Monday, April 24, 2017

30 Day's of Intermittent Fasting: Beginning

In the previous two posts I discussed some health issues and information that I'd been working through and within those writings, I discussed the idea of trying intermittent fasting.  The idea was not just to lose weight, though I won't lie that would certainly be nice, but to build upon and push into further it because I'd already noticed it seemed to make me feel better.  Writing this, I'm about 11 hours into my first day,  I'm unsure if I've planned this exactly correctly since I'm admittedly not doing this with no supervision but I did discuss is briefly with my Dr who didn't see an issues with trying it...though to be frank, I didn't have the impression that she knows all that much about the subject either so if you follow me on this journey or this leads you to further research and try yourself, please, please, please do yourself a favor and speak to a professional before beginning. For many people, not eating regularly can cause issues and the last thing I want is for someone to do anything unhealthy because of what they read here.  That would, you know, be 100% the opposite of my intent when I switched the premise of The Simple Things.

I think the obvious question from some will be, why would I choose to try this?  If you haven't read the previous posts, I generally feel good when I fast whether it's been done intentionally or unintentionally.  That's not to say there are not times when it didn't suck because there have been.  There have been occasions when I've fasted and then eaten half the food in the house when it was over.  Clearly, that's not the best idea (those were generally fasts in the 20 plus hour range.)  I tried the, Master Cleanse once.  I made it three days on little food and the nasty "lemonade" you're supposed to drink and frankly, I think it'd be easier just to avoid food all together rather than do it their way again.  Oh, and if you can't tell I don't recommend trying it.  I'm sure there are others elsewhere who'll stand by it but my ass isn't one of them.  A second reason I want to try this is because for me, fasting generally isn't that difficult.  Will there be days when I'll be itching to eat before my window opens?  No doubt but for me missing meals isn't the hard part.  Where I have problems much of the time is stopping after I begin eating.  That's when things get dangerous for me.  I'll binge if I'm not careful, and that's not necessarily because I'm post fast.  I have an admitted unhealthy relationship with food and yes, fasting could possibly be a coping mechanism for dealing with it though I don't know for sure. That's best left up to someone with more knowledge on the subject than I.

I'm also not doing this on a whim.  This has been something I've been thinking about for over a month and during that time I've played with it a little day to day.  It's already shown some clear benefits weight wise and I've also felt better overall, other than days I've eaten things I shouldn't (coming back to this shortly).  As such I've laid out some parameters to follow:

  1. Keep a Food Journal :  I've tried this more than once with limited success, mostly because I'll miss a day or two and then it all falls apart.  However, when I've tried it previously it was by using an app on my phone, which I'm currently unable to do because I don't have the available storage.  So it's currently back to pen and paper, which I honestly don't mind because I'm weird like that. Additionally, I'm planning this initial fast for 30 days.  By planning a beginning and an end, I believe that mentally I wont fall into that "constant diet" mentality that becomes so emotionally wearing over time and thus will have a much easier time maintaining consistency.
  2. Plan Workouts for Eating Hours:  Last week I did a training session at the end of a 20 hour fast as research.  It sucked, and I'm not just talking about doing it while hungry.  The session itself sucked.  My numbers were down, I was in a constant fight to continue, the further in the more I yawned (which I'm coming to believe is a sign of nutrient deficiency for me), and simply put, I felt heavy all over.  I suspected that it wouldn't be a good workout but it was one of those things I wanted to experience for myself and I did.  While I can't say it'll never happen again, going forward I'm hoping planning ahead will help me avoid it.
  3. Daily Plan:  It would be much easier if I could just say today that from 9pm to 9am I'm going to fast daily for the next 30 days.  Unfortunately, that's not going to work because I work a couple overnight shifts per week and that must be taken into account.  And it's not just those days, it's the day prior and the day after because unfortunately, at least for the time being, I'm struggling to move to a consistent night schedule and my days and nights are in a constant rotational flux.  Common for night shifter's from my understanding and something that must be considered.  In order to do this, there are days when my fasts will be extended or my eating hours will be cut to adjust but I'm not too concerned honestly.  Some hunger pangs may arise here and there but that's to be expected regardless.
  4. Two Weeks of 12, Two of 14:  That's fasting time.  From some research it seems that many people, at least once they're into it for a bit, have an 8-10 hour daily window for eating.  To begin, I decided to extend it a couple hours to increase the likely hood of continuing.  Basically I want to set the stage for some mental and moral victories before moving on so that's what I'm going to do.  The first two weeks's I'll have a daily 12 hour window in which to eat (9 am to 9 pm today for example).  The last two weeks, I'm going to cut it to 10 eating, 14 fasting.  Who knows, I may find it unbearable and move back to 12 and 12 but I won't know until I try it.  For now though, this is the plan and as I'll be updating periodically, I'll let you know how it works out.
  5. Food Experimentation:  I'm going to be playing with and trying some different foods throughout. This kind of goes with tracking but some things I'll be consuming expressly to find out how my body reacts. I've been dealing with some, what I believe to be, gut issues, for awhile and because I'll already be tracking, this is the perfect opportunity for me try and find what my body is processing well and what it isn't.  I already know things like milk, mayo, and creamy dressings are a no go and believe that white pasta is as well but how is my body processing bread?  How's it working with crackers? Are there certain veggies I feel better eating over others?  This are a few of the questions I'm hoping to answer.  30 days may not be enough time to answer everything but my hope is that it puts me on the right track.
  6. Food Tracking: While I'm planning to track my food and keep accounts of the physical feelings, I have no plans to limit what I eat nor get deep into tracking specific nutrients like micro and macro's at this time. My current focus is on the fasting potion as well as doing the food experimentation.  Getting deeper into the nutritional portion may happen at a later date but that's not my intent here.  It may and likely happen some because hammering down Cheezits and Snickers is clearly unhealthy but I won't be getting to the end of any days and worrying about whether I hit protein or carb goals.  While definitely valuable I'm afraid attempting to do to much at once will increase the likelihood of failure. I'm going to eat during my hours, see what happens, and adjust accordingly. If nothing else, this will give me a good baseline for further adjustments later.    
  7. Imperatives:  Imperatives are the things I believe must be done daily in order to get the most out of this process; physical, mentally, and research wise.  I could be missing a few and reserve the right to add: 
      • Accurate Daily Journaling
      • Drink 1/2 body weight (150 oz est) in ounces of water daily
      • 3 cups of vegetables.  Recommend daily is 2 1/2 but I'm a big guy and it can't hurt.
      • Eat kimchi daily.  Recommended for gut health and it's delicious to boot.
      • Fish oil.  Easiest way other than eating to get omega 3's is to simply take it in oil form.
      • Daily vitamins.  Multi, Vitamin D, Garlic.  May add more eventually.
So this is where I'm at thus far.  I feel like my plan is fairly solid but I could be wrong and thus it's subject to change.  I'll try and document as best I can, both successes and failures.  By the end I'm hoping to have an accurate account of my experience.  I weighed in at 296.8 lbs this morning which is actually down from a high at one point of 317 lb and I took some mediocre before and after pictures to insure I had some kind of visual account. Weight will, of course, only be a single measure of how successful this is but it's a tangible one that people understand.  Wish me luck and feel free to ask questions!        

Monday, April 17, 2017

Rough Week Part 2

The previous post covered my getting sick and how I related that to both the need to take the next step in training and nutrition as well as discussing the potential means and processes I'm looking at undertaking to advance my physical well-being.  I also mentioned that it wasn't just the illness that had begun my thinking, it was a rough visit to the doctor's office.  The news was not unexpected but just the same, when preventable medical issues are discussed as a result of your physical (un)well being, there are only two real roads to take; acceptance or change.

