Is This Useful?

“Is this useful?” That was a question posed by Joseph Goldstein in one of the meditations offered on 10% Happier.

While he was referring to the thoughts and feelings that constantly tug at our focus and divert us from being present in our own lives, I would extend that question to the multitude of digital distractions at our fingertips.

Dozens of times a day I pick up my phone and fall headlong into a compulsive search for the tiniest hit of digital dopamine while neglecting everything right on front of me. It’s an addiction. Even now as I write the faint glow of my phone is tantalizing me into grabbing it just in case anything monumental has occurred in the last five minutes.

For several years I often wondered what I had done all day. I couldn’t remember, yet I felt so overwhelmed and busy. What was I so busy doing? I was buried in my phone. My time evaporated with each bit I shaved off for social media, games, apps and email. All those slivers add up into hours, days, weeks…

Click by click I was serving time in a self-imposed digital prison. I could have used that time growing or making or living or building or reading or loving or talking or walking or writing. Instead I was fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming the Foursquare Mayor of the Ralph Kramden Statue.

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I can’t stop using my phone. Complete abstention is impossible. But I can modify my behavior and change the relationship. I can set limits and curtail the empty minutes and hours wasted.

Below are just a few things I do to limit my time online and on my phone. Rigorous pruning of my daily digital commitment has yielded powerful results. Sometimes it means tough choices, but I guarantee the time and freedom gained make up for the low-calorie enjoyment lost.

  • Unsubscribe from email lists.
  • Delete unnecessary apps.
  • Turn off all sounds and notifications.
  • Don’t take phone to meetings or the bathroom.
  • Close time wasting browser windows.
  • Drop RSS feeds.
  • At home, leave the phone in another room.

So what is useful in my life? You may notice I write frequently about six daily habits or practices that I have instituted over the last few years. All of these require putting down the phone and reclaiming my day.

Meditation. I take ten to fifteen minutes to sit and do nothing. The sense of calm and well being I feel most days is a direct result of meditation. It stops the negative chattering in my head and reinforces the good things.

Exercise. I lose weight, tension and stress. I gain strength, confidence and calm. With regular exercise, I feel sharper, more focused, and better prepared to handle the challenges of the day. It can be as easy as a short walk or as hard as I want to make it.

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Is Cooking a Secret Key to Productivity?

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For an hour I was in my kitchen engaged in a frenzy of synchronized motion, focused solely on cooking dinner. Just a man, his knives and a frying pan. Everything else faded into the background. It was a Blue Apron night and I tackled fresh linguine pasta with roasted fennel and garlic breadcrumbs.

First, I prepped the ingredients. Slicing an aromatic fennel bulb into thin slivers, I readied it for roasting. I zested and deseeded a lemon, then minced and mashed fresh garlic. The last step was chopping castelvetrano olives. I am in perfect harmony with my knife and cutting board intoxicated by the sounds and smells.

No fingers were lost in the preparation of this meal.

Then, the cooking began in earnest. The fennel roasted while I browned butter to make garlic breadcrumbs. Once the breadcrumbs were toasted to a nice golden brown I prepared the sauce, combining the lemon juice and zest with olive oil. My fresh linguine finished boiling on the back burner. Coating my al dente pasta with the sauce, it was ready to plate.

While I cook I never fail to disparage the dish until it all comes together. At the last moment I realized how good it would be. When I nestled a hearty dollop of lemon ricotta atop the pasta and garnished it with chopped green olives and homemade breadcrumbs, I knew it was a home run.

Minutes later it was gone. We destroyed it.

I love cooking, but life and kids and work and chores and more kids pretty much get in the way. My go-to approaches for meal preparation are either something frozen from Trader Joe’s in the microwave or something else from a menu delivered to my front door. Sure, I might get fancy and make real food on the weekend, but burritos take just minutes from freezer to plate to my gaping maw, so the stove doesn’t get much action.

