End-of-summer-to-Thanksgiving challenge Week 5: Feelin’ good

2014-weight-loss-005OK, so I only lost another 0.6 pounds, which means I'm way off track, but I feel better this week than I have in almost a month. I didn't run very much after my 20-plus-mile week, opting for lower-impact cardio. That might have been part of it: no aches and my upper legs weren't fatigued to hell by Wednesday.

But what I think did a lot of it was a change from my normal diet for weight loss (a high-fat, low-carb diet, which studies seem to show is the way to go) to a moderate-fat, moderate carb diet more along the lines of an intuitive eating plan.

I'm lucky in that I work from home, so I'm not bound by a workplace structure that discourages eating except before, smack in the middle of and after work. While I take a "lunch" break at my job, I typically just take the three minutes to run to the kitchen if I'm hungry.

I've been eating more oatmeal, rice, beans, and occasionally an apple or banana (actually, I normally eat a lot of bananas, primarily pre-workout). Whereas my diet before was something along the lines of 150g protein, 100g fat and 50g of carbohydrates (~1700 calories), I'm now closer to 200g protein, 100g carbs, 50g fat (~1650 calories).

I'll probably try to maintain something like that for the next month or so, maybe even increasing the protein, perhaps slightly decreasing the fat.

 

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 159.6 9.5 N/A N/A
9/22/2014 159.4 20.63 79 34
9/29/2014 158.8 4.74 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014
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On ritual

We said our farewells to Fritz over the weekend. I don't expect you'll go read through his obituary, so I'll give you the gist.

Fred Mills, "Father Fritz" to his flock, was a reverend, a weightlifter, a hiker, and a Red Sox fan (a die-hard fan — literally — there was a Red Sox logo on the shroud covering his coffin at calling hours).

His family relationship to me is kind of tenuous on the surface. He is my wife's first cousins' stepfather — my wife's uncle and Fritz's widow raised a couple of women. Fritz had his own children coming into that marriage as well.

While Fritz's family stayed in New England (primarily Cape Cod), he lived in Central New York, and he was always at family gatherings. I met him first in 2010, five years after the stroke that ended his power-lifting days and his ability to hike on his own two legs. The three things I remembered from that first meeting were still true when I last saw him a couple of months ago:

• He had a crushing handshake. If you weren't ready for it, you risked taping up a couple of fingers for a week. And he held on for a lot longer than is generally deemed a social norm. One of his daughters inherited that grip and the hold, and I thought to mention it when we met.
• He looked you in the eye, not in a challenging way, but in a gentle, respectful way.
• He wanted to talk baseball. It was common ground, and since I grew up a Red Sox fan in Massachusetts, it was a good way for us to connect.

His funeral was at an Episcopal church. I don't really understand the inner workings, but strictly from a standpoint of observation, it's almost Anglican (Church of England), I guess. They take communion (so it's in a Catholic tradition), but priests can marry, they have female priests, and I didn't see any crucifixes (a cross being a cross, a crucifix having a crucified Jesus on the cross).

There were some rituals that were curious to me, an outsider (I'm Jewish). One was something they called in the program The Peace. It's a stopping point in the service during which you look around and wish those around you peace. The priest later explained the communion ritual (which I'm guessing changes a bit from church to church), but it was almost another half hour before the communion ceremony. Some of the readings began and ended with the priest elevating the bible above her head and making a declaration.

As I mentioned, these were curious to me, but they probably felt perfectly normal to someone else.

As some of you know, I'm a Freemason. One of the things that connects the fraternity to its past is its ritual, which can vary from place to place, but remains integral to every meeting and every degree ceremony.

The ritual is certainly unusual to an outsider, and was to me when I first saw it, but is now a mark of comfort that, no matter what else happens before, during or after the meeting, the meeting will open and close with ritual.

It's the same in many other organizations, including religious gatherings, fraternities, business, etc. People look to ritual to emulate others — do a search for morning ritual or rituals of successful people, and you'll get millions of options, some of them downright scary (like, say, Hunter S. Thompson's daily routine.

