How to have a depressing Sunday

Don’t leave me drowning in your Sunday rain

It’s right down the drain I go

– Foo Fighters, Sunday Rain

I’m gonna talk you through the day I just had as an example of what not to do. It’s a warning to my future self.

Step 1: Don’t make any plans.

Don’t check in with your friends or other local acquaintances. Just resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to be alone with nothing to do and a day to kill.

If you had plans but they fell through, don’t attempt to make any new plans. Don’t have a fallback. You went all in on those plans. Dwell on them.

Congratulations, you now have nothing to look forward to! Scene set for the day.

Step 2: Night-time self-loathing.

When you wake up to go to the bathroom in the night, once you get back to bed, open up your phone and start surfing. Go on, you’re only gonna keep dwelling on those plans otherwise. Soak up all the instant gratification (and blue light) you can get. Whatever crap you usually browse. Reddit, Youtube, adult content, the works. Don’t worry, it’s Sunday, there’ll be plenty of time to sleep in afterward. Except of course you won’t, because the sunlight/noise/your bladder will wake you up at your usual weekday time. But you don’t know that yet, despite the fact you’ve experienced this several times before.

Step 3: Wake up at your usual weekday time.

There it goes. Lie in bed for a while, secure in the knowledge you won’t get back to sleep. Forget about making last-minute plans now – no one wants to see you like this. Oh well, you’ve got some hours up your sleeve. What better way to spend that time than…

Step 4: Gaming.

Preferably something fast-paced and mentally taxing, like real-time strategy. What could be more fun than building up a city and tearing down the neighbour’s one? Unfortunately, since you’re sleep-deprived, things don’t work out as well as usual. Your satisfaction evaporates, replaced by frustration. Time for the ace in the hole: cheat codes! Look on in guilty defiance as the enemy town burns in a hail of gunfire.

Okay, false start. But it’s only mid-morning, and you’ve got another strategy you want to try. Time for round 2!

Step 5: Share your joy with the world.

Now that your brain is thoroughly fried, it’s time to take on those errands you were putting off. Namely, groceries. It’s lunchtime and, on top of gamer brain, you’re getting hangry. It would have been nice and quiet in the morning, but that was gaming time! So you now get to experience the joy of grocery shopping at the busiest time of the day (if not the week).

Act like you own the place. This is your supermarket. Resent the fact that other people exist. They’re trying their best to get in your way and generally make the experience as annoying as possible. Don’t let them. Cut them off. Stare them down. Whatever it takes to get to the checkout.

Be sure to dither about your lunch options too. You want something cheap, healthy, and ready to eat, and you’re not leaving till you find it. No, it doesn’t exist, and it never will. Give up and go home to the canned food you already had. You could have just eaten that – why did you even go grocery shopping?

Step 6: More gaming.

Take out your grocery rage on some pixelated characters. Well, try to, anyway…

☀️☀️☀️

How to salvage something from a depressing Sunday

Step 7: Suddenly decide to do something.

It’s now late afternoon and you’re racked with guilt for wasting the day. But wait, it’s not over yet! What’s the quickest and easiest way to gain a feeling of accomplishment?

Exercise.

If you’re lucky, you’re feeling a tingling sensation in your legs at this point. That’s all the pent up energy from doing nothing all day. Time to strike. Get those training shoes on and hit the pavement!

Yes, it’s dark out. Too bad. Hey, at least it’s quiet now – a refreshing change from the supermarket!

Crush it for half an hour and bask in the warm glow of endorphins. Congratulations, you’ve done something today! But why stop now?

Step 8: Self-care.

Hooray, you don’t hate yourself any more! What better way to celebrate than with some R&R. Take a long hot shower/bath to clean away your sweat. Ahh, doesn’t that feel amazing?

Step 9: Don’t stop now!

You can have a good, productive day yet! You may be tired, but push through! Crank up the music and make yourself some dinner!

Way to go! You’ve accomplished something today, AND you’ve saved yourself some work in the coming days. I guess this Sunday wasn’t a write-off after all. But, looking back, it feels hollow. Don’t you wish you’d done something with the rest of the day?

Oh well. Let’s call it a draw.

Step 10: Promise yourself you’ll do better next Sunday.

You’ve got a week to make plans. Get on it!

How was your Sunday? What have you got planned for the next one? How do you deal when plans fall through? Let me know!

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Gym, week 4-6: Commitment, schmommittment

That’s not gone well.

– Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear

Dear reader, I have a confession to make.

I failed.

There, I said it.

I set myself a target and I didn’t meet it.

You see, I haven’t done my prescribed five sessions per week since week 1.

