Yesterday morning I skipped the gym because my wife left early for a work trip. I usually exercise at 6AM and I needed to stay with our son, get him ready for school and everything. What’s interesting is that I was tired and needed a day off anyway, and yet in spite of my fatigue I still wanted to go.
This would have been crazy talk three months ago. For most of my 39 years, driving to the gym at 6AM was, in the words of Sir Lancelot, not right for my idiom. But over the summer I read this book called The Power of Habit and it changed things. I won’t attempt to summarize a sharp, complex book in a quickie blog post, but one of the many takeaways is that habits can be formed (and bad habits can be replaced) by defining a clear reward.
There’s a cue that triggers a habit, a routine (the habit itself), and a reward for following that routine. The brain automates this cycle so it can deal with other stuff.
A bad habit could be (1) Cue: Twinge of Depression (2) Routine: Emotional Eating (3) Reward: Cookie Pleasure.
A good habit could be (1) Cue: Wake and Put On Track Pants (2) Routine: Workout (3) Reward: Guilt-Free Bacon.
I like bacon and eggs. I like them a lot. So I established this routine in August and it worked like pig-flavored magic. I wake up, put my track pants on, go to the gym, and return for bacon and eggs. For the first week, I used a lot of willpower simply to rise and get in the car. But no joke: on those mornings when I wasn’t up for it, I visualized my future bacon. When I struggled with a pullup, I pictured bacon. And when I made it home and ate the bacon, I savored how good it all felt. I told myself, “This bacon is making you fitter. It’s giving you discipline and confidence. It’s not enough calories to sabotage the gym time and you’re developing a habit so simply it’s incredible.”
A few months later, I’m twenty pounds lighter. I have bacon every morning. The dog gets a piece. I walk in the door and he jogs to the kitchen, because it’s his habit, too.
Track pants, gym, bacon. I did it this morning. It was awesome.
Yesterday I weighed less than I’ve weighed in a long time. I’ve lost twenty pounds since August and plan to lose 10-15 more.
I didn’t look thirty pounds overweight in August, not even with my shirt off. There was a paunch but nothing major. Yet apparently the fat was there, because twenty pounds lighter I don’t look eerily thin, and my waistline is only beginning to really tighten up.
I know I had visceral fat (and still do). That’s the creepy “deep” fat that wraps around organs and kills people. And it is fat that I’ve been losing. It’s easy to lose fat and muscle when your weight drops, but — thanks to moderate weight training — I’m stronger than I was in August and my overall shape is better. Plus I haven’t been starving myself. Most of my initial muscle stuck around.
I’ll spend the next few days writing about my fitness plan:
1. The Bacon Incentive
2. Everyone I Know Who Counts Calories Loses Weight So Easily They Upbraid Themselves for Not Doing It Sooner
3. Most Exercise Cliches Are True
Yesterday I finalized plans for TROY AUTHOR DAY.
Last spring I was part of an impromptu author discussion at a local bookstore. It was barely promoted but a decent crowd showed up, and I wondered what would happen if we rounded up lots of local talent and did spread the word. I talked to Market Block Books and The Troy Public Library, emailed a list of authors from around the Troy/Albany/Schenectady NY area, and got a great response.
So now we have twenty-three successful authors — all with local roots — gathering at the Troy, NY public library for a group signing and panel discussions. If you’re one of my local blog readers, I hope to see you there. Full details are below, as well as at TroyAuthorDay.com.
Market Block Books and The Troy Public Library present the first-ever TROY AUTHOR DAY.
WHERE: The Troy Public Library, 100 2nd Street, Troy, NY 12180 — (518) 274-7071
WHEN: Saturday, OCTOBER 19, 2013, 12-3 PM
Twenty-three of the Capital Region’s most popular authors will gather for a group book signing at the library. Copies for purchase will be available on site. Market Block Books will donate a portion of all sales to the library.
The event is free and open to the public.
Paul Grondahl of The Times Union will moderate a panel discussion about the authors’ creative processes at 1 PM. Susan Novotny of The Book House and Jessika Hazelton of Troy Book Makers will moderate a panel discussion about publishing and self-publishing at 2 PM.
