Friday, January 29, 2016

Food, Booze, and Running


I'm never going to be one of those guys who survives on just broccoli, cod, water, and smugness. I like to eat french fries sometimes. And pizza. And cheesecake. And ice cream. And I love booze. Like, to an unhealthy degree. And occasionally I make myself vague promises of cutting all that crap out at some point in the vague future. But that's totally bullshit. When I die, they'd better bury me with a six pack of hoppy beer.

I count calories, because it's the only way I can be not fat. And I'm going to be 100% honest and say that the biggest reason that I run 50 miles a week is so that I can be a fat giant pig and a fat giant alcoholic. I honestly don't think that running races and trying to set personal records would be a sufficient motivator otherwise. Running is cool and all, but if I didn't get rewarded with 2000 calories of, just, pure trash afterwards, I wouldn't do it nearly as much.

If I don't run, I can eat, or I can drink. But not both.

If I don't want to be miserable later, I have to run now.

During lunch time today, I ran 8 miles. It was actually 8.4, but nobody cares. It was cold. It was snowing. The wind was brutal. And my whole body hurt. But I also want to eat dinner and go to a brewery tonight. So my options were:

1. Have a painful run now and then an amazing evening tonight.

2. Not run. Go home and eat frozen broccoli out of a bag. Have a staring contest with my cat. Loathe myself for being the laziest piece of shit in the galaxy.

For many folks, motivating themselves to run is hard. For me, motivating myself to not run is hard. I'll run even if I'm sick, tired, or injured. Because I want to eat, drink, and not hate myself later.

Yes, I'm kind of crazy. I had to train myself to be crazy. I want to be strong, and fit, and to have visible abs. But those things don't actually do anything useful. I mean, sure, it'll be nice to have my body still function when I'm 60. But the human brain doesn't give a shit about the future. It only cares about now. And now it wants fried foods and sugar.

Training my brain to do something that's hard and painful now so that it can reap the rewards in 20 or 30 years is ridiculous. But if it gets to reap those rewards in just a few short hours? Well it'll complain, but it tolerates it. It says, "fine, but you seriously better eat until ketchup and hot sauce is coming out your pores." No problem brain. No problem.

A random picture, because otherwise
this post wouldn't have any.

I'm not saying you should be a food-obsessed alcoholic. I'm saying you have to have a super solid reason for doing what you do. If you run, but you don't know why you run, it's going to be hard to keep doing it. If you can take a day off running, and it doesn't really seem like a big deal, it's going to be hard to not take all of the days off. If you don't feel like you have to do it, then you won't. I go to work because I don't want to starve. And I run for the same reason. Because I don't want to starve.

You might say, "you can literally just go and get a sandwich whenever." But I can't! If I don't have the calories available, I can't eat that sandwich! I'll end up getting a black coffee. And drink it and pretend it's food. Which I do a lot, FYI. I was hungry after my run, but dinner was still a few hours away. So I got a large coffee. I'm saving those calories for dinner, darnit!

If you can't relate to this, that's fine. You're probably one of those rare few individuals who can just eat a pie guilt free and go about their day full of joy and excitement. Most people feel a gnawing sense of guilt that they keep trying to mash down into a deep pit. Most people feel dissatisfied with themselves, but lie to their friends and say they're "happy with how they look."

So it's not really about being crazy. It's about being brutally honest with yourself. And that's painful. But it's a good pain. It's a pain that makes you stronger. Like running.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Winter Blues are Bullshit

They're not. I like to use attention grabbing titles which are total lies. Winter sucks, at least where I live. But even other runners online complain if it's "only" 50 in Florida. This past weekend I ran 14 miles on Saturday and 9 on Sunday, and both times it was under 20 (Fahrenheit. Under -7 Celsius for everyone else in the universe).

What I really mean is that being cold and sad are stupid excuses to be lazy.

Last winter I didn't run outside AT ALL for the entire months of January and February. I still did cardio almost every day. I either ran in place for an hour straight while watching TV (which actually is not too bad), or I rode a stationary bike, also while watching TV. It was pretty bourgeois.

