Our attempt in 2016 to launch the About Men Radio Fitness Challenge — in which members of the posse pledged to improve our eating and exercise habits — collapsed quicker than a football handled by Tom Brady.
Brady recently came up in a conversation between Chris and Pedro, and it was nothing related to the 2015 deflategate controversy.
Instead, we got to talking about Brady’s regimented, disciplined (over the top) eating habits: For instance, he drinks 25 glasses of water — a day.
But it’s a new year and we’re ready to tackle the challenges of fitness and eating right anew.
In this episode of About Men Radio, Chris and Pedro talk about recommitting themselves to fitness, why it’s so hard (they were talking about working out, you pervert!) and what challenges stand in the way.
It’s a show that every man (and woman) can relate to.
So put down that fork, pour yourself a glass of water (or 25) and give a listen!
Oh, yes, I had gained 10 pounds, which the doctor wants me to lose.
No problem. I kind of expected those results.
But then she lowered the boom and said she wanted me to increase my daily workouts to 60 minutes from 30.
I just turned 53, did my second mud run in August and work out regularly four to five days a week.
Not bad for a middle-aged guy with a sedentary job.
But her directive to work out more frosted my rage cake.
C’mon! You want me fit and healthy even if it kills me!
I have no delusions that I am going to grace the cover of “Men’s Health” magazine anytime soon and that’s OK.
For my age and lifestyle, I have worked hard at beating back — with some success — the inevitable physical effects that come with reaching your 50s.
But the doctor’s order underscored a peculiar balance you start to confront at a particular age: Do you sacrifice certain things now to prolong your life later?
For instance, do I extend my workouts by 30 minutes, cutting into time I might be doing other things, like spending time with my wife, so that I can live into my 80s, when my quality of life would undoubtedly be less?
It feels like a shoddy tradeoff.
As it is, I do not smoke, I drink in moderation, have stopped taking sugar in my coffee and have given up on my Frisbee-sized weekly cookies from my favorite diner.
I also spurn fast food, try to eat a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables and “clean” proteins like chicken and fish.
And if that is all not enough, the doctor wants me to exercise more? What a killjoy!
I understand the importance of staving off diabetes and heart disease to have a better quality of life. I get it. But I want to enjoy my food and drink now, not 30 years from now when it will be puréed baby food.
The struggle to behave and eat right is difficult given the stresses of daily life and the bonanza of temptations out there.
I do like my dark chocolate, coffee, wine, vodka and tonics, margaritas and indulgent dessert once in a while.
But if comes to moderation vs. deprivation, I will almost always go with the former.
At some point, you just have to pick your spots and assign a value to the things that you enjoy that may not be good for you and the things that are good for you that you may not enjoy.
As my old man used to tell me:
“OK, Chris, now remember about clean living: No booze, no smoking and no carousing with loose women. It’s clean but is it living?!”
The comedian George Carlin said he had a rule: He would not eat any food that had a “y” and a “g” in its name.
I have a similar rule as it applies to exercises.
The way Carlin felt about yogurt is the way I feel about yoga.
Before all you yoga practitioners get all downward dog in my face, let me acknowledge the following:
* I know it is a form of exercise and meditation that dates back centuries.
* I know it is supposed to bring about inner peace and mindfulness.
* And I know it is a great way to improve your flexibility and shape your body.
But what no one tells you is how tedious and slow-moving it is!
I guess that is part of the point, but look, I am a Type A personality.
I want a workout that matches my personality, something that is going to rev me up, move at the pace of a New Yorker catching a train and leave me in a puddle of sweat.
Yoga does none of those things for me.
In fact, almost always after I have finished a yoga session, I feel like I have wasted a workout and I come away feeling tired and cranky.
So much for quieting your mind.
My wife and doctor have a theory that my allergic response to yoga is a gigantic signal that I need to be doing more of it.
Oh, so the more I dislike doing something, the more I should do it because it is good for me? My native New Yorker response is something like: I’ve got your inner peace right he-yah!
