Hunger and Intensity

It’s been three and a half years since the first time I entered the gym, vowing to once and for all get serious, to change my potato-shaped body into one I would be proud of.

It’s been a rollercoaster. I’ve gotten leaner, then fatter, then leaner again, then fatter. I’m constantly locked in battle with an inconvenient truth:

If I want to get leaner, I’m going to lose muscle mass and strength. If I want to gain muscle and strength, I’m going to put on fat.

This is, of course, an extremely frustrating proposition. When I set a new PR, the last thing I want to do is something that will ensure that I’m not going to hit that number again, for a long time. I take a lot of pride in being able to deadlift 415, bench 265, and… well, my squat is really nothing to get excited about.

Still, I love being strong. I love being “big”. It’s a great feeling. But even as strong as I am, I’m doing it with a gut, with a layer of fat over my entire body which doesn’t allow my chest, my shoulders, and my arms to show the sort of definition that makes guys like Victor Pride appear to be cut from marble.


Late 2012 was a pretty wild time for me. I had just gotten myself into the gym, as I said. I was violently pushed out of a life-defining job. I was also in the process of ending a six-year relationship, which would also cost me my home.

In less than three months, though, I managed to drop 50 pounds of fat, and gain some muscle.

2012transform

I didn’t look great, but had noticeably improved over that three-month period. I was stronger than I was at the start, but very weak compared to right now. I had harnessed the magical power of “NOOB GAINZZZ” to simultaneously burn fat and build muscle at the same time.

But what I really want to focus on is the fat loss during that period of time. It was a DRASTIC loss. What was I doing that made this possible? I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year or so really analyzing that time period, as the fat loss was so dramatic and effective.

  • Lifting “upper body” one day, and “lower body” the next. Then one day off, then back on.
  • Taking BCAA (Scivation Xtend) and Beverly International Lean Out.
  • Lifting with high intensity and relatively short rest periods. I was quite sweaty after a session was over.
  • Eating primarily eggs, pre-packaged chicken portions, cottage cheese and whey.
  • Spending the majority of the day hungry.
  • Having very few cheat days.

I fell off in early 2013, but got my shit together again by the end of the year.

From October 2013 until June of 2014, I got both leaner and stronger, but with slower results. I was lifting at work, during my daily lunch break.

progress2

 

  • Lifting on a four day split (like a bitch, I always skipped leg day).
  • Taking no supplements other than very cheap whey (I was seriously broke at the time).
  • Lifting with moderately high intensity and relatively short rest periods, due to having limited time to complete my training sessions.
  • Eating primarily eggs, cheap steak, cottage cheese, spinach, apples, and chicken breast.
  • Spending the majority of my day hungry, as I was intermittent fasting.
  • Having frequent cheat days, sometimes unscheduled, but almost always during my eating window.

It took longer, but I saw fat drop even further during this period of time.


 

Shifting gears for a moment, I recently visited a friend in Florida. He’s a NSCA-CSCS trainer, and has more knowledge of strength training and fat loss than anyone I know. I did two sessions with him and his partner, and was utterly shocked.

I was fairly convinced that my workouts were relatively “high intensity” but after a morning of supersetting 315lb deadlifts with pull-ups, then collapsing to the ground in a puddle of sweat and drool after six sled pushes with 30 second rests between, I realized that I’m terrible at determining the intensity at which I’m actually working.

Afterwards, I had a few conversations with him about intensity. There’s quite a bit of evidence supporting the fact that the most efficient loss of fat comes not from steady-state cardio (which should be apparent from the body composition of the average cardio-drone), but from very high-intensity resistance training. This is how he trains his fat loss clients, and sees some pretty significant results.


So back to the comparison of those two time periods, late 2012, and late 2013-early 2014. My training intensity level (and volume) was higher than it is now, but the other key component was how hungry I was for the majority of the time.

In 2012, I had a lot on my mind. I simply didn’t have an appetite, sometimes eating under 1000 calories in any given day. When I started seeing fat melting off of me, I kept it up. Four eggs here, some chicken breast there… I would relish the sensation of my stomach growling, delighting in my ability to deny my body the food it wanted so badly. When I did eat, the portions were small, almost insignificant compared to the amount of work I was doing during my grueling, sweat-drenched sessions in the gym. My body had no other option; it had to burn fat for energy.

2013-2014 was different, though. Intermittent fasting was the name of the game. I never ate before 2:00 PM, and in a lot of cases was going until 6:00 PM or so before eating anything, waking up, completing an entire work day and a moderately high-intensity 45 minute workout. I didn’t see as drastic and instantaneous a change during this time, though. This was due to the fact that:

  • I was not eating as clean as I was in 2012. As often as 2-3 times a week, I would stop at Sheetz to order a mountain of food like breakfast burritos and pulled pork nachos (but, as I said earlier, still within my eating window).
  • I regularly had “cheat days” which slipped into “cheat weekends” filled with pizza, burgers, pancakes and sugar-laden Chinese food.

Even though this was the case, I was HUNGRY for the majority of my waking hours. Walking around with nothing in my stomach told my body that it had to burn fat to keep going, unfortunately a decent percentage of the food I was taking in wasn’t very good. This shows that (although not as drastic as eating very clean) as long as I was fasting most of the time and not going completely overboard on junk, I would still end up with a net loss.

Although this is the case, the results would not be anywhere near as significant as they would be if I was extremely disciplined.


It’s not difficult for me to see glaring differences in these two areas (hunger and intensity) between now and then. I’ve tweaked my program a bit, and the changes are aimed squarely at shredding body fat. For now I’m strong enough, I’m “big” enough, but I am unhappy with the amount of body fat that wants to keep sticking around for the long haul.

  • Timing my rest periods. 30 seconds between sets, two minutes between exercises.
  • No more isolation work. nearly everything is a compound movement now.
  • Supersets. My goal is to keep my heart rate up. Supersets (working an agonist muscle group, then it’s antagonist directly after) are a great way to do this.
  • No more one-rep maxes. For now, I’m concentrating on repping out the heaviest “working weight” I can manage.
  • Grading my workouts based on how sweaty and wiped out I am. I haven’t been breaking a sweat in the gym until I started timing rest periods and doing all compound movements. Sweat is good. Feeling “worked” is even better. I want to struggle to even make it to my car after a workout.
  • Monitoring my heart rate. I have a pretty rudimentary device for this (FitBit Charge), but in addition to making sure my heart rate is at least in the right neighborhood, I can also use the stopwatch to time my rest periods.
  • Intermittent Fasting. Staying hungry throughout the majority of the day. I’m watching calories, but as long as I’m just staying hungry, we’re good.
  • Eating the majority of my calories from protein sources. Sticking to less than 30g of carbohydrates per day, as well. Meat, eggs, and vegetables. That’s it.
  • Using Osta-Red to hang onto muscle while shredding fat. This is my favorite supplement of all time, because it actually works as advertised.
  • Being rigid and inflexible when it comes to cheat days. Once a week, no more justification of three-day burrito benders.

