Tag: Health

Do This One Amazing Trick

Ever notice how many YouTube videos, blogs, and ads use some form of this clickbait title? “Use this one trick to gain 10,000 followers in a day!” “The IRS doesn’t want you to know about this one trick”. I fell for one of them yesterday while surfing YouTube. I don’t remember the title, but it was something like “Follow this one rule to improve your channel”. I don’t have much of an attention span, so one rule is right up my alley. Convinced I’ll soon be scooping up all that sweet YouTube cash, I clicked on the thumbnail.

It actually ended up being a reasonable video, and the author made a good point that I think translates well to making videos, writing a blog, or life in general. He asked a simple question. “Are you an entertainer or an educator?” You have to pick an approach for your content and stick to it. Whether you’re writing a blog, an article, or creating a video, people will consume your content for one reason. They either want to be entertained, or they want to learn something. They’ll keep coming back to your content if they continue to see that same type of (quality) content. What generally doesn’t work is to post a bunch of how-to stuff, then suddenly post content that tries to be funny.

It almost doesn’t seem to matter what your niche is. How to repair things with duct tape. Heckling pro golfers. The history of manhole covers. It makes no difference what the content is as long as you’re consistent. If I am a fan of duct tape, the last thing I want to see on your amazing duct tape channel is a travel vlog of your trip to Disneyland with the kids. I have a friend who has a YouTube channel dedicated to cowboy action shooting. It’s a bit of an obscure sport and you wouldn’t think there’d be a be demand for that sort of thing. He has 20 thousand subscribers and posts nothing but 30 second clips of shooting matches. It’s all about finding your lane and then staying in it.

And therein lies my problem. It dawned on me that whether it’s writing, YouTube, or life in general… I’m a bit of a lost soul who can’t decide what niche I want to be in. That’s neither good nor bad. It just is. This blog drifts back and forth between trying to be funny, some random political/opinion stuff, and general reporting on the minutia of my daily life. As a reader it’s probably hard to know what you’re going to get (I’m honestly surprised people continue to subscribe). The same goes for YouTube. My pitiful little channel can’t figure out what it wants to be. I had visions of a broader category but keep resorting to the creative path of least resistance (and effort).

The end result for both blogging and YouTube is something that I’m clearly not terribly passionate about. As an example, for some reason still baffles me, 90+ percent of the subscribers to this blog are fitness related. I find this amusing and slightly embarrassing. I am not a fitness person. I am not fit. I’m not making much progress on my fitness journey at the moment. Because of that, I’m not very motivated to write anything about fitness. But anytime I even mention the word fitness… the views go way up, and I gain another handful of subscribers. So, I realize that I could probably focus 100% on fitness and diet topics and rapidly acquire readers. But is that really me?

Similar with videos. I like motorcycles and it was easy to crank out a few videos about some trips I took. But I didn’t have any desire to be only a motorcycle travel vlogger. The motorcycle only occupies a small portion of my life. But as it turns out, those motorcycle trips are what people watch. Do I stick with what gets views, or try to figure out what will motivate me to make lots of content rather than just an occasional video when I go on motorcycle ride?

It’s sort of an interesting life question. Everyone knows the old adage about working – “pursue your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’m not sure that’s realistic advice. As a young man my passions were surfing and being angry at the world. I’m not sure how successful I would have been focusing solely on that. But who knows? Maybe I would have gone on to launch a surf clothing company that featured anti-establishment slogans that made me a gazillionaire.

The reality for most of us is that through luck and circumstance we stumble into something and end up doing it for long enough that you actually get good at it. Is it a “passion”? Maybe, maybe not. But it pays the bills and gives you an identity and a focus. Maybe these creative outlets should be the same? I stumbled on a couple of things that attracted a few folks willing to read/watch my nonsense. Perhaps I should just embrace it and focus on what works. Really dive in and enjoy the niche I accidently found. I never thought I’d be a software engineer or an RN either, but I got pretty good at both.

But the other adage about creativity is that you should create for you first. Who cares if anyone else likes it? If your creativity comes from passion and happiness, people will recognize it. There are followers for every sort of niche. If you put out good content, those followers will find you. At the end of the day, what’s the point of being creative if it’s not your passion?

Interesting questions. I’m not sure what I’d tell a young person going out into the world today. I’m not sure what to tell myself. That’s some deep stuff to ponder on a Tuesday morning. I think I’ll go get my workout done and think about it…

The Struggle Is Real

Who knew that the hardest part of being an adult is figuring out what to cook for dinner every single night for the rest of your life until you die

Today, I stepped on the scale for the first time in a month. Why so long? Because I knew what the number would be. I’ve been going to the gym faithfully and am seeing significant gains. The range of motion in my chronically injured shoulder is hugely improved. Flexibility and proprioception are better than they’ve been in a very long time. Overall, I feel much better. But… I can tell that my waistline hasn’t changed, so I’ve intentionally ignored the scale. Oh, I look at it every morning. I tell myself that tomorrow I’ll step on it for sure. But I don’t really want to know the number because it’ll force me to accept reality. So I put it off for another day. And then another. And another.

