The Phil Wells Dot Com

I Got A Big Mouth

Tag: exercise

“Me First” March


This month is about taking back some time for myself.  January and February were relentlessly full of day-job work, which is to be expected.  It’s a high-pressure deadline-driven job and I expect to be challenged by it.  But I was beginning to feel stressed.  I was neglecting myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job.  But I also love writing and learning new things independently.  I love doing creative things and making people smile with my art.  I was getting no time for any of that.  I wasn’t exercising.

That’s changing this month.  This is “Me First” March.  Since February 28 I’ve exercised every day and done an hour of homework every day.  Well, yesterday I rested my body and just did two hours of homework, but I’m still counting it.

What kind of homework is it?  Well, it’s either learning something new about MySQL, studying for the ITIL v3 Foundation Certification exam, playing bass guitar for an hour, or writing creatively for a solid hour.  On top of all that, Lent is around the corner and I’ll be giving up drinking until vacation time in April.  I’m also staying away from fried foods, added sugars, and white starches.

More than anything I think the act of stealing back an hour or two every day for myself has rebooted the part of my brain that was just going through the motions with work stuff.  I get into the office now and I budget my hours more effectively.  And, more importantly, I leave the office now and feel like I’ve left the work that needs to be done back at my desk.  I’m not carrying it around like I used to.  Life goes on even if I’m not thinking about what forms I’ll need to fill out first thing tomorrow and who I’m going to have to interview before next week.  I feel refreshed.

I’ve been asked by friends what they can do to help. Don’t let me malinger about going to the gym.  And if I’m doing homework, leave me alone for an hour.  Just make sure I’m having fun.  If I seem stressed get me to say something funny.  The good news is I feel less stressed already.  I feel empowered.  I feel like I’ve taken part of my life back.  Maybe I’ll extend this into April.

Weight Loss Games

I’ve lost 8 pounds in two months.  There are two things I’ve done to make this happen:

  1. Gone to the gym 2-3 times a week (usually 2).
  2. Followed the Steve Ward Diet (just on weekdays).

I’ve never been a gym rat before this year, but I lucked into a great price on a membership (courtesy of my friend Jen) just when I realized my weight was starting to trend upward.

Forgive this tangent, but my noticing that my weight was trending upward is reason enough for me to decide to do something about my nutrition and fitness.  People like to tell me that I don’t need to exercise or watch what I eat because I don’t look fat.  I’d argue that I need to exercise and watch what I eat because I’d rather not look fat.

Aaaanyway, I started going to the New York Sports Club twice during the week and, sometimes, once per weekend.  For strength training I follow their Express Line workout (a series of 8 weight training machines) and record my progress in an app on my iPod called iFitness.  It’s important to track your progress when it comes to exercise.  Write down what exercise you’ve done, how much weight you moved, and how many reps and sets you did.  Knowing this stuff beforehand is one less thing to slow you down.

This revelation was what kept me in the gym week after week.  I’ve found that I can compete against myself and it’s very motivational.  When I can do three 15-rep sets of the weight I’m doing five days in a row, I bump up the amount of  weight and try for the next “perfect 5”.  It’s like earning badges in a Kongregate game.  “You’ve earned the leg press machine badge!”  Everything has to have its method, people.

If I have time, I do walk-run intervals on the treadmill for 24 minutes. (4mph / 6mph)

rock out with your broc out

The Steve Ward Diet is usually where people lose faith in my sanity.  It’s pretty simple.  I had a start weight and I have a goal weight, to be ultimately reached on a day in September.  Each day my daily goal weight ticks down a little bit until at the end it’ll meet my final goal weight.  If I weigh myself in the morning and I’m below my daily goal weight, I eat what I want that day.  If in the morning I’m above my daily goal, I eat nothing but raw fruits and vegetables that day.  These are called broccoli days.

The assumption is that I must go through a lot of broccoli days; that I’m starving myself on some days only to reverse all my progress on normal days.  But really this plan is about forethought.  I hate the broccoli days, so I don’t eat like an animal on the normal days.  Again, this plan would be nothing without the daily recording of my weight and comparing it to the downward-sloping line of my daily goal.  I need the tactile plotting and analyzing.  My friend Bradford says I’m a methodical person, and I guess I’d have to agree.

I’m a game player.  I thrive on setting small attainable goals for myself and meeting them.  I think this was planted in me by the book “Finite and Infinite Games” by James Carse.  I fill my life with all these finite games because they’re fun diversions, and the trophies are usually shiny (books written, weight lost, etc.)

