Monday
Dec312012

It's Resolution Time Again

There's something a bit off-putting about New Year's resolutions. Perhaps it has to do with so many people assigning so much to the new year. Or maybe it's because this is the time of year when EVERYONE says they're going to make changes, and maybe does for a few days, but nobody sticks to it.

Certainly I look at the new year as an excellent opportunity to start again, but so to do I view the beginning of every month, or even the start of every week. I've spent the last year trying to make improvements and progress, sometimes with periods of great consistency and success, and others not so much.

I realized that getting started with all of this I didn't really set any goals for myself. Well, I had but they were loosely defined, I hadn't written anything down, and I didn't really hold myself accountable. I'm glad i started reading The Nerdist Way over the weekend, because it has given me some ideas of ways I can try to improve my resolve.

Goals fall into the categories of fitness, diet, lifestyle, recreation, and personality. These are not fixed, but just general ideas resulting from brainstorming. I'll probably modify these as time goes on, but they will at least help me hit all my main goals.

Fitness Goals:

 

  • Flat stomach
    • 6-pack abs (stretch goal)
  • Lose Weight
    • 180lbs
    • 170lbs
    • 160lbs
  • Climbing (bouldering)
    • Climb Beg with ease, some Int
    • Climb Int with ease, some Adv
    • Climb Adv with ease, some Open
    • Climb Open with ease
  • Climbing (top-roping)
    • Climb 5.8 with ease, 5.9-5.10
    • Climb 5.9 with ease, 5.10-5.11
    • Climb 5.10 with ease, 5.11-5.12
    • Climb 5.11 with ease, 5.12+
  • Push-ups
    • 50 push-ups
    • 75 push-ups
    • 100 push-ups
  • Pull-ups
    • 5 pull-ups
    • 10 pull-ups
    • 15 pull-ups
    • 20 pull-ups
    • 25 pull-ups
    • weighted pull-ups
  • BW Squats
    • 25
    • 50
    • 75
    • 100
    • 125
    • 150
    • 175
    • 200
    • 225
    • 250
  • Dips
  • Plank challenge
    • 5 minute plank challenge
      • 3 seconds per exercise (1 min)
      • 4 seconds per exercise (1 min 20)
      • 5 seconds per exercise (1 min 40)
      • 6 seconds per exercise (2 min)
      • 7 seconds per exercise (2 min 20)
      • 8 seconds per exercise (2 min 40)
      • 9 seconds per exercise (3 min)
      • 10 seconds per exercise (3 min 20)
      • 11 seconds per exercise (3 min 40)
      • 12 seconds per exercise (4 min)
      • 13 seconds per exercise (4 min 20)
      • 14 seconds per exercise (4 min 40)
      • 15 seconds per exercise (5 min)
    • Every other day
    • Every day
  • Running
    • Run 3 days/wk
    • Run 5 days/wk
    • Run every day
    • 5K
      • Run 5K
      • Run 30 min 5K
      • Run 20 min 5k
    • 10K
      • Run 10k
      • Faster 10k
      • Faster 10k
    • 10 Mile (15k?)
    • Half Marathon
    • Full Marathon
    • Ultra Marathon
    • 50 Mi
    • 100 Mi
  • Yoga
    • 2 days per week
    • 3 days per week
    • 4 days per week
    • 5 days per week
  • You Are Your Own Gym
  • Lifting
    • Squats
    • OHP
    • Flat Bench
    • Incline Bench
    • Deads
  • Boxing/heavy bag
    • 1 to 2 days per week

 

Diet Goals:

 

  • Less processed foods
  • More vegetables
  • Eliminate refined sugars
  • Less carbohydrates
  • 12 week keto round (beginning of year)
  • Continue keto as long as it is working
  • Continue IF as long as it is working
  • 12 week LG round (later in year if necessary)

 

Lifestyle Goals:

 

