Thatguywiththebeard’s Kitchen (Part 2): The Monday Night Kitchen Dance

“Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.” – Samuel Beckett

No one is more aware than me of how personal each person’s food decisions are. And because I am sometimes unable to completely turn off my snark, I might sound like I’ve got something figured out that you don’t, or that I know something that you should know. That is not the case or my intention.

I don't even remember what this picture was originally for

I don’t even remember what this picture was originally for

While staying with friends on a recent trip, my very gracious hosts, being aware of my attempts to eat as clean as possible, reminded me a few times that they had “healthy food” if I was hungry and that I was welcomed to anything I wanted. I so appreciated their hospitality and understood the emphasis being made since I share so much unnecessary detail on here sometimes. And because I often bring my own food to places others wouldn’t (like everywhere). But it also made me wonder if by excessively detailing that shallow line in the sand I’ve drawn for my own dietary benefit, if I haven’t created what looks to others more like a dangerous trench on the beach to be traversed with caution.

I want to make clear that I eat the things I do because they work for ME, not necessarily because I think it’s the way everyone should eat or because I refuse to eat anything outside of my regular daily diet. I don’t want to come across as that asshole that loudly harasses a steak house server about their lack of vegan options or the guy that complains about the lack of meat options on the salad bar. There are many ways to eat a healthy diet. I’m sharing this stuff (probably in excessive detail) because it’s come up in conversation a lot lately, and may be interesting to at least a few of you. I hope I don’t appear judgmental towards anyone else’s food choices. Do whatever you want. Life is short. Enjoy the hell out of it. If that means a steady diet of chicken nuggets dipped in nutella, then dip in deep. Hell, double dip if you want to, I’m not trying to get in there.

“Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?” – Friedrich Nietzsche

In Part One of this I-promise-only-two-part series of self-righteous food blogging, I mentioned that I eat the same basic things almost every day and that my diet goals are more fuel based than in mere satiation of hunger. I eat to live way more than I live to eat. And because of ongoing trials in post run/workout refueling, I try to eat within 30-60 minutes of finishing those activities. The debate rages on whether or not that time frame is as critical as it has so often been expressed. So instead of worrying about the specifics of that dispute, I just do it and know that no matter the time frame, the most important part is that I eat a well balanced and nutritious diet all day every day in order to provide my body with the energy it needs and to recover as quickly as possible from the stress put on it during runs and workouts. I have to eat. So I do.

I’ve also shared how busy I keep my schedule and how limited any spare time can be. As I discussed in Living Healthier Sucks, working, running, going to the gym, grocery shopping, the constant laundry rotation, and cooking nearly every meal I eat every day takes a lot of time. I’m only one person. So in order to do all of those things, I have to plan ahead and stick to that plan. Some weeks I do better than others. Some weeks it looks like I don’t have a fucking clue. But my diet remains near the center of my mental focus. It is key, and I am continually trying to make it cleaner and more efficient.

Maybe the most critical part of my meal planning is the Monday Night Kitchen Dance. The silly term comes from my old apartment where the kitchen was so small that just cooking in it at all involved pouring most prep work out onto a table in the adjoining room and rotating back in and out of the kitchen to stir this, flip that, or pop something in or out of the oven. Add another person to the equation, and it really did become a coordinated dance in order to not burn the meal or one of the “dancers.” Now, even with a larger kitchen and one less person on the dance floor, I sometimes still find myself spinning around a bit to get my weekly meal essentials all cooked and prepped on Monday nights. What an exciting life I lead, right? Pop a cork, let’s party.

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.” – Jim Rohn

Brussel sprouts in some diluted bloody mary mix

Brussel sprouts in some diluted bloody mary mix

There are staples to my diet that I have to keep on hand in order to eat the things I want to eat without sucking up every free moment of every day standing at my stove. My refrigerator always contains some cooked greens for my breakfast omelets; quinoa and some sort of beans for my lunch salads; baked sweet potatoes for dinners; and any number of pre-cooked veggies such as brussel sprouts, beets, or anything else that catches my eye and takes more than a few minutes to cook. Fresh and fast-cooking veggies like squash, onions, zucchini, asparagus, and mushrooms (yes, I know they’re a fungus), I keep raw until I’m ready to cook and eat them, but they’re in there too.

On Mondays, I take inventory and make sure that those items with longer cooking times all get prepared and stored for the week to come. And I like to do it all on the same night so that I can 1) minimize required cooking time every other night of the week 2) reuse as much of the cooking liquids as possible throughout the dance routine. Because boiling veggies can cause certain nutrients to leach out into the water, I repurpose all used liquids except for those from starchier foods like beans or potatoes. Beet water is my current favorite. I could steam them or roast them, but I love using that deep red and tasty water in quinoa so much that I always simmer beets. And the beet greens are a nice addition to the Monday night stir fry as well. Have I mentioned how much I love my simple meals? Well I do.

“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.” – William James

Here’s the rough choreography of the dance. Maestro, can I get something in a funky ass 70’s groove please?

I scrub three or four sweet potatoes, fork-stab ‘em a few dozen times, rub on some olive oil, wrap each in foil, and pop them in the oven. They take the longest and once they’re in there, I can kind of forget about them. With them finally off the counter and out of the way, I start cleaning, pealing, and cutting up some beets because they also take a bit of time. I’ll cook beets in lightly salted water or if I have some leftover peppercini, olive, or jalapeno brine (I never throw that stuff out; too useful), I’ll mix that in with some water for some extra flavor instead adding plain salt. With that pot on the stove and heating up, it’s usually time for some brussel sprouts. I love me some brussel sprouts. I boil brussel sprouts in a 50/50 mix of water and bloody mary mix with some added crushed red pepper flake for good measure. I cook all kinds of stuff in bloody mary mix actually. It’s tasty.

Can't go wrong w/ brussels, shrooms, onion, serano, & garlic

Can’t go wrong w/ brussels, shrooms, onion, serano, & garlic

With the oven occupied and two pots going on the stove, the dance is on and it’s about time to start cutting onions, peppers, garlic, and whatever fresh veggies I’m planning to actually eat that night. Cooking Monday’s dinner while doing the dance gives me something to do while stirring watched pots and tasting beet pieces to check for doneness.

I only cook the brussel sprouts until they’re about half way done because I know I’m eventually going to be heating them in the skillet later in the week. When they start to get a little tender, I remove them with a slotted spoon and save the now sprout accented bloody mary mixture. In that same liquid and adding water or brine if necessary, I’ll cook the leafy green I use for my breakfast omelet. This week it was turnip greens. Next week, kale. Once they’re done, I remove those with a slotted spoon as well, again saving the greener and greener bloody mary liquid. Waste not, want not. Then I finally rinse out that pot so I can cook whatever bean I’ll be putting in my lunch salads; currently limas are my carb of choice. As the beets become slightly tender, I remove them just like the sprouts and greens, also saving the water. Recycle, recycle, recycle.

