The Importance Of Momentum

As I spoke about in my last post, Ed Latimore’s Bucket Analogy, I am a visual man. I like to be able to have an image or a sort of “mental movie” that can serve to attack a problem or scenario in my life.

Even if you’re not a mountain biker, watch the following video. I will arrive at the point soon.

If you don’t really see the significance in what happened on your screen, I’ll break it down: Aaron Gwin’s chain broke right out of the starting gate. This is a HUGE problem in the context of a downhill race, and almost certainly means that the rider in question is going to have a weak finish, far off the winning time. After all, he CAN’T PEDAL.

Gwin ended up doing “the impossible” at Leogang (and is the most dominant man in the sport right now) because immediately after the chain snapped, he changed his game plan for the race run (this is almost impossible to do on the fly, for the record). Instead of relying on powerful pedal strokes at strategic points on the course, he shifted his strategy to rely SOLELY on carrying his speed; maintaining momentum.

As you saw, he ended up winning the event and blowing everyone’s minds. In the mountain bike world, he “broke the internet” with this win.


The last two posts on here have been about challenges I’ve faced over the last few months as they pertain to my current goals of fat loss and getting my business(es) up and running to the point where they’re my only source of income. I’ve had roadblocks, emergencies, tragedies and unforeseen circumstances pop up since the middle of November.

Every single one of them dealt a blow to my ability to maintain momentum, and developed momentum of their own, blasting me off course.

In the earlier parts of the Autumn, I would wake up each day with a clear picture of how my day would unfold. Sure, I would have things that needed to be done, but I knew what I was in for. I would need to drive my girlfriend to clinical or do laundry, drop off a rent payment or go grocery shopping. Nothing that would really get in the way of business or hitting the gym, but when unforeseen circumstances reared their head, they would often stop me dead in my tracks.

Tuesday was a great example, which I’ll break down.


 

I had my bucket for the day prepared. I was helping my parents with my sister’s discharge from the hospital, preparing food for the next few days, doing cardio, doing laundry, and returning to the gym for squats. If time allowed, I wanted to re-organize my living room (I absolutely love having a clean, well organized “home base”).

The most important item in the bucket for yesterday was helping my parents out, and incidentally, was to happen first chronologically. After waking up and preparing breakfast for my girlfriend and myself, I got a water bottle made up with BCAA’s, put in my contact lenses (this is relevant) and headed to the hospital.

This didn’t take long, as I sat down in the room, a nurse came in with discharge papers, and within a half hour, we had my sister in a wheelchair, ready to leave the hospital. However, my parents had asked me to follow them to their house (an hour away) to help bring my sister inside, move some furniture around, and get things in order. Not a problem. I wasn’t planning on this, but as my parents need my help, I was happy to do this. No big deal, I thought. I’ll shift things around a bit and still accomplish everything else I need to do.

Traffic was worse than I anticipated, and with a stop at Home Depot, an hour drive turned into two. We helped my sister inside, then set to work moving furniture and adapting the house to her return, all the time monitoring her activities (she is non-verbal autistic, and needs significantly more attention than an average person). By that point, I accepted their offer to stay for dinner, straightened out my basement workshop and spoke with some folks on Twitter (I had left my laptop at home, not anticipating a trip out to their house, thus was unable to spend this time working on a blog entry or business). Time was slipping away.

At about 7:00, dinner was still not ready, so I told them I would have to take a rain check, and I hit the road. My new plan was to stop at a “pay-n-spray” to wash the road salt off of my car on the way home. No big deal. I also ran out of BCAA at this point, and was in need of something to drink.

Washing my car took more time than I anticipated (of course) and I realized two things as I continued home. First of all, I’m hungrier than I thought I was, and second was that I could barely see what I was doing, as I have a lot of trouble driving at night with my contact lenses. My evening was starting to spin out of control, so I simply pulled over and re-evaluated things (again).

