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Morning Coffee with Ralph

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.”

  • Ralph ‘Where’s Waldo’ Emerson

 

True not just for worldview, political opinion, science and religion, but that applies to fitness and health as well. How many of us have fallen victim to subscribing to a particular style of eating (vegans and paleo folks come to mind) or fitness (CrossFit, Insanity, Barre) and jumped so soundly onto the train that we are headed in that direction no matter what and everything else is wrong. This is the best, right? We then proceed to surround ourselves with like-minded people and preach our fitness gospel, sometimes as if everyone else is doing it wrong.

cult

Think about this, mankind has tried since the invention of though, to answer the most basic questions as to our existence. Brilliant people like Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Deepak Chopra, Friedrich Nietzsche and on and on and on have tried and failed. But after two hours of internet research I now know the Ultimate Six-Pack Shortcut! Not hardly.

We can all agree on one universal truth when it comes to fitness or any successful habit for that matter. Consistency is key. However, consistently adhering to principles that you barely understand, and not being able to see them in the context of fitness as a whole brings on “the hobgoblin”. Which means the second you stop doing whatever it is, you most times cannot recover. And since it’s pretty much all you know, you have no choice but to go back to it whether it seems to work or not.

Insanity

I worked with a guy, a little on the short side. But easily could be the strong athletic type. Our jobs were pretty sedentary and people with sitting jobs tend to pack on weight. So, he fell headlong into Insanity. The first time through, he was 100% strict and he dumped a ton of fat and showed pretty good muscle definition. That’s when he became a lay-preacher in the Church of Insanity and preach he did. Once he got to his goal, he did what most people do. He stopped. Guess what happened? He did it a second time and it worked again, and the third time.  But this greatest thing in the world, that he was 100% consistent with, did nothing for him after he stopped. And he had no idea what to do because all he knew how to do is unfold the 30-day calendar, get out the pre-made meal plan and pop in a video.

Not educating yourself is the greatest Hobgoblin of them all. Don’t stop at the first thing that works and swear it’s the greatest thing in the world. By all means if it is giving results, keep doing it. But educate yourself so that you have proper context when relating to others or when you plateau. The fitness industry makes it’s living selling one-size fits all quick fixes to anyone who will buy them. They are betting on people taking the easy way out, rather than doing their homework. The odds are on the side of the house, just like in a Casino. You may achieve a short term win up front. But their goal is to keep you playing long enough to inevitably relieve you of the burden of your hard-earned cash.

Casino

Don’t be the Hobgoblins’ slave.

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Well now, how have we all been?

Oh has it been a while. Well, it happens sometimes. We get busy and sometimes we lose sight of what’s important to us. I didn’t realize until a few days ago just how important doing this was for me. How much this kept me focused, kept me learning and growing as a person.

I took for granted just how helpful this process actually  is. The exact time I fell off the goal wagon is pretty close to the last time I actually blogged.

So here I am back again. Ready to keep moving forward with my goal of constant self-improvement with an emphasis on fitness. Buying a house and turning it into a home, starting a huge new garden project, getting the cutest puppy ever, all these things have distracted me from , well…..me.

The house…

House

The garden…

Garden.jpeg

The dog…..

Dog.jpeg

Distractions aside lets get on with it.

2017 Goal Update

My 2017 quest for membership in the “3 plate club” (315lb bench press if you aren’t a hardcore lifter) has moved forward despite my self-sabotage. I put myself on a regiment of doing sets of pushups every morning. It hurt a little at first. But I have to say, that and some intense focus and desire have improved by bench press.

Bench has always been a weakness for me. I neglected it during my Crossfit phase because it wasn’t “functional”.  But now I realize that is not entirely true. You have to look at your max bench press as an indicator of your overall strength. So it’s not that I have struggled at the bench press. It’s more like I have never gotten serious about it.

So how close am I? Two weeks ago, I gave a shot at trying to find my 1 rep max. My only mistake was I did it too late and had already done a few heavy working sets. So I had to stop at 265 lbs. I am pretty certain had I not done sets of 225 for reps prior, (and had a spotter), I could have gone a little higher. Given that, I made a decision. I don’t want to just hit 315, I want to crush it. So this week I have started a 5X5 program for just the bench press. Starting at 225, which I have grown comfortable with.

So 3 times a week, 5 sets, 5 reps. The goal is to increase the weight each session based on how the previous session went and not to progress until I master 25 reps at that weight. Monday was 225 and it felt okay. No soreness beyond Tuesday. So today I try 230. I feel good about it.