I’m ridiculous.

With the sprouts and beets cooling on the counter and limas simmering, it’s now time for the quinoa. I was very slow to fall in love with quinoa, but my love for it has only gotten stronger with time and each new discovery of flavors to add. It’s an excellent protein source for people eating a plant based diet and once I realized that I could cook it in almost any liquid I want, I was hooked (Note: sweeter liquids seem to burn faster and need to be diluted). I’ve cooked it in everything from plain water, diluted jalapeno brines, diluted bloody mary mix, spicy soup broth leftover from Thai take-out, or any mixture of these. My current favorite is anything mixed with the leftover beet water. And the beet water mixed with the bloody mary mixture from the sprouts actually makes a really great combination. I use that a lot right now. Any liquids I don’t use on Monday go in the fridge for later because I usually have to make quinoa more than once a week. I love that stuff.

“All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” – Martha Graham

simple and tasty

simple and tasty

That’s pretty much the dance. Once the potatoes are done, I let them cool on the counter as well. And when everything has cooled a bit, I put it all in the fridge to hang out until it’s needed. Throughout the following days, I’ll portion them out along with whatever fresh ingredients I want to cook each night. I do have to microwave the sweet potato, but that’s pretty much the only thing I can’t conveniently reheat in the oven or my trusty cast iron skillet. When the other ingredients are all cooked and seasoned, I just pile them on a plate with the potato and enjoy. And I DO enjoy them.

I can typically get home, drink my protein shake, cook dinner, and be eating within 45-60 minutes of when I walk out of the gym. And that is only possible because I do the Monday Night Kitchen Dance every week. No one’s life is without variable, so some weeks need a little tweaking, but I can dance on Tuesdays if I have to. Whatever I need to do in order to always have my basic diet requirements stacked in my refrigerator or on the counter waiting for me when I need them. If I want to eat something else, I do. But I love knowing that the meals I cook at home are made with quality whole foods with little or no mystery ingredients or unpronounceable preservatives. It feels good to eat good. I like it.

“I am completely attracted to the idea of simplicity, or at least removing things that seem unnecessary when trying to get an idea out there.” – Demetri Martin

I clearly have nothing in common with Demetri Martin. Thank you for indulging me in this long-winded two-part diatribe about my food habits. It started by trying to answer simple questions that I’ve been asked recently and it just flew off the rails before I could stop it.

I again don’t claim to know it all, but it’s a tasty adventure trying to figure it out. Any foodies out there with a good idea? Vegetarians? Vegans? Somebody got a favorite use of bacon? Anybody with a crazy ass schedule who can share a trick on cooking fresh meals without sacrificing your whole evening? I’d love any suggestions you have to offer.

Happy Friday. I’m gonna go get a corn dog with spicy mustard dipping sauce and a fried twinkee.

“Laughter is the sound of the soul dancing. My soul probably looks like Fred Astaire.” – Jarod Kintz

Get ready to get down. I did.

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I’m a Winner!

Well, it’s official. This is now an award winning blog. A fellow runner and blogger has awarded me the Liebster Award. What? You’ve never heard of it. Neither had I. And even doing a quick Google search didn’t produce too much of a clear history or explanation on the “award.” So I’m going to trust the information provided by the kind writer that honored me with it.

The Leibster was awarded to me by Kathryn who writes the blog Run Eat Play RVA. It is a fun blog about Kathryn’s experiences…you guessed it…running, and eating, and playing in her relatively new home of Richmond VA. She, like me, is currently training for the Shamrock Half Marathon and I’ve enjoyed reading about her training, coming back from a past injury, rediscovering her running strength, and continually growing love of the run and life in general. It’s a good read. Check it out.

According to Kathryn, the Leibster Award is given to newer or at least smaller bloggers that have fewer than 200 followers. I just realized that I have 18 and was pleasantly surprised to see that I don’t actually know all of them. The award is then supposed to be passed along to other bloggers in that same boat in order to help spread each others’ readers around a little bit and maybe get some new eyes on each others’ blogs. It’s kind of like a chain-award I guess. Or as Kathryn put it in her Leibster post, “Basically it’s a nice way to say, ‘Hey I like your blog! Let me help you promote it!’” And I really appreciate that. Thank you Kathryn.

The receiver of the award is allegedly supposed to follow these few rules.

-Each blogger nominated must post 11 random things about themselves.

-Then answer the 11 questions the tagger has asked.

-The blogger must then create 11 questions of their own to ask the bloggers they decide to nominate.

-Bloggers must be notified of their award. No tag backs.

Okay, this admittedly feels a little bit too much like one of those old myspace surveys than I’d normally be comfort with. But I guess reaching out of my comfort zone is part of what my blog has become about. And I do genuinely appreciate Kathryn’s gesture, so I’m at least going to follow the first two rules the best I can. We’ll see about the other two a little bit later.

So first, here’s 11 random things about me:

1. The Conan the Barbarian movie soundtrack/score might be my favorite record of all time. I’m a huge music nerd so it’s really impossible to pick a single record as my favorite, but Conan is definitely up there.

I used to work in an independent record store that sold used CDs and tapes. That’s right, cassette tapes. I’m that old. One day somebody brought in a huge box of old cassettes they didn’t want any more and the Conan soundtrack was in there. I took it as something silly to listen to in the car the way home. That damn thing was in my tape deck for at least four days.

I, like nearly everyone else on the planet, have seen the movie. But it was when I was still pretty young and I don’t remember much of it. Now I refuse to ever watch it again, because I like to create my own imagery to go along with the score each time I listen to it. And I’ve recently discovered that it’s also a pretty nice record to listen to while I run.

2. You remember that saying “Act your age, not your shoe size?” My shoe size and my age were the same number from somewhere around nine years old to 15.

Is that an interesting fact about me? Maybe not.

Is it a random fact about me? Damn right.

100_64323. I make a pretty mean sandwich. I like to cook and feel pretty comfortable in the kitchen, but on rare occasions, I just want a sandwich. My favorite sandwich is probably a BEATL (pronounced “beetle”). It’s my version of a BLT with a fried Egg and sliced Avocado on it. It can get a little messy, but it is soooooo good.

I actually made a sandwich as part of my dinner last night. It was sliced avocado, sautéed onions, fried egg, Swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce, and mayo on 100% whole grain toast. It was DELICIOUS and tasted great with leftover beet soup I’ve been enjoying.

4. I don’t watch television. I have one, and I’m pretty sure that it still works. But I have no television service (cable, satellite, antenna, etc.) in my home. Every couple of weeks, I’ll go to HULU and watch any Modern Family episodes that I haven’t seen, but that’s about it. I haven’t had television in years and I don’t miss it.