I do see some positive physical changes with all the gym work. Shoulders seem a little more defined. I can tell the abs and trunk are stronger. The legs feel stronger from all the squats I’ve been doing. I tell myself that if the number on the scale went up, it’s probably because I’ve added muscle mass. I optimistically told myself that the bodyweight number won’t have changed, but muscle mass will go up and bodyfat will have gone down. So, I took a deep breath and stepped on the scale.

I gained a pound, muscle mass went down and bodyfat went up. Shit. How is that even possible?

I really am tired of thinking about food. The worst part is that my diet isn’t horrible. It’s not like I’m eating at McDonalds and Taco Bell every day. I’m not snacking on chips, doughnuts, or eating pizza every night. I don’t drink soda. I usually eat two meals a day. Mid-day I have a few pieces of cheese or some popcorn. Dinner is a protein and a vegetable. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a dessert. We eat out maybe once a week.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know exactly why I don’t lose weight. The biggest culprit is the volume of food. I may only eat two meals a day, but they’re 50% bigger than they need to be. I don’t just put a little sauce, dressing, or butter on something, I put a LOT on. There are too many empty calories from alcohol consumed. The snacking, while not bad foods, happens more times during the day than I want to admit.

So, I know exactly how to fix the problem. The issue is that I’m sick of thinking about food. I’m tired of thinking about calories, eating something and then feeling guilty and mad at myself afterwards. I’m tired of having to plug every morsel into a food calculator to see where I am on calories. I hate the feeling of going out to eat and having the internal struggle with the menu. I should order a salad or plain fish, but a burger and fries are what I really want. I restrict and starve, then eat too big a portion, do a bunch of cardio and then have three beers that night. I resolve to eat something really healthy and then make a salad the size of my head and add a full cup of dressing, cheese and bacon. I eat dinner every night like clockwork, even though I ate three chicken pieces a few hours earlier and I’m not really hungry. I’m just tired of agonizing over food.

I wish I understood why food is such a struggle. I resent having to obsess over the almighty calorie. I’m pissed that I’ve basically written some version of this same post probably a dozen times over the last few years and yet, here I am again. I fear I’m starting to sound like a teenage girl with an eating disorder.

Sigh. Ok, end of rant. Back to figuring out some sort of sustainable meal plan. And cardio. Need more cardio. The struggle is real.

I Might Be A Viking

  • We’ve been watching the Netflix/BBC series “The Last Kingdom“. It’s pretty good, and worth the watch if you haven’t seen it. Similar to Peaky Blinders, watching with captions turned on is recommended due to the heavy English accents. I joked after one of the episodes that, being of Swedish ancestry, I might actually be a Viking. Mrs Troutdog walked away laughing. I was a little hurt. My family is from Sweden. As a young lad I spent my time surfing, sailing, and scuba diving. I love the snow and embrace the cold winter sports. Those things pretty much define what we think of as characteristics of the proud Norse people, right? I did a little bit of reading, and it turns out that the Vikings weren’t very nice people. Raiding and pillaging villages, taking people as slaves, and other unmentionable acts were pretty much the hallmarks of a Viking visit to your hometown. Fearsome warriors, the Vikings occupied much of Europe during their heyday. Ok, I admit I’ll probably never be tossed in the fearsome warrior category. But don’t worry, I can write a scathing email if my back is pushed against the wall. Continuing my extensive research, I stumbled upon a link describing Viking hairstyles. It turns out the “Viking look” is an actual thing right now. Hmmm, I kind of like the look. The problem is that I can’t grow a beard, look terrible with long hair, and Mrs Troutdog would never let me shave the sides of my head. Oh, and that’s probably not a look an old man can pull off anyway (unless you’re a 300-pound powerlifter). Oh well, I don’t really like pickled and salted fish and I’ve never actually been to Sweden. I suppose no radical hairstyle changes are in my future. But deep down, in the dead of winter, I may still have a few small daydreams of being a Viking.

  • Our next Supreme Court Justice, when asked to define what a woman is, replied that she can’t because she’s not a biologist. Her fear of saying anything that goes against the progressive narrative tells you all you need to know about her probable judicial leanings. It doesn’t matter, it’s all political theater anyway.

  • The weather this week will be turning warm. It’ll be in the mid 70’s by the weekend. Glorious warm sun and dry trails. I find myself paralyzed with indecision about what I want to do. Mountain bike? Trail run? Golf? Motorcycle ride? Winter is officially done.

