A Return to Maine Township

I decided to move back to Maine Township after my lease ended in DeKalb, IL.  It just didn’t make sense anymore. I need to be on campus only twice a week. I thought about getting an apartment in Chicago or the inner suburbs but I can’t justify it. It just doesn’t make financial sense based on what I want to do in the next three years.

For the next three years, I want to amazing things with my life. I’m a late bloomer and I’ve had to battle some internal demons so I’m chronologically behind in life. It’s a blessing and a curse I guess.  I have the freedom and flexibility of someone younger while having the wisdom I’ve gained from myself, family, and friends.  I don’t have the responsibilities and obligations of property, children, and married life.  It gives me the ability to expand my life at its margins and take on some risks that others are unable too.  Living in Maine Township will help buffer the negative impacts of taking on higher risk.

My address will resemble a storage unit than a home.  I want to travel more. Traveling to the same place in a different moment in the timeline creates new experiences.  I’d like to return to some of the places I visited when I was a child.  I yearn to explore new places. While I prepare for my travels, Maine Township is a good place to get healthy and train.

The Des Plaines River Trail and North Branch Trail is a short jog or bike ride from my home.  The Chicago Lakefront Path is not to far away.   I can find hills in the Barrington and Palos area.  Living and training in Maine Township will save me time and money.

I also want to save money so it can work for me. It appears that my parents are happy with this arrangement as long as I’m advancing and improving my lie. However, it may negatively affect other aspects of my life.

Living in Maine Township might hinder my dating life but that’s okay.  If a woman can’t see I’m sacrificing certain things in the short-term so I can invest in the long term, then I probably shouldn’t be with her. I also my be socially ridiculed by some people because I’m an adult living with my parents. Oh well, I just need to brush that off my shoulders.  Ultimately, I need to look out for my family and me.  I need to set my life up to be in a good position when a bad economy comes.

Moving back to Maine Township makes a lot of sense. I requires short-term sacrifice to invest in long-term success. It is providing a good launching pad for the future I want.  It gives me an opportunity to stretch and expand my comfort zone. It allows me to take certain risks to catch up to where I want to be and build momentum. Before I know it, I will realize the future I’ve been working on.

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Keep a Log and Journal for Success

I discovered that I am most successful when I keep some type of log and journal. It’s a valuable tool to find success in different facets in life.  The log and and journal records data and document thoughts and idea throughout the day so the user can focus on getting things done instead of trying to remember every scrap of information.

Using a log and journal is relatively easy.  Record data into the log that is pertinent to your goals, dreams, and projects.  When an idea or thought reveals itself, write it down before it gets lost in the ether of life.  I like keeping a log of my day because it keeps me accountable and gives me a heightened awareness of the present.  I’m not coasting by.  I have a direction and a course.  It helps me navigate through the day.  Review and process the information at the end of the day so you can prepare for tomorrow’s adventures.

A journal gives us a chance to site down to process the information. Reflecting on the day’s events can connect a variety of thoughts and experiences to create new ideas.  It can help find solutions to a problem.  It can give new insights on a particular subject we’re working on. It can identify the core of the problem and reveal its solution.

I love using a log and journal to record and store notes.  There have been so many times when I have had a great idea or needed to do something but I forgot what it was because I was busy doing (and thinking of) other things.

Everyone can implement a log and journal in their new way.  The key is to record, document, and work with the information.  The log portion records and documents. The journal helps us work with the data to understand it.  The way you implement it is up to you. Some may keep everything in one notebook.  Some will be highly detailed, others will just want general information to stay on track. Do what’s best for you! I like to carry a small notebook throughout the day to track my progress and log information.  At the end of the day, I copy and review it in a larger notebook. I type it out at the end of the week, reflect on it, and write a summary.

In the past, I’ve kept logs and journals for marathon training, improving fitness, and work. Going back to them has me finding something new. I guess it’s like re-reading an old book or re-watching your favorite show or movie.  You just notice new things.

A work journal is great to record what you’ve learned, what you did, and to make different decisions.  I’ve been through a lot of managers and personalities at work.  Each had their strengths and weaknesses. They made decisions that I agreed with and those that didn’t. Their input helped me grow. My interaction with customers and co-worker did the same.  I hope learning from will make me a better person.

Another example, is my old fitness and marathon training journal.  It kept me accountable and aware.  I experienced the greatest fitness gains and the most weight lost when I kept a journal. I planned my eating better and I changed my decision making when I was presented options.  It also reminded me of the timeline of my goals.