Then, my beautiful fiancée scored me three nights of Blue Apron per week. They do the hard work of getting the ingredients to my kitchen along with a recipe. It’s up to me to slice, dice, roast, stir, sauté and beat those fixings into something resembling dinner. In just four months I have rediscovered the sheer delight and serenity of cooking.

The process of creating something delicious while under pressure to pull it all together is an adrenaline rush. Hammering through the prep work while whisking a sauce and caramelizing onions demands perfect timing. One mistake and my hard work could end up in the compost. I love making it happen and seeing the results.

After a few months of stretching my culinary abilities (as well as my gustatory limits) I realize several things I demand as a cook also ring true in how I maximize my productivity in life and at work.

No Distractions. I am at my best when I can concentrate fully and put all my focus into the task at hand. I don’t mind quick conversations or interruptions, but I’m working. Cooking demands full attention or food burns, sauces curdle and dinner suffers. I want to be fully engaged and immersed in preparing the best meal I can.

Clear Space, Clear Head. Some thrive in a cluttered space. Not me. The kitchen island must be empty, the dishes washed and the counters clear. When I can chop all my ingredients, arrange them in bowls while I am preparing everything with ample workspace and plenty of clean dishes, that is a little bit of heaven.

The Right Tools Matter. I want the right tools for the job. Sharp knives, good pans, utensils within reach, all sizes of measuring spoons and a full set of measuring cups. Plus, I want my tools organized and always in the same place. That’s all.

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The Best Christmas Gifts Ever

Preparation, Practice & Repetition. Prepping ingredients is key to a successful meal. The sight of several colorful bowls of vegetables, herbs and other ingredients all perfectly chopped is so satisfying. A few months ago I worked slowly and meticulously. The details matter and I wanted to do it right. Through sheer repetition my skills have improved and now I speed through the process. I have a long way to go to master the kitchen, but I’ve begun to deploy my growing proficiency on non-Blue Apron nights.

Prioritize. This is the balancing act, the make or break part of the cooking process. The more I sauté, stir and roast, the more I learn to juggle several tasks simultaneously. The rote functions have become instinctual and I have it down to a science (with occasional laboratory explosions). Some days it all flows and I can push all parts of the dish forward without missing a beat.

Presentation Is Everything. It might taste great, but if it looks terrible I’ve failed. This is why focus on every step to get to this point matters. All my work is wasted unless that dish pops off the plate and says “Eat Me!”

Clean Up Your Mess And Do It All Again Tomorrow.
Sink, soap, sponge, drainer. Leave no trace. Need I say more?

Float, Float On

Suspended in a warm pool of water, I float in the pitch black. There is no sound, just a loud, overpowering silence. I am falling, slowly, but steadily. I spin around in a whirlpool and wonder when I will be sucked down the drain. When my toe touches something solid. I remember for a moment where I am and what is happening. Then I drift off into the darkness and begin to fall once again.

I first became interested in flotation tanks years ago watching William Hurt lose his mind in Altered States. He played a doctor who would ingest huge amounts of drugs, seeking transcendence in a sensory deprivation tank. It was a fantastic movie and the thought of floating in suspended animation had great appeal to my teenage mind.

Decades later I began to meditate and explore the idea of altered consciousness, but without drugs. Once again the isolation tank called my name. I researched places and prices, but never took the leap. I may have slipped a few hints and my wonderful fiancée scored me a newbie two float package for my birthday at the Aspire Center for Health + Wellness.

Their site claims the following benefits from flotation.

1 Magnesium promotes muscle relaxation and improves overall sleep quality.

2 Researcbh shows that floating improves Theta wave activation, key for better relaxation and deep meditation.

3 It is scientifically proven to improve short term and chronic pain conditions.

4 The brain becomes more right side dominant without senses, which promotes creativity.

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Lady In Bikini Not Included

Without hesitation I booked my first appointment. They offer two different flotation tanks, Oasis or Tranquility. Opting for Tranqulity, I inspected the massive white and blue pod dominating the room. The technician gave me the lowdown, showing me the light switch in the tub as well as the button to open and close the hatch. She gave me earplugs that I would need when  I got in the pod. She set the timer for 66 minutes and left the room. I ditched my clothes, rinsed off and entered the murky warm water.