I have got rebar where my calf muscles should be and have about as much flexibility as the Tin Man in a rainstorm. Why do I want to torture (and embarrass) myself by getting into unnatural poses?
Recently I have seen videos of people doing yoga with goats and yoga with cats. That’s cute and I guess the furry critters are there to keep boredom at bay and to keep your mind off the discomfort of the positions.
There has got to be a better way to get those endorphins released and get that mental high. Oh yeah, I know what it is: cardio and weight training done in a tempo that leaves you breathless.
Some exercise routines I do, in fact, have yoga poses, particularly in the warm-ups.
If my wife is in the room watching, she’ll point and say emphatically: “yoga.” My response is suddenly to have an itchy neck that requires me to scratch it with four fingers moving under my chin in her direction.
I respect that people get something out of yoga, but please don’t push it on me like some potential convert: “Have you accepted Warrior One as your exercise savior?”
When I was about 12 and at a weeklong Boy Scout summer camp, I recall walking through the woods with a bunch of my fellow Scouts on our way to an outdoor Sunday Mass.
Paul Naehle, who was one of the senior scouts and had a booming voice, called out: “C’mon, Mele! You’re bringing up the rear!”
Lo these many years later, this was memorable for two reasons:
One, I remember feeling embarrassed that I was the caboose in this line of Scouts (aka the slowpoke).
And two, Paul’s voice thundered through the woods. But it turned out we were much closer to the site of the Mass than we realized, so when we got to where everyone had gathered, they turned around, wondering what Paul was shouting about, and, no doubt, who was this guy Mele.
Well, Paul, some 40 years later, I can proudly tell you I’m no longer bringing up the rear.
I just finished my second mud run – the Warrior Dash at Pocono Raceway – and I held up my end admirably.
For a guy pushing 53, I finished the 3.3-mile course, which includes 12 crazy obstacles, in 53 minutes. (I’m hoping that my finish time and age don’t continue to coincide as I get older.)
The obstacles struck me as much more challenging than last year.
Maybe last year I had the advantage of being a newbie and not knowing any better, or maybe I’m a year older and the body parts don’t move and pivot the way they once did.
I won’t lie: I did struggle more with some of the obstacles and I did stumble. Anything that called on me to use significant upper-body strength or balance I had trouble with.
Crawl through trenches of mud with barbed wire inches above my head? No problem.
Use ropes to climb a steep vertical incline to a great height and then swinging your leg around at the apex to make it back down a ladder-like lattice on the other side?
Hmmmm….That was trickier.
And getting through the “Pipeline,” heavy rope netting shaped like a cylinder, was particularly frustrating. My foot kept get caught in the gaps and there was not much room to work with.
Still, I am happy to say that I ran more of the course than I did in 2016 – even if at the end, my knees and legs were barking at me.
The thing that was most remarkable though was the turnout: People of all ages, shapes and sizes, and of all levels of fitness.
Some guys had the bodies of Greek gods and others of repeat visitors to Greek diners. (As for me, wearing tight-fitting leggings, I felt like a human sausage.)
Regardless of their body types, strangers were friendly and courteous to each other.
They took turns at the obstacle courses. They cheered or applauded encouragement for others. They lent a hand when needed.
And they did this all for charity – to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
In the end, what I discovered is it isn’t how fast you finished or whether you look like you can grace the cover of Men’s Health magazine.
Challenging yourself, being in the community of others, and having fun for a good cause – that’s what it’s all about.
This is the latest installment in the About Men Radio Fitness Challenge in which members of the AMR posse have pledged to eat better and adopt a healthier lifestyle in order to lose weight. Chris Mele has this update:
My moment of truth arrives on Monday.
I go back to see the doctor, who when I last visited, said she wanted me to drop 15 pounds.
So after doubling down on my workouts for the past two months (after being sidelined with an illness for a month), after cranking up the intensity of my exercise, curbing my sugar intake and tracking my calories with an online app, I stepped on the scale today and…
I GAINED two pounds.
To borrow a line from “Blazing Saddles”: “What in the Wide World of Sports is going on here?!”
