Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day 40, No More Dumbells

This week I'm going to show you how to use a simple resistance band to do any "gym" type exercise. They sometimes sell just the rubbery bands, but you need to get one that has handles that clip on both ends for the best effect.

So, today, we'll see how the band can work for any type of freeweight movement that you might usually use a dumbell for.

Let's start with the curl. First, step on the band with both feet.

and, keeping your elbows steady, "curl" the band.

It's as easy as that. But you'll get a very different effect from the resistance band, because, unlike a dumbell, which becomes easier at the top of the movement because gravity isn't pushing so hard on the fulcrum of your arm, the resistance band gets more difficult at the end. The result is small, highly toned, Bruce Lee muscles.

The same idea goes for something like a triceps extension.

Stand on the band, making sure both sides are equal.

And do your reps just like you would with a freeweight.

These exercises are harder than they look!

If you really want a lot of resistance, you can always put both ends of the band on one handle like this.

Step on the band and do your exercise one arm at a time. Grrr... Mighty Soy!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 39, Too Much Work

Today I had nothing but work from morning till night. I didn't have time for anything but a few situps. It really pissed me off. I kept on looking for windows where I could get some exercises in, but they kept getting filled all the way until 10 pm.

I think if you don't have enough time in a day to spend an hour on your heath, something is seriously wrong. Today was a good example of how I don't want to spend my life. Today I made choices based on "how much per hour." The PCP makes me "0 dollars per hour" so it kept getting pushed back in favor of other things. But this project is much more valuable to me than the few bucks I disregarded it for.

It won't happen again.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 38, This may surprise you but...

Every ounce of muscle I've put on has been the result of...
  1. Exercises involving my own body weight, or
  2. Exercises using this 1 meter piece of rubber.

Part of my goal with this project is to make getting in shape as straightforward as possible. I don't like numbers much, which is why I've tried to avoid some of the woolly details regarding Body Mass Index, the different GI numbers of foods, and, of course, how many kilos of whatever I'm lifting.

The resistance band is great for that. It doesn't look like much, and I have no idea how much I'm lifting or pulling at any given time. That keeps me from competing with myself too much, and allows me to just enjoy the workout without worrying about increasing the load more and more. It's really good for tone. If I used regular, heavy ass weights I would become too muscular bulky to realize my goal of a Bruce Lee build.

So, over the course of this week I'll be showing how the resistance band works, and how it can be used to duplicate any of the actions that an expensive gym or dumbbell set brings. Plus, it's portable!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 37, A Chocolate Chip Cookie

On Day 22 I blogged about my experience having a beer after three weeks on a strict diet. Today I thought I'd see how eating something sugary would go over.

I was meeting someone at Starbucks, and decided to have a chocolate chunk cookie along with my coffee. The cookie was 175 calories, which isn't enough to break the bank, but enough to be an indulgence. I was mainly interested in how my body would react to that much sugar at one time. For the past 37 days I haven't had any refined sugar, just whatever comes from fruit and vegetables. And I've had absolutely no chocolate during that time period.

So, here's how it went.

Delicious! I thought that maybe after my sugar sabbatical the cookie would seem abnormally sweet, perhaps too sweet to be enjoyable. Wrong-O. That sucker was tasty. I savored every bite. I've always liked Starbucks cookies because they aren't sugary sweet (maybe because they use brown sugar?) and the chocolate is pretty dark. Yummy. I loved it.

I immediately felt a sugar rush, and became more chipper. Ideas started flowing freely. This must have been how the Europeans felt when they first encountered chocolate. Some people even sought to ban it because it was considered a drug along the lines of hashish. There's a book I enjoyed about this period called The Coffee Trader, by David Liss.

In addition, in just a few minutes I could feel my sex drive gearing up, and for lack of a better word, felt more "manly." Perhaps from the chocolate?

Within two hours I could literally feel the fat from the cookie, especially along my love handles. You might not believe me but I'm just telling it like it is. I can feel a layer of something there that wasn't there before, and it ain't muscle. This doesn't bother me, it'll come off with tomorrow's workout. But it's an interesting and somewhat gross feeling.

So, all in all, another very informative eating experience. Especially considering just a month and half ago I ate one of those cookies about once a week without a second thought.

