Mini Book Review of Iron Heart: The True Story of How I Came Back From the Dead by Brian Boyle

41rpGd0gB6L._AC_US218_Brian Boyle should of been dead. After a collision with a dump truck – you read that right, dump truck, he was left with multiple injuries and placed in a medically induced coma while a team of surgeons attempted to put his body back together.  He was in such bad shape that every internal organ was in the wrong place. If it wasn’t for his athleticism and good health before the accident, Boyle certainly would have died. A college level swimmer before the accident, he was left learning how to walk. His story of slowly coming out of coma and being aware of his surroundings, but not being able to communicate or even move gripped me and drew me in. I found myself rooting for him at every step of the way.

Boyle’s story is a success story that culminates in the Kona Ironman Championships. The remarkable part of his story, however, is the support he had along the way. From his parents to the team of doctors and therapists that managed to put him back together; it took a team to get him to Kona.

I love stories of people who beat the odds to accomplish greats feats and Boyle’s story certainly qualifies. He was remarkably close to death and eventually began to thrive. This book was a great read.

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Back on the Horse

runningIn 2016 I lost about 120 pounds and took up running. You can read about some of it here. In 2017, however, I suffered some setbacks in my running routine. My knee began to hurt chronically; which I suspect was due to over use. And then my calf began popping and hurting. My unprofessional, WebMD assisted, diagnosis was a partially torn tendon in my calf. Whatever it was, it hurt enough to sideline me and keep me from running for weeks. The end result was a weight gain. By the end of last year, I had regained about 65-70 pounds of the weight I lost. A trip to my doctor woke me up. I was warned to get back on the wagon or risk being put back on the diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol medicine I had worked my way off of.

That’s all I needed to hear.

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My Calf Armor 

In January, my wife and I rejoined Weight Watchers. I want to lose a little bit of weight before I considered running again. I’m down 17 pounds since I started tracking my food and watching my portions. Today, I restarted the Couch to 5K Program that I completed in 2016. It’s a little humbling to feel like I’m starting back over from square one, but I’m blessed my wake-up came before I gained all my weight back.

I want to lose this weight and honor God with my fitness. It’s gonna be hard, but I’m gonna do it.

And as I do it, I’ll occasionally write about it … because that’s what I do.

 

 

 

Mini Review of “Operation Ironman: One Man’s Four Month Journey from Hospital Bed to Ironman Triathlon” by George Mahood

operationThis book chronicles the author’s journey from hospital bed to Ironman. Having been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor intertwined with his spinal chord that left him with devastating back pain, George Mahood went through a tricky and dangerous procedure to have it removed. While still bedridden from the surgery, he made the decision to complete an Ironman triathlon in just four short months. With spotty training hampered by his recovery, Mahood set out to do just that. His experience is impressive. It should be pointed out, however, that Mahood wasn’t exactly starting from scratch. While humble about his athletic prowess, he had completed a marathon, long-distance bike rides, and swim training prior to his procedure.

With that said, I still enjoyed his journey and was greatly impressed by it. Heck, I’m impressed by anyone that has what it takes to complete an Ironman. Mahood has a humorous perspective and tells his story with ease. He is also British, which means he writes from a voice that sounded slightly quirky and endearing to me.

Reader’s should probably be forewarned that the author’s vernacular includes very occasional and, seemingly random, curse words included for humor. I found them more distracting than humorous; fortunately, they were rare.

Godly Sorrow

On occasion, I’ve written about my weight, type II diabetes, and running. If you wanna get caught up, check out this post. I’ve even written about how food and weight loss is a spiritual issue for me. To make a long story short, I was diagnosed with diabetes and decided to fight back. I lost around a 120 pounds and developed a fondness for running, or at least the slow shuffle I refer to as running. I’m ashamed to admit that my old-self has fought back somewhat. I suffered some nagging injuries and started a new desk job last year. Admittedly, these are poor excuses, but the end result was gaining back about 60 pounds. My last trip to the doctor led to an ultimatum; get control over this or go back on medication for your diabetes. So I am once again fighting back. I rejoined Weight Watchers in January and have lost 13 pounds or so since. Something about paying for my weight loss inspires me to stick with it.

But the point is, I’m fighting back. I even ran today. It sucked, but I did it. I could have chosen to give up and allow myself to be characterized by my many, many past failures. But I chose instead to do the best I could.

It occurred to me today that we often face the same choice in our spiritual walks. Too often Christians allow themselves to be characterized by their past sin and failures. We never experience the abundant life Christ offers us because we simply can’t let go of our past. Time and time again I hear the same cry, “I just can’t forgive myself!” 

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Sin is nothing to take lightly and sorrow is the natural reaction to it. Sin should break us and bring us to our knees. But at some point, we have to look up. The Apostle Paul wrote that Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). There is a reason for the pain and sorrow that sin causes. It causes us to reach out for Christ. Paul also wrote that a worldly sorrow brings death. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin are death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. When we neglect repentance, our sin is all pain and all sorrow with no gift. Godly sorrow lead to repentance, worldly sorrow leads to death; it’s our choice.

