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I have reached the end of my 30 day yoga challenge.  I’ve done a supported headstand every day for 30 days straight.  This was a great challenge and I feel I’ve reached a great mile stone.  To do anything 30 days in a row is quite an accomplishment.  So what did I learn?

Day 1 was rocky to say the least.  I could get in to a headstand but not very well.  In fact, I have a camera app called Blink which takes several pictures in rapid succession.  I had my wife use this app to get a picture of me with my feet straight up and had to pick the best one to display in my Day 1 blog post.  I was only able to hold this pose for a couple of seconds before falling over.  Many times I would fall backward which resulted in me rolling over my interlocked fingers which kind of hurt.  Still I pressed on.

Day two I took a picture but did not post it here.  My legs were slightly forward.  At this point in the game it was a little tough getting in to a headstand.  I struggled with it a little.  By day 4 I definitely felt like I was making some headway not only in getting in to the pose but in balance and staying in the pose.

Somewhere around day 16 I had a bad day.  I felt like it was very difficult to get in to the pose.  I got in to the pose and felt like I couldn’t hold it.  I felt tired for some reason.  Later I figured it was that I hadn’t done any warm up and my back was stiff.  A great lesson to learn and from that day forward I had no problems at all once I was properly stretched.

So now that I’ve hit day 30, I can get in to this pose very easily and hold it for a lot longer.  I tossed my wife my phone and asked her to take a picture of me.  I don’t think she realized what was going on.  I quickly got inverted and was standing on my head for about 15 seconds before I called out to her.  She responded, picked up my phone and as she was about to take a picture someone called.  She hung up on them and went back to the camera app.  I stood straight up on my head for about 30-40 seconds total before she took this picture.

Supported Headstand Day 30

Supported Headstand Day 30

What I love about this picture is how my back is almost straight but my legs are aligned over my head and my toes are pointed up about as much as I can point them at this time.  I held pretty straight like this for a good amount of time and it is the first time I’ve seen my accomplishment since day 4.  I am celebrating this victory today and feel a real sense of accomplishment.

Interestingly enough this fit really well in to my minimalist theory.  I took less than a minute a day to learn a new pose that was quite hard in the beginning.  I really had it learned in a little over 2 weeks but continue to perfect my skill and gain strength.

Strength is something that I still have to work on.  This takes a lot of arm and back strength to hold for this long.  I will most likely keep doing my headstands almost daily.  I really enjoy doing them because they give me confidence and for the strength.

Do you have pics of you doing headstands?  What should my next 30 day challenge be?

Namaste my friends.

So I’m on day 12 of my supported headstand yoga challenge and I thought I’d write an update.  Day 1 was a bit of a challenge in itself.  I wasn’t very stable and had problems staying upright for very long.  I wasn’t able to keep my feet together without falling over and was inverted for maybe 10 seconds.

It didn’t take me long to start to gain balance.  On day 4 I felt a lot more solid and I was able to hold the position with my feet together.  Now, on day 12 I feel like I can stay inverted for a much longer period of time and keep my feet together.  This stability gives me the opportunity to focus on my breathing which isn’t easy when inverted.  I’m confident that by day 30 I will have improved a great deal more.

So I was showing my friend who is a yoga instructor and she gave me a couple of tips which I don’t think I’m ready to implement.  Quite honestly, I don’t think I have the strength in my shoulders or back at this point.  She told me that I’ll eventually want to get in to the supported headstand pose by putting my arms and head down then walking my feet toward my body.  Then, as my friend showed me, I’ll keep my legs straight and feet together as I lift.  Right now I’m lifting one leg at a time and they’re bent.  Still, I’m reaping the benefit of being inverted as well as gaining strength in my shoulders and core.  

I’m more than 1/3 of the way through my challenge and still enjoying it.

I love a challenge.  Why wouldn’t I?  Since I was a young kid I’ve been challenged to keep up with my big brother, to learn how to use computers (as primitive as they were in the 80’s), to make the basketball team, to graduate high school then college, to get a job… I thrive on a challenge.

I went back in time on my personal facebook page.  Not far, I just wanted to see what day I started doing yoga.  I think it was March 1st and since it was the beginning of a new month, why not make that the date?  So I’ve been doing yoga for a month and a half.  Nearly ever day… nearly.

