Monday, June 30, 2008

Day 102, The Video is Here!

Alright everyone, I sat down with the editing software and made this little video to share my experience with the PCP. Watch it in high-res if you can! Send it to others and get people excited about the PCP!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Day 101, The Secret to Beating Temptation

Phew, long weekend, I was totally beat tonight.

And tonight in the store I was sorely tempted to buy a bottle of wine, come home, drink that bottle and watch a movie while eating something not particularly helpful.

I've learned over the course of this project that the times when I am most drawn to unhealthy stuff is when I am physically and or mentally exhausted. It's interesting that we use that word, "exhausted." Literally we're saying we are out of resources, the tank is empty and we can do no more. But in these out of gas times we don't reach for the foods and drinks that would actually replenish us. Instead we go for the alcohol, the TV dinner, the mindless movie. And feel even worse the next morning, starting the cycle over again.

Tonight I didn't get the bottle of wine, and the second I resisted the temptation I felt better. There's something very valuable in not giving yourself the easy recourse of a drug (and what is wine and a movie if not two differently ingested drugs?) and just relying on your own body to find it's way, with the help of a healthy dinner, back to center.

So, the secret to beating temptation is to not be tired. Get plenty of rest and the siren's call from the beverage and snack aisle will be reduced to a mere hum. It's always there though, just waiting for your defenses to drop and exploit your weakness.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day 100, My New T-shirt

Damn, day 100. People are pretty silly. After all, there's a difference of exactly "1" between 99 and 100, the same exact difference between, say, "72" and "73". But when we see that extra digit pop on there we get a little excited don't we?

100 days. I can hardly remember starting this crazy project now. People ask me how I got the idea and I can't clearly remember anymore, I've been doing it so long that it's just something I do, like those soldiers who don't even know why they fight anymore, except not so grim and with eggs.

Anyway, day 100 is just an arbitrary number, but I'll take any excuse I can to celebrate. So this time we're marking the milestone with a new T-shirt. Check this out!

Cool huh? The front is just white. Anybody have any ideas for what could go on the front of it?

Here's a detail of it. Clicky the piccy to make it get biggy.

And a big thank you to everyone who reads and comments. You support me more than you could ever know. If I was just alone trying to do this I wouldn't have made it to day 10 much less day 100.

Ah, hell, one more!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day 99, No, Sucka!

Today I woke up at 4 am, edited video until 8, then did carpentry work for a friend until 11. Following that was side split training. After lunch was voice-over work and then housecleaning. Followed that up with my workout. Went out to meet someone, drank a smoothie, went to the supermarket, and then jogged home for no particular reason other than I had extra energy and my legs felt a little wonky from sitting too much. And now I type this!

It's not that I'm not tired, I am. But I don't have any inkling to complain about it, because it's not a dull heavy, "I can't believe I have to get up and do it all over again" tired. It's a kind of empowered tired, if that makes any sense. The boost in energy levels I've gotten from doing The Peak Condition Project would have made the whole thing worth it even if I didn't lose a single inch or gain a single gram of muscle. Looking as good as I feel is just icing on the cake. I guess I should say it's just honey in the smoothie.

There is a downside though. You would think that with a clear mind, early rising hours, and a lot of energy, I would have all my work done before noon and spend the rest of the day in a hammock. But as my energy levels have busted through the roof, I've taken on more and more projects, because I feel like with my new powers I can handle all of them. This is something to be careful of. Because there's not much point in getting super-charged energy if you only run yourself into the ground harder and faster than you were before, right?

So, I have a new exercise I'm going to start. Not with resistance bands, not using any muscle except my tongue. (Whoa, don't even go there people!)

It's the training of saying the word "No." It's a tough one for me. I want to help everyone I can and with all this energy part of me feels like it's possible, but of course that's not right. Sooner or later, if I take too much on, I'm going to let someone down, and that is far worse than the short and shallow pain of simply saying, "I'd like to take this on, but I'm afraid at the moment I've got a little too much on my plate. But here's the number of someone who......"

Usually we associate "No" with negativity and ineffectiveness. In fact, in my 5 years in Japan I've maybe only heard the actual word "No" (いいえ) maybe 3 or 4 times. But, when used to give yourself a break, clear your schedule, and make time for what is important but not practical, (picnics, ukulele playing, surfing, and otherwise smelling the roses) it's a great word that I'd like to see more of in my life.

