Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The making of an action hero, or things to work on

January is traditionally a month for reflection and goal setting. I, being the cranky old action hero that I am, dislike words like resolution and diet. They come with so much baggage that making a resolution or starting a diet always feels like a self-defeating prospect. So I’m not going to make a resolution. I’m simply going to say what I’ve done and what more I feel I need to work towards.

Last Year:

Last year saw some decent progress on the health front. I lost ground on the weight side—reducing my gains from 40 to 25 pounds. On the up side, I maintained that 25 pound loss over an entire year. Weight isn’t in-and-of-itself something I’m focused on. It’s an indicator of other things. To be clear, you can be fit and fat. It’s better to be just fit, but you can carry extra pounds and improve your health.

That was the philosophy I took in 2014. In 2013, I got the ball rolling. I found that really dedicated diet changes were difficult to maintain. I’ve kept many of them including bringing my own lunch to work, cutting out soda entirely, eating health shakes most mornings for breakfast, almost never ordering out unless we have company, and using my light box. I didn’t keep up the quality of my diet—we eat more processed foods than I’d like among other things. So last year was all about finding a sustainable balance and holding on to as many of the 2013 gains as I could manage.

The really bright spot was starting up a 3-day-a-week gym rotation with Squish and MX. I know for a fact that this has paid off in a huge way. Sunday I managed 2 sets of 8 and 1 set of 10 at 175 pounds on bench. I’m pushing 115 pounds in sets of 8 for military press. My 5 pound clubs feel like nothing. I regularly run the elliptical past its 65 minute tracking maximum—averaging 80 minutes of cardio per visit including my boxing time. Boxing is fan-tastic. I owned that heavy bag yesterday and had energy left over for a good 45 minute run on the elliptical. My endurance, muscle tone, and vitals are the best they’ve been since college with indicators that I may even better that mark. My blood pressure is the lowest it’s ever been. My other metrics are coming down—high but no longer in the danger-danger-danger zone. I still have foot problems, but that’s most often due to a sprain rather than irritated tissue. Best of all, I’ve only missed 3 days in 4 months. The gym is fully integrated into my schedule to the point where I feel bad if I don’t get enough cardio. I used to hate rule number 1, do cardio. Now, not only is it in reach but I feel like I’m pushing hard at it.

The biggest 2014 gain didn’t have to do with any specific metric. For the first time in a while I have the strength, endurance, physical capacity, and general wellness to actually live life actively. There’s always room for improvement, but there are certain minimum tolerances required to be considered “active.” I’m not going to be running a marathon tomorrow. I do feel like I can manage all moderate and several difficult physical tasks. Squish has been talking for a while about getting a tandem bike—a prospect which used to fill me with doubt. I feel like I could make a good showing now. That’s the best part of going to the gym. I don’t have to be afraid of trying new physical activities for fear of coming up short.

Things to work on:

As I’ve said before, I believe that a big part of making sustainable changes comes from being honest about what needs to be done, what you can handle, and what you can push yourself to do. Weight wasn’t a big focus for me in 2014 because I wanted to work on good behaviors. When my scale gave up the ghost I took it as a sign. That being said, I’m at a point where I think periodic weight checks will be beneficial. Studies have shown that people who check their weight make better choices. Starting the last workout day of each month I’m going to have Squish check my weight. I’m in better shape—now it’s time to be honest about where I am and where I want to be. To some extent that has to involve shucking poundage. I think I’m exercising enough that I should be able to turn that monitoring into positive reinforcement.

One of my issues is that I spend most of my off-time at home reading, checking email, and puttering around the kitchen. While I’m all for these activities in general, it puts me in contact with the fridge more often than I’d like. Finishing up the beast cave™ will give me a place where I can work on projects without as much temptation. I’d like to have at least the work space done by the end of March. I have several activities I’d like to work on—care and cleaning for my firearms, learning to sharpen my edged object collection, creative writing, reloading basics, a RPG sound library and soundboard system, and learning first aid/survival/communication—basic prepper stuff. I’d like to establish a pattern of doing “stuff” in the man-cave not only to keep me away from snacking but also to keep me more focused—a long term goal, but one I believe I can achieve.

In the kitchen, I want to work on making healthier, interesting dishes. I have my standard offerings which are ok. The catch is that if I’m going to get to the informal mental goal I’ve set myself for 2015, I’m going to have to really up my game when it comes to lean protein and veggies. The brunette understandably doesn’t like healthy food for its own sake. I’m going to have to work on things like soups, different kinds of salads, and varieties of dishes that will taste good. On the up side, I got a bunch of gear from our pampered chef party. I’m completely capable of grilling, something that’s let me make up some low-fat burgers when the meat-craving gets unmanageable. I’m going to see how to cook chicken breasts with that as well as working on roasting veggies and a few other tricks to spice things up.

I enjoy days where you sleep in for 10 hours, laze around the house, read a book, and check email. Down time is important for mental and physical restoration. I feel that this has become my default setting though. Absent any specific activity, I find my way to the recliner listening to a book where I’ll lose an hour or two. I’m going to work on scheduling down time on purpose rather than just letting hours go by for lack of motivation. I want to do stuff or do more stuff I should say. I’m certainly more active now than I was two years ago. The catch is making sure I’m taking the steps to not settle on my laurels.

I’m going to finish things in 2015. I’m really and truly sick of leaving things on the to-do list half way done. I’ve gotten better but it’s still a thing for me. I have a habit of obsessing over one idea/project/issue and then, after I’ve bought in with time and cash, losing interest in favor of the new shiny. This is one of those on-going kinds of objectives. Not-buying warmachine and hordes models until I have a painter available has helped. Not spending all-day on kickstarter has helped too. Getting the man-cave up and running may help more—and yes, I realize the irony in depending on completing one project in order to increase my completion rate. More broadly this is about my commitment to focus less on aquiring things and more on making use of the things I’ve already aquired. That may involve aquiring more “things” but it will curb the trend of opening up new time consumers and focus drains.

I’m going to be looking seriously at my next job move. I’ve been in my current department for almost 3 years. At first it was a nice change with great perks. Lately though I’m starting to see it as a dead end job. I don’t mind doing the same thing every day as long as that job meets my long term financial goals. Unless I’m in line for a promotion I don’t see myself meeting those goals by staying in my current spot. That means asking some very difficult questions. It means having at least one tuff conversation with my boss. This is possibly the most uncomfortable goal. I’m not good at picking a direction. The thing is, I can’t keep doing this for ever. At some point the bank is going to either find a way to make more of my role accessible or they’re going to get tired of supporting me at a diminished capacity for my job rating. Maybe that happens soon, maybe not. Either way, It’s in my best interest to act soon.

That’s it. I’m getting closer to going big time. The training continues. The bad guys are on notice…I’m coming soon and you’d better be ready.

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