The glass of beer was 15 days ago, so I'm thinking, why not make this a routine? Every 15 days I will eat something definitely not part of the PCP diet, and report on the effects. So, the next "out of bounds food" experiment will be day 52. And suggestions readers? What should I eat that day?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Day 36, Diet Plan 2.1

So, if you read day 34 you know my stomach was having trouble with the "large" dinners of phase 2 of this project. Some stomach cramps and bad gas were with me for about a day. So Chen and I worked out this new transition diet that will get me back on regular food a little more gently. It's complicated, but the idea is that at no one time does a lot hit my stomach at once. The amounts are the same as Diet Plan 2 but just spaced out throughout the day.

This is pretty close to what bodybuilders do, more like 5 or 6 small meals over the course of the day.

50 grams carbs
150 ml milk
1 banana
1 whole egg (yolk included)

Morning Tea
50 grams vegetable or fruit
1 egg white
(This is in the middle of the morning and can be vegetable or fruit juice)

100 grams carbs
100 grams protein
150 grams vegetable
fruit if still hungry

Afternoon Tea
1 Serving of fruit and 1 egg white

no carbs
70 grams protein
150 grams vegetable

1 hour before sleep
100 grams fruit
1 egg white

This plan is tough for me because I don't often get that morning break and it's just more to keep track of, but it's only for a week until my stomach gets back on track.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Day 35, Waistline

As I've stated all along, this project isn't about taking an overweight, out-of-shape chump and making him into a superman. Before the PCP I was in pretty good shape, strong, supple, and slim. I was healthier than most people I knew. But even I'm surprised by this phenomenon.

Yep, that's my waistline and a pair of my old (2 months ago) trousers. And lest you think I just grabbed a pair of my biggest pants to make a point, here's a montage from my bottom drawer...

And I wasn't even "fat" before! It just goes to show how much fat we carry internally, either in rarely used muscle fiber or in thick sheets around the torso. We also tend to think of fat as something in the belly, but when you lose fat it comes off everywhere, from the back, the butt, under the arms, etc... When you're losing fat in 360 degrees the pants get loose pretty quickly.

My belts are also out of notches. I'm just glad it's warming up so I can wear elastic banded shorts, because I don't have enough money to replace all these clothes.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Day 34, Stomach Pain

Tonight I ate my first solid dinner in 34 days. Vegetables wrapped in seaweed with a little soy sauce, and two egg whites. It was pretty good.

But after about 10 minutes, my stomach started cramping. And then came the gas. Horrible, wretched, "have to leave the room" gas. Hoowee it was bad. Just be glad your computer doesn't have a smell option. (Maybe on the next MacBook "Air"?)

I never thought I'd say this, but I miss my apple protein smoothie. I called Chen and we're meeting soon to figure out how to get back to a normal diet without these side effects. Meanwhile, I feel totally stuffed, on what a month ago would have been an appetizer for me. I'm continually amazed by how quickly and completely the body's chemistry can change.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Day 33, Diet Plan 2

Alright! Today I met with my trainer and dietician Chen. Here he is arm-barring me into submission.He had told me a few days ago that he had the next phase in my diet plan ready. I had been mentally preparing myself for even more strict guidelines, but to my surprise he said I have lost enough weight and it's time to get stronger, not leaner. That means more food, especially protein. The carbs are still low as hell, the equivalent of three slices of bread a day, but that doesn't bother me anymore.

So, here's the diet, phase two, for getting more muscle and continuing to cut the fat percentage.

50 grams carbs
2 whole eggs (not just egg whites!)
200 grams of fruit

100 grams carbs
100 grams protein
200 grams vegetables

2 egg whites
100 grams protein
200 grams vegetables

Dinner is the big change. Tonight I drank my 33rd and last egg white smoothie. From now on it's some actual solid food for dinner! I feel like part of the human race again.

I'm also totally over my cold so starting tomorrow I'll be back on my full training schedule. Look for big changes in the right hand picture over the next two weeks!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Day 32, Vitality

The outside of the building where my yoga studio is located has been under renovation for the past 6 weeks. This means that 6 weeks ago I had to totally deconstruct our extensive veranda garden so that the workers could get to the underlying concrete. It took about 5 hours to pack everything up. I remember that I was exhausted after moving all the plant, rocks and tiles, and just came home and zoned out with a DVD.

Well, they finally finished the repainting and everything, and today was the day I had to move everything back out there, this time, cleaning each tile as I went in warm soapy water. If anything the work was more strenuous, as I had not only to move all the tiles and rocks, but, scrub each of them pretty hard to get them looking as good as new.

