Progress Report

The cool thing about life is that every once in a while you get these weird little reminders of progress. I got two of them this week.

The first one happened on the elliptical. My knee going full a-hole on my last year (1 year ago today, now that I’m actually looking at it) has caused me to do a lot of things differently.

One of them is properly warming up before I lift.

Every session, I do 5-10 minutes on the elliptical. When I was first starting, my heart rate tended to match the number of steps per minute. This week, I noticed my heart rate was staying about 10 beats under the number of steps. The mild return to running seems to be helping. As does being on the fourth floor of my building at work (when I’m not lazily taking the elevator).

The second one happened at yoga today. It’s been 6 weeks since I went to a yoga class because of various reasons (illness, travel, knee pain, avoiding a teacher I don’t like). Usually that’s a good way to spell my demise going into an ashtanga class. They’re brutal.

And today was brutal. But it wasn’t any more brutal than normal. Lifting has kept my strength up and running has kept my cardio up enough to handle the session.

Those are little wins I needed this week. It’s been a long two weeks, honestly, so it was nice to see something resembling progress in this little area of my life.

But that’s all I have for you today. I’m exhausted, and I need to write about something else somewhere else.

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Revisiting the Process (and Accepting Failure Along the Way)

Not very good at the running thing these days

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

That picture has a lot of things behind it.

The good? Pretty sure that’s the farthest I’ve gone since my knee went full a-hole about a year ago. So that’s progress.

The bad? Today was the last day I could get in a 5K race in January, and I clearly wasn’t ready to cover 3.1 miles. I’m going to ignore the fact that I went from no running to a 5K in about a month 5 years ago and ran a 31-minute 5K.

So the Super Awesome Year of the 5K sequel is already off the rails. And that’s ok.

Right now I need to trust the process. As much as I want to stubbornly force my knee to behave or fully blow up, I know that might not be the best tactic. So I’m trusting the process to ease my way up to 5K mode.

I’m a big believer in process (see posts 1, 2, and 3 about process). It’s when I tried to do too much too soon (thereby violating the process) that things went off the rails.

But what is the process?

I’m glad I asked. Well, the process is a slow rising up in time that leads to mileage, but mileage is not the goal.

To help me cover more time, I’m doing a 1-minute run, 2-minute walk cycle.

Bleh.

But it saves my knee and my lungs. And those two a-holes are always plotting against me.

I’m keeping that rotation until I can do it for 30 minutes. Today I hit 24 minutes, which is the first time I went past 20. This is a slow process, but it’s still a process.

After I hit 30, I’m going to start lowering the walk cycles until I hit a 1:1 rotation. And then I’m going to start raising the running cycles and keeping the 1-minute walk cycle. And the whole time, I won’t go past 30 minutes. That’s when the trouble tends to start.

It’s a process.

But it can yield some awesomeness. If I start eventually hitting 30 minutes nonstop again (which I’ve done literally once), then I’ve basically got a 5K in my workout. And if I go crazy, running a 10K in 30 minutes is technically possible. Insane but possible.

For now, we’re at 24 minutes on a 1:2 cycle. It’s a process.

The Importance of Variety

Sometimes you have to take inspiration from an unexpected source.

Without a race to talk about (and I might possibly miss the first month of the Super Awesome Year of the 5K sequel due to illness), I rely on that a lot, whether it’s a video that goes a little viral or it’s something a friend says. And my idea of a new challenge every month? Forgot I’d seen a TED Talk on it months beforehand.

Also, did I say sequel?

Today’s bit of inspiration came from a podcast episode. Podcasts are great. I’ve gotten lesson activities from them. I’ve discovered new podcasts when the creators are guests on a different podcast. And you get to hear people’s thoughts.

Today had me finishing up an episode of the First Draft podcast hosted by Sarah Enni. I came across the podcast last week when I was sick and couldn’t even make myself watch TV. A lot of podcasts got listened to.

