The 1000 Rep Month: Day 1

I’ve been thinking about how I don’t want to get fat and weak in February when I cut way down on sports in order to help make time for baby #2. Until now I’ve been playing sports 3x per week. I’ll be cutting down to only one sports night per week, so I need to recover the deficit if I’m to maintain my current physical state(ish). Reasons for wanting to do this range from the superficial (I don’t want to lose muscle/feel like I’m getting weaker) to the emotional (I get cagey if I don’t exercise every day).

When change is necessary, simple is good. Complexity, for me, has often become a barrier to following through on past efforts to change my behaviour. Enter a dead-simple workout schedule – one that is also flexible enough to tolerate days where I’m feeling low energy (keep in mind the inevitable sleep deprivation inherent to every new and repeat parent).

1000 reps per month breaks up nicely into 50 reps/day chunks and lets me take the weekends off. It also allows me to choose easier or more difficult movements depending on how I’m feeling. I’m also locking myself into the routine by committing to posting each workout online. This way I’m socially obligated to keep going with it or face looking like that asshole who does plenty of talking and not enough of the god damn.

Enough rambling, here’s Day 1 of the 1000 Rep Month:

Post Workout Review

That was way harder than it needed to be. To be truthful, I had initially dreamed up a 3000 Rep Month routine but changed it to 1000 when I realized how much god damn time it can take to do even 50 reps of anything. Better to keep the reps lower and play with the intensity instead of struggling to make it to 150 reps of something every day (and probably doing a shitty job of it). 50 reps also felt like a nice intersection of quantity and quality in my head, whereas 150 reps simply scared the shit out of me.

Also I had a brutal energy drop after, probably due to a precipitous plunge in blood sugar levels, highly caffeinated blood and an early wakeup. I recovered by drinking juice, but for tomorrow I’m going to drink juice before and during the workout to see if I can prevent the post-workout energy slump.

 

The War of Monday: Me Vs. Myself

Only a fool wants war. But once a war starts, then it cannot be fought half-heartedly. It cannot even be fought with regret, but must be waged with a savage joy in defeating the enemy. – Derfel Cadarn (Excalibur, Bernard Cornwell)

Some things fucking suck, but we still gotta get them done. How we do these brutally painful things probably says more about us than how we do the easy stuff, the stuff we’re good at and the stuff we love.

The idea of committing to something painful and refusing to stop is well illustrated in this video of Gary V eating increasingly spicy chicken wings:

I’m always getting sucked back into my own comforts. For my family, Sunday is about comfort, taking the day slowly, and relaxing. Often we do that so well that shifting back into gear on Monday is a huge challenge. Caffeine and epic music can help grease the gears:

Then it’s a matter of getting down to the work. I’ve found that the thing I dread doing the most is the thing I should be doing. On days I’ve done well, I skip looking at emails and I go straight into doing the hardest thing. On days I don’t do so well, I end up wandering through emails and end up on chat support with an Amazon support rep trying to return a book for $8. The question I ask to determine whether I’m being productive or not is, “Does doing this activity bring me closer to where I want to be in 5 years?” If the answer is “No” the best thing to do is abandon the task and start doing something I can foresee contributing to a more successful future.

Sometimes that thing is studying a new technique or skill that will contribute to my work. Sometimes the activity is simply doing good work for a client I expect to be working for in 5 years.

Right now, the war I didn’t want is the war of Sunday Ryan vs. Monday Ryan. Monday Ryan cannot fight half-heartedly. He can’t fight with regret. He must wage war with a savage joy in defeating himself.

How To Get Depressed Because Summer’s Over

Fall is my favourite season, but I do get depressed when the daylight hours shorten. While I don’t necessarily suffer from full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder (I don’t think!) I do get a little blue when I’m getting less exposure to the sun/nature/outdoors in general.

The colder weather means going outside is more of a pain in the ass. Snow and ice force me to use footwear which needs to get put on and taken off every time I indulge in some outside time. It doesn’t sound like much of a barrier – but those little inconveniences, for me, can be the difference between hours spent outside and zero time outside for days in a row. Most of the time, I just don’t do things unless it’s really fucking easy to start doing them. “Start” is the important word here, because the activity itself can be difficult. I don’t mind exercising, I maybe even like it. But if starting it is difficult, there’s little to no chance I’m going to do it. Any of it.