If it wasn’t for the line of muted televisions at the gym, I wouldn’t even know how awful and ashamed I should feel about the type of entertainment my country supports. It hurts my head to see so much “reality” TV out there. And Jerry Springer is still on TV! Ugh. Who is watching this stupid shit? And why?

5. I don’t really watch movies either. On average, I go to the movies less than twice a year, and probably watch less than six movies total in any format (DVD, theater, Online) throughout the year. No grandiose reasons. I just don’t see a lot of advertisements for them. And when I do, they don’t appeal to me.

As you might’ve guessed by now, I don’t always pick up on it when people make current pop culture references. But I still seem to be doing fine.

6. I am a proud supporting member of my local NPR radio station. I made my donation last night in fact. I am by no stretch of the definition financially wealthy, but I do listen to NPR every day. And since one of the many things that I don’t miss about television is the commercials, I try to pay for that service so they don’t have to beg for money from Pepsi or McDonalds.

Nothing’s free.

7. I have a beard because A) I don’t like to shave B) I have sensitive skin that breaks out (and bleeds) if I try to shave on consecutive days, or even within 2-3 days C) Why not have a beard? In fact, I generally don’t trust clean shaven men. Men without facial hair remind me of politicians and used car salesmen. And they’re not to be trusted. (only half kidding)

8. My blog is only called “thatguywiththebeard” because “ThatGuy@wordpress(dot)com” was already taken.

In 2009, I participated in a month-long online celebration of the moustache called “Moustache May.” Basically, all participants agreed to wear a kick ass moustache for the month of May and post a picture of their top lip greatness on the website every day. I know it sounds silly, but it was actually more of a club of creative people often using that photo as a daily art project. Having a moustache was just the buy-in to join the club, and those photos were often only loosely connected to the facial hair that brought them together. The community that developed from sharing and commenting on those pictures is really hard to explain to anyone that didn’t experience it. Your loss.

When I registered, for a reason still completely oblivious to me, I chose “ThatGuy” as my moniker.

In November of that same year, the organizers of Moustache May launched their fourth and final Whiskerino. Whiskerino could be called the beard version of Moustache May, but that wouldn’t be totally fair to its greatness.

Whiskerino required all participants to shave on November 1, and then let their beards grow untouched and free until February 28. The daily posting of pictures and commenting on those pictures was very similar to the shorter moustache party held in May. But the longer time frame and the challenges that not shaving became to so many people (A lot of beards did not make it through. SHAME!) helped lead to such a more robust community of bearded brothers than you can imagine possible from an online facial hair challenge. I met some amazing people through that website and eventually in person, that I’m happy and proud to still call my friends today.

I used the same moniker, and after four months of trying to comment on every single picture posted by the hundreds of initial participants, the name stuck. And after a total of three Moustache Mays and one Whiskerino, I am ThatGuy. I’m ThatGuy when I have a beard. I’m ThatGuy when I don’t.

And between you and me, on Shamrock weekend when I run my first half marathon, I will likely look a lot more like Thatguywithsideburns. I do what I want.

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9. I’ve been taking the exact same water bottle to the gym with me five days a week since September. Why? Because it can take over 400 years for a plastic water bottle to biodegrade, my kitchen tap emits water at my will, and recycling is expensive. I recycle it every day for free when I refill it and put it back into the bottom of my refrigerator to chill until tomorrow’s trip back to the gym. Recycling is easier than ever. Woohoo!

10. Biographies are probably my favorite type of book to read. I’ve read bios about Johnny Cash, Angela Davis, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Graham Parsons, Larry McMurtry, Doc Holiday, Phil Ochs, Waylon, Willie and others. People’s real lives just seem more interesting to me sometimes. But then again, I’ve also enjoyed reading the fantastical ramblings of Richard Brautigan too.

This little guy can't get enough of the gym.

This little guy can’t get enough of the gym.

11. There is a small but consistent concern in the back of my head that I might succumb to some temporary temptation and fuck up the progress that I’ve made over the last few months. I haven’t skipped a planned workout or a run without immediately making it up the next day. But exercising is absolutely the easiest habit in the world to break. It’s like the opposite of heroin. All you have to do is skip a couple of workouts and it will get easier and easier to do it again until you find yourself at happy hour, drinking with your friends in the afternoon talking about how you “used to go to the gym” and saying things like “I should really start running again. Excuse me ma’am, can we get another round? And I think I’ll have a double order of hot wings…”

“…with ranch AND blue cheese please.”

I don’t walk around racked with worry, but I stay aware of those risks and how important it is that I stay focused on my goals.

Okay. That was way harder than it should’ve been. Now to answer the questions that Kathryn asked me.

1. Admit it: What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Cigarettes. I know. I know. But yes, I still smoke. On most days it’s only one or two late at night with a cup of tea while I read or work on something I’m writing. I don’t even take them to work with me. But as a lot of smokers can attest, when I’m out with friends or having a drink, it can increase. I smoke just under two packs a week and really if I could cut out the binges when I’m out with friends and stick to the two a night “pleasure” smokes, I’d probably have no “guilt” at all. But they ARE awful for you and not at all a performance enhancing substance for runners, so I suspect that they will be exiting the program sooner or later. I’ll keep you posted.

2. Tell me all about the best meal that you ever had.

Hmmmm. My best meals are probably not as focused on the food as much as the company, but every now and then both of those things come together.

Two of the best meals I’ve ever had were on my friend Anne’s front porch. Anne is a local chef and a friend. A few years ago, my then girlfriend and I were invited to Anne’s house to have dinner with a few other friends. I unfortunately don’t remember everything on the menu (and I may be mixing some of both nights into one memory). But I remember being introduced to the incredibly simple but oh so tasty hors d’oeuvre of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, and a delicious baked sea bass, with roasted asparagus or brussels sprouts. I can’t remember which, maybe both. But between the amazing food, some really good wine, and the six or so really great people talking, laughing, and listening around that table on her front porch, it really felt like we were in a wine commercial. It was a really amazing time, and a great meal with good people.

I have eaten at two different restaurants where Anne has worked since, and will gladly patron anywhere she works in the future. If you should find yourself in Virginia Beach, check out Pacifica. I’m not normally a tapas fan, but I have loved every meal I’ve had there and the bar tender’s no slouch either. As crazy as it sounds, the daily flavored butter is worth stopping in. Trust me.

3. If you won a $100 million jackpot, what would you do with it?

Pay my debts. Buy a modest home somewhere pretty; maybe in Colorado or New England. Buy a new car (mine is 12 years old). Travel to all the places I’ve never been and try to run races in every state in the union. Read more. Play more music. Maybe try to write a book.

4. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Laying on my back on the floor of my grandparents den with the lights off and my head under their ridiculously over-lighted Christmas tree and staring up through all of those multi-colored, mirrored, and twinkling lights while listening to their old Christmas records. Those records are still the only Christmas songs that I can really get into.