But this wasn’t in the normal cue of finding a podcast. This one was found on Twitter because she had interviewed Maggie Stiefvater, one of my favorite authors. If you want more on my admiration for her, you can check out my other blog and the posts about her books.

Listened the episode. Good, not great. But enough to pique my interest. Turns out she’s interviewed some other authors/creators whose work I’ve enjoyed. After listening to Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn’s episode, I listened to Ben Acker, co-creator of The Thrilling Adventure Hour. Him and his writing partner have done podcasts, comic books, novels, and scripts.

Variety. We always get where we’re going eventually.

Acker and/or the host made some comment about how writing in different styles (novels vs. scripts, etc.) helps improve writing in each style. And then Acker made a comment about going for a walk and going to concerts to get the creative juices flowing. Basically look for ideas outside of your own head.

This is something that resonated with me. It ties back to this blog and its overall purpose, but it also just bleeds into my life.

As it relates to this blog and fitness in general, variety is what keeps you sane. If you just run, you’re probably on your way to an injury. You need to stretch and strength train at least some. Yoga always made a great compliment, and weight lifting didn’t hurt (until it did). I detailed how the three work together for me three years ago.

It’s easy enough to see how you need to seek out balance when you talk about fitness, but that’s not the only connection.

I seek inspiration from a variety of sources. I seek it from friends online engaging in similar journeys. I seek it in the online communities Reddit. I seek it in the videos I watch. I seek it in the moments when I teach (and I let this journey inform how and what I teach).

But we’re still not done.

The blog itself is variety. It was a way for me to mentally engage in this journey in the moments when I couldn’t be running, lifting, and/or yogaing (we’re going to pretend that’s a verb). This was a way for me to not just act but to think about how I was acting.

And it gave me the chance to write. I like writing. It’s fun. I started the other blog to give me more chances to write (and the writing helped ensure I was reading more consistently).

Variety. That’s what we need. And to focus on what we’re actually supposed to be doing. In my case, that’s putting together a lesson for tomorrow and not this blog post. Whoops.

Complaining about the Cold

This post was supposed to be a rant about why diets and extreme fitness challenges don’t work long-term. They still don’t, but I’m not going to dwell. I can’t stop people from going on diets or trying weird fitness challenges.

Instead, I’m going to focus on doing a 5K every month this year…

I’m realizing how this looks, but hear me out: The 5Ks aren’t the real end-goal. They’re just to make sure I’m staying active. An incentive to not be a lazy sack of crap, even when it’s cold outside, which gets us to this post.

It’s cold outside. 4 degrees to be specific this morning. 4.

This throws a nondelightful wrench into the process (as opposed to a delightful wrench?). I don’t have the appropriate attire. Evidently the right answer is man tights. I could show you pictures of men in running tights, but I think we all know where this is really going:

I can wear pants over them, but there’s only so many pairs of pants you can wear before things start to get weird.

I also need to wear gloves and winter headgear. I have a beanie, but I’ve never actually run in it. I suppose it would do in a pinch.

All of this is to say I’m not adequately prepared for Oklahoma winters. I’ve never lived this far north (and the vast majority of the country begins laughing). Texas, Florida, and Mississippi. Those were my previous locales. I’m used to brutal summers. I’m not used to brutal winters.

The last time I played this little game, I was in north Mississippi. I bought pants and a jacket to run in, and I’ve got a little collection of long-sleeve shirts to work it out, but by and large, I was ok there. I don’t remember running below 30. In fact, two of the worst times I remember running were my first two 5Ks.

They were cold snaps. The first race gave me an ice warning (not to mention scraping ice of my windshield when I was running a little late getting to the race) and some icy spray as we ran over the bridge of a reservoir. The second had snow on the ground. Effing snow on the ground. Basically, these conditions were as bad as could be expected in that part of the world

And Oklahoma has the potential to be worse. So much so I’m not actually going to plan on a 5K. I’m going to keep an eye on the weather, and the first halfway decent weekend will include me signing up for a race last-minute.

