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Resolutions for programmers (2012) (might.net)
369 points by pkrefta on Dec 30, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 221 comments

On the health note, the single most beneficial thing I did for myself this year was to start lifting.

6 months ago I started committing 3 days a week to a strength training program which I've strictly followed since. Making gains in the gym has motivated me to sleep better and eat better which both have had huge effects on every aspect of my life.

Not only that, but the exercise has helped a ton with anxiety I've had throughout life and even the few gains I've made have been a huge boost in confidence.

I urge everyone here to take up lifting as a hobby and stick with it.

From personal experience I would urge everyone to start with some form of Yoga.

It's less easy to quantify your progress than with weight lifting (whose easy conversion into numeric growth I wonder isn't one of its attractions when you're a data-driven kind of person) but has further reaching benefits beyond basic physical strength.

After 3 years of fairly regular yoga practise (3-4 sessions a week), even when combined with a fairly poor diet/lifestyle alongside it (way too much fun), left me feeling stronger, fitter, calmer, more centred, more energised* than I ever had before.

For those of you who, like me, are put off by the more 'hippy' aspects, I'd say it's a question of finding the right teacher rather than writing off the entire practice (my teacher at the time was nicknamed 'El Sargento' for her, shall we say 'strict' approach -- she taught Iyengar yoga with is a lot about details. This didn't suit everyone but suited me down to a tee).

There is an awful lot of pseudo religious bollocks that surrounds it but within that there's a really solid method for improving the quality of your life.

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laoq1eeIUxQ

> There is an awful lot of pseudo religious bollocks that surrounds it but within that there's a really solid method for improving the quality of your life.

I bet Christian yoga will eventually become really popular in the US. I'd imagine it would keep the physical elements of yoga but infuse light Christian meditation into it, rather than the vague eastern spirituality that's currently everywhere in the industry.

Well I can understand the difference in cultures that makes you feel that thr surrounding spirituality is vague and needs a change but there is a difference. Yoga is complemented with 'dhyaan' which is an unexplored area in the west. If you are not getting that/missing out on its importance, you are not getting the full package.

I actually enjoy that aspect of yoga, and agree it's complementary. I'm not advocating that current practitioners or practices should change at all.

What I'm saying is that I think there's an untapped market of people in the US that would be more likely to commit to regular yoga if the spiritual component adopted traditions from Christian meditation. This is based on discussions I've had with family and friends that say they mostly enjoy yoga but find the spirituality component or 'a little silly,' off-putting, or distracting.

Many US yoga studios and instructors are not dogmatic and are quite experimental and creative in their craft. There are already a number of relatively popular disciplines that de-emphasize the spirituality and focus on the fitness component (i.e. power yoga). My belief is that as yoga continues to evolve and grow in popularity in the US, some studios will reintroduce the spirituality component by fusing traditional and Christian beliefs, and that these studios will succeed in reaching a broader audience.

+1 for yoga. I started lifting earlier this year, and doing it properly never clicked for me. I tried yoga and really liked it. Have been going regularly for about a month now.

I was very lucky, growing up, to be the son of a sports medicine doctor because, from birth, healthy eating and exercise and their benefits were grilled into my brain.

Unfortunately I see too many people in my job (academia) who don't exercise despite the huge potential benefits to their productivity and life. So this makes me wonder: what is it about exercise that turns people off? Is it a communication issue? Is it the lack of confidence? Lack of knowledge? It seems that there are constant pushes in the media to be more healthy and exercise but it never seems to stick.

For me it's a combination of things.

1. Convenience. If I have a gym in the building I live in, I'm about 10x more likely to use it. If it's a block down the street, I might go once a week. If it's two blocks down the street, it might as well be in Algiers.

2. Knowledge. I don't know how to lift weights, and I'm afraid I'll do it wrong and end up injuring myself. Apparently even running isn't trivial to do without potentially hurting yourself. If you don't have a friend who can show you how to do things right, it's not as easy to get started with confidence. (And let's face it, most of us here are probably not super likely to ask a stranger at the gym for help.)

3. Laziness. I've got work to do and video games to play, man! Working out isn't fun. I like riding my bike, but I'm not doing it in 30 degree weather, or in the rain, or in the snow.

> 2. Knowledge. I don't know how to lift weights, and I'm afraid I'll do it wrong and end up injuring myself.

This kept me from lifting for a long time. This year, though, I hired a personal trainer for 5 classes to specifically teach me proper form of a few lifts I wanted to learn well (squat, bench press, deadlift, strict press). We spent most of the classes reviewing the nuances of where to place hands, wrists, legs, knees etc. He would then watch me try, and correct my posture on the spot. It really helped me develop the muscle memory I needed to do it correctly.

You've pretty much nailed it, especially the last part about the cold. I will run sometimes, but the motivation required to go run when it's freezing outside is frequently beyond my grasp.

Bodyweight only exercise, for example HIIT routines or abs, or even dumbbell based strength training can be done from the comfort of your own living room. I just need 4 square meters.

If you need help, check out http://fitnessblender.com and start at a difficulty level you can manage.

If you like video games, you might like climbing more than lifting - unlike lifting, the numbers are mostly made up and don't really matter, the only thing that counts is solving problems.

More like a strategy game than lifting, which is like, I dunno, Cookie Clicker?

I've gone climbing a few times, and it was fun! But I run into the convenience problem - there's no nearby places to climb. (Plus, given that I have a moderate fear of heights, I prefer bouldering :P)

I haven't met anyone in a gym who is not willing to give you advices about how to lift.

Why would I trust advice from random strangers? For all I know, they're damaging themselves as well.

You don't have to trust them, but that won't change the fact that they are willing to do it. You can compare and research by yourself if you think that what someone has told you can risk your health.

You are entitled to your opinion, of course. Two things though:

"Knowledge." - no need to ask strangers. Everything is just a google away. There are plenty of YouTube videos which show proper form (but read the comments, because there are a few which are actually terrible). bodybuilding.com is a treasure of wisdom.

"Working out isn't fun". If someone told me 10 years ago that I could not wait to go to the gym and lift heavy objects, I would be rolling on the floor laughing. Go figure.

There are youtube videos, but it's difficult to check whether your form is right - even if there are mirrors.

And you might find it fun, but I don't. Every time I jog, I do so on a treadmill so I can zone out and not focus too much on what I'm doing (other than making sure that nothing obviously hurts) - jogging outside means I have to be present for it :P

Sure, what is fun to me may not necessarily be fun to others, I get that. The point I was trying to make was to perhaps try finding other ways to exercise - I found it in an unlikely (for me, 10 years ago) activity, maybe you will, too.

I'm in the same place, but there are a lot of people who aren't. I think the gym is incredibly intimidating to the uninitiated.

Probably best to start with pushups / situps at home, cardio at your local park at a deserted hour. Then once you get that confidence start at a cardio-focused gym like 24 hour fitness. Once you get the hang of gym'ing go to one that is more focused on your style, weight-lifting, cross-fit, etc.

"the gym is incredibly intimidating to the uninitiated"

Many people say that and I am always puzzled why. Over the past 10 years, no one has ever looked at me funny or laughed at me - and I was in my early 40s when I started. Supportive crowd, eager to help if asked (spotting, etc).

It's not so much that people think they'll be mocked, but entering that big facility with dozens of verities of machines and weights and you're the only person who doesn't know what they are doing, is incredibly intimidating.