I couldn’t see very well, and I needed to eat. That much was apparent. Eye drops do nothing for me, and my glasses were at home. I had taken my spare glasses out of my car months earlier, as I had never needed them. On the food end, I had plenty of chicken, ground turkey, steak, eggs, ground beef at home, but I was starting to feel drained. I didn’t want to have to immediately start cooking when I got home, so I decided to stop at a local chain with some decent prepared foods.

With the food in my car, I continued the drive. My contacts were getting worse. I was cautious, and had to concentrate immensely on the normally-simple act of driving. Traffic wasn’t bad, but the other drivers on the Parkway were unpredictable and erratic. It was bad enough that I couldn’t see, but people were passing at 90 mph in the wrong lane, not signaling, and weaving through traffic. By the time I got home, I felt like my brain had been scrambled. I was mentally exhausted. I took my contacts out and ate my dinner after collapsing onto the couch.

I looked around.

I had done no laundry. My house was messier than I had remembered it being. I had a package of chicken breasts in the refrigerator that would be wasted if I didn’t cook it that night. On top of that, I was discouraged that the day had gotten out of control. And then my phone beeped. It was my workout partner, with a one-word text message: “Squats”

It was 9:44 PM. We meet to lift at 10:00, and my gym is fifteen minutes away.

Before doing anything else, before writing the day off, I took five minutes to assess the situation.


 

 

I had started off the day with average momentum, but a small and simple task had developed momentum of its own, pulling me off into unplanned events. Despite re-focusing and shifting my efforts, I could not “right the ship” so to speak. The day had gone completely off the rails, and driving home white-knuckled and almost blind with a growling stomach.

Momentum works both ways.

  • On one hand, when your day is going better than planned, and you feel like you’re just tearing through everything you needed to accomplish, sometimes it’s almost difficult to shut yourself off. I’ve made the mistake of riding this momentum through the late evening, deep into the night. The next thing I knew, I would still be awake at 7:00 in the morning, my head racing with ideas for blog posts, business plans, or anything else that my million-mile-an-hour brain was churning up.
  • On the other hand, Tuesday was a great example of the momentum shifting and taking on a life of its own. It’s like a downhill bike without brakes: Sure, you’re going to get to the bottom of the mountain, but you’re not going to be taking the best line to get there.

Taking five minutes to think about this and coming up with a reasonable plan for the rest of the evening became the most important five minutes in my day. I called my training partner. He was running late, so we agreed to meet at 10:15. Great. That left me ten minutes. Within that short span of time, I cleaned 75% of what I wanted to clean in my apartment (this is a huge benefit of having a small place and eliminating junk). I threw the chicken back in the freezer and got in my car, bound for the gym.

We pounded out one of the heaviest, fastest squat sessions I’ve ever completed (two days later, I’m still slathering Tiger Balm all over my quadriceps). When I got home, I was no longer defeated, but somewhat satisfied with the outcome of the day. I had been delivered a death blow, but managed to patch the sinking ship and get her back to the harbor.


 

  • Momentum is yours to control. If you keep it headed in the right path, it’s an almost unstoppable force, and the “impossible” will happen.
  • When life inevitably happens, have the tools with you, and the foresight to stop the momentum from shifting in an unwanted direction. I didn’t bring glasses, BCAA, my laptop, or food with me when I went to the hospital. I could have even brought my laundry with me. I didn’t have the foresight to ask my parents if I would be needed at their house, or simply realize that this was a logical possibility. Had I planned around this eventuality, I could have kept momentum going in the right direction.
  • Always be in the moment. If you feel the momentum shifting, take time to stop, change your strategy, and re-focus your efforts instead of “going with the flow”. Know what you are doing, and do not drift. Have you ever, at the end of a day, thought “holy shit… what a day, I can’t believe it got that crazy”? This is a direct result of not controlling momentum, but being a plastic bag in the breeze, blown around in whatever direction the wind will take you. It is, frankly, exhausting and miserable.

Momentum can be your best friend or your worst enemy, it’s all in how you choose to view this invisible, intangible force. From a standpoint of being in control of it, or the opposite; denying its existence and allowing it to kick your ass all over the room.

