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.