Category: Motivation

Extreme Sports, Attempted

I’m not sure what I was thinking. I suspect my improved leg strength gave me a false sense of skill. Regardless of how it started, I found myself panting heavily, staring down at a series of steep drop-offs and surrounded by cliffs. How did I get myself in this predicament? Too late to back out, nothing to do but take a deep breath and 3..2..1… go.

Let’s rewind to the beginning. I am an average skier. A rockstar on the intermediate groomers, more tentative on the steeper stuff, a disaster in the crud and moguls. My problem is that I really, really like the idea of skiing in the trees. Off-piste as the Europeans would say. I just can’t figure out how to get good at it. I watch others flow through the trees and smoothly navigate big bumps and obstacles. Me on the other hand on the same terrain – a series of awkward hop turns, sliding, skidding, often ending up in a snow covered, contorted upside-down position.

This year I vowed to master the off-piste. To be one of those guys flowing through the trees. I started out with vastly improved strength, due to the time I’ve spent in the gym. That new-found strength has given me the confidence to ski hard, all day. I’ve been fortunate to be able to ski every 2-3 days, which has certainly improved my form. I started making small forays into the trees and seeking out ungroomed snow. As my skill improved, I started eying a valley known as an “experts only” area. One of the groomed runs borders the area and I kept flirting with the edge and eying the trees and chutes in the valley.

A few days ago, we had a big powder dump. I got to the resort early and did a few warm-up laps on the groomed runs. Finally, I skied down the run bordering the off-piste area and stopped at the edge. I spent quite a bit of time looking down and going over in my head what could go wrong if I dropped in. Eventually I told myself that I’d never know If I didn’t try.

Down I went. And it was awesome! While I don’t know if I was actually flowing through the trees, I handled it without any problems. I spent the rest of the day dropping in and playing in this new playground. I had a blast. The next day I skied with friends who stick to the groomers. I spent that whole day diving in and out of trees bordering the runs, seeking out all the crud and powder remnants I could find. My confidence was through the roof!

Yesterday we had another overnight snow. I hit the slopes and warmed up with a few runs. I was going to drop in where I spent the other day, then thought to myself why not drop in from the very top? With my newfound confidence, I rode the lift up and traversed around to the entrance of the expert area. There were ominous signs posted indicating this was an area for experts only and ski patrol was limited. I paused for a moment, but my excitement over my new skills won out. I went through the gates.

Things went bad from the beginning. The “trail” was a very narrow, slick, twisting route full of bumps and awkward off-camber turns. My speed was increasing, but I had no way to slow down as the trail was too narrow to turn or even snowplow. I was now flying along, borderline out of control, and definitely did not want to slide off the edge. Up ahead I spotted a wider spot in the trail and did a hard slide to bleed off speed. Unfortunately, immediately around the corner the trail turned steeply uphill and I no longer had the momentum to make it up. I came to an awkward stop on the edge. Fuck.

Now I was stuck. No way to get my skis off and hike anywhere. My only choice was down. I was looking down a narrow chute with trees at the bottom and unknown terrain below that. It took a while to get my breathing under control. I will say, committing to that first jump turn was one of the harder things I’ve done. I made my way down the chute. Jump turn. Slide, slide, jump. Over and over.

Finally, I reached the trees. This was a little easier, but there were steep cliffs everywhere and I couldn’t always tell if the edges I was skiing up to were vertical or navigable. I kept traversing across the slope, dropping down in places my skill allowed me to make turns. Eventually I made it to the wide open part of the bowl and terrain I could handle. I was drenched with sweat and my thighs were quivering.

I turned around and looked back up at what I had come down. I realized I’d come down a double black diamond called Chinook Chute. Probably one of the hardest areas in the resort. Wow. I couldn’t believe I’d done that. I started feeling pretty proud of myself. It was ugly and more sliding and slipping than actual skiing. It certainly won’t make any Warren Miller ski film highlights, but I did it and managed to not crash.

If you told me at the beginning of this season I’d be going down that, I wouldn’t have believed you. Trust me, I’m in no hurry to go back up there. It really is above my skill level. But… I’m not that far off.

The lesson is that you are capable of way more than you think you are. All it takes is the willpower to try. Yes, you may crash and burn. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

My problem is balancing my age, true skill, and good decision making with my new-found ego. I need to remind myself that I’m no longer twenty. At this stage of my life, do I really need to be flirting with cliffs and double black diamond runs? Probably not.

