Be a Fitbit Boss

I only recently got on the Fitbit bandwagon… Actually a week ago. But, I’m not new to wearable fitness technology. I’ve been a huge Garmin GPS watch fan since my first one, the Forerunner 405; which I bought back in circa 2007. Actually, if you count heart rate monitor straps, I’ve been on-board for twenty(ish) years. Our treadmill and my VersaClimber both came with wireless monitors back in the 90s.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was missing. My company that I work for, Mythics, gave me and my coworkers a Fitbit as a Christmas present. Upon receiving it I instantly saw the potential. Not only is this watch considerably smaller and lighter than any of my Garmin watches, it is also sharp enough looking to wear every day of the week. Needless to say, I still absolutely LOVE my Garmin 920XT triathlete watch and I will continue using it for my training and events. However, the Fitbit has become my daily health device, and my new way to challenge and strengthen myself.

Dear Fitbit, If you are listening (reading as it were), I do have two requests:
1. Make the battery last longer;
2. Make it waterproof enough to swim with, and shower with.

 

Now… Before we dabble into being a Fitbit Boss, let’s get the painful disclaimer out of the way…
WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

My initial stab at making the Fitbit work for you is a straight forward approach. Wear it. Always! Not only does it do a great job of tracking your physical activity, but it also monitors your sleep and gives you some great feedback, so you should always wear it (except for swimming, showers, or baths). That may sound over simplified, but it really is the key to utilizing this robust fitness monitoring tool. If you always have it on, it’s a constant reminder to get moving. And, it is leverage to push yourself just a little harder to accomplish set goals.

The second thing I would recommend is make sure you familiarize yourself with the software and then connect with lots of your friends. Along the lines of wearing it, having friends chime in on your successes really helps boost your confidence and motivates you to try harder.

The third and final thing to push you down the path to using the Fitbit like a boss is to create and accept challenges with friends. Caveat: if you are new to fitness, or online workout challenges, you might want to wait a few days or weeks to really familiarize yourself with the watch and application. Make sure you are comfortable and confident keeping up with your fitness and hitting your daily goals. Once you get into challenges you will find friends who will literally climb out of bed in the middle of the night just to walk around their bedroom for ten minutes to get past your daily score… I’m one of those people. hehe.

Instead of going into further detail, I thought I would let you guys and gals hear from two of my friends who are dusting the competition. These two have a combined mileage of more than 14,000 Fitbit miles! And, they each average over 21,000 steps EVERY DAY! They are both inspirational in many aspects, and they’re also Fitbit Bosses!

I asked Josh and Christine the same questions, and also to give all of you words of encouragement and additional advice. This is what they said:

JOSH

weighed 329 pounds in November of 2013. It was his wake-up call… Ten months after working to lose weight, Josh had lost more than 130 pounds, and weighed 198 pounds. At the start of 2014, he was not happy with his life. Health issues included high blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of diabetes/stroke/heart attack, and many other things. After a heart attack scare (turned out to just be gas) in January 2014 Josh decided it was time to make a change.

After changing his diet and adding activity to his daily life, he began losing the fat and started feeling better. In the words of Josh, “Everything bad went down and everything good went up!” Josh was officially was hooked on 5/10/15K’s, Krav Maga, and the simple joy of going for an active walk/run. Bad foods were replaced with good ones! Life was anew!

Josh plateaued around Halloween of 2014 and now works daily on maintaining the weight and enjoying the new life that he worked his butt off for!

Josh before and after

CHRISTINE

has a son who is a bleeder. He is one of the reasons that their family started using the Fitbit. They knew that it would help make sure he is as active as possible to keep his joints healthy! Christine’s husband lost almost 30 pounds with his Fitbit. And although she is a runner, and thought she was in great shape, she realized with Fitbit that she was barely moving outside of her workouts!

Christine

Now that we’ve been introduced to these Fitbit stars, let’s do some Q&A…

Josh’s Answers

Do you think that the Fitbit contributes to your current level and state of healthy lifestyle?
Josh: Absolutely! Using my Flex has made me more aware of my activity and also helps me be more accountable to myself when it comes to meeting those daily and weekly goals.

How do you leverage the Fitbit to give you extra motivation and keep you going down a healthy lifestyle path?
Josh: I use my Flex in conjunction with a fitness app (RunKeeper). I use the Flex as a way to track my passive movements throughout the day and RunKeeper as a way to track my active activities (running, Krav Maga, etc.). The daily Flex goal is to hit those 5 lights with my morning run before I head to work so I can build upon that and see how more active I was after the initial active activity.

Would you recommend the Fitbit to someone who struggles with their fitness?
Josh: I already have! I have a friend who wants to get started on doing what I did in terms of weight loss and improving my lifestyle (for the record, in 2014 I lost 131 pounds and have maintained it ever since). They started out with small goals and are currently building up on them and adding more steps/miles every other week to keep themselves motivated and active.

What piece of advice would you give budding Fitbit enthusiasts on how to maximize the benefits?
Josh: Start off small, do not go for the ‘gusto’ initially or you will just burn yourself out. Start off with a 10K step goal and slowly add more to it as you find you have more energy as you build yourself and your endurance up.

Throw out your own ideas, thoughts, inspiring tidbits to help our readers get spun up and motivated!
Josh: Being active is very easy it turns out. A simple 1 mile walk starts you off on a journey where you amaze yourself by going further and further every single day. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from wanting to improve yourself and when you start seeing the results, you just want to go further and further!

The one thing about being a FitBit user is that your mindset changes over time. You want to hit those daily goals and sometimes you find yourself doing silly things to meet them. For example, I once roamed the isles of a supermarket just to add to my daily steps so I can go over my previous day’s total. Just be careful not to go too OCD on it – that is when you have nightmares your FitBit might sprout blades and impale you if you don’t hit those goals (it doesn’t – I’ve tried).

Do you have any final words of encouragement or thoughts to share?
Josh: When you attach your Fitbit to your wrist, you are making a pact with yourself. That pact is to improve on yourself and only you can do that. If you need motivation from others you’ll find that you want to rebel against them (like a teenager with their parents). When you do it for yourself, by yourself, and only for yourself, that motivation becomes your sole driving force and coach.

I don’t see myself as a inspirational figure but I know if I can do this (and maintain it) – anyone can!


Well… Josh may not see himself as inspirational, but I for one certainly think he is!

Christine’s Answers

Do you think that the Fitbit contributes to your current level and state of healthy lifestyle?
Christine: YES. Fitbit holds me accountable. Maybe to an extreme degree, because I am terrible about taking needed rest days! My overall health is MUCH better with it. I can honestly assess my movement. As a runner, I can run 10 miles in the morning and think I am so active, but not be in the greatest shape. With Fitbit, I might still get 10,000 steps in addition to my workout, and that has helped me stay fit and healthy outside of the gym.

My husband had to lose about 30 pounds a few years ago. He thought his four mile run in the morning was the ticket to weight loss. Using Fitbit he had a huge epiphany about his lack of movement throughout the day. He also got into the app, tracking his sleep and logging his food in the My Fitness Pal (which cooperates with Fitbit).

How do you leverage the Fitbit to give you extra motivation and keep you going down a healthy lifestyle path?
Christine: The key with Fitbit is making the goal HARD. I know so many people who whine that they are not losing weight even though they get 10,000 steps a day. The key is to push yourself so that you can get frequent success and still be challenged.

Would you recommend the Fitbit to someone who struggles with their fitness?
Christine: YES. I would recommend it. But the challenge is many people I know who need to get healthy hate seeing that they are a failure. So it is a good idea not to friend people for a few months, or they get discouraged and stop trying, if they constantly see others ahead of them. I also like to get the Aria scale for people who really need this to work. Most people get really accountable when they see the numbers every day.

What piece of advice would you give budding Fitbit enthusiasts on how to maximize the benefits?
Christine: Sometimes, the number of ACTIVE minutes per day is more crucial than steps. So I might not run and do a 2 hour spin workout, and my Fitbit steps look crappy. But my active minutes rock. Learning to adjust expectations and make a commitment to ACTIVE minute is important. I think 10,000 steps a day is doable for anyone. Active minutes is more crucial for weight loss.

Throw out your own ideas, thoughts, inspiring tidbits to help our readers get spun up and motivated!
Christine: My husband, sons, and I all wear fir bits. We compete often, creating challenges and contests. We walk to the park and play outside so much more when we know we will get credit! Ultimately, we live in a sedentary society and the Fitbit will get you off the chair. To get the Fitbit to work, honesty is the trigger. Being honest about food, water, sleep and workouts is huge. My husband still cannot believe that eating a handful of gummy bears means he needs to run 6 miles.

Do you have any final words of encouragement or thoughts to share?
Christine: Ultimately, the Fitbit got us all honest. I was a marathoner with pounds to lose. Now I am in the best shape of my life. I stopped hiding behind the thought that I was incredible. Fitbit got me real!


There you have it… You heard it from the mouths of Fitbit pros! I hope this was informational and inspirational! Thanks for reading, and please chime in with comments. We would all love to hear about your Fitbit experience and leveraging ideas!

Feel free to track me down and friend request me, if you want a competitive training partner! www.fitbit.com/user/3WKFRM
Posted with love from your virtual fitness and life coach,
-Vaughn

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Energy and Vitamin Packed Smoothie

Many friends and family members ask me about the green smoothie that I make. I decided to post an article to explain the recipe and why I use each ingredient.

First-things-first… You need a blender or mixer to make this bad boy. I personally have the Vitamix 5200… It rocks!

I suppose I should get the dang disclaimer out of the way… You know that you can choke drinking a thick shake… Right? hehe… Seriously though:
WARNING: Mixing random foods, supplements, and other concoctions can be dangerous. Allergies and other issues can easily crop up when you don’t know what you’re doing. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend doing your own research and evaluations, including knowing thyself! Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, immune system disorders, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to follow a specific diet or nutritional plan, you do so at your own risk. In addition, high-quality recipes and homeopathic panaceas requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good products. Never drink or eat something that you know nothing about! Most important: listen to your stomach and body…

Let’s start by listing the ingredients, tell you what I do, and then list a few of the benefits of each potent item that I add. Also, remember to tailor this recipe to your taste and needs… Everyone has different wants and you should adjust and play with this smoothie until you find your perfect one. Most of all, enjoy the entire process… No shake or smoothie should taste like shit and be hard to put down. If you don’t dig what you make you will not stick with it. So, carefully craft your brew to not only give you maximum benefits, but also taste splendid!