  • Along with warm weather comes… yard work. At the start of winter, I boldly declared that I’m perfectly capable of maintaining the yards and got rid of the gardener. It’ll save us some money and won’t actually take me that much time. Now that time has arrived and as I’m surveying everything that needs to be done… I’m slightly regretting my decision. No matter, I shall rally and become the gardener that I was always meant to be! Stay tuned for frequent garden updates.

  • The Ukraine scenario continues to be awful. It’s horrific to see the suffering. It is a confusing mess in every way imaginable, with no clear or positive outcome. But for all the folks calling for U.S. intervention, you should first define how many American casualties are you willing to accept. How many young men are you willing to let die or be permanently maimed in the name of defending Ukraine? 50? 100? 1,000? More? 100,000 in small tactical nuclear strikes against U.S. bases in Poland or elsewhere? As is clear by the footage we’ve seen, this is not a video game. “Intervention” has consequences. Own up to what you think acceptable losses are – and intervening with zero losses is not a realistic answer.

  • I had jury duty this week. I dutifully drove downtown, parked, and made my way to the courthouse. Checked in, found a hard plastic chair, and began the waiting process. Eventually we were sorted out by red and green badges and lined up by number to proceed into the courtroom. Just before we entered the Jury director came out and said that everyone with a green badge is being dismissed, our case was settled. Hallelujah! Interestingly, in my county you’re still on the hook for the remainder of the week and can still be called in. Fingers crossed for me as I call into the jury selection recording number each night, to find out my fate for the next day.

  • I’ve been seeing a gym trainer twice a week for almost two months now. I’m starting to see progress. My range of motion is improved, balance is better, and core strength is significantly better. For the first time in a long time, I’ve been able to play golf or lift and move heavy patients at work without my back hurting the next day. I’m not quite ready to say I look forward to working out, but I’m actively making sure I don’t miss or find excuses to skip any workout sessions. This is a big change for me. Stay tuned…

Song of the day: Kaskade & Skrillex – Lick It (Official Video)

Just Take A Lesson

Proprioception is something that we rarely think about (bada boom, no pun intended). It’s the sense we have of where our bodies are in space. It’s why you can drive a car without looking at your feet on the pedals. You can walk in a completely dark room without losing your balance. You can type without looking at the keys. And why NFL receivers can make those amazing stretched out end zone catches with their feet staying in-bounds. Your brain keeps track of what all the appendages are doing at all times without you thinking about it. Some of us just do it better than others.

My first real awareness of this was an experimentation period with barefoot running. I’d just finished Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run” and decided to go all-in on barefoot running. I went with the Vibram Five Fingers shoes and hit the trail. If you’re not familiar with them, there’s no sole or cushion – just a thin layer of rubber to protect your feet from scratches and cuts. Needless to say, landing on a rock while running hurts. A lot. I spent much of those early runs with massively bruised feet. Eventually, someone pointed out what I was doing wrong. I was watching my feet when I was running. I was so busy trying to avoid rocks and “direct” where I stepped, my running was awkward, clumsy, and I constantly stepped on the rocks I was trying to avoid.

The secret is to not look where you’re going. Instead, look way ahead down the trail. Your brain sees all the terrain and creates a map of where to step without you being aware of it. If you stop thinking about it and let the brain and proprioception do it’s thing, you become smoother, faster, and avoid the rocks. It seems very counter-intuitive. You’ve done it yourself many times without realizing it. Walk across a room carrying a very full coffee cup. If you stare at the cup as you walk and try not to spill, most likely you’ll start spilling. Look ahead and stop thinking about it and your brain, arm, and hand will take care of the balance just fine.

What’s my point with this? Our conscious thoughts often get in the way of learning new skills properly. Take the golf swing. The average downswing takes about a quarter of a second. Your proprioception WILL get the clubhead to the ball. The problem is you may unknowingly have to do all sorts of weird contortions to get the clubhead back to the ball depending upon what you did in the backswing, setup, etc… Here’s where conscious thought gets in the way. I’m someone who was traditionally too cheap and stubborn to take lessons. Instead, I’d spend hundreds of dollars on the driving range pounding away at balls thinking I can “fix” my swing by myself. I was sure I knew what I was doing wrong. It was just a matter of enough practice. When it finally became clear that wasn’t working, I broke down and took a lesson.

That first time I saw my golf swing on video I was blown away. Everything I thought I was doing, had nothing to do with what I was really doing. My conscious brain would lie to me and it would “feel” like my hands or hips were doing one thing, but in reality they were doing the opposite. It was an ah-ha moment for me. My stubborn insistence (and cheapness) that I can teach myself has probably cost me significantly over the years. If I’d been willing and open years ago to taking lessons for many of my sports, I suspect I’d be much more skilled than I am today. I’m a reasonably coordinated and athletic person, so I’ve been able to make things work. But I could have been so much better.

