Tuesday, November 18, 2014
I am a morning workout person.
Shhhh. Don't tell anyone. Particularly anyone I've known prior to 2013. Those are the people who, when suggesting a discussion with me prior to 8:30am, came bearing coffee and allowed a minimum of ten minutes caffeine incubation period before talking to me. Those are the people who would say things like "if it's too early for you, we can come back in several hours" -- not "an hour" not "a couple hours" ... "several hours"
When I get to the gym, most days, it's just four or five people in the weight room. We're the same people every Monday and Wednesday and Friday and we're all there to pound the iron and get our workouts on and listen to our music and just lift.
So, I was a little weirded out when I had to work out yesterday afternoon.
You see, in the afternoons, the weight room is quite busy.
Not only that, but for some reason I am not able to comprehend, it has become a bit of a high school/college bar scene.
So I'm working my way to the back of the weightroom, around teenagers in lines curling dumbbells in the mirror and this group of girls around the row cable giggling and this one guy, muscles all flaring with a turned back stark white cap chatting them up with his arm up on the post of the machine. I'm trying to make my way to the Squat rack and I have to work my way around a group of guys talking with this one woman who is feeling the bicep of the kid as he's getting ready to do some preachers with what appears to be a 35 pound bar.
So, I know, they're kids, and all. And they are getting exercise and all. But... but...
When did my gym become the local place to flirt and flounce and all that? I mean, I get it. Young hormones and giggly conversation and half lifting half looking. BUT THIS FAT DUDE HAS GOT TO GET HIS SQUAT ON.
Thank god for good music in the ears and the ability to look directly ahead at the mirror to check my form and all those years in my brain to help remind myself that this is neither the time for me to say "oh to be young again with all I know now" nor to say "Kids these days".
So I pounded the metal and worshipped the iron and relished when the gym cleared out of this crowd before I was done with my overhead press and my deadlift.
Yeah. maybe I'm old now. Maybe I get a little miffed at those people doing half presses and squats that don't even come close to breaking the plane and "resting" five minutes between sets. Maybe I'm an old man who just shakes his fist and says "LIFT, DANGNABBIT, LIFT" while pushing pounds and pounds of iron into the air. Maybe I'm just too old to get it.
But I'm going back to mornings and am going to avoid the afternoon gym for as long as humanly possible. And I am going to enjoy the quiet, that solitude, that romance I have with the iron. I'm going to enjoy not having to navigate a meat market before saddling up to the weight. I'm going to enjoy my morning workouts when the gym is quiet.
So I'm a morning workout person.
Shhh. Don't tell anyone.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
yeah. yesterday. ugh.
I mean, not ugh. But ugh. you know.
See, it was vetrans day, and I sort of just put that in the dark recesses of my brain and went about my business. That consisted mostly of spending my morning, to the extent I could amid the work, thoroughly enjoying the company of friends, playing a game of "made you smile" and trying to walk the fine line between trouble and outright distraction. The day wore on quickly, and then I spent the afternoon brainstorming. You know, that act of doodling on a board in public with others. It's like pictionary, only no one has a magic card with the answer on it. We just keep yelling and guessing and trying our best to come up with something we all agree on.
And then I found some time to escape to some alone time.
See, it's now 8 years since Jared died in Afghanistan. We're years from taps and twenty-one gun salutes. We're years from when we stood in the White House and watched as Obama gave my uncle a medal that we'd trade a dozen times over to have him back. It's been a few years since I Drive Your Truck came out and won song of the year and all the news media that goes with it. We're a couple years from when they named that bridge and that gym and that fire support center after him. It's only been a month since they renamed part of his old high school, though.
And, it still feels like yesterday.
So I'm a little raw.
And then I grabbed some Pho, and went to story slam. Hoping to hide in the audience and listen to a dozen people tell a dozen wonderful stories and really ride the highs and lows, the laughter and the tears. It worked, a little.
But then I went to the afterparty with the storytellers and my growing friend base there, and we drank a little and I got into a conversation with a judge, who is himself a published author and television writer and he's researching some army elements for his new book, and the group he's researching happens to be the 10th mountain division, Jared's division, and I sort of lost it.
In half frantic mode I told him everything, three hours of chatting while he considered signing his book for me (what started our conversation) and I just babbled on and drank more and we just kept talking. In my head, a small dream -- perhaps a book on my cousin, a story worth telling he is.
And I was all sorts of off. I sat in my car for almost an hour just... trying to get my head straight.
I skipped my workout, drank too much, ate too much and feel a lot bloated because of it. But, I guess these are the breaks.