But man, it felt good to accomplish that. Hmm… maybe I could become that guy effortlessly floating through the trees?

Resolution Or Revolution?

It’s time for the annual beginning of the year resolutions. I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions. Mostly because I rarely keep them for more than a week. Also, because at my age do I really need to be resolving to eat more tofu to save the planet? No. Tomorrow is not a guarantee. Besides, making resolutions like that are just virtue signaling. Nobody cares.

But every few years I do try to set goals. Take last year. I was bored leading up to the new year and binge watched a bunch of minimalist and productivity YouTube videos. I went on a two-day productivity frenzy getting ready for the new year. I re-re-re-started a bullet journal. I put schedules and workout plans together. I mapped out all the motorcycle and camping trips I wanted to do. I even put a 2022 Goals page together with tracking metrics that I was going to use to measure progress.

I had a lot of fitness goals, some fly-fishing things I wanted to do, motorcycle camping trips, and a bunch of river rafting day trips I planned on doing. You can see that my goals are not terribly intellectual, spiritual, or altruistic. I never claimed to be the sharpest crayon in the box. Anyway, so how many did I accomplish? Zero. Zip. None. Nadda. Whoo hoo! Underachievers of the world, unite!

Interestingly, I’d completely forgotten I’d even set those goals. I stumbled upon them yesterday while I was looking for something else. Clearly, they weren’t terribly memorable or important to me if I didn’t even remember them. It made me think about what I wanted out of this current new year. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there wasn’t any single thing I could come up with. I literally couldn’t come up with a single, burning desire that I wanted to accomplish this year. Not one thing. My god, how uninteresting and shallow of a person does that make me?

Have I turned into one of those boring country rubes with no life desires other than to sit on the porch and watch the traffic go by? Don’t get me wrong, there are things I want to do – ride the motorcycle, get back to making YouTube content, lose weight, work on the house, etc… but I don’t have a driving passion to make them happen. If they happen, great. If not, oh well.

After writing and re-reading that last paragraph, I don’t like what it says about my state of mind. My god, that’s a recipe for complacency and a ticket straight to sitting on the couch, watching ESPN reruns and eating bon-bons. So now what?

I thought about writing down goals again, but I’d just be making stuff up and would be ignoring them in a few weeks as per usual. I really thought about this for some time, and then accidentally stumbled upon one of the definitions of “revolution”.

a forcible overthrow of a social order, in favor of a new system

It reminded me of something cartoonist and writer Scott Adams says, “for success, create systems instead of goals”. For example, wanting to lose ten pounds is a goal. Learning to eat right is a system that substitutes knowledge for willpower.

So that’s it. It’s time for a Revolution. We’re throwing out my old social order and creating a new one. The plan for 2023 is to create systems instead of goals. Routines that make it easier to succeed at the day-to-day. Routines that lead to better habits around health. Routines that make it more likely to plan trips, house tasks, and creative projects. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

The problem with many revolutions is that once you’ve fired up the population and stormed the gates, you hit a “now what?” moment. Do I go throw everything out of the pantry? Mount a huge chalkboard for meal planning in the kitchen? Start blocking out days on the calendar to force myself to plan things? Re-re-re-re-start the bullet journal?

Hmmm… Analysis paralysis. Ok, maybe I don’t know what this is going to look like yet, but I promise change is happening. Stay tuned.

Viva la revoluciĆ³n!

It’s All About The Effort

I’m sitting here with my legs quivering and on fire. My damaged back is going to bark at me the rest of the day. Why? I went mountain biking early this morning. Now wait, you might say if you’ve been a long-time reader… this guy writes all the time about going for a ride. What’s the deal? The difference is that I rode with my new next-door neighbor. He’s much younger and in good shape. I thought I’d be fine since I do ride from time to time. I was wrong.

It turns out you are a horrible judge of your own level of effort. Since I have the freedom to ride during the week, more often than not I’m riding solo. The other folks I ride with are of equal strength and conditioning. So when I’m cranking along, I think I’m putting out max effort. I’m breathing hard and it feels like I’m pushing it. But if you don’t have any way to actually measure or compare your effort, you never really know.

To keep up on this ride, I was pretty much red-lined the entire way. There was no conversation… I was too busy trying to suck in air. Same thing on the downhill. I thought I was a reasonably fast rider, but I couldn’t keep up with him going down. Here’s the interesting part. While I was working 10x as hard as he was, I generally kept up. So, I have the ability. Why haven’t I been riding at that level all along?

