Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 2010: Annual Health & Fitness Letter

The Annual Health & Fitness letter never can settle on June or July. It waffles in that regard. Obviously, this year it is a July letter. Next year, who knows?

Physical Health:
In 2006, I really committed to my physical health. I changed my eating habits and became a vegetarian. I ate healthy: no snacks, no sugars, no white flour. I stopped drinking alcoholic beverages. I kept exercising, basically bicycling at the same rate.

It worked wonderfully. In seven months, I had dropped two pant sizes. I looked good and felt good. My blood chemistry and blood pressure were all where the doctors want them to be. I was pretty darn proud of myself and happy.

I really did not feel like I had given up anything. People would ask, and still do, if I miss eating meat. Really, I do not. What I miss is the seasonings and smells of kebabs. Vegetarian dishes can be spiced and herbed to get similar tastes and smells. It is no wonder why I like Indian cuisine so much.

But I am not writing this letter to re-hash what I have done, but to admit, yuck, that I have backslid. Yes… I said it backslid.

I did not start eating meat again to imbibe once more. No. My vice? My slippery slope? Sugar. It began gradually and simply built. As it built, I began to gain weight. Soon, I found that I was very close to the old habits of denial and always vowing to start anew on the right path… tomorrow. Tomorrow. The problem with that is that it is always today. I am sure many of you know what I am talking about. People can be very good at this postponement strategy. I know I am.

We went to hear the great comedian Jackie Mason a few weeks ago. He is funny and full of insights. He had a shtick that began with a very simple line, and I paraphrase, “Jews never seem to understand the relationship between food and weight.” He had the crowd in stitches right away. But, he did not stop there. He went on and on. “I don’t eat, yet I gain weight. Ask my wife. Do I eat? She responds ‘He eats like a bird.’ It must be my metabolism.” He went on to say how people will get on the scale, shake their heads in disbelief, get off and move it the scale perhaps to a better spot, try again and in huff say, “That’s not right, I know how much I weigh.”

Mason made me think of phrases, motivational truisms, that I have evoked in past Health and Fitness Letters:
1. Eat less, move more.
2. Knowing never equals doing.
If I want to lose weight, and keep it off, I have to eat less, and move more. Additionally, I know what to do and why. Yet, I do not do it or do not sustain it. Knowing is one thing, executing and maintaining a level of execution is something else entirely. Knowing is certainly important, but it is in no way sufficient. Goals are never met by knowing something. Goals are met by putting that knowledge into action. Sustained action requires discipline and dedication into my favorite quote which really and truly should be my motto.

Knowing never equals doing.

As is well established, I am a far better knower than doer. I have been this way as long as I can remember. It is the single thing I have been trying to improve upon. I have made progress and actually have had periods of excellence. But, I have never ever been able to sustain it for years let alone make a permanent change.

There is a certain amount of whining here. Oh me. Oh my. I basically hate this attitude but yet I cannot get that focus and drive needed to make a permanent change. Gee whiz, I know that it is up to me. It is all in my head and heart. It is this dichotomy of knowing versus doing that I feel I live in.

As a few people in my family, and probably in a lot of other families, would say, “get a grip.” People tend to do what they want. I truly believe this. So, if I am not living what I believe my goals are I suppose I am doing and get the results that I really want. There is an adage we use in Quality Management that one’s business processes are perfectly designed to deliver the results you are currently getting. To get markedly different results you have to change the processes.

That basically applies to human beings as well. I am getting the results that my mindset is designed to deliver. If I truly want to change and get different/better results, I have to change my mindset, determination, and behavior. I should change my operating process.

There is a book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0. I bought this book because I read that this concept was supposed to be a bigger predictor of success than the Intelligence Quotient or IQ. The basic premise is that emotions govern more of our behavior and social interactions than intelligence alone. This includes, pertinent to my topic here, controlling our impulses and self-motivation.
The physical pathways for emotional intelligence start in the brain, at the spinal cord. Your primary senses enter here and must travel to the front of your brain before you can think rationally about your experience. But first they travel through the limbic system, the place where emotions are experienced. Emotional Intelligence requires the effective communications between the rational and emotional centers of the brain.
This resonated when I first read it because I always felt I had two planes of thinking. I had what I believe I really wanted (what I rationally desired) and the impulses of what I wanted right now. I would make bad food choices on an impulse over maintaining the dietary behaviors I knew would lead to achieving my longer term, rational, objectives. I would trade off working on my work/writing goals to watch a sporting event or movie on TV.

