Monday, August 26, 2013

Try Not, Do Or Do Not Lose Weight -- How to Start Losing Weight the Trooper Way

 I have a friend who is what I call a “researcher”. He likes to plan, read, and think about how he is going to lose weight. He wants to trick his body by using high protein diets, do a week’s long “cleanse”, or drink nothing but expensive powdered milkshakes. He does everything but eat right and work out. While some of these strategies may help supplement a good foundation of diet and exercise they are definitely not a replacement. In my opinion my friend just needs to get out there and troop! 

Honorary 501st Member Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame, once said “failure is always an option”. Adam wasn’t just talking about blowing stuff up, you are going to fail a lot in your quest to lose weight but it is the observed results that matter. For example, last night I failed to complete a 5k. When I gave up I was angry at myself, I was disappointed, and I broadcasted my failure. The next morning when I stepped on the scale it turns out I had lost weight. Even though I only made it 3k into a 5k I still did a 3k. Failure is always an option because these failures still yield results. 

 So how do you start losing weight? You eat right, and exercise; you make a lifestyle change, and that can start any time, your change can start right now if you want! Another friend, Brandon, made a lifestyle change two nights ago after a game of racquetball. Brandon’s choice to eat right and exercise may eventually result in failure, but the results will be good no matter what. A year ago I got Jules Winfield’d by my lady when she started Weight Watchers. She started doing it, which means I pretty much had to start doing it. One day, by mistake, I made a lifestyle choice.

The Weight Watchers points program speaks to my inner power gamer and helped me make the changes I needed. That said, it’s just calorie counting for dummies. A month into Weight Watchers and I went from a 29 point (easily 1000+ calories) lunch to a lean 13 points, and I walk away without going hungry. These changes were all compromises with myself; drop the cheese and save a point, change to wheat bread and save a point, instead of chips get apples and save three points. These compromises aren’t huge crash changes, they are slow and they helped me build new, sustainable, habits. Since you get points back for exercise in Weight Watchers, I started playing racquetball with my coworkers, and biking to work. These were all little one and two point refunds that added up. Then one day I challenged myself to run a 5k and since then the weight has been melting off.  All of this was a lifestyle change, I try to exercise at least once a day, and eat light breakfasts and lunches so I can enjoy myself at dinner. Again, this isn’t a series of exercises that will leave me sore and give me the feeling I “earned” a chocolate milkshake, or a super sized Carl’s Jr meal. These are simple activities that get me up and moving for at least 30 minutes.
I still retained some old habits, I love that big dinner, and every now and again I destroy an unsuspecting pizza. These unhealthy activities just have new reactions now, I exercise after that big dinner, and I feed on pizza as little as possible then spend the rest of the weekend eating right. While I am not knocking my friend’s aptitude for research, I am knocking his refusal to get out there and hit the pavement. Tricking your body isn’t sustainable, it may work to lose 4-5 pounds for a weekend, but you aren’t going to be able to keep it up. The recidivism rate of p90X and other “0 – ripped in 6 weeks” type diets is incredibly high because you aren’t fixing the core problem; you have unhealthy habits, and have had them for a very long time. It’s cool, let’s just be honest about it you failed and that’s fine, failure is always an option – at least you are doing something about it!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Red-5, Set Up For Your Attack Run

So far, training to be a Stormtrooper has been a great motivation. I have said in previous articles it helps me get over humps and resist temptation. “Trooper’s gotta troop” becomes a bit of a chant towards the end of my runs, or when I have to explain to the guys why I am having a Diet Pepsi instead of a beer, “Sorry guys, Stormtroopers don’t get beer”.  When I run I turn it into a game, I am a big fan of RPGs so this mental escape helps get me through tough work outs.

There is a scene in the new version of Battlestar Galactica where one of the characters is doing laps around a part of the massive battleship.  This is where I go when I run, whether it’s running around Command Pole North of the Death Star or doing one of the exercise below, I bring the Star Wars universe into my workouts to try make them less banal. Running laps around my apartment complex becomes a dash through Mos Espa, or maybe my treadmill is buried deep in a Stormtrooper training center. It’s pretty dorky, but let’s get real we want to wear Stormtrooper armor for kicks, so here are some examples of exercises I use:
Echo Base Assault, Bike 30 km - The distance between the AT-ATs drop zone and the optimal firing range from the Echo Base shield generators. If you are training for a triathlon you will need to be able to bike 40 km and this will be your halfway point between the standard distances and a "sprint triathalon".

Millenium Falcon Combat Drills, 10 Sets of 14 Yard Sprints - The Falcon is a YT1300F freighter which is 25.61 m diameter. If we cut that in two, it means the radius of the round portion of the Falcon is 12.81 m. Try drills from the cockpit to the gunner positions by doing sprints over 42 feet or 14 yards on a football field. The quicker you get there, the more likely you will be to survive a TIE/ln attack, but only if they let you escape.