INGREDIENTS

2 cups Spinach (kale is also great, but doesn’t taste as good to me)
2+ cups Water (or coconut water, almond milk, etc.)
1 Tbsp. Hemp Seed Oil
2 cups Fruit (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbsp. Ground Flaxseed
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon (Ceylon)
2 Tbsp. Hemp Seeds (shelled)
1 Tsp. Fiber
1 Tsp. Premium Matcha Tea
1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil
3 Stevia Leaves (or drops of liquid)
1 Tbsp. Raw Honey
2(ish) cups Ice (1 cup should be enough if you used frozen fruit)

One of my tricks to having a true smooth smoothie is to blend it in stages. Many folks I know just pile in the ingredients (I’ve been known to do this), but I think it is best broken down like this:

1. Blend the spinach and liquids;
2. Add fruit and blend some more;
3. Add the remaining things and blend one last time.

Here is some information on the ingredients and why I choose to include them…

Spinach

Vitamin C. Lots of it. Spinach is my favorite form of vitamin C! Popeye introduced me to spinach, and I truly believe it’s the miracle food. Along with vitamin C, spinach is also a great natural resource of vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, fiber, vitamin B1, phosphorus, zinc, protein, choline, omega-3 fats, vitamin B3, selenium, and pantothenic acid. And, it has been proven to prevent some forms of cancer! Also, it provides glycoglycerolipids, which are known to protect your digestive tract. Like I said… It’s the miracle food!

Water

Your smoothie won’t be drinkable unless you add a liquid. I use water for the simplicity, but you can add any number of nutritious liquids. Try different things out, and find one that tastes great and works for you.

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil (not to be confused with hemp oil) is an aliment obtained by pressing the raw seeds of the hemp plant, scientifically called Cannabis Sativa (yes, pot). Hemp seeds contain protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega 6, omega 3, and insoluble fiber. They are also a great source of vitamin E antioxidants (tocopherols), potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, strontium, thorium, arsenic, and chromium. The flavor isn’t grand, but in small amounts it can go unnoticed. The benefits far outweigh the taste. Also, hemp seeds are proven to aid with your immunity and counteract aging. Not to mention helping to balance hormones! Good stuff!

Also, Omega 3 and 6 are hard to find as a vegetarian or vegan… This is a great way to get ’em!

I believe that hemp seeds are nutritionally superior to most other sources of protein and essential fatty acids.

Hemophiliac sidebar: Hemp oil is an anticoagulant, and it can have an anti-clotting effect on the blood. Nothing is perfect… Just saying.

 

Fruit

Not only does fruit contain lots of goodies for your body and health, but they also sweeten the whole shake! Even though I see clear benefits from using fresh, raw, and ripe fruit, I prefer frozen fruit. It really helps to chill the smoothie, and it is easier to keep for longer. Here is a little somethin’ somethin’ about fruit. If you use fruit with big seeds, make sure you remove them.

Flaxseed

There are several forms of Omega 3 & 6… Flaxseed is one. Checkout this article for another type. Along with Omegas, flaxseed also gives you a good source of fiber and can reduce hypertension. Remember to grind up your flaxseed before pouring it into the blender. If you buy it pre-ground, you can/should store it in the fridge or freezer to keep the healthy benefits for longer.

Cinnamon

There are two primary types of cinnamon and each offers different benefits. I only use ceylon, not canela molida. This is mostly because of my bleeding disorder, but my research has also revealed the benefits of ceylon to be better (in my humble opinion). Read more about cinnamon here.

Hemp Seeds

We already added hemp seed oil, but I like to double up on a good thing.

Fiber

Fiber is good and you need it. Remember that not everyone can take psyllium. Some fiber alternatives include: flaxseed, glucomannan, methylcellulose, and inulin. This is an article that talks more about fiber.

Premium Matcha Tea

Matcha tea gives you energy in a mystical meditative way. It has been called a state of relaxed alertness. It increases thermogenesis and boosts metabolism; which burns calories. It detoxifies and relaxes the body, calms the mind, enhances concentration. Matcha is filled with fiber, chlorophyll, and vitamins, improves your mood, and prevents disease. Matcha is one of the only sources of the amino acid L-Theanine (suntheanine); which may reduce stress and prevent some types of cancer. It also provides vitamin C, zinc, selenium, chromium, and magnesium. On top of that, it lowers cholesterol and blood sugar. All that aside, I think one of the best parts of matcha is that it is packed with a mega dose of antioxidants including the powerful EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). If there ever was a super tea, I believe it’s matcha.

Coconut Oil

Many benefits come from the coconut. Did you know that societies that have coconut in their daily diet are among the healthiest in the world? Also, it balances out your energy usage and helps with metabolism and burning fat! Coconut oil is also scientifically proven to lessen your chances of heart disease. All around good!

Secret Tip: Coconut oil liquifies above 75 degrees. So, use hot water to clean your tablespoon and the blender. Also, using a hot spoon makes it easy to carve out of the container.

Stevia

Stevia rebaudiana is a plant that has been used for more than 1,500 years in South America by the Guaraní. They called it ka’a he’ê; which translates to sweet herb. Your smoothie will most likely be pretty hard to swallow without some form of sweetening… Try this on for size!

Raw Honey

Raw honey, unlike pasteurized honey, promotes digestive health and is a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It is believed to eliminate some allergies. Honey is also an excellent remedy for skin wounds and all types of infections. Need I say more?

Ice

There isn’t much to explain about this… Suffice it to say that a cold smoothie is more refreshing. If you add too much ice, it will turn out overly thick… If that happens, simply add water to dilute it.

Optionally, I often add protein. There are many forms and that is another whole article. However, if I’m being pure and true, I think that protein derived from hemp is the best bet. Make sure you try adding your own magical ingredients, and please share what you find in my comments below!

I should mention that I really dig the benefits of garlic, and eat a clove each day. That said, I NEVER add garlic to my smoothie, because it will wreck it! My preferred method of injestion, is to simply eat it. This is not always easy, and it’s certainly an acquired taste. Do what you like.

Note: If you call yourself vegan, than the honey should go. Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation and cruelty to the animal kingdom. Unfortunately (or, fortunately depending on how you think of it)… This includes honeybees. Also, some things on my list may not be gluten free. You need to figure that part out on your own.

Along the nutritional needs line, you might really enjoy this article: Nutrition in a Nutshell.

Most important (I can’t say it enough), live your life and experience things the way you like… This is merely a guideline… You must find your own path and walk it.

Cheers,
Vaughn

Please comment and let me know what you drink in your smoothie. Also, let me know if this kind of article is helpful and so on.

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Bleeding Painful

My buddy and blood brother, Jeff, recently recommended that I… Well, let me share his words:

"If you don't mind, Vaughn, I know that a few members would appreciate hearing a little more about your hip bleed, treatment, recovery, etc. A few of our younger bleeder siblings are going through them right now so insight into recovery and management would be welcome."

It just so happens that I healed and recovered from a pretty major hip bleed in the same way I have recovered from maybe one hundred bleeds over the last forty-eight years. However, I’ve perfected my technique over the last twenty or so years… This blog article will discuss what I did. Before starting, let me tell you what I mean by bleed… As most of you already know, I’m a type A mild hemophiliac. That means that my body does not produce an adequate amount of the clotting protein, factor eight (written factor VIII). Because of this I get bleeds that normally manifest themselves in my joints after an accident during one of my adventures.

One other thing…

WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

Let’s dive into my latest hemophilia experience and how I dealt with it. On June 14th I had an accident on my skateboard while performing a stunt of sorts on a vert wall (think half-pipe). Before you say it… Yes… I know that hemophiliacs shouldn’t ride skateboards. Today’s post isn’t to figure out what’s wrong or right for a crazy hemophiliac to do. Rather, how I handle the agony of defeat.

During the wreck, I felt each and every one of my forty-eight years… Suffice it to say that it hurt… Bad. I got up, brushed myself off (after laying there for a few minutes), and promptly read my body. It told me that I was having a bleed. You read that write… I read my body. You see, all of us have an innate ability to communicate directly with our bodies. As a hemophiliac this comes in very handy as I can always determine a bleed before going in to the hospital. This is the first part of today’s lesson. As an easy bleeder (person living with a bleeding disorder), you must learn to listen properly to your body.

This may sound a little crazy, but I also self medicate with deep solitude and meditation. I spend time controlling my breathing and drawing into myself. I use the power of my brain to help with the healing. Crazy as it sounds, I believe it works.

Step two was RICEFFU; which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate, and Factor the Eff Up! In other words, I got home, laid on my sofa with ice on my hip and gave myself an intravenous injection of factor VIII. I continued this step for eight days, because this was a major bleed. For lesser bleeds I will only dose four days. Experience has taught me that the bad bleeds will slowly leak if I stop after four days… So, I did eight days of RICEFFU.

The first two steps (recognition and medication) are the most important and must not be skipped if you really want to utilize the full extent of your recovery and produce the best outcome in the shortest amount of time. After decades of doing this part wrong, I now know how to shut a bleed down quickly and with the least amount of problems.

Step three is an evaluation and extended rest period. At this point, I stop the factor, and stop the RICE. I take about one week and simply rest… No workouts. During this time I also carefully listen to my body and the joint in question. I assess and determine if I’m ready to move to step four; which is where the active recovery begins.

By the way, it is imperative that you don’t workout or stretch during the initial healing period. PERIOD.

With my medicine done, and my bleed completely stopped I move on to step four. This step is gently, but physical. I start gently stretching and getting motion into the joint. After about two days of this, and ensuring that the bleed is absolutely done, I throw in hot Epsom baths. That’s right, each day I fill a tub with hot (pretty dang hot) water and pour in Epsom Salts. Remember to never get into a hot bath if you think you are still having any bleeding, as this will only bring your injury back. Along with the hot bath and gentle stretches I do some soft pinpointed massaging.