So, let's practice now. Ask me to help you out with a project. Go ahead.

Hmm... sounds interesting. But I've got a lot going on now, so there's NO WAY IN HELL AM I GOING TO DO THAT!

That wasn't so hard. But actually it was, I felt weird even typing it out. I'm going to need more practice.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 98, More With Less

My favorite thing about the PCP is that it's a big thumb in the eye to the commodification of health. With an investment of just under 4000 yen (40 dollars) I was able to obtain every piece of equipment I needed to get in the shape I'm in.

If you want to know, that 4000 yen included:

  • A jumprope

  • Resistance band set

  • Push-up bars
And that's it. And I only use this equipment for 10% of my exercises. The other 90 is my own bodyweight and some chairs.

You don't need a gym membership, you don't need any contraptions, you don't need specialized supplements, you don't need special workout clothes, you don't need anything that costs money. All of these companies are feeding off people's desire to be better by furnishing useless junk and not actually educating anyone about the real truths behind getting fit.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, if there is cash to be made someone will be there to take advantage of it. I just want you to remember, reader, that none of that stuff will ever help you get in good shape. The only thing that will do that is when you truly have had enough and decide to get fit. Then nothing will be able to stop you.

I leave you with some people who really inspire me with their creativity and ingenuity and get awesome results with even less money than I expended on the PCP.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day 97, Pizza Time

Today I took my first daily photo in a week. (and what a relief it's been to not have to always remember my camera) In my "week off" I put on some weight around my middle and lost some definition, but everything has stayed pretty much in place. It's not the kind of change you could notice with clothes on, except that my face has filled out a bit which people tell me is a good thing.

And, in other news, tonight was an indulgence night, and I finally got around to eating pizza. I considered going to a local pizza place but I know it would be too much for me, so we decided to make pizza at home, at least that way I could control what was going on the pizza and try to cram some vegetables on there to make it more PCPy.

Pizza number one, Margherita with three cheeses. The basil is from my own garden on my apartment veranda.

Classic taste, very cheesy, yummy!

Pizza two, Japanese style, potatoes and brocolli with mayonaise. Western readers may gasp at this combination but it's actually pretty good, and the Nihonjin love it.

Great taste and with the brocolli it has the merest wisp of being healthy. The mayonnaise was low fat.

Pizza three, pesto base with onion, zucchini and eggplant slices.

Overcooked this one a bit and the pesto didn't really come through. Plus the pesto separated from the oil and it was a little greasy. Not bad though.

Pizza four, fresh Mozzerella and eggplant.

Too much cheese on this one, oops! The eggplant was good.

After a while the cheese kind of shorted out my palate and it was just a dull cheesy sharpness to everything. Couldn't pick out many individual flavors although this may speak more to my pizza cooking that anything else.

A strange giddiness at first. And I was able to eat 8 small slices and not feel stuffed beyond the point of reason. I guess thin crust helped. For some reason I wanted to eat this standing up, so I did.

Severe stomach pain, a heavy dopey sleepy feeling, and several trips to the bathroom. That old nasty itchy feeling in my love handles and man-breasts as layers of oily fat get laid down. Not pleasant in the least bit.

I'm happy to announce this will be the last time I suffer through an indulgence. I'm going to stay super clean and lean in my last month on the PCP. I might even switch back to apple and egg smoothies, which I really miss believe it or not.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 96, Gearing Up Again

Well, I took a few days off from the strictest parts of the PCP and I feel well rested and ready to pick up where I left off at day 90.

In my rest time I gained about 1 kilo but it's no big deal. It seems to have all gone to my love handles so I know it'll come off easy. The biggest difference has been in my energy levels.

As always, this kind of stuff is totally counterintuitive. In the last few days I've eaten more, exercised a little less, and taken it easy with long naps in the park and on the sofa.

And my energy has been way down.

The weird and inconvenient truth is that you have to move it and shake it in order to get the most out your body's natural energy levels. There's no way around this, it's often a pain, but if you want to feel good about yourself you've got to get those cells, bones, and muscles in motion!

So I'm back, look for a new photo tomorrow.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day 95, Stretching Technique Revealed!

I've been talking about it for weeks. Here it is, the method I've found that gets me the results I'm looking for as I move towards side splits.

It works and it gets results fast. With my own power alone it would probably take another year.