A very good friend of mine here is particularly good at finding the right words for things. Recently, she wrote a wonderfully intimate, and very intense journal entry about the external struggles only accentuating the internal ones. That we have to try and choose to be better, but that we have much work to do beyond our flesh and bones.
I can lift all I want, get strong in body, but I am still quite weak at times, emotional and vulnerable. This is one of the topics that often grabs me. Veterans day. Memorial Day. The Fourth of July. When you have to look back and remember that a 30 year old kid they referred to as Grandpa went back into the rain of bullets a third time because he couldn't leave someone behind.
I don't know if I'll ever be that strong, ever able to go forth at such great cost with bravery and duty and honor as shrouds.
What I do know is he is an incredible lesson. That he was, is, and forever will be my hero. That I want my son to grow up to be like his fallen cousin (once removed).
I hope you all took some time yesterday to reflect on the sacrifice, on those who serve or have served. And if you have some time, say a quick prayer for my cousin Jared Monti, and for the hearts of all who loved him and are still broken, and for all the families and friends of servicemen and women everywhere.
Monday, November 10, 2014
I spent the weekend in Maine. I flew off to Manchester, NH on Friday and then got in a car and drove to this quaint bed and breakfast with my wife to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary.
It was expensive as hell and way over the top and exactly, EXACTLY the kind of way to fall off the wagon if you're going to fall off the wagon. I mean, if you're going to check out of your program, deliberately gain several pounds and do it in style, you really, just do it right.
Friday, we got to the airport early -- I have always been an early airport person. Even in my travel days when I was on planes every week I'd try to get there early. There are three truths about airports, for me. First, Airports bring out the absolute worst in people. So you have to remember that and be the good guy (or girl). It makes a world of difference when you smile, walk calmly, and act nicely. Second, there are few places in the planet where trashy and/or infrequent magazine reading is not just apropos, but almost encouraged, and it's airports. Third, if you enjoy window-shopping, any major hub will have a wonderful set of stores to do so.
One of my favorite stores in the planet is Johnston and Murphy. In honor of a fall off the wagon trip to a cold location, I bought a new outfit there. Shoes and all. The chukkas are so damn beautiful, and the sweater was big and fluffy and made me look like John Waters, less the ascot and the cigarette.
Maine was beautiful and cold. After checking into the bed and breakfast of the gods, we ran out to a hip little place on the water and ate Lobsters and drank wine and laughed as we people watched. It had been fourteen years since we had traveled to Kennebunkport, and it was fun to reminisce. We enjoyed the fireplace in our room and some complimentary champagne (note: saying something is complimentary given the price of the room is a little tongue-in-cheek, no?).
Saturday was the indulgence, really. We ate a tremendous breakfast. For me, poached eggs with sauce Cheron over a wonderfully complex corned beef hash. Between the grilled sourdough toast and the meal, I was set for calories for the day (had I tracked), because, well, salted butter and Spicy Bloody Mary.
But, that didn't stop me from shopping, and then stopping in the local coffee shop for a local Maine Blueberry crumb and an americano (hey, I was chilly) and then wanting a little something after our couples massage (Thank you Masseuse Meg, who took my "don't go easy on me" seriously) so I had fresh tea and finger sandwiches followed by a nice aged port.
And then, it was candied nuts and currants before dinner as I read by the fireplace.
Oh, and then, dinner. I mean, holy cripes on a cracker, people.
I mean, trio of foie gras preparations? Veal accompanied with sweetbread tortellini? Prmesean Custard? Five Cheese plate with all the accouterments? And that's what I ORDERED. There was also the Amuse Bouche, the petit fours, the post dessert dessert. There was the gourmet wine pairing, which included some of the best fruit of god's grapes I ever did taste. Plus more bubbly.
I felt so satiated and full of rich wonder, shallots and butter and cream and meat and, I mean, I mean, holy smokes, people. When I choose to have a real cheat day, I choose to have a real cheat day.
I did hit ten thousand steps though, there's that, right?
The point here is this -- I worked out today. It was tough, my body was screaming "what about the bloody mary and sauce choron, Rich. Seriously? this seems like work?" and yet, it was good for me. I felt encouraged and I felt like it was worth it. I let it get all in my head that I was going to be amaze. That a little falling off the wagon doesn't matter much (sure. I drank my way through a weekend accompanied by a sick amount of foods). That sometimes, you just have to go for it and indulge yourself.
Some days you have to say "yes" to the massage and the wine and the beer and the liquor and every dessert they bring even though there were more desserts than courses. Sometimes you have to say yes to wild maine blueberries baked into cinnamon and flour and butter and more butter. Sometimes you have to say yes to the most wonderful sauce cheron you've ever had. Sometimes you have to say "it's okay. I'm indulging"
I feel great today, not the least of which is the company of supportive people and beautiful people and inspirational people. I feel great.
