Monthly Archives: February 2014

FUEL: Paralyzed by the BURGER

For as a long as I can remember, I’ve (from time to time) experienced the feelings some might describe as anxiety.  As a kid, I never really knew what anxiety “felt like”, and even today the only way I’ve been able to describe it is to imagine you’re taking a deep breath and for some reason can’t open up your lungs enough to get that good, full, oxygenated feeling.    It wasn’t really anything I worried about until I was old enough to know it “wasn’t normal”….and by the time I was in sixth grade, it had gotten so deeply ingrained into “mental game” that it damn near consumed me in vigorous competition.  In fact, I’d get so wrapped up in worrying about it, that any time the going got tough (in a youth wrestling match)…I’d find myself worried I couldn’t breath….and eventually allowed a downward spiral from there…..the concern would push me into a state of exercise induced asthma…and eventually I REALLY couldn’t breath….almost paralyzed until I could regain control of my mind and force it to regain control of my body.

The episodes drove a concerned young athlete and a set of worried parents to seek answers…..and after numerous doctor visits and cardiology tests, it was determined that I have mitral valve prolapse (click link if interested), and one of the main side-effects was “shortness of breath”….and so it seemed our questions were answered.  And since, with a bit more mental ease….I’ve worked through the anxiety like symptoms and couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve experienced them as a result of vigorous exercise.  Maybe it’s because I have a better understanding of what was going on…maybe it’s because multiple doctors have told me I have no more risk than anyone when taking on vigorous activity….or maybe it’s because at this point, through enough repetition without tragic outcome…I’ve learned the human body is incredibly resilient (mine not being an exception) and has far more to give than most of us think, or allow.  And believe it or not….even through maximum exertion cardiac stress tests, more than my fair share of high intensity workouts through collegiate athletics and the last 7 years competing in endurance sports (marathon, triathlon)….I’ve not had one single exercise induced episode……..BUT

….from time to time, they still occur during the “normal” day.  WHY….is it the mitral valve prolapse?

Well – I’m not a cardiologist….but over the last couple of years (since my last cardiologist visit just prior to my first Boston Marathon when I was told “don’t come back…if I had more patients like you, I’d be out of business”) I’ve keeping a relatively close eye on the trend of when the feelings come on.  And it seems as though two things tend to serve as a catalyst for the all-too familiar anxiety, tightness of chest, and lack of adequate breath that I got as a young athlete.

1) STRESS – shocking I know – but more on this at another time

2) Low-Grade Fuel – as in food intake.  If you’re someone who typically eats pretty healthy….with the majority of your diet coming from plant-based foods… know what it feels like to fall of the wagon and pay for it.  If on the other hand, you’re yet to get on that wagon and are like the roughly 97% of American’s who (according to the journal of nutrition) don’t consume enough daily fiber….you’re probably yet to experience what I’m talking about, after all…hard to fall off a wagon that doesn’t exist yet in your life (never too late to start FYI).  But for me, this past weekend….not only did I “fall off the wagon”….I took a swan dive off the very tippy top.  I let Saturday get away from me….exercised vigorously in the morning (7+ miles, then High Intensity Strength Intervals for 30 min)…had a sensible breakfast…and went back to a work project that required a bit of physical labor….and by the time I got home, I was starving for calories….and craving total crap food….a burger with all the fixings (it happens).  And with almost zero convincing of the 8.5 mo pregnant wife to go out and “not cook”….we went, and down down I fell…feeling the repercussions since (just now subsiding, now Monday and 48 hours later). So…it got me thinking.

I remember sitting through a lecture a few years back by famous Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn who boldly told his audience (many physicians, health professionals, HR representatives, fitness professionals, etc.) that we should “only consume everything in moderation if we ONLY want a moderate heart attack”…and further explained the effects that animal protein has on temporarily damaging our artery’s endothelial cells, and inhibit their use of nitric oxide (a vascular dilator that allows the artery to relax and widen).  It was a powerful statement and one I’ve not forgotten…yet consistently heard from other nutritional experts…like one of my favorites Michael Greger who quoted research stating a single meal primarily comprised of animal protein and fat can paralyze the arteries and restrict blood flow (see video HERE).  And so I wonder…..could part of the reason that we (I) feel so crappy after falling off the wagon be related to damaged endothelial cells and temporarily constricted arteries and blood flow…..hmm doesn’t seem like too far of a stretch….back to the books to learn more!