***Well, that didn't go over well. I had to take this video down due to negative reaction and fears that people were going to hurt themselves trying it. There was a lot of misunderstanding about the pain involved in this stretch and I didn't want people to get the wrong idea that I'm actually damaging myself. It's a safe and effective method but that wasn't communicated in the video enough I guess***

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Day 94, Yucky

Today it rained heavily all day, it was hard to have much gusto for anything. But strangely, I kept seeing fire trucks racing around everywhere.

For a few weird reasons (getting too deep into a 4 a.m. project and 7 a.m. yoga in the park) I didn't get to eat any breakfast this morning, the first time that's happened in over three months. So it was getting to be 9 a.m. and I knew if I didn't eat something I wouldn't make it through the day.

So, for the first time since the PCP began, I bought something at a convenience store. (I might have bought a bottle of water on my way to the print shop two months ago, I can't remember too well). I chose an egg and potato sandwich...

...and a tuna onigiri.

They were really gross. I've been eating so much Food that I forgot how nasty pre-packaged stuff tastes. I used to eat one of those sandwiches a few times a week, with a "nutrition" bar for desert. Today I could barely get through it. It wasn't that it tasted bad, it just tasted of nothing. Filler. Preservatives. Salt. Designed to be kind of halfway tasty to anyone.

It reminds me of that online experiment a few years ago, where a researcher put thousands of jokes online and asked people to rate the funniest. After months of rating, he supposedly had "The World's Funniest Joke." Here it is in its entirety:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?". The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"

Yep, that's it. The World's Funniest Joke. If you're saying to yourself, that wasn't funny at all, you're right. Because it's not the world's funniest joke. It's just the one joke that everyone in the world could agree that they didn't hate. Its utter mediocrity is what made it the winner.

Well, pre-packaged food is the same thing. People spend months testing these things, trying to find a flavor that nobody really loves but isn't so bad people will spit it out. After you've been cooking all your food yourself, it surprises you that anyone buys the stuff at all. But of course, they do, just like I used to, simply because it's cheap and right there in front of us.

I'll never go back to eating convenience store lunches.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 93, Giving the Eggs a Rest

I've had just about enough hard-boiled eggs, man. They're a pain to prepare, a pain to peel, and they taste like nothing, but like a bad, eggy nothing.

Plus, the worst part is that they make you gassy. I hate that feeling, especially as I usually find myself in teaching situations where I have to hold the gas in. (which leads me to a question. If you have to fart but you don't, and then a few minutes later you don't have to fart anymore, where did that gas go? Did it go back into your stomach? If anyone has the answer I'd be grateful to hear it)

Still it was important to me to do the entire PCP with nothing that you couldn't find in a regular grocery store. I was so sick of seeing sports clubs and gadget manufacturers taking advantage of people's desire to improve their health, filling their pockets, and offering no real help in return. So I stuck with the eggs, and they worked.

But now that I have reached Peak Condition, I don't need to gain any more muscle and I'm happy to say goodbye to 5 egg whites a day. But I need to keep my protein levels high in order to maintain and refine the muscle that's here now.

So, with Chen's blessing, yesterday I bought my first protein powder. I didn't know what to get so I just picked the mid-price one that said it would maintain muscle. I chose cocoa flavor.

It's pretty nasty and chalky. I'm drinking it mixed in with decaf coffee tonight which helps. But let me tell you, it beats 5 egg whites. I have two scoops after my workout and two before bed.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 92, Nacho Disaster

Tonight as part of my 5 day relaxed diet plan I ate some nachos. The idea behind this week is to get away from using the scale and try to eyeball the correct amounts of carbs, protein, and fiber to get me close to what my training meals called for.

Tonight I totally failed! It was almost funny. If I was to eat only 50 grams of carbs it would have been like 10 chips for two bowls of homemade salsa. I also made the error of eating them while watching Shrek 3, so I wasn't keeping very good track of how much went in my mouth.

So, I totally blew my daily salt and carbs figures, and didn't get near enough protein. But I learned a lot about what not to do, and tomorrow's another day. The cool thing is that now that I'm down to minimum body fat I can burn off mishaps like this within 12-15 hours.

