October 4th, 2012

My wonderful Meg kitty.

I'm baaaaaaaaack

Oh, livejournal, I've been absent. But I just found the thing to bring me back to you.

First, the nonsense to catch up on. I was in LA to see Endeavour fly in. I was at a small stretch of sidewalk by LAX and we were treated to three fly-bys as well as seeing it land on the nearest runway. I finally relented and allowed ABC to interview me. I understand that they especially loved one part of that interview where the reporter asked me about all the stuff I was carrying. I was active on twitter and facebook via my phone, carrying a set of binoculars, a radio tuned to LAX's South tower frequency, and a camera. I was by far the best informed person there and the news crews started taking their cue from me announcing when "SoCal" was going to fly by again.

Secondly, the idea for the moustache has crystallized. Now I've gotta get the rest of the costume!

Thirdly -- and this is the big one -- I read a book called "Muscle" a while ago at the recommendation of an acquaintance (You're somewhere out there, danh. I know you are.). It's an interesting read about a guy who's gets bullied and scared. He decides to become a bodybuilder to act as a deterrant. He ends up as a gym rat, taking steroids, and starving himself to get more cut.

By chance, I started talking to some old friends who live in Venice. They've been lifting for about a decade now and I was reminded a bit of the mindset from that book. I decided on a whim to ask them how one becomes a bodybuilder.

They laughed at me at first. They realized I was serious eventually.

So, first thing's first. I'm pretty trim. I've had a sub-10% body fat content for a while. The last time I checked I was around 8% which is ridiculously low. Michael Phelps measures in around 6% and I oughta be a long way off from him considering that I usually blow off things like 'diet' and 'exercise' in favor of sitting in front of a screen and drinking massive amounts of soda.

That's a good thing and a bad thing. The good part is that I'm starting from a place of relative fitness. The bad part is that my abs have always been hidden under a layer of fat. I've got good abs under there, but since my body insists on putting all my fat on my belly, it's never come out.

One of the guys said that there's no way in hell that I'll ever have a six pack. Hearing that made me promise myself that I was going to work myself into the ground if I had to.
My wonderful Meg kitty.

(no subject)

So, I came away with rules. Things to eat. What sort of workouts they thought I could do. I signed a waiver to get into the gym at work.

Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who is pretty much god among bodybuilders -- said you've gotta let the muscles rest for 48 hours after working them, but the problem is that you want to work out all the time -- not just for routine, but because it helps people keep feeling like they're pushing themselves. It's basically the bodybuilder's dilemma.

So here's how you solve it. You have three different workouts which all target different muscles. You have arm day, you have leg day, and you have core day.

This wasn't a problem, so I got to work. Two weeks later, I realized stupidly that I didn't establish any sort of baseline, so I did a bunch of squats, pushups, and situps to see how many friends of mine could do. That turned out to be pretty useless -- I was surprisingly ahead of all of my friends with those exercises. I expect that's more an indicator of my starting level of fitness rather than my routine.

I had to think about what I was really trying to achieve. It's nice to say that you want to look cut. It's nice to make points of stuff like that, but it seemed a little disingenuous to me. There's a point where everyone gives up -- either by biology, time, motivation, etc. -- and it seemed like if I made my goal to look a certain way, then I'd lack a reason to keep going once I reached that point.

That seemed wrong. I mean, I know that when it comes to bodybuilding, I'm essentially being a tourist. But that doesn't mean that I have to act like a tourist. I want to buy into it, so I told myself that I'd stop when I decided that all the lifestyle changes felt normal to do.
My wonderful Meg kitty.

(no subject)

So -- up until now, that was all in the past. It's been -- I don't know? -- about a month or so now?

Today, I realized that I've been a little angry the last couple of days. It's hard to pin down why, but when I was typing out an email today, I realized what was going on. It's all the working out. Maybe it's the excess testosterone? Who knows? I realized it when there was someone in my complex who I thought was going to make a comment about me driving too fast and I considered some pretty aggressive actions if he said a word. I -- of all people -- considered punching someone.

That's just not right. I'm going to keep an eye on that.