This past summer I got into the routine of running 6 days a week, occasionally all 7. Routine rocks! After I ran the Wineglass marathon I just kept on running  6 days a week. Once I get into a routine, I hate breaking it. On Christmas eve, it was 60 degrees. I ran 18 miles with no shirt on. Then after the New Year, winter punched me directly in the balls.

But I refused to slack off this time around. My friends and fellow runners get annoyed when I whine about feeling fat. But I often do feel like a big fat asshole.
A big fat asshole.

Being obsessive and totally insane is kind of a prerequisite to exercising every single day. Because if you don't hate yourself at least a little bit, you'll just cruise through winter with cocoa and cupcakes. Which sounds amazing.

At first I told myself that if it was under 30 degrees, I would run on a treadmill. Then I dropped that to 25. Then 20. And now I just say, "F#*k it, I'll freeze. Whatever." It doesn't matter. Treadmills suck.

The fact is, there's always a reason not to exercise. It's dark, it's cold, you're tired, you haven't slept in days, you kicked 3 kegs at the bar last night while watching an oblong ball get thrown around for two hours on a massive screen. Every morning I get up at 6am to lift, and most of the time I'm totally fried. My muscles hurt, because I lift and run every day. I didn't get any sleep, because my cat was walking all over my face all night. And there's just all sorts of personal bullshit that inevitably says, "I don't care if you need to run ten miles, here's some more shit for you to deal with."

It's 2am, and I need to eat RIGHT NOW.

Winter is just another excuse. That's all they are. Excuses. Some folks will feel bad flaking out on a workout because they're "a little tired." But those same folks feel totally justified taking a day off because "holy cow my mustache has ice in it!" Ladies especially hate it when their mustaches freeze.

You can't think about it. I look at the weather, because I need to know how warmly to dress ("looks like 4 pairs of underwear today.") Otherwise I just stare stupidly at the part that says "feels like 0 degrees." Some part of my brain that used to register this as meaningful information now just crawls into a dark corner and curls up into a ball. Routine is a magical force that pulls up on my body like marionette strings. I'm not exaggerating. One moment I'm lying cozily under four blankets. The next moment I'm standing, digging through a pile of running shorts looking for the one that smells the least.

I barely slept last night. Every half hour I looked at my phone, and rolled back over again. I got up at 5:44am, a minute before my alarm would normally ring. My cat still had food in her bowl. I think she was torturing me just out of spite. I lifted weights.

Perfect time to exercise.
If you're stressed, you're going to feel stressed whether you exercise or not. If it's cold, it's going to be cold whether you exercise or not. If you're exhausted, that won't change either. You might as well exercise. But, most of the time, you will feel much better after you exercise. This is kind of impossible to appreciate until you've actually done it. I've been running and lifting and doing all sorts of stuff for a long time, and I still forget how good I feel after a workout until I've actually done it. My brain doesn't want to remind me of that. My brain would much rather I stay in bed when it's pitch black outside.

That's something I remind myself off every day. I'm awake anyway. Staying in bed longer is stupid. If I have exactly one hour in between work and something else I have to do, I could rest. But what the heck would be the point? If I use that one hour to exercise, it will pay dividends in the future. If I decide to rest, because my body is destroyed, it will do nothing for me. It will feel nice for an hour. And that's it. What my deadlift challenge taught me is that my body is capable of doing pretty much anything I ask of it. Rest and healing are irrelevant.

It's an entirely different mindset. It's impossible to explain to a sane person. And getting to the point where working out is second nature takes hard work. But once you get there, it's just autopilot. It's cold, it's dark, you're tired, your cat hates you, but you just do it anyway.

Excuses are bullshit. Winter is bullshit.

Winter is bullshit.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Wake Up; Get Up

Getting up in the morning sucks. Nobody likes doing it. Except my cat, who gets all her sleeping done while I'm at work, so that she can keep me up all night.

Thanks, cat.

For most of my life, when I woke up, I would lounge in bed, trying to eke out every extra minute of warm comfort and laziness that I could. I imagine most folks do this. But I wasn't actually accomplishing anything. Sure it felt nice, but that was it. And if you've been reading my blog, you know that I've since given up doing things just because they feel nice.