Plus, the whole incident reminded me of this commercial!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day 91. Satisfaction

For the next few days I'm dialing back training and the strict diet. As I've mentioned here a few times there are points when you can feel your body is getting strained, and if you don't take it easy in those periods you end up sick or injured, which sets you back more than easing off for a few days ever would.

I seem to hit these patches about every 3 - 4 weeks. This one comes at a good time as I am finished with the heavy training and have a lot of other stuff on my plate.

So, tonight I didn't worry about my diet and ate a normal sized, healthy dinner or Korean barbeque (with vegetables and tofu of course) in Pita pockets.

I'm not going to lie to you, I sit here a very satisfied kid. I haven't had a truly full stomach past 9 o clock in months. It feels warm and comfortable, and I feel happily drowsy.

It's a wonderful thing to have a good dinner. But we have to realize that it is seeking this feeling night after night that leads to vast overconsumption of carbs and fats right at the time our bodies do the least amount of physical activity, meaning all that food mass goes directly into fat storage. (In fact as I type this I can feel that weird prickly feeling in my love handles that means a new layer of fat is getting laid down right now)

One of the biggest gifts of the PCP is learning that this feeling is nice but absolutely non-essential for wellness. There is more to life than being fat and happy at 10 pm. The other 16 hours of your awake life improve dramatically as a result of tamping down the night eating. Unfortunately the evening is when our fatigue is highest and our willpower is weakest, so no one ever gets to feel the effects of not eating so much after sunset.

Well, you can take it from me, Corry, David, and Sean, it's worth the trade off to wake up bursting with enough energy, motivation and ideas to get you through the whole day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day 90, Finished! Kind of...

Well, I never thought I'd see day 90. But here it is. And I can honestly say that I've reached Peak Condition.

Cardio is awesome. I can run as much as I want without getting winded, take the stairs three at a time at the station, and do multiple sets of pretty much any exercise you put in front of me, and double jump the rope until the cows come home.

Physique is right there for you to see. If you haven't looked at Day one or two for a while check out what a difference 90 days can make.

Coordination is fantastic. I can do all kinds of jumprope tricks, block punches and kicks more quickly, execute asana better than ever, and spin the 'chuks with precision.

Balance is great. My center of gravity changed a little bit when I lost all that weight, which threw off my balance for a few weeks, but I've got it recalibrated now. With my body in this condition I can keep my skeletal structure in any position I choose, including this one.

Flexibility is superior, my back and hamstrings are open like never before. My tendons are also working more independently from their attaching muscles (don't worry if that didn't make sense to you, it's only stretch otaku like me who care about that kind of stuff) I'm still spending a lot of time on the groin but I should be at that hanging side split before the PCP ends July 23. More info on my secret technique coming later this week) I achieved front splits only a month into the project but am not totally satisfied with them.

I talked to Chen a lot this week, and we've both decided that this is kind of a stopping point. It's almost sad to say it, but I'm pretty much finished with the training aspect of the PCP. By the way, here's what a usual meeting of the minds looks like:

Of course I'll maintain this condition until the full term of the project, but I don't want to get any stronger and I can't lose any more fat safely.

So, this is pretty much it. Not much next to Bruce Lee but pretty good for Patrick Reynolds!

And it was all done without a single dumbell, gym machine, protein powder, or any other gimmick people try so hard to sell us. Just a jumprope, a resistance band, two chairs, my own bodyweight, and a bunch of eggs.

So, where do we go from here? I'm going to spend the last month of my Project learning and teaching everyone how to make the principles of the PCP work in a regular life, without measuring your grams or keeping a rigid workout routine. In short, I'm going to figure out how to make The Peak Condition Project sustainable.

I'll still do the daily blog until July 23, but I think I'll switch to weekly pictures, since not much will be changing on me from here on out.

Thanks to everyone for your love and support. If this project has taught me anything it's that we are not stuck in our ruts, routines, and roles. I can only hope that one day I will be able to help you change your own life for the better.

So, see you in tomorrow's blog! Phase 3 begins!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day 89, More Shorts

Yesterday I wanted to buy some new shorts, because I was tired of my old ones falling off me. But I was having a lot of trouble. Somewhere along the way we've lost the "short" in shorts. Everything I was finding looked like this:

I think these baggy shorts styles look pretty stupid, especially if like me you don't have long legs. You can end up looking like Frodo Baggins in his hobbity half-pants:

But finally I found some pairs that actually fit me, didn't flare out like parachutes, and left enough room for high kicks. It was a relief to feel them sit snugly on my hips without a hint of sliding down. Here they are!

