Exercise

Interlude: A Personal Fairy Tale (Part 1)

The Tale of Kaska-Ta – Part 1

(*Note: This is what can be described as a semi-fictional history.  The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are true.) 

Long ago in tropical lands far in the south, there lived a warrior known as Kaska-Ta. Years before this story, he had been a lonely, exiled traveler going by a different name. But a group of knights had taken him in and given him a new name. The Knights of Kappo Aera taught him the ways of song and dance and war, and became his family.

Early on these knights lived under the rule of a mad king. This king was not evil, but arrogant and violent to some.   Thus, for this and perhaps some other reasons in the shadows, the Prince of Stories who led this particular band of knights separated himself from the kingdom, causing much divide and resulting in a feud that would be forgiven by many but never forgotten by all.

Tropical Lands

Tropical Lands

For a time these Knights of Kappo Aera remained autonomous, the Prince of Stories who now led them called upon some of the elder knights (including Kaska-Ta) to help him train the younger warriors properly. Overall their band was happy and Kaska-Ta enjoyed spending time with and helping his peers where he could. Often, when sparring with the Lady of Diamonds or the young prodigy known as Mockingbird, he could not help but smile. In those times there was synergy and peace, even in combat.

However, the Prince of Stories who now led newly separated tribe knew he was not yet prepared to be a king, and so over time his uncertainty grew until a general from a different tribe he had met in his travels invited him to meet his own king. This king was far departed from the prince’s previous king. Though a giant physically, he was calm and serene much like his name. This man was the King of the Trees. After much discussion an arrangement was struck in which the Prince’s tribe would join with that of King of Trees and his Gull General. Thus began the golden age for the knights of Kappo Aera who would now be recognized as warriors.

It was during this time that the Prince’s Tribe was the most active and many locals came to join the tribe of warriors in the tropical south. The King of Trees and his Gull General hailed from a much colder climate and so made the trip to visit the young warriors often. Kaska-Ta was happy, and enjoyed the company of his tribe both new and old. But as everything must, things would change.

Fierce! But...

Fierce! But…

The traditions among all the tribes of Kappo Aera carried heavy tones of misogyny and disrespect for the female members of the tribes. Though the more progressive members of the tribes didn’t believe in such things, and it was often brought up only in humor, the fact remained that it was very real occurrence as evidenced by behaviors specifically at social gatherings. There was a saying that a true lord among the warriors of Kappo Aera would have a woman in every land that they traveled to. Combined with that was the Kappo Aera tradition of deception as a battle strategy. It was very often said that the sparring circle in which they trained battle was a reflection of their outside lives. As such, this deception made it’s way into many of the member’s actions. Thus was eventual bane of Kaska-Ta.

Kaska-Ta was well liked by the tribe, and especially so by many of the female members. He was kind, flirty, and humorous and made them feel at ease, especially when others were far more aggressive and overbearing than he was. Though not initially problematic, Kaska-Ta began to hear whispers from other warriors (both male and female) that some of the higher ranking warriors were displeased at the attention he was receiving. Of course, Kaska-Ta knew not all of these whispers could be entirely trusted either, but among the many there was some truth he could confirm himself. He resolved though, as long as he had his people, he would simply carry on.

The time came to make a pilgrimage to northern climates. It was the summer months so the weather was very agreeable. One of the great kings from the far off lands in which the tribes of Kappo Aera had originally descended would come and bless all the warriors under the King of Trees.   The prince and as many of his southern tribe as possible made the pilgrimage in order to strengthen their union with the warriors under the King of Trees.

A Krawan Demon Prison

A Krawen Demon Prison

The Gull General existed in a dangerous part of the northern lands known as Krawen, but offered up his palace to most of the travelers from the south. However, Kaska-Ta was given different arrangements and was sent to be hosted with one of the students and families who trained under the Gull General. Though this family was very accommodating, very friendly and he had excellent arrangements, Kaska-Ta did not like being separated from the rest of his tribe. One of the newer females in his tribe had become close to him (intimately for a short time, but that time had already passed) and sent messages that she was uncomfortable among all of the generals and princes. Kaska-Ta expressed his desire to re-join his tribe, and the next day was allowed to stay in the Gull General’s palace (later he would learn this was much to the dismay of the General.)

The ceremonies began and all seemed well. Kaska-Ta marveled at the amazing talents the guest Kings, Queens and other royalty exhibited both in music and in combat. His extended family of warriors from the northern tribes of the King of Trees were equally impressive. It was an overall a joyous occasion filled with much learning and positive energy, which was what Kaska-Ta had always loved about the Kappo Aera tribes. In the evening he and some of his tribe-mates new and old were taken to largest city on the continent to marvel at the many towers and castles filled with mystic lights and great paintings. The day had truly been great.

