Two weeks are in the books, roughly eight more to go for 75 Hard! This time I am dead set on completing the challenge. There is nothing on this Earth that I will let get in my way. There will be challenging weeks ahead, but that is just how life goes.
This past week has been a challenging one in and of itself. I’ve not felt 100% healthwise; I’ve had a persistent cold. My throat is scratchy, and my nose is seemingly running a marathon. But I feel fantastic that despite this, I’ve completed another week.
I actually had a pretty strenuous week looking back. Since last Wednesday, I have played soccer four times, basketball once, and flag football (for three hours) once. I also went on my walks and bike rides. It was a nonstop week. But I’d rather be on the move than have nothing to do, so I’ll definitely take it.
At the end of April, Whoop sent me my Monthly Performance Assessment. The MPA is an excellent tool that combines all of the data accumulated over the month and shows you exactly how your body responds to the various strains you are putting on it.
As you can see from the above images, my resting heart rate and heart rate variability have improved since I initially began 75 Hard at the beginning of March. Not only that, my sleep performance has improved substantially, with further room for improvement. All of these metrics can be attributed to more strenuous days. My heart is getting healthier because I’m training it. My recovery is improving because my body is now accustomed to taking on the strain. The lowest recovery I had for the entire month of April was 34%. That was due to me getting four hours of sleep before taking my friend to the airport early that morning. This was the first time since I obtained the Whoop strap that I didn’t have a single day with a Red recovery. My body is actively learning how to recover better day after day. My sleep is improving because both my mind and body are tired at the end of the day. Not just one or the other.
Waking up every day feeling the healthiest I’ve ever been has been pretty freaking excellent, to say the least. I love every second of this journey, even if sometimes I don’t feel like getting a workout in.
In my next post, I’ll talk more about my diet and the benefits I feel that I get from that and share some delicious and nutritious recipes.
Coupled with this post, I recorded a short podcast where I talk further about the data and the challenge. Check it out on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Anchor, YouTube, and Overcast!
On the Sunday (Monday) Soccer Special, I talk about the title, top four, and relegation race that is ongoing in the EPL. Who will come out on top, Liverpool or Manchester City? Who will play in the Champions League next season, Arsenal or Tottenham? And who will be sent down? Will it be Leeds, Burnley, or Everton for the first time in their history?
In addition, I give my thoughts on the upcoming UCL ties between Man City and Real Madrid, and Liverpool and Villareal!
The end of the season is always exciting, but this season just feels a little more special! What do you think is going to happen?
The podcast is available on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor, and Overcast!
If you follow the blog, you’ll know that the current crack at 75 Hard is my third attempt after failing twice within the past 50 days. As of writing, I am 6 days into the third attempt. After completing today’s tasks, I will be one week in for the third time. It is a bit disparaging to think I could have only three weeks left. However, at this point, completing the tasks has become second nature.
My vegan diet has been a relatively easy transition from the vegetarian diet. The most challenging circumstance came on Saturday afternoon when my coworker asked me to join him for lunch at Bob Evans. Essentially everything on their menu is not vegan friendly. My options were limited to French fries and fruit. Hey, my bill was $3, so not all bad.
I work in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a few grocery stores there have fantastic plant-based options. At Fresh Thyme, I found jack fruit for tacos, coconut yogurt, Just Egg, and vegan feta cheese. I’ve eaten tacos three days in a row. Jackfruit one night, then potato tacos the next two nights. I could eat this way forever.
Overall, throughout every attempt, I feel that my relationship with food has dramatically improved. I’m more mindful of what I am putting into my body. I’m not entirely obsessive and still allow myself to enjoy the occasional sweet treat, such as a few Oreos or a vegan ice cream sandwich. Still, I no longer overindulge the way I have in the past.
One thing I am becoming obsessive over (well, two things, actually) is my daily reading and writing. Last week, I added daily writing to my 75 Hard requirements, as I mentioned last week. I do it right after I write in my journal each day. When I added the stipulation, I wasn’t sure how I would go about it each day. However, what I have begun doing is writing a page about a quote from the Daily Stoic emails I receive, or even a song lyric. I expound upon the quote or line to give further insight into what it means to me personally. It has been a fun addition that I look forward to every day.