So here I am bare ass naked settling into a body temperature pool of water loaded with 1000 pounds of epsom salt. This allows the body to float on the surface. I laid back, popped in the earplugs, shut off the lights and closed the lid.

My first impression was of the complete blackness and absolute silence. It was very peaceful and I waited for the magic to happen. For the first trick my neck and shoulders ached. The air was stuffy and the salt water leaked past the earplugs. For a few interminable minutes I had buyer’s remorse. The discomfort was acute and made more so by the isolation. Once I settled in I began to lose track of time. 10 minutes? 20 minutes? At a point time became irrelevant. My body felt heavy beyond belief as if gravity had doubled or tripled. I pushed my hands down slowly and could feel the water rise. Moving just a finger seemed to create a tiny tidal wave in my secret pod world.

Expecting the ultimate meditation opportunity, I tried to relax and focus on my breath. Instead of the usual calm my brain exploded with an overload of disconnected, insane thoughts. A wild cacophony of random sounds, colors and images rocketed through my head. I tried a few times to hush the tornado between my ears, but meditation wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t stop the raging flow of my mind. I teetered between awareness and a vague dreamlike state. None of it made sense.

At one point I imagined that the world was ending and here I was floating butt naked in a pool of dirty salt water. Disaster was all around me, but I was tucked away in my hidden bunker. I would emerge to the smoking ruins of civilization covered in a rime of epsom salts and flecks of other people’s skin and hair.

Then the lights came back on. My 66 minutes were up. Was it already over? The pod automatically opened. Had I done that by accident?  I felt groggy and heavy. Could I even use my muscles? I staggered up and grabbed a towel, stumbling over to the shower with pod water pouring all over the floor. It wasn’t until I was dressed and had some fresh water to drink that I began to feel normal. The rest of my day was very mellow and my energy level hovered somewhere between sluggish and slow.

Float 2 took place one week later. This time I chose Oasis, a rectangular tank that’s bigger and a bit more old school. Since I’d had time to process the previous float, week 2 was less a revelation. I was already a pro and I slipped off my clothes, took a quick shower and slid into the body temperature water, closing the lid and waited for the lights to go down. Once inside I laid back and bounced like a buoy from side to side until the water settled.

Let’s talk about that water. First of all it has a slightly pungent odor, not offensive, but with a certain staleness, perhaps a hint of dirty gym socks. It is slick and slightly slimy. This time I thought a lot more about all the naked bodies that have floated in that same briny tub. While the idea of so many nether parts soaking in the ooze is gross, the 1000 pounds of epsom salt does kill everything in its path.

To avoid the stiffness and discomfort in my neck and shoulders the float technician suggested I use the inflatable neck pillow this time around. While the pillow relieved the muscle tension it created a bit of a disconnect from the water. I wasn’t completely immersed. My ears were above water and I could hear the sounds of the building.

However I was much more relaxed, my mind considerably calmer and more focused. Meditation almost happened, but I couldn’t quite get there. My brain wasn’t ricocheting in a dozen different directions, but sensory deprivation only served to amplify the white noise in my skull to fill the void. I was much more aware of time passing. The hour slowly drifted by on a river of random thoughts, never entering the sleepy, dreamy state I achieved the week before. When the lights came on I calmly stepped out, refreshed and alert.

I’ve checked this off my bucket list, but wonder if I will do it again. With two floats under my belt I realize it wasn’t what I expected. I had envisioned a William Hurt Altered States style mind altering transformation. Instead I had a synapse exploding confused first float followed by a calm and relaxing second float. Both hours in the pod offered a chance to competely disconnect from time and the world for an hour, leaving me relaxed and kind of dopey for the rest of the day. I am curious how the experience would evolve if I floated regularly.

Hmm, it’s not cheap and I have a birthday coming up. Hint, hint.

