On our way to 100 miles …

This week, I’ve started in earnest on getting in shape for the Seagull Century bike ride in October. My brother-in-law Chris asked me to do it last year and I agreed, but now it’s July and between the wedding and covid, I’m behind schedule. So it’s time to get it in gear.

Today was the first of my long ride days (35-mile target) and it was also hot as hell. On Thursday, I got in a 21-mile ride. It was my first longer ride with my new shoes and SPD pedals, and I was able to pull on the backside of my cycle stroke. That was a good thing, but it also meant that when I went faster, I was using muscles that haven’t really gotten a lot of use in recent years. So I ended up cramping in my left calf and limping home.

Today I kept things very free-wheeling and easy. I didn’t push on the way down to Manayunk, just spun circles and worked on pulling through the back half of the pedal stroke and changing up my hand positions to avoid fatigue. When I was passed, I didn’t chase.

It worked pretty well.  I got down there feeling pretty good, took some photos and headed back. Ride back I started to tire, but that’s why you do it. The good news: I avoided re-cramping my left calf, even though I kept my left foot hooked into the pedal the whole time. That is probably the headline of the day. Finished up with an average speed around 13.3 mph. I’ll take that, especially given it was hotter than hell and I didn’t do a great job of applying sunscreen before I left.

Attached are some photos from the ride.

Where Are We in the Pandemic?

With omicron burning through Americans, vaccinated and unvaccinated (though, sadly, with very different outcomes), it feels like a total vertigo moment.

It’s as if we’re either:

  • In a Chutes and Ladders moment, in which we slide back to April 2020 and start all over again. Or …
  • On one of those people movers at the airport, and omicron’s lesser severity and crazy transmissibility accelerates us toward the end of this dread time.

I know we are not sliding back to vaccine-less 2020, but right now we’re in the middle of Little O’s spread and it’s depressing to see so many people who have avoided covid this far into the pandemic getting sick, and dealing with all the dislocation, frustration and postponement that comes with a country full of sick people (many mild, some deathly) all at once. Hospitals are delaying elective surgeries again, not because they are full of seriously ill patients, but because they can’t staff an OR. Schools are closing not because all the kids are sick, but because too many teachers and aides are. Same for restaurants and thrift shops and corporate offices.

The next 6-8 weeks are gonna be this twilight period. Maybe it’s the coming dawn. Maybe it’s a terrible dusk. My hope and best guess is dawn. Regardless, right now, we lack light and sight. I simply want this to end, and I know I’m not alone. Yet it feels so darn lonely. I’m grateful for my wife and for friends and family, AND I realize that I’ve got some level of PTSD from this time. That we all do.

I wish I could Rip Van Winkle this and wake up in April.

Into this jumble of feelings, this article from the New York Times Magazine landed like a dose of Dramamine for a seasick traveler, introduced a new term (“ambiguous loss”) and gave me another person in this world to be thankful for, researcher Pauline Boss.

And Virginia and I started to watch Station Eleven, on HBO Max. The opening episode felt a lot like the opening to Stephen King’s The Stand, though it then goes in a much different direction. It reminded me that the world closes and opens, though rarely for all of us at the same time and in the same ways, and a realization comes to me: Things can always be worse. That reminder — and an always fledgling mindfulness practice — is a way to keep my head above water these days.

And walk, or ruck, or run, when I can.

The Great Shift


Virginia and I went on a Saturday night date (to the Mann Music Center to see Ballet X after a dinner out) for the first time in 16 months and then attended an outdoor church music event the next afternoon and it’s starting to feel like we’re increasingly out of the teeth of the pandemic. (I’ll worry about variants on another day.)

I am very, very curious what things are going to look like on the other side of this, if we ever truly get all the way to the other side (see variants), but for now I feel like alI I know is that there has been a Great Shift. I feel it as if we’re on a ship and some enormous load has moved in the hold. The deck isn’t quite level, but nobody has yet been down in the hold to see what happened. Will it re-settle and we’ll come back to level? Will it keep rolling and we’ll capsize? Or are we just gonna float, a little off-kilter and bobbing, till we all learn to walk on this tilted deck as if this is the way it’s always been? I’m an optimist, and yet. There is some anxiety here.

I’ve been trying to comprehend the Great Shift. It seems that the way people understood the world or behaved in it has changed. A year-plus of retreating into our homes and very limited social bubbles if you were privileged/lucky — or braving a deadly pandemic, if you weren’t — has provided some revelatory space. People have changed, I sense, but also that they don’t quite know how. I don’t either, but here are some lessons that, to me, people seem to have learned:

  • The world can bend a lot when it has to. Things that were seemingly immutable (commutes, weddings, ballgames, live music, movie theaters, beers with the guys, book groups, dating, meeting other humans, monetary policy) either disappeared or were replaced by virtual doppelgängers that were more or less unsatisfactory. And those in-person things are coming back with a drip-drip-drippiness that’s much slower than the faucet-slammed-shut immediacy of March 2020.
  • Or not. For a lot of people, the past year has created a distance that they welcome or prefer to the uncertainty of re-emerging. Either way, they’re satisfied with or resigned to the past year’s status quo.
  • They have more say than they originally thought they had on some of these things and, this is important, that as they reconnect, they want things on their terms. Whether it’s no more supermarket trips or work commutes or going to church on Sunday mornings, if people don’t see value in their presence or attendance, they’ll insist on alternatives.
  • The world is not unipolar. Hybrid might be 2021’s Word of the Year. This will be the year of yes/and, not either/or. Or maybe it will be the year of no/and, as in I won’t do that, but I would do this with some of that. One thing that I don’t think many businesses have reckoned with is that the past year was simple. Work went remote. Many employees haven’t seen an office in more than a year. As companies begin to navigate a world where people work at home AND in an office, it’s going to be a) complicated and b) expensive. You’re going to have to equip both workplaces or risk a productivity trough in one of them. Simply saying, if you don’t like it, come to the office, isn’t going to cut it.
  • They can get away with no as an answer. Don’t like the conditions an employer places on a return to the office? Find a new job. Don’t like the idea of returning to work, period? Then don’t. Don’t like your partner? Well, people seem to have decided that can wait. People have embraced the ambiguities and figured out how to hold their breath. It might be a long time before some of them come up for air.

In short, people want what they want, it isn’t what they had before the pandemic, and they think they have the agency to make it happen, one way or another.

