Sunday, February 26, 2012

Omowale Decision over Ebner -2nd Win in Golden Gloves 2012

Rounds 1-3 plus entrance

Beating Heart Disease Part II: 2-0

Good. I won my second boxing match. I’m 2-0 in the Golden Gloves and heading to the quarterfinals. Thanks to a good coach and a straight jab. I’m not that impressed by the win, but it was an easy one. Even as I write this I am consumed with mucus, a stuffy nose and coughing up lots of phlegm. I had bronchitis for about a week and on the night of the fight I just wasn’t prepared to breathe through my nose. There was maybe one thing that overshadowed that ailment --my erratic blood pressure.

The night before –and maybe I was a little bonkers, because I was so hungry and I can literally eat every 2hrs, I made a large enough dinner for a feast for several but only for two. Evidently, I over did it on the seasoning, or rather the salt in the seasoning. The sodium caused my blood pressure to skyrocket only a day before the match and I knew it even as I digested.

When I got home, I decided to eat more. Maybe I was too optimistic about the prescription drugs I had at my disposal. I tend to delay hitting the panic button, because I’m addicted to clutch performances. Even as I state the bleak reality of my scenarios I know there’s always a solution within reach that will return the situation to normal. So, with only a few hours before weigh-in and my pre-fight physical I finally grabbed my blood pressure monitor. And of course, my systolic was a whopping 173. Last month, USA Boxing said I was deemed unfit to fight in a show when it was 160. There was no way they would concede at 170.

No problem. Before I leave home I swallow three 10mgs of Lisinopril. I snatch my blood pressure monitor out while on the bus towards the match and it’s still high. I probably should panic.

As soon as I arrived to the fight location, “where’s the water?” I chug cold water like I just left the desert. I reached the gym and there were hardly any boxers. I drop my things in a locker and head to the bathroom to check my blood pressure. It’s still high. Matter of fact, it’s above 175. I thought to myself, “What’s happening? What is in this water? Ok, I need to calm down.” But, my pulse is only 65.

Eureka! The doctors are late.

If I could describe the anxiety I felt you would have thought I was training to fight the Incredible Hulk and he arrived looking angrier than usual. While fighters were racing to lineup, practically begging to take their physical when the doctor showed up I was appreciating the lengthiness of the line, but thinking the most odd things, like, “what if they say, ‘hey you, you come over here and take your physical’”. Like, why would they do that? I take two 25mgs of hydrochlorothiazide and one more dose of Lisinopril. I’m a nervous wreck at this point.

The hydrochlorothiazide had me returning back and forth to the bathroom releaving the sodium from my body. And when I was in there I would check my blood pressure over and over again. It felt like I was doing something illegal, but it was more lethal than illegal—not at all illegal. I saw 135 on the systolic. I sat back down and saw there were a handful of fighters left to test, at three different weight classes.

I still have to check one last time to be sure it’s low enough to fight. My trainer said, “just let them check you…you’ll raise your blood pressure by seeing it.” I concentrated on breathing after Googling for tips to temporarily lower my blood pressure.  

Finally, the last person to go is me. I sign-in, hand him my card with my description and the results of any previous fights. He begins: “Are you taking any medications?” Why is he asking me the tough questions? Does he know something? I mumble “No.” I retract it and tell him, “I’m taking Lisinopril.” “How long?” I see now we have ourselves a conversation. I utter “2-3 weeks.” “Is it working for you?” What the hell is with this inquisition, doc? Just look at me, I’m as healthy as an ox. All the other two dozen boxers were done fast. “It’s been working pretty well.” He takes my BP. There’s a pause, gives a familiar look. I’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure since I was a teen, so I know the look. The doctor takes it again. 30mmHg knocked off. I pass. Instantly, Incredible Hulk just became Strawberry Shortcake. A cakewalk from here on out, no fighter is as tough as sodium.

Omowale catches opponent with straight jab
I breeze through my opponent. But it wasn’t done the way I had trained to beat him. When he ran in the ring, even amidst boos, I traveled after him. I heard my coach say, “step to your right”, “get him”, etc. I heard everything. I even honed in on his voice. But, I am far too drugged up on two meds that are prescribed to take ONE a day to do what he tells me. I can’t breathe properly, and my arms and legs don’t feel like they have muscles in them. It’s a miracle that I can still muster punches that amazingly find their target. So, I continued to do what’s scoring points and I elude most of what my opponent manages to throw at me when he’s not running. It allows me to conserve the little energy I have. The one thing I did right that I hadn’t really done before, was, “relax”. I settled down early in the first round. After I won, I felt a deep sigh of relief, but somehow robbed of what I wanted to do to him. 

Omowale sneaks in a jab to the opponent's mid-section
If ever there was a strong signal to upgrade my nutritional intake it was Friday’s fight night. How can I find my personal remedy to beat hypertension when all the foods that I need to live healthy are mostly processed, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or have no nutritional value? The food that is actually food is more expensive. Why doesn’t anything I consume that is said to fight hypertension, doesn’t or barely lowers it. If it does, it never stays down. My appetite is so large that when I do get a craving for outside food, it’s all loaded with sodium. Am I doomed to needing to know what every single thing is in my food because I don’t trust the ethics of the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and USDA (US Department of Agriculture)? And if I do know what the ingredients are, do I know what’s in the ingredients? It’s just a terrible way to live. It’s weird that health and food is so tightly intertwined with money, and not living. Why would humans allow this?

I imagine how many athletes must treat their bodies, especially those competing at high levels like the Olympics or professionals, like it’s the only thing they have to offer. What are they doing to their bodies to compete competitively and pass physicals?