  • Alcohol
    • Only 1-2 drinks when going out
    • Quit drinking
  • 'Recreation' consumption
    • Less frequently
    • Quit
  • Cooking
    • 2 new recipes a week (4-Hour Chef)
    • Eat at home 4 days per week
    • Eat at home 5 days per week
    • Eat at home 6 days per week
  • Cleaning
    • Kitchen
      • clean a little every day
      • Vacuum once per week
      • Clean floors once per week
    • Bathroom
      • Full clean once (or twice) a week
    • Laundry
      • Wash, dry, put away at the same time
    • Bedroom
      • Replace sheets every week
      • Vacuum every week
      • Make bed daily
    • Living room
      • Clean up clutter weekly
      • Vacuum weekly
      • Clean floors weekly
  • Meditation
    • Daily Meditation
      • 3 minute
      • 5 minute
      • 8 minute
      • 10 minute
      • 15 minute
      • 20 minute
    •  

 Recreation

 

  • Improv
    • Complete L3
    • Complete L4
    • Complete L5
    • Class show
    • Audition
    • Perform in show
  • Stand up
    • Work on act
    • Perform at Bovine
    • Perform at open mic night
  • Writing
    • Blog posts once a week
    • Write from writing prompts
    • Novel ideas - work on them
    • Personal essays
  • Drawing
    • Learn to draw!
    • 2 Drawing Lessons Per Week
  • Languages
    • Learn Spanish
    • Learn Japanese
    • Learn Portuguese
    • Minimum 2 Rosetta Stone lessons per week
  • Learn to knit
  • Watch less TV
  • Read more

Personality (Happiness):

  • More eye contact
  • Smile more
  • Talk to strangers
  • Be impeccible with my word
  • Don't take things personally
  • Open more sets
  • Go on more dates
  • Have more sex
  • Becomre more confident, self assured, healthy, well spoken
  • Always DO MY BEST
  • Don't beat myself up when I don't succeed, just try again

 

Wednesday
Oct102012

"Your thoughts are not you" OR "Stop listening to your scumbag brain"

Behind the scenes

Your brain is a lazy asshole. Its only objective is to conserve as much energy as possible, and work on making sure things are going well in the short term. The very short term.

This is why it seems to make more sense to skip the gym, eat a box of cookies, sit on the couch, and watch TV or play video games, than do anything else. It's easy, and you're conserving energy. You're not going to be winded and tired if you don't go to the gym. Those cookies might not be healthy, but they sure are delicious - and they're packed full of calories so you have some backup backup energy reserves stored up.

This isn't your brain's fault, it's a matter of evolution. When it takes work to get your next meal, it makes sense to eat as much and do as little as possible.

The Problem

This carries over into every other facet of your life. Your brain is great at convincing you that what it wants is what YOU want.

"If you talk to that pretty girl, you might get rejected - isn't it much easier to just not approach?"

"Wouldn't you much rather sit at home than go out? It's been a long week, you're tired, it's expensive to go out... this will be easy."

Now you're overweight, unhappy, socially stunted, and lonely. You could take responsibility for this, and totally turn things around, but it's going to require a lot of work, a lot of time, and effort.

This is when your brain comes back and says "but you're a great guy! It must be everyone else's fault! They don't give us a chance! They're biased against us because of ______. Guess we're going to be forever alone, but it's not so bad, we have each other - and Steam and that gigantic tub of ice cream!"

GET OVER IT

I could say people just need to man up, get over themselves, go out more, and just grow up. Really, this is true, but it's not very useful advice. Your brain is going to work against you at almost every step. How can you overcome this negative self-talk?

Perception

There's a concept in Buddhism called "dependent arising." The basic concepts around this are (1) everything is a result of cause and effect and (2) "self" only exists in dependence upon causes and conditions.

Both of these points are very valuable to us. The first point is pretty straight forward and helps emphasize one of the main beliefs held by our community - if you're happy, then you're doing it right; if not, then something needs to change.

The second point is more complicated, and can be difficult to understand. What is 'self'? Is it your body? Is it your mind? Is it some combination of the two?

Well, it can't be your body. You shed cells every second of every day, and every 7 years every cell in your body is different than it was 7 years ago. If you lost your arm in an accident, you'd still be YOU, right? Even your brain is made up of cells that are made up of elements that are made up of atoms made up of quarks made up of energy. Bits and pieces that could have been rabbits, or trees, or air, or stars, before they were repurposed into you.