I spent 8 hours out there today, and it felt great to do some hard physical work, despite being in the last stages of a cold. I've always liked work like that, in university I had a part time carpentry job that I also loved, and the sun was out most of the day.

I got everything set up except for a few details which I'll do tomorrow, and decided to go back home for the night. Today I didn't have my bicycle, so I was walking the 1.5 miles home. I was also carrying a big bag filled with stuff I didn't need at the studio anymore.

After a few hundred paces, for no apparent reason, I felt like running the rest of the way home. And I did. With that big bag tucked under my arm. It wasn't hard, I didn't have to force myself to do it, in fact, it was a lot of fun.

And all of this after the day of heavy manual labor, a cold, and on top of that my tight PCP diet rules.

It really amazed me, that there was this deep well of vitality inside me. 6 weeks ago, before the Project, 5 hours of garden work with a full diet totally killed me. Today, harder work for a longer period, on only 1200 daily calories, left me with enough energy to run home, and write this blog about it. Only one thing has changed between those two events. And that is starting the Peak Condition Project.

Which is all to say, this bad boy is working. And it's working in the best possible way. Not just looking good, but actually having more energy for the stuff I want to do.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Day 31, Layin Low

Today I didn't do much of anything physically, (unless Guitar Hero counts). But the cold is just about finished. Tomorrow I'll start with some light training and hope to be up to full speed by the weekend.

I was working around the apartment all day, and kept wanting to snack on stuff. I can't indulge in potato chips or anything like that, so I usually just drink tea to keep my mouth busy. But if I really want something to chew on, I've been eating a package of these dried fruit snacks.They are fat free with no additives. Just dried fruit. They have 3 flavors here in Japan but more in the States. If you want to learn more, here's the Sensible Foods website. PCP recommended!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Day 30, A Day Off

Well, damn, I have a cold now. Nothing major, but I was feeling really weak and tired today.

I called Chen and asked what I should do. He said, "don't do anything, just rest."
I protested. "Not even jumprope? Nothing?"
He said "The inside of your body is very weak now, just rest."
I finally got him to allow me to at least do some ab work and some pushups.

This was when it hit me. I was actually fighting my trainer so that I could do more exercise. I just don't feel the same now if I don't get out the jumprope during my lunch hour. I guess I might be a little hooked on the endorphins?

So, anyway, I tried to do some abs, and fell out about halfway through my routine. So I moved to pushups, but couldn't get more than ten out before my arms failed me. I didn't jumprope at all. Chen is right, what I need is rest, so that I can get healthy faster and back on track sooner.

So today for the first time in 30 days I didn't train. But I realized that knowing when to take it easy is also part of being in Peak Condition. When I got home I looked around the web for what bodybuilders do when they get colds, and I found that they all take it easy too. A few mentioned that the real pros take such set-backs with ease, and know that they can't be at 100% all the time. And in fact small breaks can be helpful to overall muscle growth.

The good news is I could concentrate on my stretches today, and have attained a nice front split in the past 4 weeks!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Day 29, The PCP Tries To Fight Colds

I usually get one of those 3 day colds when the seasons change from warm to cool or cool to warm. They're very mild, usually just a runny nose and sneezing. A few days ago I felt the familiar tickling in the back of my throat, and had kind of resigned myself to the annual head-cold ritual. But this time, after a few hours, the throat feeling went away.

Today I started getting a runny nose, but it too seems to be subsiding. I might be just making stuff up but I feel like the PCP is beating back the cold, and the cold is trying different routes but getting stopped at every turn.

How much of this is my imagination? Certainly, with all the healthy food and exercise I've been getting my white blood cell count must be up. Plus, have you ever had the experience of being under stress, and not getting sick at all, but once the stressor is gone, (the report completed or whatever) you suddenly get a serious cold? I've read that the body, under stress, perceives that getting sick would hamper its survival chances, so it kicks into overdrive and doesn't allow illness to invade. But once the stressful period is over, the immune system is so exhausted it kind of shuts down and you get really sick.

The PCP keeps me under light but consistent physical stress. I wonder if that helps keep the cold at bay or makes it worse.