I’m headed off to the coast again in eight weeks. I’d like to see some serious progress by that point. Realistically, all of the pieces are in place, I just need to be disciplined enough to follow through.

Thanks for reading,

 

RHLH LOGO1

 

 

Advertisements

Defining Comfort Zones

Over the years, I’ve managed to do a lot of traveling, at least within the United States. Once I turned 18 and bought a car, I would load up my little Mazda and go on adventures with friends, packing up and driving 12+ hours to Florida, visiting faraway cities on a whim, just to see a band play or visit someone at school.

Picture

The day I bought my freedom: my 1993 Mazda MX-6. RIP.

This was taken to the next level from 2003-2005. Some friends were in a touring band with a decent following, and I was able to join them on a few tours as their merch guy. This afforded me the ability to visit parts of the country that I was used to only seeing on TV. These trips would take me across the Mississippi River for the first time, across endless cornfields, mountains and deserts, south to San Diego, North to Seattle, and back across the country again. The only major American cities I haven’t been to are Las Vegas, Boston, and New Orleans, and the states of Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the only four states in the continental 48 where I haven’t set foot.

Touring isn’t an easy life. A lot of bands hate it, and it’s often a catalyst in members leaving. You’re spending weeks, sometimes months at a time with only six or seven other people, and there’s no guarantee that everyone’s going to have compatible personalities. I vividly remember wanting nothing more than to kill one or two of the other guys for weeks at a time. At home, we were good friends, but in a metal tube hurtling down the highway, we couldn’t stand each other. There’s a whole host of other factors at play, as well. Getting lost (we didn’t have a GPS, and simple flip-phones were the norm in 2003-2005), low turnouts, arguments with promoters, questionable hotels, van trouble, and venues in horrific neighborhoods (I’m going to single Detroit out here). The band I was with was a successful headlining act, but opening bands were always struggling with money for hotel rooms, food, and fuel. Often times, they were eating only once a day, and sleeping in their vans at highway rest stops or parking lots.

1236116515063118928

The glamour of touring.

But all of these problems aside, touring was a huge adventure, especially for someone who hadn’t spent much time outside of his home city. The biggest disappointment in this chapter of my life, though… the itinerary was more or less pre-determined. Want to stop and see the Grand Canyon? Tough shit, we have to be in Phoenix in three hours to load equipment. Wake up, drive, load in, soundcheck, sell t-shirts and CDs, pack up, drive, sleep. It’s an endless cycle with barely enough time to sit down for a decent meal.

These tours got me accustomed to massive hauls on the open road. Trips to Florida became a cakewalk, and I laughed when people called eight hours a “long drive”.

I had expanded my comfort zone significantly in those two years. There’s no denying that these trips were a lot of hard work, but once I had “been there and done that”, I didn’t have any reservations about getting in my car and going wherever I wanted in my early twenties.


 

I stopped touring in 2005, the result of my making one too many errors, misplacing our cargo in Lawrence, KS. I was quietly let go by the band, and settled into a comfortable routine in suburban Pennsylvania, although the desire to travel was certainly still present.

Unfortunately, by 2010, my comfortable little bubble of a life had completely destroyed my adventurous outlook. On a vacation to a North Carolina beach with my at-the-time girlfriend and a few others, I spent the week longing for for home. I missed my couch, my bed, my TV, and my routine. Coupled with depression (brought about by low Testosterone, but that’s for another post),  I had an awful, dark, and gloomy trip, and my misery was only alleviated slightly by driving back to PA, to my familiar surroundings.

In early 2011, I had allowed my mental state to slip into absolute disrepair, and my comfort zone shrank to an unmanageable level. I was pathetic. Even driving 4o minutes away to visit my parents became an insurmountable obstacle. Anxiety and Agoraphobia ruled my existence, as I was terrified to even get out from under the blankets on my couch. I would lay there, panicked and anxious, watching episodes of Seinfeld and old movies, suffering slow meltdowns for days at a time.


 

I never saw a psychiatrist or sought treatment for this condition. However, once the acute anxiety dissipated a bit, I knew I had to find a way to fix this problem. I had no idea what I was doing, but settled on the understanding that I was in “a rut” and planned a trip to Colorado in August. I wanted to yank myself out of my comfort zone, to just crack that motherfucker wide open again.

DCIM102GOPRO

The Colorado trip did just that for me. I was surrounded by the incredible scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park, rode my Downhill bike at some amazing spots, and drove home with a different sort of anxiety and sadness:

Why do I live in Pennsylvania? The West is amazing, and I love exploring out here. I have wasted so much time living in a tiny sphere. What have I done with my life?

It was simply the realization of how much damage I had done by staying within my (metaphorical and physical) comfort zones.

With newly-found confidence, and a lack of anxiety, I started taking trips again, at first for the sole purpose of riding my Downhill bike. Loading up my car with bikes and gear and driving for hours upon hours upon hours became my new obsession. Nowhere was “too far” to drive. Northern New Jersey. New Hampshire. Utah. Colorado again. I wanted to build my sense of adventure, anticipation, excitement, and never let go of it like I did from 2006-2010.

IMG_1088

Highland. Still one of my favorite places.

I made all measures of progress in the period of exile from 2012-2014, going far out of my comfort zone in all areas of my life, even starting this blog about it.

After three years, in June of 2015 I decided enough was enough. I was going to leave my job, develop location-dependent income streams, and move to Southern California, the only place in the US where all of the following is possible:

  • Weather stays warm, sunny, and comfortable year-round.
  • There’s a beach. Lots of them, in fact. I want to learn to surf properly.
  • I can ride Downhill. SoCal has Snow Summit and a host of smaller local spots. The DH scene there is absolutely thriving, and is home to many elite-caliber athletes like Aaron Gwin and Kyle Strait (both of whom I want to train).
  • If I want winter, I can have it. Snow Summit (again) and Bear Mountain are legendary spots.
  • It’s within driving distance of some amazing places I’ve never been, like Zion, Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Baja Mexico.
  • My girlfriend will be able to get a job as a nurse.
  • If I need to work a traditional job (worst-case scenario temporary cash-infusion backup plan) there’s many options.

fixedw_large_4x

This is proving to be quite an undertaking. It’s taking a lot of money, hard work, and plenty of time (my girlfriend won’t be done with school until December).

Doing this is, for me, a colossal step out of my comfort zone. No, I’m not exactly moving to Chiang Mai with just a backpack full of clothes and a laptop, but my priorities are different than anyone else’s. Pittsburgh (or within two hours of the city) has always been my home base, my jumping-off point. Moving out West will be unfamiliar, strange, stressful, difficult, and exciting. The plans are in motion, and I’m counting down the days.



