A Chance Encounter

Hello everyone. The calendar says spring, but the weather says otherwise here in Silver Spring, MD. It’s in the 30’s outside. Brrrrrr!!

I just got back from a week-long trip in Florida. The weather was awesome. I even got some color. I don’t know what shade of brown my skin is supposed to be, but this long Maryland winter has lightened me up quite a bit. So thanks Florida, for some great and much-needed sun rays and vitamin D.

In Florida I visited with plenty of family and even went camping for 2 days. If you don’t like hiking, fishing, canoeing, walking, the sun, eating outdoors, and sleeping in a tent, camping is not for you. My wife thought she wouldn’t enjoy it, but I begged and begged, and she gave it a try. And guess what? She did enjoy it. My sister and my 3-year-old niece went too. They had a blast. We went with a large group of friends and family.

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You see the kid in the picture above with the slingshot aimed at the camera, in the orange t-shirt? He was my buddy on the camping trip. Everywhere I went he went. I believe that there is nothing in the Florida outdoors that he fears, not even gators. He respects them, but does not fear them.

One morning my little buddy and I went walking to find a clearing in the campgrounds, but away from the campers, where we could practice our slingshot aim. As we were walking along a path, collecting small rocks for slingshot ammo, off to my right I heard a voice that sounded familiar. Then I looked in the direction of the voice, and I saw a walk that looked familiar too. I couldn’t believe who I was looking at amongst a group of campers. I said “Rodriguez” and he turned around. He stared at me and then I said “it’s me Vargas, from Bridge company”. The man’s voice and gait I had recognized was a fellow Marine I had not seen since 1993, Corporal Rodriguez. We served in Somalia together in 1992-1993. What the fudge!!! He looked at me and I think he said “What the fudge” too, but instead of fudge he said another word.

I want you to think of the impossibility of me crossing paths with my fellow Marine 21 years later. Other than this past weekend, I have never been camping, that alone makes our chance encounter quite improbable. I am from Los Angeles originally, but live in Maryland now, and my friend Rodriguez is from south Florida. The campgrounds that we both happen to be in with our families, on the same weekend, this past weekend, is a bit remote. It actually felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. It is called “Fish Eating Creek Outpost” and it is in Palmdale, Florida. We could have easily both gone camping on the same weekend, but at different campgrounds. Also, my friend admitted to me that if it had been the other way around, and he would have heard or seen me instead of me seeing him, he might not have recognized me. How the hell I heard his voice and recognized him I have no idea. Well, I do have one idea. He was wearing his Marine Corps issued camouflaged trousers and a green t shirt. I think that pulled my eyeballs in his direction. Regardless, seeing my fellow Marine 21 years later was a bit surreal, but it felt good. That is us below, this past weekend, Rodriguez and Vargas, as we knew each other in the Corp.

photo(32) My friend is married now. I met his wife and children at the campgrounds, and they met my wife. I think we were all shocked at our chance encounter. We shared stories and so much of what has happened in both of our lives since we last spoke. Plenty can happen in 21 years.

Thanks Rodriguez, for allowing me to blog about our unplanned reunion. And let it not be another 21 years before we see each other again. I will be like 63 by then. Damn! The few, the proud, and the unpredictable shit that might happen during our service and after, The Marines.

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How to Tone Your Midsection

I workout with weights about 3 times per week at a local gym. It is a very nice gym. It offers Spin classes, yoga classes, personal training, and there’s plenty of free weights to go around. I mostly use the free weights and cable machines for my workouts.

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There are also plenty of ab machines which I never use. And there is even an area for abs that has mats and physio-balls for people to torture their midsections. I use that area to stretch and if I’m feeling up for it, I might do some abs, mostly lower abs. I do abs maybe twice a month, if that. I get plenty of ab work, indirectly from my weight training, especially my squats from dead-lifts.

Often I will see gym members, men and woman, doing endless sets of ab work. I get to the gym, they’re doing abs. I lift weights, they’re doing abs. I stretch, their doing abs. Abs, abs, abs, week after week, month after month.

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And guess who has the flatter stomach, and I am sure more visible abs, me or the endless ab doers? Yep, you guessed correct. I have a flatter stomach than most ab-crunch addicts, and I rarely do abs. Why is that? (Because I am not feeling narcissistic enough today, I will not post a shirtless picture of myself. If you’re a bored skeptic, go through my posts and I am sure there’s a pic or two of me displaying my flat belly.) Is flat belly an oxymoron?

The reason I have a flat stomach, without doing much ab work, is because my body fat levels are low enough for my stomach to be flat and my ab muscles to show. That is it! If I continued working out exactly as much as I do now, but started drinking beer and eating pizza, burgers, and fries, nightly, I would gain belly fat, and my stomach would not be so flat anymore. If I ate too many calories for a long enough period, my muscle definition would eventually disappear. A belly with fat around it is not a result of not doing ab exercises. It is a result of too many calories consumed over an extended period of time.