Now I beat the shit out of myself, because it makes me stronger.

Now, when I wake up, I get up immediately. If I wake up during the week and it's about 6am, I get up and lift. If my cat wakes me up and it's only 4, then I go back to sleep, but I actually sleep. If I know I won't be getting any more meaningful sleep though, I get up right away. On weekends I do the same thing. If I wake up and it's already 8am, I just get up. Even if I have the luxury of sleeping in, I don't.

Sleep is for healing.

Your body heals. Your brain emblazons new pathways. But once you're awake, it's game over. Lying in bed after that point is about not wanting to go live life. I'm into life. Life is cool. Life is about pain and sweat and sore muscles. But it's also about wine and chocolate and frolicking with fellow humans (and occasionally other mammals; sorry snakes).

Sorry snake. No love for you.

Once I started getting up immediately, it opened up a huge block of time for me. I can now exercise every day before work. I lift in the mornings, and I run after work. And I have more time on the weekends to do the things I actually want to do.  And because I exercise so regularly, I pass out easily at night and sleep soundly. Minus my cat occasionally biting my face.

Seriously cat, you will be fed. Stop panicking.

It's hard at first. But everything is hard at first. Running if you've never run before is hard. Starting a new lifting routine is hard. Learning to play the guitar is hard. Getting out of bed when it's cold and dark is hard. But if you make yourself run, or lift, or play guitar, or get up early every single day, you get used to it. It becomes routine and routine is awesome. But doing it every day is key.

If you only exercise three times a week, then you will need to trust fickle motivation. Motivation rarely behaves. If you practice a new hobby only when you have the "spare time", it'll never happen. If you wake up early only some days, it'll always suck a lot. Sure it's great to sign up for that morning yoga class on Thursdays, but if that's the only day when you get up early then 1. Getting up on Thursday will suck, and 2. You'll miss out on all the other mornings. If you're going to start doing yoga on Thursdays, then find something to do on every single one of your other mornings. Fill that schedule right up.

Or just get a cat and you'll never sleep again.

The last two days were very busy for me. I was up at 6am and didn't get back home until 9:30 on Tuesday and Wednesday. I stayed up till 11 on both days, having a few beers and taking some time for myself. But despite being tired from the long days and getting less sleep, I was still up at 6am the following day to lift. It's tempting to take off a morning to catch up on sleep. But if I do that even once, it becomes an option for the future.

It's a slippery slope, and as with all slippery slopes, it only takes one errant step to tumble face first down that slope.

Even the previous week, when I was horribly sick, I still got up early and did deadlifts. Then I went back to bed, because I really was dying. But that routine is crucial for me. As long as I'm physically able to do so, I will get up. Because some day I won't be able to. So I'm not going to squander the time I have while I'm strong and healthy. And by using that morning time to exercise, I will keep myself strong and healthy longer.

And then when I do get old and frail, I'll wrestle a bear.

Although if I have to go outside to find that bear....

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

80 Day Deadlift Challenge: Lessons Learned

This morning, I finished my 80 day Deadlift Challenge. You can review my challenge, and see my many weekly updates here:

As you can see, my max deadlift progressed rapidly, going up 10 pounds every week until I neared the end. However, I took a video (which you can see in the link above) when I hit 500 pounds, and realized that my form was truly atrocious. So for the last couple weeks, I kept the weights low and focused on improving my form. I'll write the rest of this post in a question and answer style, asked by an imaginary person who gives a shit. You're of course welcome to ask other questions in the comments.

Notebook full of my pain.

Was it hard?

Yes. It was hard. The first few weeks weren't too bad. But as the weights went up, it became increasingly challenging. My lower back in particular got hammered, and at the peak of the challenge I was taking pain meds two or three times a week. I did this not so much because of the pain. I don't mind pain; it makes me feel alive. I did it to reduce swelling and inflammation, so that I wouldn't get injured.

