Fresh Start Sunday

The super smooth Lionel and his Commodores had a cool, mellow and super-groovy version of Sundays, specifically Sunday mornings.  They were easy. Just listening to the song makes you think of relaxing on the couch with your favorite morning beverage and the newspaper with no particular place to go.

My Sunday will not resemble that, at least not for the span of about 90 minutes.  Oh no, my good friends… tomorrow begins the first wave of my new training plan and I begin with deadlift day.  It’s not a complete change of what I have been doing, but it’s definitely going to be some tweaking on what I’ve been doing.  The goal is to continue to improve strength across the board while incorporating some new movements for explosiveness and keeping my conditioning cranking along.

Strength Training: Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 (which is by far the best training template I have ever used).  Lifting 3 times per week.  The core lifts will be Deadlifts, Bench Press, Cleans (this is new), Squats and Military Presses.  The Cleans will be done on the Squats day and I’ve never done them consistently, so we’ll see how these bad boys go.  The Cleans are mostly to incorporate a new element of explosiveness to my training.  The accessory work to go along with these lifts will be a lot of the basics (dips, pull-ups and all that fun) and I am shooting to complete my lifting sessions a little more quickly.

Conditioning: This is mostly going to be comprised of playing sports.  I play indoor soccer on Thursdays and I will now start playing basketball (for the first time in a really long time) on Wednesdays.  I am going to pick one other day out of the week to push the Prowler around and look to have one full off day per week.  I may (just may) look to do some bikram yoga at some point because I think it would be a huge help to my horribly inflexible behind.  I am also thinking about adding in some “finishers” at the end of my lifting sessions to get in an extra dollop of conditioning.  Yeah that’s right… dollop.  Like sour cream baby!  And yes, I know that makes absolutely no sense.  Work with me, people.

Oh and to all of you hoping to see video of my using the Prowler and puking?  So far I have kept down all my food – HA!

Diet: I have phased out of the formal plan I was on with Shelby and the weight difference was about a 2.5 lb increase which has stayed consistent over the last 2 weeks.  I will be incorporating several of the elements of what I learned from Shelby along the way.  Essentially, it will be working from that carb cycling idea of “earn your carbs” with less carbs on non-lifting days.  Outside of that, I looking to just eat well and very balanced.  If I can eat things that organic or get grass-fed beef/bison, that is what I am looking to do.

That’s the plan and now it’s a matter of execution.  In keeping with the overall theme of the blog (i.e. it’s not just about lifting or ideas or developing your mind and spirit, but the interrelation of all of those things), I am hoping to gain a better appreciation for attacking my plan now that it is set.  The plan is not terribly complicated, nor does it need to be.  What it certainly does need is for me to go after it with full spirit.  I think a lot of people fall into the “paralysis by analysis” trap instead of going after things full bore for a while and then stopping to assess after some practice.  Hopefully, I will avoid that.

Time to SFW.

(And if you do not know what SFW means, feel free to click here. Pardon the language though.)

You are what you track

I work for a division of a fairly massive multi-national corporation.  I guess I could have just described it as a big company, but then I would have missed out on a golden opportunity to post a photo of Number 2… and why the hell would I do that?  Come on people!

One of the pieces of my job and that of many people working in corporate America is compiling, analyzing and reviewing data for anything of value to your company.  Maybe it’s some new trend in sales data that will affect how a new product is brought to market or perhaps it’s something in the financial numbers that suggests the company is not being as efficient as it needs to be in certain areas of the business.  Whatever it may be, it’s not only an important piece of the business world, it’s a borderline obsession at times where no decision can be considered without absolute mounds upon mounds of data.

The fine folks at Lifehacker spent some time looking at how the collection and analysis of data could be of value to people’s individual lives. Interesting notion and one I guess I do to a certain degree either through my tracking of my weight training sessions or the amount I use Evernote to capture thoughts throughout my day.

So I can see there may be some value in all of this, especially if you have a goal you are shooting for where some careful tracking will help keep you on the mark.  The only thing that made me feel borderline queasy in reading the post was the idea of how some uber-geeks are looking to track everything in their lives.  Ugh.  I cannot even imagine, especially given the extent to which I sift through data at work.  Why in the world would I want to do that to such a large extent at home?