Before I go any further, nothing I'm going to discuss pertains to an immediate death or anything along those lines.  Of course, I can't say that it's impossible because medical problems arise from nowhere all the time, but nothing the doctor and I covered concerned the presentation of immediate issues for me.  However, at 34 years old the standards of my visits are also changing.  I remember 20 years ago when the most pressing question was whether it was an appointment that required dropping trough and turning my head to cough. Now I'm only a few years away from bending over the table on a semi regular basis so the doctor can use his digits to check my colon health.  While I'm not quite at that level yet, there are certainly more conversations revolving around my diet and exercise patterns.  There have been more discussions regarding regular blood work and physical testing.  There are potential neurological exams in my future (result of repeated head trauma, not age necessarily).  Gone are the days when, "it's OK now but if you don't make changes it won't be" because that future has arrived and according to the awesome lady I met with the other day, not changing now means I'll be starting the medication train soon, likely within a year.

Funny until it's not.
As I mentioned, my appointment the other day was not very good. I'd originally gone in for what I believed to be an inner ear infection that I hadn't been able to get rid of.  It was having side effects that were annoying as hell and I both wanted and needed it gone.  That part of the appointment was relatively quick but as it was a new provider, she wanted to cover some information in my chart.  That was when she revealed I'm borderline diabetic.  I knew I was close but the previous doctor told me I was still within the normal range and not to be too concerned.  (Not long following the initial testing I had my accident last summer so even though I wanted to jump into making immediate corrections, it was not possible)  While technically true, this nice lady actually gave me the damn truth and informed me about how close I really am. It wasn't wholly surprising but for some reason it clicked much louder to hear it from someone who makes their life's work to study such things.  She was no bullshit in our discussion and I appreciated it.  She also checked my legs and while it was not definitive, she also mentioned there's a good possibility that I'm on the verge of developing gout as well, which Google defines as,"a disease in which defective metabolism of uric acid causes arthritis, especially in the smaller bones of the feet, deposition of chalkstones, and episodes of acute pain."  A further breakdown is available here but basically it's a whole lot of preventable pain.  Sounds like a good time doesn't it?

Fortunately, there is good news.  Nothing thus far is irreversible.  My blood pressure is generally good, coming in at 120/80 90% of the time.  (It was off the other day but as I mentioned, I was on the verge of this illness hitting full bore).  I'm active and getting more so as my head and the weather have improved.  My knowledge of things fitness and nutrition is advancing daily.  I've fully acknowledged that I can't continue to walk around at 300 plus pounds without repercussions for much longer (more to come on THIS topic later) and I'm going to have to make serious changes if I want to be around for the long haul. I've also acknowledged that I do NOT have a good relationship with food and perhaps never will and it's going to be necessary for me to find ways to insure that I'm eating more for health than pleasure.  Following the 80/20 rule is probably a good place to start for me.  What's the 80/20 rule?  It's the idea if one eats healthy 80% of the time while allowing for some indulgences 20% of the time, weight will not only be lost but maintained once the desired loss results are achieved.  Of course, I'm planning to be stricter than that but having some leeway if you go out to dinner or a birthday party, things along those lines, will mentally provide me with the necessary mindset to continue working towards my goals without building frustrations.  Essentially, I'm trying to set myself up for as much success as possible while reducing the chance of mental fatigue.  As mentioned in the previous post I'm also planning to continue studying and incorporating more fasting into daily life because it makes me feel good.  There are also a lot of foods I'll be looking at eliminating because it's become apparent how they affect not just my health, but my daily energy and mind function.  

I got really hungry searching for this picture..
There are many things to learn and many things to try.  Sorting the wheat from the chaff can be a little difficult but there is much information available to help if you know where to look.  I'm currently putting together another entry that will give some names and sites I frequent for questions and education that I'm hoping will be posted in the next month.  However, I think a good place to begin for many people is to simply question ones self about whether they believe the choices they're making are good ones.  Some are easy; should I have the piece of cake or the fruit salad.  Others are more difficult; should I have the baked chicken or the steamed fish.  (Seriously, if you're a beginner and not working with a dietitian or other nutrition professional, just pat yourself on the back for making those your two choices.)  When you get to the point of counting nutrients those decisions will become much more clear but if you're reading this post, my assumption is you're not there yet and frankly, neither am I.  Making large changes is a process and you're not going to figure everything out in a day, not matter what the 3 AM infomercials tell you.  Check in with your Dr, sign up with a nutrition professional, find a plan you think will work for you, or even create your own if you think you can, and work to follow it.  Admit to yourself when you fail and then continue moving forward.  The journey will be long and arduous but you, and me too, will be better for it in the long run.  
One meal, One day, One month, One year at a time, we improve.

Please feel free to comment with your weight or health journey, no matter where you are on it.  I'm hoping to revisit this post a year from now to see where myself, and perhaps others are in the process.          


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rough Week Part 1

For a host of reasons, the past couple weeks have been a bit rough.  While I'm not going to get into everything that's taken place, there were two events worth mentioning here.  The first is a less than stellar appointment at the Dr's office a week ago.  The second is the reason that appointment was necessary in the first place; the beginning stages of the worst cold I've had in years.  The Dr visit and following may be a little more in-depth so I'll come back to that; plus at the moment the cold is front of mind seeing as how I'm still fighting it.

Boy, I miss dairy..
There are a variety of reasons one can get sick.  Sure, it generally comes down to some bug that's in the air or spread though direct contact but many are preventable if we work at keeping our immune system strong. One way to do that is through diet, exercise, and recovery (see how I brought that around?)  I managed to get two good lift days and a light cardio day in last week but the reality is my diet hasn't been as quality or as strict as it should be and adding in more weekly training days is past due.  It's true that I've taken steps to change; the addition of regular servings of greens and avocado as well as monitoring my evening snacks, but the reality is those were simply OK first steps and it's time to take the next.  What exactly that's going to be I'm unsure.  Clearly, insuring that I'm not consuming more calories than I'm expending is most important but I'm also at the point where my desire to understand not just how certain foods react when ingested, but how they react to MY specific body when ingested.  As an example; I can no longer consume much in the way of dairy without side effects so I've basically cut out milk and cheese all together.  I still have small amounts of butter but when it comes to other dairy I either don't touch it or on special occasions I do so with the acknowledgement there will be consequences (Sweet Frog can be sooo worth is, no lie).  What I'm thinking about doing now is trying to figure out and understand if there are other foods that affect me, positively or negatively, as clearly as dairy, that I've either never noticed or ignored.  How do I feel after eating red meat? How do I feel after eating chicken or fish?  Sweet potatoes vs regular potatoes?  Kale vs spinach? There may be no discernible difference between some or any of these without further testing but I'm not going to know until I try.  It will also have the added benefit of keeping the subject of nutrition interesting for me, something that's never happened.

Another addition I'm contemplating is intermittent fasting.  Now, it seems as though there is a lot of debate surrounding this particular subject (as there seems to be with most things nutrition and training) and I honestly do not know enough about the science to debate or even discuss the truths and falsehoods.  My consideration of the idea has absolutely nothing to do with fast weight loss or joining a fad. Instead, it comes from personal experience.  I have a tendency to skip meals throughout the day and then eat too much in the evening; unfortunately a not uncommon trait, especially among the overweight.  It's a trait I'm much more aware of now and as such, a situation I try to avoid.  However, I've also found that if I can fast for anything over 15 hours, I feel great.  I mean, I feel really, really great!  I've mentioned to my wife on numerous occasions how aware and full of energy I feel when I get into the late hours of fasting, whether done intentionally or not.  It's an idea that I plan to further research because clearly I don't wish to kill my training sessions before I even put my shoes on but it;s also something I believe could have benefits not just in the weight loss department but on other health factors as well.

Maine Sunshine feels wonderful but doesn't provide everything needed.

Together with monitoring and fasting, I'm also looking at specific foods I need to consume nutrient wise as well as additional supplementation.  Now, when it comes to supplements consideration of their name should be a good indicator that they're not made to sustain (though I don't think everyone understands that) but to, "supplement" ones diet.  Currently I take a multi because I don't consume all the vitamins and minerals I should in my diet and I take Vitamin D because I'm on the low side, which I was informed is not abnormal for people who live this far north due to the limited sun and sun strength.  I'm looking to add some additional supplements such as garlic for my immune system (I generally take it during cough and cold season and was NOT on it when I caught the current nastiness) and a probiotic because I'm pretty sure my gut bacteria is off. However, I have no plans to take anything without some indicator that there are benefits for doing so. Marketing hocus pocus, "testimonials" and branding are NOT going to work in this house because there's more than enough information available to make informed decisions.

