Category Archives: Blog

Motivation Towards Fitness

Getting motivated and staying in that frame of mind once you get there isn’t easy to do, at least for me. Clearly everyone is different when it comes to this and I’d like to talk about what its like for me.

When it comes to fitness its like work to me. I have to exert myself and work against the laws of physics, particularly the law of conservation of energy where the total energy of an isolated system remains constant—it is said to be conserved over time. To me in this context it means that I’d rather be doing as little as possible and not expend excess effort thus working up a sweat and heating up my body with an increased heart rate. Again that’s too much like work.

However, the physical benefits I gain from exercise do outweigh my desire to do as little as possible. Beating back diabetes has to be at the top of my list of benefits followed by a host of other medical maladies that are associated with being overweight.  Plus there is the psychological aspect of how you look in the mirror as it relates to overall confidence in yourself. I feel a lot better mentally about myself when I see that I don’t weigh 260lbs like I did when I was at my worst 11 years ago.

Getting to the point of my message here is that the motivation required for me to engage in and accomplish fitness goals only comes from within me. Other people find motivation by watching and speaking to others who are at a place they wish to be at, or with friends and family who are on the same journey together to get fit. It could be that others derive their motivation from watching top fitness professionals and amateurs alike on TV, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook et al. and aspiring to be like them. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as the individual sets reasonable goals for themselves that they are likely to achieve. Setting an impossible goal will only lead to failure and disappointment. Mitigate your expectations and take them in small steps, one at a time on the road to your goals and you’re more apt to achieve them.

I’m one of those people who cannot derive motivation from others around me, or on the view screen. Watching others attain their goals or work toward them does nothing for me. I’m happy for them and encourage their continuation toward their goals, but it won’t motivate me to get moving toward my goals. Rather, I have to want the desired effect of fitness more than I want to sit around conserving energy as much as possible. It’s a desire to out balance the benefits of fitness vs. the consequences of obesity and the health risks that come with it. That’s what motivates me to continue exercising and to stay as healthy as I can.

Staff Sgt. Antonio J. Curry, a drill instructor aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot

Nothing short of an actual Marine Corps Drill Instructor will motivate me to do what I need to do to stay fit. Even someone playing the part of a DI, an actor, or a civilian led “boot camp” DI can’t do it for me. I’d have to be in USMC Boot Camp all over again to be motivated by an outside force to do what I know I need to do.

One thing that helps me continue exercising beyond the health reasons I’ve covered already is finding a routine or program that I enjoy doing. For years I was strictly lifting weights and doing bodybuilder type of stuff. The exercises to grow my muscles large and look like the guys at the Mr. Olympia contest. Though, I am not, nor have I ever come close to looking like them, but it was something I was doing as a means to get fit. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with lifting weights and building large, strong muscles. But I was finding that it wasn’t helping me get to where I want to be physically with my body. For a while, on and off, I’d do about 30 minutes of cardio on an elliptical machine before or after my weightlifting routines. I found that when I was doing that combination that I was going in the right direction towards my goals. But doing cardio, the same thing, for 30 minutes straight really sucks. It’s tiring and more to the point, boring. I had stopped doing the cardio portion of my workouts over a year ago just because it was so boring and I hated every minute of it.

About a month ago I finally came to the point that what I needed was a change in what I was doing. While my muscles were getting stronger and bigger with the weightlifting, my body fat percentage was creeping up again. Weightlifting for me doesn’t get my heart rate up high enough, and on the few occasions that it would, its not sustained for any significant period of time. The key to burning fat is getting an elevated heart rate and sustaining it for a while, or short periods with a short break in between, like HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training.

My gym, Anytime Fitness, this year came out with their own Workouts app that is filled with pre-made programs of all types. There is a program for just about any fitness goal one could want and allows you to create your own as well. It’s very nicely designed, elegant, intuitive and easy to use, I really like it. As I was pursuing though it I decided to try their fat loss pre-made routines which, so far, is mostly all body weight cardio exercises and has had no dumbbells or barbells incorporated into it. I’m now into phase two of the plan after a month or so of doing it and I’m quite happy with it and it’s doing what I need it to do which is get my heart rate up, sweat a lot and burn some fat. The numbers don’t lie either as my scale measures weight and body fat percentage and I’m seeing my numbers drop as I wanted them to.