I expect this is going to manifest itself in the biggest mixed bag of a recovery we’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s going to lead to a tumultuous economic year, an explosion of cash being thrown around in pursuit of self-actualization and fulfillment of wishes and missions and delusions, and, sadly, an acceleration of some of the trends toward social isolation and bubble building. I think it’s going to be bad for political polarization, because as people rebuild their social graphs they are going to consider their choices through a partisan lens, which could exacerbate the kind of political sorting that has already become too much a factor in who hangs with whom. Emerging from this with political affiliation as a primary lens is one of the saddest fruits of the pandemic season. If a global pandemic, driven by a remorseless virus whose only affiliation is vulnerability isn’t enough to get us all pulling in one direction, I fear for the Commons. And the Commonwealth.

Also in the sad category, I think education is going to remain a mess for the next year, as unvaccinated kids will remain the biggest pool of viral potential for coronavirus variants. I expect schools, kids, parents and teachers will continue to be stressed and whipsawed by that reality all the way into 2022. The degree to which this is true will depend a lot of your zip code. Vaccinated zip codes will suffer less, those with a lot of vaccine holdouts more.

In short, there’s a lot of tonnage moving around in the hold. We could re-settle into a Better Way, a more seaworthy existence. There are promising signs that people realize it’s time to value sustainability. But it could flip us. I’m an optimist, but I’m also a little worried about slipping off this listing ship. Or that the ship we’re on is about to be tossed by Climate Change in a way that could make all this epidemiological and sociological hullaboo seem like small potatoes—think the lords and ladies of Westeros scrambling for power until, in the penultimate episodes, they notice the unsettling, quiet guy with the blue eyes riding an ice dragon at the head of a zombie army in Game of Thrones. But that’s for another day, and another post.

Above all, I’m curious. And curious how you think it’ll sort itself out.

How Do We Catch Kids Up in a Post-COVID World?

As we catch a glimmer of the world that will be after COVID-19 goes away or becomes endemic or just stops stopping the world from happening, I’m curious about what might happen in that world. Here is the first in a couple pieces on what I imagine comes next. (Disclaimer: I am not an expert on health, vaccines, education, real estate or consumer trends. Just curious.)

We need to make up a year, but how?

Listen, everybody has had a shitty past year, but people with children, young and older, have had an especially shitty time. Families have spent a year in very close quarters, with work and schooling occurring in the most difficult way possible.

Even worse, the disruption to learning means that many, many young people are now basically at an educational deficit. I have heard innumerable stories of talented young learners who were disabled or disengaged by the pandemic. A colleague said that a business contact was saying that at some point employers are going to identify a cohort of young people as unhireable because they simply missed too much learning at a particularly vulnerable time. I think that’s unlikely, but I do know that kids are behind and something needs to be decided about how to act (or not) to address it.

So how to catch them up? One obvious way would be to put kids in class through the summer, to essentially make up the lost days and lost lessons. One summer likely won’t do it; this could be a three-summer project. It would require a rewrite of curricula to acknowledge an 11-month learning year, but it’s possible. Much of the world already does it. And it would probably require an influx of teachers to create a sustainable model. Heck, it could also serve as a part of an argument for raising teacher pay.

Once you’ve lived in this post-COVID response for 3 years, I can imagine that a diminished summer vacation—say, between July 4 and the second week in August—could become a new normal. We’ve been saying since the end of World War II that the summer break is an anachronism, maybe COVID is the thing that ends it.

Along the same lines we might see a re-working of summer camps. Maybe the experientially wide-ranging camps that exist for people with financial means trade away some canoe and craft time for science, foreign languages, algebra 2 and trig. For those who don’t go to sleep-away outside their community, some version of day camp/summer school that is more mandate than option would be possible. Would parents welcome the extra structure after more than a year of going it largely alone? A definite maybe.

All of this would cost money, but these are unique circumstances and money is apparently not a constraint on anything right now (which is not a critique, but an observation). Maybe the Feds simply pick up the tab as a strategic intervention to protect a generation from underachievement and diminished prospects.

Whatever the response, it seems that summer is at least part of the solution and I imagine this is a multiyear, moonshot-type effort to get an entire generation of kids back on level. That would be better than a universal hold-back, right?

(Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash)

I’m curious what you think. Please comment below.

It’s a Bat

So I’m sitting at work yesterday afternoon when I see a zig-zagging beam of light to my far left. A couple minutes later, I see it again. It happens maybe 5 times over 90 minutes.

As I prepare to drive to a church meeting about an hour away, as I walk down a hallway, I notice something out of focus in my left eye’s field of vision. I mean, really IN my field of vision. Like, IN my head.

By the time I get to the meeting, this is officially a thing, and I spend half of the time there watching this structure, this blob, hover just outside my ability to focus on it. (The rest I spend listening and offering whatever bizarre metaphors come to mind—if you’ve ever been in a meeting with me, you know, The Usual).

Driving home is good because in the dark I have far less sense of where the damn hairball in my head is. I get home, share a mixture of anxiety and dread with Virginia, and agree to see my ophthalmologist the next day.

Next day, the ophthalmologist is looking in my eye when she says, “This is gonna be uncomfortable.” She proceeds to numb out my left eye, puts gel on the bottom of what looks like a salt shaker, places it firmly against my cornea and looks through it in to my head. The salt shaker has four mirrors, she says, that allow her to look all around my eye. For the floater. Come on, Dr. Jill, you don’t need four mirrors! It’s right there, in the top left quarter of my field of vision!

She sees it.

“Oh,” she says, “that’s a big one.”

I know.

“It looks like a bat.”


The bat, I’m told, is a glob of viscous goo that has separated from the retina in my left eye. It’s pretty normal, called “a floater,” and it’s not particularly dangerous—except for that moment of separation, which can tug and tear your retina. Apparently that was the light show in my far-left field of vision. Dr. Jill tells me things look good, but she doesn’t exactly look like it’s good. And when she tells me to come back in a week, and to call if ANYTHING changes, I’m thinking this could be OK but bears non-ignoring. No Thursday basketball this week.

I drive home, sunglasses on, in that hands-groping-through-the-windshield-trying-to-help way that I always drive while my eyes are dilated and I’m too stubborn to tell Virginia I could use a ride home (or even better, to work, 35 miles of physics-defying will). Thankfully, while it’s clear, it’s January, there’s only so much sun, and there’s no reflected light off snow.