It's not an unfounded feeling either, when I first started going, I got ejected or talked to for rules I didn't know about yet: no jeans, no open toed shoes, don't touch those machines, you don't do that with dumbbells. And that's just the formal rules, then there's the informal: how long can I occupy a machine? Can I take the dumbbells into the other room? what's "switching in"? how much is talking allowed? Can this injure me? Is that guy really advanced, or should I tell him that he's going to hurt himself?

I got started in the collage's free gym, with lots of other beginners and rule breakers. But I'd never have shelled out $150 in initiation and membership fees to try out this weird new sport I wasn't comfortable with and might not like.

> Many people say that and I am always puzzled why

Probably some level of social anxiety, and fear of being judged/mocked. The reality that none of that won't happen doesn't make itself obvious until you go once, and you don't go because you're anxious, etc., etc.

A lot of people are turned off exercise by the school environment where it's mandatory, unpleasant, competitive in a bad way and unrewarding.

Speaking as a case in point. PE lessons were my nightmare. My fitness was always below class average, and never had an interest in competitive sports - I always found exercise tiring, boring, and something you are forced to do. School cemented that attitude.

The lessons could have been better. For instance, starting with making one run as fast and as far as you can (and repeating that every few months) meant only that I wanted to puke my guts out. If we were following a running program of increasing difficulty instead, I might have noticed my stamina increasing and maybe would have liked it. Though our teachers probably assumed that we're doing sports after school anyway, and not e.g. sitting at home learning how to write video games.

I'm older now and I see it's about feedback. If something makes you feel miserable, then without strong sense of purpose about it (encouraging it is something school universally sucks at) you're likely to avoid it and hate it even more. OTOH, if you started your PE lessons relatively fit, they were probably pleasant for you and thus the feedback loop worked in your favour.


We immediately enjoy entertainment. We clean because we see a mess, clean it, and see a nice clean area. We enjoy food right now.

Even if enough time has gone by to see the ill effects of neglecting health, it's still only a (strained) mental connection. We give up eating junk food and we go to the gym, but we still feel lousy two days later.

The feedback from healthy habits is generally slow, so you need some kind of form of lasting motivation or, more helpful, grit.

Start with grit. Determine that you'll do something miserable for 21 days before giving up. If that thing provides positive feedback within 21 days, you might actually stick to it.

For that reason, a combination of efficient workouts (full body / chain movements with sufficient loads) as well as the necessary sleep and diet improvements can work within 21 days.

We often "pick 1" when it comes to changing habits, but this is a case where you might want to pick 3 or 4 that all work well together, and try to stick to them for 21 days. But it all starts with grit.

I think it's a lack of feedback and the overall difficulty of making anything a habit especially when you won't be shown immediate results.

It's both hard and boring.

Yes, yes, audiobooks, I know. Audiobooks/podcasts are great at lower intensities.

Because for a lot of people excercise is boring and not interesting to them. Everything else can be overcome if the activity is engaging and interesting. Gym-type excercise however can be percieved as a chore and people do not like doing chores.

I think it's pretty simple - exercise requires physical effort and most people would rather sit on the couch.

It's not that simple, though; cleaning your house also takes effort, yet most people do it.

If you're new to weightlifting, this is a simple, effective entry point:


You use 5 compound exercises and work out 3 times per week. Recommendation is to start as light as possible.

I see stronglifts 5x5 recommended a lot on sites like reddit and generally disagree that beginners should start out with it.

From what I've read online, the 5x5 structure often leads to quicker stalling in progression for some than doing 3x5 like starting strength has you do for squat, overhead, and bench.

Also, some people really don't need to start as light as SL will have you starting on. Anecdotally, a friend of mine with an athletic background says when he starting weight training for college sports, he could bench over 200lbs for one rep having never seriously trained before. Starting with just the bar like SL recommends would be a big stall in his progress. On SL it'd take him about 53 weeks to bench 200 for 5x5 if starting with the bar and increasing by 2.5 pounds each bench exercise (1.5 times per week).

Also, Mehdi has no proper training in the background. Someone like Rippetoe, author of starting strength, has years of experience in powerlifting and coaching.

Quick article for further reading.


It mostly looks at SL from a powerlifting perspective, but much of the criticism is still valid.

In general Starting Strength is a great resource. I love the directness and simplicity in focusing on a few key lifts, though I wish it included a barbell row. The difference between 5x5 and 3x5 is pretty small. Both Stronglifts and Starting Strength are for novices and can be used as resources together without issue!

For specifics, Mehdi doesn't insist everyone start at bar weight. From the site:

> If you’ve done the Squat, Bench and Deadlift before, with good technique, you can start with 50% of your five rep max.

It's worthwhile for any novice lifter (or someone getting back into lifting after a long hiatus) to start low in order to (re)develop form and strengthen support muscles. Mehdi describes what to do when you stall, and points out that once you're stalling with any regularity, then you're not a novice and Stronglifts is not really for you. If you stick with it, at some similar point neither 3x5 or 5x5 will work, and you'll need to switch to something like 5/3/1.

SL 5x5 recommends a perfectly sane method to deal with stalling - deload, work back up to the stall weight, and repeat until deloading no longer breaks the plateau, and then move to a 5x3 rep scheme like Starting Strength, and then (after another plateau) to 3x3.

Starting with greater volume gives the beginner more time to work on form.

Furthermore, if a lifter already has some training, it can absolutely make sense to increase the weight from the recommended start with the empty bar. Do 5x5, and if you have any left in the tank, add reps to the last set. If you get a set of 10, then increase the weight by 10 lbs on the next workout instead of 5. If you try to estimate an effective working weight, you're apt to overestimate, and end up plateauing too early.

I'd counter that even though 3x5 leads to faster progression, in beginners it will lead to poor form.

I don't think beginners should be pushing a high squat number if they don't squat properly. This goes double for more "dangerous" lifts like deadlift etc.

As someone who started early in life, I'd recommend a "workout progression" of 3x10 -> 3x5 -> 3x8 -> 3x5, with the 3x8 usually representing a "cutting" cycle (caloric deficit focusing on fat loss, with lifting thrown in to maintain current number as much as possible). First you learn form, then push for numbers, then push for leaner muscle, then push for numbers again.

To each his own, but form is important!

I am not an athletic person, and I tend to space out mid activity. Learning proper form, and keeping it, make lifting heavy weights not fun. Lifting is not for everyone.

>> To each his own, but form is important!


As someone who has done both routines I would still recommend actually doing the stronglifts program first.

Several reasons

1. they are bascially identical except one starts with a warm up and has you do 3x5 and the other the warm up and 5x5.

2. The major difference between them though is strong lifts switches out the beginner starting strength's power clean with a barbell row.

The power clean is really hard to get right without coaching. Everything else you can watch youtube videos for and do fairly well.




3. Stronglifts has a great app for iOS and Android that makes it dead simple to track your progress. I'm still looking for one as good and focused for starting strength.

By all means once you get to a decent weight on all the lifts reassess you routine but I think stronglifts is a better starting point for absolute beginners.

I thought about this some more, and much of the criticism in the article boils down to preferring more deadlifts and fewer squats. Stronglifts argues that you'll be doing so many squats that you won't need more deadlifts, and that doing more will cause you to stall unnecessarily. The article suggests you want more deadlifts, and to cut back on the squats so you won't stall unnecessarily.

Given your goals and which lifts you prefer, I think it's totally reasonable to trade out some squats for deadlifts.

How about hypertrophy? Can I simply do 5x5 with 10-12 reps per set and switch the focus from strength away?