This year I’ll be keeping a log and a journal to focus on my health, confidence, writing, and finances.  I’ll be doing this using one log book that I keep with me all day and one journal to keep everything in one place. I might expand to more journals if I need a deeper analysis of each area.

If you decide to keep a journal, what will you be keeping it for?

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The First Weigh-In of 2015.

Five key measurements I take are my weight, waist size, chest circumference, mood, and blood pressure.  They are the easiest ways to measure health without going to the doctor. Anyone can do it at home with a tape measure, a low cost blood pressure gauge, and a personal value assessment.

Weight is subject to wide fluctuations for a variety of reasons. Food may be in my digestive system. I can be dehydrated be retaining water. I might be gaining muscle mass quick enough to make up for the fat loss on the scale. Weight only gives me a general idea of where I’m at.

Blood pressure measures the health of my cardiovascular system.  My mom’s side has a history of high blood pressure. It’s something I need to be more vigilant of. A good blood pressure reading is 120/80mmHg.  My quality of life will be better and cheaper if I don’t have to take blood pressure medication.  Medication is just another thing for me to maintain in my life.  Knowing me, I’ll forget to take my medication. My goal is to stay comfortably below that.

There’s a correlation to poor health and waist size.  The smaller your waist six is, the healthier you are and a higher chance of living longer. The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society defines optimal waistlines differently. I’m going to aim for the American Heart Association’s definition simply because it’s easier to achieve at this point with my schedule and life commitments. For men, it’s under 40 inches. For women, it’s 35 inches.

Mood is an important indicator of how well I’m taking care of myself mentally and it can be an early indicator not eating enough.  Exercise has been shown to improve brain function and improve mood.  Moodiness, lethargy, and grumpiness might me due to not eating well or over training.  Feeling discourages may be a sign of amazing goals not fit in a proper time frame.  The feeling might not be due to my effort to get healthier and something outside this objective.  If I’m not feeling better or the same, then I need to adjust something. The only thing I don’t like about this indicator is that it’s highly subjective.  I often write a short summary of my week to give my mood context. I measure my mood on a scale of 1 (being horrible) to 10 (being AMAZING!)

Chest circumference is totally a vanity thing.  There is gear and clothing that I currently fit awkwardly in. I often find gear that has the right length in the arms but my chest is too big or the chest is right but the sleeve length is too long.  I want to buy quality gear once and never buy it again. It’s good to stay simple.

I think every individual needs to consider what metrics to measure their progress by in the short-term time frame. For example, some people don’t need or want to check their blood pressure.  Instead of measuring chest circumference, a person can measure their upper arm.  A common measure everyone understands is the amount of weight eliminated so it’s useful to use in conversation.  I’ve read a lot of articles suggesting waist size as a quick and easy way to measure health.  It’s also an easy thing to talk about.

As of Wednesday, 14 January 2015, I weigh 219 pounds, have a waist size of 42 inches cm, and a chest circumference of 44 inches.  My mood is a 7 of of 10. I’ve started exercising last week and feel positive from the change I want this year.

What measurements are you using to gauge your improving health? What do you want to see yourself improve this year? Leave your comments below!

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Four Month Weight Loss Plan

It’s important to have a action plan and lay out the individual steps in front of you. It’s easy to get lost, disoriented, and anxious when looking at the big picture.  I’ve felt overwhelmed at times.  I overcome this by focusing the days and weeks within a four month period. During this four month period, I will be using the 21 Day Fix training program plus a second sport specific activity such as cycling, running, or cross country skiing while I transition myself to a better eat better.

Training

21 Day Fix fills a gap in my training. It will help me become a more complete athlete. The program works on strength and aerobic activity. I love to run but I really dislike resistance training. Using the 21 Day Fix training program will keep things simple, sane, and practical.  I don’t go to a gym to work out. I can move my exercise to a more convenient time based on my work and school schedule. I don’t have to commute to another location to workout. I also don’t have to plan a training regimen and get caught up in the details.  I’ve found that building a training program from scratch can be overwhelming and just another excuse to not start training.

The sport specific activity during the bulk of this period is cross country skiing and cycling.  My touring bike is attached a Kinetic bike trainer so I have access to it anytime I’m at home. Winter is a beautiful time of the year in the Midwest and one of the best ways to enjoy it is to go cross country skiing. They’re both convenient, enjoyable, and low impact.  If I’m unable to go out and ski, I have my bike in the house.  If I feel like I’m getting cabin fever, I can go out and play with skinny skis strapped to my feet.