 

However, once I started developing a plan for this move, I started to understand that I’d be required to confront a related issue, one that would serve to cause major problems if I couldn’t get it sorted out before I moved: I hadn’t been on a plane since I was nine years old. Part of it was because I hadn’t NEEDED to fly, as I’d always driven. The other part was that I simply felt uneasy and anxious about getting on a plane.

There’s really no way around it. If I want to live 3,000 miles away, the only way I’ll ever be able to get multiple cars across the country or come home to visit family is by getting on an airplane. I had to learn how to do it, so I booked a short trip to Florida to see my friend Dave in late February.

airliner

It truly was a trial by fire. My departing flight happened in terrible weather conditions, from a tiny airport an hour outside the city. I was in the absolute last seat, stuffed between the window and a large, flatulent woman. The engines were pushed to full throttle so quickly on the short runway that I was slammed back in my seat with G-Forces I’d expect while riding in my friend’s Nissan GT-R. Other passengers were gasping and groaning, and we hadn’t even left the ground yet.

In an attempt to clear the fog and snow, the plane pitched (what seemed to be) straight up, plowing through spine-compressing turbulence and undulating up and down, side to side movements which got no better by the time we leveled off. The fasten seatbelt sign was never off for more than 2 minutes before coming back on again. The woman next to me kept farting, crying, and moaning. The engines were powering up and powering down every few minutes. Hydraulics and compressors were whining and whooshing. I tried to drink a diet coke, but my hands were shaking so badly that I spilled it all over my tray table. It was a lot to take in, so I attempted to calm myself, cracked open my tablet and kept my mind busy instead with some music and PD Mangan’s book, Muscle Up (it’s excellent, by the way). By the time we landed, I was exhausted, but I had done it.

The trip itself was excellent. Temperatures hovered around the high sixties. My friend Dave and I lifted weights, visited some awesome beaches, lifted more weights, ate some good food, and recovered in the hot tub and the pool, under the shade of a picturesque canopy of palm trees. We discussed everything from personal training to Milo Yiannopoulos. I met some new people, got some writing done, and saw the contrast of what a warm, temperate climate did for me, opposed to the melancholy, overcast chill of Pittsburgh in late February.

20160227_180459

This was the trade-off. I had to say “fuck my comfort zone”, get on a plane, and deal with a bouncing, shaky ride, fart stink, and general sensory overload for two hours. I was rewarded with a great couple of days. The flight was 1/10 the travel time of driving down and half the cost.

When I was in the terminal, waiting for my flight home, I talked to some other passengers who had been on the same plane as me on the way down. “It was the scariest flight I’ve ever been on” I was told by several people. It was, in fact, unusually bad, but I had no frame of reference at the time. I thought that flight was simply what flying felt like. As it happened, my flight home was buttery smooth, no more disconcerting than riding on a bus. Knowing beforehand where my mind would go, I had already taken measures to mitigate the problem. I queued up a playlist of electronic music, turned the volume up in my noise-canceling headphones, and focused my vision on the book in my lap. It ended up being an utter cakewalk.

The next day, I stayed well out of my comfort zone, attending a fiery discussion hosted by Milo Yiannoupolos. Five years ago, the idea of flying on a plane, then heading to such a controversial event would have been utterly unfathomable to me.

The lesson in all of this is something most people have a grasp on, but don’t really do all that well at putting into practice: getting out of your comfort zone encourages growth. Ask any member of the armed forces, a professional athlete, or anyone who is constantly on the path to self-improvement, and they’ll likely give you far more effective examples than I have. One can’t even begin to analyze the huge differences of scale between flying on a commercial airliner and something truly rigorous and life threatening, such as Basic Training or actual combat.

As for me, I’ve seen what happens to me when I stay in my comfort zone. It’s a miserable, monotonous, complacent existence that only gets worse as time passes me by. On the other hand, I’ve never had any sort of actual negative circumstances arise from breaking out. My shitty flight last Thursday is about as bad as it’s ever been, really. I’ve seen some amazing places, done some exciting things, gotten myself into far better shape and met some new people, but I can honestly say it’s all just been the tip of the iceberg when it comes to breaking out of normalcy. I’d encourage everyone to do it, run with it, and reject the quiet desperation of day-in, day-out sameness. It truly is a path to misery.

 

RHLH LOGO1

 

Arctic Zero “Ice Cream”

I wanted to do a short review on this stuff, as it’s something I’ve been looking for: an alternative to ice cream that’s viable for dieting.

I should elaborate a bit. Like any normal person, I like ice cream. After my flight back to Pittsburgh the other day, I downed a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (it was a cheat day, but goddamn… over 1000 calories in that container alone). Ice cream is delicious, but it’s easily one of the worst foods a human being can put in his or her body.

Like I said, even on cheat days, the caloric impact of this stuff is no joke. There has to be a better way.

Today, on Twitter, I read an article posted by Jason at anymanfitness.com about some ways to keep calories low, and came across Arctic Zero “Ice Cream” which has only 150 calories in an entire pint. After a little back and forth, I decided to head to the store and give it a shot.

First and foremost, it’s not easy to find. Giant Eagle doesn’t carry it, and with no Wal Mart in the area, my only source for the stuff is Whole Foods. I ended up braving the traffic and terrible parking, to grab three pints of it, which are running at $4.99 each.

zero

As of right now I have only tried the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor.

I opened the lid and dug a spoon in. It’s not great. It’s not bad. It’s different. Obviously, it doesn’t taste as rich and creamy as real ice cream. It’s not unbelievably sweet. The consistency is more on par with italian ice than anything else.

I kept eating. I wanted to see how similar this would be to a true ice cream binge.

Despite my gluttonous intentions, I only made it about halfway through the pint. This is a good thing. Normally, with a pint of actual ice cream, I realize 3/4 of the way through that I’m still not satiated. This isn’t the case with Arctic Zero. It tastes good ENOUGH, but at the halfway point, I was satisfied, and didn’t really feel the insatiable urge to plow through the rest of it. I consumed about 75 calories in this sitting.

Here’s how it stacks up against a pint of Ben and Jerry’s:

labels

Shocking.

Based on these figures alone, Arctic Zero would still be my go-to, even if it tasted far worse than it does. But really, it’s not bad at all. Truthfully, I’m really happy that this stuff exists. It satisfies the ice cream craving, and barely puts a dent in my calories consumed during the day.

Well done, Arctic Zero.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to let everyone know that I’m working on two major articles that I haven’t had the time to finish yet. I started them on my trip to Florida, but I’ve been quite busy since I got home. I should have both of them up by this time next week.

Thanks for reading.

RHLH LOGO1

Why Am I Happy?