Unfortunately I don't know much about hypertrophy training, so I may be wrong with a few of the things I'm about to say.

I think that yes, higher reps at lower weight in the 8-12 rep range will generally target hypertrophy more than strength. You wouldn't necessarily want to do a strength program with higher reps to build hypertrophy however, as things like recovery will differ at higher ranges. I want to say that there would be diminishing returns fast if you only did compound exercises at high rep ranges.

I also see many hypertrophy programs will incorporate more exercises which isolate muscles at higher rep ranges than strength programs. I'm sure that this has to do with recovery, since you'll often see split programs like PPL (push pull legs) which offer more days in the gym split up between different muscle groups.

Not really

Because those exercises are "not made" for hypertrophy. Of course they will cause some hypertrophy due to the natural process of overcompensation

But a lifting regime like that is a bit apart from a hypertrophy program which usually involves more isolated exercises

(btw 5x5 means 5 sets of 5 reps each, so if you try to replace that with 12 reps you're taking the program in another direction)

It depends on what you find more adaptable, really.

Do you know if Starting Strength is available in eBook form anywhere? I can't seem to find it.

there is a kindle version for sale on amazon.

The shovelglove is another great quick and dirty way to get into lifting:


You don't necessarily have to only lift in order to gain health benefits. Generally I would simply recommend to pick a sport and try to become the best you can be and the rewards will follow soon, not only physically but also psychologically. Could be anything, cycling, running, tennis, martial arts - lifting works great of course. I myself switched from lifting to gymnastics strength training and couldn't be happier.

> I urge everyone here to take up lifting

Everyone I've spoken to got into lifting because they think it gets girls. They won't admit it directly or perhaps realize it themselves, but a series of questions leads to women: Of all types of exercise, why weights? -> So then why do you need to be toned? -> OK, then why do you need to look good in a T-shirt, or at bars, or in your profile pic? -> Because women like it.

Probably there are some fraction of women for whom this is an important factor in choosing men. Since I see many beautiful women choosing men with average physiques, I'm going to say that being highly muscled is not an important factor for most women.

NOTE: I'm not questioning exercise in general, cardiovascular fitness, being healthy, being free of disease, and not being overweight. All those are very important. I'm saying that of all the efficient ways of exercising, many people seem to pick lifting because of the misguided agenda that it attracts women.

Perhaps this is more a function of your social group than anything else. Of the three people I know that got into lifting (including myself, one woman and two men, all in long-terms relationships at the time), none did it to "get girls", but in order to be stronger (as opposed to just looking strong a la hypertrophy/bodybuilding).

Why be stronger? Many reasons, but it boils down to health and being strong enough to do activities that you otherwise wouldn't be able to do, both now (such as hiking or cross-country skiing) but also 30-50 years from now (not breaking a hip bone when you fall in the shower, for example).

For me, lifting heavy weights is a great counterpoint to spending time sitting still in front of a screen. Humans weren't made for that, and most humans nowadays are, to put it simply, weak (compared to what we were evolutionary selected for). As much as we would like to, we aren't just brains on a stick, we are also animals with physical demands.

For men, cardiovascular health is most important aspect, heart disease being the largest cause of death[1].

While lifting weights is better than no exercise at all, it is not that effective. There are certainly many people who enthusiastically lift and are still fat and unhealthy. The same cannot be said for running enthusiasts.

Anyway, it's your right to do whatever form of exercise makes you happiest, but if someone is legitimately concerned about their health, they should start by running/cycling, etc.

[1]: http://visual.ons.gov.uk/what-are-the-top-causes-of-death-by...

> There are certainly many people who enthusiastically lift and are still fat and unhealthy. The same cannot be said for running enthusiasts.

That's mostly because running when you're overweight is murder on your joints. There are, on the other hand, plenty of overweight cycling enthusiasts.

I've rarely seen truly overweight people who spend much time lifting weights. Overweight people in general are not exercising much unless making intentional and significant progress toward the not-overweight category.

With that said, some people do lift enthusiastically and are happy to stay an a somewhat higher weight because they prefer to be "bigger", but these are not typically obese people. They're generally on the upper end of normal or slightly into "overweight" BMI, which is misleading/inaccurate for people carrying significant muscle anyway. Carrying some extra fat is also less of a concern for people who are doing significant amounts of exercise (cardio or strength). Sedentary and skinny is probably not healthier than active and chunky.

It's also worth noting that you can lift "enthusiastically" for 30-60 minutes 3 times/week and accomplish a lot. If you're a running enthusiast, you're sinking a lot more time in it than that unless you're actually doing sprints (which is more similar to weight lifting than it is jogging). Running enthusiasts are doing things like training for marathons/half marathons, which is a huge time sink.

Do you have a source that shows lifting is not as effective for improving cardiovascular health as endurance exercise? Also keep in mind that endurance exercise in and of itself has a risk of heart attack while similar deaths are virtually unheard of in lifting. Most deaths from lifting are due to solo bench pressing and suffocstion, while many more people die on cardio machines. At least that is what I read in the book The New Rules of Lifting. I don't have it in front of me for the source.

Happily married for 20 years. Definitely not doing it to "get girls". Health, longevity, stress reduction, facilitate physical work and recreation, etc.

Did some resistance training a few years ago - felt good, lost fat while doing it.

Shifted to cardio for a few years with an employee sponsored cardio-centric wellness program. Experienced a gradual fat gain and knee and back pain, although I was running 20-30 miles per week, using far too much time per week.

Shifting back to weights the last few months. Not being very rigorous, but doing the exercises in "Starting Strength". Back pain* and knee pain now very infrequent. Strength is increased. Some muscle definition improvement (though lots of excess fat still).

* Lower back pain actually made me very hesitant to do deadlifts. I started with the bar and the very lightest weights and gradually progressed, being VERY cautious about strain on the lower back. I'm only dead lifting ~200 lbs at this point, but my back is much happier.

What I don't get about this comment, and many others, is why do you have to choose one type or the other. I believe a varied exercise plan will be more helpful than just focusing on a single exercise type.

Run one day, lift for upper body the next day, HIIT the third day, abs and light cardio the fourth day, lower body lift the fifth, rest day and go for a bike ride on Sunday.

Sites like fitnessblender.com can help you get there. (I've been mentioning them in these threads because I love them, the changes in my body and most importantly, in what can I do with my body have been nothing short of amazing in a relatively short amount of time)

The Starting Strength book recommends that to maximize your strength gains, on your rest days, you really do /rest/. This facilitates recovery, and muscle growth and strength increase happen when resting, rather than when exercising.

I occasionally run/cycle/hike/shovel snow/etc. as well, but working for the three weight lifting workouts per week. I'm not faithfully "doing the program", but incorporating elements that work for me into my life.

There's probably a comma missing in my sentence, I meant, if starting the routine on Monday, rest day on Saturday and in Sunday go for a ride.

I agree rest days should be rest days. I've paid the price of not resting a couple of times too many already.

For deadlifts, you might want to look into a hex bar (aka trap bar.) It moves the position of your hands to directly in line with your shoulders, which greatly reduces the shearing force placed on your spine.

As a tall guy, it feels much more natural and 'safe' for me. I've also switched to doing more warmup sets for my deadlift with increasing weight ranges. If any of those lighter weights feel 'off' that day, I abort the heavy sets. I also avoid testing my 1RM frequently...I'm content to add 5 pounds every time I can get through 3x5 at my heavy sets weight. I'm in my mid 30s, so safety is the name of the game for me.