Do I feel bad about this? Honestly, no. I did for a moment but I got over that pretty quick. Why? Because I learned a few things from this experiment. And that’s what it was – an experiment. Just another in the continual series of experiments that is my life.

I didn’t just fail. I failed forward!

Why did I fail?

I made failure an option. I defined the experiment in such a way that it was possible – nay, inevitable – that I’d fail sooner or later. The rules are simply far too strict: miss a workout and you’re basically done. Guess what? Life happens. Something will keep you from the gym at some point. Maybe for days at a time – or even longer. Sure, I added in some caveats after the fact, but they don’t come close to covering it.

I didn’t listen to my body. Put another way, I did too much too soon. I didn’t mention this at the time, but my first weights session was a group class – not my usual weights-machine/dumbbell routine. The classes encourage you to push really hard for the whole time (typically an hour), which feels amazing at the time but really takes it out of you. It’s also a one-size-fits-all approach (besides choosing your weights) and doesn’t consider your own needs. My PT told me I was lucky I didn’t get injured. As it was, I had sharp pains in my shoulders that took three days to fade.

Even with the standard weights sessions, I found I needed two days to recover. (Day 2 DOMS is real!) Seasoned pros can come back and do it again two days later. I can’t. Which means I can only do weights every third day. Let’s do a little math:

  • Days in a week: 7
  • Days per workout: 3
  • Maximum workouts per week = 7/3 = 2⅓

“But wait,” you say, “you could just work out Monday, Thursday and Sunday. That’s three times a week!” Hmm… That reminds me of a funny video I watched one time!

THE DUMBEST BOY ALIVE. PRETTY GOOD, EPISODE SIX. (Warning: language.)

(Once you’ve read this post, go check out the rest of Pretty Good. It’s brilliant.)

Ahem. Where was I…

I didn’t find the time or energy for gym. I have other interests besides gym – blogging, meetups, and quiz nights, to name a few. I have chores to do to keep things ticking over. I work full-time. I also need time to recover, physically and mentally, from these activities – my body makes this clear to me, whether I like it or not! Basically, my schedule is booked out – not necessarily in terms of time, but definitely in terms of energy. To make the gym thing work, I’d have to make big concessions elsewhere, and my options here are honestly pretty terrible:

  • Go out less? I’m putting together a social life for the first time in years – I’m not about to undo all that hard work. Knowing what I know now about the importance of social connections, that’s unthinkable.
  • Skip chores? Ok… so, hire a cleaner and eat out every day. I mean, I guess I could afford it, but there’s no way it’s gonna pay off.
  • Cut into my rest time? That’s a one-way trip to another mental health day.
  • Work less nope
  • Blog less nope nope nope

Exercise and physical health are important, sure. The thing is, I’m already doing ok on that front. How much am I willing to give to push for something I don’t really need?

If the above sounds like mere excuses, then how about I put it this way: I didn’t want it enough. If and when that changes, I’ll find a way.

Look on the bright side!

While this was technically a failure, I’ve had some successes along the way too.

  • I’ve been able to up the weights on every exercise. Just to the next one up – but in some cases that’s a 50% jump!
  • I’m having fun! Going 2-3 times a week instead of five means I get to keep some sense of novelty. On a good day it feels like play rather than work.
  • Stress relief. The various exercises give me lots of options to decompress after a tough day. It’s more effective than my previous methods, and healthier too!

Let me make one thing clear right now. I’m not quitting the gym. The weekly updates on the other hand? In case you haven’t noticed, they’re dead. To which I say: Good riddance! There are so many other stories I want to share, and the gym posts were getting in the way.

This little experiment is over. But don’t worry, there’s plenty more to come – that’s life!

Gym, week 2: In everyone’s best interests

All right folks, here’s the wrap for week 2 of my gym adventure:

  • Saturday: Yoga, weights
  • Sunday: Umm… I walked to town and back?
Snake! What happened? Snake? Snaaaaaaake!!

Mission failed? Not so fast. Here’s what happened:

No complaints from the body yet, other than the cold I’m now coming down with.

Me last week

That cold got worse. Much worse than usual. This was me for much of the week:

1-grooooaaaannnn
Grooooaaaannnn

Here’s a thing you need to know about Wellington. It’s a disease-spreading machine.

People come in and out of the city all the time. Some of these people carry cold-causing viruses. Some of these viruses come from halfway around the world and no one’s immune to them. The local geography funnels people onto a narrow strip of land. It’s cold and damp. Oh, and air conditioning spreads germs through entire buildings.

I love Wellington, but I get sick way more often since I moved here. It’s kind of annoying. Heaven help us if a pandemic breaks out.

I felt the ominous tingle in the back of my throat on Saturday morning, and by Monday I was done for.

