Wednesday, November 25, 2015

You Don't Need Motivation

Getting up every morning at 6am to do deadlifts never becomes easy. Running 8 miles after a long day of work every day is not super great. Going to the gym on the weekend when all you want to do is rest after a long week is gross.

But I still do all those things. Every day, every week, every month. And I plan to continue doing them until I die.

Oh sure, you get an endorphin rush when you lift or run. You get to forget about the world for a while. You get to feel superhuman. Those are awesome feelings. But that only happens after the first few sets, or the first few miles. When you're standing there, in the cold, in the dark, eyes drooping, body aching, it's hard to think about how good it WILL feel. All you want to do is go back to bed, or lounge on the couch with a beer and TV.

"What the heck? Where are the endorphins?"

I know, I feel it every time before I exercise.

I can't hang around and wait for motivation to strike. Because it never does. Motivation is what you get after you've spent six months on the couch with beer and TV, and you see an ad on TV for the local gym. That lasts for maybe two weeks. Motivation is what you get when you see how easy it is to create a site on blogger. That doesn't last long either. Motivation happens on that perfect Spring day. That lasts until it gets too hot.

Motivation is good for doing occasional big things. I live in a pig sty, but I sometimes get motivated to clean my disgusting room. I slack off at work as much as the next guy, but I get motivated by big interesting projects. But if there's something you want to start doing and - more importantly - to keep doing, you can't depend on motivation. It bails on you when things get tough.

"Eventually I'll get the motivation to get up. Just not now."

This is when routine swoops in and saves your butt. Routine may not sound heroic, but trust me, it's awesome. Routine is the reason you haven't been fired from your job yet. Routine is the reason your kids are still alive (and you for that matter). Routine is the reason you don't randomly run out of gas on the highway. Routine is something you do without having to think about it.

Thinking sucks. Thinking gets you into trouble.

If at any point I actually stopped to think about why I do everything I do, I'd probably say to myself, "well I don't need ripped abs, and I was plenty happy before without them." If I stopped to think I would say, "man, sleeping in is really great, and missing one day of exercise won't make a difference in the long run." If I stopped to think, I would say, "I could relax, eat ice cream, binge watch my favorite shows with a glass of wine, and just enjoy the heck out of all the nice things in life."

Do you see where thinking can get me in trouble? Doubt, insecurity, second-guessing, fear, and all those other stupid feelings come from thinking. I think at work. I think when I write. I think when I take photos. But when it comes to exercise, I just GO. I just DO. The only thought is to decide exactly when I should put on the pot of coffee.

"I just go go go!"

At some point I decided that I wanted to be strong. I decided that I wanted to be fit. I decided that I wanted to be better than I was. I made those decisions for good reasons. I don't need to go back and reevaluate them. I don't need to doubt them. I just have to act on them, every day. Every. Single. Day. Without thinking about them. Without requiring motivation. But going purely on routine. I did deadlifts yesterday morning. I did deadlifts the morning before. And the morning before that.

Ironically (and I'm sure I'm using that word wrong), I didn't do deadlifts this morning like I usually would. But that's because I'm running a 5K tomorrow and I really want to get under 20 minutes. That was a logical decision. It wasn't because I'm lazy. Otherwise I haven't missed a single day of deadlifts in 42 days. And tomorrow, when I kill that race, I will see WHY I work so hard. It will be a huge reward for all of my persistence. And a reminder as to why I do it.

The hardest part is getting into a routine in the first place. It can take a couple weeks or even a month to form a new habit. That's why deciding to lift once a week isn't enough. Running only when it's nice out, or you have time to spare, doesn't cut it. Picking up a new hobby or project without a plan for when you'll practice it is a guarantee of failure. Folks who are successful at starting their own business are successful because their business is numero uno and nothing will get in the way of their success. Anything you want to start doing, if you feel it's valuable to you and worth your time and energy, you have to treat the same way. Otherwise don't even bother.

If you KIND of want to get into shape, you'll fail. If you think it would be "nice", you'll fail. If you don't have a solid plan for carrying it through, you'll fail. If it doesn't because a huge and super important part of your life, you'll fail. I don't care if you just want to pick up juggling. If you don't plan on juggling every single day, then don't even waste the time doing it on the first day. Seriously, don't.

"Wait, so now you're telling me not to bother?"

Think about the thing you want to do. Is it something that's important enough to you that you're willing to dedicate a portion of your life to it every single day? If the answer is no, then throw it away. Clearly you don't want it badly enough. It would just be a waste of your time and energy, and would leave you feeling bad about your failure. That accomplishes nothing. I want to feel good about myself. I want to be successful. I only pick things that are super important to me, and I treat them as such. I don't need motivation. I don't need to think. I just start doing it, and keep doing it, until I die.

