Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August 2015 Review

August went well.

1. Pain Free Daily Yoga - Practice happened 3-4 days a week, with a higher frequency of studio classes. Eating more and lifting hard made spending a lot of energy on yoga difficult. Pranayama happened 2-4x a week.

My hamstring / adductor tendon insertion in my left calf still a little tender. It is healing slowly.

The workshop with my teacher's teacher was quite good. She has a lot of experience. I adjusted my schedule to enable a 2 hour class with her once a week.

I picked up James Maillison's translation of the Gheranda Samhita. Many other resources reference it, so I was curious. It has no commentary, and the best of it already appears in other books I've read. There were no changes to my practice as a result.

Moving forward, I plan on 3-4 studio classes a week, with home practice happening 1-2 times a week.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - I pressed 135, squatted 235 and deadlifted 315, meeting the strength goals. I had to sacrifice the weight goal, eating as much as possible over the past month, to get the required strength. I think I need 1 2 3 to be easy triples at my current weight before it is accessible at 145.

Supplements remain constant - flax, dha, protein, creatine, multi-vitamin, D3, caffeine 2-3x a week. I bumped the weight vest for my walks up to 35lbs.

Moving forward, I will reduce my lifting frequency to 3 days per week. I'll still do my main lift using the 5/3/1 patterns, but round that out with a light full body session. Joker sets take too much out of me to sustain them 4 days a week. I will also increase the reps to 8/5/3, eliminating singles from my program.

3. Advance my Profession - I will devote 100% of professional development in 2015 to my current employer. This will no longer be a public goal.

4. Connect - I did poorly at my objective metric. Time with family and friends was consistent.

The goal year is over. I did ok, not great. My patterns are steady now, so I'm going to take a break from logging them.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

July 2015 Review

My approach changed in July.

1. Pain Free Daily Yoga - I messed up here, taking back to back classes at the studio, pulling myself into forward folds during both of them. The next day, either my adductor or hamstring tendon that inserts on the back of the left calf was not happy. I babied it for a couple weeks. It is healing, but practice frequency definitely suffered as a result. Over the course of the month, my average was 3-4x a week, with much lower intensity.

I tried dropping pranayama due to the time commitment, but it has proven essential to the quality of my sleep. Within a few days, I was only sleeping 6 hours a night and felt terrible during the day. So I added it back in.

My injury was due to greed, plain and simple. My yoga has been going well, my ego has gotten involved, and I pushed too hard. I need to change up my practice for awhile, make it something that enhances my life, rather than my primary hobby. Gradually I've built up to a huge amount of time for yoga, and it's pushing out too many other things I enjoy.

I am reducing planned frequency to 3-4 times a week, 1-2 studios classes, lower intensity, no back to back classes. I will focus on finding mental and physical stability to support my life, rather than advancing myself into a "deeper" practice.

August will center on this change. I do have one class planned with my teacher's teacher, that I am looking forward to.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - With a month left in the goal year, I have shifted my lifting focus entirely to hitting the 1 2 3 and am ignoring my weight target. I have been eating more and strength is up quite a bit. Backing off on my yoga fits well with these patterns.

I did a single with 215 on the squat last week, early in the morning, after quite a bit of other work. I think 225 is in the bag for the end of August. I did a triple with 115 on the press under similar conditions. I do not expect 135, but 125 or maybe even 130 is viable. My heaviest deadlift has been a double with 275, but that lift goes much higher on singles than rep work might suggest.

Overall, Joker sets have been a very good fit for my personality. I really like them combined with high rep, short rest period accessory work. Opening my session with a short period of hard work, then chasing a pump on all the fun machines, really suits me.

Caffeine has been largely removed from my diet, down to green tea once or twice a week. I have substituted a variety of herbal teas and am seeing positive effects from the change. The times I do opt for the energy boost, it is strong and lets me power through poor sleep or a long day.

Supplements remain constant - flax, dha, protein, creatine, multi-vitamin, D3.