The next day was another ceremony for another local tribe who was allied with the King of Trees. This tribe’s leader was a great scholar of his art named Onaib. Though not yet a king, he was well on his way and was truly a professor of the art and beauty that was the culture of the Kappo Aera tribes. Kaska-Ta was familiar with this teacher from a previous ceremony in which he had traveled south and personally tested Kaska-Ta (among other young warriors of the southern tribe) in combat. He was good natured and skilled while sparring and greeted each student with a combination of vigor and gentleness. He sought to test, not to punish the younger students and Kaska-Ta respected him greatly for it.

Her Namesake

Her Namesake

Transportation to Professor Onaib’s event was arranged for Kaska-Ta and his tribemate Mockingbird traveling in the wagon of a student of another small local tribe known as the Owl Princess. She mused that her and Kaska-Ta had similar hair color and they got along well early on. One of the wheels broke along the way, but Kaska-Ta and Mockingbird were both skilled at such repairs and before long they were traveling again having bonded some through the small circumstance. They made the ceremony right on time and all was well.

During the ceremony, the Owl Princess remained close to Kaska-Ta and would often mess with his hair or rest her head on his shoulder. He enjoyed the attention, but it drew the attention of both his tribe’s Prince of Stories and the Gull General, whom Kaska-Ta was unaware had their eyes on the Owl Princess. As the day progressed the ceremony completed successfully and after further celebration many of the warriors (including the Owl Princess) made their way back to the palace of the Gull General. Immediately after the ceremony, during the after parties and dinner, Kaska-Ta had noticed the attention of the Owl Princess was being intentionally diverted away from him, to some extent by the Prince of Stories and then aggressively by the Gull General.

Once at the palace, the Gull General disappeared to the tower, and so too did the Owl Princess.   During this time, the Mockingbird, who had long been adopted as a second son of the Gull General warned his tribe mate Kaska-Ta that the reason the Gull General had pulled the Owl Princess away was because she had long since been “one of his girls”. Kaska-Ta replied that she had told him she was without a dedicated mate, and was somewhat surprised because the Gull General had recently impregnated one of the southern tribe women, though it was not established they were dedicated mates either. “It matters not… you know this.” The Mockingbird replied. Yes, Kaska-Ta was familiar with the culture, even if he didn’t agree with or follow it.

69e8746bf35ce80eec33946f36cbb38141afaa66473df48c35c0f5fdfe727d32Later, after the festivities had died down, the Owl Princess approached Kaska-Ta, who had been distant and asked him why. Irritated at her deception, he asked her why she had not told him of the Gull General, but she did not answer and instead became defensive, denied her involvement and moved away again. However, when the witching hour had passed, he once again approached her to say goodbye as she intended to return to her home and kingdom. At her request, Kaska-Ta agreed to escort her to her carriage. When they arrived at her transport, away from the ears of the palace, she asked him to stay with her a short time so she could speak with him. Kaska-Ta agreed and for some time they spoke of her family and then her involvement with the Gull General. She was sad, and said that he confused her by sometimes treating her as a princess, and then other times ignoring or even berating her. She knew that he paid attention to other women, but sometimes when he was with her, he would be so tender that she felt he truly cared. Kaska-Ta was irritated by this as he had heard such things many times before.   But he listened patiently, trying to cheer her up and convince her  that the fault was not hers. Unfortunately, during this dialog disaster struck…

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Run

I’ve spoken briefly before about long-distance running being my cardio of choice.  In the past I’ve done Capoeira and a Tae Kwon Do based mixed martial art as well, but running has stuck with me more consistently than either of those.  The reason is simple: It’s mine.

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Current: Much better.

Obviously the concept of running isn’t mine, but when I run, it’s just me and my music.  When I first began running years ago in Seattle, it was mostly indoors on a treadmill (and later a really nice indoor track at WSU.)  The advantage of such things was climate control and smooth, even terrain. The disadvantage was that it’s boring and doesn’t prepare you as well for the outside world.  But the thing is, especially back then, I really didn’t like  running.   I didn’t know how to dress, so I was in typical, long gym shorts and I wore Nike GOLF shoes (yes seriously…) because they were the only real “athletic” shoes I owned and I figured they were “good enough.”  Thankfully at that point I was probably only running between 1-3 miles anyway or I might’ve actually damaged myself.

