Goals for 2013

This was an addendum to the streak post last week, but it has kinda developed a mind of its own, so it is now its very own post. Yay.
So what of the next year? Are we going for 700+ day streak? Am I going to define some new goals? Well I am, yes – the streak is too useful to just let go like that. The next big milestone will be 512 days, which comes around at the end of May – so that will be nice to aim for. And I have several new goals:

Physical

I’m hoping to support my running with some level of core / muscular exercise – I need to start up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu again, it’s kinda shocking that I founded what has turned into one of the best BJJ communities on the internet (no thanks to me, mind), and I’m still not training it consistently. I can’t set a solid goal like blue belt, due to the fact that I ultimately suck at anything competitive, but something simpler like weekly attendance isn’t out of reach.

I also have my first obstacle race booked in March (another reason to train some actual core). And I have a silly pie-in-the-sky plan to run 31 miles on my 31st in June. So that should give me something to build mileage towards.

Projects

I’ve had a fitness tool in mind for a while now – I’ve told a few people the idea and it seems to get a pretty decent reception (it’s not a top-secret thing, I just don’t want to tie it down in writing, because I’ve not exactly specced it out yet – I’d be hugely grateful to discuss it or have it naysayed in real life if anyone fancies to talk over a pint or coffee or a pint of coffee). So with a simple data-collection part coded over the past month or so, I look to dogfood and continue with building a prototype over the next 3 months – it might go the way of dogfood and end up as dogshit, but I’m alright with that, having something to work on in my spare time is a great motivator to keep me skill-building, regardless of the outcome.

mma-urls is a link aggregator I built a while ago. It’s broken beyond disbelief at the moment, and traffic’s non-existant – I need to fix it pretty soon. I also have some nice features in mind for it, and some semantic-web goodness I want to inject into it (coding with RDF and the semantic-web at work has given me plenty of ideas, it’s just a matter of making time).

Skills

There are three skills I’m looking to develop over the next year, both major and minor:

  1. Music – 2012 saw me actually playing music again. It’s been a longtime coming. I joined the ukulele club at work, and I purchased Rocksmith. Both have been excellent motivators – I plan to keep up both throughout the year.
  2. Language – my German skills have remained dormant since 2004, the year after I returned from living there. I’ve been refreshing myself recently using the awesome duolingo and memrise webapps, and hope to improve that into the year – at least to the point where I can start reading German literature and hold a conversation decently.
  3. Writing – I have been completely overwhelmed by the response to my streaking post last week. Where previously I felt a need to only write geeky techy posts here, the response to the running one has made me realise that there’s nothing wrong with turning this thing into more of a hodgepodge of subjects. WordPress makes it easy for people to filter out shite that they’re not interested in using tags, categories and their associated RSS feeds. And it also results in me starting to consolidate content in one place all owned by me – I’ve previously fell afoul to publishing on various other web services to get around the single subject matter of this blog, as a result, I’m at the mercy of google and tumblr rather than just a single transferable webhost.

Tracking

To stay on top of all of this, I’m pretty much abusing Joe’s Goals to mark a tick against which ones I do daily (they should start paying me commission), and then getting a ‘score’ at the end of the day to let me know how I’m doing.

But aside from this rudimentary aggregation, I log workouts and running on dailymile, I track German progress at the aforementioned memrise and duolingo, and rocksmith does a good job of assessing progress on guitar – so I guess there’s micro-tracking elsewhere too.

I’ve actually trimmed out a few goals from here, because either they were ridiculously insignificant, completely unachievable (the 31 miles at 31 thing probably should accompany this cut, but a man can dream), or just made for too much to concentrate on. I’m probably spreading myself remarkably thinly here, but I may as well try to make hay as the sun shines and all.

Overly introspective post about my running streak.

For the past few years, I’ve found running to be a decent way of shifting some weight (slight aside, since the age of twenty, I’ve been the classic yo-yo when it comes to weight – between 11.5 and 17 stone, depending on what the dice spell out in any given week). The only problem is that it can sometimes be hard to motivate yourself to go for a run. Excuses are very easy to come by: the weather, needing a sandwich, hangovers, the sniffles, Emmerdale’s on, Christmas, not really feeling like it today, bone-idleness, needing a poo… Basically it’s much easier to not run than it is to run. Which is one of those really obvious things that someone who could write probably wouldn’t be writing.

