Saturday, August 23, 2014

Week 20 - Dangerous Waters Ahead

So here I am after 20 weeks, and things are looking pretty good, overall.

I'm down 25 lbs and 6 % bodyfat, I'm still doing strength work and running. I went from barely being able to sustain 2 continuous minutes of running to running a 10k. My pace has improved from 14-16 minutes per mile to 11-13 minutes per mile on good days. I look much better in the mirror. I'm fitting into clothes I haven't been able to wear for years, and I'm still maintaining a healthier diet. I've even started to take control of other parts of my life that I had similarly let slide.

But now I'm thinking about making a change. Strength training has been the weakest link in my newest evolution, and I'm thinking about starting a new program to hit it really hard. While I am actually seeing some results on my current, bodyweight-only regimen, part of me is dying to hit the heavy weights again. The program I'm contemplating would be a big shock to my body and schedule--jumping up from 20-30 minute workouts to probably over an hour--and would simultaneously make a big change to my diet as well. If it works as promised, I could break through to the best shape of my life.

But I'm nervous. The last time I tried a program as intense as this was P90X, a 90-day hardcore workout program which I really enjoyed, but was so stressful to my body, and so demanding of my time, that when I missed a couple of days for a business trip (at something like 86 days into the program), I literally quit right then and never finished the last 3-4 days.

And see, one of the reasons that I'm still going right now, I think, is that I've kept things pretty simple and flexible. The diet has been much more basic than previous attempts; I have eaten the exact same breakfast every day for probably over 15 weeks now. I haven't given up and quit when injury or schedule difficulties caused me to miss workouts because my workouts have been much more simple and easy-going, so it's no problem to make them up or let them slide. My progress has been slow, but I haven't quit.

This new program could be wonderful. My conditioning has improved to the point that I could probably use a really hard kick in the intensity right now. But I worry that it could cause me to repeat my previous pattern of three-month burnout and quitting for who-knows-how-many years. And there is some expense to the program, extra equipment to buy and such, in order to get full use out of it. I'm wondering if the expense and risk is worth it.

Which is kind of a moot question, because I've already spent a substantial amount of money gearing up for it, so in that sense, I think I've mentally committed to doing it. I just hope I can make it work.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Week 19: Bridging a Break

I've mentioned before that one way to stick to a new fitness regime is to establish a routine. The flip side to that is that if the new routine breaks, it can be hard to reestablish. In the past, when my fitness cycles ended, it was often because I had a forced break in the routine--a vacation or extended holiday weekend which necessitated a break in the workout sequence or a break in the diet, after which it just became easier to quit rather than go back.

So this week was a particularly dangerous time for me. This year, I finally went back to full-time employment, which means I am eligible for paid vacation. I took my first such vacation this past week, and it seems as if I didn't do too badly in terms of breaking my routines.

Which isn't to say I didn't break the routines. I completely skipped all my strength workouts for the week, and my diet has also fallen off. But it hasn't fallen off completely, and I did compensate for the lack of strength workouts somewhat by running extra mileage and getting in a heavy bag workout, which I had abandoned almost completely for the past few weeks.

I may still lack motivation for strength workouts, but approaching the mid-point of Zombies Run! Season 2, I am ridiculously motivated to get out and run. Both speed and distance are developing nicely, I'm really enjoying the story, and I'm making nice progress with the game elements such as achievement badges and my base, which is filling out. I ran a 10K about two weeks ago, and I'm contemplating entering some actual races in a couple of months.

Speaking of Zombies Run!, when I first started using the app (not being an especial fan of zombie stories), I contemplated ideas for a more well-rounded app that would be more of a superhero adventure, combining the running elements of Zombies Run! with strength/conditioning elements. In a way, the overall program I started out to pursue--running, strength, boxing, diet--was a sort of all-purpose hero training regime.

Well, as it turns out, Six to Start (the company that makes Zombies Run!) was way ahead of me. They've been developing a new fitness app, due to release later this month, called Superhero Workout. The goal seems to be to do for calisthenics what Zombies Run! does for running. I cannot wait for them to release this for Android, but given the problems I'm having with storage space on my phone, I may end up having to buy a new smartphone just to run this app.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

So, Robin Williams...

I try not to jump on these bandwagons when a celebrity dies unless it's someone who really affected me personally like Ray Harryhausen. Or, in this case, Robin Williams.

Cause here's the thing that people who know me understand about me. I'm an introvert, really shy and quiet around people I don't know. But I wasn't always that way. When I was a kid, I was supposedly really extroverted. According to my dad, I started to withdraw after my parents' divorce, and I stayed that way, except for a couple of years in high school when I seemed to come out of my shell in a big way.

What happened? Mork happened.

I was a huge TV fan as a teen, and when Mork and Mindy debuted at the start of my junior year in high school, it was like a revelation. I thought Robin Williams was the most amazing entertainer I had ever seen. It wasn't that any single bit was that funny, but there just seemed to be an endless well of them, shooting out at machine-gun speed. Spew out a dozen punch lines in a minute, and one of them has to hit, right?

So for the last couple of years in high school, I channeled Robin Williams (as much as I could without cocaine, anyway), talking fast, spewing out silly observations and funny voices as fast as I could make them. And strangely enough, I went from being a marginal outcast to becoming marginally popular.

Then I ended up going to college and got lost in the crowd at USC. It didn't matter so much, because Williams's schtick was starting to get a little old, anyway. Mork and Mindy was cancelled, and I went back to being an introvert.

But something else happened at the same time. Williams became a bona-fide movie star, which is when the next bit of the story happened. Williams starred in a movie called "Good Morning, Vietnam," directed by Barry Levinson. I just happened to be reviewing movies for the Daily Oklahoman at the time, so I ended up going to San Francisco for the press junket, which is how I met Robin Williams for the first and last time.

As a print journalist, I didn't get to meet him one-on-one. We had what were called round-table interviews, where one of the people from the movie (Williams or Levinson or Bruno Kirby or Forest Whitaker or Adrian Cronauer, the real-life inspiration for the story) would sit at a table with 5 or 6 of us newspaper writers for 25 minutes or so, and then shift over to the next table.

So there I was, sitting next to Robin Williams as different writers asked him their questions. And every time I would try to get my question in, someone else would talk over me. Before I knew it, the studio rep was there, telling Robin it was time to move to the next table.

And he turned to me and said something to the effect of, "No, let this guy ask his question first. He's been waiting all this time."

So I got to ask my question, which was something about an interview with Pam Dawber where she said toward the end of Mork and Mindy's run, the writers gave up trying to write gags and would just insert a line to the effect of "Robin does his thing for a minute." And I asked if they had done anything similar on the movie.

His answer was something to the effect of "don't believe everything you read in interviews" crossed with "I didn't have as much freedom to improvise because this was a big-budget feature." But yeah, there were times, especially in the DJ booth scenes, where he would start riffing and Levinson would have to just let him go for a while.

So here's the thing: although I was not a big fan of Williams as his star continued to rise--"Dead Poets Society" and "Patch Adams" and the like left me cold--the one time I met him, he was nicer to me than he needed to be, which I will always appreciate. And for a couple of years there in high school, he literally changed my life. So I am really sorry to hear that he ended the way he did. He deserved better, for whatever that's worth.