Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November 2014 Review

November saw an increase in free time.

1. Pain free daily yoga - Studio practice occurred 3-4x a week, with home practice all other days but two. The misses were from getting caught up on the internet and over-eating on Thanksgiving. Pranayama happened 1-2x a week. Pain during practice was delightfully absent.

I attended a workshop on inversions. The biggest take away was 90% of the information had already been covered in the past week with my regular teachers. Workshops are rapidly losing their luster.

My focus during asana was long forward folds and moving away from the wall during headstand. I picked up a much better way of entering handstand. I played around with making a bolster out of my mat and some blocks, using that to support pranayama and shoulder stand.

I read a lot:

Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students
The Bhagavad Gita
Functional Anatomy of Yoga by David Keil

Next month, I expect winter weather to force more home practice. Heavy reading will continue, with books on sequencing, the yoga sutras and the upanishads in my queue. Depending on progress, I may purchase the hatha yoga pradipika.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - Strength continued to rise, against a planned 2700 calories per day. Squats and deadlifts are as strong as they've ever been. Supplements were protein, creatine, multi-vitamain, flax, D3 and DHA. Unfortunately, I found myself regularly eating more than planned, and my weight climbed to 160. My winter clothes are too tight, and I'm against the weight cap I'd set.

My shoulders and elbows are 95% pain free at this point, so I'd been considering a strong 5 3 1 push. However, thanks to all the yoga, I am intimately aware of the postural defects in my shoulder girdle, that originally lead to my pain. While I feel better due to smarter movement selection, the underlying problem is not resolved.

Additionally, the strength that already exists in my posterior chain is hampering my yoga. People with half my strength effortlessly move into poses I struggle with, because they aren't fighting tightness built up through squats and deadlifts.

All of this argues towards dropping calories and riding a cycle down to 150lbs or so. I'm not eager to be cold during the winter, but given the myriad of other factors supporting change, it is time. I'll start December at 2300 calories per day, stepping daily calories by 50-100 per week, targeting a change of 1lb per week. I'll also cycle off of creatine for this period. I expect to valley out in the high 140's in early march, stabilizing around 150 by the end of April. 155 will be the new cap.

Lifting will remain focused on balancing my shoulders while limiting joint stress.

3. Advance my Profession - The month was focused upon on transitioning my position to work with the new QA hire. I am spending less time with new technology, more time on business analysis, project management and security. Team throughput has substantially increased. Taking the last week of the month off limited career progress.

I moved all personal accounts off of godaddy and opted to shutter a website I've managed for years. That required a refresher on DNS and lead to learning more about two factor authentication.

I made some changes to improve work / home separation, introducing some of the heaviest compartmentalization I've had since starting my career. It appears to have a positive impact on productivity.

Next month includes another week of vacation, so career progress will be somewhat limited. We do have time planned to work on TFS adoption as a team. I might see real change as a result of that. It's possible the new QA hire has stabilized enough that I'll be able to dig into new technology. Reviews happen, so I'll do some planning for 2015 as well.

4. Connect - Progress on my objective metric started strong, derailed due to work obligations mid-month, then failed to pick back up. I ended up a little under 50% of goal. I've pared down those work obligations a bit for December and expect improvements to result.

Reduction of stress in other areas of life has improved my ability to focus on the people and moment currently in front of me. This is a positive change, but takes a lot of energy.

I spent the month working hard at eliminating objects and obligations from my past that are inconsistent with the person I am today. This required releasing false self perceptions. Some were held strongly for a long time. The process is freeing, but challenging. It really needs to be an ongoing habit.

I keep running into areas of my life I've structured to "win", where upon deeper review, I am trading significant time, energy or space for trivial gain. This win at all costs mentality is deeply engrained and holds me back. I am fighting it. The loosest thread appears to be generosity with other people. Rather than approach each interaction as a zero sum game, I am trying to have an abundance mentality. By my old standard, it means I "lose", leaving resources on the table. I still have plenty though, and others seem to appreciate the result more than I would expect.

Work has become more social with the shift into management. The holidays meant extra time with friends and family. Extra free time allowed more yoga classes. This was a very full month socially.

Overall, I'm happy with a month centered upon goals 1 and 4. December will be more of the same. Given what I've done to establish more free time, it's appropriate the extra energy goes towards these goals.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

October 2014 Review

October started a few major life transitions.

1. Pain Free Daily Yoga - Practice happened all but 3 days of the month, with studio visits 3-4x per week. Pranayama a few times over the month. Home practice tended to be lower intensity, focused primarily on openers, opposed to strength work. Supta virasana was very common. A change in my work schedule made it easier to fit daily practice in. Headstand and shoulder stand are developing nicely. I've learned a lot in the premium yoga classes, the most important being headstand needs to combine with shoulder stand in the same practice.

I set the Anatomy Trains book aside, due to complexity. I did read Light on Life, which was excellent. The book introduces the conceptual ideas of yoga, but grounds them with modern day examples I can understand. It's one of the 5 texts in the yoga anatomy teacher's meditation course. I'm not ready for the course, but I may read the other books on my own over the next few months.

I expect studio practice to stay on a similar frequency in November, with home practice occurring all other days. Winter will eventually reduce studio frequency. I get to practice with Bob and Todd early in the month. David Keil's yoga anatomy book will arrive as well. They Iyengar teacher has assigned me "homework" of a 3 minute forward fold every day.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - My strength continues to return. Lifting remains focused on balancing my shoulder girdle and resting my elbow. Both are often pain free. I have been going heavier in the big lifts as a result. To preserve my joints, I am experimenting with 45 second sets for accessory work, which tends to result in 15-20 reps and light weights. I have also avoided accessory exercises with high compressive load.

I tweaked my back at the gym early in the month. This was the same pattern as last time - I'd done a few hours of yoga on Saturday morning, but opted to lift in the afternoon anyway. At the gym and feeling good, I piled on the weight. Dumb. I should know better, but my ego won out. To prevent this moving forward, I've switched my lifting schedule so Saturday is a rest day and my gym sessions are in the early morning. It means I am weaker, but much less likely to do something stupid. Fortunately, my back has recovered to 100%.

