Posts Tagged discipline

Over 2500 Days In A Row Of Exercise

Yesterday was the 2,506th day in a row that I have spent five minutes or more doing some kind of exercise. And I do not count the hours of tennis or squash, which sometimes occur 3-4 times a week and can add up to 7-plus hours a week of vigorous activity. Almost seven years, never missing a day. I did something on trips to Mongolia, Easter Island, Japan. I rose out of bed, when I remembered that I had forgotten. I even exercised the other day after 1:00 AM.

A terrific achievement for me, because I was so lazy in my previous life, going months without doing anything. I stopped going to the gym after a futile attempt. I wouldn’t pick up weights that were in my office. I was hopeless.

Then one day, ashamed and disgusted, I challenged myself to do anything for at least five minutes, whether rowing on a machine, push ups, pec flys, stretches, planks. Sometimes I was active for 15-20 minutes.

Last November I overdid a machine in a hotel gym and messed up my left shoulder. That forced me to do physical therapy to gradually recover. Couldn’t push a seat belt down or take off a t-shirt without pain. But the PT and other exercises have made a difference. Am back up to a 3-minute plank (record is 5 minutes) and pec flys with 10-pounds (used to use 25-pound weights). It’s all a process, a slow slog…for someone who used to be a slug. No more. 2500 days in a row, without missing one of them…

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1000 Consecutive Days!!

Last night at midnight, after playing tennis for two hours until 8:15 pm, eating, driving home and digesting my meal, I did 12 1/2 minutes of abs crunches. It was the 1000th day in a row that I have done some muscle-building exercise for 5-20 minutes. Tennis and squash don’t qualify. I have proven to myself and others that I CAN be disciplined enough to make myself do this. No matter if I was in a tent in Mongolia or on vacation in Europe or Japan.

I am extremely proud of the self-confidence I have acquired in the process. Yes some friends, like one who was a dancer and stretches or moves an hour a day quite often, are not impressed. But this was a supreme challenge to me for decades, because months would go by in the old days in which I did absolutely nothing.

No more. It is a regular and essential part of my life. I fantasized about stopping now that I have reached this incredible marker. But I decided that would be dumb, having made it this far. Now to think about what may be next. A tougher challenge?

Whatever takes discipline, I now know that I have quite a bit…

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731 Days Of Continuous Exercise

On November 12th, 2011, I started a daily exercise program to see if I could be disciplined enough to stick with it. Just 5-15 minutes of push ups, abs crunches, weights, rowing, anything. EVERY DAY. No matter where I was in the world, no matter how many hours of travel, tennis, business, family. I was not able to exercise often before that time. Now I do it religiously. And as Jerry Seinfeld says, “Don’t break the chain.” Here is what I wrote a year ago.

I still can’t grasp that I do it. Two long years. It has wrecked my dinner-eating schedule, because I often procrastinate doing the daily drill for hours, and don’t want to eat until AFTER I exercise. But I am still willing to pay this price. It is often inconvenient and tiring and a real effort. But I am still sticking to this routine. It is not easy. Other people swim every day, or go to the gym four times a week, or run consistently. However I have no interest or discipline in those sports. I play tennis enthusiastically 2-4 times a week and also do my brief little daily workout. It keeps me toned. No muscles. But satisfied. You just have to find what works for you. And I have been very fortunate to have found something at all.

Some friends and family members have also started counting how long they could stick to an exercise routine. One was up to 50+ days. I don’t ask if that has continued…don’t want to make someone feel badly if they stopped. What’s most interesting is how annoyed people are that I do the drill every day. Maybe they are jealous, envious, pissed that they can’t do it. But I ignore their displeasure. I keep on slugging it out.

You ready to start doing anything? Doesn’t have to be every day…just do some exercise every week…

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I Broke The Chain

It’s pretty obvious that I have not been writing regularly. In the words of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, I broke the chain…of consecutive (or even frequent) days in a row of writing here. I could blame it on my trip to Mongolia. Whatever. I came back jet lagging, then addicted to the US Open…then the America’s Cup…then debilitated by the fights in Congress…then depressing work on taxes…then someone ran over my wife’s little dog…still sad about a friend who died of a stroke…etc etc. Plenty of excuses.