Got it?

Friday, November 13, 2015

You Do Too Much

Sometimes when I tell a friend that I'm sore, or tired, or that 85% of my body hurts, they tell me, "maybe you exercise too much." Or they say, "you should exercise less." Or even possibly, "you're insane, I'm surprised you're still alive!"

I know I'm insane.

And I get that they're just trying to be helpful. To them, I am doing too much. In the context of their lives, running 40-50 miles a week, doing deadlifts 6 days a week, doing upper body workouts twice a week, walking 20 miles a week, teaching karate, and doing all the other shit I do is about 100 times too much shit. But I don't plan on slowing down.

If I complained about work, they wouldn't say, "maybe you should work less." I mean, I wish that was an option. To tell my boss I just don't "feel" like coming in, and eating ice cream all day instead. If a friend complained about their kids, I wouldn't tell them, "maybe you should drop a couple of them off at the pet rescue." I mean, I might say that, because I'm an asshole. But it would be, um, funny?

It's because - much like going to work or keeping the kids alive - exercising isn't a choice for me. It's something I have to do. It can't be a choice. Because if it was, I could "choose" not to do it. As soon as working out twice a day becomes something I can do or not do, it becomes a question of motivation. Do I want to get up before dawn to pick up 400 pounds? No, of course not. But I have to. And that's just how simple it is. It doesn't matter how lazy I am.

Laziness is seriously great though. Give it a shot.

So telling me I should do less isn't helpful. If I say I'm tired, I'm just making conversation. You can say, "that sucks." Or even just, "uhuh." That would be totally fine.

I usually try not to talk about running or lifting or kilt-wearing. But they're pretty big parts of my life, and occasionally they'll pop out of my mouth. I mean, not physically. It would be weird if I opened my mouth and a kilt fell out. "How do you breath?!" You'd say. Good question.

But with people I trust and talk to often, they know what I've got going on. Eventually we get tired of talking about trucks or puppies or the inevitable zombie apocalypse. They'll say, "speaking of the walking dead, what have you been up to lately?" Sometimes I'll say, "oh nothing, I'm a lazy douche." But sometimes I'll say, "I ran 8 miles in the dark while it was raining." And it's as if I'd just said, "I went into a room full of rabid chipmunks just for shits." It's just as crazy.

At least I was well prepared for those chipmunks.
Photo Cr. Marc Ryan

I try to motivate folks to improve themselves. And if I had lost just a couple of pounds, or only ran a couple times a week, they might think, hey, that's not too bad. Maybe I'll try that! But when they look at me and I portray this image that if you exercise, you have to give up your whole life for it, it's probably an anti-motivator. Which kind of sucks.

I try not to give unsolicited advice, because it usually pisses people off. So mostly I try to set an example. But I'm a pretty manic example. I can't wear a t-shirt that says, "do 10% of what I do, and that'll be plenty!" I mean, I could, but I think it would just make me look like a bigger asshole. Like wearing a shirt that says, "I'm so awesome; look at how awesome I am."

In any case, if you're reading this, anything you do beyond what you're currently doing is great. You don't have to go from running 5 miles to 50 miles. Going from 5 miles to 6 miles is fantastic. And honestly, that's how I got to where I am. I didn't suddenly wake up, see the face of the Great Old Ones, and have my mind snap. No. I was a fat lazy schlub who would pick up a canister of potato crisps and eat the whole thing on my drive home. And it was amazing.

It's taken me a long time to get to where I am, and a lot of incremental steps. I still look at potato chips and drool. I'm not superhuman. But if you haven't seen the entire course of my journey, you'd probably think that I was some kind of pain-loving lunatic.

Nope, I'm fine. I'm a pain-loving lunatic.
Photo Cr. Frank Romero

I am, but only because I trained myself to be. So if you want to get stronger, faster, or leaner, just start. Start anywhere. Just start. And build up from there. Make yourself awesome. And if I say, "yeah, my lower back feels like a truck ran over me," just reply, "uhuh."

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lose Weight and Keep it Off for Two Years

Today I got a badge from Lose It! for having logged my meals every day for 104 weeks, or 2 years exactly. I was about 218 pounds before I started. This morning I was 174 pounds. The lowest I've ever gotten is 168 pounds.

Lose It! is a cheat code for life.

