Do You Remember the Day?

I don’t remember the day I was saved. Not specifically, anyway. I hear a lot of Christians, especially men, speak proudly and openly about the day of their salvation, and they can name a specific date and sometimes time of day. I can’t do that. But I do remember where, and I sort of remember when.

Twin City Bible Church in Nitro, WV was the church of my childhood. A Baptist church with a decent-sized congregation of people from all demographics, but looking back I remember that most of them were white, upper-middle class and above the age of 40. I went mostly because my grandparents attended, and as I child I followed my Papaw everywhere, including church. But there were some really nice people there who were welcoming and friendly and had a lasting impact on my childhood.

The church was just across the railroad tracks from my grandparents’ house. You could see it from their back porch. I remember that my grandfather was an usher and drove a van for the church. I was thrilled every Sunday morning to get up early with him, sip just a little bit of coffee, walk across the tracks to the church and enter the building before anyone else arrived to collect the van keys. He drove the same route for the first few years, picking up people in Nitro, some whose names and faces I can remember vividly and others I can’t. Most of his passengers fit the aforementioned demographic, but sometimes there were a few kids riding with their parents or grandparents, and my grandpa always had a pocket full of candy ready for the children. I rode shotgun, of course.

Some days my grandpa helped with maintenance of the church building. On these days, I roamed around like an adventurer and discovered every “secret” passageway, stairway, and doorway of the church. In retrospect it wasn’t a huge church (especially before the remodel, which came in my teenage years), but as I child it might as well have been a castle or a temple. I remember Sunday School classes as fun, but I don’t really recall retaining much about the Bible other than the stories all church kids are told (Noah, baby Jesus, David and Goliath, Samson). I didn’t go home and read my Bible and pray like a good little boy. I just really liked going to church with my Papaw, riding the van, seeing my friends, playing games and singing songs, and then going back to Papaw’s to eat a big lunch.

As a teenager, though, I had questions. Lots of them. I heard the sermons and lessons and they were making a bit more sense as I was maturing. I read my Bible, not attempting to read the whole thing or anything but finding verses I had heard about in church. As I read the Bible and heard sermons, learning more about how people are “supposed” to live but seeing that juxtaposed with my first year of junior high and how young people at school were actually living, I was confused. I tried to be a good Christian boy and pray every day, talk to my friends about Jesus, sing songs of praise. But at home and in school my struggles continued to grow (getting bullied, arguing with my mom and stepdad, failing classes). Eventually, I was stuck in a rut, focusing too much on peers who were just complete jerks, but they were more more popular, more attractive, and their parents were still married and had a lot more money than my own parents. How could this be?

At most Baptist churches, including Twin City, there is a program called AWANAs. It stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. Held every Wednesday night, it combined Bible study time with game time and works kind of like the Boy/Girl Scouts. There were different troops and you completed activities, memorized Bible verses, and received things like badges, pins, and ribbons. As a kid, I enjoyed AWANAs. As a teenager, I rebelled against it. How was memorizing Bible verses going to help me navigate the dangerous and confusing world of junior high?

But mostly, I rebelled against my AWANAs teacher. He was wealthy, had a gorgeous wife, and his son was an athlete. Even when teaching us our Bible lesson, he spoke with a bravado that at the time reminded me of some of those jerk popular kids I had to deal with at school. His son was no different. He barely spoke to me, in fact. His wife was wonderful, though, making sure to greet all of us with a hug and a smile that was genuine and needed. She seemed out of place amongst her husband and son. I learned years later that the two divorced because he had an affair; at the risk of sounding judgemental, it did not come as a surprise to me.

