No Magic Pill

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Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

The power of pictures

Posted by Ben on Saturday, May 30, 2009

I decided to join a small body composition challenge over at JP Fitness this past week. Just “before” pictures and measurements so far, and as you can see by the rules, it’s pretty wide open, just one check-in at the end of the timeframe (Memorial Day-ish to Labor Day-ish). Measurements are just numbers to be tracked and compared frankly for vanity’s sake, but pictures are the blunt, no-punches-pulled truth. After looking at mine, a couple thoughts came to mind:

—It seems odd that I feel and move as well as I do while having that kind of body shape.
—Things certainly have gotten a bit out of hand since the last round of pictures I took a few years ago, though I do blame my relative lack of inactivity due to various injuries, especially over the past year (not blaming the injuries, just the inactivity).
—Knowing what my body CAN look like with some seriously strict training and dietary regimens, and seeing my starting point, everyone else might as well drop out ‘cuz they are toast :)

Need a kick in the pants? Go take some undies-only pictures. Try to get the camera at waist level rather than eye level—that couple feet of difference really changes the perspective and gives you a better idea of your true body shape. Look at the pictures and decide if you’ve really been training as hard as you can or eating as cleanly as you should. I know I haven’t. You’re welcome.

For the good of humanity and the sake of your eyesight, I will not be posting those pictures here. Again, you’re welcome.


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The Element

Posted by Ben on Friday, February 13, 2009

Blogging’s a little slow at the moment for a variety of reasons, one of which is that I’ve actually started writing a bit in my other (personal) blog, and another being the ballet—no, sausage factory of house hunting, mortgage qualifying (or lack thereof, as it’s turning out for this year), and subsequent decisions on how much to write off on my tax returns. I’ve also been working out more (finally) as well as getting in some reading. As such, I’m obviously behind on my links and won’t get to them today; I’ll have a large link section on my next post unless I just do another link-only post.

This post has practically nothing to do about (direct) physical health. Instead, this is more of a mental exploration. I’ve been reading The Element, a book by PhD and gem Ken Robinson, over the past few days, and while it’s not really worthy of a review here, it does touch on some issues of mental health—not in the clinical way, just in the day-to-day and lifetime ways.

The premise of the Element (concept, not book) is similar to that question parents, teachers, counselors, and whoever else may’ve asked you at some point in your life: financial and logistical issues aside, if given the choice, what job/career/passion would you pursue in life? However, it’s not that simple. There are a lot of entertaining options out there, but the Element is about more than just passing the time without boredom. Instead, it’s about engaging in a pursuit that alters your state of mind and changes your perception of time. We’ve all been in situations where minutes pass like hours—that’s obviously not your Element—but we’ve all also been in situations where hours pass like minutes when we’ve been caught up in whatever we’re doing, loving every moment, wishing it wouldn’t end because we enjoy it so much. The trick is that we didn’t even think about it that way until after the fact; once you make yourself consciously aware of your condition, you immediately lose that time-warped mentality. Those moments are the times you are in your Element, and according to the book, it’s the people who manage to find, nurture, and incorporate their individual Elements that are the most content. That doesn’t mean they have to make a living at it, though many do, but it still has to be a part of life. It sounds cumbersome, but if it’s truly a passion, you don’t even realize you make time for it; it’s just a part of your life.

Anyway, I got to thinking about situations and activities that put me in my Element, where I lose track of time and gain a greater sense of self while recharging the batteries, so to speak, and yes, there have been more than a few, as you’ll see below. My (semi-rhetorical) questions are: how do I know my true Element if I’ve found it—or at least large chunks of it—in so many varied activities, or is there a way to incorporate them all under one venture? Also, how do I make it/them a positive part of my life (read: either make a living at it or at least not detract from regularly paying the bills)?

Training/Diet program design
Yeah, I know it sounds a little cliche given the general direction of this blog, but whenever it comes to putting together a program, whether training or diet or both, for me or for someone else, I tend to lose myself in the process while considering the person’s fitness and body composition goals, current condition(ing), timeframes, available equipment, mental/emotional adaptability and willingness, my own resources from which to pull information, and so on and so forth. It’s great, really, and I’ve had the good fortune to have a few people put their trust in my work. Needless to say, when they see results, it’s a nice feeling, and considering how few people actually come to me ready to do pretty much anything I say, this part of my Element easily fits into my life.

Physical activity
This pretty much only involves lifting, conditioning (not running), and playing with my dogs right now, which is plenty and would satisfy me for the rest of my life. These are the places where I feel attuned to something primal, basic, and in-the-moment without regard for the past or future or any of the petty cerebral issues that taint day-to-day life. Lifting requires concentration, both in proper movements and in tracking progression. Conditioning requires making the brain override the body and push through lactic acid build-up and shortness of breath and general feelings of omigodmakeitstop! and the like. Playing with the dogs is the essence of living in the moment, both in their own thought processes as well as in how they engage in their play with me and with each other.

You’d never know it just by looking at me, but I’ve had two extended phases of dance in my life. While this usually requires a partner (more a hindrance than a help in finding the Element), a GOOD partner pays attention and practices and learns the other person’s intricacies, meaning the two people build trust and familiarity to the point where each can let go of conscious thought and just go by feel. I had the fortune of having a good partner in high school when I both learned and taught shag. College pushed us apart, and I never returned to that style because, logistics aside, a good partner is a rare find, and I never connected with anyone through dance the way I did with her. Then, a couple years ago, I got very involved in country/Western dance, both line and partner. I went to clubs and took videos and largely learned the dances by practicing at home, but I also got to a point where I was teaching others again, which was a lot of fun, and when I didn’t know the dances, I coordinated with others who did and setup get-togethers with several people to learn. Dance had once again become a big part of my life, to the point where I was inquiring about joining or starting competitive groups (I was nearly at a competitive level with shag before high school ended). However, several factors started pushing me away from this style: the shag six-step count was/is so ingrained that I couldn’t shake loose from it when trying the two-step; I tore my hamstring (sprinting), which sidelined me for months just as my interest was peaking; and other things started taking priority (like not waking up feeling like crap every Thursday morning).