What about your mind, then, your thoughts? Well, sometimes I change my mind about things - either I learn something new, or find out something wasn't true, or my opinion simply changes over time. If I define who I am by beliefs that I hold, and those beliefs change, then I guess I'm not ME anymore? That doesn't make any sense. We're pretty complicated, but we're never surpised when our thoughts or feelings change.

So if it can't be the body, and it can't be the mind, then what is our sense of self?

Thinking

Thoughts are a lot like carbon dioxide molecules - they're around us all the time, they are necessary for life, and if there are too many they can incapacitate you.

There was a relevant quote in /r/meditation the other day:

Suffering is caused by compulsive thinking. We get lost in thoughts, we identify with them; we "think" we are our thoughts. They are incessant and quite often negative, and they create anxiety, stress, and the problems of everyday life.

You can break your identification with compulsive thinking, however. You can increase awareness that you are not your thoughts. Consider your senses: your brain processes the inputs of the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, and the skin. But, you don't think that you are what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you taste, or what you touch. View your thoughts the same way - your brain processes them, and you use those you need to solve problems and function in your daily life. But the thoughts you don't need - those that are negative, limiting, critical, and destructive - you simply let float away.

Treat non-useful thoughts like undesirable smells: don't dwell on them, don't identify with them, don't get attached to them, don't get lost in them - simply let them float away.

This is where meditation can be a great ally in the war against thinking.

You sit, you live in the present, you acknowledge thoughts as they pop into your mind, then you let them go. This is easier said than done, and it takes practice, but that's really all there is to it. In the activities post from earlier in the week a lot of people said that meditation didn't stick, that it was boring, or even they did it for months but never had that "AHA!" moment where everything in their lives changed. OF COURSE NOT! If it's boring, it's because you're thinking about what you could be doing, or would rather be doing, or you're thinking that it's boring. There is no "AHA!" moment in meditation - some days are better than others and you sit for a long time with only a handful of thoughts that pass immediately, other days your mind is racing a mile a minute and everything you can possibly think about is going to run through your head and it's harder to let those thoughts go.

But once you do, you are living in the moment. You're not worried about what's going to happen later tonight, or if you're going to say the right thing, or if that HB really likes you. You're not judging yourself, you're not even judging others. Better yet - you don't even care, because you aren't thinking about it. You are just existing, enjoying being alive. If you've ever opened a set, had a good time, then when you walked away went "whoa... how did I just pull that off?" you know what I'm talking about.

If you tend towards thinking way too much, like me, it can be terrifying at first. You almost feel like you weren't there anymore, like you had an out of body experience. But the more it happens, the more you realize how liberating, how amazing, how wonderful it is - and you start to get to know the real you.

Self

And that's the real you, that sense of self we've been trying to find - it's everything and nothing all at once. That you isn't scared or nervous - it's your scumbag brain that makes you scared and nervous. You always say the right thing, because there is no wrong thing to say - it's your scumbag brain that stops you before you speak, or makes you comb over every word after the fact trying to figure out where you screwed up.

You're not too introverted, or too shy, or uninteresting, or boring, or ugly, or stupid; that's all your scumbag brain. You just are.

Conclusion

Your brain doesn't care about you. Whether you are happy, well adjusted, and enjoying life or depressed, emotionally damaged, and sitting at home alone every weekend, it makes no difference to your brain as long as it gets what it needs to survive. Excuses and negative thoughts are your brain's way of controlling you, and it's amazing how much power most of us give it.

Wanting to change is not enough, and it's never a good time to start, you just have to start.

So the next time you say you're going to start exercising, or eating better, or talking to women, or doing something that interests you, and you hear that little voice trying to convince you otherwise, ignore it and go about your life.

Wednesday
Oct102012

Improv, scams, flim-flams, and tricks

It's been a long time since I last updated. That's not to say I haven't been writing, but lately it's been more in a priviate, paper *gasp* journal. The habit hasn't completely stuck yet, but I was trying to write something each day, just some stream of consciousness type of stuff to clear my brain, get out of my head, and just be an overall better me.

 

I actually wrote a pretty long post about getting out of your head on Reddit a couple weeks back, I need to move it over to here. I'll put papers from my last couple of IA classes soon as well.