On one Wednesday night, though, when I was about 12 years old, something seemed different about our teacher. He seemed more serious and less arrogant than usual. I remember that the lesson focused on the Bible verse that gave the AWANAs program its name, 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” He talked about how we go through life focused on what the world is doing (the cool kids in school, celebrities on TV and in the movies) instead of what God is doing. We see what the world is doing and we want to be part of it, and we become ashamed of our Christian walk. We get ashamed of our Bible, ashamed to pray, ashamed to go to church because that’s not what the world is doing or because it seems boring compared to all that other stuff. So we walk away from God. (Looking back now, my heart breaks for him because I wonder what he was ashamed of that led him to walk away from God and break his marriage vows).

But, he continued, approved workmen, Christians who had given their hearts to Jesus and were all-in for Jesus should not be ashamed. He quoted Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” He continued with an example that seemed right out of my life: stop focusing on the popular kids and focus on Jesus. Then he shared the story of Peter and how he saw Jesus walking on the water and wanted to join him. Jesus said “Come” and Peter was okay until he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the waves; then he fell in. Our teacher said that some of us were drowning (again, my heart hurts for him; was he drowning even then and we didn’t know it?) either because our eyes were off Jesus and were instead focused on the world or they had never seen Jesus at all. “Turn your eyes back to Jesus,” I remember him saying. “Come back to Jesus.”

I was only 12, but there was something familiar and powerful in that message, which wasn’t typical to his lessons. Even at 12, I remember thinking He’s not the one talking to me right now. At the end of the lesson, as is typical, our teacher asked for anyone who wanted to pray or be prayed for to come to the front of the room. On most days, I hated that idea. But today, a voice in my head said Go and I didn’t even hesitate. I went down front where his wife was waiting, stood next to her and started crying. I did my best to blubber out that I was having problems at school and at home and I didn’t think I really knew who Jesus was or what he wanted from me, that I had read the Bible and I knew “about” Jesus, but I didn’t think I really knew Him and I wanted to know more. Some other kids came down and met with other adults who sat with them, as well. She asked me some questions about what I knew and what I believed, then talked to me about Jesus’ death and what that means for us as believers. I knew the story, but I had never thought about what it mean to me and how it impacted me. I prayed that day that Jesus would change my life and my heart to follow Him forever, that I would keep my eyes fixed on Him (easier said than done, but I meant it that day). When I finished praying, she stood me up and gave me a hug.

But when I turned around and saw my AWANAs classmates looking at me, I felt the shame creeping back in. I really wish I could say I didn’t, but I did. But I closed my eyes and tried to picture Jesus (back then, my images of Jesus were also mostly white) standing on the water, his hand stretched out to me, saying “Come.” I opened my eyes and looked down at the floor. Our teacher made a speech about how proud he was of all of us for coming forward (there were about five of us), and then he prayed that God would mold our hearts as a potter molds clay and that we would no longer be ashamed to live for Jesus.

The following Sunday, I was baptized. My mom came to church (unusual for her at that point in her life) and the congregation clapped when I was pulled out of the water. I tried to see if I felt different somehow, like cleaner or more pure. Honestly, at that point I just felt wet. And once I dried off and changed clothes, I remember thinking I have school tomorrow. But that night I did take out my Bible and work on memorizing some of the Bible verses we were given at AWANAs. And I prayed. I prayed for courage, that Jesus would follow me to school and walk with me all day. I prayed as often as I remembered, read my Bible when I remembered, and tried to be good to people even when they weren’t so good to me.

That’s what I remember about my salvation, at least the ritual “church” salvation. Honestly, I don’t think this is when I really gave my life and heart to Jesus. It was just the day I decided to believe that Jesus was who He said he was, son of God, God-in-the-flesh, and the only way to Heaven. But it wasn’t until college that I really decided to take His hand and walk out onto the water.

More on that later.

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Being Memorable

I teach at a university, although I am not a professor. I work for the WVSU collaborative program, which is a partnership between the university and Kanawha County Schools. High school students from all over the county come to the university to take college courses as well as high school classes. My responsibility is to teach the high school level English/Language Arts, as well as mentor a small group of these students and help them become successful university students.