And where did I find these great shorts? Well, I happen to have the tag here in my pocket...

Here's my secret...

Ha ha, the kids section strikes again. What can I say? They're the only ones that fit. Plus kids stuff is cheap, and they actually have a straight cut for kids' little stick legs. If you're thinking I'm barely squeezing into these or that I too have become a stick figure, here's a look at the waistband.

The Peak Condition Project works.

Tomorrow big news coming! Thanks to everyone for reading and sorry for posting so many pictures of myself lately. I'm really not a narcissist, I just can't believe how much my body could change and I just want to show everyone that it actually happened!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Day 88, Strength = Flexibility

There is this huge myth out there that as you get stronger you have to trade in flexibility. I think in the back of our minds we have the image of the strongmen whose bulging muscles make them move like automatons at Epcot Center.

Well, I'm here to tell you that belief is false and doesn't make any sense anyway. Here's the proof that it's false:

As I've gotten stronger with the PCP I've been amazed that my yoga practice has improved as much as my physical strength. They've gotten better in lockstep. Here's why this makes sense.

A stretch doesn't ever happen with just one muscle. If a solitary muscle were just floating through empty space (there's a weird image for you) it would of course be impossible for it to stretch. Every stretch requires two muscles working across a joint. So, in the case of the above picture, I say something like, "I'm stretching out my hamstrings" but what's really happening is "I'm stretching my hamstrings by rotating my pelvis to pull up on them while my stationary legs act as a grounding force, with the arms adding additional stability." I wouldn't get through many yoga classes talking like that though (although it's not a bad idea).

So, we have one muscle pulling on another one across a connective joint. Now let's say through some training you make that muscle stronger. Guess what? The next time you do that stretch it will feel deeper, simply because you have more raw pulling power. It's like having an extra person give you a hand as you deepen your pose.

Then why do those bodybuilders move like that? Simply because they don't stretch enough. As you gain muscle, you are actually shortening the muscle fibers. Over time you'll get nice and pumped, but if you don't spend some time each day stretching deeply, you'll also get rigid and tight.

So strength training needs to be matched with flexibility training. But most people just don't know how to stretch properly and end up doing some half assed standing leg stretches for 5 mins before hitting the iron. This is one reason I make my videos, to educate people on the principles of stretching, not just the form.

Why is it important to be flexible? You can think of flexibility as the lubrication in an engine. Without it, no matter how powerful, the engine just won't work well and will break down quickly. Having open, flexible joints and connective tissue allows you to avoid injuries and heal them faster if you happen to get one. Circulation improves, and your body can deliver antibodies and endorphins where they need to go more efficiently.

Not to mention the fact that a flexible body does what you want it to do. You are able to place your skeletal system just where you want it, without having to fight internal forces and frictions. This is an invaluable asset if you are playing a sport or studying a martial art, and makes daily life much more pleasant.

There is so much information online about stretches and yoga, there's no excuse not to give it a try. You'll be amazed at the ability of your body to rebound even after years of inactivity.

As for my stretching, I am deep into my secret technique to accomplish hanging side splits. It's pretty crazy stuff, and I can't wait to share it with you all once I've managed a version that satisfies me.

Until then, have you done a backbend today? You gotta do those, everybody. How many hours a day do you spend with your spine curving towards a screen, a meal, a steering wheel, or a newspaper? All that forward bending deserves at least a few minutes in the opposite direction everyday. This isn't rocket science people!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day 87, Daily Photo FAQs

If you've been reading my blog I'm sure you've also browsed through the Flickr stream on the right side up there. I thought I'd address some questions that have come up about the photos.

1. Why do you do the same pose every day?
I thought it would be the easiest way to see what's really changing. Plus, when it's all over I'm going to make a time-lapse movie and we can all see the transformation happen in just a few seconds.

2. Some days you look bigger and stronger than other days that come after them. What's up with that?
A few things. Sometimes it's just a matter of lighting. When I take the photo at night (due to a one-off scheduling conflict) I turn on the overhead lights. Those cast a lot of shadows which make the muscles look more defined.

Other times I take the picture after a tough workout and my muscles are pumped up a little bit. Some days I'm forced to take the photo "cold".