Think about slim teenagers or adolescents with flat stomachs. They don’t do a ton of ab work if any. But their stomachs are flat because their body fat levels are low.

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You want a flatter stomach? Cut down on the calories, and use your ab time to lift weights or do some cardio.

Ab exercises do strengthen your abs, if done correctly, and lower back in some instances.

Still confused? How about this? If an overweight man lifts weights and gets strong, but doesn’t reduce his calorie intake, his muscles may never be visible (get toned), despite the fact that he is getting stronger. If he continues to lifts weights and cuts back on his calories for a long enough period, his muscles eventually will show.

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Oh one last thing. You know that claim that Pilates and yoga will lengthen and tone your muscles? Allow me to elaborate. If by tone they mean muscle definition, the only thing that tones muscles is reduction in body fat levels. And as far as lengthening muscles (I’m laughing so hard at this one that I am actually doing abs as I type) this is impossible. Muscles are attached to very specific points in your body. You can stretch your muscles, but you cannot alter where they are attached. The only time you lengthen your muscles is when you grow physically from toddler to adolescent, to teenager, and then to adult because your muscles do actually lengthen when you are lengthening in height. Once you’re an adult, you cannot change your muscle length anymore than you can change your height. Well, ladies who wear those big ass high heels can change their height, but only until their feet get tired, and then they shrink like by four inches. Ladies, your high heels come at a cost too.

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Weight Loss Starts With This…

Calories, yes, calories. Weight loss is all about calorie consumption. I don’t care if you’re doing the Mediterranean Diet, the Zone Diet, the Brazilian Butt Lift Diet, the Wealthy I can buy any food I want diet, the broke as hell I get all my food from the liquor store diet, or the Paleo Diet. If you eat too many calories for your desired weight and activity levels, you will not lose weight.

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You can cry about that calorie fact, but what good would that do? Well crying does make humans feel better, that’s why babies sleep sound after a good cry. So if you must, go ahead and cry. Now back to the weight loss. If you are trying to lose weight, you weigh over 200 pounds, and you are not very active, like moving 1 hour or more a day, than you probably shouldn’t consume over 2,000 calories per day. Now you’re probably thinking “How much is 2,000 calories of food anyways?” And that my dear weight loss friend is your job. It is your duty  to find out the calorie count of the different foods you consume. It is much easier to calorie count now because of all the apps that can do it for you. The unfortunate fact about the app revolution is that apps can’t exercise for you or tell you when to stop eating. Only you can do that. And no, Googling, texting, Tweeting, and Facebooking is not exercise. If it was, people would be in great shape. But if the Olympics ever adds an event that calls for extreme thumb dexterity, we have a generation of gold medal winners in training everyday. They even train while they drive.

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It is imperative that you learn to count calories and have a better than rough idea about the amount of calories you consume daily for you to succeed in the battle of the bulge. Eating a salad for lunch, drinking water, and walking 5 flights of steps at work is not enough information and activity for weight loss. You must assess your overall activity level and calorie intake necessary for your activity levels and desired weight. Paul Chek often says “If you’re not assessing, you’re guessing.” And guess what people do when they guess how many calories a food has, how many calories they ate that day, or how much they moved in a week? If you guessed that they guess less on calories and guess more on movement, you are correct! Weight loss and guessing how to do it will not work.

But I do have good news for you if you weigh over 200 pounds and you’re trying to lose weight. Once you learn how much 2,000 calories looks like when it comes to food, and you do consume 2,000 calories a day or less, everyday, week after week, and month after month, you will lose weight.  What this means is that you can start to lose weight without any extra physical activity.  You can actually lose weight by not doing something. The thing not to do is eat over the calorie amount that is correct for your desired weight.

Of course the “2,000 calories for an over 200 pound person” is just a guesstimate on my part, but it’s a good one. I am sure of it. This formula works so well that I recently convinced a young woman trying to lose weight to only consume 2,000 calories a day for 1 week straight. I told her that if she didn’t lose about 3 to 5 pounds that week, I would giver her her money back for my advice and training services. Keep in mind that when it comes to money, I don’t kid. Seven days passed by. She ate 2,000 calories a day, or less, for that whole week. I will not tell you how much she lost, but I will tell you she exceeded my expectations. Because woman are clever and inquisitive, it’s a good trait to have ladies, she asked me if that meant she would lose x amount of pounds a week, every week, by consuming 2,000 calories a day. I said to her what I will also say to you if you weigh more than 200 pounds and you’re trying to lose weight. “I cannot promise nor predict how much weight you will lose by consuming no more than 2,000 calories per day. Weight loss is not linear. But what I can do is assure you that if you stay true to your 2,000 calorie a day limit, you will lose weight.”

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