Bulking, macros and intermittent fasting

Bulking has been the main goal ever since I started gym, and I succeeded in gaining 12kg, from 63kg in Jan ’16, to 75kg in Feb ’16 (guesstimate).

Problem: it wasn’t 12kg of muscle, and I was gaining this noticeable band of fat. Skinny fat is real, unfortunately. I still had my abs, but this roll of lard was annoying as hell; it made me feel like I was doing something wrong on diet. You know it’s wrong when your daughter points at your belly and says Daddy, there’s a doughnut!

That was when I started looking at the idea of watching my macros. I created a simple spreadsheet, planned my meals, calculated the daily calories, and kept to it for two weeks. Sure enough, the fats disappeared, my belly flattened out, the daughter exclaimed my doughnut’s gone. It’s pretty magical, I have to say. OTOH, it was a lot of abstinence. I stuck to water, cleaned my diet pretty thoroughly and eliminated a whole bunch of sugar. The idea was to go onto a high fat, high protein, low carb routine.

It’s week five since I started planning my macros on 20 Mar. I’m thinking it might be time to put the pounds back on. This time though, I’m trying intermittent fasting (IF) out. The theory here, is that you consume the same amount of calories/macros in a day, but restrict it within the lunch-dinner window (12pm – 8pm).  Yes, breakfast doesn’t exist. Yes, I do get hungry, and it’s a bitch.

I first got the idea about IF from a Terry Crews interview, and figured it’s worth trying out. Like what the hell, if it doesn’t work after three months I’ll just tweak my diet, no harm done. Worst case? I get skinny fat again; I’ve been there before, I can take it.

Self note: right now, I’m at 69/70kg. The aim is to get back to 73/74kg in three months, but not pack on the fats again. Slow gains, lean gains. I need to start packing the diet back on again, which means more peanut butter and protein shakes during the day. I’ll need to plan and not wing it though, need to make time out for it.

The next challenge (aside from lean gains) is to see how I cope with planning my own workout sessions. Having a trainer is great, but I’m coming to the end of my package and it’s time to figure out how I plan this. I’m thinking a paper notebook more than a spreadsheet, it might be easier to jot my routine/reps/fails at the gym that way. The good thing is, I’ve been diligently asking questions about the training I’ve been doing all these months. For example, why does exercise A go with B in a superset? Why am I doing barbell instead of dumbbell for this exercise? Which muscle groups is this exercise hitting? It’s been pretty fun learning about these, and I’ve written up some test workouts for NZ since a month or so ago, just for warmups.

Onwards!

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Post-2016 thoughts.

The year’s been a rather vanilla but fulfilling one, if I might say so.

Fitness

I stuck to my goal of maintaining a consistent workout routine. We’re really close to the one-year milestone now! Pretty pleased at the commitment I’ve made, and I feel good. Obviously, seeing the results help. Have to admit, it’s been a little shitty at times, knowing I have to say no to lunch dates on workout days, and just play the part of an anti-social c*nt, but that’s what discipline boils down to. You don’t give yourself excuses, period.

Committing to gym, also meant I had to commit to nutrition. That in turn, meant a better focus on nutrition, meal prep and understanding the results eating different foods did to my body. Can’t say I’m a veteran at this, but definitely a big step forward.

2017 objective: keep this shit up.

Related: earlier gym post.

Friendships

Really glad to have reconnected with old friends, especially my RCY mate SP. Have to admit, he made an extra effort to catch up when he was down here in Melbourne, and we’ve met up a couple more times since, a rather difficult feat considering we’re a few time zones apart. Looking forward to keeping this up!

Other great moments include:

  • Attending Anita/Richard’s wedding
  • Catching up with Nash
  • Meeting my man Olgun at last! And all the chats we’ve had online, wouldn’t trade that for anything.
  • Basketball and suppers with the Ngee Ann/Changkat folks
  • Basketball with TX, after so many years. I sucked, but it’s still wonderful to be back on the court together with the man. I still remember our poly sessions fondly.
  • KTV sessions with the ladies. Yes, there’s only the ladies. That one group.

Also appreciated all the extra time all my friends have made to keep in touch, especially the ones in Singapore (Swim Team folks, my 1-Net people). Long may this tradition continue!

2017 objective: keep in touch with as many people as I can. This is going to be hard, harder than 2016 when it comes to Singapore.

Family

This year’s routine has actually been a bit of a shitfest, to be honest. We had to manage on our own without help, and having two kids at daycare full-time was a suicidal notion, financially speaking. We ended up working something else out, but it meant a nonstop rush every single day. It’s taken the two of us to cope; I’m glad it’s all over. Next year’ll be pretty similar, but the financial burden should be tremendously reduced at minimum, and itinerary easier.

