Earthing Every Day

Set yourself up to earth every day.

I’ve been earthing almost every morning the past few months. The way I’ve been doing it is by having a set exercise time with my kettlebell outside. Since I train barefoot it works out well. I get a good recharge for the day, through strength building and by absorbing the Earth’s surface energy.

I enjoy being outside barefoot, whether it’s to train or to leisurely walk with my wife through the neighborhood. I was talking with a friend the other day about my travel in Thailand. During our stay in a beach town at the southern coast, my wife and I never touched a bit of asphalt. It was all sand, concrete, or dirt, and I had the ironic luxury of treading barefoot for four days straight. What an experience to not smother my feet in tight socks, then encase them in rubber and leather shoes, day after day! To simply wake up and walk out the door to explore without the hassle of shoes.

Walking barefoot, training strength with feet directly on the ground, running and jumping and moving with your feet gripping and helping you to maneuver, and simply sitting in a squat or standing while talking with company, is a wonderful physical part of life that is lost to most people here. You feel different when you’re barefoot. You walk differently and talk differently when you have no shoes. I have become something different, something more, from living a small part of my days with my feet on the ground.

Get that connection to the surface charge of Earth and start to neutralize excess inflammation. You can create a schedule which places you barefoot on the dirt, grass, beach, or at least concrete for ten minutes every day. If you have a dog, be barefoot together on your walk. You might find a more harmonious pace with your furry companion. If you have a fellow human to go outside together, hang out without your shoes. Do it in easy places. If you’re at the park or the beach, don’t hesitate for the right moment to shed your shoes. The moment is now. Prolong your time barefoot and expand your experiences barefoot. Walk to the parking lot barefoot after you’re done. When you’re camping go barefoot. What better or easier way to connect to the place in which you are staying.

Live powerfully.

The quirks of daily kettlebell training

Having a kettlebell at home is one of life’s great blessings. It’s convenient and is a great start to each day. There are certainly some challenges that come up as I train day to day, though. I see these as variables to training and additions to my development of strength.

First of all, I live on the second floor of an old apartment building. The floors are not very thick, and I assume based on what I can hear of my neighbors below that any noise or banging against the ground would be quite audible. I used to do my kettlebell sessions indoors, and the whole building shook during swings. It’s not surprising, given the force against the ground with which I have to accelerate the bell. Now that I’m training at six in the morning, I take it outside.

Outside means downstairs, because the landing in front of my door is quite small. I imagine a kettlebell that slips loose mid-swing from the second floor would travel quite far and dig quite deep into the pavement below. I’m not prepared for that risk, so I lug the heavy thing down a flight of steps. This is the first part of the fun of kettlebell training for me. Going down stairs with a kettlebell in one hand creates a nice exercise in balance and stepping. Because I don’t want to wake or startle my neighbors, I step lightly. It’s easier barefooted, of course. Without shoes that restrict the movement of my feet, I can lightly descend and feel the stairs enough to move smoothly and maintain balance. So why is my kettlebell in one hand? Well, because I have my doormat in the other hand. That brings me to the next fun thing.

Since I’m doing the swings outside, I’m pulling up and setting down the iron ball on concrete ground. This creates a nice scrape on the way up, and a dull but resounding thud on the way down. As I want to maintain my privilege of exercising right outside my door for the near future, I needed a way to minimize this noise. So the answer was to bring along my sturdy doormat. The rubber bottom and soft felty top act together as an efficient muffler. To save a trip up and down the staircase, I hold the mat in one hand and the bell in the other. Thus, I naturally go through the strongman drill known as the “suitcase carry”. Carrying a heavy load on one side trains you to balance out that load and develop better stability side-to-side while moving forward. Do it on a staircase and I guess it adds another level of complexity.

It doesn’t end there, of course. Part of kettlebell training involves precision of movement. When swinging the weight, it’s important to keep your feet planted, to stand tall at the end of the hip drive, and to pull it back down with the lats between your legs. If for any reason your heels come off the ground, you must release the bell. Holding on to it can cause injury to your back as you overreach to pull yourself back into the correct stance. Naturally, I wouldn’t want to fling a fifty pound iron ball into the dark dawn. I imagine the effect would be similar to a wrecking ball meeting the side of a high rise. The best case scenario would be a good clunk. A bad scenario could include a shattering crack, a bounce, another crack, a rumbling roll, and thunk thunk thunk down the front steps of the parking area. This is quite the incentive for me to pay full attention to my movements, to execute each part of the swing with precision, and to exercise greater strength in keeping the bell under control. My primary concern is to move in the best way possible. My secondary concern is exerting force. Both of these build strength, but I didn’t pay as much attention to the movement when I was training midday with no concern for how much noise I made.