Anyway, the guiding principles behind my workout have been that form's way more important than reps and knowing how hard to push myself. It's easy to hurt yourself if you're not working right. It's easy to hurt yourself if you're trying to go fast. It's easy to hurt yourself if you try to go mind-over-matter through the feedback your body's giving you.

A strain is pretty much disasterous. That puts you out of commission for a week at least when you want to be working out. I've been there before, so I try to pay attention. If I have any doubts, then I stop, do something else, and get back to it afterwards.

Now, contrast that with the words of Arnold:
"The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That's what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they'll go through the pain no matter what happens."

It was after about two weeks that my friends told me that I wasn't motivated enough. I asked how they could tell. They're not working out with me. One of them said that I didn't talk like a bodybuilder. I didn't have things that I told myself to make myself push harder.

I have one, but they deemed it gay. Fuck 'em. It's a Norwegian proverb and it's always been one of my favorite saying: "A hero is someone who can hang on one second longer".

I figured that it'd all come in time. The results will come. The comments about motivation will stop because I'll have the goods. Then I decided that it was all wrong for me to discard that, so I decided to start learning some of the stuff that bodybuilders say to motivate themselves.

A small sample:
"Bustin' mine to kick yours"
"If the bar ain't bendin', then you're just pretendin'"
"If you waste today crying over yesterday, then you'll be able to waste tomorrow crying over today"
"The wolf on the hill is not as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill" - Matty Ferrigno said that one.
"Those who cannot make time for exercise now must make time for sickness later."
"Everybody wanna be big, everybody wanna be strong, everybody wanna be a bodybuilder or powerlifter, but nobody wanna lift no heavy ass weight, but I DO!!!!" - Ronnie Coleman's beautifully insane.
"There are many times I wish I was playing 18 holes of golf instead of training on my bike in cold, miserable weather. But in the final analysis, I'd rather win the Tour de France than play 18 holes of golf, that's why I do it." - Greg Lemond
“People cannot believe I am natural because I train every day of my life as they have never trained a day in theirs.” - Alexander Karelin (after accusations about steroids)
"Hard work beats talent if talent doesn't work hard."
"Pain is weakness leaving the body."

You get the idea. Stuff 'em in my head. Say them to myself periodically. That shows them that I'm listening to them at the very least. And hey -- maybe there's something to it.

Anyway, a friend of mine on facebook read between the lines and asked me if I was lifting. He suggested I look into crossfit. A lot of people have suggested various workout things and I'm happy to look into them, but I know that I'm not going to do them. It's not what the three guys who are bodybuilders are telling me and I'm interested in understanding what it is to be a bodybuilder.

I could suggest it, I guess, but I know instantly that their response would be that I'm trying to wimp out. In a way, they're right. What makes alternate workouts interesting is the belief that maybe I could get where I want to be faster. It's essentially the dark side of the force vs. the good side. It takes millenia to become as powerful as Yoda. It takes years to become as powerful -- albeit limited -- as Vader.

I thanked him, but said that ultimately, it's not the physical fit that I'm looking for. It's the mental game that I'm interested in. Right now, I've gotta show that I've got that willingness to stick to what's put in front of me. I know I can do it. I know I will do it. I'm going to convince them. The way to do that isn't by evaluating or changing what they say. The way to do it is to buy in completely.

And it was right about then that I understood what they were trying to tell me. I'm confident in my mental toughness. I know what I'm here for. I know what I want to do. I know that I'm going to keep busting my ass to get where I want to be. Ultimately, I know that my motivation's going to be there and it's going to keep being there.

Then I realized that what I just said was pretty much the definition of taking it for granted. The point isn't for me to push myself. The point isn't for me to keep pushing myself. The point is to push myself to push myself.

And, on that bombshell, it's time for me to go to sleep. Tomorrow's a news conference about Curiosity -- which, by the way, checked in on foursquare today with the comment "One more step to becoming the Mayor of Mars". 8) I expect that the news conference is just going to be about that in the same way that the conference after will.i.am's song was transmitted back was only about the song.

...but why would I take the chance? I might miss out on something awesome!