Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, so I’m taking the week off to enjoy time with family.

I’ll be back next week with a regular post.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

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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

“Up 30lbs over last year” – More Fitness Reflections

Happy Canada Day weekend for those who are observing it!

In preparation for the holiday, I’m writing this post a little early as I will be sans networked connection at the lake.  As of writing, I don’t yet have all of my sleep data recorded for June, so the typical sleep update will be delayed one week.

Instead, I want to briefly give some further health and fitness thoughts that I’ve been mulling over recently, in no particular order.

 

1. “I’ve put on some weight…”

Exercise was a bigger part of my life last year, but I’ve recently recalled that my gym habit waned in the days before heading off to Scotland in July 2016.  Prompted by the realization that July starts next week, I looked up my weight stats for this time last year.  Ugly truth time!

IMG_20170627_120843
Starting Weight for June 27th, 2016 – 297.8lbs.  Starting Weight for June 27th, 2017 – 328.6lbs (+30.8lbs).

 

Needless to say, that’s a little disappointing.  Finding a system that I can stick to has been a challenge for a number of reasons that aren’t particularly compelling, and I’m disappointed in my progress so far.

 

2. Goal Setting with a Deadline

I realized that last Saturday was exactly 63 weeks away from our wedding day.  I’m hoping to leverage the not so far off wedding date as a concrete goal in my mind to spur action.  Every week that I do nothing in regards to exercise or fitness brings me one week closer to the wedding where I didn’t prepare.  With lots of lead-in, I have plenty of time to exercise safely to look good for my future-wife.

 

3. Tracking Excuses

I found a nifty idea on Reddit that I’m implementing in my notebook called the Excuse Log.   This will have the dual purpose of aiding purposeful reflection on why I don’t exercise when I plan to, and what I can do about it in the future.  In my notebook, I’ve penned in the table below:

Excuse Legitimate? Reality/Solution
 *What is the reason why I’m not going to the gym?  *Is this a legitimate reason?  I.e. would a good friend or professional excuse my absence based on this reason?  *If the excuse is not legitimate, reframe the problem to better reflect reality for next time. If the excuse is legitimate, what solutions can you implement to help you in the future.

This will help me be more mindful of those times when I didn’t exercise as I planned because I let my baser monkey brain trick me (you’re too tired, YouTube is more pleasant, you ate too big of a lunch, etc.).

 

4. Enjoy What You Do

I stopped rowing, ultimately, because I don’t enjoy cardio exercises all that much.  While it might be true that I like rowing over running, I truthfully don’t like rowing or running that much as compared to lifting weights, especially when it’s the only exercise I’m doing.

Going to the gym to lift weights comes with a whole host of mental barriers that I’ve thus far proven to be weak against.  I give in to temptation when I’m tired, I don’t have the discipline yet to hit the gym in the morning, I’m still self-conscious around others, and I seem to have an aversion to sweating.  Stacked together, I’ve got a lot of friction to fight against just to do the right thing.

A trick I’ve seen consistently in the exercise literature and the self-help sphere is to pick activities you like to do, because you’ll be more likely to stick to them.  I genuinely enjoyed going to the gym when life was simpler a year ago.  Now, having been away for so long, it’s hard for me to build up to the same level where I can coast on the routine.  I need a catalyst to help push me forward.  I need something I enjoy to be the keystone habit/activity that will force me to exercise.  John Green talked about it recently after completing his first half-marathon on his 100 Days YouTube channel.  In the video, he takes the advice that sticking to your fitness habits can be aided by signing up for competitions that you need to train for.

Recently, I participated in a crash course introduction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with some friends.  To say that it kicked my ass is a bit of an understatement; I was a hot, sweaty mess afterwards.  As of writing I still have bruises and broken blood vessels marking my upper arms and chest, and in the days afterwards I felt as though I had been run over by a mid-sized American pick-up truck.

And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  In the past, I had also participated in a similar session for Krav Maga, and while I enjoyed it, too, the BJJ session was a lot more fun for me.  Despite what you may think about me moonlighting as a security guard, I’m not a big fan of striking combat.  I prefer grappling and restraint over throwing punches, so BJJ spoke to me on some level.