I DID continue to exercise every day. The links in that chain are still intact. I have done some exercise–no matter how late, no matter where I was on the planet–for 696 consecutive days as of today. It’s barely a source of pride anymore. It’s a regular part of my life. Inconvenient some times, when I return home from late afternoons of tennis, and I have to wind down for an hour before I exercise…so that I can finally eat afterward. I feel real hunger pains. But that’s my life now.

Writing is another story. I need to push myself more here. I have always been undisciplined about writing and exercise. Conquered the latter. Now time to work on the former.

By the way, I have started playing tennis more frequently after the summer games ended, and the indoor/winter games are just beginning. I will write about a major improvement…

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Over 600 Days Of Daily Exercise

Today will be the 604th day in a row that I have forced myself to exercise for 5-15 minutes. In the beginning I was impressed that I could stick to it. I read that Jerry Seinfeld made himself keep writing comedy routines every day by never “breaking the chain.” After years of thinking I had no discipline, I have proven myself wrong, changed my self image, grown in self esteem, kept some tone, can still see some abs…at least a 4-pack.

I might play tennis four times a week, but those games don’t count…I still do “my exercises.” I travel to France for a week…I do them there and before/after the flight. No matter where I am, no matter what I have to do, no matter how late—and sometimes it might be almost 2 am—I do my exercises: abs crunches, abs bicycles, bent over rows with weights, pec flys, push ups, planks (reached five min in Japan, four min the other day), wall sits…these are my regular tasks. Sometimes it is agony.

I heard this week that Novak Djokovic stretches two hours each day. But he is a professional. A former prima ballerina from the NY City Ballet told me that “anyone can find an hour-and-a-half a day to do exercises and stretches.” I thought she was naive. I barely had time to eat some meals when I started my own business and struggled to keep it going.

There were gym rats I met who had no girl friends or needed to get away from their wives. I saw them at the gym, when I went for two years. But I couldn’t keep spending 2-3 hours each visit, including travel to and from. So I gave myself the challenge of doing “anything for at least five minutes a day. 600 days is 20 months. I still can’t believe I did and am doing it. But it is one of my major accomplishments…if I can do it, maybe you can too.

The other day a friend complained that he joined a gym five minutes from his home and went a whole year WITHOUT EVER MAKING IT INSIDE! The owner gave him another year of membership. I told him about my daily routine, and I don’t think he felt 5-10 minutes a day was very impressive. However he said maybe he was setting his bar way too high. I’ll check in with him the next time we meet. Hope he is doing something…

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Fearing Poor Health And Painful Accidents

For two weeks, I was pretty distracted. So I didn’t write. Much of what happened reminded me of how important good health is and how quickly our physical circumstances can change. Life is so fragile. It’s amazing we don’t live in constant daily fear. There was also the tension of the election and arguments about who would win.

First was giant hurricane Sandy, requiring preparations like removing outdoor furniture, gathering supplies. I grew up used to lots of hurricanes in Florida, where we would buy batteries, food, and fill up the bathtub with water. After Sandy hit the northeast on October 29th, I had power, but for days no land line phones and internet. Fortunately I have satellite TV, but seeing the devastation and fires probably depressed me. We only lost some trees. Nothing. Spared. I was numb for days.

But a friend has had no power for 10 days. Yes he has a house, but that is still a big change to deal with. Another friend in Brooklyn can’t buy gas, her Manhattan office is still without power, her subway doesn’t work. One day your life is different. So fragile.

Then I found out about an acquaintance, age 63, who walked up stairs, his leg gave way suddenly, and he fell on his neck. He is now confined to a wheel chair, maybe forever. So fragile.

Two weeks ago I found a tick on my chest. Hadn’t even been out in the woods. Probably picked it up from the dog who had eight of them I located later. A friend who had a severe reaction for months from Lyme disease had a relapse: headaches, joint pains. Would I get that too? The bite location is still red, but I don’t feel any of the systems. So fragile. One day your life changes.