Each week I increase the depth and pressure of the stretches and massage. I also keep up the baths. This continues until I feel my range of motion is returning and the pain from the bleed is going away. Sometimes this step can take two weeks, other times it can last two+ months! This last time was in the two+ months category because of how damaging it was.

Next comes body weight exercises, continued stretching, and baths. I also add my tai chi workout; which really helps on a mental level too.

After all of these steps, I am ready to begin my real workouts (weight lifting, swimming, bike riding, and running) again. It is important to start out slowly and allow ample rest time. This will also help eliminate some of the pain that you will surely endure after having so much time off from training. Ramp the level of intensity up over a few weeks. Before you know it, you will be back stronger than ever. And, ready for the next bleed! …just kidding-sort of…

To prove what I’m talking about, I’m going to race 156 miles in the annual Hemophilia Federation of America’s Gears for Good race; which I’ve done every year since its inception. Checkout my page and consider donating to help my worth cause of helping those with hemophilia: The-Talented-Mr-Ripley-2015

Cheers,
Rip (no pun intended)

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World AIDS Day 2014

Today is World AIDS Day. Look for folks wearing a red ribbon! Speaking of which… Do you know where the red ribbon for AIDS awareness comes from? Way back in good ole 1991, a creative group (made up of photographers, painters, film makers, and costume designers) of twelve people gathered to discuss a new project; a New York arts organization that raises awareness for HIV. After a short brainstorming session, they came up with an idea that later became one of the most recognized symbols of the time – the red ribbon. It is worn to signify awareness and support for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Since the red ribbon was popularized for AIDS awareness, literally dozens of other colors have appeared, including: pink for breast cancer, yellow for deployed U.S. military forces, white for lung cancer, and so on and so forth. Technically, the yellow ribbon came out more than a century ago and has appeared in several songs and poems. But, the official ribbon stipulation started with the red AIDS ribbon.

Please take 90 (or more) seconds out of your day today to reflect and remember the millions and millions of people affected and infected by this horrible virus, disease, and/or syndrome.

As usual, I like to put things into perspective… So, let’s tackle some numbers first. Did you know?

  • It’s estimated that around 40 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Almost 40 million people have died of AIDS worldwide.
  • Each year, around 2 million people die due to HIV/AIDS, and another 2.5+ million are newly infected.
  • Although HIV/AIDS affects all regions of the world, almost 97% of those living with it reside in low to middle-income countries (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa).
  • There are more than 16 million orphans due to losing their parents from AIDS!
  • Last, but not least, around 10,000 of those who lost their lives in this horrendous battle were hemophiliacs.
  •  

    I have been living with HIV for around 30 years. Over the years I have asked myself countless times, Why did I survive and others like me didn’t? I believe that I was spared because I am a strong and comfortable speaker. Seriously! I truly believe that I am still here to be an advocate and activist. It is my duty to stand tall and let the world know what is going on. And, potentially to help inspire those living with and dealing with HIV/AIDS. My message is a simple one… “This is not a death sentence, and you can thrive despite having it!”

    You guys might remember a post from last year called, Dum Spiro Somnium. That is my life motto and it essentially means, While I breathe, I dream. In other words, as long as I breathe I will continue to believe in my dream of a world without AIDS. Join my dream, and together we can defeat AIDS!

    My Dream is a World Without AIDS

    If you want to read my story and the journey that I have struggled through, pick up my book Survivor.

    It is our duty to NEVER FORGET and strive to beat this horrific disease!

    As part of my advocacy and message spreading, I started blogging around six years ago. Back on February 13, 2009, I created HIV Longevity, and tried to send inspirational and thought provoking messages, posts, and articles. Since then, I have posted more than 200 articles. Many of these blog articles have been based around HIV, AIDS, and dealing with the horrible problems associated with them. More recently I hibernated the HIV Longevity blog and switched to the Healthy Wealthy Tribe. Primarily I did this because I wanted to reach a broader audience and talk about things outside of HIV and AIDS.

    Since 1 in 100 people are HIV+, almost all of us are affected by this terrible virus. How are you affected by HIV/AIDS?

    This message of hope was sent with love, from my still beating heart (despite the odds).

    Signed,
    the survivor, the advocate, and the inspirational dreamer.

    Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

    You can rest assured that we will never SPAM your email account, and it’s only used to send the latest articles.

    Spiritual Enlightenment on a Hill

    Do you want to find yourself? I mean really find yourself… Find what you’re made of… Find what you have in you… And, find your deepest unreachable areas that only come out when you really push yourself and enter a zone of dopamine and endorphine release that can only be found when you go past your comfort zone. WAY PAST your comfort zone… Let’s dabble in this sacred arena… But first:

    WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

    Back to finding our inner being…

    There are many ways to look inside yourself. Most involve some form of calm, soothing, meditation and deep philosophical thought. You might find you get this in the shower, just before going to sleep at night, or even in the car during your long drive to work. However, I have discovered another place. One that might help you get deeper than you ever thought possible. Do you dig? Essentially this one seems contradictory to all of the other “calm” ways of finding you. This one revolves around getting your heart rate near or above 90% of your maximum predicted heart rate (MPHR). If you aren’t familiar with your MPHR, or would like more heart rate information, please checkout my previous post, Heartrate Zones.

    There is a caveat… Because we must keep this heart rate for a prolonged period of time (think fifteen or more minutes), you must not hit your lactic threshold (somewhere around 91.5% of your max heart rate). The reason is that when you hit this threshold, you absolutely cannot maintain your current stress level without utter failure within a few seconds. So, let’s shoot for a heart rate between 87% and 91% of our max. I chose 87% for a reason… This is the number when I get into a euphoric zone and my mind drifts into realms that normal sane people don’t wander in to. You can tell when you are around 87% because that is close to when you start hearing your heart beat in your ears. I’m not talking about dull thumps… I’m talking about turn your head and look to see who’s pounding a drum next to your face!

    Ok… Let’s assume that you can find that heart rate zone… I call this zone the Third Eye Zone. Because it literally opens a gateway to your soul (alright, that sounds a bit hinky, but you get the gist!) Once there, we must remain there for a while. I prefer twenty or so minutes. This allows us to clear out the daily humdrum. It give you time to stop worrying about the bills, children, marriage, bills, work, bills… you get the point.

    So now we’re in the Third Eye Zone (TEZ from this point forward). You will know you’re there because the road will be breathing. Trees and other objects around you will appear to bend and flux with each of your labored breaths. I find the easiest way to get into (and stay in) TEZ is by riding my bicycle up a steep (and long) hill. I need a hill that is steep enough that I’ll easily get into TEZ, and long enough that I can stay there for twenty plus minutes. For me, this means at least an 8% grade for two or more miles. These aren’t easily findable in all areas. I’m fortunate enough to live in an area that offers half a dozen or more of these bad-boys. If you can’t find a TEZ hill then you might want to try and get this euphoric state via biking hard or running hard without killer hills. I find this MUCH harder to sustain and dangerous to get into TEZ because of the high rate of speed it takes to accomplish this. Please use your best judgement if you don’t have a local TEZ hill.

    I do not recommend EVER trying to hit TEZ while swimming. That is just sick! But, a stair machine might safely get you there.

    Once you find the TEZ hill and get into your desired heart rate spend a few minutes smoothing out your thoughts. This is not hard because true TEZ makes it very hard to concentrate on life’s problems. Calm (or at least steady) your breathing and delve deep into yourself. Focus inward and start thinking those strange thoughts that you don’t like to admit you think. You will find the hills are actually easier to climb when in this state, because you sort of forget your on a hill, let alone riding…

    Here is a sample of how my TEZ session goes:

    Andrew and I are out on a long training ride (think 60+ miles at a good pace with a few TEZ hills in the middle). As I approach my TEZ hill I already start to calm and free my mind. Andrew and I usually talk throughout the entire ride, but talking stops when you hit a big hill. Instead of a conversation, if you’re near each other, talking on a big hill is more limited to things like, “holy shit,” “I can’t believe you talked me into this,” “I might walk up this one,” “ug,” “Did you say something?” and similar broken sentences. If you are truly in TEZ then you will not hold solid, coherent discussions.

    Usually at the beginning of TEZ my riding glasses fog up. Sometimes (for some odd, unknown reason) only one lens fogs up. This happens because your hot head is changing the temperature of the lenses and you simply aren’t going fast enough (unless you’re Lance) to provide cooling wind to clear them. This is my first sign of entering TEZ.

    Next, my thoughts wonder. I start thinking weird ideas. And, I find myself asking (internally), What did I just think? This is a good sign!

    Finally, the flood of blood pulsing in my ears tells me, “Here we go!”

    For me, TEZ begins right around 160BPM. And, my lactic threshold is ~166BPM. But, I don’t need to check my heart rate monitor, because I’m a pro at this stuff. Do it for a while and you’ll see what I mean.

    Once the thoughts drift away, a new form of thoughts come in… These are deeper thoughts. More philosophical thoughts. I start working with the thoughts and turn them into discoveries. I find joy and excitement as I uncover mysteries. I unlock secrets and mystical tales. Most of all, I find the inner me. With fifteen to twenty minutes of this, I can really dig in and find some hidden gems.

    The cool thing about TEZ is that even though you are suffering with immeasurable pain at climbing this Godforsaken hill, you don’t even notice it. As a matter of fact, if you hit TEZ just right, you will suddenly be at the top of the climb and not realize how it happened so quickly.

    Try it! And, please let me know if it works for you.

    Cheers,
    Rip

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    HeartRate Zones

    You’ve probably (hopefully) heard about heart rate training zones. And, if you’re into fitness you already know a bit about it. Today’s article will cover this (a little bit) for those of us who are a bit confused or wanting a little more information.

    WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

    Ahhh… Got that disclaimer out of the way, now we can talk about blowing your heart up! hehe.

    For simplicity, many people use the Haskell and Fox Formula for determining their maximum predicted heart rate (MPHR). This method is commonly believed to be the most accurate. There is also the Karvonen Method; which includes the resting heart rate in the formula.

