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Monday, May 23, 2016

P90X Day 5 - More Decisions

So, about this commitment thing.

In the last couple days, I've given some additional thought to the slogan of "Decide, Commit, Succeed." In particular, I gave it some very deep thought at around 4:45 am.

As tends to happen at that particular hour of the morning, I found myself standing over my alarm. I sway slightly from side to side and think about just how much I want to put myself through a tough workout. Whether running, P90X, or any other form of physical activity, it takes a fair amount of determination for me to get myself moving hard first thing in the morning.

Today, I was not so lucky. I knew I had no commitments after work, so I could complete the Legs and Back day when I got home. I hadn't gotten as much sleep as I would like, and I told myself that it would be smarter to rest now and work later. And rest I did.

Sure, I got the workout done when I got home, but it wasn't how I planned it, and that's its own issue. It's taught me that making the decision once is only the start, but commitment isn't about making one decision. It's about making very specific choices each and every day (or at least 6 out of 7). To truly commit, you need to decide every day.

With that in mind, I can hope that tomorrow will hold a more successful choice for me. It's the Kenpo day, which is one of my favorite workouts in the program, so it'll give me something worth waking up for.

Let's hope I think so tomorrow.

Friday, May 20, 2016

P90X Day 2 - Older

Well, I made it through day two.

Sure, I didn't get up on time and I had to do the workout when I got home, but I made it through the whole thing. Day 2 is the Plyometrics workout, which is basically legs and cardio. This has always been my specialty in P90X. Using legs and keeping up the energy. It's what a runner is born to do.

This time was harder than any other attempt. Sure, I'm not running as much in the last couple weeks, but that wasn't all there was to it. The simple fact is, I'm getting older.

And that's fine. It's absolutely fine to not be as quick to 100% as I've been in the past. I just need to remember that in that 60-80% done part of the workout when I don't think it's ever going to end. I need to remember that when we do the leg swings over the chair and my hips begin to scream at me. Or when we do the jump tucks and everything goes haywire.

I did remember it when good ol' Tony Horton decided to ask for double-time on the workouts. I didn't do any of that. Not yet. I kept to the basic pace and made it to the end with questionable form but unquestionable success. Hard to believe there's only 88 days left.

Dear God, what have I done?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

P90X Day 1 - Reboot

They say the first step is the hardest.

I respectfully disagree.

This will be the third or fourth time that I've started the P90X program. I've had the DVDs in my possession for more years than I'd like to admit, and I've never made it more than 1/3 of the way through. There are many reasons, of course, from legitimate injury to plain old laziness, but it always comes down to one thing more than any other.


The slogan for Beachbody (the company who makes P90X) is (or was) "Decide. Commit. Succeed." For me, the first step is the easiest one. I decide to start lots of things. Just ask the two novels sitting on my computer, or the three screenplays. Check how many books I have on my shelf with bookmarks halfway through. Heck, look no further than my mileage from this year. It's barely moved since February, but it looked really good until then. I'm often motivated to start, but maintenance has always been my problem.

Still, that time I made it 1/3 of the way through the program, I was pretty well built. Probably the best shape I've ever been in, from a purely physical perspective. For various reasons, some pictures of me during that time have been surfacing in odd corners of the internet, and it's reminded me just how spectacular that felt. Since I haven't been running all that much recently, I thought that perhaps a change in workout style might be the shake-up that I needed.

And then I missed day one. In my defense, there was pizza.

Today, I made it happen. Day one is chest and back, which is a lot of pushing and pulling. I paced myself the first time through the workouts, and nearly duplicated my numbers (though with substantially more effort) on the second round. While these numbers are not particularly impressive just yet, it meant that I was actually pacing myself appropriately, which is its own little victory.

The Ab Ripper X workout at the end of these days has always been a problem for me. I go as long as I can and usually break down halfway through. This time around, I simply aimed for lower targets. They were doing 25 of each move, and I did 10. On all but 1 move, I easily could have done more, but it gives me somewhere to go in the coming weeks without discouraging me every step of the way. Once again, I paced appropriately.

So all my problems are solved, right?

Not hardly. Because as I mentioned, the first step has always been my favorite. Let's see if I get around to step two tomorrow. I think, at least for now, there's a pretty good chance.

As long as there's not pizza.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Saturday was the 100th day of the year.

And this is a year in which I've set more goals for myself than ever before. Lofty goals. Goals that include thousands of miles and tens of thousands of pages read. So, how am I doing?

Depends on which half of that 100 you examine.

The first half was pretty good. I'd run 187 miles by day 50 (February 19) and I'd read 2800 pages. The latter was spot-on pace, and the former was on the schedule that I'd set. Already, though, I'd started slipping on some other things, in particular that yoga that I kept raving about. As I dove into full-on rehearsals for one show and and performances for another, I was sleeping less and drinking more.