So, I needed cardio because my girlfriend at the time (who was SUPER nice about those things) actually admitted I “could lose a little” and my diet at the time consisted of Fast Food, Pizza and the occasional deli meat and cheese sandwich (those were good though, I miss those.)  Regardless I was chubby, and the Tae-bo videos I was doing at home weren’t cutting it.  So how do you convince yourself to do something awkward, uncomfortable and stressful on a regular basis?  Simple: distraction. Running is where I would develop my ideas, sort out my days, and figure things out.  I would do everything I could to take my mind away from the fact I was running because the moment I started focusing on the fact that I was running, I felt everything, my legs clumsily plodding on, my bronchial tubes contracting in protest and my heart racing trying to keep enough oxygen flowing to my muscles that were threatening to go on strike at any moment.

Over time I went from daydreaming to focused thoughts and battles with my own inner demons (some of which I obviously, admittedly lost…  those jerks are stubborn…) but as my thought processes became more involved and focused, my attention

We all have our demons...

We all have our demons…

went further and further away from the running until I developed a sort of auto-pilot that could potentially go on forever.  Imagine distracting yourself by sparring with another version of you inside your head.  You have to think of each movement, each strike, each block and the reactions to all of those things.  Then add in the fact that I’m an avid anime watcher and gamer and you’ve got all kinds of fantasy things going on (flying, weapons, energy beams, etc.)  It gets intense in there.  So all this distraction, and then all of a sudden you come out of it and realize you’ve already got three miles down and you don’t know where the time has gone.  That’s how I developed my natural pace, by distracting myself.

Over the years my runs evolved, by the time my ex and I broke up and I was back in Seattle I was up to five mile runs along with a workout (though still indoors.)  The nice thing about a treadmill is that you can manually speed yourself up to improve your pace and then allow your mind to wander off again.  Probably the only downside to this is that as you get comfortable, you can incrementally increase your pace, but the numbers deceive you, and though you might feel better about going 6.2 miles per hour instead of 6, the affect it has on you is minimal (granted any improvement is improvement.)

Moving to Florida was when things got serious, but not right away.  While I attended Full Sail I have a very similar routine involving runs at LA Fitness on a treadmill.  At this point I had to try a little harder to go into my head as that particular location has an abundance of attractive women in tight clothing… it was easy to get distracted.  To be honest (and this is just my personal opinion) I’ve always felt like LA Fitness is the place you go to be noticed (both genders.)  People seem flashier and it just feels like more of a “look at me!” mentality compared to a place like Planet Fitness where you just go to get the job done.  Maybe that’s just my personal experience though…

Capoeira:  The goofy looking upside-down one is me.

Capoeira: The goofy looking upside-down one is me.

Eventually I finally hit a point where I was just bored with running and tried other things.  There was about three years that I totally supplemented my cardio with Capoeira.  The desire to run would come and go, but I never felt motivated enough.  It was during my fourth year that I felt like I had become considerably lazier than I had been previously.  Additionally, though Capoeira was a fantastic exercise and gave me a great personal support structure, it didn’t do much to deal with my inner-demon.  In fact, because of the combatant nature of the art form and the rampant egos of some, it actually FED that side of me and brought it out from time to time.  I resolved to return to my runs in addition to Capoeira.  There is a convenient running trail that I can run to from my house with beautiful scenery and wildlife (but you have to watch for snakes.. and gators.. seriously.. I almost injured myself avoiding a snake on today’s run.)

Around this same time an avid runner joined my Capoeira group and invited me out to the Disney runs she liked to do.  At the time I had a bit of a crush on her, so I was feeling very motivated to impress her.  Since five miles had been my staple, I had to adjust to the upcoming “Race For the Taste” length that was a 10k (6.2 miles.)  The adjustment was easy and the run was magical.  I finished at a very good pace and felt inspired for more.  Over time I increased my distance to the point that just last year I was able to complete the Walt Disney World Marathon without stopping.  What an amazing experience (walking to the car shortly after finishing.. not so much.!)  I took a bit of a break after the marathon but have picking up my consistency more recently.  Even with a couple weeks off I can easily run a 10k at the drop of a hat, and could very likely finish a half-marathon with some struggle.  But the Walt Disney World wasn’t my last marathon.  This year the funds didn’t line up right but I’ll be back one way or another.

Walt Disney World Marathon! Magical!

Walt Disney World Marathon! Magical!