    The Haskell and Fox Formula is simply: MPHR=220-your_age

    That said, I don’t like to use any formula. Everybody has a different sized heart. And, different sized hearts pump blood at different rates. Everybody is at different levels of fitness. And, everyone is.. um.. different! For this reason, in my humble opinion, there is no “real” standard formula to know your true maximum heart rate (hence throwing “predicted” into the title. According to Haskell and Fox my MPHR is 173 beats per minute (BPM). But I know for a fact that my MPHR is at least 182 BPM, because I’ve hit that several times! If you must know your maximum heart rate, check with a cardiologist doctor who specializes in VO2Max (maximal oxygen uptake/intake) stress testing, or a fitness professional who has the proper equipment to measure this for you. Never try to do it on your own, because you could (and probably will) kill yourself!

    Sidenote: One of my pet peeves is when people think that you can push yourself extra hard and momentarily boost your heart rate over your maximum BPM. Let’s dispel that shit right now… It is called maximum because it is the maximum. There is no going over (even for a second) the maximum rate your heart can pump. Otherwise it would be called close to maximum or something along those lines. If you go over your max heart rate, you have now discovered that your previous number was too low and you can replace it with the new value. PERIOD

    Another note: Your MPHR will go down by approximately one beat per year (similar to Haskell and Fox’s guess). So, if you are 184 BPM this year, you will probably be 183 next year… And so on, and so forth.

    Let’s discuss the “zones” for a minute. This is a common heart rate training zone list:
    Zone 1 – 50-60% – Recovery (aerobic)
    Zone 2 – 60-70% – Endurance (aerobic)
    Zone 3 – 70-80% – Stamina (aerobic)
    Zone 4 – 80-90% – Economy (anaerobic)
    Zone 5 – 90-100% – Speed (anaerobic)

    It is scientifically proven that training in certain zones is more beneficial depending on what you’re trying to achieve. I’m not going into deep detail here, because there are tons of books that contain way more information than I could hope to include in a blog article. This is merely an introduction to get your interest piqued.

    Now let’s draw a quick chart that shows a sample of how those zones are associated with heart rates. Since I know my estimated max, we’ll use my values to create our chart:

    HR Zone
    1
    2
    3
    4
    5
    % of Max
    50-60%
    60-70%
    70-80%
    80-90%
    90-100%
    Heart Rate (BPM)
    91-109
    110-127
    128-146
    146-164
    165-182

    Now that we have laid this handy-dandy chart out, we need to factor one more important piece in to the equations… Everybody has a muscular failure point in exercise commonly called lactic acid threshold or lactate threshold. Essentially this means that your muscles (and ATP) cannot clear the lactic acid that is building up in your muscles. When this threshold is hit, you have a very short amount of time (sometimes seconds) left before you can no longer continue your activity. I’m sure we’ve all felt this threshold at some point in our life. I feel it at least a few times each week! Suffice it to say (without getting to obfuscated) if you go over this limit, you will not be able to continue working at that level for more than a few seconds.

    This threshold appears to be somewhere right around 91.5% of your MPHR. Mine is at 166 BPM. During cardio, you do not want to go over this threshold (unless you are doing advanced high intensity interval training), because you won’t be able to maintain your state of exercise for more than a few seconds before you fall over and lay panting until your heart rate gets down and your muscles clear themselves of the painful acid. However, we often try to get to this point while doing weight lifting and other forms of anaerobic exercise (as opposed to aerobic exercise).

    For more information on heart rate zones you can look for books by Sally Edwards and Joe Friel (among literally hundreds of other great authorities). My absolute favorite is found in The Triathlete’s Training Bible by Joe Friel. He breaks it down in much more detail and even breaks the fifth zone into three sections (5a, 5b, and 5c).

    I know this was only a cursory glance at this material, but I sincerely hope you found the article informative!

    Now, figure out your zones, design a plan that includes being in one or more of them, and get out there and hit that zone!!!

    -Rip

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    Ankle Fitness

    In the past we have done many health and fitness related articles. And, even though some of these discuss good routines for hemophiliacs, none have specialized or been pinpointed at easy bleeders. I recently decided to start a series of articles that are primarily based on people with bleeding disorders. All of these workouts will work for clotters (non-hemophiliacs), but they are a gentler way to strengthen your body, and will focus on specific joints.

    Today we will tackle one of my target joints, and also one of the most popular joints for bleeds. The ankle. Like all joints, the ankle is complicated and consists of several large muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Because this joint is so easy to injure and start a bleed, it is imperative that we strengthen it when its healthy. A strong and flexible ankle is a fantastic foundation to avoid injuries and potential bleeds. That said, hemophiliacs and Von Willebrands sufferers need to strategically exercise these joints to carefully and slowly strengthen them over time.

    WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

    There are three primary muscles that are associated with flexing and securing the ankle joint. Most people think of only one and simply call it the calf muscle. However, the calf muscle is actually made up of two large muscles: Gastrocnemius and Soleus. The gastroc (short for gastrocnemius) is normally the muscle we refer to as the calf, because it is larger and more pronounced. But, the lesser known soleus is very important for ankle flex too. The difference comes mainly from the position (bend angle) of the knee. When the leg is straight (or fairly straight) the gastroc is the muscle that comes into play when standing on your toes. If your knee is bent, then the soleus is the one that flexes the toes (and foot) down.

    You work the gastroc by doing the exercise known as standing calf raises. You work the soleus by doing the exercise known as seated calf raises. Both exercises are very important to strengthen the calf muscles and associated ligaments and tendons.

    If you recall, I said there are three primary muscles… Well, there happens to be a muscle on the front side of the shin called the tibialis anterior; which is important for lifting the foot and toes upward (as opposed to pressing them down). Most people overlook this muscle entirely, because it doesn’t really add much bulk or “look” to the calves. However, hemophiliacs (and anyone interested in a stronger more supportive ankle), should not skip this important muscle. Every muscle in our body has an antagonist muscle or muscles. When we are strengthening a joint, it is important to hit the agonist (primary muscle) and the antagonist (opposite side the flexes the joint in an opposite direction). This is the secret to a health, strong, and supportive joint!

    Since we listed the tib (tibialis anterior), let’s touch base on how to exercise it. The simplest way is to sit on a chair or bench, place some weight (light weight is more than ample for this weak muscle) on your toes and then do reps lifting your toes off the ground. You can (and should) add range of motion by placing something under your heel and lifting it a few inches off the ground.

    Just like other muscles, your calves need rest, so do not exercise them everyday.

    Once your muscles are good and warm from a workout, do some slow, deep stretches that you hold for 22 (or so) seconds. Never bounce or pop into a stretch. Instead you will gradually and carefully deepen a stretch during the 22 seconds. Also, make sure to stretch both calf muscles (gastroc and soleus) by stretching with your leg straight and bent. And, hit your tib by pointing your toes out and away from you as far as they’ll comfortably go.

    One final note. There are generally three agreed upon types of weight training for muscles:
    1. Strength (perform 5 to 8 reps of extra heavy weight failing on the last rep)
    2. Bulk/hypertrophy (perform 8 to 12 reps of moderately heavy weight failing on the last rep)
    3. Endurance (perform more than 12 reps of moderate weight without a real failure rep)

    For hemophiliacs, we are trying to strengthen the joint without injury so I recommend not going to absolute failure. In other words, “leave one in the can.”

    That’s all for today… Look for other joints, and hemophiliac related workouts in the near future.

    Let’s work together and create Healthy Wealthy joints!!!

    Cheers,
    Rip

    Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

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    Tall Poppy Syndrome

    I was born in 1967 with a rare bleeding disorder called, hemophilia. All through elementary school I was bullied because of my weakness and difference. Also in junior high, where the bullying became more dangerous. Fortunately, the varsity football team took me under their wing and protected me in high school… For the first time, I was not bullied.

    I thought the bullying was over… Then, in the mid eighties I received a bad batch of blood to cure a bleed. This blood product, called Factor VIII, was tainted with HIV and I was the lucky recipient. Little did I know that the bullying was about to go to a whole new level. Besides the whispering of people whom I called friend, the biggest first thing that happened to me was being asked in front of my entire community at our neighborhood swimming pool, “Do you have AIDS?” I lied and ran crying from this situation.

    Next, the death threats started coming in via anonymous telephone calls (back then there was no caller ID). Someone also threatened to burn our house down if we did not move out. This was a scary time for everyone and the stigma was in full swing. I quickly realized that a safer bet was to hide my HIV status and act as if there was nothing wrong. Well, this was tough because it was becoming more known that most hemophiliacs had it. So, I also hid my hemophilia.

    Within a few, short years, all of my hemophiliac friends were dead. I was literally the last man standing and completely quiet about my affliction. Twenty-three years later, I compiled my life journal into a book and published my memoir, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C. This was my “coming out” party. I mean, it was impossible to hide my status with a published book out there… I felt relief overcome me as I admitted to the world that I was a long-term survivor and thriver. People came out of the woodwork with questions and stories. I was thrown into the limelight and overnight became an inspiration to thousands of hemophiliacs who had dealt with this situation in their own lives.

    There was a down side… The stigma surrounding HIV was lessened, but still in operation. So, I have managed to duck and dodge my way through a few of those situations that brought back horrific memories of the old days. Mostly though, it was all up-side and inspirational things that happened to me.

    Out of the blue, an amazing man, Barry Haarde, approached me as another HIV+ hemophiliac who was also coming out about his status. He was quickly becoming a special man in our easy bleeding community. Barry talked to me, and inspired (more like motivated) me to get back into the bleeding disorder community and not only tell my story, but help raise awareness and battle for other hemophiliacs. I did.

    What does all of this have to do with poppy plants? You ask… hmmm… Well, I wanted to give you a little back-story of where I’ve been before discussing today’s article.

    The Australians have a saying… It’s called tall poppy syndrome. See, if a particular poppy grows taller than the others, it will steal the sun and water from a bunch of other, smaller, poppies. So, they chop the tall one down in a sacrifice to save many others. When this saying translates to people, it has a less positive outlook, and means when some people see you attaining success and growing before their very eyes, they chop you down to keep you down among them. You can see this derogatory version is a little bit disheartening.

