Do some pull-ups.

February 25th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

It turns out that what I grew up thinking were pull-ups are actually chin-ups, and real pull-ups are harder to do than chin-ups. When my friend Larry (of Move, Damn You! and mercilessly making fun of me every chance he gets fame) asked me if I had any fitness goals for the year, the first thing that came to mind was working on my pull-ups. I spent a lot of time playing with my little brother and sister over Christmas break, and they both enjoyed doing pull-ups on the bar in our grandfolks’ house. I used the time to figure out how many I could do and was pretty dissatisfied with my performance, so it was on my mind.

I figured that going with a flexible training regimen would be easier to manage and allow me adjust what I was working and how hard I was working it. The only things I made it a point to do every day was doing thirty pushups after rolling out of bed, doing thirty pushups before crawling into bed, and doing as many matched sets of pull-ups and chin-ups as I could manage several times a day.

I matched my pull-ups to my chin-ups for simplicity’s sake. In terms of effort, I focused on doing what I knew I was capable of plus at least one. When I could do four pull-ups, I pushed for five and sometimes managed six. When I could do five, I aimed for six and struggled toward seven. At six, I winced my way to eight.

In terms of schedule, I did at least two sets of pull-ups and chin-ups in the morning for a minimum total of 8 and 8, and often threw in a third on my way out of the door to be late for the bus to make it 12 and 12. When I got off work, I would come home, sit down for a minute, and then do at least two more sets, and sometimes a third (or fourth, or fifth, depending) before bed. I’d stretch before and after each set, too.

Around a month and a half after choosing a goal, on 2/18 to be specific, I beat ten pull-ups for the first time in my entire life.

It turns out if you do thirty pull-ups & chin-ups a day, and eventually graduate to something horrible-sounding like sixty to seventy pull-ups & chin-ups a day and more on Saturdays because there’s nothing else to do besides video games and naps, it’s easy to hit ten. Well, not “easy,” that’s not right — I mean to say that it’s doable. It’s reasonable. Feasible. With every pull-up I added to my tally, the better I felt and the more I felt I could do.

I focused my aggression this time, instead of just trying to go hard like I usually do and I hit this goal much sooner than I expected. I overreach a lot, honestly. I overestimate my abilities and then I get frustrated when I miss the mark. This time, I planned it differently. I chose a reasonable goal — double what I was capable of, plus two for a nice milestone number — and then I thought about what I was capable of doing at that point in time. After that, I just focused on consistently aiming at a level that was slightly better than my then-potential and trust that, in working those muscles, I would gradually increase that potential. That’s how muscles work, right? Science!

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You Should Move It Move It

November 7th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Here’s a video featuring yours truly that I’m kind of super happy about. Check it out.

(you like that shirt, don’t you? Go get you some black swag from Ray’s shop.)

I got in a bike accident earlier this year, maybe you heard me being a big baby about it? The doctor kinda laughed when he told me what was up with my knee, which was that I “hurt it about as bad as you can hurt it without requiring surgery.”

After the accident, I got caught up in that cycle of feeling bad about myself and then feeling worse about myself, so I spent a lot of time chilling on my couch eating half pound hamburgers (throw some basil and A1 peppercorn sauce inside and whooooooo) and eating uncooked chocolate chip cookie dough like that’s a reasonable thing to do outside of special occasions. But it felt good, so I did it, and I enjoyed every slow bite, every crunch of chocolate in my teeth. I watched a lot of Netflix, too. You know how that goes. “Wah wah wah I can’t lock my knee any more, life sucks, I keep getting into stupid fights by accident, I have to stand differently now, my pace has changed, and can someone help me shovel chocolate chips down my gullet, thanks in advance.”