As far as the reading, I have consistently read more than ten pages every day since I restarted. I used to count every page so I could stop right at 10. Now I’m blowing through pages wholly wrapped up in words. The love for reading that I had as a child is being rekindled. I’ve just finished my second nonfiction book of the year while being at least partway into several others. So far, I have thoroughly read “Leading” by Alex Ferguson and “What Happened to the USMNT” by Steven G Mandis. They are very different books, but both taught me a lot about coaching in their unique ways. The following books I’ll finish are “The Numbers Game” by Chris Anderson and David Sally and “The Captain Class: A New Theory of Leadership” by Sam Walker. I’m so excited to learn more about the beautiful game and leadership!
I have talked a few times on this site about meditating. I added 10 minutes of daily meditation to my list of tasks for 75 Hard. Meditation has probably been more beneficial than I have even realized. The form of meditation I practice is essentially Transcendental Meditation, although I have never formally learned the practice. Transcendental Meditation (TM for short) is a form of meditation in which you repeat a mantra to yourself for the duration of the session. According to tmhome.com, some of the benefits of TM are stress relief, higher work efficiency, healthy blood pressure, healthier relationships, and a lower risk of heart disease. In addition to these, if I meditate in the middle of the day when I start feeling a little groggy, it reenergizes me and helps fuel the second half of my day. It’s like a power nap on steroids! The past week has been the first time I have meditated every day for seven consecutive days. I find more inner peace, calmness, and control with each passing day. That isn’t to say that I don’t get mad or upset. Guess what? I’m still just a human; I have emotions. However, when any slight nuisance or even feelings of anger arise, I’ve been able to calm myself down and not act out on those negative feelings. Acting out of anger can be destructive. I don’t want to be harmful; I want to be a positive force for good.
Dealing With Anger
So as I just mentioned, there have been times in the past week that I have been angry about something and felt like I handled it as well as I could have. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the happenings of my personal life, but to say the least, a dear friend of mine angered and upset me the other day. He sent me a text (more like a book), and upon reading it, I was furious. It felt like a personal attack, although I believe he had good intentions. In the past, I probably would have responded right away and just let him have it. Instead, I put my phone down, continued doing what I was doing, and thought about the message.
I thought about what he was trying to say and what I could say as a response to let him know how it made me feel without being rude or hateful. About an hour later, I picked up the phone to give him a call. He didn’t answer, so I left a voicemail and thanked him for reaching out to me and telling me what was on his mind. Then step by step, I addressed everything he brought up in his message to me with a calculated rebuttal. Upon ending the voicemail, I let him know that what he said upset me but then stated that I knew he was coming from a good place. I told him I loved him, missed him, and hoped he was having a good day; then, I ended the voicemail.
Even after I left the voicemail, I was still pretty angry. My friend hurt me. And again, I believe the intentions were good. Sorry for the vagueness here, but it was a rather personal “conversation,” so I don’t feel comfortable sharing too much. Later that night, I went to the YMCA to play basketball, and I decided to let my frustration out on the basketball court. I told one of my friends that I was “going to drop 30”. If you know me, you already know there is no chance that happened. However, I did feel very in the zone while I was playing. The competitive fire was burning hotter that night than most when I compete, whether on the soccer field or otherwise. I played pretty well (relative to what I usually play) and had a lot of fun. By the end of basketball that night, I had blown off all the steam inside of me. My friend and I are on good terms, so no love is lost.
I can’t stop thinking about what would have happened if I had given in to my anger and said regrettable things to him instead of handling the situation in the manner that I did. I honestly think I would have lost a friend. Those initial thoughts that I was having were rude and insensitive and would not have made the situation any better. I’m proud of myself for handling things the way I did, and I love the feeling that I am getting a better grip on my emotions. Feeling emotions (good and bad) is inherently part of being alive and human. We all feel them no matter what. You can’t necessarily control feeling those emotions either. What you can control is how you react and how you respond. So next time you find yourself getting angry, take a step back to assess the situation and your own emotions before you lash out and do something that could potentially be destructive.
Liz and I talk about her trip to Ohio/Northeast Indiana, and everything we did together while she was here. In addition, we discussed her future plans, her vegan lifestyle, and how important it is in regards to the health of planet earth. This was the most fun recording I’ve done so far, so I hope you all enjoy and learn something along the way!