So I think I will challenge myself to something.  For the next 30 days I want to do a supported headstand pose.  It wont take long, just a minute or two but will help me in core strength and balance.  I also want to challenge myself to do yoga 6 days per week even if it is just a couple of poses.  I want to build and build upon this and focus on opening up my chest, gaining arm and core strength and improving hip flexibility.  At the end of 30 days I should be a lot further along than I am now and will issue myself a new challenge going forward.  Wanna start with me?  It starts tomorrow, April 15th.

So late last year I decided to start taking medication for my ADD.  I was seeing that my attention problems were causing some difficulties in my life and decided enough was enough.  Since ADD is treated with stimulants (non stimulants are available but they’re more costly) I decided to stop drinking coffee and tea with caffeine in it.

For a couple of weeks it was a bit of a struggle but I got used to it.  Besides, the medication helped me stay awake for a while.  Eventually I got used to the meds and they weren’t keeping me as awake.  Ever since I started doing yoga I’ve found a couple moves really get the blood flowing and the heart beating and increase my energy.  I start out my routine in a bridge pose before turning over and doing a cobra pose.  This combination invigorates me to the point where I feel like I’m going to pass out at times.  But after doing my morning yoga I feel as if I have energy to make it through the day.

As I stated previously, I’m about four weeks in to my yoga journey and I’ve been working a few minutes a day trying to improve my poses.  I want to learn my poses correctly and try not to worry about the health benefits of them, although that will happen naturally.  One pose I’ve been working on is called Crow Pose or Bakasana as it is called in Sanskrit.  It isn’t perfect and it takes a lot of effort but it is happening.

Crow Pose (Bakasana)

Crow Pose (Bakasana)

This pose take a lot of strength in your wrists and forearms as well as your core to accomplish.  It feels like a full body workout when I’m doing it and I can only hold it for about 5 seconds.  When I’m not working on this pose I’ve been doing some strength training trying to develop strength in my wrists.  It seems to be working as I’m able to get out of this pose without falling down now.

I wanted to learn a very advanced pose even though I’m a beginner.  I’m a bit impatient like that.  I looked through a lot of the poses and decided this one would be hard but not out of the question.  It didn’t require me standing on my head, just balance and strength.  I guess I didn’t realize how hard it would be but I found a video entitled “Hard Poses Made Easy” and decided to go for it.

This video was enough and as you can see I’ve accomplished a crow pose.  My butt is a little high and I can only hold it for so long but with time I plan on getting better and better.  Yoga really has been a great journey so far.

History of Yoga Infographic

History of Yoga Infographic

There has been a lot of talk about mental health in the media lately.  Mostly because of people with extreme circumstances.  I really don’t want to get in to the politics of it all but I believe there should be more that is done for people with mental health problems.  Helping to break down the taboos is, as far as I can tell, the best way for me to help the situation.  Among my friends and family I speak very openly about my mental health status and sometimes I’m criticized for it.  For the most part, however, the reception has been warm.

What’s Going On In My Head?

So what is my mental health status?  I have been diagnosed with ADD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was in 5th grade and Anxiety only a few years ago in 2005.  I was treated for ADD as school age kid but quit taking Ritalin when I graduated from high school in 1994.  For most of my adult life I have had no problems.  I studied film in college and most of the teaching was very hands on.  As a visual learner this was the best way for me to learn.  What wasn’t hands on, I worked very hard at.  I got through college with very good grades and began a career.  It wasn’t long before I married my wife and was a husband and step-dad.

It is quite common for guys (and probably girls) like me to have a lot of success without treatment until we settle in to life and then have problems.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of success finding good treatment (until recently) so I gave up for a while.

The Problems I Had

So why do I need treatment?  An ADD brain craves stimulation.  There are certain instances where I thrive but this need for stimulation can cause problems.  I can be very impulsive and unpleasant to be around when I get stressed and feel the need to “vent”.  The anxiety side of me created a different set of problems.  I would become very defensive in public situations, especially when confronting conflict.  Many times I just stayed home when I didn’t think I could handle the task.  I often feared what would happen if, for example, my bank card didn’t work, I needed more documentation or showed up at the wrong time.  Honestly, I felt as if I was withdrawing from life.  I hardly ever get out of the house unless I’m with my wife and kids or I’m going to work.  My mental health was definitely affecting my life.