Another acquaintance has a husband in his 50’s who stopped communicating. No words, no thoughts come through. She has to take care of him constantly. One day…

How do we live through all these possible calamities and not be either terrified constantly or grateful for every healthy, happy moment? Is the fear just so great that our brains won’t let us think about it? I met a boy on a bus in Japan decades ago who braced himself during the ride for the crash that could happen at any second. Tensed and white knuckled as he gripped the pole or seat hand rail, he was ready. But what did that do to his equanimity? Destroy it? Or give him peace, because he was prepared. I was 21, he was my guide, and I never forgot his continuous fear of the bus crash, his legs extended out in front of him, just in case there was a collision. I wonder if he lived a long life, or if his fear poisoned his system and made him sick?

These daily doses of terrible events and accidents from the media can’t possibly be beneficial…other than teaching us things to watch out for and avoid. Then people we know have so many stories of their losses, setbacks, tragedies. Yet somehow we go on, trying to be disciplined, doing what is right or good for us, what we hear is healthy and beneficial. All such a muddle, a jumble, a mix up and a hodgepodge. Or as one effete snob writer explained, “gallimaufry.” I had to look that word up. Can you believe that someone writes like that in a newspaper, where she is supposed to be communicating to the masses! Idiot. And so I rant in the face of Fate’s wheel turning turning turning and scaring us if we let it.

Now I will stop writing and do some exercise. This will be my 366th continuous day of exercise. A full Leap Year of discipline. I have reached this simple goal. It is a way to give me pride and confidence. A bit of tone, not really bulking muscles. But I am striving to enjoy the after effects of each session and also defer my inevitable bodily decay.

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365 Continuous Days Of Exercise

On November 20, 2011, I wrote that I had exercised nine days in a row and wondered how many more continuous days I could keep on exercising. This was a difficult challenge, because my whole life I have been totally undisciplined, when it comes to even five or 10 minutes of exercise any one day. I can pass on foods not healthy for me, I can save money, I can return phone calls…but I can’t make myself do some push ups or crunches.

But I changed. Somehow. I wish I knew what made me able to do it.

This week a friend told me that I have become “a fanatic” about this daily exercising. It was said as criticism, not as admiration. Yet just now, at 11:30 pm, after dinner and two hours of tough tennis this morning, after almost three hours of business and conference calls on a Saturday, I completed my 365th day of continuous exercise. I didn’t miss one day the whole year. Although I just noticed that 2012 was a Leap Year, so there is one more day to go this particular year.

So how does it feel? I certainly don’t feel crazy. I have certainly been proud to report my progress and describe what a huge accomplishment this is for a guy who was only able to dream about such discipline for at least…55 years? Since I was a teenager and wanted to have a better build. Other guys could lift weights and bulk up. No interest. Other guys went to the gym 2-4 times a week for decades. Not me. I stopped that after 2 1/2 years. But somehow frequent tennis playing and just 5-15 minutes a day of exercise have proven satisfying enough and felt good enough to keep at it.

Many of the days I procrastinate for hours before my little exercise sessions. I delay dinner, or I wait for hours after dinner. I have even risen from bed after midnight, when I realized I had forgotten to do some crunches or push ups, lift some weights, do planks or quad lifts. But I am doing them.

Every single day. I did it. I am doing it. I am a different person. How did I get to this place? Maybe I will figure it out and let you know. I am proud. Surprised. Confident. Amazed that it is now a part of my everyday life. It is who I am. I feel special…not just compared to others who don’t do this, but compared to earlier versions of me. I am smiling. This is a fun journey. Where am I going? I will let you know…

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Jerry Seinfeld’s Success Formula Applied To Exercising

Jerry gives good advice

A reddit member posted a link to an article about comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s secret to writing. But the author says it can be applied to anything, and he has used it for himself in many areas. It will even work in getting people to exercise with some regularity, and I will vouch for the concept. It’s what happened to me in terms of transforming myself from a dreamer who avoided the gym and couldn’t force myself to do even five minutes of exercise a day into a guy who now hasn’t missed a day of exercise in 11 months. An astonishing achievement for someone as undisciplined as I am—or used to be—when it comes to making myself stretch, push or lift. So here are some excerpts:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

Over the years I’ve used his technique in many different areas. I’ve used it for exercise, to learn programming, to learn network administration, to build successful websites and build successful businesses.

