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Don’t Forget The Diet

“I saw many people who had advanced heart disease and I was so frustrated because I knew if they just knew how to do the right thing, simple lifestyle and diet steps, that the entire trajectory of their life and health would have been different.”-Dr. Oz

“Think about it: Heart disease and diabetes, which account for more deaths in the U.S. and worldwide than everything else combined, are completely preventable by making comprehensive lifestyle changes. Without drugs or surgery.”-Dean Ornish

One of the things that I have thought a great deal about since my heart attack is my diet. I have always exercised, but as an adult, my diet has been shit. I mean seriously, if you live in America, the choices you have to live a really, really bad lifestyle are endless. Taco Bell (used to be my favorite), McDonalds, BK, KFC and all of the rest contribute to a great deal of misery and unfortunately, death in this great nation of ours.

During the nine days I was in the hospital, I was able to do something that I don’t think I could have done if I was home. I actually detoxed myself off of sugar and any foods that are really bad for you. Since my daughter was home from school, I sat down with her and with the help of the internet, we figured out a diet that would suit my diabetes and heart condition. She spent (according to her) several days going through the house getting rid of anything that didn’t fall into the new plan of healthy eating.

So, after leaving the hospital, I went home not really sure if I was going to have the willpower to stick to a diet that didn’t include at least some of my favorite crappy foods. Fortunately, I think that since I was able to detox in the hospital, when I got home it was much easier to stay off of the garbage. Fourteen months later, I can say that I am still not eating the useless foods and have adopted what I think is a pretty good diet. I can also tell you that with the change in diet and the continued exercise, I feel better than I have in years.

After several months I found that although many of the recipes I was eating were really good for my diabetes, they were high in sodium, which isn’t great for the heart in regards to water retention.

So once again I went to the internet (Amazon this time), and I found an excellent cook book with recipes from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association entitled, Diabetes and Heart Healthy Meals for Two.

The best thing about this book is that it runs the gamut of everything that you would want to eat, from soups and salads to meats, poultry, and vegetarian dishes. It also includes side dishes, breakfasts and dessert. Seeing as how it addresses both Diabetes and people with Heart Conditions, it makes a perfect cook book to use if you are trying to eat healthy.

Of course, I am not an expert in all things healthy, but I can tell you that I haven’t found any recipes that have not been edible. They’ve actually been really good.

Now the question that I have been wrestling with for these many months as I recover and also stay isolated from anyone who might kill me with COVID is this: If I had been eating better over the course of the last 30-40 years, would I have developed heart disease and diabetes? Although my mother had a bad ticker, it was her life long addiction to cigarettes that did her in.

One thing that you will never see me do is blame anyone but myself for my medical conditions. So many people these days spend their lives blaming everyone but themselves for the condition that they are in.
Only one person has that responsibility and blame and that person is you.

It’s Just Around The Corner…

“Hike more, worry less.”-Unknown

“After a day’s walk, everything has twice its usual value.” – G.M. Trevelyan

“Without adventure civilization is in full decay.” – Alfred North Whitehead

It has been a long winter. In between snowstorms and the cold, I haven’t been out hiking in quite a while. But the time is coming. Just the other day it was 51 degrees.          Of course, it wasn’t the same 51 degrees that will feel much warmer in the next few weeks, but 51 is much, much better than 21.

So, what do I have to look forward to? Now that I am retired, my days are my own. For now, I ride my studio cycle as often as I can, but as soon as it is possible, I will be out in the woods. For now, it looks like I’ll be spending a great deal of time in the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. I want to spend some time there to get myself into shape for the more strenuous hikes in Bear Mt. and across the river. Each of the hikes will of course be documented here on the Zen Hiker.

Although I mentioned it in an earlier post, I have had to make adjustments as to the type of daypack that I can carry, even for short hikes. Because of an implanted defibrillator, I can not use any type of pack that has two straps. Apparently, if I have any type of weight in my day pack, it will put unnecessary stress on the point of implantation. As a result, I had to look for pack with only one sling in the center so I could avoid the defibrillator. This is much more difficult than you would think. After a great deal of research, I decided on the RUSH MOAB™ 10 SLING PACK 18L.