So I’m driving home thinking how 18 months ago I basically had never had a “real” health issue in my life. Since then, three visits to the cardiac catheterization theater, three medicated stents—including two in my left anterior descending artery (the proverbial Widowmaker)—as well as a high ankle sprain and co-occurring stress fracture in my lower left leg, and now this damn bat flittering around in my left eye, which has been seeing less and less at night since last winter.

And—duh!—I’m forgetting the basal cell on my nose that was removed 4-5 years ago, with the surgeon suturing me up like stitching together a softball. So ONE health issue in previous 49 years.

Exasperated, I think, What’s left? And I lean on humor, and joke with my wife that I’m almost through the checkboxes. All that’s left is diabetes and sexual dysfunction.

It strikes me that one of life’s mysteries is finally coming into view: the mystery of older men and Viagra jokes, the source of so much of the humor of my dad and his contemporaries over the last third of their lives. I always wondered why so many jokes, told so often, despite the eye rolls and the sighs and the not-agains.

As I stare down and fight back against this creeping obsolescence—heck, this galloping obsolescence—I see the lure of and surrender in the blue-pill joke. The unease expressed in humor. The vulnerability in the repetition and preoccupation with the joke and its deeper truth: age softens us, in different ways. The finality, because, let’s face it, there is not much line left to let out from the great twine-ball of malady-based humor once you’re past the Viagra jokes. Cracks about low-salt diets, about adult diapers, about “Hafzheimers” and fading memories, about St. Peter and the Pearly Gates and what awaits you, and who’s going to miss and not miss you.

So I brush the floater from my attention and set my intention on getting back on the basketball court, and back on the trail, and on writing every day, and making mad, loud, passionate love on a schedule that’s something less than hourly and better than quarterly. And drinking less on weeknights—unless with friends. And cleaning this sloppy desk. And making mad, loud … damn it! I’m repeating myself. The Hafzheimers!

Anyway, so a man and his wife go to the pharmacist to pick up his prescription for Viagra. The man is shocked that it costs $10 per pill, but his wife says …

You’re right. I shouldn’t go there.

“$40 for the year doesn’t sound so bad.”

I’ll be here all year, folks.

A 2nd Heart Surgery in 7 Months

It’s good to be home after a pretty scary week. On Friday, I had my second cardiac catheterization in the past 7 months, and I’m now the owner of two additional stents (that’s three total if you’re counting at home). The surgeon framed it not as a further deterioration but as a hopeful resolution to what started in September.

Existentially, I’m fine. My heart is beating, I am not in any pain, there was no catastrophe that sent me to the hospital. Score one for me noticing what was happening inside me.

Spiritually, I have been overcome by and struggled with how vulnerable I am, by what can go wrong even as I try to do right, by how my sphere of control is so very limited.

And so I remind myself that I’ve never had that much control, that so much has gone and continues to go right in my life (me typing this being prime evidence), that I am surrounded by brave and loving people and a level of care that few people in this world have ever been able to access. I am open, aware and engaged in this great project of living and loving.

I wrote this yesterday. I’m calling it Space:

This hurtling
Through Space
That is my life,

That is your life,
Can leave me
Nauseous, fearful,

As if I was
Mere inches
From a great

And that is when
I need the reminder

That, if I open my eyes,
Light is creeping
Across the earth.

The sun spills over
The rounded corner
Of the horizon,

A sky filled to bursting
With others, looking
As awkward in orbit as me.

And I know this:
This life, so fast,
So frighteningly
Close to the inhospitable,
So vulnerable,

It is bathed in light.
It is connected
To great joy

If only I look out
And in, and reconcile
Myself to the height

And the speed
And the warmth
And the cold.

This is life lived
On the edge of wonder
And calamity,

Which is to say,
This is life.

How I Had an Almost-Not-Quite Tragedy—and You Can Too

Hi, I’m Kevin. I’m 49 years old, I’ve been married for 23 years. I have two boys in college. I’m 6-foot tall and weigh almost 190 pounds. I have worked for Men’s Health for the past 8 years and I generally live an active, healthy lifestyle.

And five weeks ago a doctor unclogged an artery in my heart that might have left me dead or disabled before Christmas.

“I’d say I dodged a bullet,” I told a friend, “but that implies that I saw it coming.” It’s more like I was standing one foot in the street when a city bus narrowly missed me.

SEVEN WEEKS ago, I felt something in my chest. It was not quite pain, not quite pressure. Mostly an awareness, usually on the extreme left side of my chest. Sometimes it would jump to the extreme right side.

Initially I thought I had tweaked a muscle while serving as part of a test panel for an upcoming fitness DVD (Oh, the perks of being a Men’s Health editor).

Six weeks ago, the something hadn’t gone away, and I had to admit that it wasn’t a muscle tweak. The discomfort was coming from within my chest—like those floor-drops-out-below-you moments in a horror movie where the police let you know that the maniac’s call was placed from INSIDE your house!!!

The realization came upon me like a dark cloud (cliched, but exactly how I felt). My family has a long history of heart disease. My dad had quintle-bypass surgery in 1985, at the age of 44. Even worse, when he awoke from the procedure, his surgeon asked him when he had his heart attack. My dad stared at him dumbfounded. He had never had a heart attack, he insisted. The surgeon said the scar tissue around his heart argued otherwise. That set off a family parlor game: When Did Dad Have His Heart Attack? We finally landed on a most likely candidate: Family vacation, a few years earlier. The San Diego Zoo. He thought he was coming down with the flu and headed back to the hotel, where he slept it off. He was back in the driver’s seat, driving us to LA, the next day. Call it drive-thru rehab. That was my dad. He passed away five years ago, at 70.

His dad died at the age of 42, in 1944. An Irish immigrant driving a bakery truck, he flipped it over on the streets of New York. They pulled his dead body from the truck. Nobody did autopsies on poor Irish truck drivers back then, so the cause of his death remains a medical mystery.

It’s pretty much like that on my dad’s side of the family. His cousin, in Dublin, has suffered from painful angina for years, and has enough stents to open a cardiac medical supply store.

And still, I figured that if I did enough good things—stayed active, ate pretty well, managed stress and my weight—that I could stay ahead of this shadow. But here it was.

I called my GP, let’s call him Doctor V, and asked to move up a scheduled checkup by a week.