Carse says that the real trophy is power, and that power is different from strength.  Power allows you to move things outside of yourself; to redirect the forces around you.  Strength, on the other hand, is an internal quality that describes your ability to resist being moved or redirected.  There are people who play games to win the power, and there are people who play games to test their own strength.  Most people fall somewhere in the middle, myself included.  But I do feel a little stronger every day.

Things I Tell Myself When I Want To Skip The Gym

It’s too expensive. But, really, it isn’t.  I got a great deal because my membership is transferred from my friend Jen, who is a genius because she registered in Nanuet where it cost about half what it should have.  Long story short, my gym membership is cheaper monthly than my booze intake.  You tell me which one makes more sense to give up.

I can reach my goals without it. Could I reach my fitness goals without exercise at the gym?  Of course the answer is yes.  But hitting the gym formalizes it for me.  On days when I don’t want to go to the gym, it’s almost like saying to myself that being healthy is just too hard.  Really the goals get in the way sometimes, because if I can just double my broccoli days and never hit the gym again and still get to my goal, then the goal itself is skewed.  This is about adding years to my life, not reaching an arbitrary number by end-of-year.

There isn’t enough time. I say this as if I’ll fill the hours with something more productive.  Or as if 4-5 hours at the gym every week has limited what I’ve been able to get accomplished otherwise.  Neither of those are true.  There is enough time.  I’m just loathe to use it to improve myself.

I’m not making any progress. Another blatant lie.  I’m trending downwards.  It may not be as fast as the milestones I’ve set up, but that’s reason to redouble my efforts, not to throw in the towel.  Progress, which is a goal-oriented vain statistic to begin with, takes time.  If I get impatient with myself then I’m going to give up eventually.  This nagging voice has to be silenced.  Progress isn’t important, and anyway I’m making plenty of it.

I’m already in good enough shape. Ha.

I can only fit so many goals in my life at once. What is the point of thinking like this?  Why say this to myself?  I only want to complete so many good things within a year?  Taking on fitness as a project lengthens the deadlines of other projects, that’s true.  This is a matter of prioritization.  Living a healthy life and getting stronger and leaner are high enough on the list for me to extend the next book or the DBA certification or the 14-hour Civ III marathons.

I never have any downtime anymore. Really, I do.  The gym is my downtime.  Casting exercise as opposite to leisure is a mistake made by a lot of cynics in my generation.  If I don’t like it for the moment, I enjoy its effects when it’s time for real leisure to begin.  Fitness enhances the downtime.  I’m not going to lie to myself and say running intervals is fun.  But I will credit it when I can take my shirt off in August without worrying about people judging how doughy my torso is.

Cause, man, it’s like Bisquik right now.


Today I woke up 30 minutes early and did 38 pushups.  I had a bigass scoop of whey protein powder in 8 oz of milk.  And now I’m eating egg whites and grapes for breakfast.  With coffee, of course.

Setting myself on these nice lifestyle paths has never been the issue for me.  The real issue is sticking with it.  For some reason I have a stubborn resistance to setting bite-sized goals for myself.  I’m sort of an all-or-nothing personality type, with a side order of letting stuff slide.  And so here I am pledging to get back in shape without a clear plan or any tangible milestones set up.

So here are a few promises:

  1. I won’t turn this blog into a list of what I ate every day.  I hate reading those blogs, so I’m not going to produce another one.  I’m eating healthy, and you’re just going to have to remember that.
  2. I’ll write goals for weight loss, sobriety, and exercise on actual pieces of paper (index cards, actually) and put them in the same order rail where I keep my work to-do cards.  I’ve harnessed the power of my addictions to improve myself before so I might as well put my productivity jones to good use.
  3. I’ll be a comfortable size 32 by July 4.  Right now I’m somewhere between 33 and 34.
  4. I’ll stay out of bars.  This one is so tough it makes me shudder.  I just shuddered just now.  If you’d like to help me with this goal, please invite me into your home for cocktails.
  5. Apropos of nothing, I’m going to decrease my public output of written content.  Less tweets, less forum posts, no more Facebook notes, and less frequent more substantial blog posts.  I’ve sort of been throwing all my thoughts into the cyberether without any real filter and I have to learn to rein that in.  I don’t think I’ve hurt my personal brand too badly thus far, but it’s important to present myself in a way I can be proud of.  Starting a family and a new company and all that.

Right, I’ve written a list and Day 1 is so far, so good.  But I’ve been here before.  This is where it gets interesting.