When Bad Advice is the Best Advice

Sometimes bad advice is the best advice. Wait, what? Yes, terrible advice can be the key to discovering what you really want.

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A few months back I approached someone whose thinking I trust. They’ve been very helpful and supportive in the past, offering sharp, critical advice on several occasions. This time I had some questions regarding a possible opportunity. I made my inquiry and the response I got left me nonplussed and a little indignant. I replied with a polite thank you, but then I started to stew.

The answer was not what I was expecting and it really rubbed me the wrong way. I will be fair and say it was honest and directas well as supportive and offered in kindness, but it didn’t sit right. This friction spurred me to dig deep and take a long look at what I really wanted. My anger and visceral response reaffirmed for me what my core strengths and key accomplishments really are. This burst of confidence game me some clarity and focus.

We all turn to friends, family, colleagues and mentors for advice and insight. It is crucial to the decision making process to have a sounding board. This front line is your personal group of beta testers. A broad variety of opinions will often put things into perspective, giving you some much-needed objectivity. However, you must gut check this feedback before acting on it. If it doesn’t feel right, it could be the wrong direction, even if it comes from a trusted source.

The internal mantra that popped into my head after this experience was a classic line from Season 6 of The Walking Dead (S6E1 First Time Again). Rick Grimes questions the soon to be dead Tucker, “Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” Rick hasn’t always made the best decisions, but he has fought every step of the way and survived while others doubted and died.

Mentors and friends have a limited perspective on what you’ve done and who you are. Get lots of feedback when making a big decision, but in the end, only you know the right answer for you.

I didn’t get the response I wanted, but I got the answer I needed.

Thank you for the advice, friend. It was terrible and you definitely had no idea who you were talking to. I respect you and regard you as a great supporter and occasional mentor, but for this one I will take it from here. I may not succeed at what I asked you about, but you gave me a big jolt of confidence. It was exactly the backhanded kick in the ass I needed in that moment. It was the best advice I’ve received in months.

Letting Go of the Past

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A few weeks back I accidentally published this post in rough draft form. Mortified, I trashed it immediately. It had a long way to go before I would have been willing to put it out there. However, a friend caught it and asked why I had deleted it. Too personal. Too confessional. However, his comments resonated. He said it was “thoughtful” and he would be “proud to have come up with that.” Writing it did help me sort out a few things and maybe others can find something that works for them. Marsh Gooch, thanks for the push.

What happened to my once impervious exoskeleton of cynicism and sarcasm mixed with a pinch of scorn? Is losing my ironic distance and signature snark a result of age and maturity, greater self-confidence or having life hand my ass to me a few times? The answer is all of the above, but nothing like an ass whooping to effect change. My big takeaway from the last decade is life sucks when you’re going through the worst, but the lessons learned are invaluable.

Moving forward is the only answer. For too long I held onto the past, wading in yesterday’s waters and wallowing in regrets and resentments. That reluctance to let go hindered any advancement. However, letting go of the past is imperative. I’ve got four kids all at different stages of need and development. I’ve got a wonderful fiancée. Plus, I need to figure out how to keep making money for the next 20 years and have that last for 20 more after that. Big challenges require a forward focus, not a dithering and frightened stare at the past.

I had a vision recently of me holding on desperately to a past I couldn’t recapture no matter how hard I tried. Same guy, same suit, same job, hoping to sustain what he had always known and always done, never suspecting that his winning strategy had been failing him for years. I had developed the wrong approach to handling life’s challenges. My only solution was to do the same thing again and again and again, only with more force and more determination. And the results never improved.

For a big chunk of my career I created far too much baggage. I needed an office, a suit, a staff, and a day packed with meetings to do whatever it was that I did. When I was booted from one high level job I didn’t have the self awareness to let go and move on to the next phase of my life. I thought all I needed was a hand on the rungs of the next ladder. Why couldn’t I climb right back up from where I had fallen? Life would pick up and go on as it always had. Wrong!