The hex bar also pretty much turns a deadlift into a squat and eliminates a lot of the benefit. My back feels a lot better when I deadlift regularly, specifically because it's doing a lot of the work.

Think of the men that women tend to lust after on a large scale e.g. celebrities. How many of those men are more muscular than the average male? How many are much more muscular? Take a look at the all-time top scoring pics on the "ladyboners" subreddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/LadyBoners/top/ Of those men whose body is showing in the picture, how many have muscles significantly more developed than the average male? 75%? 85%? I'm not particularly "built" myself, but I think it's extremely misguided to suggest women don't, on average, prefer muscular men (all other traits being equal). Obviously you don't have to be muscular to attract women, there are very few desirable qualities which are actually necessary to attract a partner. That doesn't mean it doesn't help, all else equal.

Why are the women you say are beautiful "beautiful"? Because they are physically fit and have good child-bearing markers.

We are hard-wired for this.

That said I utterly agree with the other poster's assessment of the benefits of exercise - less stress, better sleep.

> [beautiful women] are physically fit

Being muscular is neither a necessary or sufficient condition for being physically fit. And in fact most beautiful women are beautiful despite not lifting weights, so why should lifting weights be a factor in the attractiveness of men. (I will grant that some women do want muscular men, but I don't think it's that big a factor for most women.)

> benefits of exercise - less stress, better sleep

Note again: I don't dispute that exercise is very important. I'm commenting only about the motivation for lifting as the choice of exercise.

Nobody said "muscular". They are physically fit.

This discussion is just silly. Most men don't like fat women and most women don't like fat men because they will get caught by predators / can't catch food. Like most men you trotted out the "beauty" bit because men never see the asymmetry in women not seeing fat men "for who they truly are" whilst wanting the babe themselves.

> Being muscular is neither a necessary or sufficient condition for being physically fit.

"Fit" for men is fairly muscular, because moderate amounts of physical effort by a man will result in some muscles. "Fit" for women is not muscular, because women do not put on muscle easily the way that men do.

Fit for men doesn't mean looking like a body builder, but it also doesn't mean having the same muscle mass as a woman of equal height.

> so why should lifting weights be a factor in the attractiveness of men.

Because strength is masculine. The standard for masculine attractiveness is basically unchanged for millenia. Look at ancient Greek statues. The idealized male physique is muscular and lean. This physique indicates health and athletic ability, and therefore good genetics as well as good ability to provide and protect.

> I will grant that some women do want muscular men, but I don't think it's that big a factor for most women.

Women will marry physically unfit men, and ugly men, and also mean men, and men with all kinds of other negative traits. That doesn't mean that these aren't factors in women's choices. It means that 1) you can't generalize from "some women" to "most women" just because it fits with your narrative, and 2) women can look past any factor if other factors outweigh it (men can do the same).

I'm short. I don't pretend that height isn't a factor in attractiveness to women, though. It's a huge factor, despite the fact that some (even many) women marry short men.

> but a series of questions leads to women

You could run through the same questions for cardio and land at the same result. Of all types of exercise, why running? -> So why do you need to be thin? -> Ok, then why do you need to look good? -> Because women like it.

Getting fit is, for most people, an issue of both health and attractiveness. People who chose weights might be leaning more toward the attractiveness issue, or they might believe it's the healthier option, or they might simply enjoy it more.

For me personally, I lift weights (though I've really slacked off again lately) because it makes me feel better in ways that cardio does not. My back feels much better. My posture improves. I'm stronger. These are the main reasons I prefer weights to running now.

> Everyone I've spoken to got into lifting because they think it gets girls.

I think it's common for a lot of guys to start lifting for that reason, especially when they're younger. Lifting helps immensely with posture, confidence, overall happiness, energy levels, etc. etc. which does actually help "get girls", even if you don't get "jacked".

As time goes on, that becomes less important and all the other benefits shine through. The reason I've been lifting for 10 years is because of how it makes me feel - I walk out of the gym feeling a million bucks, I sleep like a rock, and my neck/back never give me trouble.

> NOTE: I'm not questioning exercise in general, cardiovascular fitness, being healthy, being free of disease, and not being overweight. All those are very important. I'm saying that of all the efficient ways of exercising, many people seem to pick lifting because of the misguided agenda that it attracts women.

Most people seem to find it moderately to extremely difficult to exercise regularly. So I think you're looking at this wrong. Any time someone manages to stick with a regular exercise routine, my default assumption is that they stick with it because, for whatever reason, that is an exercise they are _able_ to stick with. The reasons they exercise are all the benefits you listed, the reason they choose a particular exercise is because they can find the motivation to do that particular exercise.

Maybe in your social group, being able to fantasize about being toned and hooking up in bars is a key component to being able to lift regularly, but -- and I know I am hypothesizing about people you know and I don't -- I would guess the first reasons they want to exercise regularly are all the benefits you listed, and the reason they stick with this particular exercise is because they are able to. So, OK, perhaps they are able to stick with it only because of the vision of being toned -- that's roughly your conclusion, as far as I can tell, but I think the perspective matters.

However, you also listed leading questions that lead directly to your conclusion that it's just about hooking up. Ask about what exercises their friends do, and you might find they have friends that lift, that it's a social commonality that helps them to keep exercising, or that they lift with friends. Ask about metrics and it might be that they find the metrics they can keep on lifting to be more motivational than they find metrics in other exercises. Ask about how they got started and you might find that this was just the first exercise where they found good information or a good mentor to start with that helped them feel competent and accomplished and helped them form a habit. What keeps people doing something is a lot more complex than can be divined by asking a few leading questions and coming to a conclusion that the interviewee won't directly agree with.

While I think there are a lot of people who do it for this reason : making themselves seem more appealing to others, I think a lot of people do it for the right reason too: to look better for oneself and to be healthier.

I personally started lifting in college because I thought it was fun and was sick of being super skinny (6' 130lbs). I wanted to be stronger and healthier because lord knows the rest of my time was spent programming, playing video games, or drinking. And I think that's the key, you should be working out for yourself not for others. Do it because you want to look better for yourself, do it because you want to be healthier.

(Anecdotally, I didn't notice that girls found me any more or less attractive after working out and putting on 20 lbs of muscle. That would be have been shitty if that was my end goal.)

Lifting is actually very efficient and having more muscle can help for lots of everyday tasks.

I think you are just hanging out with the wrong people if all (or even most) of the people you know who lift are doing it for "girls"

> having more muscle can help for lots of everyday tasks

When I've discussed the motivation with weight-lifting friends, they bring up that very point. Then I ask them to give an example of something they did with their strength today or in the last month, that I couldn't have done just as easily (I'm average strength).

After long thought they come up contrived examples like, I had to lift my motorbike to change a tire one time, or last year I gave my daughter a piggyback ride for an hour at a parade so she could see better.

Well, since I started working out regularly two years ago, I've definitely noticed that shoveling snow is a lot easier. I've always been able to slog through it, but I'd be sore afterwards. Now, I can clear the driveway, remove the snowplow's gift at the end, and clear the debris from my neighbor's driveway without any trouble. It's nice.

FWIW, my motivation for working out is to be better at parkour. It's helped a ton for that, but most people don't do that sort of thing regularly. Being good at shoveling snow is just great.