I’m now at a point that I have the time, resources, and willingness to take lessons. I’m embracing it. I’ve been going to a personal trainer and have been making gains far quicker than I ever did by myself in my garage gym. He’s correcting horrible form that I “felt” was correct. I took my first ever ski lesson this season. A few simple changes have made things more effortless and really dialed in my carving turns. I never would have figured that out on my own. I’m doing a big block of golf lessons because I want to stop fighting the game and enjoy playing. It’s very obvious now that I can’t do that on my own watching YouTube instructional videos.

Our bodies and proprioception are an amazing thing. But unless you’re one of those .001% of gifted natural athletes, most likely your conscious brain will get in the way of correct movement. But as Mrs Troutdog has told me for years (and I didn’t listen), even the top pros have coaches for a reason.

Whatever your sport is, go take a damn lesson.

I Did A Bad Thing

I’m still not sure how it happened. Mrs Troutdog was out of town. God, this is so hard to say. I was, (chokes up a little), I was… hungry. Like, haven’t eaten in three days hungry. And I went to (takes deep breath)… Costco. You NEVER go to Costco when you’re hungry. That’s like rule number one. Like the very first thing they teach you as a new diet recruit at diet bootcamp. I’m so ashamed.

Now, fortunately there weren’t any blowouts with a 72-count case of doughnuts or anything. I’m not going to say I didn’t think about it, but I had at least a tiny bit of self-control. But there was bread. Oh god, so much bread. I honestly intended to simply get something to make a sandwich. I was hungry, it was lunchtime, and I was craving a sandwich. Having bread in the house is a bit of a forbidden thing, so standing in the Costco bread aisle felt very… naughty. Because you can’t get a small amount of anything at Costco, I put two giant loaves of sourdough bread in the cart. Enough bread for approximately 62 sandwiches (not including the heels). I almost abandoned the bread for giant tortillas, but they came in packages of about 120 and that a bit much even for me.

And then I saw the bagels. Oh my, I haven’t had a bagel in forever. I mean, I guess as long as I’m already having a sandwich, I may as well have a bagel for breakfast in the morning. But wait, we don’t even own a toaster (I wasn’t kidding, we don’t eat bread). So off to the appliance aisle to pick up a toaster. And then, as always happens when you get into a self-destructive mode, I thought – you know what, you can’t have a sandwich without potato chips. I’m already blowing it, fuck it, I’m getting chips. I did make a half-hearted attempt to find some kind of low-cal chips, but it didn’t last long. One ginormous bag of greasy chips into the cart. And what else do they have in the chip aisle? Popcorn. Oh my, I love popcorn. I looked at the calorie count and justified to myself that it’s not a horrible number as long as I don’t have it every night, right? (ignoring the fact that the calorie count is per serving and there’s like 20 servings in each bag). The 50-count case of Kirkland brand popcorn went into the cart.

I got home unpacked and made my sandwich. It was glorious. Toasted sourdough in my new toaster. Avocado. Sharp cheddar cheese. Bacon. Turkey. And a giant pile of potato chips. Oh my. If I was a smoker, I probably would have had a cigarette afterwards. And then the guilt set in. What have I done? Why am I so weak? I don’t understand why I do this to myself.

I walked into the kitchen and surveyed the wreckage of my frenetic sandwich making. Now if I was a smart man, I would have simply thrown everything away. Yep, had a moment of weakness and got it out of my system. Don’t beat yourself up. Dump it all, go for a run and eat clean tomorrow. Right?

Nope. I committed the other cardinal sin of dieting. The dreaded, “I already blew it, it’s the end of the week, I’ll start clean on Monday” justification. So, I’ve eaten it all. Day after day of sandwiches, chips, bagels, and popcorn. Sometimes twice a day. Mowed my way through a nearly 100% carbohydrate diet for days.

So now I sit here feeling bloated. My stomach’s a bit upset. I tried to go for a run but felt like crap. Mad at myself. Guilty. Ashamed. Vowing never to do it again. Mrs Troutdog is mad at me because she partook in the carb-binging as well. It was an end-to-end failure. Why do we do this to ourselves? Normal people, how do you resist these urges?

Sigh… Never go to Costco when you’re hungry.

It’s easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.