Watch some baseball players as they step up to bat. Some of them have elaborate rituals before they get in the batter's box, including touching different parts of their bodies, adjusting their uniforms or batting gloves, touching the bat to a specific point on home plate, etc.

Ritual guides us in practice, connects us to our past, and brings us a comfort of familiarity in unfamiliar situations.

What are your rituals?

End-of-summer-to-Thanksgiving Challenge Week 4: Stagnation

2014-weight-loss-004This was a weird week, and I've had to do some research.

I ran 20-plus miles, the first time I've ever done that (this week will be significantly less – probably in the six-to-seven-mile range). Historically, I metabolize proteins and fats well, but the body really wants carbohydrates, especially for cardiovascular exercises, like, say, running. So, I didn't eat enough carbs and tried to stop being hungry with more protein and more fat and I pretty much lost no weight (but you can see from my pushups and pull-ups in the chart below I'm still gaining strength).

We're running the Insane Inflatable 5k on Saturday, which is not so much a 5k for time as it is a sprint then playing on a bounce house then another sprint and climbing up an inflatable slide then a sprint and playing in an inflatable maze...you get the idea. But I'll make sure my legs are in good shape for it; looking at my splits for the week, things go to hell pretty quickly.

Anyway, here's our tracking chart for this week. Hoping for a kickstart over the next 7 days.

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 159.6 9.5 N/A N/A
9/22/2014 159.4 20.63 79 34
9/29/2014 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014

Want to crush life? Take a chance at getting crushed


"A wiser fellow than myself once said, 'Sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes the bar, well, it eats you'."

I've been thinking recently about what's it like to feel on both sides of things. My summer, some of you might know, was a little crazy. I was tied up with a bad case of poison ivy for three weeks — two of those weeks, I was on a steroid that kept me awake. I slept a total of about 30 hours in 14 days.


[by Stephen Goodman]
By the time I woke up and caught up from that mess, the blisters gone and the rashes mostly faded, I was getting married, a total reversal of feeling. Three days later, I was mowing the lawn and got too close to a nest I didn't know was in the ground, and wound up getting stung several times by wasps. My forearm was almost as thick as my thigh for a couple of days.

Talk about a back-and-forth with Mother Nature for a little bit.

I've made my peace, though. I went right back to the park where I picked up the poison ivy; the first time I ran there I wore long pants, but I now run there regularly, though I stay on wider, more known trails.

But something that came to me in all my feeling down, is that you need to accept the potential that you'll feel down if you ever want to feel up. And then there are orders of magnitude: you can only get as far up as you're willing to go down.

Take, for example, power lifter Mark Bell. Dude tried to squat 1,085 pounds, and he didn't make it (he told former pro wrestler Steve Austin that one of his spotters was injured (auto-play, NSFW). But he tried (the successful squat here is 1,036 pounds).

There's one extreme. You may have already seen my example of the other.

Arthur was injured. He got fat. He got depressed. He tried everything. None of it worked. Well, almost everything. He found a yoga instructor (also a former pro wrestler) willing to take him on.

He failed a lot, but then he succeeded.

Watching this might actually be the best 9 minutes you spend this week.

What are you willing to risk to move ahead?






End-of-summer-to-Thanksgiving Challenge Week 3: Get some rest!

2014-weight-loss-003Ugh. Week 3 didn't go well. There were two primary reasons, which I'll detail here.

1. Rest. This is the real thing. A week ago Sunday, I was going to take a rest day, but it was beautiful out, and I had some energy, and I went for a run of nearly three miles. And it pretty much ruined the rest of my week.

I was under 10 miles running for the week after that, and I generally didn't feel so hot, even though I got plenty of sleep at night during the week.

2. Supplementing with creatine. This is not to turn you off creatine. I actually like it as a supplement, and I'm probably willing to give up my 20-pound goal to keep supplementing with it. But I probably need to supplement it smarter.

Creatine occurs naturally in your muscles, and supplementing with it basically improves recovery and performance.