5. What is your every day super power? (mine, for instance, is being a super planny plannerston.)

I really don’t know. I’m a decent multi-tasker, but not because I want to be. It’s usually because I haven’t planned well enough and find myself having to do too many things at once just to get caught up again. Procrastination is a very hard habit to break.

6. What is the most rebellious/crazy/reckless thing you have ever done?

I’ve honestly never been terribly rebellious, crazy, or reckless. Most of the more reckless things I’ve done have been cliché mistakes resulting from excessive drinking and youthful stupidity (even if I wasn’t as young as I was acting).

But this MIGHT have happened. And we were all 100% sober, believe it or not.

About 10 years ago, my friend, his girlfriend, and I bought a car for 50 dollars from a guy about to leave the area. No title, no license plate. We gave him 50 dollars. He gave us the keys. We spray painted the whole car (including most of the windows) with paint found in the trunk. Then we drove it out into the country to tear around in a field and see if we could maybe get it up on two wheels (I said we were sober, not smart). At some point while switching drivers, I noted that the car was smoking a little bit and decided that we should probably leave the field before it died there and left us no way to get it out.

About a half hour or so after getting it back to my house, my cousin drove up and told me that the smoke I’d seen was not from the car but instead from the field. We had MAYBE accidentally set the field on fire with the catalytic converter and the fire department MIGHT HAVE had to come out to extinguish the then sizable open fire…not an easy task in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere.

Did I mention that the car had a Charlie Daniels Band tape stuck in the tape player when we bought it? What a perfect soundtrack for that total ridiculousness.

7. If you had it to do over, what is one thing that you would have done differently?

Oh, geez. I’ve unfortunately spent too much of my life stacking a pile of regrets so large that it’s probably visible from space. But in an effort to keep this a bit lighter in nature, I’ll stick with something simple. I wish I had taken piano lessons as a child.

I’m not totally sure, but I think I remember my mom asking me if I wanted to when I was around seven or eight years old and I said no. Apparently I’ve always defaulted to the negative. I love a lot of piano music, but really I just believe that had I built a music foundation on the piano and developed the ability to read music, that knowledge would have transferred well into other instruments and possibly made me a better guitar player. Not a huge issue now, but I would have done that differently if I could.

8. Your favorite adult beverage:

Dirty Kettle One Martini. Yes please. I VERY rarely drink shots, but I love these simple drinks so much that it is sometimes hard not to just take the first one right to the face and immediately order another. And so far I think I’ve had one the night before every race that I’ve run. I’m running a 20K tomorrow (in the effing rain of course), so I had one just about an hour ago. It was a little dirtier than I like, but still very tasty.

9. A movie that you can watch over and over again and never get sick of:

Wow. Tough one. Big Lebowski and True Romance immediately come to my mind. But I’m going to go with Almost Famous. I love the soundtrack and the story and the actors. It’s just a really great movie that I know I could just sit and chill through no matter when it came on.

I may have to blow the dust off of my TV this weekend and watch it again.

10. What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Probably my sense of humor. I’m usually pretty quiet when I meet new people or if I’m in any kind of crowd. And I happily and comfortably spend a lot of time alone. But being able to make people laugh has been a pretty decent ice breaker when I can finally open up a bit (beer helps). And I’m sure that the ability to be silly and not take myself so seriously all of the time has helped me through some rough days in the past.

11. Your house is on fire and you have time to rescue one thing. Assuming your family members and pets are already safe, what do you save?

100_6437100% honest: Probably nothing. It’s only stuff. I’d just leave.

But let’s see…my garmin? No. My running shoes? Yeah right. I guess I’d try to grab my Fender Old Growth Redwood Telecaster. There were only a limited number of them made as part of Fender Guitar’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Telecaster. It is made from reclaimed centuries-old redwood and sounds as amazing as it looks. I honestly don’t feel like I play well enough to deserve this guitar, but my dad gave it to me for my birthday a couple of years ago and I just couldn’t refuse it once I heard it. It’s awesome.

Well, that’s that. I spouted off random facts about myself. And I’ve answered 11 questions about myself. That’s a lot of “me” time. I might actually be a bit tired of myself right now. So I guess I should pick someone else to talk about.

I am going to pass the Leibster Award onto another Hampton Roads blogger. Justin is a husband, father, musician, bass instructor, and martial artist who writes a blog at lowquality.net. His blog ranges from shorter humorous anecdotes to fuller posts about self discoveries he experiences as he adjusts to fatherhood and continues his training in Filipino martial arts.

Justin and I met about four years ago (while I was taking a picture for moustache may), live in the same town, and have still probably only been in the same room together about four times. But we are kindred spirits in a lot of ways (we both possess a pretty solid aptitude for snark) and it’s been quite interesting and entertaining to read about his personal triumphs and self discoveries as I am experiencing similar things on an only slightly different path. I suspect that Justin probably writes his blog more for himself than for others, but I believe that his insights are often much more universal and relatable than he may realize. Check it out.

Because I don’t think Justin will be excited at all to come up with eleven random things about himself, and even less so to have to answer eleven questions that I pose, I’m only going to ask for five. He can rattle off as many as eleven if he wants. But I’m only asking for five random facts about Norfolk’s favorite ginger. And I’ll ask as many questions as I can come up with before I give up. And he can answer as many as he wants. I’ll live.

Congratulations Justin. You just won a Leibster Award. Now tell the world (or the tens of people that might see it) at least five random things about yourself. Keep it clean.

And when you’re done, I’d like to know the following:

1. What was the first band that you saw live? Where?

2. Why Kali?

3. If you could have a beer with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

4. Besides the obvious wedding day and child birth answers, what would you say is the proudest moment of your life so far?

5. Who was/is your favorite teacher or instructor in any capacity (school, music, etc.)?

6. I doubt you have a true bucket list, but what is, or would be, the farthest fetched thing on it?

And lucky number seven. If you died today what would you want on you tomb stone?

I’ll stop there. My apologies to Kathryn for soft balling my passing along the award. But I hope that keeping it shorter will make it easier for a busy guy to actually find the will to keep it going. Good luck and thanks.

And because I already know that he’s one of Justin’s favorite bass players (if not his definite favorite), here a clip of James Jamerson killing the bass. Happy Friday.

Hopes or Goals

The other day while listening to some talking head “analyze” the president’s inauguration speech, I heard a sentence that rang true, at least until I started thinking about it. The analysis seemed to be more of a word count than any actual discussion of the topical content. And apparently the president used the word “hope” X number of times as compared to Y number of times in 2009. I guess there was some significance to that.

Whatever. 100_6418

During the discussion, the gentleman said something along the lines of “Hope is not merely wishful thinking. It comes with all kinds of requirements.” I liked the way that sounded at the time and it made me start to think about what it really meant.

