Category Archives: Exercise

A Bit Of Vanity And An Admission

“If you’re going to worry, put a saddle on it and ride it out of the barn and into the sunlight. Most worry melts away with activity and exposure. If you’re not riding worry, it’s certainly riding you.” – X

I can’t thrive in the present moment and think about the past or worry about the future. Each of us has a finite amount of time, a limited amount of focus, and each of us probably suffers from the illusion that somehow we’re differently immune to negative thinking. I learned the hard way that intelligence in no way affects these things, other than perhaps to add window dressing to the rationalizations and justifications that people always use to excuse away what they’re thinking or what they’re doing.

Intelligence is both a kaleidoscope and magnifier to our excuses. Creativity grants us further ability to pull the wool over our own eyes. Worse, we push people around us into becoming co-conspirators to our unhelpful thinking.

Every couple of weeks, I find myself able to break my previous pushup record. I started doing them on June 1st, a few at a time, as many times a day I could manage. I’ve experimented with different triggers to do another set: bathroom trips, specific words, times. Friday, I incorporated something I learned in counseling. I started doing a set every time I found myself in a loop of fearful or negative thinking. Though it may reflect poorly on me, I beat my previous record so badly that I know there is no way I will ever do that many again in a single day. I did a lot again Saturday, a normal amount, whatever that is. But for Friday, I committed myself to no excuses. I knew already that I’m like most people and succumb to fearful and negative thinking, probably more than I usually realize. Doing pushups every time I realized I was in a thought loop was an excessive and forceful way to remind myself that I need to continue to do the work to stop fearful thinking sooner. Thinking of the worst possible outcome or scenario is a guaranteed way to rob yourself of happiness.

By taking control and action each time I realized I was doing it, I also learned that my pushup “limit” was as imaginary as a “safe life” is.

And so, despite writing the above yesterday morning, I eclipsed Friday’s record later yesterday. Someone commented to me, “You don’t seem to have done your usual number of pushups today.” I laughed. “I did two hundred just while walking this morning.” Those happened while I trudged through a massive rainstorm and flooded streets. I do hope people saw me and wondered, “What in tarnation is he doing pushups in the thunderstorm for?” Had anyone asked me, I would have jokingly replied, “To demonstrate that nothing will stop you if you’re either motivated. Or crazy.” I doubt saying, “I do pushups for exercise – and I do a set each time I find myself thinking negatively as a means to control my mind” would fall easily into people’s ears.

Likewise, when I finished the day Sunday, I laughed. Goals and records exist to be broken. (Just like the heads of obstinate people who won’t try a different way of thinking to see if it results in a better life for themselves.)

Every time I think I’ve reached my limit, I should assume it’s vanity and simply beat it.

Even though work today was strenuous, I got intrigued by the question, “Can I do this again today and break yesterday’s record?” The answer is yes. And I did.

Friday, I did an unbeatable number of pushups. I did it again Sunday. I woke up with no idea that I’d do it again today. But I did—a Monday.

Friday will stick with me because I channeled unhealthy thinking into a positive outcome. I haven’t mentioned a specific number. It isn’t 1,000. But I realized today that it could be if I wanted to. Now it’s stuck in my head that my pushup curve is congruent with the exact angle of my weight loss.

If you see me doing pushups, you didn’t catch me doing them any more than me putting on my shirt inside out by accident or wearing mismatched shoes. If people can stand outside and do crazy things such as smoke, dip, and ride recumbent bicycles, watching someone exercise shouldn’t be a shock to the delicate eyes of people observing me.

P.S. Not related to the above… today’s prank was that I used a roll of yellow CAUTION tape to make a massive X across someone’s doorway and prevent entry into same without ripping the tape down. No one has mentioned it on social media or to me. I can’t imagine they went inside through the back door. I think not knowing how the prank was received is most of the fun. You can blame the Fayetteville Walmart for reminding me that I needed to do this prank.

The Allegedly Iffy

The Allegedly Iffy

I’m out walking through the allegedly iffy stretch of town. The moon is beautiful and a little iridescent against the horizon, before the sunrise. I can feel the heat of the day waiting to blanket everything. But it cannot bake away the beauty of the morning before the sunrise. Last Saturday morning,  I ignored the lightning and the rain and walked anyway. It turned out to be an extraordinary walk.