Getting up early in the morning was tough at first, but I got used to it. Although it was still hard on mornings after a late night or too much drinking. However, for the most part, I felt much better after the first couple of sets. Luckily, my housemates all get up at about 6am, so this made it easier for me to wake up. As well, my cat starts getting in my face the second I open my eyes.

Once I got into the routine, doing the deadlifts was like brushing my teeth, albeit with a bit more sweat. It was just another thing I did in the morning.

Did you get injured?

Thankfully, I never got seriously injured. As I mentioned, my lower back got sore. Very sore at times. But never to the point of injury. I'm sure this was partly luck.

My hands got very callused. There were days when the lifts were hard because my calluses hurt. I would adjust my grip, but this often resulted in a weaker lift.


Another weird pain point was my wrists, from the straps. The wrists don't callus, so I would have cracked scabs were the straps put the most pressure. I tried to move the straps around a little to relieve the pressure. For the most part the scabs didn't interfere with my lifts. I just wanted to make sure to avoid any lasting injury or infection.

The last three or four times I did max lifts in the challenge, I got cramps in my abs. They didn't hurt and I was able to rub them out pretty quickly, but they definitely felt.... interesting. However, it's possible this could have become a more serious issue, like a hernia. So again I was lucky.

At some point I hyperextended my elbow, probably in karate. It didn't effect my deadlifts at all, but I did feel it when I racked and unracked the plates. Weird.

Then of course there were the various pains that came from running and my other lifts, which I felt while deadlifting. But nothing too serious.

Would you do it again?

If for some reason I did another challenge where I was doing deadlifts almost every day, I would vastly change the format. The challenge as I had it carried too high a risk of injury, as well as leaving me in a constant state of soreness. Next time, I would change the weights, number of sets, number of reps, etc. and even vary it up with different exercises that hit the same muscle groups.

Would you recommend this challenge to others?

No. This exact challenge? No. But routine is critical. And I would definitely recommend folks exercise every single day, whether it's running, lifting, calisthenics, or something else or some mix. And I would recommend creating personal challenges, and writing about them (if only on social media). One big benefit of blogging about this challenge is that it forced me to keep at it. Start a routine where you exercise every single day, and then do anything and everything that keeps you honest.

How did the deadlifts impact your running?

I still ran the same amount, about 50 miles a week. I scheduled the challenge for the mornings, before work, so I could still run after work. The deadlifts didn't seem to impact my runs too much. Sometimes I ran fast, sometimes I ran slow. I ran a 5K on Thanksgiving, and set a massive PR for myself, which I mentioned in an update in the original post (check the link above to read more). So I'm tempted to say the deadlifts helped my running.

I put on a little weight, mostly muscle I hope. But judging by my before and after pics, my body fat hasn't changed too much. I think I may have put on a pound or two of fat, which I'll trim down before race season hits full swing. I'm interested to see if my pace improves once I'm off this challenge and my legs and core are fresher.

I also crosstrained, because running
and lifting every day isn't enough.

So what's next? I don't actually care but am asking because that's what all interviewers ask.

Thanks, imaginary jackass. I'm definitely going to maintain my morning routine. I've already picked out my next program, although it's not a "challenge" per se. I haven't decide yet whether or not I'll blog about it. I'll do it for a couple weeks first, and then decide if it's worth writing about.

Anything else you want to add? I'm getting bored so be quick.

I hate you, imaginary question person. Anyway, as I mentioned above, routine is key. Exercising isn't something you do because you want to. It's something you do because you have to. I never wanted to get up early and do the deadlifts, but I did anyway. I didn't think about it. I just did it.

Sunset. Because I'm cliche.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Injured, Sick, I Still Exercise

I usually don't put pronouns in the titles of my posts. I have a big ego and feel like I know what's best for everyone. However, in this post I'm going to give terrible advice. So I had to place emphasis on what I do. Because you probably shouldn't do it.

Unless you're crazy like me.

I know what the good advice is regarding injury and sickness. I read it every day on feel good sites. "Got a sniffle? Take a week off!" "Banged your toe? See a doctor!" I'm being a bit snide. You should take a break when you're hurt. It's just that I never do. I can't. I've convinced myself that taking a day off of exercising will do me more harm than the Bubonic Plague (which I think I may have right now). If I don't run, I die.