> After long thought they come up contrived examples

Probably because you put them on the spot. I can give you several examples off of when additional strength would be useful to me in day-to-day:

  * Loading jugs of water onto the water dispenser
  * Loading my daughter's stroller into the back of the car (somewhat heavy, very awkward)
  * Carrying large/heavy boxes to/from the basement
  * Loading heavy items (e.g. stand mixer) into overhead cabinets
  * Pulling salal from my flower beds (deep, extensive roots make this a  major chore)
  * Carrying an Aeron chair up/down the stairs (I've done this several times)
  * Moving heavy furniture
  * Moving wooden sheet goods (plywood, MDF)
  * Hanging my bike overhead for storage
  * Holding heavy light fixtures overhead for installation
These are all real things that I've dealt with, some very frequently. These can all be done by a man of average strength, but they are all things done much more easily by a man of above-average strength. There are many, many cases where general strength is helpful in day-to-day life.

I'm all for people working to improve their body, and there are many good reasons to weight-lift, but the idea that an average person might rationally choose to weight-lift in order to reduce their day to day struggle with putting strollers in cars and bringing boxes up from the basement is really just absurd. If your objective is to encounter the limits of your strength less often, paying for membership to a gym and going there multiples times a week to exert maximum effort in moving objects so heavy you can only pick them up a few times at once is clearly not the thing to do.

> If your objective is to encounter the limits of your strength less often

Less often in day-to-day life. Hitting your limits in the gym means that you don't hit your limits in day-to-day life as easily, so when you need to move a loaded bookshelf, or pick up your spouse and carry them across a threshold, or whatever, it's not a problem.

It's exactly like running so that when you need to run, you can. Want to make it easier to sprint when you need to catch the bus? Sprint more in general. Want to make it easier to climb the 5 floors of stairs to your office? Climb 50 on the weekends.

It's also exactly like anything else you would ever practice for. Need to do complex math at work that you don't understand? You should probably study. Annoyed that you suck at the piano? Spend time practicing at night. Is your broken Italian not satisfactory to you? Spend time speaking Italian.

It's not absurd to spend time and effort improving an area you want to improve. We practice specifically so we can perform when we need to.

(Also, the muscle mass put on when younger has a huge impact on quality of life when older. Strong people hold up better to aging in general. You might not have trouble lifting a 45lb jug of water now. Do you want to have trouble with that when you're 65, 75, 85? Putting on additional muscle early makes it easier to retain a healthy amount of muscle later in life.)

Weekly examples are moving large electronics. Maybe it is just psychological, but it feels as if I have far better control moving heavy bulky things the stronger I am. They are still bulky and not easy to move in tight spaces, but they are easier than they use to be. I also do some outside work (more seasonal), but things like chopping firewood, removing trees after storms, and the like are easier.

Finally, I'm better at taking all my groceries in with a single trip.

Last month I went on a technical canyoneering & rappelling trip through slot canyons in Zion National Park with a bunch of teenagers.

Last week I was moving 150lb barrels of chicken feed.

This month, shoveling snow for myself and multiple elderly neighbors.

Mid-forties, desk job. Weight lifting helped.

The daughter piggyback example is interesting - my initial experience with back pain came when playing with my toddler daughter several years ago. "Threw out my back". Yes, strength helps with everyday tasks.

Yesterday dropped something behind a bookshelf I had never been able to move by myself, not even when empty.

Guess what? Could lift it up, picked the dropped item, found a couple more that had been lost months ago, and put it back into place.

Additionally, the feeling of accomplishment is awesome, being able to do things you could never do before is just incredible.

You can walk bookshelves if you tilt to one side and rotate, then tilt to the other side and rotate. Just in case you ever lose those muscles... hey, it happens!

Sure, but even that doesn't work when there's the right combination of being too weak and the shelf being too heavy.

Maybe this is a case where geek interests and casual interests converge. Some people may literally be doing for chicks. Personally, I'm about to start because a) I want to be healthier (= longer life and better life quality in old age) and stronger (= more capabilities), and b) because it's efficient. I have shit ton of things I'd love to do in little time that's left after dealing with work and other people, so I want to minimize time spent on things that I don't care about per se, but only seek their outcomes.

Oh, and c), I heard it helps with depression.

That's awesome! I think more SW engineers ought to be getting exercise for all the benefits mentioned in these comments.

Me personally - I climb, bike, run, and lift. I like variety, and I usually only do one of those activities a day. I find yoga to be too slow, with little mental engagement, and thus boring. My wife, however, loves yoga. And we run and climb together when we can.

It's all about finding some form(s) of exercise / physically-intense-activity that works for you. I found that I'm attracted to things that engage both my mind and body. Rock climbing is incredibly hard physically and mentally engaging; each boulder problem is like solving a puzzle. And for the progression minded, each route or climb is graded so one can measure progress and overall fitness improvement. Mountain biking is fast, furious, and mentally demanding because you have to pick the right line to stay rubber side down. I tend to ride as fast and as hard as I can, both up and down trails to keep it demanding and fun.

Cross-training is important as it forces you to work different muscle groups, which promotes overall better body awareness and health. I also find that when I take breaks in the middle of the day to do these kinds of activities, I find I'm able to focus better and get more done. I've also found that when I'm stuck on a particularly thorny challenge, be it a defect or algorithm / design problem, taking a break and getting some exercise usually opens up new avenues of thought and ideas I hadn't considered previously.

I even more urge people taking this advice to read and go slow. It's super easy to hurt yourself if you end up with bad technique or go up in weight too fast--anything more than 5 lbs at a time is too fast. Read Starting Strength for some of the technical background and get some help from a friend who actually knows what proper technique looks like.

I cannot emphasize this point enough. If you are new to the gym, please get a personal trainer (or someone who knows wtf they are doing) for a session or two to show you the correct form. It's more important that you are doing the exercise correctly with no weight than incorrectly with a lot.

This ^^ If you don't have strict, solid form, when you load a bunch of weight on the bar, you WILL get injured. It's inevitable. I recommend a relatively new book BY THE NUMBERS. Full disclosure, it was written by the former owner of my gym, but the reviews have been solid across the board.

Second on starting strength. Not only does the book have great info on how to properly perform each lift, but it also has quite a bit of info behind why we do each lift, physics and moment arms, and a little bit on nutrition and accessory lifts.

The single biggest physical improvement to my life was core strengthening. Basically 15 minutes of crunches, plank, and Russian twists every other day.

No more back aches at all. I never realized just how much and how constant the back pain I had was. Even when I was sleeping - tossed and turned all night.

I've been going to the gym all year and progressed. This holiday as I'm unable to go for 2 weeks I've started doing planks. Now I hurt all over! I shall persist. They seem great.

I agree with you on weight training. I would also recommend taking the time to learn to lift correctly. I see a lot of people at the gym lifting in ways that can do a lot of damage, especially to one's back and knees. I would also recommend free weights over machines, since they require more balance.

I think it is also worth looking at kettlebells and gymnastic rings. Here are some good exercises using gymnastic rings. They're a bit challenging at first, but worth the effort, I think.


For myself, 1 year ago, the idea of going to the gym 3 times a week was inconvenient and I just did not want to do it. I got over that obstacle by paying an uncomfortable premium on gym membership/personal trainer.

The inner conflict went FROM $60 gym membership/long-term health vs going home TO $175 gym membership/long-term health vs going home. I chose the gym a lot more often then, and I am much more healthy than 1 year ago.

What's up with the all caps "FROM" and "TO"? SQL habit?

Don't want to be the negative guy, but sometimes I wonder why people would spend their physical energy on gym equipment while you may just as well learn a construction skill that leaves a tangible result and has some use in the real world - like bricklaying, plastering walls or wiring electricity.