These days the hardest part of the run is getting my lazy ass out of the door.  Once I manage that, the run is good.  I’ve evolved a great playlist to motivate me while I go and have 3 different courses to run depending on where I am.  I don’t drink water during my runs because I want to be ready for cardio under any circumstances (you know.. impending zombie apocalypse rule #1: Cardio!)  As much as the meditation aspect is great, and I feel great after my run, my main reason is still the reason I started:  so I can come home after, eat my Magnum chocolate ice cream bar, drink my ginger ale and sit around writing a blog about why I run while feeling no laziness or guilt what-so-ever.  It keeps me acceptable for bachelor-like activities and extends my life span.

The Oatmeal (Best. Internet Comics. EVER.) wrote a highly entertaining and touching comic about why HE runs long distances that resonated with me and I think you will enjoy (far more than all these words, hence I put it at the end of the post.. suckers!)

Check it out here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/running

It really is beautiful (check out his other stuff too.. hilarious!)  In the meantime thanks for reading!

Philosophy of Moderation (Part 1) – Physical

So recently I’ve been debating on how often to post.  On one hand I feel I have a lot of fairly interesting stuff to say, but on the other I don’t want to over-saturate you to the point you get bored with me right away.  As it is I babble enough, so best to space out your doses.  Originally I had thought every 2-3 days, but since I had about 2 visitors today, I’m thinking an average of every other day is ideal (as time allows) to keep you interested.

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But maybe not too much of this…

All that said it makes a lot of sense to talk about my belief in moderation here.  I know.. “WTF man.. you’re supposed to be a hedonist!”  Ohhh I am and I earn it.  But I even it out.  There HAS to be a balance.  Just as you can have too much of a bad thing, you can most certainly have too much of a good thing.

Keeping the balance is a lot harder than it sounds.  I’m in an office the majority of the day like many of you and I very strongly believe in a solid work-life balance/division.  Being that I’m an Executive Assistant for a busy CEO, that’s a lot harder to pull off than it sounds.  Beyond that I want to be consistent with my blog AND I play an MMO (Final Fantasy XIV ARR.. don’t you judge me!)  Meanwhile I’m reading Paulo Coelho’s latest (Adultery… more on that later) and I’m making a concentrated effort to see my friends more often and/or have more social life.  I could conceivably juggle all that, but there’s a major element missing: Physical activity.  Unfortunately I don’t have the genetics for a ridiculous metabolism, so If I were to only juggle the list above, I would get very, very plump (and my love of cheese alone would likely kill me.)

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Concrete… yeah, that happened.

But I can’t do that.  I’m an 8 year bachelor veteran, and frankly I want to get laid at least occasionally.  So as much as I would love for my charming personality to do all the work for me… I’m just not THAT awesome (actually.. I might be but why take chances right?)  I need to look sexually appealing too.  But how?  That evil, evil word: Discipline.  I spent many years serving as an assistant for a Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster (yes, seriously) and if anything stuck, it’s that even for somebody who wishes to indulge in worldly pleasures (that said Grandmaster may not agree with…) discipline is not only necessary, but it can greatly enhance your enjoyment.  So, I’ve got a plan with a friend of mine to train her at the gym twice a week, which in turn motivates me (because naturally I have to show her what I can do…)  Meanwhile I keep an Iron Gym (Pull up/chin-up bar) at work and toss sets in every few hours just to wake me up and keep my upper body engaged.  If you do NO other exercise, do the “ups”: pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and chin ups.  Those alone can make a huge impact on your physical look.

My choice of cardio is long-distance running.  I know, I hated running for years too, but at some point it became a sort of meditation that lets me unplug from the world and focus inward.  I’ll post about that specifically later, but regardless, the key is to find SOME form of cardio you don’t hate.  This could be anything from DDR, to Spinning, to Mountain-Biking, to Marathon Sex (but honestly it would have to be marathon to count…), to Capoeira (I did it, look it up.)  As long as it gets your heart-rate up and involves you moving (so no, horror movies don’t count) then it’s going to be good for you.

BUT!  Don’t overdo it.  Perhaps you’ll become one of the body-building obsessed types that finds passion in sculpting themselves, but unless that’s what truly makes you happy, take it easy and give your body chance to recover.  Exercise is important to offset sedentary lifestyles like mine, but while extreme laziness is terrible for you, the opposite extreme can be just as bad.  People very often injure themselves (sometimes permanently) by being overly obsessed with their performance, and unless you’re a million-dollar athlete, I don’t think compromising your way of life is worth lifting that extra 50 lbs.

Don't be THAT person...

