Category: life

When you can’t fall back on addiction

One would think I would know this stuff by now, but sometimes I get a reminder.

My wife and I were talking last night. We started discussing addiction, and why it makes sense that people will turn to their addiction during times of stress or down times. It can be alcohol or illegal drugs (alcohol just happens to be a legal drug) or overeating or whatever, for good reasons or bad, the addictive behavior provides a way out of the swamp even briefly. That swamp can be daily stress, deadlines approaching, being sick.

My biggest swamp is when I feel incapable. It can be a new and unknown project at work or diving into a massive problem that hasn’t been clearly defined, but nothing makes me feel incapable like being physically limited. That’s what dawned on me. One of my biggest triggers is incompatible with my biggest addiction. Nothing says “incapable” like being physically incapable, and being sick is just that. It is also when I can’t run to my favorite addiction – working out. If I drank I could down a few. I’d feel even worse, but drinking is physically possible. Right now, I’m coughing every few minutes. I’m physically drained all the damned time. I’m physically incapable of a lot of stuff, and those alarm bells are screaming inside my head.

The perfect response to banish those demons would be a workout, or two, or three. Sure the demons would still be there, but for a little while I’d be able to set them aside. Even a bad workout would “help.” At least it would let me set aside reality for a while.

But no.

So I’m stuck with this major trigger firing in my brain and can’t succumb to the addiction that helps me forget it for at least a few minutes a day.

No answer. Just a bit surprised that I didn’t figure this catch-22 out sooner.

A message to a few people I know… ([rant], you have been warned)

I’m a husband (20 years), a father (10 ½ years), a person (way too many years), an employee (again, way too many years, and why the hell do I always gravitate to insane hours at startups?), and an athlete. I’ve been doing the athlete thing for several decades now. It hasn’t been easy. At times it is glorious. Like when I have just hiked, sleep-deprived, overnight with a 40 pound pack up a steep assed trail to over 10,000′ of elevation and see a sunrise that makes me remember just how amazing life is.

In case anyone missed it…. the sunrise was glorious, but I earned the view of it.

Earned.

I have heard some of my favorite phrases over the last few weeks, and my head is about to explode.

“Staying fit is easy for you”
“It’s much harder for me to workout. You workout all the time and don’t know how hard it is for those of us who don’t do that.”
“If I only had as much time as you do to workout.”
and, of course my favorite,
“You want to gain weight? I wish I had that problem.”

Fuck off.

No, really. I mean that.

Fuck off.

I love to workout. I absolutely, positively love it. It’s part of my psyche. It’s part of my being. It’s central to my sanity.

But it ain’t “easy” and it never has been. Here’s the deal – the feeling of accomplishment that I get after a workout far surpasses any other feeling of accomplishment that I can get on a regular basis, and I am addicted to that feeling.

OK, that’s not true. Seeing my wife or daughter’s smile blows all the other stuff away. Comforting a scared/stressed kid and know that I’m truly making a difference in someone’s life is a feeling like no other in this world. But I digress.

Back to the workout stuff. It’s a HUGE pain in the ass to get to the gym every day. It’s time away from my family. It’s time away from my job. It’s time that could be spent doing a zillion other things – things that REALLY need to get done. But there’s a catch. Without my health, without a good sweat, without endorphins in my blood stream, without a feeling of accomplishment that comes from hitting a solid workout – I’m freakin’ useless.

I’ve been through 4 major surgeries. It should have been 5 major surgeries, but I just couldn’t deal with another surgeon cutting into my spine again. Once was enough. After each surgery I could have quit. Instead I took the brutal path of regaining strength, doing the days and days of physical therapy, the embarrassment of lifting 2 pound weights when I had been doing 50 pounds, 200 pounds, or more…. the frustration of walking 30 minute-miles instead of running sub-6 minute miles… because I didn’t give up. I didn’t quit.

So you chose to quit. Fine. Honestly, I’m not judging you. I’ve got enough on my plate to worry about that your choice of lifestyle is totally, completely, and utterly irrelevant to me.

I got shit to do.

I’ve got a wife I want to stay married to, and marriage takes work.

I’ve got daughters who need my care, direction, love and support.

I’ve got a mind that has suffered through over 40 years of extreme anxiety that needs to heal and start a new way of thinking.

I’ve got a career that consumes a lot of time and energy.

I’ve got a busted ass old body that needs a lot of work to stay healthy.

