A New Brandon in 2015

So as you already know from my theme, I’m an avid runner. In fact I’m an avid runner with a dark past.  I got to the point that I could no longer run without pain-no matter the distance. I ran to the point that it became an addiction and I would get terrible anxiety when I was unable to run. It was time to take a step back and reassess the situation.

2015 was a time of working on balance and peace, exploring romance (more on that another time), working out smarter, eating smarter and living without running. The last one is particularly important because I literally had an addiction to running. My crux if you will. I could not let my body recover  based on the fact that I could not take more than 2 days off in a row.  My anxiety and my self-esteem levels would reach terrible highs and lows, respectively. With a combination of meditation , exploration of new workouts, improving my swim style and adjusting my diet, I was able to finish most of the year without a dependence on running.

Towards the beginning of 2015 I found myself at a desk job with the State of Texas and limitations to the kind of exercises I could perform, so naturally I gained weight.  The weight gain may or may not have been attributed to stress and depression. With a new life program implemented, I had to start slow and tweak along the way. I had to adjust to an additional 12-15 pounds on my body after several years of having a visible six pack.

Eventually, I was able to get a hold of my weight again and as I write this now, I’m about as ripped as I was at the end of 2013. I can’t tell you exactly what happened that got me back to my old shape, but the following changes in my lifestyle may have brought me back to old form.

1) More protein

One drastic change I made in 2015 was mastering the art of satiation. I’m not saying I was eating all the time nor was I over eating. I ate when I was hungry. Sounds like common sense but when I ran crazy 60-90 miles a week, I rarely followed this rule of thumb. For example, I would  wait hours on end following an evening run to consume anything at all. This had a lot to do with knowing I would always crash after a much needed gargantuan sized post-workout meal. I still had things to do after the work out, so my solution was to pound a cup of bullet proof coffee. Easy right? Caffeine and fat is exactly what my starving body needs not any…..say essential amino acids. I would attempt my post-exercise duties until my mind was gone and/or I could no longer perform. I’m sure this eventually messed with my metabolism, my recovery and my hormones to the point that weight gain was inevitable. What was my solution? I would eat when I was hungry of course. There’s probably nothing worse than not feeding your body something after a vigorous work out, especially if you hear your stomach rumbling. When I wasn’t starving after a work out, but knew I needed a some form of nutrition, I took a step out of the body building world. Say hello to the protein shake! How I could I ever forget one of the simplest steps out of the athlete’s book. For me, consuming a protein shake whenever I got the hunger bug was a revelation. It has been great as a mid morning snack,  afternoon snack and if I’m not quite ready for dinner, it’ll usually get me by until it is time. Personally, I feel few runners embrace the protein shake. I know that weight can slow you down, but doesn’t a frail body also do that? What’s the potential of a muscly runner with strong legs, core and thoracic region? Timothy Olsen comes to mind although I’m unaware of his complete diet. I do know he promotes Epic bars! You know, because what an athlete promotes is probably the only thing he consumes…So yeah, protein good! Eating when your body needs food, good! Listen to your body and feed it nutritious food!

2)Work out smarter

Several of my friends would most definitely say I work out religiously. I would personally say it gets the job done. I by no means think that my plan is end all be all. I could probably even work out smarter but compared to my past regimen, it’s night and day. Two years ago, my toughest days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) usually started off with an A.M. swim up to 45 minutes-1 hr in length. In the afternoon, a crossfit style type of exercise involving both weights and anerobic cardio. In the evening, a run of at least 9 miles with the potential of going longer. When I was training for a 100 mile trail race, I would substitute the swim with an
“easy” morning run. Mondays and Wednesdays were no slouch as they still involved a morning swim, a Monday lunch weight work out, Wednesday lunch yoga and a run in the evening.   Friday I “recovered” with swimming and yoga. Saturday I went for a run of at least twenty miles. I got exhausted just writing this out.That being said, this exercise regimen would not be sustainable. I would become constantly exhausted, I had a harder time falling and staying asleep, my body was probably catatonic, my sex drive was gone and my adrenals were more than likely fried. Enter a state of minimal recovery and a state of inevitable weight gain. It was time to work out smarter.

I always knew that I didn’t have to work out 3 times a day 5 days a week to have a chiseled body. What were some guys doing (or not doing) that built and maintained an athletic physique without this Ultra Runner’s work out regimen? For starters, most athletes (even ones with the most beautiful physiques) are maybe spending half the time I spent abusing my body. These folks were not going out for 2 hour runs or swims and doing a weighted session on the same day. If they were, they were at least cutting the cardio by half that amount. It eventually occurred to me that while vigorous exercise was important, so was recovery. Allowing your body to rebuild with the proper diet at the right time allows for the best improvements in your body. It would eventually become noticeable that I could do a body weight work out (which are extremely underrated) and up to a 45 minute swim and get the same perhaps even better aesthetic results. Currently, I wouldn’t be able to go off and run a decent 50 miler but I sure as hell am looking pretty good, again. At one point, a friend stated how volumised the muscles in my chest and arms were starting to appear. It would be the first time in a long while hearing that I looked muscly. Inversely,  that same friend mentioned that the same muscles shrank as I slowly introduced some trail running. I didn’t reduce my food intake, but I feel the cardio re-adpatation to trail running may have had a lot to do with. So I encourage anyone to find that right balance of cardio and weight bearing exercise that will get you the results you want. This also means do it in a  manner that doesn’t leave you consistently exhausted or without sex drive. I may just be re-iterating to myself here..

3)Meditation

Probably the biggest one of them all. I have a racing mind. I am what meditators call a right-sided individual. I have a hard time sitting down and doing nothing. The chattering mind invades my sleep to this day and about every aspect of my life. Why couldn’t I recover from exercise? Well it’s probably because I’m addicted constantly DOING SOMETHING, particularly exercise. There was hope. One random Wednesday during a bout of running detox madness, I decided to check out Group Meditation. In my past, I had spiritual experiences leaving me feeling on top of the world, but it was always temporary . Sometimes, the low was was worse on my state of being than the high. When I thought I had hit rock bottom, I went to the only convenient Group Meditation offered that fateful Wednesday. I fought off the old, “it can always wait until next week” excuse and went in with my tail between my legs. If I remember this day correctly, this “group” consisted myself and the moderator. I was not instantly cured of my plight afterwards but I left with a calmer mind, sense of hope and a re-introduction to spirituality. I still go to as many Wednesday and Saturday sessions possible and practice nearly every morning. On the days I don’t practice, I usually feel slightly off.  What have I experienced after a year of regular group and home meditation? A greater sense of compassion towards people, expanded patience, greater mediation of emotional and physical pain, improved self confidence and shockingly, a life without running.  I’m not a changed person, but I’m changing. When I hit those same lows, they seem to impact me less and at those times, I can always go to meditation. Word.

ON top of the mountain
Starting to feel like my old self again. August, 2015.
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