Sunday, January 19, 2014

20 Things....

1. The goal of life isn't self-preservation, that's impossible no one has ever left this planet for good alive. The goal of life is to make an impact, hopefully for good.

2. People intuitively get this at some level. Most people at some level would rather think of themselves as strong, deep, and special rather than comfortable. Isn't this why about every little kid takes pride in "doing it himself"? Isn't this part of what brings people into the door for CrossFit? How many of us stayed in difficult relationships feeling on some level it was a badge of honor? Many are called....

3. But most people don't follow though. The work to be strong, deep, and special is too hard, and the couch feels too good. few are chosen.

4. If you are someone who follows through and who consistently does the extra effort you are far ahead of 90% of everyone else.

5. Think your actions through. It takes a lot more energy to fix a stupid mistake than it does to have never made it in the first place.

6. On the other hand, the goal aint perfection. That's impossible. Even if it were, the most compelling people are often those who came back from their mistakes.

7. If I can describe how I matured in one sentence, it would be that I take responsibility for my actions and think things through much better.

8. If I could describe how I matured in two sentences, I became aware of how much others' actions really were about me. It's actually most of the time not that much.

9. Writing is hard. It took me a long time even to get to 9 things.

10. 50% of the people who drive Cadillac Escalades are tools.

11. 65% of the people who drive Lincoln Navigators are tools.

12. You can tell a lot about someone by the way they drive. I don't think I'd ever date or hire someone who squats in the left lane on the freeway driving less than the speed limit.

13.  Everyone really has the same worth. No one is all that. I mean, take someone who is especially smart, good-looking, strong, and accomplished. How long would it take for you to not stand them if they happened to think it gave them carte blanche to cut in line or act like a jackass?

14. I like to pursue.

15. When women say they want a nice guy, what they really mean is that they want the guy they are attracted to, to BE nice. As in they fall for the guy for his masculinity, his drive, his smarts, his whatever, and then they hope he turns out to be nice.

16. I'm a sucker for anything done really really well. I admire a really well-written piece of computer code. I admire a really well-laid out lecture. I admire a really smooth muscle-up technique in CrossFit or someone's amazing souble-under technique. I admire an especially smooth parallel-parking job. Hell I was admiring the pattern the barista made at the top of my latte this morning. Such a work of art, it pained me to drink it.

17. You want to get into a guy's heart, compliment him on his driving.

18. A woman who has a passion and pursues it--that's really hot to me.

19. Ever since I got into CrossFit, I've gotten much better at chunking tasks down. The workout calls for 45 reps? I think that if I get to 30, I'm almost done. If I get to 20--20 is "almost" 30, then I am "almost almost" done. If I get to 14, well, 14 is "almost" 20, then I am "almost almost almost" done. Kinda silly when you lay it out like that but it works for me.

20. When I fly,  I don't mind sitting in the middle seat but I must sit in the front of the plane. Having to wait 20 minutes to get off the plane due to everyone fumbling with their oversized carry ons just isn't cool.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dream on, dream on....

Happy New Year! Everyone talks though about making new years' resolutions. I don't do that anymore. January 1st is merely an arbitrary date on the calender. Every day is New Years really.

I've been meaning to write this post for a while but this is the first time I had a chance to do so. A little while ago I had lunch with my PhD advisor. It was great seeing him and catching up, but talk about a time distortion.

I was immediately brought back to Winter 2000/2001. I had just turned 28. I drove a beat-up 10-year-old Honda Civic hatchback with well over 100,000 miles that had a tear in the seats and no air-conditioning. This despite the fact that Baltimore summers are about as hot and humid as anywhere else in the country. I was working 70-hour weeks and making do on something like $1200/month. And yet, I felt like I was about to make it big.

I just felt like I was on the rise in a big way. A research project that I was working on--the final part of my thesis--was accepted to one of the most prestigious conferences in the country. I spent a couple weeks in early November 2000 in sunny Redondo Beach, CA presenting it. When I was there I got an interview with the person who headed a prestigious research group in Princeton. (He must have been impressed because I got the offer that January for my dream job.) As I walked along the Pacific Ocean just after dusk one day during that trip, I felt really good for how the past 4 years went. I felt really good about how that research project turned out, especially after all that hard work I put into it. I felt really good to be doing what I always wanted to do--making contributions to science, and that someone felt that what I was  doing was that valuable that I got that all-expenses-paid trip out to SoCal when Maryland was shivering via an unusually cold fall. I guess I also felt really proud to be the first person in my family to earn an advanced degree, and to move away and make a life for himself so far away from home. I also wondered what the next 10 years would hold.