Things were going fine at my checkup. My blood pressure was a little high but that was understandable because I was nervous. I bent over a table, grimaced, and found out second-hand (pun intended) that my prostate was a small, supple thing of beauty. Dr. V and I talked about my chest discomfort and he thought it sounded muscular. Lauren the Nurse would come and give me an EKG and I could go home.

Except that, after taking the EKG and disappearing for a second, Lauren came back and asked me to stick around. Dr. V. wanted to talk with me.

The shadow closed in.


Here’s a quick primer from EKG 101: In a healthy EKG, there are a series of waves, labeled P through U. P marks the contraction of the atria, and is a slight turn upward; QRS is a small down-big up-small down movement that marks the contraction of the ventricle; and the T is a small upward movement that marks the re-set (repolarization) of the heart before it pumps again. The P, R, and S are all supposed to go up. In mine, several of the leads showed the first two waves going up, then the third sagging downward. That’s an inverted T wave, and the T stands for Trouble. It can be a sign of blockage.

But maybe not. My doc wasn’t sure what to do. We didn’t have a history together. In fact, this was our first time as doctor and patient (we knew each other from his treating my 18-year-old son). EKGs are not exact science, he explained. In fact, I could have had this abnormality in my heart beat since I was born. “My gut tells me this isn’t something we should ignore,” he said. “Would you mind going to the ER?”

I didn’t, and I did. The docs drew blood to check for specific inflammation markers and to run a blood panel, and did another EKG. The decision: I wasn’t having a heart attack but I needed more tests, specifically a nuclear stress test.

SIX DAYS LATER, I woke up the morning of the stress test feeling better than I had in two weeks. No pain at all. A ghostly absence of sensation.

The stress test involved injecting a radioactive dye in my bloodstream, then imaging my heart before and after a period of activity. It was pretty cool—I’d been experiencing this long enough that my curiosity was now routinely trumping my fear—and strangely liberating. The ER doc had made a point of telling me not to go too hard until that test, especially after I told her I had pushed a sled with 425 pounds on it around the gym trying to trigger a reaction that would confirm this was angina (it didn’t work). So the chance to exert myself on a treadmill felt good. I was able to walk fast, then run, for about 9 minutes. I got my heart to 160 beats per minute. No pain. Maybe this is going to be OK, I thought. I laid down for the after-exercise set of images and went home.

My brand-new cardiologist, Dr. Matthew Levy, called me on my cell that evening. I was shooting baskets on my driveway.

“It doesn’t look good,” he said. “You definitely have a blockage. I need you to come in two days from now to get cathed. We’ll take a look at it, and if the blockage is severe enough, we’ll perform an angioplasty.”

We talked for a few more minutes, then he said. “I don’t know you very well, but you don’t sound surprised.”

I was, and I wasn’t.

TWO MORNINGS later, I was on an operating room table in Paoli, Pa., the object of a cardiac catheterization. I was drugged but not knocked out; it was more dreamy than blotto. While I know that I was half-there, I have no useful memories from the operation or from the couple hours afterward.

coronary_arteriesI would later find out that my left anterior descending artery (known in heart circles as “the widowmaker”), which snakes down the front of my heart, was about 95% blocked. A stent was put in place to open the blockage. I was out of the hospital within 24 hours of the procedure, with little to show for it other than a broken night’s sleep and a minuscule incision in my right wrist, where the catheter was inserted. The site was a little swollen and bruised. I sat outside on the deck of a local winery at 4 p.m. that day, sipping a half-glass of red wine, enjoying the afternoon sun, listening to a jazz band, and insisting to friends that I had indeed been a patient in a hospital that morning.

I have a new regimen of three pills—baby aspirin, the blood thinner Effient, and the statin Lipitor—that I take daily. I’ve run a few times and the biggest issue has been my balky left knee. I am about a minute-a-mile faster than I’ve been for the past two years. I wonder if having an almost catastrophic blockage of the biggest artery feeding my heart is actually an advantage. Am I now turbo-charged? Am I asking for some karmic fuck-job for even thinking this way??

My cardiologist tells me I was days, or weeks, or maybe a month or two from a possibly devastating heart attack.

I feel pretty damn lucky.

THE QUESTION, of course, is this: Shouldn’t I have seen this coming?

Medically, the answer is surprisingly equivocal.

How to treat folks like me remains controversial, said Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, the medical editor of Examine.com who has a practice in Olney, Md.

“It really depends,” he said, “because someone with a low risk—a slightly elevated cholesterol level but not a family history, they’re clean, their blood pressure and blood sugar is all fine—they can have slightly higher lipid levels without as much of a risk as someone with those risk factors. You may have to treat 100 people like that to avoid one heart attack over five years.

“Now someone with higher risk, you may be treating 50 or less people to prevent one heart attack in five years. It is one of those things we argue all the time. It’s primary prevention vs. secondary prevention.

“What you’re doing now is secondary prevention. You’ve already had a coronary issue and now you’re trying to prevent the second event, a heart attack. And other people who have initially high cholesterol [but no cardiac disease] may be on statins too. What we find is that statins may be more helpful in secondary prevention than in primary prevention.”

So there’s a medical argument that makes me look less like an idiot. Yes, I had a family history, but my blood panels over the years were borderline. Cholesterol right around the 200 mark, with not a lot of the good stuff (HdL). Triglycerides on the high side, but not crazy. Over the years, a doctor would look at the panel, then look up at me, then decide it all bore watchful waiting.



Here is a recent blood panel and a popular risk calculator. If I don’t know I have cardiac artery disease, my 10-year risk of heart attack is  6%. It jumps to more than 20% if I do know. Note that I copped to a family history in both examples.

So we watched—until I screwed up. And here’s where we move beyond medical cover into my own accountability. Because I stopped seeing my old GP after we disagreed over how much activity a guy in his 40s should engage in (I said more, he thought it was asking for injuries). He moved out of the area soon after—and for 6 years or so, nobody watched anything.

It’s the most obvious advice one could receive: Find a new GP. But I didn’t. I can say I was busy, that I was occupied by family and career and anything that could keep me from going to the doctor. That I felt fine.

But the truth is as long as I was feeling good I didn’t want anyone spoiling my party. So I didn’t look while I stepped in and out of that city street.

Anyone else? Show of hands, please. Thought so. We’re a big club, with a lot of turnover. in 2012, more than one-quarter of all guys avoided a checkup with a doctor.