Stop by for five minutes, or stay the whole time.
Featured authors: Elisa Albert, Frankie Y. Bailey, Elizabeth Brundage, Jack Casey, Susan Daitch, Eric Devine, Lydia Davis, Peter Golden, Ellen Graf, Paul Grondahl, Shane Jones, James Kunstler, Dennis Mahoney, Matthew McElligott, Eugene Mirabelli, William B. Patrick, David Salomon, Edward Schwarzschild, Hollis Seamon, Tobias Seamon, Ruth Ann Smalley, Larry Tuxbury, Barbara Ungar
Full info can be found at www.troyauthorday.com
Yesterday was my birthday. I’m 39 and have two gray hairs. When I’m 78, I’ll have four.
I got a bunch of swell presents. My son drew me a picture of a Jack-o’-lantern with the words, “Happy Birthday, Dad! Love, Evil Death (Jack).” He gets me.
Also the first Flashman novel, some of Elmore Leonard’s Raylan Givens books, my third recording of Arcangelo Corelli’s Opus 6 concertos (they’re all satisfyingly different), a barometer, and the Mötley Crüe biography.
I was a Crüe fanatic as a teenager. I had Metal Edge and Circus Magazine pictures covering the walls. The Dr. Feelgood tour is still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen; they knew exactly what the audience wanted and delivered it to perfection. So far, the book is living up to the legend. The New York Times wrote, “Open it anywhere and find a story to remember.” This is trüe.
One non-depraved early anecdote I enjoyed was Mick Mars’s first encounter with Nikki Sixx:
“[Nikki] seemed like an all-right guy. But then he said he listened to Aerosmith and Kiss, and I can’t stand Kiss. I never f__king liked them. I instantly crossed him off my list of possible people to play with.”
That cracked me up. I assumed all the 80s hair metal bands liked Kiss. My own feelings about Kiss are conflicted. I loved them as a teen but I’m iffy about them now. Just yesterday I heard a radio bit about a music producer (I think?) who was overheard backstage at a Kiss concert: “This is the worst rock ‘n’ roll band I’ve ever seen live, and the best rock ‘n’ roll show I’ve ever seen live.” That about sums it up. Kiss has just enough something to overcome the fact that actually kind of suck. That something, however, was not enough for Mick Mars.
Somewhere in the house I have a photo of myself dressed as Mick Mars for Halloween. I’ll have to dig that up and post it in the coming weeks.
My favorite present, however, was a Fitbit. It helps me track my food and exercise and sends it all wirelessly into an iPhone app. Now the CIA can keep tabs on my calories-in/calories-out ratio. I’m going to wow them with my protein consumption.
Yesterday I hit the one-third mark on my next novel’s major revision. Other revisions will follow, but this is the heavy-lifting phase, so it’s great to have the first 50,000 words essentially in place.
For the first few weeks, I revised fairly quickly. The last ten days have been a grind. Hours on a single page, that sort of thing. I suppose it’s the natural ebb and flow of the creative process. The chapters I’m revising now were originally written in October 2012, and they’re more of a mess than earlier chapters. I must have been rusty after taking a break that summer, and I’m hoping the next few chapters are in better shape.
Still on target to have a finished manuscript by the first day of spring, 2014: an arbitrary deadline that just felt right.
Yesterday, right before bed, I read a news story about The Great Big Idaho Potato. It was here in my own hometown and nobody had told me. I’d never heard of it before, but it’s a 12,000-lbs. replica potato, it’s already travelled 18,000 miles cross-country, and it was parked less than five miles from my house.
It was scheduled to leave for Syracuse the following morning. I went upstairs, walked into the bedroom, and said to my wife:
“There’s a giant potato parked in Troy. I’m going to drive down and see it.”
“Go out in the hall and walk back in,” she said.
I went out in the hall and walked back in.
“What did you say?” she asked.
“There’s a giant potato parked in Troy. I’m going to drive down and see it.”
“Why am I even surprised?”
“I know! I won’t be long.”