And the trend continued. In the next fifty days, I ran 103 miles and read 575 pages. The running still wasn't terrible, until you consider that only 15 of those miles were run after March 10. I was heading in the wrong direction, with no immediate relief in sight. I'm still in rehearsals (tech rehearsals at that) for one show, about to be in performance, after which I'll go directly back into performance for another.

So, a couple days ago, realizing we'd passed the 100-day mark for this year, I decided to take a look at buckling down just a little bit more. Spending less. Exercising more. Doing all those myriad things that I enjoy telling folks I do (and that have the added benefit of making me feel great).

Truth be told, I wasn't off to a great start.

Every day this week, I've overslept to varying degrees, but each enough to prohibit a run in the morning. This is likely due to the fact that each night but one, I've stayed up too late. Perhaps I'm not in a place right now to make a lifestyle change.

I can, however, make one good choice at a time. And today's good choice came after a fruitless trip to fix a computer in one of our offices. It hasn't been a great week in a lot of ways for me, and a last-minute schedule alteration always riles me up, so receiving that on my drive back to the office didn't help. Now I had a weird gap in my schedule with nowhere near enough time to accomplish anything.

Fortunately, I made a good choice this morning. I packed a running bag to throw in my trunk, just in case. I didn't wake up in time for a run, but maybe if I found some time, I could get a few miles in later.

And hey, I found some time.

I started out for 6.5 and quickly realized that I was going to max out at 5. That decision made, I examined how I was feeling, and the answer was, great. I felt strong and I knew I was making the smarter choice to run fewer miles. I smiled. And then a van turned into the parking lot a little ways ahead of me, driven by my friend Nathan, a former Sunday morning running partner. Not only did I get to feel this way, but I had a witness to the feeling. A fellow runner, no less.

And I wasn't done. Around the corner, just about the time that the sun was starting to bother me, I passed Beau, also in his car, another runner with whom I'd trained, this time on Wednesday nights at Luke's Locker, and this guy does ultras. Two former running partners on one 5-mile run in a month of inadequate training. I'm sure that's a sign of something, and they were both smiling, so I think it's a sign of something good.

Does this mean I'll definitely wake up on time tomorrow and go for a run? Of course not. I hope I do, but you never know. With too much going on, sometimes you can't make all the right choices.

But at this point, I'll settle for 50/50.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Trouble With "Yes"

The first and most important rule of improv is that you should always say "yes."

Especially when working with someone else, you must always acknowledge the choice they made and go along with their world. If they say that you're playing fetch with a tyrannosaurus, you don't get to suddenly be riding a motorcycle on the moon. The integrity of the world depends on everyone going along with the suggestion and exploring what that means.

Truth be told, I don't really care for pure improv, particularly the "give us a suggestion and we'll make a scene" kind. I'm not challenging its validity or insulting its place among the theatrical arts, mind you, it's just not the kind of work I like to do. One of the shows I'm currently working on allows for a great deal of improv, but within a very defined structure and script, and that's about as far down that road that I want to travel. Even this, though, requires that magic word, yes.

And I love saying yes. To scenes, to moments, to invitations and requests, to promotions and opportunities... I almost always try to find a way to say yes.

As I've mentioned in the past, this hasn't always worked out for me, and especially in recent weeks, the weight of my various yeses has been pulling me down. Over the last five days, I've been sleeping through my run times, waking up later than usual. Somehow, I've still found myself exhausted, almost to the point of being unable to keep my eyes open, which, let me tell you, makes it rather difficult to take promotional photos.

There's always somewhere I need to be, and if not, then there's something I should be working on for the next place that I have to be. I've got seven different To Do lists, and none of them seems to be getting shorter. I haven't been reading. I haven't been running. Most of the progress I made in January seems to have fallen by the way, and a new reassessment seems to be in order.

So, I've begun the process or determining what is most important to me on a daily basis, and what can be removed from my plate. Most importantly, though, I'm learning (or at least making a valiant attempt) to say no.

The immediate changes have to be the things that only affect me. Things like deciding not to go to the late-night concert of one of my favorite bands this evening, since I know I have to be up early tomorrow. I really want to go, but I know that I'll be cursing the world at sunrise if I do, and I just don't have that energy to spare.

Next will come the organizations that I want to be a part of, but have not thus far found the energy or time to become an effective member.

Finally will come the things I truly love doing, but have now done to death. If I do something because it makes me happy, why would I keep doing it to the point of unhappiness? As in all things, moderation becomes the key, and some of the wholesale devotion I've lined up for myself needs to fall away.