    Today’s post was inspired because I find myself trying to promote me, hemophilia, HIV, and fitness to raise awareness in this callous world. I am currently leading a competition (by a long shot) to appear on one of the most popular Men’s magazines in the world, Men’s Health. You can see my entry (and vote for me) here: www.mhguysearch.com/entry/37 (yes… that was a shameless promotion).

    Of course I want to be on the cover! I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished despite my “issues.” However, I’m not so shallow that this is only to get ME on the cover… I’m doing this for you too. I have found a purpose that is more important than just me. Supporting people with hemophilia, Von Willebrand, other bleeding disorders, and HIV+ or other life-threatening diseases. Also, for anyone who struggles with staying fit and healthy! I am the poster child for all of us!!!

    The rules of the competition state that people can vote once daily. I did not write these rules, but I understand the importance of them. Therefore, I posts a daily plea to my friends to request their vote.

    Can you imagine putting an HIV+ hemophiliac on the cover of a popular health magazine (for the first time ever)?? This is an incredible opportunity to raise a huge amount of awareness in an otherwise unknown community of bleeding disorders.

    With this in mind, over the last several days I have received a few messages talking about me spamming the community. Now I must mention that I am receiving thousands of like, votes, and messages saying how inspiring this is. And, hundreds of hemophiliac moms have reached out to me saying how important my message and story is to their children. The good outweighs the bad by the hundreds. However, the bad messages do stand out to me, and hurt my feelings.

    You see, I was asked by many, a few years ago, to please stand up and be heard. To help support the community by sharing my story. And, I answered this calling by doing so. Yet I now find myself occasionally battling people who seem to be trying to bring me down. I know these feelings might be my own internal battles, but I can’t help but wonder if some are merely picking on me and my advocacy simply because they are miserable and want to attack people who they see doing good things in this world. I’m certain that not everyone of these spam name callers feel this way, but I’m also aware of a few who literally are negative and sometimes downright mean.

    Spam? Really?

    Let’s define Spam… Besides being a canned meat product, spam is also defined as a noun that means: Irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of recipients.

    While I am posting in an environment that has a large number of recipients, I feel that my appeal for awareness is extremely relevant and appropriate. Perhaps I’m nitpicking by defining spam and excluding my posts from it, but I’m making a point. If I’m reaching out to a community to raise awareness and help those who cannot help themselves… How can I possibly be spamming? It is not always easy to raise awareness, be an advocate, and speak out to the world about tough subjects… If it was easy, everyone would do it!

    No one is asking for your money (although I might if the event warrants it). I’m not asking you to do some crazy thing… I’m simply asking you to visit a website and make your voice heard, by voting for me. How do you think I got in first place (by more than double)? Do you think I would have this many (or any) votes if I didn’t post anything? Of course not!

    I’m an honorable man doing honorable things. I stand by a community that all but disappeared when they all died around me. I feel like a phoenix who has risen again and find a whole new generation of young bleeders and their families flocking to me for advice and inspiration. I will continue to tell my story to the ones who want to hear it. If you don’t appreciate my outlook on life, then simply don’t read my posts!

    We recently passed the thirty year mark of discovering AIDS. And, I have been living with it for more than twenty-eight years. It is high-time that we broke this stigma and show that you can be a HIV+ hemophiliac and still be healthy.

    I’m not only standing up for hemophiliacs. Nor only HIV+ people. I’m also standing up for average people in general. Statistics show that more than 65% of Americans are overweight. I fear this number is far higher than advertised. I am using myself as an example of someone who is suffering through much more than the average person and still manages to stay extremely fit and healthy. My message is simple: If I can do it, so can you! This applies to everyone!!!

    Most of you are VERY supportive of me and my platform. Because of you wonderful people, I will not stop my efforts. This is despite (and sometimes to spite) the naysayers who try and beat me down. To quote Chumbawamba, “I get knocked down, but I get up again.”

    You all lift me up and make me feel like a loved person. You also inspire and motivate me to continue my work and voice… Thank you!

    Have you ever run in to “Tall Poppy Syndrome,” or know someone who has? Have any advice or thoughts on the matter?

    Cheers,
    Vaughn

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    T’ai Chi and QiGong

    T’ai Chi is a way of life. It is also a way of living… I am one of the longest surviving HIV+ people on the planet. I believe that there are manifold reasons for this. Also, there are many pieces to my “survival pie.” I stay very fit by lifting weights, riding my bikes, and running. I also try to maintain a healthy nutritional plan and eat the right things. I work closely with my support system (family, friends, community, articles, and so on) to insure that I stay positively motivated and supported as needed. I also challenge myself to create a more balanced life that evenly distributes my time and energy to family, fun, and business. Over the years I’ve struggled with my spirituality, but I still work on a daily basis to build this area. I coordinate with and stay in touch with several specialized doctors and always take my prescribed medication.

    Along with these many things I do to keep myself healthy and sane, I also practice T’ai Chi. I know that this fits in the health and fitness category, but I thought a separate article was in order. I have tried many things in this area… Yoga, meditation, martial arts, and a combination of these and other things. However, I keep coming back to T’ai Chi. I believe that it is the perfect combination of relaxation, stretching, exercise, and meditation. And, I feel like a million bucks after each session! So, today is dedicated to this incredibly valuable exercise and art form.

    World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is held each year on the last Saturday of April. This year, it’s on Saturday, April 26, 2014. I recommend that everyone participates!

    Before we talk about my routine, let’s tackle the primary benefits that I get out of my daily T’ai Chi ritual:

  • Start your day with a powerful inspiration
  • Posture improvement
  • Weight lifting enhancements
  • Balance (physical and mental)
  • Sinuses and allergies
  • Immune system strengthening
  • HIV supression
  • Hemophilia (joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are all stronger)
  • Meditation
  • Mindset and positive thinking
  • Stress relief
  • Spiritual strengthening
  • Motivation
  •  

    While most of these benefits are self explanatory and easy to understand, I thought I would chat briefly about hemophilia. As a hemophiliac, I have joint issues, bleeding concerns, along with all of the standard worries that folks in general have. I have found that T’ai Chi is very soothing on my joints and helps to strengthen the supporting structure (bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments) for my joints. Suffice it to say that I feel I have fewer bleeds and problems when I’m practicing T’ai Chi on a daily basis. Along with weight lifting and cardio, I believe that T’ai Chi helps me avoid and repair injuries and especially bleeds!

    Let me describe how a typical training goes for me…

    I weight lift four days per week, ride my bike four days per week, and run three days per week. Many of these workouts overlap, because there are only seven days in the week. Also, I take one rest day per week to skip all of these workouts and give my body time to heal. That said, I do T’ai Chi seven days per week, and do not feel the need for a rest day from this relaxing and energizing routine. Also, I prefer to get my T’ai Chi fix the first thing in the morning. I’m talking about leaping out of bed, into my sweat pants, and getting busy! I like this for many reasons, but the primary one is that T’ai Chi is a great introduction to the day. It opens my mind, wakes me spiritually and physically, and gets my blood flowing in a gradual and energizing fashion.

    My session normally takes precisely sixty minutes. It is roughly broken down into thirds.

    I like to start with a sitting QiGong meditation for about twenty minutes. With my eyes closed, I evaluate and venture into each and every part of my body. This is an enlightening way to wake and take control of your mind and body. This time is also used for deep controlled breathing and really ramps you up for an energized day.

    After my meditation is complete, I move into a stretching and moving session of QiGong and T’ai Chi warm ups. This really gets my muscles warmed up and the blood pumping. As my twenty minute session of warm up continues I add to the speed and energy of the stretches. By the end of this session I am amped and ready to dive into the last section.

    Basically (for me) the first two sessions are about waking and opening my mind and body. It prepares my body and spirit for the last section; which is the actual T’ai Chi moves. I follow the Guang (also called: Kuang) Ping Yang (standard long) form of T’ai Chi that is covered perfectly by Bill Douglas in his DVD, Anthology of T’ai Chi & Qigong: The Prescription for the Future, and book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi & QiGong Illustrated.

    After completing this sixty minute routine, I literally feel like a new man. My recommendation is that everyone practice T’ai Chi on a daily basis. You will be amazed at what it does for your mind, body, and spirit!

    Cheers,
    Vaughn

    Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

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    The Ultimate Men’s Health Guy Search

    A sudden and powerful change happened to me on (or about) March 11, 2014. I was flipping through the pages of Men’s Health magazine and saw an ad titled “Are you fit? Healthy? Driven? Giving? Enter to win the Ultimate Men’s Health Guy Search.” The ad went on to say that one lucky winner would be featured on the cover of Men’s Health magazine.

    I smiled and thought… I’m extremely fit. I’m very healthy. I’m over-the-top driven. And… I absolutely love giving. My smile eased a little and the gears started grinding in my head. I chuckled… But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized… I was cut out precisely for this competition.

    Then the doubt started creeping in. You know the doubt… The realist inside each of us. It was saying things like, “Dude, you’re 46 years OLD.” “You’re medication over the years has stripped fat from your cheeks and butt and stuck it in funky places!” “Life has put battle scars on you.” “There will be two dozen or more seriously good looking model-ish men competing in this among a field of hundreds of others.” Finally my inner demon said, “What possible chance do you think you have?”

    For a few minutes I nodded my head in agreement with the dark side of my mind. Then, a tipping point happened. I thought of John Belushi saying, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” I laughed again. And something neat happened… A glimmer entered my eye. And, I realized that this was doable. I knew it would be an uphill battle, but honestly what great outcome isn’t tough? I decided then and there that I would enter. The contest started on March 15, 2014 – so I stored this thought in the back of my brain, tore the page out, and got on with life.

    Jump to 3/15/14 – Some of the original negative thoughts started pouring in. I was nervous. Am I being silly? Before these bad feelings could bring me down, I suddenly had another thought… Has a hemophiliac EVER been on the cover of Men’s Health? I don’t know… Maybe..? Has an HIV+ person ever graced the cover of Men’s Health magazine? Again, I didn’t know, but figured probably… (I should know this stuff). Then it hit me – I know… That there has NEVER been an HIV+ hemophiliac on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, because I know them all! It was settled then and there… I opened the website and started my entry process.