A product I saw someone mention in the article comments was FitBit, something I had never heard of before.  It’s this small little device that tracks your daily activity as well as your sleep.  It then uploads the data wirelessly to your FitBit tracking station as you walk past it.  Kind of interesting.  Now, on some of this, I would wonder what value I would get out of it.  Wouldn’t I know I was sleeping poorly when I keep waking up feeling like crap?  The daily movement tracking (how far I walked, how many calories I burned, etc.) could be moderately useful too, but again, I am not sure I would care too much if I was burning enough calories from just generally moving around in a day.  I work in an office all day long… I already know the answer to that question.  No, not so much.

So how about you? Anything in particular you track and, even more importantly, what action do you take on the data you collect?

Do you see it?

When you look at this photo… what do you see?  A basement filled with strength training equipment?  Money that could have been better spent on something else?  Someone’s shrine to an obsession?

This is my home gym and to me, it’s an almost sacred place.  Seriously.  For me, weight training has always been a tremendous outlet and the greatest form of therapy I have ever found for keeping me sane in a nutty, nutty world.  It’s a place where I can use a physical tool to test my mind, heart and spirit.  I decided when I would put together this gym, I would go with the best (that being EliteFTS) because it would be such an important place in my life.

So to me, this photo is really showing the place where I test myself… where I prove myself… where I find out more about who I really am than most other areas of my life.  Will I give up when it gets hard or when it begins to hurt?  Will I be scared to throw on my back hundreds of pounds worth of weight?  What happens if I lift poorly?  Will I just get frustrated and quit or will I dig down deep and go at it again?  And am I taking all these lessons to heart and learning from them?

A strong mind and spirit can help you to have a strong body… but the hard work, effort and discipline used to give you a strong body can yield a strong mind and spirit.

So do me a favor… look again and take your time. It’s a sacred place.

Do you see it?

Stuff I like: Making green fun

I’m not exactly Joe Treehugger.  Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think people should be wasteful, we should avoid polluting our beautiful planet and all of that, but I’m not going to be jump in people’s grills and scream about it.

But this here is pretty damn cool:

These are the “Efficiency Leaves” on the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybird, the Motor Trend 2010 Car of the Year.  As you start up the car, the leaves are not present and the more fuel efficient your drive style is, the more the leaves sprout on the screen.  If you start hammering the gas pedal like Lindsay Lohan doing shots of Ketel One, the leaves begin to disappear.  Simple right?

A bit of video showing this all in action:

Sweet.

But what really got me thinking about how this bit of snazzy technology makes being green fun was a review of the car on MSNBC.  The money quote:

Failure to drive in a way that cultivated this garden sparked howls of outrage from the back seat, where my kids complained I was killing the leaves as they disappeared. So while it would be easy to dismiss the efficiency display as a silly gimmick, it is a hard-to-ignore reminder that with just a bit lighter pressure on the pedal, the Fusion Hybrid can get spectacularly good mileage.

So while it can be a rather nice (and sort of fun) little visual indicator for the driver, just think of how anyone with kids could benefit from this given the anecdote above.

It also does my patriotic heart a world of good to see a very innovative and clever idea come from an American car manufacturer, especially since it is all wrapped up in an attractive package to boot.  That’s the American dream – smarts in a sexy package… you know, kind of like me. ; )  BOO YAA!

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A little bit less of you

As I’ve mentioned here before, I went on a diet for around 10 weeks recently where I dropped 16 lbs., but basically kept (or even improved in some cases) my strength levels.  It was a pretty interesting experience because I have not done anything approximating a formal diet for a very, very long time.  However, I felt sluggish all Fall in soccer and just did not want to go through that for this upcoming Spring.  So, I hired a nutrition coach (the excellent Shelby Starnes) to guide me to a lean, mean and uber-sexy new me.  Now, I plan on writing a longer piece on this and maybe (just maybe) showing the before and after photos, but I cannot say I am super excited at the prospect of dropping my shirtless self on the Internet for all to see… at least not when I have a full-time job for a conservative Fortune 50 company. 🙂

But I did feel like there were a few quick hitter items before the longer piece, mostly because I notice I tend to write rather long and wordy blog pieces. So here are some things I learned along the way on my diet odyssey:

