Sunday, January 27, 2013

A New Safe Bench Press Machine

Valor Fitness BF-47 Independent Bench Press
 Okay, so I've had this Marcy weight bench with a lat machine and preacher curl attachment for about 15 years, except that the lat machine post broke off from where it was welded into the bench about 8 years ago. Lately, with middle age and living alone, I've been feeling unsafe doing the bench press without a spotter. I couldn't maximize the repetitions anymore and besides, sometimes my palms hurt from the weights even when I'm wearing lifting gloves. In the middle of last year, I started looking for a safer way to do the bench press. One of the first things I did was switch from the suicide grip to the thumb around the bar grip. I also considered buying either a multi station machine or just a simple bench press machine to replace the free weights (barbell) I was using. A basic multistation machine would have been slightly cheaper but I wasn't confident I could assemble it. I would have had to hire someone to do it at much additional cost. So I surfed around the internet and found this Valor Fitness BF-47 Independent Bench Press machine at, which appeared to fit my needs. However due to financial concerns which I already addressed in another blog, I couldn't buy it at the time, so I just bookmarked it and hoped that somewhere down the line when I've caught up with my bills, I would revisit the website and the machine would still be available. That time came a couple of weeks ago after I finally paid off last year's expenses and luckily the machine was still available but there were only three left. I ordered it right away and waited the few days until it was delivered.
          In the meantime, what to do with the old weight bench which was still in prime condition other than missing a lat machine? I asked my co-worker whom I know lifted weights if he already had a bench press bench (sorry, I couldn't find a better way to describe it). He said he did but it was already very rusty. I offered to give him mine after my new machine arrived.
          On the day that UPS was supposed to deliver the product, I disassembled the old bench, put the parts aside and sent a text message to my co-worker saying that the bench was available for pick up at his convenience. Then I waited for UPS and kept checking online to make sure they didn't bypass me. Well I'll be darned! When I checked at about 2 p.m. last Thursday, the UPS website said the package could not be delivered because there was nobody home. Heck, I even left a message at the gate for the UPS delivery guy so he can dial my security gate number. 15 minutes had passed since the exception was logged in the UPS system. I went downstairs to pick up the slip they usually leave and whadya know but I see the UPS truck driving down the next street. I walked toward the street hoping the truck had not driven too far away, and lo and behold, it was just at the corner! I waited for the driver to emerge from the apartment building then asked him if he was the one who left the notice slip. He looked at it and said it was him and that when he called, there was no answer. I asked, nay, implored if he could come back and deliver my package so that he or another driver would not have to come back the next day. I offered to help him carry the load since he mentioned it was 90 pounds. It was then that I suspected that he didn't really want to deliver it because it was too heavy. Of course, I didn't mention that to him lest he change his mind about going back. Luckily, he took me up on my offer of help. So he drove around, unloaded the cargo, mounted it on his dolly and rolled it up to the staircase where I helped him lift from the top while he pushed from the bottom. I thanked him again for coming back and dragged the heavy package into my living room.
          I proceeded to unpack the parts and laid them on the floor. After making sure that everything was there, I started assembling the bench. Wait a second! There wasn't much in the form of instructions, just a picture of where one part connected to another with what bolt, screw, and washer. No text instructions whatsoever. Oh my, it was going to take a while to figure out a two dimensional drawing into a three dimensional real product. In fact it took me about three hours to assemble that darn thing. The machine looked so simple in pictures and looked like the assembly was going to be simple. Well, no use dwelling on that now. At least I managed to do it by myself with only a wrench and a pair of pliers. I didn't try to use the machine that day because I had already done my weight training earlier, but boy, were my muscles sore the next day due to the disassembling of the old bench and assembling the new one.