Late this summer, with my 50th birthday just months away, I decided to find a doctor. I made an appointment with a general practitioner who impressed me with his care of my son, who has several health issues. I set up the appointment before I ever felt a twinge in my chest. In my blacker moments, after my chest tingled and before I got to the doctor’s office, I thought, Nice job, Kevin. You invoked this motherfucker.

Except I know I didn’t. And that my decision to move up my checkup may have saved my life.

So here I am, and here’s what I’m doing.

I’M CLEANING UP MY DIET. I love salty snacks and good ol’ Coca-Cola. Both are getting dialed WAY DOWN. The great thing about cravings is the longer you go without them, the easier it is in the moment. My Coke intake is down to about one a week. Pretzels, once a month.

Dr. P.K. Shah, of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles and a member of the Men’s Health advisory board, encouraged me to lean toward a Mediterranean Diet. My cardiologist, Dr. Levy, made it even simpler: eat fish twice a week. Dr. Nadolsky said to snack on nuts and find a way to consume 4 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil every day.

Since this episode began, I’ve dropped 6 pounds, to 182. I’d like to settle in for now close to 180 pounds.

I’M MOVING. Research says that 30 minutes of moderate exercise 4-5 times a week is where I should start, and I am. But there’s some that suggests that more intensive exercise provides additional benefit. My doctors have told me I’m under no restrictions within reason. My aim is to push myself hard to keep my pipes as clean as possible. I am pushing the sled again, and running suicides at a local basketball court. Suicides suck—but not doing them sucks worse, I think.

I’M RECONNECTING WITH THE DOCTOR. I’ve learned my lesson. I will continue to check in with my GP (Dr. Graham Vigliotta) and cardiologist (Dr. Matthew Levy, Cardiology Consultants of Philadelphia).

The thing is, your 40s are a time of transition and not all of it is positive. Risks accumulate over time, and I cannot ignore them. I am taking statins—with coronary disease now determined, that’s a no-brainer, says Dr. Nadolsky.

If any of this story resonates with you, start at the beginning. If you don’t have a GP, get one. If you haven’t seen yours in a while, see her or him. If you have a family history of heart disease, get a baseline EKG by 40, younger if you have other risks factors (obesity, hypertension, generally shitty habits).

At the same time, and I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m backing out here, I refuse to be defined by my illness. I am not a diagnosis. Going forward, my goal is to be aware of it AND work with it to thrive.

I’m hanging my hat on what Dr. Shah told me: “Although having heart disease at a young age indicates a serious predisposition, proper lifestyle and medical management can largely control that risk and is compatible with a normal life span.”

“People with conditions like yours live into their hundreds,” said my new best friend, Dr. Nadolsky.

I’M STAYING POSITIVE.  People who have coronary disease who have a positive attitude tend to stick with behaviors that provide better outcomes, like exercise and compliance in taking meds,  reports a study in Psychosomatic Medicine.

Beyond that seemingly self-evident bit of news, I have a fresh new frame: I’m on a journey from happily ignorant to scared shitless to soberly, joyously aware. I know that I was extraordinarily lucky. A very-real and long-unacknowledged peril never turned into a calamity.  I know people right now who weren’t cut such a break.

One thing I’ve done is apologize to my wife for letting this all skulk in the shadows long enough that she needed to wait an hour for me to return from a hospital cardiac cath operating theater. Just before I headed in, she looked down with her eyes brimming, and said, “You know you mean the world to me.”

I know, and I know that I am part of a lot of people’s worlds. I will be a better steward of her care, and their care, going forward.

I’M TREATING MY LIFE AS A GIFT. I’m sharing this with the intention that it helps me (and you) live in awareness of the shadows and the light of our experience.

Life Isn’t Won or Lost. It’s Lived

Stuart Scott is dead. That is sad, and everything I’ve seen and read about him is that he was a talented broadcaster, a demanding colleague, a loving father. And having spent his professional life chronicling sports, it’s not surprising that the metaphors that came most easily to those reporting on his longtime struggle with cancer became one of battles, of wins and losses.

But cancer isn’t sport. And Stuart neither won nor lost to cancer. He lived with it until he couldn’t anymore. I’m a former professional Sports Guy. I know how easily it is to slip into the framework of sport. But, at 49—the same age as Scott when he died this morning—I recoil from it.

Scott used this kind of oppositional lens in explaining his relationship with the C-word, when speaking to a colleague of mine for a 2013 profile:

You’re trying to invade my body. You’re trying to take me away from my daughters, but I’m stronger than you. And I’m going to hit harder than you. I know you’re going to hit back just as hard, and I know sometimes you’re going to knock me down. But I’m going to get up, and I’m going to kick your ass.

I understand that living with cancer means, in many ways, living against cancer, and competitive people will leverage their competitive instincts to maintain their quality of life and even life itself. But here’s the truth. If the win/loss is life/death, we all eventually lose. And you don’t kick cancer’s ass in the same way it can kick yours. You learn to live with the pain and the compromises of treating it. You learn, or re-learn, to love life through the challenges, despite the challenges, because of the challenges. The loss isn’t in dying someday; it’s not living as well as you can today.

And sometimes illness can serve as a call to that. I met a woman over the weekend who mentioned having MS, then said that managing it had deepened her in a way that nothing else had or could. I would say the same thing about my teenage son who lives with colitis and persistent migraines. It’s not cancer, but it’s no picnic, and it’s matured him. He understands suffering in a way that you only get first-hand.

So, I’m not saying illness is good. I’m saying the amazing, jaw-dropping thing is that people can take things that truly suck and make beautiful, powerful, affirming meaning from them. That somehow, we can live richly despite illness. What an audacious and hopeful gift.

From all accounts, Stuart managed to live richly through his treatment. This is what he said after a particularly tough stretch in his treatment, at last July’s ESPY awards:

When you die, that does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.

And while you could say that Stuart was changing the game when cancer was clearly “winning,” I prefer to think that he was getting at the larger truth: we “win” by living and loving for as long as we’re here.

Well-lived, Stuart. Rest in peace.

A Month without Beer

I took a monthlong “vacation” from alcohol recently and am writing about it. I haven’t spoken to experts yet to help me frame my experience, but I’m working on it. What follows are my initial thoughts.


Maybe you’re like me. You like beer and wine. Sometimes you really like them. And you wonder, is this a problem?

Not a Drinking Problem, I think, but perhaps a little-d, little-p drinking problem.

And that’s why I gave up booze (for the most part, qualifier to come) for the month of September.