It would be great not to get that season-change cold for once though.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Day 28, 28 Days Later

Today marks 4 weeks of the Peak Condition Project. The daily photo that goes up in the right column is head on and usually in softening sunlight, which is fine, because it gives a very balanced picture of my progress. But I thought I'd show how things look from a 3/4 view. (in a classic Bruce Lee pose)

At the beginning of the project I weighed 65 kilos (143 pounds) and as of this morning I weigh 60 kilos (132 pounds). Considering that muscle is heavier than fat, that's pretty startling progress. I hope to get down to 57 kilos (125 pounds) but that it's going to be tough to lose those last 3.

Thanks everyone for your continued support.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Day 27, Back, Satan!

Thursdays are the busiest day of the week for me, and now, instead of a lunch hour, I have a workout hour, which only piles on strain. It's Thursday night that makes me really want to come home, have a beer, eat something heavy and cheesy (pasta, pizza, veggie burgers) and watch a movie.

I won't do that tonight, but it sounded pretty good as I typed that. Doing something like this, you will find that the little tempter in the back of your head is strongest in times of stress and strain. What's messed up is that it is those times you need exercise and a healthy diet more than any others. I know that if I ate some gross stuff and drank a beer, I'd feel pretty good tonight, but doubly as bad tomorrow.

So it's an egg-white smoothie for me, and a cup of tea.

All human suffering is caused not by what is, but what we would like it to be. Finding that space where you're not projecting your own desires onto every situation is hard to do, but it's also where happiness lies. Hopefully, repeating the craving/attachment, cutting craving/attachment exercise every Thursday night will be good training for the rest of my life. It better be good for something!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Day 26, The PCP Makes Zazen Better

I've been noticing that recently that I am experiencing less fidgitiness in my meditation sessions. I think mostly I've just gotten stronger, that the extra muscle is better able to support my spine, allowing me to keep my seat for longer periods of time without discomfort.

I've also been doing these insane leg stretches every morning which is definitely helping my legs. I haven't talked about them yet but I'll get around to it soon.

And with all the exercise healthy food my mind is certainly clearer.

I thought my zazen was pretty "good" before but now it's coming easier than it has for a long time, since I was in the Peace Corps (another time I was on a low calorie diet (not by choice) and pretty fit (also not by choice!).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Day 25, Awesome Hat Dude

I don't buy a lot of clothes, but when I do I hit up UniQlo, a Japanese store that sells basics, t-shirts, pants, just solid colors mostly. I've lost almost two inches from my waist this month so I was in there the other day looking for some new jeans or something along those lines.

There's something you should know about UniQlo. 95% of the stuff in there is crap. Terrible design, ill-fitting, tacky graphics. But just once in a while, you can find treasure. While I didn't find any trousers yesterday, I did stumble on this hat.

Mighty Soy, with a soybean growing out of a pod, flexing it's biceps. I love it! Not only because it's funky and just short of ugly, but because it kind of sums up one thing I'm trying to do with this project, which is proving that sensitive vegetarian yogis can be ripped.

So many people express surprise, if not shock, when I tell them I'm a vegetarian. What do they expect, a skinny, pale, ghost of a man? Building muscle has nothing to do with eating meat.

And to prove it, here's a link to two guys who've taken it to the limit.

Steve Holt, who has some good information on Vegetarian Bodybuilding.

and, most impressive of all, former Mr. Olympia Bill Pearl, pictured here, who did it all without eating meat. Awesome! That's some Mighty Soy!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Day 24, I Can't Believe I Ate That Once!

As I've lost fat and gained muscle, I've found myself wondering why so many people, especially in my home country, the US, are out of shape and overweight. I mean, this project I'm doing is a little on the hardcore side but it's not that hard. Even just incorporating a few of the things I've been doing would get results.

I stumbled upon this article, called "The 20 Worst Foods in America." Very enlightening reading and a little gross too.

On last weeks Zen is Stupid Gwen talked about Jamba Juice, well, their Chocolate Moo'd Power Smoothie "contains more sugar than two pints of Ben and Jerry's Butter Pecan ice cream." It ranks as the country's worst drink.

Check out #14, the Quizno's Sandwhich that packs 1510 calories. That's more than I eat in an entire day now!

And I've mentioned my love of nachos, well, #3, Worst Nachos, is something I actually used to order, On the Border Stacked Border Nachos (I held the ground beef). Those bad boys pack 2740 calories, and 5280 mg of sodium. The recommended daily allowance of sodium is
2,400 mg.

How could anyone not gain weight with these kind of choices lurking on every menu on every corner, at cheaper prices and faster preparation time than anything you could make at home?