And Then I Got Treatment

I finally found an excellent doctor who is helping me.  She considers all of my reservations about taking certain medications and has prescribed just what I needed to improve my quality of life.  Some would say I’m dependent on drugs to be able to handle life.  I’d say with a wife, three kids and a great career that I’ve handled life very well.

What’s This Guy On?

I also want to share with you what I’m taking.  Not because I simply want to talk about what I take but because it demonstrates that you can get an effective treatment without having troubles like side effects or becoming addicted to drugs.

The first medication I am on is Xanax.  I’m sure there are mixed feelings about Xanax but I take a very low dosage.  When I have problems with my anxiety or am going to be in a situation where my anxiety typically hinders me, I take a half of a .25 milligram pill.  It doesn’t cause me to zone out or anything like that, it simply takes away my fears and helps me to feel normal.

The second medication I take is called Adderall.   Adderall is a stimulant used for treating ADD.  I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago who said she decided she doesn’t believe in ADD.  She was surprised that I am on medication for my ADD and asked if it makes me feel like a zombie.  With so much misinformation out there about ADD and the medications used for treating it people have just decided that they will ignore the problem in order to just remain normal.  Let me tell you, I am completely the same with Adderall as I am without it except for the fact that I can focus on tasks better and don’t feel so impulsive and stressed out.  I’m still a very creative person, and I’m still good at multitasking.  I’m also enjoying life more.

Full disclosure, Adderall is the third medication I tried.  The first didn’t work enough, the second made me feel like I was in fast forward.  I communicated with my doctor and she worked with me until we got it right.

How This Helps Others

Sharing my story with friends has helped others as well.  I’ve had people come to me and ask me questions about my condition.  A condition, by the way, that doesn’t define who I am, just something I deal with.  Sharing my story may open me up to occasional (slight) criticism but it has opened up a dialog with people to share their struggles with me and we have been able to learn from each other.  In this context it has enhanced my perspective on life.  It has also done the same for those I’ve encountered.

Mental health is a taboo subject.  It shouldn’t be.  You should share your mental health struggles with those around you and seek treatment.  You will also find that your courage will encourage those around you to seek treatment.  You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re improved your quality of life and the life of others.

Well this is it ladies and gentlemen.  Tonight is the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013.  I have a lot of goals for 2013 but for now I’m thinking back at what I’ve accomplished in 2012.

2012 started out fun.  We had some good friends over a year ago tonight, they stayed with us that night and we all went out for some go-kart fun on the 1st.  I also started a blog on Jan 1st, 2012 where I would celebrate a different food holiday every day.  The secret I didn’t tell people is that I was dieting 6 days a week but would cook and eat my food holiday foods on Saturday as part of a cheat day.  This lasted until April when I totally burned out on the grind of putting together a blog like this.

February was a very up and down month for me.  My family and I moved to another part of town where we are much happier.  My parents came to visit to help us move but we lost my grandma the same weekend.  It is something that still hurts even now.  I went off my diet and began gaining weight again.  This weight gain lasted until June.

In late May I had been reading a couple of books and had seen some research that suggested that you could exercise a few times per day in short duration and still benefit as if you’d gone to the gym for an hour.  I decided I was going to try this and write a blog about it.  It took me a few days to flesh out my program but ultimately, as many of you know, I settled on push ups, sit ups and squats.  At first it was all three each day but I would get tired and need to take days off to rest.  This is when I started doing one of each per day and my program really took off.

In June I started dieting and experimenting with food and weight loss/gain.  I ended up losing 29 lbs before feeling the need to stabilize for a while.  I felt at that point I was losing too quickly and needed a break.  Yes, I know, this is a great problem to have!  The fact is, I have been working on writing a book about my experiences and the research I had done had given me so much knowledge that I really feel my mental state couldn’t keep up with my physical state.  In other words, I got the program down but my mind was stuck with a comfort level that was at a higher weight.  Does that make any sense at all?  It did to me.

