Finding a gym and making time

[This post is one in a series about my fitness journey. Consider starting at the beginning.]

For the past 18 years I’ve worked out at the gym closest to my house 5 days a week at around 5:30a in the morning. Why? Because if the gym isn’t convenient I won’t go and consistency is vital for results.

Finding a gym

The first gym I ever joined was chosen solely because it was convenient. I was working at IBM in Austin and living in an apartment just 1.5 miles away. There was a 24 Hour Fitness between the two so that’s the one I choose. Having never used a gym before and having no clue how one should judge them, that was the only criteria I had to go by.

Indeed that’s been almost my sole criteria when looking for a gym wherever I’ve moved: it has to be convenient. I don’t care if this is close to my work or close to home, but I know me and if it isn’t convenient I won’t make it there. This isn’t surprising because we humans are lazy and it doesn’t take much friction to find excuses to not go workout.

Another important thing about me is that I hate crowds of people. I doubly hate showing my ignorance in front of people. So fitness-n00b me with zero experience with any of the machines or how to use any of the free weights wanted to be there at the least crowded time. I even remember asking the person who signed me up at the 24 Hour Fitness what was their slowest time of the day. He said it was at when they opened at some ungodly hour of the morning.

Making time

I don’t remember being a morning person growing up, but it’s interesting what motivates people. Wanting to look better but not look like an idiot in front of others while doing it was enough for me as I began working out every morning around 6a before getting to work at 7:30a. That has continued pretty consistently for the past 18 years.

Back from the gym – August 2018

Every morning I get up around 5a to go work out at the gym, come home, get cleaned up, spend time with Daniel, and go into work. I’ve tried working out after work but I’ve discovered that it’s never convenient — I’m either too brain-dead from the office or I have evening plans that I’d rather do instead.

Waking up at 5a isn’t for everyone, my friends would say that it isn’t for anyone, but finding some time that consistently works for your schedule is paramount to making sure you actually get there day in and day out. At first whatever routine you start is going to be hard. It doesn’t become easy until it becomes a habit integrated into your life. Even then there will be days that it slips by, either because you’re exhausted or you’re sick or you’re depressed or whatever, but it’s important that those are momentary, transient misses.

Note that while I get up at 5a I also go to bed early, around 10p. You can’t make something from nothing — the hour of my day that I spend at the gym has to come at the expense of something else. When I started going to the gym I essentially gave up TV and video games. Carving out an hour of a day every day to get to the gym is going to be the hardest part of an exercise routine for most people.

The biggest advice I have for people wanting to get started working out is to look at how you spend your time every day and figure out where that hour is going to come from. Maybe that’s cutting out an hour of TV, maybe that’s spending an hour less with friends, maybe that’s getting an hour less of sleep per night. Wherever that time comes from in your life, you won’t be successful until you find it and consciously exchange it for workout time.

Next post: Machines, dumbbells, and barbells oh my!

Always a nerd, never a jock

[This post is one in a series about my fitness journey. Consider starting at the beginning.]

I’ve always been a nerd and I will always be a nerd. And growing up a nerd up did not in any way prepare me for my fitness journey. Turns out that you can have muscles even if you don’t start in grade school with the jocks.

Imagine the most quintessential high school nerd stereotype: non-athletic, a loner, avoids all sports, and reads all the time. The only thing I was missing was the taped glasses. In my high school and junior high you had to either be in athletics and play some sport (football, basketball, baseball) or take physical education (PE). Not being a sports person at all, I took PE, taught by coaches who saw those of us in PE as degenerates who couldn’t handle real sports. To cap it all off I grew up in Texas in a very small town where everything revolved around the all-powerful football.

Because of that I’d never stepped foot into any sort of weight room until I went to college. Texas A&M had a brand new and really fantastic student rec center which had volleyball courts, basketball courts, racquetball courts, indoor track, a strength and conditioning room (weight room + cardio equipment), and probably tons more that I never knew about. I remember going into the strength and conditioning room and being overwhelmed with everything in there and not knowing where to start. It didn’t help that I was suffering from some major body-image issues, something that continued until 2016 and still does to some degree. I felt scrawny and ugly compared to all the buff college guys who were working out.

May 2005

Really it wasn’t until I graduated in 2000 and moved to Austin to work for IBM that I ever entered a gym and didn’t turn around and run. I honestly can’t tell you what motivated me to get a gym membership and start going regularly, but that’s when my fitness journey really started.

