Why I Run

It took some effort to pull my front door open, it always sticks on cold mornings. That’s just one of the quirks of this weird old house. As I stepped out into the morning air my dog looked up at me from the couch with a look of confusion and disgust. “What the hell are you doing human? If you are going out there at least close the door, I don’t have thick fur.” he seemed to say.

What the hell was I doing? It was bitter cold out, autumn has overtaken summer with a vengeance and the air burns my lungs in the morning hours. My hands immediately start to curl up in search of warmth, reminding me again that I need to buy some gloves. Oh well, I can buy gloves later. Right now I’m going to run in a big circle around a park a few times with the soccer moms and retired folks.

The reasons I run are varied, and I need all of them to keep me moving. Getting out the door usually requires me to focus on the short-term benefits. Running wakes me up and suppresses my appetite to prevent snacking. It also gets the blood flowing through my body and clears my head. Running in the morning has consistently improved my  job performance and my writing, and it keeps me motivated to take care of my body and life. When I don’t run I’m more likely to spend the day on the couch with Oreos and Netflix being a sloth, but when I run in the morning I tend to get my errands done, eat fairly healthy, and get a lot of work done. This first positive action in the morning sets the tone for the day.

But those reasons really only get my out the door and to my first mental wall (usually around mile 2). I need more than that if I’m going to push past the walls and keep running. For that type of motivation, I need to focus on the long term and philosophical reasons I run.

The first reason, as cliche as it sounds, is my partner. My body is kind of a gift to her and I want to take care of it. I want to be healthy enough that our lives can be long and fun together and that means investing a little bit of time now for a big payoff later. An investment in me is an investment in us. I also really like it when my partner tells me she finds me attractive, particularly when she is specific. There is just nothing that boosts my self-esteem like when she wraps her hands around me and says “wow, I can feel your abs”. Is it superficial? Sure. Do I care? Not really. I like feeling sexy to her and myself. It is kind of cool to step out of the shower and see myself in the mirror and be happy with what I see.

The second reason is related to my partner. Well, it is at least related to our relationship. Since we have a “not completely monogamous” relationship I have opportunities to be intimate with others with my partner’s consent. I can’t really fall into the “now that we’re married she’s stuck with me so I can let my body go” trap if I want to keep having the sexual variety and experiences that I’m interested in. I realize that attracting a intimate partner (or to get people to keep sending me sexy snaps @pneiger) is more difficult if you don’t appear healthy, particularly when I can’t offer any type of romantic relationship. When I lack the ability to provide love for a future partner I need to make up for that in other ways, being fit and providing friendship is a way I can do that.

Another reason I run is kind of quasi-spiritual. I see my body as the most amazing gift I’ve ever received. I don’t think there is a god out there that gave me a body, but if there is one then it seems like I should show respect for that gift. I wouldn’t take something my mom gave me and treat it like shit, why would I do that with my body if it is a gift from a loving god? It seems pretty disrespectful to eat junk and neglect your health if your body comes from god. Anyway, I don’t really believe that, but I do think this life and body is a gift of sorts from the universe. As such, I want to treat it well and see just I can do with it. I love self-experimentation and my body is an opportunity to see what my potential really is. I want to try and run 100 miles or be physically fit enough to explore space someday. I want to try and live until the point when death becomes optional.

Running is also tied to my life philosophy of libertarianism and minimalism. I believe in personal responsibility, including self-defense. But self-defense isn’t just owning a well-maintained firearm and practicing your marksmanship because other humans are not the only danger we face. It is very unlikely that I will need to use my gun to save my life, but it is very likely that I will need a healthy heart and immune system to save my life. I exercise because I love my life and I want to increase the quality and quantity of it. Eating junk food and neglecting your health is to commit slow suicide, it is anti-life.  Life starts with the body. As for minimalism, if I want to live a life with few possessions and lots of leisure time, I need to stay healthy. Health expenses add up quickly and I need to take as much responsibility for minimizing those costs as my genetics will allow.