I used to have one of those suspension workout systems that you brace in a doorway and use the straps to do various exercises. It lived in its box, and that box lived somewhere in my closet. I never used it, and it wasn’t practical to keep in a doorway because every time I opened the door the thing would fall out and scare the shit out of me. So now I have a pull-up bar above the stairs leading to the basement (where our only washroom is). I drink lots of coffees and so I walk under the pull-up bar many times a day. I do maybe 8 pull ups a day, every other day, if that. But the difference between 8 and 0 isn’t 8. It’s fucking infinity. You can’t multiply anything by 0 to get 8. And that’s because 0 is the most worthless number in the world. People live and die by 0s. If you smoke more than 0 cigarettes, you’ll probably fucking die of lung cancer because once in a while you get drunk and smoke a pack of cigarettes and do irreversible damage to your already shitty lungs. You do that a few times a year, for your whole life, then you retire and smoke more out of sheer boredom and yep, you die of lung cancer. I don’t smoke but the above story certainly applies to me for drinking. There’s a blog post on here about me only drinking one beer or some bullshit, and I solemnly swear to you that that nonsense is over. I like to drink, and when the stars align for a night on the town, I drink like I mean it.

Zero to one kid is another infinite difference. If you have zero kids, you’re going to be pretty fucked when you get too old to take care of yourself (unless the future supplies us with free robots to change us when we shit ourselves). No amount of paid nurses will ever do as good a job of a genetically obligated successor at giving a fuck about your senile ass when dementia turns you into a wrinkled puppet for the hedonistic spirits to play inappropriate and very public sexual pranks with.

I got a bit lost there, let’s get back to talking about why fall makes me fucking miserable. I believe my daily happiness depends in large part on the inclusion of (in no particular order):

  1. Exercise
  2. Spending ANY amount of time outside, other than “none” (huge boost to happiness if I can absorb some sunlight into my skin and eyes)
  3. Experiencing the sensation (even the illusory sensation) of “progress” in something (anything) … (this is why I’m always cutting and stacking firewood)
    stacks of firewood in my backyard
  4. Socializing / spending time with other humans
  5. Not being hungover (this factor is definitely increasing with age, and impacts several days at a time) / getting quality sleep

The above checklist seems pretty attainable right? It should be easy to do ALL of those things EVERY DAY if it means damn near guaranteed happiness every day. But no. I get “busy” with some bullshit on the computer and before I know it I’m redlining stress hormones and haven’t taken a real breath since waking up. I’m tense. I’m irritable. The sun has just set, it’s 5pm, and I’m depressed. So I go to volleyball and get drunk after and don’t sleep well and that fucks me for the whole next day.

Anyway this post is probably less useful than it is satirical, and I hope I made you laugh. And please, don’t feel bad for me. This isn’t me complaining, it’s just me writing openly. Today I’m happy because I actually respected my checklist. I even got some sun on my face while taking a piss in the backyard (to avoid the pull-up bar) and I got to spend lots of one-on-one time with Isla (Lia’s away for a girl’s weekend). You can’t really get too depressed when an ass-naked 2-year-old is tearing circles around the dinner table, tiny fists full of peanuts, belting out wheels on the bus for the 5000th time.

 

Retirement Progress Report 3

Two big things happened this quarter for our financial game. The first is we met our annual goal of investing $20,000. The second is our rate of investing crossed over the 50% threshold, meaning that we are investing more than we’re spending.

I don’t know how these good things happened because it certainly didn’t feel like we did very well over the past 3 months. This goes to show that how I feel about our performance and how we’re actually doing aren’t very closely aligned. I simply don’t really know what’s going on. But our finances are more automatic now, and in a good way. There is less personal willpower needed – we just have systems that ensure we’re being smart over the long term. Lia and I have continued to do a little better with our unnecessary spending and these new habits have plugged some of the holes in our bank account. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but behavioural change is a very slow process and there’s solace in knowing we’re moving in the right direction. Lia’s also bringing home the bacon as a yoga instructor, which is certainly helping.