And lastly, I'm still not very good at flexing. Before the PCP I thought bodybuilding competitions were kind of a joke, but now I know how hard it is to make certain muscles flex at the right amount for best effect. Some days I get a good one, others, I totally mess it up and look weaker as a result.

oops, screwed another one up...

I try to throw in some photos from other angles in the blog so people can get a better idea of my progress.

3. How do you feel when you look back at the earlier daily photos?
It's weird, I look at those pictures and I totally remember thinking, "damn, you're looking pretty good there Patrick." I didn't really give much thought to improving my physique.

I was watching a Bruce Lee clip one day and it just occurred to me. "You don't look anything like that. You act like you're in good shape but you still suck your gut in when you go surfing. If you keep fooling yourself like this you're going to wake up a 45 year old man with a beer belly and jowls and it'll be too late." And I just decided to change. It was like, a 5 second process.

So I hope this sheds some light on the photo taking process. It's actually quite a deep topic. Everyday we see pictures of fit, beautiful people selling us stuff. The Daily Photo has made me realize that what we're actually viewing is the following:

  • Winners of the genetic jackpot
  • who are paid to spend hours a day on their appearance and physique
  • in a picture taken by a professional, with the best cameras, make-up, and lighting available
  • and the picture we see is the very best out of hundreds taken at that one shoot.
We all know this intellectually but we still see the image and compare ourselves to it, and find ourselves wanting. It's a pretty insane situation but something in human nature just can't help it I guess.

But try to remember it the next time you see something like this.

Day 86, Late Night

Long day and a late night. Didn't get home until 1:00am, which technically makes this a day 87 post I guess. I'm quite tired.

There's one thing for sure, parties are the enemy of the PCP. It's very tough to control your eating when snack food and alcohol are laid out everywhere. Plus, a late bedtime sabotages you in two ways. One is that you don't get enough sleep that night. Muscle growth happens during the fiber repair stage that happens when you snooze. The second way is that the next day your workout will suffer as you work on little sleep. You'll probably have to cut some sets.

I'm not much of a partier anyway. But especially not now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 85, 12 Weeks

Yesterday was the 84th day, and it wasn't until today that I realized that 84 divided by 7 is 12, i.e. 12 weeks. (I suck at math)

And you know what that means. Bruce Lee photo time! Did you know that Bruce Lee could do two finger push-ups? If you've never seen them check this out. You can see the push-ups at about 1:20 but the whole video is great.

I can't do two finger push-ups, although I've been working up to them for a few years. I started on fists, then 5 fingers, and now I'm down to three (well, 6, I have to use both hands) I can crank out about 25 pushups from this base. So without further ado, here's the 12 week photo.

Thanks everyone for your support. Almost there!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day 84, Circle Crunch

Damn, I love this crunch. I don't know how it escaped my attention until now. Usually we just isolate the rectus abdominus muscle with regular crunches, or the obliques with side crunches. This one hits both in a fun way.

Lie on your back, hands lightly touching the ears. Lift the shoulders slightly and instead of crunching up, rotate the torso to the left and up in a circular shape. Go all the way around until you're down on the opposite side. From here you can keep going in the same direction for a few more reps, or, stop and go in the opposite direction, which is pretty hard.

One of the hardest things about abs work is keeping it fresh. Not just to alleviate boredom, but to find new ways to stimulate those muscles that get too good at the usual exercises.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Day 83, I Give Up...

Yes, I give up... on trying to fashion some kind of chin-up bar. I spent days combing the net, talking to carpenters, metalworkers, and even a car designer for BMW. All of the solutions were too bulky and/or expensive.

The best thing I saw came from reader Jake Sibley, who was so kind as to offer to help me with international shipping (thanks dude!). The Perfect Pullup. But they don't ship to Japan and by the time we got all the buying and intermediary shipping figured out the project would almost be over.

So, I've resigned myself to the only other choice for someone who doesn't enjoy the gym atmosphere. The playground. Yesterday I racked my brain for all the playgrounds I had seen on my adventures around Yokohama, and took a kind of Pull-up bar tour to find the best one for my purposes.

First up, the playground at Yokohama Stadium.

A little on the short side, plus, this park is always busy with one of the following, depending on time of day, a) housewives and their little kids b) elementary schoolgirls or c)drunken homeless men. Next...

Near Odori Park

Here's a jungle gym that might work... the height is right...

let's give it a try...