It also retains water in the muscle cells (helping them grow), which means that you gain water weight while using it. The Men's Health article linked says you'll for sure gain weight, but keep in mind that's assuming you're already lean. So, I will probably continue to lose fat, but it's a matter of whether I can lose enough fat to outpace the muscle I'm gaining.

I'll admit to feeling better – less sore and what-not – with it, so I'll probably not stop simply for the sake of weight loss. I may regulate how I use it, though; my workouts tend to be more intense the beginning of the week anyway, so maybe I'll use it more toward the beginning of the week and lessen the effects of the water retention.

Anyway, I have no real excuses. I resisted the temptation to run on a nice day yesterday and just sat outside instead, and then ran 5.22 miles this morning, so I guess I'm on the right track.

Onward.

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 159.6 9.5 N/A N/A
9/22/2014
9/29/2014 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014

What if we’d had Twitter on 9/11?


If you're still able to hear from wherever you are, Amy, this is for you.

One of the more more formative events in my life — from the perspective of shaping my attitudes about politics, war and my industry (news) — was the series of terror attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, collectively known as 9/11.


Amy Toyen [via]
There is a whole cohort registering to vote this year who might vaguely remember their parents' reactions that day, another getting drivers licenses who were too young, and more becoming bar and bat mitzvot who were just being born.

It was 13 years ago, and it's very much etched in the brains of almost every adult today, but very soon that won't be the case.

I was walking my neighborhood at 4 a.m. one night last month – a night that ended with The Associated Press confirming the death of a sprint car driver after our normal closing hours. We found out minutes before The AP moved a story thanks to a Tweet from a local reporter.

We didn't have Twitter on 9/11. We didn't have Facebook. We didn't have YouTube. We had Google, but it was still nascent and not doing enough traffic to be archived multiple times daily as it is now — the Way Back Machine picked it up on Aug. 23, 2001 and didn't come back until Sept. 17 of that year.

Residential broadband was just coming into being. Cell phones were really just starting to become a thing everybody had, though most people were still hanging onto their home phones (many because they needed a home phone line to access the Internet).

Despite our seemingly limited ability to communicate (ha!), we still had a problem then knowing when to shut up. News went on for days about 9/11 to the exclusion of just about everything else. NPR, CNN, Fox, it didn't matter. The stock market was closed the rest of the week. Baseball was shut down. If anything else was going on in the world, it was invisible to U.S. media.

The early reports — yes, we did have 24-hour cable news and the Internet — were crazy. 10,000 were dead, another hijacked plane was heading for L.A. and one maybe toward Chicago. And then it was over, and we sheltered in place around our TVs for three days.

Despite the initial reports being highly speculative and wildly inaccurate, we did not yet have the dreaded Internet rumor mill — you know, the one that kills celebrities and retires basketball players.

Can you imagine what Twitter and Facebook would have looked like on 9/11 — especially considering that, even today, nobody with any first-hand knowledge (as in, having been there) would have had any cell phone service (much like that day)? It might have taken days to dig out some facts, instead of the hours it took us.

Let me ask, then: Do you use your social networks responsibly?

Related:
10 Septembers, 20 Septembers
Memorialize 9/11 by being more awesome






End-of-summer to Thanksgiving challenge: Week 2

I thought I was actually going to put on a couple of pounds this week. I've been having some major food issues — notably not eating enough calories during the day, then back-loading on high-sugar foods at midnight or later to catch up.

2014-weight-loss-002But I listened to Steve Austin's podcast (auto-plays, NSFW), and someone asked about his diet, since he's trying to lean out for some upcoming TV shows. He's eating a lot of protein (350g) and calories (over 3,000), which is way more than I need, but he's also filling some of his meals out with oatmeal and potatoes and rice.