 

I'm back in improv classes and they are going swimmingly. Since I took the summer off - who wants to be stuck inside every Saturday afternoon during the summer - I decided to start back at level 1. I'm glad I did as things are much, much easier this time around. I'm going to try to get more involved with the theater, see more shows, audition, and possibly even get involved in shows in the future. I'm definitely going to go through all 5 levels this time around.

I'm also lifting regularly. I was feeling run down so I'm taking this week off, but it's been going pretty well. I backed off from where I was before my summer break so I'm not back to my personal records, but this go around I care more about doing things well than rushing to get to heavy weights. I think that's part of why I had some injuries last time.

Climbing is also a regular thing. I actually dropped Muay Thai because of scheduling conflicts, and I found myself skipping more than going so I figured no point in continuing to pay. Climbing is better anyway, I can go whenever I want and have time, and have the option of bouldering or top-roping.

I'll be attending my first cooking class on Saturday. It's all about knife skills. Depending on how that class goes there are a number of other classes that sound interesting - poultry, fish, grilling, roasting, sauces, saute, soups and stocks - and those are just the cooking basics. I'm looking forward to improving my cooking skills and hopefully finding the passion to cook that I used to have.

 

It's been years, but I decided to get back into magic. My skills handling a deck of cards and coins have atrophied pretty substantially, but I've been practicing the basics and slowly rebuilding my set of skills. I've been learning (or re-learning in some cases) a bunch of bar tricks and puzzles. These are things I've always loved, but for some reason I've been too scared or nervous or frightened to actually try them at the bar. I'm practicing and am going to start giving it a try. I have nothing to lose, worst case I screw up a trick and owe somebody a beer - somebody I will probably never see again. I'm trying to make sure that wherever I go and whatever I do I am giving more value than I am trying to get back, and this means making people feel good. I think presenting a puzzle and challenging someone to figure it out, then offering to "sell" the secret for a drink (or a number!) is not only perfectly acceptable, but creates a unique and fun experience. I love when someone approaches me with tricks, puzzles, jokes, and games - why can't I be that person?

 

I'm going to try to write more about things as they come up. I'd like to write more 'articles' about acutal 'things' more than just writing about what's going on, but articles take a lot of work and thought where this is free form, flexible, and more 'for me' in the future. Maybe I'll start writing about my experiences going out, trying to meet girls (wow, is it exhausting) - Field Reports as a particular community that gets a lot of flak would call them. I'm trying to keep busy and keep improving, and I think writing is a big part of that for me.

Thursday
May242012

ART Conclusions

I view ART (active release technique) as being a great success. For me it only took 6 sessions before he said we should take a break and see how things go. Shin splints are gone, or at least I haven't had any flare ups since I finished 5 weeks ago. Admittedly I haven't been doing a lot of running, but I have gone hiking a few times with no issues. It seems that most if not all of the scar tissue has been broken up, and I don't have that consistent pain running along the outside of my left shin. My second toe still seems to be in a more pulled back position on my left foot than my right, so I may need to go back in the future to try to loosen up that muscle and those tendons even more, but I don't have any pain or other issues so I suspect it's not a problem.

My mom (not an athlete) started seeing someone for ART after I talked with her about it. She had a lot more issues than I did following multiple knee reconstructions, foot surgery, and two car accidents. They worked on her lower body first and some foot issues for which she was considering another surgery have been resolved (I believe it was related to plantar's fasciaitis, but I may be misremembering) in addition to some knee issues she had - though without any cartilage in her knees she will always have problems with that. Last I heard they had moved onto her shoulder which was injured in both car accidents, so there was a lot of scar tissue and limited range of motion. She said she felt massive improvement after the first session, but there is still a lot of work to do.

My sister also started seeing the same ART practitioner as my mom in the hopes of resolving some hip and ankle issues. She has only had one session so far, but said that both areas are already feeling better than they had been.