I’ve since looked up the fees and schedule offered by the recreation centre and I’ve been pondering whether I would want to join in on some of the drop-in classes.  To keep up and learn BJJ (or any martial art) would require me to improve my flexibility, mobility, and cardiovascular endurance; I’d also be more inclined to hit the weights to gain strength as well.  I haven’t made any decisions or commitments yet, but it’s something that’s been on my mind.

—–

Of course, this is all talk.  My problem is that I don’t translate talk into action.  All the best laid plans come unraveled when you can’t put the rubber to the pavement (worn cliched metaphors and all).  Or, as Mike Tyson has quipped, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.   In this case, lacking a solid fitness plan opens me up to the punches of day-to-day life, where every available excuse becomes a valid reason to not commit to exercise.

As I review this post, I realize the order I laid things out in creates a pretty good reflection of 1.) identifying the problem, 2.) setting a realistic timeline, 3.) anticipating roadblocks, and 4.) setting good plans of action.

I don’t know where this will go, but I’m curious to see what comes of it.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

 

Compare You With You

Here’s an interesting quote I stumbled across:

Artists frequently hide the steps that lead to their masterpieces. They want their work and their career to be shrouded in the mystery that it all came out at once. It’s called hiding the brushstrokes, and those who do it are doing a disservice to people who admire their work and seek to emulate them. If you don’t get to see the notes, the rewrites, and the steps, it’s easy to look at a finished product and be under the illusion that it just came pouring out of someone’s head like that. People who are young, or still struggling, can get easily discouraged, because they can’t do it like they thought it was done. An artwork is a finished product, and it should be, but I always swore to myself that I would not hide my brushstrokes.

~Matthew Weiner (Creator of Mad Men)

Sometimes, we forget that when we see someone execute skill with percision and grace, we are not seeing the countless hours of practice and error that went into that moment.  There is an interesting question raised in the West Wing about pharmaceuticals:

How much does the first pill cost?
$1 million.
How much does the second pill cost?
$0.50.

The first pill is the culmination of time, dollars and research to create.  But once it’s created, the set-up cost is done.  You can reliably reproduce the product at only the cost of material.  Skills work the same way.  You go to school, you pay for an education, you put in time to gain experience, you practice endlessly, all for that one moment when you swiftly carry out what has been drilled into your head.

Therefore, there is a flaw in comparing your skill with those of an expert.  You should stick to comparing apples to apples.  Not apples to apple crisp.

 

Stay Awesome,

 

Ryan

Quarterly (+1 month) Sleep Review

Last week, I gave my fourth sleep check-in for 2017.  With four months of data, I thought I’d put it all together to see what trends shake out and what I might learn from the experience so far.

2017Q1 Sleep
(Note, I missed the opportunity to review a true quarter, but an extra month is just more data for me to dig into.)

The single best day for sleep for me are Sunday’s.  This makes sense, as I typically don’t work Saturday nights at the bar anymore, and I consider Sunday to be a down day – I don’t set alarms unless I have something planned.  Therefore, it makes sense that I hit at least 7-hours of sleep 10 our of the 18 Sunday’s in the first four months (55.5%).

If Sunday’s are successful, why aren’t Saturday’s?  I attribute this largely to working at the bar Friday nights.  When I work a bar shift, I don’t get off work until 2:30am, which means that by the time I get home, wind down, and finally push myself to go to bed, it’s 4am or later.  Since I don’t like sleeping too late on Saturday’s and wasting the day, I’ll often get up by 10 or 11am, well before I hit the 7-hour sleep mark.  Because of this, it doesn’t surprise me that Saturday’s are displaying the worst results.

With the Monday through Friday results being largely similar, I can offer some brief commentary on their successes.  Sleep results from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are the most likely to be successful for me since I often have those nights free, and am able to go to bed around 10pm.  In this case, I’m not successful because I’m usually not in bed until after 10:30pm, meaning any kind of restlessness while I sleep cuts into the narrow margins.  While the opportunity for success is there, poor execution on my part is to blame for the poor results.

Thursday’s results are curious.  Thursday’s come after I work the Wednesday night shifts at the bar, so you would expect me to have as poor of results as Saturday.  However, what’s not captured in the graph is the time I go into work Thursday mornings.  While I’m *supposed* to start work at 9:30am, I’m often sleeping in Thursday mornings and not getting to work until 10am.  That probably accounts for the times I’m hitting the 7-hours.

