Category Archives: Exercise

Five Minutes/55 Years

Recently, I made a megamix of Rocky theme songs. Though I am not great at it, I made one remix that is impossible to remain immobile while it’s playing. The “Five Minute” rule works great when I’m not feeling it. Because it’s certainly true that motivation follows action rather than the converse. People wait for the urge, motivation, or willpower. It’s the opposite. As soon as the thought hits your noggin, you get up and do whatever it is you were about to put off. Or worse, say aloud, “I need to do so-and-so.” One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was: “DON’T tell me what you’re going to do. Live it. Show me.”

Most of the time, if you practice doing, telling yourself you’ll spend just five minutes on a task cures your procrastination enough to keep going once you start. That’s true with so many things in life.

The Five Minute rule aligns seamlessly with my Law of Increments. If you do a little consistently throughout the day and days, before long, you will amass much effort – and probably consequences.

I know Rocky is old school. One of the reasons it did so well is because Sylvester Stallone (whose real name is Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone) was a nobody with a story about overcoming odds. He was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay.

Late in my 9th-grade year, I got pissed off at myself one early spring afternoon and decided to go running. I figured if the violence in the house hadn’t killed me, I could risk a heart attack. We lived on the downside of a hill in Tontitown near 4K farms. To say that I regretted starting that day is an understatement. I ran a mile. My shorts were ragged, and my shoes weren’t running shoes. Poor aptly describes my predicament. But I put it all aside and just ran. I did it every day, no matter the weather and how sore I was. After a while, I was shocked to discover that the exhilaration of barely being able to breathe was an absolute high. At the end of it, I knew I’d have a hill to run down. Over time, I found myself sprinting a half-mile before the incline. I added more and more distance until one day, it occurred to me that even distance wasn’t an issue. Years later, I wondered what it was that first day propelled me to stop yammering in my head about what I needed to do – and just do it.

My brother forced me to do pullups and lift weights in the horrid dirt floor cellar on the bottom level of the trailer we rented. He usually punctuated the necessity of compliance by punching me in the upper arm with enough force to numb it. Months later, I turned the tables on him when he told me I had to do at least a dozen pull-ups. I said, “After you, my lady, after which I will.” He struggled and finished. I jumped up on the bar and did thirty. “How many CAN you do?” The look on his face was hard to read. “I don’t know. I don’t count. Pullups aren’t a normal thing I do in the real world.” My brother Mike was ridiculously stronger than me. I didn’t like weights. But if I wasn’t practicing my French Horn or reading amongst the trees, it was safe to hide somewhere, anywhere, rather than inside, where the violence would erupt. I’d do anything to have my brother Mike around so I could duck, weave, and throw punches at HIM.

Later, I realized that when I didn’t have motivation, I would listen to a couple of the songs from Rocky and Rocky 3 in my head. “Eye of The Tiger” played ad nauseam everywhere back then. You couldn’t go to church without expecting to hear it being played in lieu of old hymns. That song always gave me the energy to beat my immobility inertia.

All these decades later, some of the music still motivates me. I loathe many of the songs on the soundtracks. Anything by that crack-voiced Frank Stallone, for example. The new remixes incorporate more of the wall of brass sound that the main theme personifies. It’s just raw power demanding that I stay focused.

Through the years, I discovered that almost all obstacles were a figment of my imagination. Could I do 1,000 pushups a day? No, but I could do 1,500. That’s a bit excessive, I know. I stopped doing quite so many a few days before my emergency surgery about sixteen months ago. Could I run a mile in under six minutes at age 55? Yes. Can I run as fast as my childhood best friend Mike? Hell, no. I still have mud in my nostrils from years ago when I tried to keep pace with him. (I decided he might be Superman.) Could I walk twenty a day if I want to? Yes.

I’ve failed at so many things. So please don’t read all this as a litany of humblebrags. I’m self-aware enough to understand that I wasted a lot of my time and energy. I am proud to be a Spanish bilingual and to be a liberal as an adult. Not just politically but across the spectrum relating to people.

The gist of it is that if we are focused enough to ask ourselves what our goals are, we probably can get there. If we want to. Regardless of most of the obstacles. Everyone has their obstacles. And yes, I do recognize my own privilege by writing all this. So many people have no opportunities or advantages. Mine were massive on both sides of the scale. I’m not so stupid as not to realize that despite the harsh hand I started out with, things are good.

I wish my life had a wall of horns blasting at key moments. It would drown out the complaining and haters, for one thing. It would help to get out of bed, too, not that I have that problem. I’m lucky enough to wake up rattling the rafters most days.