20150811_161421

Sometimes, I come off as overwhelmingly positive. I tend to let things that tear some people to shreds roll off my back. I don’t get too bent out of shape, and I always manage to plow out of bad situations far better than I was when I got into them. Honestly, there’s no real magical formula to define why this is the case. But today, I was driving around listening to some good music with my windows down and the volume up, and started to think about exactly why I’m so fucking happy all the time. A few things sprung to mind.


 

I don’t get worked up about things outside of my control.

It’s a sick, disgusting, horrifying world. There’s all flavors of conspiracy, cultural manipulation, civil unrest, murder, disease, and death out there. My eyes are open. I acknowledge it, and do my part to stay informed (and active when it’s appropriate). But I absolutely refuse to lay awake at night worrying about the problems of the world. If I find myself straying too deeply into negative territory, or merely even lingering there for too long, I re-focus my efforts towards something positive. It works every time.

I am no longer tied to a career.

The feeling this freedom gives me is indescribable. Right now, as I’m getting my business ventures underway, I’m still working a part-time job to pay the bills, but it’s unbelievable how much of a difference this shift has made. I am no longer worried about workplace politics, projects, deadlines, or offending someone. Never again. There was always a black cloud hanging over my head at every job I’ve ever had. I knew full well that if I didn’t toe the line and made one mis-step, I’d be fired at the drop of a hat. I had to kiss the asses of some of the worst people I’ve ever met. All for the sake of enslaving myself 40-60 hours a week just so I would have enough money to keep the lights on, food on the table, and gas in the tank to get back to my cubicle the next day. When I walked away from my last job, I swore I would never do it again, and I intend on keeping that promise. My part-time gig has almost zero stress, and interestingly enough, although I’m earning less money, I’m spending a lot less, and saving a lot more. I’ve surprised myself on more than one occasion in this department.

I have freedom and independence.

This relates to the ditching of my job, but it also has to deal with the fact that I don’t have any lifestyle servitude. I live well below my means, in a small apartment. My car has been paid off for years, I have no debt, no kids, and truly answer to no one. Tomorrow, I’m jumping on a plane bound for Florida to visit a friend, simply because I feel like doing it. I’m not obligated to do anything I don’t want to do, and that gives me immense freedom.

I’m in a healthy relationship.

I have been in a stale, dead relationship with a girl who was a glorified roommate, and I have been in a tumultuous, dramatic nightmare of a relationship with an angry, parasitic monster. I’ve dated emotionally damaged girls, boring girls, alcoholic girls, and a couple of life-ruiners. After all of this, I had some fun and when I wanted to settle down again, I met my girlfriend with her “type” in mind. She’s shy, polite, feminine and pleasant. Every aspect of the relationship leaves me not wanting anything more. We enhance rather than complicate each other’s lives, but I can honestly say that I’m not dependent upon her for anything.

I am physically healthy and strong.

I have never, at any time in my life, ever been stronger or healthier than I am right now. I lift five days a week, and in warm weather, I’m on my bike six or seven days a week. Most of the time, I’m eating very well, but I don’t mentally beat myself to death over one or two cheat days here and there. Being strong enhances every aspect of life, and I can’t imagine it any other way. I still need to lose body fat, but this is a project (see below). I’m playing the long game with fat loss.

I refuse to rush.

I often drive my girlfriend to work during morning rush hour, and the things I observe are pitiable. There’s people going 55 in a 25 zone, blowing red lights, sliding sideways into telephone poles at intersections, honking their horns and screaming, red-faced with fury that someone else on the road would dare to make them late for work. After all, their asshole boss might decide to write them up for running in the door at 7:03. Because I don’t have to answer to anyone, I’m exempt from the tardiness game and never have to be in a rush to get from point A to point B. If I’m expected to be somewhere, I simply leave eariler than I need to, put on some good music and enjoy the ride. Should I hit traffic and I’m late, so be it.

540_293_resize_20121201_57e38032926480ecdcfdfd51b6749da7_jpg

Sorry I’m late, boss!

 

I have eliminated the clutter from my life.

I like my life to be clean and simple, cut and dry, without needless fluff. I talked about going into self-imposed exile, and cutting all of the extra crap out of my life. Media, activities, and people that were time-wasters and got the axe. I deleted my social media accounts (aside from establishing a Twitter account, and even there, I’m very conscious to not spend too much time on the thing), gave up alcohol, and cut parasitic people from my life with utter ruthlessness. Communications with ex-girlfriends, dumbass friends, and overly dramatic extended family were severed, ultimately strengthening the bonds with the few people I kept close (due in no small part to the fact that I was no longer spreading myself so thin). I extended this mentality soon after to my possessions, as well. When I left my last aparment, I moved mountains of junk to Goodwill and the trash pile, and I haven’t missed any of it. Closets were emptied, I have a grand total of ten shirts right now. The things that remain in my life allow a stripped-down, lean-and-mean existence. Not quite minimalist, but simple and manageable. Even now, I have plans to give about 1/3 of the stuff from my apartment away over the next week or so. I don’t use it, I don’t need it. It’s fluff.

Never being forced to apologize.

I don’t report to anyone, so I have no one to apologize to. If I want to say something, I say it. If I want to do something, I do it. I don’t set out to cause damage, but I tend to offend the thin-skinned in certain circumstances. I realize, however, that their reactions are not my responsibility, my views and opinions do not warrant an apology. The only time I feel the need to apologize to anyone anymore is for being a dick to my girlfriend when I’m awakened after too little sleep. In this case, an apology is appropriate. There really is a fine line between being an asshole and being a dickhead.

I always have a project.

I think big, and I have a lot of works in process. I’m getting businesses rolling and forming new sources of income generation (which is the key to sustaining my lifestyle). I’m dropping body fat, as my body is always a project. I’m moving to the other side of the country, which is a huge undertaking. And then there’s the smaller stuff. Individual blog articles. Ruthless junk elimination in my home. Buying a dirt-cheap truck and turning it into a reliable cargo hauler. Refurbishing the paint and doing maintenance on my existing car. Re-finishing the fork on my Freeride bike. Turning standing deadfall into firewood for my parents. All of it. They’re all projects, and they keep my mind and body busy, productive, and building towards something that will improve my life in some way. The projects I’ve finished have turned into some of my proudest achievements, and the ones I’m working on will leave those accomplishments in the dust. Always be building, always have a project.

*I realized this a long time ago, but it has been best put into words by Victor Pride and Mike Cernovich.

I am active, rather than passive.

Years ago, I would have, and did, spend $800 on a new TV. A device that I could plop down on the couch in front of, to watch other people running around “doing things” on. Now, that money is spent on a trip, or put towards the fund that is moving me across the country. It’s why I don’t have any interest in spectator sports. I want to be the one on the screen, doing exciting things, not perched on a barstool, staring at a screeen, watching other people feel the rush of victory. When I go to mountain bike races, yeah, I watch the Pro guys’ race runs, but it’s either before or after I’ve blasted out of the starting gate to attack the same course they’re also competing on.

me 1

This looks like a rush. Actually doing it is a lot more exciting than looking at a picture of it.