In a Best of 2021 Sling Bag list, the reviewer says, “Get your gear in order with this fully customizable tactical bag made from water-resistant and incredibly lightweight 1050D nylon. The fully cushioned adjustable shoulder strap makes it easy to find your customized fit. This sling pack offers plenty of organized storage areas. An interior stash pocket paired with a hydration pocket and a pass-through port make it easy to stay hydrated too.”

Although the size of the bag will take some getting used to, it’s just one more thing that I have to make adjustments for if I want to keep hiking. I can’t tell you how many times I have scoffed at the idea of being a minimalist, even if it is for day hikes, but at this point I don’t have much of a choice.

So, then the question becomes, “What should be a priority for me to carry on my day hikes?”

Here is a list of must haves:

  1. Water-How much depends on how long.
  2. Water Filtration-Instead of carrying to much water, if I know that I am going to be hiking near water, I can use my Sawyer Squeeze.
  3. First Aid Kit
  4. Cell phone for emergencies
  5. Toilet Paper
  6. Camera-I have a Canon, but if my new phone takes pictures that are comparable, I’ll use that.

All of these items will go into the main compartment of the bag. In the smaller, less exposed pockets I will keep my wallet, FOB for my vehicle and the map of the area that I am in.

As much as I would like to carry what I used to, it just won’t be possible. But that’s ok. I will be out hiking!!!

A Foggy, Misty Morning

“You can walk in a dream while you are awake: Just walk in the misty morning of a forest!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

“For a spiritual journey, you don’t have to meditate or visit a temple or listen to a guru! Just live a misty morning while the sun is rising!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

Even though sunny fall days are excellent, so are days like these when a light mist is falling and the fog surrounds you. It is peaceful and the tranquility it provides a sense of calm. These photos and the ones from the other day are the reason I love Autumn so much!

Fall In Mahopac

“I hope I can be the autumn leaf, who looked at the sky and lived. And when it was time to leave, gracefully it knew life was a gift.”-Dodinsky

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love—that makes life and nature harmonize.”-George Eliot

“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”-Unknown

Fall is without a doubt the best time of the year. The long hot days are gone, but the misery of winter hasn’t gotten here yet. Not that I don’t like Winter, but if it is a really, really cold one, it’s no fun. Having a lot of snow doesn’t have the same allure that it did when my kids were young!

So I went for a walk today in the woods that surround my house for the sole purpose of taking some pictures so I could write this blog entry. I love the sound of the leaves as they crunch under my feet and the warmth of the sun as it makes its way through the trees. It is beyond description and it is a shame that it only lasts for a short time.

I hope that you enjoy the photos!

This is about 100 feet outside of my house.
You can see from the light in the background that many trees have fallen during the storms we have had over the years.
We all end up here sooner or later.
A solitary leaf before it separates and begins its slow journey towards death.
I love trees in Black and White.
Although it was chilly, the sun coming through the trees was enough to warm me.

Ward Pound Ridge

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” – Unknown

 “A walk in nature walks the soul back home.” – Mary Davis

Three days ago my friend and I went to Anthony’s Nose. Today, even though I hiked alone, I wasn’t alone. WPR was packed with people at the trailhead and it made it difficult at the beginning to get by other hikers. As I made my way up the trail, however, the crowds thinned out and I did get to enjoy some moments of peace and quiet. This hike reminded me again of why I really enjoy hiking in the early morning. No people!!!!

As you will see in the two pictures below, I also came across this lengthy inhabitant of the woods. From a distance I though for sure it was just a stick and then it moved!!!! I took the pictures and then moved on my way.

