No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

Year in review?

Posted by Ben on Friday, December 26, 2008

Before you groan and click past this, be aware that this is not a resolutions post, nor is it a BS plus-delta analysis. I’m not doing a top-whatever list like everyone else in the world, nor am I doing a best this, that, or the other of this or next year thing. Sure, those are fun reads but ultimately worthless, unlike a forthcoming “littlest things” blog (sometime semi-soon, I promise—funny thing about writing about time management is finding the time to do it).

Many people, though, do use this time of year to take stock of the past twelve months, noting successes and failures, and to decide if anything needs changing, whether that’s physique, work goals, family priorities, and so on. The new year is a convenient reminder for retrospect, introspect, and prospect. After all, everyone over the age of fifty is likely going out to buy a new wall calendar this week. Not to rag on seniors, but they do tend to watch the calender a little more closely than the rest of us, which is understandable. However, isn’t it a little ironic that we still use the turning of the year to make resolutions and such? In this day and age of six- and seven-day work weeks, twenty-four hour customer “service” (if someone real and in this country actually answers the phone), three months of hype for Christmas—hell, two YEARS of hype for the election cycle—why do so many still cling to just this one time of year for a sense of rebirth, renewal, and rededication to goals and opportunities that should be year-round pursuits?

If you’re one for tradition, it’s easy to think back to where you were and what you were doing about this time last year. For me, Christmas was spent with a friend at a Chinese buffet and at a movie. New Year’s was spent out at a club with a large handful of friends. I was wrapping up a run-through of Core Performance, which was a full-body progression from my hamstring rehab. As I was getting the injury back to full repair, I wanted to get it back to full strength and more, so I decided to follow a pure strength program (one of three tracks in that book) for the next four months or so, after which I really tried to open up my training possibilities to include mostly bodyweight and conditioning work—now I’m getting ahead of myself. The point I’m trying to make is, do you remember a particular goal you made for yourself at some point—it has to be something long-term—and can you think of where you were in the pursuit of that goal, say, in March? August? November?

One of my goals was to work on a strength and conditioning certification. From June until sometime in the fall, I studied my tail off, only to realize some of the non-training elements of potential jobs (and more recently some of the shoddy material being published by the organization offering my certification), so I lost steam for working toward a standardized, outdated exam and decided to continue my own casual, more timely and relevant research with maybe some other letters in mind. Another goal was to continue paying down the credit card debt accumulated over the first few years of life after college (yeah, not IN college, AFTER college), and in that regard, I’ve been wholly successful, trimming the budget a little more here and there while getting three of my four cards to below half of their balances, a key tipping point in credit scores and mortgage financing, leading to hopefully buying a house by mid-summer this coming year, especially since there won’t be a market better than this one in my lifetime, most likely.

Of note, though, is that these goals weren’t thought up, mapped out, or pursued at the turn of the year. They simply coincided with my physical and financial conditions, and I decided to take advantage of them as they were presented, not with a new calendar. I’m sure you’ve done the same during your life—sure, there are New Year’s babies (both born and conceived), but people have birthdays throughout the year. I’m guessing you didn’t buy that car just because the year turned over, and I’m pretty sure you didn’t tell your boss you’d rather wait on that raise and/or promotion until the fiscal year ended just so you could help out the books and be able to remember the moment a little easier. At the same time, those emergencies and tragedies in life aren’t so kind as to wait for a certain time of year, are they? So why do so many people do that with their health? Let me put it this way: I’m avoiding my gym at all costs until at least Valentine’s Day and will be working out elsewhere, either at home, at a park, or at a track. I figure that’ll be about how long the most stalwart resolutioners will make it before crapping out and complaining that it’s too hard or there’s no time or their genetics won’t let them make any improvements. The sidewalks will be teeming with new jogging suits, new running shoes, and new iPods *shudder* for a few weeks. Indeed, it’s better than nothing, but the problem is that ninety-nine percent of all this activity is done out of a sense of external obligation. A friend or family member wants company and shared agony, whether they are the asker or the askee, so someone else figures, why not? A week or a month goes by, excuses are made, meeting times missed, and the asker loses motivation because the other person isn’t there to push them—waaaaaaaaaaait a minute. See what I did there?