My path was different this morning. New things to see, places to find, and streets to mentally catalog. Walking these places touches them into my memory in a way that driving never will. Though there is nothing magical on these streets, I know that I will probably remember this morning. I have been continually surprised by the equidistant nexus of places I can reach in thirty minutes. Because of the campus and the number of people living over here, the ebb and flow of activity never ceases even if it’s difficult to sometimes spot.

My first conversation and interaction happened as I made my first left turn. A very physically fit man was walking a mastiff on the opposite side of the street. He would have to be fit to corral that large dog. Even the leash or rope he was holding looked to be over an inch thick. In his hand he had a travel mug of coffee. He lifted it and said, “This is the most beautiful part of the day.” I agreed and laughed. He told me to have a great Saturday. As I told him the same, it occurred to me that expectations often wildly contradict reality. Sometimes, they render everything with a sheen of mystery; others, with an ache.

Almost everyone waved or saluted me as we passed. Even the Latinos up on the crane against the large expensive building they were working on. So much of the architecture over here is distinctively beautiful viewed without people or complete light to interfere with it. I think all the people trying to enjoy life late at night with crowded spectacle are missing out.

But what do I know? I’m just a dude, walking. I couldn’t have reached the glass and steel of this architecture without traversing the allegedly iffy.

I think that is my metaphor for today. One day, looking back, I hope to discover that the same metaphor will encompass my recent past. If your yesterday wasn’t what you wanted or needed, shake it off and call it your allegedly iffy. It’s damn hard to appreciate the good times without a kick in the teeth every once in awhile. I’d prefer to evade the kick, but if we could vote, trauma would never touch us.

The sun is crowding the top of the horizon now. Although I’m in the deep shadow of this stretch of the trail, slivers of the sun pierce the canopy, like verdant curtains swept open inside one’s living room.

Listen Closely

I’ll start this post by commenting on the picture. This woman is beautiful, no matter what age she might be. She reminds me of one of my aunts, had she had the chance to live an entire life. “Everything’s eventual,” old age included. If we are lucky. A bit of advice? If someone timelessly admires you, take a minute to nod in their direction.

One of the sublime emotions that is hard to pin down is the let-down one feels when others fail to take advantage of the knowledge of someone right there who has been there and done that. At 54, after many failures, I bite my tongue quite often. If someone asks me, I tell them my story and do whatever I can to motivate them. I’ve learned that preaching entrenches people.

My healthier eating journey seemed like a miracle to some; to me, it was inevitable. I’m not saying I have all the answers and certainly not that I’m doing things correctly. But if that’s the case, very few are. No matter what else I’ve mismanaged, I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, as well incorporated a staggering amount of better choices into my diet. I did all this without feeling hungry. That’s a success.

And because I did it, I know other people can do it too.

And a certain percentage can do it as easily as I did, without upending their life or putting themselves on a literal treadmill to do it.

I see people struggling and unhappy with their weight and some of the consequences it brings.

It’s needless for most of them. Not all, because some people have circumstances or medical issues that prevent them from accepting their body how it is and learning to be happy about it – OR, taking steps now, from where they are. If a non-diet or intuitive eating approach is what they would rather do, then get with it!

People aren’t going to change their habits unless they want to or are forced to by external forces. Wouldn’t it be simpler to listen to a dork like me now instead of waiting for a harsher force to intercede?

We don’t need complicated formulas, expensive supplements, a gym membership, or much of anything, not really, to lose a lot of weight. BUT if you do need those things to get you there, I’m not pointing a finger. If it gets you to your goal, for heaven’s sake, do whatever you need to, even country music. If you do it to prove me wrong, I’ll be happy for you. Success is a beautiful thing. People who’ve achieved a goal radiate in a way that others don’t. We all gravitate toward them.

If you don’t want to, that’s great. Stop paying homage to the diet rat race and stop focusing on external programs you honestly aren’t interested in. I’m here to tell you that you can do it in incremental steps OR with sweeping, immersive life changes. Something will work for you. Please keep trying! My penultimate post was titled, “You Fail Until you Don’t.” Whether it’s weight, work, or any other change you would like, staying where you are is the bigger problem.