From “Eye Of The Tiger” to “Pancreas Of The Platypus” might be an ideal title for a book to describe my outlook on life.

PS That dust all over my vest is from rolling around on the floor with my cat. I can beat him wrestling any day.

Love, X

Cube Walk On A Fake Spring/Winter Day

I rendered my walk goal as a cube root, expressed in miles. Think of it as a GED test for an exceptionally warm winter Tuesday afternoon. (I did the base number wrong on purpose, just to make the math not be even.) 70° in January? Mother nature must have had a glass of wine.

During this beautiful and energetic walk, I was imagining the most brilliant mathematics teacher. The hair would be in a mess, socks unmatched, and their communication ability equivalent to a horse tapping out Morse code. They probably know everything in the world about math. People looking at them and listening to them would be so distracted by their presentation that they would erroneously conclude that they couldn’t possibly be intelligent.

Which leads me to point out that people can have a surprisingly vast knowledge about something. But those around them don’t appreciate it. Or can’t see past whatever visual or auditory filter that’s blocking them.

It’s too bad y’all weren’t walking with me this afternoon. One of you could have carried the six pieces of chalk I exhausted on the various surfaces around me. We could have shared the music too. It was divine.

Even now I have to double check that it’s not spring. 

I climbed a pretty good-sized tree too. But the thicket that scratched and pulled at me that I traversed was much more interesting.

Pretty damn good day.

More than I have a right to ask for, but one for which I’m grateful.

Love, X
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The Chameleon Of Nostalgia

Oof!
To burn this bright all the time would be my demise. I awoke at 2:30 this morning, already feeling that sensation of otherworldly lightness. And so I navigated my day at work, my feet boundless. Even after work, both my mind and my feet were creative and I did a few projects as if I were two people, one focused on the task at hand and the other in my head, writing. But the sunlight streamed through my large front windows and the prisms danced and cast rainbows all over me and across the new rainbow light I made today.

So I decided to get 5 miles over my normal amount for the day. I grabbed my keys and headed out, even though I still had on my work shoes from 12 hours earlier. Lord, what a good decision it was. The breeze, sublime, the sun just warm enough, several dogs to stop and pet, and some good music. Though I am unlike most of my contemporaries and enjoy a lot of current music, I opted for ’80s rock. And the very first song was “Sweet Child Of Mine.” I had no choice but to sing part of it, my ears encased in prehistoric headphones. Had someone stopped and said, “You sound terrible,” I would have said, “…at least I don’t LOOK like Axl Rose these days.”

It made me think of my cousin Jimmy. He loved Metallica and copied most of the hairstyles of the band as it transitioned. He would have shaken his head at me and asked me to please stop the screeching. I of course would have ignored him. At which point he would have joined in, his voice equally absent any trace of singing ability.

There’s no doubt I don’t sing well. There’s equal certainty I enjoy a good day. I tend to have a lot of energy. Even when I’m sitting still. It’s why I annoy people and say I don’t get bored. I have to really work at it to feel the sensation.

But I walked and walked and watched the brilliant sunlight grow longer and cast increasingly somber shadows.

I can’t say that tomorrow I will burn as bright. I am fond of saying though, that I can own the moment and memory no matter what.

Maybe there’s a word to describe a simultaneous lightness of being rendered as a chameleon of nostalgia.

I can’t walk forever. And even so the number of days ahead of me is certainly much fewer than those ahead. If this were to be the last photo of me,.. even though I took it myself, it’s fitting. Please don’t “at” me for triggering any possible morbid connotation. Having lived it, no one can tell me that it’s impossible that it might be so.

I’m grateful.

What a beautiful afternoon..

Love, X
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A Cup And A Walk

Earlier, the urge to walk in this beautiful weather overwhelmed me. Erika wasn’t as enthusiastic about the idea, but I sold her with the insistence that once we started walking, it would be both beautiful and enjoyable. My 5-minute Rule seldom lets me down in terms of procrastination and enjoyment. We went to the Carol Scypc Trailhead in Johnson. It’s proximate and like the rest of the trail, it’s gorgeous. For fans of dapper Don Moore, that’s where you’ll likely see him walking his dog Diego.

A couple of weeks ago as I entered the apartment, my cat Gùino overzealously ran in front of me to get to the anticipated plate of cat juice that he knew would be waiting for him. I had to let go of everything in my hands because of the certainty I was going to faceplant. My favorite coffee cup lost the battle with the ensuing collision with the floor. Pieces flew in every direction. On a whim I collected and kept the pieces. When the motivation struck me, I glued it inexpertly back together.

