Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting in Shape: Day 6

The Title of this Posting Series

In reflecting on the title that I chose for this series, "getting in shape," I wonder what criteria I will use to determine when I can close the series and start a new one called something like "staying in shape." Should it be the ability to jog a certain distance without feeling tired, such as four park cycles? Whatever I use, it must be something quantifiable. While positive results such as the appearance of abdominal definition would be nice, it would be very fuzzy, and not have much validity even then, to determine when there is enough definition to consider myself "in shape." If there were such a way to quantify the quality of my six-pack (which does not yet exist), then I could say that "staying in shape" is the maintenance of the routine that keeps the definition around. As nice as this would seem, I believe that it would be more practical to make it based on the covering of that distance.

The thing is, I do not think that I want to make covering that distance a goal because then I might strain myself and rush to achieve it. I think of this, then, as a "macro-goal," if you will. While I could achieve the macro goal, I might accomplish it too fast and then burn out my healthy practices too quickly. If I make the goal to exercise at least a little bit every single day, I believe that I will arrive at the macro-goal in due course. It seems to me that this is the way the professional athletes achieve...focus on the day at hand, and let one day's focused exertion build strength for the next day's tasks.


Long before taking my jog today, I walked home from work. I did not time it today, but I know that the walk takes about a half-hour. This would qualify as aerobic exercise if I had slowed down my walk once I got close to the house. I did not stretch before of after. I also was not wearing good walking shoes; I was, instead, wearing my non-slip work shoes.

The jog went well today. Ran at about eleven o'clock and got done at 11:28. I took the medicine right before running, stretched out, and made two complete park circuits and walked it off by going down to the end of the block and back. I did a fairly good job of relaxing my shoulders and jaw. Footfalls were relatively light. Tomorrow, the real motivational challenge begins. Hopefully, the day-by-day goal-setting and reflections thereupon will help me to keep focused. Usually, it is about this number of days in a row that my intentions to get in shape and jog every day start to flame out. I start to think about running marathons, having a six-pack, and generally just being magically in shape. It is even tough for me to keep focused on writing every day. I used to start journals, promise myself that I would write every day, and then flame out quickly after a few days. I amdoing a fairly good job of typing without resting my hands on the keyboard. Right now I am typing standing up.

Today's consumption

Breakfast - individual side of mashed potatoes (no gravy); nibbled on popcorn chicken (did this off and on all through my shift; brewed iced tea
Lunch - grilled chicken breast; side of barbecue baked beans; side of seasoned green beans; biscuit with one packet of honey; two 12-ounce cups of soda; also ate a little piece of a seasoned potato wedge
Supper - Two bowls of a rice, scrambled hamburger, and frozen pea mix, seasoned with soy sauce; Milk

Getting in Shape: Day 5

The First Day of Challenges
I did not expect that this lifestyle change would be easy. Today, I faced my first true set of tests. First, I ate too much in the afternoon because I had eaten two plates of spaghetti and was working on a bowl of ice cream when my friend called to remind me that it was time for her sister's birthday dinner...thus ensued a meal of chop steak, queso green beans and baked beans. Needless to say, I was stuffed. I knew that today might be a challenge for me to get my run in, anyway, because I didn't get it done in the morning.

When I did get to my run, at 11 p.m. (77 degrees F), I had my first signs of trouble. I had not even reached the park when I felt a stitch coming on. I made the turn and it did not go away. Naturally, it got worse. I had to stop running a few blocks later because my sister, who tonight decided to run with me, started having breathing problems because she has not taken her asthma medicine in months. We walked the rest of the way, and then I decided to do some extra running. I went a different direction, but I made a circle. So, I probably made at least one and two-thirds of a park cycle. It must have been from all of the protein that I had consumed earlier in the day, but, still, after I made the extra circuit, I felt like walking that circuit. So, I did. I doubt that I burned off all of the calories that I had consumed, but I believe that I at least made a dent.

One of the results of the stitch that I had was the noticing of how shallow my breaths were. I was not getting air deep "into my belly" as a vocalist might say. I surely need to continue my exercising so that I can bust through these stitches. I did focus on lighter footfalls. I can not yet tell if this improves overall performance or not. I did make an effort to relax. I forgot to think about focusing on the relaxation of my jaw, though. Still, I did, at least while I was walking, keep my shoulders down. I have discovered that I not only carry tension in my shoulders, but also I do it with my shoulders. I speculate that relying on shoulder tension is a compensation for lack of upper-body strength. Though I hate push-ups, I am afraid that it may be time to start toning my chest muscles.

Other notes
This post is occurring on the date after the running because both were so late in the evening.