I will transition to running as winter gives way to spring. I miss running and I want to run outside right now but I need to focus on the long-term dreams I have. I need to build myself up to be injury resistant so I don’t have to deal injuries that prevent me from running.

Nutrition

Nutrition plan has been my biggest struggle in getting healthy and losing weight. It’s easy for me to put in the time to train. I don’t put enough effort in my nutrition plan. I need to transition a high calorie diet with low nutritional value to something that is nutritionally dense and energy appropriate for my goals.  To determine my energy needs, I will use a few calorie expenditure calculators. I will adjust my caloric needs based on my weight, mood, and performance.  There will be times I will have to increase my calories.  Some weeks I might have to reduce my calories slightly because I find myself not losing weight despite exercising a lot and feeling good.

Rest and Recovery

One thing that overlooked is the importance of rest and recovery. Training breaks our body down and informs out body how to build it back up stronger and better.  It also starts processes that allow our body to function at a higher level. The building process occurs during our periods of rest and recovery. Some weeks will be more intense than others. Each week will have a day built in for complete rest and a perfect time to prepare food for the week. Getting a full night’s sleep improves you for the next day.  Rest and recover is important.  I can’t forget make this a priority.

Journaling and the Training Log

Most importantly, I need to write down my training, nutrition, and mood everyday. Keeping a journal of what I’m doing will help me solve any problems that might occur during this process. I’ve found that by writing it down, I’m less likely to underestimate the calories I consume and the calories I burn. I feel like it allows us to forgive ourselves when we have a couple of weeks.  Life is sloppy and imperfect.  Sometimes other areas of life affects our goals.  There are times where it’s simply out of control. A journal lets us review it, accept it, learn from it, and move on.  We just have to roll with the punches and understand will get hit a few times.

Culmination

This period will culminate in a running event that will assess my progress. I will seek out a 5k or 10k to test my body out.  I will weigh myself and take body measurements. I am okay with not losing 18 pounds at the end of April as long as I feel good after completing a road running event, lose centimeters, and like what I see in the mirror in terms of changes. There are multiple measures to gauge success.

Working within a four month time frame creates a period to focus on and not get overwhelmed by the bigger picture.  I will be using the 21 Day Fix training program, doing a sport specific activity, and improving my nutrition. It will culminate in the end by participating in a road running event and taking measurements to gauge my success.

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Getting Healthy, Becoming a Better Athlete in 2015

I want to lose excess weight, get healthier, and become a better athlete in 2015. There are many benefits to losing weight and getting healthier. Getting healthy and becoming a better athlete:

  • helps me feel physically good.
  • helps my mind stay sharp.
  • extends my life.
  • improves the quality of life.
  • prevents injury.
  • helps me adapt to the physical environment.
  • builds my confidence.

By the end of the year, I want to

  • eliminate 60 unhealthy pounds,
  • maintain a healthy resting blood pressure, and
  • have a slimmer waistline.

This is an attainable goal as long as I stay focused, consistent, and flexible. These are goals that I can reach.

To achieve my goal, I need to focus on becoming consistent with exercise and nutrition. Exercise and nutrition needs to sane, simple, and practical. It has to be able to flexible enough so it can adjust to the bumps and obstacles in this journey.  I will exercise for at least 30 minutes six days a week and rest on the seventh day to rest. Nutrition is a big part of the process. I need to eat enough provide the building blocks and energy to get stronger and stay active but avoid consuming too much energy. It’s a delicate process as I, like many people, underestimate the calories expended and the calories consumed. An appropriate amount of time is needed in the kitchen to stay on track. After each monthly check in, I will adjust the calories I need to consume.

I expect to weigh 158 pounds, wear pants with a 34 inch waist comfortably, and finish a 5k race in under 22 minutes by December 31st.  I will lose an average 1.2 pounds a week for fifty weeks. There will be bad days and good days logged into my journal. Each week, I will record my weight and rate how I feel.  I will photograph myself each month to track myself visually.  Based on personal past experience and those who have eliminated their unhealthy weight, I expect to lose more weight at the beginning of this process than at the end.

The time and effort will be worth it in the end. This is only the first step of a grander dream. I’ll feel great, have a body that can navigate the world effectively, and grow into the person who I want to be. It will propel me to achieve other things in my life.

 

 

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New Year Aspirations

In this new year of 2015, I aspire to:

  • improve my finances.
  • become a complete athlete.
  • communicate better.
  • travel more.
  • reduce my environmental footprint.
  • develop and grow a strong network of people by building authentic relationships.
  • become more confident and have faith in myself.