          Two days later, I was ready to try the Valor Fitness BF-47 Independent Bench Press machine. Why is is it called independent? Because the left and right sides are isolated from each other. With a regular bench press with a barbell, both arms lift the total weight, but with this machine, each arm lifts independent of the other. Oh, one other advantage of the bench compared to a multistation machine is that I can still use the weight plates I already have. I normally lift 110 pounds on the barbell for 6 to 8 repetitions when I do the bench press. I know, I know, I'm a weakling! I mounted 50 pounds on each side of the new machine first to see how it felt. I positioned myself on the bench and pushed. All that came out was a grunt from me. Hmmm, this is going to be harder than I thought. I may even have to lessen the weights. I tried again and this time I managed a semblance of a full lift before lowering the weight for another repetition. I was able to complete all of four reps! How is it possible that I'm lifting lesser poundage and repetitions?! First of all, the arms of the machine where the weight plates are mounted on also weigh something. Second, it's harder to start a bench press from the chest area because the muscles are not pre-contracted (in my opinion). With a barbell bench press, you start from a straight arm position, lowering the weight to the chest, then lifting the weight upwards. The straight arm position is what I consider pre-contraction of the muscle. Not only that, sometime you can cheat by bouncing the weight off your chest. No such cheating can be done with the Valor Fitness machine. With that in mind, I started over and was able to do 6 reps on the first set and 4 reps each on the next three sets, with each one of those sets maximized without the benefit of a spotter. My first impression is that the machine worked as it was designed to do. It was success and liftoff on first lift! Boy, am I gonna be sore tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Warmer Signal Hill Walk

         What, you may ask, does a picture of a sandwich have anything to do with a walking workout? Read on and you shall soon find out.
          On Saturday, January 19th, a week after my frozen fingers/insomnia walk at Signal Hill with the Long Beach Area Walking Club, I joined them again, but this time with a little bit more sleep and 10 degrees or so warmer. The cold wave that descended upon Southern California in the past week when early mornings hit mid-30 degrees, had finally abated. As I mentioned in my post last week, I had three layers of clothing: a thin base layer, a technical fleece layer, and a mid-weight jacket, plus cotton gloves. Last Saturday, I only needed the base layer, jacket and gloves.
          I got to the location earlier than usual and managed to put in a 25 minute warm up. Then I started the scheduled walk with three other members. Someone new came a little late but she caught up with the group at the top of the first hill. I did my usual advancing ahead then retreating, and (gasp!), I even did a little bit of running. My excuse for that is because I had to burn off the footlong sandwich from Subway I ate the previous day. Based on news items the past few days, it may have only been an 11 inch sandwich. I wonder how many calories that missing 1 inch is? I don't usually eat there, but someone gave me a Subway gift card for Christmas and I had to use it somehow.
          So with all the dipsy do's, short jogging attempts, and the slightly warmer weather, my gloves were off and jacket half zipped by the time we hit midpoint on the course. I was able to walk/jog another hour and 35 minutes with the club for a total of 2:05 which was 5 minutes longer than the previous week.Despite the cold, I lost three and a half pounds of sweat, which was hard to believe. Heck, I haven't lost that much fluids in a very long time during a workout! I must have really put in a good effort to incinerate that Subway footlong/11 inch chipotle chicken sandwich. Maybe next time I'll just have the 5 1/2 inch sub so I don't have to work so hard.
          Last Saturday, I didn't avoid the dirt trail near the end. Instead, I jogged that portion of the course because I felt that I was more unlikely to slip when jogging than trying to walk fast on the dirt and gravel. Because of the effort I put in, I took the next day off and walked easily for an hour to and from the grocery store to buy some jalapeno peppers. Peppers - now that's one way to keep you warm...if only in the mouth.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Mama Saved Us From Financial Hardship