  1. Earn your carbs. This one is just something that makes a lot of sense once you give it a moment of thought.  My diet was one of carb cycling, which meant I would have certain days of high carb intake, certain days of medium carb intake and certain days of low carb intake.  The high or medium days would fall on days I was lifting… in other words, on days I was earning those carbs.  On off-days or pure cardio days?  Low carb all the way.  This is a very simple change to make to your diet, but it works incredibly well.
  2. Carbonated drinks are a godsend when you are hungry. Shelby helped out on this one because he suggested having sparkling water drinks with Splenda because the carbonation made your stomach feel fuller, especially between meals.  If you are concerned about artificial sweeteners, just use some kind of flavored seltzers.  I mean, those taste awful to me and Splenda really doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
  3. Lift weights. This is not so much something new I learned, but I cannot think of how many people I know for whom a diet is cutting way back on food and then doing a ton of cardio.  I can pretty much guarantee they will fall into a yo-yo trap with their diet and their weight will go back up when they finish.  You should be lifting weights regardless for a lot of reasons (strength, bone density, improved lean body mass, better posture, etc.) but you need to maintain the good (lean muscle) while ditching the bad (body fat).  So for the love of God, do some lifting when you diet.  It’s a better long-term route to leanness. funny-pictures-cat-waits-for-bird
  4. Weight loss is not linear. This is pretty much a direct quote from Shelby,  so I am not taking any kind of credit for it.  The point is that you may lose 3 or 4 lbs. one week, 1 the next, stay static and then boom! Lose 3 more in a week.  It’s a rather unpredictable thing, so it’s critical not to lose hope when you are not losing the exact same amount of weight every single week.
  5. Create accountability. This can take on a variety of forms.  For some people, it works well to tell family and friends so they will keep you on point or remind you when you slip.  The idea is that the more public you make it, the worse off you will feel if you slack off.  For me, it was hiring Shelby and it’s something I would strongly recommend to anyone.  First, you have someone who will answer your questions and steer you back into line if you begin to veer off the path of positive progress.  Second, it’s a little hard to claim the diet is “too hard” when you are dealing with someone who is a competitive level bodybuilder and who has eating discipline light years ahead of your own.  Thankfully, Shelby is a reasonable guy and understands his clients have lives, will mess up at times, etc.  I have hired coaches before on a distance consulting basis (for training, not a diet) and they tended to suck because they had such machismo issues, if things did not work as perfectly as they planned for you… well… then clearly you are not worthy of their time or their AWESOME level of knowledge.  Give me a f-ing break. Obviously, this is not Shelby.
  6. It will be hard. Nothing too radical there, eh?  You will be eating less than you are used to and there is little fun about that.  For me, the hardest part tended to be less about my eating plan and more about the mind-numbing boredom of the cardio I was doing.  Towards the end of my plan, I was doing 60 minutes of cardio 6 times per week.  Now, if we are talking about playing basketball or soccer for an hour?  Sweet.  But grinding away on an elliptical machine with your stomach growling and the sick freaks in your gym leaving on a giant TV screen to the Food Network?  Decidedly less than good times.
  7. You don’t need supplements… but they can be helpful. You don’t need to get too crazy.  Fish oil is great for a variety of health reasons and a nice protein powder blend is handy, especially when you are in a bind for a quick meal.

So there ya have just a few quick points to ponder.

Don’t be that guy (or gal): Trans fat RAAAAGE!

Gentle reader (as Dear Abby used to say), there are times in life when we are all going to get upset.  Bad things happen that can be the turd in the punchbowl of an otherwise glorious day of magic, wonder and dancing unicorns.  However, the level of passion you bring to a situation should… well… match the severity of that situation, n’est-ce pas?  Are we all generally on the same page?  Yes?  Glorious!

With that firmly established piece of common ground, I would suggest that if you feel an overwhelming need for your local McDonald’s to provide you with the crispy, heart-stopping deliciousness known as McNuggets at 2:30 AM and they are only serving breakfast… umm… you just may want to refrain from punching the drive through employee in the face.  Hypothetically.  Or punching the drive through window itself.

Or how about this gem caught on video when a McDonald’s patron is less-than-appreciative of her order being scerwed up?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Those trans fats must have some of that crazy rage virus from 28 Days  Later in them or something because outside of that, there is nothing approximating a rational explanation for these people..  I mean, McDonald’s does have a semi-tasty item or two, but it’s not like we are talking about a Five Guys burger or something.  Now THOSE are worth a first-class freak out and mop bucket throwing for good measure.

