Thursday, July 7, 2011

Confusion Met = Come On, It's Fun!

There's a concept in weight training called muscle confusion. The idea is to vary workouts continuously, in ways small and large, with the idea that the muscles will then adapt to being constantly asked to do new things and grow as a result...I haven't researched any studies that have been done on the effectiveness of muscle confusion, but the theory does make sense to me at first glance.

Like many people, I tend to settle deeply into routines, some helpful, some benign, some I'd do well to rid myself of. It may be more acute in my case - I mostly keep to myself and have long had a fairly limited range of activities I engage in regularly. Not a lot changes from day to day, at least to any outside observer. This can be a problem. The isolation makes it more of one: it's not that I'm unhappy in solitude, I often love it, but other unpredictable humans are an extremely rich source, for good or ill, of volatility. Too little change in routine can lock certain routines in to the point where it can feel decidedly uncomfortable, even emotionally distressing, to deviate from them.

So a couple of days ago, I started a program of confusion. The name of the game is to avoid much of that which has become habituated. Any deviation from the usual is good, within reason - I'm not going to start shooting heroin just because I haven't done it heretofore. The differences do not have to be large, meaningful or even positive. Nor is this framed as deprivation: I don't lose mythical points for *not* deviating from established routine. And some routines I wouldn't want to deviate from, obviously - I think I'll stick with the daily tooth brushing, thanks. Though I could change toothpastes or brushes...the idea is to always be on the lookout for chances to avoid doing the same things in the same way. I normally have this kind of soda? I'll get that other one. I'll brush my teeth left-handed. I'll drive home via different routes. If I eat out for dinner, it'll be somewhere I haven't been, or if not, I'll at least order something I wouldn't normally order. If I normally wouldn't say hi to someone and I do, that counts. If I listen to music, it'll be something I haven't heard before (or not in a very long time). I almost never wear shorts - I'll change into some when I get home. And so on.

So far, what I've noticed is that it's fun to think this way. About all the deviations so far have been minor, but as I said, that's in the spirit of the game. I'm curious what a month or two of this will feel like.

Some things I've done differently the past few days:

- I've exercised twice in the morning (basketball one day, treadmill the next); very rare that I would do that on a weekday - I usually sleep too late to do so.
- I have two standby breakfast items: either I have a cheese bagel, or I have potato/egg/cheese breakfast tacos. Both are delicious to me. But the last few days, I've had one bagel of a different kind, a chicken biscuit, and some hash browns.
- Lunch has been different too. Yesterday I bought a ready-to-go roasted chicken from the grocery store instead of going to a take-out place. The chicken was $6.50 and fed me for two lunches.
- I usually have a diet Dr. Pepper three times a day. (Yes, I already know it's not optimal for my health. An example of a habit I'd be better off without.) Occasionally I have a Diet Coke or Coke Zero instead. But over the last three days, my beverage selection has included coffee, Sprite, orange juice, tea and sparkling water. One or two DPs/Cokes in there too, but the point is mixing it up to where no beverage feels like a ritual.
- In the alcohol department, yes, I drink quite a bit, sometimes alone, and it's almost always beer. (I also know that this, too, is not optimal.) The past three days, I've had alcohol on one occasion (a social one) and I had wine in a moderate amount instead.
- I've done lots of mundane things left-handed. Opening bottles, doors, buttoning my shirt, brushing my teeth, etc. Today I put my computer mouse at work on the left side of the keyboard. Weird, but I managed. Also been doing wrist exercises to strengthen my left wrist and practicing writing and drawing lefty.
- Yesterday I meditated for five minutes. I find doing that VERY difficult and hadn't really tried it in years.
- I made spaghetti for dinner the other night. I virtually never cook at home. Was nothing special, but it was okay.
- I snack on those Nutri-Grain bars a lot. And Oreo cookies. The past three days, I've snacked on other things. Not always healthier other things, but different ones, anyway.
- I've taken three different routes home from work.
- I've done very little checking of the usual websites I frequent.
- The Scrabble practice I've done the past few days has been mostly solving endgames, something I haven't practiced on its own in a long time.
- I've done some guitar and piano drills; haven't done any technical drills on those instruments in a while.
- I've listened to no music in the past three days that I've ever heard before. Of course, that's extremely easy to do, since there are about as many pieces of music to listen to online as there are atoms in the known universe.
- Instead of reading a couple or three articles from the same newspaper's online edition each day, I've been reading a different one each day. Today: Le Monde from Paris (in English, not up to attempting to translate it).
- Today I stood up while working for about 2 1/2 hours out of the day. I've tried that a little bit before, but only once or twice.
- I've gotten around to reading a book I forgot I still had. I haven't read printed books regularly in a while.
- A few times, I've said hi or made a small-talk sort of comment at times I usually wouldn't. (As many reading this probably know, I'm very shy in many social situations, though not always.)
- I've tried to practice mindfulness at various points yesterday and today. Like while driving, I'll just think about the act of driving, the sounds the wheels make, the motion of my hands and head and eyes...I'm just getting even a basic understanding of what it is, and my mind has always tended to be noisy and scattershot like you wouldn't believe, so it's a good challenge. Be here now and all that.
- I recorded some new music tracks at home. That's not unusual, though I'd like to be much more prolific than I am. But I did so when I felt really tired, which is rare - I seem to need energy to really feel like doing that.

There have been other little departures as well - I don't remember all of them. Baby steps, mostly, but that's fine. The idea is to slowly ramp up the confusion level as I get more used to, uh, not being used to doing the same things all the time.

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