The Slow Progression

2-21-12About one year ago, I wrote this summary of my recomposition. I began 2012 with a 1000-lb total (360 Squat, 420 Dead Lift, 220 Bench Press).

In 2012, I overcame an injury (dislocated and broken finger), grew to about 185-190 lbs (~15-16% BF), & now have a 1105-lb total (375 S, 500 D, 230 B). I continue to grow stronger, while slowly recomposing my body.

Although my lifts have not increased a huge amount, I consider that I had to recover in the middle of the year from a hand injury that prevented me from just about all barbell activity for at least a month. I also have been focusing on form. I can definitely say I have better depth and hip drive in my squat. I can now perform dead lift with dual-overhand hook grip to minimize the time spent with mixed grip. When I bench press, I can feel my lats engaging. All of this tells me that my numbers are going to increase. This patience will pay off.

While I certainly enjoy the personal challenge of weight lifting — daring myself to slowly add weight each round — those 3 hours per week are not what define me. That time spent with the iron gives me the physical and mental strength to enjoy the remaining 165 hours.

Furthermore, I have found several ways to enjoy the rewards of my new-found strength. I can out-sprint just about anyone on the soccer field. I am continuing to learn more technique in rock climbing. I even started learning martial arts.

I share this in hope that you’ll patiently pursue your goals and not get discouraged when you have intermittent set-backs.

Love

I wanted to post this on Valentine’s Day, but I was away on a ski trip. So it’s a day late. I think you’ll find this message applies to the other 364 days of the year just as well.

What is love?

It is not an action or an emotion.  It is not lust.  It is not a diamond ring.  It is not a Haddaway song.

How do you define love?  I have found no better way than the following:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians chapter 13

 

2012 Goals


Applied fitness

My first two goals are things I should have done years ago when I first started my current job.  I train astronauts how to do space walks.  Part of that training involves donning the space suit and training underwater in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab – an enormous indoor pool with a full-size mockup of the Space Station.  By training underwater, the astronauts can learn what it feels like to work “without gravity” while orbiting Earth.  As an instructor, I am allowed to go in the suit and train as astronauts do.  The requirements, besides being healthy enough for physical activity, are to pass a swim test and a SCUBA skills test.  Don’t ask me why you have to prove you are a good swimmer in order to be in a space suit.  Common sense tells us you can’t swim your way to the surface in the suit, but as arbitrary as they are, those are the rules.

I have never been a good swimmer and instead of making it a priority, I made excuses.  Granted, I’ve had some significant challenges in my life over the past few years, but I shouldn’t have let that stand in the way of doing a suited run in the NBL.  So this year I’m putting those excuses aside.  Here are the elements to those goals:

1.  Pass the NBL swim test

  • 800 ft (8 x 100-ft) in 10 minutes
  • 10 minutes treading water
  • 50-ft underwater in one breath (no wall start)

2.  Pass the NBL SCUBA skills test

  • Mask remove, replace, and clear
  • Regulator remove, recover, and clear
  • Alternate air source ascent
  • Controlled emergency swimming ascent
  • Diver rescue
  • Assisted equipment ditch and don
  • Catastrophic regulator failure simulation

 

I have recently taken up rock climbing and, thanks to some good friends, am sticking with it.  I’m quickly learning that it’s not as much about brute strength as it is technique.  Sure, strength helps, but so do mobility, flexibility, and body positioning.  I appreciate how the sport is equal for men and women, young and old.  I also like how it is an application of physics and strength.  At first, everyone just tries to pull themselves up.  Even after the first few times going to the gym, I quickly noticed how changing the positions and directions of forces applied from you to the wall can help.  I want to continue going to the gym, with enough frequency to build the finger strength over time.  I also want to learn better technique so I can apply it outdoors.  My third goal is to go on a rock climbing trip and apply what I learn in the gym.

3.  Climb outdoors on a real rock face

  • Climb a 5.10 (gym)
  • Climb a 5.11 (gym)
  • Climb a crack (gym)

 

Personal projects

As I am establishing a new home on some property, I have a couple goals that I think can be completed by the end of this year.  While I think #5 can be completed in a matter of weeks, it is lower in priority than #4.  I should also point out that #4 will be built in a barn, outside of the house.  After a year of focused weight training, I have exceeded the limits of the set I bought to start things off  (Bench press rack and bench, 300-lbs of barbell & plates).  I still go to the gym at work as my primary training grounds, but it’s nice having a backup at home for weekends and holidays.