I have an abundance mindset.

Ah, here’s another nugget of wisdom by Mike Cernovich. Abundance. I didn’t know much about it until I became familiar with Mike’s work, but it’s a subject worth learning a great deal about. To summarize, “I have enough, I am enough”. When a person begins building, there’s a sort of weight that can hang over them, a weight I used to have. It’s a feeling that what I’m doing isn’t enough, jealousy that the next guy is doing better, or has a better life, a better car, a hotter girlfriend, or more money. It led, in some cases, to self-sabotage, and a reckless, spastic approach toward life. It’s easier said than done, but be abundant. Let go of the jealousy. “I have enough, I am enough”.  You are focusing on what you HAVE, and not what you are lacking.

I love my life, I love who I am (this sounds like touchy-feely shit, but bear with me). I’ve been through the ringer, and come out of some nasty situations a lot better off than before “disaster” had struck. I’m thankful that I’ve become who I am, and understand that shit happens. Shit has happened, and shit is going to keep happening. Because I’m abundant, I know I can use these messes as opportunities and turn a “woe is me” situation into a positive. I can think of dozends of times over the last year when an abundance mindset has resulted in a measurably positive outcome of a bad situation.

I am always learning new things.

There’s millions of books, blogs, and interesting, applicable information in the world. We have a staggering abundance of knowledge in 2016. I can have any book delivered to my door within 48 hours, or on my ipad instantaneously. What I’ll never understand is why miserable people spend their time hiding from reality, escaping into soul-sucking TV shows, when there’s endless resources available to give them the knowledge they need to reverse everything shitty in their life. I’m incredibly thankful that I started seeking out and utilizing this information before it was simply too late for me. Never stop soaking up knowledge. Life is too short to spend sitting in a cubicle, or laying on a couch, staring at a TV.


I’m not the happiest guy in the world. I’m certainly not the fittest, the richest, or the most well-connected. I fuck up, I get in bad moods, and I piss off people I care about. But when all is said and done, I’m doing things better than I ever have. I’m truly having a blast with life, and I intend on continuing to do so until I’m underground.

 

RHLH LOGO1

Self-Imposed Exile

It’s often said that catastrophe is one of the more powerful forces in reshaping a man. I believe this is true, but the determining factor in this reshaping progress is how the catastrophic situation is faced. The old saying is “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, but in reality, it seems as though modern men will gladly cite this sort of quote after they have “coped” with the event by (in this order):

  • Going on a three-day bender
  • Crying to their friends at the bar
  • Posting emotional and vague status updates to social media (while they’re drunk)
  • Buying a new toy to make themselves feel better
  • Visiting the gym for three consecutive days and bragging about it on social media (before giving up due to crippling DOMS and never mentioning the gym again)
  • Finding a new “hobby” like brewing beer, playing fantasy football, or something else that distracts them and doesn’t require any sort of discomfort.

I won’t delve too deeply into why I believe that this phenomenon is all too common, but chances are, if you’re reading this and you’re younger than 50, you’ve seen a man faced with a breakup or job loss cope in this sort of manner. Maybe you’ve even done it yourself.


A few years ago, I was faced with a serious personal catastrophe. A relationship, a job, and a home had all had come to define who I was. My identity was wrapped up in those three things, and within two months, all three of them were gone.

It all came to fruition so quickly that I didn’t have time to panic. I find it difficult to explain, but there wasn’t even a sense of loss. It was simply a very calm “OK, what’s done is done, those bridges have been burned. But where do I go from here?”

The way I saw it, I had three different options:

  • React as I described earlier, setting myself up for more scenarios like this in the future
  • Take some time to rebuild my life as I saw fit, ensuring that I didn’t make the same mistakes in the future
  • Give up and accept my failure at life

Historically, I had taken the first option so many times, with the same end result that I saw either option two or three as the only possible choices.

Regarding the third option: The fact that “giving up completely” came to be on the table at all was (even at the time) alarming to me, but the idea evolved from a position of logic and not one of emotion. Simply put, I told myself “I am not going to live a miserable, unfullfilling life any longer, for better or for worse”. It was simply one option to break the cycle of failure and disappointment by quietly slipping into the ether. I’ve had relatives and former friends that have done the same, and all it took was a reminder of them to realize “I’m not that guy”.

So it had to be the second option, one of rebuilding. It was terrifying to me. In my adult life, I had not put a single iota of effort into improving my finances, my mindset, my choice in friends, or my lifestyle (other than lifting weights, which I had only started doing two months prior). I had lived my life with my head in the sand. I didn’t enjoy or see the value of hard work or discipline, and would have to erase this mindet immediately.

Right away, after making the choice to rebuild, I understood that this was not going to be an undertaking that was compatible with any part of my lifestyle from the past ten years. I had to drop off the map, isolate myself, and remain cut off from society as a whole until I felt I could re-emerge with a solid understanding of why I had allowed disaster to consume me. I wasn’t familiar with the “bucket analogy” at the time, but the thing had to be completely emptied. I needed no distractions. I had to purge.


The first to go was my social media. I had lived on my facebook feed for the previous five years, and I could scarcely even process the thought of going without my daily highs and lows, without the jealousy, rage, happiness, resentment and fear that my social network brought. When I deleted my account, I was almost choking back tears. I was deleting my only interactions with all of the people I had collected as “friends”.

Within 24 hours, I started to realize that the vast majority of these people simply wouldn’t bother with me any longer. Out of the hundreds of people I called my friends, under a dozen of them made an effort to reach out to me. It reinforced the fact that I truly was on my own, and would have little to no support moving forward. I started to get bitter about it, but before long I felt great. It was as though a dead weight had been lifted off of me.

The truth is, the depression I was expecting never set in. Anger, frustration and disappointment, yes, but never depression. I came to see all of these “disasters” as opportunities. In truth, my relationship with my now-ex had been all but dead and buried for the previous three years. I was passionate about my job, but it was soiled by the presence of my manipulative, alcoholic boss. My house was not in a location I wanted to be tied to. All of these losses had the potential to be chalked up to experience, re-framed and turned into something far better. On top of that, I had made myself too busy to get hung up on the mistakes of the past; I gave myself a mission.

I got a new job that would at least cover my bills, and moved into a small apartment at a friend’s house (the only person, other than my parents, who made it a point to offer a helping hand through this process, I can’t thank him enough) and set to work. I would read day after day, night after night, about psychological disorders and personal finance. I would sit there and think, writing my thoughts down with a pen and paper, looking to decode the reason why I had fallen so hard. Was I nuts? Was I stupid? Was I lazy? I couldn’t figure it out, but I had taken an important step: I started to take an unbiased look at myself and who I had become, just as I had months before in a physical sense, when I entered the gym. It was December of 2012, and I was officially getting started after hitting the reset button on my life.