          Amid my recent expenses last year, i.e. plane fare to and from the Philippines, traffic ticket, paramedic and ambulance charges plus emergency room co-pay, I would been in a financial hole for a few months. To add to those financial concerns, I anticipated digging into my savings for Mama's hospital bills, caregiver salary, rent, utilities, and medications. A couple of times, I've sent her my tax refunds for expenses in addition to the ones I send for her birthday and Christmas. This is just something that Filipinos do for their relatives in the Philippines and I actually fall short of what others do because they send money all year round.
          Thankfully, I did not fall off the fiscal cliff and this is due to the unanticipated gift that our Mama left us. Even when her death was imminent and through her eventual passing, Mama was still thinking about her children. We have always been aware that she never wanted to burden us, but unbeknownst to me, she had a modest stash of money in her bank accounts left over from years and years of saving and the sale of our Zamboanga house (which I helped pay off after Papa had his stroke). How she made all of that last without any income for more than two decades leaves me in awe of her budgeting prowess. This is how I think she was able to do it - by mostly living off the interests of her regular bank accounts and time deposits while keeping the principal amounts steady. Sounds simple enough, isn't it? Well, if it were so and if other individuals and governments followed such example, there would be no budget deficits.
          After we buried Mama in Zamboanga, my brother sent me an accounting of expenses and cash left over. He had briefly mentioned the estimated amount before I Ieft the Philippines and it astounded me then and continued to do so when Larry sent me the itemized list. With Mama's own savings and despite having no other income for decades, we were able to pay for her hospitalization, doctor's bills, caregiver and helper salaries, medications, and funeral expenses. With all that, there were still some left over for me and my brother to share. As I mentioned before, it is a modest amount dollarwise, but enough for me to catch up with my bills after Larry sent me the first installment. I don't know how his share is going to affect his financial status, but I'm sure it's going to help a great deal in one form or another.
          As of this writing, I am still awaiting a second installment from my brother and am seriously considering paying down the principal of my mortgage with it. So Mama, we appreciate everything you have done for us and given us in life as in death. What you have done with this unexpected gift is an example of what we can aspire to in our own lives. To me, it is not the end result but how you led your life to accomplish that result which ended up as a gift to us, your children. Thank You So Much and We Love You MAMA.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Walking Workouts of an Insomniac Post Myopathy - Part 2

          Two days after my pre-dawn walk to and from Walmart, I unintentionally awoke early again Saturday morning and decided to show up at Signal Hill to walk with the Long Beach Walking Club Meet-up group. I haven't joined them in a couple of months because it was there where I slipped on some gravel and pulled a left thigh muscle. Well, the walk wasn't scheduled till 7 a.m. so I drove to Von's first to buy some tissues which were on sale for 78 cents a box (limit 2), and second, to Food 4 Less to buy some bread. I still arrived 20 minutes early at Signal Hill which was enough time to do a 15 minute warm up. Oh boy, did I need to warm up because it was chillier than it was on Thursday. I had three layers of clothes: a thin base layer, a fleece layer, and a mid-weight jacket, to go with my track pants and gloves. In retrospect, I should have worn a beanie too. When I returned from my warm up, there were two people waiting there and another getting out of her car. It was a very sparse group and probably due to the colder than usual weather. How cold could it really have been? Well, it was so cold that when I talked, I was slurring my words as if I was having a stroke and my hands felt so numb except for my right thumb which was actually painful.
          As we started and headed up the first hill, everyone was ambling along and socializing, which didn't help to get me any warmer, so I took off. This time, I had my radio to keep me company during my alone time. As usual, I backtracked several times so I could stay relatively close to the group while also increasing the duration and distance of my workout. After all those weeks of recovering from the Lipitor induced myopathy, I had lost some aerobic conditioning despite all the indoor cycling workouts. The uphill climbs felt like I was doing all out 400 meter intervals on the track and left me in oxygen debt. In the past, I would carry over the quick leg turnover after I crested the hill, but this time, I had to recover for a couple of hundred feet before I could pick up the pace again.
          The group altered the course slightly on this day so my backtracking enabled me to find out which part to eliminate and to add. They eliminated the dirt path and used the steeper climb of Skyline Drive instead, which made for a tougher workout but slightly shorter than the original route of six miles. That didn't matter much to me because I didn't bring my GPS watch and my plan was to walk at least an hour and a half, not including the 15 minute warm up. With all the backtracking I did plus an extra hill at the end, my total workout time was two hours, which based on previous walks up and down those hills, probably covered slightly more than 8 miles.
          You know what? With my early morning awakenings or at times barely sleeping at all, I would rather have walked on my treadmill because it has been really cold outdoors. But out of respect for my neighbors beside and below my apartment, not wanting to bother them with my noise, it was better to face the elements outdoors. I wish I could say that I ran outdoors instead, but that kind of workout is not in the cards right now. I can tell you though that I've jogged a few times on the treadmill recently, but I don't feel ready to try it on the harder pavement while I continue to recovery from the myopathy caused by Lipitor.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Walking Workouts of an Insomniac Post Myopathy - Part 1

AHA! That's what I've been doing wrong: I have to face north!