It works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes. You may have heard “inch by inch anything’s a cinch.” Inch by inch does work if you can move an inch every day…

Skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next.

This reminds me of a friend who drank and drugged for years, then joined Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and has now gone almost 20 years without a drop of booze or dope or coke. He always says that it’s impossible to “just have one little drink” and then go back to abstinence. So he never “skips a day” of sticking to his routine. I feel the same way about my exercise chain. So I make myself do it to keep the chain going.

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325 Continuous Days Of Exercise

When I do my 10 minutes of exercise tonight, it will be the 325th day in a row. I am already wondering if I will stop at 365, go for 400, or do it forever? After an evening of tennis, when I was working too actively to exercise before the games, I come home and relax for an hour or two, before I can make myself exercise. Then I eat after 11 pm or so. Not healthy. But I played/practiced tennis six out of seven days from September 18-24. I was tired. Cramming in exercise was NOT easy. Yet I did it.

I have proven to myself and anyone who knows about this challenge that I can be disciplined enough to exercise daily no matter where I am in the world, no matter what the day’s events and demands. At this point, it’s still a source of pride that I made it this far, but it’s also a simple fact. It was the new me before. It’s who I have become at present.

Now my daughter came home for the weekend and brought creamy cheeses like brie and St. Andre. I ate those high-cholesterol bites with great pleasure. Then she made some chocolate sauce with much butter and maple syrup. I ate it on one spoonful of ice cream with extraordinary delight. She is a bad bad influence. I think it would be hopeless to avoid those unhealthy, fattening foods (for me) if she lived here. My secret is to not have the food in the house.

I did see a friend in Manhattan last week who has lost 15 pounds and is walking each day with Heavy Hands. He looks great, is walking more briskly and his posture has improved. He gives my fitness efforts some credit for reminding him to lose weight. His girl friend sees some tone in his arms, and he is feeling better…we all do it whenever we do…if we ever do.

At a dinner party recently with people in their 50’s and 60’s, there was lots of talk about limbs that didn’t work, backs that had been operated on, illnesses that were affecting life styles. I know lots of good health is dumb luck, some genetic proteins that work better, and being blessed by circumstances (like clean water and anti-biotics). While I can play and move, I will. I just won’t brag about it to anyone over 50. Too antagonistic…though it shouldn’t be. I’d rather be an inspiration than a source of depression and resentment. Oh well.

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225 Consecutive Days Of Exercise

The other day a friend said I was a very disciplined guy. I couldn’t relate to the compliment, because until I challenged myself to do SOME exercise—even just 5-10 minutes—EVERY day, I couldn’t do anything regularly, except maybe brush my teeth. But I have exercised 225 days in a row! I have struggled to keep this streak going, remembering after I was in bed and rising to the task, not doing the drills until 1 or 2 am, when I arrived home from a night out, gutting push ups or crunches on a full stomach that I thought wouldn’t hold the food down. I am finally tired of this late night pressure, often after a few hours of tennis.

I feel like a student actor who just wants a bit part as an extra in a movie. Then he gets that and wants a speaking role…next a credit…then a starring role. Finally he wants to direct, produce, form a production company.

Now that I have done something for more than seven months, I am announcing a new challenge, which I know won’t impress you, but seems very difficult to me: I have to do my exercises AFTER breakfast and before lunch. Or after lunch and BEFORE dinner. Somehow. And I often eat breakfast around noon or lunch around 4:00, because I am busy with work or other commitments and chores.