Some friends asked why when I declined a beverage. It’s not that complicated. Basically, I felt the need to reign in a habit that had gotten away from me—especially on weeknights, when there was no specific benefit. I was knocking down a couple beers because they were in the fridge. It was a poor excuse. And at 2 and sometimes 3 beers on a weeknight, I was padding my diet with 300-500 calories daily. It added up to a roughly-6,000-calorie anchor on my metabolism every month.

And like a lot of men from a lot of families, there is a thread of substance abuse, mostly alcohol, that runs through my family tree. It seems to become more pronounced as the men age. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself aware of it, intent to not ignore it.

So with reasons both immediate and long-term nagging me, I decided it was time to check and make sure that those couple beers a night were serving me—and not the other way around.

The first couple nights following Labor Day were weird, but I soon settled into a routine, substituting green tea or sparkling lemon water for the beer and occasional wine while watching TV, talking with my family or a friend, or tapping away at a keyboard. I thought weekends would be difficult, but they weren’t really, though I did break with my intentions twice—both times for wine tastings at previously-scheduled social events. Each time I drank about one full glass of wine.

So here were my takeaways from this 30-day experiment:

1. I slept better. I knew this from a slew of studies, and from my own experiences when reviewing an activity tracker from Jawbone, but the month proved it again: alcohol, even a comparatively small amount, messes with my sleep. It tends to wake me in the early morning and keep me from sleeping deeply again till just before dawn. It doesn’t seem like much of a disruption, but once I was aware of it, I could feel it in the morning and see it in my tracker’s overnight report.

2. I didn’t feel better. Maybe my expectations were too high. I thought that I’d feel an increase in energy and generally function better. That didn’t happen, which was disappointing. On the other hand, it confirmed that my drinking wasn’t a real impediment to my health. And it did make me sharper at both ends of the day: I woke up feeling ready to go (credit #1 above), and it kept me sharper later at night, so I was able to get more reading and writing and thinking done in the hour-plus before bedtime. Bonus!

3. I gained weight (at first). This shocked me. I expected that jettisoning 6,000 calories over the course of a month would have me swimming in my pants. No such luck. In fact, after two weeks, I had GAINED 3 pounds! I assume I compensated in much the same way people often stop at Starbucks as a reward for a trip to the gym. I am not a snacker, so I must have eaten just a little bit more at meals—and I do think my body craved sugar to replace the alcohol and that I found it in pretty subtle ways. The good thing is once I noticed it, I was able to adjust and ended the month back at 186 pounds.

4. I thought about drinking pretty much every day. It wasn’t an overbearing compulsion or an urge, but it was a consistent daily feature, a tug on my consciousness, and it made me think about the nature of habit. In their book, Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, authors Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir talk about “tunneling,” which they write is what the mind does when confronted with scarcity.

An example: As World War II ended, the US Army sent psychologists into German POW camps where Americans had been held. The US soldiers had basically been starved toward the end of the war when there wasn’t enough food for German soldiers and their captives. The psychologists were shocked by the level to which food dominated the American POWs’ thoughts and even their behavior. They could do very little except think about food, and it affected their ability to think about anything else. They were also willing to do almost anything to get food.

Beyond this example, many people are captives to their own reactions to scarcity. Tunneling and cravings are powerful roadblocks for people in all sorts of paths to recovery.

For me, the thoughts were most prevalent on weekends, in the late morning and early afternoon, when I had a little free time and tasks that didn’t require a lot of concentration. I thought about what kind of beer I’d like, or I would swallow and be reminded of the feelings of a beer in the back of my throat, of a bottle in my hand. What’s weird is that I didn’t have these thoughts at night, only in the day, and I never came close to acting upon them except for the already-mentioned wine tastings. 

That said, I was surprised by the persistence of these cravings; I thought they’d subside by the end of the second week or so, but that wasn’t true.

The other surprising thought, though, was an equally stubborn one that settled in during the third week—that I should continue this for another month. Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll do this weekend (editor’s note: abstinence thwarted; five beers total over three  days.)

5. I have never been so hydrated. Between tea, water, fizzy water, coffee, and soda (my true guilty pleasure), I drank way more fluids than I did previously. I spent roughly one-third of the month, zipper down, dick in hand, peeing into one basin or another, including one overnight trip to the bathroom each night on average. That might have some effect on my weight as I often felt like a large, slightly distended, pink balloon.

5. It brought me closer to my wife. I didn’t ask her to join me in this little experiment, but she did, on weeknights. I know some people who have done similar experiments say one of the negatives was the loss of “happy hour” time to survey the day or the week. We didn’t experience that; talking over tea worked just fine. And not being quite as dulled at bedtime had other benefits.

So, all in all, it was a positive. I’m committed to maintaining the weeknight ban and holding myself to two beers on (most) weekend nights.

Mostly, I am pleased that a habit that I felt was developing a life of its own feels firmly back in check. I know it can be managed.

Next up: sugar. In particular, soda. I have at times in the last few years really cut back and gone weeks without it, but I’m back to a daily drinker, though probably not what, according to Michael Moss’ eye-opening Salt Sugar Fat, the folks at Coca-Cola calls “a heavy user.” That said, my younger brother has diabetes, my dad had all sorts of health issues that cut his life short, and I could probably do much better at corralling my intake. I think I’ll aim for post-Thanksgiving to the holidays. Some people think that’s crazy, but if I can avoid junk during the junkiest time of the year, I should be poised for a great 2015. Right? Right?!?

I am very interested in others’ reactions and their own experiences.

My (In)Activity Tracker Epiphany

I wrote for Men’s Health recently about my 100 days (and nights) wearing a Jawbone UP24 activity tracker. If you want to save 5-6 minutes, I’ll give away the surprise: I learned more about what happens when I was asleep than when I was awake, and what I learned is that even a little alcohol affected my sleep quality. Put the saved time to good use.

The Unexpected Thing I Learned from My Activity Tracker (April 6, 2014)

How I Lost Weight … at Work

I’m an itinerant scale-hopper. I jump on the one in the bathroom nearly every day. It’s part of the morning ritual. And over time it has told me things I already knew.

Six-seven years ago, when it routinely recorded 200-plus pounds, it was telling me that I was letting the anxieties of shepherding a large news site through a time of tumult get in the way of finding time to take care of myself. Long hours, the always-on-ness that accompanies a news site in a big American city. It left me with little enthusiasm to eat right, exercise (and sleep) regularly—all the things you know you need to keep your life in balance.