I've been doing a 20 minute walk wearing a 30lb weight vest a few times a week. I ordered 30lbs of additional weight and will slowly add on. I will not run or grind away on an elliptical, but I enjoy getting outside in the morning. The extra weight is enough to give me some cardio effect.

My lifting this month has been almost entirely at the box gym. There are strong people there, they just start early. I can hit the tail end of that crowd if I do morning sessions, and that helps with motivation. I'll continue these patterns through August.

3. Advance my Profession - I will devote 100% of professional development in 2015 to my current employer. This will no longer be a public goal.

4. Connect - I did poorly at my objective metric. Time with family and friends was consistent.

Making my time management less granular has helped. I have not succeeded in re-synchronizing household bed times. I think that genie is out of the bottle for good.

August will end the goal year. I am very happy with the state of things, so much so that I am not sure if there will be another goal year. Dangerous territory...

Saturday, July 4, 2015

June 2015 Review

June finished on July 3rd this year.

1. Pain Free Daily Yoga - Practice happened 4-5x a week, with pranayama 3-4 evenings a week. No yoga related pain. I dropped the vinyasa class, since the studio keeps changing the teacher. I took a workshop on detachment that proved worthwhile. I'll watch for more instruction by the presenter.

I ground through the last 60% of Anatomy of Hatha Yoga. The book provided huge amounts of useful information that I am working on integrating into my practice. I don't have the patience to type it all out, but it marks an inflection point in my practice. I'm putting any further reading on hold for awhile, so I can take the time to synthesize everything I read.

Seated pranayama is hard. My current practice includes 10 minutes of it, and I'm still fighting with finding a comfortable seat. I got a zafu cushion for sitting cross legged and am playing around with swastikasana. Before I move forward into the seated pranayama course, I need to get it worked out.

Trying to practice in the morning did not work. I have to let that ideal go for now.

July yoga will build on the lessons from Anatomy of Hatha Yoga. No workshops, no special classes, no new books.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - I continue on 5/3/1. My strength is up a little. My weight has risen to the mid-160s. Eating at home has gone well, but I like eat out and have high calorie meals. Deep dish pizza, dessert, Indian buffet, etc. These drive my daily total way over target, and the frequency has been high.

With two months left in the goal year, it's clear I'm not going to hit both the strength targets and the weight target. Given my recent performance, I am going to focus on holding weight steady and try to hit what I can of the strength targets.

My deadlift is within 10lbs. All it will take is a day where I am motivated and feeling strong. I tested my back squat this week and hit 205 for a double. Since I haven't back squatted in 6 months, I think a 6 week cycle will give me 225. My press has been slowly improving since injuring my shoulder last year. I don't think 135 is within reach, but I might be able to hit match my pre-injury PR. Given that I set the goal prior to realizing how injured my shoulder was, I will be happy with that.

My next 5/3/1 cycle starts 7/11 and end 8/28. Given that the goal is to hit my strength numbers, I am going to experiment with adding in Wendler's Joker sets. Maybe they will help. I will also switch all my accessory work over to high reps and short rest periods, since I expect to expend most of my energy on the main lift.

I have tried some days with no caffeine. Comparing the days with and the days without, even a single bag of green tea in the morning correlates with poor sleep. It's hard to know if that is the caffeine, or if I tend to drink caffeine on days that will be high stress and lead to poor sleep. Thus far, I like my tea too much to completely skip it and find out.

Supplements remain constant - flax, dha, protein, creatine, multi-vitamin. Still no vitamin D. I am almost out of creatine and will order them at the same time.

I think my lifting would benefit from moving to a serious lifting gym. Surrounding myself with people far stronger than me, that know what they are doing, could only help. I have not seen a way to fit this into my schedule, but I am mulling it over. I have been doing less lifting at home, and more at the the box gym. It helps a little.

3. Advance my Profession - I will devote 100% of professional development in 2015 to my current employer. This will no longer be a public goal.

4. Connect - I did poorly at my objective metric. Time with family and friends was consistent.

The new time management approach started to falter. I am tired of constantly managing my schedule with my phone. I will try making it less granular.

