Until “I” get tired…

During U.S. Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, SC, our Senior Drill Instructor used to make us do “bends & thrusts”, also known as squat thrusters. We would do these until we literally until we lost our lunches. Sorry, as I know that doesn’t paint a pretty picture, especially when it involves the majority of a 75 man USMC recruit platoon. He absolutely reveled in yelling at us in that raspy, throaty, guttural voice that only a United States Marine Corps Drill Instructor is allowed to own, “OK, you little worms, bends & thrusts until I GET TIRED…UNDERSTAND ME?…BEGIN!!!” (strong emphasis on the word “I” and “begin”). In unison we would reply “Sir, yes Sir!” Then, the enjoyment commenced. To do bends & thrusts, you start in a standing position, squat down into a frog stance on all fours, throw your legs behind you into a push-up position, bring your legs up and back into the frog stance then stand up. Doesn’t sound too difficult, huh? Try 10 or 15 of ‘em. Doing these for a mere 5 minutes seemed like we had been doing them for a week straight. When he was really angry with us for any one of a myriad of screw-ups that only a “scum of the earth” recruit could commit (that was just one of his pet names for us), he would add push-ups and jumps in the mix. He called them “fun and games.” All this occurred a little less than 40 years ago…and I still wake up in a cold sweat when I have nightmares about Parris Island.
rose garden
All these “fun and games” taught me quite a valuable lesson though. No, not the one that I was insane for enlisting in the Marine Corps. It taught me the invaluable lesson of the trying to keep my body as fit as I can. I came home from boot camp a “lean, green, fighting machine”, ready to do the work that Uncle Sam had so painstakingly prepared me to do. Although today however, I may not be as lean and mean, but I still realize the importance of keeping in shape. In this season of holiday cookies, cakes, pastries and fatty carb loaded foods designed to put you into a semi-catatonic state of couch hibernation, lifting a weight or getting our heart rates up is usually relegated to 12 ounce curls or walking around the mall.
couch potato
Before moving to Colorado, I worked in a large health club as a personal trainer in southern New Jersey and I know this is the time of year that folks start to think…”Yeah, starting January 1st, I’m gonna’ start exercising.” And, I also know that by Valentine’s Day, the majority of folks who even start an exercise regimen have long fallen off the fitness wagon. But, it doesn’t have to be like that. While I’m well aware that this is the veritable dead horse that has been so badly beaten, I know that with a little effort, we can achieve a decent level of fitness.

So, for the sake of keeping this essay relatively short, I’m going to start with the very basics of fitness and expound on intermediate and advanced fitness work in a later blog. Fitness involves two things, cardiovascular or “cardio” (heart) fitness and muscular/core fitness. Obviously nutrition is involved, but later for that too.

OK, let’s begin here, generally in this order:
1. If you haven’t exercised in a while or are unsure of your physical condition, see your doctor first before starting an exercise program (yeah, I guess that’s about as good a disclaimer as I can give).
2. Commit to setting aside a half hour to an hour of your day for exercising and GO SLOW AT FIRST! Yes, that’s right…a half hour to an hour. Take time from Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy and train your body!
3. If you are a beginner, that’s great! I suggest joining a gym and hiring a personal trainer. You’ll be glad you did so you can learn the proper techniques and not waste your time. No gym near you? Buy some dumbbells (5, 10 & 15 lbs. sets to start) and a good training book or two and begin training, (again, plenty of good info on the ‘net).
4. You’ll want to get your heart rate up, (again, slowly at first). The mantra is “heart rate up, heart rate down.” Start to take walks and allow your heart to adjust to the changes. Learn about your target heart rate during exercise. This is important. There are a ton of websites you can research, just google “target heart rate” and check them out. Work within your THR.
5. Weight training…critically important. If you don’t know how, then learn. If you do know how, then get back to it. Our bodies’ muscle mass greatly depletes over time if they’re not trained, but with some knowledge, initiative and work…you can slow that process down significantly.
6. Lastly, mindset. Don’t think of yourself as “working out”, think of yourself as “training”. I equate working out as using the gym for meeting people and socializing between sets and reps. What usually happens is that you work out for a few seconds and socialize for 10 minutes…then repeat. Training is much different. When you have a training mindset, you’re telling your body it’s time to get to work. You have a goal and nothing is going to stand in your way. It’s time to TRAIN!!!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. I’d really love to hear your feedback.

You can also click on the Fitness link on the homepage and it’ll take you to a site called CrossFit, (www.crossfit.com). I have been “crossfitting” for over 7 years and it has changed the way I look at fitness. Once you become comfortable with your training regimen, I encourage you to check out CrossFit. Or, check it out anytime…just go to the left hand side of their site where it says “Start Here!.”

Now, let’s get off our duffs and get training, starting today!!! (Or, it’ll be bends & thrusts for you until I get tired!!!)