I think that’s what separates truly elite athletes from the rest of us. They have the ability to push themselves to their true limit day in and day out. Most of the rest of us quit way before that. It’s hard, it hurts, and we don’t really know what our actual limit is. I’ve noticed the same thing in my attempts at lifting weights. During our recent vacation, the resort gym didn’t have the same weight kettlebell as I’ve been using. So, I grabbed that bigger kettlebell and managed to do the same workout. At home, I would have been convinced that it was too heavy and hard. Why?

Clearly, I’ve been sandbagging myself and didn’t really know it. The new goal is now to make sure every workout leaves me in a quivering puddle on the floor. I will push weights to actual failure. I will ride at redline as much as possible.

Because what could go wrong? It’s not like I’m an old dude with a bad shoulder and damaged back. It’s not like I’m setting myself up for overuse injuries or anything, right?

Sitting here with my quads on fire, maybe I’ll just get an E-bike instead. Motor assist sounds pretty good right now.

It’s All About The Training

At the end of the day, we do what we’re trained to do. This applies to everything. When the moment matters, the amygdala portion of the brain takes over and initiates the fight or flight response. The body will fall back to rote muscle memory. If you didn’t train for that scenario, you’ll freeze or do something illogical. Training means exactly that – physically repeating and practicing something. Just reading about a subject and assuming you’ll know what to do is NOT the same thing. This was vividly demonstrated to me last night.

Without opening up a can of worms on a controversial subject, let’s just say that I believe in one’s right to arm themselves to protect hearth and home. I own a number of guns and regularly practice with them (well, before ammo prices skyrocketed). I feel like I am at least minimally proficient and able to handle firearms safely. I am ready to defend myself, my family, and my home should the need arise. All is good, right?

That belief was tested last night. At 2:30 in the morning, Mrs. Troutdog woke me from a sound sleep with the words nobody wants to hear in the middle of the night – “There’s someone standing at the door!”

It was time for my training and preparedness to kick in. So, what did I do? I grabbed a t-shirt and ran to the front door in my underwear. Did I get the gun first? No. Did I even think about the gun? No. Did I grab my phone? No. I looked out the window and had a moment of confusion thinking it was my nephew, who lives in another state, standing on my porch. And then I just yelled, “what do you want?” And then I remember the thought that went through my head… I’d put my t-shirt on backwards. Seriously, that’s what I was thinking about.

When survival mode was needed, I pretty much blanked out on everything. I’ve watched and read a bunch of survival, shooting, and self-defense stuff. In my head I thought I knew exactly how to respond. But because I’d never actually physically practiced or gone through the motions, I had no actual muscle memory to fall back on. I stood there in my underwear contemplating my backwards t-shirt.

Fortunately, it ended up being just a really drunk guy who was at the wrong house. He was so drunk he could barely stand and kept dropping his cell phone. He mumbled sorry and stumbled off into the night. And then I remembered all the things I probably should have done.

The point of this is not some lecture on home defense. It’s training – for any subject. Unless you physically practice something, the odds of you performing well when needed are slim. Driving in the snow. Reading a map when you think you’re lost. CPR. Deadlifts. Cleans. Heavy club swings. Public speaking. Fighting. Self-defense. You cannot simply watch a YouTube video on any of these things and think you’ll be able to do them when needed.

It was a good lesson for me. As an RN, I’ve spent more time than I can count in stressful scenarios. Traumas, bleeding, codes, CPR. Been there, done that. We practice and have to be re-certified every year on those skills. As a result, in those scenarios I’m pretty calm. It doesn’t mean I’ll aways do the right thing, but I have a better than average chance of keeping the thinking part of the brain going and making better decisions. Because of that, I assumed that I’d behave the same in all emergency situations. Clearly, I was wrong.

So now I have to think about my training. I need to create an actual plan for when something goes bump in the night and practice that plan. And then practice some more. You should do the same for whatever things in life you THINK you know what to do. Until you create that muscle memory, you have no idea what your brain will fall back to. It might be worrying about your t-shirt being backwards as your house burns down around you.

P.S. My dog is fired. I have an 80-pound dog who spends his days barking fiercely at anything that moves. The mailman is his mortal enemy. What did this fierce protector do through this whole scenario? Nothing. He slept. Never got out of bed. He will not be getting any treats today.