An unexpected friend on the trail.
He wasn’t too happy to see me.
Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

The next photo shows my favorite rock to take a break at about the two mile point. If you notice, I had too get a new pack. Since I had a defibrillator implanted, I can no longer use a conventional daypack with two straps as it would place pressure on the spot of the implant. So after a little research, I found a 10 liter sling pack. This will take some getting used to.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

Back To The Nose

“Hiking and happiness go hand in hand or foot in boot.” – Diane Spicer

 “To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles.” – Lao Tzu

After an absence of over two years, I finally got back to Anthony’s Nose. This was also the first hike that I have been on in over a year. Needless to say, it was more difficult than I wanted it to be. Oh well, it still felt good to be back out in the woods. This, of course, was the plan for retirement prior to my heart attack.

The start of the trail on South Mt. Pass.

As with every hike in this area, it seems that the start is always a punishing uphill climb. If not in the steepness of the climb then the overall length. The same holds true for getting to the Nose via South Mt. Pass. But I took it slow as I was with my good friend Jaime who had promised me when I was in the hospital that he would go with me on my return hike. Friends like these are hard to find!

Since I hadn’t been hiking in so long, the trip to the summit took quite a bit longer than I thought. But that’s ok, just feeling the breeze and the sun on my face made the slow journey worth every minute.

Looking back down the trail we had just come up.

A part of the trail with blowdowns from a recent tropical storm.
A beautiful view of Bear. Mt. from the Nose.
Many, many hidden hikes are in those hills.
Looking north on the Hudson from the alternative viewpoint.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

I Just Want To Hike

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

Hiking and happiness go hand in hand or foot in boot.-Diane Spicer

It has been a long year. Starting with my heart attack (actually on 12/26/19), it quickly went from bad to worse with the onslaught of COVID, and it didn’t seem like anyone could catch a break. With that said, I can count my retirement as a blessing. Truly a dysfunctional workplace, those poor folks are in the midst of trying to figure out what it is going to be like when they return in just a few weeks. 

Due to my hearts poor functioning, I had to wear a portable defibrillator for seven months instead of the forty-five days that they originally thought. On 7/31/20, I finally had a defibrillator implanted and have been recovering from that. 

My biggest wish, however, is to get back into the woods. My daughter and I went for a walk the other day and it just wasn’t the same. I want to walk on the dirt and feel the breeze as it filters through the trees. I want to take pictures of stupid things like rocks, trees, and insects. I want to be able to choose my route instead of watching the tv while I ride. 

But I still have an issue that I am trying to figure out. The spot where they implanted the defibrillator is just above the left breast. So when I go back in a week, I need to ask my doctor if I will be able to even carry a pack. The strap of even a daypack goes right over where the defibrillator is and when my pack is filled with everything I need even on a short hike, will put pressure on the device. I don’t know how much weight, if any, I will be able to carry.

So my question goes out to all the hikers out there. Do you know of any alternatives in terms of packs that would alleviate that situation? I figure that I would need to carry two Nalgene bottles, my first aid kit, GPS, and other assorted necessities. 

Feel free to put any suggestions in the comments below.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

Are You A Prophet Of Doom?

“Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back.”

I was reading the blog of Austin Kleon who is a self-professed “writer who draws” and he posted these terms that came from Merriam Webster. His entry is a short one, simply saying, “Don’t do it! Take a walk instead.”

I know that it is difficult, but you need to take some time away from the news, no matter what station you watch or websites you traverse on the internet. It is all filled with negative, and if I  may say so, doomsday talk, not only about COVID, but the upcoming election and the racial strife spreading throughout the country.

What makes this entire situation more precarious is the simple fact that many of us have been cooped up in our houses for months and even though we can now go out, you really still can’t do anything. So what do we do? We grab our phones, open our laptops, and start inhaling the overwhelming negativity that the mainstream media calls “news.”

I, too am guilty of this.

So I agree with Mr. Kleon. Put the phone away, close the laptop, and get outside. Or listen to some music. As I am writing this I am listening to a Phish show from 1997. Here’s another stretch-read a book.

Although the physical effects of COVID are undoubtedly real and potentially deadly, so are the mental ones. Wallowing in all of this nonsense can’t be good for you.