Those are my choices. Those are my priorities. Staying fit is not “easy” for me. It’s a lifelong commitment. There are days when I can’t even think about going to the gym, but I go. I get in my car, I drive to the gym, and I figure it out from there.

Usually I figure it out by going in the gym and busting my ass. Hell, I’ve already driven there, right?

And, yes, there are some days when I say, “Fuck it. I’m not going.” Yep, those days happen, and sometimes it’s a really good decision. Sometimes I really hate myself for giving in.

But the next day I get back to it.

I’d love to see you at the gym. I think it’s a boost for anyone, but I’m not going to cap on your for not going. It’s your life and your choice.

Just don’t try to insult me for choosing to go…..

Strong is the new skinny…

strong_is_the_new_skinny_by_mymoshpitromance-d55df2h
A few days ago gritlikegabrielle posted her thoughts on “Strong is the New Skinny” and why she doesn’t like the phrase. Her post got me thinking.

I’m coming at this from a different perspective. I’m much older. I grew up in a different era. I’m male. I’m a father of daughters. That’s not to say either of us is “correct” or “incorrect.” It’s more that I thought about why I like the phrase and if my perspective affects my viewpoint.

When I was growing up “Skinny” was the only skinny.

Full stop. End of story. In terms of physical beauty skinny was it. Well, big breasts were important to meet the beauty standard, but the rest of the body had to be thin, thin, thin. The common saying was, “You can never be too rich, too thin, or too blonde.”

There was only one way for a woman to be beautiful. Well, according to media standards there was only one way for a woman to be beautiful. She had to be thin. The Heather Locklear’s and Kate Moss’s were skinny to the point of emaciation. Sure, there were a few female bodybuilders like Cory Everson, but they were viewed as oddities.

“Strong” is an interesting word because it is not one-dimensional.  There is physical strength and mental strength and emotional strength… you get to pick your strength. Skinny is clearly one-dimensional. You don’t get to “pick your skinny.” If your ribcage ain’t showing then you ain’t skinny.

Clearly no catchphrase can capture the complexity of a person or an entire gender. That said, we still distill down to these phrases for meaning and motivation.

I’m not saying that it’s a “good” phrase because good is subjective. I am saying that I like it’s message a hell of a lot better than the message that I grew up with, “You can never be too rich, too thin, or too blonde.” Yes, you can be too thin. I think we all know how badly that can play out.

Maybe it’s the CrossFit community in which I am immersed, but I see women actively celebrating that their butt has grown from strength training, that they are curvier, stronger, and feel better. Others choose a different path. Hopefully people are able to choose the path that is right for them.

I like that choosing your own version of body type and strength is more acceptable to the society that my daughters are growing up in. Life is not perfect. The media still bombards girls and women with unreasonable beauty expectations, but “Strong is the new skinny” feels like a step in the right direction – compared to what I saw growing up.

If I can translate Gabrielle’s viewpoint into my own, coarse, vernacular it might be, “Don’t tell me what the fuck to do. I can figure that out on my own.” I love that and hope to help my daughters gain that determinism (they can choose whether not to include the word “fuck”… odds are they will include it due to my poor influence). Maybe we are actually saying the same thing although my words are colored by the society in which I was raised.

Isn’t that the curse of the older generations? We say, “well you should have seen how bad things were back in the old days…..”

Here’s to progress.

CrossFit is, quite simply, insufficient.

Yep, I said it. CrossFit is not enough. It’s not even close to enough.

Maybe it depends on your goals. If your goal is to be generally fit then CrossFit classes may be enough. If your goal is to become adept at the many facets of CrossFit or to [gasp!] become good at the many facets of CrossFit then classes simply won’t cut it.

We are in the process of getting new carpet in our house. Why, you ask? Well, blue carpet is quite fugly. Yes, I said “blue carpet.” Sure it was great while the kids were little and the dogs needed to learn not to shit on the stairs, but it’s time has come. Trust me, this is related to the topic. Somehow.

Part of the new carpet thing is clearing out a lot of junk that we have stored under beds. I happened to come across one of my old training logs from triathlon days. See, I told you the whole blue carpet digression was related to this post. My first thought was, “awesome, I can always stare at a picture of Fernanda Keller” (a few of you will get this reference). My other thought was, “how many hours was I putting in?” A LOT OF HOURS! With CF one can put in about an hour per workout. With tri’s I was putting clock-clip-art-dcrakazc9in 3-4 hours per day. An hour of swimming in the morning was followed by 2-3 hours of running or cycling in the evening. Weekends were “long” days which meant 4-6 hours per workout. That one hour CrossFit class pales in comparison to the total amount of hours spent training for tri’s.