It Just Hurts

When I first started out as an RN, I’ll admit I got a bit judgmental sometimes towards certain patients. It was the folks who were fairly obese, in their late 60’s or early 70’s, and lacked the strength to get off the toilet or out of a chair. As two and sometimes three of us struggled to get them standing so they could shuffle back to bed, I’d say to myself “how could anyone let themselves get to that point?” They’d reject the physical therapists who came to work with them, saying they were too tired or hurt too much to do anything today. I’d do my best to encourage them, often admonishing them that if they didn’t start moving things were only going to get worse.

I just couldn’t fathom wanting to spend your remaining years in that condition. Why didn’t they take better care of themselves? One of the more common problems we’d see with this patient population was toenails. Nasty curled and twisted daggers that hadn’t been cut in god knows how long. Often they couldn’t wear socks anymore because you couldn’t pull them on without snagging on the nails. They’d just resort to wearing sandals or slippers all the time. Why? Because they’d become so deconditioned, they couldn’t bend over enough to clip their own toenails. It just seemed so crazy to me. And when they wouldn’t work with therapy and rejected most advice to do something, anything, to help themselves… I’ll admit I developed a certain lack of sympathy.

Fast forward to today. I hurt. Everywhere. I can barely lift my arms over my head. I look like an 80-year-old walking down the stairs. The moaning and groaning when I attempt to get down on the ground is ridiculous. Why am I in this state? Well… my back injury scared me enough that I’m going full speed, hard core, with my workouts. Every day has been at least an hour in the gym. Stretching, mobility work, kettle bells, club bells, lunges, squats, medicine balls… every exercise I can find on YouTube. Plus another hour and a half of hiking hills with the dog.

The end result is that I’m sore. Everywhere. There isn’t a body part that doesn’t hurt right now. Yes, I realize that I’m probably overtraining a bit. But I’m scared. The back strain was a brief window into a potential future if I don’t fix things. And I don’t like the future I saw.

Reality, as they say, came up and bitch slapped me in the face. I was forced to admit to myself the true, current state of all things physical. I’ve never been very physically strong, so I tended to avoid gym work. I was pretty good with endurance stuff, so that’s what I did. I mountain biked, skied, and ran. And I told myself I was in decent shape. Yes, cardiovascular-wise I was. But year after year my muscles were atrophying. Now, years of ignoring strength conditioning have caught up to me. I strained my back badly while sweeping leaves. Yes, really.

Muscle atrophy and weight gain are insidious creatures. They sneak up on you. Every year a little weaker, a little heavier. As it creeps up on you, your motivation to do something about it gets less and less. Sure, you try here and there to diet or start working out again, but it’s hard. The weight doesn’t come off and you end up hungry and frustrated. Your attempts to work out leave you sore and unable to walk. It’s really hard to keep getting after it when you feel like that. Pretty quickly you abandon the diet and give up the workouts. And the atrophy keeps setting in.

And that’s where I had a very real insight into how those patients let themselves go. And I feel bad for not having more empathy for them all those years ago. It would be so easy to do. I hurt, I’m sore, I’m tired. At my age, do I really need to be trying to lift weights? Let’s just stop. A heating pad and some pain pills will make me comfortable. Blink my eyes and I’ll be that old guy struggling to get off the toilet.

No. I’m not going to do that. I refuse to give up. I know that if I just keep pushing, eventually the soreness goes away. Muscles and tendons will become more supple. The aches and pains get better. Mobility and balance improve. I will not let atrophy win.

I’ll just have to wear hats for a while… my arms hurt too much to brush my hair.

I Fixed It

Remember that scene in Cast Away when Tom Hanks’ character manages to create fire? The absolute joy and dancing around as he proudly looks at what he created? Well, I did that yesterday. I created fire – both literally and figuratively. I fixed my barbeque.

Backstory. 20+ years ago we bought a multi-thousand-dollar grill. I loved that grill. It’s safe to say that we cooked 90% of our meals on the grill. But over time parts started failing. The outside of the grill still looked brand-new, but the interior not so much. Now to my shame, I should have been keeping up with maintenance on it. I’m really bad at that. Regular tear-downs and deep cleaning, replacing burners, etc… But I didn’t. So one by one the burners started failing and eventually it stopped working altogether.