I mean, c’mon!
I have extended my workouts to nearly an hour and six days a week.
I really have tried to keep track of my food, entering the calories on the conservative side and being honest about my unhealthy snacking, namely the Frisbee-sized cookies I get from the Jefferson Diner in New Jersey.
But there was the readout on the scale, unblinking: 203.7.
Of course, when I get to the doctor, her scale will say something worse because it always does.
I was aiming to lose 15 and gained two.
Once upon a time, 15 years ago, I dropped 40 pounds but I did it by eating scant calories (mostly carbs) and doing only industrial-strength cardio (cardio videos, running, biking, etc.)
The result though was I looked bony and unhealthy. Plus I was cold all the time.
I’ve been doing a bit more weight lifting and taking in more protein.
I do have to say I feel like I’m filling out a little bit (and not in a paunchy in the poochy kind of way either).
My wife says I have dents in my torso (I guess to match the ones in my head!) and my clothes do feel like they fit better.
So I guess I am doing something right.
Maybe weight is not the final arbiter of whether you’re healthy.
In this case, I feel like the doctor has put her thumb on the scale and made me more concerned with hitting a number than with how I’m doing overall.
With the encouragement of my childhood friends who make up the About Men Radio crew, I’ve decided to fully embrace the AMR Fitness Challenge.
It’s not that I haven’t tried to eat right and exercise.
I’ve been working out consistently for nearly 15 years but I would say in the past two or so, I’ve slowed down.
Instead of working out for 45 or 50 minutes a day for six days a week, I started to do 30 minutes of exercise four days a week.
And with a desk job and being in the car four hours a day, that made a difference.
My doctor recently told me she wanted me to lose 15 pounds because my body mass index was too high.
So I am using the Fitness Challenge to get back to my old better habits.
After a July filled with travel, vacations and plenty of eating and drinking (and being sidelined with a medical issue for five weeks), I’ve started August off right.
I’m going old school with my workouts — relying on tried-and-true routines, such as circuits with weights and a Crunch Cardio Boot Camp DVD that has always served me well.
Now, here is the absolutely crazy thing: The harder I’ve pushed myself by extending my workouts, the better I feel, the more energy I have, especially at night when I’m working, and the better I sleep.
When I was only working out 30 minutes a day, I did not get those benefits.
I’ve also taken up MyFitnessPal.com to help me keep track of what I’m eating. It’s really simple math: You need to burn more calories than you take in.
When I was working out 30 minutes a day, I was just drawing even with my intake or eating more than I was burning.
I’ve tried a couple of different strategies: Eating more protein. Skipping sugar with my coffee. Eating more celery, carrots and peppers as snacks, sometimes with hummus.
I’ve signed up to run in a Warrior Dash in three weeks, so there’s more than the usual motivation to get going!
I’ll keep you posted…
If you want to share your tips and ideas — or to send words of encouragement — post on our Facebook page or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this latest episode of About Men Radio shenanigans, Pedro and Chris talk about men’s health — no, not the magazine — but what it takes for men our age to be of sound bodies. (Forget about our minds, those are shot!)
Partly the discussion was spurred on by recent medical procedures we both endured (read: colonoscopies) and the order by Chris’s doctor to drop 15 pounds.
That, in turn, led to a conversation about…well, never mind. Just give it all a listen and then tell your friends about it.
The AMR crew will soon have a big announcement about a project we’re working on, so you will have to stay tuned for future episodes!
I got a FitBit for Father’s Day, so I am hoping to get a bit fit.
For the six of you who have not heard of this electronic geegaw, it is the latest example of better living through technology.
It straps to your wrist, and like a watch, it will display the time, but it also tracks your heart rate, number of steps you take, stairs you climb, calories burned and miles walked.
My younger son was so in love with his FitBit and I was equally impressed, so I asked for one for Father’s Day.
What I have found so far is that as a middle-aged guy, it is yet another way for me to discover how I don’t measure up.
Fitness experts recommend you walk at least 10,000 steps a day. If I break about 6,000, that is a good day.