Weight started to creep down by mid-month, so I increased intake to 2700 calories per day. Hitting that requires me to eat some higher carb / fat foods. I have struggled with moderation here, overshooting my daily target a little too often.  The hardest part of ramping my metabolism up is avoiding the extremes. I find it much easier to cram down 4000 calories of junk one day, followed by another day missing meals while I play on the computer. I need to find balance and will hold at 2700 calories until I do. Remaining under 160 is very beneficial to my physical yoga practice. That may provide the needed motivation.

Walks have reduced to 2-3x a week. Supplementation remains at: multi-vitamin, creatine, flax, D3 and 2 proteins per day. I ran out of DHA. I'll buy more next time I order from Amazon.

3. Advance my Profession - I am now a manager. October centered on scaling the QA process to take advantage of a new hire. It's early, but progress is promising. More of the same next month. This is important career growth, but not very exciting. I intend to resume work on increasing ALM maturity with TFS in November. Time off for the holidays could impact progress. I'd also like to change my personal email and hosting vendors.

4. Connect - I came closer to the objective metric this month, almost entirely due to the work change initiated in August. The impact has been dramatic and welcome. Another benefit of the change has been time to purge the house of un-needed things. Life is getting simpler, making it easier to focus on what I value.

Time with family, friends and co-workers remained similar. The only special event was a visit to the glass pumpkin festival at the arboretum. November will be more social.

Overall the month went very well. Given the major changes that are happening, I feel fortunate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September 2014 Review

September provided a strong transition into the new goal year.

1. Pain Free Daily Yoga - Studio practice happened 3-4x per week, home practice most other days. Pranayama a few times over the month. I've enjoyed unlimited classes at the premium yoga studio. The level 2-3 classes are truly more difficult, and they are taking me to new places in my practice. I tried relying on yoga without a mat for a few days, but I ended up skipping instead. I am still working towards daily yoga. I'd say 5-6 days per week was typical.

I finished the first half of the Anatomy Trains book. It convinced me of a few things.

Instead of releasing the tightness in my lower legs, I had found ways to avoid it. I'm working on this, by:

- Doing soft tissue work on my feet and calves
- Keeping my legs straight during forward folds. The common advice to bend your knees for a flat back also stops the stretch at the knees.
- Noting when I feel blockage in my lower legs during postures. Now that I've found the feeling, I see it is a common limitation.

Tightness in the front of my body likely causes the back of my body to stiffen, so I am in balance. If I want to improve my forward folds, I need to improve my back bends. I've always saved these for "later", since my forward folds are so tight. It also seems I've avoided a lot of the back bend in up dog, by throwing my head back, which actually shortens the line of pull across the front of the body.

I am setting the book aside for October. I need time to synthesize what I've learned. It's also gotten complicated to the point where I am getting lost and will need to invest a lot of energy to wrap my head around the material. I simply don't have that available right now.

I expect studio practice to stay on a similar frequency in October, with a goal of home practice occurring all other days.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - My strength is slowly returning. Weight has slowly crept into the high 150's, which I'm hopefully attributing to topping off the sugar stores in my body. I've stopped incrementing calories at 2600 per day and will see where/if I stabilize during October. Lifting remains focused on balancing my shoulder girdle and resting my elbow. Join pain has receded significantly. I have been toying with slightly lower reps in the big lifts as a result.

Days I lift at the gym, I am immediately 10-15% stronger. I'd like to think having an audience doesn't matter to me, but clearly it does. I did get greedy during a lower session at the gym one Saturday, and I am managing a little lower back pain as a result. I don't believe it's a serious injury, but I am resting more and being cautious to let it heal.

Having a wide variety of movements available at the gym has helped with resting my bad shoulder and elbow. Broad variation isn't the path to strength, but my body isn't quite ready for 5 3 1. Perhaps in November.

Walks have reduced to 2-3x a week. Supplementation remains at: multi-vitamin, creatine, D3, DHA and 2 proteins per day.

3. Advance my Profession - I filled the open position and am a manager, as of October 8th. New technology was limited, with most additional time spent preparing for the new hire and scaling the QA process. I did work through the remainder of the Black Box Software Testing Foundations course. Next month will be similar, though advancing our ALM maturity through TFS returns to the mix.

4. Connect - Meeting my objective metric went no better than last month. The work change put in motion during August created many barriers this month. It goes into effect October 1st. I expect improvements to result.

Time with family, friends and co-workers remained similar. Special events were limited to 2 parties with live music. I really like the new yoga studio. The gym membership has made lifting more social. October will be more of the same. With the fall colors, I expect to spend some time in the arboretum.

October will be similar to September, maybe a little slower socially.

Monday, September 1, 2014

August 2014 Review

August went as expected and was a solid end to my goal year.

1. Deepen My Yoga Practice - Studio practice happened an average of 2-3x per week. I took home practice most other days, with pranayama once a week. I tried yoga without a mat, but did not like it. I participated in a photo shoot for the local yoga studio, appearing on the website and a festival banner.

No seminars, they are off the table for awhile. I resumed working through the anatomy trains book.

I will continue this goal for the next year, with minor variation - Pain Free Daily Yoga. I need yoga to become a grounding life habit, similar to showering or brushing my teeth, rather than a series of achievements. To support this, I've committed to an unlimited membership at the premium yoga studio my area. It means no money for multi-day seminars, but I'll have teachers that peer with the seminar leaders.

2. Class IV Strength - My strength is still down. Lifting remains focused on balancing my shoulder girdle and resting my elbow. I joined the local gym to add variety. An adjustment in down dog alignment has helped reduce elbow pain. Walks remain most days, though are getting shorter. I tried wearing the weight vest every walk, but that makes my back cramp. I expect frequency to reduce in September. I will not to return to 5/3/1 (or low rep sets) until lifting and yoga are pain free.

Calories have crept back towards maintenance, ending the month at 2400 per day. September will focus on stabilizing my weight at 155lbs, while nudging calories as high as possible. I am walking around at 16-18% body fat. In theory, that means I could comfortably walk around at 145lbs, but I am too tired to continue dropping weight. It's possible over the next 3-6 months I can re-compose at my current weight, but I am expecting another push down next Summer.

