I'm having trouble walking at the moment. My whole body hurts. I am currently lying on my back, pondering all the ways in which I have destroyed myself. A beautiful boulder rests upon every fiber of my being, like some stone slab cut perfectly Looney-Tunes style into the shape of my prone body. I am sore, bruised, and broken.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Motivation is something so many of us struggle with, and so many give up just when we start to reap the benefits. A lot people think it comes down to convenience, but I think it more specifically defined to a lack of resistance. We bring it up a lot in this blog and our podcast as a State of Flow in gaming, but flow can be achieved and maintained in all facets of our lives. The key here is building in that lack of resistance.
We recently opened a gym in addition to other things we offer through my business at large, not just my Game On! stuff, and the impact is palpable. I can now schedule my workout days around my work at the center, and already I can feel the shift in what has become possible for my training, my health, and my mental focus. But with those gains, I can already feel the familiar pull away from it all.
We all get it sometimes. The nagging, lazy bit of ourselves that manifests when we start making the most progress toward leaving it behind. It is the tiny voice that tells us we'll never get there, the one that complains in the middle of your chest press, that hammers your legs with doubt, and that seeps pride into your skin so you avoid safety in favor of stubbornness.
This is not something that is given to you after a week of work. Hell, you won't get it after a month, or maybe even a year. Great progress will be made in this time, but it is not the result. We will be shrouded in tiny victories; threads of hope bound together each day to form an unbreakable cord of resolve and perseverance.
Everything that I am and could be has been a product of my own choices. I am not the victim of my own circumstance and I prove this every day that I rise from sleep and seek the greatest version of myself, and it is with this knowledge that I take hold of the tethers of my own destiny...and pull. And I do this with the full knowledge that I am tearing down what I once was - the habits formed, the mistakes made, the lessons unlearned, and all the ugly bits. This will be painful, and I accept this pain, for I will rise from it, building as I go. I will sift through my own rubble, deciding what to keep and what burns.
This is going to suck. And here are some practical ways - mechanical habits, devoid of motivation, but full of functionality - that I'm going to do it.
Rest Times and Rest Days
Only key in on one rest day, never two in a row. That's mine anyway.
This past week looked like this:
Monday - Gym after work - Chest and Legs
Tuesday - Rest Day 1
Wednesday - Gym before work - Back and Arms
Thursday - Rest Day 2
Friday - Home workout - Bodyweight Blitz
Saturday - Kickboxing, Karate, then Gym - Arms and Shoulders
Sunday - Home workout - Bodyweight and Cardio
This sort of works, but I'd like my Rest Days to be Thursdays and Sundays, instead opting for Tuesday as another "gym rat" day. I think I'll get a better spread, and I'm working out consistently at 5x a week while avoiding a two-day rest period where I can fall into a slump. DISCIPLINE is key here to build the better habit.
But DURING workouts, I find my biggest time suck is in resting. My home gym workouts would take far too long due in no small part to the amount of time I was carelessly resting between sets. In the gym, the focus is different. I have taken the time out of my day to go to a space that is not my home to use equipment that isn't mine in order to build my best self. There's an onus there. Other people are here to do the same thing, so I'm not going to waste my time or theirs; the pressure's on.
So, I give 20-30 seconds between sets - sometimes I even count out loud, especially if I pushed hard enough to shatter my own metacognition. It keeps me moving. Instead of workouts taking 3 hours, I've knocked them down to 90 minutes for the same benefit. Employing my next element, I've got 'em down to under that.
Supersets, "Triplesets," and Circuits
Sometimes I get bored. Sometimes I get distracted. Sometimes I have a lot of workouts to get through and I feel pressed for time. So I double them up.
Single, focused sets are good. Great, even, and certainly have their place. But I'm always one to use Supersets and Triplesets to keep me moving and motivated on those days I have difficulty focusing.
A Superset is when you take one exercise, perform one set of it, then immediately perform another set of another exercise without resting between. For me, this practice serves two functions: 1) It's more efficient, and 2) for muscle growth and dynamic fatigue, it's amazing. Instead of just extending an exercise, or performing another set on the same exercise, I'm still working but the muscle groups are different enough that the grouping of the previous exercise "rests" while another works. That aspect of rest isn't actually true, mind you, but the difference in movement is the point here. I do my 20-30 second rest after completing the second exercise.