People hope for all kinds of things. Some hope they’ll get that dream job, or that their band will become famous, or that the man/woman of their dreams will reciprocate that feeling. But none of that shit will ever happen if the hoper just sits around waiting. Waiting is a surefire way to accomplish nothing. Trust me. I’ve tried waiting and hoping for all sorts of things. It doesn’t work…EVER.

If you want that dream job, you’ll have to take it off of your “Hope” list and add it to your “Goals” list. Then lay out some kind of plan to achieve that goal.

Hope is just wishful thinking until you turn that hope into an actual goal. Then you can begin to build a plan to achieve that goal. Then it is not wishful thinking anymore. It’s a target and all you have to do is work your ass off until you hit it.

As I watch the resolution rush of new members at my gym slowly start to wane, it makes me wonder how many of those people are “hoping” to get healthier/thinner/faster/stronger, and how many of them have instead decided that they ARE GOING to get healthier/thinner/faster/stronger and have laid out a plan of attack on how to achieve that goal.

I’m guessing that the people “hoping” for change are the ones that think that if they hit the treadmill a few times a week and do some crunches, then they will eventually be able to continue eating a horrible diet while living an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. And the ones that have a goal have already rid their homes of negative diet temptations and found an exercise activity that they actually enjoy. And more importantly, realized that long term success means long term adjustment. There is no end. There isn’t a point where you get to go back to doing everything that you were before without also getting the same unwanted results that motivated all of those healthier New Year’s resolution in the first place.

100_6409While chatting with some friends recently (about nothing at all related to running or exercising), it occurred to me that because I was maybe too expressive about the dark origins of my healthier changes, that some people may view those changes as simply part of a “recovery” plan; a plan with an eventual end point when the person from a year ago will reappear ready to get back to where he was before being interrupted.

It would be understandable. During the last several months, I probably explained in too much detail that avoiding self destructive behavior during a personal hardship was my initial motivation to make adjustments to the way I live.

But there is no light at the end of this tunnel. There isn’t even a tunnel at all. Choosing to live a healthier, more active life is not a path out of a dark place back to the well lighted place that I thought I was before. If I had to call it anything, it was a much appreciated bridge over a dark place. And it has already helped deliver me to a new and brighter place within myself; a place that I don’t want to let go of.

And the endorphins rush of my very first run was all I needed to know that it was going to be a welcomed new part of my life going forward.

In short: I’m not going back to who I was. I don’t want to. I don’t know how I may change as I continue to evolve as a person, but this is who I am. And that guy from a year ago is gone forever. I don’t miss him. I don’t even like what I see when I look back at that person.

These statements are not intended as some snarky rectification toward anyone in particular, as I have received nothing but support in my decisions. These statements are instead a clear and public declaration to myself that positive changes only get to reveal their full benefits if they are allowed to continue indefinitely and I intend to keep moving forward, not backwards. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Today, I was supposed to run the second scheduled step-up race towards my goal of running the Shamrock Half Marathon in March. It was to be my first 15K and my scheduled “long run” for this week on my training schedule. But instead, it snowed yesterday (like it almost never does) and the event organizers were forced to cancel the race.

Can you believe they cancelled this run?  pshh.

Can you believe they cancelled this run? pshh.

But I still needed to run those miles to fulfill my training requirements. I’ve got a plan damn it.

I put some chili in the slow cooker and decided to go see what the conditions were like. If they were too sketchy, I’d just bite the bullet and hit the treadmill. I’m so glad that I went.

I got to the trail just a little after the cancelled race was scheduled to start, and everything was nice and white: the trees, the road, the fields, the few other cars there. As I got out of the car, I saw another person there clearly dressed to run and asked her what the conditions looked like. She said they were good and I began to get ready. I love running outside, even when its 28 degrees.

As I was getting ready, another gentleman, the woman I spoke to earlier, and another runner approached and asked if I would be interested in running with them. They were also signed up to run the cancelled race and, like me, decided to run it anyway. I said “sure.” It was the first time that I’ve ever run with anyone.

100_6420It was a really beautiful day for a run. And except for leaving my gloves at home, I was so ready to get out there. They were all experienced and faster runners but because of the snow they kept a modest pace (for them) which happened to be just a bit faster than my normal pace. But I felt good and was still able to maintain conversation so I just forgot about the garmin and ran along.

The one thing that I like about snow (yes, there is only one thing) is that it makes everything seem so much quieter. The whole world is just silent.

After five miles, I turned around to head back. They were going to the end to get in a 16 mile run. But as I said, I had a 15K on my training schedule and I try to stick to that plan pretty strictly. I felt good, but I knew I was running a little faster than normal and to then add miles that I know I’m not quite ready for seemed like a poor decision. Stick to the plan Greg.

I ended up finishing my unofficial first 15K in 1:27:27 with an average pace of 9:23 min/mile. I felt really good afterwards. And with only a bagel for breakfast, I was really glad that the organizers did not cancel the already paid for post-race lunch. Warm soup and a cold beer seemed a perfect chaser to my snow run. And It was fun chatting with some of the other runners who had all still gone out somewhere today and put in some miles before heading over for the “free” food. I met some good people today, had some laughs, and a really great run. I might be getting the hang of this.

The organizers can cancel a race, but it’s ultimately up to me whether or not the run is cancelled. Today it wasn’t.

100_6415

Oh, and I was listening to my favorite album of all time while running today. The Conan the Barbarian soundtrack on a snowy day outside was perfect. Tell me I’m wrong.

I Changed My Mind

I started drafting this blog at around mile 3.5 of a six mile run this morning. It was a simple out-and-back 10K, and I had just made the turn and started back towards the finish. I felt strong. I was maintaining my target pace pretty well. And I KNEW I was going to be able to finish, and finish it running.

At mile four, I started playing. My confidence was high (hell, it might have been “stoned”), but I was sober and at least a little cautious. I started trying to pick off the runners ahead of me. But only if I could do it without breaking a 9:15 pace (really 9:00-9:15 pace because, as I said, my confidence was getting a little silly). I had set out to keep a 9:30 pace throughout and I was doing a decent job of that, so I started moving up. It was fun.

At mile five, I could tell I had been pushing myself. Five miles was the longest I had ever run before starting the race, so I was in unfamiliar territory physically, but I felt good. I had passed a half dozen or so runners and was coming up on a few more.

At about 5.5ish miles, I was gaining on a couple running together that seemed to have been keeping a pretty solid 9:30ish pace and running very steady. But they were also starting to pick up their pace towards the last stretch. Instead of trying to pass them, I settled in right behind them and decided that following their push would be a strong enough finish for me as well.

Just before six miles, the gentleman ahead of me looked back at his friend/wife/girlfriend/running partner and asked “You got a sprint in you?” After a few seconds of silence from his companion, I answered “No.”