Like all philosophical views, this is just my ideal, one that I fail at regularly. I’m not trying to get on my pulpit and put others down (just last night I ate way too much ice cream and cookies and seriously slacked on my exercise), this is just meant to illustrate what I think about to keep my body moving when I hit walls while running.

Another source of inspiration is my nieces and nephews. I want to be alive and healthy throughout as much of their lives as I can. I want to celebrate victories with them and be there to comfort them when they are hurting. I want to provide guidance, support, and my perspective on life (if my siblings are foolish enough to let them). I’ve seen first hand with family and friends how being unhealthy can shorten the quality and quantity of your life. there are plenty of people my age (35) who can’t walk up stairs, play with their children, or travel because of their health. I want to postpone that as long as I can. I imagine this drive to be healthy and see their children grow up is even stronger in parents. I know how much I care for my nieces and nephews, but I’m sure that pales in comparison for the love parents feel. Maintaining a healthy body and being a good example seems like it would come hand-in-hand with parenting.

I don’t love running, but I don’t loathe it anymore either. It takes effort every day to get out and pound the pavement, but it is slowly getting easier and I keep finding more reasons to run. Hopefully, that continues and I’ll be in my 70’s running 8-minute miles around the park still.

 

Post-Script: I forgot one thing, I’m kind of a hedonist. I enjoy pleasurable experiences such as recreational drug use and ice cream. In order to balance the damage those experiences do to my body I need to exercise. A long life is boring if it doesn’t include pleasure.

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Week 1 Update

Well, a whole week has passed since I moved to Myrtle Beach and started my new routine. I’m pretty happy with how things are going so far. I’ve been doing a lot of measurements (because I like data) and I took some notes on how I’m feeling and such. I also decided not to include pictures this week, but I’ll probably do monthly update photos. I am taking pics each week and will store them in this public google doc (Warning: Nudity Inside). This weekly update will probably be much longer than most due to all the changes. Anyway, here are the numbers and the change since last week:

  • Weight: 175 lbs (-.5)
  • Waist: 35.5 inches (-1)
  • Neck: 15.75 inches (+.25)
  • Chest: 39.5 inches (-.5)
  • Left Bicep: 13.5 inches (-.5)
  • Right Bicep: 13 inches (-1)
  • Left Thigh: 24 inches (-.25)
  • Right Thigh: 24 inches (-1.25)
  • Left Calf: 14.75 inches (+.25)
  • Right Calf: 14.75 inches (+.25)
  • BMI: 26.76 (-.3)
  • Body Fat %: 23.04 (-1.98)
  • Average Daily Calories: 1763.43
  • Average Waking Mood: 3.29 out of 10
  • Average Midday Mood: 7.43 out of 10
  • Average Evening Mood: 7.29 out of 10
  • Average Morning Sex Drive: 5.43 out of 10
  • Average Midday Sex Drive: 6.86 out of 10
  • Average Evening Sex Drive: 5.71 out of 10
  • Walked: 18.75 Miles
  • Ran: 5.5 Miles
  • Biked: 5.0 Miles
  • Pull Ups: 51
  • Push Ups: 340
  • Plank: 8.5 minutes
  • Meditated: 70 minutes
  • Average Nightly Sleep: 7.86 hours
  • Daily Orgasm: 5 out of 7
  • Blog Posts: 6 out of 7
  • Daily German: 5 out of 7
  • Resting Heart Rate: 58bpm (-1)

Notes

Daily Life: Overall, the new daily routine is pretty awesome. I feel like I am getting a lot done and I am happy with my progress on all fronts. There have been some struggles though… going to bed around 10pm and waking up around 7am has been tough for me. I’m really groggy in the mornings, but after my morning meditation and a cup of coffee I do much better. The meditation practice is tough, it always is for me, but I love the app I use (Headspace) and I’m proud of myself for meditating every day this week.

Living in one place for a while has allowed me to get some silly aesthetic things taken care of. I’ve been able to consistently treat my tinea versicolor with Selsun Blue and it is clearing up nicely. I’m now on a thrice a day teeth brushing routine which is whitening my teeth. And I can go to the beach a couple times a week to even out my terrible cycling tan. Unfortunately, Myrtle Beach is kind of puritan and doesn’t allow nude sunbathing. I’ll need to settle for a surfshort tan until we get to Wilmington and I can rig something up in our back yard.

