I owe this one to Seth Godin. I was reading ‘Tribes’ and this was a part that stuck out for me.

how was your day

“How was your day?” – Its one of those common every day questions that people ask, part polite interest and part conversational opener. Standard responses are usually expected to be positive. The conversation then moves on.

But what if your day wasn’t fine? You can have a moan and the relationship you have with the listener will depend on the level of sympathy/interest you gain. Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you wet your face. Nobody really likes listening to whining. But we all have days when things don’t go so well and sometimes a good rant to a friend is a cathartic process that leaves you feeling better and as long as you can do it with sufficient wit or interest (and not too often!) means the listening party doesn’t suffer too much.

But what of your day isn’t fine and your they haven’t been for some time? How you answer this question in public does not need to be the same as you how you answer it to yourself. But if your days haven’t been fine it’s what you do next that’s the important bit. Many when asked how their day was, answer “yeah fine,” almost by rote and move on to the next piece of conversation.

I’ve met enough people who hate their jobs, hate how they look, don’t like their health or are in relationships they don’t like. Yet they keep on doing the same job, the same diet,  the same lifestyle choices and stay in the same relationship. If things aren’t going well the first thing to do is to identify it. Then decide if it is a transitory thing or whether it’s here to stay. If its transitory, how will you work through it? If it’s here to stay, what are you going to do about it? It’s up to you to sort out what you will do to turn it around. Waiting for someone else to show up and do it for you is likely to be a long wait.

As I’ve got older I’ve become less tolerant. I don’t have time for people who procrastinate and I get annoyed with myself if I find I’m doing it. I’d rather get on with things than spend hours brooding about them. Planning strategies and the time it takes up is fine. Paralysed by indecision isn’t. Life is too short (and I’ve got fewer sands in the timer than I used to have) so upwards, onwards and deal with whatever needs dealt with. That gives me time to do the good stuff, rather than just deal with the bad stuff.

When things get on top of me, there are a few strategies that I’ve found help me out.

  • Think first, react second. Be logical.
  • Break down big problems into various smaller ones and then deal with them one by one.
  • Have I had any similar issues in the past for any experience I can draw on?
  • Remind myself I’ve dealt with worse in the past and got through it.
  • Look for the positives in any situation, there are always some.
  • If a friend came to me with the same problem, what would I advise them?
  • And how pissed off would I be if they then went and did something different in the spur of the moment which made the situation worse?

So how was your day? It’s a question we should ask ourselves every day and answer it honestly. And if we don’t like the answer then time for a serious look at what we are going to do about it.

Back with the plan:

Positives:

  • New bodyweight workout in progress, challenging in a good way.
  • Did my first ever proper pull up, palms away from me with a narrow – even managed a set of 5
  • Made the gym 5 times this week.
  • Made level 17 at Fitocracy
  • Sleeping well.
  • Raised my personal best on the deadlift to 145 kg
  • Waist size has dropped to 32″ – can’t remember when it was last that size, 25+ years ago?
  • Replacing the clothing items which are now too big for me.

Neutrals:

  • Weight staying reasonably steady at 79kg.
  • Diet has been OK.
  • Only really managing to post on the blog at weekends.

Negatives:

  • Didn’t finish the non fiction book for the end of the month.
  • Work has been irritating, one of those phases where we are fire-fighting as opposed to improving. Not great for the mood, but just needs worked through.

Away for a couple of days over the next week due to work, so will have to be careful with that.

Body Weight Workout

Posted: March 9, 2014 in Fitness, workouts

While flicking through the internet one day last week I came across Al Kavadlo and also BarStarrz whose fitness routines were unlike anything I have ever seen before. My first thought – how cool would it be to be able to do some of this stuff myself? My second thought was ‘I’m 48, these guys are fit as could be, I’ll never manage anything like that’. My third thought was ‘let’s give it a shot anyway’. So that’s the fitness plan for the next couple of months.

