This started with something silly. I ran into some click-bait youtube videos with dramatic thumbnail photos (of course!). They showed the drastic differences of “before v.s after 30-day burpee challenge.” It was at the beginning of the lockdown, so I thought to myself, “why the hell not? I’ve got time..”
So it began.
I downloaded a free app to count my daily progress. The app allows me to start at a lower count (30 burpees a day) and then gradually increase to 175 burpees a day. Truth to be told, I only made it halfway: I wrapped up 100 burpees on the 15th day, counting close to 1000 burpees finished over two weeks. The reason being that I found it increasingly difficult to combine 100 burpees a day with my regular resistant training since my major muscles were fatigued all the time. It was a big bummer since I really felt great, even having made it only halfway. It improves my strength and conditioning, and I hope I would be able to pick it up once again in the future soon.
One thing a YouTuber who was doing the challenge said had echoed in my head, which I’m paraphrasing here: “as you are doing these mindless, repetitive burpees every day, your mind is conditioned into this ‘fall and get up, fall and get up’ mode, just like life…”
Well, who knew burpees could be so zen!
This is my second attempt in cold showering. I tried it the first time when I was catching up with my friend Aki last year. And through him, I learned about the Wim Hof Method (TLDR: his own breathing technique + cold shower). It was actually somewhat extreme to me. But I gave a try regardless. And the very second day, I caught a cold. So I stopped.
For whatever reason, I bumped into those “cold shower changed my life” videos again during the lockdown (The AI must be targeting me). So I gave it another try: only this time, I didn’t start with cold water immediately. Instead, I took my regular warm shower and then switched to cold water for the last 1–2 min when I needed to rinse off.
Interestingly, time always seems to slow down when you watch your hand is on its way to turn on the cold water, like a slow-motion playback. During those moments, a few thousand things are going through in your head — things like “wait a minute, didn’t you just do that yesterday when you were screaming like a little girl” and “why am I doing this, it’s still not too late!”
But I must say, cold shower worked for me this time. It’s a great way to start your day (some people take it both morning and night time, but hey, I’m not that crazy… yet).
I think it does take your body a few days or even a few weeks to become fully adjust to the cold shower norm. But this is where you realize that the human body is a very powerful, adaptable machine. Despite how uncomfortable it is in the beginning, your body and mind will learn to adapt. Physiologically, cold shower trains our minds to be okay with consistently stepping out of the comfortable zone; and it helps our bodies act on impulses, in a good way.
I think I will keep doing the cold shower thing :)
Reading before bed
I feel lucky that I have been more conscious of setting aside time for reading over the past two months. Before the lockdown, life seemed to pass us by so fast with travel, social occasions, etc. and if I were lucky, I might get some weekends to catch up on the books I’ve been meaning to read.
Since I am not able to travel as frequently now, the anti-social quarantine time does provide a safe bubble for a more stable routine. Although it’s still to be seen, I have been somewhat consistent in setting aside 1 or 2 hours for reading before bed.
For me, I like to mix a few books at the same time. Currently, I’m reading Exhalation by Ted Chiang (fiction), Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth & Death: A Buddhist View Life by Ikeda (non-fiction) and The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton Christenson (Business — a classic, can’t believe I’m only reading it now).
Yep. I tried it again too. Not my thing. It only resulted in many late-night binge eating and self-loathing :(
I enjoy cooking. It provides me with a time and space where I can just focus on one thing. As strange as it might sound, cooking is kind of relaxing for me. In the past, I have been a long-time subscriber to meal prep services like Plated and Blue Apron. Each time I finished a well put together plate, I feel a sense of accomplishment. (I’m an easily satisfied person ;)
I used to not understand why anybody (mostly the weight training guys) just let the boring meal-prep boxes suck the joy out of their lives. However, as life gets busier, I turned into one of those meal-prepping joyless guys.
I usually do it once a week and prepare six meals at once. I leave out Friday / weekend for the “fun meals”— that is, I can order take-out and eat whatever I want on the “cheat day.”
Embarrassingly, those “cheat days” often become “cheat weekends,” but luckily haven’t turned into “cheat week” yet. We will just have to see.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a PC in the 90s, among the first waves of families owning a computer in China. My first programming language was BASIC. It sounds so ancient (and basic!). And it was. The TIME magazine wrote a long piece on this language, and it was fun to read, especially by staring at the old “minimalist” interface again.
During the shelter-in-place, I felt it might be a good opportunity to brush up on the coding skills again. Only this time, not with BASIC. I’m picking up Python, and reading up all I can on AI / ML. We will see how it goes.
Breathing matters. I didn’t realize how important it is paying attention to our breath. By being conscious of our breath, we are actually sending an active signal to our brain and body to help us live in the moment.
For most of the days, I keep meditation twice a day. And because I know that maintaining consistency is more important to me than the duration, I only keep each session at roughly 5 -10 min. So that I know even at the most tiring night, I would be able to practice it before bed.
Journalling via audio
This new habit has been incredibly helpful to me. I used to keep a habit of doing a five-minute journal for several years until I find myself often too tired to type/ write at the end of the day. However, thanks to the new AI, I now can easily do audio journaling while having my words transcribe simultaneously (amazing how accurate the AI service could be).
Coupled with daily meditation, the journal helped me uncover a lot of weakness in me and help me reflect on a lot of deep unresolved emotions that were not previously discovered. As funny as it might sound, my journal notebook has been an incredible therapist for me and has helped me recognize some major personal growth hurdles. I think I will keep doing that.
So here are the few things I picked up during this lock-down time. As the world is turning more upside down, it’s ever important to keep our inner peace and use this window to do more self-reflection. I thought it might be interesting to document the strange period this way.