And if a Superset is effective, then a Tripleset must be awesome, right? Well, yeah, but we can also call that a Circuit. A circuit is a set of 3 or more exercises performed one after the other, then resting. I use Circuits to keep me moving (efficiency) and to pump (reach hypertrophy) faster, while maintaining strength training. It also lets me check off more exercises in my book in bigger, more satisfying chunks. :)
One More Rep...
Yes, the name of this week's blog is Embrace The Suck. And I mean it. Embrace it.
Accept that this is going to be uncomfortable. Anything worth it will reach a point of discomfort. This is mine.
There will be days that I will crave the things I don't need. Days I don't want to work out. Days I want to lay in bed and avoid the challenges my life will bring. And those days will SUCK.
But those days won't stop me. Because I know they're coming (a few have happened already, and I've crushed them). I know the feeling of doing pushups and your body lazily prodding you with "you don't need to do any more, that's enough," and the feeling of pushing through that to get one more rep. I know the feeling of pushing to failure, even when one more rep feels like miles away, and you have to fight against your own doubt and pride and hunger just to push through.
But I will. And it's going to suck. This is going to hurt. This is going to challenge every fiber of me. But I will become stronger; I will become better. And it will be that one more rep that is the difference between raw willpower and falling off this wagon. And to the latter: I REFUSE.
BEAST MODE ENGAGED.
I'll see you at the gym.
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I am very sore today.
My back is cracking bark; my legs shaking steel; my chest whines as I stretch, and my arms feel heavy. Sleep calls, and rest beckons. But I must persist. I must exist.
And this pain is beautiful. I cannot wait to feel it again - knowing that I just pushed my body as far as it could go, and I'm still standing. I will rest, grow, and heal, ready to do it all over again.
Every time I do one of these entries, I like to come at it from a reflective state. A LOT has changed in my life plan and routine, and I want to share the lessons learned from the journey so far.
Intermittent Fasting (IMF)
Intermittent Fasting (IMF, for short) is a process of extending your fast to force your body into burning its stubborn fat stores. Very basic understanding being that the longer you are fasting, the more fat your body can burn as food, as long as you are staying active - thus telling your body to KEEP all that muscle tissue, and get rid of the excess.
I did this for the whole of 3 months. I would stop eating by 7 or 8pm, and start eating around 2:00pm the next day (18-19 hour fast). Days 1-4 almost drove me nuts, but day 5, my body acclimated. I got used to, and okay with, the feelings of hunger driving at my stomach - which was, for me, a heavy fear. I hate feeling hungry. Through this, I actually enjoyed the feeling, at least in the beginning.
Here's the kicker, though: this didn't work for me. I didn't lose weight, and all I ended up being was MORE TIRED, and less inclined to exercise on an empty stomach. What I DID learn, however, was that I didn't NEED a lot of food in the morning.
Nowadays, I have a muscle milk yogurt smoothie in the morning (under 200 calories)...and don't have solid food until about 1:00. With a strict regimen of water and exercise throughout the day, I started feeling my best again.
My diet changed dramatically, as well. Less carbs, more veggies, more protein (and fish, yay!), and more (yes, more) water. Soda doesn't taste right anymore, so it's out completely. Juices I haven't touched since my gall bladder ran away. Ice cream is a rare occasion, and most meals I skip dessert altogether. My tummy is very happy...and as of this morning, I can see my abs.
Let me repeat. For the first time in nearly 25 years. I have abs.
Lift Test - Machines On The Boat
My home gym is not very extensive. I have a bench, a curling barbell, a straight barbell, and a set of dumbbells from 25-40 lbs. Add in a dip station, pull-up bar, and a punching bag, and that's it. The majority of my weight training is free weights and (no spotter) chest presses with control over weight - my toughest workout days are majority bodyweight; tons of pushup variations, squat variations, and many grips of pullups. Kickboxing once or twice a week, and running twice a week...and I'm doing well for myself.
Recently, my wife and I found ourselves back on a cruise ship. The Anthem of the Seas - a "high-tech" vessel with a robotic bar, wave pool, bumper cars, and a teens-only extravaganza deck. They also have a Vitality Fitness Area, with rows upon rows of dumbbells all the way up 80 lbs, and a plethora of machines for any manner of exercise.
Our first night on the boat...I took 2 hours to myself and lifted as much as I could on every one of these machines. It's a powerful thing to be able to report the following:
Chest Press: 170
Leg Press: 350
Shoulder Press: 160
Tricep Pulldown: 65
Lat Pulldown: 150
Bicep Pulldown: 110
...and then many others that I failed to record. It was also great to happily curl 55 lb dumbbells.