As always, thanks for reading,

Brian

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Ed Latimore’s “Bucket” Analogy

I follow a gentleman named Ed Latimore on Twitter. He’s an undefeated boxer (a sport I admittedly know nothing about), a dual major in Physics and Electrical Engineering, and one of my favorite content producers on Twitter. He’s always churning out thought-provoking, insightful statements on modern life.

A few months ago I came across this link. It’s a podcast with Ed, where he talks specifically about sobriety. It’s a topic I am very familiar with, having given up drinking at the beginning of 2015. I wanted to hear some other people’s observations on the subject, and most of the blog articles written about sobriety seem to be authored by cubicle-dwelling women or 60-year old ex-alcoholic men. I’m not a boxer, but Ed and I are both competitive athletes, we both understand the importance of mindset, and we both live in the same booze-soaked town of Pittsburgh.

Obviously, I was interested in what he had to say.

An analogy was described when he discussed the subject of alcohol. He referred several times to a metaphorical “bucket” which I understood to comprise all of the people, activities, and behaviors in ones life. When the bucket gets too full, something has to come out, or it will inevitably spill over.

I immediately identified with this, paused the podcast, and started thinking of examples in my own life, equating “spilling over” to what I would qualify as a personal disaster. I took this idea that Ed introduced to me, and I ran with it.

  • In late 2012, my bucket was spilling over, filled to the brim with a horrific breakup, the loss of my home, the loss of my job, and financial ruin. Despite taking socialization and weightlifting out of the bucket, I still spilled over, as these circumstances carried so much volume. However, when these scenarios were rectified, I was able to make some space, re-introduce weightlifting and had time for a new relationship.
  • In late 2013 through early 2014, this relationship increased in volume significantly, causing my career, my friendships, and my finances to be squeezed up to the top of the bucket. In turn, it spilled over. The problem was easy to identify, and by killing the relationship, I was able to bring everything else back to normal, as I now had a huge surplus of space. I became abundant, but wasn’t yet familiar with the term.

At this point, especially after listening to Ed speak about it, I realize the danger of filling the bucket too much. When this happens, there is absolutely no margin for error.

free-vector-bucket_133301_bucket

Think about the hypothetical scenario of a 40-year old man with an insufferable harpy of a wife, two kids, an expensive mortgage, and a demanding, stressful job. With the life he has designed for himself, his bucket is always filled to the brim, leaving no room for improving his physical health, mental health, or for unfortunate occurrences like sickness, an accident, divorce, or job loss. Usually the guy who has a “nervous breakdown” is someone living a life not unlike this. Even on the off-chance that he keeps his shit together, it makes for a pretty miserable, stressful existence.

I used to operate with the bucket at full capacity, not even realizing it. When something out of the ordinary happened, my life was thrown into absolute disarray. 2012 and 2013 are good examples of how the shit hit the fan when things spilled over, but I can think of several other times in my adult life when the exact same thing happened.

But back to how I currently apply this idea. If something comes out, something else goes in. I took out a 40-hour-a-week job, and added an easy part-time gig, working on this blog, working on my side hustle, and spending more time at the gym. I didn’t have to fill the bucket to the brim to do it. It’s filled with other things like spending time with my girlfriend, cooking, cleaning my house, visiting friends and family. Although it approaches full when inevitabilities occur, there’s really nothing in my bucket that I can’t temporarily remove to make some more space. When my Uncle and my Sister got sick, I simply realized that I wouldn’t realistically be able to write or visit the gym as often. Now that I’m using this analogy, it’s MUCH easier to make sure I’m not over-extending myself. It’s honestly a great time-management tool.

I’ve even gone so far as to break it down, day by day. There’s certain things that are at the bottom of the bucket, that absolutely MUST be done, and will demand a lot of time. Then, there are items closer to the top that I have the flexibility to simply skim off if they bring me too close to the brim. It’s really just simple prioritization, but visualizing it this way makes it much easier.

I used to use a detailed Evernote list with exact times for each thing I needed to do throughout the day. Inevitably, I would go way over the allotted time for one thing or another. Everything else would get pushed back. Important items like preparing food, hitting the gym, or working on my business would fall by the wayside, and I’d go to bed that night frustrated that I hadn’t been as productive as I needed to. But looking at it from this perspective means that I’m spending more time on the things I should be, and less on the things that can wait until later.