Green Thumb

The arduous garden project is now paying dividends. I am awash in organically grown cucumbers, green beans, romaine lettuce, zucchini and kale. And son carrots. That makes for healthier eating. Especially the kale. Now that we are heading into the cooler portion of the year, the kale will start to really leaf out. That means lots of shakes or juice with fresh kale. What you can’t see in the picture, is the apple tree we planted out front, and all the blueberry bushed I put in against the deck. I didn’t expect anything form them this year, but next year……

I also have a nice patio planter box full of fresh basil, parsley, oregano and rosemary. Easy to grow and you really get some mileage out of them.

The Face of the Franchise

I am in the process of creating an actual Cubicleshark logo. I am not trying to launch a brand or anything. I just thought it would be a fun idea and spice up the blog a little. Maybe make a cool coffee mug. More to come on that. I have no idea how to go about it. I am not an artist by any means. If one of you have any input on how that can be done, feel free to post in the comments or PM me.

Well, I will stop here for now. I haven’t exercises these muscles in a while and I don’t want to aimlessly ramble on.

Keep pushing keep working. It’s no longer “one day”, its “day one”.

 

 

 

Spiritual Malaise

I haven’t posted anything here in a while. Not that I have been too busy……or can’t think of antything to talk about. Rather, I have beem suffering from a malaise of the spirit. It left me feeling drained and intellectually worn out. I lost my sense of purpose and my focus. Which in turn sapped my will to speak out, to be creative, to want to interact and  help others. So I have not posted. I am not one to speak just to make noise so I have remained silent.

I wish I could say that I have solved the problem, but I have not. What I have done, is made a concerted effort to trust my instincts and spend more time being introspective. I need to spend more time fixing me on the inside. I feel better and more optimistic. I feel my old focus returning and it feels good. 

The Lion will eventually remember how to roar. 

Paying the price

Paying the price

Life will pay whatever price you ask of it. You’re getting what you’re asking for. Whatever you focus on in life is going to happen. When you decide what’s most important for you, your brain goes after it.

-Tony Robbins

I wanted to start with that. Lately I have not been asking life for anything, and it has given me exactly what I have been asking for. The status quo….These past few weeks, I have just slothed (I am declaring this an actual word) my way through the day. I have been playing not to lose. I haven’t gained any weight back, lost any money, gotten divorced, etc.

sloth

Last night I watched the video that contains the quote I started out with. I will leave a link below. DAMN IT IF HE WASN’T RIGHT. I have come to the realization that if I ask life for more now, I am less likely to be the victim of circumstances that I have created, even if it was created through indifference. I can tread water till the sharks get me, or I can swim to shore. Or better yet, out to the boat and go from there.

I don’t really blame myself, or even anyone else who has ever been in this same situation. Life is hard. And when it gets easy, we get comfortable very quickly. It starts as a break. Just a little “me” time. The longer the break, the more painful it is to resume whatever it was you stopped doing. And since we all try and seek pleasure, yet avoid pain, we start to rationalize and justify further slothiness. Who wouldn’t right? You spend every day getting your ass kicked by either your own goals and desires or by the whims and wills of others. Once in a while it’s nice to just relax. Like my furry friend above.

But you can’t and you shouldn’t.  I realize that now. I need to mentally align myself and get myself in a high enough energy state that I am willing to accept no less than constant progress. Now I am not talking about leaps and bounds. I am talking about those every day inches that add up to miles in the end. When I am in the gym lifting weights my goal is to get stronger. Progress doesn’t have to be a sudden 20 pound increase in my one-rep max backsquat. Progress can be steady however slight. One more rep than last time. One more pound.  In the end it all adds up. Sure there are days when you go for it and get aggressive. Your super motivated with more energy than usual so why not go for it. But every day it should be another inch forward.

And I am not just talking about the gym. Physical is a big part of it. But what about the mental? The spiritual? Relationships? I am not getting what I want out of any of these areas because I have stopped asking. When you ask for more, more is demanded of you in return. Everything is a two way street. In order to really feel gods love, you need to know what it is to love god.  In order to be in the relationship that I want, I need to be the man my wife needs. When you ask life for more, intelligently not just some vague notion like “I want more money”, and in a focused and mindful manner, you define and set a goal for yourself. Your brain will then start to do what it takes to achieve that goal. All you need to do is feed it energy and keep it on track. Life then takes care of the rest.

I took a break. I stopped feeding it.

Stephen King is one of my all time favorite authors. He has been since I was in middle school. He published a series of short stories under the name of Richard Bachman. One of them was called The Long Walk. In the story, every year 100 teenage boys are picked to participate in “The walk”. An endless marathon walk at 4 mph with no finish line. The walk terminates when only one boy remains. He literally out-walks everyone else. He is also the lone survivor because to drop out is to die. The walk is relentless and grinds everyone under it’s heel until only one remains.