Friday’s are a little anomalous, as I would expect them to be on par with Monday through Wednesday.  I suppose there’s a few things going on there: I’m a little fatigued by the end of the week, so I’m making poorer choices; or perhaps my sleeping schedule shifts later because of Wednesday night.  It’s also possible that there are other externalities that I’m not accounting for, such as other events in my calendar that I’m not including here for simplicity.

Of course, it needs to be pointed out that we should not draw a lot of inferences here.  All things considered, four months is not a lot of data, and I’m still performing poorly in terms of the sleep challenge.  In the four months (120 days), I hit my target 25 times (20.8%).  Not accounted for, as well, are the near-misses where I slept over 6.5-hours in a night, but less than 7-hours.  Also not accounted for are the nights were I was asleep for 7 or more hours, but due to restlessness, getting up in the night, or being disturbed by my partner and pet, I was tracking less than 7-hours on my Fitbit.

Still, near-misses are failures, and I must accept those instances where I barely fail my goals.  With more intentionality, mindfulness, and better systems, it is possible for me to improve over the next four months.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

Keep Your (First Aid) Skills Sharp

I wrote my masters thesis in 2012 on the relationship of knowledge, first aid, and the moral requirements of rescue.  The thesis argued that 1.) if you have special knowledge or training (first aid), you are morally required to render aid, even if there is no pre-existing legal requirement; and 2.) everyone should be trained in first aid.  While it is the case that I have to keep my first aid certificates current in order to work at the bar, I believe that it’s important to keep these skills fresh and sharp regardless of your occupation.

You never know when you’ll need to draw upon the skills, so frequent practice is important if you want to be effective.

There have been two instances while working at the bar where a pedestrian was struck by an automobile while I was working.  The first was New Years Eve a few years back, and the second was this past St. Paddy’s Day.  Thankfully, in both instances the person did not seem to be critically harmed in the incident, and both were conscious when they were loaded into the ambulance to be taken to the hospital for further attention.  I suspect that while both had some degree of recovery ahead of them, they thankfully won’t likely experience prolonged physical suffering.

In both instances, I was working on the door, so I was the first responder on scene to start treatment.  In the case of a traffic collision, the most important steps are to protect yourself, and start control of the scene.  I can confidently say that I’m terrible at the first thing, and half-decent on the second.  This is why consistent practice is important.

Protect yourself

I fail on this in two regards.  I have a tendency to run out into the street to reach the pedestrian quickly, meaning that I put myself at risk of getting hit by a car while on scene.  The other thing I’m bad at is getting to the pedestrian and starting treatment before I finish the scene survey (which includes putting on medical gloves to protect myself).  These are big no-no’s.  I expose myself to unnecessary risk while trying to be first to the injured, when realistically I should take an additional 15-30 seconds to stop, take in the scene, and put on my gloves.

Control the Scene

I am adequate at this because I tend to default to immobilizing C-Spine and trying to talk to the pedestrian if they are conscious.  I could do this better in a number of way, such as having a fellow staff member control the spine while I assess for additional injuries and control the scene (directing people around me, updating EMS, taking notes, etc.).  In regards to the staff at the bar, I am probably the most experienced first aider, so removing myself from the decision-making portion of the response has benefits and drawbacks.  I am the best person to perform first aid until advanced medical care arrives, but I also have enough experience to understand the dynamics of the scene.  At this point, it’s best that I trust my fellow staff to respond appropriately.

Responding to a traffic incident is chaotic, noisy and confusing.  On top of this, adrenaline courses through your body, making your hands shake and your limbs jittery.  Your brain feels like mush because your thoughts are lightning quick.  Time seems to slow down, and that ambulance that is 5-8 minutes away always takes an eternity.  You are hyper-focused on your patient, but aware that there is a light din of noise at your periphery.  It’s like a bubble is around you, and you are hoping like hell that you don’t mess anything up under the spotlight of the gawking mass of people encircling the scene.

This is all normal.  It (sadly) gets easier the more you do it.  You become calmer each time you respond; it’s happening to me already.

The lesson to take from this is to always keep your certs current, and find time to meaningfully practice your skills.  Someones life may depend on it.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan