The Pursuit of Fitness

Been exercising more and more, losing motivation and the whole nine. Still managing to keep the weight at a so-so level but not feeling that extra bump to go the whole nine yards. Now I’m about to enter the last 3 weeks of my program far from my way too ambitious goals. I want to drop a couple more kilos and not feel any meet hanging over my waist when I sit straight. Some things I need to stop if I’m going to take this to the next level.

  • Alcohol all together
  • Binging occasionally
  • More exercise during weekdays
  • Watch what I eat

There’s an evident pathology in the way I pursue my fitness goals. I’m always on a roller coaster ride either going generally up or generally down. The main problem is that I’m pretty much content with my current stats, feel a lot better and in generally better shape than I’ve been all year. The thing with really getting in shape is that you can never be satisfied with yourself. You need to be constantly pushing yourself until you put on more muscle or lose more fat. What’s more you can’t reward yourself for your efforts with more food. It gives me a whole new level of respect for these muscular pretty boy models. They must have a whole lot of will power to maintain something like that.

I’m going to have to get drastic starting this week and might have to take some extreme measures. I know I can’t starve myself to shed weight (because I just lose muscle and binge later) but I can’t eat the typical fare either. We’ll have to see.

Replacing the Office Chair with an Exercise Ball

Last week I replaced my office chair with an exercise ball. I actually bought two, one for the home and one for the office. I was looking for more ways to do something about my sedentary lifestyle as a desk monkey. Sales people get to make phone calls and go out of the office (so long as they close the deal). Management can always schedule a meeting here and there or even go on a business trip wherever they want. Programmers get to fidget in their seat all they and stare at their monitor. For exercise you go to the local cafe to grab a coffee, unless you work for one of those famous IT companies filled with toys.

The stereotypical programmer is either heroine-chic thin or fat as a balloon but on average a bit on the flabby side at best. You wont find many hardcore programmers curling barbells as they knock out one algorithmic marvel after another. So basically, I came to the conclusion, the only variable I can safely change is the surface I sit on.

I was never able to sit still for so long as I can remember. If I stay in the same spot for more than 15 minutes I get restless and impatient to the point where I have to jump out of the seat. It’s almost a disease really. I’ve always wanted to be one of those cool IT people sitting on one of those bouncy balls. It made the office look more fun and innovative. Of course, that image of exercise balls being cool probably died with the first IT bubble but I guess it’s never to late to rekindle fond memories.

I ordered a set of exercise balls off of Amazon for around $20 total. As I pushed my office chair to the side and started inflating the ball, I got cold, knowing looks from co-workers (“yeah, those used to be cool at my last office, didn’t do a damn thing for you after a while”), kicks (to the ball), and people wanting to try it. All the typical reactions I read about in doing some background research.

The first day was hell. I didn’t inflate the ball enough so it was a bit low for my desk. The thing about sitting on these exercise balls is that they are essentially fluid, unstable surfaces to sit on. You need to constantly shift your weight around to maintain your balance. As a result, paradoxically it may seem, you end up having to keep your back straighter than you usually do because it offers you the most balance and least effort on such surfaces.

My posture has always been bad even before becoming a programmer. I never was into sports to begin with and really didn’t care about posture. Naturally, my posture kept getting worse. On top of that I’m near-sighted so when I concentrate on something I tend to lean into the screen more than most people, making things even worse.

The first day of sitting on an exercise ball was the roughest. The second I started sitting on the ball my back suddenly went straight as an arrow. It was strange because it happened so naturally as I wiggled to gain stability when I first sat on the ball. After a short while my upper back was in excruciating pain from maintaining a straight line from my head down to my ball. While I wanted to relax my posture a bit, doing so would ruin my balance so there I was frozen in pain. Each day got better and from the second day I didn’t have any upper back pain. However, near the end of every workday my lower back would get really worked hard and tense from keeping my back straight. Being restless to start with now I was jumping out my seat all the time to relieve the muscle ache or rolling my hips on the ball to stretch out the small of my back.

After only spending a week on the ball my posture improved quite dramatically. I noticed the difference after only a day when I was looking at party pictures the day after I used the ball for a full day. I was just standing as I normally would without really trying to keep my back straight, yet it looked more straight than usual. It does seem to help you burn more calories too. The problem is I’ve been eating a lot more as well. Another side benefit is it keeps me from doing overtime since I can’t just slouch in my cheap, pretender of an ergonomic chair all day. My back muscles are in too much pain to stay any longer than eight hours.

It’s still too early to see how this whole thing will work out but it seems to have all kinds of benefits. Aside from getting extra exercise and better posture for free I can do all kinds of stretches whilst remaining seated just by rolling the ball around and stretching out my mid-section. When I do get to sit on a regular chair it feels like heaven too. However, sitting on an exercise ball helps you maintain more concentration though since it heightens your self-awareness. Not sure how long this phase of mine will last. I guess we’ll see.

Remembering the Artist Known As Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s death was definitely an unexpected shocker. Even though his life has long degraded into a media circus of scandal and freakish behavior, his final demise ironically allowed us to see the man behind the mask for his true artistry and talent. Michael Jackson created the MTV era. He was the first artist to offer the most complete package of visuals and artistry: gorgeous good looks, innovative dance moves, off the hook melodies, and a sweet voice not to mention creating the whole music video phenomenon with “Thriller”. Overnight people were wearing Michael Jackson jackets and moonwalking in school hallways.

What seemed like a picture perfect transition from child prodigy, to teen heart throb, to super stardom turned into a personal tragedy of excesses. Once he hit his thirties his eccentricities seemed to catch up with him whether it was his frequently changing physical appearances or strange lifestyle. He was no longer the shockingly handsome, wildly talented yet painfully shy young man but a middle-aged freak trapped in a missed childhood coasting on a cocktail of drugs.

Yet the world was fascinated with Michael more as a train wreck as the years went by. Still, the strange thing is that when you look at all his recent work after his death, you can’t help but be touched by the fact that he was and still is a super star in the truest sense of the word. Listening back to his hits I can’t help but be amazed by the breadth of songs he created from classic dance numbers, rock heavy songs to current R&B flavored tracks. His lyrics are poignant and vocal abilities highly under-appreciated for the breadth of expression that it possessed.

When you look at other superstars from the same generation such as Prince and Madonna who’ve managed to keep aging as much at bay without wrecking their looks or health you can’t help but wish that Michael could have taken a similar path instead of ruining himself. Still, there’s no arguing that despite all that passed he was one of the most gentle and sensitive superstars of this era and that nobody including himself could have saved him from his fragility.

It’s the sadness of humanity that some people can be given everything and yet be killed by the temptation of excesses. Now that he’s gone we can separate the myth and listen to his songs for artistry and the messages he left for the world. Rest in peace Michael.