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  1. The theme for my challenges this year is based on something I read in Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit." He found people who succeeded at recovering from hip replacement surgery by using a specific strategy: identifying critical moments which he called inflection points, circumstances where they were likely to face a significant moment of weakness such as the first painful moment of getting up off the couch, and crafting small habits using the cue-routine-reward formula to get themselves through those circumstances. I found some ways in which this was really helpful to the application of nerdy goals. * Quest: Take care of my arthritic knee. To that end: lose 30 lbs between May 28th and December 23rd, 2017, five pounds per challenge. My first challenge (Chapter One) went really really well. It seemed almost too easy. Which of course, heralds the arrival of a monkey wrench in the works. I didn’t just get one monkey wrench, though. I got an army of flying monkey wrenches, all of them cackling madly at my vain attempts to stay on target. I got a wholly unfamiliar (yet not unappealing) new work schedule, my fiancé went off his diet without warning and starting turning out home-cooked dinners at 2k calories a plate, and the fire alarms started going off in the middle of the night and evacuating the whole building, on the order of five or six times a week! But, nerds don’t quit, so it’s time to get things under control. I didn’t make any progress toward my goal in Chapter Two, but I feel I have adequately reconnoitered the problem, so it’s time to make some headway. Goal One: Quit overeating in the evenings. I’ve been eating really clean during the day and it’s been going great, but then I eat way too much after work, partially out of a sense of social obligation, but more due to simple weakness in the face of opportunity. In order to make this happen, I may have to take a more active hand in the cooking than I have been. Goal 2: Exercise (physical therapy and more) before breakfast. Getting a workout in at the start of my day is one of my favorite treats. I start off with some tai chi and then some kung fu stretches, and then I do some aerobics or dancing, and then some strength training, and finally my physical therapy for my knee (primarily balance related exercises). The rule here is going to be: if the fire alarms didn’t go off last night, or the night before, then this morning I exercise. I have no idea how often this will lead to, but we’ll see! Goal 3: Sleep. I think this is going to be the keystone habit of this challenge. I’m going to start trying to gradually go to bed a little earlier. This will give me a small buffer against interrupted sleep, and I’m hoping it may give me a graceful excuse to cut the feasting off early, at least for myself.
  2. Last challenge I was focused on Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit," identifying critical "inflection points," circumstances where I was likely to face a significant moment of weakness, and crafting small habits using the cue-routine-reward formula to get myself through those circumstances. I found some ways in which this was really helpful. Below I'll post a standard run-down of my goals for this challenge, and after that I'll analyze moments where I'm most likely to fail at these goals and craft myself habits for how to get though those moments successfully.
  3. <Narrative follows. Skip to second post for goals.> I ascended the summit of the volcano. I had crossed oceans and worlds, answered to sphinxes and gods and querulous accountants, trekked across deserts and through rush-hour traffic, and at last I arrived at my destination. I saw a decrepit mining shack on the very summit of the volcano, and a stooped old man with a scraggly beard entering and exiting with a lone skeletal mule. Noxious fumes wafted out of the dark mysterious portal that led into the heart of the volcano. The miner looked at me and muttered. I peered closely at the man's face, attempting to resolve what he had said. Was this what it sounded like when someone "spoke in tongues," as they say? And if it was a riddle, wouldn't I need to understand at least some of it to be going on with? The sulfurous fumes did coil about him in a most enchanted fashion, but aside from that I discerned no evidence of oracular miracles about. "Are you the oracle," I asked hesitantly. "The... Greecian oracle?" The mule twitched one ear and spoke. "There was a brief period of time when I wanted to be called The Artist Formerly Known as Delphi," it said, "but these days I mostly go by Python." "Python," I said to the mule, nonplussed. "I am in need of your wisdom." "I am in need of a good rum and coke," said the mule. "We all have needs. This guy, it's a good thing you can't even tell what he says. His needs are endless. And disgusting." The mule looked from the miner, to myself, and back. The miner muttered