Who are you calling an old dumbbell?

These dumbbells and I have spent a lot of time together over the past two and a half years.  When I first started lifting at the Carlisle YMCA in October of 2009 those dumbbells on the left, the ones with numbers on them like 15, 25 and 30, got a lot of attention.  Today I spend more time with the ones with 55, 70 and 80 on them. I have touched them all at some point.  I intimately know every imperfection on each one.  Some don’t match their same weight partner.  Some of the heavier dumbbells have bent handles.  Some have worn, smooth handles while others still have serrated grips.  They all are a little rusty.  Some of the rust has worked into the calluses on my hands. A point of pride for me, much like my scares.  All the dumbbells smell a little like the inside of the old World War II submarine sitting in the water at Baltimore’s Inner Harbour.  The smell of steel that’s been around people and sweat for a long time…

The YMCA needs new dumbbells.  However, replacing them just isn’t in the budget during these tough economic times that have forced many non-profit’s budgets to get “lean and mean” in order to continue to provide the services that their communities desperately need.  When I was blessed to win the Eagle Rare Life Award for Survival last month, the Carlisle YMCA received $2000 as the award.  We talked about the best use of the money and we all agreed that putting it toward new dumbbells fit on a number of levels.  First, the Y needs them and like I said, they aren’t really in the budget.  Second, as already mentioned, I have an intimate connection to the dumbbells. I use them a lot as part of my daily workouts. Third, and most important to me, new dumbbells would last for a very long time.  People for years to come would be able to use them to improve their health.  Maybe even someone going through what I have gone through…

The best dumbbells on the market are urethane dumbbells.  They are basically indestructible.  They require very little maintenance and they last forever.  They are also the most expensive.  A new set will cost between $6000 and $7000.  Far more than the $2000 donation from Eagle Rare.  I have taken it upon myself to try to raise as much of the additional cost as possible.  In the past I have donated the money I earned giving talks to my home parish, St Patrick.  For the short-term, it will go toward the dumbbells.  I feel that strongly about seeing them come to fruition. (If you have been thinking about having me talk at an organization you are involved in let me know.  For a donation to the YMCA, I will talk at no charge.)  Until this point, I have only shared my goal with the YMCA board and a few friends.  Already, a great supporter of the YMCA, and of me and my family, has stepped up and donated $1000 toward the dumbbells.  I can’t express to them how much that donation means to me.  I am still always amazed by the kindness and respect people show my family and me.  It constantly forces me to stay true to my goal of using our accident to help as many people as I can.  God puts so many great role models in front of me every day…

Now I am reaching out to you.  Today the Carlisle Sentinel will run a story about my goal to get the YMCA new dumbbells. (Read it here.)  I hope that it will bring attention to the fact that the YMCA isn’t just a gym.  It is a family.  As I sat in the lobby yesterday around noon being interviewed, I said hello to no less than 15 people coming and going.  They are just a small number of the people there who support me every week with words of encouragement and a true interest in how my recovery is going.  They are the same people who tell me how I motivate them.  The ironic part is that they actually motivate me.  Like so many people who have taken a vested interest in my recovery story, I don’t want to let them down.

They deserve the fancy dumbbells that the chain gyms have, not because anyone will lift more weight or get stronger faster.  They deserve it because, just like me, they don’t go there because of the equipment.  They go there because of the people.  The new dumbbells will be a gift from those people who understand and respect the importance of working hard for what they want.  I can’t wait to see the smiles in the mirror as people use them!

If you would like to help, click on this link (Donation) and you can make an on-line donation.  Make sure you select “John Ulsh Dumbbell Fund” under the heading, “Do you want your donation to be affiliated with a specific Campaign? You can also send a check made out to the Carlisle Area YMCA to 311 S. West Street, Carlisle, PA 17013. Make sure you put a note in the envelope stating that is for the dumbbells.

Thank you for your continued support!

What is a perfect run?

Myrecovery-mymotivation.com has recently married.  It was a small ceremony.  The only people attending besides myself were a web designer, my marketing assistant and a photographer.  Honestly, some people were against the wedding since they are related. (They have the same hosting site. I think that is like being cousins.)  However, the merger went through and myrecovery-mymotivation.com has decided to take her husband’s name.  As of March 12, 2012, my first-born blog has become aPerfectRun.com. (applause) Please know that you can still find her on the world-wide web as myrecovery-mymotivation.com. (Who has time to change all their credit cards, SS #, and grocery store bonus cards while your still in the honeymoon phase?)  But, going forward she asks to be referred too as aPerfectRun.  In case you hadn’t noticed, she has also had some major work done.  Not only does the site have new banners, but the layout and site navigation have changed a lot as well.  The site has always been about the content and not “the flash”, but we did try to make it easier to navigate.