The university is also my alma mater, which means I am familiar with the campus and even with some of the remaining professors who were part of the faculty when I attended from 1997-2004 (don’t ask why it took almost seven years). One of these professors is a favorite, Dr. Ladner, who taught Gothic Literature, among other Language Arts courses. I remember completing a project for her class in which I used Fight Club as well as Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson” to illustrate the use of the doppelganger motif in both classic and modern literature. At the beginning of this school year, I dropped by her office to say “Hello” and let her know I was teaching for the collaborative program. She was enthusiastic and said, “You know, I thought about you the other day.” I was intrigued as she explained. “Someone was talking about Fight Club, and I remembered you loved that movie.” I resisted the urge to say You don’t talk about Fight Club, and I smiled. I was honored that after about 16 years she remembered a project I completed for her class, something on which I probably procrastinated.

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At the beginning of this semester, I received an email request from Dr. Ladner, asking me if I would like to speak to her First Year Experience students (kind of like an “intro to college life” sort of class). I agreed, mostly because I really appreciated her selecting me as a presenter. I was nervous, even though I have spoke to groups before and public speaking isn’t usually a problem for me. I was nervous because I wanted to impress Dr. Ladner. I wanted to do a presentation as memorable (or better) as my Fight Club project.

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But what did I do? I procrastinated. I waited until the last minute to prepare for this speech (like the day of…). So as I walked into the room with a rough idea of what I wanted to say, I stood at the front and saw Dr. Ladner sitting in a desk, watching me intently. I began with some background about how my family and I didn’t think college was an option because of money struggles, how I tried the military but couldn’t because of health problems, and the steps I took to learn about options to help pay for college. I also shared some inspiring words from Maria Popova of BrainPickings that also served as tips for living a good life.

When I left, I beat myself up so much, certain I had rambled and wasted Dr. Ladner’s and her students’ time. However, I had the following conversation on Messenger with a friend who teaches with Dr. Ladner:

 

“I heard you knocked it out of the park yesterday in the GED101 class.”

                                 “Really? I was surprisingly self-conscious about it afterwards. I’m glad she felt I did well. Thank you.”

“Barbara came into my office to brag on you. She called you ‘memorable.'”

                                 “Wow. That’s an honor, really. She’s the memorable one. I adored her and her Gothic Lit. class. I still talk about it and her.”

“She adored you from that class as well.”

That word stuck with me well after this conversation. Memorable? Me? But I didn’t do anything special, really. I just…talked. And in her Gothic Literature class, I was just doing what was expected of me as a student. How was I memorable?

Fast forward to this week. I saw into Dr. Ladner on campus and she stopped me. “I talked to the president of the university about you.” I felt my face warm as she continued. “I was encouraging him to recruit in some of the poorer counties, like McDowell County, and I felt a story like yours would be inspiring to someone who doesn’t feel like college is possible.” I didn’t know what to say, so I mumbled.

“Wow,” I said. “Thank you. That’s really cool.” That’s really cool? Really? That’s all you can say to one of your favorite professors who just dropped your name to the most important man on campus? “Thank you,” I repeated.

So this is what I learned:

  1. Sometimes, just being your authentic genuine self can impress and inspire more people than you know.
  2. Say “Yes” when someone you trust and admire invites you to share what you have to offer, even if you don’t feel you have much to offer. Word might spread to others who need or could be inspired by what you bring to the table.
  3. What you think others think of you is probably not what others think of you.
  4. You have a voice. Find it, then take a risk and share it with others
  5. Few things are more humbling and more honoring than when someone you admire and respect holds you in high regard and sings your praises to others; this is perhaps the greatest compliment.

I plan to introduce myself to the president of the university next week in hopes that he can put a face with the name and perhaps keep in touch with me should he decide to go forward with the recruiting idea. I would be honored to speak to upcoming potential students about the real possibility of getting a college education, in spite of looming student debt, busy lives, and financial woes.

I plan to make Dr. Ladner proud.

