Ellipticals and Zombies!

In my search to find exercise routines that I can make stick around long enough to build habits from, I am experimenting with a running app and a new piece of home equipment.  My fiancee and I have recently purchased an elliptical machine for our home.  While I was initially hesitant about the cost when I was already paying for my gym membership, I have since come around to the convenience of using the machine at home.

One issue I’ve had with fully embracing exercising at home is my limitations.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I drop our dog off for daytime boarding, since both my fiancee and I work during the day (it gives our dog some socializing time and exercise).  This means that I have to be out the door a bit earlier than I otherwise would need to be, which cuts into time I could be at the gym.

I have been going to the gym Tuesday mornings for the last month and a half, but Thursdays are a write-off because I work at the bar Wednesday nights and don’t get to bed until 1am at the earliest.  Outside of weekend, this means that my morning exercises are limited to body-weight work, or the rowing machine that currently serves as a clothes rack.

Enter: the Elliptical

The elliptical, on the other hand, allows me to jump on for 30-45 minutes in the morning, then I can immediately shower and get ready for work and still get out the door in time.

(Note: I realize that these are not good excuses for why a more disciplined approach to my morning wouldn’t fix my problems.  While this is true, I’m trying to address these shortcomings with solutions, rather than relying on a fantasy alternative reality where I am a morning person.)

The elliptical is also good because it’s low impact on my knees.  I’ve recently discovered that 330lbs is the magical number where my knees are starting to hurt by the end of the day.  Ideally, I want to get  back into running, like I had done in undergrad, but I know that my knees and shins wouldn’t hold up to the abuse of trodding at my current weight.  The elliptical provides a good middle-ground to improve my cardio in the interim.

ACK! Zombies! RUN!

The last hurdle is that cardio is pretty boring.  This is where the zombies come in.  I’ve downloaded the Zombies, Run! 5k Training app (this is not a paid sponsorship; I just like the app).  It’s a fun spin on the Couch to 5k (C25K) training systems that gradually build a person’s endurance over a multi-week period to get them from complete novice to a 5km run through weekly drills and timed runs.

I’ve used it for a couple of weeks as of writing, and I’ve been enjoying the experience and sharing my “runs.”

My experience with the app have been good so far.  I like that it allows for external audio to play while the app is running.  I run Spotify in the background for music, then the running app interjects periodically to give me instructions, such as when to run and when to walk.  The app makes these instructions fun by forming them in terms of a story about a town fighting for survival during a zombie outbreak, so when you are running, it is from zombies that you can “hear” behind you.  The training is framed as you learning to be a better runner for the town (runner scavenge for supplies out of town, hence why they need to learn to run faster from zombies).  It adds a sense of purpose to the training, and provides a fun context to help you progress the story along.  At its core, it’s an audiobook laid over a GPS/step tracker.

Because I can complete a mission in under an hour without leaving the house, it fits well with my time restrictions in the morning.  I’m enjoying the experience and I hope to keep this going beyond the 8-week training module.  Combining this with lifting weights at the gym a few days a week (or the occasional YouTube lead yoga session), it provides a sense of novelty to keep me engaged in the process.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

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October 2017 Sleep Check-in

After missing my target by one night in September, and doing a quarterly check-in, I was hoping to get things back on track for October in terms of sleeping.  Let’s see how I fared.

Screenshot_2017-10-31-14-55-55
8/31 – Ouch…

Yep, I failed another month.  This was entirely because I was not intentional with my sleep habits.  I didn’t think about going to bed on time, and I didn’t make any effort to structure my evenings around winding down at a reasonable time.  It’s starting to show, too.  I’m finding that as of writing, I generally feel a bit more tired and groggy during the day.

This doesn’t mean it was all bad or completely negligent on my part.  From the above chart, you see many stretches (Oct 4-7, 16-21, etc), where I was consistently not going to bed at a decent time, but you also see instances where I just barely missed the 7-hour bar.

The restless sleeping seems to be an issue for me, and I’m not entirely sure what is causing it.  There are a few issues that could be contributing to it, such as the dog jumping on the bed during the night, or perhaps my weight is giving me some form of undiagnosed sleep apnea.  Whatever the cause, it does have an impact on my sleep targets: I am down for 7-hours or more, but I am logging less than 7-hours of sleep.