Supplementation went well. I've resumed taking creatine every day. I re-introduced vitamin D and DHA, since I already have the supplements. Once they're used up, I don't know if I'll refill them. Towards the end of the month, I added two protein shakes a day. Now that my calories are up, they are easier to include. I'll keep these patterns through September.

Next year I'll chase a revision of this goal - Lift 1 2 3 at 145. I want to lift that many 45lb plates per side, on the press, squat and deadlift - at a waking weight of 145lbs. I didn't appreciate how ambitious my goal was last year, or how poorly the bench press suited my body.

This goal may be more attainable. It represents lifetime PRs of a mere 12lbs on the press and 25lbs on the squat and dead. However, doing it at 145 may be harder than I realize - I was 25lbs heavier for my current PRs. Time will tell. Having a gym to lift at, around people stronger than me, may help.

3. Advance my Profession - Work remains focused on my first time hiring. I read the book that defines my company's standard interview process, tried it once, defined my hiring process, created skills tests, worked with a recruiter and completed screening interviews. If all goes well, I'll have a good hire by the end of September. The entire experience has been constructive professionally.

Outside of the specific tasks, educating myself lead to a few professional organizations, conferences, blogs and podcasts that are well aligned with my goal. The remainder of my time was spent testing, with little focus on new technology.

I will continue this goal for the next year, with no change - Advance my Profession. I am very happy with the direction my career is going.

4. Connect - Meeting my objective metric went poorly. Work interfered, again. It's a real problem, and I've put major steps in progress to address it.

Time with family, friends and co-workers remained similar. Making time for the yoga studio pictures was difficult, but sent a positive ripple through my relationships. I did not expect that, and was actually very close to declining. I know my strong introversion incorrectly biases me towards saying no. This was a great demonstration of why I must discount that feeling.

I will continue with this goal for the next year, with no change - Connect. It's a hard problem, I made substantial progress this year, but fell short of my vision. With the 3 major changes leading into the upcoming goal year, I think momentum is now on my side.

Overall, my last goal year went well, despite failure to meet any objective metrics. The complementary approach to goal setting was very positive, making life easier, even as my days grew fuller. Across the board, I made the fundamental mistake of severely over-estimating my starting point and ability to change. Fortunately, that didn't preclude significant growth or enjoying life. I find my difficulty with forming an accurate self image fascinating. Know thyself, I suppose.

September starts the new goal year.

Monday, August 4, 2014

July 2014 Review

July went as expected.

1. Deepen my Yoga Practice - Practice fell off substantially this month, just 2-4 sessions per week, often of lower intensity. I did 20 minutes of pranayama once or twice a week. A variety of factors contributed to this - pranayama class finished, my primary teacher is travelling, walking and lifting take time, I had a guest in town, my elbow hurts, physical progress has slowed, etc.

The short of it is I'm at a transition point. I've learned the basics. Someone talking at me is not going to create growth. The only way to deepen my practice is through practice, and progress is now measured over years, not weeks or months. I believe the practice will provide grounding long term, but I also have to accept that it will fade in and out, as life demands vary.

Pranayama class never got beyond the mechanics. I asked about this at the end of the last class. The teacher basically said give it years before worrying about the other stuff. I took a few hour workshop on the chair as a yoga prop, with the anatomy teacher. I picked up some tricks, had a good time. I also took a few other drop in classes with experienced teachers. I had a drop in class with a newer vinyasa flow teacher. It was a strong reminder to be picky in who I learn from.

August will return to basics - home practice plus one class a week with my primary teacher. I'd like to see the yoga anatomy teacher a few times. I am expecting 3-5 practices per week.

2. Class IV Strength - I have no idea where my strength is. Down, I'm sure. My calories ramped down over the course of the month, bottoming out at 2000 per day. I am walking around in the high 150's. My body feels pretty good and eating less has kept me cool in the summer heat. Lifting light weights with short rest periods is getting old. Loaded carries remain fun, though I can't do them every session.

I've been consistent in morning walks and added a 20lb weight vest. On the days I use it, my heart rate is up and I have a chance to work on my posture. Since I refuse to run, it's a nice alternative. I really enjoy getting outside in the cool summer mornings, so I'll do this through August. I've also been working my posture while lifting, focusing accessory work on squaring my shoulder girdle. It could be helping, progress is slow.

I am starting to take my chronic elbow pain more seriously. My shoulder is feeling decent most of the time, so my elbow is the most painful joint in my body. I think the issue is golfer's elbow, or medial epicondylitis. Life is inflaming my elbow tendon. The cure is to change life enough that it stops. I need to figure out the details.

August starts the slow climb up to maintenance calories. I am definitely approaching a mental breaking point, so it's good to have the path planned. No rapid changes this time. Supplements remain similar, though some days are without protein powder or creatine. It's not a priority on the current plan. When I reach maintenance calories, I expect a walking around weight in the mid-150's. This is a bit higher than planned, but a lasting change is more important than temporarily tagging a specific number.

3. Advance my Profession - The hiring process started. It requires me to learn a lot of new things and has been a little overwhelming. I am enjoying my job, but have done little with learning new technology. I don't expect this to change for another month or two, though a successful hire would prove valuable to my goal long term. Progress was inhibited by a week of vacation and a week of serious production support issues. Those won't repeat in August.

4. Connect - Meeting my objective metric went better than last month, though there is still a lot of opportunity to improve. I have to make it a priority.

My oldest friend came to visit. We had a lot of time and he provided valuable perspective. Time with family, friends and co-workers remained similar. I've established a relatively steady pattern here and don't expect much change near term. Now that I'm not trying to be anything I'm not, relationships have become much more simple.

August will be similar to July, but with more time on my profession.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June 2014 Review

June was a month of transition.

1. Deepen my Yoga Practice - Home practice went well, with 3-4 sessions per week. My focus remains on opening the hamstrings and shoulder girdle.

