By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
February 3, 2016
Everything we do and everything we touch has a profound effect on us, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time. This has always been one of my favorite concepts within science fiction, which is often times described as “staying on a beaten path” when dealing with time travel. The great Ray Bradbury made the concept a reality when he created a story about time travelers who accidentally messed up the past and ultimately created a totalitarian present that they unfortunately returned to. I always loved Bradbury's works, for they typically seemed to have some underlying reality to what people initially perceived, their meanings much deeper. While a great many still regard “Fahrenheit 451” as a book about censorship, he really wrote about how television will ultimately degrade the human spirit and turn us into slaves of the visual medium, sapping us of personal imagination and mental health. When you think about it, much of that has kind of come true with people obsessively binge watching online services to the point where Netflix, HULU and Amazon are making television series when it seemed impossible they could even afford these things roughly three or four years ago. Anyway, back to “Fahrenheit 451,” which is still my favorite book of all time and I even have a full length screenplay sitting in my damn computer (a hard sell….I think I turned it into a stark four hour movie). I had so many details hammered out in regards to my vision, giving the main character Guy Montag a little more background and giving more visual description to the underground world Clarisse McClellan would potentially inhabit (yes, I broke the cardinal rule and added scenes!). I still wonder when I will ever show it to someone….for I consider it my greatest work of writing even though it is an adapted story. I guess I might end up as a person in this one video that has been popular as of late, where people write down their one regret and it seems to be all about not pursuing their artistic expressionism. So far I’m still one of those people, often times overwhelmed by the awful state of movie making where terrible concepts like “Deadpool” and “Suicide Squad” and a “Captain America” continue to suck the industry dry with their gigantic budgets and turning prestige pictures more or less into vanity projects. Considering the scope of my story, a 100 million dollar vanity project might be out of the cards and completely out of reach. But who knows, maybe I will have the guts to do something about it. I probably should do it soon, because my family once again learned a harsh reality of life.
My Uncle Jim passed away this week from a short battle with cancer. I was at work still when I got the news from my father, who was obviously distraught knowing he would have to bury yet another sibling before their time (he lost his baby sister many years ago). He’s in Dallas right now, most likely going through the motions and the stages of grief, for he was in a rather strange state when I asked him how he was doing. “I’m alive” is what he simply said, and that is my father in a nutshell. He would never really go into great detail about something as morose as death, not in a way that I would, but that was more than enough for me to know how he really felt about the situation. While I know there will be a little post-funeral depression from him, coming in the form of “I’m not going be here much longer” and what not, I know my father will probably buckle down a little more with his health and continue to do the things that has helped him turn his life around a bit. He turns 70 in seven months, and I’m getting a little nervous myself considering all of the icons and musicians I kind of like over the last couple years seem to tap out at that age. But that is the difference between my father and those guys. Long before he started exercising a little and eating a bit better, he stopped drinking on a regular basis like he used to. He gave up smoking 17 years. The only dairy he seems to eat is the jalapeño cheese bagels I occasionally get him and my mother (I know, I’m a bad vegan). But it was those little changes that made a huge difference, and while he sometimes doesn’t believe it, I know full well he is going to be around for a while.
The balance of life is a great cliche, and it is the attention to detail that leads to roads we take. For me I guess, there was nearly 11 years of sloth, drinking and gorging, turning a relatively trim 215 pound body into a 400 pound one. I know all of the details of that journey now, where I turned habits into bigger habits with each passing year, turning one Subway sandwich lunches with a small bag of chips and a soda into two Subway sandwiches with a bag of chips from the Fry’s Grocery store next door along with a liter of some soda, typically Diet Pepsi and a can of bean dip or salsa. I think this is why the shift in my life has been so weird for me. Think about the Super Bowl this weekend. I used to live for this game! Even when the Giants weren’t playing. Truthfully, the game always came second for me, merely to the tune that gorging on food and drinking alcohol was the only point to the madness (and maybe some of the commercials were good, but the are few and far between). This year I won’t watch it due to no television and the fact I will be working, but who cares! The previous three years, I went out and watched movies that were ultimately better experiences than some silly game between two teams I didn’t care much for. I loved “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” “Her” was a weird science fiction exploring the emotional detachment our society is currently experiencing, elevating to the point where we have actual relationships with computer programs (while wearing high waisted pants and sporting porn mustaches). And then of course, I watched “Birdman” last year, which should have earned Michael Keaton an Oscar, but the darn academy gave it to yet another boring British performer portraying Stephen Hawking or whatever. Either way, removing the aspect of sports has been one detail of my life that has worked quite well in my favor. I no longer sit around watching TV for hours on end eating gigantic amounts of food.