There are many other unexpected factors that play into kettlebell training early in the morning in an apartment dwelling, but I’ll end with going gentle on the getups. For all the same reasons I want to finesse my swings, I have to be sensitive to the way I come back down on the ground during the different touch points of the movement. I do the getups inside, after I finish the swings and carry the bell back upstairs. To begin there is simply the act of laying down. I can’t just collapse onto the floor. I’ve learned to get down gently, but quickly because I don’t have too much time. Do this for the first time and you appreciate the control it takes.

With the weight in hand, pushing up on the elbow, the foot, and then coming to a stand on the rise, I go soft on the ground too. Counterintuitively, this takes more effort than slamming down on the ground, because the stability is coming from my midsection when I brace myself to make minimal touches on the ground. When I get to exercise on a grassy field, I can slam down against the ground with my foot as I come up to elbow with acceleration. In my apartment when people are sleeping below me, I don’t have that option.

Whatever your situation, if you take up the kettlebell or if you’ve already been training with it, try to appreciate the quirks that come with it. Everyone has a different situation, a different home environment, different time for training, and many other factors that make the training scene unique. See every thing that life brings in your path as part of your strength training. Let it make you stronger.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Restart

The last couple of weeks have been a sober return to good health. In large part due to my wife’s tireless cooking and preparing groceries, we have been able to get back to our normal diet.

The end of last year was polluted with the degenerative tradition of gifting sweets from family, friends, and coworkers over the Holy Days of the United States of America. Cookies, candies, cakes, and all kinds of creations from the products of modern agriculture saturated my body and mind. I had started to feel pain in my joints, knots in my neck, and generally lower energy and negative mood. I had at least two teeth getting cavities. It was time to stop the nonsense. I happened upon some delicious food provided at my workplace for lunch, and had two full plates of basmati rice topped with curried lamb, cilantro, and fried shallots as an indulgence. Incredibly, but of course, I felt no fatigue from eating this food as I continued to do good work. I was very grateful for this boost.

It is good to eat during the day here and there, as availability of good food and time allow. Eating a good midday meal provides energy and building material for the body. It also lowers tension and eases the mind, for times that do not require maximal intensity from a man. Eating bad substances like sugar, vegetable oils and wheat reduces energy and substitutes poor building materials for the body. It triggers defensive responses from the body in the form of hormonal reaction to the flood of manufactured substances, immune attacks on the food and body against poison, and a negative mindset in response to a general sense of unease and fading vitality. In short, it is better to avoid this kind of meal when it is reasonable to do so.

These types of products are farmed and processed for maximal profit to the man who makes them and for minimal benefit to the man who eats it. Humans can be much more vigorous and happy without them. However, along with the addictive nature of over-processed products, the marketing is almost inescapable. Almost. One of the easiest and most effective ways that my wife and I have avoided bad food product is to simply not buy them. These things end up in the pantry because someone picked them up off of a shelf and paid for them. That someone is you. It’s your choice what you eat, and it’s your choice what you buy. You can buy foods that are in their whole form or closer to it. You can buy foods that are raised and grown well. It’s in your control.

Man of today worries that he or she will not have enough energy to live without regular meals. This is a fallacy built of the rigid work schedule that was necessary to maintaining the structure of an agriculture-based society. In order to fulfill the labor that man was bonded to each day, living in the same place and no longer moving through the land for food and water, meals became routinized. In turn, the labor and the society were built to maintain a steady supply of food, which encouraged a regimen of eating and a ration of food. As humans of this type of society grew in number, and their ways became exponentially more efficient through the industrial revolution, the desire for regular meal times became more and more a need. Workers had to produce maximal products in a day to give employers profit. Meal times were measured and rest times were limited. This practice is still in effect nearly three hundred years later.

