Keeping Death in Mind at All Times

Taira Shigesuke's "Code of the Samurai" features a variety of topics, including some that a reader with new goals may find useful.

Taira Shigesuke’s “Code of the Samurai” features a variety of topics, including some that a reader with new goals may find useful.

Many people, including myself, set health and fitness as one of our New Year’s resolutions. Making resolutions is easy. Sticking to them is the challenge.

It is important to set goals as resolutions, ones that give clear instructions and set specific goals and deadlines.

Keeping such goals, however, is challenging in our society, one that tends to reward instant gratification rather than long-term benefits.

One attitude change that allowed me to move forward in my fitness goals was the view that I am in a fight. In this case, my life – both literally and figuratively – was on the line. No one wants a hearth attack, a stroke, or diabetes. Yet we let ourselves fall into these maladies.

I always told myself there was another day, another week, and another month to take care of these things. However, putting off life changes led to declining health and decaying self-worth.

How many of us have told ourselves we will begin to change our bad habits after the holidays? This gives us the convenience of blaming Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even the New Year itself as the reasons for eating too much and watching far too much television.

Early in my change in lifestyle, I bought a book that had nothing to do with fitness or health; however, it provided food for thought, something to seriously think about relating to my health.

The Code of the Samurai, or the Bushido Shoshinshu of Taira Shigesuke, was a guidebook for young samurai, teaching them how to act toward others and to think about their duties.

In Shigesuke’s first chapter, he tells his readers to “keep death in mind at all times.” This is not some dreary admonishment to set around meditating on the morbid or some goth-child’s act of walking around in dreary clothing, acting like nothing matters.

Keeping death in mind means being mindful of one’s actions in the now.

“If people comfort their minds with the assumption that they will live a long time, something might happen, because they think they will have forever to do their work,” Shigesuke writes.

He continues to write that a person who keeps death in mind at all times will avoid getting into fights or engaging “in futile arguments” because such actions have consequences that may be felt immediately.

“People of all social classes … constantly overate, drink too much, and indulge in their desires to an unhealthy degree,” the teacher wrote. Our modern society seems to believe that excess is good, which has contributed to our current health problems. In America, it is pretty easy to be decadent, especially when it comes to eating and leisure.

Finally, the teacher wrote to his pupils to not “assume that your stay in this world will last” because then “various wishes [will] occur to you, and you [will] become very desirous … and cling to your own possessions.”  This materialistic attitude, along with our desire to want it all and want it now, has led many, myself included, to view health and fitness as a lesser priority.

This philosophy hit me hard. It helped motivate me to work on eating and behaving in a way that showed I respected my own life.

I am not suggesting that I think anyone reading this is lazy or materialistic, but such attitudes are powerful in our society. I’ve fallen victim to both of them and continue to at times.

But I learned much reading the Code of the Samurai and still do. For me, my current fitness goal is a priority. If you are struggling with your weight, like I am, what are you willing to give up to change your condition?

There’s no quick fix, but by making fitness goals a priority in our lives, we show that we are keeping death in mind, not allowing unneeded distractions from diverting us to the path of good health.

Copyright 2013 Paul George

 References

Cleary, Thomas. Code of the Samurai. 1st ed. Clarendon: Turtle Publishing, 1999. Print.

 

 

Advertisements

Exercise Update: Jan. 14, 2013

I fell off the wagon a bit this week!

A lady smashed into my car last week, creating a lot of extra work for me. Additionally, my son stayed with me this weekend. I am not making excuses, but things like this do happen.

January 9, 2013: This was my arms and shoulders day and I had a great workout. My legs ached, so I took a day off from cadio.

Weight in: 281 pounds

January 10, 2013: Cardio – One hour on a Precor EFX 883 Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer set on “Fat Burning.” According to the feedback, I traveled 4.07 miles and burned 738 calories.

Weigh in: 282 pounds

January 10 was the last time I worked out. With my son around, it is difficult to get to the gym. And the gym has shorter hours during winter break. While I have not been reporting my diet, which I plan to very soon, I must admit that I went off diet a lot, eating honey buns, frozen burritos, chips and other junk. We shall see how it affected my weight in tomorrow’s report. But I have learned it is best not to dwell too much on these failures and focus on the next step: Hitting the gym today!

In about an hour, I am working on chest and back. Tonight I will get back to cardio on the elliptical and watch Monday Night Raw at the same time! It’s my guilty pleasure.

Exercise Update: January 9, 2013 and the Arnold Press

Paul George at 283 pounds. (January 8, 2013).

Paul George at 283 pounds. (January 8, 2013).

I originally planned to write about Japanese samurai philosophy and how it ties into attitudes about diet and exercise. However, I have run out of time. Tomorrow I will post it.

Here’s what I’ve done over the last two days:

January 7, 2013 – Weigh in: 286 pounds. I worked chest and back with weights. I will provide more details about my routine as I get used to documenting everything (which I think is important). Cardio – One hour on a Precor EFX 883 Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer set on “Fat Burning.” According to the feedback, I traveled 4.01 miles and burned 786 calories. I am not sure how accurate these machines are, but I’m using the same machine regularly.

January 8, 2013 – Weigh in: 283 pounds. Cardio – One hour on a Precor EFX 883 Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer set on “Fat Burning.” According to the feedback, I traveled 4.07 miles and burned 743 calories.

Today I am working arms and shoulders. If I do cardio, that will be later this evening. By the way, after just two days of my workout, I feel great!