Morale of the story: If you ever find yourself feeling any level of anger over the lack of breaded and deep-fried chicken parts at 2:30 AM, you may need to change up your diet… and see a therapist… and wear thickly-padded gloves that do not break either faces or drive through windows.

The most interesting New Year’s resolution of all

The L.A. Times (those nutty left-wing liberal media, Birkenstock wearing, hemp loving, peace and granola eating kooks that they are) had a crazy notion yesterday in the Booster Shots section of their Web site: using 2010 to focus on being… get ready for it… happy.  Yup, good ol’ happiness.

During my drive into work this morning, I was thinking this one over.  My morning drive used to be music or sports talk radio to speed myself along during the drive.  However, over the last month or two of work, I have instituted the “quiet drive” where I don’t put on any music and just use those 20 minutes or so to think.

My thought from this morning was pretty simple: I truly believe that the overarching goal of almost any human being is to seek out happiness.  That’s it.  Numero uno.  The trick is what approach we each take to get there because obviously, not everyone is happy in this world.

So if you work from my assumption that everyone has happiness as their #1 goal in life (whether consciously or unconsciously), why are so many people missing that target?  Are you just out of your mind Kuzia?

The answer to the second question is a clear and emphatic, yes I am.  For the first question, I think it’s because the paths we each choose to attain happiness either cause us an undue amount of distraction from our final goal or they put off present-state happiness for the magical goal of happiness on the horizon.

Think of a high-powered business executive or doctor or lawyer.  Why do they  spend 60, 70 and 80 hours a week in their jobs with all of the stress and pressure?  It could be because they love what they do, but that’s not going to be everyone (and I would assert not even the majority).  So if it’s not for love of the job, it’s for what the job would enable them to do.  The money that allows them to put their kids through private schools or college or save for retirement.  Each of those goals would be some form of happiness.  “If my child goes to a great college, then that’s going to make me happy.”  OK, they might not think of it in such direct terms, but you get the idea.  It’s always a question of sacrifice for some longer term goal on the idea that the present anguish will yield results that will make those sacrifices worth it.

But does that really happen?  Is it really worth it if you are plugging away for years in something you don’t enjoy?  If you are doing all of this to provide for something for your family (big house, nice vacation, expensive college, etc.) but you are miserable to be around all the time, is that really helping your family out?

Or on the distraction notion.  This is one I know I fall into all the time.  You want to achieve X goal and think you are doing the right things to get there… except you are busy all the time and get pulled into focusing on a lot of separate things in life which may or may not be important.  Then you lift your head up 6 months later, see you are no closer to your happiness goal, make a few snazzy lists and then put your head down again and go through the same cycle.

All of this would seem to suggest that happiness as a goal is a goofy pursuit… that it’s either far too nebulous or achieving it is more a matter of luck.  Poppycock.  It’s neither of those things.

Happiness is a worthwhile goal, but you need to do more to be happy in the present moment (God forbid) while you are pursuing your goals for long-term happiness.  Believe me – I am not at all the kind of guy who does not see the value in near-term sacrifice for long-term gain.  That’s a big part of my life… but does that really and truly mean you have to be in a murky gray sky limbo until you reach that horizon place?  And even worse, think about how any horizon is… it’s never a reachable spot.  Run at it as hard as you want… it always stays the same distance away.

OK, not a perfect analogy if you have a goal as a fixed thing, but you see my point.  It’s really easy to keep putting off any kind of present joy for a never-ending series of horizon happiness points.  And I should know… I do it too.

Don’t fight the future… ’cause ya ain’t gonna win

Throughout the news these days, it’s become all too common for those who bring us the news to actually be the news.  Traditional print media is taking a complete beating these days because of a fundamental failure to evolve.  Newspapers were killed by free classified sites like Craiglist’s and never figuring out a good way to make money with their web sites, where they typically gave away the same content as their hard copies for free.

But this is interesting to me:

Sports Illustrated really looks like they could be onto something.  I mean, in terms of “WOW!” factor, this has it.  Everything you love in your favorite magazine, automatically updated to a slim device you can bring everywhere?  With video?  And sharp photos and color?  Bring it my way.  I am already ridiculously in love with my Amazon Kindle (which if you know me, you know I can hardly stop talking about it at times).