Be sure to follow her on Instagram, and subscribe to the podcast, as well as the blog to stay up to date with future postings on both! I appreciate all of my readers and listeners. Have a blessed day.
So in the past, there have been times in which I am very ambitious for short periods, only to get insanely overwhelmed and eventually crumble under pressure. Obviously, this is not ideal for long-term success. The problem was that I was getting too far ahead of myself in my endeavors. Instead, I need to take things one day at a time. The rest of this post will address how I have come to cope with those overwhelming feelings and anxiety.
The biggest thing for me has been daily journaling. It allows me to see the progress I have made over periods. Reading what I wrote down helps me see that even though I have a long way to go, I have already come so far. I also like to compare this to running long distances. Whenever I go for a run or a jog, there inevitably comes the point where I feel like stopping and walking home. When that happens, I like to think about how far I have already run compared to how far I still have to go. It allows me to put the remainder of the run into perspective. The same applies to endeavors in business, creative outlets, and life in general. Journaling is my instrument that helps me put all of those things into perspective. It allows me to see the bigger picture more clearly.
The second element to help me deal with those dreaded feelings of overwhelming anxiety related to life goals is visualizing myself completing those goals. Visualization is a powerful tool that plenty of highly successful people utilize to help them achieve a higher level of accomplishment. Let’s look at athletics as an example. Dr. Biasiotto of the University of Chicago conducted a study to see the effects of visualization. He tested three groups. The initial test had members of each group shoot free throws, and their makes and misses were recorded. Then, he had those groups do different tasks each day. The first group practiced free throws every day for one hour, the second group visualized themselves making free throws (without actually shooting any), and the third group did nothing. When he tested the three groups again, it turned out that the group that did only visualization improved nearly as much as the group that practiced shooting every day.
I like to envision myself not only completing my goals but also visualize myself doing what I need to do to get there. It makes the process seem more manageable as if I have done it 100 times before, which I have just in my head.
The third tool I have at my disposal is getting outside and going for a walk to help clear my head. If you read the blog consistently, you know how much I love my walks. I go about my walks in two different ways. Sometimes I’ll leave my phone behind so I have zero distractions, and can really do a deep dive into that problem at hand. And sometimes, I’ll take my phone and listen to some good music. Listening to music releases dopamine into the brain. That coupled with going for a walk and getting your heart rate slightly elevated is seriously therapeutic. The music I listen to changes on a day-by-day basis, but no matter what, I always find songs that elevate my mood. Both the music and the walk itself do more than I probably even realize to help me with these feelings.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s natural, we’re only human. Ryan Holliday in the “Daily Stoic Newsletter” said the other day, “you’ll be stressed either way”. What he meant by that is, that whether or not you are actively chasing a dream, or trying to better yourself in some way, you’ll feel stress. So why not go for it all? Marcus Aurelius said “I escaped anxiety today. No, I discarded it.” He corrects himself in the second sentence. We cannot escape stress, but we can choose how we deal with it. So let’s find a better way.
Hey, I’m not perfect. I will never claim to be. Sometimes, life gets in the way of things you want to do, and that’s okay.
Over the past week, an extraordinary friend was in Ohio visiting me from Colorado. This person happens to be a beautiful (inside & out) woman. She flew in last Tuesday evening and went home early this morning. On Tuesday of last week, I completed my tasks before heading to the airport to pick her up. The following day, I finished everything that I needed to. Thursday of last week was when I failed the challenge (for the second time). After I failed, I decided to take it easy and enjoy every moment I had with her to the fullest. Sue me. She said it was her fault. It was not. She didn’t make my decisions, I did. It is now Tuesday, and I am restarting tomorrow morning. I am making more changes to continue pushing myself toward greatness this time around.
Over the past thirty-five days, I’ve eaten a vegetarian diet. This time, I’m going completely vegan. For those who do not know the difference, a vegetarian diet means that you do not eat any meat. A vegan diet means that you are not eating ANY animal products whatsoever. In addition to meat, I will not be eating butter, milk, cheese, dairy, eggs, anything with gelatin, mayonnaise, ice cream, or honey. I honestly do not think the transition will be that difficult. I can easily find cheese and butter substitutes. I don’t use mayonnaise or eat honey, and I learned how to make dairy-free ice cream. The tricky part will be replacing the protein I got from eating eggs. Consuming a sufficient amount of protein is essential to building muscle mass, so I will have to get creative, mainly because I do not particularly care for beans. So that should be fun.