But, what about the average person in America who does trust the FDA and USDA like it’s there to actually regulate food and protect their nutritional intake? And the people who believe McDonald’s is rich and in a lot of places, so it must be good enough to consume. It’s so cheap and normalized to buy a fastfood burger. What about these people, especially KIDS? At least, I have some clue about my problem with heart disease. And I have some idea about my solutions. But, the average person makes the worse food companies rich and themselves dangerously unhealthy unbeknownst to them.
I often think to myself, “I wish I had my own farm right where I live.” The non-GMO garlic, berries, leafy greens and bananas and other foods that are supposed to be good for stablizing blood pressure would be grown for me and people who really need it, but lack the access. And then maybe we wouldn't need a lot of drugs to take care of us. 

I'm a member of the Food Justice committee in Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). I’m not the organizer who’s not affected, but thinks “hey, I can make a difference by helping these people.” I’m motivated to find healthy food solutions in farming and gardening to cure my own problems just as much as I am motivated to help the people who look a lot like me and live near me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Boxing is Fun!

After my euphoric first win in the Golden Gloves and amateur boxing career I feel a sense of calm and stronger purpose. I’m going to the Garden and I’m very confident about this prediction. At 33-year-old I probably shouldn’t be able to compete with the younger roster. However, my secret weapons can’t be emulated as my feeling of youthfulness comes from staying away from meat since I was 15, working out for almost 20 years and understanding sports is more mental (90%) than physical. Even if my opponents could share the excellent training and timely advice I receive through my trainer it would be near impossible to deter me from my goal. My goal is to win. Not to have fun.

When I was maybe 17 or 18 I jogged to Bedstuy Boxing Center (now New Bedstuy Boxing Center) and began my membership and goal to win the NYC Golden Gloves. For a myriad of reasons that focus of winning the Gloves was lost. Somethings became more important. Now that I’ve contributed years of my time to helping people I’ve figured out a way I can still do that and do something very personal to me. And while my life is like a scrambled unclear puzzle in pieces, I figured why not just go for it while it’s still hectic and crazy and perform the only way I’m familiar with performing—under pressure. Life isn’t going to slow down for me. However, life is so phenomenal that at any given moment we can choose to just upgrade our own mental capacity to thwart negativity and refocus on positivity. For instance, I can just flip this one switch and I’m easily the Champ: Walk into Madison Square Garden again for the first time and claim what no man can receive nobly with a trillion-dollars.

My eldest daughter Rayne (10) called me one night some weeks ago and asked me questions only about boxing. One of them, “will your fights be on television?” She later emailed me “I love you have fun and win.” The concept of having fun in this tough sport escaped me and everyone who spoke to me except her and my coach/trainer. Well, my trainer has an intimate experience and knowledge about the sport and competition, but my dear daughter believes that her father should have fun—in boxing? When my coach said this, it became the one thing I dismissed. It didn’t sound logical. My goal is to win the gloves. Period. I had already day-dreamed of KOing every fighter I faced. Where’s the fun in that?

I thought about it for some days, weeks. And before I knew it I realized that the tactic to winning is having fun. Being relaxed and enjoying your sport is priceless and crucial toward your plan of winning. Even being here is somewhat fun. Well, it’s fun to win. So, I understand part of it. I can’t say I’ll attempt to empathize with losing here. I want to only have fun winning! Winning is fun!

Omowale's first Win in the Golden Gloves!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Omowale Sparring 2/6/12

Beating Heart Disease

I am overjoyed about competing in the Golden Gloves at 178 (Novice). The first thing I’m committed to doing after my imminent win is to teach what I know and develop a boxing program for youth under Grassroots Artists MovEment (G.A.ME). The goal wouldn’t be to train young people to become professional boxers. Boxing would be utilized as a tool for engaging youth. I hope to mesh boxing and community activism. I’m anxious about focusing on educating young black men on the importance of living healthy and instilling in them that internal wellness is most important, not just excellent physical condition.
Just a week and a half ago, I was barred from participating in my first amatuer boxing match due to high blood pressure. The doctor checked my blood pressure four times, at one point the systolic was around 180. The doctor was taken aback. It was also shocking and disappointing to my supporters, some who had already spent an hour in transit to see me. The truth is, the news of my hypertension didn’t come as much of a shock to me. I had been diagnosed with hypertension since I was around 18-years-old and I've never been obese or not playing a competitive sport. I should have been more vigilant about checking my blood pressure the night before and then again earlier that morning, especially since I narrowly passed the Golden Gloves health screening last month. Others around me were mystified that an athletic herbivore who appears to be in incredible shape has symptoms of heart disease. 
Although heart disease is the deadliest killer in the U.S. among adults, black males are more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in their 2010 national interview 32.5% of the adult black population had hypertension compared to fewer than 25% for whites. The same study found that a 1/3 more black men die from heart disease than black women.
As I write this on the eve of what will hopefully be my first boxing match, I ponder that although I have been increasing my leafy greens and citrus fruits to control my blood pressure there are a number of factors that affect my blood pressure: hereditary, poor eating habits earlier in my teens and my sodium intake. I stopped drinking and I don’t smoke anything—well anymore. This may all take time for my body to register positive results. In the meantime, I am stuck taking Hydrochlorothiazide and Lisinopril. These are two drugs aimed at lowering hypertension, but also increase urination and rouse coughing. Other more harmful long-term side-effects are always possible. 
The main advice I would give young people in my future boxing program and anywhere in the world would be to learn and acquire food discipline at an early age, develop a palate for a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, limit fast food, get regular check-ups for heart disease and other illnesses, know your family’s history of heart disease, and leave the salt to the sea. Boxing and more importantly, OUR lives depend on maintaining a healthy regiment.

Wish me luck in the 2012 New York Golden Gloves.
*correction on spelling of Lisinopril and other grammatical errors.