Tag Archive for resolutions

About That Fitness Resolution

C’mon, you know you made one. Everybody has. “This is the year I get in shape!”

And then you sit on your ass and suck down Pepsi and potato chips while watching shitty reality shows until Thanksgiving when you wonder where the time went and decide to go on one last holiday binge before you really, seriously this time, decide you’re going to shed those extra pounds.

Yeah, don’t feel bad. I’ve been there. But I’m doing much better now. Signing up for karate is the best thing I could have done, and now I find myself exploring other options to improve my fitness, which in turn will improve my karate.

Shureido Self Portrait

So far, so good

I did cut some pounds this year, and I do feel like I’m in better shape. Not a drastic change, but enough to drop another pant size and tighten my belt a couple notches. Enough that people have been asking me what I’m doing.

Right now, I’m concentrating on weight lifting. I did both lifting and running this summer, and while I’m not a great runner, I do enjoy lifting and, although I allowed an injury to sideline me for a brief period, I’m back in full swing. Swapping muscle for fat is good for you and improves your metabolism, and there’s data out there suggesting upping protein intake and controlling (not limiting or eliminating) fats and carbs helps shed the dead weight.

Here’s the part where I say talk to your doctor. I’m not a guru or medical expert, this is just what works for me. Don’t be an idiot. I’m also not a dietician. I could eat better. I don’t watch my numbers enough to turn into a serious bodybuilder. I happen to feel like I’m built for weight lifting and that’s what I’m gonna do.

So here’s the plan:

First, find inspiration. The mirror is a good start, but I’m also talking about things like magazines. I’ve been reading Men’s Health for a while now, but more recently I broke down and picked up magazines like Muscle & Fitness and Flex. I enjoy the former because it doesn’t make me feel like I need to be built like the Hulk, but both are full of workouts and advice. I’m not looking to be the next Mr Olympia, but I can learn from their workouts.

Second, build a plan. If you’re not a lifter or are just getting started, check out the current issue of Muscle & Fitness. They have a lifting plan that starts on day one with exercises like the plank. Then, over the course of several weeks, it builds up to actual free weight and machine exercises. The routine behind me in that pic was tweaked just a hair from an article in M&F, and the weight numbers have gone up twice since I took the picture. I found a new workout in MuscleMag I intend to try soon.

Third, find a gym or buy some equipment. I happen to prefer free weights, and you will see the magazines have a strong bias toward them. Machines are better than nothing if you don’t have a real gym nearby, but there’s a lot more flexibility to free weights than you would think. Also, just a barbell and a bench is a great start. I happen to use a compact, foldable Olympic bench, a barbell, and a few dumbbells at home and can do my full routine with them.

Four, get to work! Lift metal, move it around, repeat. Read up and watch online videos for proper form. Even if your routine sucks, it’s better than just curling 12oz cans of sugar and thumbing the remote. You’ll learn as you go and as you read. Do it solo at home or go to the gym. Don’t depend on friends if they’re going to bail on you! Go to a gym and start talking to people. Maybe you’ll find a new lifting partner, or at least someone who will spot you and motivate you.

That’s all there is to it. I happen to think it’s fun, and it works for me. Get moving and then worry about your diet and supplements later. I’ve become a whey powder guy, but I’m not too worried about all that other stuff like creatine and BCAA’s right now. I’ll worry about the rest once I tweak the rest of my diet.

Lifting not your thing? That’s cool. Find your thing and get moving. Run, swim, hike, whatever. Just move.

Good luck.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Resolutions Old and New

The plan worked.

Every year the primary focus for my goals are my fitness, my writing, and my photography. One year ago today, I decided on a new technique to help me stay motivated: dropping alarms in my Google Calendar throughout the year. Two or three times a month, I got a helpful little popup on my computer and my phone asking me if I worked out that day, prompting me to take a photo at a certain event, telling me to write all day during a school holiday, and so on. Writing them down helped commit them to memory, and the popup reminders worked on time, but this plan also helped keep my goals in mind at all times because I’d see the reminders when scheduling other tasks or events and I knew they were coming.

Later today, I’ll be setting up similar calendar events for this year. At least two ore three a month, scattered randomly throughout the calendar. It’s important to note these aren’t resolutions. Resolutions are too easily forgotten, as most people well know. Between the “I’ll start tomorrow” attitude and making resolutions without a plan to back them up, it’s easy to see why resolutions fail. Don’t make resolutions, set goals, plan for them, and put them somewhere you’ll see them.

Woody Guthrie's Resolutions

Woody Guthrie's New Year's resolutions

Every year around this time, Woody Guthrie’s resolutions make the rounds. These are pretty cool. I especially like “wake up and fight.” I wonder, though, how his resolutions played out. Did he write them down and forget all about them, or did he revisit this page of the notebook frequently? And with a list of 33, was he just setting himself up for failure? These are a lot of behavior changes to tackle at once.

Creating a small set of goals with a plan for each is a lot more attainable. Anyone who made a resolution after the ball dropped last night should write it down and sketch out a plan to achieve it. When the plan is done, re-read step one, then do it. Make it something you can do today. If it’s not a step that can be accomplished in a single day, then at least kick it into motion today. Take action.

If you made resolutions last year, revisit them, but don’t bask in last year’s successes or beat yourself up over last year’s failures, concentrate on moving forward.

Scan for New Opponents

Wake up and fight!

With my own plans, I did well. I succeeded in my Photo Friday 2011 project, but that doesn’t mean I’m done. It’s pushed me toward developing a habit, but now I can work more to improve technique. I succeeded in losing a little weight and I definitely feel I’m in better shape, but I will need to keep working to maintain it. I improved my karate, but I’m far from done learning. My plans from last year will evolve and help shape this year’s fitness and karate plans.