I'd never have space for such things, but it's a great ego boost to know that it's working. ;)
MSM (Meditate, Stretch, Move)
This remains from the last big Buff DM post, and I'm still doing it. Starting my day with 5-10 minutes of meditation, then stretching, and making sure that I move. I need to spend more time on my feet than on my seat. :)
Taming The Beast Inside
I am not someone that suffers from anxiety, at least not overtly. But some may think I do based on the state of my fingernails. Since the age of 6, I have been biting my nails. I've been fighting it since that age as well, and every victory is short-lived as the habit "finds a way." Long story short, the habit has found its way into nearly every facet of my life. It sucks.
I'm not a nervous dude. I just have a lot of energy, and a lot of my passive thoughts are centered on productivity, creative thought, composition, and story-telling, not-to-mention a fair amount of energy dedicated to HOLDING ONTO those cool ideas...which makes me fidget.
This need to move manifested itself early on in my psyche as The Beast. A creature I would try to lock away and keep caged even as it infected the land around it. The best practice was to let it out, acknowledge its existence, then work to slowly purge it from my life - location by location. But he's a tricky fella.
…until the boat.
Throughout the 7-day cruise, I didn't touch my nails once. I watched them grow for the first time since my childhood. They look great. Still. It's a struggle back on land and surrounded by my usual stressors, but I'm fortified with a lot more this time. A huge part of that Beast died on that boat. And he ain't coming back.
Hey. Hey you. Yeah, you on the chest press. How many squats have you done? No, seriously, HOW MANY SQUATS HAVE YOU DONE!?
...That's what I thought.
I've always loved pushups. I love upper body work in general. It makes me feel strong, which undoubtedly adds to my desire to do it. You know what doesn't make me feel strong (at least not right away)? LEG DAY. Squats, leg presses, lunges, split squats...all those circuits and super sets. Ugh. It HURTS.
But here's what it's doing. It is ensuring that we don't get chicken legs holding up our gorilla torso. It ensures my third goal in this hot mess: SYMMETRY. It is more important to look proportionate and feel good, than to bench triple my bodyweight. Bench-pressing a car is all well and good, but I need to be able to run and fight and squat that car, too. Plus, a symmetrical body is exponentially more attractive to EVERYONE. Nobody wants to gawk at 10-inch biceps only to be disappointed by toothpick legs. And the better I look, the better I feel, the better I can do my job.
So. NEVER SKIP LEG DAY. EVER. Or trunk work. Or butt work. Every inch of us is beautiful, and should be treated just as well as our favorite parts.
In Closing - The FORGE Beckons
I am the strongest I have ever been, and I hope to be able to say that each time I do an entry here, but I want ALL OF YOU to feel as awesome as I do now. So, I've been talking it up here and there, but filming has finally begun, and with the advent of a fitness center under our control (wink, wink), it's time to build up The Forge: Level Up Fitness for the Athletic Nerd. Bodyweight exercises with Milestone progression, actual attributes for yourself as a D&D character, and a boss fight every tier. Let's get to work, nerds.
See you at the table. And maybe the gym.
Today marks Day 8 of beta testing the first tier of my fitness program, and I'd like to share with you some of the benefits I've taken away so far. Get ready for some fit talk.
The first thing I do every morning is take 5-15 minutes to myself and meditate.
Meditation is equally one of the most foreign yet essential things for a modern human existence. It was used since antiquity to foster a stronger link between mind, body, and soul, and helps to focus and fortify our spirit to tackle whatever challenges are going thrown at us each day.
I recently recommended meditation to a good friend of mine, and, as she puts it, she's "only been able to relax her face so far," (which is huge, btw) but it makes a massive difference to her day and she feels it when she doesn't do it. The more consistently she practices the skill, the more effective it is, and the more effective she is throughout her day.
There's a funny thing about meditation. Everyone has their own image of what it looks like and what it's supposed to do, and how fast that should work. Thing is, each of us is a unique organism. We all have different stresses, habits (good and bad), education, paradigms - yet each of us can benefit from mindfulness, and relaxing our bodies, and fortifying our souls. So many people can benefit from meditation, but they give up before they really reap the big benefits, and often the reasoning is: "I'm not good at it" or "I'm not doing it correctly, so why try?"