Riding my Harley
I don’t act like a biker, and I don’t really look like one, either, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy and find myself out on the rural two-laners. I’ve written extensively in my other blog about solving the world’s problems while out on a ride, not to mention enduring fourteen-hour riding days and the occasional tornado. Motorcycles don’t coccoon you from the world that blasts by at who knows how fast, so you get a literal feel for temperature, sunshine, rain, chemicals, exhaust, bugs, cow manure, and so on. Much like playing with the dogs, there is a lot of immediate, experiential sensation, but there’s also a zoning-out of sorts, too. Needless to say, I never really enter my Element on a highway or in a city.

This is a more recent venture for me, but if I’m making pizza, I’m not paying attention to anything else. Other kinds of cooking get a similar but lesser response, but something about pizza, from making the dough to experimenting with sauces and toppings really tunes out the rest of the world for me.

Unless you’re completely new to this site, you know I can and do write. I enjoy it, but it has to be part of something bigger, not just writing for writing’s sake (though I’m trying that out to a degree on my other blog). Whether it was playing editor-in-chief for a short story compilation in high school or writing up a ream of paper on the uses of English in Taiwanese schools and society, writing usually puts me in my Element. Sometimes, of course, it’s like pulling teeth, and I need to step away from it for a day or a week at a time, but when it clicks, there are few things like it.

Drawing/Painting/Photo editing
Like dancing, you’d never know I did anything visual unless I told you. I haven’t drawn since high school, I think, but it was really the first thing I noticed that induced a mindshift, thanks in large part to the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which I’ll discuss more in a slowly brewing post on influential readings. At first, it was just pencil work since that was what was readily available. Later, it became charcoal, then watercolors, then scale models (thanks to a godawful semester in architecture school). I never really did anything completely original—everything was a mock-up of something I was looking at, whether it was something right in front of me or just a picture or schematic. However, more than anything else, this particular activity really took me out of the realm of conscious thought and dropped me smack into what I can only compare to a really good buzz on really good beer, just without the lightheadedness or sleepiness; on the contrary, my mental capacities were arguably the strongest I can remember during these times. As for the photo editing, I still do that from time to time, whether it’s the actual photography (just a digital camera, so I look for editable content and framing) or messing around in Photoshop, but when I do, everything else falls away.

Audio editing/engineering
Much like photo editing, the audio work I learned during the earlier part of my radio career really honed my senses to compiling and melding elements into a seamless whole. After my live-show work ended, during which I was also in another world of heightened awareness, I’d go sit alone in a production studio and work for a couple hours that seemed like only a few minutes. I later learned that a half-hour’s work was more than sufficient for what we were airing, but more than a few times, I’d work on stuff long past that point, tweaking and experimenting and being totally oblivious to the outside world (it really helped that I was in a sound-deadened room). I’ve fallen away from the intensity of work, but I still dabble on occasion with software at home.

Now, wait a minute, you might be saying. Isn’t videogaming just mindless entertainment? I’d answer, in most cases, yes. If you’re playing something like Super Mario Brothers or Halo, it’s simple entertainment. However, I might argue that Rock Band is more than just entertainment, and something like SimCity is pure engagement. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent in my life playing SimCity (for the record, The Sims sucks), but what I do know is that it sparked and developed a seriously massive—and odd—interest in transportation management. Of all the metrics involved in the creation and maintenance of a sustainable city (in the game, which isn’t nearly as screwy as real life), the one I paid the most attention was transit. The instant a route became congested, I either upgraded the path or blew up the infrastructure to rebuild something more efficient, regardless of the immediate effect on development. Transportation is the lifeblood of a city’s economy and livability, so if that means upgrading a highway, switching to rail, or removing roadways to improve walking and biking options, it’s the first priority. Development will follow if the “feel” of a neighborhood is appropriate. (Side note: this reminds me that I need to upgrade my computer(s) to handle the latest releases.) It goes without saying that this part of my Element remains a daily indulgence in my work as a traffic reporter. Too bad I’m getting sick of this part of my job.

So, there are my moments of Element. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up, I suppose. Some commonalities seem to be instruction/coaching, writing, some form of travel, physical activity, and efficiency of chaos (transportation leading to human movement?). Okay, enough rambling from me. I’ll try to get back to something a little more practical next time. Thanks for the indulgence.

Posted in General, Motivation, Primal | 2 Comments »

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.

—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 :)

Posted in Events, General, Motivation | Leave a Comment »

Back from vacation

Posted by Ben on Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hope you’re sitting down. This is going to be a long one.

I’m finally back from a week’s vacation in Charleston, South Carolina—be ready for some slightly old-news and politically-tinged links as I start this on the Saturday (and it’s now what day?) after the trifecta of Halloween, time change, and Election Day—and writing here instead of on a friend’s book project. Not that that wasn’t fun and all—I learned a LOT about the chaos that marks the initial throes of creativity in a group setting—but despite the dozen or so print-worthy pages I pieced together during the “morning” work sessions (whenever people decided to wake up and get coffee until we decided to have “lunch”), it’s tough (for me, anyway) to get fully engulfed in writing up an idea that’s not my own. We got a lot done, and there’s still a lot to do, but I don’t have—or just haven’t developed—the brain to sit down and grind out pages of work just because I have time to do it (trust me, putting this blog together is like making sausage: nice product, nasty process). No, my writing explodes without warning (bite it, peanut gallery), so I have to ride the wave for all it’s worth whenever it happens. I’d love to make a living out of writing—and as we all know, I can churn out words—but it’s not exactly something you quit everything else to do before bringing in at least a trickle of revenue. Got to pay the bills with something else while doing the writing (for free) on the side.