This will easily be the weirdest year, because I might have to watch the weather through May. When the cold ends, the tornadoes start, and I don’t need that crap while I’m stressing over the race already.

If my knee holds up, I’m going to have to get a lot more flexible in my running patterns. Not to mention the fact that I need to cover at least 2 miles before the first 5K. I’m so freakin’ screwed. And I’m still cold.

But this what we do in the name of fitness. All I want for the new year is a six-pack. If I can’t have that, I’ll settle for a different kind of six-pack.

Some stupid jokes before I go on a yoga rant

This is a weird post to make because it should be a good thing, but it really just kind of pisses me off.

The Situation:

the-situation-jersey-shore-getty

Timely jokes. I bring all the funny.

The lead-up to today’s yoga class had a lot of classic markers for “things are gonna suck.” It had been almost a month (4 weeks, to be specific) since I’d gone to a yoga class and 3 weeks since I’d done yoga at all. In the interim, I’d been very inactive because of rogue neck pain and the holidays (a different pain in the neck).

A long layoff from ashtanga and yoga in general isn’t good, but that wasn’t even the main problem. What was? Leg day.

e97a591fcd42bcb555ac566b450f2b37-workout-humor-leg-workout-quotes

When I lift, there’s no true leg day because I don’t go often enough for only one area of work. Every lifting day is leg day. This one just happened to include squats after a long break from them. Nothing crazy, but my legs were dead this morning.

Legs are shot? Shoulders are tired? Long break from class? All in all, this is a recipe for disaster. My expectations for class were pretty clear:

And forever my favorite thing about this video will be the person who clicked play in their office with the speakers on.

I’m getting off topic.

squirrel

But yeah, I was expecting to ride the struggle bus in class. You can also add that there were flurries while I was driving in and class is heated to 90 degrees. Just a weird day.

And what happened? Nothing really. And that was the disappointing part.

My legs feel like crap. My shoulders aren’t feeling fantastic. And I did every vinyasa for class (including more than what the teacher had set out for us). And I feel fine. Bleh.

I was expecting to feel dead. And nothing.

Optimistically, it’s just me being in better shape. Despite being heavier than I should be, I’ve been lifting consistently and doing yoga just consistently enough that some progress should be expected.

But I’m not an optimistic person.

No, class was just a bit off.

Maybe it was the students.

When I got there, someone was waiting in their car even though it looked like the teacher was already there. That’s weird. And with it being so cold that polar bears noped out of that situation, I thought we might be the only two people in class, so I set up in the front so as to not awkwardly set up in the back for no apparent reason. After a quick restroom stop (nothing is worse than doing twists with a full bladder), I get back in the room to find that class is now as full as I’ve ever seen it. Guess some folks are starting early on the new year, new me business (all kidding aside, they seemed to all be in good shape, and I’m just angry my body isn’t dead-tired from class. I have issues).

So class was full and I was in a spot in the room I’m not used to, which messes with me more than it should, but you know, that wasn’t really the problem.

It was the teacher. It’s always the teacher.

I can take a crappy class with a good teacher, but I will avoid a bad one like the plague.

What’s handy is the studio has an up-to-date listing of classes with the teacher. This is how I see them cancel my class half the time less than 24 hours before it’s supposed to be taught. But the teacher listing only works if it’s accurate. This class lists the same teacher each time. Of the 7 times I’ve gone, that person has taught it once or twice.

In other words, the picky yogi goes in blind every week.

Luckily, the other two people who’ve taught it so far have been great (and I actually like them better than the listed person).

No such luck this week.

It was a new person. Not inherently bad because everyone is new to me here, but man did I get a bad vibe off her. Not like bad-person vibe but more a we-aren’t-going-to-get-along vibe. Wrong energy. For someone with a Ph.D., it feels really weird to type that, but that’s the only way to describe it.