Additionally, since I don’t want to lose too much muscle mass while doing all this cardio-type exercise, I’ve incorporated a second program from the Workouts app with kettle bells. It’s a lot of cardio exercise as well, but with strength exercises too. I’ve never used kettle bells before and I’m finding that I really love using them. It’s vastly different from dumbbells and barbells in how they feel and how to use them. Best of all I can do these exercises at home without having to go to the gym. Obviously that means I have to have my own set of kettle bells with which to use. I’ve been slowly building up my kettle bell collection and it’s coming along nicely. My gym does not have any kettle bells there which I think is unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. So what I’ve been doing is the fat loss program 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and then kettle bells on the other 4 days of the week. I go to the gym on the fat loss program days because there are some things there that I need which I don’t have at home. There are also a lot of exercises that require me to be jumping up and down. I live on the third floor of my apartment building and I don’t wish to be rude to the neighbors by jumping and making a lot noise while I workout. Lastly, there are my gym friends that I like to see and talk to while I’m exercising and that’s why I go in several days a week too.

The combination of body weight cardio exercises and kettle bells is showing dividends for me and is steering me on the path that I want to be on towards my fitness goals. These programs take the boredom out of exercise that I get when I run on an elliptical for 30 minutes and helps time pass more quickly as I punish myself in the gym, or at home.

According to the Achievements app on my iPhone, which is paired to the Apple Watch, I am now at 28 consecutive days of exercise of 30 minutes or more. In a few hours from now I’ll make 29 days in a row.

In addition to the changes in my workout routines, I’m also tweaking my diet a little here and there so that I can get to where I want to be. A proper diet is essential to the whole fitness thing. You can’t out train a bad diet as they say.

My motivation comes from my desire to be healthy verses my desire to do as little as possible. Having an exercise routine that I enjoy helps that a lot and having a flexible, but sensible, diet also contributes to my successful motivation.

National Coffee Month (2017)

Well it’s another year to celebrate our favorite drink. For the last couple of years the only thing I’ve been drinking is coffee and plain ol’ water. The diabetes made sure that I gave up soda pop and other sugary drinks for good. That’s when I turned to coffee and went really all in with it.

In the last year I’ve added some new equipment to my coffee arsenal. I’ve pretty much switched away from using a French Press to using a V60 Hario pour over at work and using the Chemex pour over at home. I’ve found that I actually prefer these methods over the French Press because they use a paper filter. In my tastes I’ve found that the paper filter helps to cut off that edge of acidity and creates a more smooth tasting coffee that I had experienced before. Now I still like the French Press and still use it occasionally, but it’s not my go to method anymore.

I also still use my Expobar every single morning for espresso and I just love that thing. I did add an electric timer to it so that it turns on and off on a schedule I set so that when I get up in the morning the machine is already warmed up and ready for me to make an espresso without having to wait.

Recently I acquired an HG-One manual hand grinder for my espresso making needs. When I learned about this beautiful device I fell in love with it and wanted one. But at about $1,000 it was going to be an expensive thing to want. I was able to buy a used one for a bit less from a very good friend of mine who was no longer using it. he kept it in great condition and it works beautifully. I’ll be making a review of it soon to post here on my page.

The HG-One is a wonderful grinder and after getting it dialed in I get great espresso out of it in conjunction with good beans and the Expobar. I smile each time I pass by it in the kitchen.

Here’s to another great year of coffee!

Too Much Technology?

Short attention spans seem to prevail with me at times. The constant desire to see what’s new every few minutes becomes aggravating and I seem to be unable to break that cycle. What I am talking about is probably something many people experience each day with all of our technology and mobile devices connected to the Internet and social media.

When I’m at home sometimes I get bored and find myself going from the iPad to the iPhone to flipping channels on my DirecTV Now streaming service on the Apple TV to checking out Netflix, iTunes TV Shows and iTunes Movies as well as other TV network apps like HBO Go, or Start and AMC. There is so much content available at the tap of a screen or the click of a button that its overwhelming. It reminds me of a Jerry Seinfeld joke which I’ll try to paraphrase. “Men don’t want to see what’s on TV. Men want to see what else is on TV.” Which is why we constantly change channels all the time and never really stay on one for any length of time.

Add to that social media like Facebook, Twitter, various Internet discussion forums and blog sites, like this one, and there is even more to be digitally distracted by.

While I’m flipping channels on TV, I’m either playing a game on my iPad, checking Facebook and Twitter to see what is going on. It’s on an endless loop it seems and refreshing the feeds every few minutes doesn’t usually provide anything satisfying for the time given to seeing what may be interesting or not. But the desire to constantly be looking for something new, something interesting is always there.