My sex drive is way up compared to the bike ride. I think this has a lot to do with not exercising 6 hours a day in a high stress environment and getting a good night sleep every night (even if it is about an hour shorter than I’d like). This is good though, I wanna get those daily orgasms to help prevent prostate cancer. Strangely, my sex drive is highest in the middle of the day. That is abnormal for me, I tend to be a morning banger. I guess these things change. It is good that Anna and I both have online jobs and are around during the day so that we can knock out some afternoon delight. Also, porn and lube exist. It has also been nice to be able to reciprocate sex pics with some of our friends. There are several people who help get out our voyeurism and exhibitionist side using the magic of text messaging and SnapChat. This is also going to give us the chance to explore more BDSM and our other sexual interests that require a stable location.

I’m trying to get my monthly expenses to under $1,000, ideally closer to $800.With that budget I should be able to save for the final leg of the bike ride, save for Burning Man in 2017 or 2018, max out my Roth IRA, donate money to charities and friends in need, and maybe start paying off my student loans. So, I’m cutting out a lot of unnecessary spending (like my Audible subscription) and looking for cheaper alternatives (like going to the library). I love the library and I really am happy to have a nice reading routine again of one fiction and one non-fiction (which will probably be selected from Naropa Universities recommended reading list for the grad program I’m interested in). I’m currently reading “The Great Hunt” by Robert Jordan and “The Heart of Learning: Spirituality in Education” edited by Steven Glazer.

I have found myself really craving beer on a few occasions. I think it is a Pavlovian response. I’ve spent years drinking beer while I work, and now my body/mind want it when I sit down at the desk. So far, I’ve been able to resist, and I hope the cravings get weaker. Maybe I’ll even crave Earl Grey tea instead someday.

This week my bowel movements have been really off. I used to be pretty regular, but not anymore. I don’t think it is anything unhealthy, I think my body is just adjusting to lower calories and unprocessed food (though, the high fiber in veggies should speed things up. Oh well, I’m sure things will get into a new routine relatively soon.

I’m also excited to start scheduling time to work on my book. Now that I have a feel for what my week is going to be like for the next few months I can make it work.

Diet: I’m not consuming the 2,000 recommended calories each day, but I’m also not hungry and I am getting all the nutrients I need. This seems to match up with research that has seen a the body get more efficient the more you exercise. I’ve been cycling for months and my base metobolic rate is pretty efficient, I just don’t need 2,000 calories to operate. In fact, I’d bet I only need about 1,500 calories to maintain weight if I wasn’t exercising. Luckily, fruits and veggies are really nutrient dense and I can get all the vitamins and minerals I need.

I’ve been trying a new meal technique where I eat a huge breakfast and then have incrementally smaller meals throughout the day. It seems to work really well to prevent me from being hungry. My breakfast is about 750 calories, lunch is 400 calories, dinner is 300 calories, and I eat plain almonds and fruit in between meals as snacks. I have really enjoyed cooking my meals, it gives me a lot of control and makes me feel like I have a more intimate relationship with my food (not in a sex way, I don’t like mixing food and sex, it just isn’t my thing).

Exercise: My running has been pretty consistent this week, but we’ve taken it pretty slow so that our bodies can ease into running. It definitely uses different muscles than cycling and I don’t want my lungs and mind to try and work to their max, which will damage my legs. I’m not trying to be “a runner”, but I want to complete the half marathon. The event is something to motivate me to stay in shape and not slack on my diet and lifestyle. Things like that work well for me, but I’m not sure if just setting up a new half marathon or marathon every 4-6 months is going to work longterm. I need more variety than that, but I’m not sure where to get it…. maybe Tough Mudder’s and such? I wish I wasn’t so “badge oriented”, and maybe as I get more fit that won’t be as much of an issue. Or maybe I’ll find something that I really love and awards won’t be necessary.