So, any Americans reading this, you should think of yourself not as lucky to have so many delicious choices, but "behind enemy lines" in terms of having a healthy diet. You have to work harder than anyone on earth to resist the constant pull (helped with sniper-accurate targeted advertising) to eat this delicious, fatal food. Good luck.

The French eat bread and drink wine like crazy, the Germans drink beer by the stein, the Italians wolf down pasta at 10 pm at night, the Indians put oil in and on everything, and Asians eat rice like there's no tomorrow, and yet obesity isn't a problem in those countries. I'm convinced the difference is the lack of walking anywhere and chain restaurants.

It makes me sad for my country, we try to be the best at everything, and we're so good at making cheap, tasty food that we're slowly killing ourselves.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Day 23, Broken Workout

There's one thing you need to know if you're thinking about doing something like this. It's going to require at least an unbroken hour or two a day, everyday

That doesn't seem like so much, and some days it's totally manageable, but there's that one day a week when there just isn't any time for this kind of stuff.

That's when you have to dig deep and create the time that is necessary. Today I had to do a third of my workout from 7:00 to 7:30am, another third from 1:00 to 1:30, and the last part from 7:00 to 7:30pm. It's a terrible way to exercise, because you have to get everything warmed up again each time, but I made it through my checklist, and I feel good about finding the discipline within myself to get it done.

In general I'm a very dissolute, lazy and undisciplined person so I'm happy that this other side of my character is getting some time in the sun.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Day 22, A Half Glass of Beer

Tonight I was out in Tokyo for a bit, and on the way back my friend wanted to get something quick to eat. I had already "eaten" my egg-white smoothie, but I went along. So we went to an Udon canteen. I was planning on just having water, but I saw that they had small size draft beers. So I ordered a beer, because there's not much lamer than just sitting and watching someone eat. Beer is empty calories that don't help me towards my goal at all, and it was my first alchoholic drink in 3 weeks.

I got the beer for a number of reasons.

1. The first and most important in my mind was the story of Suzuki-roshi going stopping at a diner on a road trip with one of his students, a strict vegetarian. At the table, Suzuki ordered a hamburger, much to his student's shock. The student ordered carrot sticks or something like that. When the food came, Suzuki simply said, "Let's switch" and turned the plates around.

The idea is that the vegetarian was so involved in his vegetarianism that it was turning into an attachment, in this case, an attachment to not doing something. I was finding myself in the same situation. I've put so much energy into this project that I could feel a part of myself saying, "No, even if you want that beer, you can't have it, that's not the kind of thing you do anymore. It's the same part of me that can obsess about getting my calories or repetitions right, and it's the part of me that could make this project no fun.

I said in a ZIS podcast that the PCP is not about privation. It's about gaining something, a high level of fitness and a bunch of healthy habits. Always saying "no" to yourself and feeling guilty when you ultimately say "yes" (and you always will eventually) is not my idea of healthy. More like neurotic.

2. The second reason is that I was curious how my body would react to alcohol, even just a small half glass. It made my stomach feel a little strange and made me sleepy as hell in the train on the way back, and as I type this I feel a headache coming on!

3. Reality Check 1. The beer tasted great, but it also just tasted like beer. We all know that the second you say "You can't have something" that thing becomes infinitely more appealing. It was good to ground myself and remember that beer (or wine, or nachos, or second helpings, etc...) are nice but not all that, and certainly not as valuable as Peak Condition. I don't think I'll be tempted for a long while.

4. Reality Check 2. When you're weighing your food out, you can get into a mindset that every single unnecessary calorie is somehow doing harm to you. It's not. A glass of beer is not going to make any difference to the outcome of this project, and it would have made me kind of a jerk to just sit there drinking water while my friend had noodles. What's the point of being fit if you're constantly worried about losing your fitness if you eat this or drink that?

But, the most interesting thing about tonight is, as you can see above, how much thought and mindfulness went into ordering the beer. Before, I would have gotten a large without a second thought, except for the price maybe. So I think that's the best sign of all, much better than a shrinking waistline or growing muscles.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Day 21, Cooking Food You Can't Eat

The biggest lifestyle change that this project has brought is the lack of a dinner meal. Like most people, dinner was the most important meal of the day for me, both in terms of caloric intake and social interaction. But now my dinner consists of two egg whites and an apple, which would be bad enough, but the fact that they are blended means I am drinking a yellow-white concoction while everyone else is eating.