We are capable of going without any food for much longer than you would think, if you are in the habit of eating two or more meals every day. This cognitive bias is especially pronounced if those meals consist of manufactured substances. Depending on the current state of a man’s body, he can live well for days without any food. It is not likely that a human will die even after weeks without anything to eat but water. This is only natural, as man became man and survived as man for one million years taking food from the earth. To hunt for meat and search for edible plants, man had to endure periods of time without food. Those who couldn’t live without this ability to hunt and forage on an empty stomach would not survive. How could they? Even if they were fed and helped by their sturdier fellow men, would anyone want to couple with such a person? It doesn’t seem likely that such weak humans could be supported for long. It is even less likely that similar people would be born of them as their children. After one million years, the men that are alive are probably adapted to the changing environment in which they live.

I know from short periods of intentional fasting that I can even go for a run for fifteen or more minutes in the mornings for four days with a minor reduction in energy toward the end of the third day. And though I am more athletic than the average person, I have no experience in a life of hunting and foraging. A domestic man like myself can last for four days without food and still run. How much more capable would a wild man be? Perhaps he could track, find, observe, and then kill a large animal after several days without food. Watching videos of men in the Arctic hunt for seals all day long in extreme cold, I saw that men could last without food, catch an animal, eat a small portion of it, and then carry the rest back to their camp. A group of men would probably have an even greater ability to find good food on a regular enough basis.

All this says man can go without food for a while and be even healthier than when eating throughout the course of the day, day after day. Even abstaining from food for the first part of the day and waiting to eat a good dinner brings my body good health. There are no rules to eating, for who should ever tell anyone what or how to eat food for their own body? That is each human’s choice. The only thing in the way of a guideline I can derive from my experience is that enough good food gives good health, positive energy that does not turn to fatigue, and steady mood that does not turn to misery. Too much food or bad food does otherwise. Find the foods that you can eat in a way to improve your health for the course of the life that you choose.

Life is tough as it is, but this is a good thing. If you are feeling miserable day to day, there is a good chance that you are not providing your body with food that gives you the energy and the substance to be healthy. Remember too that some things you eat may be taking away from health, regardless of how good the other stuff is. Work it out!

Live powerfully,

Steve

Being nice on the road is powerful

What a blessing it is to be alive!

The rising hint of sun and pink sky

The blue mountains etched with grey

The cold air in my nostrils

No coffee is too hot to drink in this cold morning. The steam from my mouth unfurls with refreshing vigor.

The street along the train station parking lot is often packed with cars heading toward an adjacent freeway entrance. There’s a left turn lane to turn into the lot, and I have to wait until it clears a bit to make the turn. The drivers heading in the opposite direction are in queue for a stop sign at a three way intersection up ahead. They don’t usually move very fast, but I used to have some trouble getting through. People wouldn’t stop, and sometimes they would speed past but end up blocking the entrance. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it gets a little stressful when I’m trying to make a train.

Well, from my road experience, especially in Los Angeles but also in the Bay Area, I found that it’s often more powerful and multiple times less stressful to be nice. This sounds like horse poo but really this is true for me.

For example, when I need to switch lanes on the roaring 101 freeway toward downtown LA, and there’s a driver parallel to me in the lane I need to get to, I could speed up and slide in front of that car, causing a bit of excitement and cheap pride on my part, and some stress and worry on the victim’s. That’s if my plan works easily. If the other driver is also doing what I’m doing, playing the domination game, speeding up too to block me out, well then both of us end up stressed regardless of who “wins”. Assuming we both make it out alive. When you’re dead, well, there’s no stress.

Alternatively, I could simply let off on the gas as I check the mirror, signal and check over my shoulder, and slide in behind the car. Stress on me? No. Stress on the other driver? Quite the opposite.

Here’s another one. I’m in a traffic jam and need to switch lanes, and signal and do the shoulder check and all that. Then the driver in the car the next lane over slows down and makes space for me to switch. What a cool gal. Before I go zooming off, I give a big wave long enough for her to see. Whether she actually sees the gesture or not, I don’t know, but I do know that every time someone’s given me that wave of gratitude I get good vibes. It totally acknowledges what I’ve done for the person, and reinforces that behavior in me. All that, for such a tiny move!

I’ll also say how cool it is for someone who has the right of way, or has the road advantage, to give the small gesture to go ahead before them. It comes as a nod, a slight wave, even a finger point in the direction you want to go. These are cool moments, quite heroic in the way that can’t be forced, admirable. Tiny, tiny gestures, but great actions. World-changing.

