This is a follow on from my recent post about what I’m planning and hoping to achieve in 2019, in broad categories of Fitness, Weight and Food, and Creativity.
I forgot one category, and it’s an important one: Acts of Kindness.
The easiest thing for me (it ranks very highly on the Should-I-Do-It scale – 75 if I do a special trip, 100 if I do it while I’m in town anyway) is to donate plasma. I feel great after. I feel great for having done something for someone else. And it’s easy.
It does take a bit longer than a standard blood donation around 90 minutes from walking in the door to walking back out, but it doesn’t leave you feeling depleted because you get all (or most) of your red blood cells back. Plasma donations are fascinating, too, because you’re hooked up to a machine that centrifuges out a bunch of yellow liquid from your body and returns a deep crimson stream of blood.
If you have any questions about it, please ask below in the comments section. If you want to a donation-buddy for your first go, get in touch.
I’ll try a few other acts of kindness this year, too, but will let them come and go as they please rather than forcing them.
I recently read the book Crazy Busy by Dr. Hallowell. It’s a book that focuses primarily on disconnecting from technology to spend more time with yourself and those around you. It raised some very valid points about taking time back for yourself. Taking time to think. Taking time to be creating. Taking time to play.
The main thing that I took away from it, however, was a system for whether you should bother doing something or not. I have been using this system for the last few months since reading the book, and it works.
Think of the activity you need/want/should do. Not a “pay your bills” activity. Something like “go visit a relative”. First of all, assign a value from 1 to 5 for the amount of effort it will take, where the least amount of effort is a 5 and the most amount of effort is a 1. Then assign a value from 1 to 5 for how good it will make you feel. Either while you’re doing it, or aftwards having done it. 1 is that you’ll feel bad, and 5 is that you’ll feel great. Many warm and fuzzy moments. Then assign a value between 1 and 5 for the impact it will have on things other than you. Will it make your relative very happy if you go? Will it save a bag of kittens from inevitable doom? 1 is that it won’t make a difference to anyone or anything, and 5 that it’ll make a huge difference to someone.
Multiply these numbers together, and you’ll end up with a number between 1 and 125, and here’s the trick. You now need to set yourself a threshold for doing things. My threshold is quite low, I think, only needing a to be over 15 for me to think I should do it. And I should definitely do it if it scores higher than 25. Obviously these aren’t hard and fast rules, so keep it loose and go with the flow.
If something is moderately hard work, like a 2 on that inverted scale, and I’ll probably feel pretty good afterwards, so a 2 for that too, but the impact for those around me (say the person I visit) is really great, and scores a 5, then I should probably do that activity because it scores a 20. If it was easier to do, and scored a 3 for effort, then it’s suddenly a 30 and I should definitely do it.
Was writing this post difficult? No – 5 out of 5. Do I feel good now that I”m finished because I’ve done something creative? Definitely – 3. Will it help someone? Maybe – 2. It scores 30/125.
I really like numbers. I like graphs. I like plots. I like tables. I like SQL queries. It was pretty predictable that I’d like having a Fitbit on my wrist. No surprise that I’d find myself poring over the graphs in the app, checking my resting heart-rate (56-58 bpm when I’ve not had any red wine for a couple of days, 61-63 bpm when I have, FYI), my active hours, how many steps I’ve done and when, and probably because I can be a bit* competitive at times, how my steps stack up against my Fitbit friends steps.
But – what did I have the Fitbit for? I had it to help me keep track of my exercise (check) and improve my fitness levels. It just didn’t help improve my fitness. It didn’t push me to do more steps. It didn’t motivate me to run. It didn’t really help me improve at all. So it’s gone.
When I stopped wearing it, I felt quite a bit of relief, which I didn’t expect. I thought I’d miss it. Miss having those graphs, and tables of information to sift through. But instead, I felt liberated. When I go for a walk, I’m going because I want to. Because it feels nice. Because it’s good for me. Not so that I can compete against other people, who most likely aren’t competing back. To be completely honest, there have been a couple of times I’ve gone for a walk and thought that it’d be nice to have the steps recorded because it would have added a decent chunk to my tally, but then I quickly realise that it’s not important. It’s important that I’m moving – it’s not important that I’m winning.
Anxiety levels: slightly lower than they were before. Plan: figure out what to get rid of next.
I’ve ridden quite a bit in the last year. Last October I rode more than 600 km as part of the Great Cycle Challenge (which I will probably do again this year). I rode over 4,500 km in 2018. I climbed more than 41,000 metres. 263 hours in the saddle.
This isn’t a lot for some people, and that’s exactly what I want to write about: Challenging People.
I don’t mean people who are difficult to deal with. I mean people who challenge you to do more/better/faster/longer. I’m surrounded by people who climb hills faster, descend faster, ride further, ride longer. To the extent where when I’ve been for a 90 km ride, or been for a ride where I’ve climbed 1,000 metres, and I tell people about it (which I do like doing because it’s a good source of praise), I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything special. The achievement, something which many would consider to be big (or even impossible), has been completely normalised/trivialised.
I don’t think this is a bad thing – it’s helping me push myself to ride further and faster.