I did take my medicine right before running. This was the second time that I took it today.

I stood up while typing half of this entry. I think that my keyboard is too high. It is putting unnecessary strain on my elbows. I am still managing to keep my wrists from resting on the edge of the board, though.

Today's diet
Breakfast - two bowls of honey nut "tastee-os" with 2% milk
Brunch - piece of toast (not whole grain), slice of pre-cooked ham, fried egg, half of a fresh peach, small glass of cranberry-grape juice
Late Lunch - two plates of reheated spaghetti with meat sauce (hamburger), large bowl of chocolate ice cream
Supper - Angus Sirloin Chop Steak with barbecue sauce(basically a giant hamburger patty, I discovered), side of barbecue baked beans, side of "queso green beans," plain iced tea to drink

It looks like I consumed enough for two days! This is not a pattern into which I should get. No way.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Getting in shape: Day 4

A morning jog
Yesterday, I mentioned that I would try to start running in the mornings to see if that created the same light feeling that I had when I ran last night after having not eaten anything substantial in over six hours. The effect seemed to be the same. I made my park cycle pretty well, and walked it off afterward in the same fashion. I do not know how much actual progress I have made so far in terms of my physical condition, but I have noticed that the park seems to be much closer than it seemed the first two days I ran.

I focused on keeping my footfalls light, but, at times, it was hard to tell if I was succeeding because the wet sidewalks muffled the sound. I am trying to stay very relaxed, as well. I believe that the tension with which I often exercise is probably a detriment to natural flow and rhythm. One thing that I have discovered about myself through vocal lessons and practice is that I carry a lot of tension in my jaw. This is not good for singing, but it probably does not help with my breathing as I jog, either.

The temperature was about 76 degrees F. I did not wear my glasses. At first, I thought that I would wear my sunglasses, but when I got outside I noticed that the sky was cloudy so I would not really need them.

Other notes
I took my medicine shortly before running. I stretched beforehand as well. After my return, I stretched and drank a little water. I am trying to avoid resting my palms on the edge of the keyboard while I type. I notice that my left hand does not have the natural curve that my right hand does. I also notice a great deal of tension in my upper arms because I am keeping my wrists off the keyboard. This changing my typing habits thing may be incredibly challenging. To get my wrists warmed up, I stood up and typed down on the keyboard while I worked on this entry.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Getting in shape: Day 3

Signs of progress?
Today, I made it to and fro from the park. Afterward, I "walked it off" by walking to the end of the block and walking back. I stretched out a little bit. I drank a small amount of water (not too much!) to rehydrate myself. I have decided that I will not focus my jogs, at least in these early stages, on time elapsed. Rather, I will simply keep track of the distance and how I feel after running them.

Other conditions
The temperature was at about 80 degrees F. I made efforts to lessen the weight while jogging. Over such short distances, I doubt that it makes a noticeable difference, but still I chose to jog without my glasses on. I also jogged at nighttime. Naturally, I wore a white T-shirt for better reflection. I would have worn my sleeveless shirt, but it is navy blue and that is not safe at all for nighttime jogging.

Jogging technique
I realized that I have been running too heavily, not in terms of amount of running but in terms of how I land. I noticed that it seemed as though I was landing too hard on my feet, and I am wondering if running lighter, controlling my footfalls better, will decrease the amount of stress on my joints. Perhaps, it might even improve my performance. I will try to gauge improvement in this area by noting how loud my footfalls sound.

Other factors potentially impacting performance

I took my medicine twice today before my jog. I also took my fast-acting inhaler this afternoon.

I had not eaten anything substantial (PEZ does not count, especially when it's only two pieces) since about two o'clock. Indeed, I was running lighter! Perhaps I should simulate this effect by running in the morning before I eat anything. I will see how that goes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting in shape: Day 2

Not much happened today, but I did go for a little 5 minute jog. I would have walked over to help a friend move across the hall, but I started walking and I said to myself that I might as well jog it. Today's jog was as hard as yesterday's...I'm just really out of shape. I was also wearing jeans. But, even a little 5-6 minute run is better than no run at all. Another friend of mine, who happens to be a cross-country runner, believes that consistency is the key. So, I figure, if I at least do something every day, I will slowly start to get into shape. After all, that's the idea...making a lifestyle change.

More motivation
Today, we found out that my uncle's blood vessels are 60% clogged, and in the morning we will find out if he has to have surgery. At first, they thought that it was a heart attack...some relief to find out that one may need open-heart surgery!