When I got tossed to the pavement once again I started to hear the lessons life was trying to teach me. Still, I didn’t quite catch everything and attempted to battle my way backwards to what used to be. The next big job never materialized and I found myself still wondering what the hell went wrong.

After years of moving forward in a single direction my road had moved sideways long before I knew I needed to turn. The resulting pain came from offroading through a bumpy, boulder-strewn section of life while expecting the way to be smooth and paved. Funny how decades of a single winning strategy can blind you to the critical lifesaving necessity of a new direction and new tactics.

I need to flail and fail a little longer before I began to get the first simple signs of a new freedom and a way forward. Of course, I was so caught up in the past I nearly missed them. Then one day I bombed a CitiBike down 7th Avenue with my computer, phone and everything I needed in my messenger bag. In that adrenalized moment as I jockeyed between cabs and delivery trucks I knew things had changed. I didn’t need an office. I didn’t need a suit. I didn’t have to waste my time in endless meetings. I could work wherever I found wifi and an outlet. And maybe coffee.

That was the day I realized my old life was dead and gone.

Change and acceptance are hard. It means adjusting to a new way of doing things and reevaluating expectations for my life and my career. Letting go takes practice and perseverance. There is no magic answer. I have worked hard on creating daily habits that expedite the process, looking forward rather than backward. Exercise. Meditation. Gratitude. Reading. Writing. Setting goals. All of these contribute to a renewed sense of purpose and accomplishment.

This sometimes painful process has opened up a host of new possibilities and opportunities. Instead of one straight freeway ahead of me I see a lot of different paths with unseen twists and turns. There is no autopilot, but the view is much more scenic and the ride more interesting. I move forward every day a little nicer, a little kinder and full of gratitude for the road ahead.

 

 

 

Don’t Look Where You Don’t Want to Go

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That’s Gonna Hurt

By Anthony DeLorenzo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/delorenzo/2675869443/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a smart mountain biking adage, “Don’t look where you don’t want to go.” Mountain biking requires intense concentration, quick thinking and immediate reactions. Bombing down a hill strewn with rocks, roots, trees and dropoffs can mean instant stitches, broken bones or worse.

The trick is to pick a clean line, focusing solely on that. The rider must look ahead to see what’s next while simultaneously threading the trail right in front of the bike. Do not stare at the tree you hope to avoid. Do not glance at the cliff. Keep your eyes off the giant mud puddle. Target only the trail where you want your bike to go.

I’ve had enough stitches, bruises, scrapes, cuts, broken bones and near misses (not counting thousands of dollars of bike repairs) to know that looking where I don’t want to go often results in going exactly there. Ooof! Looked at the tree, hate some bark. Gazed at the mud bog, chioked down a pound of dirt soup.

Sure, you can wreck even when things are perfect, but I have found that focusing on the trail and charting my direction without distraction results in fewer mishaps and even the occasional state of flow. To sound trite, you become one with the bike. Obstacles melt away, the trail passes beneath the bike and every twist and turn comes with grace and ease. It’s what makes mountain biking magical. The thrill of conquering a brutal trail with minimal bodily and equipment damage is exhilarating.

So what does this have to do with day to day living? I don’t get on a mountain bike much anymore, but the lessons learned on the trail pay dividends. The key concept to success on a nasty trail or on a tyoical day is Don’t Look Where You Don’t Want To Go. This is all about focus, concentration and targeting my goals.

If I get caught up in distractions, spending my time regretting the past or caught up in pregaming the future, I lose the immediacy of this moment. Once I disconnect I will hit a tree, skid on a root or slide right off the trail. There are enough challenges heading my way at any moment, why look the wrong way?

If I think I will lose my job, my mind obsesses about the horrors of unemployment. If I feel a relationship is souring, I will focus on how it’s souring rather than how I can repair it. The list goes on. The results of obsessing on a past I can’t change and a future I can’t predict are never positive. So many things become a self-fulfilling prophecy when I look where I don’t want to go. Get your eyes back on the trail.