So I picked up some of those dense starches to take the place of things like, oh, peanut butter cups and cookies. And even in just a couple of days, it worked wonders. So, that's going to be part of the plan for the fall, I think. Not whole meals of piles of rice, of course, but a couple of fistfuls of oatmeal in my protein shake in the morning means it will stick a little longer. In fact, the first time I did it, it was 30g of whey protein, a banana, a serving of peanut butter and a little bit of oatmeal, and I had enough fuel for a three-mile run three hours after I drank it, on what was supposed to be a rest day (I just had some energy I needed to get out).

Anyway. It was also a pushups and pull-ups day. My two-minute max pushups was up almost 15%; my pull-ups increased twice that.

Here's the updated tracker sheet.

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014 160.2 13.41 72 30
9/15/2014 N/A N/A
9/22/2014
9/29/2014 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014

On interviewing, or conversations: The good, the bad, the memories.

I began my career as a reporter before we started shoveling news online, so I've been interviewing a while. Actually, it's been a while, but I know a good interview from a bad interview, for sure.

One of my first professional interviews was with Tish Hinojosa. It was awful. I didn't even know how to pronounce her name. I couldn't get her to open up about anything, and it was all my fault. I'd received her most recent album the day before the interview, didn't particularly enjoy it on first listen, didn't have time to study it, and didn't know who Barbara Kingsolver was or why her writing some of the liner notes was a big deal.

Another bad interview I had was with someone whose work I really enjoy: Bruce Campbell. Now, if you know Campbell's work, you have some idea of his personality. He's warm, confident and doesn't enjoy taking crap from anyone. I was so nervous for the interview – he was on tour for If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. I'd read it twice in three days, already knew the Evil Dead trilogy by heart, and even went and checked out some of his more obscure stuff, like 1992's Mindwarp. I thought I'd impress him by referencing it. I did so by asking if he thought The Matrix had merely ripped off the concept with a higher budget. Then he gave me a list of about 15 other films Mindwarp had ripped off.

I've had some great interviews, too, and some of those were surprising. Joan Jett, who comes off really shy in person offstage, gave me 10 minutes over the phone in an airport once. It was amazing. She even let me get away with a bad question. I asked if she was tired of being known primarily for one song ("I Love Rock 'n' Roll"). She told me no, in fact, she could play whatever she wanted and it didn't matter how the rest of the show came off. By the end of the night, she could play that one and everyone would sing it for her and be into it.


David Clayton-Thomas [via]
David Clayton-Thomas, best known for work he did way before my time (as frontman for Blood, Sweat & Tears), wanted to talk at 7 a.m. (yes, a musician wanted to talk at 7 a.m.), and we were on the phone for two and a half hours.

The late Bill Morrissey, the amazing Pamela Means and my old friend Star Drooker said things to me that certainly impacted how I see the world.

This is not about name-dropping. Hell, it's not even about me. It's about interviewing. Maybe more accurately, it's about how to have a conversation.

You might know Biz Markie from 1989's "Just a Friend." You might know him from the scene in Men in Black II when he beat-boxes in the back room of a post office. If you have kids, you might know him from Nick Jr.'s "Yo Gabba Gabba."

James Altucher, who does one of my favorite podcasts, interviewed Markie recently (see episode 35). And it was awful. So bad, in fact, that the podcast wasn't the straight interview. Altucher ran a commentary track, stopping every time he had a criticism.

Now, Altucher had done his research. He knew a lot about his subject. But it took a while to let his subject know that. It was really, really awkward. Sometimes, when it's like pulling teeth to get an interview, it's time to give up on the interview.

Altucher wrote a post about what he learned from that interview.

On the other side of the spectrum is comedian Marc Maron, who's had one of the top-rated podcasts on iTunes for years. It's called WTF, and, apart from having amazing guests, features amazing interviews, even the ones he's really nervous about doing. They all turn into good conversations that flow easily between topics and across timelines. Some of my favorites include his interviews with the likes of Roseanne Cash (No. 511), Bob Newhart (No. 523), Shepard Fairy (No. 497) and Lewis Black (No. 485).

I came to his podcast late – there are dozens of interviews I'll probably spring for the premium app to hear. Go give them a listen; the last 50 are always free.

