New Year’s Resolutions 2017

 

In 2016, my resolutions concerned trying to craft a life amid the enormous amounts of work that I do. We are all storm-tossed as we sail the seas of career, personal goals, and relationships. I made it my aim to be mindful and examine the different elements of my life and try to find myself in them. In that, I feel I met those resolutions. 2016 was a year of growth and self-awareness. A good year.

In terms of health and fitness, I definitely got somewhere. First, I became pescetarian then vegetarian. Then I lost 20 lbs, going from 192 last New Year’s Day to 172 today. I can run and swim now, too.

Here are my resolutions for 2017:

  1. Write a book. I have been thinking about several themes and gathering data for a while now. I am now ready to give shape to these patterns of thought in long form. I haven’t really felt ready until now.
  2. Pray, meditate and be mindful. I will continue along the path that I started on a year ago and try to meditate and pray daily. I have been starting the mindful practice of saying a quick, silent, unobtrusive prayer of gratitude before meals – no one even notices! Prayer, meditation, and mindfulness don’t feel like a chore so much anymore, so I am hopeful for this year.
  3. Build on the basic fitness I have achieved to become an athlete again. Last year, I invested time and became quite good at running and swimming. This year my aim is to learn to cycle effectively and maybe complete a triathlon. Not to compete, just to finish. This will mean getting overall weight down to a lean, muscular, 150 lbs or so.
  4. Find time to build a real life. I work incessantly, but I am feeling that neglecting my personal life has actually been holding me back from achieving the things I want. Right now, relaxation seems to involve mostly just collapsing exhausted in front of Netflix. I need to find time for true rest and leisure – actually spending time doing simple, fun things, maybe even with other people.

So there you have it. Let’s see how it goes.

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Time discipline

One of the comments I often get from people is: “You are the most productive person I know!”

I am grateful for having the stamina to be so productive. However, I am discovering, as I become more mindful and self-aware, that my productivity is not the result of great planning, but of brute force effort and a strong will.

That’s just not an optimal way of being productive because when I examine myself, I find that I am often motivated by:

  • fear
  • guilt
  • duty
  • a desire to please others

The first two are bad. Fear and guilt are just awful motivators.

Of the last two, duty is a good motivator, as is a desire to please others. Wanting to please others, however, is often a case of managing their expectations! I have learned that working with others to understand what it will take to please them

I have learned that working with others to understand what it will take to please them is very important.

I am going to work on ways of managing time discipline. I am going to start by using my calendar more effectively. I have friends who do this well – for example, Mark Stewart, my colleague and good friend at McMaster University, has been a big motivation for me in terms of fitness and health. I recently realised that he is a great at using his calendar for managing time.

I will report back on the Time Discipline Project.

200 day report on my Life Transformation Experiment

I thought that it was time for an update.

200 days ago, on Ash Wednesday, I started what I thought would be a temporary personal mortification… a Lenten sacrifice. I adopted a pescetarian diet and committed to 30 minutes of daily exercise.

My Numbers, Pre-Pescetarian Life Transformation
Blood Pressure: 130/85
Weight: 192lbs
Resting Heart Rate: ~74

Athletics: I could only run 12 minutes at a maximum speed of 8 km/h. I could not make it up the (very) steep hill next to my house on a bicycle without taking a break.

Here is the 200-day punchline (i.e. my numbers now):

On Animal Product Days (cheese/eggs/fish):
Blood Pressure: 110/65
Weight: 167lbs
Resting Heart Rate: ~63

On Vegan Days (only plants):
Blood Pressure: 100/58
Resting Heart Rate: ~59

Athletics: I can now comfortably run 5km at an average rate of 9-10 kph.  I can comfortably swim 2k (breaststroke) in 55 minutes. I go on regular brisk 90 minute hikes in the woods behind my house in Ancaster.

Surprise Benefit: Acid reflux is gone (except sometimes on animal product days)! I had been taking Zantac regularly – I stopped two weeks ago and have only had heartburn on days when I ate cheese, eggs or seafood.

This experiment will now go from being the Pescetarian Life Transformation Experiment to… The Vegetarian Life Transformation Experiment.

Why vegetarian? I am sufficiently convinced that I am healthier and happier on vegan days. However, I am not yet ready to go vegan – I still love cheese and eggs too much. So it will have to be a vegetarian experiment for now.

I will also try experiments with:

  • Meditation
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Different combinations of cardio and resistance exercises
  • Schedule Planning

Why these experiments? I am finding that the key to happiness and balance is discipline. I am going to experiment with different disciplines around the four things mentioned above.

