When the Cat’s Away, The Mice Will… Write a Lot of Blog Posts!

Image courtesy of foskarulla on Flickr

You may have noticed that I have been writing more these last few days. Partly, that’s because my wife and my sister packed up all of the kids, 4 total from 10 months old to 7 years old (God, give them strength.), and took off to the beach.

Only one ER visit so far during the trip!

So I am wifeless, kidless, and have extra free time on my hands. But mostly, I’ve been writing more because…

I’ve been feeling really inspired lately.

The weather is nice, the air is fresh, the world is getting colorful again. But for me, there are three primary reasons that I have been feeling so good. I thought I would share them with you.

1. I’m almost there

Image courtesy of Evil Erin on Flickr

It is hard to believe, but I am nearly at the end of my planned weight loss journey. All I have to do is “just tap it on in, tap, tap, tappy.” Last December, I set out a three phased plan to lose weight:

  • Starting out: I started at 236 lbs. (Boo this weight!)
  • Goal 1: Be down to 220 lbs by April for my fraternity’s annual graduate dinner. Check (though I gained 3 pounds from the dinner and Pabst Blue Ribbon that weekend)
  • Goal 2: Be down to 200 lbs by September for my 10 yr high school reunion. Check (and the old high school honeys couldn’t keep up with my tootsie roll)
  • Goal 3: Be down to 190 lbs by New Years Eve so my wife’s birthday present can be ABS (And back abs, ’cause there’s a Situation up in here)

Really, I didn’t know what I should set my end weight goal to be. I ended up and chose 190 because it was a good even number on the upper end of the “Normal weight” BMI chart. (Holy shit! I just realized I am in the normal weight range on the BMI chart!) I knew that would get me to a point where I would really be able to assess my body and reassess my goals.

Do I need to drop 10 more pounds?
Do I need to start training for a strongman competition?
Do I look like a tool being so skinny and need to start going to Mickie D’s again?

I wouldn’t know till I got there… Well guess what? I’m 3 lbs away from 190!

I’ll write up a bigger post when I finally get there, but for now, I’ll move onto Inspiration #2

2. There are soo many good books out there

Image courtesy of luis de bethencourt on Flickr

I have tried to stop watching so much TV lately. In case your wondering, September is NOT a good time to stop watching TV. But after a late summer TV binge where I watched a whole season of True Blood, Mad Men, Fringe, and 3 seasons of Stargate SG-1 (Only 234 Stargate seasons left to go!), I decided books should move to the top of my priority list.

I wanted to share some of the one’s that have stuck out. You may notice that they are all non-fiction and pseudo self helpy. That is why I’ve been so inspired.

  • Rework (by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson) – This book really changed my perspective on how I go about my work. It’s raw and minimalist and all-around amazing. The book link is to amazon, but even if you don’t buy or read this book, please check out Signal vs. Noise, the blog for the company that that the authors run… incredible stuff.
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (by Chip and Dan Heath) – Wow, I’m must be all about multi author books. I am only on the second chapter of this book, but the book’s introduction is so impacting that I had to go ahead and mention it.  They use an analogy for the psychology of change that has completely tangibilitated the whole subject for me (it’s so good, I made up a word for it). The introduction is available in the Amazon preview, so if you have a few minutes, go read it. You will not be disappointed.

But I haven’t just been inspired by the good ol’ bounded paper books. There have been some epic e-books out in the wild. One of my new favorite things is reading e-books while I workout on the elliptical machine. I’ll hop on there late at night, and get fully absorbed in these books. An hour later, I realize I’ve burned 700+ calories and by brain has just been filled with wonderful knowledge and motivation. Here are two that really hit me.

  • Fearless Health (by Matt Gartland) – I think I have mentioned Matt before, but this *FREE* e-book is spectacular. It came out in August, and sat on my virtual nightstand for a while, but I finally picked it up, and I am really glad I did. The book is directly targeted at your mind and it’s role in becoming vibrantly healthy… and it doesn’t miss. Check out this book and Matt’s blog Healthy Lifestyle Design!
  • Rebel Fitness Guide (by Steve Kamb) – You all probably know by now that I’m a huge fan of Steve and what he does over at Nerd Fitness. This book does not disappoint. It not only gave me motivation and inspiration, but it lays out a clear exercise and eating plan that will lead you to become, well, a bad ass. I will admit I don’t follow his plan religiously since my wife and I take classes at the gym together, but if I missed a class at the gym, I attack his plan with a vengeance. (Is it odd that I go to a gym called Empire Fitness, but I actively train to be a part of the rebel alliance?)