Slightly related side note: I signed up for a Twitter account today (“nomagicpill”—I have no idea how the codes or symbols work yet). Apparently blogging is SO last year (just like laptops, apparently). Talk about too many options, but I’ll get to more of that in a minute. At least I’ve practically pulled the plug on my MySpace account (yes, it’s actually still around).

Beyond writing, it was a great, rainy week of not a whole lot, including a supposed extra hour of sleep (which I hate just as much as losing an hour in the spring). There were a couple nights out in Charleston itself (the house was in Folly Beach), substantial sessions—both solo and with a “band”—of Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour, a typically violent game of spoons, and a game called Killer Rabbits and the Quest for the Magic Carrot. One of the guys found it at a hobby shop and thought it looked similar to Chez Geek/Goth, only slightly more gratuitously macabre. He was right, but it was still fun(ny). If you’re looking for any party games, Rabbits and Chez Geek are good ones, though they do have a somewhat steep learning curve, and we still had to establish some house rules for Rabbits, but then, we wanted to play, not scrutinize the lengthy rulebook. For me personally, I got in some good saddle time on the Harley (the rides to and from Charleston notwithstanding; pictures on my Facebook), a couple of okay workouts (with a possible sport-specific training modification to come when I resume regular training this coming weekend), a renewed love of cooking on a gas stove, and a realization that I should probably suspend my CSCS pursuit.

Yes, you heard correctly. I’ve slowly lost steam for this push over the past couple months for a variety of reasons, and a conversation with another beachgoer at the house this week brought the boiler to a quiet rest. She was flipping through some of my study materials while waiting to go out one night, noted how difficult the stuff was (at least I correctly answered some of the questions she tossed out), then asked why someone would get a CSCS certification. I told her the various settings and positions and clientele that are out there, which was all fine and dandy, but then she asked why *I* was working on it. Good question. I’m fortunate in that I have a job that allows me to spend time pursuing other interests without inhibiting my work performance or income, but what would happen if I took a different job? I wouldn’t have the time I have now, and who knows if I’d actually enjoy the work, especially enough to do it full-time? Cost is an issue, of course, and I’m not so committed to a major career change yet to justify further expense toward a complete overhaul, just maybe more toward making it a side job first. Plus, I have some other logistical considerations coming up in the spring to keep in mind (namely whether or not I’ll still be in Charlotte). I enjoy my training a lot, and I don’t mind offering tips and advice when asked, but as a full-time gig, I just don’t know. In that light, I will continue looking at my boot camp and youth conditioning pursuits since those lend themselves more to once- or twice-a-week sessions (Saturday mornings, maybe one weekday afternoon, etc) and make a decision on those once I better know where I’m going to be this summer, and of course, I’ll continue my reading and research as well as this blog. So there’s that.


So, Halloween is over, and you know what that means (aside from various hangovers here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Millions of leftover pumpkins! Grab what you can and cook ’em up! That’s some good, healthy eating (the girlfriend doesn’t know I’m soon going to disembowel the one sitting on our front porch if it’s not too rotten). It also means the start of two solid months of total dietary debauchery, at least for most people. If food options run rampant during the other ten months of the year, it’s outright anarchy now. I don’t need to go down the list of goodies because you probably already have. However, take a minute to go back and look over your list again. Just exactly where is the cornucopia of food options? Let’s see… sugar, sugar, flour, sugar, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, sugar, chocolate, sugar… hmmm… sounds pretty similar to every other month of the year (read: not many healthy options). The only real differences are the amounts and relative percentages of caloric intakes. Nope, that stuff is always there, perhaps in different forms, but just because these two months have some sort of social attribution, we suddenly get a free pass? Two months out of twelve—well, AT LEAST two months. How many of you started your holiday snacking back in September? How many of you will hate to see any of it go to waste and therefore continue packing it away well into January? Throughout the year, you have cheat days here and there, maybe even a cheat week once or twice in a blue moon, but two whole months? Let’s face it. There are too many gatherings and literal feasts to stay completely on-track without alienating someone on the Christmas card list (which isn’t always a bad thing, but I digress). Given the current economic situation, there may be fewer or less elaborate setups, but that may actually just continue a food-buying trend toward cheaper (read: junkier) foods. Are you SURE you didn’t start back around Labor Day?

Quick aside: A bad economy can be a HYOOGE burden on our health, be it physical, mental, emotional, whatever. I’ve sprinkled in links and comments here and there over the past several blogs, but I’m planning on putting together a whole post focusing on keeping your fitness and sanity during an economic slowdown, whether its worldwide or personal, something that may be exacerbated by the onset of winter and the associated blues, doldrums, holiday letdowns, or so-called seasonal affective disorder (I miss George Carlin). Stay tuned.

Admit it: it’s not so much the season that causes over-indulgences. It’s just that the usual stigma of horking your weight in cookies and cakes flies out the window. Hey, everyone else is doing it, so why not? (Note: you might want to duck my flying backhand right about now.) A friend of mine, who like clockwork produces a weekly message for thought and motivation, offered one relevant to my point here (the following is re-printed without proofing or permission from anyone):

Mahler’s Monday Morning Motivator # 235 – The Season of Excess

The Season of Excess (11-03-08)

Over the past weekend and with a simple step on the scale this morning, I am reminded that we have entered what I like to call “The Season of Excess.” Yes, excess, as in too much, more than what is needed, indulgence, intemperance, or just plain gluttony. A good example, on a broad scale, might be the presidential election campaign. I don’t think there is a person I have talked to or corresponded with, regardless of their political stance, who is not just plain sick and tired of the campaign and cannot wait until it’s over. It has been a long and grueling feed at the trough of posturing for both sides. I am reminded of a little joke I once heard that it is so appropriate, that elections are held in November in the United States, since it is the month of Thanksgiving and voters elect the next group of turkeys.