The new online class vendor turned out to be a waste of money - young fit people teaching overly aggressive vinyasa, or rock star teachers catering to them in poorly filmed 90 minute workshops. I went for the cheapest option, and it shows in the quality. I'm out $20, but know to stick with My Yoga Works or Yoga Glo. My Yoga Works did another 6 weeks free due to system issues, so I am all set for awhile.

The pranayama course met 4 times. We've focused almost entirely on the mechanics, covering very little on the relationship of the breath work to the movement of prana or any of the associated ideas. I have been fitting in 15-20 minutes of practice several times a week, reviewing what we've covered in the course. I'm not confident I'll stick with it. There's a lesson in that resistance, I'm sure.

I bought a 20 class pack at the nearest studio that was on a great sale, so I'm back doing Sunday morning yoga with my primary teacher. I really enjoy his classes, even if the expense in not strictly necessary to deepen my practice.

The yoga anatomy teacher has been travelling, so I was limited to one class with her. I did use the last two sessions of my class pack at the studio. It'll be awhile before I drop another $140 on classes. There are a couple Sunday afternoon workshops I'd like to take in July, but I'm on the fence about spending the time and money. I think my understanding of proper alignment is solid now, any real growth has to be earned through regular practice. I'd primarily be attending to hang out and be entertained. It might still be worth it, just not for the purpose of deepening my practice.

I finished reading the yoga sutras commentary from last month, but didn't get much from the final 2 chapters. Too advanced for me, I guess.

2. Class IV Strength - Mid month, I decided it's time to scale back the food and weights for awhile. My motivation was gone, my yoga was suffering, and despite Summer just starting, I was uncomfortably hot all the time.  I am taking a break from 5/3/1 and the barbell, instead opting for light kettlebells, high reps and short rest periods. Supplements remain the same. I've introduced a morning walk, too early to tell if it will stick around.

I'll use 12 weeks to slowly move my calories into a valley, then back up. I'd like have my walking around weight, at full maintenance calories, in the low 150's by fall. I'll use the fall to stabilize, then resume 5/3/1 and heavier eating over the cold winter months. Almost immediately upon changing my calories, my body started running cooler. Very welcome in the hot weather.

3. Advance my Profession - My team has two new hires planned, one who is going to help me. Some time this month focused on breaking my role into jobs, then figuring out what will offload to the new hire. Ultimately, this means more time playing with new technology for me. Near term it means my extra tech time is spent on hiring and training. At least it is forward progress.

Specific achievements for the month:

- Testing to remove two browser versions from support for our main product is under-way
- I adjusted my schedule to reduce some stress that arises twice a month, that I think directly contributed to me getting sick in April and May

June was pretty slow overall. Team building, vacation, testing, hiring - let's call it foundation work. July will be similar.

4. Connect - Meeting my objective metric did not go well. Managing work stress has been problematic. I am struggling to find a good solution.

There was some great team building with work early in the month. I spent a lot of time with my parents, got together with friends a few times. I am getting to know people at the more serious yoga studio.

July I've got more vacation time coming, a friend visiting for a week, and lots of yoga planned. It will be a fun month, though a bit light on the career side of things. I am happy to spend my Summer this way.

Monday, June 2, 2014

May 2014 Review

May went ok, but not as well as I'd anticipated. Lack of progress on my goals has forced a reality check.

1. Learn the Ashtanga Half-Primary Series - Home practice is going excellent, happening most days. I attended a few studio classes with the yoga anatomy teacher. While my body is feeling good, I am no closer to a half-primary series. Taking care of my shoulder and elbow has resulted in very few chaturangas or up dogs.

I read half a commentary on the yoga sutras over the course of the month. How I practice seems more important than what I practice. That's good, because I don't know if the Ashtanga primary series will ever be right for my body. There are a lot of principles behind the series I buy into, but the 40+ chaturangas is physically prohibitive so far.

Big parts of yoga as an 8 limbed path do appeal to me, and I appreciate the impact yoga has had on my body and mind. I need to update my goal to reflect the real motivation here. It is simply "deepen my yoga practice". The exact sequence of postures has little to do with my motivation these days. Holding up a series of postures as the goal, is the antithesis of what yoga is all about. It's not even the point of Ashtanga yoga.

Fortunately, despite the poor goal, the yoga practice has  provided the benefits I was seeking.

I put reading the Anatomy Trains book on hold. I have too many things in progress at the moment.

I signed up for a new video class website in June. The Pranayama course starts as well. I'll attend class with the yoga anatomy teacher a few times. Combined with my home practice, I expect a strong yoga month.

2. Post a Class IV Powerlifting Total - The plan for this month was to stabilize my weight without managing calories. I ate much more food than the past few months. My energy levels are high, my mood elevated, and I am warm all the time. I believe learning to maintain that feeling while cutting calories is the key to holding a lighter weight. Pints of ice cream had me pushing 165 by mid month. I cut that out and am holding steady just under 165. I'd like to keep this pattern going through mid-July, then lean out a little during the warmest part of the summer.

I've got my vanilla protein drink worked out. It's good and easier to get down day after day than chocolate. Taking my vitamin, flax oil and creatine remains easy. I keep missing the vitamin D and DHA, often enough that I doubt they are doing anything for me.

Lifting went well enough. I added a little volume, pyramiding my big lift back down each workout. I am shifting my accessory work towards unilateral activity with shorter rest periods. My upper body lifts are 1-2 cycles away from peaking. Once I reset, I'll reduce rest periods for those as well. Both changes lower stress on my joints. The increase in yoga might be limiting my strength, but I am ok with it. I may try skipping a deload week in June.

The perfect opportunity for a power lifting meet has arrived. It's a local meet, 40 minutes from my house, in early August. I printed the form, figured out a plan to hit my goal, did everything short of actually mailing the entry fee. Then I stopped. After watching videos of last year's meet, I just don't want to participate.

The idea of paying someone else $100 to lift on their barbell in front of an audience, just doesn't appeal to me. I don't want to spend another $50 on the approved costume. I don't want to spend a Saturday watching other people do the same 3 lifts repeatedly. I don't want to tweak my form and manipulate my weight into a valley, just to maximize my performance against the arbitrary metric on a specific day. These are all distractions from my real goal, which is greater physical strength. I don't have time or energy for all that other stuff.