Trust me. All of the negativity and hate will still be there when you get back.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

Your Physical And Mental Health Count

“Never discredit your gut instinct. You are not paranoid. Your body can pick up on bad vibrations. If something deep inside of you says something is not right about a person or situation, trust it.”-Anonymous

I’ve had a great deal of time since 12/26/19 to think about my new situation and how it has changed my life. An overhaul of my diet, including the total elimination of sugar and fried foods, has changed my physical outlook on life.

Your mental well being, however, is something that they don’t really talk about. When I was in the hospital I got tons of information about the physical side of my recovery. In a small side note on one of the pages, it did mention something about seeking help if you needed it, but that was about it. I did have a colleague who asked me about my mental state commenting that her husband had been depressed after he had his heart attack.

I, however, never felt depressed. Instead, I almost felt reborn as if I had been given a second chance at life. If you think about it, since my odds of surviving open-heart surgery were slim, I really have been given a second chance. I honestly could not think of a reason to wallow in self-pity, instead, I chose to tackle my new life head-on.

Is it sometimes difficult to stay motivated? Of course it is. I would be lying to you if I said it wasn’t. But at the end of the day, I’m only 55 and I am hoping that I still have some good years left in me before I venture to the great beyond.

They say that up to 20% of heart attack survivors suffer from depression. What do I wish I had been told prior to leaving the hospital? Here is a shortlist that I got from the Cleveland Clinic.

  • Your negative feelings, such as low mood or lack of experiencing pleasure, persist daily for 2 weeks or more.
  • You find it increasingly difficult to participate in your recovery from heart disease. It is not uncommon for patients participating in cardiac rehabilitation to experience emotional difficulties during their physical recovery. A lack of mental drive or motivation, as well as a lack of confidence may indicate that depression has settled in.
  • You have significant difficulty with your daily routine, social activities and/or work.
  • You don’t have anyone in whom you can confide. If you don’t have anyone to share your thoughts with, it’s hard to know if what you’re thinking makes sense. Depression also has a tendency to make people more withdrawn and isolated, making it harder to receive social support during difficult times.
  • You have suicidal thoughts or feelings. Suicide is an irreversible solution to problems and causes permanent harm not only to yourself, but also to family members and friends. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call your physician or local 24-hour suicide hotline right away, or go to the nearest emergency room for help.

The most important thing is to remember that if you have survived a heart attack you have been given a second chance. Fight every day to improve both your physical and mental health so you can enjoy every day.

HAPPY HIKING!!!

 

When I Return…

“After a day’s walk, everything has twice its usual value.”-G.M. Trevelyan

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”-Beverly Sills

“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”-Mary Davis

 

So in my time being quarantined because of Covid and my recovery, I have been able to plan my eventual return to the woods. Being a little leery about going out for the first time, my hiking partner of well over twenty years has agreed to accompany me when that glorious time comes. I have decided that my return hike is going to be an old favorite.

Even though I have hiked Anthony’s Nose over 300 times over the years, I still love it and haven’t had the chance to hike it in a couple of years. As I have noted in other posts, one of the attractions to the Nose is that it is pretty much uphill the entire way there and downhill on the way back.  The views are excellent and if we go on a weekday morning, the crowds won’t be so bad. It is unfortunate, but on Friday’s, Saturday’s and Sunday’s, trying to hike in peace is impossible.

With that said, the views from the Nose are outstanding. Once you get to the top, it overlooks the Bear Mt. Bridge and Bear Mt. itself. On the way back (or the way there), you can also stop at another viewpoint that gives you excellent views north on the Hudson River.

Depending on how far you want to hike will determine where you start your trip to the Nose. For my return, we will begin and end on the AT at South Mt. Pass. This will be just about a 4-mile hike.

You may be asking yourself why I am telling you this and here is the reason why. I am going stir crazy being cooped up in my house! If I can’t actually get out into the woods, I’ll write about it.

For all of you that can get out, I salute you and take a hike for me!

HAPPY HIKING!!!