Of course, there were hiccups in the last few months. We drove a lot, and spent lots of money on gas. But we drive a civic, so “lots of money” is probably laughable to anyone with a more serious vehicle. We compare ourselves to Mr. Money Moustache though, and that guy limits himself to one tank of gas per month!

One of the larger hiccups came in the form of a being bad and buying a fancy cordless vacuum for $300. My mind has a tendency to drift into thoughts of doom and gloom whenever we make big purchases. I don’t enjoy spending money nearly as much as I enjoy seeing this retirement account grow, so anytime we buy something (even something quite necessary/useful) I feel a great deal of buyer’s remorse. It’s a hell of a vacuum though. Before, Lia was using a god damn massive shop vac to do the stairs, the bedrooms, everything. So I suppose the frustration and rage saved in upgrading to something much more civilized is going to more than compensate for the minor retirement setback.

Figures:

TFSA: $22,472.92 (up $7,278.46 from last quarter).

Mortgage: $166,622.84 (down $1759.03 from last quarter).

We’ve made our $20k goal for the year and we still have 3 months to go! So we’ve upped our target to $30k for 2018. I find it very helpful and encouraging to see our investing progress laid out in smaller, monthly increments. I keep a piece of paper on the fridge with the projected TFSA balance listed beside the month by which we need to hit each amount.

Tracking retirement savings by month

The position of the magnet represents the current total value of our investments. Seeing the steps broken into smaller fragments, and that we’re a few months ahead of our goal helps me not get too stressed out about the otherwise daunting idea of investing $50,000. After 3/4 of a year of doing this, and saving $20,000 already, $50,000 feels very doable.

Then things get a little more exciting. $50,000 is a 20% downpayment on a $250,000 house or property. Within the next couple years, we will have more interesting investing options available to us than simply plowing money into mutual funds. Lia and I will be able to cruise realtor.ca with the knowledge that we have the cash to move on a property if the right one comes along. We may be on the verge of being able to do that sooner if we pull equity out of our current home and remortgage, but I hate that idea. I don’t like being in debt. Nobody does. And while doubling our debt is certainly one way of doubling our exposure to real estate appreciation, it also doubles our property related expenditures and vulnerability to things like mortgage interest rates. Things will happen faster in either direction. Either we’ll get richer faster, or we’ll get into financial trouble faster. I like the idea of a conservative and highly attainable approach over riskier maneuvers when the stakes are this high. Factoring in peace-of-mind, a slow approach seems like the way to go for me.

The next report is in my calendar for December 31st, which is only a couple months away but it will be more comprehensive moving forward to align these posts with the actual calendar year (instead of doing it on the 18th every few months from whatever month happened to be the first post).

I hope reading this has inspired you to invest! I know at least one friend has taken shit into his own hands and is now on track to retiring in his 40s. I’ll extend the same offer here as I extended to him: if you want my personal help in getting set up with the same investment strategy I employ, just ask and I’ll help you. It’s straightforward once you have the accounts set up and you’ve bought your first mutual funds.

You can then start buying your freedom.

How Spearfishing is Like Coding

Spearfishing requires a few things to happen in sequence:

  1. Hold your breath.
  2. Dive Deep.
  3. Spear a fish.

Between stage 2 and 3, when you’re underwater, that’s when everything is awesome. You’re only down there for seconds at a time, but it feels like minutes. There’s no sound at all, total perfect silence. You equalize to relieve the pressure in your ears, and you look for a big fish. When you see a monster, you shit your pants, then spear it. Everything becomes extremely simple like that and I think that’s a big part of why I’ve become obsessed.

Learning to code is like spearfishing. It requires a mental “breath hold” while you struggle to focus on solving only one thing, a small but challenging piece of a larger whole. There’s really no way of accomplishing anything if you’re not able to commit 100% of your focus while writing new code (code you’re just learning). Once that singular piece of code has been written, you get to “return to the surface” of your consciousness and breathe. Step back and run the code. If it works, it’s like you’ve hit the fish. If it doesn’t – your spear missed.