I have felt two planes of consciousness in the right orientation. The rational part was looking down, helplessly, on the emotional plane. It sounds crazy but that is exactly how I feel it.

The trade-offs are always for the short term. The trade-off is for short term gratification or enjoyment. By doing this, I mortgage the future. I will begin anew tomorrow is how I fool myself. I am definitely doing this on my own and alone. But I am not really alone. Lots of others operate under this same condition. A resolution to begin tomorrow or begin anew tomorrow is the easiest thing to do. The problem is that this reasoning works everyday with incredible efficiency. It is always today and I am starting or starting anew again tomorrow. This is a most efficient and effective strategy to never ever start and to amass, at least in my case, considerable angst.

What is angst? Angst is a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity. I would add that angst is a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity that comes from postponing what on an on-going basis that which you forever profess you really want to do. It is not a healthy lifestyle to follow in the least bit but it is a malady that afflicts a larger number of us.
I read a great quote that really sums this up:
The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what we want for what we want at the moment.
When I read this, it resonated quirevery well with a major shortcoming in my character, make-up, personality, psyche, or whatever you want to call it. I really have to solve this big little thing once and for all.

OK. This is the affliction. I have even written about it before. The solution has also been postulated: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Not tomorrow. Today. Simple. Easy. Period.

So, what am I doing today? July 3, 2010? Behaving the way I want long term and not caving to short term impulses. Gee, I am even three quarters done with this letter, the Annual Health and Fitness Letter. When I finish this entry today, I will go out for a long bike ride.

This is my one real health and fitness success. Bike riding. I have been doing it for over ten years. I am proud of that but gee whiz… at this ripe young/old age (depending entirely upon your point of view and my own perspective), I really need to out this all together or just stop worrying about it.

Stop worrying about it? What an interesting idea. Live blissfully happy just being and just doing what comes naturally,. iIsn’t that what that most folks think that Maslow fellow was talking about? Could I live that way having actually read Maslow? No, I think not.

So, if I cannot be blissfully ignorant the other goal is to be naturally… well… be blissful. Blissful is a great goal but what does it mean? What is being blissful? I suppose we are right back at that self-actualized thing. True self-actualization not the hedonistic sophomoric version.
that that Maslow fellow wrote about.

There are those periods, those moments, when I actually lived that way. Maslow was right. I felt great. I was just simply lousy at sustaining it.

Well… I have no choice right now. I am on my own business wise i.e. that is not supported by a corporate structure that provides plenty of support, back-up, and slack. I made the choice to have no choice now and that is pretty cool.

So… I will stop whining and start doing. Simple. I will report back next year.

Cycling 2010: It would not be an Annual Health and Fitness Letter without some commentary on bicycling, would it?

I actually bought another bike. I had no right business buying itto, but it was a vintage classic, exactly my size, and priced very reasonably. The bike is early 1990s era Schwinn Paramount. The Paramount was always the top end Schwinn Road bikes. The frame of this red beauty was actually made in Japan. It is equipped with vintage Shimano Dura-Ace components. It is very cool.

Being committed to keep my bicycle fleet size at five or less, I had to get rid of a bike to make room for this Paramount. I got rid of the first bike. I chose the Schwinn mountain bike that I bought in 1996 when I got back into cycling. I was not riding it very much, may one hundred miles a year, so I sold it. I have already logged eight hundred miles on the Paramount so far. It is a great bike and it is the sweetest machine I have ever rode.

Last year I bicycled for a record 3,846 miles. I logged some monster miles in April, May, and June. I had a bit of excess free time not being employed. This year, as of July 4th, I have cycled for 1,340 miles which is 750 or so miles behind last year’s pace. As my friend tells me, “riding less because of being busy is a good thing.” If I could only figure out how to get paid, handsomely, for riding.

The Tour de France began in earnest today with a 139 mile stage from Rotterdam to Brussels. Alessandro Petacchi won with a time 5 hours, 9 minutes, 38 seconds. He averaged 26.94 miles per hour. I went on a 30 mile ride today at a blistering 15.8 miles per hour. Alessandro’s ride was 4.6 times what I did at a pace 1.7 times faster than I went. Of course, they are pros and bicycle for a living. I am… well not that. Though there are those minutes of delightful delusion when I feel that… well you know.

They were talking, on the TV, about how the riders would rest up from today’s vigorous sprint. They would get take showers, get messages, and rest for tomorrow. Except for massage… I did the same thing. They will do another 125 miles tomorrow. I will do another 30, 50 if I am ambitious. Yeah baby.

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