This limited exercise program, in addition to the sports activity, is not leading to giant muscles or increased numbers of push ups. But I do have some cut lines on my abs and arms. So it’s something. Now let’s see if I can exercise at more convenient times…

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I Have Reached Another Birthday

Ira after 1000 non-stop crunches—4/5/2012

Today I am 71 years old and have been writing on this web site for exactly three years. Although the age number sounds ancient—and I am definitely a little scared to be this old—I am thrilled beyond anything you can imagine that I have survived at all for one more year. And I am still enjoying good health. I remain grateful for so many parts of my life, and I am constantly reminded by less fortunate friends—and strangers read about and seen in media—how really crappy life CAN be and actually IS for vast numbers of humans. Of course I have setbacks and disappointments, struggles, anxieties and fears. But they are in the past, and as much as possible, I keep on looking forward.

The Buddhists say Life is Suffering. M.Scott Peck (who lived and worked just a few miles from me) says in his book, The Road Less Traveled (10 million sold), that Life is difficult. It is filled with problems and pain. It takes discipline to deal with them. It is only because of the problems that we grow mentally and physically. Many people attempt to avoid problems and suffering instead of dealing with them.

Somehow I have been able to wend my way through and around many of my problems. It’s not clear to me how or why I achieved this. I attacked them obliquely or confronted others head on. But I credit much of the progress to chance, luck and good genes. All around me are contemporaries who have had serious illnesses, injured their limbs or were born with organs that let them down. Some of these incidents might have been prevented if they’d eaten less or exercised more or paid a bit more attention. But a few are sick, because their military service resulted in exposure to toxic chemicals. Maybe, like my father, they looked left instead of right and were hit by a car…or like a friend who looked straight ahead and broke legs, when he fell through a hole in a roof. Others went on vacations to remote places and came back with lifelong diseases. Life can be so cruel.

When I was working full-time, I almost never exercised. I just couldn’t make time for it. It’s only now that I am semi-retired, and not forced to work eight-plus hours every day, that I finally have the psychological strength and time to exercise and play sports. Many friends have been enjoying the gym and sports their whole lives. They had to do this. It was not a choice. It is who they are. And when you exert yourself like that, you will have injuries, soreness, and wear out your body. So by age 71 or younger, they are no longer able to participate.

Fortunately, my genes, my attitude, my diet and now my physical activities have brought me to this wonderful, but totally ridiculous, place, where I care about six-packs, tennis swings and low cholesterol. I want to be fully alive, and good health is the highest priority. I have been sick and confined to hospitals. Without health, you just can’t partake in many of life’s activities. If these words help guide you to a fuller, lengthier and satisfied life, I would love to hear about it. I don’t know how I became who I am. But here I am, making the most of a blessed journey.

I hope you enjoyed this day, my birth day. I just learned that April 5th is also the birthday of Colin Powell, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Hobbes Gregory Peck, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy and Melvyn Douglas.

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50 Straight Days Of Exercise

I am still doing some kind of exercise every day. I finished out the year with 125 push ups in eight minutes of straining: 47 non stop and then multiple sets of 5-8 at a time to add up to 125. Being this disciplined isn’t proving so difficult. Just inconvenient some nights as I delay eating dinner or going out. I generally alternate with bicycle crunches and am up to 300 non stop, although I am touching my elbow to my opposite knee no more than 199 times (196 yesterday).

This week I arm-wrestled a 23-year old who claims he can do 50 push ups upside down with legs against the wall. This means he is pushing up his entire body weight each time. He has very strong wrists, and I was NOT victorious, although I did make him work hard one time for his inevitable win. I also played tennis and did a two-minute plank after bent over rows.

The funny thing is that I met a man who is in the gym 3-4 times a week. A friend informed me tonight that he is exercising 45 minutes a day five days a week. I know there are people who exercise every single day of the year. I will never grasp how these people do it, fit it in, make it happen. But at least I am making my own kind of progress. You have to stop comparing all the time and just do the best you can with whatever skills, talents and abilities you have.

Let’s hope 2012 brings a happier world to people everywhere. These are terrible times, and the best of times. Some are fighting for freedom and opportunity. Some are protesting injustice and exploitation. Many are frustrated with their situation, finances, politicians. At the same time, I am doing a few push ups and crunches, because they feel good, help me look better, fitter, better toned. In a couple of weeks I may be skiing in Idaho, so I have to really get in shape for that. All so meaningless…inconsequential…and the ball will drop in Times Square in 12 minutes, and the wheel will start it’s annual turn once again. Happy New Year everyone…

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How Did I Become “Obsessive” About Exercise?