I reached a point a few years back where I was mired in busyness, distracted by anything and everything. My productivity and overall state of mind suffered. All I did was look where I didn’t want to go and wound up going there.

How could I get back on track? How could I regain focus and concentrate on what mattered? After slogging through a few years of going nowhere fast I decided to show up for my own life.

Step by step, I instituted a set of daily practices to reconnect with myself and chart a smarter way forward. Each of these added to my mental, physical and emotional well-being.

EXERCISE was the first step. For years I had been a distance runner and cyclist, but had almost stopped working out. I made a decision to make fitness a key goal again. As I ran and eode my bike more I began to feel energized and and more confident.

MEDITATION was the second. Forget everything you assume about meditation. Think about taking two steps back, sitting still and focusing on your breath. Instead of filling my every moment with the incessant distractions of modern life I gave myself 15 minutes a day to do nothing but be present. A sense of calm and serenity

WRITING every day came next. Thinking about writing is not writing. The only to  way to write is pen in hand, ass in chair, words on page. The benefits of writing are numerous and I detailed them here.

Daily GRATITUDE offered me the chance to be thankful for everything and everyone in my life. Instead of obsessing on what’s wrong and how it must be everyone else’s fault, I write down what is great and magical in the people, places and rhings right around me.

These daily practices shifted my focus from all the obstacles and distractions in my life back to the trail right in front of me. Of course, what works for me won’t work for everyone, but I’ve seen the powerful impact of positive actions. Today, I choose to look where I want to go and I find myself getting there most of the time.

Failing Every Day

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I have been reading a lot of James Altucher lately. One of the things I admire is his incredible ability to ship. He has written 17 books, blogs constantly and is a prodigious podcaster. I started with Choose Yourself which was packed with remarkable insights and resonates with me both as a writer and consultant. This led me to follow his blog and look into his other books. Not everything he writes is brilliant, but he will unearth a smart idea in almost every post. His most recent book, Reinvent Yourself, is a wide ranging assortment of blog posts, learnings from podcast interviews and his takes on insights from big thinkers, all stitched together under the theme of reinvention. While not as powerful as Choose Yourself it is loaded with nuggets of wisdom.

What’s remarkable about James is his perpetual curiosity and his desire to ship constantly. Like Seth Godin he publishes something every single day. He does a new podcast every week and ships a new book as soon as the ink on the previous one dries. That’s how he succeeds. He is indefatigable and constantly reiterates his formula for success. He never stops throwing something new at the wall.

I succeeded in creating a daily writing habit. Over the past two years I have written at least 750 words per day totaling nearly 600,000 words, missing only one day out of the last 724. What I fail to do is ship. I write, but I don’t publish. The missing step is the step that will take me forward. I need to share my writing, but I don’t. I am the tree falling in the woods with nobody there to hear it, thus I don’t make a sound.

Fear, lack of confidence and inertia play a role in my reluctance. I am sitting on at least 130 posts that are almost ready to go. What will be the tipping point?

It may have been a message from an old friend.

By chance I inadvertently published a very raw post in draft form a few weeks back. Mortified, I scrambled to reverse the mistake. I deleted it on WordPress, but also trashed the automatic notifications on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. The one thing I neglected was the email sent to those who follow my blog. My good buddy Marsh Gooch (who writes a terrific music blog) received the email and liked what he read. He asked me what happened because wanted to like the post, but it had disappeared. He said the post was “thoughtful.”

“I thought your goal for this year is publish. Then publish!” were his other blunt sentiments.

Seth Godin says not shipping is failure. James Altucher posts every single day and brags of writing 1000 words daily. Then there is me. WIth 130 drafts waiting to be set free I am holding onto 130 failures. Failure to communicate. Failure to share. Failure to ship. Failure.

So here is my revised resolution. I worry that good intentions will amount to nothing if I don’t tell anyone, so I will declare it here. I will ship one post every day in February. This will be 28 successes. The real success will be a new habit of shipping, not just in February, but March, April and beyond

The power of habit is an amazing thing. Three years ago I only thought about writing. I rarely exercised. Somehow I reached a tipping point with both of these and created strong habits. It was a combination of willpower, momentum and desire. I found time every day to write. I made time to exercise. Now I can;t imagine not exercising or writing.