On a more personal level and bringing the idea of this season of excess closer to home, it seems as though with the end of summer and the change of seasons a lot of our healthy eating and fit living habits tend to take a hike. Yes, they take a hike, but we don’t. In the summer months, the outdoors seems to bring out the best in us. There are so many activities and we seem to be just a bit more conscious of our physiques, what with the lighter and more revealing clothing we wear. As autumn approaches, the calendar presents us with so many opportunities to ditch all the work and effort we have put in during the warm weather. First comes Oktoberfest, prompting us to indulge in our favorite brews. Then Halloween, my personal challenge, where we are tempted with more empty carbohydrates than the most clever of wizards could ever conjure. There is something inherently evil about a peanut, covered in chocolate and topped off with a candy shell. Closely following on its heels is Thanksgiving Day where family and friends gather in love and comradeship to see who has to loosen their belt first before the football game comes on. Then Christmas sneaks up on us and we find ourselves neck deep in cookies, candy, eggnog, cheese balls, and goodies of all kinds. It seems the only thing we don’t eat is the damned fruitcake. I don’t think I have ever actually seen anyone consume fruitcake. It’s always there, but never gone. We finish off the season with more excess as we ring in the New Year with enough liquor to put a salty sailor to shame and literally brining many of us to our knees in homage to the porcelain god that sits stoically in the bathroom. And, after all is said and done, we resolve never to do it again and to get in shape in the coming year, until, of course, the next Season of Excess.

There may not be much that you can do about the holidays. They are what they are and I love each and every one of them. The Season of Excess is one of my favorite times of the year. But, with that said, I think I will try to also turn it into a different season, by keeping up with my workouts, by trying as much as possible to eat and drink in moderation, by making wise choices while reveling in the company of friends and family. It is possible, dare I say, to change The Season of Excess into The Season of Success. Well, at least I am going to give it a try. How about you?

I don’t need to tell you how many different training programs, both legitimate and craptacular, are out there. I have neither the time, patience, or desire to even begin that laundry list. With so many options, how do you know which to choose, let alone stick with for more than two weeks before jumping to the next fad program? Sometimes, even when you do things right, your body just may not be designed for it, meaning you have to take some tools out of the training bag. Same for dietary medications and supplements. Have you stopped to really look at the vitamin/mineral section at your regular store? One word: insanity. Seriously, if you took the recommended dosage of every single pill that’s supposedly good for you, your wallet would be beyond empty, and your belly would be bloated, yet you’d still be hungry. How awesome would that be? There’d be no need for all the fad diets! Needless to say, these industries suffer from extreme excess and “variety” that does little more than confuse the public, which consequently lines the pockets of these snake oil salesmen.

A couple of my other frequent reads wrote on the forthcoming season bloat as well (here and here). My question is: why is excess even an option? Should we just because we can? One particular post I came across discussed the changing perception of obesity over the years. It’s worth the time to read and watch the embedded videos (which are funny in their own right). At this time of year when people throw gastronomic caution to the wind, I’m going to state the obvious: people have not, do not, and will not become fat based on these two months out of the year. Sure, they certainly don’t help, but all the New Year’s resolutions in the world are pointless when (a) they rarely make it to February and (b) they don’t signal true lifestyle changes. Instead, they follow the fad diet and exercise habits of “purging” or “cleansing” or “turbulence” or whatever buzzword is trendy, all of which inherently imply temporary, quick-fix overhauls meants to negate chronic, built-up “impurities” in whatever form. If followed to the letter, they do work—temporarily. In my humble opinion and experience, the degree and longevity of success on any program is directly related to the degree and longevity of the effort put into researching and following said program. Even if you don’t ultimately get the results you want, keeping up with something for three months rather than three weeks gives you a good idea of what WILL work, and you can adjust accordingly; hopscotching lifestyle changes doesn’t allow enough time for your body to adapt, meaning it just stays in the same form you’re trying so hard to change.

I have a friend who is one of those hopscotchers. She IMs me once every month or two to announce her new plan, which never includes a long-term lifestyle modification, just the latest infomercial special or push from whatever women’s magazine she picked up that day even though she asks for—and I no-longer-enthusiastically offer—advice (in her defense, her recent pictures do show a significant weight loss, but I’m waiting for that six-month “set point” to kick in before I sincerely congratulate her). Look, you can’t know if your plan is one that’ll work long-term, but if you’re going to invest your time and money into it, the least you can do is give it a fair chance to do what it purports to do. I mentioned I’m choosing to limit my academic and professional options for the time being. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on them, but I’ve given them a fair shake recently and have decided to step back a little. I have a myriad of options for work and play, and they will remain there as long as I hold some ability, experience, and/or interest in them, but for now, I’m keeping things simple, within my means (financial, physical, mental, and otherwise), and letting things slowly develop on their own instead of rushing headlong into a dozen different pursuits at once. I tried that lifestyle back in college, and it was the right time to do it, but not so much now—I like my sleep too much :)

Lots of links to catch up on (I won’t go through my entire backlog this time), but first, a special Election Day post-mortem: post-election blues, the psychology of voting, getting out the vote, drive-thru voting, the psyche of would-be presidents, Nanobama, computers pick 1952 winner, CNN’s magic wall, five best Hollywood Presidents, Twitter updates, a butler well served, a century of Presidents, Colbert beats Obama, Obama in = Bush spy secrets out(?), need-to-know physics, a view of California’s Proposition 8, Cressey talks taxes, and a couple comics (XKCD, HijiNKS Ensue).