A more appropriate target is in order - the ability to post a class IV performance on the big lifts, using the form that is comfortable for my body, at my walking around weight. Let's call it Class IV Strength. This is a harder target, and I'm likely to miss it this goal year. But it's the right target and what I have actually been working towards. I can adjust the time frame.

3. Advance my Profession - I over-extended myself mid-month and ended up sick through Memorial Day weekend as a reward. Very frustrating. I need to do better about keeping my ego in check, and accept that when I am overloaded, something will fail. It's a shame that my refusal to tolerate failure at work triggered it at home.

The worst part is, there was very little forward progress. My stresses came from doing things I already know on a tight schedule, not sleeping due to travel and eating poorly while fatigued. Gah. I did have a few small achievements:

- Used SQL profiler to validate a project
- Revised our change management documentation to reflect use of Microsoft ALM tools. Unfortunately the project is on hold for the next couple months
- Got my internet upgraded to 50/10, along with simplifying my home network
- Finally bought a smart phone and got up to speed on using Android
- Revived an ailing home PC

June will be a slow career month. Vacation, all day meetings, and a massive testing project will dominate my time.

4. Connect - I was on track to exceeded my objective metric, then giving work priority completely derailed things. I am very frustrated by it. This could have been an excellent month for the goal, but turned out to only be "ok" due to my ego. June will be different.

I did spend quality time with family and friends. Taking some time to reflect on the qualitative side of this goal - I am seeing results, but not in the way I expected. Most of my effort has centered on better understanding who I am, how my values differ from others, and how those differences influence relationships.

It's changed what I expect to bring into a relationship, as well as what I expect to result. This is positive, but definitely not what my original vision of the goal was. Instead of becoming more extroverted and caring, I've become more comfortable with the fact that I am not. It brings consistency to my interactions, which is easier for me, and seems to satisfy others.

June I am going to focus on balancing my commitment to work, ensuring I make sufficient time for my other goals. I'm also going to refocus for my yoga and lifting goals, as described.

Friday, May 2, 2014

April 2014 Review

April was dominated by a cold. Getting sick held me back.

1. Learn the Ashtanga Half-Primary Series - I attended one studio class and one 3 hour workshop. The rest of the month, I depended upon my home practice. I view this as a big success.

Practice at home is getting easier. One key was accepting that if my practice does not happen in the morning, it is probably not happening. This prevents "I need to do yoga" from hanging over the day and provides extra incentive to practice immediately after waking.

The streaming classes from yoga works have been a big help. They are a very good alternative to the studio and remove much of the decision making from home yoga. I just pick a class that suits my body for the day and do what it says. This is much easier than grinding out the Ashtanga primary series until my joints call a stop.

Physical progress was limited due to getting sick. The cold meant a week to do nothing, then two weeks to recover from doing nothing. I am also limiting time spent in down dog / up dog / chaturanga, in an effort to manage my elbow pain. I did no video work.

The 3 hour workshop was with my teacher's teacher. No major insights, but great adjustments and solid feedback on my alignment. I tend to zone out when finer points of alignment are discussed, but when someone puts me there, it's immediately clear. This model of investing my yoga dollars in workshops, then practicing on my own, makes a lot more sense than doing every practice at a studio.

I ordered the Anatomy Trains book and am slowly working my way through it. I signed up for a 6 week pranayama course in June / July. It's a hassle to get to, but any training on pranayama is difficult to find.

May will see me continuing to explore the online classes. I might get to the yoga studio on a couple Sundays.

2. Post a Class IV Powerlifting Total - While sick, I ate whatever I wanted and skipped lifting. Given my impaired recovery, it was the most rational thing to do. This did mean the month lead to little net progress. It also set me on a path of eating too much junk, so I am walking around a few pounds heavier than last month, with similar levels of strength. I am struggling to find the motivation to resume cutting weight.

The quality of my protein drinks continues to improve. My chocolate recipe is both quick and delicious. I actually look forward to drinking it. I'm a week away from having vanilla sugar ready, for vanilla drinks. I got some containers and am pre-mixing the powder, including my creatine. This splits it up into even doses and simplifies prep of individual shakes. I am doing well taking a vitamin and flax oil every day. I keep missing my vitamin D and DHA though.

I'll continue on 5/3/1 in May. I am going to try and stabilize my weight around 160, without managing my calories. Before getting sick, my progress into the 150's was extremely slow, my energy levels were low, and I was frequently cold. I think my body compensated for the reduced calories by slowing down, and I need to speed it back up. I plan to stabilize at 160 with high energy levels, before I try to hold a lighter weight.

3. Advance my Profession - Due to a high priority release, I worked long hours while sick, instead of taking PTO. That burnt me out and impaired forward progress the rest of the month. Any gains were minor. The encrypted cloud backup finally finished. My team continues working towards full adoption of Microsoft's application life cycle management suite. I was trained on SQL Profiler and expect to use what I learned in May.

4. Connect - I spent time with friends, family and co-workers. I failed at the main intent of the goal though. I expect improvement in May, for a variety of reasons.

Overall, while April was not a huge success, it did leave me positioned well for May. I expect strong forward progress over the next month.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

March 2014 Review

March was focused on yoga and career.

1. Learn the Ashtanga Half-Primary Series - The first week of the month, computers distracted me from yoga. Fortunately, this lead to an overall trend of more home yoga, including several sessions of video work. I caught up on my yoga books and am really benefiting from leading my own practice.

Chaturanga - I worked in the "right" position off blocks stacked at various heights. I discovered during high plank, I crunch my ribs towards my hips. Lengthening out and settling down gives my shoulder blades space to wrap around my torso as I descend. My serratus anterior are too weak to support this through a dynamic range of motion, but I am working off blocks a few times a week to build the needed strength.

Forward folds - I finally made the physical connection between tilt of my pelvis and depth in forward bends. The hips have to roll. The only way I can get that range of motion is to bend my knees until my ribs contact my thighs, then straighten my legs while maintaining contact. I am sinking deeper into my folds, with less strain on my back.