After only a few weeks, I felt renewed, like I had a “breakthrough”, when in reality, I had barely scratched the surface. Full of bravado, I came out with all guns blazing, good-intentioned, yet still naive and stupid. I had the opportunity to date a new girl who I found attractive, fun, and smart. “Why not?” I thought. “I need to get back on the horse”.

This turned out to be a massive mistake, unsurprisingly. The attractive, fun, smart veneer was almost immediately stripped away to reveal an insecure, angry, miserable person, who was determined to drag me down into the abyss with her. Still being of a scarcity mindset at that point, I ignored the sensible option to sever ties and send her packing, instead seeking to pull her deeper into my life, to try and make her “happy” (and we all know exactly what happens in those scenarios). At best, she was a setback and an annoyance. At worst, she became a huge headache, a waste of time, and a roadblock on the path to rebuilding myself.


The whole idea of really going full-bore with this idea of a “period of exile” didn’t end up happening until about six months later, when I accepted a new job two hours away, in the middle of nowhere. Once I moved into my new apartment and got settled, I was ready to get started. Aside from Miss Waste-Of-Time showing up every Friday night to complain and pick fights with me, there were really no distractions in my new location. I had a good job, a gym on the premises, and lived in a sleepy, boring town where I knew virtually nobody.

I would wake up, go to work, lift weights, go home, eat, write or read, then go to bed. Day after day, week after week. Stress slowly faded away, save for the always-argumentative Friday nights. Saturdays were for laundry and grocery shopping, but little else permeated my sphere, and I wanted to keep it that way. I was pushing through to my goal of betterment, despite the human roadblock I had foolishly allowed into my life.

As another six months passed, it was plain to see I was making measurable progress. I became leaner than I had ever been, as I was intermittent fasting throughout this time period, and lifting five days a week. I was reading and pulling in new, exciting information every day. And I had gotten serious about writing. Not just rambling incoherently, but actually writing thought-provoking insights about my experiences during this process, even if I was the only one reading them. This became an indispensible tool for problem solving and development.

Months later, I came out the other end of the proverbial tunnel. I had long since dropped Miss Waste-Of-Time, and I haven’t spoken to her since. I was in the best physical shape of my adult life, and the best mental shape of my adult life. But I was genuinely shocked at my outlook when my job disappeared to New England, causing me to take the severance package and move back to “civilization” in July of 2014.


I hadn’t “gone into exile” as I had told myself I was doing. Rather, I had completely moved on. I no longer fit in the mold I created for myself from 2000-2012. This became obvious when I tried to re-unite with some old acquaintences. I found that I no longer had anything at all in common with them, as they were still just going out to the bar and getting hammered at 80’s night, gossiping about who was fucking who. It was like being stuck in a time warp. It really could have been any night in 2005, and the only difference would have been the clothes they were wearing (and the amount of body fat they were sporting).

And so it went with most everything else from my old life that, in the back of my head, I thought I’d eventually want to get back to. I had zero desire to create another facebook profile, to go back to the bars, the lazy days spent in front of the TV, my old life of fucking around and killing time, sitting on the sidelines. It was a new world, a new reality. I had momentum, and with nothing standing in my way, I wasn’t about to let it go to waste. So I kept going. I started riding my Downhill bike again, and won a race for the first time in my life. Newly single, I made an OKcupid profile and started playing the field. I found and studied the Red Pill through articles, podcasts, and books, helping me reach the next level, and the next, and the next. All remnants of my old life faded from a recent memory to a distant one.


That period of “exile” has become far more important than even I intended it to be: It was a foundation that has been built upon. Without it, my life would be incredibly different. This website would not exist, I would not be planning to move to the other side of the country, I wouldn’t have stuck with the gym, I wouldn’t have become an entrepreneur, I wouldn’t have met my current girlfriend, and I wouldn’t have discovered all of the resources that have taken me to the next level. Sometimes I think of what my life would look like if I hadn’t built this foundation. It’s actually terrifying yet still strangely entertaining. Where would I be? What would I be doing? Who would I be spending time with? How bad would it have gotten? Would I still even be alive?

Thankfully, I took the steps to make sure I would never have to find out.

 

 

 

RHLH LOGO1

 

 

Pushing Past “Carb Flu”

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. None of the words on this blog post are to be interpreted as medical advice in any way. Consult a physician before considering any sort of changes to your diet. 

Ten years of eating poorly will do some irreversible damage to the human body. I’m living, breathing evidence of this fact, but not in the sense that I’m perpetually destined to stay above 20% body fat.

Rather, it’s that to reach my ideal level of fitness and body fat percentage, I simply have more significant hurdles than a twenty year old who has been eating a healthy diet for his entire life. One of these hurdles rears its ugly head when transitioning into a zero-carb state. The technical terminology for the contition is having an impaired metabolic flexibility, which manifests itself as the more commonly referenced “Carb Flu”.

It feels the way it sounds, but before I get to that, I’ll explain (in the simplest possible terms) the mechanics behind the phenomenon:

When someone is ingesting only proteins and fats, with trace amounts (less than 30g per day) of carbs, their body must “flip a switch” and start burning stored body fat as fuel. There are no carbohydrates present in their diet, so stored body fat becomes the only alternative. When this person has been eating a carb-heavy diet for a long time (even if there’s been occasions when low-carb has been implemented in the past), flipping that switch is not a simple, trouble-free transition. Their body wants carbs. Their body is used to running on carbs, and it will kick their ass all over the room until they give their temper tantruming body what it wants, not willing to “flip the switch” without putting up a hell of a fight. This “fight” happens as the result of an impaired metabolic flexibility mechanism.

The virtual fighting, temper tantrums and ass-kicking going on inside your body manifests itself as “Carb Flu”. And there’s nothing pleasant about it.

There’s lethargy, lack of motivation, and the intense, all-consuming urge to eat a grilled cheese sandwich, a doughnut, a slice of pizza, anything carb-based at any cost. Without a doubt, though, the worst symptom is the crushing, immobilizing, relentless headache. You can’t help but think about the fact that just a handful of crackers would make it all subside. It doesn’t last forever, but it’s torturous while it’s going on, and staying the course in this time period is make-or-break. Give up, and your body never fully enters ketosis (the state where you are burning body fat as fuel) until you start over again from square one.

botoxtotreat

For me, there’s no greater barrier to sticking with a low-carb lifestyle. The symptoms are reminiscent of a severe, all-day hangover, but will last two or three days before “breaking through” to a ketogenic state and a lack of physical suffering. This phenomenon doesn’t happen to everyone who goes low-carb, which for me, is a bitter pill to swallow. The determining factor in whether or not one is affected by these symptoms? Previous diet. So this agony is a direct result of my years spent wreaking absolute havoc on my metabolism via a terrible diet.

book-carbohydrates-header

Conquering Carb Flu can only happen through discipline. 