Don’t be THAT person…

The same goes for pushing your cardio too far.  A lot of trainers will push you until you literally vomit.  Any GOOD trainer will tell you this is WRONG.  Not only is puking generally not good for you, but even if you “toughen up” and go back to training when you’re done (also a TERRIBLE idea) your benefit will be drastically reduced (if not destroyed) and your recovery will take longer.

I suppose the key is; listen to your body.  If you’re like me and like to indulge in food but still want to keep fit, then you’re going to have to moderate those calories (and you’ll feel it if you don’t).  That’s not to say you shouldn’t eat that New York strip, smothered in sautéed mushrooms with a fresh lobster tail and melted butter for dipping… (because you should.. immediately..)  just, not every meal (though I would still be jealous of you on your deathbed…)  If you get used to listening to yourself,  you’ll know when you’ve been sitting too long, or when you need to take it down a notch to avoid being sick,  or when your blood sugar is low and you need to eat, or when you need to take a day off to let your body recover (and you do sometimes, period.)

Which brings me to the next, and possibly most essential point: REST.  For the love of god, rest and sleep.  Too often as teenagers we get used to staying up all night in marathon Netflix/Hulu/gaming sessions (okay fine.. not just as teenagers… but that’s only on rare weekends..)  Did you know that actually getting proper rest helps you LOSE WEIGHT?  It also makes you generally happier and helps you recover sooner meaning you will actually enjoy your exercise more and feel better about doing it more often.  Admittedly this is my weakest point.. I try to cram so much into a day that sometimes six hours a night seems difficult.  I recognize it and want to improve it as I already know I have noticeably better days when I’ve gotten about 7.5 hours of sleep or so.

I could go on and on about this, there’s sleep cycles to consider, fluid intake (drink water… lots of it… but even that to an extreme can damage you) meditation, supplements (I don’t take any other than a multivitamin sometimes) and the careful selection of your chosen poisons (quality!!)  But I’ll save those for future, specific posts.  Also, in the meantime I welcome questions about any of this, but be thoughtful and polite, or I’ll ignore you.   Meanwhile I’ll leave you with my general “plan” based on working M-F at around 45-50 hours a week (boss already said he wants me to work more… moderation?)

Sunday – Sleep In/Recover (Optional Workout Day/Cardio if no workout Saturday and I’m not “recovering“… ) + Chore day (Laundry, Dishes, etc.) Photo Edits, Blog

Monday – Work, Walking Dead with Friends, Photo Edits, Catch up on other shows (Crunch Ball + Elevated Diamond/Wide Push-ups while watching). FFXIV* for an hour or two if time.

Tuesday – Work, Train w/ Friend at Planet Fitness, Photo Edits, Blog and/or FFXIV*

Wednesday – Work, Cardio Day (Run 6-10mi), Photo Edits, FFXIV*

Thursday – Work, Train w/ Friend at Planet Fitness, Photo Edits, Blog and/or FFXIV*

Friday – Work, Beer and Wine Friday at Work, Typically Dinner out of some sort w/ Friends, Social Time otherwise late night FFXIV ARR.

Saturday – Sleep in.  Most common day for Photo Shoots (Possible Run/Workout Day in early afternoon.  Most common party day.  Social Time otherwise late night FFXIV ARR.

*The rule with Final Fantasy XIV ARR is “As time allows”.  It’s a guilty pleasure of sorts but is not to take precedence over real-life priorities and interactions… it does sometimes infringe on sleep (though it’s not allowed to…  discipline…)
**Sexual activity, social dinners, or other general debauchery will almost always overrule most aspects of the “plan” listed above and WILL trump sleep most days.  Life is meant to be lived, especially those parts!

Heavy Lifting back in the day...

Heavy Lifting back in the day…

Allow me to say to my friends who are body-builders / “hardcore” about their physical routine that this is not meant to disrespect your lifestyle.  As I mentioned, if that’s what truly makes you happy, nobody can argue with you and I’m in no place to judge anyone.  I simply disagree with it being best for me and for those I generally come across.  So if nothing else it just means you’re a special breed (but you already knew that. )  As usual, I think it comes down to “why”.  If it’s to fill some unexplainable hole in your soul and you only feel good when you push yourself past your limits, I think that’s unhealthy.  But if at the end of the day you’re happier in general because you fill your free time with hard work, then more power to you.  I’ll be over here with my scotch not being happy and not “swole”.

Finally, this blog will have a great variety of post topics. This one may have bored you, but stick with it, I think the next one will be a bit more fun.