Then there is the cell phone, at its most basic function; mobile communication. This is one of the things that bugs me the most. It’s the constant anticipation of the phone ringing and the social obligation to answer it. It’s common today that everyone has a mobile phone and because of the Internet and all the other things they can do, we all have them within arms reach for every waking moment – and even while sleeping. When someone calls you there is an unwritten rule, an obligation, to answer it because the calling party *knows* that you have your phone nearby. If you choose not to answer it because you don’t feel like talking, for any reason, the other person is going to be upset and wonder why you didn’t take their call. You knew it was them because of caller ID. That then adds a whole new social aspect to interacting with people. There is almost no way to disconnect, and if you find a way to do so, there can be negative consequences for doing so.

30 years ago as a young kid we didn’t have all this technological stuff to entertain us, keep us ultra connected and consume our time. When I grew up we had a telephone. It was this thing attached to a curly cord that was attached to a wall with another cord on it. Depending on how long that curly cord was, was only as far as you could take that phone. There were no cell phones to keep with us no matter where we’re at. We didn’t even have an answering machine. This was another device that hooked up to the phone with a cord that would answer a call for you and play a pre-recorded message to the caller to which would end with a beep. The beep indicated that the caller could now leave a message for you to listen to when you came home. But we didn’t have that. So if someone called and no one was there to answer it, the phone would ring for as long as they stayed on the line until they hung up. They’d just have to try again at a later time hoping we were home. Back then, if you were home and didn’t want to talk, you could just let it ring or unplug it. There was no reasonable expectation by anyone to assume you were dodging the phone when you didn’t answer it. It was very reasonable to believe you weren’t home, you were outside, you were mowing the lawn or doing any number of things.

We didn’t have computers and we certainly didn’t have the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, et al. If you wanted to communicate, you either used the phone, wrote a letter and mailed it, or you met up face to face somewhere.

Television for us consisted of over the air signals and only whatever your antenna could pick up from whichever direction you had it pointed toward. So only a handful of channels were available and if you wanted to change the channel, you had to get up and walk to the TV set and turn a knob.

Before my teenage years when the Nintendo came along and satellite TV was installed taking more of my time, my time was spent outdoors with friends or exploring on my own. Riding bicycles around and down to the corner store was a common thing. Swimming in ponds at friends houses was normal in the summer. Building snow forts in the winter, when it used to snow a lot before climate change started becoming noticeable.
Times were simpler then and I do miss it from time to time. As convenient as our technology has made our lives, it also has made my attention span very short. If I could make things to where I didn’t need a cell phone and could go back to a house phone, with no answering machine, I’d totally do it.

These days, in the past year or so, I’ve been fairly successful in limiting my screen time at home from the computers. I have a desktop PC and a laptop and they tucked away in my hobby room and I only turn them on during the weekends and sometimes I don’t at all or only for a short while in the morning. But having the iPad and iPhone at hand still keeps me connected and a digital screen in front of my face and I’m trying find a way to limit that too but the desire to see what’s new is strong still.
The times where I don’t have a screen jammed in my face are few. When I’m sleeping for sure. That’s my favorite time of all! Then when I’m at the gym is another time, although the iPhone is right there. But I’m not checking social media then, I’m exercising and I stay focus on that. The rest of the time there is a screen of some sort in front of me. At work, it’s a PC all day in front of me the whole time. That comes with the job being a tech guy in a technical job. When I’m home, if I happen to not be using my iDevices, there is still the good ol’ TV that’s possibly turned on. Surprisingly though, I don’t usually turn on the TV not the weekends until later in the day which make me feel good when I think of that.

Lastly, when I’m driving the only thing in front of my face is the roadway. I refuse to drive distracted; it’s far too dangerous and I see people every single day doing this. One nice thing about my car and having an iPhone is Apple’s CarPlay. When my phone is connected to the car, the iPhone takes over the infotainment center and shows very limited options including Messages, Maps, Music and Phone. Messages can be managed by voice control and text to speech so that you don’t have to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. The same goes for the phone and the other apps. Other notifications from the phone such as email are muted and you don’t know they’re popping in at all until you stop and look at the phone. The forthcoming iOS 11 from Apple this year will have a new feature called “Do not disturb while driving” and I’m looking forward to that very much. It will suppress calls and messages while you’re driving and will send messages back on your behalf letting the person who texted you know that you’re driving and will see their message and get back to you when you’re done driving. The feature will turn on when it connects to a car, or if the car has no connection to an iPhone, it will enable itself when it senses you’re moving like in a car. If you’re a passenger, you can override the setting to use the phone normally.

With all of that said, I do miss the old days of less technology and interconnected communication with social media. I’m not saying that this stuff is not without its benefits because its not. I just wonder if its another one of those things that due to our obsessive human nature that we sometimes overuse it. What do you think?