This girl is my inspiration for trying a completely vegan diet. She’s (unintentionally) pushing me to grow and change how I look at the lifestyle. So S/O to you, you know who you are. She’s been a vegan for a little over three years now. Initially, she became a vegan because she was having a lot of digestion problems from her diet at the time and thought it would be worth the try. Ultimately, it led her to adopt a full-fledged vegan lifestyle. She is horrified by the mistreatment of animals in the meat and dairy industry and the adverse effects on our planet’s climate. Admittedly, I have not researched the subject, but she is not the only friend I trust to talk on the subject who has said this before. I need to do my research, but for the time being, I believe them. If me changing the way I eat can play a small part in saving our planet, I will do it. “If you know better, be better.”
In addition, I will continue to track my caloric intake and ensure that I am meeting my calorie needs for the day based on how many I burn according to my Whoop strap.
I am not planning on making too many changes here. I alternate my outdoor workout depending on how my body feels day-to-day. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk, sometimes I’ll go for a bike ride, and sometimes I’ll go for a jog. These will remain in place.
My second workout of each day will be focused on strength, agility, and speed as they relate to soccer and work on footwork and technique. I have many drills to choose from, and I am excited to see how I progress as a soccer player over the next 75 Days. I want to be the best I can be. I play indoor twice a week, but starting this Sunday, I will also be playing with the high school team that I coach as we prepare for our upcoming season. So, I’ll be playing three times a week and training four days a week. The challenge will be a lot of fun!
Overall, I will make no changes here. I may start reading ten pages of a different book each day rather than reading the same book every day. We’ll see. It ultimately depends on how interested I am in whatever I am reading and what I feel compelled to read each day.
So this time around, I am adding my own rule, just for myself. I have discussed my affinity for writing (obviously, because I write a blog reasonably frequently) and meditation. So I am adding a stipulation to do additional writing each day. The writing doesn’t have to be lengthy, but I must do it. It can be creative writing, informal or formal. I am just going to write whatever I want to each day. That doesn’t mean I will share it, but I will be doing extra writing.
Also, I am adding a requirement to spend at least twenty minutes each day in prayer/mediation. I wholeheartedly believe that mediating allows for more inner peace and mindfulness, and being present. Being present is easily one of the most important things to me. If we cannot be present in our lives, are we living?
Thank you for the support along the way thus far. I’m embarrassed that I failed again, but failure is a great teacher. Mike Jordan became Michael after numerous failures. Sir Alex Fergusson only won 59% of his matches at the helm of Manchester United and is widely regarded as the greatest football manager of all time. Lebron James has lost in the NBA Finals six times. Failure is a part of life. It’s about how you respond to failure that leaves a lasting impression. Stay tuned.
On the new episode of the podcast, I ramble on about time, how to spend it well, and how to be the best version of yourself. Take everything I say with a grain of salt. The things I talk about are simply what make me feel like the best version of myself. With that being said, they are relatively simple things that I feel will help most people in their everyday lives. Enjoy the show!
After completing my tasks yesterday, I have officially completed four weeks, 37% of 75 Hard. It is surreal that I’m this far into it, but I’m also still disappointed I had to restart in the first place. I would be 45 days in had I not slipped up last month. BUT it’s okay. I’m still proud of myself for restarting and making it this far! I will be halfway through the challenge in about a week. The challenge has two workouts each day, obviously, but the main benefit is the notable mental shift that is supposed to occur. I have noticed this shift, little by little, day by day. Let’s take yesterday, for example. Yesterday morning I was driving to Fort Wayne for work. I was less than six miles away when my rear tire on the driver’s side went flat, seemingly out of nowhere. Initially, I was pretty irritated. I didn’t have a spare, so I could not change the tire then and there. The tow truck that roadside assistance procured for me quoted me a two-hour wait time. In the past, I would have let this ruin my day. I would forgo everything else I had planned to accomplish for the day and wallow. Woe is me. Not yesterday, however. Sure, that flat was a massive bump in the road. But I decided to meet the day head-on and still accomplished everything I set out to do yesterday. When the day was over, I felt pretty damn good, and now I have a new tire.