All of these changes will take time. In some cases, I've already made promises as far out as next February. Fortunately, I'm now able to look more clearly into the future and see that I cannot do everything I want to do. I can say no, and it will get easier with practice, right?

Yes, it will.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Old Habits

I think I know why old habits die hard.

It's because habits, real habits, are made of stronger stuff than we imagine. They come from years of practice, whether intentional or not, and they represent the baseline of our actions. The only thing harder than breaking old habits, I think, is creating new ones.

There have been many habits in my life that I've tried to break, with varying degrees of success. Popular thought says that it takes 21 days to form or break a habit, but this is based in a misinterpretation of an old study regarding plastic surgery and prosthetics. In reality, subsequent studies of this specific topic have shown a wide range of time required, from 2 to 8 months.

A longer timeline certainly makes sense to me, given that I spent 30 days doing yoga in January and almost immediately dropped it when the month changed.

The problem with a longer timeline is that it doesn't inspire the same kind of optimism as a three week challenge. I can reasonably expect to make myself get out of bed at 5 a.m. for the next three weeks, but to say that it will take six months before it feels comfortable is far more daunting.

We want to establish a "habit" so that these things become second nature. In essence, so that they become easy.

But the great things are not supposed to be easy. Yes, it'd be nice if they were, but this is the real world, where the things we want most have to be earned. I'm at two days in a row of waking up on time, and last night in particular, I was exhausted. After one day.

And yet, I still managed to get up today. I did some yoga, my second time since the end of January. It wasn't habit, certainly not automatic. It was a very specific, very determined choice.

And honestly, I'm happier with that.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Buy 20, Get 6 Free

The first few miles of a marathon are free, so make sure you don't pay for them.

I was fairly proud of this concept at mile 11 yesterday, but it may have just been the heat getting to my brain.

In the wake of my foot pain, my Sunday long run was set to be the first real test of whether I had a problem to deal with. I had no issues on Thursday or Saturday (Friday is a planned rest day for me), but it's a different situation when you're sustaining effort for over 60 minutes. Fortunately, I was scheduled for a step-back week, so this run was 13 miles instead of 17.

Of course, deciding to have some at-home brunch and watch a Kurosawa film made for a later start than normal, so it was well into the 70s by the time I got started. Coupled with the increased foot traffic of the Austin Kite Festival, this made for a higher degree of difficulty than I had anticipated. Perhaps it was the heat, or not drinking enough water on Saturday, or the four days off, but with two miles to go, I was fighting pretty hard. I definitely had thoughts of bailing, but I kept putting one foot in front of another, all the way home.

I was reminded of the last couple miles of pretty much every marathon I've ever done. In my eight attempts, I have never completed a marathon without walking due to exhaustion (or pain). Most devastating was Seattle, when I was on pace to qualify for Boston with four miles to go and simply ran out of energy, but all have been somewhat discouraging, and spoke to a problem with my training.

There's a widely-held (though often disputed) belief that training runs for marathons need not exceed 20 miles. For the average marathoner, this is the "wall" point - the 2000 calorie threshold where the body has to work a whole lot harder to find energy. Those who advocate a 20-mile ceiling sometimes argue that going beyond this point too many times can hurt more than help your endurance. For the most part, I've accepted this theory, and if I've gone over 20 in training, it's not by much.

My thinking became, if I've trained for 20 miles, my sheer determination will carry me the last 6. But now I think I was wrong. I shouldn't be training for the first 20 miles. I should be training for the last 20, because the first 6 are the free miles.

Now, if you're new to running, that last statement is probably aggravating. Please know, it takes a long time to build up to this kind of distance. This is not overnight progress, and it takes months to get your body into shape for that kind of work. Running is never easy, and anyone who does it deserves the respect and admiration that goes with completion of every mile.

Still, when that gun/horn/guy-yelling-in-a-megaphone goes off, adrenaline kicks in. I have almost always gone out too fast, and in that moment, it is incredibly difficult to convince yourself that you're not "just feeling good" today, but rather you're running outside your ability. I somehow tell myself that I'm "banking time" for later, so that I've got a little cushion against my goals, but it's this banking that makes me have to slow down later, whereas if I'd just stayed on plan the whole way, I'd be in much better shape at the end.

The truth is, I don't need to push for the first 10K. My adrenaline will do that for me. But when I hit that point, that's when I have to start checking in to every step around me. I need to run a 20 mile race that starts at 6.2, because that's what my body has trained for. So, every long run I do is done with a mindset of how many miles are left. If I'm doing a 16-mile run, I consider myself as starting out at mile 10. Yesterday, with 2 miles to go (telling myself I'd run 24), I felt fairly similar to how I've felt at that point in marathons. But I didn't give up. I didn't walk. I'm training my mind and legs to keep going to 26 every time. It won't just happen.

Nothing comes for free.