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Rising to the Challenge

Before I begin, let me give a shoutout to my wife Jennifer and my four daughters, Aryanna, Bianca, Gracelynn, and Arabella. They have been my greatest source of support and my motivation to stay happy and healthy. Also to my friend Jamie Fellrath, who is doing his own cold training and will be taking the Polar Bear Plunge at the Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio. You can read about Jamie’s cold journey and how it has transformed his life here. Please show your support for Jamie by helping him raise funds for the Ohio Special Olympics or by leaving him a comment in support of his journey.


As you know, for the past few months I have been training for the Polar Plunge. (You can read about it here, here, and here). Well, that’s not exactly accurate. I started out training my body for colder weather. While West Virginia isn’t one of the coldest states in the U.S., average winter temperatures run about 35-40 degrees F. In the past (like most normal people) I have hunkered down in my warm house on the coldest days, complained about things like cold rain (although I love snow) and dressed in thick layers every time I had to go out. I have always loved hiking in the snow, though. The woods seem so much quieter after a good snowfall. But I would never think of spending time outside in the cold shirtless and shoeless.

Inspired by a video posted by someone who also inspires me, who was also recommended by an inspiring online friend who is also doing his own cold challenge, I decided to try something new. I first found Wim Hof by accident. If you’re a regular Facebook user, you are familiar with the group recommendations that show up on the right column of the web version. There was a recommendation for the Wim Hof Method Facebook group. I thought it was the name of some diet program or fitness routine. It wasn’t until a friend posted the now famous Vice video of Wim (Inside the Superhuman World of the Iceman) that I felt this crazy motivation growing inside of me.

I knew this man was crazy. I knew that hiking Everest without a shirt, sitting in an ice bath for almost two hours, and swimming in icy water was just insane. But if there was something to his claims that we could challenge our bodies to withstand extreme conditions and become healthier in the process, I was definitely curious. I researched Wim and his methods, watched Youtube videos, joined the Facebook group, and was soon taking cold showers.

It began with baby steps: start with what I like to call the James Bond Shower (warm first, then switch to cold at the end). The first shower was a shock but somehow both painful and refreshing. It definitely woke me up. I gradually decreased the time for warm water and increased the time for cold. After about a month, I was taking full cold showers that lasted around 3-5 minutes. Combine this with other methods of cold exposure (time outside shirtless, cold baths/plunges, etc.) and Wim’s breathing techniques, which are similar to the ancient Tibetan tummo techniques (there are some crazy videos, stories and pictures out there of monks doing tummo breathing in frigid conditions wearing very little and yet and melting the snow under them) and you get the basic gist of the Wim Hof Method.

On this same journey, I was (re)introduced to Tim Ferriss‘s podcast and his upcoming book Tools of Titans (which I ordered), as well as Steve Kamb’s awesome site Nerd Fitness (and the subsequent book Level Up Your Life). Through Tim Ferriss I learned about awesome guys like Jocko Willink (whose badass motivation to “get after it” pushed me to start waking up at 4:45 and win the morning) and Dr. Pete Attia, one of the most interesting men on the planet. I also rediscovered the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, started checking Brain Pickings daily, developed a morning routine, and transformed the way I greet the people I see every day (always be the first to smile and say “Hello”). This snowballed to joining challenge groups like the Paleo Castle 30 Day Challenge and George Bryant’s excellent group, Hugs and Bacon Lifestyle. (Side note: George soaked in an ice bath for over 20 minutes to show his support for my Plunge). I joined other supportive Facebook groups, such as Order of Man and New Year’s New You Transphormation Challenge (run by my friends Christina and Dustin Holston). I transformed my meditation/prayer practices by downloading Insight Timer and planning at least 20 minutes of daily meditation. And just from doing an Amazon search for Wim Hof, I learned about two other awesome books: Becoming the Iceman (which is kind of an autobiography/how-to for the WHM) and What Doesn’t Kill Us, a book in which investigative journalist Scott Carney set out to debunk Wim’s claims and found himself transformed in surprising ways by the method.