But if you are interested, take a moment and pretend that I might know what I’m talking about. I can undoubtedly uncomplicate it in your head, which is ALL the battle, anyway. Once you commit yourself, the road becomes more apparent.

Here’s the first step: tell yourself that you’re going to make changes. Stop focusing on the things you perceive as failures. If you’re smart enough to love yourself for who you are, one of these days, tomorrow or 2026, you will succeed. If you have a fan in your corner, give that flame of admiration some encouragement.

Love, X

You Fail Until You Don’t

On June 1st, I started doing pushups due to my cousin. She’s been going to the gym and building muscles. While I wasn’t willing to start going to the gym for several reasons, I decided that pushups would be the ideal experimental exercise for me to incorporate into my daily routine. They are free, don’t require equipment, and can be done anywhere. I’ve proven that the “anywhere” part can be interesting too. It’s led to many anecdotes, most positive, a few awkward, and all of them interesting. Being able to do pushups in all manner of places is also excellent training to reinforce the idea that I shouldn’t be worried about what people think. People do all sorts of weird things that we accept as normal – even though many of these things are harmful or idiotic when taken logically.

Initially, I promised myself I’d do them for six weeks, allegedly the habit-forming mark. After reaching that point, I decided to do six more weeks. So far, I’ve made it seven weeks. Likewise, in early October, when I had my epiphany, I promised to stay on guard for an entire year. It’s incredible that I’m in my tenth month and have maintained all my goals. Whether true or not, I feel like if I can stay the course for a year, my chances at keeping my oath never to get fat again might become my permanent reality.

Friday, despite being tired from work, I decided to go all-in and do more in a day than I’d ever done previously. Oof! And I succeeded. So I then broke Friday’s record on Saturday. I’m not going to say how many, other than it was a lot for a fifty-four-year-old man. Truthfully, it is a lot for anyone who isn’t in boot camp. Ha! Today, I’ve done 1/3 of my record yesterday. I’m not committing to beating yesterday’s mark.

Even though it’s vanity for me to have been pleased by someone’s comment the other day, a coworker who was enthusiastic about my weight drop since October stopped me; he hadn’t seen me in a few weeks. He asked if I had started boxing. I looked at him quizzically, expecting a joke or jab. He told me that he could tell I was doing something physical, as my shoulders and arms had changed shape. Since he is a decent boxer, I took it as high praise. While I didn’t tell him what I had been doing, he told me to keep it up, and whatever it was, it was working. A couple of days later and another coworker, someone who works out often, told me that I had somehow avoided the curse of looking ill when I lost so much weight. Someone we both knew had lost a lot, but she looked gaunt and frail. In the last few months, I did have a couple of people tell me that they thought I looked ill. I remind myself that two out of five hundred is a great track record.

A few weeks ago, when I saw my favorite cousin for the first time in a while, it was notable how much her arms and shoulders had progressed. The gym is working for her. Seeing people succeed is such a blessing and seeing her do something for herself is a blessing twice over.

Whatever your goals are, I hope you are figuring out a way to fail until you succeed. That’s all any of this is. You fail. Until you don’t. At that point, it seems inevitable. Eating better can be incremental. Exercise can be cumulative. Take small steps, literally, until you see progress. Any progress you make, celebrate and appreciate it. When you find that people aren’t celebrating with you, you’ve at least identified people that probably shouldn’t be squandering your time or attention.

Love, X

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PS The picture is from a couple of Sundays ago, on a hot afternoon. People do tease me about my preference for old school headphones. And that’s okay. I walked that afternoon to time how quickly I could walk to work from my starting point. That kind of consideration is going to be more common as I transition to another kind of life.

Stolen Thunder

I stood under the canopy watching the lightning streaks. I held a cup of delicious dark bitter coffee in my hand, my first cup of the day. I was already drenched, so it didn’t matter whether I was protected from the rain or not. There aren’t a lot of instances when you have the premonition that you might easily recall the moment later. The place was mundane – but they all are, really. I took a little bit of delight and traced it in my memory. A few seconds after the next big streak of lightning, a huge boom echoed and somewhere in the distance someone gave a little shout and said, “Let’s go in!” Apparently, not everyone takes delight in drinking their coffee during a torrential downpour. There is no accounting for taste, is there?

