New Year’s Resolutions

People generally make three types of New Years Resolutions:
– Social (“I’m not going to spend Friday nights marathoning Supernatural again this year”)
– Moral (“I’m going to be a better person”)
– Health (“I’m going to start going to the gym”)

The health resolutions pretty much always fall into one of two categories
– Begin a new habit (going to the gym, eating healthier, etc)
– Ceasing a bad habit (stop smoking, stop eating junk food, etc)

The dangers, however, with setting New Years Resolutions is that most people set incredibly vague goals.  When people talk about getting healthier, they’ll decide “I’m going to start eating better” or “I’m going to start going to the gym”.  Okay, cool.  That’s great.

Define ‘eating better’.

If I switch from eating pizza every night to hamburgers, is that eating better?  What if I trade that pizza for salads exclusively?  Does that mean cutting a meal, or eating six small meals instead of three big ones?  Does that mean less red meat or no meat at all?  Technically, just eating a plain doughnut instead of a chocolate-filled one is already eating better.

And define ‘going to the gym’.  Are you going to start doing cardio or lifting weights?  Are you going to take dance classes or attending power lifting seminars?  Are you going to train like a bodybuilder or a strongman?  Are you going to go to the gym three times a week or six times a week?

The trick to setting achievable goals is that they need to be specific.  Set too vague of a goal and you’ll never achieve it, no matter how much progress you make.  There is no diet upon this earth that cannot be made more healthy somehow.  And it doesn’t matter how many times you go to the gym, there will be a training protocol that will necessitate going even more.

To quote the incomparable Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”.

If you want to set New Years Resolutions, that’s great.  Go for it.  But set something specific and manageable.
Instead of ‘I’m going to eat healthy’, go with ‘I’m going to follow this specific diet (whatever diet it might be)’.
Instead of ‘I’m going to start going to the gym’, go with ‘I’m going to go to the gym three times a week’ or ‘I’m going to follow this specific program’.  I can even make a few suggestions.

If you want to be ambitious and totally overhaul your life, or make powerful changes, that’s fine too.   But make sure you break it down into small steps that you can manage.  Instead of ‘I’m going to quit smoking’, go with ‘I’m going to cut back on my smoking one cigarette at a time until I stop entirely’ (if you smoke 12 cigarettes a day, cut back to 11 cigarettes for January, 10 cigarettes in February, 9 in March, etc etc).  Instead of ‘I’m going to eat health’ or even ‘I’m going to follow this specific diet’, go with ‘I’m going to follow this specific diet for breakfast only in January, then add lunch in March, dinner in May, etc).

A definitive goal and manageable steps make absolutely any ambition achievable with time.  Don’t try to change your life in one go, on one day.  Even if you take only one step a week towards your goals, that’s over fifty steps by the end of one year.

So Happy New Year! 🙂

Wooden Dummy

When I was sixteen years old, my father had a local carpenter make for me a Wing Chun Doll.  It’s used in training of trapping and striking, sort of a bridge between forms and actual sparring, not unlike a punch bag but for more complex technical work.  The doll cost a small fortune, but it was custom made, most notably to accomodate my six feet of height.  Most kids, if they’re lucky, get a car for their sixteenth birthday.  I got a sparring partner.  In the grand scheme of things, I think I came out better.

The problem is that, over a decade later, carting that dummy around has become cumbersome.  It’s big, it’s heavy, it takes up more space than it seems like it should.  It doesn’t collapse easily.  And worst of all, it’s not very well made.  Most traditional dummies are wooden posts with multiple supports built into the actual design.  The carpenter in this case elected to essentially screw half a telephone pole into a wooden platform and covered said platform with carpeting.  This means the dummy can’t sustain particularly severe blows, lest it rip away from the screws, and thus the purpose of the dummy is partially negated.

Despite most wing chun dummies costing hundreds, even thousands, of dollars and a fervent desire to have better equipment to train with, I know I’ll never replace this dummy and will likely hand it down to a nephew or niece.
For while it isn’t a well-made tool, it was made specifically for me.  And nothing could make me give that up.

Bullet Points

I had an entire tirade planned on the XBox One, but somebody else pretty much summed it up.  I was also going to rant about the Ender’s Game movie and Orson Scott Card in general, but I figured powerful people were about to do all they could to distract him with something shiny to keep him from being seen in public for the next little bit.  So I figured I’d just hit a handful of small points of things I’d like to talk about, but don’t warrant full-on posts.

Will The Serials Ever Return?
I really, really hope so.  I enjoy writing for online audiences.  The problem is writing serials is an incredibly time-consuming and complicated process.  It’s actually more demanding than writing a novel.  Right now, my publisher and I are hitting numerous speed bumps getting our first book together out the door.  You’d think this would be the perfect time to do a serial – and you’d be right – but the effort and energy is needed to get that book moving.  And I also have an additional consideration two bullet points down.

Is there going to be more content than just once-a-week blog posts?
Yes.  I actually plan to start updating on Wednesday…this Wednesday.

Why didn’t you do a Memorial Day Blog?
For starters, because it seemed cliche to the point of being almost inappropriate.  Secondly, because I’m a part-time, self-employed individual.  See, I actually have a dayjob that I do in addition to writing.  I work more than 30 hours a week, but am only allowed to log thirty hours so as not to go over the part-time maximum.  I accrue no retirement, no health benefits, and accrue no sick/vacation time.  So Memorial Day, as a ‘work holiday’ is lost on me.  I have to work today, just like millions of others.  As a result, I feel like the holiday is cheapened.  Maybe that’s a poor excuse, but the truth of the matter is that if I didn’t work today, I’d have a bill at the end of the month I couldn’t pay.