All credit for introducing me to this useful tool goes to Ed. Check out:

EdLatimore.com

Ed Latimore on Danger and Play

As always, thanks for reading.

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Getting Out Of The Woods

In my last post, The December Equation; I talked about the challenges that the month presented to me. January was intended to be a low-stress ramp up to a great 2016. I am no longer working full time. I am abundant in time, in energy, in resources. All of the ingredients to meet my challenges are in place.

Unfortunately, some events happened (and are continuing to happen) that are beyond my control.

  • I was informed at the beginning of the month that a relatively simple legal matter with my former employer was now being frivolously contested. This means a commitment of significantly more time and energy on my part, which is their goal. They want to make things as difficult for me as they can. To make a long story short, they are fighting to not pay me money that I am legally owed.
  • My Uncle Gene suffered a major stroke, followed by a major heart attack late last week. He sadly passed away on Sunday.
  • My Sister, who is autistic, has been hospitalized for what doctors believe to be a digestion problem. She is non-verbal, so getting to the bottom of the matter is not as simple as asking her what the problem is. She has been in the hospital for nearly a week, and her condition has not improved significantly. Between visits with her, I am giving my parents a much-needed hand at their house, 45 minutes away, as they spend the majority of their time at the hospital.
  • We are scheduled to get slammed with a significant snowfall this weekend, further complicating the large amount of driving that I need to do over the next three days.

None of this is good. In years past, I would have already been dealing with a host of problems on top of these new ones. I was scarce. Text messages and calls come in constantly. I am always inundated with information, requests, and questions from people who depend on me. If I was already embroiled in things like workplace stress, a bad relationship, and late bills, it would add up to an avalanche. I would get buried.

avvy

Artist’s rendering.

Now, things are different. I am in the moment. I don’t lose my composure. I know where I stand, and how to adapt. As I already mentioned, I am abundant. All of the ingredients I need in order to meet my challenges and help my loved ones are already in place.

  • I will weather the storm with my former employer and emerge with every penny that I am owed. The actions they have taken are meant to be a nuisance to me. When they have attacked me, I have counterattacked with everything at my disposal. They will back down first, because I absolutely will not, under any circumstances back down or compromise. They want to wear me down so I will quit. Simply put, this will not happen, and I will not allow this frivolous waste of time to affect me when I am not dealing with it directly. I am typically friendly, but If I am attacked, I do not curl up and cry. I stand my ground and destroy my enemies with no mercy.
  • I will be there in any way I can for my extended family in this time of mourning for my Uncle.
  • I will be there for my parents and my sister, and help them in any manner that they need while she is sick. I will adapt my training schedule and business activities around their needs, because this is a difficult time for them and right now, they need me.*
  • I am prepared for any sort of weather-related complications. I live in an area where this sort of thing happens, so rather than waving my arms around and screaming when the snow starts falling, I made the wise purchase of a legendary all-wheel-drive car and some aggressive, snow-specific tires. It would take a biblical amount of snow to stop me from going out and doing what needs done.
IMG_3269

Child’s play.

* This was something I adapted directly from Gorilla Mindset. I may be misquoting, but I believe Mike said something to the effect of “I will be there for my family, as difficult as it is sometimes, as they are kind-hearted people who have supported and taken care of me”. This holds true. I have not had a great relationship with my family. I have let them down, and we have, at times, been at great odds. This has all changed over the course of the past two years.

I am getting myself out of the woods. I have already avoided the avalanche. I am making sure I don’t let myself get into a situation where I could potentially slip up, backslide, and eventually give up on my fitness goals, my business goals, and my personal goals.

I have done the most intelligent thing I could have done:

I took a step back, took a deep breath, and composed myself. I looked at what needed done, and made a plan. I accepted that it wouldn’t be easy, and adapted.