Back to the train station entrance. Today I wasn’t in a great hurry, thanks to good hustling upon waking, but I was ready for a little bit of friction as I neared. Lots of cars as usual, and as usual one driver that was in a position to help me did not. No worries, I waited for the wildebeest to pass. The car behind them was stopped. Not only that, but this person actually signaled for me to pass by flickering their headlights! Not high-beaming, which even with good intention can be obnoxious, but switching the lights off then on. What a subtle yet graceful move! Simple and brilliant.

I gave a good, long wave of acknowledgment as I passed. What a winner there. To be nice is one thing, and in itself it’s something to be admired and acknowledged. It is good for the world. To be nice with good taste, that is skillful and extraordinary.

Who would think to flicker their headlights off and on, rather than high-beam? Very few people. But now there are two of us at least.

Kind actions are often subtle, quiet, and in a funny way, embarrassing to the beneficiary because they’re vulnerable. They are like gifts and in a culture of independence we don’t like to receive unsolicited help. Many of us don’t even know how to receive. But we can learn.

Live powerfully.

The Down and Dirty of Creating a Morning Routine

The idea is to establish a complete and aggressive schedule that lets you accomplish essential start-of-day tasks and puts you in a winning position for the rest of the day.

Part of this is taking care of basic needs. Nutrition, elimination, and basic hygiene are some elements that are necessary to a good start to your morning.

Another goal is to include some type of meditative and physical exercise to get yourself warmed up and energized.

Steps

1. List the essential tasks in your morning. Things you must do to feel healthy and good for the rest of the day.

2. What is your deadline? If you work away from home, at what time must you leave in order to be comfortably on time? Determine a comfortable estimated time of arrival at your workplace, train station, or other final destination for work that is controllable. Then, use experiment or your most trustworthy phone application to find the time that you must leave in order to meet that ETA. Take five minutes from this leaving time. This is your “walk out the door” deadline. If you work at home, choose a start time and subtract a minute or two to get your deadline.

3. Make a list of times. At the top, write the deadline. Place your essential tasks below this. Order your tasks to follow a natural sequence for your body and mind. Remember, you will end at the bottom with the first moment if consciousness, the moment you wake. The next thing you do after waking could be physical and rigorous exercise, or it could be gentle and slow journaling. Think about this deeply and create the order of all your essential tasks.

4. Next, determine the number of minutes you want to give each task. Write them next to each task. Do not try to easily assume that ten tasks will fill an entire hour of your morning routine. Think hard about how long things take. For example, do you really need 45 minutes in the shower? Try imagining a 5 minute shower. If you actually went from 45 to 5 minutes, you would have 40 extra minutes to do some awesome, fulfilling morning tasks. With that being said, showering may be the best part of your morning. It is up to you to decide what you want to get done and then how much time you will give those things.

5. Calculate the times and find what time you will need to wake up in order to complete all tasks. Surprised? Decide whether you will go to bed and wake up early to make this happen. If it’s too early, adjust the durations of your tasks and consider eliminating some tasks. This compromising may cause you to reconsider waking up early.

6. Open up your alarms setting on your phone or computer. If you don’t have multiple alarms, you can either write your schedule clear and large on paper, or purchase however many analog alarm clocks it takes. Set your deadline alarm with an appropriate, no nonsense label like, “Walk out the door”. Have it actually sound an alarm, something alarming.

7. Set the start time of your penultimate task, label it if possible, and make it silent if you have family or roommates. Go down your list of tasks, setting alarms for the start times of each task, labeling them, and silencing them if you want.

8. Set your wake up alarm. If you have a second alarm clock, preferably a battery- or windup- powered mechanical clock, set the wake up time on that too.

9. Place the secondary alarm clock outside your bedroom door. Have it on the ground if you can bend over reasonably well, or somewhere a bit lower than comfortable. This will make you move and will wake you up!

10. Place your primary alarm, the one with all the alarms on it, even further away from your bedroom. The next room over or the living room, depending on your home layout. You will now have to hustle to turn this second alarm off. Furthermore, this means you will need to leave your phone, if that’s where the alarms are set, outside of your bedroom. You won’t be needing it once you’ve gone to bed. Put that thing on airplane, plug in the charger that you’ve cleverly removed from your bedside nightstand, and get serious about sleep.

11. Go to bed, wake up when your alarm goes off, and get your morning started.

Live powerfully.

Break in routine, nothing new with Thanksgiving

Feeling tired today. And training didn’t wipe that away as I’d hoped it would. I expected as much. Thanksgiving week brings with it lots of junk food, namely wheat and sugar, and alcohol too. It also brings a disruption to my daily schedule.