However, this is shifting the blame a bit to soften the blow.  The truth is, for every instance where I just barely miss my target, there are at least two nights where I didn’t have a proper shutdown before bed.  Fixing those errors should be my priority, not making excuses.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Quarterly Sleep Review: July-Sept

Back in May, I thought I’d give a sleep update for that quarter to see what kinds of trends would shake out when taking a longer view of my sleeping habits.  I missed the opportunity to give an update for the April through June span, so instead I’ll skip it and give the update for July, August, and September.

In the first quarterly sleep review, I was showing some pretty terrible numbers, with an overall success rate of 25/120 days, or 20.8%.  Let’s see where we are now.

Jul-Sep sleep

Here, we see a much better hit-ratio.  Between the months of July and September, I hit my target two out of three months, for 31 out of 92 days, or 33.7%, a more than 10% jump in sleep.

Some of my success in this quarter is because I’ve tried being more conscious of my sleeping habits, though I will admit that I still don’t do a good job of maintaining a night-time routine to get myself into bed at a decent time.

The sleep results for each of the days of the week are somewhat consistent from the last quarterly update, with the most sleep occurring Sundays, where I’m usually not up late and I can sleep in the next day.  Thursday continues to be a bad day for sleep since I’m still working at the bar Wednesday night’s.

The biggest improvement that was unexpected was my Saturday sleeping.  As I noted in the last quarterly update, Saturday’s typically suffer because I work at the bar, and so being up late usually means I won’t get a full 7-hours in.  In this quarter, I have fixed that issue somewhat, though admittedly not intentionally.  My best reason to account for this change is that I often take early cuts at the bar when we have lower patron turnout, so I’m able to go to sleep earlier than I otherwise would have.

A final caveat on my sleep results is that my July and August results are good because of the vacation I took from work.  The two weeks off between July and August meant I was able to keep a regular sleeping schedule, go to the gym twice per week, and have time with my partner, all while still being able to get work done from my to-do list.  That two-ish week period is a little bit of a deviation from the norm, which resulted in a higher sleep ratio for the month.

All in all, I’m happy with the results, and am looking forward to the next quarterly sleep review to close out 2017’s sleep tracking.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

September 2017 Sleep Check-in

Despite the missing data in August’s check-in, I was able to meet my 10-night target for the month.  This month I just barely missed my 10 nights target.  I had hoped to get the last night on September 30th, but sadly I had stuff to do Saturday morning that got me up earlier than I would have liked.

Screenshot_2017-10-02-09-50-01
9/30

 

One thing I noticed is how poorly I sleep when I have a head cold.  This may be obvious to people, but it wasn’t until I saw it graphed out just how much of a toll it takes on sleep when your body is trying to recover.  Not only that, but I saw the benefit of using cough medicine at night, where in the days before I took it, my sleep was disturbed fairly regularly, whereas after I started taking medicine, I was able to get longer periods of sleep in before I became restless.

Check out my stats from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (pre-cough medicine) versus Thursday night (post-cough medicine):

Screenshot_2017-10-02-10-05-50
23 times restless, 46 minutes awake/restless

 

Screenshot_2017-10-02-10-06-09
16 times restless, 31 minutes awake/restless
Screenshot_2017-10-02-10-06-22
9 times restless, 17 minutes awake/restless
Screenshot_2017-10-02-10-06-37
7 times restless, 14 minutes awake/restless

On Thursday, I felt more rested after taking cough medicine at night despite having less sleep overall.  It just goes to show how important it is to maintain uninterrupted sleep cycles.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Vacation Time and the Gym

While on vacation, I had lots of free moments to address an issue I’ve discussed many times before – my poor track record with going to the gym to exercise.  While on vacation, I set the goal to attend the gym twice per week for the two-weeks I was home.  I didn’t set a specific time or day to go, only that I would make the effort.  Using the excuse log idea, I noted that when I didn’t feel like lifting heavy weights, I would commit myself to going and riding the bike for an hour.  As you can see below, I was successful in my goals.

Capture1Capture2

I noted a few observations that seemed to help spur me on to success.