Body bits: warming up (stretching sense, NY Times joins the 21st century, Eric’s take, Andrew’s take, Vernon’s takes 1 and 2), you CAN get strong on bodyweight alone, fixing your deadlift, Mark makes a pipe (I made mine awhile back from these instructions) and sandbags (the ones I made), one reason why Spiderman can beat you up, single-leg supplements, running CAN be good for you (as long as you do it correctly for your body type), brisk walking is also good for you (if you’ve been doing absolutely nothing else), towel pull-ups, for the love of two wheels (and proper descent), soreness is not the goal, Dr. Eades takes the new federal fitness guidelines to task, as the spine turns and hurts, callous relief, a doctor who discourages plastic surgery etc (despite advances).

Edibles: mmm… bison, skimming the soup scum, ideas for coconut, primal snacking, Mark holds court on the (lack of) need for carbs, food pr0n from Dr. Eades, liquid calorie bombs, another magic pill wannabe (note the last line of the article), takeout = long slow painful death (someone’s a little late to the Omnivore’s Dilemma party), chicken industry suffers from inbreeding, bake sales tanking for healthier fare.

Mind matters: a mindset for vitality, road runner rage (Mark’s take), compassion meditation, strategy may trump will power, dealing with information, solitary gaming, “Wired to Connect” audio series.

Kiddie corner: strength training Little Leaguers, kids know best about fitness (read: free play), 21 is not working, huge jump in childhood medications, a dark side to youth sports (and another).

General health: women shafted on health insurance, elderly care modeled on child care, the complexity of elderly falls, check the source of those meds, women are germier than men (yet WE’RE still pigs), Iraq looks to alternative medicine (so does Manhattan), green spaces reduce health gap (even Charlotte thinks so), migraines may signal lower cancer risk (not sure which I’d choose, though), the consequences of moisturizers, caffeine iffy during pregnancy, n=1 doesn’t make an expert, the world’s healthiest countries.

—Transportation: 40mgp 450hp Scorpion, a crossing anniversary, “cars” powered by air, possible Detroit nuptuals, Scythe redefines ugly, an E85 apocalypsemobile, a hybrid bicycle(?), Brown goes green, pimp my scooter, homemade motorcycles, million-dollar motorcycles, Tesla builds coffers, a push for infrastructure and more, grandmother of all auto shows, California green-lights high-speed rail, $15 flights to Europe, Boeing says three years to biofuel, tarmac testing.
—Tech stuff: distorting body image, flexible displays on the cusp, Mercury take two, radiation protection for astronauts, Tsar Bomba anniversary, Men in Black for real, the tech of bowling, block cell phone spam, Firefox hits 20% market share (and introduces “porn mode“), social media becomes the news, micro solar panels, more Sony laptop battery fires, Twittering War of the Worlds, Bond villains’ last line of defense, gadgets you can trash, USAF looks to re-write cyberspace laws, cloning from cryogenics, FCC opens up white spaces.
—Nature: the devil Down Under, casualties of going green, exploring in a winged submarine, walking the earth, virtual Yosemite, getcha sun, fungus synthesizes diesel.
—Miscellaneous: America needs a geek overhaul, toys from the future, story of a child soldier, another look at da Vinci’s face, social responsibility in business dealings, how math solved “Hard Days Night,” wingsuit cliff-jumpers, paper airplanes on crack, birthday of a design star (with pictures), remembering Michael Crichton.

Git r dun:
—Individual factors.
—Staving off the boredom of the grind.
—Sometimes you have to go through “stupid” to become “invincible.”
—We’ve apparently failed to learn from the past.

Posted in General, Motivation, Nutrition, Rants | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Ben on Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It’s funny. It’s spelled just like “escape.”

Sue me. It’s a funny movie. It’s also somewhat relevant to the following:

It’s been an interesting couple of days around here, at least for me, most notably because I was offered a business to take over, either by way of buying it outright or of essentially becoming the general manager with ownership financing to buy it down the road. I won’t get into any other specifics since the whole thing is seriously on the down-low, but let’s just say that it’s a monumental opportunity, something I envisioned happening for myself in ten years or so, yet here it is being handed to me in practically ideal form, pending my relocation first and securing financing second. How awesome is that? Yeah, pretty freaking awesome, and yet, unless a few other people decide to go in on the venture to provide expertise in various areas of running said business, I’m going to turn it down. I doubt there is anyone more interested than I am in keeping this business up and running, if for no other reason than its congregal influence on a LOT of people over the past several years; however, while I could learn how to play owner on the fly, I certainly don’t feel that I have enough experience to even start out in an interim capacity, let alone outright signal-calling. I have the talent but not the developed skill set.

Yes, this applies to our training, too. We’ve all read stories, seen videos, heard about a friend of a friend, and so on and so forth about trying to do too much too soon instead of doing it the right way. Is it any small wonder why so many people wash out at the gym or on the road? The gotta-have-it-now mentality is a first-class, one-way ticket to burnout, and quickly at that. You can’t go from couch potato to marathon participant in two months, at least not to the point of completion or enjoyment. Similarly, you can’t walk into a gym cold and expect to squat 300 pounds or more (quarter-squats don’t count unless they’re part of a planned program that uses them for an overload effect). I see this like clockwork at certain times of the year: January (New Year’s resolutions), March/April (spring break), August (back-to-school), and October (pre-holidays). Always new faces, either in agony or complacency, in a revolving door as sure as the sunrise. What’s worse is that those who choose to purchase the “services” of a typical “trainer” are no better off—the “trainer” puts their clients through a couple weeks of pure ridiculousness, makes the clients feel absolutely exhausted from day one (because, after all, that’s the mark of a good workout, right?), and ultimately drives the clients away because they either don’t get the results they were promised, burnout from too much too soon, or even get injured.