But I still love to cook for people, and I've found that cooking without any intent on eating the final product is just as rewarding as cooking and then eating your creation. When I know that I'm not going to partake of the meal I'm preparing, it somehow sharpens the palate, and makes the process more mindful, because it's no longer just something to do to get food on the table, but a kind of gift for those who will be eating it. It must be the same kind of feeling that a chef has.

I hope I can keep this mindful attitude towards cooking even when the project is over.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Day 20, Jumprope

This week I met with Chen to recalibrate some exercises and diet stuff. Here he is demonstrating chest flys with the resistance band.

I've been doing about 1300 jumpropes a day and I'm not feeling the cardio like I did when I started, because I've gotten used to it and can pull it off with a lot more efficiency. So I told Chen, and he says, "Ok, from now you do 1000 regular, and 500 double jumps." Say what? I can't double jump for crap. So I googled "How to double jump a jumprope" and I got these girls.

Sometimes I'm just amazed at the sheer number of things there are to be good at in the world. If anyone has any double jump tips for me send them on!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Day 19, The PCP makes everyone healthier

Since I've started this project, I've noticed the people around me are starting to change in small ways as well. Some are starting to eat more healthily, some are taking up new exercise plans, and others have embarked on mini health projects of their own.

It makes me realize that before I was kind of an enabler for some bad stuff. For instance, I am, for all intents and purposes, a glutton. I love to eat, and when my mind gets set on something to eat, I will make it happen. And when I get that desired food I overeat. I eat enough for 3 people. And I'm usually so intent on getting the food (the usual culprits are pizza, nachos, ramen, lasagna, okonomiyaki, onion rings, and sushi) that I drag whomever is around into the whole thing. And when I eat enough for 3, they, by comparison, eat enough for 2.

The same goes for drinking. I love dark beer, I love hot sake, and I really love red wine. And I like to drink with friends. So I'll coerce the people around me to have a tipple, not that it's major arm twisting. But the truth of the matter is that if I didn't suggest it, it probably wouldn't happen.

And the same is true for sizes. When I go with someone to a cafe, and I order a medium and they order a small, I usually say, "Aw, c'mon, have a medium, I'll buy!"

I also make people eat desserts with me, because I am a cheesecake fanatic and feel lousy if I'm the only one eating the sweet stuff.

And that's the crappy thing, that all of this pushiness isn't about my friend or loved one having some good food and a good time, it's all about me. It's about making me feel better about overindulging. It's about avoiding guilt.

Well, I haven't been to a restaurant, had a drop of alcohol, or eaten anything sweet besides fruit for 19 days now, and I've noticed that because I've stopped enabling so many people that some of my close friends are actually losing weight. I'm the one making them feel guilty now, because I'm sticking to the PCP so closely. And that kind of sucks, I don't want anyone to feel guilty around me, but, at the same time, it's good not to eat that second serving, to avoid liquor, and to watch the sweets. So I guess it's better to be a health enabler than a glutton enabler.

But more valuable is the self knowledge this project has given me. When it's over, and July 23rd it will be over (as hard as that is to believe sometimes) I will definitely be more aware of how my choices affect those around me, and how, in turn, their choices affect mine.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day 18, Play Time is Over

I met with Chen tonight, and he gave me a bunch of new exercises, and, my new diet plan. Things are getting serious now, and we're cutting the calories deep. I've been steadily reducing my calories to get ready for this. So, here it is.


100 grams of carbs

200 grams of vegetables

100 grams of fruit

1 egg white


100 grams of carbs

200 grams of vegetables

100 grams fish or shrimp

a little fruit if hungry


2 egg whites, 1 apple, and 100 grams of milk, blended.

That is not much food. But it's what I need to do to lose these last few kilos. Wish me luck!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Day 17, We're all Hunter-Gatherers

Sometimes I think that any question about health and diet can be answered by in turn asking another question.

Did people do it 11,000 years ago?

Why 11,000? Because it was 10,000 years ago that humans got the idea to stop roaming around so much and to plant crops and raise animals as their primary food-sources. (I'm simplifying here)

From an evolutionary standpoint, 10,000 years is nothing of course, and so we are genetically a world of hunters and gatherers living in a strange and foreign land of pre-packaged food and moving vehicles. This situation is messing with our bodies of course.

