Left arrow

Push Ups, Planks and Puking

№258 ~9 minutes

In which I continue this new-found obsession with quantifying myself, looking at the exercise progress I’ve made and realise I sleep more than I think, albeit unevenly.

Continuing from my earlier entry, Exercising The Demons, I want to talk more about my new found enjoyment in exercising.

But when I say enjoyment, I of course mean some other alien emotion I haven’t quite figured out yet. Definitely not enjoyment though.

More like a mix between surrender to the Gompertz–Makeham law; which states that;

The probability of dying during a given year doubles every 8 years.

And the excitement over realising that my body, much to my surprise, kind of likes the exercising.

Not only was Past Carlos an idiot, he was also wrong because apparently Present Carlos likes exercising.

At least I’m not running for fun yet.

Maybe you’re wondering, “Why?” though. I know I have.

Vanity

I’ve spent most of my life being unhappy with how I look, always feeling too skinny. Too short. Too weak.

And whilst I’m taller than average now, I used to be shorter than average before good ol’ puberty kicked in.

Sure, you’re supposed to like your body the way it is, but I just never have. Changing it a little on the other hand has made me, for the first time ever, like how I look.

It’s vane sure, but at the same time I feel calmer. More at ease with myself and that’s almost worth it in itself.

Health

Another, and perhaps more important, reason for exercising is because almost all of the men from my fathers side of the family are already dead, including my father.

And it’s from avoidable things like stroke. My father, who I barely knew anyway, didn’t take care of himself at all. He was an out-of-work alcoholic who I often ran into as he sat with the homeless drunks in town.

This, coupled with my own tendencies to get lower back problems, exasperated by a job consisting of sitting all day means that my health would probably deteriorate quickly if I didn’t start taking care of this trash receptacle of mine.

Appearance

Lastly, I want to look good for Rebecka, the wonderful woman who has chosen to spend a ridiculous amount of time looking at me.

I figured the least I can do is make as much effort as she does—because society tells her she has to.

If I had to divide it up it would look a little something like this; 35% vanity, 50% health and 15% wanting to look good for my wife.

Flexing completely new muscles

But rather than pretending that everything has been awesome, I want to tell you about some of the challenges I’ve faced when learning how to exercise—because yeah, apparently that’s something you have to learn first.

Now I don’t have a habit of weighing myself—nothing good ever comes of it—and we don’t even own a bathroom scale. Which means, the only time I would weight myself is when we go back to Finland, where my mom has a scale in her bathroom—

Yeah, it’s as convoluted and complicated as it sounds.

—This of course means that I have very little data on how my weight has changed since I started exercising.

But I happen to know that the last time I weighted myself I was about 62 kg (136 lb) and for the sake of this entry I actually went to my local pharmacist (Boots) yesterday to get something to compare that to.

Push ups

Before using an app called Just 6 Weeks—available on both Android and iOS—I used to follow a website called One Hundred Push Ups but keeping track of my progress was entirely up to me, which was a little cumbersome. Once I found Just 6 Weeks, which does all the tracking and progress guiding for me—using the exact same website’s principles anyway—I haven’t used the website at all.

Now, going into this, I had no delusions of being able to perform 100 push ups after just 6 weeks. I just wanted to find an exercise I could do from the comfort of my own home and with minimal to no equipment requirements.

After spending the first just getting a good form for my push ups, another few couple of months went by and I was making slow but steady progress.

A chart depicting the somewhat uneven progress of push ups. At first performing 22 push ups all the way up to 91 push ups with a dip in performance in September and October.
Dark blue is the push up goal and light blue is the total number of push ups I actually did.

But then came September and I found myself stressing more about getting ready to go camping and speaking at a conference, which resulted in my Monday–Wednesay–Friday routine decreasing to a Monday routine.

And then to a None At All routine.

In fact, it took me until the end of October to get into the rhythm again. Curiously I found it more difficult to return to my routine then it had been to get into it in the first place.