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Legacy….What Will Yours Be?

The concept of legacy is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.  In my professional world, my colleagues and I are constantly talking about the best ways to help clients obtain personal achievements (Pro-Activity is a Human Achievement Company)….and I consistently find myself coaching athletes (who we define as anyone who relies on a strong body and confident mind) to not be afraid to dream big and go after something amazing…so that they may get the most of their life.  But the more I think about it…I believe at the heart of many of these pursuits is the concept of legacy……or the mark each of us will leave on this world as we pass through it.  And so I got to thinking….am I taking the action today to leave the type of legacy I want to in my path?  Am I doing all I can to leave the mark on this world that I’m hoping to….and if not, why….and what should I change?

Although I’m not sure I was always as clear as I am today, my pursuit over the last 10 or so years has been to do what I can to leverage my abilities and the resources I’ve been blessed with, so that I may inspire, strengthen, and assist others in their own pursuit so that together, we may have the opportunity to leave the world a better place than when we entered it.  And although I’m far from a doomsday-er, nor do I think the world is all bad to begin with – I wonder how it would be if each of us (myself included) spent more time thinking about, planning, and acting in a way that would leave it better off for our having been a part.  What legacy would we leave, ….what will we have achieved….would we be proud of the mark we’ve left…would the gaps in our life that so many of us attempt to fill with other pursuits be filled?  Would those that care about us be honored for having been a part?  Worth considering for sure…and something I intend to do better in acting upon.

And what about the legacies in action we are witnessing day by day….do we appreciate them?  The unique additions those we’re closest to are making on the world while seemingly just “doing their job” or being themselves?  I found myself stepping back in the last week, thinking a bit more deeply about this and finding inspiration in a pair of “Toms”.

Tom H. – my father-in-law…..the guy just won his 300th career game as a high school basketball coach…an impressive milestone to be sure…but beyond the accolades he’s gained over the years (frequently being named coach of the year by various media outlets) what struck me most when taking a moment to reflect on this most recent one was the way he’s done it and why….consistently and through personal sacrifice for the last 25+ years…for others…for the betterment of the kid’s he’s coaching, ….because sport is a gateway to “real-life” where giving your best is not only something to strive for, but an expectation…but above all playing the game the “right” way (insert metaphor here) is the only way.

Tom E. – my Dad……it’s 9p last Monday and New Jersey is again getting pummeled with snow…and I’m getting ready to board a plane in 8 hours for an exciting client conference…leaving my two year old, an 8-month pregnant wife home.  I’m rushing…trying to do too many things at once (like usual), and frustrated to AGAIN have to shovel the damn driveway (after the snow blower he lent me stalled)…and I place the call “home” and get “Eric, your dad ran out (in a snow storm) to pick up Mary X. (made up name for anonymity) who’s car broke down and is stuck in the snow….I’ll tell him to call you when he gets home”.  And then it hits me….Tom E., the Good Samaritan does it again.  This is a guy who went out of his way to bring a homeless man into our home (unannounced) for Holiday dinner….the guy that marched his family to the Pro-Life rally….and other charity functions, homeless shelters, etc. intended to serve others…..brought communion and his young children to the local nursing home just to visit the (un-related) residents.  The guy has made a life of putting others (including his family) ahead of himself…and wow, how lucky I have been to be on the receiving end so many times, and have learned by example on the way.  And just as those thoughts were swirling my head (as I pushed snow around the driveway)…he showed up….hopped out of the car and helped a long side me….finishing the job and leaving with a sincere hug and message – “Eric, if Amy or Emma need anything while you’re gone, please have them call”.

These are legacies….marks being left on the world, day by day.  We have each been given the opportunity to do so, even in the seemingly most minor interactions with others, and if you look around…you might be surprised just how many you’ll see in action.  May each of us find our pursuit…and have the courage to do it the “right way”, leaving a legacy we’re proud to look back on in our path. And hey, maybe someday we too will be honored with a namesake in the next generation (Thomas John Eisenhart, due 3/9/14).

To your legacy,


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