I've got the biggest smile on my face and feel refreshed.
and again, at least I got my ten thousand steps, right?
Friday, October 17, 2014
So I'm in the steam room talking to this guy Tom, an old retiree who is the center of the social life of the gym locker room in the mornings. He is loud and wonderful, always with a smile, and sharing jokes with everyone. Once you're on Tom's good side, you feel like part of the in crowd, and so each time I get a chance, I engage with him. He makes you feel good about yourself.
And Tom asks how things are and I tell him I'm wonderful. He smiles and returns a reply when I ask.
"I'm great. I tried on miserable, but it didn't suit me"
And that struck me. I mean, I legitimately felt wonderful this morning. I love friday workouts, I'm just in the zone. All of the work of the week and the wonder of the build from friends and family and the anticipation of the weekend all collide to make me amped. And given the rest time, I'm doing a third workout in five days, so I have that base soreness to work through, so I feel more accomplished.
But even so, there was this feeling I got, this reminder that the thing we get to control in life is our attitudes. Tom reminded me of a very important truth. We can try on miserable or happy, elated or wanton. We get to choose our feelings, and we should.
My weights were heavy today, and I crushed them in the way that a man, coursing with spunk and sweat does. My squats were 230. I felt this pull across my quad, deep into my ham and glute. Today I also felt the abductors. The stabilizers. I felt the wonderful stretch in my hip and inner thigh, and the strong weight on my traps. The bar pressing into me as I lifted.
And I crushed it. My body shaking and my smile everpresent. I just pushed and celebrated and enjoyed every minute. I just let myself be male and animal and power and press.
And then my bench was 150. And although that's not to my goal of pressing my bodyweight, it was getting there. I'm under 30 pounds to it, and I'm happy for that. I'm tired, and sore, and my arms hurt, and my chest is pulled wide and I breathe out each rep. And on the fifth set, I fail. Only four reps. But it was wonderful. I pressed and shaked and smiled and let myself be me.
And then rows, 150 as well. Strong and powerful, pulling my shoulder blades together at the top and pulling my elbows back each rep, trying to pull through the bar with my elbows.
Each time I sat down at the bench, I panted, let my body shake.
And a good set gets you to this place in your head. It gets you to this place where you have to try and decide. Where you have to say "can I go on" and "am I this strong" - and you have to choose. You can choose strength, power, will. Or you can give in, say you're too tired or too weak.
After 9/11, Bruce Springsteen put out this album called the Rising. It's this powerful, emotional album, and there is this song on the album called Into the Fire. It's not a song I'd normally pull up on my workout days, but today, I did. I wanted to revel in the emotion of the album and use the sense of hope it has for my work. The song is about firefighters who, instead of running away from the challenge, choose to run into the din. The chorus is a very powerful repetition of a mantra, one so strong and moving to me.
May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love
And in that moment, with the weight of the bar looming over you, staring down the iron, with respect and fear, with wonder and awe, with power and acknowledged weakness, you make a choice.
I chose to be strong. I chose to have faith. I chose to believe in myself. I chose to indulge in love in the most primal and raw way possible.
I chose to pound it, to really crush. And when I came to fail. To pull myself back up. I had a choice, and I made it. I moved forward each and every step. Every rep. Every set. Every lift. My choice was continue on.
I remember 9/11, and I remember fear. Even now, staring at the TV, with ISIS and with Ebola and with an obesity epidemic and with all the murders and accidents and terror on tv there is great fear. There is this lack of investment, and this hysteria, and this global sense of dread. The market is falling. The economy is flat, we're in this place of powerful negativity.
But you can choose. You can. You should.
It's small wins. It's the comfort of a friend who wishes you luck, or encourages you on workout days. It's making sure there are prizes for yourself, large and small for doing the work and being powerful and strong. It's about closeness and tenderness among people. It's about strength and hope and faith and love. It's about the cool wonder of a perfect fall day, it's about the sweetness of the fruit you choose to eat, it's about the wonder of sharing intense moments with others.
It's about people. And choosing.
"I tried on miserable, but it didn't suit me"
So choose to be better today. Choose it. And live it.
I'm proud of you, all my sparkfriends, for all you've accomplished. For getting up when you fall. For not being a slave to your failures, but in putting them behind you and moving on. I'm proud of you for challenging your paradigm and for accepting warmth and love in your lives. For taking risks and being true to yourself. For your passions and your reactions to the world. For your willingness to choose every day and not letting that be as daunting as it can be.
So thank you.
(now you. Go out there and choose. And then pay it forward. Tell someone else you care. Help them too, to choose their attitudes, and be a boss in the world.)