Virasana - Early in the month, I tried sitting on blocks in Virasana, for 5-15 minute sessions. This did help my hips to open, but also correlated with pain in my left foot. That may have been from the pose, or from old shoes I needed to replace. Either way, I've backed off until the foot feels better. Success in back bending will rely on owning full supta virasana, but after my shoulder problems, I am cautious about any pain.

Breathing - At some point, I lost the slow steady breath that transforms stretching into yoga. I recognized this from the video work and am counting breath length to re-establish it. Panic sets in during some poses (holding Chaturanga...) but it is easy during others. My practice is definitely more calming when I keep my breath.

April will see an even stronger focus on home yoga. After two years, I am not going to find a deeper practice at "all level" studio classes. My time needs to center on my unique limitations and strengths. The biggest barrier will be my tendency to procrastinate getting on the mat each day. I wish this was simple laziness, but no, it's ego. My expectations for the physical practice are unreasonably high, so I put off starting, to avoid failing. Addressing that will be my primary focus in April.

2. Post a Class IV Powerlifting Total - All month, I ate between 2000 and 2300 calories each day. My weight dropped by about 1lb a week, and I am walking around at 157. What was interesting, is I managed to keep my strength. I credit this to:

1. Eating high fiber carbs 2 meals per day
2. Lifting heavier, with low reps
3. Lifting an hour or two after eating
4. Warming up on the elliptical
5. Continuing on the creatine
6. Paying careful attention to my protein intake, including shakes immediately before and after bed

I really did not expect my strength to hang around like this, or my weight to drop so slowly. Provided my strength remains, I'll follow the plan through another 5/3/1 cycle. I did take my multi-vitamin and vitamin D most days. The high fiber carbs prevent hunger. Lifting right after eating leads to high energy workouts. I feel much, much better than the last time I was dropping weight.

I made a significant improvement to my protein shakes, replacing the all-in-one powder with pure whey protein isolate. I am still working out the kinks in flavor and prep time, but the drink tastes far better. It has no artificial sweetener, no tacky lumps of whey concentrate and an extra 10 grams of protein per serving. Price is similar.

Still no progress on a lifting meet.

3. Advance my Profession - This month I finally had my review. It went well. We agreed on bonus goals that align with my personal goals. Other progress:

1. Upgraded 2 Windows XP boxes to Puppy Linux and another to Vista (already owned a license). It's been years since I played around with Linux. I think it's unreasonably cool that an entire modern OS is running off a USB stick, entirely in RAM. I am giving Libre Office a try, since I don't want to pay for another MS Office license. I also helped migrate my Mom from XP to Windows 7. While the open source stuff is satisfactory for my needs, I would hate to support another user on it. The Microsoft products are far more usable and reliable.

2. I setup encrypted cloud back up of my files, as well as my Mom's. Again, it's amazing how far technology has come.

3. I got the user admin work entirely off my schedule, training several people on our Operations team on it, so I'm not even the backup.

4. Using a developer to help with the testing backlog went very well. We hit a release date that would have otherwise been impossible, and the developer did an excellent job with the work.

5. My team transitioned to using TFS as our version control repository. Momentum towards a real merging and branching strategy is strong, with an initial implementation expected sometime in April.

6. I covered the breadth of Microsoft's application life cycle management tools and methodology. I'll take a deep dive over the next few months, to support my team's adoption of TFS.

7. I crashed through what's been a persistent productivity barrier over the past few months. In my zeal to work "ideally", I'd inadvertently destroyed a significant support system for my most tedious work. Go me. At least I've recognized and resolved the issue.

8. I started using Microsoft's Remote Desktop Manager to ease working on multiple servers at once. Setup took some effort, since my laptop user is not my domain user, but with that figured out, the software is saving me time.

March was an excellent career month.

4. Connect - I paid no specific attention to this goal in March. I was busy all month and saw quite a few people, but my activity did not align with the intent of the goal. Not a total failure here, but close. April has to provide some improvement.

April will see me down shift on the first 3 goals, simply developing my home yoga practice, doing the bare minimum to keep my lifting going, and meeting expectations with my career. I'll invest the energy I free in re-connecting with people. My months shouldn't be so lopsided.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February 2014 Review

February was productive.

1. Learn the Ashtanga Half-Primary Series - The first weekend of the month, I planned my schedule around yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday. Both were cancelled. A few days later, I added up what I've spent on yoga in the last year. It was absurd. Combined, they provided some motivation to re-center my practice on home yoga.

I've been at the studio only 2-3x a week since then, doing home yoga some other days. Growing my yoga practice relies upon reducing the studio class dependency. I do enjoy the classes for education and entertainment. I also use them as a crutch when I can't find the motivation to work hard on my own. I need to fix that. My unlimited studio membership expires in April. I'll give class packs and reduced studio frequency a serious effort then.

I worked through a few books on pranayama but have struggled to fit it into my practice. I am still trying. One of the pranayama authors provides a compelling framework for approaching yoga as an 8 limbed path. A lot of people pay lip service to it, but he actually provides explicit direction. I am now working through his books an asana. They are excellent. I wish I had started yoga learning from his work..

I'd like to make time for practice with yoga DVDs and using the video camera for feedback in March. I think if I get serious about practice of Chaturanga from the bottom position, I might be able to safely do one by the end of the month.

2. Post a Class IV Powerlifting Total - My strength rapidly rebounded from eating more, and I felt irrationally happy. Unfortunately, after another 3 weeks at 3000 calories per day, I was bumping up against 165. Since my body is feeling good, I've started the focused push towards 148 class. 2000 calories per day will have me there in mid-April. I screwed up my cut late last year, by going longer than 8 weeks and attempting gradual changes in my calories. I am not repeating those mistakes.

I am taking my multi-vitamin, vitamin D, creatine, and flax oil most days. The DHA pills are uncomfortable to swallow and expensive. I cannot take them consistently enough to see a benefit. Once I finish what I have, I'm done with them. I have some leucine to take with my protein shakes, in an effort to preserve muscle mass. Eating less also means cutting out alcohol and a 25% reduction in time related to food. Going hungry is unpleasant, but I enjoy the extra time.