incomprehensibly. "You can't, can you?" the mule asked me. "No, sir. Um, ma'am. I mean, Python. No, Python, I can't tell a word." "For the best," the mule declared. I floundered, and then tried again. "Oh, Great Python, vessel of truth, dispenser of wisdom, giver of -- "Cut that shit out and just tell me your problem." "I've got arthritis in my knee. I think I should lose some weight. But it's, you know, hard...." The mule gave me a withering look. Sulfurous clouds begin to billow out of the mine along with thick, oily smoke. The earth shook. The mule stood rooted to the ground and it's voice came out like thunder. "You will fail to lose weight because you like to drink too much in the evenings," the mule said. "And when you drink, you snack." "You will fail to lose weight because on your days off your fiance over-feeds you," it continued. "He means well, but he has no sense of proportion." "You will fail to lose weight because you give in to unexpected temptations," the mule said with a sneer, "as if each one was an irreplaceable opportunity to enjoy comforts that you may otherwise never experience." "You will fail," the mule concluded, "because you will rationalise your own downfall." I stood for a long moment. I said, "Well, that's heartening." "There's only one solution," the mule said. I raised one eyebrow. "You must take me with you and study as my apprentice." "Apprentice Oracle of Doom?" I hated to admit, but I rather liked the sound of that. "There is a price." This time I raised both eyebrows. "I have not had a good laugh in over two thousand years. I think stepping on this one's foot would give me a laugh of some sort," the mule said, nodding at the miner, "but I've resisted the degredation of my soul thus far, and I'd hate to imperil myself with such malign glee. You must relieve me of this temptation. You must make me laugh." I couldn't begin to imagine how I would bring glee to such a being as this, but my need was great. "I accept your terms," I said. "Now what?" Python swatted the miner with its tail. "I declare you a fully empowered journeyman oracle, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. I don't think anyone will come to you for guidance, but if they do, no false stories of drowning all their future children in the bathtub. Nobody deserves that shit." The mule glared at the miner. "I mean it." The miner muttered incomprehensibly, and nodded. With that, I turned and led Python down the side of the volcano. Briefly, I wondered whether I'd be better off getting myself a motorized scooter and saying to hell with this whole project. Then I glanced at the mule. Heavy saddle bags lay across its back. "Did I accidentally just steal all the product of that guys efforts?" I asked. "Oh, the sulfur?" Python asked. "Yes, you did. But you'll need it." "Great," I said. "That's wonderful." Then a minute later, "Hey, did you hear the one about the...."
  4. The past few months have absolutely devastated all my healthy routines. Its time to get back on track. This winter I was completely levelled by a vitamin D deficiency and my ongoing depression and anxiety problems. This also explains why my last two challenges have tanked, and I haven't been able to follow a fitness plan for more than two weeks without getting derailed. I've been to the doctor about both of these, and am seeing a counsellor regularly about the depression. I've also got some meds now to help me out. I am feeling much, much better and am ready to take on this challenge. My main emphasis this challenge is to lose weight. I have made a great deal of strength gains in the past nine months, despite my problems, but I am still quite overweight and want to be able to show off some of the muscle beneath. Unfortunately, I do have a number of bad habits to break in order to proceed in getting awesomer at lifting heavy shit and getting in shape. I am currently reading the book The Power of Habit: Why We do What We do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. I still have to read the last 100 pp. but I highly recommend it. Some of my strategies for reinventing my habits will be based on insights from that book. These are the key guidelines: 1. Habits follow a simple cycle: Stimulus --> Response (the habit behavior) --> Result ( another stimulus that signifies completion of and justifies the Response ) (this is almost Pavlovian) 2. Building a new habit or breaking an old one can be achieved by altering the response or the stimulus 3. Keystone habits: these are habits that when established or altered create sweeping changes in other habits Goal 1: Get up when the alarm goes off. early M-F and go to the gym. exercise at home Sleeping too late is my keystone habit. Too often I hit the snooze button and let my morning drag on. With the depression this winter it was exponentially worse. Then I'd be late to work, fall behind, get extra stressed out, and have to work late leaving little time to get a workout and a good meal in in the evening. Old Habit Cycle: Alarm --> Snooze Button (zzzzz) --> stressful day I am going to change the stimulus, and response, which will fix the result to something more rewarding. New habit Cycle: Alarm (with different ringtone) + coffee pot noise and smell --> Exercise and good breakfast --> productive day, done by 5pm (ideally) I'll be getting up a 6:00. 