Agh, the parallel bars stop my shoulders from finishing the movement. No good. Onwards...

Near Minami Police Station

Here's a set next to some swings...

Uh... I don't think this is going to hack it.

I feel as ridiculous as I look. Not going to work.

Next up, a kind of neglected playground near Yokohamabashi.

Yes! It's high enough. And I'll be able to get shoulders through those gaps in the ladder rungs.

Perfect! And it's not too crowded. Plus, the kids here (you can just see them in the top right of the next photo) were pretty nice. For some reason they all started calling me Michael. Probably their elementary ALT English instructor is named Michael, and they figure if it works for one male Gai-jin it'll work for them all. Fair enough.

So, this where I'll be every third day for the next few weeks. Come by and join me for a few sets of chin-ups and the ridicule of small children.

Can't beat the price!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 82, Lemon Bars

Today you may remember was my indulgence day.

So far the indulgences, which come every 15 days have been;


A Chocolate Chip Cookie

Wine and Cheese

Ice Cream

and today's was...

Homemade Lemon Bars!

I love desserts that aren't overly sweet and have more than one flavor going on at once. Cheesecake, bitter chocolate, etc... so Lemon Bars have always been one of my favorites.

But in Japan you're never going to find lemon bars so we've learned to make them.

Here's how the sheet looks before cutting.

and here's how they look going into my mouth.

Tangy and delicious. Great texture. Homemade things just have that extra something to them. I ate 4 5cm by 5cm bars.

After 10 minutes, an intense bout of the shakes as the sugar hit my bloodstream. I just can't take that much concentrated sucrose at once anymore. My stomach was also a little confused as to what to do with all the flour hitting it at so late a time (9pm) I haven't eaten more than a piece of toast's worth of carbs past 6pm in 82 days.

Upset stomach, occasional twitches in the back of my neck. A heavy sleepy feeling (sugar crash). Churning intestines. A desire to put the leftover lemon bars out of sight. Tired in body but mind racing.

Phew! Next indulgence, day 97. These things are a real trial for me. It blows my mind that I used to eat this stuff that now turns my world upside down like it was nothing. My question is, is it necessarily good to be this sensitive to rich food? Isn't there something to be said for having an iron stomach? My body has gotten much stronger but my stomach is a real wimp these days.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Day 81, Weariness

Today for the first time in a while I was simply tired and fed up with trying to stay on the plan. Tired of measuring out my lunch, tired of eating egg whites (I only made it through 3 today), tired of the second day deep soreness I described in day 80.

The funny thing is that when you do something for this long you reach a point where it's easier to just follow the momentum that you've built up and keep doing it than veer wildly off course. For example, I could throw up my hands and say "forget this!" and go have three pizzas at Sisiliya, but the flavors would be overpowering for me and my stomach would hurt like hell within 10 minutes. You have these visions of finishing the project and having a big piece of chocolate cake with all your friends, but the truth is that at that point the cake is too rich for you and you've lost all your friends because they're intimidated by your killer physique. (well, maybe not)

Truthfully, today was just a busy day and the PCP felt more like a chore than a joy. It's my fault for overscheduling myself and spending too much time on one project I just wanted to finish. One of the most important mental changes that you have to make doing something like this is to realize that you do have to schedule in your health. The times I've strayed furthest from my plan is when I just leave myself 30 mins to magically get through 1000 jumpropes and 30 sets of exercises. It never happens but I still imagine it can be done when I see my appointment book filling up.
If you asked someone, would they rather be wealthy and successful or healthy, they'll always say "healthy." It's the most obvious thing that without health there's not much point to all that money and success. But crack open that same person's appointment book and you'll probably see that on the ground the pursuit of success gets a lot more scheduled time than exercise.

At least that's how my day was today, and my frustration flowed not towards the excess work but towards the PCP, which is just backasswards. The PCP only helps me and makes life more interesting. I'll try hard not to let it get bumped off the schedule for lesser pursuits.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Day 80, Sore

Today I was sore from every damn direction. Yesterday I did a ton of pullups at the community gym (still no luck finding a pull-up bar) so my whole back felt somehow leaden. When your back is sore it's not like regular muscles being sore. It's just a sheet of weariness draped over your whole body, like the iron vests you have to wear when you get a dental x-ray.

