LGN 59: Power

Inside:  Carbs; Gastropods, Power

Strength

Man, I’m getting strong.  Personal records going down left and right.  That’s always fun.  My grip is shot, though, from this cycle.  Not sure what’s up with that.

When I first started at Underground Athlete, I couldn’t press a 20 lb. dumbbell 8x without pain and intense fatigue in my shoulders.  Remember back in the Winter when I used to try to clean the Cherries at the end of training?  Now I can clean and jerk a pair of those 72 lb.  kettlebells a few times.

This cycle I’m squat pressing 53 lb. kettlebells 12x.  For one set non-stop at least.  Or two, actually.  My legs are grade A muscle now (although my lower legs are still weird and twitchy).  I’m even able to push through some of the Finishers.  It’s inconsistent but it happens.

Back when I was doing yoga I always had trouble with anything involving shoulder mobility.  (I really need to get back into it.  I miss PIES.)  Any of that arms behind the back tied into a pretzel stuff was out of the question.  Once, I went back after a few months away and the additional muscle I had packed on in my shoulders and back — turns out that it doesn’t make it any easier to put your palms together behind your back, point your index fingers to the sky, balance on one foot, and shoot a visible beam of pure chakra energy to the heavens.  I just about managed it once but mine was orange when everyone else’s was purple.  That’s what happens when you use a strap.  Embarrassing.

All the while trying not to think about the frontal and rear-al cleavage in my direct line of sight at all times.  Ah, magnificent.

I’m sorry.  What was I saying?

Oh.  My muscle mass seemed like it was working against me.  More about this below.

Carbs are Cheap

Really cheap. And ubiquitous.  I work in Ballston across the street from the Metro station.  It’s a great spot.  Lots of eateries around.  Food trucks.  The mall food court.  There’s a Potbelly’s and a Cosi on the first floor of the building.  There’s also a Buffalo Wild Wings, P.F. Chang’s, Woodside, and even a Protein Bar that is was supposed to open in August.  All within short walking distance.

This section is pre-PRIME, by the way.

For the most part I can’t really go to 90% of them because it’s all about bread or pasta or noodles.  Breakfast sandwiches every which way.  You ever try to buy a low carb breakfast from anywhere?  Sandwiches, breakfast burritos, pancakes.  You order a Western omelet and it automatically comes with toast and home style potatoes.  IHOP be-fluffs their omelets with pancake batter.

Not to mention the drinks.  All of the colorful, inviting packaging and labels in the store refrigerators.  Sugar bombs.  Damn it.

So whenever I attempt low or very low carb eating I sometimes find myself at a loss.  Oh, a quick snack.  I’ll just have a protein bar.  Oh wait.  It’s pretty much just a candy bar with soy protein isolate and multivitamins.  The “trick” is to prepare food at home and bring it in.  Even when I get the macronutrients right when eating out, there’s no guarantee as to the quality of the food and additives/flavorings/cleanliness, etc.

For the past month, though, I’ve been doing this diet/training thing.  Normally I don’t diet.  I want to be healthy without a sense of deprivation.  Moderation, avoiding processed foods, and good habits, yes.  90/10?  But this diet I’ve been doing has involved, by definition, deprivation.  Fasting, even.  The jump start week was torture, but once I got over the mid-point hump things started falling into place.  Ever since then it’s gotten easier each week.

I got thrown off by the little things because my kitchen and bathroom are semi-packed away for some minor construction on the apartment.  Pipe re-fitting.  I had to be out of the apartment before 8 AM every morning for the past 5 or 6 working days.  I know 8 AM isn’t a big deal for you morning people out there.  But to be up juicing, mixing, preparing, cleaning up from the prep and clearing the kitchen every morning before 8 (plus normal hygiene) — it didn’t happen consistently.  It also takes much longer to get to work at that time.  Twice as long, on average, unless I find the hidden magical Commute Route of Non-Congestion which changes every day.

The Gastropod

Left to my own devices I’ll be good for a while and then my habits will slowly deteriorate.  “Oh, I’ll have a Starbucks mocha latte and a pumpkin bread today, but that’s okay.  I won’t have one tomorrow. ”

Once a week can easily turn into twice a week and so on until it’s a daily habit.  A daily fix.  Then the snacking begins innocently enough.  Bad habits work their way back in if you let your guard down.

The thing is, I don’t want to be a gastropod again.  Mollusks are gastropods, which roughly translates to stomach-foot.  Although not biologically accurate, there have been times where I’ve felt like I was just a mechanism to deliver foodstuffs to my gullet.

I like food.  Obviously.  But I have a tendency to overdo it.  The fasting part of the diet lets my body actually have some time when there’s no food in it.  My stomach can be empty and just … be for a while.  I can get used to the feeling of actually being hungry.  Not just bored or restless or procrastinatey, but hungry.

Instead of planning to eat the same way that people who are having a rough or stressful day will mutter, “I need a drink.”  Or, “Ugh.  I’m getting so wasted tonight.”