Nearby, the traffic light seemed more vibrant in the dense rain and early morning light. The rain and thunder had attempted to veto my walk. I ignored the imposition and set out anyway. Who knows how many more times I’ll have the opportunity to watch the world duck and run simply because it’s raining. For that matter, or watching people pay $8 for a dessert disguised as coffee.

Despite the intense dark of the sky, I stole a long walk from this morning. During the first part of my walk, I stayed urban; for the second part I abandoned all concern about the weather and rain. Being somewhere new affords a different pleasure and I don’t need to be somewhere exotic to feel alive. (A truth I should learned more distinctly when I was younger.) I could share several pictures, ones I grabbed each time I took my phone out of the ziplock bag I had tucked into my pocket. But these would not be shared memories, and often that makes all the difference. It is why we feel a little empty looking at other people’s vacation photos, especially when the people we love are not in them.It is our presence and our memories that add value to a place or a vista.

So I’ll use my words to futilely attempt a description: I walk alone on this wide expanse of trail.To one side, the angry creek roars. The sky intermittently opens up and drenches me but fails to touch my enthusiasm. The birds carry on their business, and I watch a hawk on the edge of the farm and rows of test corn, probably searching for mice. It feels like I could walk forever, and possibly without encountering other people. The thunder is my applause. Somewhere out here with me there must be a touch of the ordinary. But I don’t see it.

Red is for stop
green is for go
Add this small thing
To the list of things
I do not need to know
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PS Lest you think everything is rainbows and butterflies… toward the presumptive end of my walk, I watched a bitter domestic fight in one of the single story apartments dotting my return. The woman stood outside screaming obscenities and threats as someone inside through her belongings out onto the wet sidewalk. Though she doesn’t know it, her life is both ending and beginning. Worse still, because of my life experience I can mentally chart out the rest of her life. As several of the neighbors stood outside in the light rain to watch the drama, I couldn’t help but think about how needless it all was. Needless and probably inescapable.

How strange to consider how enjoyable of a morning I had just walking, one of the simplest things in the world – while the woman in question probably was having the worst morning she’s had in years.

I’m going to go back to my regular morning, and if I’m lucky, like all of us, I might experience another touch of the divine. And another cup of coffee, one without the kiss of rain.

Love, X
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Consistency

“You show up for work every single day regardless of whether you’re motivated or not. You do that because you’re a responsible adult, but when it comes to your training or nutrition, you allow your consistency to rely on your motivation. You have to get to the point where you realize your health and confidence are just as much your responsibility as something like your finances would be as well. When you finally make that mental switch, your actions will no longer be dictated by your emotions, and you’ll start making real progress.” – Chaz Spackman
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I’m 38 days into my pushup challenge. (And NINE months into my year-long eating commitment!) When I started, my right shoulder was hurting like a rejected suitor on prom night. Because I’m not too fond of the idea of ritual workouts (and gyms), I opted for pushups, even though my job robs me of most of my physicality. I do them in increments, no matter where I am and no matter who might be watching. (It’s more natural than standing there with a cellphone.) Some days, I stop counting. My friend Joe says none of them count until it hurts, anyway. I promised myself I’d do at least six weeks of this craziness. My shoulder feels much better, and I know something positive is coming from doing this, even if it’s to lose more self-consciousness. Whenever you make significant changes, you’re always going to draw scrutiny.

It’s transformational to make a goal, any goal, and just do it. I wish I’d had my epiphany twenty years ago; that time is gone. No matter who you are, surely there is some change you’d like to see in your life.

I’ve been accused by a couple of people of being suddenly vain. That’s not it at all. I’m a 54-year-old man who has acquired a renewed sense of confidence thanks to luck and a commitment to consistency. I want everyone to experience what it feels like not to recognize themselves and realize that so much of what stops us is between our ears.

Pick a goal. Walk. Run. Bike. Learn Spanish. Be kinder. Eat better. Write your story. Read more. Stop voting like an idiot (no matter which camp you vote for).

Acquire consistency in whatever it is you aspire to.