How do I keep all this going? Excel is my friend – I have a great spreadsheet with a lot of these data. For swimming I use a PoolMateHR from Swimovate, which tracks lengths, speed, force, stroke count and heart rate. For nutrition, MyFitnessPal is super useful – it allows me to fairly easily and accurately track nutrition goals so that i make sure I am getting the macro and micro nutrients I need stay healthy.

I have been thinking of getting a sports watch with HR that can track swimming, running, cycling, etc. but I have done a lot of research and still find even the best products (mostly from Garmin) feel like they are still not quite out of beta.

My goal is to find my healthiest, calmest, most productive, creative and compassionate self.

I wish you peace and health.

I will keep you posted.

 

Being inspired and inspiring

I woke up today feeling inspired.

I had a good night’s sleep after having accomplished a few simple things during the previous day that I had been thinking about. The feeling of sunlight on my arms and face was beautiful as well.

I got to thinking about how I could transmit that feeling of being inspired to others. How to be inspiring? I think it has to do with a few things:

  • Openness. Be open to the day and the experiences it brings. Be open to the ideas of others – don’t feel threatened.
  • Positivity. Look to see the upside of everything you encounter. This means putting openness in action. Generally people come to you with an idea because they have been inspired or maybe they are worried about something. Both inspiration and worry are legitimate! A positive outlook recognizes this.
  • Calm. Maintaining calm inspires others because it gives them a feeling of security and peace. Without those two items, it is very difficult to be productive.

I wish you an open, positive and calm day!

Pleasures of public transit

I am taking public transit as a part of my wellness journey.

I am on a trip to Ottawa today, which meant an early morning wake-up at 4am to catch the early train. I took the GO Train at Aldershot Station with the other bleary-eyed riders to Union Station in Toronto. Then VIA Rail from Union to Ottawa.

I meditated for 10 minutes on the train and felt the fatigue from only sleeping 5 hours dimish. I understand that meditating reduces blood cortisol levels, but somehow I feel more awake after meditating, especially when tired. Odd.

In Hamiton, I have been taking public transit as much as possible. I have taken the bus to McMaster since I returned from my research leave. This is for three reasons:

  • Stress reduction. It reduces my stress levels significantly. Even if my bus ride is only 15 minutes, I can still do some light reading or just look out the window. Very peaceful when compared with driving.
  • Earth-friendly. It is environmentally much more sustainable. I have only filled up the gas tank in my SUV once in the last two weeks, instead of twice.
  • Cost savings. My parking spot at McMaster costs about $1200 (not including gas and wear), whereas transit will cost only about $800. I spend about $150 in gas to drive to Ottawa (not including wear), whereas I can get a return ticket for about $120-$150 if I take advantage of the Tuesday deals.

Harley Davidson motorcycles are awful

I rarely complain about the behaviour of others. My attitude is usually live and let live, knowing that everyone is carrying their own burden and that I probably do a lot of things that annoy people of which I am not aware.

There is one thing that I thought I would mention: the horrible, flatulent noise of Harley Davidson motorcycles and sports cars that have loud “sport-tuned” exhaust systems.

Don’t get me wrong. I love cars. I am a huge Formula 1 fan and I enjoy going to the Honda Indy almost every year. I also think motorcycles are cool and a fun, economical, environmentally-sustainable way to get around.

My problem is that Harleys and sports cars are tuned to annoy. They are tuned to make a spectacle of the driver and disturb the peace. I live on a beautiful driving and cycling road in Ancaster, Ontario, which means that lots of cyclists and motorists use the road. Hearing the horrible sound of a Harley or a sports coupé with sport-tuned exhaust is a great way of ruining a moment or breaking a train of thought.

Finally, to those who think these noisy vehicles are cool, I have to tell you that you’re part of the past not the future. To me, loud vehicles read “the past” or “dated” or “old guy” or maybe even “insecure.” They are also incredibly disrespectful of homeowners, shopkeepers and pedestrians.

My advice to these people: impress folks by spending a lot of money on a really beautiful Cervélo bicycle and learn to ride it well or an electric sports car or motorcycle.

Then you’ll be part of the future, not a noisy, irritating relic from the past.

A lovely day

I woke up early today (5:30) and made myself an americano and some spoon-size shredded wheat with blueberries and strawberries. Then meditated for 10 minutes and spent the morning working peacefully, writing and editing on the deck as nature woke up around me.

Then an easygoing 50 minute swim at the Ancaster Lions Pool, lunch at The V-Spot in Dundas (noodle salad with spiraled rainbow veggies and thai peanut lime dressing). A treat after – an ice cream from Purple Pony in Old Ancaster then some writing, dinner (tomato and onion on toast with vegenaise), then herbal tea, meditation, reading in bed and sleep by 10:30 (I hope).

I look forward to seeing what tomorrow will bring.