I know I threw a lot at you just now.


My point is this: My pursuit of cold training and cold exposure has opened so many other avenues. Much like what happened while pursuing my interest in natural movement and ancestral health.

It’s become evident that pursuing a goal results in a few things:

  • When you pursue a goal, there are people who will cheer you on and motivate you every step of the way.
  • Some of these people have no investment in your success. They just want to help you accomplish your goal.
  • The pursuit of awesomeness both is/is not a lonely journey. You alone can do it, but you can’t do it alone.
  • A surprising amount of people are bored with the status quo way of living and are challenging their bodies and their lives in transformative ways.

I am reminded of a quote from Paulo Coelho’s excellent book The Alchemist in which young Santiago learns of his Personal Legend: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

My friend James Broderick can also attest to this as he pursues his passion to create his own podcast, Ancestral Health Radio. The number of listeners keeps rising and the list of guests keeps growing. Or my friend Bobby Poppola, who has found something he is passionate about and started his own blog.

Since I finished the Plunge, some friends have asked me, “Now what?” I’m letting that question encourage me because it means they want to know what’s next in my personal journey. For now, though, I’ll leave you with some encouraging tips:

  1. Find ways to challenge yourself and rise to those challenges. These could be physical challenges, social challenges, spiritual challenges, etc.
  2. Tell others about your journey, and encourage them to join you. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to share your challenges with others; you would be surprised how many people share the same struggles and maybe need motivation for their own challenges. Soon, you will have friends who support you and show it in a variety of ways (such as my friend Charles Franklin who did his own physical challenge in honor of my Plunge).
  3. Reach out to people who may be able to help you/motivate you along the way. This was one of the most life-changing parts of this for me. I am blown away by the humility of lifestyle coaches (like my friend Jason Shalkoski), fitness gurus, authors, podcast hosts and others who are so authentic in their desire to help people become the best they can be. You don’t have to break your bank to find someone who is willing to help. Use social media, join groups, do an online search, whatever it takes to reach out. Remember: you alone can do it, but you can’t do it alone. I encourage you to check out the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, one of the most supportive lifestyle/fitness forums on the web.
  4. Just get started. It might be baby steps at first, but just get started. Sometimes the hardest part is pushing past that first block. My first time switching the water to cold was the hardest because it fought against everything my body was asking for, which was comfort and warmth and contentment. Push past that and take the first steps anyway. Then celebrate your first victory and let the joy you feel push you onward to the next.

I appreciate the people who have encouraged me on this journey. This cold training is just one chapter on my adventure to becoming a more capable human. I look forward to the next challenge. If you want to join me, feel free to reach out to me via this blog or Twitter: @wolfdreamer1112.

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Polar Plunge Updates

I know I said I would be posting updates, but things have been nuts. However, I did document and post updates to the forums for one of my favorite sites, nerdfitness.com. I’ll paste them in this post.

Update: January 10, 2017

It snowed last week, about 3 inches. Temperatures were below 30 degrees F Friday. To test my training so far, I took a 15 minute walk outside in minimalist shoes (just slip-ons, similar to Vibram Five Fingers), basketball shorts, and no shirt. I could definitely feel the cold, but I wasn’t “cold”. This weekend, temperatures stayed in the teens and lowers 20s. While I didn’t take another walk, I did spend about five minutes each morning outside shirtless and in shorts (tried shoeless, but that only lasted about two minutes, so I put my minimalist shoes on). Did not wear a jacket at all, even while I was out.

Still taking cold showers, starting with warm water for the first ten seconds or so and changing over to cold for the rest of the shower (3-5 minutes). Doing WHM breathing every morning. It’s an interesting experience that is difficult to explain, like no other form of meditation I have ever done before. I feel very mellow afterwards, and I can feel warmth and tingling through parts of my body.