Given what ART is good at, the shin splints were really the only thing it resolved. Whatever problems were originating from my right hip/quad/glutes, while it did help a little, really did not have much of an impact. I was still experiencing a consistent dull ache down my quadricep, and a lot of pain in my glutes. Presumably the hip and glute muscles must have been stretched and losened up from the procedure, but I still felt substantially weaker in terms of hip drive while doing squats, and occassionally when balancing on my right leg (putting pants on, for example) would feel as if my leg was going to give out at any moment. I was hoping ART would have some impact, but this was clearly more related to muscle weakness, imbalance, or improper firing, and not a matter of loss of ROM or scar tissue build up, so I didn't expect too much. MAT (muscle activation technique) however has opened up a whole new area of treatment that has, so far, been highly successful, but I will be devoting a whole post to that in the future.

Granted this is anecdotal evidence, but I would say ART is highly worthwhile to pursue as a way of relieving certain performance, flexibility or pain issues. I will be doing high volume hiking over the next month or so, and then I am planning on increasing my running mileage so I will have a much better idea if I the sessions I did were sufficient, or if I need to get some more work done.

Wednesday
Apr042012

Active Release Technique (ART) and Other Updates

It's been another month, and things are going well. I have these grand plans for all these posts and updates I want to do, but other things keep coming up. Mostly graduate program related, but it's also just an issue with time - between work, school, working out and my other activities, I'm having trouble finding the time to write these comprehensive research style posts I want to. Having to write papers for school really drains my energy when it comes to writing about things I want to.

Yesterday I had my first ART (Active Release Technique) session, and I have lots to say, but we'll come back to that in a moment.

It's been another month of intermittent fasting/Leangainsing it, and things are going well. I've also had my BodyMedia Fit armband for a month, which is a tremendous amount of data and some solid results. Also going on 6 weeks of heavy lifting, and I'm feeling pretty good.

When it comes to food, I've been tremendously lazy, doing a wide open version of "IIFYM" or if it fits your macros. I take a multivitamin, Vitamineral Green capsules, and some other supplements for my micronutrient needs, and have just been trying to hit my protein, carb and fat numbers every day. The best part of IIFYM is as long as it fits I'm allowing myself to eat it. Protein can come from shakes, meat, protein bars, or whatever. If it's a workout day, and as a result, a high carb day I can get those carbs from clean food like potatoes, or I can have pasta (lasagna and tortellini have been heavy on the menu, I really missed those when I was doing the low carb thing), ice cream, candy bars... and it's the same for sources of fat. It's important to be careful and keep track, though, because some of those delicious things that are high carbs are also high fat and on a high carb day, fat must be kept low. On a low carb day I make sure I'll hit my protein numbers then round out my calories with fat (ideally carbs are less than 80g, but I'm happy as long as it's sub-100g). Even though there is calorie and macro counting, this is one of the easiest diets I've ever tried and it will be really easy to maintain. It's super easy to stay at a deficit when all your calories are in the latter half of the day, sometimes I have a target for the day and all the food planned and ready to go, but I end up eating less because I just can't cram that much food down my gullet. Fantastic!

Let's talk about exercise. I got started by following the guidelines laid out in Starting Strength. The way this works is for the primary lifts (Big 3 plus overhead press) start with the bar, do 5 reps, if it feels easy add 10 lbs, repeat until your form starts to suffer or your movement slows down, then do 2 more sets (totaly of 3 sets of 5 reps, or 3x5). Each subsequent workout you add weight (5-10 lbs for bench and OHP, 10-15 lbs for squat and deads). I did that for a few workouts until I felt like I had established form and made some initial gains, about 3 workouts. After that I decided to try for an RPT (Reverse Pyramid Training) style for my sets and reps. The biggest issue I have with RPT is that the guidelines that exist are not the most clear. In hindsight I think I was doing far too many warm-up sets (probably not a bad thing as it helped me to work on form) and at a certain point I think I tried to add too much weight, which caused me to hate everything. Additionally doing the big 3 at every workout, each time trying to increase my reps or my weight, was extraordinarily draining. With RPT you do your warmup sets taking weight up proportionally, then go to your highest weight working set, drop the weight and do another set, and maybe drop weight and do a third set. For the working sets you have a rep range you try to hit. So for me Monday is when I would add weight and try to hit the bottom of my rep range. By Friday I tried to get to the top of my rep range, then the following Monday I would add more weight. Additional research as suggested it's not a good idea to brute force your way to these increases - if your target for the day is 6 reps and you can only do 5, just do 5 - don't go for that 6th rep just to have the increase, especially if it causes you to lose good form. After 10 RPT style workouts I felt totally burned out, missed my numbers a couple times (which I now know isn't always a bad thing) and decided to switch it up. That's when I learned of 5/3/1, which I am currently giving a go. The basic idea behind 5/3/1 is that you start at lower weights and work your way up to higher weights, doing the big lifts and accessory work, and doing the lifts on a split. I don't have time to go into too much detail on this program, but check out http://www.strstd.com/ for a great calculator. I'm doing the Full Body program from the book, and really digging it. I'm only on Week 3, so I'll probably write more extensively once I've gone through this phase (4 weeks) and maybe an additional phase with my newly calculated numbers.