So here are some examples of where and how I'm planning to further my diet and nutrition plans.  They may not be perfect but what's kind of exciting for me is the idea that I'm not just following a plan because I'm being told to but that I actually feel as though I'm gaining some understanding of what and how my body is reacting to and processing the food I feed it with.  For me that's an important part of not just being on a diet but of creating life changes.  And they're going to be needed sooner rather than later because after my visit with the doctor a week ago, it was made clear that consequences for not altering my life style are fast approaching.            

Monday, March 27, 2017

Back to Social Media

After a nearly five week break, last night I signed back on to social media.  I've been hesitant to do so because frankly, I feel as though my life was improved without it but continued consideration led me to a place where I think the benefits can and will outweigh any potential negatives so long as I approach its use in a healthy manner.  And that's where things get interesting.  Defining what's healthy social media use can vary from individual to individual.  I think some cases of unhealthy use are pretty clear but I'm not even sure where the median would be anymore either.  I know now that my use prior to unplugging was unhealthy because it was affecting daily life.  No, I wasn't using it in a manner that would lead to infidelity or anything of that manner but it had become a time suck that was taking moments away from my family and other aspects of life.  Additionally, the arguments and discussions were and still are, getting increasingly out of hand. When I was involved I didn't see the impact but after removing myself for awhile it's pretty clear.  As such, it's time to take the lesson's I've learned and apply them because the reality is my long term goals pretty much require the use of social media whether I like it or not.

Plugging in may be necessary but we control what we give.
One of the biggest issues I noticed upon deactivating was the amount of mindless time I was spent looking at my phone.  It had become such a habit I honestly didn't even realize I was doing it most of the time.  I'd be watching a show and look at my phone.  I'd be out and about, and look at my phone.  I'd be working outside and when I stopped I'd look at my phone.  And when I say look, I mean I'd bring up my account, not just a quick check of the home screen for messages.  Then I'd mindlessly scroll and if I found nothing, I might refresh to find more nothing.  This cycle could and would continue and by the end, I was doing it constantly.  I don't know exactly what I was looking for but I do know that I was wasting a lot of time.  I tried to place when the habit really began in earnest and if I had to guess I'd say when we were living up north and our ability to interact with others was limited to social media. I believe I became much more reliant on it for information and it carried over to when we moved down here. My accident certainly didn't help either since it limited my ability to be active or even leave the house.  I had no idea the way I was using it had become an actual problem but now that I've been able to recognize it, going forward I should be able to avoid those same pitfalls.

Interestingly enough, none of that was on my radar when I made the decision to take a break.  That decision actually stemmed from the overwhelming and overbearing amount of negativity that's overtaken the news and social media in recent years.  I needed a mental break from it all because that negativity was actually leeching into my life outside of the net.  Finding out that I was displaying addiction characteristics was an unanticipated bonus.  I say bonus because it has and will offer an absolute prime opportunity to make some adjustments and gain some education regarding the subject that I'll be able to use going forward, plus it's providing me with an opportunity to write about my experience and lessons learned so that others may benefit.  In the long run I gained some valuable lessons without anyone really getting hurt.   That's certainly not always the case.

So now that I'm back on, what lessons will I bring with me?  First, I'm going to limit my social media time. Currently, I have no plans to reinstall the app on my phone and will do most of my work at my computer. Keeping access limited builds in constraints that will insure I don't fall into the same habits.  I'm not saying I'll be doing this forever because there may (and hopefully will) come a time when I'm required to have more access but for the time being, this will help me continue developing good habits. Second, I'm going to continue working to reduce the amount of negativity that shows on my news feed.  Many of the pages I follow are coaches of varying professions, scientists, philosophers, athletes, artists, musicians, educators, and the like.  Many of the political pundits, spokespersons, news agencies, and rabblerousers I formerly found enjoyment in following are gone.  I'm still willing to have genuine discussions with people regarding a wide range of topics including the ones you're not suppose to talk about, (religion, politics, ect), but the days of getting caught up or sucked into pissing matches with people who have no ability to talk without attacking or who will not even consider evidence contrary to their opinion, are over.  Positivitey, problem solvers, people who make me think and reconsider my thoughts and opinions, and those who force me to strengthen my own arguments because of the way they debate, are of much more value to me at this point in my life.

Lastly, I want to use social media as a tool for improvement rather than simply a way to follow others. There are a vast amount of opportunities and ways to gain education and I want to streamline my usage to more align with those abilities.  I want to use it to grow this blog and other writings I'm working on and once I've completed the necessary work, some other ventures I'm planning in the future as well.  I want to use my small voice to try and help others improve and grow their own businesses because there are millions of people out there with fantastic ideas who may only be a share or two away from reaching someone who can bring those ideas to life on a macro scale.  I want my social media pages and presence to help bring solutions, ideas, improvements, and education to others to whatever degree possible.  My time away was valuable and now it's time to show why.                  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Just Do It

I've been sitting here for the past 25 minutes trying to come up with something to write about to no avail. I've been dealing with what I believe to be an inner ear infection that's been clouding my brain and combined with the fatigue from a week of travel, I feel extremely slow on the uptick.  I tried to check in on some in-progress posts but nothing I was writing fit the flows I'd already begun so to the scrap heap the ideas were relegated. I had two paragraphs of a new post that after re-reading I decided sucks and would never see the light of day. It was then that I realized, I may actually be on my way to be becoming a writer.

I'm under no disillusionment that my writing isn't fantastic and I have a long way to go before I could ever be considered professional. That's fine, everyone starts somewhere.  But I realized tonight even though I didn't necessarily want to write and nothing profound was coming to me, here I was, sitting at this computer, trying time after time to put out something worthy of being seen.  Sure, nothing thus far has worked but that's not the point.  The point is, not matter how good or bad the writing, I'm still doing it.  And that's a big step. Steven Pressfield, in his book, "The War of Art", calls it overcoming your resistance. Resistance will always do things to try and insure you don't follow your dreams and callings.  By sitting in front of my laptop and working, today I'm overcoming that resistance.  Sure, I'll have to face it again tomorrow but that's no matter because today I've achieved a victory.  Tomorrow I'll also be back in the gym and will get some more studying in because I have pursuits in those two fields as well.  Because I'm putting work in, I'm setting the foundation for achievements.  Sure, there is generally nothing fancy about setting foundations but without them nothing else matters.  You can design the most beautiful building ever imagined but if you don't insure the foundation is built properly you'll end up with nothing but a pile of rubble and probably a lifetime of court fees and lawsuit payouts.  No matter how good tonight's post is or isn't, another brick has been laid in my foundation.

I'm often faced with a similar decision when it comes to training and admittedly, I've often bitched out when given the chance.  But as with today's writing, sometimes all it takes is getting started.  I'm now on my third paragraph because I forced myself to sit and write until I was making some sense.  Training is the same way. I can't count the number of times I've forced myself to start my warm up and once I did, the rest took care of itself.  Now, that's not to say the workout will be a great but getting through rough ones can be accomplishments and confidence builders themselves.  It's the same with my post tonight.  I'm battling through and though this certainly won't be my best or favorite post I've written, it will be completed and published and therefore, a victory. 

Though most would prefer that everything they do to be top notch, that's not always going to happen. Acknowledging that allows us to keep pushing through the frustrations that life can present. If you want to write, try and sit once or twice a week to start and just put some words on paper or the computer.  If you want to paint, get the materials, and set some time aside this week.  If you want to begin getting into better physical shape, don't start off a million miles an hour and burn yourself out, start slow with some small changes that you don't just feel you can build on, but you believe you can complete when life tries to get in the way.  And when it does try to get in the way, and it will, remember those are the times when it's most necessary to try and get your work in because if you can create accomplishments on those days you can create them everyday.             