And lastly, I just bought a bundle of minimalist guides from some of the pros like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Everett Bogue of Far Beyond the Stars, and Adam Baker of Man vs. Debt. This package was put together by another awesome author, Karol Kajda of Ridiculously Extraordinary. I’ve been a outside observer to most of these minimalist blogs and authors, checking out their blogs now and again when they had a viral post, but this package was too good to pass up. The package contains 17 books for $27! Some of the books I was already thinking about buying anyways at their full price, but at $1.50 apiece, I couldn’t not click.

Check out the 17 Minimalist Guides sale here, it is only available for two more days (stupid limited time offers and my inability to not fall for them). I can’t wait to dig in.

3. I am actively trying to better myself

I mentioned in my last post that I am trying new methods to meet some of the lifestyle goals I have been having problems with. I am still only two days into it, but I can already tell the Geek Into Shape Goal Board is keeping me focused and honest.

I woke up this morning with a bad craving for a Pumpkin Spice Latte  (did I mention I love the Fall), but I was able to withstand the urge because all I could think about was that little yellow post-it note that says: “NO $4 COFFEE”. So instead of going to the coffee shop, I worked out for an hour. Two birds, my friends! Two birds!

Here is my progress so far:

First progress report

Back to the Grindstone

Well, now I’m off to do manly things like mow the yard and clean out the garage (my Wife gives me chores, you know).

I would really appreciate it if you would share some of your recent  inspirations with me in the comments section.
Do you have any good book recommendations?
Am I missing a new fall TV show that I shouldn’t be?

The Fitness Grind

Fitness Grind

This picture will make sense in a minute... maybe.

When it comes to modifying your life to cut the flab and shape up, there are normally two main paths you can take:

  1. The Balanced Approach – Incorporate fitness into you current lifestyle, maintaining a healthy balance.
  2. The Fitness Grind – Stop work on your current lifestyle, and dedicate all of your time to becoming healthy.

If you have ever read my site, you probably know that I am a huge fan of the first option. I believe that you have to maintain the activities that you love to keep your mental health, even if they might not be the best for your physical health. Slowly incorporating healthy changes into you life, in a way that changes your habits and patterns, will give you the best results.  The catch: This often takes a long time.

So, what about the fitness grind?

Recently, I have made some aggressive goals that have “forced” me to go down the second path.  I have cut out video games, stopped working on web development projects (except for this blog), and let my DVR fill up with episodes of Fringe. I have put a hold on almost all of the recreational geeky things I normally do.

Well, this has worked out really well for me.

I never thought that this was a good, “healthy” approach for achieving and maintaining overall health. But my mind has been changed due to a single mind hack, which I thought I would share.

Think of the Fitness Grind like an MMO Grind

All of you MMO junkies know all about the MMO grind.  You set your goal: “I want the Epic Helm of Whoop-Ass that you get when you become exalted with the M.F. Face-Crusher faction.“  Well to get that, you do your daily quests, you wear the faction tabard and plow through dungeons, you put aside other endeavors temporarily to focus on the task at hand.

Well, why can’t you apply this to fitness?

I had never thought about applying the mindset I had for years of playing World of Warcraft to my fitness endeavors.

For a short time, switch your primary focus to fitness, and let other things go undone for a while.

This means no World of Warcraft (which is ironic), a minimized workload, blogs going unread, etc. Once you put all of your focus on fitness, be persistent. During the grind for the Epic Helm of Whoop-Ass, would you make extra time to finish the daily quests and make a few dungeon runs? You betcha!  So do the same with fitness.

Never miss a daily fitness quest.

Be vigilant – after all, the more days you do your daily quests, the faster you will meet you goal, right? Do extra workouts to get you to your goals faster.

One of the biggest ways this mind hack helped me, was how I thought about the end-game. In my previous attempts to dive head-first into fitness – my eye was on the goal, and nothing else. This caused me to be short-sighted and I often burned out if I didn’t get the results I wanted. Well in our make believe MMO, our immediate goal may be to obtain the Epic Helm of Whoop-Ass, but the real goal — the long-term goal — is possessing the helm and having the ability to equip it in all future battles – well beyond the immediate goal of current grind.  In the fitness world, you may set a goal to lose 20 pounds, but the big picture goal is the benefits you get after losing 20 pounds.

Focus on the immediate goal for the current fitness grind – but always keep your eye on the big picture!

When you meet your immediate goal, the fitness grind is over. But the fun is just beginning – you now have new tools in your inventory that you have free reign to use. Don your Epic Helm of Whoop-Ass and wave good-bye to the M.F. Face-Crusher Clan and reap the rewards of your hard work.

