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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

Physical Fitness: Day One

I fear I could have a heart attack if I don't get into shape.

Michael David Crawford, Baritone,

March 17, 2007

Copyright © 2007 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

There are many reasons why one might put off getting into shape, and I'm sure they will all be familiar to you: I don't have gym shoes, I don't have the cash to join a gym, there isn't one in a convenient location, I don't have the time.

But those aren't reasons - they're just excuses.

I used to be in very good physical condition - back in Truro I used to bicycle twelve miles every day, as well as work out at a gym. I started wearing my wedding ring on my middle finger because I had lost so much weight since my wedding that it kept slipping off my ring finger and I feared I might lose it.

I don't know what I weigh now, but the last time I checked I weighed 230 pounds. I noticed the other day that I can cup both hands under my belly - I'll be needing a belly bra for it soon.

What concerns me the most is not my weight but that any time I exert myself the least little bit, as when walking up the stairs to my office, I get out of breath. I fear I could have a heart attack if I don't do something about it.

No More Excuses, I said to myself today.

My fat belly

My Fat Belly

It is better to be shaped like a pear than to be shaped like an apple: I read a while back of a large study that found that people who had fat bellies were far more likely to have a heart attack than those who had fat butts.

This is thought to be the case not because the fat is closer to the heart, but that the kind of fat that accumulates on the abdomen is more soluble in the blood, so it is more easily transferred to the cardiac arteries.

Many of the medicines for mental illnesses are known to cause weight gain; the Zyprexa I take for my schizoaffective disorder is particularly bad this way. It's also known to cause diabetes.

I had the idea recently that I could exercise in little bits as I went about my day, by taking the stairs instead of escalators or elevators. It probably would have helped, but often I just didn't feel like dealing with it, and took the easy way out. I needed something more focussed and definite.

My bike is still back East; it will be a while yet before we can have it sent out. I've never gotten into running or using a treadmill, but at the gym back in Truro I did well at using the step machine - and there are some steps near my apartment:

I live near the Joyce SkyTrain station ( SkyTrain is Vancouver's light rail system). The platform is about twenty feet (or six metres) from the ground level. I decided today that I would run up and down the station's stairs each day.

In my leather Clarks shoes, the same ones I wear to the office. I don't have gym shoes, see? Yes, I'll certainly get some, but I didn't want to let that delay me even one more day.

I was dismayed to find that my shorts, which I had not worn since I came to Vancouver, would not stay snapped shut - the snap always came undone as soon as I let go.

So I wore long pants.

It was raining and cool as I walked to the station. I counted the stairs on my first trip up: there are forty-four of them.

It didn't seem so hard going up the first time. I ran right back down and then back up again. I wondered if the other people on the stairs would think me odd for doing this, but no one said anything.

Technically, I was breaking the law: it is a "fare-paid zone" starting at the foot of the stairs. One must buy a ticket before going up to the platform and show it to transit personnel upon request. But the SkyTrain is effectively on the honor system; there are no turnstyles, and in the six months since I've been in Vancouver I have been asked for my ticket only twice. (And yes, I always buy a ticket, when I'm actually going somewhere.)

At first I intended to climb the stairs ten times. In the end I climbed only five times - two hundred twenty stairs. I think I could have gone up one, maybe two more climbs, but I think I'm better off working up to it. Tomorrow I will climb six times, and add one more climb each day for a while.

One measure of your physical fitness is how long it takes you to cool off after exercising. I didn't sweat particularly in the cool outside air, but after I came inside I sweat heavily. I lay on the couch and drank a lot of water. It took me a long time to cool off. I felt as weak as a kitten.

I do plan to join a gym next month - there are several of them downtown, not far from my office and the train stations. Eventually I will get my bike shipped out here and commute to work on it, when the weather is better.

I felt good as I showered. I feel good now for having exercised. I've done a good thing. I'm going to keep this up - every day.

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