A Fun Way to Work Out

As preparation for my fifty consecutive pull-up extravaganza, I’ve been following Major Charles Lewis Armstrong’s routine as depicted here. But it’s not like I’ve justĀ been doing that, because in the process of playing on the bars, I’ve discovered just how fun it is. I never knew just how much fun you could have, and how strong and fit you could get, just maneuvering yourself around from bar to bar. No wonder monkeys have strong bodies.

Yesterday I spent about an hour doing dips, push ups on the bars, and just making shit up. I’m sure there’s names for most of the exercises I was doing, but I don’t care what they are. Other than for some of the Barstarzz videos, I haven’t watched or read up on bar work. I’d never even heard of a muscle up until two days ago. Now I have a shitload of new goals, and it’s very exciting to work towards them, and know that I don’t need to spend a cent on gym memberships or just do somewhat tedious bodyweight routines in my lounge room. Playing on the bars is actually fun. Sincerely. You don’t have to get yourself pumped with music or pretend that it’s fun for the sake of discipline.

Today my torso is pleasantly aching and the palms of my hands are blistered and would probably start bleeding if I attempted to do a pull up. Thankfully it’s my scheduled rest day (Sunday — even though I don’t particularly believe in scheduled rest days) and I don’t have to feel guilty for not going down and putting myself through the pain.

Anybody got any advice on how to heal the palms of my hands?

Meditation: Why it’s So Hard to Let Go?

Meditation is hard. Seriously, I find it even harder than doing push ups to exhaustion, to running up seriously steep, seemingly endless hills, to swimming ten laps without stopping even though my lungs feel like exploding. It’s funny that, when all it is is sitting there, breathing slowly and deeply, and letting go of your thoughts. Mindfulness meditation is about consciously observing your physical sensations and your mental thought stream, and detaching yourself so that you can calmly let them come and go, and achieve ultimate self-control.

I have been attempting my Six Week Super Challenge again but have not been diligent. This morning I set the timer for fifteen minutes of meditation, and it seriously felt like an eternity. Part of the constant nagging thoughts I had to try and let go of was, “When’s this going to end?” However, the benefits of persisting are worth it.

I’ve decided to post the section on Meditation from the Six Week Super Challenge. It is #10 of the jokingly titled “commandments”.

I hope it proves useful to some of you who might be considering meditation as an aide to your physical and mental health, but, like me, have trouble with sitting there for long enough to “let go.”

COMMANDMENT # 10

Thou shalt meditate daily for half an hour

When scientists scanned the brains of Buddhist monks, they found that their brain structure had been altered by years of meditation. What had changed? The left prefrontal cortex, the area that promotes happiness, was significantly more active than that in non-meditators.

In a recent study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, mindfulness based meditation was found to curb relapse into depression as much as anti-depressants.

Not only will daily meditation make you happier, and therefore more productive (I’m paraphrasing some ironic Radiohead lyrics, to those who don’t know), it will also help you become more creative, increase your ability to concentrate, and improve your personal relationships.

Don’t know anything about meditation? Here’s a very basic rundown:

Get yourself cross-legged on the floor, perched on a cushion or something soft. Imagine there a string pulling you towards the sky, straightening your back and lifting you up. Breathe in slowly, hold the breath. Breathe out. Repeat. Close your eyes. Listen to your mental chatter. Picture it as a stream, and you are stepping out of the stream. Watch it float by. Occasionally you’ll get caught up in the stream, but remind yourself that your job is to watch, not participate. All surrounding sensations — the sound of traffic outside, the feel of cool air on your neck, the slight aching in your shoulders — become a part of this stream. Eventually on each out breath you can release an “om.” This is a slow humming sound that carries on your exhale.

Set a timer so that you can comfortably do this for half an hour and not stress about passing too much time. This will be difficult at first, but after daily repetition, will become easier. Even if you can’t quite detach from your sensation-stream, and keep getting caught up in it, it is worth the effort. Keep trying. The very act of trying will sharpen your senses and make you a calmer, more effective person.

My 50 Pull Up Pledge To You, Dear Reader

I’m feeling 100% energized, ironically after doing the most draining run of my life… an uphill 2.6km slog clocking in at 18 minutes, three minutes behind my goal of fifteen, but once at the course I realized how ludicrous that goal was for a first timer. I gave it my all, and a lot of the other runners were impressed. The last five hundred meters were the hardest. I’d been at the front of the pack until then, and as a sixty year old passed me he patted my shoulder and said, “Not bad for a first timer, mate.”