In my case mentioned above, it’d simply be too much too soon for me to take on alone. I’m sure I could get a lot of helpful advice and guidance along the way, but I’d be flying by the seat of my pants with the livelihoods of several employees depending on me to luck out and keep things running smoothly ad infinitum. There’s a difference between managing people and having your nuts on the chopping block. At any rate, I’ve had to find some mental escapes from this and other issues recently, which fortunately isn’t too difficult once I figured out what works for me, whether is a half-hour of qigong (moving meditation) or a couple half-hours strung together on my Harley. I’m even managing another getaway to the beach in just over a week (Charleston, SC, in this case), and yes, it’s about seven half-hours each way (I won’t be alone, but I’ll be away, which is just as good for now).

Movember update: Wow. I mean, really, wow. The first day I posted something about it, my site traffic here jumped fifty percent. It has since calmed itself back to normal levels, but the page hits keep steadily rolling in, so thanks for the eyeballs, folks. I even managed some donations along the way, which wasn’t—and still isn’t—a goal but not surprising considering the people involved, so again, thanks. There’s still time to donate or join the team if you so choose; otherwise, feel free to post comments to my Movember page on here rather than the official page that I’m using for donations only. In another week, I’ll post my first picture of the event here. As it stands, I intend to just grow everything out and groom as needed, but if you want to see something in particular (certain areas shaved, designs, etc), I’ll give first dibs to those who donate, and of course I’ll post those pictures as well. Remember: please post all questions and comments to my page on this blog, and only donations are done through the official page.

Body bits: “no equipment” is just an excuse, running in high heels, America wants YOU to exercise, *pssst* obesity is bad for you, *pssst* cardio-only doesn’t work, control weight with gut bacteria waste, incision-free gastric bypass, Eric and Mike on their knees (sans supplements), shoulder digest (posterior capsule stretching, Keith’s fixes #1, finding the ouchies), why crunches suck.

Edibles: breaking the dogma of meal timing (and a quiz), a simple food test, Leigh’s diet distractions, Mike parses MSN (I think my eyes rolled out of my head), I was told there would be pie, Mark does “D“, glycogen redux, a lab in every kitchen, what’s really in your food, be careful nuking that chicken, you are not—nor should you strive to be—Joey Chestnut, more problems for bottled water, energy drink regulation (since the FDA does such a good job regulating everything else under its jurisdiction…), feed the dogs as you would feed yourself.

Mind matters: mental elasticity, brain signals predict weight gain, memories formed even during sleep, no sense of direction, patience is a learned skill.

Kiddie corner: high-tech is still high-risk in maternity, overweight is not normal, heads-up on food allergies, when moms get jealous of dads (I guess it’s enough that women want to ban fantasy sports—hey, if you want us to act like soap opera guys, you can start looking and dressing like Victoria’s Secret women).

General health: health in hard times, happy belated Global Handwashing Day (OCDers rejoice!), re-routing your circuitry, herbal gateways, the fraud of “intention to treat” analysis, caring for the caretakers, Congress’ “Mr. Health” dies, Mark’s top ten top-ten lists, a boost in pandemic prediction, Andrew’s hodgepodge, taking your health into your own hands.

—Transportation: Challenger tops Viper, electric Mini spied and unveiled, definition of a supercar, a CNG Mustang, the “new” Prius, seems like only yesterday (oh wait…), future alt-fuel race cars, personal pod transportation, ugly-as-sin $110k motorcycle, the American bullet train, airline turbulence, future vehicles made of buckypaper.
—Nature: global warming farce, dumpster diving for the origin of life, earthquakes (five hot spots, California due, ten deadliest, history’s lessons), turning carbon dioxide into fuel, endangered animals for sale, earth out of balance, getting reconnected, the global burden of high food costs (how science can help, Michael Pollan speaks).
—Tech stuff: use the Web to end poverty, hide your webpage from search bots, bye-bye IBEX, homebrew rockets (the guts), hackers literally commit highway robbery, computer security basics, the Apple tax.
—Miscellaneous: the power of glamour, DIY Faraday Cage wallet, the benefits of telecommuting, the need for a modern-day WPA, orchestral science, 104 grants up for grabs.

Git r dun:
—The brain and the banjo.
—Medals for mettle.
—Wishbone instead of backbone.
—Ironman tests Human 2.0.
—Advice from the uber-fit for the rest of us (here and here).
—What about the Wheaties box heroes?
—Some verbal cues to get you through.

Posted in Events, Issues, Motivation | 3 Comments »

Knowing when to quit

Posted by Ben on Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Yeah, I know, for all the hoo-hah I raise about making plans, setting goals, ordering priorities, and so on and so forth, sometimes you just have to throw in the towel, retreat to the comfort and security of your happy place, and regroup. Hey, it happens. Unfortunately, a lot of people see this as taking a step backward, as a defeat, as giving up. It can be each and/or all of those things, but only if you let them. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back—it can help provide some perspective on the overall situation, or at the very least keep you from sticking your foot in that bear trap. There’s nothing wrong with a defeat—it can teach valuable lessons to use down the road as long as you don’t interpret a defeat in battle as a defeat in the war (for you kids of the 90s, think of it as a “sike!”). There’s nothing wrong with giving up—some endeavors are exercises (heh heh) in futility (like getting me to like reality TV) when taken to their endgame.