It’s a concept I’ve become well accustomed to, through the work of Mike Cernovich and Victor Pride (this is the second time in two days I’ve mentioned 30 Days of Discipline). There’s a very relevant purpose in developing discipline through unpleasant tasks like waking up early and taking cold showers. You become conditioned to discomfort. Your body wants nothing more than to crawl back into that warm bed or crank the hot water on. When you deny yourself this and say (to quote Cernovich) “I am done when I say I am done”, you develop the discipline needed for tasks like denying yourself carbohydrates, building a business, really anything that catapults you out of your comfort zone.

The sad reality is that most people, in their adult lives, tend to avoid any sort of self-discipline. I’m making a broad generalization, but the vast majority don’t really have any urge to do something unpleasant simply for the sake of conditioning themselves. There always has to be a tangible payoff like a paycheck, beating an addiction, helping someone out, or simply maintaining their lifestyle. There’s little motivation to increase one’s self-discipline because (and this subject has been covered by others far more knowledgable than I) modern living is comfortable. There’s no “point” in simply developing a characteristic through practices that normal people would consider masochstic when there’s no proverbial trophy waiting at the finish line. What they don’t grasp is that discipline is the reward, in and of itself.

But let’s get back to the issue at hand:

Carb Flu is just a collection of symptoms. It’s never killed anyone (that I know of, at least). There’s no danger in weathering the storm, just a whole lot of discomfort. I tell myself this when I’m suffering the most. “I am done when I say I am done”.

Like anyone, I fail sometimes. On Tuesday night, my Zero-Carb headache had me lying in complete silence and complete blackness, as any stimuli would send waves of searing pain through my head. I simply couldn’t function or get anything done, so I caved in and made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was at 100% within fifteen minutes, but disappointed in myself. “I couldn’t stay the course. I was not strong enough” I thought, and vowed to crash through the barrier the next go-around.

The truth of the matter is that I haven’t mastered the art of self-discipline. But every day is a new opportunity to apply the knowledge and experience I have gained so far, to grow stronger, and continue sharpening this vital tool that most will never even take off of the shelf.

45 Days of Osta-Red

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to preface this article with a bit of transparency: Aside from exchanging Tweets here and there, I don’t personally know Chris at GLL or Victor Pride. I think they both put out EXCELLENT content, and I was very happy with a purchase I made about a year ago from Vic: 30 Days of Discipline. That being said, I paid for my bottle of Osta-Red, just like everyone else has to, and am not in any way associated with Red Supplements.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get to it.


 

20151217_124409.jpg

Osta-Red at Red Supplements

Before Osta-Red, I weighed in at roughly 216 pounds. The scale I’ve been using consistently has only been in use since the second week of Osta-Red, so I don’t have an accurate “day one” number. However, at day seven, I was at 216, with 27.8% body fat.

I started taking Osta-Red on December 17, and took my last dose yesterday, February 3. Throughout this time period, I would take 12.5mg (one pill) at 11:00 AM, and another 12.5mg pill at 11:00 PM, giving me the medium dose of 25mg per day.

Starting off at 27.8% body fat, my fairly obvious goal with this product was to drop that number while not losing any lean mass or strength. It’s a difficult thing to achieve. Normally, while calories are being cut, one will lose muscle mass and strength as well. I was also supplementing with Scivation Xtend, a BCAA powder intended to work in a similar manner. Other than that, I supplement daily with Zinc, and occasionally a melatonin/5HTP blend. That’s it. No bullshit protein powders, pre-workouts, creatine, or fat burners (aside from coffee).

My eating protocol was SUPPOSED to be fairly simple: Intermittent fasting until 2 PM, less than 30g of carbs per day. All whole foods like Steak, Chicken Breast, Asparagus, Spinach, and Eggs. Unfortunately, I’ll get to why this didn’t happen as planned.

Workouts were done on a four-day split of Shoulders and Traps (focusing on the standing overhead press), Legs (focusing on squats), Chest and Triceps (focusing on bench press), and Back (focusing on Deadlifts and Lat Pulldowns). Cardio was ideally to happen 3-4 times per week for 30-60 minutes per session.


I picked the absolute dumbest possible time of year to use Osta-Red, and this is fully on me for not having the foresight to plan this more accordingly. Christmas shopping, social functions, driving, late nights and giant tupperware containers filled with leftovers from my girlfriend’s parents. As it turned out, as December turned to January, I was met with even more situations which needed my attention. A legal battle, two close relatives in neighboring hospitals, a broken rib and a massive snowstorm all threw various wrenches into what was supposed to be a controlled environment.

I have discussed those scenarios on here already, so let me get down to the most important takeaway from this article:

OSTA-RED WORKS.

  • Throughout the 45 days I was taking Osta-Red, I lost ten pounds and 4% body fat, despite eating like a jackass over 50% of the time. Visually, I can see that I’ve lost a bit of fat, and my clothes fit differently.
  • My strength increased:
    • Bench press went from 230 to 250.
    • Squats went from 205 to 230 paused.
    • Deadlift went from 405 to 415.
  • I had boundless energy in the gym, and could do set after set at or near my maximum weight.
  • Pumps were rock solid and lasted longer. I mentioned on Twitter that my muscles felt like they were “made of steel”.
  • Sense of calm and well-being is present, but not overly pronounced. 

osta

In terms of side effects, I had none. My libido stayed at exactly the same level, I experienced no testicular shrinkage, and the compound didn’t even make me nauseous on an empty stomach (like Zinc does).

Aside from the obvious BENEFITS of the compound, I did not feel ANY different.

And as we know, a picture is worth 1000 words…

b4a

 

b4a side

The differences are pretty apparent.


So where do I go from here? I think it’s fair to say that Osta-Red works pretty damn well, and that I’ll be using the supplement again. I know what to expect from the stuff, so I can go into the next round prepared.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • I’m upping the dosage to 37.5 mg (three capsules) per day, taking one every eight hours for 30 days.
  • I’m sticking to 6 days a week of Ketogenic dieting (-30g of carbohydrates) with one cheat day per week. I will not be counting calories.
  • I’m going to continue lifting on my standard split.
  • I’ll be re-introducing outdoor cardio as the weather breaks (and definitely during my trip to Florida later this month) via my mountain bikes, my road bike (which rarely gets mentioned on here), and walking/running in my neighborhood.
  • I tend to go overboard on cardio for a few days at a time and then crash. I’m limiting my cardio time so it’s more sustainable.