Elly’s grown a lot this year, in confidence and articulating herself. Lenny’s development has definitely been slower, especially on the speaking front but we’ll get there. All it takes is patience and consistency. He’s not an idiot, just lazy to talk when it comes to getting what he wants. Laziness is unfortunately, a trait that seems to be passed down. I wonder who he got it from, hmm. /s

2017 objective: help Elly transition to her new school and routine, get Lenny talking like a madass mofo.

*I also had this idea of getting two paper notebooks, and filling them up with handwritten positive moments for the kiddos. BUT, I can see myself fucking it up very quickly so we’ll see.

Entertainment

Yes, this has been rather poor overall. I’ve barely touched my PS3/PS4 (played PS4 for the first time in July!), or played basketball much. It’s been TV series for the most part. Daredevil, The Flash, The Walking Dead, and holy crap, Breaking Bad at long last. So impressed with it, I’m a convert through and through. Bitch.

And anime too: Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans, Dragonball Super, and rewatches of Gundam SEED, Gundam SEED Destiny.

Also kept my reading up, thanks to the new Kindle Paperwhite (old Kindle destroyed thanks to Lenny). It has been sidetracked somewhat, thanks to anime binging.

2017 objective: actually play the PS3/PS4 without objection from the wife on pixelated violence being bad for the kids. Like, really. I grew up on this kind of stuff, it didn’t turn me into a homicidal maniac. And again, TRY TO PLAY MORE BASKETBALL DAMMIT.

Travel

Popped over to Singapore twice, sneaked in a side trip to Thailand, a day trip to Sydney, and that’s basically it. Next year should be looking better: a trip to the States (or two even!), another possible to China, and mayyyyyybe something local/interstate. NBA playoffs, here we come.

Work

It’s been an educational year, thanks to Jared’s constant stream of suggestions and answers, with half of them being self-discovery. Again, thanks to Jared for leaving me room to find answers out myself, rather than spoonfeed. The deluge of projects that got dumped on us this year was a little draining, to say the least. I’m just glad we’re done with it all, project management is most definitely not our forte, especially when our priority is to help the user out.

Have to admit, I was a little sad at losing Crystal on the team, she’s been a solid dependable rock. And also, not forgetting my mate Ravi for all the chats, support all the time, and to the boss Andy for always being the perfect manager. Lastly, for a great bunch of guys at the Melbourne office. Couldn’t ask for more, really.

PnR

I knew this year was going to be me stepping away and doing less, because I would’ve burnt out if I kept at the punishing pace I’d been working at the past couple of years. So far, it’s worked out decently. The bulk of my contribution have been either on quickie pieces, or video highlights. I still think we could’ve done a lot better, but it’s still been a decent body of work overall.

Notable milestones:

  1. We made a really solid push during the Olympics, and got our brand out there to the local audience. Responses from fans have been very, very positive.
  2. Re-partnered with Goalrilla Australia for a long term promotional deal. Looking to move our advertising to a digital agency, and improve ad revenue.
  3. Pushed past 66,000 fans on the Facebook page.
  4. Crossed 1,000 on both Instagram and YouTube.
  5. Grew our traffic by nearly 50%. The trick next year will be to maintain and exceed this number.
  6. Migrated to a new web host late last year, been smooth sailing ever since. Also switched to a new site theme.
  7. Less number-centric but equally important: team building. The quality of contributors coming on board have significantly improved, and that’s lifted our content quality.
  8. Content:
    1. I think we’ve picked up the pace on the NBL side thanks to an influx of energetic folks. But, I think we can be doing much better. For example, I’d prefer to see different storylines being explored, instead of a weekly column thing. Personally, not a fan of power rankings and roundtables; they’re an easy way to generate content but do not (again, IMO) generate the kind of interest columns would. For example, stat analysis, X’s and O’s breakdowns, interviews, features and so on. More effort needed, sure. But again, it’s the kind of thing a reader would want to read, and we should be putting our best foot forward.
    2. NBA dropped off due to various reasons: new contributors (some of whom were inconsistent), Jayme/Hayley’s new jobs, Luke’s work with other organisations, Winston’s workload, plus my order not to push unnecessary coverage on subpar games. But I’m confident we’ll pick the pace up next year as it gets into ASW and the playoffs after.
    3. I took the time to compare 2015’s analytics versus this year’s, and here’s my two takeaways: lists and list-style headlines work, and the Olympics were really good for us.
    4. This is a continual question hanging in my head: how do we get more people reading our work? I’m sure every other internet content marketer out there loses sleep over the same topic.

Something that finally happened this year, was the motion to incorporate and turn PnR into a company. We’re still working our way through some of the agreements, but it’s a big, big step. Somehow, it made me feel like this just transitioned from a hobby into something more serious, like how dating became marriage. I hate the extra pile of paperwork (hello ASIC, ATO, shareholder/director meeting notes, etc) that’s going to surface by the way. Hate, hate paperwork. It just feels like some unnecessary shit that’s taking me away from what I can be doing on the site itself, and I need to make sure the burden is shared equally, not me just being Atlas.