Monday, March 13, 2017

Entering the Fitness World

I'm not yet anywhere near approaching personal trainer status so I'm writing this from the perspective of someone who has a little knowledge about specific topics within the world of fitness, but not nearly enough to be called expert by any stretch of the imagination.  I guess I'm like any other hobbyist in that I don't know much but it's probably more than the general public.  I tell you this so you understand the perspective from which I'm gathering my ideas regarding today's topic; entering the fitness world (as a practitioner, not a trainer, just to be clear).  What do I mean by the, "fitness world"?  It can be anything from wanting to simply begin walking regularly, entering (or reentering) a gym, hiring a personal trainer/coach or anything outside or in between those examples.  The amount of questions most people have when beginning their journey is considerable and the answers can be confusing.  Hell, when you see some of the discussion/arguments between acknowledged experts (the real ones, not the self proclaimed InstaSnapFace bro-science "experts") you realize that science still doesn't have all the answers.  Perhaps you're now asking yourself, what chance do I have of achieving success if even experts don't have all the answers?  A great one.  Why? Because A.) Many of those questions are so deep within topics that anyone who's not literally an expert in that field is unlikely to ever concern themselves to that level, and B.)  Because those experts ARE out there working, discovering, creating, and finding new information all the time and sharing it with the world because many, if not most, have a strong desire to help others.        

Here are a few of the questions I asked myself when I started the first time and some which I asked in subsequent restarts thereafter.
1.) How and where do I even begin?  2.)  What are my actual goals 3.) How do I tell fact from fiction?

1.)  How and Where Do I Even Begin

Answer:  You've read this far, feel free to use it as your jumping off point. Now you have to think, potentially discuss, and make some decisions. What are your reasons for beginning? What health issues do you have?  How much time and money do you want to invest in your pursuit?  What do you like and not like? What kind of training are you interested in?  Do you need or want a trainer?  What obstacles can you see needing to overcome?  Are you going this alone or will you have a partner?  Do you have, want, or need a support system? (You may think, No, but I'll say having support is immensely positive. )  As you can see, there are a lot of questions to be asked when beginning, especially since this isn't even all of them.  Often, I think people just get a hair across their ass when they read, hear, or see something motivational and they begin like their hair's on fire and no plan.  In the beginning it's easy to rely on that fresh motivation to get you going but as times get tough and life happens, they fall off the rails never to return.  Much of that could have been avoided if they'd discussed, ironed out, and answered questions like the ones listed so they'd be prepared when the beginning momentum wears off and the real work and mental fortitude begins.  (And for those that don't know, if you think you feel good completing a workout that you were motivated to begin, wait until you complete a workout you didn't want to even start.  The mental and emotional lift from overcoming your own mind is AH-MAZING!)  

2.)  What Are My Actual Goals

Answer:  Clearly this one is personal and different for everyone.  Even partners and couples who begin their journey's together may have different ideas about what they want, and that's perfectly reasonable.  Team fitness journeys aren't necessarily about achieving the same goals as others, though they can be, but are instead about working with people who have the same drive to achieve their personal goals you do.  My wife and I have vastly different professional goals but we still lean on, support, and try to help one another when possible because we're on this journey together.  Write your goals down.  Track them.  Review them.  Discuss them.  Change them if need be but identify them clearly at all times.  Once they're created and you feel confident they're what you want, begin pursuing them with smaller goals.  Why do it that way?  Because psychologically you're more likely to continue when you have some success.  For example.  You begin weight training with a little cardio and decide all you need to track progress is your scale.  After a month, not only have you not lost any weight, you've gained four pounds.  Distress enters and you'll likely quit.  Now, same scenario but together with a scale you also have body fat and measurement goals.  The scale add's those four pounds but..BUT, your body fat % drops 1 percentage point, and you've lost 1" off your chest, and 3 inches off your waist.  Now you know your pants didn't just feel like they fit differently, they actually do.  These small victories give you the confidence and drive to keep on your journey.  The importance of that cannot be understated  .  Most people, myself included, don't quit things because they're actually too hard.  We do so because we perceive them to be.  By increasing the ability to achieve goals, we can change perceptions from negative to positive and that could potentially be the difference between stopping or continuing.  Between failure and achievement.  

3.)  How Do I Tell Fact From Fiction

Answer:  This is a hard one, one I've struggled with for years, and one that will continue to catch people within its net because a lot of people are assholes and have made marketing and sales pitches sound like reasonable science.  Not only that, they market by deception so you buy their products.  Plus, some of them have credentials that make it seem like they're someone to be listened to when in reality they're nothing more than snake oil salesmen.  Honestly, I still struggle mightily here, no bullshit, because I A.) have trust issues in life to begin with and, B.) because I've researched the topic enough to know how bad the industry really is. And I'm not even talking about the fitness industry specifically here because I don't have enough education to formulate a concise opinion there.  I'm talking the food and drug industries as a whole.  The people that you hear, read, and see information from daily.  Supplements are certainly a large industry and perhaps something I'll discuss at a later date when and if I feel educated enough to do so, but what I'm referring to here is trying to learn the basics of what to eat and drink.  Seems like it should be easy but when we're bombarded by no fat, low fat, medium fat, high fat, super high fat, eat this but not this, this is OK even though it has this but this isn't because it has this is a different form, ect, you're God damn right it gets confusing.  I'm lucky in that I have people to bounce questions and ideas off who have some understanding.  Most people don't and end up relying on information they get from the, "news" or "Dr's" they see on TV or some reality show.  A search on the internet may not lead you to the proper advice but instead to someone who was willing to pay a little more to Google ad space to have their site appear at the top of a search.

As you can tell I get it.  I know that struggle and I empathize.  So what can you do?  Honestly, set aside some time to do real research.  My above example only touched on the consumption side because as a beginner, you likely understand more about that than the techniques and training programs available but you'll need to look into that too.  My best advice here would be to look up reviews pertaining to trainers and nutrition experts and find one you think will fit (like any service, be sure you're comfortable with the person you hire) that can help you navigate many of these questions.  But if you can't for whatever reason, utilize your access to technology and educate yourself to get started.  Spend some time asking and answering questions.  Use your own common sense and if something doesn't sound right, review it because it may not be.  I have a post in progress where I'll share some pages and sites that I follow that I find value in but for now, if you're ready to start, fire up that technology and get to work.

These were my questions.  Yours could and likely will formulate others but whatever they are, try like hell to answer them before you begin if possible.  I say if possible, because maybe you really are stumped on something non-vital.  My advice would be to not delay your start if a question remains unanswered because that could grow into a huge stress that begins as no big deal and ends up holding you back from progressing. Similar to the grain of sand shutting down the large mechanical device example.  Understand that like lifts, you're unlikely to always be perfect but by laying out details out ahead of time you'll make it easier to navigate when times get tough or unexpected life events occur.  Entering the fitness world for me has absolutely been an enriching experience but I also understand that it isn't and hasn't been that way for everyone for a variety of reasons.  Here's hoping that your next experience is fantastic and you're presented the opportunity and benefits I have.    


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Confidence Conundrum

Confidence is an amazing thing.  One minute it's flowing like a mountain snow melt river and the next it's dried up like a scorched earth scene from a dystopian novel.  Your confidence can be high regarding one subject and low to non-existent for another.  You could be an all around confident person or perhaps the type who's confidence is only raised when feeling secure in knowledge of specific topics.  You can be over confident, which often leads to problems and failure or you can be under confident and unwilling to even try something foreign. Yes, confidence has time and time again proven itself difficult to understand and near impossible to master.  And nowhere was that more evident for myself than the previous week.

I'm going back to work outside the home.  It's exhilarating, exciting, nerve racking, and a whole host of other adjectives.  It's been roughly four years since I've worked a job outside the walls which I reside and I'm finding getting back on the horse more difficult than I'd imagined for a variety of reasons.  The need for a somewhat flexible schedule due to both my caregiver responsibilities as well as my desire to continue coaching are clearly obstacles to take into consideration and to be worked around.  That eliminates some potential opportunities off the top.  The fact that I haven't worked traditional employment for the past few years will clearly play a roll because there's no history of what I've learned and done recently.  And lest we forget, the way many things are done today are not the same as they were even a couple years ago.  While they likely existed when I was seeking employment prior, computer programs today search resume's and cover letter's for key words while it and other technology has limited the initial interactions potential employers and employees have with one another.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning the practice because I have no doubt it's been magnificent for companies and particularly recruiters and HR people because it saves a lot of time and resources, but it can make applying for jobs with those firms harder for good candidates who may not be as educated or versed in the, "art of applying for employment".