Anyway, I go back to my late uncle (which is getting weird to say). “Tio Jimmy” was always a character within the family, going about his life in a way that often had my father scratching his head or chuckling in a very Hank Hill kind of way. “That crazy brother of mine!” He used to have this tricked out Jeep that had so many lights and whistles, he literally sounded like an ambulance or something when he turned the sirens on. The hilarious part was this…he even looked like an emergency vehicle from a distance when he switched on the flashing lights, and would occasionally apply that ruse to get through the often times awful traffic of Dallas and the surrounding suburbs. My father told me some police had pulled him over for doing that, but they could never find the siren and thus couldn’t write him up. That was how good he was. He pulled something similar with his house as well, where he was able to hardwire his air conditioner to his main panel…but never got caught because it was so good, the inspectors could never find it. Just imagine in the 80s spending 250 clams on your power bill due to the heat. My uncle wasn’t even sniffing a 100. As much of a colorful character as he was in his personal life, he didn’t pay that much attention to his health. His weight always jumped up and down. He didn’t stop smoking until he lost some of his lung capacity. When he found outI had become vegan, he joked “I would rather die with a burger in my hand.” I didn’t get a chance to see him in his final days, for the advancement of his cancer was swift and my money issues pretty much kept me stuck in Tucson. I sometimes wish he had taken some advice or some lessons from my father, who despite his former vices is in pretty good shape. I feel horrible for my cousins Vince and Tony, who had to see their father die at such a young age (67) while I selfishly live on with my father still alive. I think this is why we need to take into account about our choices and how they will affect us the rest of our lives. I took the chance on myself health wise and am on a good path even with some of my own conniptions over my body clouding up my mind. But the balance is kind of changing once again.
I got sick this week, and what started out as a simple cough turned into a full blown sickness. But like the past where I would be holed up for days, the only difference I changed in my behavior was rest and put my working out on hold and turn the heat back on (I think my cold house was my body to react weird with the yo-yo temperature changes). I wasn’t knocked for a loop or lost a huge portion of my appetite or felt nauseated. I was angry…angry I had to stop working out for a couple days to let my body rest. I mean, I haven’t run for over a week and Ragnar Del Sol is in two weeks! But, I’m dealing with. I’m eating some fruit and drinking some tea. I’m staying warm and staying indoors. And best yet, I’m not really doing things to try and weaken my body in the process. I’m just being even, dealing with the light and the dark like a game of Go. I have these days, for next week when I run again, I must be ready for the hell that will befall me. It seems like I can never get to a Ragnar fully ready. I had recovered from injuries going into Del Sol 2014 and 2015 and dealt with a less than stellar run schedule before Las Vegas. One thing I have learned about myself though is I have what it takes to finish the 7.29 and 7.38-mile runs I will be doing. It’s just a matter of believing in myself. I have put the work into my life and balanced out my nutrition and effort. I just have to believe.
I think about what I did on Tuesday, even after a challenging workout. I basically hung from the monkey bars and held myself up to see how long I could do it. The fact I could pull myself up like that and touch the ceiling with my head astonished me, and the fact I did it for 25 seconds was even more impressive in my book. While doing a flexed forearm pull-ups is not quite impressive as a pull-up, it indicated to me that I am doing a lot of things right at this point in my life. Maybe someday more things will go right and I will be able to challenge myself a little better, but who knows. I know one thing for sure, I have taken a form control of my life that is working. Unfortunately, it took a lot of death and health problems for me to really realize just how much I needed to change. I will admit, there is a little survivor’s guilt flowing through my mind, knowing full well I was probably on the cusp of some major episodes within my own life. But that is why the change has been so profound on me. Everyday I take the stance and refuse to be a statistic. I refuse the need for supplements, surgeries and fad diets. I just want to keep learning and keep remembering why I do this. I don’t want feel this is some last resort for me. I want this just be a life, one that is free from being forced to do something. I’d rather be in the middle of the seesaw bending one leg or the other as the contraption moves….balanced and ready.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.