As far as I'm concerned, it magically makes you lose weight. Oh sure, there's some effort in there somewhere. But really, it's never been a struggle for me. Whenever I need to shed a few pounds, I just set the app to lose weight, and magically I lose weight. Currently I'm maintaining my weight, and even trying to put a little on for my 80 Day Deadlift Challenge. But after that challenge, if I feel a bit heavy, I'll dump a couple pounds. I do love those ripped abs!

I'm a math nerd, so calorie counting appeals to me. It's like a game. I realize not everyone's brain works the same as my crazy mind. So it's probably not for all folks. But despite that, hopefully some of the things I learned will be of benefit to you.

Measuring spoons and cups are your friends. Early on you want to measure everything you can. Over time though, you will get an intuition for how many calories something has. Anything that has a barcode, scan it! Anything that comes in a package is easy to enter into the app.  Just try not to do it while driving. One because it's dangerous, I suppose. But also your phone just moves around too much and it's pretty much impossible. But the fact that I know that just goes to show how obsessive I am about entering my calories as soon as I eat.

Restaurant meals, and anything you cook for yourself, are probably the hardest to enter. This mostly takes practice. Sometimes it's easiest to just enter the individual ingredients, if you know them. Many chain restaurants will have their foods right in the App. Otherwise you will just have to give it the best shot you can. If you're off by a little bit, it's fine. It all averages out in the end.

However, the toughest part is being totally honest. It can be tempting to guess low, so that you can eat a bit more. But this totally defeats the point. Sometimes you WILL go over budget. But that's the beauty of the app, you can just eat less the next day. And sometimes you eat under your budget, and can pig out later in the week. Awesome!

Just line them up. I have the calories to spare.

But one of the greatest benefits of the app, I've found, is that it really motivates me to exercise. Running for the sake of running is hard. But when I get to enter that run and see how many more calories I have available, it's super great! You get rewarded every single time you work out. If I know I'm going to have a big dinner with friends, I just make sure to run first, and pow, I'm set for the night. Or I can run 10 miles and then have a big greasy lunch, with french fries, beer, and just all of the bad things.

And that's something else. You don't have to change what you eat if you don't want to. You can eat pizza and ice cream and french fries and still lose weight, as long as you're within your budget. Of course, eating healthy is smart. And you'll find that a big salad will fill you up with far fewer calories. But it's your choice if you want to eat healthy or be, just, the biggest pig. In general though, using the app every day makes you much more aware of what you're putting in your body. Even if I snack on a handful of grapes, or a piece of candy, I'll throw that in there. Nothing is free.

Diets are bullshit. The reason diets work is because they restrict what you eat. There's nothing magical about kale, or protein, or smoothies, or protein kale smoothies. Anybody who tells you, "eat this and weight will fall off you... literally fall off you in disgusting slimy globs," is lying. Especially if they say that second half. But in any case, there's no "super" foods. Our bodies have been evolving for millenia to make use of anything and everything you put in them. Some folks eat nothing except seal meat and ice. Some folks get by and just root vegetables and grasshoppers. Whatever. Our bodies are like, "gimme gimme gimme, I don't care."

Feed us anything! We don't care!

Of course, if you're on a diet and it's working for you, then great! But if your diet says, "no bread", and you freaking love bread, it's going to be hard to keep at it. A diet is pointless if you only do it for a couple months. Which is what usually happens. The vast majority of folks who go on diets give up and gain all their weight back. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to change your lifestyle. Permanently.

Lose It! is finally what did it for me. I discovered it at exactly the moment when I realized that I had suddenly become fat. Of course, it wasn't actually sudden, but it sure felt like it. Our brains are great at deceiving us. You have to be brutally honest with yourself, both about where you are and where you want to go. If I ever quit, I would die. I love the results though. They're powerfully motivating.

I eat what I want, and have the comfort of knowing exactly when to stop. I exercise a lot, and have the joy of getting to eat even more afterwards. And I don't have to be paranoid about the weight "creeping" back on like the sneaky bastard that it is. I weigh myself every single morning. I look at a cool line graph every single morning. I know exactly where I am. My brain can't lie to me anymore. It might say, "c'mon, it's just one cheesecake, just eat it you wimp." And I'll point at my app and say, "no." I don't do this out loud. Pointing at your phone and saying "no" is weird to the people around you. You get my point though.

I'm not making any money talking about this app on my blog. I mean, I wish I was. And if some other company came out with an app called Really Lose It! and gave me money to pretend to use it and pretend that I lost 100 pounds on it, I totally would. I would photoshop a before pic of me that's like 500 pounds. And then say I lost all that weight in a week. I would lie to you for profit. But that's never going to happen. So you can trust that everything I write is bullshit free! Broke people are honest people!