A Kessel Run, Run a Mile - If we take the Falcon's radius of 12.81m use πR^2 that means the circumfrence of the round portion of the Falcon is 515m or about half a kilometer. Try doing your fastest mile by running three laps around the Millenium Falcon.

Astromech Hurdles, 5 3' Hurdles Over 100 m - The standard R2 astromech droid is .92 meters tall, set up a series of 5 of them and sprint over them as fast as you can. This is a little lower than traditional men's hurdles, but Luke had to make do with what he had on the moisture farm.

Jedi Training, 5 km Run With 37.5 lb Pack - On Dagobah Luke had to become a Jedi ASAP. Apparently this meant running through the swamp, swinging on ropes, and doing flips, all while wearing your teacher on your back. While Yoda is small, he also isn't very dense, weighing only 37.5 lbs. Take a backpack, load it up with weight, and hit the trail. Backflips aren't necessarily required, but the extra weight should make things difficult enough.

Also quick shout out to the folks at, who have a thread dedicated to trooper fitness already! Go check it out.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Man Mode-11, or “How I felt like I could take on the whole Empire”

We all remember Dak, Luke’s loyal and steadfast gunner during the battle of Hoth. When the Rogue Leader asked him how he was doing that day Dak replied “I feel like I could take on the whole Empire”, 30 minutes later Dak was dead, only to have his corpse crushed into the snow by an AT-AT. We can learn from Dak’s unseemly death, we all have a Dak in our life and sometimes we “pull a Dak” ourselves. Around my group of friends we call “pulling a Dak” going to “Man Mode-11”. 

(Wo)Man Mode is a 1-10 scale. When you need to do something very macho, like ride on a Tauntaun to rescue your friend as the sun is setting, that is Man Mode-10. When you cry to your girlfriend that your mentor is holding you back after she tells you how much you have grown up, that is Man Mode-1. On your quest to troop you are going to generally be in the 7-10 range.
Just like the lead guitarist of Spinal Tap, Dak tried to “turn it up to 11” and got taken out. A lot of fitness blogs will tell you to “know your limits” and “be safe”. While safety is a major concern, and should always come first, we both know that statistically speaking you will eventually pull a Dak. Sooner or later you will think you can take on the whole Empire, and then get hurt. It’s inevitable, we are driven individuals pushing our bodies, and the trick is having the presence of mind to call it a day when you do get hurt.

Pulled muscles, minor strains, tweaked ankles, these are all minor injuries that can be exacerbated by not staying home and catching up on episodes of the Clone Wars when you get hurt. It will be hard to tell when your body is about to sustain these minor injuries, especially if you are competitive or making a push for a fitness goal. While a Jedi should quiet their mind, and listen to the Force, Luke and Anakin notoriously got up when they should have stayed down on more than a few occasions; I am willing to bet you will do the same, I know I did. When you tweak something, don’t be afraid to call it a night, or switch exercises. There is no shame in making a smart decision to take care of your body. 

I recently twisted my ankle playing racquetball. Before the game I had done some running and I sustained that injury because my body was tired, it was getting sloppy. I hadn’t listened to my body’s early warning signs because I wanted to win, and I am willing to bet I’m not the first person to do that and won’t be the last. When I twisted my ankle, I called it a night, went home, and over the following days I worked on upper body cardio while my ankle healed.
If I had tried to “turn it up to 11” and keep playing, my ankle only would have gotten worse. A twist would have turned into a sprain, a sprain would have turned into a more serious injury, and I would have been unable to work out for weeks. Not only would being bedridden be a setback for my weight loss, but it would also be a total downer for the people I was playing against.
My ankle only took a few days to heal, which means I was back on the court and in the gym sooner rather than later. I didn't have to spend whole week of sitting on my couch, eating, and storing calories. Limping off the field honorably is a way better alternative to ruining the evening for your friends and gym neighbors by needing an ambulance.  When you cross into Man Mode-11, you’re going to get hurt. Don’t try to “man up” and ignore the minor injuries your body doles out when it is tired. While I encourage everyone to turn it up to (Wo)Man Mode-10, stay away from 11; that’s an order trooper.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Never Let The Wookie Win $20

Last article I mentioned how much exercise sucks. Remember no one wants to be out at the gym, and the last thing you want to be is that person who goes to the gym to be seen going to the gym. So if you are like me you need to find a motivator, something to get you up, and get you out moving around. Even the most loyal trooper deserves some R&R, so lets make it count for double.

