Introducing The Monthly FitChal (Max Sit-Ups Pre-Training)

I’ve found that I’m more motivated to work out when I have set goals for myself. Last year, I was on a big running kick and did my first half marathon, first triathlon and my big goal was to run the San Francisco Marathon.

This year, I am still running a couple times a week, but the SF cold has kept me from doing a lot of long runs on the weekends, especially without a big race to train for. I do plan to do more racing, but I’m not sure when. So I’ve decided to mix things up this year.

Here’s how my Monthly Fitness Challenges will work:

  1. At the start of each month, I’ll post a blog post of me doing a particular fitness challenge
  2. If you want to join in, you can post your own time/score in the comments
  3. During the month, I will train for the exercise and share what workouts I do for it
  4. At the end of the month, I’ll post again with my final results
  5. If you’re following along, you can share your results too!

This coincides nicely with my goal to try new stuff on the blog —  as I’ll be trying to shoot videos for every one of my challenges. I’m sure I’ll make lots of mistakes along the way, but I’ll try to fix them as they come up. Let me know if you have thoughts or suggestions!

Note: I know it’s already halfway through the month, so I apologize for taking a while to get this post up. Future posts should come up at the beginning of the month.

Without further ado, here’s my first one: Continue reading…

230 Minutes of Meditation Down, 670 to Go

step by step (meditation)

photo credit: AlicePopkorn

Last week I posted on my new challenge for the month of April: logging 900 minutes of meditation. I thought I’d share my progress so far and also highlight a few of the great pieces of advice I received from readers.

Progress

230/900 (7 days * 30 + 20 mins this morning)

Scheduling

Doing 20 minutes in the morning and 10 before bed has worked pretty well so far. I try to get out of bed immediately upon waking and sit. Correct meditation posture involves keeping your back straight, which is great for keeping you awake when you might be a little sleepy

The Simply Being App

I am definitely enjoying the Simply Being app. Even though I think the 10 and 20 minutes of “meditation reminders” is the same every time, the instructors tone, comments and timing are just what I need to stay on track with the meditation.

Getting a Partner

right after I posted about my challenge, my friend and fellow entrepreneur Scott Allison (Teamly) hit me up about partnering for accountability. It turned out he was trying get into meditation as well. We’ve been able to keep each other on track by texting each other once or twice a day to check in.

Challenges

Probably the biggest challenge I’ve run into is that sitting up straight for 20 minutes gets my back pretty tired. The last 5 minutes of my meditations are often a big of a struggle dealing with the back soreness. Additionally, I often get the seeds of (what I think are) really great ideas during my meditation and it’s tough to brush them away and stay in the moment – it’s something I’ll keep working on.

Reader Advice

In my initial 900 minutes of meditation post I asked readers to send in their best advice on building this habit and got some great responses. You can check out the post for all of them, but here are the highlights:

  • Tie the new habit to triggers: Swizec talked about tying his new habits (writing and working out) to things he already does every day like brushing his teeth and eating breakfast
  • Find a partner – Frank mentioned that he has successfully started a meditation habit and part of what made it work was doing it with his wife
  • Look beyond your current goalsMountain Evan Chang suggested reading a book on meditation which might help me see meditation as something I could do throughout the day, rather than just logging in my time in the morning and evening.

900 Minutes of Meditation (and a request for advice!)

Yogi on Meditation.Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Beni Ishaque Luthor. via Compfight

The conundrum

One habit I’ve been wanting to add into my life is meditation. Recent research in mindfulness meditation indicates that regular practice “increases the brain’s gray in regions closely associated with memory, learning, and emotional regulation” (Greatist). Great stuff right?

I’ve had an ongoing battle with meditating since high school, when I was first introduced to it as a technique for increasing my focus and improving my ability to perform in clutch situations on pommel horse.

In college, I used an iPhone app called Habits and meditated 8 minutes in the morning and evening everyday (90% of the time) for about 6 months. Then I got some major knee surgery, throwing off my schedule and never got back in the groove of things.