I really didn’t want to go out and spend gobs of money on an equivalent grill. Besides, as I said previously, it really does look brand-new from the outside. So, I announced to the world that I was going to fix it. And a month went by. And then another. And another. Then winter came and who wants to fix things in the snow? Mrs Troutdog finally got annoyed and went out and bought a small little grill so we could at least continue grilling. But I never really “clicked” with that grill. I constantly burned stuff and it was too small to cook multiple things at a time. Much to Mrs Troutdog’s annoyance, I complained constantly about it.

Every time I walked into the backyard, the big grill sat there mocking me. A constant reminder of a project on my to-do list that never went away. Every night I cooked on the small grill, the unfinished project gnawed away at me.

I don’t know what finally sparked it, but I finally got fed up enough to start the project. It took the better part of a day to get the thing completely torn apart and cleaned. I made an inventory of every new part that had to be ordered. Then came the challenge. The main bracket that held up the burners and gas tubes had completely burned and rusted away. Unfortunately, the grill is old enough that nobody sells that replacement part. Now what?

I managed to find someone who could manufacture that part for me. I sent dimensions and drawings. What I got back was close, but not exactly what I needed. So, I dredged up my ancient high school machine shop knowledge and set to work making the parts I needed. It took about a day of drilling, bending, cutting, and pounding, but I finally had a working part.

It was another day of assembly, multiple trips the hardware store, cursing over missing (or extra) bolts and fasteners, but finally it was back together. I turned the knobs, pushed the ignitor and… voila! FIRE! I MADE FIRE!! It worked. Back to nearly new condition. I grilled a steak that night and it’s hard to describe how pleased I was with myself. I redeemed my manhood. Alpha male.

My point of this long rambling story is not that you need to learn how to fix things. What is important is that you accomplish things. It doesn’t matter if it’s figuring out how to create a complicated Excell macro, or paint a room, or run your first half marathon. The point is figuring out something you haven’t done before, going through the pain of learning, and then finally accomplishing your goal. It’s an amazing positive jolt to your self-confidence. If you can do that thing, what else can you accomplish? Those endorphins to the brain fuel the drive to continue moving forward.

So, this weekend resolve to learn something new, find a project that’s just a bit outside your comfort zone, or go do something you’ve never done before. When you’re done, I guarantee you’ll thank me.

I’m A Cheater

It’s not something you really want to admit. But confession is good for the soul, or something like that. So here goes… I’ve been cheating. Now in my defense, I didn’t realize I’d been cheating. Let me explain. If you haven’t been breathlessly following my every post, I’d recently written about a life altering change – I switched from clip-in pedals to flat pedals on the mountain bike.

TL;DR – I love them and don’t know why I didn’t switch earlier. But it has exposed one flaw. You have to constantly keep more pressure, or force, on the pedals otherwise your foot will slide off. So now I’m generally pushing a harder gear than I’m used to. What I’ve discovered is that with the clip-in pedals I was able to “relax” quite a bit when pedaling. While my legs were going around, I was essentially coasting far more than I realized. If I try that now, my feet come off the pedals.

So I was cheating at the effort I was putting in and didn’t know it. I could never figure out why my climbing speed never seemed to improve. Now that I have no choice but to push hard, presto, my speed and power output are much greater than before. Crazy how that works.

We all cheat, we just don’t like to admit it. I’ve never had much upper body strength, my shoulder is kinda jacked up, so I suck at things like push-ups. So what do I do? I ignore doing push-ups because I don’t like them and can’t do very many. Unfortunately, push-ups are exactly what I should be doing. How many of you are avoiding doing the things you know, deep down, you should be doing?

Confronting our flaws and weak points is hard. If it was easy, we’d already be doing them. But the older I get, the more I wish I’d been stronger about conquering my weaknesses when I was younger. But you’re never too old to start. Deep down, you know what your weak points are.

So pick one. Resolve today that you’re going to start working on it. You’ll thank yourself later. So now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can do a push-up. Don’t laugh. I’m pretty sure this will look like the Bill Murry push-up scene from the movie Stripes. But you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

An Unexpected Lesson From Tragedy

The other day I was surfing through YouTube before I went to bed. It was getting late and I was looking for just one more video to watch before retiring. A thumbnail came up that I’d seen several times the past few days but had ignored because it was almost two hours in length, and I just wasn’t terribly interested in it. It was an analysis of what went wrong at the Uvalde school shooting by a guy named Mike Glover.

If you’re not familiar with him or his YouTube channels, Mike Glover is a former Green Baret with 18 combat deployments. He’s clearly been there, done that. He now provides tactical training to law enforcement. The failure of law enforcement in this scenario was horrific. Here’s a link to that analysis if you’re interested. I ended up watching the entire thing and going to bed way too late.