So I’ve got 28 days where I must ship a new blog post daily. Let’s see where the next four weeks take me. I look forward to any feedback or advice you may have. See you at the end of the month and thank you for reading.

And thank you to Marsh for the gentle but powerful nudge!

All Hail the 97 Pound Weakling

Charles Atlas ad

I am the 97 pound weakling, perhaps not the original, but I have always been super scrawny. Like the kid in the Charles Atlas ads that peppered the back pages of comic books for decades, I am a skinny. Even when my weight topped 240, I was a slight man under a concealing layer of flab. Peel away the spongy exterior and you find a pale, stickboy suitable for ass kicking. As a kid I dreaded the beach and wore long pants and long-sleeved shirts to conceal my scarecrow body.

While I have gone on to become a strong swimmer, cyclist and runner, I never have been able to put together a weightlifting program for any consistent period of time. I can run a marathon, but I can’t do a pull-up. I’ve cycled 150 miles in one day, but I have never been able to lift much more than baby weights. I have mastered cardio, but success with adding muscle has always eluded me.

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Bullworker 1 – Hartnett 0

Yes, I have tried many times over the years. From weight training classes in high school to sporadically working with a trainer over the last year, I have set my sights on the weight room, but the treadmills and spinning classes have called my name. As a kid I even bought a Bullworker thinking that might help me turn it all around. It ended badly with the spring-loaded apparatus breaking during an exercise involving a door jamb. Before I could react, the fist-like end drove into my chest knocking me to the floor. That was the end of the Bullworker as well as a spirited three weeks of bodybuilding.

Over the last few years I’ve gotten back into shape, challenging myself to dozens of road and trail races. After a half decade of sedentary middle age I am feeling pretty good about my fitness. I set ambitious goals and have been able to accomplish them with a little hard work.

I noticed this past year that my race paces were increasing instead of decreasing. How could I be running more yet slowing down? Perhaps it was middle age, but I suspected an overindulgence in bagels and pizza played a role. It had been months since I weighed in so I stepped on the scale. Ooof! I rocked that bad boy at 238 pounds. My suspicions were correct and I opted to try Weight Watchers. It has been several months of fruit, vegetables and a constant gnawing hunger, but I have dropped 45 pounds. For the first time in nearly a decade I am under 200 and my running feels better than it has in years.

But…

This very welcome weight loss has revealed a skeleton in the closet. That skeleton is me. It is wonderful to see my bones, but I wish they weren’t so damn bony. The 97 pound weakling is back!

Can a slight man well into middle age get results from a weight training program? That is my 2017 goal.

It doesn’t help that I HATE lifting weights. It’s boring, it hurts and doesn’t offer the same endorphin rush and head clearing bliss as a five mile run along the waterfront. I’ve managed to put together a decent program for a few weeks at a time, but soon dread the workout and opt to do cardio instead.

My hope is this time it will be different.

My targets are simple. I want to maintain roughly the same weight, build some muscle and bang out 100 push-ups and 12 pull-ups without stopping. I can struggle through 45 pushups now and the pullups aren’t happening at all. I’ve got one year to get there.

How will I make it happen? My plan is to lift three times per week. I’ve got a trainer who will love seeing me concentrate more on weights. He isn’t a fan of all my sissy running. I hope to work with him a couple of times per month and find some lifting pals so all the big guys on the gym floor won’t beat me up.

Two things will help me build momentum. One, I am going to set clear goals every week and evaluate my progress. Second, I am going public with my goal and hoping friends and colleagues will keep me honest and cheer me along.

This goal went in effect today, January 1. I will document my workouts as I go and write an update every month. I won’t horrify you with the before pictures. Let’s hope I have something to show by the end of 2017. Wish me luck and I will see you at the gym