In addition to running I’ve been doing pull-ups and push-ups to add some muscle variety. If I find a free or cheap gym I will probably stop using those as a workout and just sprinkle them in throughout the day. It certainly can’t hurt to knock out some reps during commercial breaks, while waiting for webpages to load, or just when feeling ‘bleh’. I’ve been walking a lot too, mostly thanks to Pokemon Go, having a dog, going grocery shopping every other day, and not owning a car. Those things all kind of catalyst into me wandering around in the hot sun regularly, but walking is good for you so I’m not complaining. I like wandering near the beach.

I am on the look out for more organized fitness classes. At the top of my list right now is Barre, Yoga, Kickboxing, or Rock Climbing. Myrtle Beach has limited options in the latter two, so it really is between Barre and Yoga. I need to see what classes are offered and at what price before committing.

Towards Physical Potential

During the last couple of days I’ve been giving a lot of thought towards my post from Saturday. One thing I’ve been thinking about is how I was slightly dishonest in my original post. I talked a lot about wanting to be healthy and seeing what my body’s potential is at this time in life. Those things are true, as someone who thinks science will allow us to conquer death I need to be healthy enough to get to that point, and someday I won’t have an unaltered body and I think it’d be cool to see what she can do before robotics and computers start fusing with my biological shell.

Those two reasons aren’t the full truth, part of it is my desire to be considered more conventionally attractive and sexy. It is superficial, but it is true. I also realize my own discomfort with my body plays a part in that. I think that is partly why I will be taking and sharing nude photos during this experiment, hopefully seeing some photographic changes will encourage me to keep going and continue down my path to accept and love my body. And maybe it will also help someone else. When I share these photos on my blog I will put a content warning at the top and they will be at the very bottom of the post, just in case someone wants to read my updates but do not want to see me naked.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is how this would work and when I will start. It is tempting to wait until after the bike ride to start. To have a fresh point in which it begins without other things going on in my life. That is really a pipe dream, there will always be a reason to push it off another day, week, month, or year. The time will never be perfect to get things moving. So, I’m leaning towards starting this sooner rather than later, now I just got to figure out how I’m going to go about this experiment.

Measuring inputs and outputs to gather data (because gathering data makes me happy) is gong to be one of the major challenges when I do this from the road. Taking photos and doing measurements at least once a week is easy enough. Weighing myself on a scale is pretty difficult, but weight isn’t a measurement anyway. Internal vitals (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc) are nearly impossible to do right now. I hate to start off without a baseline or any system in place to measure these things along the way, but maybe that type of in depth analysis will need to wait. It is also easy enough to get some measurements for how my physical strength has improved by taking an Army APFT every month or two to see how my push-ups, sit-ups, and 2-mile run has improved. I’ll probably throw pull-up in there for good measure.

The inputs are easier to track. It just takes some discipline to record what I do each hour, how much time I spend sitting, biking, meditating, exercising, what foods I eat, how much water I drink, etc. Ideally I’d record it all on my computer as I do it, but that could get cumbersome so I’ll probably use a notepad and enter it later into Cronometer.com and a shared excel document.

My food plan is pretty basic. I’m going to use the information from The Blue Zones solution to plot my meals. I am also limited to being vegan because of my ethics and being on the bike ride means I don’t have access to cooking or refrigeration. I’m basically stuck with produce, bread products, and canned goods. Luckily, that is all fairly healthy as long as I avoid junk food. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so that won’t be a huge problem. I’m not going to stick to a strict calorie limit, instead I will eat when I’m hungry and try to be aware of portions. Portioning is difficult for me, particularly on the bike ride. I end up being ravenous after biking and devour more food than my body needs. I like the idea of meditative eating where you focus on the act of eating and eat slowly, in my experience I enjoy food more when I do it this way and I don’t mindlessly snack or eat.