Monday, October 06, 2014
My weekend was lovely. Well, except for the vaguely sick kids. Not totally sick. Not like, throw up all over the place sick. More like waking up in the night and feeling generally ungood and dry cough sick. Each day was pretty much kidstuff -- running and giggling and laughing and dance partying to hair bands in the kitchen and batman/powerrangers/starwars mashup playing with my son and art project/school project/note writing to neighborhood kids with my daughters. But then, as the evening wore on, weariness and emotions set in, along with cough and lethargy, and then, as an overprotective dad, I bundled them all into my bed so I could stare at them all night long just like I used to do when they were babies and I wanted to watch them breathe by moonlight.
And so, it was a relaxing, albeit sleep deprived weekend.
Oh, and there was that pint of ben and jerries. (seriously, um, who gets four servings out of a pint of ice cream?)
And, in there, as I enjoyed a more lackadaisical weekend filled with more space and simplicity than usual, I thought.
[Sidebar: I'm not good with being alone with my thoughts. Like many fat kids, or former fat kids, or kids who think they're fat kids, I have some self-esteem issues. Despite the way out of my league ladies who like to say I'm "hot" and "sexy", this is an ongoing problem for me. I suck at taking compliments, and I suck at having positive body image. I'm sure this resonates. More importantly, I have a pretty strict set of guidelines personally that I follow. I don't hold anyone else to such a high standard, but for me, I have a really hard time not using high abusive language about myself, and questioning every last terrible thing I've ever done. Think Chunk in Goonies "spilling it" -- this one time...
Nonetheless, I'm not very good at being alone with my thoughts, and I'm working on it, honestly. One step at a time. But it's hard, you know? So, if you catch me doing it, feel free to call me out. But do so gently. You know, emotions and learning and stuff. End Sidebar]
So, I had some time to reflect. Last night between coughing fits of the kids and after the football game (haters. Alert: Patriots fan). Tom Brady said something that struck me. He was contrasting last week's monumental loss (by 27 points) to this week's monumental win (by 26 points). He sort of shook his head and said (paraphrasing) -- you know, in the NFL we get sixteen games in the regular season. There are no "statement games", there are no "messages" to send - each week is it's own thing. In the end, if you win by 1 or by 30, you got a W. And if you lose by 1 or lose by 30, you got an L. And in both cases, nothing that week means anything to the week after. You can celebrate the win, but then you have to quickly get over it and focus on the next week. It's connecting a bunch of 1 game wins.
And I thought to myself, earlier in the week when looking at my spark streaks how much of the past is embedded in them. I log in, on average, 64% of the time, well, since some random date in 2013 when I reset the streak promising myself I'd do better. And life got in the way, really, here and there. I don't track my food every day and if not for my fitbit, I'd not track my exercise either. Hell, some days when I show up I don't want to track my mood because I know it's a 1 or a 2. And I don't want to see it. On days when I know I'm going to drink myself to next sunday, or, as might have happened this weekend, eating a full pint of ice cream in one sitting while watching "biggest loser" on DVR (which, by strictest definition, is NOT ironic. That's what I get for being a little bit of a language/writing geek, despite the general lack of grammar and prose in these here blogs). And I don't track then. I just... don't.
And you know what, perhaps I don't have to. Yesterday, well, that was yesterday. And tomorrow, that's tomorrow. In life, you have today. And that's what's important. And today isn't about making up for the sins of yesterday. I don't have to run for 124 minutes today www.2020lifestyles.com/resources-too
h-cardio.aspx to make up for that ice cream. I don't have to lament the beer I drank, or do some sort of penance for my sloth/gluttony/lust/pride/greed/envy/wrath (soul saving aside). The truth is, all I need to do is start a new streak. One that doesn't get tallied the same way, one that doesn't focus on how long I've done the streak, one that doesn't get caught up in the future.
One that starts today, and is meaningful today, and is worth only today.
Sure, it's sort of a cop-out for excessive ice cream (and let's admit it for this weekend, also beer) consumption. But it's also a way of putting that aside.
Because I woke up this morning jazzed, and went to the gym and pounded the iron. And I lifted and pressed and although a little worse for the wear of insufficient sleep and a touch too much in the edibles department, was a solid one day streak of doing it right.
And thus far today, I've eaten well too.
And thus far today, I've been able to look at myself in the mirror and say "who cares about the past. Right now, today, I'm doing right by me" and mean it.
(and even if I don't think I'm all that sexy or hot when I look in the mirror, I can feel the vague throb in my muscles, feel how moved I was by the morning workout and say "I'm proud of me" -- and that there, my friends, is a great one day streak)
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