Enjoy the benefits and rewards of the fitness grind!

It is amazing how small changes in mindset can affect your life. This may not work for you, but it has kept me motivated to lose weight for the longest period in my life. Not because I want to weigh 200 pounds, even though that is my current goal, but because of what I will be able to do as a 200 pound person:

  • Be able to keep up with the kids.
  • Look good in a T-shirt
  • Run a 5k

These are the rewards of meeting my goal, and they are well worth the fitness grind.

Are you in the middle of a fitness grind? What are the immediate and long term goals of your fitness grind?

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Coffee Grinder Photo courtesy of tonx

The Importance of Tracking

There are some things people consistently track in life, such as bank transactions, hours worked against tasks for work, or the number of jelly bellys my daughter has put up her nose.  Why do we do this?  Easy… So we can have knowledge and control over these things:

  • So I know how much money I have and where my money is going.
  • So I know how long a work task has taken in the past so I can estimate and schedule better in the future.
  • So I can know whether my daughter still has jelly bellies in her nose.

The ability to track these things give us the knowledge to set our limits for the coming days, weeks, months, or years.  It also gives us the insight into what has helped and hurt us in the past.  This knowledge is what is needed to stay in control of the critical things that define how we live and work.

Tracking your fitness and nutrition is no different.  In fact, it is probably more important that the examples above.  The ability for us to know our progress and see our current status gives us the power to control our body and meet our goals.  I want to show some examples from my personal experience to help bring my point home.

Tracking Body Weight

Rollercoaster! Of fat. Say What!?

Roller coaster! Of weight... Say What!? Roller coaster! Hoo Hoo Hoo!

Look at my body tracking chart.  You can clearly see the a trend:  The time periods I consistently tracked my weight (look for the clusters of dots), I lost weight.  The time periods that I took a break from tracking my weight, I gained weight.  I found out, that during the time periods in which I went more than a week without recording my weight, I gained an average of 1.5 pounds.  During the time periods that I consistently tracked my weight, I lost about 2.5 pounds.  Even during the times that I tracked when I wasn’t dieting or I wasn’t consistently exercising, I could easily see if I was gaining weight.  I knew I needed to to make adjustments in my diet that week or step up the workouts.  The simple knowledge of what was going on helped me make smarter decisions.

Tracking Nutrition

Photo courtesy of Clint M Chilcott

Photo courtesy of Clint M Chilcott

The same type of knowledge applies to tracking what you eat.  One of my friends was having a hard time losing weight.  They exercised consistently, around 5 times a week for 30+ minutes a session, but they were stuck at being a little heavier than they should be.  They had plateaued.  One day I suggested they start tracking what they ate during the day, and the results were surprising to them.  They were unknowingly taking in ~2500 calories each day,  which is not bad in itself given the amount of exercising they were doing, but most of their calories were from fat and carbs.  They thought they ate somewhat healthy… at least not unhealthy… But when they actually paid attention to what they were eating, they realized they needed to change.  They knew which of their favorite foods was hurting them, and which foods were helping them.  Once they modified their eating habits, they crushed through the plateau and was back on their way to their goal.

Motivation

I am, admittedly, not very consistent in my fitness endeavors.  I believe this to be true for most people as well.  We all have great intentions and hit the ground running, and somehow fizzle into old, bad habits.   I don’t have any good solutions for this problem, but the one thing I strongly recommend is to keep on tracking.  Who cares if you didn’t work out for a week and slipped on your diet.  Log your weight.  Log your calories.  Continue to track your weight and your food intake no matter what.  This way, when you start slipping, you recognize it much quicker.  You are much less likely to stray too far from the course.  You are constantly aware of your current status, your progress towards your goals, your weak spots in your fitness routine, and most importantly, your triumphs.  Knowing these things will continue to motivate you to be better, because, as Sir Francis Bacon once said, knowledge is power.  Mmmmm. Bacon.  No wait, bacon would put me over my calorie limit for the day… See.  Knowledge.

Where To Go From Here

So how do you start tracking your weight and nutrition.  Well it’s as easy as a pen and paper. … Ha!  Did I just say to use a pen and paper!  Don’t be crazy!  What is this, the 90s?  Ha!

There are many other ways to do this in the modern world.  I’ll list a few:

I personally suggest Gyminee.  I have used this one for a while now and absolutely love it.  But it doesn’t really matter which one you choose to use, as long as you consistently use it.  Most of these services offer a mobile option as well so you can log what your eating in real time (wives and girlfriends love it when you ignore them for your iPhone… trust me).  So what are you waiting for?  Get started!