Out of everything he said, one thing towards the end really struck me. He was commenting on all the sexy “kit” the officers had on. We’ve dumped truckloads of money on police departments so they can outfit themselves as quasi-military units. They’ve got the ballistic helmets, plate carriers, ballistic shields, even wearing military style fatigues and boots. But in this case, none of them did anything with their fancy equipment while kids were being shot and left to die. They stood around, checking phones, getting hand sanitizer, and waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Mike’s comment was:

“Everyone wants to be an operator until it comes time to do operator shit”

That lesson is so true and can be applied to almost everything. Everyone wants to lose weight and look better (myself included), but very few want to put in the time in the weight room and or do serious cardio. You want to be a writer? Are you getting up and cranking out 1000 words every day? You want to be a YouTube star? How many hours a day do you spend learning and perfecting the filming, editing, and storytelling? You want to climb the corporate ladder? What are you doing to improve your skills and value daily?

We all want to be or do something. Only a small percentage of our society actually wants to do the work to achieve those things. I get it. I’m in that same boat. I kinda half-ass things. Sometimes I’m motivated, sometimes I’m not. Shockingly, it’s when I’m motivated that I get/achieve what I want. Crazy how that works.

Buying fancy gear, joining the latest fitness or diet fad, or subscribing to the killer new app is all great… but it doesn’t do diddly-squat if you don’t do the work. Another great example comes from David Goggins, who’s a crazy over the top, type-A overachiever. But he didn’t start out that way. He was a fat, lazy pest exterminator working nights and eating doughnuts. He had an epiphany one night, quit his job, went to a navy recruiter and said, “I want to be a navy seal”. The recruiter laughed and said you’re 100 pounds overweight. He’d have a very short few months to lose it if he wanted to actually attempt to qualify.

Spoiler alert – he did and went on to a successful career as a navy seal. When asked what program he used and what diet he followed to lose all the weight, he said “I stopped eating so fucking much and ran every day until I collapsed”. Simplicity. But the real reason was that he was willing to put in the work.

We all want something. How many of us are actually willing to do what it takes to get it? Very few. It’s a metaphor that struck home for me. Hopefully it’ll light a spark under my butt to get after it. Even at my advanced age, there are still things I want to achieve. But how bad do I really want them?

Everyone wants to be an operator until it comes time to do operator shit.

Wins And Losses

It’s been an interesting week. One filled with highs and lows, ups and downs, good and bad. I’m going to steal the slogan from Lance Armstrong’s new group, WEDU and their podcast The Forward – “Always forward, never straight”. Life would be boring if it always went in a straight line. This week definitely had a few turns.

Fitness took a (mental) turn this week for sure in a couple of categories. I felt like I was making some progress and then my trainer introduced some new movements. I’m now so sore I can barely walk. That’s good in the sense that I’m clearly pushing hard. But it’s a bit discouraging because I thought I was past the crippling DOMS stage of working out. Clearly my improving strength isn’t as well-balanced as I thought.

And then there’s the issue of weight. I’ve been avoiding the scale because I know how I feel and what I look like. My diet’s been… well, not good and I know it. At the beginning of the week the trainer asked if I was finally going to be serious and track my intake. Ok, ok, ok, stop yelling at me. I was diligent and tracked everything all week. I bravely stepped on the scale this morning. And now I’m super confused.

Per the app, I’m way under on the number of calories I should be consuming. But per the scale, I’ve gained 2+ pounds. My muscle mass increased, but so did body fat and visceral fat percentages. Something’s not adding up. I know that my calorie intake has to be much higher than I’m tracking. Realistically the app doesn’t account for all the sauces, etc… because the physics doesn’t lie. You can’t be significantly under in calories and gain weight. Regardless, it was enough of a motivational spark to keep me tracking my intake and to start getting my diet in order. I don’t know what that diet will be yet, but I can’t go back to keto. I just can’t.

On the positive side of the ledger, a couple of good things happened. One of them was an unexpected surprise. I have a little YouTube channel that I post to from time to time. Almost no subscribers, and my silly little videos only get a handful of views. That’s ok because I enjoy making them and it’s mostly a learning experience at this point. But as I’ve mentioned before, there’s still a nagging feeling in the back of your head – why am I doing this if nobody watches? Well, out of the blue one of the older videos hit 10,000 views in just a few days. Very strange. That’s miniscule traffic in YouTube terms, massive for me. I’ll admit it’s nice to feel like someone is watching/reading what you create. It’s enough of a spark to motivate you to keep on being creative.