Getups are working well as a pressing alternative. I am still lifting only to music, for the sake of time management. Between 6:30pm internet curfew and the new bed, my sleep is doing well. I setup rings for chinups and pullups. They appear to have reduced my elbow pain. Great reward on a $30 investment. I experimented with doing yoga or lifting immediately after getting up, hoping to take advantage of the metabolic window, but I couldn't make it stick. I prefer having an hour or two of work done by 9am.

I have been looking for a powerlifting meet. My ideal choice would be a raw, drug tested local or state meet in August. So far, all I've found locally is a small organization's World meet in July. The meet is a little far and I am unsure if a novice lifter would be welcomed. It is also expensive - between a singlet, meet fees and travel, I estimate around $200 to participate. It's hard to know if those are legitimate concerns, or just excuses to avoid doing something new. I am going to keep looking. Hopefully as the summer draws closer, more meets appear, or I get better at finding them. I am definitely tempted to just take a total using the power rack at a local gym.

3. Advance my Profession - I finished reading the first three Harvard Business Review magazines from my subscription. So far, they've been well written and entertaining, though I have yet to see a professional benefit. The $90 a year subscription fee seems awfully high.

The month was primarily spent digging out of the testing backlog left by my vacation, but I there were a handful of surprising steps forward:

1. I found an automatic SQL refactoring tool that lead to some improvements in my scripting
2. I did a lot of complicated SQL scripting (for me, anyway)
3. I started the process of handing off user admin work that takes an hour per week from my schedule
4. A test version of the build server has been setup, putting the opportunity for forward progress in my hands
5. For the first time, we are using a developer to help with the testing backlog. This approach has been met with resistance in the past, so I am excited to see it happening. I think it's a valuable aspect of the Kanban SDLC, one that we've been missing out on. I still don't have buy in around a work in progress cap, but this brings us one step closer to supporting it.

I am pleased to see so much progress here, given that I expected none.

4. Connect - Based upon my most objective metric, making time for my wife, I fell a little short of January. Forward progress was limited by a stressful work situation and some new foster cats. This is a little disappointing, especially given the extra time that should have been available. The reduction in studio yoga classes lead to much more time at home. We also spent less time with friends on the weekends, due to the bad weather.

While I did poorly at making time to spend with friends, I did find my elevated mood (thanks to the extra food and yoga) made me generally positive towards others. March will be better. The first two days of the month are already busy, and I expect Spring weather to making leaving the house easier.

Reducing studio yoga helped balance my time across goals. I am happy with progress. I'll take a similar approach next month.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

January 2014 Review

January was lopsided. Starting the month with a week of vacation skewed my time heavily towards yoga.

1. Learn the Ashtanga Half-Primary Series - I've reduced this goal to half-primary. I started the goal year "doing" half-primary, but with destructive alignment. My new goal is to practice half-primary constructively. Until I feel close, I'll stay away from the Mysore Ashtanga classes and focus on alignment based yoga.

I was able to take one restorative class with the yoga anatomy teacher - well worth my time. I tried the free yoga offered by my company. It was more fun than working, but that's I'll I can really say for it. My other classes were with my primary teacher at the local studio. He's doing a great job. On average, I practiced 4-5 days per week. Home yoga was limited, with no video work.

I attended a weekend Iyengar workshop with Laurie Blakeney. If my goal was "obtain lineage based instruction," I succeed. She's been making trips to India, to study yoga under BKS Iyengar, for decades. I learned a lot. The time spent on pranayama was the most interesting. Under her guidance, I got the yoga high without doing any asana. Pretty cool. I am going to explore it further and have ordered several books on the subject. Her advice on headstand also got me off the wall, finally.

I consumed a big pile of yoga anatomy media due to vacation, primarily from David Keil and Paul Grilley. All emphasized that each body has unique needs, and the yoga must be tailored. All, especially the DVDs, offered great return for the time and money investment.

The month was scattered with so many different resources. Next month, my focus is on simply practicing - asana and pranayama. I'd like to spend more time on home yoga, designing my own sequences (maybe find some software), taking the practices from my DVDs and working with the video camera. When my studio membership expires in April, I might reduce attendance to 1-2 classes a week, with the rest of my yoga at home. I spent too much money on yoga over the last year and need to start controlling costs.

The new bed is allowing deeper, longer sleep. Coupled with eating more and the changes in my yoga, shoulder and elbow pain is highly manageable.

2. Post a Class IV Powerlifting Total - Eating more feels great. My strength is slowly returning. I am never cold. My weight has settled right around 160. My intent was to eat 2500 calories a day, but I'd say I'm averaging closer to 3000. I'll keep with this plan for the next month or two, before finishing the drop to 148.

I am taking my multi-vitamin, vitamin D, creatine, flax oil and DHA most days. Due to my shoulder I am pressing overhead only once a week, using getups as an alternative. For the sake of time, I've been lifting to music instead of Netflix. I spent less than 3 hours a week lifting this month.

I modified the home firewall settings to take the internet offline after 6:30pm. I am going to bed earlier and sleeping better as a result.

3. Advance my Profession - I used my vacation in the first week of January to improve my working environment. Those changes have yielded a minor productivity boost. Otherwise, I have little progress here. Coming off a two week vacation left little free time for long term investments in my work. Catching up has been extremely difficult. I am still struggling with it.

4. Connect - Based upon my most objective metric, making time for my wife, I did 50% better than December. Unfortunately, that's not even halfway to goal. There were some difficult circumstances this month, but things always come up. I need to figure it out.

The change to simplify our money management is working and provided a minor improvement in day to day quality of life.

Outside of the home, I spent less time with family and friends than I would have liked. The winter weather was limiting. I did make some good connections with new students at yoga classes, but that's about it.

My selection of non-social media for the year is working out nicely.

I used yoga to hide from other stuff that wasn't going so well in my month. It's a healthy coping mechanism, but I'd prefer next month be more balanced.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

December 2013 Review

December started slow, but finished strong

1. Learn the Ashtanga Primary Series - No Mysore style Ashtanga this month. The authorized teachers are in India until February, plank to chaturanga still hurts my shoulders and lessons from the yoga anatomy course have me down on the Ashtanga approach in general.