Then there’s the writing. I didn’t do near as well. However, I finished Lie with the Dead and accomplished a few things, so I’m good. Rather than sulk about it all day, I’m going to get to work on the next book and a novella I’m working on. This is my last day of Winter Break, so I’m going to take action today on my new writing goals. The tweak to the writing plan will be to pay more attention to those calendar prompts. If it tells me “Today is a school holiday and you need to write,” then I need to stick to that and not decide to play Call of Duty with my sons all day (it’s happened).

Constant goals, ever evolving. Steady improvement. January 1st isn’t a magic reset button, it’s just a convenient border in time.

Make your plan and get to work.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Same Goals, New Techiques

Every year around this time, the instructors at the Academy of Okinawan Karate talk to us about dreams, goals, and the difference between goals for the year and resolutions. Students are encouraged to bring their notebooks to start keeping track of these things, and start building plans for the new year’s goals.

I’ve been using the same notebook for some time, so as I sat there putting my plans together, I was able to look at the plans and goals from the previous two years and do some quick evaluating. Each time, I had three areas of improvement: fitness, writing, and photography. If that’s the case, then do I even need to be making resolutions?

Karate Moleskine

The karate notebook... and a picture I've been meaning to reproduce.

To an extent, yes. The key, though, is revisiting those goals. More specifically, the key is revisiting the plan for those goals. What good does writing down the plan do if I’m not going to go back to that page and see what the plan was? I had at least three steps for achieving my goals in each category, and the only one I really followed (without looking back at it) was my karate goal.

When did I lose track of my writing plans? When the shit hit the fan in the summer, or back when I closed the notebook after writing the plans down? I’m betting it was sometime closer to the latter.

Here’s what the problems boil down to: I’m not making enough time for writing or photography. It doesn’t matter how good my plan is if I’m not getting behind the keyboard or picking up the camera. And the beauty of the plans? They covered how to make that time. Too bad I let those plans fly out the window.

A common piece of advice is to post a goal somewhere prominent. Tape it up above the computer monitor, tack it to the wall, stick it to the fridge, whatever. The problem, though, is they soon blend in and are forgotten. I’ve had one of my original goals written on a chalkboard in my office since 2007. It’s a chalkboard I never use and never look at, and the goal was just written on it for a photo. When I do notice it, I say “Hmm, I should probably erase that sometime.”

Oops.

This year I’m going to try leveraging technology, starting with Google Calendar notifications. These will show up on just about all of my devices and include both pop-up windows and emails. The trick, though, is shaking things up. If I set them for weekly, they’re just going to become routine (in which case I just click and ignore them) or annoying (in which case I just delete the notification). Instead, I’m going to scatter them around the year at random.

The second step is making them more directly related to goal tracking. A goal is specific, measurable, and has a deadline, so I’m going to create questions that address each of those areas. The deadline is largely covered by the date of the notice, and of course the year goal is a given. The rest is all about how the question is worded. For example, it might ask “How many words of fiction have you produced this month?” Boom. Specific and measurable. “Did you bring the camera to karate class last week?” If I say no, chances are I haven’t been carrying the camera at all, and I haven’t been taking pictures. “How did your weight change from January 1st to today?” That one should speak for itself.

And there it is: same goals, new techniques.

I guess next year we’ll find out if it made a difference.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Measures for Success

I found something that might interest the many, many people who made weight-loss resolutions for New Year.

Too many people focus on numbers on the bathroom scale to measure their success. We hear alleged ideal numbers thrown around all the time, but people rarely take into account their height and age. In fact, studies are showing that it’s better to be fat and fit than thin and unfit. I’ve also read recently that thin people in poor shape may have hidden fat; the fat hides inside muscle and around the organs rather than between the muscles and skin where we’re used to seeing it.

This same focus on the scale makes some people drop out of their programs. I’ve seen a few fellow students drop out of my karate school because they don’t feel it was worth the money or they didn’t lose any weight. They’re amazed to learn I lost 30 lbs my first year, but can’t figure out why it’s not working for them. Then I explain I also work out on my own at home (not to mention I show up for class far more regularly), and they’re disappointed.

“You mean this weight loss thing takes work? Aww, man.”

Some people then turn to body mass index, or their doctor and/or insurance agents rub it in their faces. Unfortunately this, too, is a fuzzy number as it makes no distinction between muscle mass and fat. When people described me as skinny, I weighed 185 lbs. I’m a little short, so my BMI worked out to 28.5 at that point, which is labeled overweight. In fact, to get down to a BMI at the upper limit of “normal,” I’d have to get down to 163 lbs, which I haven’t been since the 8th grade. It might have been a little more accurate at that time, but through high school and for a couple of years after graduation, I converted a lot of the pudge to muscle mass.

To get down to 163 lbs now, I’d probably have to cut off a leg.

Which is exactly why I’m glad I found this home body fat test. It takes into account your age, weight and gender, then looks at different body measurements to calculate an estimate of your lean body weight and your body fat percentage. If I was skinny at 185 and I’ve gained/recovered muscle while studying karate, my numbers looked pretty damn close, even allowing for a modest margin of error.

Keep in mind, however, this is an approximation of your lean body mass. In other words that would be your approximate weight at 0% body fat, which is not a realistic goal. The chart supplied with the test says as a white male, 15% body fat would be healthy for me. To get a target, then, I would just take the supplied lean body weight number and divide it by .85. (See that? Algebra comes in handy after all.)

As luck would have it, based on these figures my goal to lose another 20 lbs by October 1st is a realistic goal. Not too shabby. Maybe I’ll add the body fat test to my Weight Tracker worksheet and see how I’m doing from month to month.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.