Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Who, me? Stressed?

First of all, I apologize to anyone who subscribes in a reader and got this post without content - I was trying out a new keyboard and published by accident.  I didn't even realize it until this morning.

If you're a new reader who heard my interview on The Applied Karate Podcast, then welcome!  I recommend searching the archives for anything you found of interest, or posting questions to the comments.  I'll happily respond to any questions people have (though I won't always know the answers, obviously).  If you're a reader of this blog and not a listener of the Applied Karate Podcast, I recommend you check it out.

I've had a hectic few months.  I started a new career (software developer) and moved (to Brooklyn, New York), but with my kids still back in Maryland I've been doing a lot of travelling back and forth.  My training has suffered badly and my blogging has suffered even more!

A couple of quick notes: in times of stress (especially time stress) many of us turn to comfort foods that we know aren't good for us, often saying things like, "a little candy may not be good for me long term, but it will give me the energy to get through this very stressful day, and that's what I need right now."  I can't claim to be immune to this impulse by any stretch, but it's worth avoiding.  If you're really just having a very tough day that's one thing, but if your life is very busy and you need to get things done day in and day out you'll have a lot more energy and strength overall if you keep to a stricter diet.  By stricter I mean "cleaner" - plenty of high quality meat and veggies, no grains, plenty of clean starches (white rice, sweet potatoes) - I DO NOT mean low calorie.  High stress periods of life are not necessarily the times when you want to try to cut a lot of weight (sometimes they are, but adding stressors to yourself can be counterproductive when you're already under duress).

I have some more thoughts about stressful periods of life:

  • If  you think you don't have time to train you're wrong.  Many of us get sort of trapped into the idea of "a workout" as a big block of time for exercise.  You might not have an hour to set aside for exercise, but very few of us have jobs where we really can't get up every hour or so and knock out some exercise.  Put a chinup bar in a doorway and do a couple of chinups every time you go through it.  Stand up from your desk and throw a few punches.  If you work in a cubicle, kiai loudly, it will make everybody appreciate your efforts.  Brush your teeth in kiba dachi.  Practice your posture - pack your neck and shoulders, and tighten your abs, while standing around - you can do this on the train ride to work, waiting for a meeting, wherever.  I can't promise the same results as if you added in dedicated workouts but it will help.
  • Try not to skimp on sleep.  It's tempting to "make" extra time by cutting short on sleep - look, if you have to, then you have to, but the value of quality sleep for health is very large.  Your long term health will suffer.  Those hours you gain aren't free.
  • If you need downtime, then take it.  People can't do grueling work all day, day after day, without a break - they lose efficiency.  The trick is to take a real break, do something that makes you happy, don't feel guilty about it, and don't think of it as "wasting" time.  If you love videogames, play them - but don't just play computer solitaire because you're too wiped out to get your work done and kill hours doing something you don't actually enjoy.
The more you say, "screw it, I'm having a tough time, I don't have the energy to eat right or train" the harder it's going to be for you to get back on track when things lighten up.  Don't get down on yourself for taking it a little easier, but don't cut yourself too much slack either.

Please listen to the Podcast.  I'll try to get the final article on periodization up soon, I promise!  And I'm thinking about another round of before-and-after photos... though I haven't made much progress this year, sadly.