Here is a rough idea what my ideal daily schedule will look like, based on how I generally live on the bike ride:

  • 0700 hours: Wake, eat first meal (Bowl of oatmeal, piece of fruit, handful of almonds, coffee), 10 minutes of Sun Salutations, 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation, write blog post, pack up camp
  • 0900 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1000 hours: Hummus wrap with lots of veggies, piece of fruit
  • 1045 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1145 hours: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, 30 minutes exercise
  • 1245 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1345 hours:  Handful of almonds or energy bar, work for a couple hours, coffee
  • 1600 hours: Hummus wrap with lots of veggies
  • 1615 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1715 hours: Handful of almonds, 30 minutes of exercise
  • 1800 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1900 hours: Half a can of beans, lentils, or soup, hummus wrap with lots of veggies, set up camp, 10 minutes of yoga, push ups, plank

Now, I have the challenge of setting up an excel document to track everything. The big worry here is becoming a slave to the system and feeling like a failure if I miss a day or make a mistake or whatever. We will see how it goes, but I’m excited. I figure even if I only reach 50% of my input goals I will be moving in the right direction and that the project will be a success.

My photos will be shared here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-wiz3LAg756THI2dEs5S1BQQW8&usp=sharing

The excel document tracking everything is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-wiz3LAg756RnBCN1RrRUpERU0/view?usp=sharing

6-Months Towards Potential

At some point in my life I want to spend some time (6 months? 1 year?) where I try to see what my body is capable of. Our bodies are fascinating machines and I’d love to see the potential it holds for physical strength and fitness. Basically, I want to track all my inputs and outputs, and focus on getting as fit* as possible. My inputs would fall in four basic categories: exercise, healthy food, lifestyle changes, and supplements.

Exercise is pretty self-explanatory. I will have a consistent routine of cardio and weight exercises. This includes, but is not limited to, cycling, weight-lifting, joining sports leagues, yoga, swimming, competitive obstacle courses (like Tough Mudder), and martial arts.

Food is likely even more important than exercise for this. I want to continue my vegan diet, ensure it is balanced with all nutrients and minerals that I need, and move towards a raw diet. I’m going to take as scientific approach as possible and use research to determine the best diet for me. Hopefully I can also learn to cook some awesome food in the process. I can track the progress on sites like “Cronometer.com”. Unfortunately, this means my alcohol consumption will likely need to come down.

Lifestyle Changes are little tweaks to my life that have shown some correlation with health. This includes meditation, intermittent fasting, getting enough sleep (which will require lifestyle changes like turning off the computer an hour before sleep), making sure I get up and move around at least once an hour, reading, and drinking enough water. There are probably more things that I can locate to fall into this category.

I’ll also bring supplements into play, focusing on the ones with proven results. Creatine has been heavily studied and will be the first one I use for muscle growth. I’ll add more supplements as I go and also use some nootropics.

In addition to my inputs, I want to track my results. This includes weight, blood pressure, strength, flexibility, cognitive ability, overall feeling of well-being, performance on a standard test like the Army APFT, etc. Ideally I would be able to see a doctor regularly through the process to track what is happening internally, but I don’t know if that is affordable.

I’m not sure if I could do it while on the bike ride, but I am considering it. I want to track my progress and make it public. I could use my blog and a shared google doc where I record all my daily inputs and outputs (actually, measuring outputs is likely going to happen weekly or biweekly). Ideally, I’d be able to track everything about my day and what I do and consume, even down to my bowel movements, how many hours I sit each day (and during what hours), when I have sex, have a heart rate and sleep monitor track my vitals, etc. It would be neat to see if there are any weird correlations that I could discover.

I also want to take lots of pictures to see the changes in my body. I am considering taking daily nude photos in a half dozen or so poses from different angles to track the changes. If I do this I promise to place a warning on the blog posts with the photos I share so that you don’t accidentally see a flaccid penis (I talk a lot about body positivity and the need to see “normal” people naked, I should probably put my money where my mouth is and share non-sexual nude pics myself instead of just encouraging other people to do it).

Anyway, that’s what is on my mind. I need to come up with a good plan for what my specific goals are, the specific inputs and outputs necessary to attain those goals, and a plan for tracking/sharing my progress. I’m sure in the coming weeks I will solidify my system and start sharing that, even if I decide to put it off until I finish the bike ride (though, doing it during the bike ride could be the best time because much of my activity is taken care of).