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I heard that…

Yeah, I do it too.  I complain.  Sometimes a lot.  And, even about the most ridiculous, inane things.  I hear myself and think, “Is this really me running my yap like that?”.  Although I have been trying to greatly curtail my complaining, I can see something totally unrelated to my experience at any particular time in the day and turn it into something about me.  For example…when I first moved to Colorado, I just couldn’t understand the drivers.  If they want to get into your lane, they’re going to come over whether you’re there or not.  If you want to get into their lane and put your blinker on, they’re gonna’ speed up so you can’t get over!  See, I’m doing it again!  Well, anyway, you get the point.  I found myself actually yelling out loud in my truck at other drivers.   Complaining that they don’t know how to drive, complaining that they have such a sense of entitlement, plus some other wonderfully colorful adjectives.  And, why are they doing this to me.  What did I do?  How do they know I’m a fairly new Coloradan from New Jersey and why are they taking advantage of me?  And, when my wife is with me, it’s just great having an audience.  Well, maybe this isn’t the best example.  I’m just, oh never mind.

Anyway, I’ve also been finding myself complaining about what other people are doing in their own everyday lives and activities that just happen to be in my sphere of existence.  Like the lady in the Safeway supermarket whose cart is blocking my way.  Doesn’t she know I have a right to be here in this aisle as do the other people in the store?  Why is she so inconsiderate?  Or, the guy behind the counter at Panera’s who is clueless about how to run the cash register, who doesn’t know what’s on his own menu board and then screws up my order.  What, don’t they train their employees? It went smoothly with the 3 customers before me…why did this happen to me?  I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it.

complainers 

Yeah, we’ve all been there.  And, if you haven’t, you and I most likely don’t coexist on the same planet.  I’ve come to the realization that complaining just doesn’t help.  I used to think that I was blowing off steam by complaining, but concluded that it’s really only causing the steam to build up.  And, yup…you know the drill.  When steam builds up, it’s gotta’ vent somehow, somewhere.  It reminds me of the old cartoons where the office employee screws something up and the boss’ head grows 5 times its normal size, gets red and steam starts coming out of his ears while the whistle goes off.  You remember those cartoons, don’t you?  Well, maybe not if you’re reading this and you’re under 35.
mouse trap
“Complaint Department”…for service, press the middle button.

Complaining does absolutely nothing good for the body and if you poke around the internet a bit, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.  It causes stress.  And, everyone knows what stress does to the body.  I don’t need that in my life and neither do you.  Plus, complaining causes even greater stress in the folks around us that have to listen to it.  That thought in and of itself should cause us to decrease or eliminate complaining totally from our lives.  And, I’m not even going to go into the negative effects complaining has on our decision making process and the cognitive abilities of the human brain.  I’m already in a mini-panic just thinking about that.

So, I’ve decided to go on a two week complaining fast, (I heard that snicker).  Starting at the posting of this essay…two weeks sans complaining.  Once I find myself complaining, the clock starts again.  My goal is to get through the Christmas and New Year holidays without any whining.  Then, once I’ve got some practice under my belt, I’ll make it a little longer.  Obviously, the goal being to remove the insidiousness of complaining from my life.  Soooo, who else is up for the challenge?  Let’s see where we’re at after the New Year and if we’ve made any progress.  Because if you choose not to try this little experiment with me, you probably don’t….uhh…I think the clock just started again.

We live in a world filled with evil…

From school, movie theater and shopping mall spree killings, to local and national acts of terror, to the kidnappings, sexual assaults and murders of children, there is no escaping it.  No matter how hard we may try, whether it is in our own backyard or across the country, it is ever-present and unfortunately widely pervasive.  These crimes have no jurisdictional boundaries.  They happen in large cities and they happen in the smallest of sleepy little towns in the most rural of states.  Just when we think we’ve seen the worst of the worst, another monster wrapped in human skin does something that tops the last act of unfettered cruelty and malice.  I’ve given up trying to explain, much less understand these horrors and the people that perpetrate them.  Explanations like “it was just the act of an insane person” or “they just lost it somehow” or “how could someone do that in the name of a religion?” (insert whichever one you’d like here) always seem to come up a bit short when I try and wrap my mind around it.

anguish

Over the years, I’ve seen my share of misery and malevolence.  I was a cop for 25 years in a municipality just outside picturesque Camden, New Jersey.  Now, for those of you not familiar with Camden, it competes annually with Detroit and St. Louis as the most crime ridden cities in the nation.  Shootings, murders, sexual assaults, armed robberies and the like are everyday and commonplace occurrences in and around Camden City.  However, I’m not talking about city type crime for purposes of this essay, I’m referring to the type of crime that defies the ability of the human mind to fully comprehend it.  The type of crime that leaves you a bit shaken even if it happens a thousand miles away from you.  The type of crime that you feel compelled to discuss with a perfect stranger in the grocery store or at the coffee shop hoping that they may be the one person who has a plausible explanation for its occurrence.  Some will say it’s a sociological thing, some that it’s from a screwed up childhood and some will blame video games.  To me, it’s fairly basic and that is that one must take personal responsibility for their actions and stop displacing blame.  But, I digress and as I said, I’m done with even trying to have a modicum of understanding beyond the fact that evil is evil.  Period.