Here’s the thing – I was a good triathlete, but I was not a great triathlete. Training for 20+ hours per week was simply what was required. I can hear the chorus of “but CrossFit is not triathlon.” and I agree completely. Triathlon was only 3 sports. CrossFit is a compilation of about 17 billion sports.

The Olympic lifts, the squats, the presses, and those nasty, nasty gymnasty things. And maintenance too, rolling and stretching and eating – oh my!

At most boxes, the programming is good, but it’s also a bit random. The randomness makes it fun because things change. Unknown and unknowable – right?

There just isn’t enough time available to create mastery of all things CrossFit in one hour per day. Sure, you can become good, but you will not become great. On a good day I spend 30 minutes before every class working on my mobility. Yes, just on mobility. I should spend an hour. If I really want to get strong I need to add in a squat cycle, and there is always some skill work to be done: double-unders, hand stands, handstand walks, muscle ups (rings and bar), etc.

CrossFit classes are awesome. I flat out love them. They are just barely enough CrossFit though. If you want to be competent, then 5 or 6 classes a week will do as long as you also spend time mobilizing. If you want to get good then you will need to double that. If you want to be great…..

I’m not saying that you have to spend 20 hours a week in the box like we used to spend in the pool, running, and on the bike, but it wouldn’t hurt.

12 Rules for Being a Princess – or maybe rules for being a fun person.

as written by my 8 yo daughter (while she was snug in her bed this morning under 15 layers of blankets)

  1. Use your manners.
  2. Be kind to the kingdom
  3. Smile
  4. Dream
  5. Rock the crown
  6. Wish on stars
  7. Keep the castle tidy (and by castle I mean “my room”)
  8. Believe in fairy tales
  9. Curtsy
  10. Listen to grown-ups
  11. Be polite
  12. Give from the heart

I think she’s got it right….

Finding time. Making time. Doing time…. #crossfit #workout

Last Fall I took a job that I knew would require major time commitment. It’s not just the hours in the office (arrive by 6:30am – depart 11-12+ hours later). It is also the travel. More importantly, it’s that the mental process never stops. On my drive home I’m thinking about strategy, about the next three meetings, about pushing the salesforce to get shit done.

My wife and I talked long and hard about what it will really take to be successful. We have been here before. Startups are factories of insanity. They are also fun, unfettered, and allow for a level of freedom that is both scary and inspiring. The first few months were normal insanity, but in the last few weeks the dial got cranked to 11. Add in a major crisis on the home front and it’s been a rocket blast of crazy.

I am not exactly the most stable of people. My nature is to go way off the deep end and embroil myself in stress. One of the things that has always helped center my soul is exercise. 3 hour runs that drained my psyche of all negative emotions were critical to my well being. Getting into that pain cave where the only possible thoughts were those that related to keeping my body moving forward was cathartic and necessary.

I simply do not have time to set aside 2-4 hours per day. That’s where CrossFit has helped. Even an 8-minute metcon is enough to focus my brain. It’s a precious timeframe when I can set aside all other thoughts and focus only on a straightforward task – pick up a loaded bar or knock out 1 more pull-up. There is no multi-tasking in CrossFit. I won’t get interrupted to look at someone else’s pricing analysis. Either the bar is overhead and locked out or it’s not.

My workout log for the last week is blank. My caffeine intake over the last few weeks borders on extremely unhealthy. My diet has fallen to a new low.

It’s funny how little time it takes to allow the wheels to fall off. Clearly I need to figure out a solution. If my evening workouts maybe won’t be happening I need to shift my morning back by 1/2 an hour and get to the box early.

My life depends on it.

No, that is not an exaggeration.

Daughter told me she “wants to win the Games”

I was incredibly stoked

Then I realized she means

The Hunger Games.

Didn’t try to explain to her that winning the hunger games would require murdering your friends. Kids gotta have goals, right?

Can sexual assault be stopped? No. No it can't be stopped

Wife gets Stanford’s alumni magazine. She’s an alum, M. Ed. (because she was OK with attending a Junior University…. you can guess where I went).