So why do I mention all this?  I do so because in the past week I've have a couple different experiences while attempting to gain employment and a vast swing in confidence was on display.  The first job I applied for a week ago was a coaching position I wasn't sure I'd get but I still felt good walking in.  I had a rough idea of what I wanted to say and even the couple curve balls fell within parameters I felt prepared to discuss. While I didn't end up getting that particular job, I think it had more to do with my lack of experience and I was actually extended the opportunity to apply for another position that will allow me to gain that knowledge in the future.  My limited experience, practice, and preparedness built my confidence to a point where I was able to present myself as who I am and that's absolutely important.  Unfortunately, that's not close to what happened yesterday.

Yesterday I put on nice clothes, nice shoes, and printed resume's and cover letters before heading to a local job fair.  Leaving the house, I felt pretty decent and ready to discuss with some of the 45 potential employers the opportunities they had available.  I felt good right up until the time I entered the parking lot when suddenly and without warning, my confidence decided keep going up the main rd instead of turning with me. My confidence dropped immensely while driving around in search of an empty parking spot.  Walking in, what little remained was looking for a way to exit and by the time I actually entered the room with all the employers, I'd basically relegated myself to feeling overwhelmed, unprepared, and basically incapable of displaying my best self.  The few employers I did speak to, there's no way I left a good impression. Frankly, if I left no impression at all it would make me feel better than what I'm thinking I left them with.  Leaving the floor half an hour later, I felt completely deflated and exhausted.  My confidence was shaken and I knew reevaluating, regrouping, and refocusing was going to be necessary.

And that's where today's post comes from.  This is a necessary part of the reevaluate, regroup, and refocus process for me.  Writing it down allows me to think deeply into the subject and make corrections as they arise.  In this case, sharing it is really the easy part because I'm pretty positive others have had their confidence shaken before as well.  I know what happened yesterday and going forward, acknowledging problems, will allow me to hopefully avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

Yesterday I lost my confidence but by acknowledging that my confidence was reduced it's allowing my confidence to increase so in the future I'll have more confidence and will be confident that my confidence will be there when I need it, confidently.  And thus, we have the confidence conundrum.

The Confidence Conundrum

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Social Media Break

A couple weeks ago I deactivated my Facebook account.  Some people were curious why and a couple even reached out asking me to rethink my decision because there, like here, I attempt to be both honest as well as positive when presenting idea's and opinions.  I'm not always successful and at times negativity will flow from brain to fingertips but in recent years it's become more and more a rarity that I allow it to happen. However, there came a point a couple weekends ago where I suddenly realized that the negativity from everyone else was getting to me in an unhealthy manner and it was not just affecting me but I also felt like it was leaching into my real life. Disturbed by the revelation it was clear there was only one course of action; an immediate break. That was nearly two weeks ago.

As I write this now, life without social media is getting easier and easier.  I won't lie, the first couple days were weird.  It has become readily apparent to me just how much I'd been using it.  For the first three days plus I kept picking up my phone without thinking about it simply to scan.  There was no app because I deleted it off my phone (and probably won't re-add it even after I reactivate) so I'd stare at my phone for a moment or load up ESPN or the news to see if anything had changed.  Of course, it hadn't because contrary to what our social media feeds tell us, actual news doesn't tend to change all the fast (except for the NBA trade deadline.  Information was coming out every few minutes, or so it seemed).  Now that I have some time away I'm not doing that nearly as much but what an awakening this has provided.  Life in general doesn't seem nearly as negative as it did.  I have no idea what's going on with a whole lot of people's lives which is unfortunate because I really do enjoy being able to keep up with people in such an easy format but I don't regret my decision.  On the contrary, not only am I unsure when I may reactivate, but earlier this week I was faced the possibility of needing to get back on for professional reasons and it actually stressed me out. Clearly, the break was more needed than I'd realized.

Social media allows many things.  It can make us believe our voice is bigger than it is or make us feel like our voice is too small to ever matter.   It can allow us to share our opinions, our positivity, our negativity.  It's proven over and over again that, "it's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're an idiot than open it (or post to the world) and prove it."  It's allowed those we would not have otherwise known exist, to share profound thoughts, ideas, and education, while permitting others to use it as a mode of transmitting hate, ignorance, and stupidity.  It has created a means of proliferating information that I'm unsure humans were and are ready for at this time.  It's something I'd felt before but not nearly to the degree that I did a week ago.  That I had so much information available there was no way I could process everything and it was indeed beginning to slow me down; like an old computer who's memory has filled to the point where it still works, but even the simplest of tasks are slowed to the point of being nearly useless.

Learning the Old School Way
So now I'm on reset of sorts.  I find myself not only getting more accomplished but also feel like I'm actually learning more.  In the past two weeks I've read or finished reading 5 books, which both puts a good dent in my 25 book year end goal as well as providing some needed education without so many distractions.  I've read actual articles rather than simply skimming and reading comments (some of which I do miss because while comment sections can be the definition of hell, occasionally there are some great discussions that provide a wealth of information and "rabbit hole" links).  I've made some phone calls and talked with people rather than simply relying on text or messenger (which come to find out you don't lose just because you deactivate from FB.  Who knew?)  I've done a little writing but not enough but I'm still not as stressed as I could or perhaps should be because I've been using the time to accomplish actual tasks not simply scrolling.  No, thus far I do not regret my decision to unplug.

Eventually I'll get back on.  In reality, not only will I likely reactivate but I'm likely to add additional social media accounts because in order to achieve some future goals, it will be a business requirement.  However, what I'm seeing and hope that I can hold onto going forward is the separation from life and social media. Looking at the situation from 10,000 feet, so to speak, I can see that my overuse began years ago as a way to fill a void but while it may have seemed like I was connecting with people, over time it was actually having to opposite effect.  As I mentioned above, that is not to say that there are not positive things about social media because there absolutely are.  But if one is not careful, it can metastasize and without even realizing it, it's caused unforeseen damage.  I'm not saying a break is a necessity for everyone, but every so often take a moment to review your usage.  Think about whether it's positively impacting your life or whether it's become nothing more than a habit or addiction.  Like a diet, exercise regime, or household budget, reviewing and adjusting actions based on what you find never hurts and will be beneficial in the long run.              

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Last Witness

Did the title draw you in to check out this weeks post?  Yes?  Good, but I must apologize because the subject this week is much less ominous than the title may have led you to believe.  I had to get you here somehow though because I think what I'm going to discuss this week is amazing and something I'm unsure many of us are going to bare witness too for much longer.  What am I referring to?  The long term marriage.
You see, earlier this month my Mother and Father-in-Law celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary, which is something else and hard to beat!  However, yesterday my Grandparents celebrated number 57!  Yes, 57! Between my wife and I we've been fortunate enough to see 90 years of marriage between two couples. Talk about having an example set! How the hell could either of us ask for better than that?!  It's truly astounding not just that each couple has made it this far, but they've seemingly done it in entirely different manners.

Now, this post is not meant to be is some profound discussion on the history, moral issues, or legalities of marriage just so we're clear.  It's certainly a worthwhile discussion but not for today.  When I'm speaking of marriage in this article is pertains to the deep and long held beliefs of two specific couples who've worked and fought and upheld the idea that you don't leave one another simply because times get tough.  Cancer has been fought by both families, losses have been suffered, tough decisions have been made, tears have have been fought back and released, and yet when you talk to them, the laughs still flow freely and each couple seems as in love today as when they said their "I do's" so many years ago.  I have no doubt there were times when each couple felt up against it and the thought of doing something different crossed their minds, if even for a moment. But they didn't.  There's lessons and value in that the our following generations can learn from.    