Margaret Mead

Envy Of The Fitness Aristocrats

This morning as I was scrolling through the Twitters, I came across a tweet from some blue check personality who looked like an actress of some sort. She was slim and toned, holding a green looking drink, and posted something like “love my post workout smoothie!” She was standing in a high-end gym with large windows overlooking the ocean. The thought that flashed through my head was yeah, it’s pretty easy to look great when you have attendants and trainers to cater to you and your workout at two in the afternoon. If all I had to do was sleep in, eat the breakfast my personal chef made for me, show up at the resort gym and do what the instructors said, then drink the kale and Ka’Chava smoothie my assistant had waiting for me – I’d look like that too. Ok, maybe not wearing a pink leotard but you get what I mean. Like when the Rock posts on Instagram about getting off his private jet and heading to his multi-thousand square foot private home gym, with every piece of fitness equipment ever invented, for a late-night workout… it just doesn’t resonate with us common folks.

Except that’s just jealousy on my part. Not of the wealth and privilege, but of the commitment these folks have. Fitness and weight loss take determination. A resolve to restrict calories and to push yourself physically. Is it harder for a working mom to find a way to drive to the gym at 05:00 AM to work out before the kids get up, than the celebrity who has an attendant to wipe their brow and take pictures for Instagram? Of course. But at the end of the day, both of them have to show up, do the work, and give a pass on that piece of chocolate cake if they want to look the way they do. Most of us don’t have that resolve.

The envy is really just a manifestation of your own self-pity for not having the same resolve. To succeed in fitness, working out needs to become a basic part of your life. Like brushing your teeth, getting the laundry done, and taking out the trash – finding an hour to get a workout of some sort in has to be just a standard part of your day.

Not being a physically strong person, I’ve hated “working out” my entire life. It hurts, it’s a huge ego blow when all you can lift is the pink “my pretty pony” barbell, and it’s overwhelming to try and figure out where to start. Weeks and weeks go by, and it feels like you’ve made zero progress other than every muscle now hurts when walking down the stairs or brushing your teeth. The mental resolve it takes to keep hitting the gym, morning bootcamp in the park, or daily jog is massive. People who are fit can’t appreciate the resolve it takes to go from zero to a daily fitness routine.

I’ve only once, briefly crossed that line into habit. A few summers ago, I decided to start running. For a while it was all I could do to get around the block. Then I started trail running. I’d walk more than run. And then at some point I realized I was running (slowly) without stopping. And then I got a little faster and my distances started increasing. By the end of that summer, I was comfortably running mountain trails at 7,000 feet and doing 6-10 miles. I was almost… so close… to that feeling of needing to run. I didn’t quite crave it – I was still doing it as a way to drop pounds – but there were a few days where something got in the way and I couldn’t go for a run, and I found myself actually missing it. I wasn’t sore any more afterwards, and even started making plans for what type of runs to do each week. That’s the threshold that needs to be crossed – you look forward to a workout and regret it when you miss one.

I obviously didn’t cross far enough past that line, as I was motivationally derailed shortly afterwards and lost all the progress I’d made. So here we are again, back at square one. My personal fitness Groundhog Day. I see the fabulous people on the social medias, bragging about their workouts.

"Just killed a workout with the best trainer ever! Going to snack on three almonds, then get ready for a ten-mile run this afternoon. Coconut water is the best!! Love all my fans!!!!!" 

I briefly get motivated after seeing these posts. I will do a workout today. Right after drinking this seventh cup of coffee. And watching some motivational David Goggins on the IG. Crap, it’s really cold out there and it’s already lunchtime. Ok, ok, ok. I’ll eat lunch, let it settle, and then go for a run. Promise. After this nap. Shoot, I forget I need to go to the store. Well… it’s almost dinnertime now. Alright, I PROMISE I’ll get up early and go run tomorrow morning.

My fitness Groundhog Day. Every day. The embarrassing part of all this is that I have the ability to be a member of the very fitness aristocracy I was jealous of, if I chose. I have a decent home gym. I only work a few days a week, so my time is unlimited. I could afford a trainer if I wanted. The foothills and running trails are a few blocks away. I’m in a very fortunate position to be able to buy, make, or order whatever food, nutritional supplements, or fancy Ka’Chava smoothie machines I want. If I decided that leopard skin running tights, or a fancy heart rate monitor was the limiting factor to my training, Amazon can have it at my doorstep tomorrow. There literally is zero barrier to my becoming an Olympic-class athlete (age adjusted, of course).

Except that pesky motivation issue. The drive to simply lace up the shoes and just do it, as Nike reminds us. Giving up and resorting to wearing velour track suits like an old school gangster would certainly be easier. Trust me, I’ve thought about it. But deep down, I’m not happy with how I feel right now. I need to make that change. To find a way to put up with the initial pain and cross that line to a healthy fitness lifestyle.

As I revisit where I started out with this post, I’m thinking that the secret isn’t money or fitness aristocracy… it’s the photos. I suspect the real secret to success is taking killer pictures of yourself working out, so you can brag about it on social media. That leads to accountability. If I just start posting daily pictures of my workout, eventually my six Twitter followers will start expecting a daily photo. And I’m not one to disappoint my fans.

