Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Strong Like Bull

Resolution #6: Build some muscle (10 lbs in 10 months)
Progress: Debatable

I couldn't allow too much time to pass before I covered some of the "classic" resolutions. Everyone knows January is to fitness centers what Black Friday is to retailers. In the fresh air of the new year, inspiration strikes, and somewhere in the corner of the closet, between the stretch-goal jeans, and the tacky Christmas sweaters, the work-out clothing emerges from hiding. I will freely admit that I have fallen prey to this same routine several times, although with a slightly different focus. Losing weight has never been my problem, for I fall to the other side. Every new year I determine to either start lifting weights, doing more push-ups and crunches, or actually start going to the gym. Like most of the population though, my resolve tends to fade around January 10th, mercifully before I have had time to purchase an expensive gym membership.

I'll confess. I despise working out. You won't find me in the gym daily, in fact, it would be a miracle to find me there monthly. I tend to think of myself in good shape, from all the sports I play, but I need a prize, some reward in the here-and-now for pushing myself beyond my limits. Imagining a reward 6-12 months in the future, for trying to reach my extremes in the present day, lacks the thrill of scoring a game-winning goal on a competitive daily basis. However, with the need to develop some long-term perspective, and armed with a highly discounted gym membership through my employer, this time, I am prepared.

When I entered college, I tipped the scales at a hefty 150 lbs. I started a week early with soccer training camp, and while most of the team lost substantial weight during those first days of torture, I gained 2 lbs. My body seemed determined to counter any trends, as it sought to find a comfortable weight. By the time that I graduated college 4 years later, I clocked in at 158 lbs, only the slightest amount of which was due to the cafeteria buffet. I don't have a scale in my current residence, but the last time I weighed myself at work, I had ballooned to 165 lbs. Is it possible that I gained an additional 7 lbs of muscle since leaving my daily lacrosse practices at college? It's possible, but I'm a realist, it's not likely.

Since 165 lbs seems a reasonable weight for a healthy, 6 foot male, I don't want to interfere with nature's plans for my body type. My goal will be to gain 10 lbs of muscle over the next 10 months, while losing 5 lbs of fat, for a total weight gain of 5 lbs (170 lbs total weight). I will weigh myself at work to determine the actual starting weight, and post updates on my progress. Also at my disposal is a body fat percentage analyzer, which I will use to determine the actual fat lost vs. muscle gained. My regimen will be push-ups, crunches, and pull-ups, and any other calisthenics that strike my interest. Perhaps I will venture into using some weights later in the year, if I can develop the nerve.

Have a favorite calisthenic to share? (Can favorites even exist?) Experienced similar difficulties persevering in the lose weight/gain muscle attempts? Dare to arm-wrestle me in December? You're on, softie. Comment Below!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Play that Funky Music, White Boy

Resolution #5: Learn/Re-learn an instrument
Progress: Decision Stage

Is it only in the social circles I have traveled, where learning an instrument is a required part of the "growing-up" experience? I am more inclined to believe that musical studies are a part of almost all children's lives, whether in the classroom learning the recorder, at home on the piano, or in the garage with the guitar. According to our personalities, we either embrace or resent the discipline that it brings, and some will claim our aptitude is dependent upon the dominant side of our brain. Regardless of what scientists will say on the brain, they have proven that the study of music increases concentration and mental activity, and is overall quite a stimulating endeavor.

When I was young, my instrumental studies came in the "home on the piano" variety. My mother, a talented pianist, made certain to include piano practices right beside the lists of chores, as items that must be accomplished before the day's end. Although I would have preferred to be playing the backyard, playing the piano was not so tedious, for when my studies were through, I could impress guests with simple renditions of "Hallelujah Chorus" and "Stars and Stripes Forever".

My piano abilities were self-taught, under the watchful eye of my mother, to make sure that I was actually learning. There was a short time of 11 months or so, where I studied weekly under a piano teacher outside the home, but her teaching style, and my learning style proved incompatible, and I was quite glad for the excuse to drop the lessons when the following summer schedule began to overflow.

I cannot remember for sure, but I'm guessing that it was around freshman year of high-school when the piano took a back burner, one that wasn't even lit. I stopped practicing, reverting back to the songs I had previously memorized. Throughout the rest of high-school and college, I would occasionally sit and learn a new song, memorize enough to play some rendition, and call it sufficient. I began to experiment with a little bit of guitar during this time as well, learning some basic chords, but never advancing beyond simple riffs and 4-chord progressions. My goal was to have enough skill to approach an instrument, play some basic material, and walk away as if interest was lost, or resort to party tricks, such as playing the piano while sitting underneath of it. To accompany my piano and guitar, I learned some harmonica and ocarina (a small wood flute), for the same purpose.

As the reader already knows from the listed resolution. I would like to finish what I have started. My younger sisters have all passed my skill level with the piano to the point where I can't even see them on the horizon, and my fragile ego can barely absorb such humiliation. However, in order to catch them, I am at a significant disadvantage, lacking a piano or keyboard. I do own two guitars, and could continue my studies in that realm, or I could pursue purchasing a keyboard. The purchase of a full piano will have to wait until I acquire a more permanent residence, although that will hopefully be within the next few months as well. I leave my future in your hands faithful reader, and to your decision. Piano or guitar?

Think I should learn the versatile piano? Prefer to hear me play sweet melodies on the more portable guitar? Wondering when I'm ever going to find an ocarina laying about during a party? Me too.
Comment and vote below!