With that in mind, on today’s walk, I took the repaired cup and a piece of wire with me on the walk. The cup is one I made myself, inscribed with the reminder of, “Choose Your Hard.” I owe that one to my cousin Lynette. Her picture is also on the cup. The choose-your-hard motto simply put is a reminder that you’re going to have to put the work in one way or another, either at the front end when it’s easier, or after, when you face the consequences of poor decisions.

When Erika and I were most of the way back, we stopped at the last bridge junction so that I could hang the cup in a tree near the bubbling creek. I think she sometimes grows weary of me telling her how striking she is when the sun hits her face and shoulders. For those of you familiar with the trail, it’s near the spot where two ancient pickup trucks sit at the perimeter of the trail. It’s also where I placed a keepsake watch of mine a few months ago. I hated to let the cup go and sometimes that’s when I feel most satisfied when I part with something. Everything is going to go one way or another. It’s good practice. And I hope that people will look at it quizzically and with enough curiosity to occasionally walk over to it to investigate. I’ve placed dozens of things along the trails and the places around here in Fayetteville. Some obscured, some in plain sight.

A cup, a reminder, and a beautiful January Saturday afternoon.

Was it worth it to venture out and have the experience? Hell yes. Such a simple thing.

Love, X

Already The Past

Already The Past

The headline is I have covid. None of my symptoms have been unmanageable. I, of course, have had every available shot. Not counting the tranquilizer darts at work, the ones they hit me with when I’m overactive. I would like to say I’ve been taking it easy. But that’s not the case. One of my memories on social media this morning is of me standing in the mirror, taking a picture of my huge scar a year ago. One of my principal complaints, other than being alive still, was that I couldn’t take long walks because of the surgery. Unfortunately, my scar has faded. I don’t ever imagine that I’ll forget the anxiety of waiting for my bowels to start working again. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced it.

I woke up this morning around 1:00 and decided that today would be the day for an ultra-long walk. It’s been glorious. With no plan in mind, I set out walking, having decided I would walk until I couldn’t anymore. Even if that required an Uber to get back. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. The days are blazing hot, but the mornings are always filled with a light breeze and the dead quiet of early morning Fayetteville. This city is an entirely different place once all the bustle dies down.

Yesterday morning during a decently long walk, two young people came into my sphere. Against my better judgment, I intervened right on the street on Sycamore. A domestic dispute and a baby were involved. I bluffed the young man involved. He seemed to listen to me. But I thought about them on and off the rest of the day. Lord, to be that young again when everything seems to be a life-or-death situation!

After a few miles, I crested the interstate. I stopped only for a minute to watch the scattered vehicles pass under me. It’s a little bit zen to do that at 3:00 in the morning. That was a handful of miles back, and it already seems like yesterday.

I walked along the road that leads to Mount Comfort, remembering the scarcity of that stretch just a few short years ago. At the outset of the walk, I listened to music, but after a couple of dozen songs, I pulled off my headphones and let the night sounds be my melody.

Recently I got the great news that perhaps my dead cousin Jimmy might have a daughter he never knew about. The possibility makes me happy. Both for the daughter in question and the memory of Jimmy. He would have been over the moon to find out he had a daughter. I can’t help but overlap the memories in my mind, remembering the feeling of finding out I had a sister I never knew about for 45 years. It’s just biology, of course. Family is mostly who we choose. I would love to have all the people who died sit with me in a room with food, coffee, and probably a few shots of whiskey. I shared my massive family tree with the potential daughter. I try to imagine what it would be like to go online and see a full history of a family you never knew you had. Just like I try to imagine my cousin Jimmy laughing in that special way he did when something tickled the crap out of him.

I can almost hear it here in the darkness.

The long straight stretch of Deane Street was deceptive. After crossing under the interstate and traversing the 90° turn, I could see the lights far ahead of me at Garland, and they seemed to be closer than they were. It’s a beautiful stretch of road in the darkness. The small lazy crescent moon, the aura of city lights along the cusps of the horizon, and the ear-shattering chirp of September insects. It’s somewhere around 1.5 miles along that straight stretch. That surprised me. Distance, like memory, is deceptive.

I think I will remember this morning for years to come. I hope it won’t be my last ultra-long walk. But I don’t take my stamina for granted anymore. All of us stand as witnesses to people being surprised by the mechanics of their bodies failing.

Regardless, I will have the memory. And that’s what life is mostly about, stripped away of the exciting intervals.

My cat Güino was unimpressed by my long walk. He demanded cat juice upon my return and then seemed to judge me for being absent for several hours.