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.  – Benjamin Franklin

Pretentious quote – check.

“Don’t Break The Chain”

I’ve been interested in Seinfeld’s don’t break the chain ‘productivity secret’ for a while now, it makes sense to me and is simple enough to follow. And I’m now, a year in, convinced it can and does work. At the beginning of the year I decided to see how many days I could go running without breaking the chain. The only rule of the running streak was that every day I had to go at least 1 mile. The only tool I needed was the brilliant joesgoals – it’s not the slickest or best looking app, but it does one thing and it does it well. And reasonably consistently (I do see the odd Coldfusion error screen now and again).

The running streak itself started reasonably inconspicuously, a couple of days, a week, two weeks  – no bother. But then I got to a month – and this was now a ‘thing’, it was at a stage now where people were asking if I was still ‘streaking’, and there was a pressure to keep going. And it got bigger, and bigger – 90 days, 6 months. I started only recording binary milestones – 64 days, 128 days, 256 days – because monthly was now too often to brag about, and I can’t help but be a geeky attention-seeker. The pressure to not cock up was overwhelming – some of the hangovers I ran through were ridiculous, but by now, that I was going to run – come rain, shine or coma – was a given.

It is said that it takes 21 or 66 days to form a habit, dependant on who you ask – but I guess it was a fair bit longer than that before it was a really natural thing for me to do each day. Now however, I find it as weird a feeling to have not run as I do to have not brushed my teeth. Not that my feet grow fur or anything.

The Perils Of Running Streaks

Is streak running for everyone? Probably not – running alone is reasonably high impact and  not taking a break does increase the risk of injury. The US Streak Running Association have a very good post that explains the risks and everything that goes with the hobby far better than I ever could. In every exercise regime, rest is required in order to allow muscles to recover – so in a typical week, I have one or two one-milers, which I consider rest runs – they take less than 10 minutes and exist to keep the discipline enforced and my running streak going.

You also have to be realistic and listen to your body – I’ve had to cut runs down due to suspicious aches in my shins. And I’ve also always had to be prepared to break the streak, it’s better to let an injury heal before you start a new streak than try to run through an injury and be out for a year. Luckily, that hasn’t come up yet – because while this sort of thing is very easy to type, when an injury does occur, I’m not sure my ego will find resetting that magic number so simple a task.

Yay! Go Running Streaks!

Some of the spoils of my running streak - my shoes

That warning aside, running has been one of the few constants in my life this year (yeah, this is where the introspective, self indulgent bullshit stuff begins – bet you’re glad you read on now, eh?). Despite changing jobs and cities – among many other things – running has kept going alongside all of that stuff, regardless. It has been something to turn my attention to, something to set goals against, something that has given me a continual sense of achievement, and something to force myself out of the house in order to clear my head. It has been great, both physically and otherwise.

Speaking of achievements, at the beginning of the year I set a target of 500 miles, figuring most of my runs would be in the 1-2 mile mark. But due to training for the Great North Run, my mileage was upped considerably and I ended up hitting 1124 miles on my 365th day. Not too shabby.

So yes, with all this in mind, I would say that starting a streak of any type gives you an incredible impetus to get a task done, and I would recommend it to anyone with a goal to achieve of any sort. Running is a great way of staying active and keeping your head in check, I’d recommend that too.

I was going to post about my goals for 2013 here, but that seems to have developed a life of its own and should hit this website in the next week. Cheers for reading this far – and if you haven’t had enough of my self-indulgent running bollocks, I post updates on dailymile and I sometimes natter on about it on twitter.

Edit / Addendum

Allan Whatmough asked on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/allanw/status/286835193174716416

Which raises a great oversight in this post – how do I not forget the odd run? Well I prioritise the run as the first thing I do everyday. I don’t eat, I have a glass of water if I’m dehydrated (always sure to hydrate if I was drinking the night before), and then I just run. I find it hard to run with food in my stomach anyway – I’m just conscious of it being there, so I guess this system works pretty naturally for me. Even long runs don’t justify food yet (15 miles is about the longest I’ve ever gone). I guess this is a similar solution to disciplining myself as saver’s use to make sure they ‘pay themselves first’ – which I’m sure works nicely.