When I joined Rodale five years ago, the scale told a different story. I dropped more than 20 pounds in the first 6-8 months. The work culture was one that encouraged me to leave my desk and go to the gym. Or the basketball court. Or join others running and biking and … you get the idea. The cafeteria was cheap and the food was healthier than in my old place. And this was Rodale, so there was a pressure to do “the health thing” right—or risk calling yourself out as a hypocrite (which is way worse than having others do it; most of my defenses on those charges face outward, not inward). So I dropped to about 180 pounds, even a little bit less. My knees were very happy. I had a little burst in the hoops games. My ever-present tire around the waist went from a car tire to a bicycle tire—a mountain bike tire, certainly, not one of those skinny little road bike tubes from the tour de France. But progress.

Over the next two years, I yo-yo’d between 180 and 190, usually closer to the high end of the scale. Until recently.

I’m back down at 180-182, and I’m staying there. Wish I could say I’d gone on a big exercising binge, but aside from a lot of hiking in Yosemite a month ago, that hasn’t been the case. I’m active, but no more than before.

And it would be great to say I’d reeled in my diet, but that’s not true either. Not so much food. I don’t overeat and I certainly eat more green and plants stuff than ever. The beverages are my difficulty: beer and soda. Love ’em both. I can drop one at a time, but never both. And most of the time, it’s neither. I easily carry 400-700 calories in liquid calories daily. It’s why I have to stay active just to tread water.

Except I haven’t been treading water. I got lighter while doing what I’ve done for the past two years.

So, finally, I asked myself, what’s up? And I realized, what’s up is me.

As in, early this Spring I got a stand-up desk at work. The monitor-and-keyboard-tray, made by Ergotron, can be moved up and down, so I can work standing or sitting. At first, I spent maybe 2 hours a day standing. Now it’s more like 4-5. It takes some getting used to, and you find over time that there’s certain things you do standing (email, web searches) and others you sit (editing a longer story or sketching out a new way to manage the site).

And that’s fine, because the amount of time I spend standing has been enough to kick my metabolism a little faster each and every day. And my back, which used to balk at sitting for long periods, is happy as a clam (if a clam had a pain-free back). And I am getting lots done and not minding the hourlong commute in the car so much when I stand a good bit of the time in between.

If you’re interested in the science behind standing desks—and the risks of sitting all day, even if you’re otherwise active—read my former colleague Maria Masters’ piece called Sentenced to the Chair (or this 2009 warning from Paul Scott). And reach out to your HR department and ask what it would take to get a stand-up desk. It’s worth the trouble.

Summer photo #4

Dan John was a very special guest at work on a Monday. He’s one of the very best kettlebell experts in the world, but beyond that he was a great teacher. We spent four hours learning three exercises—yes, 3: The kettlebell swing, goblet squat, and Turkish get-up.

When we were done, everybody was smarter, inspired, and sore. The last of those will fade away.

Kelly's Holding Serve

kelly-serve-upper-perkI don’t go more than a couple days without someone asking me how Kelly’s health is. After his difficult stretch through the late fall through January, including two trips to the hospital related to flares of his colitis, it’s on our minds, too.

I’m happy to say that we’ve got what seems like a durable maintenance plan in place that involves two medicines (Humira and methatrexate) and, except for the inconvenience of administering two shots each weekend, things are going very well.

His appetite is back with a vengeance and he’s looking poised for another growth spurt. After missing quite a bit of school in the first half of the year, he’s getting there on a daily basis. Unsurprisingly, the grades tend to track with attendance. And as his sophomore year winds down, he’s getting excited about selecting a college. (There’s a larger discussion of managing his health without his parents in the next room, but that’s an issue for another year.)

Regarding the photo above, Kelly’s playing third doubles on his high school tennis team. They played today, against Upper Perkiomen High School, and Kelly’s pairing won easily—6-0, 6-1, I think. More importantly, he’s playing and practicing consistently, getting in some much-needed exercise.

He’s on his learner’s permit right now, and will get his drivers’ license in late summer. He and Peter won’t have much time together at home with two licenses and just one car to share—speaking of issues for another year.

First Steps

Have to say I’m a bit proud of myself. After last week’s 5k run with Virginia at Wellsprings, I realized a) that I can run 3 miles and b) that I’m pretty blocked in my thinking of what I can do regarding running.

So today I went to the Pawlings lot that links to the Valley Forge trail and ran. And ran. And ran some more.

84 minutes later, I’d gone 8.5 miles. I’m not fast, but I kept my form relatively safe and my pace, while it slackened off late, didn’t go over the cliff. It helped that it was a beautiful day. Sunny, little wind, 40s headed to the 50s.

Funny the walls we build around our aspirations.

I’m grateful:

  • to Virginia, who ran with me last week and kicked my tail, which made me look at my ability and self-made blockages.
  • to BJ Gaddour, Adam Campbell, David Jack, and the whole Speed Shred/Spartacus at Work gang. I used to say I couldn’t run distances because of my back or my knees. But my back is better than it’s been in almost two decades and while I’m pretty sure there’s something pre-arthritic about my knees, they are functional and the lunges and other exercises have gotten the structure around them as strong and healthy as it’s been since I was much younger. I realize that when I thought I couldn’t do it, the reason was, well, because I COULDN’T, you know? Funny the walls we build around our aspirations.
  • to Wellsprings, for hosting an early spring 5k that got me thinking–and moving, in a particular way.

My goal, now, I think, is to participate in the NY Urbanathlon in October. Last fall I was there to help with some marketing efforts and I thought it was beyond me. Today, I’m feeling up to the challenge. That’s a good way to start a weekend, or a season, or the next day of your life.

Couple other things I realized:

  • I used the Runkeeper app on my phone and knowing generally where I was (how long, how far) made a big difference. I felt like I had the information I needed to make decisions. Excellent. Funny thing, though, was when I checked on Runkeeper and saw that it saved the event as “snowboarding.” Note to self: Learn the darn app.
  • I’ve never been a headphones-while-exercising person, but I tried that and, what do you know, it makes running easier when you have something else to concentrate on other than noting that your lungs and legs are on fire. Note to self: Add some up-tempo playlists to Spotify.

P.S. Sunday update: I’m a little sore in my hamstrings, but not THAT sore. Got in 20-25 minutes of Speed Shred-esque exercises, with Kelly, in the basement. Feeling good!