I feel pretty confident that I can get down to fifteen minutes. It’ll take a few more months training. Though it nearly killed me doing it in eighteen, I feel bloody fantastic now, like I could do it all over again. Also, even though I did 150 push ups, a shitload of crunches and a steady pull up routine before I ran, I did it all over again, afterwards.

So in this state of post-work out bliss I shall make a pledge, a pledge that I promise to do my very best to keep: I shall do fifty consecutive pull ups in sixteen weeks time. In the final week of June I shall post a video of myself doing these pull ups. Until then I’ll be following the Barstarzz routine by Major Charles Lewis-Armstrong that I posted in the previous blog.

Wish me luck, mofos.

Bodyweight Strength Training, Running, Shadowboxing, Generally Kicking Ass

I believe that most of us who are striving for greatness are damaged in some way. Controversial statement, and perhaps I’m projecting my own motivations onto others. It just seems to me that those who settle for mediocrity in life seem the most un-bothered. Perhaps they have demons, like all of us, but they’re just not as aware of them.

To me, life feels meaningless unless I am trying to achieve great things. Why can’t I just relax, be like everybody else?

I have no idea. But I don’t really care. I just know that settling for mediocrity will leave me permanently unsatisfied with this mortal coil.

On that note, I’d just like to let you all know that in two hours time I will be embarking on my first competitive running race since I completed my marathon a year ago. In fact, this is my second time ever running with people. I’m terribly excited. It’s a 2.6 Km uphill slog, from the bottom of the city’s largest mountain to the peak. I aim to do it in fifteen minutes. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

In other news, I’ve been really impressed by the bodyweight workouts a group called Barstarzz have on Youtube. Check it out. I am currently following the program in the below video, with the goal of being able to do fifty consecutive pull ups by June. I don’t know if this is realistic or even possible. I’m going to give it my best shot though. The Austrian Oak said that the people who do the best in life are constantly failing and they don’t even care. They just keep trying things out, whereas a lot of us don’t even bother because we know we’ll fail and don’t want to upset ourselves.

I plan to upset myself a lot over the next few years. It’s better than the last decade of being half-assed about all my ambitions and dreams.

Anyho… check out the below video. Oh, and just so the headline isn’t too obsolete, do some shadowboxing every day. Imagine you’re smashing the shit out of your doubts, fears and enemies. It’s good for the soul.

The Six Weeks That Changed My Life

For the first decade of my adult life I contemplated suicide every day. Every single day. Some times it was just a pleasant fantasy, a way to lighten the perceived heaviness that reality seemed to heap on me. You know, the thought that there’s always a safety exit so I needn’t feel too hemmed in. Kind of like if you’re at an awkward dinner party it’s nice to know that there’s a sneaky back door you can always escape through.

Yep, life felt like an awkward dinner party, and I just wanted to go home.

Addicted to internet porn, a heavy user of drugs and alcohol, and unable to either hold down a job or set up my own business, I lived in a state of constant resentment and depression. Everything seemed too hard. The world was a bleak place and I didn’t want to be a part of it. Thankfully, I didn’t have the courage to end it all. Or maybe I always knew, deep down, that eventually I’d figure out how to play the “game of life.”

My real problem was that I hated working meaningless jobs for other people. I’d worked in bars, post-offices, factories and retail outlets, never lasting more than six months. In my late twenties I decided to go to university, figuring that might solve my problems. It didn’t. I couldn’t pretend to care enough about the subject matter. Within four months I’d dropped out. Now I was unemployed, receiving welfare and constantly dreaming up ways of getting myself out of my self-imposed shithole.

It wasn’t all in vain. In my year of unemployment I studied fitness manuals, read up on business ideas and concentrated on building myself up as a person. I taught myself new skills and attended a boxing gym. I kept a daily journal and even wrote two novels, which had been a goal of mine since childhood.

But all the while I felt this impending dread that every fortnight my payments would be cut and I’d be forced back into the horrible routine of working minimum wage to make somebody else a profit.

I always wanted to run my own business. But every business idea I had immediately conjured images of mountainous obstacles. How could a tired, grumpy bastard like myself ever overcome them? I was too cynical, too jaded, and too — what I thought could be described as — “genuine.” Capitalism seemed to benefit the phonies, those who didn’t care about their personal authenticity.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, capitalism is the system I lived in. It’s the system most of us live in. And because of that, most of us, probably 99% of us, will spend our entire lives at the beck and call of other people. Bosses, family, debt collectors — you name it. However, the system’s one saving grace is this: If you dedicate yourself, throw caution to the wind and are willing to risk your reputation, your dignity and your social standing, you can escape the 99%.