It’s interesting how coders and spear-fishers are required to totally dial their minds into doing only one thing if they hope to do that thing successfully.

What do you do that forces you to do a mental “breath hold”?

Winning Your Daily Battle with a Little Self Torture

This article is about how hurting yourself a little bit can turn a shitty day around.

A bad day isn’t a day that contains pain. A bad day is a day that contains no feeling at all. A totally neutral day. Frequently I have days like that, where I don’t feel anything, and for some reason I feel like shit at the end of those days. Styrofoam shit.

When people talk about how working out elevates mood, I think it’s actually that working out is painful. And you only feel awesome once the pain is gone and the endorphins come. But it was the pain that got you there. Nobody ever felt awesome after a half-assed workout.

Lately I’ve been exposing myself to pain where possible because it gives me a chance to wage war against myself, mentally and physically, and to win or lose some self-respect. If I can string together enough days where I can, for example, shower with only cold water – I seem to gain power and momentum for the rest of the day. That shower couldn’t fuck with me, so what’s next?

If I can’t take the shower I’m pretty much retreating into my shell, weakened, and certainly not feeling very powerful. Pussy Ryan won. The Ryan I want to be is nowhere to be found that day.

By default, I don’t at all want to feel pain. Nobody is wired to seek pain, we’re all wired to go for comfort and pleasure. But I make myself feel it anyway when I can bring myself to. I do this because I know the voice in my head that discourages me from feeling pain is the same voice that discourages me from taking risks, manning up, going for broke, and doing the meaningful things in my life. It’s the voice telling me to run from fear instead of smashing into it head on.

The voice is my inner wimp complaining. The voice in my head coming up with completely rational reasons not to do the belly flop (Thanks Ty!). And  thanks Kyle, for leading the synchronized flopping with flawless form.

We have more respect for people who can push through pain, and less respect for wimps. Exposing ourselves to pain, even just a little, is a way to win some self-respect and the feeling of being a badass every single day. It’s a way to turn shit around if we woke up feeling like thumb-sucking infants fresh from shitting the crib, then crying about it.

The Key to Unlimited Energy

With a lofty title like that I’d better deliver! Here it is, short and sweet: passion = energy. Lia and I just came to this realization after coming out of a crazy busy week where I did the unusual: I got up with Isla my fair share of the time and didn’t need a nap partway through the day.

Today was extra odd for me – I only got 6 hours of sleep (I usually need way more than this, like an embarrassing amount, I’m talking 10 hours does wonders for me). No nap, not even time to think about a nap. We were out at the farmers market then hustling to prepare for camping, building fishing spears and going for a paddle on little lake, swimming and back home for more camping prep.

It was a massive day. All things I love to do. No lack of energy.

I’ve had small days, bleak, boring days where I’ve had to drag my ass just to make it to bed at the end of it. Whatever was on tap in my body chemistry for those small, shitty, boring days – it probably resembled the dregs of morning-after beer bottles strewn about after a college party. Cigarette butts and all. Flat and gag-worthy.

Today my brain was juicing rocket fuel. And now that I have made the connection between passion and my day-to-day energy levels, I’m going to be looking for more ways of getting into shit that I can become obsessed with.

I’ll still do all the other work that pays the bills of course. Just not only that stuff.

Slow Motion Ultimate Frisbee Pulls

It’s funny how I’ve never noticed how much a player’s “approach” factors into the force they generate during a pull. But after watching this footage it’s obvious that footwork plays a huge role in adding distance into a throw.

There seems to be a consistent “big last step” in which all that lateral force is planted into the lead foot and translated into torque. It looks like everyone instinctively does this. To get even more yardage, it looks like many players also “hop” into that big last step, probably storing even more elastic energy in their muscles and tendons during those last microseconds of their wind up.

One thing that’s really interesting to watch is what the “non” frisbee hand is doing. For backhand pullers, most of them seem to be using two hands to wind up, then (obviously) letting go with the non-throwing hand at the moment the forward twist begins. For my forehand throw, I actually seem to use my left arm to generate whiplash and “pre-trace” the path which the disc will take. Super strange!