I’m already at $195 in donations, all going to the Special Olympics.

Update: January 16, 2017

Well, the weather since my last update hasn’t exactly been conducive to training for cold. Daytime temperatures have averaged 60-70 F. However, morning temps still creep around 30-40, so I am continuing my shirtless/shoeless morning stretches as well as my WHM breathing. Yesterday it was rainy and around 45 F, so I went for a splash in cold puddles, acting like a child in summer. I’m also continuing cold showers in the morning (been doing this since October, so no problem there).

Update: January 26, 2017

No snow yet, but finally, we’re getting some cold weather. Here’s the update:

*Today, temps around 30-35 F (1.1-1.6 C) with sleet and icy rain, but I took a 15 minute walk in shorts, shirtless and shoeless.

*Still doing WHM breathing every morning for about 15 minutes.

*Achieved my goal of $350 for Special Olympics and still accepting donations.

*Still taking cold showers every morning.

*The Polar Plunge is just over a week away. I’m ready.

Update: January 29, 2017

I have only one thing to say:

If you’ve never sprinted in the falling snow wearing only shorts, I recommend it. It’s quite a rush.

36F (2C) with heavy snowfall (1-3 inches expected by morning) and I just went for a walk. After about 15 minutes I seemed to be just on the cusp of the urge to shiver. I paused, closed my eyes, and did some breathing techniques I have learned from the WHM. The urge faded and I continued my walk. After getting about 100 yards from my house, I broke into a sprint, feeling and savoring the fat flakes of snow as they landed on my bare chest and arms and melted on contact. Once I arrived at my house, only my feet felt cold, but not the pain I barely remember from when I first started the training. They were just noticeably colder than the rest of my body.

In other news:

  • I have surpassed my $350 goal for raising funds for the Special Olympics.
  • Daily cold showers still a go.
  • Polar Plunge is Saturday Feb 4th (last day of the challenge).

Update: Feburary 3, 2017

Tomorrow is the big day: The Polar Plunge. Donors and sponsors helped me raise almost $400 for the Special Olympics! A friend who participated in the past said, “Nothing can prepare you.”

I found out later that the friend had not been “preparing.” No cold showers, no time in the cold, no ice baths, nothing to prepare for such a shock.

I know to some people the Plunge is no big deal. But I am thinking about it like a fitness challenge, one that requires training, both physical and mental: breathing exercises, meditation, cold exposure, etc.

So I would say plenty can prepare me and plenty has. I’m ready.

1. Still spending at least 5 minutes outside shirtless and shoeless in temps below 30 degrees F (-1 C).

2. Cold showers still going well.

3. Added a new element: soaking just my face in ice water before bed until I need to take a breath (recommended by Dave Asprey)

4. Practicing at least 15 minutes of Wim Hof Method breathing every day, although I still need to do today’s.

5. Raises almost $400 for the Special Olympics

6. Polar Plunge is tomorrow!

Update: February 4, 2017

Today is the day! I’m getting restless. But I took another great stride in my cold challenge this morning:

  • Morning temps were 19F (-7.2C). I took the dog for a short walk (about 5-6 mins.) barefoot, shirtless, and in shorts. I think those are the coldest temps I have been exposed to so far for that amount of time since starting the challenge. It wasn’t the cold that bothered me, but the hard frozen ground on my feet felt like walking on rocks.
  • No cold shower today (figured the cold walk served the purpose pretty well).
  • Donation totals: $391
  • Plunge is tonight at 6pm. Prepare for photos and videos next time I post.

Thank you everyone who has encouraged me. I’m not done challenging my body to handle extremes. I will continue cold exposure and cold treatments until the weather warms. Then I may start preparing myself for warm/hot weather, who knows?

And I ended the challenge with a splash:

 

 

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Polar Plunge Update

It’s getting closer! In less than a month, I will jump into a 4-foot pool of ice water wearing nothing but swimming trunks. All to raise funds for the Special Olympics. So far, donations have reached $285, getting even closer to the goal of $350.

