Permission for Ambition

So far, July hasn’t been a very good month in regard to physical activity and the ongoing weight loss project. Two weeks ago, I was incapacitated by prolonged TI band soreness. This week, it’s been the same with my calves. Pushing myself past the comfort of my running routines and embarking on muscle toning and growth exercises is shaping out to be just as physically painful and inconvenient as I expected it would be, but having started now there’s no choice but to see it through and keep pushing forward.

With all this downtime, I’ve been using the time of my day normally reserved for exercise to do some reflection and introspection — it’s been a good while since I’ve taken a personal “snapshot” for myself. Yesterday, I took the day off from work as I couldn’t even make it down the steps of the apartment complex with all the pain firing through my leg muscles. When I told my roommate that I’d be staying home and handed off the keys to the car so he could drive himself to work, he asked off-handedly if I had PTO to use for the day. I reactively laughed at the notion, since my primary source of income is still my temporary contract position doing admin work for a major bank and as a temp, I (and the majority of my co-workers) don’t get most of the benefits that come with a permanent full-time job.

As I spent the day at home putting my time to use towards my personal projects, I was surprised with how pleasant a mood I found myself in throughout the day on a weekday. When my mind wandered towards work, I realized that my elevated mood was a result of not being stuck in an enclosed room doing glorified data entry using outdated technology for a full eight hour shift. After posting that link to the article on LifeHacker about not needing permission to pursue one’s dreams, I started assessing myself through the lens of that piece of advice. One year ago, I was very happy to finally find a replacement source of income after that stint of unplanned unemployment. In the time since then, as I’ve recorded in previous entries throughout that time, I’ve been going paycheck to paycheck and barely keeping afloat financially. I’ve held in with the position in the hopes of having it turn to a full-time permanent position, but in the recent months it’s become clear that a secure long-term position is highly unlikely. Though I’ve considered searching for another job multiple times in the past year, I’ve been largely dissuaded by the memory of how difficult and time-consuming it was to find my current position. I’ve been intimidated and held back by my own fears and doubts, and over time I’ve sold myself a false sense of helplessness. Every day that I go in to work, I resent myself for allowing myself to have to spend my days doing something I dislike, doing unchallenging and mind-numbingly droll routine work instead of being part of meaningful projects that make the most of my capabilities. In focusing on the last year’s memories of stress and hardship, I’ve been betraying the true self that I’ve been so focused on embodying. Ignoring the relentless determination and ambition that fueled my great accomplishments of my early 20’s and acknowledging only my shortcomings and deficiencies.

The interconnected nature of the present day job market also adds to the pressure and doubt. The fields and positions that I’d be suited for lay largely unattainable; most require a college degree I don’t possess. Those that prioritize hands-on experience over academic accreditation I lack quantifiable recent demonstration of. In turn, the pressure has been placed on self-study in technological disciplines, honing my writing skills, and building a portfolio of work. In my head, this blog being only one Google search away from a prospective employer, the only out from my current predicament has seemed to wait until I can do x to do y in order to be able to do z and prove I’m capable of doing what I can. Save the money to buy the server space & domain to build the custom site and train up to being the writer the content to create a reader-base and prove to the world and myself that I’m capable of doing things I’ve already done. I’ve become so convinced that this difficult solution is the only one, completely ignoring that once upon a 2007, I coordinated multiple marketing campaigns with a globally distributed team promoting established Japanese music artists in overseas territories using an HP desktop equipped with Microsoft Office 2007 and a Nokia 6682 candybar phone. Now I have a powerhouse of a mobile office — MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad — yet all I do is update database tables using a dated terminal emulator and a proprietary webapp that requires Internet Explorer 8 to use.

After all the effort I’ve put towards matters of personal development over the recent past, I finally deem myself at a place where I can lay claim to self-actualization. In turn, being limited by such a myopic fear-based perception makes me a hypocrite. For the longest time, I was a self-doubting wreck mired in deep depression. I started publishing my experiences with it not just as a means to work through the issues, but also to openly explore and explain myself to the world. To be completely upfront with my challenges and lowly beginnings of the new story I intended to take on in life. My writing output has not kept pace with the internal change, and now I feel just as removed from the weak self-doubting wreck I was a year ago as I did from this better version of myself throughout the past decade. I don’t mean to abandon writing on those matters since I still cling to the hope that someone in a similar situation may find them to be of help in some way, but I also can’t continue to let cleaning up after the lesser past self of recent years keep dissuading me from seeking out opportunity.

Good Old-Fashion Wrecked

Two days ago, I skipped my usual stretching routine in favor of a more physically engaging warm-up. I bookmarked An Oldtime Strongman’s 15-Minute Morning Routine over at Art of Manliness back when it was posted in May, and decided to finally give it a shot. Since they are indeed “odd” exercises that don’t feel particularly strenuous compared to other workouts, I gave myself the liberty to do more repetitions/time with each exercise than recommended in the article. It was Plate V, exercises “for strong ankles” that really did me in. When I went out on my 6.5 mile run, my legs started sending fatigue pains as soon as I was only 2 residential blocks out on the route.