Your fitness journey begins where you are, wherever that is. And frankly it’s a journey that lasts a lifetime even as your effort into it over the years ebbs and flows.

Next post: Finding a gym and making time

My fitness journey

Almost two decades ago I started working out at a gym, thus began my fitness journey. In all that time I’ve made a whole lot of progress and have finally landed in a place where I’m ecstatic with how I look.

A friend suggested that I blog about my experience, not because I’m a personal trainer or some fitness guru, but because I’m not — I’m just a nerd who started fumbling his way around a gym.

June 2011 to March 2018

Initially I resisted this idea because I have zero professional experience in the subject — my Computer Science degree gives me cred to suggest the best sorting algorithm for your dataset, not the optimal superset for the best shoulder workout.

But then Daniel wisely reminded me that I’m the world’s leading expert on my journey, a story that others might find useful. So after giving it some thought, here we are.

I’m blogging about it not because my path was the best or only one, but to show that it might not look like what you would expect. My hope is that in these posts you find something that resonates and helps you on your own individual journey.

To prevent this blog post from being insanely large, I’ve broken it into smaller posts:

tl;dr, here are my fitness “secrets”:

  • Persistence & habit – making working out an integral part of my daily life & schedule
  • Gym familiarity – being comfortable going to the gym and working out without feeling out-of-place
  • Workout repertoire – having a large selection of workouts that I can do based on how my body is feeling on any given day
  • Avoiding vice calories – not drinking alcohol has made it easier for me to consume fewer hollow calories

If you have questions about my journey drop a comment and let me know!

Tumblr: fracturing communities

One of the biggest problems about Tumblr’s demise is that it will permanently and irreparably fracture the communities that have been built there.

Artists whose content is no longer acceptable on Tumblr (or whose content Tumblr’s bots keep incorrectly identifying as not acceptable, and there are many of them) find themselves with a wide range of other platforms to choose from. And that wide range is a negative, not a positive. Because it doesn’t matter how awesome and welcoming a platform is to a content creator if there isn’t an audience on that platform to consume it.

Sadly, I don’t see that there are any good outcomes. Two weeks isn’t enough time for a critical mass of content creators to rally around a couple of platforms and have their followers follow them there. Instead, content creators will fracture across multiple different platforms, take root, and hope that they aren’t just screaming into the void. Content followers will be forced to create accounts and follow creators across multiple different platforms. And that’s going to be too much work for many people.

It’s generally accepted that the death of Tumblr is inevitable and nigh. It’s sad that they will likely take a large portion of their content creators with them, ironically because there are too many places for the creators to go.

Why I live a semi-public life

I intentionally live a semi-public life. I blog about work and personal things here, post on Facebook (generally locked to friends-of-friends, which is still a pretty wide audience), post shameless selfies on my Instagram, use LinkedIn, and am highly googleable. I do this because I believe living an open life breaks down stereotypes and misconceptions.

Growing up I felt implicit pressure from my family to present the “right” image to the public. It could be summed up by: don’t do or reveal anything that might prevent you from running for office on an evangelical conservative Republican ticket. And yes, that’s fucked up. This contributed to my shame about being gay and other people knowing that I’m gay. It also boxed me into not wanting to publicly admit that I might do or enjoy activities that might not be seen as “traditionally masculine”.

Over time I’ve realized that while we all present some front to the world, presenting one that demonstrates the breadth and depth of our person and character helps break down stereotypes and misconceptions and allows us to find commonalities in our shared humanity. In short, it helps us to relate to each other.

Growing up I mentally divided up the world into nerds and jocks — you were either smart or attractive, but not both. This certainly contributed to some of my body-image issues. Turns out that’s not true! I’ve always identified as a nerd and over time have both made peace with my body and made great strides on my fitness journey (more on that in upcoming blog posts). It’s also one reason why I post shirtless photos on Instagram — to break the stereotype of what a nerd looks like.1

I likely present a “traditionally masculine” appearance. But let’s delve a little deeper. I often blog about my work in the tech industry – ok, that reinforces the stereotype. I think most people would agree that weightlifting and running are masculine activities and I love both of those. What about reading, throwing pottery, and partner acrobatics? I love those too, but we might be stretching classic masculinity for some folks. Ballroom dancing, baking, and sharing recipes? All things I enjoy and might make some dude-bro’s head start to hurt.