4.  Build my house

5.  Upgrade home gym

  • Squat rack (with pull-up and dip bars)
  • Rubber horse mat
  • Bumper plates & more weights
  • Rock climbing pull-up board

 

Artistic release

This site was initiated as a home for my musical endeavors.  I quit spinning at the Davenport last year when they owed me for four nights and never responded to pay me.  I’d like to find another gig, preferably with more competent employers.  Until then I want to get back into DJing just because it’s something I enjoy.  Eventually, I want to spend some money on hardware and software for music production.  I just have to balance that with the cost of building my house.

6.  Record at least 10 music mixes in 2012

I have tried to list specific, measurable, and attainable goals.  This last goal is the most vague, yet it shouldn’t be hard to accomplish.

7.  Try something new

I am posting these online, publicly, for two reasons.  I want to openly document my goals.  I also want you to hold me accountable to them.  I’d prefer if you used a positive approach to encourage and guide me, but I suppose it’s fair to chastise me if you see me quitting.

Community

The NBC comedy Community is a spoof on community college.  It’s a great, even if fictitious, example of how we humans are a social creature.  We are so diverse, yet the majority of us find comfort and support from others.  It’s why we gather around the water cooler, post on Facebook, tweet, and hit happy hour.  Whether it’s comparing stories from work, trading diet tips, or bragging about your kid’s latest feat, we can’t help but share.  Some are more outgoing than others, sharing with everyone including the unwitting Walmart greeter.  Some are more introverted, only exposing themselves to those they trust most.

Why am I rambling on about something so obvious, especially in the age of “social media”?  The communities you participate in can serve as more than mere sounding boards.  They can be sources of encouragement and support.  They can be sources of examples when treading new ground.  They can even spur on competition, a great motivational tool to help you reach your goals.  Of course, that’s assuming you share your goals with others.

Why do we keep our goals to ourselves?  Fear of failure.  If we don’t announce our intentions, there’s no shame if we quit or fail.  It’s easy to pretend we were never trying.

What goals did you set last year?  Did you reach them?  Did you tell anyone about them, regardless of the outcome?

What if this year, you set a reasonable goal?  Something attainable.  Something measureable.  Something to which others can hold you accountable.  Something that can be a fun competition with others.  Something with which others can help guide you.

There are plenty of online resources for you to find a community with similar goals (or even just someone who will root you on).  I have found several by networking on Twitter.  If you’re into anything related to fitness and athletics, you might try Fitocracy.   This site takes the competitive and supportive online community a step further.  It’s a role playing game (RPG) where you are the character who levels up for every activity you log that progresses your fitness.

Maybe fitness isn’t your thing.  There are other sites that more generically support all resolutions, like 43things.  I haven’t used that site, but the point is that if you spend a little time searching your interest, you’re bound to find a community for support, guidance, competition, and most importantly, accountability.

So try something new and share your goals with a  friend (or a stranger).  I’ll practice what I preach in a follow-up post.

Patience

When is the last time you stopped to reflect on patience?  Think about how much is centered on instant gratification these days.  Entrepreneurs and capitalists are finding more and more ways to give us what we want sooner.  As a consequence, we are conditioning ourselves to expect results without putting in the work.  How about you?  Do you still wait your turn in line?  Do you plan for things that won’t happen for months?  Do you even have the patience to read this post?

An obvious example is fast food.  Another is the tailgating reckless driver, fired up on road rage.  There are special lines at amusement parks where, if you spend more money, you can pass everyone else.  What about auto-tune?  Is it too much to take some singing classes and develop a sense of pitch?  I won’t even go into the general approach to relationships these days.  I’ll just say it’s a rare thing to find a couple who truly values investing in a life-long relationship with the true meaning of love (ref: 1 Corinthians 13).