Just my 2 cents, if you enjoy your gym all the better for you. But I also think that many people give up because they find it boring.

I think the primary difference is efficiency. You won't gain strength as quickly doing construction as you will following a strength training program. If your goal is to gain as much strength as possible with the lowest time commitment, doing exercises and using equipment specifically designed for strength training is the better move.

That said, not everybody has exactly these goals, so if learning construction skills is more appealing to you than spending time in a gym, by all means.

> bricklaying, plastering walls or wiring electricity.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that a gym is much more accessible than construction projects.

Well, you begin by following some basic training course. I suppose a school building is just as accessible as a gym building.

for those of you who might be thinking about this sort of thing around the new year - if you're serious about fitness don't forget to track your calories and/or clean up your diet! if you're chronically overweight, or underweight, you might be just making things up in your head about your inability to lose or gain weight - "what isn't measured can not be improved."

While I somewhat agree with you, I'd like to add that this is not a necessity.

If you don't want to be serious about fitness, because you just want to be healthier, just do the lifting. This will already be a great improvement. If you become used to it, feel better about yourself and feel like there's more room for improvement, then start watching you diet.

yeah well, i guess if you're not serious then by definition you should just eat whatever you feel like. do lift though. it's not just for bros!

seriously though... most of us tech types here on hn start lifting only after our body starts to decline after years of abuse, in our early 30s. my productivity really took a hit. which is as good a reason as any to start.

This is exactly what I want to do in the coming year. What was the biggest barrier for you to start, and how did you finally overcome it?

If you've never been to a gym before or done weights, please, please, please get a personal trainer for a session or two to show your the correct form. I see way too many people at the gym who have shit form but "lift" a lot of weight and it is ineffective and can be dangerous. Form is way more important than weight. Remember, many exercises are designed with a specific muscle to target and if you don't do it properly, you won't get any of the benefits.

You're right, I can't imagine I could get proper form by looking at Youtube videos. There's no substitute for someone telling you where you're going wrong.

One thing me and a friend frequently do is record each other sets every now and then.

I've heard some people get pretty good advice posting form check videos on reddit's fitness board, and 4chan's /fit/.

I didn't know I would enjoy lifting until I tried Crossfit. Now, Crossfit has many good points and just as many detractors - as with anything, the quality of the gym/instruction can vary a lot. But the main thing it did for me was get me through that intimidating "I don't know what on earth I'm doing here" moment, into a regular group that met 3x/week with built-in accountability and programming to take a lot of the mental friction out of exercise. If you want to get strong, that's not the main goal of Crossfit, but if you want to get fit it works well - and for me, it got me a lot more comfortable with a world of strength training - a vocabulary I was totally unfamiliar with, and frankly intimidated by.

Per the original article, minimizing the frictions that make it less likely you'll do something was really important for me. Not every exercise works for everyone - I found that I prefer a group, or solitary, environment and that mainstream busy gyms don't work well for me. Since I can't afford 1:1 coaching, I do the group stuff, but I'm picky about my gym and coach.

When I moved, I did seek out a local weightlifting gym and met with a coach occasionally, but finding a local gym with even a proper squat rack (not a smith machine) was a challenge. I enjoyed doing the Starting Strength program, though dealing with setbacks from illness, travel etc got annoying (I felt like I was always retreading the same ground) and I missed doing more rounded cardio/plyo/flexibility work, so I've since gone back to Crossfit for a while to get my base fitness back up again.

I got lucky. I had a friend who had been lifting for years, so I didn't have to go alone when starting out.

If I had to make a recommendation for a beginner who might feel stressed out going while being overweight or skinny, I'd suggest you do some research into a program to follow strictly first, then go with a good plan. I recommend reading through Starting Strength for your first time.

Also like everyone says, no one is going to fault you for trying to get in shape. Most people are actually willing to help out if you talk to them and let them.

Yeah I think my biggest barrier is not having a clue where to start, and it's overwhelming. I've heard good things about Starting Strength - maybe I'll start there. Thanks.

FWIW, Starting Strength is a great place to start. Eat lots, lift heavy things, a bit heavier each time.

Honestly: just start (with low weights). That's what I did, anyway. Work your way up and focus on proper form.

I'm assuming you mean you are committed to do weight lifting 3 times a week, not that you have dedicated 3 entire days per week to it, right?

Edit: I'm surprised by the downvotes, I was just asking for a clarification, "committing 3 days per week" could mean dedicate 3 days just to that.

Yes, I meant 3 times a week.

I would put stay healthy and invest in your health (chair, standing desk, exercise, food) as the #1 for any programmer for next year, and the years after. It's all too easy for us to forget about the long lasting effects of sitting in front of a computer that are hard to later undo.

Get ergonomic keyboard and mouse (laptops are terrible ergonomically), and get a break program to remember to take breaks.

I didn't, and was fine for over ten yeares, before I started to have bad RSI problems. I managed to get well, but it took a lot of effort and time: http://henrikwarne.com/2012/02/18/how-i-beat-rsi/

> get a break program to remember to take breaks.

I really like Awareness[0]. Stand[1] is good too, but I prefer having 5 minute breaks every 15 minutes, which Stand doesn't allow.

[0] http://iamfutureproof.com/tools/awareness/ [1] https://getstandapp.com/

What about EyesRelax[0]? It allows you to personalize your breaks the way you prefer, and also personalize what happens to your computer when it's breaktime.

[0] http://themech.net/eyesrelax/

Looks useful! Only problem is Windows. :(

I used to have to wear a brace on my right wrist and had pain in my right shoulder from typing all day. Ergonomic keyboards helped, but the two things that virtually eliminated the problem for me were switching to a rollerball or trackpad, and learning the Dvorak keyboard layout. Using a trackpad eliminated the motions that were causing pain in my shoulder, and learning Dvorak made it so my fingers didn't have to move around as much, which helped my wrists a lot.

Some other ergonomic changes that I have found helpful are to use a standing desk with a monitor arm and placing my monitor so I'm looking slightly up.

Save by not investing in standing desk.

Build a standing desk.. Two resolutions - a hobby (learn carpentry) and health benefits!

high stakes carpentry - build a desk and put expensive devices on it.

Maybe it's just because my pops built most of the furniture in my house, but building a desk which can support a computer and last doesn't strike me as a particular project prone to failure. A lot of us are engineers who work on much more complex problems (although it's true that you must measure twice and cut once with wood working).

Remember though: A lot of computer-engineers are good with ideas, not their hands |;)

Lots of computer engineers are good and some even great with their hands. And with the older generation that skews even further towards being good with both (after all, you needed a soldering iron + skills first if you wanted to learn how to program).

Thankfully there are still plenty of places where skills like programming and soldering intersect in the "modern era." I also feel (maybe I should say I hope) that we'll see a resurgence in this set of skills in the future as the old guard starts to retire (soon).

I was fortunate to have started my career in the embedded world. I eventually got in to the habit of bringing my laptop and prototypes with me to the lab every morning so that I could stop all of the back-and-forth walking when I needed to attach a lead to a pad, etc...

Bah, can't be any worse than the particle board crap at most places.

>The health benefits are at best questionable.

Not based on any of the articles you cited.

[0] is simply a study that compares mortality rates of sitting vs standing behaviors, and is counter to a number of other studies that found the opposite.

[1] and [2] suggest that ONLY standing can be harmful, and that one should combine sitting and standing for the best outcomes.

[3] is similar to [1] and [2] but points out that poor posture while standing - not standing itself - can cause problems.