Yesterday, my calves felt sore and tender. I ended my night with a hot shower and a generous application of Bengay. Today, I woke up expecting them to feel better, only to find them deep in that agonizing “second-day-soreness”. Even in a resting position, my legs feel like they’re locked in a state of full extension. Actually standing up and moving around so uncomfortable that I couldn’t even bring myself to head down the steps to get to the car and head into the office today.

Adrian Peter Schmidt - Art of Manliness
Adrian Peter Schmidt: His Old-Time Routine is Not to be Trifled With

With all the running I do regularly, I never would expected my calves (specifically, my soleus muscles) to end up as sore as they are from that routine. Yet, I’m now facing the literally painful reality that although I’ve trained my body well enough to run long distances, in all other activities/motions my body is laughably weak. It’s something I’ve acknowledged to myself in the past, and a large reason why I’ve been so cardio-focused and not actively training in muscle-building exercise. Now that I’ve started, I’ve got no choice but to keep going. I’m going to need to learn to become familiar with this burning sensation and still function in spite of it, because I’m going to be feeling it everywhere over the course of the coming weeks.

 

The Slump

July so far has been a fairly poor month for me. The day after I wrote my last update, I started feeling a really strong jabbing pain along my right leg (or, in adherence to my little game of learning anatomy as I feel it in my training, my right iliotibial tract). I had a routine morning, but when I went to get up from my chair to take my morning break, I started feeling the sharp pain in my leg. I still went on my lunch-time run, but every other stride felt like I was literally being kicked in the ass, so much to the point I almost buckled at a couple points along the route. I expected it to wear off and heal by the end of two day’s time, but it persisted throughout the past couple weeks. I did test myself a few times and ran my normal long-distance routes, and found that I could push past the pain and discomfort with relative ease. However, all physical training advice comes heavily disclaimed to take it easy and not push your body beyond reasonable limits, so I’ve been avoiding pushing the envelope as I don’t know where the line really lies.

 

Parts of my body feeling chronic flare ups

 

Over the past couple days, I haven’t been feeling the pain in the IT band so much. The left knee still bugs occasionally, and every now and then I’ll feel a tiny jolt in the ankle. For the most part, it feels like I’m ready to get back to full-time training, and it’s about time — I have this bad tendency to give into the lesser version of myself nutritionally when I can’t go running, and I’ve undoubtedly got some lost ground to make up for.

Speaking of Failures

Art of Manliness – How to Fail and Live to Talk About It

Here are a number of reasons why you should consider throwing conventional wisdom out the window and talk about your failures, setbacks, and liabilities:

  • Talking about your failures can benefit others

    You weren’t the first to suffer a setback, and you won’t be the last. By talking about it openly, you will help others who come after you to adjust and cope.

  • Rewards come to those who are different

    As Seth Godin would say, it’s the purple cow who gets all the recognition. No one is interested in plain old boring black and white cows. Talking openly about your own failures and setbacks is still novel enough that it may differentiate you from the pack.

  • Talking about your failures can serve as good therapy

    A lot of people who do share their failures with others (rather than keeping them bottled up inside) say it lifts a burden off their shoulders. They feel more free to be themselves because they don’t have to live in fear of their “secret” getting out. And that, in turn, can help you thrive in your career in many ways.

A fantastic read on AoM on an idea that I wholeheartedly support – we’re moving past the ideal false image demanded by “personal branding”.

Day 48

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve last posted a complete measurement log update. In the time since that last update, I’ve gotten really bad about even doing the offline logging. Since I use an internet connected smart scale that logs my weight automatically, I’ve been largely deferring to that statistic. Admittedly, it’s been as demotivating as it can be inspiring. Towards the end of June, I found myself back above the 195 lb threshold. I found myself really confused by that, since by my accounts I’d been doing a pretty good job regular physical activity and hadn’t been indulging with food. I considered the possibility that some of that weight gain could be attributed to a slight increase in muscle mass, but it felt too convenient an explanation to buy into. I told myself then that that was a prime example as to why taking measurements regularly was important, to fill in the gaps that body mass weigh-ins can’t fully capture.

Withings Weight Table 2014-07-03

 

This past weekend, I was a bad little piggy. With all the exercise I’d been doing over the past week and a half, going on runs during my lunch break at work and then running my usual route in the evening, I’d been dealing with a slight frequency increase in the random knee/ankle pains in my left leg I’ve become prone to over the recent weeks. With my selection of wearable pants at an absolute minimum because they all fit so big now and the financial inability to go spring for new threads also becoming a big factor, I decided to let myself be completely gluttonous and lazy over the holiday weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised to step on my scale tomorrow and find that I’m once again weighing in at 196-198 lbs.

Shortcomings these past weeks identified, tomorrow is the start of a new week and a day for some serious reorientation. This past week, summer appears to have officially kicked in, and a lot of the laziness and overeating this weekend has been in response to the temperature increase…and the generally awful job I’ve been doing of staying properly hydrated. This week I’m going to make one last week focused exclusively on cardio and “double duty” running days. I bought myself an elastic sport knee brace today to help alleviate the knee pain, and I figure two weeks of this elevated activity should be sufficient to get my body adjusted to a higher performance benchmark. The week after, I’m going to start honing in on (body) weight training exercises to start building the muscle to replace all the fat I’ve been so focused on burning away.

 

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