The motivation, the strength, the drive must come from inside. It has to be a resolution based on a changed mindset, not based on the time of year. I say this because it happened to me, way back when. I grew up as the fat kid to fat parents, and every year, my mother would bring in something around Christmas: a cross-country emulator, a treadmill, a universal gym machine, and so on. About the only thing that got/gets used with any regularity is the treadmill, and that’s for my grandmother’s at-home physical therapy. My brother used the gym machine for awhile but outgrew it. I don’t remember what else there was, but there was always something, and obviously, none of that stuff worked—I was still a fat bastard going into high school.

Conversely, scholastic wrestling season runs from November to March—you can’t wait for the new year to get yourself on track because by then, a good chunk of the season is over, and you’re likely an alternate instead of a starter, so I didn’t have a choice. Later, after three years of inactivity in college, I was tired of, well, being tired and pudgy (again). A classmate mentioned he needed a gym partner, and since he’d used free weights while I hadn’t, I figured it was as good a time as any to learn—that was in August 2000. I remember the month and year not because of a calendar change, but because of a life change. I remember September 2005 not because of a calendar change, but because it was the start of a nearly year-long depression for various reasons (in retrospect, it was a good thing to have happened; it just sucked going through it). I remember June 2008 not because of a calendar change, but because of a mental shift in my approach to training, from to-the-letter cookie-cutter programs to adopting and adapting and audibling (that would be the progressive form of the verb “audible” :D) on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis depending on my physical and mental conditions.

I certainly hope you and yours have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2009, but when it comes to the health part, you have a convenient reason to get started right now, but please make sure you do it for the right reasons and with a sense of progression. Ease into it. Sure, enthusiasm is high now, but don’t blow your wad for three weeks and crash. Instead, take that energy and focus it into some research and make a viable plan in the gym and in the kitchen—something you can EASILY maintain—that will let you make tweaks and adaptations over the course of a few months, a year, and more. Then, follow the plan, but don’t get discouraged if you hit some bumps along the way. Everyone does—I haven’t fully trained for three weeks as of this writing because of needing to rest and rehab a shoulder impingement. That doesn’t mean I’m not itching to get back on track, but I’m having to step back and re-evaluate my training modes to where I can sustain a consistent, progressive effort (disregard the movement protocols) for more than six months (my current “best”). Ultimately, I want something that can ebb and flow as needed but won’t completely change, and I want it sustainable for, say, a year or two or four or forever. I hear mimicking child’s play is a step in the right direction, and I have a couple dogs who need running around. Hmmm…

Holiday hangover: the power of holiday tradition, stay within dietary striking distance (aka surviving and staying active), six pieces of pie, Christmas and a question, Archway cookies coming back (and a bun in the oven to justify consumption), forty years after Apollo 8.

Body bits: lifelong moderate activity promotes youthfulness, exercise-induced nausea (it’s okay on occasion).

Edibles: some “greens” recommendations (I’m trying the Trader Joe’s brand—$11!—right now), the story behind General Tso (of chicken fame).

Mind matters: yoga as anger management.

Kiddie corner: no links this time—just tell them to go run around outside and leave the video games for after sundown :)

Fiscal fitness: as if we need any reminders after breaking the bank the past few weeks.

General health: the importance of crunching your health numbers, exercising through illness, three reasons to sleep late (and why you should probably sleep more anyway), why early detection is the best way to beat cancer, caffeine affects men more than women, BPA saga continues.

Geek-out:
—Transportation: Toyota quietly going electric.
—Tech stuff: Blackberry’s song-on-the-radio finder, broadband stimulus needs data, 3D-ready HDTV, Milwaukee M-Spector camera.
—Nature: USB device monitors soil conditions, saving The Netherlands, US’s first hydrokinetic turbine installed, smart plug monitors electricity use, interstate smog rules back in effect, ocean pharmacy, cousins biologically okay to marry.
—Miscellaneous: recharging US scientific research, how to fold an origami Millennium Falcon (you’re welcome), Disneyland for dudes.

Git r dun:
—I think my closing paragraph was pretty good this time :)

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