As someone who spends four-plus hours in the car five days a week, getting to that goal would be a challenge, unless of course I drove a Fred Flintstone-type car where you pedal furiously with your feet to get started.
But I am finding that I am making adjustments in light of the FitBit. For instance, today I walked an extra block out of my way just so I could rack up extra steps toward my total.
I also make it a point to take the stairs instead of an escalator when I have the option. With its attractive graphics, FitBit gives me encouragement for climbing more flights of stairs.
The one feature I am fascinated with — and at the same time a bit creeped out by — is the one that tells me how much I have slept.
FitBit is like Santa Claus that way: It knows when you are sleeping. If it starts telling me whether I have been naughty or nice, it’s coming off my wrist.
I have also been using an app called MyFitnessPal in which you track what you are eating, total calories consumed and your exercise.
You set a weight loss goal and it gives you an ideal daily caloric intake based on your height, weight and time you have set to lose the weight.
You enter your food and it keeps diligent track of your progress.
This too has been unnerving and eye-opening.
You mean my medium hot Dunkin’ Donuts coffee with milk and sugar is 112 calories?
Out goes the sugar. Milk only from now on with my coffee. A net savings of 77 calories. I feel thinner already.
What I have discovered is that calories are a lot like time and money: Once you have consumed them, there is no getting them back so it is important to be judicious
FitBit and MyFitnessPal are merely tools to help keep me on track toward a healthy, balanced me. Of course, they are no substitute for sensible eating, exercise and a good night’s sleep.
But if FitBit wanted to be really helpful, it could give me a low dose of electric current, like a cattle prod, every time I reach for a cookie.
It is something that I hear in my own head (minus the singing) when I confront self-image issues related to my workouts.
For the past 14 years, I have been a dedicated exerciser, working out an average of four to five times a week.
It has taken all forms: Cardio, running, weight-lifting, circuit training, and for the past seven years, a devotion to the various P90X workouts led by Tony Horton.
But it seems no matter how much dedication and drive I invest in my exercise, I cannot get the body I’m looking for.
So, why oh why can’t I have a broad chest?
Biceps the size of my thighs?
When I look at celebrities like Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine in the X-Men series, or Daniel Craig, who is currently playing James Bond, or Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper,” I am immediately plunged into a vat of molten envy that, when it cools, hardens around my brain.
I mean, look at those guys!
They are in incredible shape.
It’s not like I have not put in the time and commitment to getting fit, so why oh why can’t I look like them?
Well, there might be the fact that they have professional trainers who put these actors through their paces for grueling hours a day whereas my exercise routine is a DIY system at home for 30 to 45 minutes.
And they likely have gourmet-cooked, high-protein, nutrient-rich meals prepared for them around the clock, with snacks properly proportioned served to them by personal chefs.
Me? I eat as cleanly as I can but I am a slave to cookies and prone to indulging in sugary snacks when I’m anxious.
Nonetheless, I fight the nagging internal voice that says I am not pushing myself hard enough.
See that woman in the exercise video? She’s doing more push-ups than you, you panty-waist wuss!
As a working stiff who has a family and a job, there is only so much time and energy I can dedicate to exercising before I overtrain and risk getting hurt or burning myself out.
It was not until I heard Tony Horton’s first law of fitness that I started to gain some acceptance for my limitations.
“Do your best and forget the rest,” he says.
In other words, show up and do what you can on any given day.
That could be four push-ups or 40, or a multiple of that if you’ve really got something in the tank that day.
But you’ve got to chase away those mental couldas and shouldas that get in the way.
This is the time of year when we’re all looking to start the slate clean: A new year, a new you, right?
Before you start worrying about fixing your body, think about getting your mind right first.
So in 2016, I’m going to change my tune and find a new anthem.
And I discussed my training for the Warrior Dash extreme race. (Unfortunately my work schedule kept me from competing but there is always next year!)
I also recounted my excitement about meeting and working out with exercise guru and man crush Tony Horton and explained how it’s never too late to burn off the goo.