Separating my bed time from my wife's has been a failure, with her coming to bed 3-5 hours later than me. When there is less overlap in our days, we get less time together, regardless of what the calendar shows. Since a big part of this goal is maximizing quality time with her, bed times have to change back.

June was not a great goal month. Maybe July will be better.

Monday, June 1, 2015

May 2015 Review

May centered on simplifying my time.

1. Pain Free Daily Yoga - Practice happened 4-5x a week, with pranayama 3-4 evenings a week. Most yoga was alignment based studio classes, though I dabbled with a weekly vinyasa class and a little home practice. No yoga related pain. I took a yoga and anxiety workshop right at the end of the monthly, mostly for entertainment, but did not have any major take aways.

Carol Horton's books were more influential than I'd anticipated. She got me thinking about expectations from the yoga practice, beyond just "going deeper". Getting better at yoga for the sake of "advancing" is missing the point. It's a way to hide from the real work, and something I am quite prone to. I am taking a more relaxed approach to alignment and progression as a result, letting myself simply be present in the current practice.

Her books also drove home the idea that investing a daily hour or more in deeply introspective work is selfish. I'm ok with indulging my narcissism, but do wonder about directing the resulting focus and energy more effectively. Managing my time more carefully is part of acting on this.

Anatomy of Hatha Yoga now tops my reading queue. I'm about 20% through the book and it is excellent. The author establishes a precise vocabulary, then describes yoga in specific anatomical terms, instead of the generic "cater to the public" descriptions that are frustratingly common. I expect it will hold my interest through June and July. I might be ready to give Anatomy Trains another try once finished.

The senior teacher workshop I scheduled for July was canceled. I looked into another, but decided the opportunity cost of a week away from home was too high. I also like the idea of keeping my yoga dollars local. I signed up for a yoga philosophy afternoon in June as a consolation and will watch for other events.

June I will start the progression into seated pranayama. I'd like to do more home practice, especially in the early morning. The meditation teacher suggested it is both possible and desirable to spend the entire day in a state of heightened awareness. I found doing so made finding motivation to work difficult, but I'd like to give it another try. When centered and motivated, I am especially productive.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - May saw completion of another 5/3/1 cycle. My strength is slightly improved, despite the lower calories. I consistently ate against a target of 2200 calories per day, but estimate 20% of days were well over. Weight remained stable in the low 160's. Resting heart rate was often in the high 40's, and I was more tolerant of the heat.

June I will continue eating the same, possibly with fewer high calorie days. I start my next cycle of 5/3/1 and have shifted the lifts around to better align with my real schedule. I think this will help with the energy problems I was experiencing during some sessions, and minimize lifting related limitations during yoga class. I may try eliminating caffeine on my off days, to increase my sensitivity and get an extra energy boost on lifting days.

Supplements remain constant - flax, dha, protein, creatine, multi-vitamin. I did run out of vitamin D, so that's off the list until my next Amazon order. Since it is Summer, I am not in a hurry.

3. Advance my Profession - I will devote 100% of professional development in 2015 to my current employer. This will no longer be a public goal.

4. Connect - I did poorly at my objective metric. Time with family and friends was consistent.

Progress was made with the new time management approach. Reducing the number of events in my day (yoga, lift, work - pick 2) helped to make the pacing feel natural. It created enough slack that I was able to avoid burn out. I am not sure if there is benefit beyond the point where my calendar is both accurate and sustainable, but I am close to finding out.

My wife and I discussed our priorities for the 20-25 hours a week we have to share. We roughly established expectations for that time, and talked about what we've been doing instead of things we value. We've made some changes, and so far see a positive impact. We'll refine our understanding and expectations over the next month.

De-coupling our bed times has proven difficult. Going to bed, especially by myself, is not fun. I often stay up past 10:15, which creates problems in my schedule the next day or (more typically) results in missing needed sleep. I am still adjusting to the idea that 9pm is late. Long term I think it is an important pattern, and I am going to keep working it.