Somehow, unbelievably, magically for the first time in my whole life, I am exercising every day. For 33 continuous days (and 35/36), I have done either push ups or bicycle crunches. It’s for three minutes or less. Not a big deal in time. But huge in terms of discipline. At least I am doing something. Even on the 16 days of the 33, when I spent as many as four hours on the tennis courts, in the woods hunting or hiking, and ice skating.

One day I played 2 1/4 of doubles tennis with one group, then another two hours with a second group. Next I drove 1 1/2 hours to America’s only jai alai fronton outside of Florida, practiced jai alai to near exhaustion for 45 minutes, watched a tournament, then drove home for another hour. It was close to 12 am when I dropped down to do 75 push ups (45 non-stop and then five sets of six each). That’s when I heard that I was obsessive.

Sometimes I didn’t even remember to do them until midnight or 1 am. But no matter how tired I was, I did them. This is an unprecedented accomplishment for me, and I am both proud and astonished to have achieved this challenge.

It all began when I wrote that I “could” do exercise every day if I had to. But I was too lazy. I guess it was so easy to say that I could do something that I had never done. But then I had to see if I was all talk and no action. So I began this routine. IT IS VERY HARD SOME DAYS. Especially when I am tired from other activity, forget about it, fall asleep watching TV and then wake up and remember that I HAVE to keep the record going.

It’s the continuity that I am most proud about. A few push ups or crunches over 2-3 minutes isn’t going to build much muscle. Especially compared to the guys in the gym 3-4 days a week for an hour or two each time. But I am showing myself that I can be disciplined if I want to. And my numbers are going up: I am now at 78 push ups total (after an initial 45 or so non-stop) and 250 bicycle crunches (although only a max of 176 in which both elbows touch both knees). At least I am improving. Pretty terrific.

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My Latest Exercise Streak

Today marks 20 straight days that I have done push ups and bicycle abs crunches, alternating each exercise each day. And it’s 22 out of 23 days. This has been in addition to many days of travel, tennis and even a couple ice skating and hunting. It’s a tremendous achievement for me to have been so disciplined, even though each effort is only 5 minutes max.

For years I worked in rooms that had carpets or weights crying out, “Use me, Ira.” But I never noticed them, never heard their reminding pleas. Never thought to do even 30 seconds of activity. Just couldn’t handle another stimulus.

Lately I have actually forced myself to do exercise after midnight to keep my streak going. That’s amazing for me. But more interesting is why sometimes we humans CAN do what we dream of doing? We go through little phases of concentrated activity, briefly reaching our fantasized goals…and then we are distracted or worn out or simply stop for no known reason. I often quit after reaching a new record. Maybe I feel that is enough of an achievement. But for now I am motivated to the point of action. Can’t wait to see how long it lasts…

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Starting A Regular Program Of Exercise…Or Anything Else

Just back from another 4-day trip, this time to Washington, DC. On November 11th I wrote, “We all make our choices, pick our paths. Some go to the gym and make muscles. I look in the mirror and wish I had the discipline to do that. Could I if I had to? Of course. But I don’t want to badly enough.” For whatever unknown reason, this thought stuck with me. I wondered if it were true that I could go to the gym more regularly. I can’t even get myself to do push ups each day…or week.