If you feel like that, here are some questions to consider:
1) Are you in a space that is comfortable, quiet, and free of our digital distractors? - Yes
Then you're meditating. We have a saying here in the center: Disconnect to Connect. We use it to remind ourselves to put our devices away when we're in a class, or in the cafe, or in a game session; to free ourselves from that pull and open the door to connect with the people physically with us. What we're doing here is allowing our mind to reconnect with our bodies by creating space for this to occur.
2) Are you focusing on your breathing? - Yes
Then you are meditating. Our brain can be a stupid, blind, chittering monkey recently stung by a hornet - but we interrupt its strange path with breath. Breath is essential for every facet of your being; by focusing on it - even if you're only successful in bursts of a few seconds - you interrupt your panic pattern and bring what is most pressing forward. If everything is small details, imagine it flowing out of you, to rest instead next to you, to be sorted later. Not now - you're breathing.
If you are following those two practices, you ARE meditating. Everyone starts in different places, but everyone can benefit from taking just a few minutes each morning to focus their spirit and relax their body. Do not get discouraged; never compare your "skill" to another - we're all different, and there is no point in getting down on yourself because you're not doing it like him, or her, or them. Meditation is a muscle, and it needs to be trained. Best thing about it? You can train it every day and the workout's real short. :)
Here's what I do:
Working Title - Flowing Circuit
I sit on my couch so my feet can rest on the floor (as opposed to cross-legged). I allow my back and my neck (most of all) to rest against the pillows of my comfy couch. *Now, this usually prompts my cat to come over, but I won't shoo her away; she just wants to sit with me.*
1) Start with three long and slow breaths, in and out through my mouth, careful to use my diaphragm to open up my lungs from the resting state of sleep.
2) Eyes closed, I breathe slowly through my nose.
3) I reach out with my mind and try "feel" the tip of my nose. (I know, I know, stay with me) It's going to tingle a little, especially the first time, but find it. Now, I imagine a bead of energy, like a warm mote of light, at the tip. It enters my skin, and I begin to follow its spreading path as it courses slowly through my face, stopping to observe all the intricate pieces along the way.
4) If I get stuck, or a random thought sneaks in...the mote pauses, warming the spaces it has already touched. I focus on my breathing, and let the thought flow to its conclusion, and breathe it away.
5) I continue this process; moving the energy across my eyes, my forehead, my mouth - all the muscles of the face - then up my scalp, down the base of my skull, to flow down the cord of my spine while spreading like wings along my back. I feel and appreciate every muscle fiber; some need more attention than others, and that's fine. I'm not going to ruminate on the why; just flow.
6) When you reach the base of your spine and have spilled down your chest, you might feel a slowly spreading surge down your arms and legs; most of us have better circulation (due to use) to those areas, so energy flows faster. Also, you'll be accessing your third and fourth chakras. Heart and Solar Plexus - Heart's got Compassion, Love, Empathy; Solar Plexus has Power, Will, Energy, Emotion. The wealth of our energy, life force, ki, whatever; I just know that I've always had a lot of it. Once your mote accesses this pool, let it flow through your entire body. Revisit all the wonderful locales of your body and flood it with that warm, calming light.
7) When you're feeling good, or your timer goes off, take those three long and slow breaths again as you open your eyes, bringing yourself out of the map.
Steps 1-4 are good for most people. They either won't have time, or patience, or some other factor will step in, before they can go further. But this is a muscle; and it can always get stronger. There is no plateau. Just like in the martial arts, there is always another layer. Consistency is where we reap the greatest benefit.
IF YOU SKIP MEDITATION IN THE MORNING - you can always do it later. I pick the morning because it's going to help the rest of my day, guaranteed, so I better start my day with it. If you miss it, and those panic feelings begin to creep in and you feel out of whack, try this:
Take in one short, one long intake of breath through your nose, then exhale slowly out your mouth. Try to take in more air each time, and slow the exhale each time. Do this 3-5 times; if you can, close your eyes.
Why? Pattern interrupt with a kinesthetic change (short-long breath, then exhale) to make your brain focus on something else. Then move forward with a fresher perspective. :)
Why I Meditate: It provides power for my day. My mind can jumble and I hate feeling behind; taking a moment, instead of falling down the rabbit hole, is essential for staying on track. But by doing it FIRST, I have stimulated my own Willpower to continue the trend throughout the day. I'll be guaranteed to be more even, calm, pleasant, rooted, present, and in control of my universe. Booyah.
Instructor Mary and Master Jenny have often said that stretching is even better than a fresh cup of coffee in the morning. Now, let's not focus on my stretching levels next to the martial arts masters, but the point still stands. ;)
Naturally flowing from the body mapping mental relaxation and energy acquisition of meditation, it's time to stretch. Take 5-10 minutes and do whatever you can.
