It’s Still Procrastination

I screwed up. My wife and I set a 6-month challenge for the end of 2020 to work on projects that matter to us. And we set an aggressive reward for ourselves if we succeeded.

My challenge was to write an average of 2 blog posts per week between this site and my homebrewing site over at Totally realistic to be able to accomplish this, but I allowed myself to get distracted.

Excuses, Excuses . . .

Snowboarding is both the goal of staying in shape, but can also be a distraction from other goals.

It’s easy to come up with justifications for why I didn’t keep up with writing two posts per week. When I had time in the mornings or evenings, it was easy to justify spending time talking to my wife about what happened or plans for the day. She matters to me, and I love spending time with her, so it’s easy to think, “I can work on my project later or tomorrow.”

Some evenings after work, I just didn’t want to think hard enough to come up with an article, so it was easy to tell myself I’d do it after I relaxed by playing a video game. But rather than stopping after the hour I told myself would be my limit, it would be time to go to bed when I stopped.

On days when I was ready to do some work, I would decide to work on the blog posts and videos . . . after I did some job searching. And that would consume the rest of my time until I started making dinner and/or spending time with my family.

And on weekdays, it was easy to say that I would work on my projects on the weekend. But when the weekend rolled around, especially now that there’s snow at the ski resort, it was easy to find things to do instead of working on the projects that were my goals.

Motivated Procrastination

I don’t know that ‘motivated procrastination’ is a thing, but it is definitely how I feel about my choices to do other things besides working on this blog and my homebrewing site. If I think a task is important to someone in my family, I tend to make that a higher priority than things for myself.

Another aspect of my motivated procrastination is fear of what others will think of my creation. I expect what I produce to be as good as it’s possible to be. When I know there will be some errors in my presentation or wording, it’s easy to just shut myself down before I start. Not only does this prevent me from sharing what I want to say, it prevents me from improving both my presentation and my writing.

Learn and Move On

Suddenly, mid-December I realized I had a lot of work to do to catch up. And my wife, while being loving, understanding, and patient started to openly comment about my freak out and continued procrastination.

There’s a Difference Between Knowing and Knowing

I know the concepts of time management, discipline, and how to do work. I work hard when I’m working on projects for others and my employer(s). But I didn’t fully internalize that knowledge to apply to projects for myself.

Dangerous Behavior

Putting other peoples’ needs and priorities over my own is both positive and negative. On the positive side, there are times where people truly need my help and I am able to help them accomplish their goals to improve their lives. But the negative side of that can lead down the road to becoming an enabler, co-dependent, or just giving up on my wants and falling down the pit of martyrdom.

Focus on Yourself

One of the things this experience has taught me is that it’s OK to focus on my wants and needs, and to verbalize them so others are aware of them, too. Not only does this help establish boundaries so that I can carve out time to work on my projects without making them feel like I’m neglecting them.

Some people may say, “But the world doesn’t revolve around you.” Trust me, I am aware of that, and I do not think my personality would allow me to focus solely on my wants and needs while neglecting the wants and goals of those around me. My natural tendency, as I talked above, is to suppress my wants in service others, especially those who are important to me.

But by neglecting my wants and goals, I am not living the life I’m meant to live. My goals are to inspire people to live better lives, and incorporate the activities they love into their life, especially as we get older.

While I may not reach thousand or millions of people with that message, I hope I can share my experiences and help someone make time to do things they love and live a more joyful life. Maybe it’s conceited of me to think I can inspire others to change their life, but seeing people give up things they love just because they’re not in their 20s anymore makes me sad.

And by neglecting this blog, in particular, I’m not even giving myself the chance to connect with people who need to hear this message.

So, whether you dream about snowboarding, running, biking, or getting in better shape, let yourself get after it. #DoHardStuffLiveBetter

Effort > Results

sweat puddles
Little puddles of effort

I’ve noticed I spend a lot of time looking at other peoples’ results. This isn’t a bad thing, looking at what others have accomplished and thinking about whether they got results I want in my life.