June will be very similar to May.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

April 2015 Review

April centered on the new approach to time management.

1. Pain Free Daily Yoga – Practice happened 5-6 days a week. Pranayama most evenings. I complete reading the Yoga Sutras and attended two workshops. My yoga month was pain free.

Asana centered on overcoming my fear of falling out of headstand, and backbends. I think if I can fall out of a headstand into a backbend, all fear will be removed. I have avoided backbends for a long time, since they are especially hard for me. I am seeing immediate benefits. I also picked up the subtle movement of flexing the lateral body in quarter moon.

Pranayama has been interesting. Many of the questions I had were answered just by doing it for 20 minutes a day. My key takeaway from the yoga sutras commentary was, they are intended as a collection of practical experience. Yoga is about the experience of the practice. The more I learn, the more I see it. I am finding the pace in the Light on Pranyama course is a little aggressive. I may extend some of the lesson durations, based on my frequency of practice and proficiency with the specific skills.

I ended up in a few vinyasa classes at my original yoga studio. I saw again how I got hurt while learning there. With more experience, I also see the other limbs of yoga presenting in their practice, and how to participate without getting hurt. I enjoy some vinyasa and may end up there once every week or two.

Both of the yoga workshops were entertaining, and I picked up a few new tricks in each of them. Neither was practice changing. I am beginning to observe that the workshop circuit caters to a very specific level of yoga student, and I may not be that level any more.

May will focus on asana and pranayama practice. No workshops are planned. I am getting both of Carol Horton's books, which I expect to be light reads after the yoga sutras. Anatomy of Hatha Yoga is next in my serious reading queue, but I'd like an easy break.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - Lifting itself was uneventful. With the reduction in calories my strength stopped improving. It may have even dropped a little. That's very hard to judge while hungry.

I started the month at 2500 calories per day, which wasn't too hard, but didn't result in any changes in weight. The last week I dropped to 2200, which has proven more challenging. My body will adapt with a little time, but thus far I have a depressed heart rate, energy levels and temperature. In my experience, this is the feeling of getting lighter, and it becomes easier as the weeks go on.

Scheduling my carb intake around my lifting sessions is much more critical now. There were a few sessions where I failed to do that, and my performance suffered. I'll be more conscious of it in May. Low energy levels prevented me from shortening the lifting sessions.

No lifting related pain. No cardio. Supplements were protein twice a day, creatine, flax oil, DHA, D3 and a multi-vitamin.

3. Advance my Profession - I will devote 100% of professional development in 2015 to my current employer. This will no longer be a public goal.

4. Connect – I did poorly at my objective metric. Time with family and friends was consistent.

The new time management approach has more of a learning curve than I'd originally anticipated. I will continue working it through May. Two key problems:

- Despite the frustration I felt at cutting "so much" from my schedule, I did not leave any slack. If I honestly follow the schedule, it burns me out. I need to find slack.

- I uni-laterally decided where every piece of the puzzle fits. For time with others, that does not work as well as I'd hoped. I need to collaborate more and watch for ways to add flexibility.

The revisions:

- Work days require a choice between lifting or yoga. Weekend or vacation days can have both. I was trying to squeeze both in 2-3x a week, and it eliminates the potential for any slack. This will require limiting yoga to 5 days a week. As a result, I will be more selective about the yoga classes I take.

- Bed time is now 10:15. This requires totally separating my bed time from my wife's. I cannot force her to come to bed, but I have at least 3 days per month that require waking at 5:45. I think this will lead to more consistent and higher quality sleep, reducing schedule burnout. Waking early also allows for 2.5 hours of focused work before breakfast.

- On a weekly basis, I am reviewing the upcoming schedule with my wife, so we can align our days.

I expect progress from these changes.

I will stay the course in May. Life is going well.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

March 2015 Review

March centered on a new approach to time management.

1. Pain Free Daily Yoga – Practice happened 5-6 days a week. Meditation every evening, until the last week of the month, when I switched over to pranayama.