2017 objectives: Too many. Let’s just leave it at continued growth.


Less than an hour to 2017. Full steam ahead, y’all. The best is yet to be.

This is why I have trust issues.

All too often, the world is a disappointing place.

Too many times, people cannot be counted on to put their best foot forward. It stems from a lack of ownership, an excess of DGAF (don’t give a f***), a lack of professionalism and ethics, among many other things (incompetence being one of them). It feels like my definition on a job well done, differs greatly from the rest of the world.

All of us are imperfect beings, so I guess that is to be expected. What else can we do, but use these imperfections the best we can, and move forward?

“What’s next?” Here’s how you stop procrastination

We all know procrastination is a bad thing. Why then, do we do it?

More often than not, it stems from a lack of structure, and not realising that our own habits are the problem.

Here’s what happens.

Picture this: your team had a brainstorming session for a new product line. Brilliant ideas were whizzing around, and it all came together into an absolute firecracker of a concept, something everyone thought would be a winner. Everyone left the room buzzing with energy, exhilarated and looking forward to the future.

Only, no one knew what the next course of action was. Market evaluation? A round of internal evaluation, to confirm feasibility? Management approval?

The idea sits on its imaginary bum, while another meeting is held to figure this out. And so on. You get the drift.

What if everyone had agreed on the next step to take, following that meeting? Perhaps the guys in product management figured it’d be better to check the market for potential competitors first, before anything else got done. Easy.

Not convinced?

Let’s talk about something simpler. You get home after a long day, and find something in the mail: an Aldi brochure listing the week’s offers. Surely it can wait, you think. It’s late, you’re too tired to bother. It gets left on the desk, and joins a growing heap of junk mail.

What if you’d simply taken two minutes to browse, circle the items that needed to be looked at, and placed it into the shopping bag, ready for the weekend?

That wasn’t so hard, was it? Multiply the same action by twenty, and that pile of junk might not even exist.

It even applies to email.

A new message just appeared in my inbox.

Scenario A: It’s a newsletter I used to read years ago, but ignore out of habit these days. My inbox is a cesspool of unwanted messages, I find it hard to get to the really important ones.

What if I’d simply taken ten seconds to click the unsubscribe link? Or created a filter that sent it right into Trash, without ever hitting my inbox? Replicate the same thought process to all those other unwanted emails, and we might be well on our way to Inbox Zero.

Scenario B: It’s work. Someone needs a report. It’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s not urgent. Hell, it can wait. The email sits in my inbox every day, staring me in the face until the deadline’s a week away, and then I start scrambling hard.

What if I’d taken five minutes to put a plan together after reading the email? Was the scope clear, did I need to clear it up with someone? Did I already have the tools I needed to generate the report? Who should I be talking to? I send an email to a coworker, and mark the email conversation as done. One less email to care about.

Always consider what the next step should be.

I’ll be the first to admit that this principle isn’t applied to everything in my life. I do however, practise it consistently enough that Inbox Zero is a real thing, both at work and in my personal life. Avoiding procrastination improves my mental state of mind, and allows me to focus better on the things I need to do.

Cultivate positive habits, especially ones that save time and make your life easier. What do you think the next step should be?

I suggest checking out How Habits Work, and the book that’s changed my life to getting things done: David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

Get started today.

Ego masturbation is a waste of time

It’s not exactly what you had in mind.

By ego masturbation, I meant the pointless activities that do nothing but stroke the ego and make me feel good, but accomplish nothing.

For example, checking social media engagement (“ooh, 300 likes! 200 new fans today!”) or AdSense earnings (“revenue seems to be higher today, hmmmm”).

These metrics are useful if stacked with proper forensic action (“what triggered the engagement on this post?” or “why are we getting more visits and ad exposure today?”). More often than not, I drift off after the initial endorphin hit.

Stay locked in, focus on getting things done.

The strangeness of Royal Park

Great read.

Melbourne Circle: stories from the suburbs

What is Royal Park?

This hefty chunk of parkland, north of North Melbourne, west of Carlton, has an identity crisis. It’s been set aside for public use since the 1840s. But the public has never known what to do with it.

The great parks and gardens of London, Paris and New York have a clear place in their city’s psyche; everyone knows them, and if they don’t go there, at least they know what they are for. Not so Royal Park. It’s the poor cousin of the Botanical Gardens, a place we think we value (if we think of it at all) but we are unsure why.

Over the years it’s been a place for grazing, a wilderness, a car park, a military base, a zoo, emergency housing, the site of sports complexes and hospitals. It’s housed murderers, it’s been called a ‘slum’ and a ‘plague spot’, it’s been the scene of angry protests.