He smiled. 100_6401

She exhaled a “not yet.”

With so little distance left and the finish line in sight, I stepped up my pace and my knees and my stride and finished strong a few second before both of them. (crossing the finish line at an 8:36 pace for that very short duration)

Was I “racing” them? Nope. I was racing me. But it was fun to have a game to play during those last couple of miles. And we ALL “won” that game that no one else knew was being played. If it’s not fun, why do it?

I ran my longest distance ever today. EVER. I finished with an unofficial GPS time of 58:32 and an average overall pace of 9:24 minutes/mile. My pacing was a little sporadic starting off but I was able to find another runner that I could pace myself behind for a couple of miles and even after I lost her in the turn I was able to maintain it. I had a less than fantastic run on Wednesday that left me sore and with a slight pull in my groin, but a couple of days rest had relieved that and I felt fine today. It was a good run.

Five months ago, if you had asked me to run a 5K (or to the mailbox for that matter), I probably would’ve laughed the “no fucking way” out of my mouth. And there is a better than decent chance that I would have done it with a small amount of arrogant snark in my tone. “I only run if I’m being chased. And whatever it is had better be bigger than me.”

I was so enlightened. I was so wrong.

About a week ago, I met some friends to see a movie. It doesn’t happen very often, but I needed to get out of the house and a movie sounded like a great idea. I was running late (as always) and got to the theater at 6:30 for the 6:30 showing. I walking into the lobby and immediately got into the first line I saw for the concession stand.

It was a near three hour movie. I was going to need a drink. My friends and I stood there chatting for a minute at about fifth in the slow moving line before my buddy said “I think that register is open” nodding to an adjacent register with no one being served.

I seldom go to the movies, but I can never really tell how the concession line works. The employees always seem to be moving around slowly and haphazardly enough that I can’t tell who is doing what or whether they even know where the line is.

I was in no real hurry. I didn’t move.

After more than a few seconds, we saw someone approach the register and place their order. Then another, and another. Sure enough, that register was open. I didn’t care. I’m patient. We wasted more than a few minutes standing there waiting to pay five dollars for a bottle of water and missed at least some of the MANY previews. But then, the umpteen previews that we did have to endure were maybe the worst things that I had ever seen.

WOW! Another Scary Movie? Are you serious? How many times can you drop a bucket into a dry well?

Life is not a race. Time is without question the most valuable commodity any of us will ever have. And I don’t want to waste a minute of it. But if you rush around looking for the “shortest line” all of the time, you risk missing some pretty wonderful things along the way. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

I didn’t move.

fat and sugar

Did my concession line decision make any sense at all? Nope. I should’ve gone to the other register once I realized it was open. But you have to admit. I sold it pretty well.

All decisions are permanent. But they’re only permanent in the context of the singular time-line of life that we all get. So we can always make another one. Sometimes that means catching the first of eight movie previews that will further destroy your already waning faith in the movie industry. Sometimes that means finding something in yourself that might possibly change you forever, help you discover parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed, and maybe move you one step closer to becoming the best you that you can be.

Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you’re wrong. Sometimes it matters. Sometimes it doesn’t. But don’t forget that changing your mind can sometimes change your life. It changed mine.

I’m glad that I started running.

Oh! And I’m still totally loving this band. Happy Saturday.

No Resolutions

“It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

Well, 2012 is finally over. And I’d like to offer it the most sincere “Good riddance and fuck off!”

I have to admit that I had a pretty solid streak of wins coming into the year, but there was no way to keep 2012 out of the “L” column. It’s not that there were no bright moments or that I’m totally discouraged with the prospects of the coming year. During this past year, I witnessed maybe the most beautiful single moment I’ve ever seen in my life, and in the context of a funeral of all places. And I enter the coming year with that bittersweet liberty that comes with having very little left to lose. I just lost way too much of what was right in my life to salvage the win with a little bit of running success so late in the year. And the permanence of those losses still literally makes my skin prickly and warm when I allow myself to think about it.

Overall, I feel alright heading into the new year. Yeah. “Alright” is probably the best I can muster for now. I’m physically healthier than I’ve ever been, but I don’t think anyone that knows me can deny that the fire inside has dimmed. I can feel it. I know people can see it, even through my incredible skills in the charade. And I honestly don’t know if it’s coming back. Some shit just can’t be helped. It wouldn’t be called change if everything came out the same. So we’ll all just have to adjust to a little bit softer light going forward.

I do have candles if anyone needs them.

One streak that I am able to maintain this year is my 37 consecutive years with the same New Year’s resolution: Not to make a New Year’s resolution.

Nailed it again this year. YES!

It’s not that I’m really against the tradition of starting the New Year off with a promise to oneself to make improvements or grow in some way. Whatever different people want to do to initiate or motivate positive change in their lives, I support it. I’m just a snarky asshole sometimes and I don’t make them.

“One less promise to break” I often figured. Some years I’m sure I decided that I was so content with myself that there was no reason to change a thing (the perfect lazy man’s excuse for inaction). But most of those years, it was simple indifference. I just didn’t make one. No philosophical reasoning for or against a resolution at all. It didn’t even occur to me.

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream” C.S. Lewis.

Not making a resolution does not mean that I do not have any goals for this year. I want to keep running. I want to keep working out. I need to keep eating better. I hope I can stay positive. I intend to keep improving myself in any way I discover that I’m able. I intend to grow a full head of hair…

SCRREEEECHH!

That last one is not very likely to happen. But hey, you probably aren’t going to keep all of your resolutions either.

If I had to declare my number one goal right now, it would be to run the Shamrock Half Marathon in March. I know. I know. I’ve only been running a few months. But it has been a true life-saver and I want (or need) to keep doing it. And I thought that if I kept registering for running events during the holidays, it would help me curb any temptations to over-indulge in all unhealthy celebration trappings.

I signed up for it back in November when I was worried that it would fill up, but I didn’t really tell anyone in case I hated the organized races I had scheduled in December and decided to cut my losses and skip it. I didn’t hate those races. And I’m not skipping it.

Since signing up, I found a 12 week half marathon training schedule that I extended to 13 weeks and adjusted it to fit my work/life schedule a little better. I started that training schedule two weeks ago, and so far I feel really good about my progress. I’ve also registered for four other races between now and then. Three of them are step-up races (10K, 15K, & 20K) specifically designed and scheduled to lead right into the Shamrock. And I threw in the Polar Plunge 5K in February because a friend asked me if I’d be interested in running it with her and some friends, and it sounded fun.

What else was I going to do, make valentines? Click here if you’re rich.

I know that I am rushing myself a little into a half marathon. If you’re familiar with my blog you know that I’ll research the life out of just about anything that interests me. And running has been no different. Many of the resources I found indicated that I would probably want to have a solid year of running experience before trying to complete a half. But anyone that really knows me at all knows that I’m hardheaded and half stupid, so I’m doing it anyway.