The other soreness was from the bottom, from my top secret leg stretching technique. Hip abductors were not happy campers.

When I'm sore like this, it gives me a great deal of compassion for my weaker or older yoga students. Today during class I was having a hard time demonstrating correct form. It wasn't that I didn't understand what to do, I just didn't have the fine control over my musculature that I needed. It was a good reminder to be patient with people who struggle in class, and of course, to Help the Aged.

Being sore also has another positive side effect. There's no better way to learn anatomy than to have a sore muscle. All day you get to feel exactly when and how that muscle is used. For example, tonight I was chopping bell peppers and I noticed from the soreness that the cutting action used just the slightest bit of my trapezius, right where it tapers off at the deltoid. How interesting!

Okay, you don't have to say it. I'm a geek.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day 79, Must Have Been Something I Ate...

I worked hard today and trained hard as well. So I had a nice "big" dinner when I got home. 2 tortillas with steamed vegetables and shrimp, with some fresh salsa I made a few days ago and wanted to use up. For dessert I ate half and apple and half a banana and some dates with a crumbled gingerbread cookie in milk.

I think the salsa had gone off, and when that milk hit my stomach I felt pretty bad. And it's been regular trips to the toilet ever since.

Sorry to be gross. But there's a great lesson here. After a long day of work and or training, there's a tendency to eat a meal that is as unhelpful as your day was tough. Hard day at the office? Finish it off with a few beers and some fried food! All that stress and weariness will really be helped by taxing your liver and arteries. Those organs just love when you make them work double shifts!

The truth is, after a tough day, we need to come home, eat a piece of bread, some thin soup, and a bowl of vegetables. Our bodies don't need anymore work to do, they're still recovering from the stuff that happened 9am to 5pm, why give them a whole new load of stuff to deal with from 9pm to 5 am?

I'm not preaching at you here. I'm having some serious stomach issues now because when I came home I thought I deserved a few extra ladles of that tasty salsa slathered over my entire meal.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Day 78, What's In the Box?

Today Kazue gave me a mysterious box with a "Peak Condition Project" tag. Inside, it read, "Do not open until July 23rd." (The day the project ends)

I've always been terrible at waiting to open presents (if it is indeed a present) especially if I have to look at the thing for a month and a half. So I thought I'd open this up to the general public to make the waiting more interesting.

So, here's the idea. Everyone, submit your idea about what's in the box in the comment section. After a week I'll aggregate all the answers into a poll, which people can vote on until the end of the project, when we'll crack open the box. I've been wanting to do a poll thingy, and this sounds like fun. If anyone gets it right I'll do something nice for you!

But this will only work if you send a lot of ideas. This includes you, silent readers, comment with your best guesses! I'll get things started with my own comment below.

And many thanks to Kazue. I couldn't have succeeded in this project without her patience and support!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day 77, How to Eat 5 Egg Whites a Day...

... and not go crazy.

Egg whites are not the most appetizing thing in the world. Especially considering you are eating the cytoplasm of an unfertilized chicken ovary. But you gotta have them if you want to build muscle. Why? The things are pure protein. Nothing but amino acids, which your body uses overnight to make new muscle. But, all hope isn't lost, there are some tricks you can do to make the things more palatable. I eat 5 a day now, so I'll put up 5 different techniques, although there are many more.

1. Pepper

Pepper adds a spicy and 0 calorie way to liven up egg whites. Use freshly ground pepper for extra bite.

2. Mustard

I love mustard. Plain old yellow mustard is great, and the fancy stuff with the peppercorns still intact is great too. At 5 calories a tablespoon it's no problem if you're sticking to a close training diet

3. Red Wine Vinegar

This is one of my favorites, and has the added benefit of improving circulation. You can also use Chinese black vinegar if you are truly hardcore. Use the hollow of the egg as a kind of cup.

4. Ginger

This is something you can find in any Japanese food store, a tube of emulsified ginger. Very spicy and fresh taste! Also keeps your breath fresh and not eggy.

5. Pesto

This is the least diet friendly of the bunch, with Pesto's oil and salt content. But it tastes so good and works when you can't stand the thought of eating one more egg white.

So there are some ideas for anyone crazy enough to eat a lot of these things. Chen was telling about one of his bodybuilder friends who eats 20 a day. I can't imagine. Does anyone have any more ideas for dressing up the blandest food on earth?