I’ve been training every day, but getting up and going to bed at different times. This also threw off my energy. My main focus this week is going to be to get back on schedule.

The past couple of weeks have been a great trial period of getting my training sessions in at the start of the day. I want to reinforce the sleep and energy schedule that I’ve been building up through routine. I’m finding greater energy from eating dinner and going to bed without excessive delay. I miss out on shows and movies and chill time, but I gain in not being tired and miserable and lazy the next morning. I love the newfound ability to jump out of bed and start living at the crack of dawn, without compromising sleep.

It’s a work in progress. Days like today I learn again from negative feedback how important discipline and routine are.

Live powerfully.

Ringing in a beautiful day with my kettlebell

Two weeks into Simple & Sinister training, doing daily sessions of one hundred swings and ten getups, I saw that I was getting strong in a new way. I did not learn to control a swinging mass through powerlifting. Nor did I lay on the ground and lift a weight up to standing, guiding my shoulders through all these different frontiers.

When I was two months into it, the daily training got me stronger still in new ways. I formed and tore callouses. I recovered faster from training. My work capacity increased. I became more disciplined.

When I was four months in, I started to feel like I was really getting a handle on the bell. Swings felt easier, more natural. Getups became less of a workout and more of a practice.

Six months in, I realized I was getting even stronger. I was beginning to develop skill and could see between the frames. I saw the inner parts of the movements I thought were seamless and found weakness and hesitation. I didn’t always pull back with my lats on every swing. I sometimes tensed too much and became weak at the top of the float. I found more effective cues and more efficient methods of executing the movement. And on every stage of the getup I felt tiny instabilities, slight immobilities, and ounces of doubt that had built up over time. I began to work on these in-between gaps.

Nine months in now, I wake up and see that there is a stronger familiarity with the kettlebell. What once was just a sphere that I swung and lifted has turned into a more granular entity, with endless bumps and nooks and crannies and irregularities. Every bit of the molded iron has some say in how it will move and challenge me. And I am learning enough of the language now to respond in an elementary way.

I’m finding that it’s better to relax and treat the swing like a game of throwing the bell forward. Better to take on the spirit of a playful dog than that of a charging bull.

I’m also seeing that getups must be done with full intention. There is nothing outside of the goal of pushing that mass up and focusing on it until it’s back on the ground. Everything revolves and builds up to that.

I take up the same kettlebell every morning and find a new lesson prepared in that cold iron each day.

Live powerfully.

No Rain

I was much more confident this morning as I grabbed the kettlebell and headed out the door to train. Yesterday was a big win in completing an entire S&S session before leaving for work. It was all the more salient because it was raining and windy, and it was the first time exercising on a schedule since I started working in San Francisco.

Well today I got down to the first floor, set my kettlebell down on my doormat which I carried too, and felt something different. I was a bit more nervous than yesterday. What was it?

The moment I started warming up, I realized that without the pattering rain and howling wind, it was too quiet. The sound of the kettlebell scraping the mat as I pulled it off the ground, my breathing, and the thud as I set the weight down made a much larger impact than they did yesterday. Of course, I must have made the same amount of noise during both sessions, but today it was just a bit unnerving. I was pretty sure that the sounds I was making carried pretty far.

I proceeded anyway. After the first set I didn’t care so much. After four sets I was breathing so hard I’m pretty sure I woke at least a few people. Funny that now I’d prefer the rain and wind to blanket all of the noise I can make while training. Just yesterday I cringed at the sight and sound of it.

After my seventh set, I heard the punctuated footsteps of a woman in heels approaching from around the corner.

Great. Without my glasses, I can’t yet make out faces. My vision is another thing I’m training. More on this another time. I can detect intention, though, as in whether this lady would go straight past, or turn and walked toward me. I didn’t want to frighten her. I know that the sight of a man standing in the middle of a corridor in the dark of dawn can be quite alarming. So I rubbed my hands together loudly, spreading some of the chalk over my palms and trying to act like I was a normal resident catching my breath in between sets of kettlebell swings. I don’t know if I was able to convey it in the moment.

Sure enough she turned toward me, very deliberately and bravely, to go through to the parking lot behind. I hastily picked up the bell which was sitting in the middle of the path, gave a disarming chuckle, and said good morning. The lady returned my greeting, excused herself and walked past quickly. Over my doormat. Welcome to the parking lot, I guess. Encounters with neighbors can be awkward.