“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” Flannery O’Connor.

I’ve been working out regularly for the last four months, running with a much better training focus for the last three (initially in an effort to prevent injury from overdoing it), and upping my cross training exercises too in an effort to improve my cardio levels a little faster. I’ve also been continually adjusting my diet to better fuel my body. It’s by far the hardest thing for me to figure out. But if I’m going to achieve this goal, I’m going to have to find a way to eat more carbohydrates and better balance my diet overall. I believe that if I continue to train smart and figure out my diet, I’ll be fine. And by fine, I mean that I will finish the race under my own power. I have not set any kind of time goal for it, and probably won’t until after I see how I do in a few of the training runs.

So for the next two and half months, I will not be “running” or “exercising” or “working out.” I’ll be training.

Wish me luck (because I’m totally known for my good luck. psshh)

That’s pretty much all I’ve got heading into the New Year. I’m cautiously optimistic for what 2013 holds for me, and a little apprehensive to find out at the same time. But it’s coming whether I’m ready or not, so I might as well get some rest and run head long right into it.

I’m curious about what resolutions you guys have made. Feel free to share them.

I doing this.  I don't totally know why, but it can't hurt to remind myself that good things happen.

I doing this. I don’t totally know why, but it can’t hurt to remind myself that good things happen.

As 2012 finally enters into my review mirror, I would like to throw some quick shout-outs to a few people. I started this blog as a place to voice my political opinions about whatever was bothering me, and I was immediately supported by my friends. It has changed focus drastically as my life radically changed, but the support has not waned at all. In fact, the support seems to have grown. I appreciate that more than I can say.

I would like to specifically thank my friends Spencer A., Kendra L. M. T., and Justin D. for consistently commenting and sharing my blog throughout the year. I really appreciate the support of something that has become more of a needed mental release for me than any kind of valued product for others.

I also want to thank those immediate friends who have directly supported me in the personal changes that I’ve made in these last few months. My friends have all been amazingly encouraging and respectful of my choices during a time of transition. And it has been particularly enjoyable to see a few of them making healthier choices of their own and joyously celebrating the benefits of those choices. I’m talking to you Mellisa.

And finally, I must give thanks to that special lady that taught me so much and introduced me to so many new things during our years together, that I’ve ended up using in my efforts to cope with her leaving. To deny her influence in these positive changes that I’ve made over the last few months would be dishonest with myself and disrespectful to her. So I send a special thank you to J.E.M. She’ll never fully know.

And with that, I fully release the black cloud of 2012 to the wind, and hope to never be forced to endure such a year of loss like it again. I’m really not sure I could handle another one.

Happy New Year to EVERYBODY. Do something great with it. You’re not guaranteed another one.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” Karen Lamb.

Holiday Favorites

Happy Holidays. In an effort to seem more into the spirit, I quickly compiled a short list of some of my favorite things about Christmas time. I hope you’re all enjoying the season with loved ones and cherishing your friends and families as the true gifts that they are. Merry Christmas.

Favorite Christmas Story: Only the scroogiest of jerk-offs could find a way to dislike Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It’s one of those classics that will never go out of style for a reason. “’Twas The Night Before Christmas” is also a great little story that I remember having read to me as a small child. But my favorite Christmas story for the last several years is David Sedaris’ “Santaland Diaries.” I listen to so much NPR that this is one of the few holiday productions that I do actually catch each year. And it makes me smile each and every time.

Favorite Christmas joke: “A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer” Mitch Hedburg. Another dead genius.

Favorite Christmas movie: I don’t know. I don’t watch a lot of movies anymore and without television service at my house, I don’t catch a lot of them at all anymore. But A Christmas Story stays near the top of my list. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation still makes me laugh. And I’m pretty sure I’d watch Die Hard or Lethal Weapon right now if either one was on (both set at Christmas time). But my favorite thing to watch is probably still the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. It’s short which is perfect for me, it’s got a great soundtrack, and it’s just pretty awesome all the way around.

I haven’t seen it in a few years. Maybe I’ll have to do something about that later.

Favorite Christmas Song:
I don’t really have a single favorite Christmas song. There are so many good ones (that I still don’t want to hear a single note of before Thanksgiving), Sprinsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” Nat King Coles “The Christmas Song,” Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family,” or the entire Kenny and Dolly holiday catalogue.

But when I was a little boy I would spend a lot of time around the holidays at my grandparent’s house where they would keep a pretty steady rotation of 1940’s era Christmas records spinning on the house stereo. My brother and I would lie on the floor of their den with our heads under a tree that had been decorated with no less than three trees worth of lights and antique glass ornaments each multiplying those lights’ affect. We would lie under there with all the other lights off and just listen to those records while staring up through all of those tiny twinkling colored spots. It’s still one of my favorite Christmas memories, and that era of Christmas recordings is forever dear to me.

Bing was my grandmother’s favorite. And now, he’s one of mine as well.

Merry Christmas. I’ll see everyone in the New Year.

I’m sure I left out a whole bunch of stuff (like all references to food). Favorite cookie? Favorite Christmas beer? What are some of your holiday favorites?

Living Healthier Sucks

You can't go wrong with X to the Z.  Yes, I'm ridiculous.

You can’t go wrong with X to the Z. Yes, I’m ridiculous.

As I continue to try and live healthier and smarter, I’ve started to notice just how much living healthier sucks. It does. It sucks time from your day every day. It’s really no wonder that so many people struggle to adopt healthier cleaner changes in their life, or to maintain those changes over the long haul. It’s hard work. It’s totally worth it, but it’s not easy.

I’m grateful that so many of my friends and family appreciate what I am trying to do for myself and how important it is to me that I succeed, because it would be easy for them to be less tolerant of my “pickier” eating habits or my extremely limited free time.

I’m still awful at being honest with myself about how long it will take me to get done with my run and/or workout. And because of that, I’m late for damn near everything. If I tell you I’ll be anywhere before 7 p.m. on a weekday, just laugh in my face. I’m dreaming. So far, seven o’clock is the absolute earliest I can manage to get my run/workout completed and then get myself cleaned up and ready to go anywhere. Sorry, but if it’s happening before seven, I’m probably not gonna make it.

Healthy living is a time-suck. But I think I’m slowly getting better at organizing and sequencing my life to stay ahead of it.

How is it a time-suck? Eating real food and exercising regularly takes way more time than just the 30 minutes on the treadmill or that hour it takes to bake a sweet potato. And it’s important to know that from the start, and figure out ways to streamline as much of those diet and exercise routines as possible, or they won’t be “routine” for very long.