4:30. The gym opens and five and if I get there by then I usually have all the weight equipment to myself. Not all days will be SL 3x5, all I have to do is show up and do something. I'm switching this one up already because I can already feel that 4:30 am is going to be too early, it will save me time in the morning and not make me wiped out too early. If I stick to light exercise at home, I can get it done while breakfast and/or lunch is cooking. I'll probably stick to light kettlebell practice, pilates, body weight, and stretching exercises. Just to get the heart pumping first thing in the morning. I also don't want to short my strength training in order to get to work at a respectable time. I can also read a paper or two during breakfast. I did that this morning and it worked out really well. I'll add that below. The important thing is that I get back on a schedule, and quit wasting time in the morning. Not how early I get up or whatever. I think my natural circadian rhythm is sleeping somewhere from 11 pm - 7 am-- later, since I prefer to lift in the evenings. Grading: Percentage of the 30 opportunities to do this during the six weeks. Goal 2: SL 3x5 at least 3 days per week. If I'm successful in goal 1, I'll have plenty of opportunity to do this. I might limit it to two during the week, then sneak the third in on Saturday or Sunday though. Lifting before breakfast can be brutal. I'll just stick with doing this in the evenings. Also, I'll be adding the Ice Cream 5x5 accessory work to my SL 3x5. Grading: percentage of 18 total required SL 3x5 workouts Goal 3: Poverty Paleo Eat healthy -- support the gainz -- but economically. So my financial troubles have forced me to go paleo-ish and ketogenic. Essentially, I have to cut back drastically for a while on how much I can spend on food. However, I REFUSE TO GIVE UP MY PROTEIN! So I'll be living primarily on chicken leg quarters and eggs on the challenge. I did the math. I can hit ~2500 cals per day (maintenance = 3000) and ~150g protein (my lean body weight is somewhere just above this). If I eat lots of chicken, without being picky about the leanness of the meat, on my budget I still have room for a good dose of veggies everyday. So I'm going paleo/keto. I've figured out that I can splurge on some other stuff to break the monotony (I've been doing this the past two weeks, its boring for sure). So I'm going to stick to eating this way 6 days a week. Going keto and having the deficit will promote weight loss. Getting gains is going to be tough. I will have some carbs for recovery after my SL 3x5 workouts, that ought to help. Okay, so I'm not really paleo or keto. My goal is to just eat economically (and therefore monotonously) and avoid splurging on anything extra except for maybe one thing a week. In other words, don't buy and eat an entire frozen pizza and a can of Pringles cuz I'm drunk, emotionally, and/or bored. And yeah, avoid drinking. Grading: Number of days out of 36 that I stick to this plan. don't splurge on a more expensive/less healthy meal. Goal 4: Exercise at least 5 evenings after work a week. I want to build a habit of exercising at the end of my day. Life gets busy, and there will be days when I can't exercise afterwork, but if I make a habit of doing something every day when I get home, and not put off working, I decrease the number of workouts I'll miss. 3 of these will be my (SL)Ice Cream 3x5 workouts. The other two will be lighter stuff like pilates, playing with the kettle bells, stretching/recovery work, or body weight exercise. Grading: Percentage of 30 points Life Goal: Be more productive, and increase rate of progress toward finishing my PhD. Gonna try to hack my work habits here: Sub-goal: Spend 1 hour in the morning a day writing: As soon as I get to work, spend one hour writing my thesis or papers. I've been lagging a great deal on this front. Habit cycle: sit down at desk --> write --> check progress (word count, review/edit) Sub-goal: Read at least one article directly related to my thesis M-F: At the end of the day (when reading is best) whenever, but I'll try to do this during breakfast to just get it done. Habit cycle: ??? Food + Coffee --> Read --> Check this one off the list for the day. Sub-goal: Go to work at least one day on the weekend: Focus on catching up (things will be missed). Habit cycle: ??? Not sure how to hack the habit cycle on all these. Maybe add alarms on my phone, look for other cues. We'll see. The first one will be easy, as its just sitting down at my desk. Grading: Percentage of the 66 total points.
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