The thing I love about this is that it’s random. Ideally I would have my own lot of space to train, be shirtless, enjoy the dawn.

I don’t. I have the common grounds and corridors and walkways. People are going to pass by, look at me, and perhaps not appreciate a person swinging a large heavy load around. It’s not something that raises property value nor attracts uppity residents. Yet I must train, and I want to do it where I live, when I want to. Whatever comes my way is just another element of the universe, and if it doesn’t harm me then I am better from it and proven resilient.

When I had access to a gym, I was able to progress rapidly through heavy weight. It was a stable environment, equipment the same, a roof overhead, and usually the same people around also training. It was easy to focus on increasing my strength in the five powerlifts. The only real challenge was to pay attention to form and movement, and to overcome fear of being crushed.

To get big, and to get strong in five lifts, the gym is great. These lifts made me stronger in many different arenas of life. However, they were complex in terms of equipment involved, logistics to get there and back home, cost for membership, and the usual gym politics bullshit.

Kettlebell training is simple. I have a kettlebell, and I use it when I want to. It’s not easy, though. The movements themselves are much less stable than powerlifts. Swings involve twisting and acceleration and virtual force. The environment is more open too, both intentionally and unintentionally. I’m exposed to people and animals moving around, different types of ground, and weather. There’s also the possibility of destroying something if I let go of the bell mid-swing.

As soon as I begin to get comfortable with one aspect of this mode of training, I find another challenge. Like rain, and then no rain, and training at dawn in close proximity to a bunch of slumbering neighbors. It never ends and it’s all part of the fun.

Rain

It started last night and gathered strength through the early morning. A little howling wind joined in and the two of them flew through the tall corridors of my apartment building. The scent of the town, the wooded mountains, and the ocean beyond lingered as the wind and rain swept past.

Oh boy, I thought as I looked out through the blinds. It was still dark at 5:30 am but the light in the parking lot showed very clearly the drops falling past to the ground. Just yesterday I made a very detailed schedule for the mornings, afternoons, and evenings, to train myself to get things done.Well, the morning part involves about five alarms on my phone, one signaling the start of my outdoor kettlebell training session. I swallowed hard, knowing I didn’t have a great light waterproof jacket on hand. What I did have was the carport roof, but my car was taking up most of the space. No matter where I trained, it looked like I was going to get wet.

No need to worry about it. It is what it is, I told myself. I went about the other morning routine tasks and when the time came, I took up my iron and walked out the door. Shit it was wet. I had to be careful going down the concrete stairs, which were much smoother than I remembered. Even barefoot, it was pretty slippery. I got to the bottom okay and looked around. I realized that the corridor was open and dry, but it was right against my neighbors’ walls on both sides. Their patios were also right there, and I worried that they might hear my breathing. Kettlebell swing breathing can get obnoxiously loud. But it was kind of nice there, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to stay dry. So I found a good flat area and set the weight down.

I snuck back upstairs and grabbed my welcome mat, so that I would’t be clanging the bell against the concrete floor at the end of every set. A fifty pound ball creates a bigger thud than you’d think, even when set down as gently as possible. I can only imagine how annoying and terrifying it could be to wake up to the strange sound of sharp, punctuating puffs of air interrupted by the dull clang of iron on concrete. Sex? Strange beast? Military occupation??

Yes, these thoughts bounce between my ears, and can discourage getting out into the cold and wetness to exercise in the dark. But I found that grabbing the weight and feeling its pull and stepping out takes care of the doubts. I had my set up ready. Did the warmups, some squats, hip openers, and halos, took one very short moment to consider the consequences of a dropped kettlebell at six in the morning, and proceeded with the first set of swings.

It was great. I felt strong. Yesterday I didn’t make enough time to do all of the exercise I wanted, and it was great to fire it up today. I was able to recover pretty quickly between sets doing the usual shaking out of limbs and deep out breaths. The pebble-studded concrete provided good grip for my feet. And best of all, the mat stayed in place and completely absorbed all sound at impact with the bell.

