Friday, June 29, 2012

Being fat, slow, and dangerous

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday... We haven't known each other for too long; online for a couple years, and only actually physically met about a month ago (he wasn't living nearby until a few months ago).

Anyway, I was helping him move, focusing on what I could do best, while preserving my knees: I was picking up the heavy stuff, moving it through the door and over a 4 foot high wall, and handing it out to two other guys.

After watching me pick up a 300lb dresser, and lift it over the wall, and other similar things, for three hours... He said something like "damn man, you're a beast. Seriously, only an idiot would screw with you".

Well... yeah.

I'm fat, and I'm slow... but I'm still dangerous.

I started off writing this as a comment to a post Caleb wrote, which was itself prompted by a forum post "Why are so many competition shooters so fat?". After writing half my comment, I realized that I needed to expand it out a bit to say what I wanted to say.

A little over 15 years ago, my weight varied from 265-285lbs, I hovered from 10-13% bodyfat, and I worked out most every day. I also shot at least once a week, if not every day or every other day (depending on the week, and what job I was on at the time etc...). At least 4 hours a week, and at least 500 rounds of handgun a week... and often as much as 8 hours a week and 1500 rounds of handgun. I was competing in every IDPA match I could make it to, as well as any other kind of match I could get to in any way, at any time.

I was actively involved in both eastern and western martial arts (particularly jiu jitsu) from the time I was 5 years old (and an SCA sword and board hardsuit fighter from 16), until my health and injuries got too bad to do so.

I have also been a fanatical powerlifter, from the time I was 13. I LOVE working out. I LOVE lifting weights. I even love riding the exercise bike (recumbent bikes... and used to love riding the real thing, until the knees and weight added up to make a conventional bicycle too painful for me to ride for long).

I'm a vet, and after I went reserve, I spent a lot of time doing physical security work. Bouncer, event security, principle protection etc.. as well as training in self defense, and security work.

So... I used to be one of those fit guys who you saw at the range, who knew what I was doing, and was as "dangerous" as I looked so to speak. I was never a top tier competitive shooter, because I didn't want to be. It's not that I don't like winning... It's that I wasn't "playing the same game" as the other shooters. My mindset at the time was that I didn't want to develop "gamer" reflexes. I shot my stages like I was clearing an engagement area, not like someone trying to win a stage. I looked at IDPA as a great way to practice unknown range and position shooting, target transitions, and taking purposeful action under stress.
Note: I still do. In fact, I think it's even better INDIVIDUAL training when done on a consistent basis, than force on force shoothouse, simunition, airsoft, or paintball training. 
The shoothouse is extremely valuable periodically, but the team dynamic, and extremely high intensity fast moving, fast changing nature of force on force; makes focusing on particular aspects of your own individual performance, and making the small iterative improvements so important to becoming truly expert at something, more difficult. 
For team training, there is no substitute for shoothouse work (though individual focused training is also extremely valuable of course). Competing in IDPA on a weekly basis (or even twice or three times weekly, as you can get in some areas like Arizona), with another pratice session for the week, and then a shoothouse session every couple months; is, I personally believe, a better balance of environments and methodologies for developing individual expertise in defensive shooting. 
And I admit, I was actually pretty arrogant about that at the time. I took pride in being "tactically sound", and not being a "gamer" etc...

That was before I met Rob Leatham, Jerry Miculek, Matt Burkett, etc... Yeah, I don't care how "tactically unsound" their "game" is, I wouldn't want to be on the other end of their muzzles under any circumstances...

Anyway, I digress (as I so often do).

I don't have any pictures from that time period anymore, but this is what I looked like in early 2000, after I had started gaining weight a bit, but was still mostly fit (I think I was 305lbs there maybe?):

By 10 years ago, I had slipped a bit. I was still working out 3-5 times a week most of the time, and when I could (unfortunately only every month or two) I was still shooting as much as I could; but my knees were already pretty badly hurt (weightlifting, wrestling, football, jumping, various injuries), I was doing a lot of international travel  (I was living in Ireland at the time), and my weight would cycle from 295-325, and up to 18% bodyfat. At one point, when my knees were hurt pretty bad and I stopped working out for a couple months, I even got up to 345, and 23% bodyfat, though I pretty quickly went back down as soon as my knees were healed enough.