    March is Hemophilia Awareness Month. For goodness sakes, Ronald Wilson Reagan made it so back in 1986!!! And, more than 90% of ALL hemophiliacs born before the mid-1980’s got HIV from a bad blood transfusion. And, almost ALL of them died from AIDS or complications around this horrible disease! It was destiny that I would stumble on this opportunity in March, during Hemophilia Awareness Month!!! I was in head first!

    Honestly, I was simply hoping to be in the top ten, so I could raise awareness for hemophiliacs and HIV+ people. When I entered I sincerely did not think that I would win. The competition would be far too strong and who the heck am I?

    Guess what… On day one, I skyrocketed to first place. And, I’m not talking about a little jump, I was ten times ahead of the second place person! It was incredible.

    By day two, many more men had joined and they were gaining, but I was still at least four times as many votes ahead of everyone else.

    By day three I realized, I could actually win the voting portion of this competition. That was when it happened. You see, in life, nothing (I mean NOTHING) worthwhile is easy. And, there is no reason that this would be different. Realizing that I could win this voting section of the contest, I re-read the rules carefully. There it was glaring at me…

    Upload at least one (1) but up to three (3) digital photographs … taken within thirty (30) days prior to the date of your Entry into the Contest…

    Holy crap! In my rush to enter… With the mindset of “I can’t possibly win this thing…” I had made a vital mistake. I had uploaded older photos of me… You see, I am 46 years old (47 next month) and because of how fit and healthy I stay, my physique really hasn’t changed very much in over a decade. So, I assumed any photo would do, because quite honestly I am in the best shape of my life NOW and even look better than those photos from a year or two ago…

    The sinking feeling of dread overcame me as I realized that I could potentially be disqualified. And, on top of that, I was essentially cheating by not following the rules. My head pounded and my stomach was upset… This couldn’t be happening to me. Moments later, I wrote the editor of Men’s Health and explained my situation looking for a resolution. Well, fortunately for me, the editor was very cool and said simply “you are also permitted to enter once per day per email address throughout the entry period. So, you are welcome to submit another entry with current photos…”

    Well… That settled it… I had to ditch my first place entry that had more than 2,200 votes already and start a new entry with current photos. So, I worked with my Aunt, Patty Abrams, to quickly take a few “today” photos of me. These photos were nowhere near as cool as my previous entry (me posing in a triathlon suit looking all heroic, me on Mount Rainier in -40 degree temperatures, and me on a 185 mile bicycle ride on the C&O canal towpath), but they are legit and follow the rules.

    My new entry, was sitting there with zero votes in 113th place… Wow! Talk about a buzz kill. To add insult to injury, my original entry is still sitting there on top of the pack all pretty and perfectly happy. DANG!

    Time to eat some humble pie… I spent a few minutes typing up a quick status update for my social media friends that had all helped escalate me to the top of the heap. I had to explain that our 2,200+ votes weren’t going to count toward this newest entry. I laughed at myself. Cheered them for their support. And then asked for their continued support. I wasn’t sure how folks would respond. I mean, I’ve already been SPAMing them with numerous requests to vote for me as a cover model… yada. I thought they might rebel. *insert upbeat music here* Something very special happened. They all stood behind me, and picked me up. From the nadir of this event, my friends and their friends all wiped the dirt off my face, picked me up, brushed the tears from my eyes, and gathered as a community to support me… Their brother.

    After adding my second entry, folks got behind me and stormed the contest pouring in massive votes. Within one day I had gone from 113th place to 3rd place and had a solid 600 votes! Just when I thought all was cool, Men’s Health reached out again and said that they need to remove my second entry. So, they offered to put one of my new photos in the original entry and delete my second entry into the contest. Unfortunately they were not able to migrate my votes over. However, I still had the healthy amount of votes and a solid lead. Stuff happens, and I’m usually one that rolls with the punches. Besides, I can’t really complain considering my sizable lead.

    You guys have all given me so much support during this entire process, and I am eternally grateful!

    This is what it’s all about. I now know why I’ve entered this competition. It’s not some vain attempt to plaster myself on a magazine… It’s not about me. It is about us. It is about hemophiliacs. It is about HIV+ people, it is about average Joes who are beaten down ever day of their lives and continue picking themselves up and reporting for duty despite the odds stacked against them.

    I have survived for more than 28 years as an HIV+ human being. I believe there is a reason why God spared me. I honestly believe that it is my duty to spread awareness and advocate for people who struggle to have their voices heard. Well… I am here. And, I felt you help pick me up. I feel your love. I feel your support and caring. I feel you. And, I love you. I will fight for this and every other opportunity that we have to scream at the world.

    Together, you and I can and will put the first ever HIV+ hemophiliac on the cover of one of the most popular men’s magazines on the planet.

    Please help support this cause by sharing my link, voting (you can vote daily), and spreading the word.
    www.mhguysearch.com/entry/37/

    I’m currently standing with a strong lead in first place…

    Love to you all,
    Vaughn Ripley

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    Hardcore Hiking Training

    It is clearly an important piece of your training if you climb mountains. However, many non-mountaineers skip weighted hiking training even though they like to hike. I’m a firm believer in putting some hiking training into everyone’s fitness regiment. I’ll tell you why… As a hemophiliac, I’m always looking for ways to strengthen and protect my ankles, knees, and hips. Hiking (carefully and safely) gives me a good avenue to accomplish this. There’s already a strong contingent of people who like to walk for the fitness benefits. Imagine adding steeper hills, changing terrain, beautiful views, and even weight on your back to that exercise. That’s what I think of hiking training.

    Today, we’ll discuss how I train for hiking. Sometimes my goals are merely cardiovascular and respiratory benefits and other times it scaling a 14,412 foot glaciated mountain. Regardless, I do the same training. Before we dig in, let’s throw the disclaimer out (I hate doing these, but feel it’s a necessary evil):

    WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

    In addition, when hiking, I recommend staying focused and VERY aware of your surroundings and path. Remember that there are dangerous animals and dangerous people in the wild… That’s why we like it!

    I also recommend getting a sturdy and supportive hiking boot that goes over your ankle and is very comfortable for long hikes. I always carry a small first aid kit with me that includes some essentials in the event of an accident. I also always have a little spare food (protein bars) and extra water. Additional things might be added depending on the time of year and expected weather (e.g. rain gear, layers of warmer clothing, and so on). Lastly, I believe that a compass, GPS, and mobile phone are essential to EVERY hiking trip.

    ok… Let’s dig in!

    Just like running, biking, weight lifting, or any other fitness related exercise, you should always work up to your training weight, altitude increase, and distances. Normally I will increase any one of those by about 10% per week (this number varies depending on the week, but I always think carefully about it). I also try to only increase one of the three from that list at a time (i.e. don’t increase distance in the same week that you add weight to your backpack). That said, I rarely worry about altitude increase because I don’t have crazy tall mountains on the east coast… My main concern is weight and time and I will only adjust one or the other each week.

    Training Backpack, weight vest, or actual event backpack?

    I believe in using my actual mountaineering backpack for all of my training. I know that this will wear it out quicker, but I have several reasons for doing this…

  • First, you save money by only needing one backpack.
  • Just like most other worn accessories, a backpack breaks in to the shape and fit of your body over time.
  • Your body adjusts and gets stronger at certain points for a specific backpack.
  • You can perfect your fit and comfort over training time.
  •  

    Note: for these same reasons, I also use my actual event hiking boot for training sessions.

    Now let’s tackle what today’s article was really put together for. Adding weight to your backpack. Obviously you can easily do this with weights, stuff you would normally carry, or some other form of heavy object. I prefer to carry gallon jugs of water. The main reason for this is because during early to mid levels of my training, I prefer to lower (or even eliminate) my weight carried while traveling back down a training hike/climb. My knees have ALWAYS been an issue for me and I find that it is much more likely for me to hurt or injure them during my downclimb section of my workout. For this reason, I hike up, pour out some or all of the water, and then hike down. Also, you can easily lighten your load at any time during your training. Finally, it also doubles as extra water in case of emergency!

    My personal preference is gallon milk jugs from Kirkland/Costco. These jugs (as you see in the article photo) are rectangular and more cube based than standard one-gallon milk jugs. I dig this, because they fit very nicely in my backpack, and they stack sturdily. When maxed out in my training, I have six jugs of water packed and stacked in my backpack. Yes… I do some training with 60 pounds of water on my back. Want results? Push yourself!

    Almost all jugs I’ve tried will leak a little when tipped on their side or upside down, so I avoid this. Also, I line my backpack with a garbage bag before loading the jugs (this is because a wet backpack is a painful pet peeve of mine).

    Once you decide what to use for weight, you next need to determine how much weight to use. The jugs I use weigh a hair over nine pounds when loaded with water. I count each jug as ten pounds because it’s an even number, and my backpack weighs a few pounds. So, I do my training based on this. Since the jugs sit two wide in my backpack, if I’m only going up ten pounds when increasing weight, I normally will fill two jugs halfway (fill one all the way and pour half into another jug from that filled one if you’re like me and enjoy being precise). This way my backpack always has the weight distributed nicely.

    Also, I use the compressions straps on the sides of the backpack to tighten the whole load up and keep it sturdy, stable, and upright.

    Here is a sample six-month routine that I might use when training to climb Mount Rainier:

    Month One
    Week 1 – Hike 1 hour / 10 pound backpack
    Week 2 – Hike 1 hour / 20 pound backpack
    Week 3 – Hike 1.5 hours / 20 pound backpack
    Week 4 – Hike 2 hours / 20 pound backpack

    Month Two
    Week 1 – Hike 2.5 hours / 20 pound backpack
    Week 2 – Hike 3 hours / 20 pound backpack
    Week 3 – Rest week (No hiking)
    Week 4 – Hike 3 hours / 25 pound backpack

    Month Three
    Week 1 – Hike 3 hours / 30 pound backpack
    Week 2 – Hike 3 hours / 35 pound backpack
    Week 3 – Hike 3 hours / 40 pound backpack
    Week 4 – Hike 3.5 hours / 40 pound backpack

    Month Four
    Week 1 – Hike 4 hours / 40 pound backpack
    Week 2 – Rest week (No hiking)
    Week 3 – Hike 4 hours / 45 pound backpack
    Week 4 – Hike 4 hours / 50 pound backpack

    Month Five
    Week 1 – Hike 4.5 hours / 50 pound backpack
    Week 2 – Hike 4.5 hours / 55 pound backpack
    Week 3 – Hike 4.5 hours / 60 pound backpack
    Week 4 – Hike 5 hours / 60 pound backpack

    Month Six
    Week 1 – Hike 6 hours / 60 pound backpack
    Week 2 – Taper Hike 3 hours / 40 pound backpack
    Week 3 – Taper (no hike during this week)
    Week 4 – Climb week!