The next 10 years were actually quite a bumpy ride. I got complacent, suffered from burn-out, fell in love, screwed that up royally, got sick, and actually had to move home for a few months. I felt at this point like a huge failure. By 2007 I was out of mathematics. I did end up getting a job in software development and even though it wasn't what I wanted to be spending my life doing, I appreciated the fact that I was making a more-than-comfortable income (for the first time in my life). I was finally paying off all my student loans and establishing a financial cushion.

Then in 2007 a friend of mine invited me to where I am at now, to come down and give a talk on my research that I had done as a graduate student. The talk went really well, and I was offered a job. If I accepted, I would be back in mathematics. It wasn't a professorship as I had dreamed about back in 2000, but it was a chance to do what I had loved again and get paid. I accepted the offer. I've been here for 6 years and time has flown for me.

And yet driving home from lunch in my Jeep on I-97 South, I couldn't help but feel a bit sad. That Aerosmith song was running through my head. The 28-year-old version of me was a hard-charging young man who had all these big visions of changing the world.  He could get by living on so little. He had no idea though, of how fast the time would go between 28 and 41.

  The version of me now still wants to do that, but at the same time, a lot of that fire is gone. I leave work at a civilized hour (usually). I'm happy making a good living and that I've (finally) built up a cushion. I like being comfortable.

Yet I am also idealistic. I still want to climb the mountain. I'm doing soul-searching to discover what it will take for me to get the passion back, or for me to come to peace that the passion for me, is gone at least when it comes to science. and it is time to move on to finding joy in something else.

Maybe this is a part of growing up though....

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sometimes you just have to round your back....

I was going to make this just a CrossFit post but since I am feeling expansive, this is about a lot of other stuff...with CrossFit as a launching point.

--Sometimes you just have to round your back to deadlift the barbell.  By this I mean that sometimes you just have to put yourself out there, and you can't be worrying about good form. Sometimes you simply have to risk looking ridiculous, desperate, or being wrong, to get the job done. Sometimes you have to break the rules to get what you truly want.

I once drove 1000 miles to "go see about a girl". It didn't work out but I don't regret it. I took my best shot and lost. I had to see if something was there, and that is what did. I left everything I had on the court, gave 110%, all your favorite overplayed sports cliches. No what-ifs here.

--But if you're rounding your back all the time then you are doing something wrong.  Bad form should be the exception, not the rule. Most of the time you *shouldn't* be rounding your back on the deadlift. "Whatever it takes" form needs to be something you are doing in only those special cases. Otherwise you risk burning yourself out and being inefficient with your energy. Driving 1000 miles to see about a girl once or maybe twice in a lifetime is awesome. Driving 1000 miles to see about a girl every month is just stupid (unless it is the same one each time and you both are in a great relationship, in that case congratulations). If you're putting more into your job, your life, your friendships, your relationships, and even your workout than you are getting out of it then perhaps you need to reevaluate.

If you are doing CrossFit right, you will find yourself thinking about efficient movement patterns. Maybe we will also find yourself thinking about being smart about other things too. Life is just easier if we don't make too many dumb mistakes (although we all make dumb mistakes of course). There's a reason why they tell you to wear a suit to job interviews (in most fields), to not try too hard to impress on a first date, pay your bills on time to avoid late fees, drive a certain way to save gas, think before you say something inflammatory, and so on.

It's hard for me to do sometimes I admit. On the one hand, I can be quite analytical to a point where it doesn't serve me, being too cautious instead of taking chances.  On the other hand, I often push too hard too. I'm loyal, I'm stubborn, I hate to give up on someone or something I've put a lot of energy in. But I think I've gotten better at both--at knowing when the moment calls for bold action on the one hand, and when it calls for being rational and sober on the other. I've had to do things such as give up on projects that were going nowhere and end relationships that weren't working anymore. Painful for me to let things go but I learned that I had to do it.

--You're doing it right if you are growing in your weaknesses.  I learned this during the Open. CrossFit is really about effective movement patterns as much as anything else. If you come across something you struggle with and you work on it, you are improving in a way you truly need to improve.