But here’s why I am talking about this in the blog.  Three reasons really.  First, I am a sucker for ideas that seek to push the envelope from what we commonly accept as “the way it is” and seek to do things bigger, better, cooler and so on.  Great ideas are endlessly fascinating to me.  Second, whether or not this device ends up panning out, it’s those who seek to bring forward these ideas that I give a ton of credit to.  It’s easy to see all the questions that go along with this tablet: What will be the price point for the device?  How about for the magazine subscription?  Will I be able to get other magazines besides Sports Illustrated on it?  What kind of competition will this bring out and will the competitors do it better, cheaper or both?  But to go ahead and push forward with a product that changes the way we understand a commonly-accepted item to take them in entirely un-thought-of directions (iPods with music, the Kindle with books, Google with search, me with dead-sexy bloggers… you get the idea) is the inspirational piece to me… even if done by a gigantic media conglomerate like Time Warner/Apple/Amazon/Google.

The third reason has to do with the subject of the post.  I think we all seek to fight the future in some ways because change can be pretty scary.  I had lunch with a good friend today and we both talked about how we struggle with that at times.  I find change both scary and thrilling… it just depends on the kind of change.  For instance, when I see chances within the workplace to tear down old ways of doing things?  I am all over it.  Love it.  Gets me fired up.  But if you suddenly asked me to do the same, but uproot my life and move far away?  That’s when you would probably hear the longest “Welllll….. seeeee…. the thing is….” ya ever heard in your life.  The change might be great for me, but my appetite for it may be in the small tossed salad with a nice house dressing zone as opposed to the 32 oz. cowboy cut ribeye zone.

The moral of the story for me?  Go for the steak, baby… go for the steak.

Don’t be that guy – 911 as a cab service

Something I used to do at a previous blog was a theme I called “Don’t be that guy” and since I enjoyed doing it so much, I’ve brought it here.  Why?  Because not being “that guy” will 100% fit in with the goals of this site… because this site is against douchebaggery in all of its various incarnations.

And what a fine first example!  Folks, if you were to hear of someone being super drunk and calling up 911 numerous times claiming to either being beaten or shot at… but actually just wanted a ride to another bar… do you think he would look like the eternally classy Cary Grant (pictured here)?  Or maybe… just on an off-chance… he might look a little like this?  Not that I would judge a book by its cover or a super-sketchy dude with greasy hair by his facial tattoos.  Not me.

And really?  You thought you could somehow fool the police into taking you to another bar by saying you were being shot at?  How exactly was that conversation going to play out?  “Officer… these dudes… I think they were ninjas or something… they were all shootin’ at me and I was all like… POW!  BAM!  And totally dodging bullets… and so now if you could just take me to Louie’s Pub, I would be totally stoked.  For reals.”

Life is a right pageant, people.  Never forget it.

Walking away from it all

Could you do it?  Up and walk away from everything in your life that your family and friends may associate with who you are?  Your job, money, status and prestige?  What would it take?

This is what Jonathan Fields, author of the book Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love went and did.  He up and left his huge salary, high prestige job with one of the best law firms in the country to become a personal trainer and entrepreneur.  Pretty scary eh?

Jonathan is someone I have only learned about recently and have not had the chance to read his book, but he has a great post about what caused him to make a leap most would describe as “freakin’ insane” as well as the challenges in doing so. But here is the quote that grabbed me:

I’d realized what makes me happy isn’t money, power and prestige, but rather the opportunity to:

  • Engage in activities that make me come alive,
  • Surround myself with people I can’t get enough of and
  • Earn enough to live well in the world.

Short, sweet and one pretty darn good list, wouldn’t you say?  What’s fascinating about it is I think most people would have a hard time arguing with it.  What’s not to like?  It’s practically motherhood and apple pie.

So then why do so few of us actually do this?

From my own perspective, I would say because I make it waaaay too easyfor myself  to get distracted by 1,001 other things.  Does that make it OK?  Aww hell no.  Every time I stop and reflect, I want to kick my own behind from losing sight of it… again.

One thing to keep in mind with the list above is that you don’t need to up and leave your job, move to some brand new place and make a hugely radical change at all.  While that does work for some people, that kind of sudden shift is not going to work for most.  What we can all do (me too!) is begin to figure out our end point of happiness and begin to redirect towards that goal. Maybe it’s some small changes where you work and how you interact with your boss and then making more time for those activities you love, but just seem to neglect.

But then again, you could just trade in your wingtips for flip-flops  I’m just sayin’.