I took a restoratives class with heavy use of props. I am sold on the value of bolsters, blocks, chairs, blankets, sandbags, etc. Savasana with a bolster under my knees, sand bag on each shoulder, blanket under my head, sand bag on my head and blanket over me, was very relaxing. The rest of the class was mentally difficult. Creating elaborate prop structures was fun, but I am bad at surrendering to them.

The yoga anatomy class finished, meeting twice in December. My mental model of the elbow is much improved - it's my radius that hurts in the left arm, my ulna in the right. The teacher made a solid anatomical argument against building poses from the bottom up, instead favoring props to work from the top down. I am convinced. Towards the end of the month, I ordered a couple blocks, a bolster, two blankets and a handful of yoga anatomy DVDs. I am going to use what I learned to grow my home practice.

We also brushed on sequencing. In general, I've gravitated towards yoga that has a very rigid set poses. I find the structure mentally grounding. The teacher identified serious holes in the approach, especially when the same sequence is given to all students. She had us try designing our own sequences. All I could do was pull patterns from the Ashtanga Primary Series or the Baptiste sequence my first teacher used. I have a lot to learn.

A cold limited my home yoga and studio yoga during the first half of the month. Yoga happened 5x a week during the second half of the month, letting me regain ground lost while sick. Home yoga consisted primarily of work to open my shoulders and strengthen my scapular stabilizers. There was very little time with the camera. Studio yoga was focused on "making the easy poses hard". Even after 6 weeks of anatomy class, I still don't have a solid answer to solving the problem of scapular winging during my vinyasa.

I used time off at Christmas to explore the breadth of teachers available in my local area. I learned a few new things, had some very good classes (the yoga anatomy teacher!!!) and a very bad class. One of the best parts was realizing that through blind luck, the classes I've stumbled into with my primary teacher at the studio closest to my house, are among the best available in the area. They are also substantially less expensive than classes at the other studios. I am willing to pay extra for classes with the yoga anatomy teacher, but can only make my schedule match hers twice a month.

I am still working on my computer posture. The split keyboard has helped. Sitting on the stability ball helps, but once I tire, I end up back in the over-sized desk chair. I have not bought a new chair, but did end up buying a new mattress. It's a little soon to know if it will help. My elbow and shoulder pain is reduced, but that's from dropping Chaturanga and Up Dog during vinyasas.

January's big yoga event is a weekend Iyengar workshop. Otherwise, I look forward to the progress that comes with practice. In addition to recent alignment changes, my weight is low and I am eating more. If my elbows and shoulders are going to heal while regularly doing yoga, now is the time. If that fails, I may try combining rest with a 2 week anti-inflammatory cycle of advil in Feb. Longer term, I may switch my studio membership to the anatomy class studio, or maybe even hold membership at both locations.

2. Post a Class IV Powerlifting Total - December was my last planned month of low calories. I made it through the first 3 weeks, but then my vacation started and I was done. I couldn't tolerate the negative feelings from being hungry impairing my mood and energy levels. Also, as absurd as it sounds, I was too cold. Walking around with a suppressed metabolism when it's -2 degrees outside is really unpleasant.

I bumped calories up by 25% and had a week where I gorged myself. I also added back in EFA and creatine supplementation. I am walking around in the high 150's, coming off a valley at 151. I did not realize just how depleted my body was. Going hungry really impacted my strength, and it was compounded by getting sick.

The path to lifting at 148 will be longer than I initially expected. My new plan is to use protein and EFA supplements to make up the 25% additional calories, and otherwise eat as I have been. I believe this will let my strength rebound over the next few months. It's possible this plan may also let my weight settle in the high 140's. If not, once I peak out, I'll do another 1-2 low calorie months. I'll definitely be in the 148 weight class by mid-summer.

I looking forward to recovering my strength.

3. Advance my Profession - December was review month. I have no complaints about the results. However, spending the first two weeks sick, coupled with vacation the last two weeks, limited progress. My job remains heavy on testing, I still don't have a build server, I didn't get my user admin backup trained, but I did manage a few minor improvements:

3.1. I found legitimate reasons to use SQL queries against the sysobjects and syscolumns tables while testing

3.2. I finished reading the "web security testing cookbook". It all comes together nicely in the last few chapters and offers some great ideas for improving how I work. There was a fundamental shift in how I think about web applications, as well as a few new tools that will impact my testing approach, and a few very specific ideas that will impact my vulnerability testing.

3.2.1. I used one of the tools to find a few security bugs I previously would have missed.

3.2 2. I was able to more effectively investigate a potential vulnerability from our web application scanner.

3.2.3. The associated security podcast holds my interest and fosters a mindset that makes security work more palatable.

3.3. During reviews, I initiated some changes to my annual training, which if they come through, will yield a much better end result than the typical conference.

3.4. A complex application feature, that's been deprecated for 2 years, was finally taken off life support.

3.5. I finally subscribed to Harvard Business Review magazine, as well as started listening to the associated podcast. The price has put me off for years, but I'm giving it a chance. One good idea could pay for the entire subscription.

Competing priorities are a pain. January may not be any more productive, since I'll be digging out from 2 weeks of vacation...

4. Connect - Based upon my most objective metric - making time for my wife, I did no better than November. Getting sick really messed up the first half of the month. I expected vacation to help, but family commitments related to the holidays were demanding, and then she got sick. January may be better. We're trying a way to simplify money management that is promising.

Outside of the home, I spent a lot of time with family and friends during the holidays. Authentic, direct communication is happening more frequently, but it requires a very conscious effort. I especially struggle with eye contact and finding shared values with people from different backgrounds than me. I am not alone in this, but I do see people that bridge the gap with ease.

Many of the yoga teachers I've worked with are excellent communicators. Whether yoga develops the ability, or teaching simply draws people who have it, I don't know. Either way, surrounding myself with skilled communicators is smart. At the very least, I'll feel like I've improved while talking to them.

I am still working on the right level of non-social media. Media provides conversation topics, but the consumption time carries an opportunity cost. I've cut as much ad supported media as possible and have picked a selection of subscription media for the year.

All things considered, a decent month. January looks promising.