Sounds like life doesn’t it? Jump back to what I said earlier about taking a break. You drop out of the walk. Stay out long enough and you never get back in. Those of us who compete or drive for success see it all around us. The insincere drop away first. Next the well-intentioned but underprepared. Then those who had a goal and met it. All that remains are those of us who just want to metaphorically keep walking. Keep pushing , keep progressing. That is why high level achievers are people who seem to never be satisfied. Society then sometimes labels them overachievers and projects our own failures and insecurities onto them.

I realize now that in order to meet whatever my goals are, I need constant progression. Constant results no matter how small. We all do. I always make a plug for having goals. My only flaw is that I try and meet my own too fast. Or I set goals too easily achievable. Then what? I don’t want to dropout. I want to keep walking. I think deep down we all do at some level.

I rambled a bit here, but I haven’t posted in a while and I have been sitting around doing a lot of thinking. Too much apparently. Ciao for now.

 

 

 

I was just thinking

I was just thinking

As I was waltzing through YouTube, I came across a video that made me pause and think. It was a video of a guy named Elliot Hulse, who talks a lot about strength, fitness and a lot of stuff I general. He was doing a video based on a question he was asked by a subscriber. “Why are prison inmates so jacked?” He speculated that this was based on the prison environment itself causing a physiological response in people, causing their testosterone levels to increase, which leads to large increases in lean muscle mass. Now I am not suggesting that people go to prison to get ripped. Orange is not the new buff.

jacked

But I couldn’t help but think there may be some truth to his statement. Follow along here and in the end I will try to address a few fundamental things. We will all agree that in our penal system there are some large and muscular fellows. Quite a few actually. Now we can eliminate a number of things that are the cause just based on circumstance. First, diet. Prison food is by no means a success path for long-term muscle gains. Second, steroids are not exactly rampant in prisons….I think drugs and cell phones have more of a priority on the smuggling list. Third, you can’t just run down to GNC for protein powder, BCAA’s and Creatine. And last is the amount of time and equipment necessary to maintain large muscles. Prison yards/gyms are not your average Gold’s Gym and it’s not like an inmate has hours on end to work on his/her physique.

So having said all that, is it possible that what we are seeing is a reaction to environment? It sort of fits doesn’t it? But I can’t find any studies to back it up. It’s just sort of a logical theory based on how humans physiologically adapt to their surroundings.

Now take that same theory outside the prison walls. In 2006 Reuters published a story that showed the average man’s testosterone levels dropping steadily over the years. The results of that being increased obesity, decreased fertility and a rash of other related health problems.  Is this slackening of hormone production a result of our environment?  All those things that testosterone does for us are proving to no longer be necessary for the perpetuation of the species.  I don’t need to chase down prey in order to eat. I am not fending off predators and competing tribes. And last I knew, my wife did not marry me based on my ability to slay and drag home a haunch of mammoth.

If these activities are no longer necessary in order to get by in the world, is it possible that our bodies just stop expending resources to produce testosterone at that high of a level? Is this evolution? Is this the future and where does that take us as a species? I know many men whose excessive manliness is not seen as a positive (and it isn’t once you cross a certain line). But I also know a lot of men, who can’t fend for themselves if they were caught in the rain out in a city park, let alone fend off a mugger or chase away an overly aggressive stray dog. And you have to ask yourself “is this what men have become because women expect it, or have women just accepted it?” If so does that mean that nothing should be done about it?

men

This is just a casual observation and a theory. I am not suggesting anything even be done. More like just thinking out loud. Are women to suffer the same type of fate? If hormonal response is truly linked to environment, and our bodies are physiologically adapting to changing times, what then happens to estrogen levels? Maybe it’s already happening to women. Excess estrogen is as, if not more problematic, than excess testosterone. It can lead to weight gain, increase breast cancer risk, and screws with the menstrual cycle. I can Google symptoms and causes for both and tell you it is correctable to an extent. But should we? I say yes if it prevents health issues but that’s just a band aid. We aren’t fixing the problem, just masking it and that means it only gets worse over time as we “evolve” more.

People think I am crazy when I talk about things like this. But our bodies are incredibly complex, intricate, and interconnected systems, designed by evolution to adapt to our surrounds and allow us to survive as a species. Just like plants and small furry mammals do. We are so complicated that we think we actually understand ourselves and we don’t. And I think that causes us to rationalize things to our particular worldview and overlook the obvious. We often don’t see that when we change something, the way we eat, act, behave, that over time if it is consistent enough it can have physiological implications.

Are we all becoming victims of our social environment?

Don’t you hate it when someone ends a blog with a question?