This all came to me when I was listening to a podcast by Adam Spencer (I was riding up the Patrick Joncker Veloway at the time). He was interviewing an ultra-marathoner, Michael Hull, who fell into being an ultra-marathoner partly by accident/serendipity, because he was surrounded by endurance athletes in his teens, and it was the norm. The details might be a bit fuzzy beacuse it’s a long time since I listened to the podcast, but I think it went something like that. There’s a link to the podcast at the bottom of the page.
I didn’t surround myself with challenging people intentionally. It just happened, and I’m really glad it did. I’ve challenged myself significantly in the last 12 months, both mentally and physically, and I don’t think I would have had I not had these challenging people in my life.
Now – this has covered the adjective definition of challenging, but there’s also the verb definition. I hope that I’m also challenging people when I talk about what I’ve done. I’m hoping that while I’m telling people about my achievements (and getting a bunch of praise for it), it’s also pushing someone to try something new. Try to ride further than normal. Up a steeper hill than normal.
I think if everyone had challenging people in their life, and spent time challenging people, we’d all achieve more. And achieving feels good.
I wonder how many thousand posts have been written in the last week about what changes people implement in their lives in 2019. They seem to be quite widely derided on Twitter, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me. It’s Twitter after all. A place mostly filled with grumpy, shouty people who complain about everything. But I think it’s a logical time of year to try to implement a major change – especially weight and health related. We’re 357 days away from Christmas, which is traditionally a food and drink heavy time of year. Easter is 15-ish weeks away, which also has some pretty delicious foods. So starting afresh in the new year seems like a good idea, because of the temporal distance to difficult times, and not just because it’s an arbitrary “we’re now in this spot in our orbit around the sun so I’m going to change…this time for sure”.
I have a few plans for this year, and I’m going to try to give them until Christmas 2019 before I re-evaluate how it’s going. No quick fixes. No shortcuts. No unrealistic expectations. My plan, beyond the immovable foci of work and (extended) family, is to focus on my fitness (mental and physical), my weight, and creativity.
For fitness, I think I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, with a few tweaks. I love cycling and it helps my mental wellbeing as well as my physical, so I’m going to keep riding my bikes. Last year I managed a bit over 4,000 km of cycling. I’d like to crack the 5,000 km mark in 2019.
Cycling is gloriously meditative for me and it gives me time to process a lot of things, but it’s not as quick as the mental clean and sweep that I get from going for a run. I’m not going to set myself a target for running distance for 2019 because I should probably get rid of a few kilos before running, but for 2020 I’m going to aim for at least 365 km.
I think I should also work on overall strength and flexibility, so I’m going to ease myself into a calisthenics routine for overall strength, and as we live near one of the very good yoga schools in Adelaide, I should probably make use of that, too.
Weight and Food
I’m too heavy. This morning when I weighed myself I weighed 108.5 kg. A couple of years ago I was under 100 kg (I’d go as far as saying “mid 90’s”, even), and it was wonderful. I’d got there from my starting point of ~113 kg using Duromine, which I would recommend if you’ve tried everything else. I’d try it again, but I think it triggered some migraines for me, so I’m steering clear.
My climb back to 108.5 kg has been relatively slow, and considering how I’ve eaten the last 6 to 12 months isn’t surprising. Stress-levels have been high, and this has lead to some very poor chocolate-related diet decisions.
My goal is to be in the 80s, or low 90s, and the plan for 2019 is to use intermittent fasting to restrict my calories to get there. I’ve done it a bit in the last month or two and if nothing else, I enjoy the process. I’m not going for the popular 5 and 2 intermittent fasting, but opting for alternate day 24 hour fasts instead. Every second day (ish) I’ll skip breakfast and lunch and aim for a normal dinner. I’m hoping to do this at least 3 days a week. It’s said to be very good to combat insulin resistance, too, which couldn’t hurt.
I find this type of eating good from a social point of view, because that’s where it feels like my previous diets have come crashing down. Keto/LCHF makes it difficult to eat out, and I actually feel a bit ick eating like that. Generic calorie restriction makes it difficult to eat in general. With the alternate day 24h fasts, I can have dinner with people any night of the week, so ticks the “still works in a social group” box, and if I need to have lunch with people, I can shuffle my days around.
I like being creative, and this year, I think, is the year for me to take it up a level. I have three main ways for being creative. The first is writing, and I’d really like to try my hand at some fiction writing. The second is Making, and I have some ideas for electronics projects to do for myself and with the kids. The third is music, and I think this is the year when I start playing with a group of people (I’ll avoid the word “band” for now), and give writing a song a proper crack.
Driving home from the Fleurieu Peninsula on Sunday there was a heavy blanket of smoke hanging over the hills and the Adelaide plains. I’d been to see dad, helped him repair his lawn mower and sipped a coffee at Port Elliot. I had spent longer there than anticipated, and was running late for dinner with the kids. The way the setting sun was being coloured by the smoke was too enticing, so I swung off the freeway and went up to Mt. Osmond to take a few photos.
I’m finding the act of being creative is really good for my overall wellbeing, so even though it meant that I only just made it home in time for dinner with the family, it’s a really excellent thing to be able to do.