How many Americans have accrued credit card debt?  It’s so easy to use that card and say, “I’ll just make sure I pay it off later this month.”  Only, that one purchase turns into another, which turns into another.  Before you know it, you’re wondering how you spent that much on “little things” – things that could have waited.  Then you’re making minimum payments and deferring the resolution.  Did you really need those things right now or could you have waited a little longer?  What happened to saving up money in anticipation of making the big purchase?

An example you might not notice, but one that is of a personal matter to me, is the progression of the DJ.  The first DJs used turntables and a mixer.  They matched the tempo of two songs, queued up the next song to match the beats and pitch, all the while manipulating the vinyl with their hands.  There was no automation.  During blends and transitions, the two songs had to be manually maintained with matched beats.  While this isn’t the hardest thing in the world to learn, it takes time to learn.  Just like any art, it takes practice to perfect.

Now, in the clubs and even in the mall, most “DJs” use a computer program that will automatically sync up two MP3s at the press of a single button.  Not only will the program adjust the tempo and pitch of the next song, it will even perform the transition for the most lazy and incompetent of DJs.  Where is the fun in that?  What skill does that require?  While this “gets the job done”, it eliminates the artistic element – the very skill that originated the profession.

Look in your fridge, freezer, and pantry.  How many raw foods do you have compared to products that have been processed so they can be prepared more quickly?  Look for chicken strips, instant mashed potatoes, microwave dinners, and Pop Tarts.  There’s peanut butter and jelly combined into one jar.  I’ve even seen microwave toast in the freezer section.  Seriously.  I understand we don’t usually have the time to roast a chunk of meat for a few hours, but it doesn’t take very long to prepare most meals if you keep it simple.

Now take the foods we consider raw.  I’ve been reading the book Eating Animals, which is not necessarily a call to vegetarianism or veganism, but more a look at the sources of our animal protein.  I’ll reserve my opinion until I finish the book and look into some alternate viewpoints.  Until then, I’ll just say it’s an eye opener if you put any consideration into the food you eat and how it affects your health.  Our collective lack of patience has changed the manner in which the animals we eat were raised, fed, slaughtered, and processed.  This certainly has had an impact on the nutritional value of our food.

What about all the ads for “quick weight loss”?  Why do liposuction, gastric bypass, and metabolism-changing drugs exist?  Except in extreme cases, I can’t believe people would willingly undergo surgery to remove fat.  It’s the same as paying to get cut open for a nose job or implants.  Except in this case, they could lose the fat the old fashioned way but instead choose an easier, yet more dangerous, approach.

I have endured a few exercises in patience over the past few years – some based on goals; some in reaction to circumstances.  I will try to not act like an expert on the matter, but I’d like to pass along some things I’ve learned.

When you make resolutions for this year, set reasonable and measurable goals.  Do not rush and quickly lose motivation, but do not neglect your goals.  Look for support from others with similar goals.  Make it a friendly competition.

Weight loss takes time.  The scale alone will not always show progress.  Use a tape measure and calipers.  Use bodyfat % estimates.  I bought a scale that helps me track my estimated bodyfat %.  Take pictures periodically.

Likewise, strength training takes time.  If you rush, you’ll over-exert yourself and only set yourself back.  With a proper program, you will see gains every week for the first several months.  Again, you have to track your workouts and you have to keep consistency between workouts.  If you change routines or rest periods in between sets every week, you can’t directly compare your progress.  Don’t focus on the amount of weight you can lift in comparison to others.  Focus on the form and pushing yourself to lift as heavy as you can, safely.  Form will ensure safety.  Heavy weights will ensure growth.

I recently took an interest in rock climbing.  I already have an appreciation for this sport because technique allows equality between women and men, children and adults.  But technique takes time to learn.  It also takes months upon years to develop the strength in fingers, joints, tendons required for advanced climbing.  It’s not something you can just buy your way into.

You will also face setbacks and adversity this year.  The first chapter of the book of James has something to say about this:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

My message may be a bit scattered, but I think that shows how patience can be applied in many situations.  Patience requires understanding that each of our problems or goals require different means.  As we start another year making resolutions and goals, reacting to diversity and confrontation, remember patience.  It will prove to be one of your most powerful talents.  Those of you who made it this far in my post already have a head start.