So, my theory is that if we stay as close as reasonably possible to the kind of life choices a hunter gatherer would have made 11,000 years ago, our bodies will be happier, they will be in their environment, so to speak. This means walking a lot. Going to sleep early, rising with the sun, and changing our patterns with the seasons. This means eating small meals and eating them often. It means that for any given food a certain amount of energy should have gone into eating it. When we stray away from these basics we get fat, we get heart disease, we get constipation, and we feel lousy.

Now I'm not saying we should live like cavemen or not have a deep appreciation for the ease and safety of modern life. I for one am quite happy to not have to worry about being attacked by lions and having access to doctors even if I was. I'm saying we need to be a little more hunter-gatherer because it's in our own best interest.

We're stuck with millions of years of genetic baggage that does stuff like store fat just in case the next meal doesn't come, that sends stress related chemicals rushing through our body even in non-dangerous situations like having a report due. It would be nice if it were different, and perhaps in a few millennia we will evolve to run efficiently on no exercise and fatty foods, but for now, we're stuck with what we've got. And the choice is to either get with it or get sick.

So I look at the stuff I'm doing in this project. Eating a lot of fruit and lightly cooked vegetables, a good amount of protein, very few refined starches, and exercising a lot. And I'm feeling and looking much better by leaps and bounds.

I like to imagine a stone age hunter-gatherer cocking his eyebrow and saying...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Day 16, Audio

With this project I am having to spend more time than I like jumping rope, pumping muscles, and holding deep, almost painful stretches. A lot of people listen to workout music along the lines of the fine album pictured here.

But I just can't get into the thumping upbeat music. It just reminds me more that I'm exercising.

Enter the podcasts and audiobooks. They stimulate my mind and get me off the pain of that 6th rep of some lame ass resistance band training.

I've always listened to a lot of podcasts but my cream of the crop, the ones I look forward to, that make my workout fly by, are as follows. These are all great because they last long enough to get me through most or all of a workout.

  • This Week with George Stephanopolous

  • The History Network (military)

  • 1up Yours from (this video game podcast is over an hour and a half long!)

  • The Slate Political Gabfest

  • The Slate Cultural Gabfest (this one just started a few weeks ago)

  • Washington Week with Gwen Ifill

  • The History of Rome

(oddly enough, since I started making a Buddhist podcast I can't stand to listen to Buddhist podcasts)

I listen to a lot more than those but they're the ones I'm excited to see in my podcast inbox.

In addition, I've gotten into audio books, and have listened to the entirety of the following.

  • Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy

  • Malcom Gladwell's Blink

  • God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

  • David Allen's Getting Things Done

  • and a bunch of Robert Kiyosaki books, they're all kind of the same, I don't remember the names.

If I have time I'll link all these up if people are interested.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Day 15, Where are the Beans?

It might surprise you but the thing I miss most in my diet is beans. Because of their high protein content I thought I'd be eating a lot of them, but my trainer Chen says that the protein from beans is hard to turn into muscle, and wears out the body in the processing phase. He said I had to stick to fish or egg whites to get the protein I need.

I was really skeptical and thought it might just be a non-vegetarian's view of how a vegetarian should eat, but after doing some research I haven't found a single vegetarian bodybuilder who includes beans in his or her training diet.

None of them say why and I'm still confused about what the difference is between protein from a shrimp and protein from a black bean is. If anyone has any more information about this I'd love to hear it.

Before the PCP I was eating beans about 3 times a week. I really miss them, especially hummus.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Day 14, Flexibility

What I most admire about this project's guardian angel, Bruce Lee, is that he was incredibly strong (he could curl his body weight) and at the same time, capable of this:

Strength alone is not all that interesting for me. Peak Condition, in my mind, is not having big muscles, but having high levels of strength and flexibility. Not just very strong and pretty flexible, or very flexible and pretty strong, but very strong and very flexible. So, with two weeks of heavy focus on strength building and diet, getting those things part of my daily routine, I'm turning now to flexibility.

I'm a yoga teacher but I'm not satisfied with my levels of flexibility. I'm at a good level, but not a peak level. The kind of flexibility I have is good for someone just looking to feel good and move well in their daily life, but I'm going to go deeper than ever in this project.

The stuff I'm going to attempt is only possible from a good base of general flexibility I've built up with yoga. By the end of this project I hope to have a deep front split on the floor... a good side split, and the beginnings of the true side split (with toes pointing up)

If you don't know what any of that is, I'll be writing more about it of course!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Day 13, An Ab Routine I Actually Like

I really don't enjoy abdominal exercises, I just hate that burning feeling in my gut that comes from repetitive action like that. It's weird because I really like using the core isometrically in yoga.