Don’t wear Sex Panther in the gym…

This is just a brief update to yesterday. If ever there was a day where the stress level was high, it was yesterday. It was like the universe was conspiring against me. From work, to traffic, to weather, every input in my life seemed to be a negative force. But these days happen to us all. You can sit back on your haunches like a donkey, and bray about the universe not being fair, or you can weather the storm armed with the knowledge that it must eventually end. And end it did, or so I thought when I got to the gym.

donkey

I decided not to do strength training. I was going straight for a full body workout and conditioning improvement. The best way to do that is circuit training. But I wanted it to be short, intense and not involve a lot of equipment. So after a few revisions, I came up with a quick and dirty Crossfit inspired workout. A 20 minute AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) of the following:

10 Close grip (diamond) push-ups on a med ball

15 Kettlebell goblet squats

20 Crunches

Jump rope 30 singles-this was my “rest period”

Repeat…

If you have never done push-ups on a med ball, you should try it. It is the best way to determine if you have true core stability or not, and it also requires a ton of dynamic stabilization in your shoulders as well just to stay steady on the ball.

I wasn’t trying to break a land speed record. The whole purpose was just to keep moving at a decent pace the whole time and work multiple muscle groups. Somewhere around the 3 minute mark, I developed a pounding headache that really slowed me down. I couldn’t figure out why. The closest I can come is that I have been a bit sniffy lately, so maybe I was developing some sort of sinus thing??? Or maybe I didn’t warm up for this good enough. I am still not sure. I didn’t have any indication of a headache before I got to the gym. I wasn’t malnourished or dehydrated. And I can’t blame my pre-workout because I am used to it. This was made worse by the constant parade of elderly racquetballers leaving the gym. They streamed past me while I was deep into it, with the raging headache, which was made worse by the noxious  and overwhelming scent of the gallon of really cheap aftershave/cologne they must have sprayed all over each other in some sort of bizarre World Series locker room champagne celebration. It remained in the area long after they did.

rudd

I made it through despite all that.  I was psyched that I managed to turn myself into that sweaty of a mess in just 20 minutes. I celebrated with my new favorite thing: the sauna. However, I believe the elders disposed of their empty cologne bottle somewhere under the bench in there. It reeked. If I ever thought it was bad in the open air, it was worse in a dark, 170 degree closet. That sort of chopped down my time.

Health club tip: when showering after a workout, stick to just some deodorant/antiperspirant. Whatever olfactory madness you wish to partake in, do it out in your car.

In other news…..

Yesterday I posted a smoothie recipe. I have made an improvement to it. I added a tablespoon of unsweetened Ghirardelli Cocoa powder. Hello anti-oxidants. It also blended well with the vanilla protein powder, yogurt and coconut milk. It’s not for everyone, but it is interesting.

shake

Down Time

Down Time

I took a week off last week and it was glorious. Hell, I didn’t even go to the gym like I had planned to continue doing. The best part was doing some mobility work this morning and having no aches, pains or tightness. Mentally, it’s nice to take a break from the grind as well. Now I know there are a lot of fitness people who will say that if I am viewing it as a grind, then I am approaching health and fitness from the wrong perspective. I say THAT is the wrong perspective. You do anything long enough, I don’t care how much you love it, once in a while it’s gonna feel like a grind. The power of positivity only gets you so far.

All that is in the rear view now. A new week, and we are back at it. I am going with a modest calorie restriction for the week. Nothing too crazy. I have substituted breakfast Monday through Friday with this high protein mixed berry and greens smoothie that I saw on YouTube. I was skeptical having seen versions of this before, but figured I would give it a try.

1 scoop vanilla whey protein

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 cups Super Greens (Kale/spinach /chard mix)

1 cup frozen mixed berries

½ cup Whole Milk Greek Yogurt

Works out to 350 calories, 30g carbs, 12g fat, 37g protein. A lot of good fats, high in potassium, and really high in Vitamins A and C, and 9g of fiber (so in reality 21g Net carbs). I tasted it to see if any sweetener was needed, because in the video they said some people find it a little bitter. But it tasted fine to me. Pretty good actually. I could use a better blender but that’s not so much a fitness issue as it is an “I like kitchen gadgets” issue.

I like this break thing. I may do it again in a few weeks. Like 4 weeks maybe….I will play it by ear and see what my body tells me. There was a break in the clean eating Friday night and again on Saturday. Saturday we had pizza and wings, and there were snacks involved. It was a game night with a bunch of people, so social grazing was in full effect. That has resulted in a little bit of bloating from all the processed carbs and nitrates. But I know that if I stay clean for a few days then that issue takes care of itself.

For now, I am back to moving relentlessly forward to my 2017 goals. Like the shark, keep swimming or you sink and eventually die.