In addition to the mental benefits, your body will go through a transformation. I feel it, see it, and it feels and looks pretty, pretty good.
I spoke last week about data from my Whoop strap, and guess what? The numbers are getting better and better. I’m learning how to balance strain with recovery; I’m getting better sleep while pushing my body harder than I ever have before.
Last week, my average day strain was 16.7 (up from my rolling three-week average of 16.0). I burned, on average, 3,165 per day last week. I slept for an average of 8 hours a night, 90% of my sleep need. My bedtime variability was down to 45 minutes, compared to 48, and my waketime variability drastically improved at 38 minutes, compared to 1 hour and 48 minutes.
75 Hard requires you to have 10.5 active hours each week, last week, I had 12 hours and 39 minutes spent actively. Each day I move closer and closer to the finish line. Recently I’ve been thinking about how I will celebrate crossing the finish line. Part of me wants to hit up Taco Bell the day after I finish the challenge, while part of me wants to strap right back in and go after part two of 75 Hard, called Phase One. I will talk more about Phase One in the coming weeks.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and follow along on my journey of self-improvement!
Episode 4 of the Footy Foster Podcast is live NOW on Spotify, Anchor, and YouTube! In this episode, I talk about UNC’s magical run to the National Championship, review this (awful) week for Arsenal, as well as give my thoughts about a recent article written by Adam Snavely of the Athletic. In addition, I talked to my internet friend Ryan Edward Fortune! Ryan went to seven of the fourteen USMNT qualifiers, and documented each game on his YouTube Channel! Ryan makes awesome videos and was a lot of fun to talk to. We talked about his experiences going to USMNT games, as well as the top four fight between his Tottenham Hotspurs and my Arsenal. We also discussed the match between Liverpool and Manchester City, and gave our thoughts about who has the upper hand in the ongoing title race between the two! Enjoy the show!
So I wear a Whoop band to track sleep, exercise, and recovery daily. The strap is your digital fitness and health coach. In my opinion, it is the best wearable health technology on the market. It is obtuse or obstructive, and the data it gives you can be life-changing. The four main metrics it tracks daily are resting heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, and sleep. These four metrics combined give you a daily “recovery score.” This score essentially lets you know how well your body recovered overnight and the extent to which your body is ready to take on “strain.”
Before starting “75 Hard’, my recovery was all over the place, and my sleep was not very efficient. Nearly three and a half weeks into the challenge, my recovery and sleep have dramatically improved almost every day.
As you can see, on February 4th, I completed a registered activity of 8.3 strain, which was 333 calories burned in 42 minutes. In total, I burned 3,037 calories for a day strain of 14.6. I had relatively poor sleep, which led to a poor recovery the next day. 39% recovery isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but notice that I had zero activities for the day and burned considerably fewer calories.
Above is another example from February. I had a high day strain followed by poor sleep and a low recovery the next day. On February 17th, I burned just 1,477 calories, and it took a 9.8-day strain out on my body. That was approximately two weeks before initially starting “75 Hard”.
Let’s fast forward to this week, the fourth full week of the challenge.
SSo far this week (Sunday through tonight, Friday night at the time of writing), I’ve maintained an average day strain of 15.95. My highest strain day of the week was Tuesday at 18.1, the lowest on Thursday with 14.3. As you’ll notice, I’ve had green recovery every day this week, although it has started to dip as the week has gone on. This pattern suggests that I’m probably due for a lighter strain day in the coming days.
My sleep time and wake time variability are still all over the place, but it’s a work in progress. However, the quality of sleep I’m getting now compared to back in February is quite noticeable.
Above is my sleep overnight from Saturday the 2nd to Sunday the 3rd. This night of sleep may have been one of the best nights of sleep I’ve had in my entire life. I’ve recently been waking up far less in the middle of the night, which sticks out to me more than anything in the data.
Overall, the trend that appears to be developing is better sleep and better recoveries as I learn to optimize “training” and taking on strain. It will be interesting to monitor this trend throughout the rest of the endeavor.