When it comes to our life away from CF: I think of a great bit of advice I got: "Pick the journey for the way that it will change you at least as much for the final destination". Isn't that why we like certain workouts? I mean, getting under a heavy barbell isn't fun in itself except for what we know it is doing for us. I think that applies to life outside the box too. Don't just think about what you will get out of it but how it will enable you to grow and contribute. Will you finding yourself liking yourself better or will it blunt your soul working for a cause you don't really believe in to make money? I think about that was why I joined CrossFit, why I made the move to Maryland, why I decided to get my certification. I am looking forward to help others get stronger and fitter and lead more effective lives. I'm looking forward to helping someone get in touch with their inner athlete perhaps for the first time in their life so that they feel empowered and more confident. At the same time I also know that coaching will make me a better person and man--more empathetic, a better leader and communicator.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Letting things go...

It's been a while since I have written here. I have no reason except to say that life just got away from me. Anyway Happy New Year! (Do you realize that we are already 10% of the way through 2013?)

Last week we had a workout that I really wanted to nail RX'd, but I instead DNF'd. 5-4-3-2-1 275-pound deadlifts and muscle-ups. The deadlifts were actually quite easy for me--it was the muscle-ups I struggled with. I'm not positive why that is. Maybe the rope climbs and the ball slams we did the day before had taxed my arms and I was still sore/weakened. Maybe it was the heavy push presses we did earlier in the workout, just a few minutes before we started this delectable deadlift/muscle-up combo.

Overall it might have been all the time I have spent in Strength over the past 6 months. I put on a decent amount of mass in my lower body as my squat numbers went up (365-pound deadlift, 300-pound back squat ass-to-grass) but my upper body might not have been keeping up. I've been doing muscle-ups strict for the past year, which is actually a very different movement from doing them with a kip--which was how I got my first muscle-ups. A kip might require less pure strength, but it does require timing and coordination that wasn't there for me anymore.

Anyway I got the first 4 muscle-ups in one set, and then did the 5th. I got through the first 2 rounds of the workout and then as time was running out, I did the remaining 6 deadlifts touch-and-go.

I still couldn't leave well enough alone though. I stayed even while the Foundations class was coming in to finish the remaining muscle-ups. My forearms were aching and I was hardly getting anywhere--I think I got 1 muscle-up after several misses--and I haven't missed muscle-ups in a while. Finally I saw that this just wasn't working and all I was doing was risking hurting myself, and I gave up and went home.

One thing people might not know about me is that I can be very intense. It shows up occasionally in Strength class. For as hard as we work there,  the atmosphere is actually quite laid-back. When we are doing 10 sets of 3 squats, a lot of people will be laughing and joking between sets. I just can't do that. I stare at my bar like a psycho. And I am obsessed with getting full-depth each rep. I'm not sure if that is good or bad really--I mean it's just a workout and we're not professional athletes forcrissakes, but each set is tough for me. I need to focus.

I'm not like this in every area of my life, but I am in a few areas of my life that I deem really important to me at the moment.

It has served me well though. I can focus really really hard on a goal and achieve it against the odds. But I can also take things too personally. (I'm now talking life in general.) The thing is, I've gotten so much better  through the years in having my intensity serve me. I've gotten better in just giving it all that I have--and then accepting that there are things that I don't control, that the sun will come up tomorrow regardless, that it's not such a huge deal, and letting it go regardless.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Life is all about....

being prepared for moments and making the most of them.

My thought for the day....

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Yesterday was my first day back in Strength class after a week at home seeing my parents and my grandparents. I will be straight up and say that I didn't like my attitude towards the workout.

We started with my beloved 400-meter run with a 45-pound high-temp plate. I felt sluggish during it. We then get back and do some warm-ups, and then we do 3 stone-to-shoulders a minute for 6 minutes (I used a 115-pound stone), and then after that and being out of breath, we do another 400-meter plate run! I found myself walking for most of it. And then when we came back from that, we were to do overhead plate lunges with our 45-pound plate (!) and then walk 100 meters with our plate overhead.

More than once I found myself dropping the plate, as much in frustration and anger as in being tired. The cheers to "keep on going!!" made me feel like a mule that was gonna kick someone. "Fuck you with there's no stopping shit, I'm stopping. What has gotten into Luis today. I don't want to do this."

It wasn't all bad. We then went back and did 10 sets of 5 push-presses. And then a 200-meter plate run. I felt so bad about my attitude during the last plate run that I made an extra effort this time to give my all--for some reason 400 meters felt insurmountably far but 200 meters seemed quite doable. And then after class, to make it up, I did a 100-meter overhead plate walk. I had to drop the plate 3 times, but I did the whole thing with the plate overhead, and more importantly, this time I gave it an honest effort with a good attitude. I then stayed and did some muscle-ups.