So on the 12th I did some bicycle crunches, then alternated the next day with push ups. It’s now nine days in a row that I have at least done bicycles or push ups. Nothing strenuous so far. Just 150-175 of the former and 43-52 push ups. But for me it’s a real achievement. This tiny bit of exercise discipline. Not sure how I was able to do it. Especially on a trip out of town, when pleasant time with others is dictating some of my schedule. At least I am exercising my stick-to-it-iveness muscles. Little steps…

Yet in many movies, and in my own life, I see that chores or achievements or obligations aren’t accomplished for long periods of time. And then something clicks. A person suddenly stops smoking, starts dieting, gets around to preparing taxes, begins some long-procrastinated, much talked-about project. Not sure what gets us off the dime. Sometimes it’s a traumatic event, like a near-death or serious accident scare. The lucky survivor makes a vow to do such-and-such and is able to stick to that pledge with determination. Maybe that is only in the movies. But after living so long, I know that moment will usually come for me eventually for minor stuff, like moving a suitcase into the attic, calling a friend I thought of talking to days or weeks ago, winterizing a car or motorcycle. Exercise? Nope. Not a regular guy in that department.

Of course there are semi-humans who are incredibly disciplined. They can do something routinely (daily or three times a week) without any effort. But I am not one of them. Never have been. Ignore a piece of meat or pie? Easy. Drop for a few push ups? Impossible.

Nine days. Let’s see how long the run goes.

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Stefaan Engels Runs 365 Marathons In 365 Days!

Marathon Man Stefaan Engels completes his last run in Barcelona—2/5/11

After writing yesterday about my inability to exercise consistently, here is an article by Eva Dou about a man who ran a marathon every day for a year to motivate people to exercise. Let’s hope this works for me…

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) February 10, 2011— People who run marathons often say one race a year is enough, both for body and mind. But that was never going to satisfy Belgium’s Stefaan Engels, who has just completed 365 marathons in 365 days.

Actually, even that wasn’t enough for Engels, who ended up completing 401 marathons in as many days: 18 on a hand bike and the rest on foot, including 365 in a row.

The 49-year-old from Ghent, northwest Belgium, is now the proud holder of the record for the most consecutive marathons, complementing his Guinness world record for the most triathlons completed in a year (20).

“It was a personal challenge,” he told Reuters by phone from his home this week, two days after completing his marathon odyssey. “I wanted to know if it was possible.”

He made it sound simple, but it was far from a straightforward “start running, stop after a year” challenge.

On January 1, 2010, Engels set out from Ghent to launch his campaign and ran the requisite 42.195 km (about 26.2 miles) on the first day. He kept up that pace for the next 17 days, but then a foot injury struck and he had to stop.

Quitting was out of the question, however. Engels bought a hand bike the same day and used his arms to propel himself through his daily marathons until his foot recovered.

On day 36—in a move that friends say is typical of the stubborn, asthmatic runner who was once told by doctors to avoid exercise completely—Engels announced he would reset the counter to zero and start the whole challenge again.

“People were saying, ‘You’re crazy, you’re throwing away 36 marathons,'” his friend Michael van Damme said. “But he was committed to running on foot all 365 marathons.”

Twenty-five pairs of running shoes later, Engels crossed the final finish line in Barcelona on February 5, completing a journey that has been compared to film character Forrest Gump’s epic run across the United States. As with Gump, local residents flocked to run alongside him wherever he went. Read the rest of this entry »

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Natalie Portman Loses 20 Pounds For Movie Role

thin Natalie Portman as ballerina in Black Swan

Here is another actor who can lose weight at will. How do these people do it so easily, when normal humans struggle unsuccessfully most of the time just to lose 10 pounds?

The 5-foot-3-inch starlet worked out between five and eight hours a day to shed 20 pounds from her already tiny frame so she could play a prima ballerina. “At a certain point, I looked at [Natalie’s] back, and she was so skinny and so cut … I was like, ‘Natalie, start eating,’” says Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky. “I made sure she had a bunch of food in her trailer.”

2010 Natalie in movie

2007 Natalie

“It was really extreme,” Portman said of her physical commitment to the role. “And I definitely felt both physical and mental aftershocks from the experience, because it was the first thing I’ve ever done that was this physically demanding on top of an emotionally demanding part,” she said.

Portman also said that, although she and Aronofsky first discussed the project nearly a decade ago, she needed more age and experience to tap into certain aspects of her character.