I’m guessing you know what I mean. You meet someone, they seem like a nice person, and you know 100% they’re not someone you should be around.

But the nice thing about ashtanga is that it’s technically supposed to be the same thing every time, so the teacher difference gets mitigated. Now practically speaking, it isn’t. Each teacher focuses on their own thing (breathing, core, etc.) and each class only gets most of the practice because 90 minutes isn’t enough time unless everyone in the class knows what they’re doing and we’re not pausing for instructions. But all in all, you know what to expect from class.

Despite doing this same practice for two years, today still threw me off. There were the times she skipped poses. There was the time she added a non-ashtanga pose in. There was skipping the vinyasa between sides once we were seated (these are the bonus ones I did that I had to fly through for reasons to be explained).

All of that? I could live with. No, the thing that drove me insane was her version of counting.

Generally, yoga is done by breaths. In most classes, you won’t really notice it, but every ashtanga class I’ve done has been paced that way, whether the teacher emphasizes slow breathing or letting people go at their own pace.

It started weird. In the sun salutation series, we did three rounds that seemed fairly normal before she wanted us to slow down to a 4-count for each breath. Ok, that’s fine. You want us to slow down. That’s going to hurt, but I get it. So 3 regular, 2 slowdowns for A and B. Weird that we didn’t just do it the whole time, but maybe it’s to get us to used to the movement before focusing on breathing.

Nope.

Things just got weirder. When we were doing the rest of the series, she was working off a 5-count. That gels with typical ashtanga. You do 5 breaths for each pose (mostly). Except her version of the 5-count was paced the same as a 4-count for each breath (i.e., 5 counts, not 5 breaths). This meant that we were in each pose about two-and-a-half breaths.

And this is why I had to rush vinyasas  when we were switching sides in the seated part or I risked missing the pose.

There were other quirks, but they’re not worth mentioning. The counting system was… different.

I’ll avoid that teacher forever. Just kidding. I’ll have no effing idea when they’re teaching because I don’t know their name because they don’t update the online schedule and even if I knew their name, it wouldn’t matter because THEY DON’T UPDATE THE ONLINE SCHEDULE.

I’m gonna watch Netflix now. Happy New Year, party people. I swear I’m not actually that angry, just restless.

New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve briefly mentioned my disdain for new year’s resolutions before, but I don’t know if I ever gave it a full post. So here we are.

They’re a bad idea. Why? Because people set out to change their lives in some large and/or unsustainable way.

I’m going to bike to work. I’m going to cut carbs. I’m going to meditate an hour every day.

Usually they’re big changes that don’t actually fit people’s real lives. Or sometimes they’re just outright dumb. I should say I think dieting is dumb. Cleaning up your diet is good, but dieting is dumb. If you go on a diet, that’s inherently saying this is temporary, whereas if you change your diet, that’s saying this could be permanent.

And so I don’t make resolutions, not real ones anyway. I set a resolution to treat myself better each year. Whether it’s getting massage every month, staying a little more active, or just not beating myself up over things, I’m just trying to put myself in a little better position to succeed this year than I was in last year. I don’t always succeed, but I do my best.

But still, that’s not a real resolution. I won’t put that on the ‘gram.

What do I do instead? I set goals like running a 5K every month of the year.

Is it a big difference? Not terribly, but it reframes it. A resolution feels like a permanent thing being implemented with the idea of pretending it will become permanent. Things usually go to crap a month in.

Not doing it.

What I would like to do is set goals that force me to engage in better behaviors along the way. Running a 5K every month without making an ass of myself? Then I’d better stay pretty active throughout the year. Do I want to play an open mic? Then I’d better be practicing on guitar.

With the 5K goal, there’s no mileage goal. I’m not running every day. I’m just trying to stay active enough to pay 30 bucks for the privilege to run in a nicer neighborhood than I live in, and that’s good enough for me. And don’t forget the banana and Gatorade at the end.