So that’s it. A real mixed bag of events for the week. The weather continues to be crap. I can’t get my sprinklers to work. Diet continues to be off the rails. But some exciting personal stuff happened and then I got a little creator spark/validation.

The path we take wobbles all around and certainly isn’t straight. But all that matters is that the path keeps moving forward.

P.S. In a fit of desperation, I’ve thrown away all food in the pantry and fridge. I’m now staring at empty shelves and unsure of what I should do now. Perhaps I was a bit hasty…

What’s Your Habit, Dude?

So, the other day I stumbled upon a YouTube channel. It’s a middle-aged guy who lost a hundred pounds and now competes in all kinds of running, cycling, and general fitness events. He’s articulate, funny, and doles out some pretty good, motivational advice. I’m not sure why, but I gravitate to those types of channels. Probably because in my head, any day now I’m going to go run an ultramarathon. Never mind that I’m struggling with 3 miles at the moment. The training is really going to kick in soon.

Anyway, in one of his videos he mentioned creating habits. He referenced a book that he says completely changed the way he thinks about this sort of thing. It’s called Atomic Habits by James Clear. Well, if it’s good enough for this guy it’s good enough for me. I jumped on to Amazon’s book site, found the book, and… it said I’d already downloaded it. I checked my Kindle and sure enough, there it was. I’d even read it. And I had absolutely zero memory of it. Clearly it didn’t make much of an impression on me.

But maybe I was taking too much cold medication that week? I decided to give it another go. Sure enough, something jumped out at me several chapters in. Something that further proved, once again, that Mrs. Troutdog is the smarter one in our marriage. She didn’t like my post from the other day, saying she hates when I talk negatively about myself. I agree that I tend to be very self-effacing when I write. Sometimes it’s for brilliant comedic effect. Sometimes it’s authentic voice. The truth is that I’m not much of a self-promoter. Besides, it’s hard to fail if you set the bar ridiculously low to begin with. Right?

So, what does this have to do with habits? One of the things that the author said about creating a habit is the importance of creating a positive affirmation. It’s a subtle thing, but one that makes a difference in how you view the habit you’re trying to start. Rather than saying, “I’m going to go for a run because I’d like to be considered a runner one day”, you need to tell yourself that you ARE a runner. It doesn’t matter that you can barely go three blocks… you ARE a runner and therefore you need to train. That subtle shift in mindset makes a huge difference in motivation to continue a habit.

I realized that this is exactly what I’ve been doing to myself, for years, and why it probably drives Mrs. Troutdog crazy. While a pure beginner may not know the difference, someone who’s participated in a sport or activity for a while can recognize the difference between an amateur and someone who’s actually good. For many of my activities I can tell when someone really knows what they’re doing. In my head, those are the people who can call themselves a cyclist, skier, runner, writer, etc… I’ve never viewed myself as one of those people. For anything. In my head I always see myself as a beginner. Not worthy of a higher rank.

I need to go for a run this morning because I’m a runner. That’s what I do. And runners need to train. Boom! Mind blown. It’s weird how such a small change in thinking, can influence your motivation to do something.

The other nugget that was in the book is about quantity vs. quality. I’ve always struggled with habits because when starting out, it’s hard. Your form is bad. You don’t have the coordination. Endurance and strength limits what you can do. You watch videos that tout “do this one exercise for 20 reps to make major changes!”. I can’t even to 10 reps, let alone 20. Guess I won’t be doing that one.

As the old saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good. Habits are formed by repetition, regardless of the quality of what you do. The author suggests that if you want to run every morning, start by getting up every day, lacing up your running shoes, and walk around the block. That’s it. Do just that for three weeks. Every single day. It makes no difference that all you did was go around the block. You’re creating a mental cue. Rewiring your brain to change what your morning routine is. It takes hundreds of repetitions to create a lasting habit. It doesn’t matter what your running form is, if you get better, how far you went, or how fast you go. What matters is a hundred times you reinforced that cue – get up, put your shoes on, and step out the door. It’s a habit.

I am a runner. I am a mountain biker. I am a skier. I am a motorcyclist. I am a fisherman. I am a photographer. I am a writer. Now please excuse me, I need to go train.