I’m not done: advocating for women & social justice, bellydancing, and knitting? All things I actively do or have done, and I suspect at least bellydancing does not rate on anyone’s “traditional masculinity” scale. Oh, and of course I’m gay and an ardent feminist. So am I masculine or not? Does it matter? Maybe the definition of masculine is so horribly broken and constraining that it actively hurts men and we need to break free of it.

My point is that once you start seeing more of a person you start to break down preconceptions about what boxes they fit into. But until we start showing more of ourselves than the label on the boxes, we only serve to perpetuate the problem.

My openness didn’t happen in a day. I slowly started revealing more about who I am and what makes me happy over time. The more I do it the easier it becomes. I still hide some of who I am for fear of being rejected or judged but that becomes less with every passing year. Eventually I will become the embodiment of Betty White, who just doesn’t give a damn about what people think. #lifegoals

1 Also, frankly, it’s because I enjoy the affirmation since I finally like how I look after hating my body for so long.

Casey’s 2018 Mix CD

2018 has been a hard year for many of us. Between the shit-show that is the GOP administration to #metoo, my community has really struggled. And this year’s mix CD playlist reflects it. (See the mix cd tag to see prior years.)

Pink’s Barbies and Better Life reminds us of simpler, arguably better, times as does Ben Rector’s Old Friends. I discovered Fire Drills by Dessa and Rescue by Yuna which are great reminders of the underlying struggle women face in this country as well as their strength and perseverance through it. This year I became estranged from some formerly-close people, bringing Somebody That I Use To Know to the forefront of my mind; because really: Take Me or Leave Me.

But this year wasn’t without (musical) redemption as I found Girl Blue’s song Fire Under Water (from a touching Las Vegas tourism advertisement of all places). Sam Hunt’s song House Party and Your Song by Rita Ora always makes me want to scoot-a-boot. Daniel and I heard orchestral performances of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes and Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence by the Seattle Symphony this year too. The former was an instrumental arrangement for strings that was simply astounding and I’ve been unable to find a recording of it anywhere.

Also, did you know that Dolly Parton is a huge advocate of childhood literacy and her Imagination Library celebrated delivering their 100 millionth book to kids this year? That’s worth a little 9 to 5 for sure.

So without further ado, this is my 2018 Mix CD:

  1. And So It Goes – Billy Joel
  2. The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
  3. Barbies – Pink
  4. Somebody That I Use To Know – Walk Off the Earth
  5. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
  6. Your Song – Rita Ora
  7. Rescue – Yuna
  8. Take Me or Leave Me – Jonathan Larson (from RENT)
  9. Fire Drills – Dessa
  10. Fire Under Water – Girl Blue
  11. House Party – Sam Hunt
  12. All Night Long – Lionel Richie
  13. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon
  14. Better Life – Pink
  15. Old Friends – Ben Rector
  16. 2 Places at 1 Time – Zac Brown Band
  17. Ladies in Lavender – Joshua Bell

You can listen to the songs on Spotify too. Note the order of the songs have been carefully curated as well, although I don’t think Spotify will let you listen to them in order on the free account.

Bye SFI, hello ExtraHop

After much deliberation and soul-searching I’m changing jobs. Next Monday, November 26th is my last day at Spaceflight Industries. I will then have 3 glorious weeks of vacation before I start my new job at ExtraHop as a lead on their performance team.

I gave notice a month ago but I wanted to stay at SFI to support my team through our first commercial satellite launch — a launch that was suppose to take place today but is now delayed (the challenges of planning around rocket launches was one factor in my decision to leave the aerospace industry).

I’ve learned a great deal during my 2.5 years at Spaceflight Industries. I’ve worked with some brilliant and hardworking people, whom I will miss, and together we solved some really challenging problems in ingenious ways. I appreciate that SFI was willing to take a chance on me being a manager and giving me the flexibility to explore what that looked like for me.

That said, I’m looking forward to stepping back into an individual contributor position. While I’m told I was a good people manager it didn’t feed my soul and I found it really draining. I’ve had some really great managers over the past 18 years and attempting to live up to the high standards I set for myself was exhausting. I’m not ruling out going back into it in the future, but for now I’m excited to sink my teeth into some gnarly technical problems and to sling some code with the rest of the performance team.

I’m also looking forward to working, albeit indirectly, with the esteemed Jeena Khan and her team of writers! Frankly, I’m not certain ExtraHop knows what they’ve gotten themselves into with Jeena and I working together again. The building might not be able to contain our mutual enthusiasm!