          In the last couple of months, I haven't done any walking workouts outdoors because I've been trying to recover from the myopathy I have suffered from as a side effect of taking generic Lipitor, and because it has been colder than usual this winter. I didn't realize that when I aggravated a running injury two months ago, it was not a run-of-the-mill type of running injury, but that its root cause was the myopathy. When I realized that, I stopped taking Lipitor immediately and started taking co-enzyme Q-10 supplement to restore my muscle functions. My recent walking workouts have been on the impact friendly treadmill indoors, which also helps with the recent cold snap.
          I've also mentioned that I've been suffering from insomnia, so when that happened again very early last Thursday morning, January the 10th, I just got up and decided to do a little shopping at Walmart. I was planning on doing that later anyway so instead of driving there, I decided to take a very early morning walk in the dark. I looked outside and saw that the ground was wet and apparently it had rained briefly earlier. Fortunately, despite it still being cloudy, the rain had stopped. I bundled up, wearing a pair of track pants, long sleeved shirt, and my bubble jacket. I also carried an empty backpack to bag the items I was going to buy. Then armed with my pepper spray, cell phone, and wallet, I ventured into the dark, black and chilly yonder.
          At first, I had my hoodie on but since it impaired my peripheral vision, I took it off so I could be more aware of my surroundings. It was bad enough that I was wearing all black and was not plainly visible to cars driving that early. How early? I stepped out at about 5:20 in the morning which I haven't done in years. I know, I know. For some people, they may have been finishing their run by then and probably already taking a shower to get ready for their day shift jobs. After the first few minutes of the walk, I couldn't help but notice the pre-dawn quietness, then realized that I had forgotten to bring my radio with me. Oh well, so much the better to commune with nature in the darkness, I suppose.
          So I reached my destination in about 42 minutes and picked up a ream of copy/print paper, a huge container or psyllium, and a can of deodorant, paid for it, and bagged them in my backpack. Since I was running short of cash, I stopped by a nearby ATM, then headed towards a grocery store near home where I was planning to buy some vegetables. With the pace I was walking, I would make it there just a little bit after they opened at 7 a.m. But as the night turned into day, I couldn't help but notice the thickening clouds. I wasn't sure if I would make it back home before the rain started again and was looking around to see where I could duck in for shelter in case the sky fell while I was still out there. I already made a turn towards the grocery store then backtracked, deciding to head home instead. The walk lasted all of 1 hour and 30 minutes. Those extra steps to the grocery store would have added about 20 more minutes. Instead, I drove there and it didn't even rain again. I wasn't planning on taking this walk since I had already done a walking workout the day before, but because of my insomnia, I ended up doing my longest walk in recent months.
          Well, this entry is long enough, so I'll just make this Part 1. Insomnia walk - Part 2 to follow.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Case For Keeping The Old Netbook

