Long story short, I’m trying to put on a little bit of useful weight. Skip to the bottom for the delicious recepie I’m using to jam breakfast back into my mornings.
Unfortunately, I’m not bulking up just for the hell of it. In order to continue being competitive in higher level jiu-jitsu competitions, I need to be stronger than I am.
As it turns out, this is harder do than I thought. First of all, getting strong hurts. A lot. Which doesn’t make training jiu-jitsu any easier either.
In spite of the pain, I’ve just started the Stronglifts 5×5 workout program. A number of muscly people I trust have reccomended it as a good starting point for building the type of strength required for jiu-jitsu.
The program consists of two alternating body weight workouts, each comprised of compound free weight exercises with the intent of progressive overload.
If that was gibberish to you (like it was to me a few weeks ago), what this means is that the program has you switch between two workouts which don’t involve any machines or special equiptment. You show up, lift free weights and progressively add a tiny bit more weight each session until you can no longer complete 5 reps at a given weight in an exercise.
Avoiding machines at the gym and focussing on free weights means there is a whole lot more balance and posture involved in the lifts. Because Each exercise activates (and agitates) a big portion of your body, so you have to focus on keeping your whole body activated throughout each lift, and need to focus on less total exercises to get results.
I’ve never been one to get motivated by superficial physical incentives. Muscles are nice, but if I were desperate for them I would have started going to the gym a long time ago.
I’m going to the gym primarily to hone the tools I take to war on the mats.
But what I’ve found out is that in order for all that work to mean anything on the mats, I need to pay a lot of attention to what I eat while I’m off them.
If I want to gain muscle mass, I need to be consuming roughly 4000 more kilojules than I’m used to eating every day and a large portion of that needs to be protein. At my current size, I’m simply not putting in enough food to offset all the energy I expend exercising. Which is a good problem to have. But still…
As someone mostly disinterested in the prospect of breakfast most mornings, this was a troublesome fact to uncover.
However, I think I’ve stumbled across something which is going to solve my problem; peanut butter protein shakes.
Luke’s Peanut Butter Protein Shake
1 cup rolled oats
2 scoops vanilla flavoured protein powder (whey or plant based)
2 table spoons 100% peanut butter
1 table spoon chia seeds
1 table spoon honey
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
2 cups milk of choice
The best thing about this recepie is that you can prepare it ahead of time.
Just put everything except the milk into a container or zip lock bag and pop it in the freezer. When you’re ready to have it, empty the contents of a container into your blender, add your milk and blitz away!
I’ve prepared a batch of these in advance, and am now looking forward to each morning when I get to slurp down a meal which feels like a treat, even though it’s a necessity.
I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.
Most people never listen.
Our ability to listen informs our ability to learn, grow, and thrive.
The type of listening Hemingway notes here; active, careful listening, involves more than hearing and interpreting words.
Listening is how we process feedback, and not all feedback is proceesed by your ears.
You listen to your body when it’s thirsty and to the road through the touch of your steering wheel just as you would listen to a loved one tell you about their day.
Listening is how we interpret information; turning the inputs of our world into understandings we can act upon.
The world and the people we share it with present a near limitless array of potential inputs.
Advertisers alone ensure that we consume tens of thousands every day.
Where you decide to apply your attention will determine which of those inputs shape you, your thoughts and your wellbeing.
In a world so saturated by inputs fighting for the precious space in your mind, listening carefully is the only way to register some of the most important inputs which would otherwise be lost to our periphery;
The way a troubled friend sighs as they tell you they’re ‘fine’.
The way your little cousin taps their foot when he fibs.
Or the split second raise in the smile of your partner when you tell a bad joke they don’t want to laugh at.
If we’re not mindful, these things, the richest parts of our existence, might pass us by.
Careful listening = Paying generous attention
In this way, your attention is even more valuable than your time.
Invest it poorly, and you risk leading a meaningless existence. You could live for a millennia this way and get less out of life than someone who invested well for just a year.
Invest your attention with generosity, empathy, and joy. Succeed in this, and you’ll find it hard to life miserably.
Investing wisely requires you to share your attention only with people who matter, and to share it fully.
When these people share their own attention in return, cherish it. It’s a beautiful gift to receive.
Perhaps most importantly, beware the vices of those who are more interested in leeching your attention than sharing it with you.
Sadly, as Hemingway notes, this is most people.
Listen, pay generous attention, and encourage those around you to do the same.
But if they prove unable, walk away.
We can’t afford to spread our most valuable asset too thin.
You don’t have enough to waste on those with those unwilling to invest their own wisely beside you.
We barely ever utilise the full capacity of out lungs, even though we aught to.
I first realised this in the warm-up of a voice acting class. To start, the tutor had everyone take a deep breath in through their nose. Just as we thought we were reaching limit of our inhale, instead of saying and out through your mouth, he said;
Keep breathing in.
And in some more.
Inhale until you can’t anymore.
And in some more.
Our lungs can take in way more air than we think they can.
Divers and opera singers take advantage of this every day, and while we might not remember, at some point we did too.
Have you ever payed attention to how a toddler breathes?
Next time you see one, watch their little belly bloat slowly as they inhale, pause, then contract all the way as they breathe out.
This type of breathing goes by different names, and is something we should all consider daily.
Some simply call it belly breathing.
Medically it’s often referred to as diaphragmatic breathing (the diaphragm being the involuntary muscle at the bottom of the lungs which pushes against them when you exhale).
It also gets called abdominal breathing because while we have no direct control over our diaphragms, tensing our abdominal muscles gives us some indirect control over the muscle. As our abs contract, our diaphragm pushes against our lungs and squeezes more air out than we could otherwise.
Whatever we call it, somewhere along the line most of us grew out of breathing properly.
This explains why good posture is so important to most breath focussed meditation practices, especially those which require a capacity limiting seated position.
We come into this world with only so many breaths. We can choose to take them quickly and live a short life, or take them slowly and live a long one.
Ancient Yogis, apparently.
The acting tutor used the same trick when it was time for the class to exhale. The exhale is the easiest part of the breath to focus on if you want to test the limits of your own lung capacity.
Try it out now;
Breathe out through your mouth.
Breathe out until you can’t anymore.
Breathe out a little bit more.
Contract your abdomen.
Push out any stale air you can find trapped in your belly.
Out a tiny bit more.
Until there’s really nothing left in there.
And in through your nose.
If for no other reason, you should do this from time to time just because it feels good.
We did this over and over, each time making small postural changes which made space for a little more air.
To start getting a feel for this, next time you take a deep breath, don’t focus on sitting up straight. Don’t focus on your spine. And definitely don’t imagine that you’re filling your chest, because that’s not where your lungs are.
The large portion of our lungs exist below our ribcage, so we need to imagine breathing lower.
To try this, close your eyes and try to direct your breath somewhere below your pelvis. Breathe to your tailbone, breathe to your groin, breathe to your butthole, it doesn’t matter. Just focus on filling every inch of space you can find or make… Then breathe in a little more.
If you want to learn more about breathing properly from an expert in the field, check out this interactive TEDx talk by Belisa Vranich.
Breathe well, friends! All the way to your buttholes.