Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Day 90, Done.

...And, yet, I’m just beginning.

(Please do note that I will be adding more pictures as the week goes on so please stick with me and enjoy the celebration)

Wow, I almost don’t have words enough for this post. Funny that for the first time in all of these 90 days with all of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of words and experiences and ideas that finishing something that’s been such a huge part of my life for the past three months has left me nearly speechless. But perhaps I’m grasping for something deep when that really isn’t necessary. No, I think that I’ll just celebrate with you all, give myself a good and hearty pat on the back, and let the thanks, acknowledgments, reflections, and future plans fly as high as I am right now.

Speaking of celebrations, I just remembered that about this time last year was when I first decided to become a vegan. It was about mid-August and I had just finished watching a movie called Earthlings which is all undercover video taken at factory farms, science labs, circuses, etc. and is free to watch on Google Video. I’m especially proud of that commitment I’ve made and I’m looking forward to how the next year and years will turn out. Whoo!

I’ve got to thank Patrick first and foremost. Without him and his example and guidance I never would have taken the first step toward improving myself like this, in fact, I’m absolutely positive that I would still, at this very moment, be stuck on a couch wiling away my life with all of the horribly unhealthy habits that so possessed me and my daily life before the project. Without him I would never have broken those crippling, destructive habits that dictated my life and kept me in a perpetual state of sloth. Without him I never would have built the knowledge and habits that are so present in me right now and that will stick with me for the rest of my life--a long life, I’m sure now, because of all of the beneficial effects the Peak Condition Project has had on me.

So thank you, Patrick, you do truly rock. Your unfailing enthusiasm never ceases to amaze me. You’ve taught me more about myself, and from so many miles away, than I could ever have hoped to learn.

My fellow PCPers, Corry and David, well, We Did It! I almost didn’t think that we’d be celebrating this day together that’s how much I got to myself in the early days of the project but you two, man, you two helped pull me through the tough times I was having at the beginning by your optimism and all of the gentle and inspirational support. Your words, in your comments and in your own blogs, gave me something to anchor myself to. You guys were my lifeline that I could climb up on whenever I was sinking. You two helped me keep my head above the murky depths of my own self-doubt and made me able to skim on the surface of this great ocean of improvement.

You two are beautiful people and I won’t be able to forget you guys or what you gave to me, never asking for anything in return. I’ve so much enjoyed our journey here together and I so hope to keep hearing from you guys as time goes on past these tough days of the Project. Despite the distance separating us three, I believe we were a team in the best sense of the word--a stable support for all of our ups and downs and some of the best cheering sections we could ever hope for. Thank you, thank you.

And everybody, both online and in my personal life, who followed our journey through our blogs and offered help and support and advice, well, this simply wouldn’t have been possible without all of you. All of you out there in the wild land of the internet who kept up with us all the way through the project, and even those who came and went and maybe came back, kept us going. You gave me a reason and a drive to keep going, to keep sharing my experiences with you, to keep you all in my life. I would never have forgiven myself if I had quit on all of you sometime in the middle of the Project because it didn’t feel as if you were simply just unknown eyes scanning through the sometimes random and incomprehensible tales I set before you, no, I felt as if there was a conduit linking me to all of you, like we were one and the same and if I quit and let myself down then I would be letting all of you down and there was no way that I could do that.

Thank you all from the bottom of me.

- - -

So what did I learn from all of this?

My body can take and do a heck of a lot more than I ever thought it could. I was never out of shape and by the time the Project started I was considering myself a pretty fit person, certainly not in top physical condition but healthy and strong. Boy was I wrong. There was so much more to me just hiding under all of that fat under my skin and lining whatever muscle I did have and the Project showed me that all I had to do was take a little time out of my day, put some effort into myself, and believe that I could be better than I already was.

Boy did I come out a believer in myself. I now know that I am capable of so much more than I would have thought of at first and even now I can see that I am capable of improving myself and becoming so much better than I am at this point. I’m capable of anything.

I’ve learned that jumproping takes a little practice to get into (and squatting jumpropes even more so) but once you do it’s as if a whole new world opens up for you. I never thought I would have enjoyed a “classic” workout (read, not karate related) as much as I did. It started out as a bit of a love-hate relationship but by now...it’s all love, baby. I love the feel of the jumprope in my hands and how I feel after a couple thousand jumps and the sharp snap of the rope on the floor. It’s wonderful and I would recommend it to absolutely anyone.

