Thursday, March 31, 2011

Are You in Shape for Spring?

It’s spring and many landscape photographers will be going outdoors over the next few months to shoot. For those that already have many of the easier shots in their portfolio, meaning the captures that require little effort and are within a five minute walk from the car, it might be nice to explore more possibilities by hiking into the backcountry. However, if you are packed on the pounds over the years or from had a sedentary winter this task might be a bit of a challenge. I write this blog since this month represents three years from when I hit my peak weight of 220 pounds at 5’ 10”. Although I have been into bodybuilding for about 35 years and was strong I was also overweight and not in the best of shape for hiking far with a tripod and other necessary photo gear. On a spring trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in 2008 I had some backaches and frequently popped motrin to reduce soreness brought on by carrying excess weight. Plus, I really hating getting down low to shoot flowers. It was a turning point, especially since my pants were a tight fitting size 38. New clothes or new body was my choice I went for the latter and now wear a loose fitting size 34.

Losing weight and getting in great shape when one is middle age is tricky business that requires sacrifice, some knowledge of proper nutrition, and discipline. Within one year I was down to about 200 ponds and within two years I was closer to 190 and in the spring of 2010 I found myself going where few photographers have gone before, hiking well into the backcountry of some of my favorite shooting locations. Not only was getting into shape by changing my diet and exercise routines but I was also shooting many beautiful places like little known waterfalls and mountaintop views that I earned by hiking to them. The added plus was that now that I was fit enough to hike for miles and miles, the hiking itself helped to burn off even more fat - I got myself down to 179 pounds in late October 2010, weight I hadn’t carried since the mid-90’s.

So how does one get there from here? That’s complicated but it obviously involves a combination of proper diet and exercise. A little over a year ago I changed shifted my workouts from heavy weights to using my body as the weight (pushups, chin-ups, yoga...) by embracing the P90X program which is an intensive home program, less for going from poor shape to good shape, and more for going from good shape to great shape - or better stated, the best shape of one’s life. But, exercise alone is not enough. It must be supplemented with proper diet. I won’t get into much detail on that but I can recommend a few nutritional tips that everyone should observe. These include the followings, always eat something upon awakening - not a donut but proteins and some fat, eat frequent smaller meals instead of one or two large meals, cut down on processed food, especially simple carbs, cut down on carbs in general, and don’t eat within 2 hours or before bedtime. Personally I also juice often, mostly carrot and apple juice (for about 20 years), and take a spoon or two of fresh cod liver oil for my essential fatty acids, Braggs raw apple cider vinegar with the mother each day and use probiotics as well. I got into apple cider about four years ago after experiencing a few months of agita or heartburn. Popping antacids offered temporary help but it just didn’t go away. I then learned that the symptoms of too much stomach acid are the same as too little. Almost all doctors will put you on a purple pill - for life. Anyway, I then assumed my problem was too little acid and tried ACV and voila, my heartburn went away permanently. Plus, the ‘mother’ that normally gets filtered out in commercial products, includes enzymes and probiotics that body needs. I mention this only because heartburn medication is one of most common medications and many people might be fighting the wrong war.

So if you want to get out and about in the great outdoors to shoot in places that others don’t to get unique pictures in your portfolio, you need to be in good shape and not carry around more than you have to, both in gear and around your hips and waste. It is easier to carry 20 pounds of gear if you can get rid of 20 pounds of fat and are keeping yourself fit. The photo above is me, taken earlier this month at the age of 52 and a half. I did get pumped for the shot by doing only one set of chin-ups, 26, and one set of pushups 56 - both were new personal records (I am 185 lbs in that photo). If I can do it so can you, just eat right and exercise. Happy shooting!!!

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