A friend of mine and I used to go to the gym together. Well, we used to say we went to the gym together. More often than not one of us would bail. If neither of us ditched the other person we both secretly hoped the other would so we wouldn't have to bear the indignity of wussing out, "I was going to go to the gym today, but my gym buddy had to wash their cat". Like I said before, I am really good at coming up with excuses and I had 235lbs to prove it!

So how do we break this cycle of not caring? Remember everything is about motivation and I am like a Toydarian, mind tricks don't work on me, only money. May I suggest turning exercise and weight loss into a game, a competition, a wager? Like most young Jedi I am arrogant and brash, which means I hate to lose. If I play against my gym buddy, instead of with them, then every day they can't troop, is a day I am getting ahead.  Here are some games you can play with your "friend" to help motivate both of you:

Biggest Loser Competition:
This one is a gimme, we have all seen the TV show, in fact a lot of gyms do these competitions in house. It's not hard to convince your coworkers or friends to race to one size smaller, just put a friendly $20 on the line. If you can't convince others to join you, there are other ways of motivating yourself with the same principle

Don't judge me yet. This is actually the thing that I credit most with pulling me off the couch. When you read racquetball I am sure you are thinking of a pretentious sport with lots of yuppies talking about stock options between rallies. You may be right, but this sport has more in common with Tron than Patrick Bateman, best of all it's cheap. For $20 I found a kit that included a racquet, three balls, safety glasses and a rulebook. Apparently they used to print things on paper -- you know like the Declaration of Independence. After recycling the rulebook, I looked up the Wikipedia article for the rules, two days later I was whacking a ball against a wall. This game is quick, tough, and you feel like a Jedi when you make a good play. I can't recommend this enough. Many gyms have courts you can play on, and some towns or schools have free courts.

Nike+ Fuelband
This only works if you have someone else who cares about Fuel with you, and odds are you do. If you are even remotely interested in this high-tech motion tracker I am sure you have done all the research and already found out the only drawback is it converts everything into an abstract and very proprietary metric owned by Nike called Fuel. These points are very consistant in how they evaluate non-resistance based workouts though, factoring in intensity and duration. Fuel competitions are easy to organize as long as everyone has the bracelet and very addicting. After my coworkers put up 40,000 Fuel days, we knew we were in too deep. Facebook integration makes this a very addicting game.

Nike+ Running
Seriously last one then I will stop with the Nike love. Social networking plays a huge role in Fuel and helps broadcast your success which is why I like it so much. With the recent addition of "Challenges" on iOS devices this app just became a total juggernaut. Best part is the program is free and available on Android as well. My favorite feature is the "cheer" function that turns your Facebook friends' "likes" into audible cheers while you are running. It's corny, it's stupid, it totally works. Also power jams while you are on the last leg of your run are awesome. I have a little side confession the end song for Phantom Menace is totally my power jam, when you are about to complete a run all the Gungans on Naboo are cheering for you! Stop reading and download this app.

Bet It All
Whenever I compete, I like to have a wager. Since I am saving up for Stormtrooper armor, it can't be money. This means that whenever I compete with my friends, whether it is a game of Injustice: Gods Among Us, a game of racquetball, or even seeing who can roll the highest number on a D20 we always play for "feats of strength". Whether the wager is 5 pushups for every point between our scores, a lap around the building if you lose, or 50 jumpingjacks if you can't touch your tongue to your nose, everything results in physical activity. This won't turn you into a super athelete, but I am willing to bet it will get you and your friends exercising more and have fun while doing it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Wall, or Should I Say “The Impenetrable Shield Being Projected From A Nearby Forest Moon”

I hate exercise. When people often point out my obvious weight I tell them “I didn’t sculpt this body running marathons” while sardonically grabbing some fold on my body. The idea of mindlessly running in a gym has never been appealing to me, I have weak ankles, I get asthma attacks, I get itchy when I sweat. I have an archive of excuses about why I hate working out.

