0509 – putting my gains first

Been a few days since I published a vomit, but it’s something I don’t feel bad about anymore. Once this happens a few more times, I won’t even feel a need to bring it up- I’ll just go straight into it. [1]

The best thing that’s been happening for me recently is that I’ve been working out regularly with my home gym for over a month. And I don’t just look or feel fitter- I’ve made concrete, measurable progress on my lifts. In the first week, I was squatting and benching 55kg and struggling. In the past week, I benched 62.5kg and squatted 75kg. It’s very definitive evidence that I have more raw physical power than I did 2 months ago, and it feels really, really good. My skinny legs are slightly more muscular. I’m looking forward to gaining more strength and putting on more muscle mass.

And to over-generalize a little too soon, it makes me feel like I can do all sorts of other things. I want to develop a more nuanced, higher-resolution understanding of electricity, computers, transistors, the Internet, WordPress, PHP, MySQL and so on. And I want to get better at managing my own time, breaking things down into little steps and just getting a lot more things done. [2]

So how did this happen? A few possible hypotheses, all probably connected. The first is that having access to a gym in my house reduced the ‘activation energy’ required, so much so that it allowed me to change my behavior dramatically. [3] The second is that spending that much money on a home gym forced me to be more serious. And the third is that it’s just a function of time, and it was sort of inevitable. I think that’s roughly the order in which I’m taking them seriously. If I want to do something, I need to make it easier to do.

So what’s next? I want to keep working out. To continue getting stronger I’m going to also have to eat and sleep better. To do both of those things I need to work more effectively, because work stress kills my appetite and keeps me awake. Another way to improve both of those things is to meditate more. Meditation calms me down and makes me less stressed [4], which gives me better appetite and sleep.

So… I’ve tried this before and failed, but I gotta keep trying (and maybe make slight adjustments each time) until I get it. To “improve” my own behavior, I first need to know my desired end state. I now know that my desired end state is to become physically much stronger, because that gives me confidence and power in all sorts of other ways, too. So, for a few months at least, I should test the idea that everything I should do should be in the service of me getting stronger. So if I’m feeling lazy at work, I should remind myself that if stuff’s not getting done, I can’t afford to work at night, because that would mean that I’m not getting the optimal rest and diet I need in order to grow.

I last tried approaching this from a word vomits perspective, but it somehow didn’t stick I think because I know that I can write whenever I like, so I can still put off writing for a few hours or a few days and rush it all at once. The body doesn’t work like that. The body requires sacrifice, and I am deciding to make the sacrifices needed to experience the gains, on all fronts.

Which brings me to another important thought, or hypothesis.

(Stopped writing here, and forgot what the hypothesis was, but now I think I remember.)

The hypothesis is– I would get better results (overall happiness, quality and quantity of desired outcomes in general) if I set “get physically stronger” as my primary goal than if I set something else like say, “get more effective at work” (which has been useful, but seems to be plateauing). Why? The idea is that the body is the most immediate and unavoidable system in my life. If I don’t eat enough, I can’t get stronger. If I don’t sleep enough, I can’t get stronger. If I don’t lift heavy weights, I can’t get stronger.

The goal of getting stronger forces me to make sure that those things are all taken care of. At my last bench, I attempted 65kg for the first time, and failed twice before I got it on the 3rd try. I realize that if I had slept better, if I had rested more, I’d probably have had less difficulty with it. So I need to take care of myself in order to get stronger.

This is also the case if I want to get more effective at work, but the latter has more variables that allow me to BS myself. Of course, it’s prudent to eliminate BS in all spheres as much as possible, and to develop a taste for eliminating BS, and I’d like to think (but cannot yet confirm) that I’ve taken a few steps in this direction. Anyway, anything else at this point is pontification. The point is that I think that it makes sense to see fitness as the #1 priority. We’ll see if it plays out well. I think it will. Though I’m not too sure if we’ll learn anything. We’ll see.

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[1] I’ve been reading my earlier vomits- I’m at around 120 right now. It’s interesting to witness how much “explaining” I do. “Explaining ” isn’t a good enough word for what I’m trying to talk about. I spend a lot of time doing preamble. Like I need to prequalify everything. The more I write, the less necessary this seems. It feels like progress.

[2] My main plan here is to commit to 4 hour schedules of deep work. I think if I can do 4 hours of good work a day, I’m pretty much “accounted for”. My problem is fuckarounditis, which I detailed in an earlier vomit. I need to approach work like I approach vomits and workouts. Done in intense bursts, not little scraps throughout the entire day.

[3] I’ve had an interesting experience with this with regards to my guitars. When I put my amp and guitars in my living room, next to my sofa, I found myself noodling away on a regular basis- almost every day. When my wife moved the guitars to our study to tidy some things up, I found myself almost not playing at all. I’d sometimes pick up my acoustic, but I almost never picked up the electric- the effort required to carry it over to the amp and plug it in simply seemed like too much. It’s not even like I considered it and then decided against it- when it becomes harder to do, I don’t even consider it. That’s a really powerful thing to think about.

I’ve thought about this in relation to grocery shopping and other errands- a tiny bit of uncertainty or complexity can make a task completely unpalatable. It’s kind of creepy. The inverse might also apply- if you reduce uncertainty and complexity as much as possible, things should be much easier to do. (I should come up with a phrase for this.) That’s what gamification is primarily about, I think. And that’s why we should document our processes. I feel a little guilty that I haven’t done more of this. But guilt isn’t productive. I’m creating a todo task to document my processes, starting with a list of processes I can think of.

[4] Stress also tends to give me these annoying knots in my shoulders. A few days ago, I was feeling stressed about work. I did the work. (This was a triumph.) Then I hit the gym. Most of the tightness in my shoulders just went away- and I got me a new bench press PR. The next time I’m stressed at home, I think I’m not even going to wait till I finish the work; I’m going to hit the gym right away. The flood of endorphins, etc makes me more productive.

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