Timely news

Naturally, the question came up in my mind: Should I exercise when I’m sick? Just as I was tossing up whether to skip my Tuesday weights session, the local news site ran an article on exactly this. The answer’s pretty clear cut – unusually so for articles that ask questions like this!

So I decided it’s in everyone’s best interests – especially mine – to rest. For five days. I say especially mine because, even though I’ve spared gym-goers my germs, this is Wellington which means everyone else will catch this cold before long. I just don’t want to be the one responsible for giving it to them!

Did I mention this cold was worse than usual? I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure I had a fever on Wednesday – I can’t remember the last time that happened…

Excuses, excuses

This brings me to something I neglected to bring up in the intro. Namely, the part where I cover my ass!

Sometimes life gets in the way and I can’t reasonably get to the gym. Or, I can in theory, but it’s really better that I don’t.

Now to go full-lawyer. I may skip gym for reasons including but not limited to:

  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Travel
  • Force majeure or acts of god. (Because every legal document needs those.)

For lesser interruptions, like social events or appointments, I’ll reschedule workouts. As committed as I am to gym, there are more important things in life!

As for now, I’m pleased to report that the cold’s all but gone and I’m back in the swing of gym.

2-im-ready
I’m ready!

How do you deal with interruptions to your workout schedule? What other totally legitimate excuses can I add to my list? Let me know!

Gym, week 1: It’s not a fashion statement

Before I start, I want to set something straight for some of my readers. Back when I first joined the gym I stated that I wouldn’t wear gym shoes with my work clothes. I said it’s “a fashion crime I’m not willing to commit”.

I take it back. Here’s proof.

1-proof
It’s not a death wish either. Though it does feel like one some days.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s recap week 1 of my commitment to the gym.

So far, so good

You’ll be pleased to know that I made it through the first week without incident.

  • Sunday: 60 minute spin
  • Monday: Yoga class
  • Tuesday: Weights
  • Thursday: Weights
  • Saturday: Weights

And because the week starts on Monday (at least in these parts), I’ll throw this in to put us back in sync:

  • Sunday: 45 minute outdoor run (8km)

No complaints from the body yet, other than the cold I’m now coming down with. I can’t really blame that on the gym though!

Dress for success

Some people take gym fashion very seriously. I am not one of those people. I just want to get through my workout in relative comfort. To that end, I’ve spent next to nothing on gym clothes and used stuff I already have. The unexpected upside is some of my gear has nostalgia value!

2-shoes
Gym shoes maketh the gym man

These are actually running shoes. They look vaguely fitness-y so I’m sure no one bats an eye at the gym. I’ve had these 5+ years, but they’re still holding up just fine since I haven’t used them a whole lot.

3-navy-blue.jpg
Classic navy blue

I’ve had these more than half my life. I wore them when I did the Otago Central Rail Trail way back in 2003. (I still want to go back someday and ride it the other way!) They’ve been my go-to exercise kit until very recently, and still hold up pretty well. Unfortunately the shorts lack pockets, which I now deem an essential feature, so they stay in the draw unless the rest are in the wash.

4-warehouse
Warehouse special

I bought these for Round the Bays 2018 – my first 10k running event and still one of the proudest moments of my journey so far. Cheap yet functional, and I love the colour of the shirt!

5-viva chile
¡Viva Chile!

This shirt is legitimately from Chile (Patagonia to be more precise). I haven’t actually been there. But it does make for a cool conversation piece – like New Zealand with Australia, Chileans have a “little-brother, big-brother” rivalry with Argentina. Besides that, it’s a nice, long, comfy and stylish shirt.

6-stripes.jpg
Racing stripes

I bought these because I needed a second pair of shorts with pockets. Can’t go wrong with black. (I said some of it has nostalgia value, not all!)

Function over form

This is me heading out the door on Tuesday morning.

7-ready for anything
Ready for anything

How ridiculous do I look? Well, I have more pressing concerns at this point than my appearance. Like, how do I get to work and gym without (a) forgetting any gear, or (b) drowning?

Wellington decided to turn full winter this week – heavy rain, strong southerly, and bitter cold (by North Island standards anyway). Dressing for work has never been more complicated!

Let’s take stock of what I’m wearing here:

  • Standard office wear (sans shoes, which now live under my desk)
  • Thermals, top and bottom
  • Thermal socks over my office socks
  • Raincoat and rain pants
  • Gloves
  • Beanie
  • Gym shoes (any wetter and I’d have worn gumboots)

I’m not going on an Antarctic expedition here – just work and the gym! I have no idea what passers-by thought of this, but boy was it comfortable!