I’m really struck by Al Kavadlo, not only is he doing unbelievable fitness routines, but he does it with a big smile across his face the whole time.

AlKavadlo-Pistol-Squat AlKavadlo-Flag

There are plenty of times I can’t manage the smallest of grins at the gym, never mind beaming happiness. Fit as could be and with a positive attitude, now THAT’s a role model!

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to manage anything to the level Al is at, but its worth a shot. If nothing else it should make gym training a lot more interesting. I spoke to my trainer about this as a plan. We had a stab at some basic exercises about a week ago which clearly showed what I couldn’t do, along with a few bits I’m not too far away from (there is some light!). That resulted in the following workout, so that’s what I’ll be concentrating on for the next while.

Workout 1.
Warm up by doing 3 sets of these 2 exercises
Swings from the bar 20 reps – increasing the range each swing
Bear crawls 5 metres forward and backward

Worm – walk out on your hands as far as possible then slowly walk the feet back up to hands and repeat x 5 reps (3 sets)
Superset with:
Hanging from bar with bent arms/stabilise your torso and use a running action with legs x 30 secs (3 sets)

Dip bar leg raise 3 x 10 reps
Superset with:
Hanging knee raise 3 x 10 reps

Pull ups 3 x max reps
Superset with:
Dips 3 x max reps

TRX inverted row 1-3 x max reps
Superset with:
Press ups 1-3 x max reps – these are depending on time/energy

Workout 2.
Usual warm up circuit

Single leg squat and reach 2 x 10 side
Poliquin step up 2 x 15 reps
Deadlift – follow present set/rep structure
TRX single leg squat 3-4 x 10 side – if this is a problem then perform the version off the bench with a med ball for a counter balance. However the TRX version will allow a greater range of motion.
KB walking lunge 1- 2 x 10/side (max weight) depending on time/energy

As for the first week or so of training its gone OK. The exercises are very new compared to anything else I’ve done before. So at this stage I’m concentrating on the mechanics and trying to get form, but its going OK. The bar swings is the one that has caused me most difficulty, but I’m getting better at them. At the end of the upper body workout my arms feel so pumped I can barely move them, I hope in time as my body becomes accustomed to the exercises this will ease off.

Variety is the spice of life and exercising is no different. I’m already wondering if being able to do a muscle up by the end of the year is reasonable goal?

As for the big grin, that may take a lot longer.

Gym fitness at 50 plus

Posted: March 8, 2014 in Fitness, General, Musings

I came across a couple of websites that caught my eye while meandering across the interwebs.

Fit After 50 and Fitness After 50.

My first thought – Only in America…

But that’s probably a bit unfair. The idea of having a gym with a minimum age limit of 50?  The demographics make sense, the 50-65 age group tend to have a bit more disposable income and at a complete guess I’d expect them to be a bit less demanding to deal with when it comes to fitness. On the surface both the organisations I’ve noted seem pretty similar except the first is a stand alone business and the second is a franchising opportunity.

I’m slightly uncomfortable with the marketing behind these organisations, yet at the same time can’t help but think they may just have hit a good idea. A lot of the focus seems to be on potential customers fears:

  • Apprehensive because you didn’t know how to use equipment or properly perform exercises?

  • Overwhelmed in the gym without expert guidance and personal attention?

or :

  • The Welcyon exercise machines are ideally suited for aging adults, including those with health issues.

  • To minimize the risk of injuries, Welcyon is equipped with machines that provide stable, controlled, objective, and reproducible exercises.

They both seem to pick on the potential customers’ fears or lack of confidence. I know I’m not quite over the 50 mark yet but I don’t want to be choosing my fitness options on the basis of which one I’m less scared of. But there are others out there who feel differently, I’ve certainly seen enough people in gyms moving timidly from exercise machine to exercise machine clearly not confident in their abilities and clearly too shy to ask anyone for help. So a gym that provides a safe environment for that kind of person to be confident in, is that such a bad thing? Looking at  it like that it doesn’t sound unreasonable.