I’ve learned that I love fruit. Before the project I was already into fruit but now, after three months of having to eat it every single day, I dig biting into the stuff so much that I can’t imagine going a day without it. I especially love papaya spears and pineapple rounds and if you ever happen upon any of those, my fair readers, then hop on the bandwagon and ride it straight on through to amazing taste city.

Surprisingly it does not take much money at all to get in the very best shape of your life. I spent only, maybe, a hundred dollars on everything (jumprope, resistance bands, blender, scale, etc.) and I wasn’t being frugal by any means. Gyms are not necessary at all and there is a particular kind of satisfaction that comes with getting into just as good a shape as those who spend thousands a year on gym memberships that they hardly use and at places where the employees hardly care whether you succeed or fail. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they’re rooting for you to fail just so that you will keep paying up on your gym membership plans (and the personal trainers they keep trying to talk you into).

Making close to (probably) 300 soy protein smoothies within a 90 day period will make you a master smoothie craftsman. I can make them in my sleep now, I’m sure, and they all taste delish. My nightly banana infused smoothies are something that I will continue to make because they are oh so tasty. Let me tell you, if you ever plan on making a fruit smoothie then please add a banana in the mix, it will make it so much thicker and tastier. You can thank me later about that.

Ah, the very last "Project" banana smoothie. I'll miss those the most, I think.

The strength of your body directly impacts how you live and how much you get out of life. Simply enough: a strong, healthy body will produce a healthy, happy life while a sluggish, fatty body will make life miserable.

Nearly all of the Project is mental. Patrick put it best when he said that the project is 90% mental and only 10% physical. The hardest part about the project is getting over the hurdles you set up for yourself. The thing is though, that, your body desperately wants to get over those hurdles--it craves it--all you have to do is give it the means to do it and BAM! your body will do things you never thought possible and will consistently surprise and please you. Give yourself a chance.

These satisfactions are permanent.

- - -

There doesn’t seem to be much more for me to say here that I haven’t already said right now and over the past 90 days so I’ll end with looking towards the future.

My Post-PCP Plans

The 29 Olympics started just at the end of this Project and has inspired me to become even more healthy than I already am and greater than I imagined myself could ever be. It’s been a huge inspiration seeing those people who have trained for so long to be the best they could be and to be as strong as they could be that I want to follow in their footsteps, so to speak.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a bike, a very nice Specialized number, hanging upside down from big black hooks in my garage. I’ve never put much effort into riding it which has been a shame. I want to do something about that.

I’m working on developing a post-Project Project for myself that will have me becoming one with that bike and have me driving myself to a better condition than I am even now.

My PCP blog will be up for ever and I want to tell you all about the struggles and triumphs I will have as I go from a very novice rider to, hopefully, someone very skilled, in shape, and driven to be as good as I possibly can be. I’ll be starting off slow around the neighborhood and will build myself up to zooming around the town, with all of its hills and straight, smooth paths, until I’m able to compete with the big guys (possibly, probably). I want to share that experience with all of you, possibly in a weekly posting (that's the plan, at least) with all of the routes I’ve taken and my experiences with those rides, how I’m adjusting to it all, my thoughts on everything, etc., because I know that you will give me the support I need to keep myself on the path to my goal.

Thank you in advance for all of that.

It seems that I’ve said what I wanted to say here. I’ll be putting up as many pictures as I can and I hope that you’ll all be coming back to check those out as they come up.

This is me, signing off for now. This has been an adventure I will never forget.

Thank you all. Have a nice day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Day 89, Nearly there...

It almost felt like this time would never come but here we are, one day away from Day 90, one day away from completing this three month odyssey, one day away from satisfaction and having completed something that I didn’t think I would be able to complete.

I’m feeling pretty good about it, not nearly as good as I will on Wednesday knowing that I won’t have to write another blog post for all of you. I mean, I enjoyed my time here on this blog but this was one of the absolute hardest parts of the project for me. I am totally proud of myself for having consistently kept up with this blog, writing a post every single day of this project. I didn’t think I’d be able to do that--I thought that I may get through a month of this and then cool things down to maybe three or four a week. That might certainly have been easier on me but I don’t think I would have gotten the same sense of satisfaction if I did that. This whole journey on this blog have almost been a project within a project--can I keep up a daily log of my experiences? I think I did pretty well on that count.