    I guarantee results in many areas if you hike with weight on your back! Burn calories like you never believed possible!

    Do you hike, or train by hiking?

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    Get Your Beach Body Now!

    Since the New Year is here, and we already discussed resolutions… Let’s talk about the most popular New Year’s resolution in the world… Get fit. I want to take it one step further, and assume that many of you with this goal are actually trying to burn some fat, add some muscle, and look all around better for the Summer.

    We already know (from my previous articles) that fitness is extremely important, that pushing yourself to and beyond failure is a huge key to success, that making excuses for skipping workouts are weakness, and that you will live longer if you get and stay fit… That isn’t anything new. Today, I’m going to tackle something that I know many of you want to do… Preparing and shaping your body up for this coming Summer.

    Since many swimming pools open on Memorial Day, I thought I would simply count that day – Monday, May 26, 2014 – as our finish point. In other words, we want to achieve our lofty outcome prior to that day.

    Before we do anything, let’s get the dagg-on disclaimer out of the way…

    WARNING: Exercise, stretching, sports, and other fitness related activities can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled, or killed. The opinions, stories, and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. I strongly recommend getting a complete physical and doctor’s approval before starting any type of strenuous activity. Especially if you are over the age of 40 or have high blood pressure, genetic heart problems or conditions, or elevated cholesterol levels. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk. In addition, working out requires patience, diligence, and above all else, using good form. Never bounce or over strain! Most important: listen to your body…

    Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s figure out our goal, plan to accomplish it, and get started!

    First and foremost, before you dive into a workout routine, I think it is imperative that we carefully figure out precisely what we’re trying to achieve. For ease of use, let’s assume that everyone reading this article has the following desired outcome:

    I want to get healthier, burn some fat, lose a little weight, and pack a little muscle and definition on.

    Perfect! Now we can get to our plan…

    We need to know our timeline… Well, since we know our goal needs to be reached by 5/26/14 it is easy to calculate… We see that we have 20 weeks (approximately five months). This is more than enough time for us to lose 20-40 pounds of fat (if we need to) and tack on five pounds of pure muscle. Plus, and most important, this is ample time to get us in terrific shape for the beach!

    Now let’s quickly tackle each key subject area to getting in shape. Note: I won’t cover this in great detail. Most of you know what I’m talking about, and the remainder of you curious/learning folks can research the web some to get more than you ever imagined possible. If you need more information and tips, start with my Health category.

    REST DAY
    This one doesn’t require much description. Suffice it to say that you must take one day off from working out each week. This day is key to letting your muscles heal from the previous six days of working out, and it allows your entire body to regenerate stronger than before. Do nothing during your day off!

    EAT GOOD
    Do I really need to lay this one out? Simply eat better foods and fewer calories. On top of proper nutrition, make sure you take in liberal amounts of water (90 or more ounces each day). What you eat is what you get! Read my Nutrition article for more info.

    WEIGHT LIFTING
    Hit the iron. Hit it hard. Take your body to utter failure in each set! Do a full-body routine twice per week.

    CARDIOVASCULAR WORKOUTS
    In order to turn your metabolism into high gear, you will do six days of cardio each week. Each day will consist of 45 – 60 minutes of cardio that will have your heart rate in a target range of 65 – 85% of your predicted max heart rate.

    CORE CROSS-TRAINING
    This is an optional workout that you can do three times per week. This is for those of you who REALLY want to rip up your abs and core to give yourself the best beach body possible. Read my Chiseled Abs article for more info.

    Now let’s break the week down (each week is precisely the same over the entire 20 week training).

    SUNDAY – Cardio and full body weight lifting routine
    MONDAY – Cardio and core
    TUESDAY – Cardio
    WEDNESDAY – Cardio and core
    THURSDAY – Cardio and full body weight lifting routine
    FRIDAY – REST DAY (this can be any day, but it must happen!
    SATURDAY – Cardio and core

    Last note… If you’d like more info, I recommend perusing this blog in the “Health” section. Especially checkout this article: healthywealthytribe.com/secret-to-getting-fit

    Finally, pick your butt up and get to the gym to get started TODAY!!! If you follow this advice for the next twenty weeks I can guarantee you a new you!

    I hope this helped, and I hope you follow through! Please keep me posted and let me know about your experiences.

    Good luck,
    Rip

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    Twenty Seven Years of Survival

    Fasten your seat belts, folks. This article may have a “me-me-me” bend to it. And, that’s because it does. Most of my articles are focused on “us” (you and me). But, this one is my celebration of life. More specifically… A celebration of MY life.

    Yay me!

    Don’t say I didn’t warn ya…

    This post is about My Surviving Anniversary – On January 3, 1987 I was diagnosed as being HIV+. Somewhere between mid 1985 and late 1987, I was transfused with a bad batch of blood. To quote Huey Lewis, “Sometimes, bad is bad.”

    Officially, I have been diagnosed with HIV for 27 years. Unofficially, we don’t know when I got it, because I’m a mild hemophiliac and don’t have to get factor VIII or cryoprecipitate (clotting factor) on a regular basis. I have a letter from my doctor, which arrived days after Rock Hudson’s death, dated October 9, 1985, stating that I tested HTLV-III negative. The old test they used couldn’t detect the virus unless it had been in your body for more than three months… This means that I was infected somewhere between (circa) July, 1985 and October, 1987.

    Semantics aside, suffice it to say that it’s been more than 27 and fewer than 30 years. Regardless, I have lived more than a quarter of a century past where my doctor predicted. Hoo-Rah!

    Circa 1989 I got shingles and then a pneumonia. My CD4 levels were brutally low and when they dipped below 200 I was considered to have ARC (AIDS-related complex). Later, doctors said that if your levels dropped below 200 you had “full-blown” AIDS. I think they did this for medical insurance reasons, yada. Again I was told that my life would end in a very short time. By now, I was used to being told, “You ain’t got much time left, kid.”

    Well… I didn’t die. Now I’m one of the longest surviving HIV+ people on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, there are others who have survived and lived as long as me (or even longer). However, when you think about the numbers… More than 25,000,000 have died and only a handful have survived this long… You get the picture.

    My wife, Kristine, and I found out about a new and “safe” way for us to have children in circa 2002. It is called ICSI (you can read more about this in my in vitro article) in vitro fertilization. We made several attempts before finally being successful and having our little girl in early 2005. This was a milestone of epic proporations, because we always assumed we’d never have children.

    Back in 2007 I celebrated my 40th birthday. The theme was, Forty Years of Life and Twenty Years of Survival. Kristine and I invited 105 of my closest friends and we rented out two adjoining hotel ballrooms. We hired a live band ( The Reagan Years are a 80’s throwback cover band, and they are AWESOME!) We had a catered dinner. And, we had an open bar. This was my knockdown, drag-out, bash! And, it was quite the celebration!

    Then in 2010 I published my memoirs, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C. This book details my battle and struggle to thrive.

    I feel pretty good, considering I was told I had fewer than two years to live when I was 19 years old… My plan is to live another 30 years. I figure 77 years old is a cool number, so that’s the one I’m going with. However, if death comes knocking on my door sooner, it better have an army with it, because I’m a warrior. Death does not scare me. Not in the least. However, I won’t simply lie down. Count on that!

    (:

    In the meantime, I have some lofty goals. Here are a few of them (in no particular order):

  • Travel to Italy, Japan, Alaska, Hawaii, Fiji, and Australia with my family;
  • Compete in 100 triathlons;
  • Publish a dozen or more books;
  • Finish a full Ironman distance triathlon;
  • Travel the world inspiring diverse people;
  • Make a difference in the hemophilia community;
  • Teach my children wrong from right;
  • Figure out my spirituality and what I believe in;
  • Climb Mount Rainier (and maybe a few others);
  • Love my darling wife until my dying day.
  •  
    Thank you for all of the support, friendship, and downright caring that each and every one of you gives me. Hopefully this “me-me-me” article was fun for you guys too. Now let’s get back to the “us” articles!

    Love you all,
    Vaughn Foster Ripley

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    Take a Hot Bath

    Nothing feels better to me after a sick workout than to take a nice long soak in a hot bath. You guys know that I’m a huge fan of taking a Scottish Shower ( Cold Shower ). The benefits of the cold shower are awesome! Now let’s discuss the opposite… Taking a hot bath. I’m not talking any old bath, I’m talking about a steaming hot, barely able to stand it, hot, HOT bath.

    Disclaimer: Don’t get in a bath that is too hot… Don’t drown… Don’t stick electronic appliances in the bath tub with you… This article is PURELY MY OPINION and might not work for everyone… yada, yada, yada.

    One other disclaimer (of sorts)… If you are a hemophiliac and experiencing a bleed, I do not recommend soaking in a hot tub. Heat is not a good mixture with bleeding episodes. Always evaluate yourself before doing something like this.

     

    First things first… I like to shower before I get in the tub. Just a quick soap and shampoo to clean up. I do this because I’m only using the bath for relaxation and not cleaning. I prefer to soak in clean water.

    Before starting the tub, I light a scented candle or incense. This calming smell adds to the ambiance of the super soak! I also dim or turn off the lights to allow for a darkened room for my meditation; which we’ll discuss a little while down the post.

    I have a nice sound system in my master bathroom. I usually just put on a medium volume classic rock radio station. However, I also love soothing classical or meditation (type) music on a CD or iPod. Regardless of what you choose, make sure it’s something you can relax to.

    While the hot water is drawing, I pour in some Epsom salts. I find that this helps to soothe and calm me. Also, the salts do make my aching (from working out) muscles feel better.

    Next, I rub a mask onto my face. I know that some people like to create their own concoction out of bananas, oatmeal, and so on… But, I simply prefer to buy a mask for ease of use. I spread it on liberally avoiding my eyes.