Anyway, it turns out if you sit on a couch eating crap all the time, you gain weight. Who knew, right? I definitely noticed after a while. It wasn’t hugely obvious, but I try to pay attention to myself (doubly so post-accident) and I was feeling kinda ehhh about it. I figured it was okay, because I’m getting older and metabolisms slow down and I’m not biking every day because of my leg and these things happen and blah blah blah I’m okay, you’re okay.

I’ve got this friend named Larry Leong. I’ve talked about him on here before or whatever whatever. He’s a good dude, and we hang out whenever I visit LA. Last time I visited, me and my death squad played some basketball, played some video game basketball, and just chilled out for a while. It was a nice weekend, the sort of weekend where you’re trying to figure out the best place to relax in the sun and thinking about walking absurd distances just ’cause it feels so good outside. You know those days? Those days drive me crazy. Tank top days. Frisbee days.

Anyway, on my way out of a mutual friend’s house and out of LA, me and Larry said goodbye and he hit me with the ol’ “Hey, catch you later, man. You gained some weight, huh?”


He got me so good. I don’t know what I peaked at, but when I weighed myself and decided to get right, I was at 184. I’m a hair under six feet (well, including my hair, a hair over at this point, but pedantic points are less than trash), so that ain’t too bad, but it is too much for my frame. It is too much for me, personally. On top of that, a couple of my oldest friends were getting married in LA in September, and I wanted to fit into my suit, you know? What if I met my next ex-wife there? I gained enough weight that I felt bad about it, because I knew that I shouldn’t have done it.

So, when I got back to SF, full of shame and thinking of ways to get back at Larry, I decided to start running. I haven’t really run since high school, but it’s mostly flat in my hood, so I figured I could do it. I asked around, bought a pair of shoes to make sure I couldn’t punk out, and started running a minimum of a mile each time out. I ran eight days straight, sprained my right ankle on night eight, and then made it worse on day nine, when I finished my run and realized that my ankle hurt so bad because I’d sprained it, not just because I wasn’t used to running.

That is 2012 in a nut shell. I decide to do something and immediately pay for it in blood.

I decided to fix my diet after that, since I was going to be benched for a couple weeks. I didn’t decide to eat less or eat healthier. I decided to eat smarter. Diets don’t work because diets need to last forever, but if you change how you eat, and I mean genuinely change it not just change it for a fad, you can do big things.

I cut my portions and paid closer attention to what I ate and when. No more half pound burgers, no more full bowls of rice, no more cookie dough. I rarely drink soda outside of root beer floats, and I don’t really get down with candy either, so that wasn’t an issue. I stopped cooking dinner at midnight, too.

I started weighing myself three times a day. That really helped, because it let me see exactly how what I ate affected my body. Fatter burger than usual? Up 2lbs on the day? Forgot to eat dinner? The point is to figure out how what I do affects my body, and figure it out in a way that lets me act on it. Eat too much one day, scale back the next. Lose the right amount of weight one day, keep it going the next.

Once my ankle was well again, I ramped up the exercising, too. I came up with a schedule. Wake up at 6, crawl out of bed eventually, and then spend the next two hours and a half hours before work writing, working out, or both. Usually both. My goal is to run three days a week, but I knew I wouldn’t always be able to make it. So I use free weights, resistance bands, and basic push-ups to get active for the off-days. If I’m chilling and playing video games for a few hours, I’ll stand up and do 40 curls with the resistance bands, just to make sure I’m not totally lazing about. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it gives my brain a break from staring at a TV screen.

Between late July and early October, I shed around 20 pounds, going from 184 to 164ish. I tend to hover between 163 and 166 these days. It feels good. I wake up earlier almost by default now, as I found out this weekend when I was up before the sun every day despite going to bed super sleepy. I feel better and more alert in the mornings after running or working out, which in turn makes my days better. My focus is better, I do more things, and I have more time to do those things. I feel more like me. I fit into my suit, too, and balled out at that wedding, looking like I just came fresh from the Harlem Renaissance.

Larry’s video series is called Move, Damn You. It’s great advice.

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