There are a lot of results I do want: more money, the ability to accomplish amazing feats, the confidence to hammer out coherent text from a jumble of thoughts and inspiration. And it’s easy to sit in that place of want, where I see what they accomplished and wish I could do that.

But it’s hard to look at all the effort it took for them to be able to do that. Watching professional snowboarders fly through the air while spinning and flipping and effortlessly ride away is almost an insult to them. We get to see the end result, the effortless-ness, and be amazed at their skill.

Part of my brain tells me, “That looked easy. We can do that.” And that part of brain wants to go try.

The truth, though, is that I haven’t put in the effort. My body hasn’t built up the right muscles, my brain hasn’t learned the minute adjustments needed to get my body to move that way, and my fear of heights hasn’t been beaten into submission so it doesn’t lock me up the instant I leave the lip of the jump.

And the effort is necessary. The hundreds of repetitions required to understand how my body behaves; the pain of all the wipeouts when I get it wrong; the small victories that build one on another until success. They’re all necessary; but I’ve been too impatient to follow all the way through the learning process. I just want the result.

But I’m changing that. I’m embracing the effort. Well . . . embracing might be a little strong. At least I’m making the effort.

Effort is greater than results. Because when we just focus on the result, that’s the end. No more progress, no more learning, no more effort.

But if we focus on putting in effort, the possibilities are endless. When we put in effort, we get results. And then we get more results. As long as we keep putting in effort, we can tweak our effort to get the results we want.

But we have to put in effort.

EFFORT > results

How a Dog and a Story Made Me Like Running

Dog balloon Miss Jazz
Miss Jazzy the Husky

I hated running.

I’ve never been good at it, I dreaded any time it showed up in a workout. And, to be honest, I tended to skip those workouts.

Really . . . I HATED running. I can’t stress that enough, I barely tolerated it occasionally.

Life Changes, whether You Want It or Not

Jazz and Buddy wrestling
They look vicious, but it was obvious they were playing.

About six months after Jazz was adopted by my mother-in-law, my wife and I got Buddy, a mini Australian shepherd. We were terrified when they first met, because Jazz was so much bigger. But from the start, they played like littermates and had a bond we can’t explain.

Then we inherited #MissJazzyTheHusky. Jazz moved in to our lives and we made room. But if you’ve been around huskies, you know they aren’t afraid to sass you if you aren’t fulfilling their needs. If we didn’t let her be active enough, she let us know. There was one evening where she basically overrode the TV with her adorable, skull-vibrating sounds.

We noticed on days she was active, she was calmer in the evening. So . . . running. Really?!

MissJazzyTheHusky and Buddy - best friends
Friends since puppy-hood. Don’t let their calmness lull you into a false sense of security.

Reasons Pile Up

In addition to the fact Jazz needed to be worn out, I needed to improve my fitness level. But I dreaded running.

In one of the fitness groups I participate in, I heard people talking about Zombies, Run! as something enjoyable to listen to while running.

Gamify Your Fitness

Zombies, Run! initial mission list
You have to start somewhere.

By the time I finished the trial period, I was hooked on the story of a small community(Abel Township) trying to survive the Zombie apocalypse. Not only was the story compelling, there was enough gamification to keep me going to build my own virtual city.

I love the fact that Zombies, Run! allows you to exercise and track your distances in a couple different ways. When you have access to trails, roads, and open spaces to run, the GPS on your phone can track your speed and distance. Or you can set a constant pace if you are using treadmills, exercise bikes, or other stationary machines. You can also set your stride length and let it calculate distances based on step counts.

Real World Community and Introspection

And the community is really cool, too. Some people use the app while they are riding their bikes, walking, or doing many other activities.

Over time, running taught me a lot about myself. When I am really struggling, I came to appreciate the simplicity of the challenge: just keep going. Running doesn’t require a bunch of special gear, just a decent pair of shoes and a leash for Jazz.

I reached a point where the hardest challenge of running is deciding to go do it. And now that challenge is fading.