Keeping in mind also that you can find fluff articles supporting nearly any position...

* First one is only about sitting/standing and mortality.

* Second one is about using standing desks wrong, and has nothing to do with whether using a standing desk correctly can improve your health.

* Third one seems to support getting a standing desk (...?)

* Fourth is a) anecdotal and b) also seems to support getting a standing desk.

Anything is questionable, but (in the USA at least) https://www.google.com/webhp#q=how+many+obese+people+in+usa

burning more cals is better https://www.google.com/webhp#q=how+many+calories+burned+stan...

And rent local tools while you do.

Huh? Your health isn't worth more to you than the price of a standing desk?

No, of course. I have a standing desk and I don't think it was worth it. Simply a chair with elbow support allowing to have a relaxed shoulder line is good enough for me. I work in short stints alternating with short walks around the room (for some reason this happens naturally). This helps to relax your body and most importantly eyes.

Programmers tend to live sedentary lives, and we face unique health challenges from our occupation.

Yes, that's actually how Fitbit started. From http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/223780

Fitbit got its start after founders James Park and Eric Friedman sold their peer-to-peer photo-sharing company Windup Labs to CNet in 2005. While pondering their next move, Park, a former cross-country runner and avid swimmer, realized two things: that years of startup life had left him in terrible shape, and that he had the resources to come up with a solution. In early 2007, the two launched their fitness gadget company in San Francisco's Financial District, with Park as CEO and Friedman as CTO.

The first thing programmers (or any group of people) need in order to improve their lives is a reason to improve their lives. The blog says "go analog" or "improve your health" or "learn a new programming language" etc. But why should I, or anyone for that matter, go analog, improve their health or learn a new programming language? For fun? If it's for fun, the list should have been called "Fun activities for programmers". This all new "improve-yourself-without-any-context" new age movement doesn't make any sense to me.

Yeah. Being happy is stupid!

13. Work on volunteer projects

I set this resolution for myself last year, and have been able to work on three projects via http://socialcoder.org/ - feels very fulfilling!

I've volunteered some of my time when I was between gigs, using this site for the UK: http://www.it4communities.org.uk/

[As an aside, it was really depressing to see how smaller charities without adequate tech knowledge or budget get taken for ride by scam artists.]

Thank you for posting this. Over the last year I've been thinking about switching careers as I've noticed how unimportant what I work on is and I believe I'd get much more satisfaction from doing something that helps others. Social coder looks like a great solution to this for me.

Over the last year I've been thinking about switching careers as I've noticed how unimportant what I work on is

If I might suggest an alternative way of thinking, I would argue that even if your day job is figuring out ways to entice people to click on ads, it can still be important because it allows you to make arseloads of money which you then turn around and redistribute to the charities of your choice. Me, I like my work and like to think my work makes the lives of the people that use it just a teensy bit better. But like my work or not, when the local charity says "help, we're in a crunch and need money for $GOOD_CAUSE" I can whip out the checkbook, write a $1000 check and still make the mortgage payment.

And this isn't theoretical, I've actually gone through this mental exercise with the local animal shelter. Is it better that I do a job that doesn't have quite as high a hiring bar as software, for less money, but doing "good work"? Or continue pulling down fat stacks in software, physically volunteer when I can, and write big checks? I chose the latter. As Tyler Durden said, "you are not your job." You are, however, what you do with the fruits of your job.

Looks like a great site, I've signed up.

#3 Embrace the Uncomfortable - one thing I did a few years ago that might fall into this category (as an American) is start using the 24h clock. It makes working w/ remotes a lot easier because you become good at doing the +12 math and knowing which hour it represents. :)

I'm surprised most technical folks don't default to a 24h clock. I've been doing it since I was a teenager and had a digital wristwatch that I could set to a 24h clock.

Time just makes more sense that way. Otherwise you get weirdness like this: 12:00 AM occurs before 11:00 AM on the same day.

> Otherwise you get weirdness like this: 12:00 AM occurs before 11:00 AM on the same day.

I too prefer a 24-hour clock, but when I don't use it I always use 'midnight' and 'noon' (or, sometimes, '12:00m' for 'meridiem'), just to be completely clear.

How wonderful would the world be if we had a base 10 clock instead of 24?

Let's make a day be 86400 seconds (already a SI standard), and then you can divide that into tenths, hundreds or whatever. One thousand of a day is 84.4 seconds, which is close to a minute (which is (/ 60 (/ 24 one-day))).

We have metric for measurements in space, but something as simple for day-to-day time measurement would be nice.

^ Typical HN comment.

I'm sorry I'm making fun of you, but I just can't help myself as this happens all the time -- somebody comes up with a reasonable idea, and then the next commenter takes it so widely out of proportion, willing to re-engineer the whole society just to marginally improve his own comfort.

This is something I ponder every month, when I have to enter hours into a timesheet with decimal time...

not to mention this is a 200 year old idea that was a terrible idea then and hasn't gotten any better since

Sounds a little like Swatch's effort a few years ago:


Revolutionary France actually tried this. Thankfully, Napoleon saved the French from themselves.

It's not a bad idea in principle, but the massive cost of switching wouldn't be worth the marginal gains.

> Let's make a day be 86400 seconds (already a SI standard), and then you can divide that into tenths, hundreds or whatever.

Why not keep the day as it is, which can be conveniently divided into halves, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, eights, ninths, tenths and twelfths, as well as any multiples of those you like?

It's even easier if you use UTC-0. Joking aside, after enough usage you don't even need to do the +12 maths. Personally, I'd take using metric over converting people to 24 hour time. My day job involves working with UTM spatial data (all metres) but our public facing outputs are all feet and miles for our American audience. It's trivial to convert but drives me insane when a customer asks if I can convert something from feet to miles. I don't think I have ever seen a compelling reason for the US not to convert to metric. Every other country faced the same expense and learning curve.

> I don't think I have ever seen a compelling reason for the US not to convert to metric.

It's expensive, the benefits are minor, and our system is fine (it could be better of course: a switch to nautical miles would be nice, and making a gallon 256 cubic inches would be great). I've never seen a compelling reason to convert — and neither have Americans in general.

> Every other country faced the same expense and learning curve.

If every other country jumped off of a bridge, would you? The French system really isn't as good as it's cracked up to be.

French units optimise for abstract unit conversion (e.g. inches to feet or millimetres to kilometres); standard units optimise for concrete manipulation (e.g. dividing a gallon into cups, or a litre into decilitres). The thing is, unit conversion really isn't that common compared to manipulation (after all, what do units of measure exist for if not to manipulate objects?).

And yet 98% of the world decided that the benefits were worth the expense. Standardization is so prevalent in many aspects of our world for good reason - suggesting that the metric system is somehow immune to these benefits is ridiculous.

> And yet 98% of the world decided that the benefits were worth the expense.

It was imposed on much of the world by Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin (much like right-hand driving, as it happens); one can't really say that many folks had any choice in the matter.

> Standardization is so prevalent in many aspects of our world for good reason - suggesting that the metric system is somehow immune to these benefits is ridiculous.

I'd never deny it. There really are benefits to standardization. The rest of the world is free to standardize on feet and pounds any time it wants grin

All dates are yyyy-mm-dd and all clocks are 24-hour on every device I own. Took a little bit to get comfortable with these, but the former has been very helpful on technical fora with international membership. No one has ever been confused by my dates.

That's a good first step, now switch it to UTC.


As a fun bonus, you also get to have a daily 1337 o'clock celebration!