Hmmm. Do I go with a high-end, fancy equipment Troutdog workout photo theme?

Just finished measuring my VO2max. Going to get some zone 3 intervals in on my Peloton, then drink a recovery shake! 

Maybe a grungy, military/mountain Troutdog photo theme would fit better?

Just finished a twenty-mile run carrying this big rock. Going to go home and drink some homemade bone broth and then lance these blisters. 

Either way, this will take some planning. You may want to sign up for my socials and newsletter now, so you can follow along with my fitness journey and not miss out.

Because I’m fairly positive, most likely, unless something comes up, definitely starting tomorrow.

Headed Off To Bootcamp

How’z those New Year resolutions going? I’m pretty sure in the fitness industry they’re now reaching peak “new year, new me!” frenzy. Somewhere in the next few weeks the new gym membership attendance begins to wane. By late February the committed gym rats have their empty weight rooms again and gym owners can rejoice – all those oversold introductory one-year memberships are now free money. Diets are being broken, and people are realizing they’re stuck with three more months of Jenny Craig meals they won’t eat. That Peloton bike investment and pre-paid 1 year subscription is looking shaky, although it does make a handy spot to dry sweaters.

In Troutdog land, we’re still on the path. Been about 80% good with diet and mostly in ketosis. Zero alcohol for the month. I was really good until I got taken out by the virus which we shall not name. I got hit with the full dump truck of symptoms. Everything except loss of taste and smell. Apparently for me, full fevers and body aches is a license to eat everything I can find in the pantry. I put back a couple of the pounds I’d lost. I’ve now re-lost those pounds, but my end of January weight goal is 1.5 pounds away with three days to go. I’ll probably get close, but no cigar. I blame China.

Workouts have been spotty, but I’m doing it. Again, the damn virus put a damper on things. When you’re newly lifting weights, it’s hard to tell if that head-to-toe body ache is because of DOMS, or Covid fever? The biggest accomplishment is that I started running again. And by running, I mean a lumbering walk-jog with occasional bouts of wild flailing around in an attempt to not slip on the ice. People my age break hips falling on the ice, so I’m extra careful.

All of this, combined with days and days of contemplating my navel while waiting to pass quarantine, prompted me to make a rash decision. I committed to something I’ve never done before. I hired a personal trainer. Gasp! It was either that or join the military so I can go through bootcamp. With tensions mounting in the Ukraine and South China Sea, I figured a local fitness expert was a safer choice.

I’m not sure what to expect. I don’t see him until next week. I told him I was looking for help putting together a program that incorporates strength training with improving aerobic endurance. I started putting together an extensive resume of past fitness and sport achievements, a list of gear and equipment in my home gym, daily nutrition data, and then a proposed schedule of workout times that correspond with my circadian rhythms. I then realized that he’ll probably throw that in the trash and say, “Uh, can you lift that weight? No? Ok how about that one? Still no? Can you lift that pink one? Hmmm. Maybe this isn’t the best fit…”

I’m starting to realize that what I really need is someone to simply hold me accountable. To yell at me to stop complaining and just get it done. To ask me what the hell I’ve been eating that my weight went back up three pounds in a day. To slap that 2,000 calorie Starbucks Frappuccino out of my pudgy little fingers. In short, I need to go to bootcamp.

Maybe there’s a military branch for middle aged dudes with poor eyesight and more computer skills than physical attributes. Weekends only would be a bonus. I’m thinking that I’m a walking recruiting poster boy for… The UNITED STATES SPACEFORCE!

So, if you don’t hear from me for a while I’m either binge watching Bill Murry in Stripes or I got called up to report for duty. I wonder if they’ll make me get a haircut?

Breaking News: I’m A Houseplant

Have you ever been out for a walk in a forest and see a tree with a weird bend and crazy lean angle? Most of the time that’s a tree desperately trying to reach the sun. Your houseplants will turn and orient themselves towards the light. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this… but I am basically a houseplant.

Much to my dermatologist’s dismay, I like the sun. If I didn’t like the mountains and skiing so much, I could see moving to a tropical environment. Shorts, flip-flops, and sitting with the warm sun in your face is just energizing. What I didn’t fully realize is that not only do I enjoy the sun, but I actually require it.

The start of this winter was a bit rough. Late fall turned gray and rainy. The trails turned to muck and there was a constant cloud cover. As fall turned over to winter, nothing changed except it got cold. Just as despair set in, we finally got snow. And then more snow. And some more. Oh, happy days, we were out of the mud season and ready to start winter fun!