I think I will be missing the structure of my meals and having everything laid out for me. It was kind of weird to consider that essentially I was being told what to eat every day since I haven’t had to do that for the last twenty or twenty-one years. Sure there was a lot of room for variation and experimentation but if stayed within the confines of the gram measurements and didn’t go overboard on the weekends then, well, I would succeed. It’s going to take a lot of self-control to keep myself from slipping back into habits from before the project that are still lingering way, way deep down in some dark crevasse inside of me. I’ve said it numerous times before, though, that these habits that I’ve developed during the project will also be difficult to break, and I don’t want to break them.

So I should be good there.

The interaction between everyone on these blogs has been wonderful and I know for a fact that I would have crumbled very early on if it weren’t for the support from my fellow PCPers and those people reading and commenting on my blog. Thanks for all of the wonderful advice, it’s all something I will cherish forever and take with me into my daily life as something to live by.

It’s all so wonderful and I hardly have the right words, or enough of them, to truly tell all of you how much I appreciate your help. You’re all awesome.

Have a fantastic day.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day 88, In the spirit of the Olympics

...I guess.

There is a 24 Hour Fitness (I’ve always thought it odd that it isn’t actually open for 24 hours...what’s the point of the name?) about a ten to fifteen minute drive away from my house--sometimes longer depending on how the evil 91 freeway is faring during the day--maybe nine or ten miles away whose front looks out onto the freeway and its passing cars. It’s always interesting to see people sweating away on the treadmills that line the windowed front of the building as I drive by--they never look happy to be there.

Some friends of mine and me went to that particular fitness gym because a couple of them have a membership there and they were able to get a free day pass for me and the other one in the group that didn’t have a membership. Let me start by saying that, man oh man, are they pushy. Before I could even think about walking out onto the workout floor I was marauded by two or three of their relentless employees and had membership packages and rates and coercions and trickery thrown at me from all sides. It was all they could do to keep themselves from strapping me into a chair and forcing me to endure unimaginable pain and torture unless I agreed to become a member of their particular club (slash, ahem, cult). I’m not joking when I said I had to listen to their spiel for an insufferable twenty minutes while trying to talk my way out of it and just sign the freaking paperwork to get my limited guest pass.

For that reason alone I will never again desire to join a 24 Hour or Bally’s or L.A. Fitness gym. Ever. Never ever.

There were two things that my friends wanted to do at the gym while they were there: one, lift some weights and two, go swimming in their indoor swimming pool. Lifting weights was the idea that some of my bigger friends had; I wasn’t totally into it because, well, who needs free weights anymore now that I’ve got resistance bands and a jumprope? I went along with that, though, and I could tell right away that I was getting looks from some of the other more muscley gym rats that were hanging around in their too tight shorts and sweat drenched tank tops. I’m sure that they were wondering how a relatively skinny guy like I am could do what I am capable of doing. I didn’t mind their looks as I stepped onto the benches, I was rather happy with myself actually.

The swimming pool was another story, though. We had tried swimming at one of my friend’s grandmother’s condominium pool but unfortunately chose the worst time to do it. If anyone ever tries to convince you to try swimming early in the cold morning after a particularly chilly night then do yourself a favor and slap them in their face. A rather uncomfortable thing happens to your body when you try and swim in quite possibly 40 degree water, your body nearly stops functioning (and for you guys out there, well, let me say that my nether region should not be popsicled and then sucked up into my body like that...not fun at all).

I have never been terribly good at swimming, just terrible. I can certainly keep myself afloat and, obviously, I haven’t drowned myself trying anything laughably simple in the water but beyond that, well...I won’t go into any details. For my pride’s sake, you know? I didn’t spend too much time in the pool which was really a bit of a shame because swimming has got to be one of the better exercises out there for you--it’s low impact and it work out every muscle in your body.

There was a jacuzzi and a sauna there so the actual pool was quickly abandoned in favor of the more heated distractions offered. I will admit that it was my very first time in a sauna and man is it hot in there. Ha ha? Why is it that saunas are designed by people that apparently are in desperate love with sharp edges and slippery tile? Where’s the fun in that?