My friend’s brother’s cousin’s roommate’s personal trainer told him you shouldn’t drink more than two glasses of water a day. Is that true?
No.

While it is true that hyperhydration is a real thing, it is so rare, it might as well be an urban myth.  So long as you aren’t drinking a gallon of water in half an hour or less, you are fine.  8 cups, 10 cups, 6 cups, it’s all good.
And keep in mind, that recommendation of ‘glasses’ comes from the misunderstanding of the recommended 8 cups of water.  That’s not ‘8 medium cups from MacDonalds’, that’s 8 cups, as in the unit of measurement.  That comes out to half a gallon or two liters, over the course of a whole day.  Nothing but a thing.
This was fun.  We should do this again sometime. Got any questions? Email me or post a comment.

Week Off

I live my life in twelve-week cycles.

I train and work hard for twelve weeks, and then I take one week off.  During that time, I do not write, exercise, and am far less strict about my diet.  I turn off my alarm clock and wake up naturally and I go to bed as I wish, rather than adhering to a schedule.  It’s pretty fun.  And the benefit of it – aside from the obvious – is that when it’s time for me to return to my regiment schedule, I am hungry to do so because living so carefree doesn’t suit me.

As both a creative professional and a pretty serious athlete (or at least I like to think so), I think there’s a benefit to completely throwing it all away for more than a few days at a time.  Weekends are great but you can only do so much decompression and recovery (both mental and physical) in two days.  Having a full week off where one doesn’t work, it allows you to fully recharge.

The trick, I think, is to staying on this ‘I ain’t doing nothing’ lifestyle until you start to get bored.  For me, that takes about four days.  Around about Wednesday night or Thursday, I’m starting to get antsy.  I get restless.  My mind begins to bubble over with story ideas and scenes and clever concepts waiting to be put to the page.  And I start getting hyper-active, ready to get out and do something.  By Saturday, I’m anxiously awaiting the coming week, the coming start of the new cycle.

Having this week off has other benefits as well.  It helps you define success with greater clarity.  Living in these twelve-week cycles makes it easy to set medium-term goals.  “In this twelve-weeks”, I might say, “I’m going to write a full book, six short stories, four essays, publish two articles, and prepare two convention presentations/panels”.  And by having a clearly defined start date and end date, I know how to further breakup my tasks for easier accomplishment.  But I also have a period when I call it.  I have a date where, after this, I stop.  I no longer work on this book, I no longer push to get this article published.  If it didn’t happen in this twelve weeks (barring a few extenuating circumstances), I drop it and move on.

And that clean slate every three months is intensely valuable.  During that week off, I am able to let go of all the baggage and issues and static that’s built up.  I’m able to clear my head and let go of everything that was unnecessary.  So that way, on Day One of the new cycle, I am focused and eager, with clearly defined goals and a timetable for achieving them.

And that’s where I am.  Day Two of my week off.  It is restful.  It is relaxing.  And I had candy bars for breakfast.

Exercise Recommendations

For those of you who don’t know, I’m an exercise buff.  I really enjoy talking about training methodologies.  I like learning about new approaches to training.  I read exercise science lab reports like they’re porn.

I studied for a while to become a personal trainer but eventually disregarded it as a career because the field is just too corrupt.  I’m not saying that every employee at your local gym will sabotage your health to keep you coming back to buy more and more personal training services, but I will say I met more of those types than not.  Especially at the most golden gyms of them all.

I’ve given several workshops at conventions, talking about fitness (usually in a context pertaining to aspiring cosplayers).  And afterwards, many people will ask for recommendations about where to start with exercise.  Most people think a successful program involves a combination of jogging and bodybuilding-style weightlifting.  And in my semi-professional opinion, that’s a mistake.

The simplest exercise recommendations are the best, and the most direct are the easiest to implement.  So, to that end, the single best exercise tool that I would recommend is the kettlebell.  They’re like cannonballs with handles.  They usually run about $1.5 to $2 per pound, but they’re an excellent investment and are probably the single best fitness tool out there.
As for the single best exercise program, it likewise should be a simple one.  And one that leaves no, or next-to-no, guesswork.  So, my answer to ‘where should I start’ is usually something like this:

Step One: Go to DragonDoor.com and buy Enter The Kettlebell.
Step Two: Read Enter The Kettlebell from front to back.
Step Three: Begin doing the Program Minimum.

I could go on and on about why kettlebells are a supremely beneficial exercise tool, and method really, but the book will do that for me.  EtK (as it’s often known) is quite simply the single best one-stop-shop exercise program there is.  The programs take extremely little time and yet return great results.  They are extremely safe and exceptionally easy to follow (unless the directions in the book are patently ignored).  And best of all, the cost-of-equipment is comparatively nominal.  EtK isn’t perfect for everybody or everything, but it’s more than adequate for anyone.  And as a starting-off point in exercise, it’s the best, bar none.  Specific needs and requirements and requests would warrant different answers each time, but for general purposes – and as a default answer – this is what I always return to.

Happy Training!