 

Now, let's talk about ART. Active Release Technique is a process by which the soft tissue (muscle, mostly, could be tendon or other connective tissue) is shortened, manual pressure is applied, and the tissue is extended. This helps to not only with actually lengthening the tissue, but also breaking up scar tissue and separating any tissue that has adhered to each other/bone/other muscles, etc. I've been looking into this for some time, and finally found a place relatively nearby and decided to go for it. I've experienced issues with shin splints for as long as I can remember, primarily with my left leg. Since starting with Vibram Five Fingers, other minimalist shoes and more barefooting, I have had fewer issues, but they are certainly still there. Something that has come to my attention recently is what appears to be the beginnings of hammertoe on my left foot, primarly the second (just after the big) toe, but have also noticed the other 3 toes (so excluding the big toe) seem to be pulled back higher, almost as if I am always trying to hold those toes off the ground. My suspicion is this has to do with the tightness of (what I believe is) the Tibialis anterior muscle, which is also where I experience pain related to shin splints. Aside from hamstring inflexibility, I have also experienced some pain on the right side in the upper thigh/hip/butt (gluteus medius or minimus) and lower back, which is either related to simple tightness or could be a result of being off balance from the issues with my left leg. He worked on all these areas, and my right shin as well. For the shins I was lying on my back with my legs straight, and he had me perform dorsiflexion and plantarflexion of my foot (pull my toes toward me, point them away, as much as possible) while working on the muscle in the shin. He said there was a lot of scar tissue built up (left side mostly), which is what is primarily causing the pain. He told me my legs are very strong, and I shouldn't have these kinds of mobility issues, so once we get this resolved it should make most of my activities much easier (especially running). Next he had me lie on my left side, and keeping my right leg straight he had me move it out (imagine trying to kick yourself in the face while lying on your side) and down (across my body, toward the left side, when fully extended 'in front' of me.) While I was doing that he was manipulating various muscles including my hamstring, glutes, and some in my lower back. When our time was done he had me stand up and walk around to see how it felt. The shin was not very noticable - it did feel better, but either due to the severity of the tightness/scar tissue, or the way you actually utilize those muscles, I couldn't tell a substantial difference. My hip, however, felt totally different and strange. That first step I felt like I was going to fall over. I think chronic tightness of those muscles has caused imbalances, and it was amazing to have it feel so open. He said I might be sore today, and I am a little bit (strangely in areas he didn't work on, which may be those muscles finally working properly) but not so much that I will have any trouble going to lift today. I have another appointment tomorrow, and 2 more next week. He said if I see him 2 times for 3 to 4 weeks that will probably take care of most of the problems, then I should be all set. As a side note, I'm also looking into MAT (muscle activation technique) which involves finding muscles that have deactivated/are not firing properly, and getting them back to what they're supposed to do. The idea behind this technique is that if you have ankle pain on the left, for example, it may be caused by your right calf muscle not firing properly. If the right calf isn't working right, all the muscles around it start to overcompensate, causing the muscles near those to perform differently, all the way around to the other side of your body. I'll see how the ART goes first, but I think it would be very complimentary.

Each ART session is supposed to build on the previous one, and from what I've read it sounds like the results will start compounding and I will see better and better results with each appointment. I'm pleased so far, but it may be too early to start preaching about it as much as I do the barefoot thing :)