Fitness for Veterans

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Jan 12, 2015
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I've noticed that many veterans are similar to professional or collegiate athletes. When they are no longer forced to remain fit because of their profession, they let themselves go to seed. This is also complicated by the fact that their bodies are often beaten up and multiply injured, which makes it more difficult to pursue fitness.

Add to this the normal time and expense in pursuing fitness on a regular basis; life just tends to get in the way.

This is where I found myself in 2004.

fat drew.jpg


I'd done my duty, I had broken my body, and I was anticipating retirement. I'd also pretty much given up on life, though I hadn't realized that, yet. I had no real goals, and was living an aimless existence at a job I hated. I was so bad, I was looking at right hand drive vehicles so I could get in and out. I was overweight, had broken my back, had my left leg partially removed by trauma and reattached, and had broken my collarbone multiple times.

In 2005, I was fired from my job, and the only job I could find was as a military contractor. The folks I worked for were young, fit and had an extremely "can do" positive attitude. This penetrated into my hard skull, dark mood and soft body. Soon, I was not just watching these hard chargers work out, but was doing my own work out, parallel to theirs.

I also started to actually watch what I ate. Most men just don't, which is ironic, since testosterone is an excellent fat burner. Most women have to fight to lose ounces, while a man can just cut back calories just a little and have dramatic results.

So, by 2007, this was me:

fit drew.jpg


I have maintained that level of fitness since that time. The biggest game changer for me was always putting my workout first and continuing to watch what I eat. Because my workout is fairly intensive, I can eat pretty much all I want, as long as it's not sweets. ;)

What this has meant for me: My outlook is much more positive than before. My depressive episodes are less intense and smaller in duration. I have excellent mobility; I can sit down and get up without assistance. My wife likes me more, in a physical sense ;). My circles of friends have expanded and become younger. I'm still introverted, even borderline sociopath, but I have friends now (never did before) who tolerate my introversion because I am a much more positive person.

I learned that the type of workout is less important than that you do it, and it has sufficient time and intensity to burn the calories you consume. I also learned that starting out too intense will make you sore and make it difficult to sustain the effort. I'm no longer impressed by workouts that are INCREDIBLE or MIND-BLOWING!!! An "incredible" workout you do once a week is far inferior to going for an hour long walk 6 times a week.

I've also developed a philosophy:

Every one of us, is fighting for our lives, every day. And every single one of us is going to ultimately lose that fight. Once you realize that, it opens up your possibilities. My choice is to sustain that fight as long as I am able.

I hope that this post helps others, or that people can ask questions or chime in with their own stories. I do fitness as a lifestyle, I don't sell a product or coach.
 

Helipilot

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Good post. Very important to stay off booze, tobacco, drugs, and not take any shots given at the VA. They are trying to kill off the Vietnam vet. Watch the obits. VN vets are dying in their 50's. And that Agent Orange gives a guy all sorts of maladies.

You are looking good. Google luck.
 
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Looking good Drew!!

After I quit smoking in Mar '84, I started running and was running consistent 6 min/miles, 7 miles every day, by the time we rotated back to the States, from Holland. I kept running until my discs crapped out and then started walking 4-6 miles every day.

I've always tried to stay in shape, but gave up my Y membership when my back/leg pain flared up, back in March. My spin bike sits here next to my recliner... But, every time I try to get on it my pain flares. Seven months of sitting and sleeping in this recliner and eating everything added 20 lbs...

8 weeks ago, I joined Weight Watchers and have lost 19 lbs... My pain has subsided enough to allow me to hike, but I still can't sleep in our $6k Sleep Number bed without my issues flaring. Note: I've lost 19 lbs by doing the WW Simply Filling program and I've had Low-T since I had my prostate removed in Mar '06. In fact, I hardly have any testosterone at all.

Drew is correct, testosterone helps men lose weight much quicker than women. So, anyone who wants to lose weight can do it by modifying how they approach nutrition.

My sports med Doctor manipulates my frame and I feel better, but it comes back. He's referred me to a pain mgt Doctor, for a steroid epidural. I see the pain Doctor on Monday... Hopefully the epidural will be a day or two afterwards.

My intent is to continue losing weight until I'm happy with my weight and then maintain by continuing to eat healthy. But, I also want to be able to sleep in our bed and walk my dogs again

When I blew my right triceps tendon back in May, I was consistently doing 100 push-ups... The doctor said I wouldn't be able to do push-ups again... I'm back up to 10 and will continue to improve.

My abs workouts are also on-hold... Until I get the pain managed.

All we can do is the best we can do...

Just remember, you work your whole life to enjoy retirement... It's much easier to enjoy retirement when you feel good enough to do what you enjoy...
 

Helipilot

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Try sleeping with a pillow under your knees when on your back and between your knees when on your side. Stopped my low back pain and I have four busted vertebrae from a helicopter crash, dislocated shoulder and elbow from same crash and shrapnel wounds from other encounters. Pain is a hard thing to deal with on a long term basis. I don't smoke, drink, or use any drugs and sometimes ibuprofen is your friend but it is hard on the kidneys. Congrats on the weight loss.

Edit; I also hate cold weather.
 