Physically, my biggest setback hit in late September.  I was having trouble doing push ups and determined that I must have strained my rotator cuff.   I kept up with some exercises for a while but round about November I decided I should take the rest of the year off to rest my body.  I was doing my push ups wrong.  I had my elbows out when they should be closer to my body when doing a push up.

With the holidays coming I acclimated myself back to eating bread and some cheese and I thoroughly enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner and all the Christmas festivities I attended.

So how does 2012 end for me?  My wife and kids are still in Michigan and I’m in Florida working tonight.  I’ll put the TV on and watch the ball drop… I dislike that ball… and text and call my friends to say happy new year.  Tomorrow I’m getting back to the grind and will be running, doing push ups, sit ups and squats.  I’ve already gotten myself back on my diet and am feeling optimistic about it.

I will work harder on my book and hope to have it completed soon.  Don’t worry, I can’t always proof read my blog posts due to my family and work schedule but the book will be proof read, and read by a few people before I put it out there for people to read.

I also plan to write more on the blog like I did for a the first few months.  I want to give you some advise for reaching your goals based on my research.

Here’s to a great new year!

I’m kind of a hermit.  I work, I sleep, I stay home.  It isn’t a bad thing, I love my family and I love my job.  I don’t really feel the need to get out a whole lot.  Last year I was working mornings and would drive to work in the dark and work in a room where we could not see the outside.  This year I work nights and sleep till noon.  Not exactly good schedules for a person’s circadian rhythm.  On top of that I keep the blinds closed all the time.  I have the house locked  down like Fort Knox.  Yes, I’m a little strange in that regard.

A couple of weeks ago I was researching circadian rhythm and found that mine was off quite a bit.  My peaks and valley’s weren’t high and low enough and they seemed to be out of sync with where they should be.  This was causing me to feel like I was dragging throughout the day.  The website I used to track my circadian rhythm suggested I get a Philips Go Light.  These lights are designed to simulate sunlight, which your body needs.  Typically people use these lights during the winter months when clouds often block out the sun.

So I’ve started opening my blinds and letting the sun in when I wake up.  I’ve noticed a real different in the past couple of weeks.  My mood is elevated and I don’t drink so much coffee anymore.  While my sleep schedule isn’t what my body and mind would prefer, I’ve taken steps to alleviate the problems.

If you think you’re not getting enough sun in the morning, I would recommend you change that.  Get up and eat breakfast in front of a window.  Open the blinds and let the light in.  Maybe even take a walk.  If you simply cannot do this because you get up too early and the sun isn’t up then look in to purchasing a Philips Go Light.  I’ve heard great things about them.

I realize this is an odd post for a blog called Minimalist Workout but I like to write about my life and pass along good advice that I’ve used to make my life better.

Click here to see my 7 Point Plan To Fitness Success

This phase is one of the most subjective phases in my 7 Point Plan.  In fact, I may not be able to list all the ways in which you can accomplish this phase but this is something that is very important for so many reasons.

When I started this blog in late May 2012 I did so with the intention of using it to track my workouts.  I figured eventually people would read it so I made my posts narrative.  This is mostly because I love writing.  I like to share my experiences with other people.  A blog may not be for everyone.  Regardless of whether you start a blog or choose some other method of tracking your workouts you want to think about a couple of different things while you’re writing.

The first thing you want to do is write down how many reps you did and how many sets of each rep.  A rep, or repetition, is you doing the exercise one time.  So for example, one push up, one sit up or one squat.  A set is a group of reps.  So if you drop down and do 5 push ups before getting up, that is one set of 5 reps.  Throughout the day you may do 4 or 5 (or more) sets of 5 reps.  Track them all and write the total at the end.  If you do 4 sets of 5 reps then write your total (20) at the end of your journal entry.

The journal phase will continue for the duration of your journey.  It will overlap with the action phase and will drive the success phase.  You will refer back to your previous entries in order to see how far you’ve come.  Most people have fitness goals that seem so far away. Using a journal to track your short term successes is one of the best ways, I’ve found, to stay motivated to keep going.  Celebrating your short term successes also makes you feel good about what you’re doing and moves you closer to self-efficacy.

Here is a quick list of ways you can use to journal:

This phase is really up to you but you should be doing it daily (even if you write in that you did a rest day) and should include what you did and how many of it.  Whatever way works best for you is the way you should do it.

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