We left soon after that because people had things and work to do during the day and I went home confident in my promise to myself never to go to another gym again in my life. If the employees behavior there is any indication of other gyms then you couldn’t force me to go to another one anyway. Besides all that, there’s absolutely no need to “prove myself” to protein bar chomping, energy drink guzzling muscle heads (who I’m sure really are nice guys who don’t deserve my berating them) that naturally gravitate to those places because they’re unaware that all you need to be healthy and in shape are vegetables, a jumprope, and a set of resistance bands. That’s all people, nothing more is needed, cut up your gym card, find a Sports Authority near you, and forget that you were ever a part of an organization like that.

Also, how inspiring is the Olympics this year? Makes me want to actually give swimming another try or get my bike down and really start turning myself into a cycling monster.

Have a fine Sunday. Two days left.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Day 87, Three days left?!

Well, the exercise plan will remain the same because, well, what more can be added or modified that will change or improve what we’ve already done and already know how to do? It almost seems, in some ways, that we’re on auto-pilot at this point--we know what we need to do with our bodies, we know what we need to put into them and how much we need to put into them to keep them running smooth and strong, and we’re beginning to understand just what to do to keep our progress moving forward safely by ourselves.

Besides, I don’t think that I want to subject myself to another one of Patrick’s new sadistic workout routines (squatting pushups and pull up and v-sits?! what’s the deal?).

Patrick also sent us s a bit of advice to carry us through our non-PCP lives and keep our bodies humming along at pleasantly wonderful levels. That bit of advice, short and, I’m sure, deceptively simple, is:

No numbers.

Screw them, they aren’t necessary, apparently. He tells us that it’s a life rule, probably the only one we’ll ever really need, and at first glance it seems to make a lot of sense and would be easy to follow. And I’m sure that it is, but the American consumer in me is puzzled by that rule.

For as long I’ve been aware of what I’ve been putting into me I’ve been, hmm, bombarded by nutrition labels and % Daily Values and fat percentages, etc. that something that’s really no more difficult to understand and live by than the knowledge that putting your hand over an open flame will burn your hand. Of course, it’s the food industry’s job to spread that misinformation about, but it’s still disheartening to realize that I’ve been tricked into worrying about stuff that isn’t something that should be worried over.

It’s as simple as this: you know your body, your body knows itself and will respond in actual physical ways to let you know that what you’re doing to it is either cool or not groovy at all. Those numbers on the back of the box are designed around a person’s body that is not your own so therefore those numbers should not be of any concern to you whatsoever. What you should be paying attention to, like I just said, are the signals that your body will only too readily give to you. That’s its job and it’s damn good at it.

So listen to it--if those burritos you’ve been eating frequently over the last month are leaving you feeling sluggish and down then obviously those poisons should be taken out of your system, no matter how much salty goodness is packed into them.

Have a wonderful day. You’re all wonderful.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Day 86, Updates and such

Another one of these, I will admit, but of course this would in fact be the very final diet plan update because, well, after Tuesday Corry, David, and my part of the Peak Condition Project will be no more. It will continue, of course, because the ground we’ve laid over the past three months would take a concerted effort of will and physical strength to actually break.

So I’m not worried about any of us falling into disrepair, no, I’m confident that we will only continue to grow and develop and continue on with us until the very end of our days. It’s what the PCP’s all about, as I’ve said before, folks.

So onto the update-that-isn’t-much-of-an-update. This last weeks diet plan is...to stay the course, tried and true, taking me to Day 90 and beyond. That diet plan, which was also last week’s diet plan, is:

Breakfast, 170 g carbs, everything else the same.

Lunch, 130 g carbs, everything else the same.

Dinner, same.

Again, nothing difficult there, in fact if this last week has proven anything then this last week should be some sort of cakewalk in the park.

I do believe that tomorrow we will be graced with an updated exercise plan...or this last week’s one will continue on. I have been given instructions to totally shred my chest and shoulders this last week so that’s what I’ll be up to, you know, in case anyone was wondering.

Have a nice day, all, and I hope the beginning of your weekend will rock as much as I’m sure mine will. Ta-ta.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day 85, Not quite an "indulgence"

But I think for these purposes here that it’ll do just fine, folks.