But you have to ask yourself: do you want it that bad enough? If the answer is yes, then you need to do some serious soul-searching. To give up the security of working for other people’s businesses and having that socially sanctioned approval, you need to shock yourself into a state of action. It is not about your skills, your talent or even your ability to “make friends and influence people.” It is about changing your attitude.

You need to develop the iron will of a centurion and the persistence of a hungry tiger.

You need to shed the shackles of other people’s assumptions and opinions.

Your friends, your family and your colleagues — without admitting or even realizing it — want you to squirm in the same swamp as they do. They want you to fail. And maybe, subconsciously, that’s what you want, as well.

Intellectually I’d understood this for most of my life. I’d always believed in the redemptive force of brute individuality. But I’d never internalized it, made it a part of my very make up. To do so, I needed to shock myself out of my routine, my habits, my system. To unlock the subconscious safety valve that kept me in my state of constant failure, I needed something that would drive home the point from being just an intellectual understanding, to being a core value that I understood (even without always consciously understanding).

It needed to be something that would divide me from my old self — a clear demarcation between the old, unsuccessful me, and the new, resilient, courageous and unyielding iron-me.

You see, I’d become a weak and lazy slob, always justifying my behaviour with my cynical worldview. What’s the point? had become my subconscious mantra. I could never get out of bed in the morning. When I did, it felt like a waste of time. Dreams were so much nicer. Consciousness was easier in front of a computer screen, jerking off to pixellated women. I had to apply for jobs as a requirement for receiving unemployment benefits, but I hoped like hell I wouldn’t get them, and pretty much knew, that even if I tried, I probably wouldn’t. I occasionally wrote up business ideas, but lacking the capital or the drive, they’d fester by the wayside.

The one positive to come out of this period, as mentioned before, was I read a lot of self-help and fitness guides. Without realizing it, I was becoming a bit of an intellectual expert in the art of self-improvement. Ironically, none of the lessons had sunk in to my actual core. But I knew if I could distill everything I’d learned into a manageable program, I’d be able to change myself.

So this is what I did. I compiled all the best knowledge into a workable program. And then I made myself a goal: I would stop receiving welfare and be forced to live off my own wits. The last thing I wanted was to get another shit-kicker job for some sadistic boss, so I had to think long and hard about what I wanted to do. And the change within me would have to be physical, as well as intellectual. It had to seep into my very core. And the only way to do this was to follow a program that would ensure I couldn’t fall back into self-destructive patterns.

So I came up with the Six Week Super Challenge. I’d tried various online self-help / fitness programs in the past. They’d all been beneficial but not particularly life changing. I’d do the program, feel good for a while, and then, a month later, be back to my old ways.

The advantage of my self-written program is that it addresses the mind, the body and the spirit. And I don’t mean the spirit in any religious or new age kind of way. I mean the way you feel about the world. Not just how you physically feel or how you intellectually understand things, but the inexplicable sense of motivation that wakes you up in the morning and carries you through your day.

It’s what I’d been missing out on my whole life, and it’s why I’d never succeeded.

The Six Week Super Challenge changed my life. It really did. It was the demarcation I needed between the old me and the new me. Afterwards, I stopped receiving benefits, didn’t need to work a shitty job, and have never looked back. Of course, it’s not some magic pill that you take once and are forever changed. Today I am actually embarking for the second time on the challenge, because I have felt old ways of thinking start to seep back into my brain.

I don’t regret the ten years I wasted being a depressive no-hoper. I learned a lot in that time, and without it, I couldn’t have written the program that not only changed my life, but has improved the lot of my friends and some of their friends too. For this reason, I want to make it available to anybody, who feels they need to shock themselves out of their apathy and become the iron-willed centurion that our society requires you to be in order to flourish within it.

Remember, you need to do the work. The Super Challenge won’t do it for you. And as the weeks pass you can adjust it to suit your own temperament. For the second time, I embark on this challenge, because I remember how it motivated me and the ensuing twelve months were the best and most productive of my life. I am by no means a perfect person, and some days the clouds of old pessimistic thoughts still block the light, but the Challenge is about building the strength to keep going regardless of whether it’s sunny or stormy.

I look forward to the next six weeks of hard, life regenerating work.

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The Fear of Mike Tyson and What You Can Learn From It

Mike Tyson is not an example of a good human being. He is not someone I would put on my wall and look at every morning, hoping to become more like. He does not fill me with inspiration and make me think the world’s a better place than it sometimes seems.

But…

Mike Tyson is a champion athlete. Along with Muhammad Ali he is the world’s greatest ever heavyweight boxer. You can’t deny his power, skill and strength, and the dedication it would have taken to develop these traits. Not to mention the bravery of having to step into a ring and take on other, large, strong and dedicated men, who want to bash you unconscious.

His training regime is legendary. But what surprised me, as I was researching the man to see what made him such a great athlete, was the fact that in his earlier bouts he suffered extreme pre-fight nerves, to the point where he would be in tears and begging his trainers to not make him fight.

We tend to think champions have no fear, as if they were born with some extra iron-bars consolidating the fortress around their hearts. But the video below shows that this certainly isn’t the case. The young Tyson was scared shitless. And this is good for the rest of us, because it means we can’t use our own, sometimes crippling, fear as an excuse to not do the best we can in life.

Fear is normal even amongst people at the top of their fields. What matters is carrying on regardless, whereas most of us stop.

 

 

Stay the Course: Motivation when you Least Want It (but Need it Most)

Don’t replace what is good for you with what feels good. — A paraphrase of something I read somewhere yesterday but can’t remember where.

First, admit you are weak. That way you won’t be disappointed when your alarm goes off at 4.30 a.m. and you feel like shit. You’re not waking up jacked at all. You’re waking up and moving through the ether as if it was glue. Dreams still roadblock your waking thoughts and every cell in your body is selling you the concept of further sleeping.

The night before you were at a dinner party and at about midnight you crashed on the host’s lounge-room couch. You only got four hours shuteye and as you get up, drink your berocca, drive home, contemplate running up through the dark hills, the thought constantly nags you: What’s the point? Can you even get your work done when you’re this tired? You’ve worked hard all week. You’ve stuck to your exercise routine. Your muscles ache and you feel lightheaded as you get out of the car and carry your bags up to your door.

You could easily go back to sleep. Surely the quality of your work would be better.

But the thing is: You’ve made a resolution to yourself. You will wake up at or before five every morning, from now on. You will work out every day, bar Sunday, if you don’t feel like it. You will update your websites, daily, and you will gain 1000 unique daily visitors for each one by the beginning of April. This is non-negotiable.

Up until now, despite your talent, you have repeatedly allowed excuses to justify perpetual failure. Every other plan in your life has fallen by the wayside. Why? Because you’ve found excuses whether you’ve consciously looked for them or not. They are the usual excuses. The ones which are now telling you why it’s okay to go back to sleep: I’m tired. Today’s an exception. I was out late last night. I’m weak. I’m not strong enough for this.

We’re all fucking weak. It’s okay to be weak. Just admit it and move on. You’re human. Life is hard. But guess what? Nobody gives a shit about how hard you think life is. Nobody cares that you’re tired and down and don’t feel like producing today. They just want to see what you’ve got. What can you give them? If you can’t give anything, then you aren’t anything. You’re just an organism that eats, sleeps, shits and, if fate is feeling generous, fucks around. That’s fine, if that’s all you want to be. If that doesn’t depress you, and you are happy with mediocrity and being somebody else’s slave, then good. Maybe you’re just genetically blessed with unyielding happiness.

But the truth is, you’re not like that at all. You’ve had a contemplative, melancholic side since the day you were born. It’s like you came out with a missing piece and you’ve been looking for it ever since. You remember going to school and coming home and then your first job — going there and coming home, and you remember that perpetual lingering emptiness. You remember wondering: Is there more to life than this? You had a hunch that the missing piece is out there somewhere but you’ve never had the gumption to seriously look for it.

You never stopped wondering about that missing piece. It’s taunted you, sent you into paroxysms of grief, brief stints of madness, drinking spells, obsessions with escaping your daily reality.

You’ve always craved a hell of a lot more from life. You wanted to be exceptional. And you still do. You want to be your own boss, steer your own ship, and you want to experience the highs and lows of the seas which you choose to sail.

If you go back to sleep, fall out of your routine, and can’t follow through with your plans, then you will never be your own master. You will always require someone else to crack the whip. It might be a boss, a spouse, a welfare office or a personal trainer. But it won’t be you. You are not your own master. You are somebody else’s slave.

If you were your own master, you’d admit you were weak, admit you were tired, admit you felt vulnerable, but you’d stay the course anyway.

We are all weak. We all have moments where we hate what we are doing and thirst vivaciously for escape. But what separates the masters from the slaves is the ability to carry on regardless.

You don’t need to be a hero. You just need to keep going. Stay the course. For once in your life, Charlie, stay the goddamn course.

— Charlie O Dee. A letter to myself at six in the morning.