In the week from the 20th to the 26th, I ran 75 miles. Most runners will tell you that you should increase your distance week-over-week by 10% at most. I increased mine by about 50% over Christmas. So it came as no surprise that after I ran yet another 10 miles on Sunday, I got a nasty calf tear. It hurt to walk. I had to use the rails and hop on one foot going up and down the stairs. This was exactly the time when I should have taken a few days off running.

I did not.

Again, I'm going to emphasize that you shouldn't do what I do. But I'm not really interested in writing a bunch of fluffy bullshit to make friends and get mad clickz. You get the bad with the good.

I did deadlifts Monday morning. Then I ran 6 miles. I had to run on the ball of my left foot the whole time. Then on Tuesday I did deadlifts again and ran 7 miles. 90% of that run was on the ball of my foot as well. I took Wednesday off of running, because it's my usual rest day. But I still lifted and bicycled for an hour. Then Thursday through Sunday I ran a total of 43 miles. By the end of that my calf was totally healed.

This road leads to success! And calf injuries.

Would it have healed faster if I hadn't run? Maybe. Though it healed pretty impressively fast. I find my body recovers really quickly from pain, soreness, and injury these days. Because it has to.

After New Years, I got a brutal cold. Awful. I can't remember the last time I was this sick. It feels like I was hit by a train, and then while I lay there, a rat came, crawled up my nostril, and died. I didn't realize I was sick at first. My deadlifts over the weekend were very weak. My runs were exceptionally slow. I still did them.

On Monday, I couldn't get up. I just couldn't. Thankfully I had already taken the day off work to detox from the holidays. I lay in bed until about noon. I'm not even sure what time it was. I just know other humans were up, living their lives, rejoicing in their vigor and good health. Not me. I was idly swatting at the grim reaper. "Go away, I'm only almost dead."

Then I got up and did deadlifts. They were awful. Then I rode the stationary bike for an hour and ten minutes. I watched Catwoman while bicycling. It is not a good movie. But it felt good to sweat. I felt better for a couple hours after exercising. Then I collapsed and spent the rest of the evening in bed. Which screwed me up because I couldn't fall asleep that night. The feeling of my brain trying to dissolve inside my skull didn't help either.

At about 1am I emailed my boss and said I probably wouldn't be coming in to work Tuesday. And I totally did not. Again I was woken up sometime near noon by the cheerful sun beating on my face and my cat trying to chew my arm off because she was starving.

Note to self...

I got up and did deadlifts. They were awful. I rode the stationary bike and watched Orange is the New Black. I walked a couple miles to the grocery store. Then I spent the rest of the day drawing a spaceship and drinking Coors Light. The wisest decision? Perhaps not. But I'm at work today, writing this post on my lunch. So maybe Coors Light is the magical cure-all we've all been dreaming of.

"Drawing" is never a wise decision for me.
I'm like a retarded 3 year old with a broken crayon.

Should you exercise when you're broken, or on the verge of death? No. You shouldn't. You really shouldn't. But I've never cared about what I should or shouldn't do. When somebody in my karate class comes to class despite being injured, I tell them they shouldn't push themselves. That they can aggravate their injury. But secretly, I feel proud of them.

I know I know. It's a macho guy thing. It's dumb. Someday I'll really break myself.

But I haven't yet. I've been trying. Oh how I've been trying. But my body has just been taking it all and getting stronger and stronger. I'm almost at a point where I couldn't kill myself even if I tried. Almost.

If I was to try to give you any meaningful advice after all that, it would be this. Compromise. Find a balance between those folks who look for any excuse to take a break, and lunatics like me. Push yourself a little harder than you normally would. That's how you grow. That's how you test your limits. That's how you find out what you're capable of. That's how you accomplish things you never thought you could.

Accomplishing amazing things.... in a kilt!

Um, but yeah. If you feel like North Korea just tested their new hydrogen bomb on top of your head, then maybe take a day off.