My sinful relationship with food has lead me to struggle with maintaining a healthy weight and to diabetes. Where has your sin led you?

More importantly, how will you respond? 

Book Review of ‘Run Your Butt Off’ by Bonci, Butler, and Coates

runyourbuttoffThis book provides a beginning runner with all the knowledge they need to get started. It offers a plan that closely resembles the “Couch to 5k” running plan that I began with and completed this past summer. It dispels many myths about running and helps beginners understand it’s okay to go slow and add walking breaks to their running. This book takes it a step further however by also offering a diet and weight loss plan.

Even though I’ve already completed the Couch to 5k Program I found myself reading through this book in its entirety simply to learn more about their diet plan. Some of the most informative information involves calculations to determine a person’s daily caloric needs and how to create a healthy calorie deficit in order to lose weight.

In all fairness, most of the information in this book can be found for free on the internet if you look hard enough. But here it is compiled all in one place and offers the beginning runner everything they need to start a healthy running plan. It’s well worth the read.

Book Review of “To Be a Runner” by Martin Dugard

tobearunnerThis book is a collection of essays about running by cross country coach and writer Martin Dugard. At times, the writing is very good. Dugard knows how to write and his love of running is certainly illumnated through his essays. For the most part, I enjoyed this book. As a beginning runner, I enjoyed seeing how Dugard’s love for the sport has kept is interest over a lifetime.

Though I enjoyed it, To Be a Runner wasn’t without it’s problems. First, the essays were connected in theme only. They seemed collected in no particular order. Some focused on his individual running adventures while others focused on his coaching or his high school runners. As a result, some of the essays were much more interesting and engaging than others.

The biggest problem with this book, however, was that it made me feel like an outsider. I didn’t run cross country in high school and I’ve only been running for a few months. My longest run is just five miles and I’m struggling with losing enough weight to run any further than that. Also, about half my runs happen on treadmills as a means to protect my body from pain and as a way to protect myself from the unpredictable Ohio weather. Dugard almost comes off as a “run snob” and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t even consider me an actual runner. I may be totally wrong, but I doubt that I was the target audience for his writing.

I enjoyed the book and particularly enjoyed visiting the sport through Dugard’s eyes. But don’t pick it up if you expect to learn anything about the sport or to pick up hints or tips. Read it for what it is … a collection of loosely connected essays written by an avid runner who loves the sport.

 

Today’s Thanksgiving Run

So I stepped out my door this morning with the intentions of heading to the gym to get a treadmill run in, but I discovered the temperature outside was a little warmer than I expected at about 40 degrees. So instead of the gym, I hit my usual running path. I’ve been running inside too much lately, so I was thankful that the weather here in Ohio cooperated and gave me the opportunity to do something different.

I started off with a warm-up walk to shake the dust off and ease into my activity. My goal was a shorter run at a little faster temp than my longer ones … I ended up with a two mile run that dipped down to a 14:00-15:30 pace for it’s duration; which, though slow for most runners, is up tempo for me. So I had a good time. But, it was fitting that on this day of Thanksgiving I found myself praising and thanking God that I was able to run and get outside. There are times I get so focused on the task of losing weight and discouraged by minor setbacks that I forget to just be thankful for all God has done for me. Last year, a run on Thanksgiving Day would have been the furthest thing from my mind. When I was a hundred pounds heavier and beset with high blood pressure and diabetes, I couldn’t run. So I’m thankful God has given me the opportunity to change that. He truly has blessed me.

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Thanksgiving, 2015

I was also thankful this morning for the beautiful sky God painted. I was the only one on the path this morning so I felt like I was sharing the sky with Him alone. It’s a sky that I wouldn’t have noticed had I stayed in bed … so I’m glad God gave me the nudge out the door this morning.

My beagle Sadie

I’m thankful for other things as well. My wife, children, and church family are more than I could ever ask for. My little grand daughter Molly is simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I even find myself thanking God for my beagle who, believe it or not, was an answer to my wife’s prayers. I am thankful for a God who has extended me grace, mercy, and forgiveness when I didn’t deserve anything but judgement. It is a testament to His character that I have been given a chance to live in the shadow of Jesus Christ. And I am thankful for everything He has blessed me with in the process.

Is my life perfect? Nope. I still screw things up from time to time and it seems like I fall short in some way every single day. But God is helping me focus on the blessings in my life and to forgive myself for my shortcomings. Sometimes, I tend to make the obstacles in my life bigger than my God … and that needs to change. I want God to be the biggest thing in my life so that all my troubles seem smaller.

My goal is to take the Apostle Paul’s advice:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).

My prayer is that this spirit of Thanksgiving becomes my daily attitude from this point forward. It is also my prayer for you.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!