The genesis for this thought was my thrust-and-parry with computer operating systems over the past couple days (in microcosm) and several years (in macrocosm). Apple was the only graphical user interface (GUI, or pretty picture thingies) that my high school had. I moved to PCs in college and never really looked back. Despite its incessant bugginess and random hiccups, I learned a lot about Windows and what it takes to keep it up and running. Ten years of trial-and-error is a great teaching tool. However, for one reason or another, one of the laptops in the house just will not behave with Windows, so I’m in the middle of (finally) doing a full, clean installation of Ubuntu (Linux). After monkeying around with it in demo, I like it a lot, yet that laptop does not. The past couple days of troubleshooting have led me to think that it’s actually a physical problem with the hard drive since the other computers continue running Windows flawlessly while this one in particular won’t run anything for more than a couple days without burping (or full-on barfing all over itself).

The same can be applied to my short-lived distance running career. I started out with the best of intentions and the least of actual knowledge. Over the course of two years or so, after several chronic injuries and one massively acute one popped up, I figured out through both research and trial-and-error that my body is literally not built for distance running. Good to know. I tried something that I thought would work, and it did for awhile, but in the end, it was more detrimental to my health than it was beneficial. Same thing for just about all training programs (some are just utter crap that should be avoided at all costs, like most of the BS that commercial gym “trainers” put people through): try it out, do what you’re supposed to do (don’t think you can eat like a horse and expect to lose fat just because you hit the treadclimber for twenty minutes three days a week), and see if you get the results you want after a significant time period (read: 3-4 months, not 3-4 weeks). Chances are, you’re not going to die or meet your soul mate in that month, so experiment with yourself (I didn’t go there, peanut gallery), see what works, make sure it’s at least somewhat enjoyable (if not, you won’t keep doing it), and keep at it. If you don’t like what you get out of it, do something else. It’s not a marriage, just a training and/or nutrition program.

People are inherently afraid of the unknown, which explains page after page of people flooding fitness forums asking over and over and over and over again about what’s the best program (answer: the one you’re not doing) and fretting mercilessly over the minutiae of each and every one of them before setting foot in a gym (invariably, this mindset leads to training ADHD, the jumping bean who keeps hopping from one program to another every couple weeks and wonders why he/she isn’t getting results). Hey, honey, just go try it. If you’re worried about what other people thing, find or figure out something you can do at home (all of my training can be done outside the gym, but I choose to keep going because of the occasional energy bump I get that’s not entirely associated with the occasional eye candy, plus I don’t yet have a place to construct the man-cave to house the equipment I do and don’t already have). Just go pick up and move some weight(s). If it’s easy, pick up something heavier and/or more often until you can’t safely do it anymore. Repeat. Adjust weight and repetitions as necessary. You’re welcome.

Body bits: ditch and one-up the machines, lose the pain (neck/shoulders, back), more tweaks to improve grip strength, breaking news – gyms tailor training programs around health conditions (um, shouldn’t they’ve been doing that already?), music helps athletic performance (duh).

Edibles: bad news for Guiding Stars et al, what Brad eats, labels of origin (maybe this will make some foods less appealing), no more tea bags (note the space in there :P), eating for the (fall) season, DIY energy bars, more on alcohol (and Chicken Littles), more doctors embracing low-carb, some pitfalls of over-processed foods.

Mind matters: the blank slate (FYI Steven Pinker is a great read on this kind of stuff, namely The Language Instinct), the anatomy of happiness, sports participation helps mental health (probably by distracting people from bad habits more than anything).

Kiddie corner: promoting culinary adventure.

General health: grow awareness for men’s health issues (I’ll try to post a separate blog for this as it gets closer), “FDA approved” should scare more than comfort, Mark’s potpourri, “sumo virus” alert (no, it has nothing to do with diet and much to do with poor hygiene), employee wellness making strides.

—Transportation: the Flintstones meet the 21st century, ten highways that should go away, Lamborghini’s future, Staples goes hybrid, low-fare buses booming, an EV with a 345-ton towing capacity (sort of), world’s fastest bicyclist (sales skyrocket in down economy), motorcycles (Ferrari dream, Honda’s hybrid), pedal-powered blimp blows, SpaceX’s Falcon 1 finally reaches space (go team, military uses, what’s next), more space tourism.
—Nature: ocean dead zones bigger than expected (Wiki “North Pacific gyre”), another reason why carbon trading won’t work.
—Tech stuff: Hubble burps and sighs, Phoenix winding down (maybe), great space walks, Guitar Hero’s backward payments, cell phone contracts face extinction, a temple to worship science (eh).
—Miscellaneous: happy anniversary to commercial radio (it’s been all downhill since then), largest prime number so far, head-first slides may be faster, politics and religion are technologies.

Git r dun:
—Declaration of change.
—Some advice from Dustin Pedroia.

Posted in Motivation | 2 Comments »

Tomorrow is too late

Posted by Ben on Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Man, I’m such a weather junkie. Some people can sit through multiple SportsCenter repeats, the OJ Simpson trial, or Project Runway marathons. I can veg out for hours watching weather stuff. Mind you, it’s the major things from local severe thunderstorms to all the recent tropical Atlantic stuff, in this case (Hanna may head this way), but still, plant me on the couch with food and drink, and I’m good. Just turn me toward the light on occasion. An empty milk jug would be nice, too. Anyway, I should probably take my own title’s advice and get this done since I started writing it, oh, this past weekend. Between three dogs, reading (totally unrelated to my CSCS studies, I’m slightly ashamed to mention), cooking (a newfound hobby), and rekindling a love for The Legend of Zelda, I’ve just been swamped.