Both set ups offer group involvement. Fit After 50 has a wide array of classes and Fitness After 50 promotes its lounge area for sharing a coffee or a game of cards after a – well it doesn’t really say after an anything. Just that it has an area to socialise in. To me it sounds a bit like an old folks home at this point.

The Welcyon site has a photo tour of the gym and describes it as smaller and more intimate than a normal gym. The pictures don’t fill me with confidence, the clientele look a good bit older than in their 50’s. Or perhaps they just had tough paper rounds when they were kids. Lots of machines and no pictures of free weights.

Fit After 50 doesn’t have a photo tour, but at least there’s a picture of someone using some dumb bells (albeit very small ones). One thing that amused me was at the About You section you get to rate your fitness level – beginner or intermediate. No other options. I think that sums up where they see their client base coming from. It’s not over 50s who are training regularly and already in good shape, but those who aren’t at that level and without the self-confidence to go to a mainstream gym and train there.

One thing missing from both sites were any details of costs, there is talk of plans and of course its the usual ‘contact us for pricing information’. So I can’t give detail on what they charge. I suspect it will be above the usual costs for a standard gym as the marketing focus is on what they offer that regular gyms don’t and not about cheap prices. If you want a comfy area where you don’t need to worry about your personal fears, that is bound to cost extra. They are targeting a niche market and its unlikely they do that on the cheap side.

I can’t blame them for what they do, business is business and all that. But for me, I think I want to ensure I’m still looking for a box well above ‘intermediate’ when it comes to assessing my fitness rate in years to come. Neither of these locations do anything for me other than fill me full of fear! All I see is ‘attempts at fitness for old people before you die’ – that’s not what I’m looking for. Instead of living a younger life, that is living an older life. Count me out.

Back with the plan:

Positives:

  • Birthday meal resulting in over indulgence of food and alcohol. Sometimes its good to let loose, we did and enjoyed every minute of it. Great time had.
  • Feeling good about new gym atire.
  • Made the gym 5 times this week.
  • New workout – focussing on bodyweight exercises.
  • Sleeping well.
  • Right arm seems almost back to normal.
  • Booked a holiday – mood really lifted on the back of that.
  • Had to throw out three shirts which don’t fit me any more. They were two years old and were simplay way  too big on me.

Neutrals:

  • Weight staying reasonably steady at 79kg.
  • Diet has been OK.

Negatives:

  • Didn’t finish the non fiction book for the end of the month.

Focus next week is on the new body weight workout, got a long way to go with that one.

Holiday Booked – Mexico!

Posted: March 2, 2014 in General, Musings

One thing that always helps me is having something good to look forward to. It lifts my spirits and gives me something to aim for. One of the best for me is booking the annual holiday and commencing the countdown to have everything in place for when it comes round. This weekend the Fair One managed to find a good deal for the Excellence in Cancun, Mexico. We’ve booked it and the count down commences, yesterday was exactly 26 weeks to go.

Excellence-CancunHow good does that look? So come the end of August we are off for two weeks in the sun, with lots of different restaurants to choose from and lots of cocktails too. And also one key requirement – it must have a gym.

Excellence-gymOK, so its hard to tell exactly everything they have, but they will have enough to get me a workout. I suspect a TRX set up won’t be there but I’ll find enough.

 

So what’s so special about booking a holiday? Aside from planning it the following all goals suddenly appear:

  • I want to look good while on the beach, that means the desire to have a ;beach body’ kicks in, my training and diet both take a boost.
  • My mood improves. If something isn’t going so well just now, having something to look forward to reminds me that whatever the current problem is its only temporary.
  • The prospect of two weeks of good weather cheers me up when looking out at the rain at home. (Definition of summer in Glasgow is the rain isn’t so cold as it is in winter)
  • We take the opportunity to improve our wardrobes. So a few clothing treats in store for us.
  • My fitness journey started with some holiday photos, it’s a great motivator to see how far I’ve come since then.
  • Its two weeks away from all the hassle and drudgery of the normal existence to just chill out and cherish each other’s company in an idyllic setting. How can that not be special!