angry video game player

So, to my point…I have a real concern.  Not a concern for myself and my family (although I do greatly care about their welfare and safety during any given day).  No, I have a concern for the children of the future.  If at my age I am already becoming somewhat desensitized and detached from emotion when these things happen, (although it does still affect me in certain ways) I can’t imagine what the future looks like for a young person who’s life (I believe) is going to be filled with this type of evil much more than mine was.  I firmly believe it’s only going to get worse.  I’m concerned for my grandchildren (when they come) and I’m concerned for their children.  Scripture talks about these days being filled with all types of evil and it becoming more and more prevalent every day.   So, are these kids going to become so immune from feeling anything when these things happen because of their frequency that they dismiss it as just another news story, and then change the song on their ipod?  I don’t know, but I certainly hope not.  Once a complacent and uncaring attitude sets in, it can be extremely difficult to reverse it.

But, there is hope…

So, what can we do?  Well, we can pray of course.  But, we can also walk in the knowledge that God is our provision and our protection.  He is not only “in” control of everything, He also “has” control of everything.  So, for us to really grasp and comprehend these acts of evil, we have to fully understand that they’re not a surprise to the Lord.  He doesn’t sit upstairs and say “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that just happened!”.   The first thing one might say is “why would a supposedly merciful God allow such a thing?”  I don’t know.  But, what I do know is that the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven are often times just that…mysteries.  Sometimes God reveals the answers and sometimes He doesn’t, (I know I’ll most likely “respectfully” have a few questions when I stand before Him).  That is why there are many times no plausible, visible explanations to abhorrent, random acts of violence and evil.  The reasons are only known to God.  And, He grieves too.  We can teach our children these truths at an early age which will allow them the ability to understand and process these things when they occur.   I know this may or may not make it easier to swallow or understand, but for me it keeps me grounded in the fact that The Father is in control…not us.  And, I really, really like it that way.  To be continued…

Here we go…

Well, here it is…my first blogging essay.  It wasn’t easy coming up with a first topic and as I write, I’m still not sure what it will be.   But, I think that’s what the desire to write can sometimes do to a person…even if that person likes to write, they very often come up empty.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty I’d like to say, even if I’m the only one listening or reading it.  But, it’s the content of the writing that’s got me a bit stumped.  God has given me not only the desire to write, but I believe the ability to write.  It’s taken me quite some time to prayerfully consider what it is He wants me to say and what it is He wants me to relay to others.  But, before I go on, I want to say that the few prior sentences have nothing to do with religion, nor will this blog.  It has to do with relationship.  And, that is a relationship with Jesus Christ.  OK, good.  I got that out of the way.  I won’t be Bible thumping or standing on my soap box pontificating.  That is not the purpose of this blog.  What IS the purpose of my blog is to bring to light the life (and, often times struggles) of a Christian man through his everyday walk, experiences and sometimes meandering and tumultuous life, hence the term “The Ascent of a Son”.  I am a son of God.  And, I am and will be continually ascending upward to be more and more like Him, (plus, I also wanted to include a mountain term as that is where I live and that is what I love).  Now, this isn’t to say that I have no peace and joy in my life, I do.  But, the reality and honesty of it is that some of the time it just isn’t that way.  And, I think that it’s the same way with the majority of Christian men and women.  The walk with Christ is a difficult one.  And, the bridge between fleshly, soulful desires and the desire to be obedient to the Lord and what it is He has and wants for us in our lives can be a tenuous one.  But, I guess that’s what these essays will sometimes be about, (hey…I think I just came up with the topic!).   So, I guess if you want religion or religious dogma and the like, this may not be the website for you.  There are plenty of places for that all over the internet.  Now, this isn’t to say that I won’t throw in a few scriptures from time to time to reinforce my point(s), but the majority of the time it will be real life issues experienced from the view of a Christian man.  I was going to insert the word “mature” man there, but my wife might have taken issue with that.

During my life, I’ve seen the world from many different and often polar points of view, but I am still living a life of learning, discovery and training and I’ll always want it that way.  In some respects, I’m still in an “early learning” stage of things.  But, I guess that’s the beauty of learning…you start out slow then get those wonderful “Ahh Haa” light bulb moments.  And, come to think of it, there will probably be a lot of those as I continue to write this blog.  Hopefully, not only for myself, but for you too.

So, these essays and experiences are for those men (and, women) who are continuing to walk with the Lord, but as a dear friend once coined the term “while holding onto the Cross, I sometimes get splinters in my hands”.  I hope you all come away with something that you can use in your own lives to help you find that place of balance while still loving the Lord and finding and living in His peace, love and joy.

I wholeheartedly welcome your thoughts and comments too…so, please feel free to offer them as you deem fit, (but, please keep it clean though!).  So, welcome everybody!  Let’s take this journey together and maybe, just maybe, we can teach one another and have many more of those wonderful light bulb moments in our lives…

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