The indulgence I’m speaking of is soy yogurt. Yes, soy yogurt, wonderful and creamy, filled with fruity goodness and able to stuff my stomach full like no other snack type item I’ve yet to discover.

For a long while after I became a vegetarian the prospect of a soy yogurt kind of food was a foolish man’s pipe dream--I dared not to even dream that such a thing existed and I resigned myself to my future of a yogurtless existence. Hard as that was I persevered and lived on, hoping that one day the soy gods would grace me with some creamy, fruity goodness.

And then I came across the farmer’s market about five minutes away from my house. It was, first of all, a wonderful find for me because now I do a lot of my shopping there since I’m able to find everything my vegan body needs there, and then some. (Although, I must say, rather embarrassedly, that I was surprised that they sold meat there. Ah, the hilarity of my youthful naivete, “What? Why is a farmer’s market selling meat?! I thought they weren’t into all of that. My world is being rocked!”). Strolling around those aisles led me to their dairy section which contained, among some other vegetarian items, this little bit of some sort of heaven:

This is the peach flavor cup but they also come in Plain, Vanilla, Raspberry, Strawberry, Cherry, Lemon, Blueberry, Apricot Mango, Strawberry Banana, and Mixed Berry. So far I’ve only had the pleasure of tasting the Apricot Mango, Strawberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Peach, and Vanilla flavors but each one has been it’s own unique delight.

Obviously, being vegan, it’s free of saturated fat, cholesterol, lactose, and it’s gluten free so even if you’re not a vegan or vegetarian it’s a wonderfully healthy substitute to cow’s milk yogurt. Frankly, if memory serves, I think it tastes much better as well. Right off you notice the taste--sweet, it’s very sweet and the flavor hits you like a battering ram in full force right away. It’s very smooth and creamy and it’s a sensory delight to swirl it about in your mouth, to let it play over your tongue and seep between your teeth and feel it cool every corner of the inside of your mouth.

It’s very high in calcium, about 30% DV, and it’s sugar and sodium level are some of the lowest you can find in a yogurt so all of that is definitely a plus. It’s pretty affordably priced, too, and can come in between a dollar to a dollar-fifty a cup, depending on where you shop (I like to splurge a bit and by several whenever I’m at the store because, honestly, they go so quickly and they’re quite addicting).

So if you happen upon a cup of this lovely goodness go ahead and give it a try. A lot of you may be a bit skeptical and hesitant to try it since it is a soy product but, as I said before, it’s smooth and creamy and not at all gritty or chalky as some soy products can be. So give it a try, I can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Day 84, Ruh-roh

These waning days are having an odd effect on me. Curse me and my lethargic ways!

I’ve very oddly been feeling less and less inclined to pay attention to what I’m eating throughout the day and how much exercising I should be doing during my normal workout times. Bad, bad, yes I realize. I shouldn’t be letting these final days of the project effect my thinking and all of the work that I’ve put into myself over these last three months--nothing would be worse for me if I just let the excitement of finishing this thing turn my thinking into something lazy and wholly un-PCP like.

That would certainly be a tragedy.

And I’m not entirely sure what brought this about or why exactly it’s been happening, I mean, these last days are, if nothing else, a time when my resolve needs to be as strong as it possibly can be and I need to kick everything into overdrive rather than letting myself sit on the back burner and idle my way through to the end.

I think that this whole feeling of lethargy is due to the day or so when I was physically unable to devote myself entirely to my exercises, when I couldn’t jumprope to save my life. I guess my mind enjoyed that brief respite and longed for more of the same.

I need to tell myself, “No!” Now is when I need to persevere and push on through to the other side of all of this because if I can do that then I will be set for as long as I am able to be. If I let that negative thinking take a hold of me, if I let those thoughts lingering in some dark, dripping area in the back of my head, the ones telling me that skipping out on my exercises would be okay, then everything will have been...well, not entirely pointless, but not too far off that mark.

Send me some confidence. Help me and David and Corry through these last few days. Keep us strong, energized, and focused because, oddly enough, the end of this project is no real downhill slide, it’s just as demanding as any other bit.

It’s nice to think that we’ll have accomplished something, though. Smiles abound!