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The journalism grind is real.

This is nothing new, but seeing as the topic has been a recurring theme all day long, so I’d figured I might as well put all of these together.

Firstly, via the Locked on Celtics podcast (21 Jul), by John Karalis and Jay King. These guys are two of my favourite Celtic writers, especially Jay in his early days with CelticsTown.

Little side story: John probably doesn’t remember this, but I reached out to him for advice on Twitter DM back in 2012, when I was starting out.

In his words: “It’s a lot of hard work but if you’re dedicated you will be fine.”

He wasn’t kidding about hard work. I’ve kept his words in mind throughout these years running The Pick and Roll, through all those long nights. Hard work, check. Dedicated, definitely check.

Jay on the other hand, offered some really good advice on what to expect, when I checked in with him prior to my first game under media credentials – always very thankful for that.

Back to the podcast. Jay was talking about how he got to where he is now with MassLive, and ended the tale with some advice:

“… that’s the really lucky story of how I got to where I am now. If you want advice, the only thing I’ll say is work don’t be afraid to write for free, you have to to get your name out there, write for blogs. Just build up your resume and keep working as hard as you can.”

John pretty much agreed, and expanded on the thought.

“I would say the same thing. Nowadays, there is such an advantage… This is a very competitive field, and covering sports has so many similarities to playing sports. Where it’s hyper-competitive, there are limited spots, there are millions of people who want to get those limited spots.

… If you’re listening, trying to start your career in this: Jay is absolutely right. work work work work work work. Do a lot of work. Write. Start a blog. Write for a blog. Ask to join a blog… get paid nothing. Or get paid a little bit – it’s easier when you’re younger, and you don’t know what it’s like to have money, so you can go and piece together a career, by writing for – three hours on one site, and two hours on another site, and three hours on another site. You get your name out there, and you learn. You submit your stuff to editors, they will make corrections, you look at what the corrections are, and then you do it.

… If you can understand that you don’t know everything, then you’re a pretty damn smart person. Because that allows you to take in suggestions, and work those into your professional life and the things that you do on a daily basis, and then you personally will become better, at whatever it is you do.”

Jay rounded it off with this:

“Opportunities are tough, tough tough tough tough in this business, but just keep working until you get it, and prepare yourself for the opportunity.”

Then, from Jalen Rose on the Jalen & Jacoby Show (20 July):

“And you know what gets lost amongst those that become successful? All the sacrifices and discipline that they had to endure, in order to get to that point.

Like people we joke a lot about this show, about us not doing any work, or things of that nature. But you don’t get to this point if you don’t decide to outwork people.”

See a recurring theme here?

I was shown this article later in the day, and Robert Silverman made perfect sense.

There are just too many people out there who love watching games and think that with a bit of luck and a lot of bootstrap-pulling they could become the next Bill Simmons or Zach Lowe or any number of guys who started out as mere bloggers and are now considered leading lights in the industry.

Writing takes discipline. It takes commitment. But even when you check the boxes, it isn’t as easy as that. You need to differentiate yourself by getting ahead of the average writer who doesn’t have a unique voice. You need to get lucky, you need to know people – pick two of three. But before all of that, the basic criteria comes down to this: plain hard work.

And this quote from Matt Moore (love the guy) just hit the spot, right there. Right up my alley.

Moore: Write. Write all the time. The best thing you can do to make yourself better is to write about as many things as possible. It helps with honing what you do, it helps with building an audience, and it helps with figuring what you do well and what you enjoy doing.

Maybe you don’t like doing play breakdowns but you love esoteric discussion. Maybe you’re not crazy about cap talk but you get really into X’s and O’s. And the only way to keep yourself as part of the discussion is to write. When I was supremely frustrated with my inability to get a gig in late 2009 (AFTER ONLY TWO YEARS WRITING!), Tom Ziller gave me some great advice. Quit whining and write. What you’re doing isn’t enough? Write more. Because that’s the only thing you can control.

I’ve always maintained that the only thing you can control in any situation is yourself. You can’t control the opportunities that happen, you can only make the best with what you have, and stay prepared for anything that comes by. What you get is proportional to what you invest – the harder you work, the more you’ll get out of it. Be it an improved voice, consistent writing, or simply an expanded audience, something will fall through.

Basically: never get discouraged. Keep grinding, until something good happens. If you don’t prove your worth, nothing is going to ever happen. Only by consistently proving your value, developing your voice, and expanding your network, do you have a shot at making something happen.

Yes, journalism is a grind. It’s tough to even get your foot in the door, and it takes a crazy amount of effort when you’re actually working. It’s exciting as hell, it’s never boring, and it does sap the life out of you. But if you’re ready to put your money where your mouth is, you do it.

Don’t get envious. Don’t get down. Get even.