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Try sleeping with a pillow under your knees when on your back and between your knees when on your side. Stopped my low back pain and I have four busted vertebrae from a helicopter crash, dislocated shoulder and elbow from same crash and shrapnel wounds from other encounters. Pain is a hard thing to deal with on a long term basis. I don't smoke, drink, or use any drugs and sometimes ibuprofen is your friend but it is hard on the kidneys. Congrats on the weight loss.

Edit; I also hate cold weather.
Ive tried all of those and then some. I have a nerve at L4 that gets easily pinch, causing the outside of my hip, knee and ankle to hurt so bad I can't walk more than 100' or stand still longer than about a minute.

My sports med doc can mitigate it, but trying to sleep in anything other than this recliner (with my ortho pillow under my butt), results in relapse.

He thinks the epidural, in conjunction with his treatments will return quality of life.

In the meantime, I still do what I can... And some of the positions required by 44 work lately don't help... But, I've got it to do... I need my rear harness back from coolerman so I can get 44 back together before I have my first cataract surgery in Feb 3rd. I won't be able to do much in Feb and I don't want to forget what goes where... And I hope to have her ready to go after my eyes are clear...

I take a lotta Ibuprofen... But, I have regular kidney a liver checks.
 

Helipilot

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L4 is a bad spot. I still have an unstable fracture at L5-S1 and that is where my issues are. I had the series of three injections and it cured the unrelenting pain and now just have episodes related to lifting or other strains. My injections were done by Dr. Meadors and she was great. Still see my chiropractor and massage therapist on a regular basis.

Good luck on your treatment decision.
 
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L4 is a bad spot. I still have an unstable fracture at L5-S1 and that is where my issues are. I had the series of three injections and it cured the unrelenting pain and now just have episodes related to lifting or other strains. My injections were done by Dr. Meadors and she was great. Still see my chiropractor and massage therapist on a regular basis.

Good luck on your treatment decision.
Thanks Roger - glad you're doing well!!
 
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@pngunme - I know EXACTLY where you are right now. I broke my L5 back in the day, and my L4 a year ago, and now have a major spondylosis in between them. Bad enough I can physically put a finger in the notch.

I have become an expert in managing that. It is impossible to manage the issue if you are overweight. Just can't be done. Second, you need a strong core to be able to move, and most core strengthening exercises will make the condition worse. So, I do four things.

1. Regulate caloric intake - hard to do if your moods swing like mine do. Food is a narcotic and I need to stay on top of that.
2. Flexibility. - If you don't have flexible hips and upper thighs, you will always be reinjuring this spot. I have purchased and use a foam roller and a lacrosse ball to apply pressure to my IT bands and inner hip socket to relieve pressure there and increase suppleness. This allows you to move and flex using your hips and waist instead of your spine.
3. Stop doing any core exercise that requires bending of the spine. Situps, crunches and cobras are suicidal for people with posture issues. You may do planks, and you may do hanging leg lifts.
4. Stop running or biking and get a high quality elliptical machine. And if you elliptical, make sure you maintain proper alignment. Or just walk a lot. Pushups and pullups, done with proper form are good for you as well.

Don't trust doctors or physical therapists 100%. Always evaluate what they tell you to do and listen to your body. Way too many of them apply templated solutions that are inappropriate for people with lower back conditions.
 
Last edited:
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One more thing: Stop sitting. Find a way to stand as much as possible, even if that involves find a leaning forward or backwards stress free position.

Sitting is killing your back. I work at a standing desk where I can lean on my forearms when my lower body gives out on me.

It's hard as hell with my reconstructed left leg, but it is better than being trapped in my back spasm cycle.
 
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If you can't get down on the floor, put the lacrosse ball in a sock and use it standing against the wall.

It will hurt like h*ll to begin with but the more you use it the better it will make you feel.

11088498_10205542166067975_8269851072344981410_o.jpg


A picture of a nice spondylosis just for grins. I refuse to let this b*stard win.
 
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Ironically, I woke up this morning with a sciactic spasm running down my right leg. I was able to deal with it using a Lacrosse ball in my pelvic socket cup. I put the ball on a low table and kind of leaned, sat on it and rolled around just a little.
 
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Ironically, I woke up this morning with a sciactic spasm running down my right leg. I was able to deal with it using a Lacrosse ball in my pelvic socket cup. I put the ball on a low table and kind of leaned, sat on it and rolled around just a little.

Glad you worked it out!!
 
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I've recently started to do this workout, that I've found on YouTube, for free:

FitnessBlender

I basically pick and choose through their bodyweight only workouts, and substitute planks and pushups for exercises that will twist or flex my lower back. I've found it to be a good workout, with different levels for different fitness levels.

It also helps that Kelli is easy on the eyes.
 
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Boise, ID
 
 
Very cool story! Congrats on the change.

I too am in the same category of starting / stopping various exercise / eating programs. Now I am just trying to get several walks in a day, while monitoring my caloric intake. I too have lower back problems, but it was my knees that stopped me from running. The impact would jar my knees to the point of multiple day pain afterwards. Walking is the one thing that I can get into my daily schedule and maintain, which is the bigger deal for me.

Jonathan
 
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