Almost all consistency is a decision.

PS No matter how successful you are or you become, remember that life is going to hit you with a hammer anyway. You can’t avoid the hammer but you can avoid wasting all the opportunities you have in front of you.

Pushups And Not Dropping Dead

Thanks to the Blue Dress Project, I’ve been doing pushups since the beginning of the month. Not continuously, though. The world record for most pushups in a day is 46,001, while the record for non-stop is over 10,000. Keeping that in mind, don’t admonish me too angrily for doing this at my age. The record holder for most in a year was 45 when he completed over 1.5 million in one year. I’ll let you know if I decide to break his record. You can start holding your breath now.

I do them in increments or sets, whether I’m on the way to the bathroom, waiting by an elevator, walking, or going to the kitchen to get a bag of PopChips. I’ve had a few surprises while doing them in unusual places. While I might not drop and do twenty next to the open casket, for example, I don’t see what’s so weird about doing pushups while listening to someone complain about how much they are being overworked. What amuses me most is the idea of having someone in great shape do them continuously near the vending machine area to determine if their subtle presence decreases junk food sales.

I have to be cautious with my shoulder, of course. Technically speaking, the medical term for what I have is “Old & Busted.” I’ve noted that a couple of surgeons seem to be following me around at work while holding scalpels. It could be my imagination. I’ve been told mine is overactive.

There are days when I reach a surprisingly high number of repetitions.

I’m not promising I’ll do them long-term, but I will do them for six weeks, until they become a new habit that I can keep if I wish to. I made a deal with myself that pushups are an exercise I like, cost nothing, and require only time, of which I have an abundance. It’s stupid NOT to experiment. That’s pretty much my take on a lot of things anymore. Including mushrooms. The la-la land variety, not the kind one finds on pizzas. I’ll report back when I’ve tried mushrooms, assuming I’ll still be able to write English or speak in complete sentences at that point.

I don’t have a goal. Other than continuing to not drop dead, of course. It is a great goal, despite all the mortuary owners secretly hoping that a lot of people might have particularly bad days. It’s nothing personal. The odds are in their favor, though. Keep that in mind as you continue to not make changes you’d like to see in your health and life. No matter what you choose, keep it in mind – and not in a superficial way. Every important thing you put off, challenges included, could forever elude you based on today’s choices. It’s nuts, isn’t it? We trick ourselves into thinking we’re making small decisions or foregoing things of no consequence only to discover that we’ve sacrificed an opportunity that is gone forever.

Many days I just stop counting as I do the pushups. If I need to practice counting, I can count the years of my life remaining. For small numbers, I can count the remaining hair on my head.

A friend at work quotes one of his many ridiculous sports heroes by saying, “It doesn’t matter how many you do. You don’t start counting until it hurts.”

My response to him is this: “You’re only as old as the woman you feel.”

I can feel a difference already. Not in my friend. He’s a musclehead.

If I had a sedentary job, I’d do 500 every day. Pushups, I mean. I’m not Wilt Chamberlain if that joke doesn’t fly over.

It’s true that a couple of people have mocked me for doing pushups. That kind of asshole is going to always find something to complain about. It doesn’t matter how I manage my life or what I do – there will be people who roll their eyes or want me to fail. Luckily, most people are great, and even if they don’t understand what the hell my point is, they play along, if only so that we can reciprocally overlook each other’s craziness.

This brings me back to the idea of incrementalism. You might not be able to do a pushup. But if you start slow and with a hint of enthusiasm, you can reach just about any goal you want to. You can learn a language by learning one word a day, walk a mile by focusing on reaching a little farther as your energy permits, or read a book a month by translating your interest into doing so into a plan that’s broken into bite-size increments. (No pun on the bite-size, by the way.)

Likewise, and just as important, if you’re happy with yourself, your life, or things about yourself, don’t get tricked into adapting because you think you should. You should be happy, and anyone who finds satisfaction in themselves has magical power.

PS: I’m rooting for Blue Dress Project to make the weight. I’ve found a renewed enthusiasm for people doing things that they’ve put off, or for finding success, no matter how large or small. If I can do it, anyone can.