Each couple has interesting and awesome histories that brought them to where they are today.  My in-laws raised 6 girls while moving both abroad and throughout the US.  They've succeeded and failed with jobs and businesses, fostered over 30 children, chased dreams for themselves and their children, and have probably developed more deep relationships in their lifetimes than I've actually met people.  I have no doubt that they had some tough times but their attitudes pertaining to life and by extension to one another is amazing.  In one way or another, each of their daughters, and as I'm attesting others whom they've come into contact with, have benefited from witnessing how they work together both as a married couple and more importantly as friends.  While others dread spending time with their in-laws (apparently); I wish I could see mine more often. Given that I'm not the biggest fan of people, that's saying something.  ;)

When it comes how their lives played out, the two couples couldn't be more different.  While my in-laws have been travelers in every sense of the word, my grandparents chose to spend the majority of their years in a single town and on a single plot of land.  (I say majority because there was some time where they lived elsewhere early in their married years.)  They were teenage parents who lived and worked day to day just to get by doing whatever work presented itself.  My grandmother raised her three children before deciding that she wanted to return both to college and then the workforce  (returning to college is something both these magnificent women have in common) while my grandfather spent his years doing a number of things, most of them very well and earning a reputation as hard worker (and hard head at times.  According to my wife it's a trait I share)  Things weren't always easy but in the hardest times they leaned on one another to get through. Again, lessons that can and should be passed along to us generations that are following.

While both couples have come to this point on their journey having traveled different roads, they absolutely share some similarities as well.  Both contain people who have stubborn sides.  Both couples love to laugh. Both are able to acknowledge that life often isn't sunshine and rainbows and neither has a whole lot of tolerance for bullshit.  They answer questions honestly both to each other and to others and they have a propensity for telling you what you need to hear not what you want to hear.  They'll help anyone once but if you screw them don't come around again and you'll be hard pressed to find four harder working people. They've passed down knowledge, wisdom, and virtues to the following generations while fully acknowledging that they made their own mistakes along the way and therefore others will too.  They worked and fought, and played, and learned through life together; as individuals who became part of a whole that was bigger than any could achieve alone.

Mates for Life
It's interesting that when you look at the backgrounds of my wife and I we almost match the relationships witnessed growing up. At the same time we both have a desire to bring elements of the other into our lives. Our aim is to learn from the mistakes while enhancing the best of what we've witnessed and been taught.  I'm not well traveled and have barely left Maine for vacations let alone lived elsewhere while my wife is finally setting down some roots after over 30 years of movement.  She's teaching me how to be comfortable in environments I'm unaccustomed to while I'm trying to extol to her the benefits of having and developing a solid home base.  It's a balancing act for the two of us to develop both a future where we can have what we want in a home while at the same time fitting in much more travel and is one of the many areas of our life together where we spent much time in discussion in an attempt to find solutions that will both benefit and keep one another happy.

Looking at both sets of couples, I see many things that I want and so does my wife.  We often talk about our desire to have the types of relationships we witnessed growing up.  I often joke with her that this is it for me. If we should divorce I'll never get married again.  It's funny but it's also the truth.  We both want the 50 year marriage.  Like the people we've learned from, her and I both took and take our vows seriously.  "For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad."  Each of us have an ideal we're trying to attain and the only way to achieve it is by taking our vows seriously.  And while life will seem more complicated than it needs to be at times and will actually be more complicated than we'd prefer at others, if we can continue to focus on the simple things, someday perhaps someone will write about being as inspired by our marriage as each of us have been about the ones we were fortunate enough to witness.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Completing the Un-Complete

I have no idea exactly what today's title means.  I have 8, yes 8, posts in varying stages of writing and editing and felt this afternoon that none of them are ready to share.  Some are because I'm having trouble completing the thoughts within, some are because there is research I must finish before hitting publish, and one is personal enough that I'm unsure whether I'm ready to share it yet.  The unfinished are the perfect examples both of procrastination as well as what sometimes happens to writers and wanna-be writers;  You have tremendous ideas so you sit down and get them out only to find that your brain is quite convoluted and your ideas don't have the type of order than anyone but yourself will be able to understand.  The time consuming part then isn't the getting the ideas out (though that does happen, hence the existence of the dreaded "writers block"), it's putting them in order, with connections and examples that the reader will be able to understand. Here's the problem though.  Too often, I don't go back and review and I don't complete the work.  And it's not just with writing either.  I have many projects in varying states of progress because I'll hit a patch that requires a bit more thought, research, time, ect and I put it aside in favor of something else I feel I can complete easier and/or in a more timely fashion.  It's absolutely a weakness I've identified.  And for damn sure it works it's way over to my fitness as well.

So what can I do to work on this?  Well, before beginning this post I worked on one of the others.  Writing this came about because I wanted to get something written and posted before the end of this week and after reviewing that one and the other seven, I decided I would not be able to complete any one of them in a satisfactory manner without spending more time than I possessed today.  I had to make a decision whether it was better to finish something or finish nothing.  Since you're reading this it's clear what I decided  I have a goal to write a post per week, or end up with at least 52 by the end of the year.  Falling too far behind would put me in peril of not reaching that goal.  What I mentioned above about sometimes moving on to things that are easier and faster to complete?  Living example and you didn't even have to wait for it.

Generally I feel like simply acknowledging a problem is the best way to begin rectifying it.  I know damn well I learned that somewhere and perhaps I should even be giving credit to that source but to do so would require research and the whole point of writing this was to be quick, to the point, and fast and of all terms used to describe what research is and can be, fast is not and should not be one of them. Now that I know what I am and am not doing I can work towards completing some of those projects.  I can finish the wiring in the basement.  I can get out and cut some more wood.  I can add Turkish Get-ups back into my program.  I can complete one or two of the unfinished posts.

And I can begin all those things tomorrow because I have these shiny projects to get done today..


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Current Physical Status

Since announcing the change of direction I've written a post regarding some life lessons, one on goal writing, and one on overcoming some issues but have done nothing specific pertaining to health, wellness, training, or anything along those lines.  A couple of the upcoming posts do discuss those topics but to do that without first presenting where things currently are would be a mistake at best and downright dumb at worst.

Where I started

As I mentioned in a prior post, I'm now on the backside of recovery from both back surgery and an injury occurred while working in the woods this past summer.  As of this morning my body weight is at 310, up 17lbs from my December 2015 pre-surgery weight of 293 (picture in shorts) and down from a high of 314 a few weeks ago.  I'm back to working out 3 days per week, have made some serious adjustments to my diet, added some walking in this week, and am spending more time working and on my feet in the past few months than I had in pretty much the entirety of the previous year.  To only have gained 17 lbs makes me pretty happy given my lack of physical activity and poor eating habits (some of which I actually do not even remember!)

Where do I want to go with this?  A year ago I wrote a goal body weight of  225.  That still holds true because I believe I'd be in ball park of being my best physical self.  I may add a body fat percentage in the future as well but I'm not there yet.  I want to be able to run a sub 7:00 minute mile, ruck 4 miles with a 35lb plus pack in under an hour and hit 400, 500, 600 on the bench, squat, and deadlift. Again, I may add something, in this case some sort of overhead pressing movement, but I'm not at a stage yet where I feel I can accurately gauge what that amount would be.  Currently I'm structuring my workouts to really focus on strengthening weak areas; namely my back, and increasing mobility.  I've taken the repeated advice I've seen and am sure to add in specific movements that I hate but understand are needed; bear crawls and Turkish get-ups for example.  I'm also working around the equipment I don't have in my home gym and probably getting close to needing to find somewhere to do a few things or investing in some more equipment. However, for now I'm making due and getting a proper sweat and soreness so I can't complain too much.
Squat rack needs some new parts and I'm
out of weights but thus far I've been adapting
as needed.

So there you have it; my starting point.  Well, kind of.  I was more than a few weeks into working out again before I sat down to "pen" this post but it's close enough I think.  Plus, I'm still well into obese so visual changes will continue to be illuminated.  I expect, and am hoping you, the reader, are interested seeing the not so positive moments as well because journey's rarely go smoothly and/or as expected and I believe it's important for you to see that as well. The reason I'm sharing my current pictures now (instead of waiting) and the reason I want you to see my failures as much as my successes is because all too often we get this picture of people who've made changes as superhero's who never had a down day.  Who didn't struggle and yet magically transformed. Sometimes that's done intentionally to sell a product but often it's because, understandably, it's scary to show our warts.  Inspiration can absolutely be had seeing someones before and afters but what can also happen, is if it doesn't happen as fast as we think it should or if there's a setback, we give up. I believe some of that can be attributed to not understanding that the journey will be long and arduous and won't be completed yesterday.  Yes, you can drop weight fast though extreme means and by following diets similar to specific athletes but it doesn't (and likely won't) mean you'll keep those changes long term.  Being mentally ready and working your mindset daily is just as important as following your dietary and workout plans.