I also need to make sure I don’t become a slave to this system and start punishing myself if I slip up or have bad days. These changes are part of a journey and if I have a day where I binge eat 10 pizzas or go a week without doing pushups or decide I am mentally drained and need to reform the whole thing I shouldn’t get mad at myself. This will be an outline towards a goal, not a physical law that can’t be altered. I created it, therefore it is malleable.

* I’m using words like fit, improvement, etc very loosely here. They are based on my subjective goals and are not meant to necessarily be a sign of health. And they sure as fuck aren’t a sign of mine (or anyone else’s) value. I generally want to lose fat, gain muscle, improve physical performance, and set my internal organs up for greater health and success.

Motivation

I’ve never been good at self-motivation. I seem to need an outside influence in order to do the things that I know are healthy or for my own benefit. If left to my own devices I would probably do little more than order Papa Johns, nap, watch Netflix, and masturbate. I can completely relate to Snowman from “Oryx and Crake”, even if living in some post-Apocalyptic hellhole I would have trouble getting up each day. I just kind of suck at it. (Sidenote: If you haven’t read “Oryx and Crake” you should close your browser and go do that, there is nothing on the internet better than that novel, Margaret Atwood is a legend).

Lucky for me, I don’t live in a vacuum. I am not on a deserted island or an apocalyptic wasteland. I live in a world with others and I have scarcity that forces me to get up each day and invest in my body and mind. Though, motivation for working out is one of the most difficult things for me. Each day is a new struggle to eat right and exercise. I think that is part of the reason I adopted a lifestyle that literally requires 30-40 miles of cycling each day. If it is not part of my daily life needs then I make excuses, or I just let my laziness take control.

Now that I’m settled in one place for a couple months I need to practice some control and motivate myself. I know me and I need to look to outside influences a lot of the time for motivation, and one influence is not enough. So, I have a list of them that fill various roles, some positive and some negative. Because, let’s be honest, doing P90X sucks and the host on the videos isn’t a true motivation.

One thing that really gets me moving is when I think about being naked in front of others. A benefit of my life with my partner is that we end up naked with other people more regularly than most. Nude beaches, Burning Man, and other friends who we roll around naked with help keep me motivated. I know my friends will accept me even if I put on a pound or ten, but I want to be more comfortable in my body around others. To quote Lester Burnham “I want to look good naked”. It is a confidence thing and having specific events on the horizon helps motivate me. I’ve never done a triathalon or marathon or Tough Mudder or anything like that, but I think it would be pretty motivating for me if I signed up.

As an optimistic transhumanist I also believe we will cure death in my lifetime, but I think the timeline will be close. To motivate myself I sometimes focus on that. I think that if I exercise now and deal with some discomfort then I am investing in eternity. The payoff is well worth it.

I also respond well to seeing change in my body. This can be as simple as weighing myself regularly and doing body measurements, but it can also be more aesthetic. When I see a new muscle start to form or notice some abdominal muscle that I’d never noticed before or see a vein popping out of my arm it is incredibly motivating. Seeing my hard work pay off encourages me to work even harder.

I can also be motivated by seeing what I don’t want to be. This is kind of a negative thing and may make me sound like an asshole, but it is true for me. When I see someone obese or unable to function because they are incredibly unhealthy it motivates me to take care of my own body. I don’t want to be in my 40’s and need to use the electric chairs at the grocery store. I know that an accident can be the cause of that, but the better I take care of my body now the more likely I will be able to heal if there is an accident. Sometimes seeing what I don’t want to be is just as motivating as what I want to be.

Anyway, that is what motivates me. Every day when I logically know I shouldn’t drink another beer or know I should carve out time for a work out I try to run through the reasons why until a specific one stands out. Right now my upcoming visits to LA and Portland stand out in my mind, and the need to stay in shape for the bike ride continuation in January. In truth, there is always a good reason to make a healthy decision. The pleasure from food and laziness is weak and fleeting, maybe it is necessary some of the time for sanity but usually it is better to invest in my body and mind so that I can experience greater pleasures. No amount of cupcakes are worth the satisfaction of being healthy enough to hike the Appalachian Trail, feel confident at a nude beach, or living forever.