said, "your head's like a bowling ball on a broomstick, and every bit you move your head forward, you double the weight."

Ouch. Think about that as you're setting up your computer monitor.

Armory Massage sitting roomShe then went on to explain that most neck injuries start at the pelvis. And if you look at my activities – from swinging a tennis racket or bat, to bowling, to swiveling one way or another to use a mouse – pretty much everything starts with motion at the pelvis and then works its way up.

She then went through an example of how the body transitions to new normals. If you're one of those people who typically speaks with the phone resting on your shoulder and your head bent far onto it, eventually, it hurts, and you start resting it in a different position, which then becomes normal. Sooner or later, you're walking around with your shoulders four inches higher than they used to be, and you're trying to figure out why you're sore.

Her explanation as to what she does, basically, was try to undo all the re-positioning harm people had done to their bodies, by working backward through the alterations, trying to get people back to their original positions.

So, we hit the table, and Melissa did what she does.

I was definitely able to feel the change as she started working on my left arm. She stopped to ask if I noticed anything, and I could tell that my right shoulder was higher than my left. It was also clear to me that she found some unevenness in my hips, though I couldn't for the life of me identify it.

Things I now know are normal after a massage, and that you should expect if you're going in for your first go: go hydrated. You're going to leave dehydrated, as the massage gets your fluids flowing, and your organs start working double-quick. You may get sore; it'd been a little over a month since I'd had a good workout, so I definitely felt a workout-type muscle soreness the next day. There was also some grogginess; Melissa had warned me of this, too.

I'm also more conscious of my posture, but it takes some effort, and it's not something I'm doing automatically yet.

The answer is yes, I'll be back.

And now, a little about Melissa and the business...

Melissa has been a licensed massage therapist since 2001 (here's what that takes in New York), and had her own business in Buffalo.

She moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for someone else, before returning upstate. She began working at Armory Massage, and then started to take it over in December of 2007.

The business is growing: after an interview yesterday, she took on a fourth therapist.

Since the office is (likely by the nature of the relaxation part of the work) very quiet-inducing, and as a social person, Melissa is starting to use Twitter and Facebook, and is looking to start doing demos (if you've got an office, give her a call) and to get involved a little more in the community and do some social networking.

I'm putting her business in the "downtown Syracuse business I'll be patronizing regularly" column.

Also, if you missed it, here's the Armory Massage Web site.

Photos used by kind permission of Melissa Heavener / Armory Massage

Embracing the poison

There's a lot of poison in my body these days, although it's starting to leave, slowly.

It started when I was out at Chittenango Falls on Yom Kippur. I stepped on a wet rock, fell, and banged my left elbow.

I can now put weight on it via my hand and forearm, but I still can't lean directly on it. Worse, I keep banging it, even if just lightly, on my desk, on my car door, wherever. It's got one of those "holy crap! that's ugly!" bruises that doesn't hurt as bad as it looks, but it's still one of those injuries that sends bad blood through your veins.

The following Saturday – just over a week ago, now – I was stung multiple times by what I think was a yellow jacket. It somehow got entangled in my shirt, and it got me in the left shoulder and just below the navel, and probably dragged its venomous stinger under my skin for part of that journey. I'm not allergic to such stings, but as with any venom that gets put into your veins, the affected area was swollen. In fact, I'm going to estimate that more than 60 percent of my stomach and chest were swollen.

The swelling is definitely down (a little remains above my pants line, where my abdomen folding over a belt would get irritated), but I'm sure the poison's not out of my system. I'm a little paranoid, actually, of getting stung again, and if it happens soon, I'm going to the emergency room.

One thing Zach Phillips said at the 40 Below summit yesterday hit home with me. To create good art, he said, you have to embrace your pain, whether it's physical or emotional.

I've decided to go with that, and I'm starting to see art everywhere, even if I'm not capturing it. It's really uplifting.