I completed the meditation class. The abstract lessons are hard to articulate, but class definitely motivated me to set aside 30 minutes before bed to center. I believe my mood and sleep quality have improved as a result. Well worth the time and money investment.

Sitting for meditation did cause knee pain. I learned to switch my positions day to day, even sitting in a chair at times. I had to back off on my physical practice to avoid making the knee pain a long term problem. It has faded with the shift to nightly pranayama.

I am attempting the course from Iyengar's Light on Pranayama. The initial sessions consist of a 20 minute laying practice. Doing such “basic” work tempts my ego, but I learn every practice, and see daily benefits. The course lays out a multi-year plan, so I know what next month holds.

Asana improvements remain minor. I did side crow without propping my hip on my elbow. Headstand is becoming more stable – I did it for 3-4 minutes most evenings, as the start of my centering. There is a subtle posterior tilt of the pelvis that anchors some inversions and backbends. The Iyengar teacher lead me to it during forearm stand. I need time and practice to understand it fully, but I think it will lead to long term improvements.

Reading focused on Edward Bryant's Yoga Sutras book. I'm about 40% of the way through. It is a dense, slow read, but also fascinating. Like the Pradipika, it will make me a more discriminating consumer of yoga teachings. I expect to finish in April or early May. I'll need to revisit it in a year or two.

I considered attending a 4 day Iyengar workshop in the summer. It covers the more refined aspects of pranayama and yoga philosophy. They are getting low interest, so I'm unsure if it will happen. I think the chance to learn from and with senior practitioners would be rewarding.

April will consist of nightly pranayama, daily asana, and reading the yoga sutras. It also includes workshops on Yoga Nidra and the rope wall, from senior teachers at my local studio. I expect the intensity to back off as summer approaches, and I can spend more time outside.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - I finished a 5/3/1 cycle this month, peaking with a 307 deadlift, which is a 5lb lifetime PR. Weight creeped up to the mid-160's. Whoops. I guess need to track my calories, even if I eat mostly unrefined foods.

No lifting related pain. No cardio. Supplements were protein twice a day, creatine, flax oil, DHA, D3 and a multi-vitamin. Creatine might account for a couple pounds of the weight creep.

I was successful in making rice and beans every week. Apparently they were delicious, because I ate more than I needed. I did bring my food to both work events in March, and will continue that pattern. Beans and rice are taking more time than I want, so I'll cook them less often.

I need to resume tracking calories. I will start April with 2500 a day, adjusting based on weight. With summer approaching, the office is getting hot, so I want a slight calorie deficit - maybe 1/2lb to 1lb drop in weight per week. I'm also going to try shortening my lifting sessions from 90 to 60 minutes. I have a lot of wasted time in there, and I'd like to recover it.

3. Advance my Profession - I will devote 100% of professional development in 2015 to my current employer. This will no longer be a public goal.

4. Connect – I hit about 40% of my objective metric. I am changing my strategy.

For some time now, no matter what I am doing, I feel like I am failing to do something else important. It prevents a sense of ease in my day, and distracts from the task at hand.

Historically, my time management strategy has been one of hope. I list everything I want to do in the day, then do whatever appeals to me until I run out of time. Often, at the end of the day, important tasks are left behind. Yet, early in the day, I'm happy to spend 30 minutes browsing the internet on my phone.

I decided to model my days. I setup a Google calendar, blocked off work, activities of daily living, yoga, lifting, time with other people, time with my wife. I made time for my wife purple. There was almost no purple. It was all coming from my sleep. No wonder I feel unproductive.

So every week I've been refining the model and living against the schedule. It requires a consistent bed and waking time. It means shorter transitions between tasks, more focus during tasks, saying no to tasks, saying no to people, etc. Taking an honest look at my time, and aligning how I choose to prioritize it with what I claim to value, is eye opening.