The hardest part was trying not to breathe too loudly. Man. I do think this is good training in some sense. I wonder if special ops or any military groups need to train to be absolutely silent under intense physical stress. It makes sense, if they’re on stealth missions. Anyway, this was hard. I got a bit light headed when I wasn’t breathing out enough, so I had to adjust every few reps by pushing out more air at the top of the swing. I finished the ten sets in good time, about ten minutes. Hauled it back up and did ten getups inside. The details and instruction for this regimen can be found in Kettlebell Simple & Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline.

So it wasn’t the heroic session I thought it would have been at first. I have trained in the pouring rain, and while it is a great lesson it is also quite exhausting. I’m glad I didn’t have to do it today. Perhaps a day will come when the neighbors fill the corridor with discarded cabinets or laundry machines, or a horde of raccoons prowl menacingly there, forcing me out into the weather. That is accepted. Today I got lucky.

Most important to me is that I set a goal and achieved it. I’m trying to develop stronger discipline to reduce my susceptibility to random things that prevent me from exercising in the morning. A few days off are fine, but too many gets annoying. I found today that setting silent alarms for key stages of the morning helped me to stay on track. It’s too tempting for me to sit a little longer with my coffee, read a little more, stay on the toilet a little longer. 

You might think this is spartan and too harsh, and if so this is not for you. I envy the person who gently maintains their high level of discipline. But if you believe that being a little strict on yourself can lead to happiness, you might actually find that going to the extreme is even better.

Treat hot with hotter

There’s an old Korean saying, “treat hot with hot”. The application is such: when you’re hot, as on a hot day, eat hot soup. Taking in something hotter causes you to cool down.

Doesn’t make sense? Try it.

This past Saturday, the temperature hit 105F in Los Gatos. Temperatures were rising in the days leading up to the weekend. It just so happened to be the week I started working on another backyard garden project.

I started trimming the outer leaves of drought tolerant plants and laying them as mulch over some dry dirt beds to prepare soil for vegetable growing. Fruit trees needed to be harvested, late summer seed to be sown, and spring plants cut and laid as ground cover. I’m using some ideas from Masanobu Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution to rewild the garden.

Most days I was out working in the middle of the day, through to the evening. I was in full sun, with short sleeves or shirtless. From Monday through Thursday, I wore jeans. On Friday through the weekend, I resorted to shorts. I wore a hat that shaded my face and neck when it got too bright.

Each day started with a big drink of water, kettlebell swings and getups, and then another big drink of water. I usually planned out the general tasks, mostly doing the heavy cutting and hauling work in the beginning, and ending with fruit picking and planting toward the end. I sweated a lot. At times I felt a bit faint while working, but a moment of rest with some slow breaths helped me recover. Occasionally I went inside and cooled off, drinking water and looking up various gardening blogs.

I tanned, but didn’t burn. This may have been because I spread a little coconut oil on my skin. I also think that working under the sun in mostly standing and squatting positions will not lead to skin damage the way that laying out to “tan” will.

Because I was outside every day in the heat and the sunlight, I adjusted to it. When I was indoors, I didn’t need air conditioning. Previously intolerable heat became quite tolerable, if not comfortable. As a matter of fact, when we drove into town on Saturday, I realized that the AC in the car was actually causing my internal temperature to go out of whack. It felt hotter and hotter as the AC blasted against my skin. Turning it off and opening the windows to the hundred degree air actually helped my homeostasis normalize. I felt more comfortable.

Just like every other plant and animal on this earth, humans can adjust to changes in temperature pretty well. Just look at all the different climates humans have inhabited. The thing is now, so many people are in air conditioned rooms all day, every day, that they are not letting themselves acclimate to the natural changes in temperature.

There’s something about going with the seasons and melding in with the rise and fall of the heat. Just being able to work through a very hot day dispelled a lot of misunderstanding about a human’s capabilities. Sure, it’s vital to drink enough water when doing this. But even in hundred degree weather, a few gulps before, and then a few gulps a couple of hours later, was sufficient to keep me sustained and strong. Remember, too, that this was all preceded by thirty minutes of kettlebell training.

This is just an example. No need to deliberately put yourself through unreasonable conditions. Know that you have a body that can handle a lot. And let yourself feel the limits here and there. Try not to automatically reach for the AC when you feel a bit warm. Breathe, sweat, acclimate.

Yes, sweat. That thing that we all try to avoid doing. Its your internal climate control doing its natural work. It also helps you release stress. And it cleans your skin from the inside out. Find the time and the place where you can just let go and literally be yourself.

And yea, try some hot soup on a hot day.

Live powerfully,

Steve