Eating real food takes way longer than eating trash. I am somewhat darkly amused by how many businesses have drive-thrus. You can cash your paycheck at the bank; drive across the street to McDonalds for a quick and delicious fat laden, high calorie, and chemically flavored “milk” shake; and then run down to the corner Walgreens to pick up your diabetes medication and high blood pressure pills, all without getting out of the car. Hooray modern civilization. We’re nailing it!

Simply dedicating yourself to a diet of whole, raw, unprocessed foods means going to the market more often (unprocessed and raw foods don’t shelve well for very long), cooking more often, and more cleaning up after all of that cooking. It is little wonder why so many people opt for faster processed food. Life is busy and time is limited. I get it. Heat, eat, and throw a box in the trash. What’s on TV tonight? Is it bed time already?

I live alone and cook for one, and I still end up at the grocery store at least twice a week. Using almost half a gallon of almond milk every three days doesn’t help. But I’m lucky. The grocery store is across the street from the gym, so I’m going to drive by it every day anyway. That’s a huge bonus.

To help me keep that process as smooth as possible, I keep a grocery list in my pocket at all times. It’s the flip-side of my “To Do” list. When I run out of something at home, whether it is shampoo, envelopes, or eggs, it goes on the list immediately. If I’m at work and think of something I want for dinner, it goes on the list. And I shop to the list. If I don’t, I forget stuff. Then I have to go to the store again tomorrow. That’s more time sucked from my life because I was too stupid to use the list.

I’m also starting to look into pickling and canning vegetables. That could maybe provide some quicker food options in the future. We’ll see about that later.

Just finding the time to exercise can crush even the best intentions. We’ll all see evidence of this in the coming months as the resolution-rush of new members comes and then goes at our local gyms. Time constraints, perceived or genuine, are probably the biggest reason why so many people never start or don’t continue to exercise regularly.

I’m guessing that most gyms count on that low overall attendance too. If every paying member at any given gym actually went regularly, the place probably couldn’t function. They need the money from all of those absentee members in order to pay the bills. But they definitely don’t want EVERYBODY to show up. They don’t have the space. And the wear and tear on equipment would be insane. Thank you to all of the people that aren’t actually going to my gym. I truly appreciate it.

(And you’re welcome to all of the Bally members I supported for years without bothering to go.)

The time commitments of exercising that most easily get overlooked are the time traveling to and from the gym, the time spent making sure you’ve got everything you need (shoes, iPod, gym clothes, headphones, towel, iPod, water, iPod), the time spent actually changing clothes or showering, and the time spent washing those extra clothes being used every day.

If I’m actually at home, I’m probably doing laundry.

It might not sound like a hell of a lot. But I bet if you tallied everything up, it probably takes closer to an hour to fit in that 30 minute elliptical workout than people really realize. Especially if the gym isn’t just 10 minutes down the street.

An extra hour on top of all of our other work and family obligations can be hard to find.

Even the simple act of running can take way more time than it may seem at first glance. And you can essentially do that anywhere. Finding the time in everyday business to run at all is time-hurdle number one. Then you’ve got all of the above mentioned clothing/accessory issues, maybe even more sense dressing for unpredictable, non-climate-controlled, outdoor weather could require a higher and more cumbersome level of layering. So yeah, the time required to change clothes, stretch properly, warm up, complete whatever run you’re aiming for, cool down, stretch again, take a shower and dress again can end up making that quick 20 minute “run to a beach body” you were reading about in that fitness magazine suck about an hour out of your life. Not a problem as long as you know that going in.

time flies

It takes a while to get accustomed to all of these seemingly invisible time expenses and how they will affect your overall living budget. But like any budget, it only works if you stick to it. Life is busy. Time is limited. I get it. But if you can find a budget that works for you, and you can stick with it, you will be rewarded by feeling better and having more energy in the hours that you have remaining each day. And in theory, you may just end up with a little extra time tacked on to the end of the long game we all cling to so tightly.

I’m consistently busier than I have ever been in my life with way less “free time” than I’ve probably ever had in my life. But that makes total sense. I work five or six days a week, I run three days a week, I go to the gym at least five times a week, and I cook almost every single meal I eat each week. I am consistently doing more than I have ever done. Does it get hectic sometimes? Sure. Have I considered slowing down? Not yet. And I hope that I don’t. I’ve wasted too much time already; much of it claiming with foolish pride to be a NBU: Natural Born Underachiever.

I’m done with that noise. I’m charging into the rest of my life. And it better be ready.

Here are a couple of small things that I do to help me stay on track with my diet and exercise routines. Maybe you can adjust them to their own needs. And I would love any suggestions that might help me streamline even better.

1. I prep daily food needs in bulk. There are certain things that are ALWAYS in my refrigerator: A large garden salad, some kind of cooked beans (lima, black, garbanzo, kidney), a container of cooked chopped spinach, and frozen bananas and berries in the freezer.

Coworkers have wondered in the past if I get up and assemble my lunch salad every morning. Nope. Every four or five days I make one large salad and then just portion a lunch-sized salad from that every morning. Then I add a few spoonfuls of some beans, and a cut up slice of tomato. It takes me less than a minute to “make” my lunch every morning.

I make a multivitamin shake every morning. I’m not always up as early as I’d like or maybe with the pep that I’d like. So I make that shake as easy to execute as possible by peeling, halfing, and freezing several bananas at a time. Each morning, I mix almond milk with vitamin powder, and then blend it with half of a frozen banana and some frozen berries (blue, black, straw, and/or rasp). Takes less than two minutes, and I swear it’s better than coffee…for me anyway. I don’t like coffee.

I have cooked myself breakfast at home every day since Labor Day, and I like my spinach omelet, so I make sure that I always have spinach in the fridge.

When I run out of any of these things, I take the time that evening to make a bunch more of whatever I’m lacking, so that I get that time back each and every morning before work when my time is even more limited.

2. I keep things I use every day conveniently located for use.
I mentioned my morning shakes. But I also drink protein shakes after longer runs and all workouts. So to keep it convenient, I never take my blender off of the counter. Why? Because it’s ugly? So what. I’m always going to use it again in a matter of hours. It stays on the counter so that I never make excuses to skip a shake. It stays on the counter so that I don’t waste valuable time digging it out of a cabinet every morning, or piling it back in there every evening. Life is short. Time is limited.

A place for everything...

A place for everything…

I have kept my running shoes in the same place since the day I bought them back in September—right in the middle of my bedroom floor. Not against the wall with all of my other shoes. Right in the middle. I have not yet been tempted to skip a run, but I won’t move those shoes. I want them there to remind me that I need to run. The back of a closet is like a lazy man’s attic. It’s where you put things that you have no intention of using again.

If you don’t see my running shoes in the middle of my bedroom floor, it’s because I’m out running. So get out of my room. Or at least clean up in there or something. That bed isn’t going to make itself.

Happy living. Good luck.