How many times have we heard that it’s never too late to get in shape? Yeah, the proverbial “if I had a nickel.” You know what? That statement is wrong, so wrong that it just downright sucks. Why? A simple exercise in logic tells us that if it’s never too late to get in shape, you can always start tomorrow because, well, it’s never too late. No, the sentiment should be: “tomorrow is too late to get in shape.” That way, you don’t put it off and instead start today. So, if you haven’t started already, today’s the day. It all just depends on your mindset. Examples: For various reasons, I decided in early June that I wanted to be able to do single-leg squats. Aside from the various benefits of unilateral strength, balance, and coordination, they’re also a pretty cool party trick, so I made them a researched and planned priority in my training. Three months later, I’m doing alternating singles with relative ease. I’m still a little wobbly under some conditions (no warm-up, excessive fatigue following a workout, wearing shoes, etc), but they’re well within my abilities now because I decided I wanted to do them. The same can be said for my pull-up (in)abilities a couple years ago. I’d never been able to do pull-ups, first because I’d grown up overweight and so never really attempted them, and then second because I’d never really attempted them to any extent. Like push-ups (next on the short-term list), pull-ups are just one of those things you have to do over and over and over again to improve, something called “greasing the groove.” So, I “installed” a pull-up bar in the doorway I most often walked through where I was living, and every time I went through, I’d do a chin-up or two (different from a pull-up). Over a couple months, I went from a two-rep max to ten reps or more, so I turned my hands over and started pull-ups, which are biomechanically more difficult than chin-ups. My pull-ups aren’t where I want them to be—I’m not doing twenty reps at a time, and my grip is a bit of limiting factor right now (I don’t use straps or hooks myself)—but they’re serviceable for now until they again become a priority, and if my life depended on it, I could pull myself up to a ledge. Next on the long-term list: muscle-ups.

The above isn’t a gratuitous exercise in horn-blowing; rather, it’s just an anecdotal example of the importance of mindset. The hangover from the Olympics is almost gone, but invariably, the world’s best athletes got their two weeks of global media coverage, and a lot of the general public suddenly thinks it’s New Year’s Eve as evident in my gym the last couple weeks. Combined with the back-to-schoolers, there’s been an extra-palpable pall of “special” in the atmosphere there during that time (at least it seems to be wearing off a tad). There’s a difference between making something a priority and making something a potentially debilitating shock to your system. Priority means goal-setting, planning, assessment, and accountability. Shock means trying to go from couch potato to powerlifter or marathoner in a week or a month or three (the ill effects are even more pronounced in children). Ain’t gonna happen, sorry. You can choose to become merely an exerciser, though, or you can choose to become an athlete, something that doesn’t necessarily require (typical) competition to achieve. Up to you. Make something a priority, and chances are that you’ll achieve what you’re setting out to do with one caveat: make it a priority today, not tomorrow, even if it is just steadfast resolve (and a little wagering on the side). Get an INFORMED plan of action, both in the gym and in the kitchen. Make yourself accountable somehow—tell whoever you’re comfortable telling (as long as he or she will hold you to your words). Set some deadlines. Take some pictures. Shirk the shortcuts. Ignore the fads. Chuckle at the quackery. Do what’s been shown to work over the long haul. Trust yourself.

Before getting to the link hodgepodge, I wanted to expand a little bit on food *riotous applause*. Yes, yes, I know, the crowning element of my personal lifestyle priority list. Last night, I cooked with peanut oil for the first time after primarily using various olive oils for as long as I can remember. In a word: nom nom nom nom nom nom (hey, that’s one word). My first conscious experience with peanut oil was with Five Guys fries, and it was the first time I’d actually tasted fresh potato in a fry rather than salt. I ordered my oil from Bell Plantation along with a couple jars of PB2 (also highly recommended both for taste and nutritional value, measuring spoon not included). My stuff arrived in (I think) three days. Getcha some. Also, on a recommendation from Cassandra, I found a local retailer that carries Ezekiel 4:9 bread. I like it, especially the earthy scent and taste, but while I recommend it for the nutritional value, don’t expect anything resembling the fluffy dough-ball crap you usually find at the grocery store. Further, some of you have asked about calorie-tracking sites. While I don’t support OCD-esque bean counting, I do support getting an idea of what you’re eating and adjusting to fit your goals, so here are a couple: FitDay, CalorieKing, CalorieLab.

Now, for some other links to eat: open a wine bottle without a corkscrew, pro-HCFS commercials (you should be impressed at my restraint… for now…), juice fast(ing)s, petroleum-based omega-3 fatty acids (a byproduct of the insane amount of petroleum-based corn products in our diets that also seems to slow wound healing), 250 people in the USA supposedly have an excuse (you’re probably not one of them unless you’re getting on up there in years… maybe…), protein needs for exercise, find out what the kids’ schools are serving (be careful around these parts), eggs may keep you from looking like one, the right foods trump the “best” HBA products (try a green roof), just kidding (again), line of the post: “We pay upfront to eat food that’s good for us, or we pay out back in our health costs.”

—Body bits: Eric elaborates (sort of), bike-to-work subsidies (get the kids started early), walking is a START (hmmm… gym-class/kid-friendly additions, interval training… nice to see some catch-up being played), are you ready for some football injuries?
—Mind matters: Lyle furthers and wraps his discussion on leptin, trigger for brain plasticity identified, IBS is mostly in your head.
—Politics: Sarah Palin on her fitness regimen (too bad she ignores science), Barack Obama answers your science questions (backed by Mark Warner), (politics aside) public figures should be role models (see: Mike Huckabee), no platform for transportation.
—Geek-out: Google Chrome officially seeks to destroy IE (here, here, here, here, translation 1, translation 2, and pictures—I’ll be testing it out later today), Fantastic Contraption (your day at work is officially over), happy anniversaries to a titanic discovery and an atomic visualization (the latter fitting for an inevitable uptick in water cooler talk about quantum physics), happy trails to the heart and soul of Bell Labs (pictures), latest mass extinction projections, hard-time gadgets, Steve Jobs is not dead.
—Git ‘r dun: fear is an illusion, seize the day, random inspiration, how to help others get started, you know where to stick a “poor me” attitude, things can always—ALWAYS—be worse.

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