    Once the tub is up some, I climb in ad chill out. Remember to use caution when climbing into a hot tub. Do the touch test first. My baths are normally so hot that I sort of need to ease into it, letting my body adapt in increments.

    The last step is to enjoy the relaxing scent, sound, and heat… I normally get into a bit of a trance and eventually (when my body is ready) I enter a meditation. This meditation is normally a simple state of mind. I free my thoughts and sink into this state for the remainder of my bath.

    Remember not to stay in the tub for too long. And, make sure that you rinse the mask before climbing out. Perhaps most important, blow out the candle!

    I find that it’s really nice to do this procedure just before bed. I can climb into bed and fall quickly asleep with a clear mind and sensational tingling on my skin.

    Do you ever take baths? If so, what’s your ritual?

    Enjoy!

    -Vaughn

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    Happy Holidays

    Dear friends,

    I hope you have a fantastic holiday season!

    Posted with Love,
    Vaughn

    Now let’s address something health related and get mucho more than merry wishes out of this post: It’s flu and cold season… Do you know why?

    Well, I’m no doctor, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Let’s think about a few things.

    Near the end of November we celebrate Thanksgiving. During this time, we stuff ourselves with food and most of us drink alcohol. This is the beginning of a long and immune system derailing celebration that continues through much of the winter.

    Honestly, we could go back to October 31st and think about the massive amounts of candy (horrible carbohydrates) that we poison our systems with. Also, during October, the temperature drops significantly.

    Next, we add the stress of Thanksgiving. Yes, many of us actually build up stress before, during, and after Thanksgiving. Most of this stress is related to getting together with family. Stress has been proven to weaken our immune system, so I included it in my list.

    While we’re thinking about stress, what about the stress that is associated with buying Christmas presents, Christmas parties, and simply dealing with others during the silly season.

    Around Christmas (and other holidays) we continue to eat and drink way beyond our normal amounts.

    So… How do we thank our bodies after Christmas and Thanksgiving? we stay up past midnight eating and drinking for New Year’s Eve!

    Think about the copious amounts of (bad) food we eat during this period. Think about the cold and often wet weather. Think about the large amounts of stress. Think about all of the alcohol that many of us imbibe. And, think about the stress that’s piled on top of all of this. If you add all of these things together, you can easily see why people get sick during this time of year.

    I can offer a tiny piece of advice to help. Lessen your food and candy intake. Cut off drinking alcohol after your second drink in any 24 hour period. And, enjoy yourself without stressing over everything.

    Easy? Not so much… Doable? You betcha!

    Enjoy yourself, be safe, and love your family and friends!

    Cheers,
    Mr. V

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    One Rep Separates the Boys from the Men

    That’s right folks… There is a secret to making physical gains after all… The secret is…

    *drum roll please*

    ONE REP!

    Most will have you believe that the secret is actually going to the gym and working out. While this is true for beginners, it is not so for intermediate or advanced lifters. The true secret, and the thing that separates the boys from the men (or the girls from the women) is the last rep. I’m dead serious!

    Depending on where you fail, and where you quit, determines the type of gain(s) you will make. I mean it… If you REALLY want to make measurable gains in your level of fitness, your strength, and/or the size of your muscles then you need to do one more rep.

    You know how when you are doing curls and it gets tougher as you’re finishing a set? That is because your body is reaching muscular failure (your lactic acid threshold). Well, the largest portion of your gains will be made precisely AT (and even beyond) muscular failure.

    It is easy to type, “just do one more rep.” However, if you are really at your limits and cannot possibly do anything else, then one more rep takes more discipline and determination than anything you’ve ever imagined. If it is so tough that you cannot imagine completing it, then you are there, my friend.

    So, the next time you’re banging out reps and calling it quits when it gets too tough, and your body is screaming, and your muscles are failing… I challenge you to do just one more rep. I know it feels like you couldn’t possibly do one more. I know that it hurts. I know that it is tougher than imaginable… I also know that this is the point in which your muscle will make the biggest gain!

    I have a simple plan of action, and follow this same routine each time… Try this:

    First, you must know your limits… Know approximately where failure will occur. I am intimately familiar with my body and what weights take me to what failure point at how many reps. If I’m trying to make bigger muscles (maximum slow and fast twitch muscle fiber hypertrophy) I will aim to fail between 8 and 11 reps. If I can’t muster eight reps than I know the weight is too heavy. If I do more than eleven, than it’s too light. Adjust accordingly. (that said, for strength gains, I shoot for 6-8 reps before utter failure / for fat burning (I never do these, unless I’m simply doing periodization and switching up routines) I would shoot for 12+ reps).

    Once we know the proper weight, bang out your ten(ish) reps. Go until you are certain you cannot do another rep.

    Now comes the tough part (I’m not kidding folks… If you are truly at failure, this could possibly be the toughest thing you do all day)… You must dig deep. You must tap your inner willpower. You MUST do one more (painful) rep. For best results, use a spotter who can take a half a pound off the weight by lightly touching the bar and helping you accomplish this.

    Try chanting this in your mind, “Anyone can do one rep!”

    USING EVERYTHING YOU HAVE – GET THAT LAST REP IN!

    We aren’t done yet. Now we are going to do what lifters call a negative. Instead of dropping the weight and crying, we SLOWLY lower the bar over a six to ten second period, using every ounce of energy left. If you did it right, tears will be welling in your eyes, your muscles will be SCREAMING, and you might even feel light headed. Congratulations!!!

    If you can accomplish this with each set, I guarantee quick results. You will make (and see) serious gains that you never thought possible.

    Give it a go and let me know what you get out of it!

    Thanks for reading,
    Rip

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    Why I Quit Drinking

    Today is Saturday, December 7, 2013. It is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. It is also my Uncle Dano’s birthday. Happy birthday, Uncle Dano! Today is also the day that I quit drinking alcohol. And, this post is more for me than you. This post is a reminder, this post is a marker. Most of all, this post will help keep me to my word.

    Enough today crap… Let’s talk about why I quit drinking. I’ve actually thought about this long-and-hard for quite some time. I rarely leap into such a serious life changing event without careful calculation and planning. This is no different. It’s just time for me to make another identity shift (I’ve done dozens of them in my adventure that I affectionately call “life”). Most of you know that I’m extremely fond of the Japanese philosophy, kaizen. And, I work hard to improve myself on a daily basis. This is one of those steps.

    Instead of chatting about my reasons, I thought I would simply hit some bullet points. Suffice it to say that I did pros and cons and the cons FAR outweighed the pros… Some of these reasons for quitting drinking might ring true for you. Then again, some may not. You might also have additional ones that I didn’t even list… However, these are the main concerns that I’ve thought of for me (in no particular order):

  • Creativity I dunno about you, but drinking really puts a dent in my creativity. Because I consider myself a creative thinker I feel like alcohol kind of dummies me down and takes away one of my talents.
  • Waste of Usable Time While I’m under the influence of alcohol I feel I’m wasting my time. I’m constantly looking for ways to add time to my days… Well, stopping drinking is a perfectly suitable way to add time to my day (IMHO).
  • Sleeping In One of my pet peeves is sleeping too long and letting the day waste away. When I drink I often have turbulent nights where I do not get the proper sleep. My drunken sleep is interrupted and rough at best. Also, I tend to sleep in after a night of drinking, and this KILLS me! Time (as you know) is tough to come by. By eliminating drinking, I will add time by getting better (healthier) sleep and by waking earlier ready to leap out of bed!
  • Workouts Suffer Some of my lifting is extremely intense. I am unable to do my HIT (high intensity training) workout after a night of drinking. Not only am I weaker, but I get sick (even if I’m not hungover).
  • Hangovers SUCK Speaking of hangovers… They suck!
  • Depressant Alcohol is a depressant. I’m an overly positive person and I work hard at knocking depressing things out of my life. Removing alcohol from my intake is an easy improvement!
  • Saving Money As a social drinker who doesn’t drink every night, I figure a low-end guess is that I drink around $60 worth of alcoholic drinks each week. This number may well be conservative, and I’ve been known to spend more than that in one night (especially on a nice bottle of wine). That is (at a minimum) $3,120 per year. Considering that I could easily get over this figure, you can see just how much it could potentially cost on an annual basis!
  • My Behavior Quite often I imagine my behavior is fine while drinking… However, there is that once in a while where I’m a complete asshole or asshat. If I had my druthers, I’d avoid being an asshat whenever possible. ‘Nuff said.
  • Weight There are 154 calories in an average can of beer. If I drink four beers that is 600 or more calories. Think about that one for a moment. No nutritional value at all, yet I could easily fatten myself up with it. Why would I?
  • Driving Drunk I’m not a fan of this, but I am guilty. Well, I have children, family, and friends. I do not like to think about the horrible emotions I would put folks through if I died driving (or riding) drunk. Even worse: What if I killed someone else? I can’t think of anything worse!
  • Injuries This one might not affect everyone, but I can tell you as a hemophiliac that I am much more prone to injuries when inebriated. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably agree on this one.
  • Bleeding Episodes Another one that doesn’t create a problem for most clotters (non-hemophiliacs), but it does affect us easy bleeders. Alcohol is actually an anticoagulant… In other words, it has been proven to thin the blood. YIKES!
  • Immune System This probably doesn’t need to be said, but alcohol can hurt your immune system. In my case (dealing with HIV) that can be very bad for me. However, it really is bad for everyone if you’d prefer to stay healthy and fit!
  •  

    I will not knock people for drinking or not drinking (and I never have). I’m still the same old wild and crazy guy. And, I’m still the inspirational life fighter. This will not change. I’m simply entering a new stage of my life, and I have put plenty of thought into it.

    Feel free to pick on me if you see me drinking a soda water with a lime in it, but don’t bother with peer pressure, because I don’t fold.

    I have a question for all of you: Assuming I can handle it (which I can), is it acceptable for me to keep alcohol in my house for guests? What’s your opinion about this?

    If you drink (or did drink), have you ever considered stopping? Please feel free to share your story here!

    My final question: Do/will you all support me with this latest life choice?

    Love you all,
    Vaughn

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