With so many devices on the market, sometimes one can’t help but desire the latest one. But with a strict budget to consider, I have to weigh the pros and cons of getting another electronic toy especially when an old, reliable one continues to suffice. So this is about the case for not buying an ultrabook, chromebook, or a windows 8 device and keeping the ole’ netbook which still meets my needs.
 First, the cons of the netbook. With its Intel Atom processor and even with the maximum allowable 2 gigabytes of memory, it is underpowered and slow. The boot up time takes about four times or more longer compared to tablets. It also takes a long time for programs to load, and so does opening webpages regardless of internet speed. Sometimes whatever you type or click lags. The latest news on this netbook is that Asus has stopped making them.
That being said, let me tell you what I like about it. First and foremost is its battery life. Rated by the manufacturer at 14 hours, it only usually lasts for 10 but still much longer than ultrabooks and chromebooks which only last for about 5 hours at best. Let me say though that I am not talking about Apple products which are beyond my budget. Then there’s the price. Ultrabooks are still expensive because part of what you are paying for is the lighter weight. Although you can buy a chromebook for as low as $200 now, it’s more of a cloud machine which works best if you constantly have an internet connection.  I’m still not sold on the new Windows 8 devices even though I’m already using that operating system on my laptop at home. First, I hardly work in the Tiles area and spend most of my time in the Desktop. Even if I can afford it, I may find that the cheapest Windows 8 RT device may not be flexible enough for my computing needs. As far as weight is concerned, my 3 lb. netbook rivals the weight of ultrabooks and chromebooks, and the keyboard and screen size have never been a problem for me. It even has a 250 gb hard drive which is plenty for my purposes. Besides, I already save my files to the cloud.
The only thing that the netbook requires is my patience due to the sluggish boot up, program launch, and webpage loading.  If I need a quick boot up all I have to do is surf the web, I still also have my trusty old 10 inch Asus Transformer tablet  which has an attachable keyboard that can make the battery last as long as 16 hours. If only I could get used to the android word processors and an easier way to copy and paste to my blog, then I’m golden. And guess what, both my netbook and tablets were purchased as refurbished products, thus cheaper, and they work just as well as brand new ones.

Netbook: Asus eeePC (Windows 7)
Tablet: Asus Transformer TFT 101 (Android ICS)

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Explanation of Papers Signed by Patients

As Behavioral Health Workers (a.k.a. Mental Health Workers), when a patient is being admitted to the psych unit, we are tasked to have the patients sign admission papers. The forms listed below are those papers and I’m going to provide a brief explanation of what the patients are signing in the simplest language I can that they can understand, which may not necessarily be what is exactly written on the forms. This is how I’ve simplified the process:
Conditions of Service – This is basically a consent for treatment form. I tell the patients to sign this paper so the doctors and nurses can treat them while they are in the hospital. The form itself is more elaborate and is in very fine print.
Message to Medicare – This form explains Medicare rights for patients who have Medicare, however most of our patients don’t. So to simplify it, I just tell the patient that we are going to check if they are covered with Medicare insurance.
Patient’s Rights – This is self explanatory. It lists the rights of patients in a psychiatric unit.
Privacy Notification – What I tell patients about this form is that – we respect their privacy and will not release information unless they give permission to do so. It also asks if the patient has and Advance Medical Directive.
Consent to Photograph – We ask the patients’ permission to take their photograph so they can be identified correctly by the staff (in addition to their ID wristbands).
Release of Siderails – In case a patient does not want to use the siderails on the bed, they have to sign this form, but since most of the beds on the psych unit don’t have siderails, I just tell them to please be careful to not fall off the bed.
Notification of Patient Admission – Contrary to what some workers tell the patient, this form is not to get the name of the person to contact in case of an emergency. This form asks whom the patient wants us to notify of his or her admission to the hospital. It also asks if they want to notify anyone in case he or she is placed in locked seclusion or restraints. The third part of this form is in case the patient doesn’t want anyone notified. And the fourth part is a list of people the patient gives consent for us to release information to about their well being.
Hospital Ownership Disclosure – This form is fairly recent and it just to disclose that our hospital is owned by a group of doctors. I’m surmising that this is required by law.
Property List – This form is where we list all of the belongings the patient brings into the hospital. Some workers also list the items being sent to the safe with the security guard. However, the security guard also makes a list of those items that we don’t keep on the unit, so it’s a waste of time to double list them. In fact, our previous department manager said so and most people have forgotten that.
Well, that’s about it. I don’t know how else I could simplify the explanations and in my experience this hastens the admission process which the patient has too many papers to sign. Heck, in the emergency room, they only have to sign 2 or 3 forms!

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