I have a lot of questions that need to be answered. How do I achieve these aspirations? How will I know I achieved them? Who will be with and who will help me? When do I want to achieve it? Where will it be accomplished. Who do I reach for these aspiration? There will be time to answer these questions and fill in the details.

I hope everyone is having a great year so far.

–Mark–

 

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Six Month Review (April 29 to October 29, 2014)

Six_Month_ReviewI dedicate time to reflect on life and actions every six months in order to make adjustments. This is the second six month review of the year and begins the planning of the next calendar year. After a rough year and a half, I needed to slow down and find my bearings, and plan out a route to get to my destination in life.  Sometimes you need to slow down to speed up. I made a number of changes after my last review. Although things haven’t gone according to plan, the past six months have been the best I’ve had in a long time.

Life had other plans for me this past summer.  My original intent was to road trip across the United States. Instead, I found myself busted up in Illinois nursing a few bad wounds.  Staying at home forced me to look inwardly to sort things out of make sense of life. If I did go on that road trip, I would have reveled in the joys of exploring without truly exploring myself. I would have come home with the same struggles I have had in the past.

I quit my retail job at the beginning of May so I can carve time out to do the things that I enjoy, slow things down, reassess my path, and look at my life’s map.  I didn’t realize how much I missed retail.  Leaving my job gave me the time and freedom to visit other retail stores to observe from the consumer’s standpoint with an experienced eye. I saw what big and small firms are doing right and what they can improve on.  Retail is back on my list of industries that I’d love to work in.  I want to find myself in a challenging position in retail to turn around a firm or a firm’s retail location using the quantitative analysis of their sales floor and blending with a qualitative assessment of their branding, marketing, and sales to expand increase revenue. I think that would be some fab stuff to work on. While searching for that fab job, I returned to the retail industry’s front lines helping customers on the retail sales floor.

While recovering from my injuries, I had to make a choice between moving back to my parent’s place or finding a place of my own.  I lived part of the time in DeKalb and part of the time in Maine Township last school year. I learned that I need to be more careful with choosing my house mates. I would live with two of my three house mates again.  However, I prefer to live alone. I chose to move back to Maine Township after considering my long term goals and dreams in other facets of my life.

Since my brother’s wedding, my relationship with my dad has become a lot better.  He’s been nicer, light-hearted, and generally positive. He’s complimented me on some of the things I’ve done.  I’m blessed to have this right now but it takes some getting used to. We’ve had a rocky relationship since I was twelve.  I like this version of my dad and our relationship.  I hope my dad and I can nurture our relationship to make it better.

I continued my sofa sessions and I feel like moving from surviving and existing to a state of living.  My therapist/counselor is beginning to push me now that I’m more willing to challenge myself. It’s a hard thing to do but stripping my life down has given me time to work on myself.  Depression and other mental illness is a complex dynamics of many things intersecting with a person or groupI want to move from managing my illness to thriving in my life. I’m  currently working changing my thought patterns and perspective of things.  Reframing an event or moments can shift it from something negative to something positive.  Perception of self has ramifications throughout a person’s life.  For example, I’d be disappointed that my life took a turn for the worse in October 2013 but now I feel like that it has taught me to get back up quickly, be more resilient, and find the resources I need  to be the best version of myself.

I chose to take two classes at NIU this semester instead of attending full time. I felt like this will help me get the traction I needed. I’ve been spinning my wheels and going nowhere academically because I was in a mode of survival and anxiety.  By cutting back, I had the time to develop a framework and model of learning and doing. I can take this framework to learn, research, and do on my own.  I took a language course and an economics course. It has been an enlightening experience and I’m glad I went this route. My goal is to take what I learn from my academic coursework and connect it with what I’m learning within my personal laboratory.  I’m content with getting whatever grade I get in each class as long as I learn a ton that my grades don’t reflect.

The past six months have set me up for personal exploration. I wanted to know my ‘whats.’ (What fascinates me? What makes me happy? What drives me? What are my dreams? What are my passions?) I’ll be headed into the next stage of my life where I build a career and lifestyle can that can sustain my interest and drive for thirty to forty years.  The extra time has given me an opportunity to look at the things I used to enjoy and see if I still enjoy doing it. It has helped me tremendously and gave me guidance on what to do in the next six months and plan for next year.

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What things have you learned in the previous six months that can help you lead the life you want to lead?  What changes would you make in your life?

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