The enlightenment

I recently was having a conversation with entrepreneur who is also a dedicated meditator and relayed my frustration for 1) losing this habit I had struggled to maintain for 6 months and 2) not feeling like I was getting much out of the meditation and thus having low motivation to continue my practice.

What he told me that his medication practice is one of the most important things he has in life (strong words!) and that it takes a deeper investment of time to see the returns. The longer the blocks and the more total time spent on cushion the bigger the gains.

The challenge

So I’m dedicating April 2012 to be the month where I log 900 minutes of meditation. Here are the details:

  • 900 total minutes of cushion sitting
  • shooting for 30 minutes a day – 20 mins in the morning, 10 mins at night
  • using guided meditation via the Simply Being meditation app
  • weekly updates on this blog about my progress
  • The request

    So my request to you, dear reader, is to share with me your best piece of actionable advice on building a habit, based on your own experience (or the experience of someone you know well). Please share your comment below – I will repost the best ones in a follow-up blog post on building habits!

    How Long It Takes Me to Write a Blog Post

    So one thing I had sort of meant to do is write about how my experience has been blogging 5 days a week (as I outlined in my post “Writing More”). I plan on doing a full recap after the four weeks eventually but here’s something interesting: a minute-by-minute break down of how I write my blog posts.

    I tracked exactly what I was doing in 5 minute increments for two posts and here are results. I was honestly surprised at how long it took me to write each post – but that’s the power of actually measuring what you do, right?

    First breakdown:

    Step Up and Deliver: What Gymnastics Taught Me About Performing Under Pressure

    This was definitely going to be a substantial post, though I didn’t realize how big it would be at the time. It’s funny how taxing an exercise writing can be. You’re not just hitting keys on a keyboard – it’s like doing pushups with your mind. You get tired and need to recharge. The dashed lines delineate different writing “sessions” – sometimes it was the same day sometimes it was a different days.

    10 mins – getting bullet points for post in shower
    10 mins – rapidly putting down an intro in wordpress
    10 mins – listing bullet points in wordpress
    20 mins – watching youtube videos of jordan, paul hamm, li xiao peng, jonathon horton looking for clutch performances,
    10 mins cleaning intro, organizing bullet points, embedding video
    10 mins distraction watching unrelated videos
    20 mins – fleshing out the first half of the bullet points
    —-
    10 mins – fleshing out half of the first bullet point
    10 mins – more distractions
    20 mins – more fleshing out

    10 mins – re-reading, editing, adding picture
    20 mins of editing
    10 mins – final touches


    Total time: 170 mins (2 hrs 50 mins)

    Second breakdown:

    How Blogging Can Increase Your Luck Surface Area

    This post originated as a response to a question posed on an email list – so it has a different profile, which is why I thought it would be a good one to look at. I dashed off the original email quickly and then thought it would make a good post – but of course it would require a bit of touching up. It turned out that I would spend 7x the amount of time it took to write the original email to finish a post.


    15 mins – writing email response to question from the list

    10 mins – added two 2 paragraphs

    5 mins – reread, kill intro
    20 mins – write new intro / 1st half
    10 mins – reading posts from Lingbo, who I quote
    15 mins – writing more
    10 mins – getting a picture, formatting it, getting photo credits
    10 mins – adding in links to certain sections, formatting changes for quoted sections
    25 mins – edits, clarifications, making it tighter, adding more links, scheduling post


    Total time: 120 mins (2 hrs)

    Writing More (a new personal challenge)

    Colored pencils

    I have a new challenge: I’m going to blog five days a week, Monday through Friday, for the next four weeks.

    Why?

    Three reasons:

    1) I want to produce more high quality content, and Sebastian Marshall and others have convinced me that writing more will help me do that

    2) I want to have more influence and reach as a blogger and data from Technorati and other sources suggests that blogging more will help me do that.