And with that, my personal journey is underway..  


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Whoops, I Slipped

I've never written something short and to the point here but I think today might be the day.  I have 6 other posts I've begun and are in varying states of completion but rather than editing or otherwise finishing any of those today, I think this one has more value.  Why? Because it was only a couple weeks ago I laid out some ideas for goal setting and I'd already caught myself disregarding them and falling back into bad habits. No kidding.  As usual, it happened so fast I didn't even realize what I was doing until one day while attempting to complete a task, the light came on that I'd taken on so many things at once I was really neglecting them all. I almost missed a workout day last week, things I needed to complete I didn't (including a blog post), and while I felt like I was getting much done, when I sat down and really looked at things, I had accomplished a minimal amount.  On top of that my brain was fried because I was trying to learn too many new subjects and ideas at once.  Also, I won't lie, the whole election thing has worn on me too.  Not because of who was elected because I didn't like either candidate but what it's done to many people both around me and around the country.  When you're goal is to get yourself into a position to help others and you see so many people fighting, it can be taxing, no shit.

Anyways, the biggest hurdle was behind me.  I acknowledged what I was doing didn't fit with my plan.  So, what now? I had to take some time to consider once again what would best aid both my short and long term plans and devote my time to those things while putting others on the back burner.  There are some tasks that are necessary like working out, home maintenance, getting the family to appointments and family time, plowing the driveway and working on the house, that are ever present.  Those are fixed time consumers; that is, they are things we automatically build into our day and/or take precedence over other activities.  We all have those (though they're not all the same), it was the remainder of the time I wasn't utilizing properly.  I mentioned it to Shawna to verify my feeling was reality and she did just that so after some discussion and reevaluation, I began this week much clearer and with a much more defined plan of attack.  It wasn't that hard once I narrowed down the what and why's.  I'm an assistant football coach so insuring I'm continually learning about that subject is important to both myself, the other coaches, and the players.  I'm working on other training and teaching goals, so studying and learning anatomy is important (this can also aid the football coaching too but I'll tough on that down the road).  I need to take the next steps regarding my first novel.

There are a couple others not listed but I also had to put some ideas on the back burner.  I'm not going to take a business step right now that I want to get off the ground because I decided I'm neither in the position to make it viable nor do I have the time to devote currently.  It's not dead, it's just waiting for me to finish the foundation, which completion of my current goals will go a long way toward.  I'm not going forward currently with beginning my next novel.  I'm still writing ideas and taking my recorder with me so when inspiration hits I can save it for later, but while I'd like to have the time to devote to it, I've made the decision to focus on my other goals first.  Funny enough, when I sat down to consider this I realized that again, completion of my short term goals will aid this long term one.  Funny how that works isn't it?

So, short story a little longer than planned, if you fall off the goal wagon it's OK.  It's going to happen to most people somewhere along the line.  What I'm finding separates the successful from the unsuccessful is the ability to admit that you're no longer on your path and adjusting accordingly.  Sometime it'll be your fault, sometimes life but acknowledgement that what you're doing isn't working is the key.  Once you've crossed that threshold getting back on the path to improvement is just a reevaluation away.          

Saturday, January 14, 2017

34 Things I've Learned By 34

I turned 34 this week and thought it may be fun to list some things I've learned in those years.  Some of these you've undoubtedly heard before, some will be funny, and others serious but hopefully there will be at least one of two that make you think.

1.)  Put your grocery cart/wagon in the cart corral or take it back in the store when you're done:
I'm sure the associate was excited to retrieve this..
Seriously, no one wants their car hit by a roving cart and the associates who bring them back inside don't need to be out chasing them on cold, wet, windy days.  Not only that, in areas that receive snow, trust me when I tell you that the plow guys get just a little pissed off when they have to stop, get out, and move carts out of the way.  Don't be an ass and put your cart in a dedicated area.

2.)  Don't use the handicap plate or placard if you're not handicap: 
We have a placard for Shawna.  Not only do I not use it when she's not with me, there are many times when I'll drop her off at the door and go park toward the back of the lot because if we don't need to use it, there's no sense occupying a spot someone may require more.  Again, don't be an ass.

3.)  Spend time being physically active:
I know I'm moving this toward a health/fitness/wellness type blog but for this, just be active.  Go outside, find something physical you enjoy and do it.  Use all you're muscles not just the ones that run the computer and TV remote.

4.)  Never stop learning:
Find something you enjoy and study it until you feel confident your understand it.  Pursue something that will have you learning for life.  Move onto new subjects as the desire to do so arises.  There is no right way to keep learning so find what works for you and get after it!

5.)  Navigate Social Media with Caution:
Social media can be fantastic.  You can reconnect with people, keep up with friends and family across the planet, spread love, joy, information, and .  However, it can also be used to misinform, bully, promote ignorance and harm others.  And for Christs sake, really consider whether or not to click, "comments".  

6.)  Players win games and coaches lose them:
Pretty much every coach I've ever talked to worth a shit says the same thing and after a couple years on the sideline, I couldn't agree more.

7.)  Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard:
Yeah I know, it's a bit cliche' but I've also seen it.  You can get away with running on talent for awhile, but eventually the field catches up to you if you're putting in the work.

8.)  Accept that your experiences are not the same as others:
I live in Maine, I cannot know what life is really like in the city any more than someone who lives in the city can know what it's like to live like I do. This, of course, is a very simple example but you get the point.  If we start discussions with the understanding that people's experiences shape them and their views and their experiences are not the same as ours, we'll have crossed an incredible barrier to improving ourselves and our society.

9.)  Living in the past and acknowledging experiences before making future decisions are not the same: 
It's important to acknowledge your past but don't dwell on it and don't let it hold you back. You're not the person you were yesterday.

10.)  It's OK to agree with someone you generally disagree with and OK to disagree with people you generally agree with:
This happens in politics ALL THE TIME so I'll use that as an example.  Just because you voted for a person or party doesn't mean you need to follow them lockstep and even if you didn't vote for person A, it's OK to acknowledge when they do something right/you agree with.  This happens in other areas of life as well but as I said, politics is an easy example.

11.)  If you disagree with someone close to you, it's often best to do so in private:
It's OK to disagree with someone close to you but some ways to do so are better than others.  If I disagree with my wife on something regarding The Teen, I try to have that conversation with her in private.  Such things can also happen in regards to your job and other activities.  Proceed with caution when handling disagreements publicly.

12.)  When you're angry, don't hit send:
Ever been irate and written a letter, email, or DM that you regretted later?  I have.  Next time it happens, sit on that bad boy for a day before sending it.  If, after 24 hours, you still feel it's appropriate, send it. However, in general, I'm willing to bet that delete button will serve you better in the majority of situations.

13.)  Some friends are family and some blood is mud:
Just because someone is technically related, doesn't mean that you're somehow beholden to them contrary to what others (generally other family) may tell you. Choose your family predicated on behaviors, morals, and other traits you deem appropriate, necessary, and of value.

14.)  The busier you are, the less room you have for bullshit:
I've noticed that, in general, the people who get most upset and/or offended about stupid shit don't have much else going on in life.  When you're running a company, a household, volunteering to help others, and trying to keep up with daily life, ect, you have little time to concern yourself with things that don't directly affect you.  I'm not saying it never happens, I'm just saying when you look at who's telling you to be angry about things they generally have time other's don't.

15.)  When it comes to relationships, find someone who makes you not only happy, but challenges you and helps you improve:
I wanted to write "makes you better" but I don't think anyone should make you better, you need to do that yourself.  What you should be looking for is someone who you believe in, who believes in you, who makes you want chase you dreams, and gives you the confidence to do so.  Who challenges you on multiple levels but not to the point where you feel on the defensive constantly.  I'm sure I'm missing a few things overview but the short of it is to simply find someone who'll help you attain your best you.  And this doesn't just go for romantic relationships.  Surround yourself with people who add value to your life.