(I don't know why I struggle with holding the overhead position. I am pretty good at overhead squats and even hand-stand pushups. And yet the longest I have ever held a wall handstand is only 57 seconds (or was it over 60 seconds? I'd like to think I could have dug really deep and found those extra 3 seconds to break a minute...) and I am pretty weak in these overhead walks. Anyway, as I need to improve on this, I should actually be doing this more.)

Anyway, this is something that I am working on. Emotional AND physical strength. I realize I still find myself getting all too pissed and frustrated when things don't go my way, and all too happy when things do. And as I admire composure and poise, I also realize that I don't like this trait about myself. Now that I aware of it, I can improve, right?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Feet of clay....

I have really been pushing myself at Strength class at our box, and the results are starting to show. I deadlifted 355 yesterday--well over twice my bodyweight, and in general I feel worlds stronger. Luis, our coach, has us run a 400 meter lap with a 45-pound rubber bumper plate. Running with a 45-pound sandbag is tough enough, but a 45-pound bumper plate is that much tougher as, unlike the sandbag, there is no remotely comfortable way to hold the thing while running. Anyway, the first time he had us do it 5 weeks ago, I had to stop and walk by 250 meters in. Last week I was able to complete the entire lap without stopping.

And then after class I have been doing muscle-ups. I understand that when they appear in the Open, they tend to come towards the end, so I want to be able to bang them out even when I am tired. And it seems to be working. Even after we do Prowler suicides in Strength class, I am able to get out 4 or 5 strict in one set. (My PR is still 7 strict in one set, but that was when I was fresh.)


Why did I get into CrossFit Part 2. Well, I know some people got into it to get into the best shape of their lives. Some people got into it because they miss the competition they got from playing sports growing up. I am going to confess something here: I got obsessed with CrossFit to heal something. I got obsessed with CrossFit to deal with my issues. I got obsessed with CrossFit to prove something to myself. This is how can I put it--a therapy of sorts for me.

Growing up, I didn't have a good self-image. I'm not positive where I got it from, except that I was really really good in math and science but not good in sports. I was also socially awkward, and being in a male-dominated field (science and math) didn't help. I just didn't think of myself as lovable and so in my much younger days I even would do things such as sabotage friendships. On some level deep down I had no idea what I could possibly offer anyone else--just being real here.

The one thing I have always had going for myself though, is that I am incredibly stubborn (as I mentioned before several times). Even though I wasn't happy and I wasn't confident, I still knew I was going to do whatever it took for me to get past this.

And by many measures I've largely succeeded. I've moved to new cities by myself and made friends there. I did this several times in my adult life. I had to push myself to get myself out there, but I did it. I (more or less) got over my shyness. I successfully taught a college class. Even though there were hardly women in my classes and my workplace, I still dated my share.  How did I do it? I got more than decent at meeting women. It was either that or be alone (I only recently discovered the option of online dating) so I made myself go up and talk to the girl. And sometimes she even liked me back--enough to give me her number and meet up with me. I loved and lost. I screwed up myself. I was even cheated on, but I eventually got over it.

But in some regards I still felt weak. Do I have what it takes to be strong? How about strong physically? Well, maybe. I worked my ass off in that regards. I can deadlift well over twice my bodyweight. I can bang out strict muscle-ups. I can push-press my bodyweight, and I can overhead squat well over my bodyweight. I still have no endurance though, and I don't have a double-under (although that is something I have been avoiding facing). My Olympic lifts--the C+J and snatch are so beautiful when they are done right in my opinion--still need some work. My numbers are actually decent but my form is not so much. I muscle things where finesse would work so much better.

I definitely can say this: With every heavy lift, with every prowler suicide, I feel that I am growing. And that keeps me coming back for more. Someone I really think highly of complimented me how I always bring the intensity. That made me feel really good.

Anyway to this end, who I would like to meet and date: Well, yes, what I said before about the girl being cute and passionate about something in life. She also would have to be a bit of a bad-ass. But she would also have to be able to relate to all I wrote above. Whenever I meet women who strike me as the "perfect" All-America type who was always beautiful and popular, I actually find myself feeling intimidated and uneasy. I wonder if she would be able to relate to me. It's as I said before: We are attracted to someone else through their strengths, but we connect and fall in love with someone through their vulnerabilities....