Getting the right amount of rest, eating as close to healthy as you can and exercising take on a whole new level of importance when you reach, ahem, a certain age.
I know I’ve told this story before, but I want to repeat here today, partly to reinforce the lesson to myself after 14 years, but also to tell my brethren (and sistren) that it is NEVER too late to get started.
I was 37, woefully out of shape, stressed to the max and eating like a maniac.
My routine was a doughnut and coffee at 3 p.m., which would send my sugar levels spiking and then crashing, taking my energy levels with it.
Late nights featured chocolate dipped in peanut butter with a Kahlua-and-milk chaser, topped off with maybe five or six hours of sleep each night.
Rinse and repeat.
My fiancée at the time bought me a pair of push-up bars, a VHS exercise tape and a sit-up bar. They sat off in the corner for many, many months.
She never nagged me or even said a word about the equipment but I knew they were there.
My epiphany came after a dinner of three (or was it four?) slices of pizza followed by truly yummy Italian pastries from one of the local bakeries.
I am still not sure what happened, but something clicked (or snapped) and on my 37th birthday, I popped in the boot camp exercise VHS tape.
I had to quit after about 15 minutes.
I was winded and frustrated that I could not keep up. But I tried it the next day. And the next and the next and the next.
By the end of the week, I was getting through the entire 30-minute video.
Over time, I began biking, lifting weights, running and doing other forms of cardio. I dropped 40 pounds, about half of which, over time, I’ve put back on.
But that does not discourage me.
For about the last seven years, I’ve been doing P90x workouts with my man Tony Horton. He’s a good coach and I find him inspiring.
Do I fall short of my goals? Hell yes. Am I ready to grace the cover of “Men’s Health” magazine? Hell no!
But I’m averaging four to five days a week of exercise, and I keep just showing up and that’s more than half the battle.
If you’re looking to make changes in your life, start with small steps.
You will be amazed at the strides you will make.
Take it from someone who’s been there.
If I can do it, so can you.
Drop me a line at email@example.com and tell me about how you’re coping. We can swap ideas and give a little support to each other.
No, not THAT bulge, you perv! Get your mind outta the gutter!
I’m talking about the bulge ABOVE your belt.
The spare tire.
The love handles.
The beer gut.
Whatever you call it, by the time a guy reaches middle age, his metabolism isn’t what it used to be.
Take me, for instance.
I watch what my teenage son eats at home and I am positively aghast at what he inhales. And when his older brother was home, his butt was constantly sticking out of the fridge, his muffled voice crying out that there was nothing to eat.
But then I recall what I used to eat and drink when I was a teenager.
Back in the day, it was nothing for me to chug almost an entire 64-ounce bottle of Coke.
My food pyramid looked more like a pie chart, with the emphasis on “pie.”
Pizza. McDonald’s. Hot dogs. Fudge brownies.
And Friendly’s ice cream. Those Reese’s peanut butter cup sundaes that come in a goblet big enough to fit both of your fists? Oh yeah, that was my go-to dessert when I was in college.
Through my early to mid-20s, I was able to keep my weight fairly under control. But then came kids, long hours at a stressful job, home ownership and more stress.
Doughnuts and coffee at 3 p.m. followed by peanut butter and chocolate with a Kahlúa-and-milk chaser at midnight did little for my health or waistline.
And here’s the thing: Deep down, I knew I was doing destructive things to my body. I felt it in my bones (literally), my clothes and my energy.
By 2001, I was around 220 pounds and feeling every last ounce of it. I was getting winded going up the stairs.
I buckled down and on my 37th birthday, I put on a 30-minute exercise video. I got through 10 minutes of it and – as Roseanne-Roseannadanna used to say on “Saturday Night Live” – “I thought I was gonna die!”
Fast-forward, and next month I’ll mark my 14th year of my “exercise sobriety.”
I work out an average of four to five times a week. I’m doing P90X and Tony Horton workouts, lifting weights and doing a variety of cardio and other exercises.
Pedro is a similar success story. He’s literally half the man he once was, having lost about 130 pounds. He looks great and dresses like a boss!