I was also still very active in the martial arts, I was still fighting in the SCA, I was still doing physical security work, and I was playing semi-pro football on the weekends.

Here's a pic of me with the team, after winning our national championship game. I'm the big bastard in the middle if you don't recognize me:

When I moved back to the U.S. from Ireland Christmas 2003, I weighed 325, and I was unhappy with that weight, so I spent the time and effort on diet and exercise, and got back down to 295...

...and then went back to 100% travel jobs for the next two years, working out whenever I could (and shooting at least 500 rounds and usually more like 1000-1500 every weekend I was back in AZ, or in a state or country wasn't a total pain in the ass). So my weight stayed on that 295-325 yo-yo, and my fitness slowly went down.

These are all me from 2004 and you can start to see the weight coming on:

Then, all of a sudden... it seems like almost overnight to me...  I went from a BIG, fit guy, who worked out a lot to a FAT guy.

Two bad knees, two bad ankles, a bad back (all of which I had BEFORE I got fat, and certainly aided in the process of) and endocrine cancer (though we didn't know that until last year) did it.

I gained about 220 lbs in less than five years, while reducing my caloric intake, and until the injuries prevented it, increasing my exercise levels.

Eventually, I hit just under 500lbs:

I lost more than half that gain in the last year, through proper medication. No change in the diet, no change in exercise, just proper medication.

See... some fat guys... yeah, we're fat; but we're not fat, useless, pathetic slobs. Some of us are strong, and experienced, and well trained, and got fat not because we were sad, lazy, gluttonous etc... but because things in our life changed, and our bodies (or our habits and our brains) didn't adapt appropriately.

And some of us, are still surprisingly good at what we do, and surprisingly capable.

I can't run for shit anymore, but I can walk until the knees give out, no problem (good days and bad. Some days I can barely walk, some days I can do three hours around Costco, Safeway, and Home depot). Stairs kill me, but it's not the cardio, it's the knee and back pain. I ride 10 miles a day on my exercise bike on a pretty challenging program. I do 45 minutes of heavy circuit free weights every other day (and by heavy I mean nothing lighter than 200lbs, except the curls); and the healthier I get the more I'm ramping that up (eventually I hope to be back to working out every day, rotating focus groups on a 3 or 4 day cycle).

I never stopped shooting (though I did shoot a lot less)... and I DID lose the ability to run away, so good shooting became an even higher priority; and I focused almost exclusively on rapid A zone hits at 15 yards or under, and on target transitions (I do need to train MUCH more on presentation from concealment, and reloads).

Several of you have seen me shoot. Unless I'm actively sick (which I have been a lot unfortunately) I'm a damn good shot, and pretty damn quick at it. What I'm not, is particularly mobile... even without the extra weight, my knees are just shot.

So I'm not a competitive shooter anymore (though I plan on getting back to it as I get healthier), but I can still shoot.

And as far as underestimating folks who are fat... well... Some of us know better.

For those of you who know me... Who have seen me pick up and carry a beer keg on each arm, hauled multiple cases of ammo over each shoulder, picked up 200lb shooting tables to carry them to the truck... or those who have received a bear hug from me...

I got fat... I didn't get weak (though I got "weaker"; but when you started as strong as I did... well, for me "weaker" means I bench less than my bodyweight instead of 1.5x and deadlift 1.5-2x my bodyweight, instead of well over 2x, and at my bodyweight that still means I'm stronger than most "fit" men... I'm just only able to sustain that for a few minutes at a time instead of hours), and I for damn didn't lose my brains, my experience, or the fact that I'm an evil bastard who fights dirty, because that's how you win.

So... the point of all that is, yeah, I'm fat. I call myself a gigantic fatass in fact, because I have no problem admitting that's what I have become.


For those of you who know me... got a question for you?

Would you want to face me either in an unarmed fight, or in a gunfight?

If so, would your plan be to hit once, and then run like hell?

I got fat, and I got slow... but I never stopped being dangerous.