I end up on my back first, elongating my spine and realigning my shoulders so they don't round forward. I stretch my lower back and rotate my toes. Flip over - Child Pose, Cobra, Cat-To-Cow for ab control, Dragon Stretch, seated toe touch, then toe touch alternating legs. On my feet - all my dojo stretches; Heaven and Earth, slow splits, Butterfly. Find a wall - rotator cuff stretch, forearm stretch. GENTLE neck pull - it will feel SO GOOD.
Why I Stretch: I need to be able to move when I need to. I like burst energy, I've always had a lot of it, but I'm not going to hurt myself when I need to fly into action. This is preventative mostly, with added benefit of augmenting that meditation thing I just did. :)
Go for a walk. Go for a run. Do what I've been doing lately - walk your neighborhood with bursts of sprints for longer and longer periods of time. Bike rides are great. Move with a friend. But get up and get moving!
For a lot of people, this is when they'd work out, and for many that's fine. I ask to wait on your workout time just a tad more. This "move" is really to cement the previous two things you've done for yourself already. You've reconnected your mind, body, and soul while preparing your physicality for the day - go outside. Feel the planet. Even if it's cold out. New Englanders, I understand, there are exceptions; but even if it's raining, get outside. It's just water - jackets exist. Unlike the silly college kids that scream at the sky when they prance around in pajamas in a downpour...you know jackets exist. And I love walking in the rain; it's cathartic to feel the water flow over me - even in the cold. A brisk wind reminds you of the fireplace that waits for you; a vicious downpour sends you to huddle under a canopy with a good friend; moving alone brings joy to moving together.
...You do know jackets exist, right?
What does this have to do with gaming?
Stronger mind, stronger body, balanced soul = better gamer. ;)
See you at the table,
Usually when I talk about tabletop gaming, I explore the intellectual and social elements of it. We level up our creativity, our rapport, collaboration, and teamwork. Not often do we get to talk about the physical side of things.
"Physical side?" you say, a quizzical expression leeching onto your face.
Why yes, young grasshopper! Our physical fitness is most important, and is often overlooked when one prepares for a gaming experience...
But really, it shouldn't. A sound body augments the mind, which helps us play better, faster, kinder, and more creatively. So why don't we exercise more?
Well, for many at least, the excuse is time management...and that's a can of worms we won't get into quite yet.
Instead let me share with you something quite quick. You might even say it is hasted.
HIIT workouts...did I just misspell something?
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.
Short workouts, usually done in circuits of a few exercises for a number of rounds. 15-20 minutes of work, tops.
Now most people know I'm a push-up fiend, but the rest of my body needs help too, so first thing in the morning on Saturdays I rock this workout. Takes me a little over 15 minutes and keeps me fired up all day. Anybody can make time for that, and it helps kick the brain into high gear while burning calories before breakfast.
Workout A - 5 Exercises, 4 Rounds
10 Staggered Pushups
10 Leg Lifts
10 Raised I Pushups
10 Close Ski Squats
--15-30 second rest between rounds
Okay, so what's what? Squats are squats. Ski Squats are squats with feet close together, like you're skiing and about to hit slaloms. Leg Lifts are on your back, lifting your straight legs up and engaging your lower abs. Staggered Pushups alternate between one hand high, the other low; next round you switch. My Raised levels correlate directly to a step; Raised I is literally me putting my feet on the first step of a staircase and putting my hands on the floor at the incline, then pushup from there.
Hit (ha) this one for 4 rounds and you're good. If that was easy, then tack on Workout B below too.
Workout B - 5 Exercises, 6 Rounds
10 Raised II Pushups
10 Diamond or Inward Pushups
20 Scissors or Spreads
10 Burpees w/Neutral Pullup
--15 Second rest between rounds
Raised II is the second step on a staircase. Crunches are...crunches. Diamond pushups make a Diamond with your hands and kill your triceps - if you can't touch them together yet, just as close as you can and turn your palms inward at an angle. Scissors are achieved by lying on your back with your legs straight and elevated some inches off the floor - then you "kick" them up and down. Spreads are this, except you spread your legs in and out, all while keeping them elevated.
See? Who said gamers can't work out!?
Now get working so you can do at least A FEW of the things your character can do!
Game On! Director, musician, music teacher, game designer, and professional game master. In short, I'M A BIG NERD.