  • I always strove to exercise while my fiancee was away at work.  That meant I would have more time with her when she was home since I had so much free time during the day to do anything else I wanted.  With this in mind, I knew that the closer I got to 5pm, the more likely I was to miss the window for the day to go to the gym.
  • Going during the day time, when everyone else was at work, was an amazing breath of relief.  While I may be passed the point of feeling super self-conscious about going to the gym, it was still refreshing to have a relatively empty gym to do whatever I wanted.
  • As noted above, my trips to the gym included both lifting weights and cardio-only sessions.  As part of my commitment, I knew that if I didn’t want to go, then I had to commit to just “30-min on the bike,” which I could turn into a full hour after I was already at the gym and sweating.
  • Getting dressed in my gym clothes at home also made it easier to go.  Maybe it’s because it cuts down on the overall time commitment, or because it primed me, or even because I always shower at home anyway (so why dirty street clothes?); whatever the reason, it helped.
  • I still couldn’t bring myself to go first thing in the morning.  I considered trying this during my vacation to see if I could potentially carry it over to when I returned to work.  This strategy would be the easiest to implement if I wanted to dedicate three days a week to the gym without sacrificing other obligations.
  • Likewise, I wanted to try swimming at an indoor pool once during my vacation as a form of exercise.  I was not able to make this happen.  I did, however, get time in the lake, so that should count for something.
  • I found the gym a good source of “therapy” when I was in a foul mood.

Overall, I’m happy with how things went and am looking to try and carry the 2-days/week practice into my normal routine.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

July 2017 Sleep Check-In

Hello again, folks!

Having rested up from my vacation, it’s time to do my sleep check-in for the month of July.   During my last check-in, I set the goal of hitting my sleep target at least 10 times in the month.

Let’s see how I did:

IMG_20170804_105206
11/31 

July proved to be a good month for sleep!  I hit my target 11 times out of 31 days, or 35%.  This is the best I have achieved since I started tracking my sleep at the start of the year.

Having said that, I do want to provide some context that will dampen the accomplishment a bit.  The blocks of sleep at the start and end of the month (6-days) were during vacation periods – the start of the month was the Canada Day long weekend, and the block of time at the end were when I took 2-weeks off from my jobs and went to the cottage with my fiancee.  Because she took time off, we both were able to sleep in and get lots of rest.

This means that had I not had that time off from work, I would likely have only hit my target around 5-6 times, which goes against my stated aim last month of hitting my sleep goals by being more mindful and intentional with my bedtimes.

So, while I can celebrate this month of more concentrated rest, I have to keep in mind that my habits themselves have not changed around sleep.

Therefore, I will keep my target going, and I will aim to hit my goal another 10-times in August.  This will be a better measure of whether I can keep the trend going strong.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Shopping My Way To The Gym

Back in January, I bought a new pair of running shoes for the gym.  I had owned my old ones for a *long* time – I remember using those shoes more than a decade ago when I was exercising before my trip to Kenya.  Those shoes were… well beyond worn.

I elected to get some Converse shoes as I hear that they are good for things like deadlifts, where you want solid contact with the ground (some of the pros deadlift barefoot).  Since I like deadlifts, I thought I’d listen to people who seem to know what they are doing, and so I bought new shoes.  I remember the feeling I had when I exited the store.  I immediately wanted to hit the gym and try them out.  There is something about new clothes that gives you a bit of a motivational kick.

Fast-forward to the present, I’ve been struggling a bit with maintaining a consistent schedule with going to the gym.  Last week, I was checking out some blog posts from a fitness YouTuber that I’ve recently started following – Jon Call, aka Jujimufu.  Seriously, the guy is freaking inspiring to me; I love his attitude and personality on camera.  I’m not ashamed to admit I also may have a bit of a man-crush on him.

I'M HOLDING A LOG! IT MAKES ME HAPPY! 😃

A post shared by Jon Call (@jujimufu) on

In his blog archive, he talks about strategies for killing training boredom:

Try training in new outfits.  When you feel like a bad ass because you think you look cool, you perform better.  Owning the idea that you look great motivates you.  Beef up your training wardrobe and suddenly you’ll want to train sometimes exclusively as an excuse to wear cool training outfits.  Cool outfits kill training boredom.

Jujimufu zubaz tricking pants, tricking pants, zubaz pants

 

Crimson Zubaz pants + wrist bands + face paint = Just another Jujimufu outfit.

I remembered back to when I bought the shoes, and how jazzed I felt to hit the gym, so I took this advice and hit up a local sporting goods store.  To aid with my training, I bought three Under Armour tee-shirts, a pair of shorts, and some wrist-bands for wiping brow sweat.  I like the design of UA shirts, and I find their fabric blend helps keep me cool in the gym.

With my new shirt in hand, I drove straight from the store to the gym to try it out.  As expected, I felt really good wearing the shirt and I had a good workout.

While I can’t use this strategy all the time to find motivation, I’ll have to keep it in mind that shaking up the wardrobe could be just the trick I need in the future.

For more suggestions on how to kill training boredom, I suggest reading the full article or searching out Jujimufu online.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan