Improvements

Eating better

Posted on Jan 10, 2016 in Food, General, Improvements | 2 comments

IMG_1559We already ate pretty darned well – hard not to in Portland where everything is about organic and local, and we live down the block from Whole Foods. We don’t do many processed foods and don’t eat too many calories, but I’ve always felt we could stand to put more fresh stuff into our bodies. I didn’t want to change diet in the middle of racing season or around the holidays so I gathered plans and equipment over December and got to it at the turn of the year.

I tried juicing many years ago, but this was when I didn’t have a dishwasher and I grew tired of all the cleaning. I sold that juicer, but had the exact same model on my wish list and received it for Christmas. We’re only a week into the year, but I’ve juiced about a half dozen times. I’ve tried a few recipes, but keep falling back to the first one I made via a random Googling – kale, cucumber, granny smith apples, celery, and lemon. In fact, I’m downing one right now. I threw in some ginger we had sitting around for a little extra bite. Produce isn’t too cheap, but if you watch for what’s on sale you can easily fill a grocery bag for less than you can with regular foodstuffs. Sure, the caloric content of that bag is probably a lot less, but the nutritional value is probably a lot more. Despite the lack of calories, juice seems to satiate my appetite really well. I typically get serious calorie cravings after rides or before dinner, but I’m not now. I’m almost always downing the juice as I make it due to oxidation, but have had good results storing it overnight in a sealed container. Heather isn’t a huge fan of veggie juicing so this undertaking has been mostly about me. I do hope I can get some more fruit-based juices churned out for her as fruits come into season.

On a fishing trip this year I “camped” (~60ft fifth wheel camper) with a friend who was doing a cleanse. He was getting most of his calories via spiralized vegetables. Intrigued, I looked into it, found spiralizers are dirt cheap (plan to spend $20-30 unless you find one of sale [same one linked] like we did for $15). We also picked up a book with some recipes and have been making all sorts of noodle and rice dishes out of veggies. The first two we tried were some of the best food we’d ever had (sweet potato carbonara and turnip pasta). The third, not so much, but not everything can be a win. A bonus is that this isn’t diehard vegetarian stuff; our recipe book includes meat in most of the meals. There can be some significant prep work (I had to sliver two cups of brussels sprouts for one of the recipes), but overall good stuff.

To top those two off, I’ve emptied our fridge of beer. Not quitting alcohol by any means, but will focus on wine a bit more. 

We waited until the first of the year to get going on this better diet and in those ten days I’ve dropped two pounds and feel like I have a whole lot more energy. An added bonus is that we’ve eaten out a lot less so we’re saving money. A lot more work for sure, but it’s pretty darned gratifying to see a constant stream of fresh foods come into the house and disappear.

Goal Achieved: Do Less

Posted on Mar 18, 2013 in General, Improvements | 0 comments

One of my goals for the year was to be involved in less. As of last night, having stepped down from my four-year post as the VA Director at the DC Road Runners annual banquet, I think I can safely say I have achieved it.

I’m out!

While I’m still busy as hell between two jobs and trying to workout ~10 hours a week, every little bit helps. I don’t know exactly how much free time I’ve bought myself by resigning (especially since I’ll still be helping out a bit, but gone are the self-imposed requirements), but I’ll give it a go:

  • Six bi-monthly board meetings. Due to their timing, they define my evening after work despite only being an hour long. 6-9PM = 3 hours * 6 = 18 hours saved.
  • Scoring sixteen races for championship standings. These take roughly an hour each. 16 more hours to me.
  • Helping out at races. I will still do this, but perhaps not as much as before. ~8 hours back in my pocket.
  • Communicating. Just going through e-mails, even if they don’t require a response takes time. ~2 hours.

Total time saved? We’ll round up to 45 hours. A negligible amount compared to what some of the other volunteers put in, but it’s time that I haven’t been wanting to put in for a year or two… Especially once I stopped defining myself as a runner due to many years of injury and not being able to train or compete well.

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That’s the beefy win. I’ve had a couple of others such as no longer receiving notifications of Facebook activity from my top few friends, tracking less of my life (keeping detailed logs of coffee beans, wine we drink, games I play, and much more), reducing the number of times I visit “my forums” during the day, and saying “no” more often.

Overall, my stress levels are down and I’m digging it. To be clear, I’ve never had the “pulling out my hair” stress, but the “I have less than no time to get all this done” stress, which I think I handle in stride by prioritizing and keeping organized, but now I feel I’m at least able to stay on top of everything that’s going on. I’m still busy pretty much 100% of my waking hours (I’d have it no other way), but my backlog is actually decreasing and it’s a great feeling.

Bringing The Noise

Posted on Feb 28, 2013 in Improvements | 5 comments

Last night, following two restless nights caused primarily by NASCAR seeming to run down 66 (we abut the highway through a tiny forest, which is bare and reduces no noise in the winter and really, people lacking proper mufflers blast through at well over 100 late at night), I decided to do something about it.

We rocked out to brown noise (not to be confused with the brown note). ALL NIGHT LONG. What is brown noise? Well, you could click the link at the start of this paragraph… Or go with one of my quick and simple answers… It is noise with a focus on lower frequencies and a linear decline in power as frequency increases, whereas white noise is basically random and pink noise is a mix of the two (getting VERY basic here… so basic that I’m almost lying).

And I think it worked. Or it was a great placebo. Regardless, I think we might be addicted. Having gone to bed restless, I fell asleep near immediately after starting the noise and stayed that way. Note: I almost always sleep like a rock, but now and then I’ll have a week that’s off. Male period? I’m sure I have a few friends who would say I’ve been cranky of late, but I’d prefer to blame that on the recent product announcements from Google, Blackberry, Sony, and more of the usual raping of gamers from EA. If businesses would just stop SUCKING. GOSH. I digress… It’s just my period.

The tool used was the SimplyNoise app based on my knowledge of their site (a friend linked to it a while back), and spending far too much time wading through poorly executed “free” crap that required in-app purchases for anything you may actually want to use. I do wonder if my iPhone is the best producer of noise as I’m sure its frequency range is cutting off on both ends, but it’s what I had near and I’m not about to setup a serious noise generating system in the bedroom. Anyway, the app is very simply designed, tasteful, and $.99. What’s a buck?

We tried all the noise types before settling on brown at a low volume oscillation. White and pink were both too harsh and seemed to do a poorer job at blocking out (I know that’s not the technically correct term) what we didn’t want to hear. Your results may vary based on your location and the ambient noise you receive. For a highway? Brown all the way. The volume oscillation provided a nice variance; after a few minutes with it disabled (default), the constance began to grate on me. Oscillation was the trick, but not at the high or medium settings after they were too fast and too harsh. Again, your mileage may vary.

Anyone else use noise? What do you use to generate it? Have any links telling me that it is a severe health risk? Talk to me.

One Seven Four

Posted on Feb 12, 2013 in General, Improvements | 3 comments

First goal of the year: Accomplished.

At the start of the year, I set a bunch of goals that weren’t SMART. Knowing myself and how self-motivated I am, I knew I’d still push myself to reach them. As of this morning, I’ve accomplished the first.

On January 1st, I weighed 184lbs after having taken a month easy from my cardio work, eating nonstop over the holidays, and a weeklong cruise with the family. As of this morning, the scale showed 174 (wifey can verify). 10lbs lost in a 1 and 1/3 of a month. The goal was to do it by my birthday (the 15th) en route to a “race weight” goal by the start of the racing season in April. I’m well on my way and don’t care what Chris has to say on the subject (I kid… his post is very worthwhile; weight loss isn’t always the answer and is rarely a good measuring stick unless you’ve got odd goals like myself [race performance]).

How did I do it? Lose 10lbs when already skinny?

  1. Exercise. I’ve always done this, but I usually slack off in the cold months. Not this year. I’m averaging over 100 miles ridden per week and about 5 run despite 1/3 of the year being zeroes due to my neck woes. A hidden bonus of cold weather work is that your body has to burn even more calories in order to keep its temperature.
  2. Eating smarter. When there is a healthier option, I’ll go for it. Forced to go out for someone’s last day of work? Have the grilled salmon and veggies instead of the burger and fries (note: if you’re eating at Ted’s, this actually still won’t be a healthy option). A lot of restaurants nowadays are listing their nutritional info in the menu. If not, check their website. Some of what I’ve found has been shocking.
  3. Not finishing her portions. This has always plagued me. After finishing my food, I’d wait around drooling in hopes that she won’t finish her’s and I’ll get to. No more. I’m done when I finish. This is 100+ calories a couple of times a week.
  4. Fewer sweets. Especially tough considering how much chocolate I received for the holidays. I’ve limited myself to a piece per day and stuck to it except for one or two binges. By “piece” I don’t mean a whole Hershey bar. I mean one square of it. It’s hard, but I’ve found it more satisfying to eat a small amount of chocolate every day rather than one bar once a week.
  5. Strength work. Typically, adding muscle battles against weight loss. It does, but ultimately increases your resting caloric consumption. Since the start of the year, I’ve done about 1000 pull-ups and 1500 push-ups (roughly 30 and 50 a day, respectively). I’m not keeping track like I normally do, which I think is keeping me from quitting… Casual works. It’s not heavy lifting by any means, but its all I need and doesn’t risk injury.
  6. Smaller meals, especially dinner. As long as you’re not waking up hungry in the middle of the night, you could stand to eat less. Eating less at dinner also has the side benefit of typically taking less time to prepare and cleanup. You don’t need a four course meal every night. Instead, make something simple or even snack most nights of the week. If you don’t feeling like eating at home, split a meal. What do the following have in common? Burrito at Chipotle, a 10″ pizza, a footlong sub, a single order of Chinese or Thai… That’s right, they’re all two meals. Save a buck, save a pound… Brilliant.
  7. Eat leftovers. Make more than you need, limit your portions, and eat the same thing the next day. Saves time, money, and calories.
  8. No beer (note: plenty of wine). Empty calories that I didn’t need. The biggest problem is that it’s rare to drink just one. I probably do limit my intake more than most (have one after a ride or one while cooking dinner and no more), but cutting it out altogether has been pretty easy. Unfortunately, by not consuming it (except for a happy hour at which I couldn’t control myself), it means we’ve been collecting it as I’m paid in beer for a lot of the favors I perform for friends. I suppose we’ll have to have folks over soon to get it out of here? Added bonus.
  9. No soda. I didn’t drink soda to begin with, but this is one that a lot of people could stand to cut out. Like beer, it’s empty calories, and a bunch of random chemicals going into your system. Save that $1.99 and drink water.
  10. Choose your battles. For a few weeks, I was drinking my coffee black. At 30 calories for my two teaspoons of sugar and another 30 or so for my half & half, the benefits didn’t outweigh the costs. I love coffee and I wasn’t loving it black. When you set a goal for anything, you don’t need to sacrifice everything to accomplish it. Pick and choose what works best for you. Being happy will go much further than saving those last 60 calories. However, know that there’s a big difference between a drip coffee with cream and the caramel bananafrappalatta you’re eyeing (by 500+ calories).

So that’s the gist of it. If I can drop 10lbs in a month, anyone can, but know that weight loss isn’t always the right answer.

An 18th Century Evening

Posted on Jan 12, 2013 in General, Improvements | 0 comments

No, we didn’t go reenacting.

Last night, Heather and I embarked on a bit of an experiment. At 5:30PM, I went around the house and unplugged everything electrical, turned off all of our devices, lit a half-dozen candles, poured two glasses of wine, and sat down on the couch.

What ensued? Well, drinking of wine, lots of reading, and a lot of writing things down on paper to look up the next day and to add to our electronic to-do lists.

It was a fun little exercise in the same vein as folks going without their smartphones, and leaving their gadgets at work, but we took it a step further and forewent TV, social media, lights, and even clocks. Granted, I did use a cyclocomputer when I went to the basement to ride my bike, but I did my riding via candlelight. Granted again, we did read on our Kindles because that’s where our books reside, but you get the idea…

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was able to get about three hours of reading in (only 28hrs to go in Game of Thrones: Book Three!!!) without the constant nagging of feeling like I should be checking e-mail or Facebook, and above all else we had some pretty good conversation. I’m quite certain we’d get along perfectly fine if we did this for a longer period of time, which is a bit surprising to me; I thought the urge to connect would be stronger, but maybe I’m not as reliant on connectivity as I had thought?

Will we do it again? For sure, but next time we’ll be prepared with a few more unscented candles; light was hard to come by and the house was a smorgasbord of smells.

Highly recommended activity.

Eliminating the alarm clock

Posted on Oct 14, 2012 in Improvements | 1 comment

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This article is the first of many in my new Improvements category. The idea behind these articles is self-improvement. I tend to read a lot on the subject, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual (yes, I do) health so I figured it’d be fun to share the little things I do in order to live a better life.

While not my most significant or useful bit of improvement, I am here today to let you know I’ve done away with an “active” alarm clock. What I mean by active is a traditional one; one that is always displaying the time. I do still sleep with my phone nearby so I can take a look if I really need to or if I’m forced to wake-up at some god-awful hour to make it to the event of the week, but 97% of days, no alarm.

Before attempting this endeavor, one must first get their biological clock “right.” I believe that takes a both a healthy body ms mind. I don’t have any magic tips to make this happen, but for me it seems like working out, eating well, and doing my best to not consume caffeine after noon do the trick.

The next and final step is to unplug that bad boy and don’t look back. And… that’s it.

Why did I do this and consider it significant?

  1. Reducing light in the bedroom is good for sleep and sleep is good for you.
  2. EMFs are bad. Granted, I still sleep with my cell phone nearby and that’s far worse for me in regard to such fields, but having it near outweighs the cons for me.
  3. I was facing buying a $30 adapter in order to use it as intended, and it would have likely looked goofy. I’ll instead make a few bucks on this ordeal by selling it on Craigslist.
  4. I now have double the space on my nightstand.
  5. Eliminating a redundant device will save around $2 per year (assumed 3-watt pull).

As mentioned before, this isn’t a huge life improvement, but the little things add up. Stay tuned for more little things. Also, anybody interested in a Logitech Pure-Fi Anytime? Great little alarm clock, but you’re probably better off without one 😉