Cover story this month asks if sexual assault can be “stopped.”

As much as I abhor any sexual assault crime I wonder if we are asking the right question. No offense intended, but in any population group there will always be people who, quite frankly, suck. They seek to intimidate, attack, use, destroy other people. As long as there are people there will be crime’s against people.

I’d like to see sexual assault be eradicated completely, but I don’t believe in humanity’s goodness enough to think that’s reasonable. I do, however, think it’s possible that there are other goals that, while somewhat lofty, could be reasonable. How about, “Can all sexual assaults be reported?” Hey, solid stats about how many assaults take place along with solid stats about where and when? That would be some great stuff to know. Sure “all” is too much, but “reported” beats “stopped” in terms of achievable goals? Doesn’t it?

Or maybe it’s “Can we create a society where women feel safe?” That would be a great start. Sure, women feel safe in some locations, but imagine if women felt safe just about anywhere. Wow, wouldn’t that be incredible? I’m a pretty unassuming, grey haired dude, but when it’s late at night and I’m behind a woman on a sidewalk I can see when they reach for the comfort of their pepper spray. Just in case. I get it. They don’t know who the heck I am. Usually I will fall back quite a distance or say, “Excuse me” and walk faster, but the important bit is that dark and alone = unsafe. Imagine if that changed for the better.

Sure, headlines drive interest. I just think that a goal of eradicating a crime that has existed since… well, since humanity, is …. just not realistic.

I have two daughters. I’d love for them to grow up in a peaceful, safe world. I don’t think that will happen, but I do think that shaming people who are attack.

Deviating from my normal CrossFit stuff and ranting a bit because I believe that things can be better. Things need to be better. My $0.02 – the best way to get better is to set achievable goals and then exceed them.

Is your switch On or Off? …. beast mode, digging deep, additional effort

WOD on Saturday was Team Angie [100-50-25 reps of pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and air squats]. If you finished before 23 minutes you added in a 100cal ride on an Air Assault bike.

I explained the WOD after getting home, and my wife asked, “Wait. Do I understand this correctly? If you finish early you have to do MORE work?”

Me: “Yes Dear” (trust me, I know how to say “Yes, Dear”), “that’s how it works. Actually, getting to the extra work is a goal.”
Wife: “I’d plan on being done at 23 minutes and 1 second….”

10 If “finish time < time cap”
20 Then reward = “do more work”

So, where do you fit into this equation? Are you the “earn the right to do more work” type or are you the “do the workout – it’s already hard enough” type?

Granted, the question has a different answer for every workout, but let’s apply on-off light switchit generally. Who are you? When you get to the gym are you looking to maintain your fitness, which is a great goal, or are you looking to kick it up a notch?

There are a lot of terms and bro-science about working out and going hard. Some people like to call it “Beast Mode.” I like to think of it as a switch in our brain that we have to subconsciously turn ON. Sometimes you start the workout with your switch in the OFF position. Sure, you are working hard, but you aren’t necessarily digging deep. Then, at some point, you “throw the switch.” Good enough is no longer good enough. You need to go faster. You won’t drop the bar until you get another 3 reps… I’m not talking setting a Personal Record (PR) every time you do Fran. PR’s are rare, amazing but rare. Feeling good walking out of the gym knowing you gave your best effort is more realistic than basing your life on setting PR’s every day.

The challenge I have is understanding HOW to throw that switch on demand.

What is it that drives us to go from static to dynamic? Is it Beast Mode, or is that something else entirely?

Somedays it is so easy to go deep into that pain cave and almost surprise ourselves with the workload we can produce. Other days it’s like the circuit breaker has tripped and not matter what you do the switch just won’t flip.

I do know that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more times I throw that switch, the better shape I’m in, the easier it is to “go there.” If I am out of shape, like now because of surgery recovery, it’s so much harder to get that switch to flip-up and drive my soul.

What position is your switch in, and can you turn it on whenever you want to?

 

My To-Do list this weekend (and every weekend)

  • cook bacon
  • fold and put away laundry
  • bake egg muffins
  • make meals for the week

every single weekend. Always the same basic stuff.

Once, just once, I want a DIFFERENT weekend to-do list. You know.

  • have that threesome with the 2 women I met on ashleymadison
  • collect my lottery winnings
  • be 10 years younger

Seriously – is that wrong?

Just once. That’s all I’m asking. Once.