I’m too lazy to go back and research the actual weather, but I suspect I’d find that virtually all of December saw no sun. Just gray clouds and snow. As we drifted to the first week of January, there was more snow. Wind and snow for days that prevented even going out and skiing. So, I was left sitting around twiddling my thumbs with limited outside opportunities. As each day wore on, I felt my motivation to do anything disappear. My mood turned south. Not exactly grumpy, but close. By the end of that week I had zero energy. I was literally out of breath climbing the stairs. Mrs Troutdog wondered if I’d caught the ‘omicron. I think I slept much of the day on Thursday. I can honestly say it was the worst feeling of malaise I’ve ever had. I didn’t understand why I felt so completely drained.

Friday morning dawned without a cloud in the sky. There was sun! Just seeing that out the windows put a little pep in my step. I grabbed the hound and went out for a long cross-country ski. At one point I think I stopped in a forest clearing, motionless, with my face turned up to the sun for at least ten minutes. I could feel my mood elevating every minute I was out there. By the time I got home I was happy and blasting ‘tunes at a ludicrous volume.

So there it is. While I always knew I got a little “down” when it’s gray out for an extended period, I’d never experienced it to this extent. I clearly suffer from some degree of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It caught me a bit by surprise. I’m not sure if my need for sun is more pronounced now that I’m older, or this was simply the longest period of no sun I’ve seen?

Regardless, I am officially a houseplant. I crave the sun. I need it. Deprive me of it and I’ll wither and die. Mrs Troutdog helpfully suggested I get one of those U.V. lamps to sit under. That reminds me of those polar bear exhibits at the zoo with the white painted concrete. I’m pretty sure the bears know that isn’t really snow. I am not going to let myself turn into a sad zoo exhibit sitting under a U.V. box. No dammit, I need real sun. Outside.

Next year will be different, unless the global warming prophecies suddenly kick in and we experience the end of winter. Next year there will be several planned desert golf outings or tropical beach trips scheduled around the early winter period. Just enough to keep the batteries topped off and make to the late winter and bluebird ski days.

Like an alcoholic at an AA meeting – Hi, my name is Troutdog and I am a houseplant. I denied it for years, but I have a problem handling the overcast days. I need the sun to survive.

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!

John Muir

What Kind Of Eater Are You?

As we inch towards the new year, approximately two thirds of the United States is planning a new diet come Jan 1. (cough cough, myself included) In the US the portion sizes are 3x what they should be, we snack constantly, eat convenient processed food, and rarely exercise. The result is a steady 2-5 pounds a year of weight gain until you reach the “oh shit” stage whereupon you realize your scheduled beach vacation is three months away and you look like a bloated Steven Seagal with an all-you-can-eat card for the local Krispy Kreme. You don’t dare wear that fancy speedo you bought for fear of being mistaken for a beached whale. (yes, this is a true story minus the speedo part. Unless you’re an Olympic swimmer, under no circumstances should men rock the banana hammock. Sorry, those are just the rules)

Given this, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share some insights into my PhD research. I’m planning on a doctorate in applied bio-electrical nutrition and chemical manipulation of the ribosome. It’s an at-home study course. Given the costs of education these days, this one seemed pretty reasonable. Only 10 payments of $899 and you can call me Dr Troutdog! Anyway, as part of my thesis work, I’ve identified the five primary eating genotypes in the United States. They are as follows:

  • The Apathetic Eater – These people are freaks and should be shunned. They generally don’t care about food. They eat only because they have to. They pick at salads and eat half a bowl of cereal in the morning. That’s it. They’ve been thin their entire lives and don’t understand how people get fat. A large percentage of them are vegetarian or some weird fruitarian thing. They don’t exercise and often get blown over in storms. Usually, they’re cat people because they lack the strength to hold on to a dog leash without getting pulled down the street like an out-of-control dog sled.

  • The Disciplined Eater – Also freaks of nature. These eaters count calories, macronutrients, and usually meal plan and prep a week at a time. Very often they’re athletes. Or at the very least, crossfitters (don’t worry, they’ll tell you). They follow very strict diets – Keto, Paleo, IIFYM, etc… These freaks have goals for each week, quarter, and year. They track everything in journals. Be careful with conversations with these folks because they’ll overwhelm you with acronyms about total energy expenditures, insulin and glycemic to fat burning ratios. Their idea of a cheat meal is indulging in a light beer and an extra portion of sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. When around these people you’ll generally feel bad about yourself for not wanting to wake up at 04:30 to work out or join them in the polar bear plunge on New Year’s Day.