Before I know it, things will get back to normal. My sister will be healthy. My legal battle will be won. My family will mourn the passing of my Uncle, the snow will melt, and I will be back to rambling about deadlifts and steak.

Thanks for reading,

Brian

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The December Equation

OR: December, Holy Month of Distractions.

What a month it has been. And I can’t say that is a truly positive statement. There have been more distractions than I can remember, more cheat days than I want to remember, and plenty of time wasted sitting in traffic, waiting in line at stores, or going from Point A to Points B,C,D,E,F and G.

I celebrated many landmark events: My 34th Birthday, my first anniversary with my girlfriend, Christmas, the wedding of a friend, the start of 2016, and one year free from alcohol.

I spent several days before Christmas with a short-lived but extremely potent cold virus. For 48 hours, I woke up, took cold medicine and vitamins, then went directly back to sleep, repeating the cycle until I felt better.

Frankly, the past 30+ days have been exhausting. It’s all been very distracting and counterproductive.

  • I wasn’t even close to being as strict as I wanted to be on my nutrition. Too many hectic days ended with the purchase of prepared foods, as adding the grocery store, prep time, and cook time to our schedules would have taken us into the wee hours of the morning. The big problem with this was:
  • I didn’t get ahead of a busy schedule. I played catch-up throughout the entire month. I almost never prepared food in advance, and it was rare that I had my day planned out the night before.
  • I wasn’t strict about my cardio. I didn’t plan for it, and was always attempting to compensate for lost time.
  • Every day was different, and generally packed with things I needed to accomplish. I thrive on a regulated schedule with designated times for each objective. To be completely honest, I was best with nutrition and training while working a conventional 9-5 job.  This month consistently threw a wrench into my gears.

I have all of these negatives, but when I look at the big picture, I start to notice something interesting: I actually took far more positive actions than I had missteps this month. Considering this past month basically a failure means only one thing:

The standards I hold myself to are continually increasing.

And now, seeing the big picture… the progress I made this month is impossible to ignore.

  • I started being far more active on Twitter. I had some great discussions with like-minded men, building my audience, and driving readership. Dare I even say it, I’ve made some friends in the blogosphere.
  • I lifted consistently, with only one actual (and necessary) week off. Even when I couldn’t pull off cardio, I was still there for at least 45 minutes, 4 days a week, firing off squats, deads, pulls and presses.
  • I started taking Osta-Red. I watched my body fat percentage
    continue to decline (despite averaging a maintenance-level caloric intake) and my strength increase. I also saw what appears to be a slight boost in size, although that may just be an illusion caused by the fat loss.

    osta

    The first dose.

  • I deadlifted 405, which was a major goal of mine for 2015. And then I did it again yesterday (without chalk). It was a slippery one, and I almost dropped it. But I did get 405 up to the top. The next step is to get my squats to 315

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    Deadlifting 405 for the first time. Photography is technically forbidden in my gym.

  • I ended up with some excellent gear. The majority of them were presents. I hate spending money one myself, so the fact that my girlfriend picked up these items that I had been eyeing up instead of getting me something dumb like a Playstation… she deserves to be commended for her choices: Adidas Powerlift Shoes, Chalk, a Fitbit Charge HR with a syncing scale, new shorts, new headphones, a new water bottle, a big jug of Xtend, a few cases of Quest Bars, a 22-inch Weber grill, and an amazingly nice coffee maker. I can’t wait to hole myself up in my house and my gym for the remainder of the winter with these items to help me zero in on some ruthless focus.
  • I found a butcher that has increased my steak game exponentially. Thanks to my training partner, I get top-quality steaks at dirt-cheap prices, cut exactly the way I want. Ten minutes from my front door.
    photo posted on post-gazette.com

    I would post the name of the shop, but apparently they barely break even when selling to individuals. They’re typically a wholesaler.

    I have set myself up for massive success in January and beyond. I have one more day with some frivolous distractions, but beyond this, my calendar is fucking empty other than my game plan. It’s all broken down by month, but 2016 will be huge. By this time next year, I’ll have a whole new set of plans, and be in a whole new set of circumstances.

 

 

Bring it on.

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