Love, X
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Simple Truths 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Parts 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 in my Tiktok challenge about diet, weight, nutrition, and consistency.

Love, X

There Is No Secret

This is a piece of motivation. Nadine, if you’re reading this, imagine that I’m an expert and not the goofball you know.

Stress will never disappear from your life. Neither will the obstacles that frequently jump up and surprise you. You’ll always be tired at times and not want to prepare delicious food that feeds your body. You’ll always be tempted to stop at some place quick and delicious on the way home. Given the certainty of those variables, you’ll have to come up with incremental changes. They won’t feel natural at the beginning. Nothing does. Continuity and comfort work for us. But they also work against us when we’re motivated to do something different.

If you want to eat less or eat more healthy so that you’ll look better, embrace it. Anyone who tries to discount the vanity and self-esteem aspect of looking better is fighting human nature. If you think you look better, you will almost always feel better. It will translate to energy and optimism. If you want to eat differently just to be more healthy, that can be amazing too. We all know that the food we eat is the fuel that helps our body protect itself. It’s equally important to know that you can do everything perfectly and still have illnesses and unexpected calamity. As we get older, all of us are forced to confront that.

Everyone who tries something new eventually hits the wall of the reluctance curve. You won’t see as much progress as you would like. Or you will have days where you fail. It will feel like those days of failure far outweigh any progress you’ve made. It’s not true. You have to exercise that muscle of habit. If you do things incrementally, over time, even with days of failure, you’re improving yourself and your habits. There will be days when you will drink an entire bottle of wine and probably eat half a cheesecake too. But over time, you will see that there are simple ways to eat a whole lot of food and be happy with them. It does require you think and plan ahead so that you’re not creating obstacles. Chances are if you’re smart enough and motivated enough to make such a change, you will be able to do it. It will be easy to point the finger at the people around you, because Lord knows they’re going to be eating entire pepperoni pizzas and ice cream while you are choosing better options. At the same time, there are times when you should go crazy and a pizza with them. Because life is short and food is delicious.

Try not to start habits that you cannot do for the rest of your life. Because once you start them and have some success, if those habits fall to the wayside, you’ll start eating unhealthy and put the weight back on. Diet and nutrition is pure mathematics. You have to eat fewer calories than you burn long term. It’s not so much about the individual days as it is the arc of your progress. It’s one of the reasons I advise people to not weigh themselves more than once a week or once a month.

For most of us, if you don’t have underlying medical conditions, no matter how bitter the truth is, most of us can hit an ideal weight simply by changing what we eat. Our bodies have developed over thousands of years to survive. Exercise has its own benefits, ones that overlap into other areas of your life. But you do not have to do any exercise changes to achieve your goal weight. You have to swallow the truth that your weight is nothing more than putting more calories in your body then you are burning. No matter how many calories you burn through exercise, the physical truth is that the overwhelming majority of your weight is diet and daily activity. I can’t stress enough that I am not saying don’t exercise or go to the gym if that benefits you. I am saying that we only have a certain number of hours in a day. If you can achieve your goal without using those precious hours in ways you don’t enjoy, then try to wrap your head around the fact that you can do it without activity that doesn’t bring you joy.

If you don’t have any medical conditions, you can be the way you want to be.

Read the last sentence as many times as it takes to believe it.

Will it be hard for you to eat differently? That depends on how you use your intelligence to learn new ways of eating and stick with them.

Choose your hard.

When we don’t choose, we are pushing the consequences to our future. We still have to deal with them.

You can do it. But everything hinges on you making the decision to invest in yourself.

If you’re happy with the way you look and especially so if you’re mostly healthy, embrace it. Don’t try to lose what you see as extra pounds. You can be happy with that if you have a happy outlook. If it is about your appearance, find someone who loves you. That kind of adoration is transformative for your self-esteem. It becomes easier to see yourself as they do, even if you are plagued by self-doubt.

Whatever your goal is, do not attempt to go from 0 to 60. Incremental changes are best. You can experiment as you go and find the things that work for you and skip the ones you don’t. That is what we’re supposed to do in life. We often skip the second half and forget to remove the things from our life that detracts from it.

Don’t bother with spending money on supplements or anything you have to pay for. It can all be done with delicious food that you like. In this modern age, we have more variety than we ever have. Take advantage of it and use your intelligence.

People ask me what the secret is. The secret is… There is no secret. Simplicity in your life and simplicity in your diet. Eat fewer calories than you burn and live a good life.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re starting. No one changes until they do. No matter how you got to where you are or the way you are, it took a lot of years of habits to get there. If we thought things could not be changed, it would be a horrible cynical world.

Love, X
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