Planks

I read somewhere online—because everyone knows what a reliable source of information the internet is—that being able to hold a plank position for 2 minutes is really good. And the plank position is meant to be great for strengthening your core abdominal muscles and lower back.

Other sources say 5 minutes is really good and that 2 minutes is only for senior citizens who have trouble keeping their bladder tight. But figuring that I needed to start somewhere I decided that the 2 minute benchmark was a good a start as any.

Could I hold a plank position for 2 minutes?

Fuck no.

At first, 30 seconds was the longest I managed before my poor underdeveloped rectus abdominis said, “No, that’s it mate, we’re done. Unless you want to see what shitting yourself looks like, I suggest you stop this right now.”

But I kept at it and formulated a routine consisting of three sets of planks, where the first set guides the durations of the remaining two. Each set is decreased by 15 seconds from the previous one.

And if I manage to perform all three sets then I add 15 seconds to the first set the next time. This way the whole routine increases by 45 seconds every time it’s no longer challenging enough.

To illustrate it better I’ve added all the durations in this handy table.

Week 1, Day 1 of my exercise routine.
Action Duration
Push ups As instructed by the app
Rest 90 seconds
Planks, Set 1 00:45
Rest 90 seconds
Planks, Set 2 00:30
Rest 90 seconds
Planks, Set 3 00:15
Rest 90 seconds
Side planks, one side 00:45
Side planks, other side 00:45
Warm-down stretching
I try to touch my toes.
2 minutes

As part of my routine I also make sure to eat properly better because it’s important to fuel ones body.

Before my exercises I have a few crisp rye breads and a cup of coffee. I also have a smoothie made from banana, greek yoghurt, some strawberries and two tablespoons of Chia seeds—which may or may not do anything, but I bought a big bag of it and will damn well eat it before it goes to waste.

After my exercises I drink a large mug of hot chocolate.

And there you have it; This is what I try to do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

You want to know something they don’t tell you about exercising?

Sometimes you puke a little.

And—apparently—you haven’t pushed yourself as far as you can, until you’ve puked a little.

This is how I once again was reminded that the taste of banana overshadows pretty much everything else.

A brave new world

It’s a brave new world for Present Carlos, as he looks back and realises that Past Carlos—who thought he knew everything—didn’t know much at all.

Eating better. Exercising more. All things that matter and put the focus on being pro-active instead of reactive.

And now that I’m taking better care of myself I also need to remember the importance of resting and sleeping. Exercising itself is only a small part of feeling better, physically and mentally, and I need to give my body time to rebuild itself as well.

I’ve been collecting data about my sleeping patterns since getting my Jawbone UP24 but for the sake of this entry I’m only looking at the days I’ve done exercises.

Chart depicting my irregular pattern of deep and light sleep.
Dark blue is deep sleep and light blue is light sleep.

It’s only afterwards that I realise that this doesn’t give me any kind of comparison between exercise sleep and not-exercise sleep. I’m going to have to revisit this later.

I suppose the only thing left at this point is to answer the question, “So, has exercising made a difference?”

Yes.

I feel better. I think I look better. Rebecka is pleased.

And like I mentioned, I went and weighed myself yesterday and apparently I’ve gained ~8 kg (17 lb) since I started exercising 6 months ago. I now weigh 69 kg (153 lb) which I’m quite happy with considering weight gain was never one of the goals.

But I might start going for a biyearly weigh-in just to keep a small eye on any changes.

Moving on from this I want to take it to the next logical step in quantifying myself by getting access to my genetic information. Thanks to 23 And Me and their saliva-based direct-to-consumer personal genome test, that’s lot easier than you might imagine.

And whilst I won’t go so far as to call this emotion I’m feeling enjoyment, it seems safe to say that it’s a positive one. Even if I haven’t figured it out yet.

Interrogating the Demons

My Week With; The Jawbone UP3

Exercising the Demons

Explore more

There are 35 more entries from 2015. See all the entries.