Our moods both really picked up once we booked the holiday yesterday – and there was no way we weren’t making the gym today. See what I mean, it’s started already!

Only 25 and a bit weeks to go…

The BBC have just published this article on their website.

Pizza

If I was to consider one food to be my downfall in the recent years it would be pizza. I love pizza. I could eat pizza morning, noon and night. The problem between pizza and I is a simple one. It tastes great but piles on flab like nothing else I can think of. At my heaviest I was eating a pizza for dinner twice a week. This wasn’t a result of eating out but instead just a standard supermarket type pizza – all to myself.

The BBC tracked down a health expert who told them: “The problem is not the pizza, it is pizza abuse. It is a highly calorific food.”

This was the part I hadn’t realised at the time. If you look at a supermarket pizza box then it will say something like how the pizza is about 600 calories. The small print tells you that it’s for a half or third serving, so if you are eating the whole thing (like I was) that’s suddenly 1200-1800 calories in one meal. I’ve seen restaurant pizzas with a calorie rating of over 2400. At my heaviest I was a pizza abuser. What a bizarre, but accurate description. I’ve never contemplated pizza abuse before.

 

16% of white non-Hispanic US males are eating pizza every day – and then the waist line of the average US male is getting bigger. Perhaps the keen-eyed might be inclined to draw a comparison between the two points. But I’m sure the pizza companies would be even more keen to indicate that it could be any number of other factors and obfuscate as much of the truth as they possibly could.

 

“It has refined flour, no wholemeal, and we now know that an excess of this ingredient contributes to obesity, increases cholesterol and, with time, has a tendency to raise the sugar levels in the blood.”

No, there couldn’t possibly be a link between obesity and eating pizza – what was I thinking of?

 

“The latest research on body biorythm and circadian rhythm suggests that eating food high in carbs and saturated fat at night leads to an increase in body fat,” Hmmm I was eating it twice a week – for dinner. Nah, there still can’t be a link, must be coincidence.

 

I stopped eating pizza twice a week. Now it’s a once a month treat (and we share one between 2). It was one of the single biggest changes in my diet and since then I’ve reduced my bodyweight by 20%.

I smiled at the last line – “If you want to eat pizza, do it with caution and moderation.” A health warning on pizza? There is no doubt in my mind there should be one. “Eating this will make you fat!” That should do the trick, but I can’t imagine it being well received by the food marketing companies.

 

I still really enjoy pizza when I have it. But I now have to balance such a treat against a lifestyle that includes trying to do pull ups. That means limitation. To me that’s the crux: I can have my diet limit me (more pizza!) or I can limit my diet (greater physical performance). That’s the individual’s choice, but trying to have plenty of both just isn’t going to happen. No matter what the marketers tell you is possible.

Kate Moss famously said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I ‘d be happier with ‘Nothing tastes as good as fitness feels,’ so step away from the pizza (most of the time).

 

Back to normal this week, but ending the week a year older than I was when it started!

Positives:

  • Birthday – there were nice presents, tasty cake, scrumptious dinner – a day of being spoiled.
  • I’m a year older and I feel pretty good about it.
  • Bought some new gym wear – and all in medium as opposed to large which it was the last time I bought gym gear.
  • Saw the movie Machete Kills – highly amusing, heartily recommended.
  • Now level 13 at Fitocracy.
  • I can dead lift a Sloth bear!
  • Been using the hockey ball to try and improve the scar tissue in my right arm, think its getting better.
  • Discovered Syatt Fitness – some good articles there.
  • Discovered Al Kavadlo – just wow! I’m already wondering if there is anything that I might be able to do that he makes look effortless. His You Tube channel is amazing too.