But running is hard. It forces you keep pushing when your brain is telling you to give up. It allows you to learn the difference between when your body is really done and when it’s just uncomfortable.

My New Attitude

Now I am thankful for running. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and through the loss of my job, running has become a place that is both peaceful and brings me peace that carries into times I’m not running.

Especially on days when stress and worry rise up like a pair of bullies, the challenge and focus of running seems to drain the power of stress and worry. At the same time, I feel like I am more able to recognize the lies that stress and worry try to use to drive me into panic and apathy.

There are still times it’s hard to lace up my shoes and head out the door, but I know it’s not just for me. Jazz is waiting. I gotta go hit the trails, and save Abel Township.

Raise the gates! (If you want to know, you have to play.)

My total statistics from Zombies, Run!
Not bad . . .

The Price of Exuberance

Or: How My Ego Broke My Body

Yes, I’m trying to stand up straight. No, that’s not normal.

I Know Better

A few days ago, I made a distinct error in judgment. I got excited during a workout and did more than I should have. I’m human, I was having fun, and I should have skipped that last set.

To set the stage, I’ve been running regularly for over a year, in which time I’ve lost over 20 pounds and dropped to approximately 20% body fat. My body feels better than it has in a long time, and I was ready to re-introduce barbell work.

Wednesday of last week, I chose to skip my 4+ mile run and do a functional strength workout incorporating deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and jump rope. And it was glorious. Not that I set any personal bests or  did anything remarkable other than I did string together more double-unders than I expected to accomplish.

I ran on Thursday. It was a good run, and provided the things I’ve come to need from runs: the requirement to focus on the mental  challenge of running on uneven ground and the mental exhaustion that allows the negative voices in my brain to fall asleep for a while.

At Least . . . I Should Know Better

And then Friday happened. Olympic lifts are highly technical movements, and I understand the dangers of doing too much too soon. My planned workout was to do 5 sets of 5 reps of clean & jerks at 65 pounds. I felt this weight was light enough I would be able to just focus on my form and would be able to easily finish the workout without problems.

My body started sending me hints my plan was unreasonable sometime near the beginning of the third round. The muscles were more tired than I expected, but nowhere near failure.

By the end of the fourth round, my body told me it was tired, and I remember thinking, “I should be happy with this. Just put the weights away and call it a day.” But my ego and brain swindled me into thinking, “It’ll be fine. Don’t just give up because you’re a little tired. The first four sets were fine…you’ll be fine.”

So I put on one of my “pump up” songs, rested a little longer, let the music get my adrenaline start flowing, stepped up to the barbell . . . I’m not sure if I pulled too hard from the ground or caught the bar too far forward, but I dumped the bar and knew something wasn’t right.

Face Challenges with Optimism

post-lift selfie July 3, 2020
The pain hasn’t really set in yet . . . but it was there.

I instantly recognized the feeling and knew my back was in trouble. My optimism made me think it wouldn’t be too bad. But it took 4 days before I recovered enough to stand in front of the mirror to take the picture at the top of this post. It’s not as obvious in this photo, but I spent most of the weekend with my left shoulder about 3 inches lower than my right.

This is the formula for many workout injuries I’ve heard: excitement to resume being active, overconfidence in your own ability, and pushing through the signals your body sends.

Did I Screw Up?

If I had been working with a personal trainer, they would have accepted too much responsibility for this injury. Since I was on my own, reacquainting myself with movements I’ve done before, no one can take any of the responsibility from me.

It’s my fault I injured myself. I let my ego be too strong. And the price I paid was high: I’m closing in on 5 days and I can barely walk a half mile without discomfort.

When you get excited to face a challenge, remember: your brain and your ego can write checks your body can’t cash. In a state of exuberance, our judgment gets clouded and we need to be more careful about the decisions we make.

Sometimes the hardest thing is stopping. Whether it’s one more jump, one more singletrack, or one more mile running. Don’t take yourself out of the game. That price is hard to pay.