Saturday, February 12, 2011

Blog<Meta> Retrospective

It's been a couple months since my last update. Sorry about that. It's a combination of end-of-the-year travel/holiday stuff and general laziness/procrastination. Okay, I'll cool it (a little) with the slashes. (But no promise on parentheses.)

I know it's well into the new year, but since I didn't do it in January, I'm going to use this post as an opportunity to reflect back on the previous year and to record my goals for the new year. So please bear with me as I do a little navel gazing.

Exercise/Weight Loss Goals
I had specific goals, so it's easy to judge my progress. Here was my one and only goal at the beginning of the year:
  • Go from 266 lbs to 206 lbs.
By the end of July, I had completed this goal. Around the same time, I found running as an enjoyable way to maintain the weight loss. As happy as I was to lose the 60 lbs, I realized I still wanted to get in better shape. So, I reevaluated my progress and set a few new goals for the end of the year:
  • Get down to 190 lbs.
  • Be able to run 5 miles.
By December I was hovering between 190 and 185. Success! I'm still hovering around this weight, but I've got a few different goals in mind for 2011 (which I'll get to in a couple paragraphs).

My goal for running was probably a little naive. I had just read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. This book went a long way towards making me believe that I could actually run and enjoy it. But, after never running more than 1.5 miles in my entire life, I somehow decided I could run 5 miles by the end of the year. I didn't realize at the time that it would take so much effort and patience to learn the technique that allows a person to run long distances. And this is doubly important when running barefoot. Even with all the setbacks and generally slow progress, I was still able to get up to 4 miles on 2 separate runs by the end of the year. If you asked me a year ago if I'd be able to run 4 miles without shoes, I probably would have laughed in your face.

So the final tally for my exercise goals in 2010 was 2 successes, and 1 failure (but I made some good progress). Keeping this in mind, I've decided to divide 2011 into short term and long term goals. I've learned that short term goals are important because they are easier to visualize success, and upon completion, they provide motivation to continue striving for the long term ones. Long term goals are equally important because they provide you direction when you inevitably hit a roadblock or start to plateau. They are the reason for putting in all the hard work. As such, here are my goals for 2011:

Short term:
  • Run my first official barefoot 5k by the end of May.
  • Acquire access to an Olympic bar and weights, and learn proper technique on several compound lifts (squat, bench press, dead lift, overhead press, barbell row).
  • Create and follow a new diet geared primarily toward gaining muscle and burning (or at least not gaining) fat.
  • Create workout/diet journal to track progress for at least the first 3 months.
  • Gain at least 5 lbs of muscle in the first 3 months without increasing body fat %.
Long term:
  • Run an official 10k by the end of the year.
  • Squat: 5 reps at least 100% of my body weight.
  • Bench press: 5 reps at 75%
  • Dead lift: 5 reps at 100%
  • Drop from ~15% to 10% body fat by the end of the year.
  • Visible 6 pack abs (and finally lose this damn belly)
You'll notice that I'm planning on making weight training a big part of my exercise plan this year. A year of losing body fat and building a little muscle (mostly endurance) has left me with the desire to get stronger. You might remember that I hated my resistance training over the past year, and you might be wondering why the change in heart. Well, I've been researching again and I've discovered that I've basically been doing it wrong. BTW, those body weight % numbers are not considered strong by many standards, but I don't want to make the same mistake I made with running and just assume I'll get there easily. I'll be writing a post soon to talk about my new fitness goals and give more insight as to why I'm (finally) taking weight lifting more seriously.

This is one area where I haven't been very prolific. My intention when I started this blog was that most of it would be technical posts about programming and specifically creating games. I'd still like to continue talking about it, but the exercise/fitness stuff has been taking up a lot of my time and it reaches a broader audience of people. I didn't really have any goals last year, and I still don't really have any this year. You can expect the occasional game or prototype project update, so those of you who don't read this for the technical stuff can feel free to tune them out.

The Blog (meta-goals)
I had a few reasons for starting this blog last year. The main one is that writing things down helps to solidify them in my mind. And even if no one ever reads the blog but me, it's difficult to discount the pressure of Internet Accountability™. Of course the downside is that if I ever stop doing this for more than 4 months, the Internet Shame™ will keep me from ever dredging it back up. So part of this process naturally involves coming out of my cocoon and advertising myself a little. The more real readers, the harder it is to let myself quit.

There are 2 other main reasons. The first is that I want to become a better writer, and you only get better at something by practicing. The second is that (I think) I have something interesting things to say, and (if I can improve my writing) the information just might be useful to other people.

So, here were my goals for 2010:
  • Write something once a week.
  • Write something useful once a month.
  • Get some actual humans to read the blog.
  • Improve my writing ability.
Did I succeed? Well, my goals weren't very clearly defined. Heck, this is the first time that I've actually written these down, and I have to say they're pretty weak. I could come up with a few reasons why I succeeded, and I could come up with a few reasons why I still need to improve. If my weight loss goals have taught me anything, without specificity it's very difficult to analyze results.

The first 2 goals are better than the last two, but they don't mention a duration. Did I want to do this forever? For a year? A few months? If I wanted to keep up the volume of writing for more than 5 or 6 months, then I guess I've failed miserably. At the time I started the blog, I didn't really know.

The 3rd goal is even more vague, but I still think I did okay. I've got a small set of followers, comprised mostly family and friends. These are the people I'd actually want to give me feedback, so I'm fine with the small readership. Plus, there's still a pretty big mental stumbling block to overcome when I think that I actually have something important or useful to say. Plus, plus, strangers are scary. Anonymous strangers are basically the bogeyman. But still, it would be good to venture out of my shell a little more.

The last goal is almost useless. I don't know if I'm any better at this than I was in June. The idea was that practice would make it easier and improve the quality of my writing. After 6 months, it's definitely easier to type a lot of words in front of a computer screen. I have no idea if the quality has kept pace with the quantity.

Goals for 2011:
  • Write something useful/interesting once a month for the rest of the year.
  • Promote the useful/interesting posts on facebook.
  • Extra posts are a bonus, but I also want to start using the space as a way to give smaller/quicker status updates. As such, a set schedule or number doesn't really make sense.
I think these are better than the previous year's goals. As far as improving the quality of my writing, I'm not sure how to do this except to just solicit feedback occasionally. Honestly, I still think that writing more will naturally improve the quality, and I'm comfortable not having a specific goal.

Hopefully I'll be well on my way toward my 2011 goals by my next post. I think I might have found a good deal on craigslist for an Olympic barbell and weight set, so after a month of indirection, I'm starting to make some progress. :)

See you next time.


  1. Kyle, you're already a great writer. Also, I enjoy reading your posts. You should link them to Facebook all the time so I know when they're here! :) I'm impressed by the progress you've made this year, and I'm happy to see you succeeding at your goals.

  2. Kyle,
    I agree with Melanie! I so enjoy reading your posts a) because your content and style are interesting and so human b) because your progress toward your goals is inspiring (and I need inspiration), and c)because I love that you are putting yourself out there!

    Thank you!