Powerful

This has been on my mind recently.  This harkens back to the Landmark Forum.  There is power in language.  You have no power if your word has no weight.  Word is bond.

I’m not saying this because I’m a bastion of virtuous integrity.  I’m saying it because of some changes I plan on making in the next few months and it’s time to light a fire under this rocket.  Long overdue changes.

The thing is, as we do this life thing we develop ways to deal with the world.  Our experiences shape us and we learn to cope.   Whatever gets us through and provides the most benefit becomes our tool of choice.  We develop a set of tools.  We become skilled at wielding those tools.

Our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses.

The right tool for the right job

I know people who are persistent and stubborn.  They have a lot of successes because they’ll stick with something until they break through and accomplish whatever it is they set out to accomplish.  They’ll usually get their way because they’ll wear you down.

I know people who use their intelligence like it’s a crossbow with a hairpin trigger.  A grenade.  A sword.

People whose emotions are an irresistible, elaborate labyrinth.  Their emotions become your emotions.

People whose anger drives them to excel and succeed.  A well placed tantrum can work wonders sometimes.  A feeling of righteous indignation or I’ll-show-you can be a driving, powerful motor.

But…

If you’re a talented bazooka and the only obstacle between you and a clear shot at your hopes and dreams is fixing a sack full of broken, precision wristwatches, what do you do?

If you’re a deliberate, methodical, organized strategist what happens when a spontaneous, split-second, do-or-die decision lands right in front of you?

If you’re a hammer and there’s a nut and bolt between you and independent wealth, what do you do?

If you stick with your schtick as most of us do because it’s all we know to do, you start whacking away at that nut ‘n bolt and hope for the best.  Not working?  Hit it harder.

Chillin’ in the Cut

I’m a laid back person.  Being laid back got me through a lot of stress and social awkwardness.  It also got me through a lot of life upheavals and transitions. It got me through stresses and tragedies.  I can get through things without freaking out or being worn down.  Stable and calm.  Stoic.  Some of my friends used to call me The Rock.

Recharging via alone time, that sanctuary of social quiet is a prime spot for creativity.  You know.  I may go out into the world to be inspired and then retreat into solitude to make something with it.

But being laid back isn’t really a great trait for getting things done chop-chop. In fact, it can require a fair amount of stress to get me to spring into decisive action for certain kinds of tasks.  You know, like when you were in college and you didn’t start writing that term paper until the day before it was due.  Or you don’t start packing for your long trip or vacation until the night before and you have to be at the airport at 6 in the morning.

It’s also a bit of that introverted personality.  Being observant and receptive are worthy traits.  Being available and responsive is a good thing.  But you can miss a lot of opportunities when you wait for things to happen.

For me, it also translates to not being competitive.  In the gym, I don’t really care if someone beats me at something.  It feels good to be fastest or strongest on a particular day, of course, but it’s not a big deal.  Now, take my fellow trainees hostage and tell me that they have to do painful exercise X until I finish — that motivates me.

Real Life

Of course, we aren’t one-dimensional.  No one is just a hammer. We’re more like a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman if each one were unique and the tools you use most and best grow bigger and stronger while the ones you don’t stay the same or shrink or rust.  We’re also not alone.  An effective toolbox has many tools.  In other words, we accomplish more together than alone.

Seeing other people at the gym train, join competitions, approach PRIME and live their lives is a constant learning opportunity.  How’s that saying go?  Well, to paraphrase:  If you want to be successful, spend time around successful people.  If you’re a scalpel and your problem is a brick wall, enlist the aid and direction of a sledgehammer.

Relating this to health and fitness, I have lost weight before on my own.  I also regained weight on my own.  There was considerable stress and tragedy involved that knocked me off the wagon that time around, but that’s life.  Misfortune doesn’t play fair, right.  Stress doesn’t wait until you’re ready for it to pile on.

Relating this to life and my goal of moving that’s on the board at the gym, I am still looking to move and declutter.   There’s no rush really, pragmatically speaking.  It’s more of a quality of life thing.  Luckily, that means I have time to find something that fits what I want in a new apartment.  I’ve had to adjust my expectations re: price and if I’m going to be paying hundreds more per month than I am now, I want to at least make sure that the trade off is worthwhile: location, convenience, features, amenities, proximity to where the majority of my living takes place (or could).

As usual when I, being generally unperturbed and pseudo-philosophical (Wherever I go there I am.), approach intentional upheaval it takes a while for the pressure to build — to reach the tipping point.

Being a part of a community makes a big difference.  If you’ve got one, enjoy it and take advantage of the support and camaraderie.  If you don’t, it makes a huge difference.

To that end, some of you are either in the process of moving or have recently moved.  Expect to hear from me.

Anyway, just thinking about life and how our personalities and characteristics translate across domains.  Have a good rest of the weekend.  Speaking of building pressure, enjoy your wines and decadent food orgies, PRIMErs.  🙂

Click here to see all of my LGN (I want to Look Good Naked) and functional strength training posts.

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