I like playing though; playing sword fights in the SCA, playing against my friends with pull up contests or arm wrestling, playing on a wakeboard – but God no, not “working out”. For some reason none of those excuses matter when I am playing, if I need to hit my friend Clifton with a stick I swing through the breathlessness, when I go wakeboarding I make sure my bindings are REALLY tight. My excuses let me do the fun stuff but mystically prevent me from doing the boring stuff. One day I called bullshit on myself.
During runs, marathon runners often reference “the wall”, that spot where everything in your mind is telling you that you are done, and you should stop. For them it happens somewhere around the 20th mile, for mortals like you and I it is closer to the 1st. That is where most of us stop, because we hate running. Running is boring, it’s sweaty, and there are litanies of other things you could be doing that are far more comfortable. During these tough times I remember my motivation, I press on thinking “trooper’s gotta troop”. If I am going to wear the white, I gotta put up the fight. I think about all the money the armor is going to cost, and all the work I am going to be putting into it. I think about how I want to look in that armor and how I want to tell people I earned it. Then I own it, crank up the Imperial March up to 11, and press on.
Motivation is key to pressing on, there is a reason you came out to the gym, so don’t stand there doing everything but working out. I feel like the comic I linked gives off the impression that running for vanity, for being healthier and slimming down, is somehow ignoble. If we are going to be honest with ourselves there really is nothing wrong with running to trim a few pounds, after all no one is running to get better at 12oz curls and pie eating competitions.  That said, avoid being that person who goes to the gym and calls it a job well done just for showing up. The person who blithely walks for ten minutes while reading, or drinking some water, and then gets in their car and leaves, that person is just there to be seen and no one likes that person.
Remember, it’s easy being a Stormtrooper when it’s all hanging out with Dark Jedi’s and raiding Dantooine, but every now and again you have to earn it with a battle of Hoth. Here are some tips to trooping on:
Set Yourself Workout Goals, Then Stick to Them
This is where I started, I wanted to FINISH a 5K, not finish in 30 minutes, just finish period. My first 5K I finished in 35’30”, which isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. I am no Usain Bolt, but I got there. Once I got there, I could work on speeding up.
Broadcast Your Workout Goals
Like most people in the world you are probably on some social networking site. Use this as a support network. When you set a workout goal, post it on your site of choice and then follow up after the work out with the results. The ground swell of “likes” and “+1s” you get will be a huge motivator.
Celebrate Success
When I complete a goal, I take a “screw the haters” victory lap back home. Sweaty, staggering, and completely shirtless I run through my town back home. My fore mentioned layer of “jolliness” means I am not exactly Brad Pit, but anyone judging me can jump off a bridge. How many fitness goals have they hit today? How hard did they work? You earned the right to celebrate, whether that is on Facebook, or streaking through your neighborhood.

Forget the Failures
If you weren’t able to complete your goal, if you tried but you fell short, don’t worry about it, no one is going to force-choke you for it. You lapped everyone at home who sat on the couch, and you trounced that naturally skinny person who strolled on the treadmill while texting their friend. Broadcast the failure just like you would success, the amount of “you will get them next time”s and “you still did good”s mean that even when you fail, you succeed.  Once you get comfortable with failure, and the struggle against it, every trip to the gym will be a success.

Monday, July 29, 2013

TK-421 Why Aren't You On The Treadmill?

Welcome to Plastoid Pursuits! This isn’t just a blog about Stormtrooper armor, this is a blog about finding the motivation to eat right, and exercise. A lot of sites or magazines will show you ripped dudes next to fawning ladies in bikinis, and then tell you how you can live that sort of life in just six weeks of diet and exercise. We both know that isn’t true, and somewhere in the world there is an elephant graveyard of treadmills, Bowflexes, stationary bikes, and other gadgets that stand as a silent litany of failure to the “30 minutes a day/$29.95 a month” mentality. Instead we show you Stormtrooper armor.

Why do so many people fail at weight loss? I feel folks are motivated by something that is unattainable and I don’t mean in the “perfect cherry blossom” sort of way like you find in haikus. I am talking about this goal that in 6 weeks you are going to become some tanned Adonis. A lot of people find themselves two weeks into that goal, and they are still the same person, just hungrier, and then give up. Why shouldn’t you? You have sort of been sold a bill of false goods.

So let’s talk about the real goal, let’s talk about why you want to lose weight, and let’s talk about what is motivating you to lose that weight. Do you want to be ripped? Do you want to be healthier? Do you just want to trim a few inches?

In the end, I just want to look healthy in a shirt and jeans. I was told part of any good weight loss plans is milestones and rewards. The trouble is you can’t reward yourself with a fancy dinner, or cake and pie; then you are going to put the weight back on. This got me thinking about what I wanted out of looking healthy and I settled on a suit of screen accurate regulation Stormtrooper armor.

I have loved Star Wars since I was in elementary school, and very few things are as iconic as the white plastoid encased enforcers of theGalactic Empire. When I was svelte and young enough to begin Jedi training, I couldn’t afford the armor. Now that I am older, and wealthier, I am also considerably more rotund. So my goal of a healthy BMI of 24.0, 190lbs for my height, means I will not only look sharp in my civvies, but in the black body glove of the noble Stormtrooper. The last thing I want is to be trooping around, and some snobby Senator from Alderaan asks me “aren’t you a little fat to be a Stormtrooper?”

That is what this blog is about, healthy weight loss goals. Not getting cut in six weeks, but building the habits necessary to properly oppress the citizens of the Empire. It’s a big galaxy out there, and if you are going to be catching smugglers, boarding Corellian Corvettes, and chasing down Jedi you aren’t going to want to bring that spare tire along.