    3) If rejection therapy has taught me anything, it is that embarking on personal challenges can be fun and bring interesting things to my life

    A bit more on the first two poinst:

    More High Quality

    In Sebastian Marshall’s post “How do I write so much, you ask? Well, glad you asked” he talks about the law of Equal Odds which he basically interprets as meaning “a creator can’t entirely control the quality of their output. In order to do high impact excellent work, you have to do a lot of work, which includes low impact not excellent work.”

    In order to produce better stuff, it’s important to produce more stuff.

    This is similar to a story from the book Art & Fear where a pottery class was divided into two groups. Group A would get a grade for the semester based on a single piece of pottery, while Group B would get a grade based solely on the weight of the pottery they had made (50 lbs got you an A, 40 lbs got you a B, etc). Guess which group produced the best work? (Read the story to find out..)

    More Influence

    I found a study that was originally published by Technorati back in 2006 (which is like eons ago in Internet time, so maybe the conclusions are no longer valid?) but basically they show a correlation between increased blog authority (based on the number of other blogs linking to the authoritative blog) and frequency of posting. Here’s what they had to say about the “very High Authority Group” which had over 500 blogs linking to each one over the last 6 months:

    Bloggers of this type have been at it longer – a year and a half on average – and post nearly twice a day, an increase in posting volume of over 100% from the previous group.”

    Consistently producing content can be good for traffic. Another quick data point can be found from an articled called “How to Punch Through Concrete Walls” by Matt Ackerson here he talks about the law of consistency (not the same as persistence). The money quote here: “For example, for 7 weeks now I’ve been writing one article every single weekday for my company’s blog on PetoVera.com. Traffic has increased over 350% during that time.”

    I’m sold. =)

    My Game Plan

    So I’m starting today – this my first post of the series. My plan is to create a schedule:

    • Monday - Quote Day. I’ll post a quote like this one on fame and obscurity, or this Bruce Lee quote on surpassing limits.
    • Tuesday - Regular Post Day. I’ll post a full-length (300-500 word) article. No particular topic focus for now.
    • Wednesday – Video Day. I’ll post a video like this HALO trailer or my Europe trip video.
    • Thursday - Regular Post Day. I’ll post another full-length article.
    • Friday – Link Roundup + Challenge Reflection. I’ll post five cool links to things I encountered that week, and reflect on how the challenge is going.

    I’ll try to schedule all the quotes and all the videos this weekend for the next four weeks, then write the articles on the weekend, so during the week, all I’ll have to do is create the link roundup, which isn’t too bad.

    If you’ve got any ideas or comments or feedback on my plans or what you’d like to see me write about, I’m all ears. It’ll likely be a mix of startup, gymnastics, leadership and other ass-kicking stuff.

    Link Roundup

    So since it’s Friday, I figure I should go ahead and post my first link roundup.

    1) Penolope’s Guide to Blogging – My dad recently emailed me and told me he was ready to start blogging on the site I had registered for him over a year ago. This is one of the posts I stumbled upon. Very handy and filled with interesting and useful ideas.

    2) How to Negotiate Your Cable and Phone Bill and Save Thousands – I recently tried to do this and the article was a great resource. It gives you step by step instructions on who to ask for and what to say. Check it out.

    3) 48 Laws of Power (summary) – fresh off my quote from the book, The 48 Laws of Power, I wanted to share this page which succinctly lists all 48 laws. The book is super long so this post is helpful in reminding you what the key points were.

    4) What are some stupid things smart people do? – This is a post on Quora, which is filled with all sorts of valuable information. This one is a good to check in with – I assume my readers here are intelligent folks. We have certain follies to watch out for.

    5) How We Made $1M for SEOMoz – this a detailed case study from a marketing firm the focuses on conversion rates an explains the step-by-step way they studied, built and tested a brand new landing page which brought in tons of new revenue for SEOMoz.