Age-Group Champeen!

wellsprings-5k-resultVirginia and I took part in a 5k run at our church on Saturday. The course was very up-and-down, it was mostly on and around athletic fields—in other words, it was a slow track.

And we did great—Virginia especially. She finished 27th among all 150-plus participants, and first in her age group (I will avoid getting in trouble by not mentioning what age group that was), in a touch more than 30 minutes. Great time!

I don’t think we’ll suddenly hit the road racing circuit, but it was fun. And we helped out before the event, with general setup and sorting out the parking.

You Can’t Fake This Stuff

One of the really great things about working at Rodale is that we’re in the business of human thriving, which makes it really hypocritical if the company doesn’t, you know, encourage its employees to thrive.

Point being, we have a “fun in the workplace” Friday coming soon, with food, contests, games and activities planned. (Now we need this crummy weather to clear out before the event.) And folks are already in the spirit. The photo above is a co-worker’s door.

And it’s not just a special event. I left my desk this afternoon to kick off Phase 3 of Speed Shred, the successful DVD program we launched last summer. We did all 12 weeks this fall, switched to the Spartacus DVD product we introduced around the holidays, and returned to Speed Shred in late January. Sure, I ate lunch at my desk to save the off-time for “Shredding,” but honestly, how cool is that! It’s fair to say that my five years at Men’s Health has been hugely beneficial to my health and fitness.

Yesterday, my minister was talking about how our perpetual busy-ness leaves us tired, and how this affects our ability to be our best. Afterward, I told him that my company has 2 nap rooms in the building I work in, and that a high-ranking editor at the magazine uses it, permissioning other folks to do the same. That doesn’t mean that everyone shows up with a blankie and puts their head down after milk-and-cookie time, but it is affirming to know that when you’re tired, you can rest.

This all sounds a little kiss-ass and pollyanna-ish, but a) it’s all true and b) I’m in a good mood. I feel very blessed and grateful to work someplace that walks its talk.

‘Wasted’ Time

Reading through Lawrence Stains’ feature on young people and alcohol (Wasted, Men’s Health, March 2013) had me thinking about my son and his friends.

The numbers are daunting. I won’t run through them here—read the story if you want them. But it does clearly spell out the fact that the distance between getting fucked up and dying is distressingly thin. Medical professionals even have a term for a blood alcohol content over .35—”the death zone.” You won’t necessarily die‚ but you won’t necessarily wake up in the morning, either.

The really compelling stuff to me was Stains’ insight into why young people today do this: intimacy. I don’t quite buy the explanation that these young people are socially awkward due to Facebook and Twitter, but I do think he’s dead-on in this excerpt:

Once the partiers are hammered, the love begins to surge through the little community. Guys tease each other, slap each other, hug each other. Girls are a little tearful. (“I love you guys so much!”) As Vander Ven [a researcher] observed time and time again in his field notes, students drink “because of the love they get. . . . Feeling loved by peers is clearly part of the emotional payoff.” Everyone is carefree. Everyone is laughing. Everything is funny. Status matters less: “It almost levels the playing field when people gather,” one student told him, “’cause everyone’s just trying to have a good time.”

This rings really true to me. I think the lubrication allows them to say things and surface things they don’t think they can otherwise.

Let me be clear: I don’t think young people today are irretrievably broken. I know I drank to excess in college. I also know that the best years of my life came after I stopped doing all that and dialed into the experience that was my life and discerned the outlines of purpose in the here and now. And while I understand that I can’t rush or force my children to that realization, I also think that one of my roles is as a guide and as someone who can point to experiences and say, “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do a lot less of that. It got better when I stopped THAT.”

Guys, that’s what I’m telling you.

My prayer is that these young adults, with so much privilege and so much potential, realize that alcohol is not the thing that gives their relationships authenticity. If anything, it’s the thing that leads to what Stains calls the “shit show,” where everything goes bad and friendships are bruised and, too often, broken. It’s what makes authenticity—an awareness of exactly who I am and what I’m experiencing, so difficult—because I think that drinking a lot creates exactly the environment in which I cannot hear who I am and what I’m experiencing.

Thanks to Lawrence Stains for writing the piece and to my colleagues at Men’s Health for publishing it.

Some Millennial Sympathy

One of the great things I’ve learned while teaching at Syracuse University over the past three years is that I really like Millennials. A lot of people seem to think they’re coddled whiners. The funny thing is that the people who say that often are Boomers, who created the me-first solipsism to begin with—they’re the folks who GAVE the Millennials all those trophies and birthday parties and gizmos that supposedly define them. Sheesh.

Another rebuke to the “coddled” tag is that Millennials have been graduating into the worst jobs market since, well, the 1930s. The competition for even halfway decent jobs is insane (an entry-level position at a sister magazine to mine received more than 400 applicants).

Finally, I find them to be family-, community- and justice-oriented. And they can laugh at themselves.

I like them.

Which is why it’s hard to watch so many of them struggle to get started in this never-quite-thawing-out job market. One of my students has been in touch for months now, asking for advice on how to pitch stories, how to angle for a job, etc. And over that time I have heard her anxiety rising. After our latest exchange, I sent her this:

I don’t know if it’s great advice. Here’s what I know.

  • You’re smart and motivated and personable and somebody soon is going to be happy they hired you;
  • the job market has sucked, continues to suck, and it’s easing only incrementally;
  • all you can do is keep focused on the task at hand and keep trying despite not getting what you want—until you do.
  • And while all the job crap feels like a weight on your chest and as if the life you want is somehow evading you, you have to make space for yourself, breathe, and accept that life just is, in all its frustrations and glories. For me, sometimes, when I do that, I realize it’s not my life evading me, but the other way around: I’m not living my here-and-now life. So laugh, love, do. You’re alive, and you can.

Maybe not what you’re looking for this morning, but I want to acknowledge that I hear your frustration.

Best thoughts today,


Daily Motivation: Fuel the Fire

David Jack has been a good trainer, partner, fitness model for Men’s Health exercise videos, and friend over the last 4 years, and this video (done for Reebok) gets at why he’s so good. He’s about fitness, but more interested in connecting. And connection is what it’s all about in life.

Dave’s also a deeply religious guy who works with causes that marry his interests with purpose, such as the ActivPrayer Project, which hosted a recent event in which a man did 2,501 pullups over 15 hours.

Most of all, Dave’s a dad, a husband, a friend, a believer, an inspiration. Thanks, Dave!