Hot yoga, not wet yoga

One thing you need to watch out for when doing yoga, especially in a heated studio, is moisture. I get sweaty hands, so it’s tricky to hold a downward-facing dog at the best of times. Doubly so towards the end of the class when my mat is covered in sweat. (Pro tip: bring a towel!) So the last thing I want is for me or my mat to be wet before I even begin! Which is exactly what threatened to happen this week thanks to the rain. So, thinking quickly and cutting it close on time, I came up with this:

8-#yogafashion
#yogafashion

Yes, that’s a plastic supermarket bag around my mat. And yes, I wore gumboots to the studio. But more importantly, I contained the damage to a few drops, which I quickly dispatched with the towel. Mind you, that didn’t stop me falling over (twice) during the class, but that’s because I was trying a new pose that takes more balance than I’m capable of!

Onto the next…

So that’s week 1 clear, in spite of nature’s best efforts. It’s only the start of winter though!

How long can I keep this up? What fashion crimes lie ahead? Stay tuned to find out!

What’s your gym style? Where do you stand on the “function vs form” debate? How do you motivate yourself to work out on cold and rainy days? Let me know!

Gym, day 1: Commitment

1 what lies beyond
What lies beyond the trees?

After I shared my soul-searching post, members of my community suggested that exercise is definitely a thing I should continue doing. This makes sense of course – it has all kinds of health benefits, and it’s a great form of self-improvement. But my gut feeling is that fatigue from gym workouts was a big factor in my breakdown. What to do? I thought long and hard, and here’s what I decided:

I’m going all-in on the gym. Starting today.

But – and this is crucial – I’m going to manage the other factors so I’ll have more energy for exercise. (I’ve already covered one, and I’ll expand on the others in due time.)

Why?

Three reasons come to mind:

  1. Reward. Exercise is a strange beast. Depending what you read, it takes anything from three weeks to three months for the body to get used to it. Until then it’s kind of miserable. But you have to go through it to get the benefits. Since the novelty of joining wore off, I haven’t exercised with any consistency, and I’ve been stuck in the miserable part. My mission is to break through that barrier and start reaping some real rewards.
  2. Habit. They say it takes 66 days to form a habit. I’m going to test that theory. Today is Sunday, 27 May. So by Wednesday, 1 August, hopefully I’ll know if it’s worked!
  3. Commitment. I’m terrified of commitment of any form. My mind likes to continually seek something new and abandon the old. Because of this, I don’t like to promise anything beyond the short-term for fear that I’ll lose interest, break my promise, and let everyone down. But I know that without commitment, I won’t gain anything from the gym. It’s scary – but it’s the only way. So this is a test for me. I’m out to prove, to myself and to the world, that I can commit to something.
The plan

This is my weekly exercise program. It’s my commitment – to you, dear reader, and to myself.

Three weights sessions, one cardio session, and one yoga class per week.

Here’s the day-by-day plan. (I reserve the right to rearrange this.)

  • Monday: Yoga
  • Tuesday: Weights
  • Thursday: Weights
  • Saturday: Weights
  • Sunday: Cardio

Weights is a 10-part circuit devised by a trainer, focusing on the upper body and core.

Yoga is a 75-minute, fast-paced class in a heated studio – conveniently located inside the gym.

Cardio is an hour-long spin or 45-minute run. If it’s nice out (unlikely at this time of year), I might take this outdoors.

I’m a tall, scrawny guy. My body is naturally suited to running and cycling, not lifting and pulling. This routine is firmly aimed at covering my weaknesses rather than building on my strengths. It’s supposed to be a challenge!

Milestones

This may come as a shock, but I don’t have any specific goals in terms of “I will be able to lift x kilograms by time t”. Right now this is more of a mental game. But there are some boxes to tick along the way.

  • Break through the initial pain barrier
  • Work up from 2 sets of each weights exercise to 3
  • Reach a point where the starting weights feel too easy, and up them
  • Learn more exercises and mix them into my routine for variety
  • Graduate from the beginner weights machines to bars
  • Form that habit! I want the gym to feel like an extension of my home, and not the big soulless barn it feels like now.

I’m not putting a time limit on these, but I trust that they’ll come in due time if I put in the effort. Maybe later on when I figure out how this stuff works I’ll set an actual goal! For now I’m just doing what the trainer told me to do, getting a feel for it, and taking it as it comes.

Accountability

It’s all well and good to talk about committing, but another thing to actually do it. To that end, I’m making one more commitment: Weekly updates on this blog. If I skip a workout, you’ll know – and there’ll be a black mark on my blog for eternity. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is!

It’s day 1. I’m off to the gym for a spin. I’ll let you know how it goes.

2 shoes on
Shoes on. Bag packed. Let’s do this.