“For me, it’s really about someone going from a position, an artistry where you’re trying to please other people, to a position where you’re finding pleasure yourself,” she said. “And Vincent [Cassel]‘s character, though it seems that he’s sort of puppeteering this character, he is really guiding her towards becoming an artist and is really teaching her how to find her own pleasure and make a true expression of herself, that it’s about her.”

The 29-year-old went on to say that she related to her character finally realizing that it’s not her job to make others happy. “It’s about breaking out of a system where you’re easily replaceable by the next girl who looks like you…But the older you get, the less you care about what other people think and the more you just want to be your true self and express your true self.”

After posting this story, I just read another that only has to do with the movie, nothing to do with Natalie.

This is more sad than ridiculous. Call it sadly ridiculous.

The Guardian of London reports that a man in Latvia was shot and killed in a Riga movie theater after a dispute over popcorn during a screening of Black Swan. The victim, a 43-year old man, accused the assailant of chewing his popcorn too loudly, the papers report, something the accused did not take kindly.

The alleged shooter, a 27-year old police academy graduate who holds a law degree and has the legal right to carry a pistol, waited until the lights came back on to fire the gun. Possibly a questionable decision. Fellow moviegoers called the police, who cuffed the accused.

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Words of Wisdom About Tennis and Life by Billie Jean King

Tennis taught me so many lessons in life. One of the things it taught me is that every ball that comes to me, I have to make a decision. I have to accept responsibility for the consequences every time I hit a ball. It also taught me about delayed gratification. No matter how you look or how much money you have, you still have to learn your craft, you have to hit a lot of balls, you have to train. There’s disciplines of life that you learn from tennis or other sports.

Another thing is that you learn to adapt. I have these two sayings, Champions adjust,” and “Pressure is a privilege.” Tennis teaches you about those things. When you’re playing a tennis match, you can’t say, “Stop, I want to do another take,” or “Can I play that over?” That’s the way sports are. They’re very real that way. So they teach you lessons in life, but the most important one is accepting responsibility. You have to make a decision, live with the consequences. That’s what tennis does with every ball that comes to me, and I just use my experience in tennis in everyday life now and it’s fabulous. It’s been a great journey to learn those lessons.

(These are excerpts from the book Wisdom, created by Andrew Zuckerman. Billie Jean was the only sports talent of the 50 elderly celebrities mostly from the arts, political activism and government who were interviewed for this book, which was published by PQ Blackwell in association with Abrams, New York.)

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Managing Your Food…If You Can

I have learned that as undisciplined as I am when it comes to exercising, I am very disciplined compared to others when it comes to eating. My father always said that “You are what you eat.” My wife calls me the “food police.” Since high school when I weighed 170, I have reached 185 pounds and dropped to 163 or so. But that drop was during a brief period when I jogged for a couple of months on a dare to run in a seven-mile road race.

It took me years to realize that when my clothes became tight, it was NOT because they were shrinking in the wash—I was gaining fat. So I would then give up the desserts I love and bread and muffins and lose the weight. I was that disciplined. Once the pounds were gone, I was back to ice cream every night, and sometimes three desserts a day between Thanksgiving and New Years. Predictably I regained 10 pounds each December…that I would then lose over the next few months.

About two years ago, my cholesterol rocketed up to 239, which is almost heart attack range I read—so I instantly changed my diet and my life. I began exercising daily on a rowing machine that had been gathering dust, gave up ice cream, chicken skin, sea urchin and many other high cholesterol foods. Within three months I was down to a cholesterol number of 178. Amazed everyone. I stopped the rowing. Now the number is 204. Not bad. Much safer.

But I asked my doctor at this year’s physical why people who say they want to lose weight continue to eat foods that are clearly fattening. “I can’t lose weight,” they whine, and then they drink almost a whole bottle of wine, snort that blue cheese down or have just a “tiny” spoonful or two of cake or ice cream at most meals. “Not everyone is as disciplined as you,” doc pointed out. “They don’t want to give up those good tasting foods that you can avoid.” Even though some of them go to the gym more than I do, spend an hour on a machine to lose 300 calories and then have one drink or dessert that in five minutes puts all those calories right back on them. Not logical…but people aren’t logical. Read the rest of this entry »

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