My training has been going well. Last week, when it snowed 2-3 inches, I went outside shirtless and shoeless and rolled around in the snow. I laid back in it to see how long I could stay. It was nice to look up at the sky and watch the snowflakes as they fell on my face. I lasted a little less than a minute, and even then it was mostly because I had other things to do. I could feel the tingle and slight burning on my skin, but nothing intolerable. If you’re thinking Couldn’t you get frostbite or hypothermia? I encourage you to do the research. I also took a 25 minute walk shirtless in basketball shorts. I wore shoes because the road was icy and I didn’t want to fall.

I’m still taking cold showers every morning. If you’ve never done this, it is both invigorating and refreshing. For someone not used to cold water exposure, it’s miserable for the first week or so. But eventually…it’s still kind of miserable some days but also gives me a needed jolt in the morning to wake me up.

The weather this week has not really been conducive to training for cold. Yesterday, it was almost 70 F most of the day. But I spent as much time outside as possible. If not for work, I would have worn shorts all day. I look forward to more cold weather.

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I think this may be the first truly crazy thing I have ever decided to do. I am participating in the Polar Plunge.

Let me explain.

Over the past few years, my love of the outdoors and outdoor activities had led me to some interesting things. I’ve really been drawn to fitness programs like MovNat, Exuberant Animal, and Uncaged Man. Imagine if Crossfit and Parkour had a baby, raised it for a few years, introduced it to cool people like Tai Chi, Yoga, and Bear Grylls and then left it to fend for itself in the woods for a while, then you would sort of get a sense of what those three fitness programs represent. Just watch this video and see what I mean:

I have tried some pretty wild things while participating in a lot of these programs. They all encourage practical movements in nature, including crawling, climbing, running, jumping, lifting, rolling, balancing, grappling, fighting, and even swimming. So I have ran trails barefoot, climbed trees, vines, and boulders, crawled through small spaces, slogged through marshy grass, lifted logs and stones, and swam in rivers. I can credit each of these movements for rekindling my love of nature, especially wild waters and forests. These programs have also changed how I see “fitness”, viewing it more as being physically able to perform practical movements rather than just lift weights or run on a treadmill.

Along the way, while studying and training some elements of these programs, I’ve stumbled into a lot of other great resources:

  • Born to Run by Chris McDougall, a book that completely changed how I run (barefoot)
  • Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols, a book about how water literally changes our lives
  • Deep by James Nestor, a book that taught me about the mammalian diving reflex
  • rewilding, a return to wilderness lifestyle that seeks value in the hunter-gatherer way of life
  • Mark Sisson, maybe one of the most practical primal movement gurus
  • total-immersion swimming, a technique that causes less resistance while swimming and allows you to just glide along the water
  • foraging, finding edible plants and mushrooms right in my neighborhood

But maybe the most bizarre and incredible thing I have found so far is The Iceman.

Wim Hof is a Dutchman who is nicknamed The Iceman because of his seemingly superhuman way of resisting the cold. This guy is insanely capable of withstanding temperatures that would send most of us indoors just thinking about them. He has broken several world records, one for spending 1 hour 52 minutes and 42 seconds submerged in ice water. He climbed 22,000 ft. on Mount Everest wearing only shorts and shoes, reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in just his shorts in two days, completed a full marathon in Finland above the Arctic Circle (again wearing nothing but shorts) and finished in 5 hours and 25 minutes, and has swam under ice on more than one occasion.

I was both fascinated and a little terrified when I discovered this. How is it possible to handle such extreme temperatures without getting hypothermia or severe frostbite? Through research I learned that Wim has a method: a combination of a unique breathing exercise (similar to a Tibetan method called Tummo or Inner Fire) and gradual cold exposure (cold showers, ice baths, time outside in cold temps, etc.). This led to learning that Wim is not alone in his ability to withstand cold. While almost no one has performed the daredevil feats he has accomplished, a great many have learned to adapt and adjust to cold temperatures. Cold tolerance is a thing, and you can train for it.