That brings us to this: What makes a good interview? Does it take a professional? Does it take practice? Does it take research?

No, it doesn't take a professional. It definitely takes some practice. A little research is not a bad thing, but is entirely unnecessary if your subject is patient.

A good interview winds up being a conversation. And you can have a conversation that essentially turns into an interview. And if you've never heard of your subject, or conversation partner, just ask the pertinent questions without appearing nosy or pushy.

Have an idea of points you'd like to hit along the way, but be as open about yourself as you want your subject to be about himself or herself. It should feel natural after the initial discomfort of meeting a new person.

Go try it on a friend, then a stranger, then someone famous. Good luck!

End of summer-to-Thanksgiving weight loss challenge Week 1

2014-weight-loss-001

Well, I'm not going to lie. I didn't do great Week 1. I hit my 1.5-pounds-per-week goal, but you'd think at the start of a new program you lose big the first week and then everything kind of averages out.

Not if you don't eat right, of course. I guess I've got another week or two of summer slacking my body wants to do, but I'm going to try to balance it well. I'm opening up the grill this afternoon, and you can betcha I'm gonna eat.

Anyway. I did get over 10 miles this week (along with a couple of goes on the elliptical and on the exercise bike). I'm hoping to get out today for a few miles (the gym's closed, so I guess if I'm going to lift anything it'll be a 70-pound Labrador who's not really into the whole being off the ground thing).

Onward. How are you doing?

Weight Miles 2-minute pushups Pullups 3 sets to failure (total)
8/25/2014 163.2 N/A 63 23
9/1/2014 161.6 10.03 N/A N/A
9/8/2014
9/15/2014 N/A N/A
9/22/2014
9/29/2014 N/A N/A
10/6/2014
10/13/2014 N/A N/A
10/20/2014
10/27/2014 N/A N/A
11/3/2014
11/10/2014 N/A N/A
11/17/2014 N/A N/A
11/24/2014

Do you practice? You should

I was at the gym the other day and I saw something that, to me, was unexpected. There were two teenagers on the basketball court, practicing. Not just shooting around, but really practicing. Practicing the sort of drill that, even as a practiced basketball watcher, I had to see a couple of times before I understood it.


[via]
One of the two stood on the foul line, while the other dribbled two balls from center court to the top of the point, passed one ball to the guy on the foul line, and stepped to one side, maintaining a final dribble, and took a three-point shot.

The shot was not the goal. The shot was the reward. If he lost the dribble, made a weak pass, or didn't set himself cleanly, he didn't even take the shot. He took the other ball back and did it again.

About 10 years ago, I spent six months or so volunteering on the East Woods Skate Plaza project. They'd already been at it for a couple of years, and it took until a couple of months ago to open a park. It was an unlikely project, I think, spearheaded by a retired couple in a nice neighborhood, in cooperation with high school and college skateboarders.

Neighborhood merchants wanted skaters off the sidewalks. Drivers wanted skaters off the streets. The art museum didn't want the skaters, which is a shame, because that patio is perfect. The one skate park in town was 10 miles away with no safe route.

For the couple, this was an important project, not because the skaters were a nuisance, but because they weren't. "Have you ever watched skateboarders on the sidewalk?" one of organizers asked me. "They practice the same tricks over and over, trying to get good at them. They're not causing trouble, they just want a place to practice."

It took a dozen years and a lowering of expectations (they wound up getting about a third of the park they set out to get, but they got a park, and when I went recently to see it, it was getting plenty of use.

As I came home from the gym thinking about practice, I arrived to an email from James Altucher, asking if I could write one page a day. That was great, because of course I can, and I was already thinking about it.

One page is about 300 words. This post is longer than that, and what does a post take to write? 45 minutes? Even if I edit the hell out of it, 2 hours? One page a day for 25 years is over 9,000 pages, 2.7 million words. That's thirty 300-page books by the time I reach retirement age (like I'm really ever going to "retire" from stuff like writing and reading and such).

Practice I shall, then. You?