  • The Guilty Eater – This is probably the average eater in the US. They’ve put on weight, know it, and desperately want to “get healthy”. They join, or re-join, a gym every year and go for about a month. Once a quarter they start a new diet they heard about from Dr Oz (senator?) and Oprah. The cabbage soup and raw lemon-rind snack diet works for a week or so and then fails due to consumption of three-quarters of a meat lovers pizza in a fit of near-cannibalistic hunger. These folks don’t eat breakfast, order a salad with no dressing when out to lunch with co-workers, and then binge three doughnuts in the breakroom at work. There’s a secret stash of candy and chips in the car and on the back shelf of the pantry. Dieting is just so hard when you have to make a ginormous lasagna, bread, and desert to feed the three kids. These poor souls know they need to lose weight and hate themselves every time they sneak some Taco Bell on the way home.

  • The Gluttonous Eater – Often found in the south, these folks either truly don’t understand the concept of a calorie, or just don’t care. They eat with abandon. Anything and everything. If it’s not deep fried, what’s the point? They tend to see themselves as just “big boned”. Usually they’re very happy folks, hard workers, and often great cooks. They’re plagued with health issues and are puzzled at how they “caught the diabetes”. Their grandparents and parents ate this way, and so do they. They don’t see the need to “diet” other than switch to diet Coke occasionally. The other side of the coin in this category are the folks who have some mental health issues and eat as some sort of coping mechanism. Probably the saddest group of all. The morbidly obese who’ve simply given up.

  • The Balanced Eater – The unicorn (at least in the United States). The eater who exercises regularly, but not compulsively. They enjoy food, but somehow manage to keep their calories in check. They’ll enjoy a good meal but have figured out the whole moderation thing. They’re happy and balanced. They are a rare find. They are subjects of a great deal of research. We all strive to find that magic pill or diet that gives us what they have – a healthy outlook on food, exercise and the willpower to maintain those habits without guilt, obsession, or overthinking it. They are hated by most of the population.

So, what kind of eater are you? If you’ve been reading any of my previous ramblings, you’ll recognize I’m clearly in the Guilty Eater category. I had a few brief flirtations with the Disciplined Eater, but it flamed out fairly quickly. I go through weird food compulsions (croutons, rice, pretzels, Pirates Booty (it’s gluten free!) chips, cheese, etc…) Why is it so hard to just eat normally and get some exercise? We really are a ridiculous population in this country. Laziness and sloth have taken root and I fear are here to stay. Like the Roman Empire, we became fat and complacent, living for our entertainment and pleasures. And when the zombie apocalypse comes, very few of us will have the cardio to survive*.

I wish you luck with your diet plans in the New Year. I have three months to drop approximately thirty pounds before I can stroll down the beach in my leopard print banana hammock. I have full confidence I will achieve my goals. Starting tomorrow. Wait, you can’t start on a weekend. Starting on Monday. For sure.

* Rule #1 of the 32 rules of Zombieland

The In-Between Doldrums

doldrums [ˈdōldrəmz, ˈdäldrəmz]
NOUN
(the doldrums) a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.

While we’re on the topic of definitions, here’s another one that’s often misunderstood/misused:
Inertia
a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

My default state of inertia can best be described as… sloth. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a pretty active guy. Once I start doing stuff, that feeds on itself and the next thing I know there isn’t enough time in the week to do everything I want. Once enough force is applied and I get going, my inertia is a healthy level of continuous movement.

The problem is that if anything derails that inertia, I default back to sloth mode. This is where I introduce you to the doldrums. In my part of the world, this happens twice a year. Right now, we’re in the winter doldrums. Fall is over. It’s cold. It’s rained enough that the trails are a muddy, torn up mess. You can’t run on ’em or mountain bike. Did I mention the cold? This makes a motorcycle ride an extremely unpleasant experience. There’s no snow yet, so my standard winter activities haven’t started yet. Finding outdoor activities this time of year, while not impossible, are exponentially harder.

Day by day my motivation and inertia wanes. Adding to that, it’s the holidays which means food. There’s just food everywhere. At the hospital, well-meaning families of patients are constantly bringing cookies, cakes, and candy. The staff break room is a never-ending cornucopia of calories.

It doesn’t take many days of this, and I get into a bit of a funk. I didn’t go completely stationary… I managed to play golf a few times and did a couple of home repairs. But my default state the last few weeks has been couch-bound. And the more I sit the more my inertia starts resetting to sloth mode. It gets harder and harder to want to get up and do anything.

It needs to snow soon so I can resume my skiing activities. Otherwise, I might bust out the video games that have been in a closet for the last five or so years. If that happens, you probably won’t hear from me until spring. Unfortunately, what happens in spring? Doldrums part deux. The snow melts and we have a long period known as “the mud season”. You can see that this is a dangerous cycle.

Overcoming the moment of inertia – the force required to overpower the current mass and velocity of an object can be a complicated mathematical formula. The longer I stay still the greater the mass and friction coefficients become, and the required force becomes exponentially greater.

As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings.’ The time has come to apply some force and bust out of the funk of the doldrums.