Anyway, I found this video that does 8 minutes of ab work, but it's cool because every 45 seconds they change it up. I can do anything for 45 seconds!

It's also really cheesy which I like.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Day 12, Buying a scale.

Well, it's been almost two weeks and I can see a big difference in my belly. I'm not saying I was fat before, but there were the beginnings of love handles and a little doughiness in the navel and chest areas. So I thought it would be a good time to check my weight, because the dietary guidelines change depending on how much you weigh, so if I dropped weight I might cut some grams from the daily routine.

I happened to know my weight when I started this project, because I was in an inn in Kyoto that had a scale in the hot-spring room. It was 65 kilos, or 143 pounds.

But I don't have a scale in my apartment and indeed have never owned or used a scale since I was a wrestler in high school (my freshman year I wrestled in the 103 pound division! By my senior year I was up to 119. Tiny, huh!) So I wanted to buy a scale.

I went to the local Don Quixote (a weird ass store which I describe in more detail here) to get a simple scale that would, uh, tell me how much I weigh. Little did I know, that kind of scale went out years ago. Now they're all Star Trek electronic gizmos with these sensor pad things and digital read-outs that tell you your body mass index, with all these buttons and stuff, ranging from 30 to 200 dollars. I couldn't find any that just told you how much you weigh. My budget was 10 dollars. I was about to give up, but I managed to find one of Don Quixote's fine young employees.

(translated from Japanese)
"Do you have any scales that, uh, tell you how much you weigh?"
He starts to gesture to the rack of electronic scales, but I interrupt.
"I saw those, but, I just want to know my weight."
"Just your weight?" he asks, as if this was a request he had never considered.
"Yeah, you know, like, uh, how much I weigh, like 60 kilos, 50 kilos..."
"Oh, I see. Just one like that." He takes me around a corner near the hair irons.

And so, here it is, the only scale in this megastore that I could find that tells you, uh, how much you weigh.Price, $9.97. Hell, it works. And my weight, 63 kilos (138 pounds). Plus, now I will often be reminded that Daytime means Playtime.

The Pooh thing is just a sticker that I could peel off if I wanted, but, I dunno, I kind of like it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Day 11, Flexible Vegetables

I'll share with you a Peak Condition Project tip today. I don't feel like whipping up a whole batch of vegetables twice a day for breakfast and lunch. Getting out the cutting board, chopping, cooking, it's just not feasible in the middle of a busy day. But I'm also not quite organized or anal enough to plan my whole menu days ahead of time, so I've found this compromise.

I wake up early (that's hint too, if you want to do something like this, you have to wake up early. Staying on diet means a lot of preparation time, you can't just put a Pop Tart in the toaster anymore, son)
and make a whole mess of vegetables and fruit. It might look something like this picture I took this morning.
Clockwise from the top left, we got a dish of eggplant, carrot, and brocolli, a bowl of chopped strawberries and pineapple, a dish of chopped apple and bananas, and finally a small container of red onions and mushrooms.

Now, the veggies have been steamed, and the mushrooms and onions sauteed in a quarter teaspoon of olive oil, but the key is to use no seasoning during any of the cooking process. Why not? Because, with these fresh unseasoned vegetables, I can take any culinary route I like in that days choices.

For example, throw some chilis in the veggies on top of noodles with peanut sauce, and you got Pud Thai. Or put some Paprika and chili powder in the mix, roll it up in tortilla with fresh salsa and you got veggie tacos. Or add some soy sauce, ginger, and a dash of sesame oil on rice for an asian treat. Garlic, fresh pesto and cottage cheese on a little spaghetti and suddenly it's Italian. Put 'em all in a pita with tofu mayonnaise and a little tahini, and it's Greek! All from the same dish. So I really like the flexibility of the nonseasoned early morning vegetables.

You can do the same thing with the fruit too of course. Make a granola cereal mix, add them to yogurt, blend for a smoothie, it's all variable, depending on how you feel when you're ready to eat lunch.

If you cook your vegetables beforehand it's a lot more likely you'll actually eat some when the next meal rolls around, rather than considering all the chopping, peeling, and preparing, and ultimately calling for a pizza. (The veggies make excellent pizza toppings too!)