In this episode of About Men Radio, Pedro and I discuss our struggles with our weight, what our stress eating habits are like and how we modified our lifestyle to live better.
None of this is easy but it’s to point out that Pedro and I are just like you — dads, husbands and worker-bees with a thousand different push-me-pull-me stresses in our lives.
(If you want to make a donation to help save kids from cancer and other horrible diseases, here’s a link where you can make a donation. I am participating under the Team About Men Radio banner. Whatever you can donate would be greatly appreciated and will validate my efforts!)
I’ve been working out consistently for the past 13-plus years but I’ve also just turned 50.
And will you look at some of these crazy obstacles?
There are things like shallow mud pits that you have to crawl through under rows of barbed wire. And another one called “Warrior Roast” in which participants look to be jumping over a bonfire.
Forget candlesticks, Jack. You better be really nimble jumping over this wienie roast!
Clearly, there’s lot of opportunities for things on my body to break, bleed or fall off.
As an adult, I am walking around with a fair amount of Bronx asphalt I absorbed into my knees thanks to various falls I took as a kid, including a memorable one on a scooter coming down “Dead Man’s Curve,” which intersects with “Suicide Hill.”
(You won’t find those designations officially anywhere on a map of the Bronx, but ask anyone from my old neighborhood and they will know instantly where I am talking about.)
On the same day that I registered for the Warrior Dash, I went to our local gym to inquire about training. Well, more accurately, my wife got me a gift certificate about two years ago for 10 training sessions.
Now that I have a particular goal in mind, I know what I’ll be training for.
I’ve been good about keeping up my exercise regime at home, working out an average of four to five days a week, but this is going to introduce a whole new level of challenges and expectations.
So, if it’s going to inflict discomfort, and possibly leave some scars, why do it?
It’s a new goal to meet and a way for me to face my fears of being a physical flop in a public setting.
Plus, I get a really cool, goofy-looking Viking’s hat for entering!
The centerpiece of the event was a meet-and-greet with Tony (he of the P90X workout fame), a chance to hear him as a keynote speaker, and, best of all, to participate in a workout he was leading.
So here I am on line with dozens of others, waiting to meet Tony, shake hands, chat and get an autograph and a photo.
The closest I’ve ever come to a brush with celebrity was in 1978, when I met then-New York City Mayor Edward Koch and got his autograph. Though Koch was the leader of the greatest city in the world, he did not sell nearly five million pieces of exercise DVDs closing in on nearly $1 billion in sales.
That distinction would belong to Tony Horton, who I was getting closer to meeting as the line progressed.
He could not have been more warm, gracious and funny. A total mensch.
I told him what an inspiration he was (he’s 56 BTW and totally shredded) and at one point I put a hand over his and told him I was sorry about his dad’s recent death.
His composure changed visibly. You could see he was truly touched by the sympathy. He called his dad’s death a “goofy,” unexpected loss and said he should have had 10 more years in him.
He was totally genuine. Not an ounce of phony. He was super generous with his time.
Then came his keynote speech, the highlights of which were: “Do your best and forget the rest.”
My favorite advice? Don’t feel 100 percent? Go and work out anyway.
“Go in there and stink it up” by giving only 20, 30 or 40 percent. But just do it.
He spoke enthusiastically and passionately about exercise, about overcoming his own obstacles in life (a grade C student with a speech impediment who in his early adult years was $60,000 in debt).
And then came the workout. I never smiled so much busting my hump as I did this day. I was joined by 130 others who jumped, grunted, burpeed, ran and push-upped our way through the 40-minute routine.
Tony roamed the room, coaching people, encouraging them and correcting their form.
At one point during the warm-up, he pointed at me and winked as if to say: “Yeah, you got it!”
The capstone came at the end of the workout.
I turned to this guy next to me (in his early 30s, I would guess) and I told him how he had absolutely crushed the exercises.
He looked at me and said: “Can I ask how old you are, sir?”
I told him I turn 50 in a couple of weeks.
He shook my hand firmly and said: “Every move, you just were killing it!”