The Arnold Press is my favorite shoulder exercise. Here is a video I found that demonstrates the Dumbbell Should Press and the Arnold Press. Where I work out, I never see anyone do Arnolds and most guys have poor form on the regular press.

The Tao of Schwarzenegger

This advice is from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. While many are not interested in achieving a bodybuilder’s physique, Arnold’s advice is useful for anyone trying to reach a fitness goal.

From the film Pumping Iron.

From the film Pumping Iron.

  1. VISION – Have a clear vision of where you want to go what you want to achieve.  “Vision creates faith, faith creates willpower,” writes Arnold.
  2. VISUALIZATION – Picture in your mind the kind of physique you need in order to attain your goals. You have to see in your mind’s eye the masses of muscles you want to build.
  3. ROLE MODELS – Get photos of persons with the type of physique you want.
  4. MOTIVATION – The driving force that gives you the will to attain your goals.  “Motivation creates discipline,” writes Arnold.
  5. TRAINING STRATEGY – Map out how you are going to train in order to attain your goals.
  6. MIND IN THE MUSCLE – Rather than thinking about the weight itself, think about the muscle. Picture the muscle working and growing.

the-new-encyclopedia-of-modern-bodybuilding

Welcome to My Journey from 400 Pounds to 250 Pounds

To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are. – Bruce Lee

Welcome!

About 2005 at the rib cook-off in Sparks, NV.

About 2005 at the rib cook-off in Sparks, NV.

By March 2009, I weight 250 pounds and my hypertension and gout were nonexistent. Imagine spending a decade with a 150 pound backpack on, trying to navigate the challenges of your life? Getting the weight off increased my energy level and self-confidence.

By March 2009, I weight 250 pounds and my hypertension and gout were nonexistent. Imagine spending a decade with a 150 pound backpack on, trying to navigate the challenges of your life? Getting the weight off increased my energy level and self-confidence.

 

 

I look at pictures of me from March 2007 and it is hard to believe I was once that big. At nearly 400 pounds, I suffered from hypertension, gout, depression and joint pain. I’m shocked that I never had a heart attack. A year earlier, I went blind in one eye and went to a doctor. He said my blood pressure was 200/140 – a stroke waiting to happen. And in case that wasn’t enough, I had been dealing with systemic lupus erythematosis for my entire adult life.

And I was not happy. The jolly fat man? Screw that! I was angry, alienated and had no sense of self worth. My emotional state was built upon many negative relationships and beliefs burdening me.

My wife left me March 2007 and, while the end of my marriage inflicted much emotional pain on me, the incident led to massive changes in my life emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

This blog is about the physical part. But I can’t address the one without the other two.

By March 2009, I was 250 pounds. My blood pressure dropped to near-normal numbers. I no longer had gout attacks and, while I still suffer from depression, it was not like it was before. The changes I have made are huge, including going to college to earn a degree.

This blog is about that journey, the advice I picked up on the way and what I plan for the future.

Paul in 2013

I started college spring 2009. I graduate this spring. The trip has been wonderful, full of challenges. But, at 44, college life has led to a bit of a weight-gain rebound. As of today, I weight 286. So I want to get back to 250 – by April — and then work my way down to 225. Anything below that weight and I look like skin and bones.

While I work out, I have not been regular about it. Sometimes class coursework weighs me down. Other times, I just “don’t feel like it.” If you have tried to lose weight, you might know how that feels. A day off leads to a week off and then a month passes.

I begin the Cup Corps at the University of Nevada's Lombardi Fitness Center on April 1. My goal is to drop to 250 before I start the class.

I begin the Cup Corps at the University of Nevada’s Lombardi Fitness Center on April 1. My goal is to drop to 250 before I start the class.

So I decided to join a class at the University of Nevada that prepares a person for Crossfit classes. I thought about joining the January class, but I am not in shape for that. However, I believe I can get in shape for the April program.

So my training started last night. One part of this blog will be posts of my workouts and diet. I intend to be brutally honest. I know, it sounds very narcissistic, but that is not why I am doing it. My first reason is that I need to be accountable to someone – or at least know someone is aware of what I am doing. I need some motivation to keep to my goals. The other reason is that many people have asked how I lost weight. I hope to discuss that in this blog and I hope my new workout routine and goals motivate and inspire others to set some fitness goals and work toward them.

I also plan to have reviews of fitness DVDs, books, motivational quotes and some of my thoughts about how the public unfairly judges overweight people.

Please join me on this journey. And share your goals in the comments section. You are not alone!

Paul George

You must have dreams and goals if you are ever going to achieve anything in this world. – Lou Holtz

I am not a health expert. This blog shares information that I have found useful, but is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Speak to your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program. While I talk about supplements and diet, I believe strongly that modern medicine saved my life more than once. So do not take any of my experiences or comments as a substitute for professional health care.

Copyright 2013 Paul George

scan0004

This is me in 2000 with my son. At 400 pounds, I was deeply concerned about how my health affected my children. However, I had no support to lose weight and did not have the motivation to get started.

This is me in 2000 with my son. At 400 pounds, I was deeply concerned about how my health affected my children. However, I had no support to lose weight and did not have the motivation to get started.

2006. Living in Reno, my life seemed to be smoothing out. But in just a few months, I would suddenly be alone, homeless and alienated from my children. This is when my journey began.

2006. Living in Reno, my life seemed to be smoothing out. But in just a few months, I would suddenly be alone, homeless and alienated from my children. This is when my journey began.