So why the name change?  First, it is a lot shorter and easier to remember.  You should see how many different search titles people have used to try to find my website.  The second reason was to try to link my website with the motivational book I hope to get published.  But why “A Perfect Run”?  As readers of my blog know,  before the accident I was an avid runner.  When the accident happened on December 1, 2007, running, along with a lot of other things I loved, were taken away from me.  I have worked very hard to get back many of the things I lost.  Running was one of them that I was told I might not ever get back again.  On November 1, 2011, contrary to a lot of medical doctor’s original opinions, I ran again.  (Original post here.)  I ran only one mile, at a very slow pace, but I was running.  Since that day I haven’t stopped.  Progress has been very slow.  Pain slows me down.  I can’t run outside when it is cold.  I can’t run very far (about 4 miles) and compared to before the accident, I run at a snail’s pace.  Still, I run.

When I first started running again in November, I ran inside on a treadmill.  After a few weeks, I wanted to go outside to run.  I wanted to get in a few outside runs before I tried to run the Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving Day.  The course I chose was only two miles, but it was hilly.  I couldn’t finish the run.  I was so saddened by the whole thing that I thought about quitting.  When a friend asked me the next day how my first outdoor run went I told him,”Oh, it was a perfect run.  I couldn’t even complete a freakin’ two mile loop!”  All he said to me was,  “Maybe you need to re-define your idea of perfect.” and just walked away…

I really think the word “perfect” gets thrown around too much.  “The perfect job”, “The prefect kids”, “The perfect spouse”, “The perfect athlete”, “The perfect body”.  Often times we strive for perfection when we can’t even define it.  Even worse, we let others define it for us.  That was my problem.  I was letting my preconceived ideas of what it meant to be a runner take the joy out of running.  I tell people all the time that they should “find joy in the process”, yet as soon as I had the chance to finally do an activity that I had loved so much before the accident, all I could think about was that I will never be able to do it like I had.  A lot of people have told me that they suffer from the same problem.  “Playing basketball at lunch is really starting to not be fun.” a friend at the YMCA told me one day.  “My 40-year-old body can’t keep up with the young guys.”  “When did we become the old guys?” I asked him.  “At least I can still shoot 3-pointers!” he commented as he walked out of the locker room.  I don’t know what would have been worse for me.  Gradually slowing down as I got older or just waking up one day and not being able to even walk?  At least I can say I got faster over the past four years!

As my agent said to me when I started this new project, “Most people won’t think that you would ever have a perfect run again, yet every time you run it is perfect.”  So, I have decided to let you, the reader, define “perfect” for yourself.  After all, my “perfect” and your “perfect” should be different.  I really don’t want to live up to someone else’s definition.  Especially not my wife’s! ;)

The weather is going to be in the 60′s and 70′s all week in Central PA.  This past weekend all I could think about was running.  (I even got some new shoes.)  With the beginning of daylight savings, I thought I would be able to run outside all week.  It wasn’t meant to be…  On Sunday afternoon I bumped the shin of my bad leg into the side of my car door.  The weak skin split right open and blood started forming pools on my garage floor.  Luckily I have my wound doctor’s cell number.  He met me at his office and stitched me back together.  He wrapped my leg in one of those casts that I spent all last summer wearing in hopes that we can get it to stay closed and heal.  For now, only time will tell if this wound becomes a problem or if the surgery I had in October will allow it to heal quickly.  Either way I won’t be running this week.  I felt kind of sorry for myself Monday when I walked outside at noon.  It was a “perfect” day for a run, exactly the kind of day I had waited for all winter.  Actually, the kind of day I waited for since the accident.  I was feeling very angry.  Finally, I decided to take my own advice and I re-defined “perfect”.  I decided to go to the YMCA to lift weights.  I pushed myself harder than I had in months. I was hell-bent on making the rest of my body pay the price for not being able to run…

Let me know what you think of the new website?  I would love to hear some feedback. We have tried to make it even easier to receive updates when I release new posts.  Simply click on the envelope in the upper right hand corner and my website will walk you through it.  Also, please click on the Like and Share buttons for Facebook and Twitter.  I had 14,000+ visitors last year to my site. A lot of that traffic came because so many of you shared it with your friends and family.  There are a lot of exciting things coming up this spring that I can’t wait to share, so look for posts to come a lot quicker now that the new site is finished.

Forced Introspection (Part 1)

Very introspective week so far. Tuesday I was a witness to a bad car accident. It was close to my house, on a 55 MPH undivided road. A pick-up truck, driving two cars in front of me, swerved into on-coming traffic. It crossed the on-coming lane and went up a bank along the shoulder of the road. The truck passed the on-coming car on its passenger side, while driving on the 45 degree bank. No break lights were coming on. It then swerved back across both lanes and onto the bank on the other side of the road. There the truck hit an out-crop of rock and rolled. It flew into the air. When it stopped rolling, the truck was upright but CLICK HERE TO KEEP READING