All in all, I have to say that Osta-Red is the most effective supplement I’ve ever used. Nothing else comes close.

The last point worth mentioning is the fucking STELLAR customer service from the OWNERS of the company. Any time I have had questions about the product or my protocol, those guys were quick to answer questions and clarify anything I was confused about.

Great product, great company. 100% worth the money spent.

Until next time,

RHLH LOGO1

 

398 Days

So as some readers may know, and others probably don’t, I’m 34 years old. I’m no spring chicken, but I look better, feel better, have more energy, and think with more clarity than I ever have.

I feel better than I did when I was eighteen, largely because of a massive shift in mindset. One result of this shift has been an absolute removal of sheer recklessness and self-sabotaging behavior from my life. This is, of course, subjective, as I do many things that could not, by anyone’s standards be called “safe”.

mbp

My favorite things in life have a statistically high element of danger. Boosting off of the lip of a 30-foot step-down on my Downhill bike. Squatting and Deadlifting heavy weight on a weekly basis. Watching the speedometer surge into triple digits with 300 angry horsepower under my right foot. Cooking with fire. These activities have risks, yes. I’ve been in many hospital beds as a result of my Downhill bike, paid thousands in speeding tickets over the years, and given myself injuries in the gym. But lately, the risks have been far more calculated and thought out.

But the most notable behavior that I’ve changed is one I haven’t simply altered. I’ve removed it altogether.

The consumption of alcohol.

I labeled myself as “straightedge” during my high school years. I didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, and didn’t do drugs. When things really started to go downhill in my life during my sophomore year of college, I started to reconsider, as all of my straightedge friends had “broken edge” and started drinking. I had my first mixed drink a short time later, and by the time I turned 21, I was fully immersed in drinking culture.

clown

My social life revolved around the chemical, meeting friends and dates at bars, drinking beer and talking about nothing until past last call at least a few nights a week. I started driving after I had a few drinks, then a few more, then a few more. “I know my limits” I thought. One night, I drove after six beers and a date gone wrong. I got a flat tire and drove the rest of the way home on the rim, sparks shooting from the bare metal contacting the road, a prime example of “drunk logic” in action. When I was inevitably noticed by the police and pulled over, the officer simply laughed at me and let me continue on my way, thinking I wasn’t drunk, I was just stupid. In reality, I was lucky.

The years rolled by, and it only got worse. I was using alcohol to fall asleep every night, drinking at work meetings in the afternoon, having a beer with dinner, and partying hard several nights a week. I had a large group of friends that all engaged in the same debauchery, making my actions all the more easy to justify.

drnk

When I moved to a rural ski area in 2009, the problems compounded and intensified. I made some new friends in the area. They knew all of the local bar’s staff, and would be allowed to stay and drink until dawn. There was no law enforcement presence. It was a routine occurrance to drink WHILE driving, wreck cars while drunk, laugh about it, and be right back at the bar the next night.

And I was front and center. Drinking was just “what I did” to celebrate, comiserate, or simply because it was a Wednesday.

One night in late 2012, two friends and I were bar-hopping. I was trying to impress a waste-of-time skank I had just met by proving that I was the most party-hard motherfucker in town. Before I knew it, the next morning had come. I was passed out on my porch, covered in vomit and piss. My car was stuffed into a ditch at the end of the driveway, the front bumper ripped half off. I didn’t know how I had gotten there, and after sobering up, decided that maybe I should slow down on the drinking a bit.

IMG_0431.JPG

I tapered off of alcohol, drinking rarely over the next year and a half. I had started pointing myself in the right direction, getting into the gym, getting away from my poisonous friends who’s actions I used to justify my own. My ex girlfriend got a DUI. Once the fog started lifting, I saw who I actually was when I drank, and I fucking hated him. He was irrational, impulsive, stupid, weak and overly-emotional.

By April of 2014, I almost never drank. If I did, it was one or two, and then I was done. It was what most people would consider a “safe” level. But old habits die hard. I found myself at a friend’s house one night. I had just made the decision to break up with my girlfriend at the time, and was discussing my reasons for doing so. One vodka mixer turned into four or five, and by the end of the night, I was more or less screaming and blubbering to him about my problems. Out of habit, I figured “I’ll be fine”, got in my car, closed my left eye, and drove home through one of the most police-patrolled neighborhoods I’ve ever seen. He didn’t try to stop me.

I actually got home safe and without incident, but again, this was yet another wake up call. I didn’t get a DUI or kill someone for any other reason besides luck. My behavior was disgusting, horribly dangerous, and stupid. That’s the last time I’ve been drunk. The rest of 2014 was peppered by the occasional beer or bottle of wine in the comfort of my own living room. When the year drew to the close, though, I had a fresh perspective.

“I don’t need this. I want to do so many things in my life that are incompatible with alcohol. I hate who I am when I drink, and don’t want this person to be a part of my personality any longer”

I decided to stop drinking for 30 days. This was an absolute breeze, so I upped it to a year.

I went to the beach in May. I couldn’t remember what I did on vacations before alcohol. They always started the same way, by ceremoniously stopping at the distributor for three or four cases of Corona, which would usually last a few days. Driving past this traditional “first stop” felt bizzarre. On these trips, I was always photographed with a beer in my hand. I would wake up hung over, drink on the beach, drink at dinner, and party all night.

This year was the first time that I was able to simply enjoy the company of my girlfriend (on our first trip together), read some excellent books, and spend the vacation as it was intended, as a relaxing getaway.

The summer turned into fall, and I had grown accustommed to simply ordering lemon water anytime I went out. My girlfriend jumped on board and more or less stopped drinking as well (since I’ve known her, she hasn’t been much of a drinker anyway). Having avoided the culture for so long, I went out to some bars with a friend of mine, and was surprised at what I witnessed in that environment while sober.

Loud, dumb guys stumbling around and falling into other loud, dumb guys, then starting fights with them. People passed out in corners. A guy who had visibly pissed his pants. A girl standing on the sidewalk with no shoes, covered in some unidentifable liquid, screaming at the top of her lungs at a person who was not there. Obese women being talked out of jumping into a patch of bushes from a 20+ foot balcony. And vomit. Lots and lots of vomit.

I didn’t feel pity or sadness. It was more of a sense of relief. I never had to be one of those people again, or interact with them in any way unless I deliberately entered that environment for some (admittedly pretty dark) entertainment.

It’s been 398 days since I’ve had any alcohol. I don’t foresee the need to ever re-visit the substance in any way. Sure, I can’t deny how delicious and flavorful a good wine is. Sipping a crisp, cold IPA is great way to relax on a hot afternoon. But none of this really does much to offset the ugly, dark side of things that everyone has horror stories about.

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

RHLH LOGO1

 

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.

RHLH LOGO1