March did not feel so great from that perspective. My behavior was inconsistent with the values I believed myself to hold. I am working to change it. The process is slow and challenging. It is offering a greater sense of ease. I do see more of the things I value getting done. Staying regimented is very difficult, however. I need to evolve the model until my schedule feels natural.

Time with family and friends was consistent with prior months. I think eventually, the shift in time management will make it is easier to remain present with others, leading to greater authenticity and stronger connections.

Between the nightly centering and change in time management, March may represent a pivotal month in my life. I will continue the approach for April.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 Review

February was a month of slow transition.
1. Pain Free Daily Yoga - Practice happened 5-6 days a week. Pranayama once a week. Elimination of the double classes and taking 1-2 days off per week has my knees feeling better. Elbows are doing better as well, though I credit that to the addition of bicep curls into my lifting.

Asana improvements were subtle, both a result of attending the studio classes. There is an external rotation action in the shoulder girdle that happens during shoulder stand and bridge. I cannot do it without props, but am learning to engage it by pulling on a block between my hands.

During a propped wheel, the Iyengar teacher adjusted me into full shoulder flexion, without allowing my lower back to collapse. I'd just assumed such a position was impossible for me, but she applied very little force. I don't understand how to take myself there yet, but I am interested to learn.

Reading was limited to the introduction from Edward Bryant's Yoga Sutras book. It's on par with the Pradipika in complexity. I expect to read most of it in March. I lucked into used copies of Eknath Easwaran's Upanishads and the Anatomy of Hatha Yoga. I'm not sure when I'll have time to read them. I also got a copy of the Sarah Powers Insight Yoga DVD.

I attended the last day of Laurie Blakeney's workshop. The pranayama was fun, and she covered a good setup for propping the chest while seated. It was in the context of Maha Bandha, but could also apply to pranayama. Otherwise, the workshop was very similar to what is covered in my regular classes, but much more expensive. There were also many more students. I am finding more value committing that time and money to teachers I can see weekly, even if they don't have the same name recognition.

The meditation workshop started at the end of the month and will continue through March. I'm not sure how much new information I will be exposed to, but it has me meditating on a daily basis, and is helping me to synthesize the facts I've memorized. I am happy with the time investment so far, though it precludes starting the pranayama course from Light on Pranayama.

March will be more of the same.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - I finished the first modified 5 3 1 cycle in February. Other then a little tweaking of my weights, the second cycle will be similar.

There are a few exercises that really help my physical imbalances. Bicep curls are healing my elbows. Front squats with a strap around my upper arm, as well as kettlebell pullovers, are improving my shoulders. These might distract from near term strength improvements a little, but I think are very good for my long term joint health.

I did not spend much time on cardio. I like the idea of having done it, but I was not at the gym very often. The step mill is tolerable, but there's no way I'm walking outside in the cold. Maybe I'll do more in March.

Supplements are on track, with DHA, D3, a multi-vitamin and protein every day. I will add creatine back for March.

Food saw major changes during February. I made rice and beans every week, packed food for both work events that normally derail me, and mostly avoided processed items, even when eating out. Weight was stable, maybe down a little, without tracking calories or measuring portions.

I will continue the pattern in March and hope this is a more permanent shift in how I eat. There was a learning curve to overcome with the rice and beans, but I am now on to the fun part. Every week the recipe is novel, and it often tastes good.

3. Advance my Profession - I will devote 100% of professional development in 2015 to my current employer. This will no longer be a public goal.

4. Connect - My objective metric fell apart. Not sure what happened. My best guess is too much energy was invested in the transition to a producer mentality.  I'll try to fix it in March. There was a lot of time spent doing things as a couple - baking cookies, an ice festival, a snow walk, yoga classes, homemade pizza, etc.

On the qualitative side, I did pretty well at opting out of the consumer role. I need to sustain the pattern. Fortunately, inertia is on my side. I would like to spend less time online - news sites and forums have been a little problematic. I did clean the house.

Colds limited time spent with family. I did see some friends. March will be better here, especially as the weather warms up.

Overall February was a fine month, if a little plodding. I am well positioned going into March.