So, since about October I have been training: cold showers, time outside in the morning without my shirt and shoes, and immersions in cold water. While I don’t plan on hiking Mount Everest without a shirt or soaking in ice water for over an hour, I would appreciate the chance to learn to adapt to my environment no matter what the temperature. Then last month an idea hit me:

What if I could put my training to use somehow?

I knew that the Columbus Zoo did a Polar Bear Plunge every year, so I Googled the date. Not possible. Another Google search found a Polar Plunge right up the road at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. In order to participate, I needed to raise at least $50 to support the Special Olympics. This is special because my daughter is special needs and will be competing in the Special Olympics this year.

So… I’m training. I plan to blog about my progress, share the experience with my faithful readers, and hopefully not freeze to death.

Wish me luck.

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Retro

Sometimes my tastes can be a little retro.

If you read my post about the viral Netflix show Stranger Things, then you know I’m a sucker for nostalgia, longing for some essence of my happy childhood. But this longing sometimes even extends beyond my lifespan. Let me give you some examples.

              1. Architecture: I love walking down historic streets or boulevards, soaking in the architecture of buildings from my parents’ or grandparents’ generation with blocks of shops, pubs, markets, and art deco venues with inviting facades, vaulted ceilings, carvings on the outside, and neon lights that are a welcome throwback to days past. I could wander Capitol Street in Charleston, WV and be content just admiring the buildings and pretending I’m in the past.usa-west-virginia-charleston-capitol-street
              2. Music: So frequently, my Spotify playlists bounce from retro-inspired jams like from artists like Leon Bridges to more classic jazz musicians like Charlie Parker. Or I could be smoothing out to Frank Sinatra, lifting my voice to classic Disney songs, and getting the feels to outlaw-inspired singers like Chris Stapleton. Throw in some Broadway musical numbers and some folk rock and that pretty much covers my retro music flavor.
              3. Movies: My favorite movie of all time is Stand by Me, which remains the most important movie in my life. For reasons similar to my love for Stranger Things, the movie makes me miss my friends, my youth, and gives me a glimpse into the decade of my parents’ childhoods, as well. On more than one occasion, I have chosen TCM over HBO because of some incredible classic starring Cary Grant or Paul Newman or Katherine Hepburn or Ingrid Bergman or James Cagney, and on and on. “Singin’ in the Rain” never gets old. I love movie theaters, especially those that attempt to recapture the classic experience of “going to the movies,” and even at home I pop some popcorn and sit down in front of a great TCM feature, trying my best to summon feelings of the era in which that film was released. I even enjoy old movie trailers.
              4. Television: I would stand in a crowd and announce that television would not be the same without The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling was a genius, whose stories may seem old-fashioned and campy today, but are filled with themes that still resonate. And the hip way he introduces and wraps-up each episode is pure TV magic. I beam when I see shows like The Addams Family, The Munsters, Batman, Bewitched, I Dream of Genie, and The Andy Griffith Show, mostly because they remind me of sitting on my grandma and grandpa’s TV room floor, a glass of pop and a ready smile, watching episodes of these shows and laughing with them, even if I didn’t get the jokes. I also loved every episode of Boardwalk Empire on HBO because, once again, it revisited a past (even if it was the dark side) that has always intrigued me, the Roarin’ Twenties.
              5. Books: I have mentioned in a past post my love of classic literature, from authors like Kerouac, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Jackson, and Plath. I envy Owen Wilson’s character as he steps into a weird time shift and finds himself partying in Paris with some of the biggest names in literary and art history. Many of these authors take me to an era I will never know personally, but wish to revisit every time I open the pages of their books.

So that’s my retro-taste in a nutshell. Don’t even get me started on my love of Medieval art, classical music, and epic fantasy. We’d be here all night.

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