16.)  There is far more gray in the world than black or white:
You wouldn't know that when you get on the internet where making definitive statements, particularly with the CAPS BUTTON ON, is the norm and where rather than spreading our wings we've instead created societal bubbles and echo chambers but the information is there for those willing to seek it.  Look outside your own thoughts and ideas from time to time and see how big the world is.  You might be surprised.

17.)  Being defensive sucks:
And not just for the person dealing with you, this wears on a person over time.  This was me for years and is something I still struggle with from time to time. The reality is that I'm not alone.  No one likes to be told that they're incorrect or that they're doing something wrong and often our first reaction to defend ourselves. When that happens try to take a deep breath and understand what the person is actually telling you.  Perhaps you'll take whatever advice they're offering and perhaps you won't but it doesn't hurt you to listen.

18.)  Write your goals down with details:
In an earlier post I discussed goal writing, so I won't get into too much detail here but don't just wing it. Have a plan and execute it.

19.)  The older I get, the more wisdom the adults in my life have obtained:
Never mind gaining my own wisdom, my parents and grandparents somehow went from knowing absolutely nothing during my childhood to looking like geniuses now.  They seem to have the ability to predict what's going to happen.  I have no idea how they've done it but my guess is, it's because they finally got the internet..

20.)  There are truths about cold weather:
I'd rather be cold than hot.  I can put more clothes on if I'm cold.  I can only take so much off before violating the law when it's hot.  Once you get below -20'F, it really doesn't matter:  Once it's that cold I honestly couldn't tell the difference (coldest I've was -38'F ambient air temp).  However, when a strong wind is added to any temp below 40'F, you get colder faster than if the temperature was instead lower.  Finally, there is no heat like wood heat, especially if you've spent a significant amount of time being cold.

21.)  Being angry requires a lot of energy:
Anger is absolutely a valid emotion that seems to be used far to often.  It seems like people seek out reasons to be angry and upset in our current society and it's unfortunate. It eats energy like a body builder scarfing their first cheat meal after a competition (that's a lottttt if you're unaware of the reference).  When you find something that gets under your skin, ask yourself if it's really worth your energy to focus on it.  I mean, do you really, actually, give a shit if someone is wearing white after labor day? (Is that reference too old?..)

22.)  Holding grudges is no way to go through life:
Similar to anger, holding a grudge eats a lot of energy. This is not to say that you must interact with whomever you've had issues with but don't hold onto that hurt/anger because chances are it's either a.) affecting you more than them, or b.) could be put to bed with a discussion.

23.)  Limit your time in front of the boob tube:
Listen, I love TV.  This morning I watched an interesting program about the redwoods of California.  But the truth is I've spent large portions of my life loving TV too much.  Turn it off.  Get outside, find new things to do.  Read a book.  Listen to a podcast. Start a new project.    

24.)  The one common denominator in an individuals problems looks at them each morning in the mirror:
I'm planning to cover this further in a later post but needless to say, once a person realizes that they're the one thing involved in every decision, disaster, failure, and success they have, life can truly begin to change.

25.)  It's easier to avoid addictions than recover from them:
I'm careful with my alcohol consumption because there's a history in my family of issues with it.  Quitting chewing tobacco sucked ass.  Opiate addiction in Maine and other areas of the country is exploding which is why I avoided them all together following my back surgery.  Avoidance isn't always the best policy but if you can avoid addictions, I'd advise it.  If you're already in an addictive state, please get help if you're ready.  If you need someone to talk to, don't hesitate to reach out.  If I don't have the resources I'll do my best to help point you in the right direction.

26.)  Change is hard but can be done:
I'm absolutely not the same person I was 10 years ago.  Some of it is the natural progression of maturity and attainment of knowledge but I'm also not going to reduce the amount of self analyzing, intentional procurement of specific information, and genuine work to the simple passing of years.  I had to face many hard revelations, admit some harsh truths, and own up to a lot of mistakes and poor judgments I made.  I had to take a real, honest look at myself in the mirror and break myself down. It's not pleasant in the least to admit the worst qualities about oneself but God damn if it's not required to make a complete and total life change.  And in the end, it's all worth it.

27.)  Being polite and using terms like Please and Thank You goes a long way with people:
It's really not that hard to say please and thank you, hold the door open for someone entering behind you, or warn someone that it's icy just outside the door but Christ, sometimes it seems like everyone has forgotten what's it's like to be polite and extend some humanity.

28.)  Proficiency based learning and common core suck:
My step-son is a freshman in high school and I can't stand they way they do things.  Not only that, I think it's detrimental to the upcoming generation.  All learning seems to be done simply to prepare for state and national testing.  Kids are graduating without knowledge of how to cook, clean, change a tire, balance a checkbook, save money, or think critically (to list just a few).  Yes, I know as parents we're not just supposed to rely on the schools to teach everything but there are days when he comes home and I can't tell if he learned anything valuable at all.  And I'm not putting that on the majority of teachers because I've talked to enough to know many of them hate it too.  And yes, this is 100% me bitching about something that drives me nuts but it's also true so it fits with today's theme.

29.)  Be your own medical advocate:
There are a lot of good medical professionals out there but like any profession there are some that aren't so good too.  I've had a couple that didn't just advise I take pain medication for injuries, but were actively pushing me to do so when I refused them.  I've been in appointments where Doctors tried to brush Shawna off and we had to say something or push our points.  It's your life and your body, make sure you're advocating for yourself because if you don't, no one else will.

30.)  Wear safety gear when doing dangerous activities: 
 I'm not sure I'd be here if I were wearing my logging helmet this past summer.  I'd spent a lot of time cutting without one but on that day, I'd made the decision to wear it thankfully.  I won't be taking tree's down without one on again I can tell you that.  It's not that difficult to put on a helmet or strap your seat belt on so do yourself a favor and do so.  I won't tell you to do it because you're an adult, but if you're reading this I want you around so you can continue keeping the traffic numbers up on my blog..

31.)  As parents we need to discuss and promote all types of post secondary education:
For too long the only thing parents and high schools have promoted are four year colleges and university's and that has allowed those institutions to raise their tuition's sky high (tuition is a MUCH more complicated issues than that, I admit).  Our kids are graduating thousands in debt with a limited employment field.  We've all but lost an entire generation of adults from the tax base and economy. This is not to say that those within that generation aren't responsible for their decisions (including myself) but we now know there are other and often times better ways and we need to insure that kids are aware of them.  Our job as parents isn't to build our kids lives but to give them the tools and some general directions.  

32.)  Big houses are great!!  Until you have to clean them and pay to heat them..:
Growing up I always wanted a huge house because ours wasn't overly big.  Now that I'm into my 30's I appreciate having a house that simply fits our needs.  It's easier and faster to keep (relatively) clean and organized and it certainly heats much better and much cheaper than some of the ones I see driving around.

33.)  Don't focus so hard on the end goal that you fail to enjoy the process:
I still have a hard time with this.  I'm often so driven to complete tasks, I don't actually enjoy what I'm doing. However, being aware does make a significant difference.  When I work out/train now I enjoy it more. When I'm working on a novel, I have days when I enjoy not just what I wrote but the process it took to put those words on the screen.  Enjoy the process because in the end that's where you're memories will be made.

34.)  Life is shorter than we believe:
No, seriously.  I woke up this week beginning my 34th year and I don't have a damn clue where the previous 33 went.  Love hard, laugh hard, lift hard, learn hard, work hard, pursue your passions, help people when you can, fit as much life into life as possible.  Attack life from today until departure.

Your dreams may seem crazy, but they're yours.  Pursue them.

I'm well aware that I probably missed a few that I'll think of later but all told, I think this is a pretty good list. Life is a series of lessons.  Some will be easily learned and others will take some time and can only come with experience.  Be open to the lessons when you can and be aware that they can happen at any time, whether you're willing and ready for them or not.

Here's hoping you found value in something I wrote today and don't forget, enjoy the simple things.