So next year is the Super Awesome Year of the 5K sequel that no one asked for, but you’re getting it anyway. That’s my goal.

But what about that vague resolution? What will that consist of?

I honestly don’t know. I hope it includes travel to see old friends across the country. I hope it includes cutting myself some slack when I try something and fall on my face. I honestly hope it includes tough conversations that need to happen. And those massages. That’s the only thing that keeps me from punching people in the face, especially after those tough conversations.

Stay frosty, friends.

I’m Buying a Banjo

Is this post related to running?

No. But it does fit with last year’s Super Awesome Year of Me theme of general betterment.

I know, that’s not why you’re here. Actually, I’m not sure why anyone’s here…

And why am I posting this instead of just doing it?

So I’ll actually do it. I’ve talked about wanting to get a banjo almost as long as I’ve had my guitar (17 years now). I had aspirations of learning bass and banjo, and then I just never put in enough time on my guitar to justify moving on to new instruments.

But, I think I’m ready to make the jump, so I’m telling the world I’m going to annoy my neighbors in the coming year. This helps ensure I actually do it.

How did I get here?

Mostly it’s been a general dissatisfaction with where I’m at playing guitar and wanting to improve. I don’t progress quickly as a guitar player, mostly because I won’t put in the requisite time to achieve a new level of awesomeness but also partly because I’m self-taught and don’t know some fundamentals (music theory and reading sheet music, for starters).

I’ve been looking to stretch more. Last year, I upgraded to a new acoustic guitar. This year I got some long-overdue work done on my electric guitar. Both of these were done so I would enjoy playing. I’m not better than my first guitar, but my first guitar just has some issues that can’t really be fixed (at least not to justify the cost) that just made playing less fun. And I had neglected my electric in the process of living in dorms and apartments for more than a decade so it got its own set of issues.

So repairs and replacements in hand, I’ve been playing, and it’s a lot more fun to play when the sour notes that happen are your fault and not the inanimate objects.

But that’ s not quite all. I’ve got some of the green-eyed monster in me. I’ve been watching the subculture of YouTube guitar videos. I pay attention to the guitar subreddit, which funnels back to the YouTube culture. I don’t necessarily want to play the same music as these folks (and they are disproportionately metal heads, even though they also know more styles of playing), but even if I’m just going to be entertaining the pictures on the wall, it’s nice to get better.

A brief smattering of these folks for your entertainment:

Steve Terreberry (who might be insane or a genius):

The Music is Win channel:

And Jared Dines to end it:

Ok, you keep mentioning guitars… So why the banjo?

That’s a fantastic question. Really, why wouldn’t I just keep practicing with the equipment I have? I will, but I’m looking for something similar but new. A bass feels too similar to guitar (and really, I play guitar to impress the ladies [winks suggestively] and no one asks you to play bass at a party. No one asks you to play banjo either, but if you start, everyone will hear you whether they like to or not).

The banjo is close enough to use similar skills but different enough that it will force me into some new habits (hopefully).

The real area I’m looking to grow is in finger picking. It’s an area I’ve been wanting to improve on as a guitar player, and I’m hoping that being forced to play that style on one instrument will make me slightly more adept with the other.

There’s no guarantee this will work, but I know I can pick one up for a couple hundred bucks, which isn’t nothing, but I think the potential benefit outweighs the cost (and I spent WAY more in running-related costs in the Super Awesome Year of the 5K). And it’s not like it’s food that’ll spoil in a week or two. I’ll always have the banjo (which will make moving that much more interesting as I lug another stringed instrument around between homes; toting around two guitars last time convinced some people outside Little Rock I was a musician, and I did nothing to discourage that. I may have signed a couple of autographs under an assumed name).

But that’s all for now. The real point of the post was to tell people I was making a decision. You’ve been told. Look/listen out for some twang in the new year.