Neutrals:

  • Still making slow progress with the same book.
  • Weight staying reasonably steady at under 79kg.
  • Only made the gym three times this week. That’s my minimum and I had hoped to do better.

Negatives:

  • Got toothache on Friday and it hurt big style. Unable to train on Friday or Saturday (emergency dental appointment) because of it.
  • Lots of birthday cake left doesn’t bode well for the coming week’s diet.

Back to training fully this week coming and living life to fullest despite being a year older!

When I first started going to the gym I used to wear baggy old clothes that I could hide in. I’d tell myself it didn’t matter what I wore it was about what I did, that’s what was important.  It’s hard to argue with that statement, but here’s the thing, I didn’t perform very well. I didn’t feel good about myself and my confidence was rock bottom. Once I managed to learn a bit about what I was doing and I started to see improvements in my shape, my mindset about what I wore changed completely. I got rid of the old baggy jogging bottoms and T-shirts and bought some proper gym gear. It fitted better and I felt better in it, I felt more confident and as a result I performed even better.

Today I found another improvement. My current gym gear was getting pretty old and faded and I decided to get some new stuff. I’ve dropped a size. I’m now a medium – upper body and waist. Two and a half years ago I was an X-Large and I remember how delighted I was to get to being a large. I’d never really expected to get to medium. It wasn’t an intention or a goal, but it just seems to have happened. Naturally, I’m delighted. This is what I bought:

  Reebok top Adidas running top

My first ever sleeveless gym top and a standard sleeved one, although both are fairly fitted.

I’m a firm believer in feeling positive improves performance. As I’ve got older appearance has mattered more to me, and just as much at the gym as anywhere else. So feeling good about myself brings confidence, this my improves performance. It doesn’t substitute for performance. I’ve seen plenty of people at the gym in trendy clothing that do very little in the way of exercise – that’s not what I’m talking about. Instead, when I feel good about myself I’m more inclined to be able to squeeze out that last rep when my arms are burning and I’m feeling exhausted. Confidence helps me do more, and by doing more I feel more confident  – it’s a win-win situation if you can get the mindset right.

I’ve never worn a sleeveless gym top before. Never had the courage. I’ve always been too old, not buff enough, too much something, not enough something else. Well at 48 years of age I’m going to give it a go. I’m slightly surprised at myself for being this confident. Two years ago this would simply never have happened and would have never even been considered. Anyone suggesting it to me would have got a flat refusal. But yet here I am… I’ve toned up enough in the last couple of years to be able to wear this and while I’ll feel a bit strange (at first anyway) I won’t feel silly or laughable. Is buying a sleeveless gym top the onset of the mid-life crisis? I don’t think so, but if it is at least its cheaper than a Harley.

On the practical side I also find wearing the proper gear means I sweat less, and there are no two ways about it, I just don’t look that great when bright red of face with sweat pouring off me. Anything that improves that has got to be good – for everyone. So I’m guilty of a bit of gym wear vanity. I can live with that, if it helps my performance and I feel better in it then it sounds like a good investment to me. I dare say some people would disagree and if that works fine for them then I have no desire to try to change their minds. But as this blog is about me, its my opinions I’ll be focussing on.

I can’t say it’s as simple as new clothes automatically equals better performance, but I can say new clothes gives me a little more confidence and that boosts my performance. It’s also a chance to try something slightly new – and that’s always worthwhile. Sleeveless tops, whatever next…?

I came across this picture on the Fitocracy website and it amused me. Base your lifting on what size of bear you can lift (well why not?)…

tumblr_mui8wgHDF31qf1avqo1_500Bring forth the 250 lb panda and I’ll show you who’s boss. In fact I reckon I could probably dead lift a Sloth bear on a good day (managed 140 kg this week, so that sounds about right).

But, damn, it’s a longggg way to Grizzly from where I am. That’s almost three times my bodyweight – not sure we will ever get that one. However, everyone loves pandas so its good to know I can lift one when the opportunity arises – and of course that it stays still long enough.