Love, X

Choose Your Hard

One piece of obvious advice I would give to anyone wanting to diet, eat healthier, or change a habit: you have to lean into being uncomfortable or behaving differently than you previously did. You might have to request special menu items or (horror!) bringing your food with you at times.

If you aren’t ready to look odd, feel odd, or do things that draw attention to yourself, you’re not quite prepared. That’s okay. For a lot of people, attention is the last thing they want. It’s hard to get anything worthwhile done without drawing scrutiny. Even if you have the best intentions, people will ascribe motives to your actions. You have to practice tuning that out.

While you’re at it, just as you don’t listen to financial advice coming from people who’ve failed to follow it, don’t give naysayers who don’t live and eat healthy your time or attention. If they have a system that requires a membership, a pill, or investment, look elsewhere. The tools we need to eat healthier and be healthier are mostly available, no matter where we are. (Again, it’s important to note that this isn’t universally true.)

Another piece of advice, one most overlooked, is that being healthier isn’t complicated for most people. As always, I will throw out the disclaimer that many people DO have medical or other issues that might impede them; I’m writing for the middle crowd, not the fringes. Most of us in this vast middle owe our bad habits to our choices. Most of the time, it is no secret to us what those bad choices are. We KNOW. But we don’t act.

Everything hinges on choice. Will you choose to reduce how much you consume? Will those options be better choices?

Weight management expressed for an average person: do you consume less fuel than you use over the long-term? You can get weighed down in all manner of complicated diets that require tracking a ridiculous assortment of things. The truth, though: if you significantly reduce the amount you eat and continue to do so long-term, your weight will decrease proportionally.

It’s essential that whatever choices you make, you make the choices for the rest of your life. Not for six months or a year. Forever. That’s the part we tend to stumble with. It is not the dirty secret of eating healthier. Instead, it is the essential truth that explains why almost all dieting fails. Changes must be for the rest of your life. Anything that fails to address healthy eating at its core will not succeed long-term.

Every incremental change you make will cause consequences. There are no exceptions. Maintaining the changes will transform you over a long enough time frame. If you stack enough changes into your life, your goal will be easier to reach.

If you’re looking for massive and quick changes, you’re probably still not ready. But if you’re prepared to change small things to pursue a larger goal, you’re on the right track. Most of us spent decades doing it wrong. To expect a transformative change as the result of a pill, powder, or fad is going to get you into trouble. It might work for you for a while; you’ll have to continue doing whatever you chose forever, though. Otherwise, you’ll yo-yo and fight an endless battle that fails to address lifetime behaviors.

It might be hard for you to do it. A friend of mine beat the phrase “Choose your hard” into my head. Yes, it is hard changing your habits. But so, too, are the consequences of failing to do so. It’s easy to keep doing things wrong. Food is delicious.

I found an old quote of mine: “Old habits don’t die. You must murder them.”

If you have a goal that’s important to you, a little bit of insistence goes a long way. Being fanatical has its benefits. If your tendency to overeat were a heroin addiction, you wouldn’t easily allow someone to convince you to try just a little bit of heroin. So much of our behavior is based on equilibrium. The slightest thing can turn us upside down. Until it is the new normal, it is going to be weird and awkward for you.

If you’re looking to lose weight, you will get the biggest bang for your effort by focusing on your diet. Exercise is essential for many reasons; for weight maintenance, you will be better off learning to eat correctly. If not, you will succumb to the inherent drawbacks of intense exercise. Everyone tends to misquote this. I in no way deny the benefits of exercise. My entire point hinges on weight maintenance and learning new eating habits.

Additionally, unless you will continue your new exercise regimen for the rest of your life, I would advise learning the fundamentals of eating correctly. As for exercise, I recommend avoiding the gym. The best kinds of activity don’t require a location and certainly not an artificial one for the average person. For some, the gym may give you the focus to change long-term. For most of us, though? Probably not. It’s artificial. Most of us can skip the gym and use the travel time to and from to engage in practical activity and exercise.

I know I am oversimplifying, especially since I’m writing for the average person.

I could sell you a book or dress up my arguments.

Learn to eat healthily and track what you eat. You will be shocked.

No matter what you want to do, find a way to do it today, from where you are.

Love, x