Heart disease is rampant in the adults of my family. We have a history of diabetes as sister and great aunt are/were type 1. So, I really need a lifestyle change. I did take a good step today by not overeating, and I didn't get a shake with my burger. Yes, it's fast food, but, just as I spoke of yesterday, it's not so much what one eats as opposed to how much one indulges. I am also allowing a sufficient amount of time for digestion since having the sandwich before I go to bed.

Took the medicine today, not twice though.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Getting in shape: Day 1

I believe that an artist, a person who attempts to engage in creative processes through discipline, technique, and the expression of emotions and thoughts, benefits from taking care of him/herself. To that end, and in search of focus, I will begin to track my health progress.

Status quo
The status quo is not good. I have very slowly begun gaining weight. Before my scale broke (unrelated :) ), I was at about 170 lbs. I am 5'9 3/4." To many, this probably sounds just fine, and, indeed, according to the BMI calculator that I used, I am slightly under the borderline for being overweight. The problem is that I feel that I am gradually gaining weight, and it will not be long before I am overweight. Basically, I feel that I need a lifestyle change.

Attempts so far
During college, I always ate lunch and dinner at the cafeteria. This was kinda crappy because I always ate too much at once so that I would not need to eat later on...and eating a lot at once is not a good thing. Since graduation and the subsequent move off campus, I have started making conscious efforts to eat less. I believe that quality of diet is important, but quantity and frequency also are. Something like a big double-chocolate chip cake from KFC, if eaten in its entirety, is surely troublesome. However, if one limits what one eats the rest of the day, it almost makes up for the gorging. Second, frequency. Eating a piece of fried chicken 3 times a day may not be that bad, but the doing of this should be spread out over the course of a day if possible.

Second, I take a multivitamin every day. It would be very time consuming to add up all of the nutrients in the things that I usually eat. I bought a jar of 300 vitamins for about $7.50, which works out to $.025/pill. It's a worthwhile investment of time and money to me.

So, having made attempts to take care of diet and nutrition, I have realized that I have left exercise out of the equation. I have largely lost out on exercise's many benefits, including improved breathing and air support for sound production (of great importance for an asthmatic like me), such as singing and speaking. Exercise also helps your system get the crud out.

Therefore, knowing the downfall of my negligence, and believing that an artist must be in good health to make well-contemplated decisions as well as produce good sound such as that important for a story-recorder, and needing a medium through which I can focus on my health development, I now begin a daily recording of the exercise that I do, as well as anything else relating to my health, such as whether or not I took my vitamin and took my asthma medicine twice.

Without further ado:

Today's health progress
I laced up the sneakers and tried to go for a jog. I felt so heavy! I tried to jog to a a neighborhood park that Google Maps says is an eleven-minute walk away. I had not even gone a block when I started feeling like I was carrying dumb bells with me. My feet, my chest, everything felt so heavy. I turned the corner at the park, jogged a couple more blocks, and stopped. I thought, geez, this is so difficult! I then started to walk the rest of the way back. (Along the way, I found a dog and returned it to its owner.) The temperature was 92 F at 3 o'clock p.m. I do not know what my current weight is because my scale is not working. However, I would not be surprised if I had ballooned to 175.

Health notes: Took my medicine this morning and a multivitamin this afternoon. Ate raisin bran for a late breakfast. I should probably eat again before I get hungry; need to keep the metabolism going. I am trying to not rest my fingers on the edge of the keyboard when I type. Did a few ab exercises this morning.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Letting Myself Make Mistakes

When my chief advisor and I listened to my first draft of "Entrance and Exit," we both found things that we would like to change, but she encouraged me to let those things go and carry on with my recordings.

A Struggle
While I have the utmost respect for my advisor, I was very tempted to disregard her advice on this matter. I even went so far as to e-mail her about my inhibitions. Put simply, I told her that I just wanted to do one more recording and fix just those things that we talked about. But, after working with me for over three and a half years, she knows how I rarely am satisfied with my work. She knew that I would want to make it perfect. She furthermore knew that I had so much more work to accomplish, and trying to focus on creating the "perfect story" would make it nearly impossible to accomplish anything more.

Maintaining a Sense of Drive
I think that I may take from this experience a terrific life lesson. Perhaps people who are willing to let themselves make mistakes are more likely to stay focused and driven. Perhaps I could accomplish more if I put myself heart and soul into the moment, publish/submit my work, and then reflect on my mistakes and how I can improve on them. Maybe it is that very desire of not being satisfied that will help me to keep my passion for growth and learning...

While I still believe that I am capable of reading every story to my full satisfaction, perhaps it is more important to keep moving forward and not let the little things drag me down. I think that I shall be more likely to produce if I keep moving forward, taking note of all the mistakes that I identified and trying to learn from those mistakes to better inform future decision-making.