13. Avoid reading depressing news

One look at any news site is enough to help you avoid the first 12 resolutions.

So much this. Or maybe paraphrasing -- be aware of your mental health, try avoiding distractions by reading emotionally charged articles, facebook, political arguments. Meditate. Avoid distractions but at the same time take breaks.

# Keep a hobby project or fork an open source project and work on it when ever you find time. # Once in a year take one month off from work if possible and visit new places. # Go for a solo trip and spent time with yourself and nature. # Go for volunteering in some rural schools. And spend time with kids. # Publish a book.

I really like the resolution to embrace the uncomfortable. When you're young and inexperienced you have very little to lose by taking uncomfortable risks, but as you advance in your career it becomes more difficult to take the same risks.

I recently read the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and he has some great exercises called Comfort Challenges that really push you to go outside of your comfort zone. Some examples include

  * Maintain eye contact for a long time
  * Approach attractive males/females and get their numbers
  * Lie down in the middle of a public place
These seem like simple activities, but they quickly get you acclimated to uncomfortable situations. I highly recommend Ferriss' book if you're interested embracing the uncomfortable.

> * Approach attractive males/females and get their numbers

Should I get my wife's permission first?

Depends on how much you want to embrace the uncomfortable.

Don't let past death marches and shit-projects affect new projects mentally. It's harder than you think.

This is a good point. Many people quickly become cynical and lose their passion for making things. Instead of thinking of the possibilities they change and only think of all the blockers. Recapturing that naiveté is what is required to just get some projects off the ground.

Very interesting article! I like the fact that you mentioned Prolog as one of the less mainstream languages to learn. During my time at uni I found that both Haskell and Prolog really changed the way I approached different problems and gave me a high level perspective to problem solving. Some interesting resources to learn Prolog:

# http://www.swi-prolog.org/

# http://people.cs.kuleuven.be/~bart.demoen/PrologProgrammingC...

# http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~pjh/prolog_module/sem242.html

# http://www.learnprolognow.org/

I'm getting an itch now, I think I'll give Prolog a second go this new year.

I did some Prolog programming too for fun, and boy! it requires a complete paradigm shift in thinking! For those unfamiliar with Prolog, Prolog is very different from procedural programing languages. In procedural languages like C and Python, we assign values to variables and ask the computer to do operations on them. In logical programming langauges like Prolog and LISP, we tell the computer truth values of a list of statements, and ask the computer to check truth values of other statements using the provided list. In the past, Prolog and LISP aimed to become the go to language for Artificial Intelligence programming. Sadly, not many people use them any more.

(Common) Lisp is a multi-paradign language. It doesn't have any specific logic programming features, no more than any other generic language. Some lisps tend to lean towards functional paradigm. EDIT: OK, maybe Lisps' symbol type helps a bit on logic or AI but there's no built-in resolution algorithm like in Prolog.

But Prolog is really something different. I only know some basic ideas but definitely want to dig deeper in the future.

I'd also add Elixir as an alternative to Erlang. Still a different way of thinking if you're an imperative programmer but has nice tools and perhaps a familiar syntax.

I always have #6 on my list and I always put it off. /sad

It's a bit like learning a language, you'd need some almost immediate application to make it past the first steps of a book or course (and/or make that gained knowledge stick). And while it's easy enough to travel to some country where they speak a language you just learned, that's often harder when it comes to mathematics and IT.

3D maths and game development worked out somewhat in the past (I forgot most of it though, and as that was the DOS days it wasn't really more than high school level geometry). But I doubt that I could find enough real noticeable application for e.g. category theory.

(Just being the basis for something often isn't enough. You don't need to know much about physics to hop on a trampoline.)

I was going to say, a lot of the Math I learned in High School and then never applied to anything I re-learned more recently when I started mucking around with computer graphics and game dev (especially trig, matrices, vector math, etc.)

I'd love it if people had suggestions for other engaging ways to apply math while programming!

I highly recommend Jeremy Kun's blog - Math and Programming (http://jeremykun.com/). His posts are always awesome.

It helped to have a purpose or something to accompany it, e.g making a game as that would require a bit more math than CRUD apps. This helped me brush up on some (embarrassingly simple) vector math http://natureofcode.com

It was great when I was working aeronautics as the modeling and simulation required a thorough review of theories and concepts. These days, I'm lucky to do more math than built in excel functions... Again, /sad.

Please, stop. I always cringe over how embarrassingly poor my math is compared to most that I don't even dare to venture out of 2d unless it's for simple UI transforms even then I struggle because of no firm grasp over some of the concepts.

Indeed. I really just need to relearn most of the mathematics I took in college. Of course, without a job (or project) that demands things like calculus, I'd just forget it all again anyway.

My current job has me messing around with linear algebra and statistical analysis on occasion, though I've found the cobwebs in that part of my brain are rather thick :)

Same - I think it's because OK: I rote memorized how these equations work, but what now? What do I use them in? If I used them in my day to day, I would probably enjoy it more and probably stick to it.

same here man, same here...

Was I the only one expecting a list of screen resolutions?

> Switch from emacs to vim or vice versa.

Switch to emacs + evil, or alternatively to Spacemacs: https://github.com/syl20bnr/spacemacs

I did this a few years ago, and as a result, I'm pretty confident I'm in the minority of people who 'like' both. I have not yet declared a side in the holy war of emacs vs. vi. They're both great.

I suspect the silent majority to have tried only one of them and therefore have no opinion about the other.

This is where I am.

As a text editor, I find vim's paradigm to be absolutely superb. As an editing environment, emacs offers so much more in terms of extensibility and functionality.

I tried for a long time to love readline's vi-mode, but the level of customization to get a bad vim experience (I know vi and vim are different beasts, that's part of the problem) makes this not too valuable a task. On the other hand, with emacs + evil, I get emacs in any REPL I want, and in a pretty capable shell, with evil editing everywhere, which is much less painful to configure than readline.

It has been probably posted sometime before but I think this is still very up to date and HN newcomers and veterans (and everobody else) should read this again and put into action.

Lots of overlap with "12 resolutions for grad students" (http://matt.might.net/articles/grad-student-resolutions/) as well, especially for junior folks. Everything other than "check with your committee applies directly, and if you replace "committee" by "mentor," then it works very well.

For anyone who wants to learn more discrete math, I recommend the Mathematics for Computer Science MIT OCW course:



I'm currently waiting to see what comes back from fsck on a 4TB drive connected to a Raspberry Pi (don't ask). Drive is 390 days old according to SMART and reporting unrecoverable read errors.

Most of the stuff was in other locations but I know there was one repo I was waiting to push... waited too long, I guess.

I was going to say, if these are in priority order, move #8 to the top if you're not already doing it! That way you get the benefits of it moving forward :)

This is going offtopic, but if you're going to do backup/NAS, check your logs! I'm going to see how much I have to learn to set up monitoring on my home network. An error from Windows (coming from Samba) that I dismissed as a Samba problem was actually an early warning of the drive failure.

Edit: ouch.

  root@kiwi:/media/files2# ls -lah
  total 12K
  drwxrwxrwx  3 nobody backup 4.0K Dec 22 22:19 .
  drwxr-xr-x  5 root   root   4.0K Dec 30 20:19 ..
  drwx------ 32 root   root   4.0K Dec 31 00:54 lost+found

This was on my todo for years. I never liked the idea of using a cloud solution for privacy and price reasons. I recently bought a QNAP NAS which provides amazing custom backup solutions. I raided the disks, and continuously backup all personal data directly to AWS Glacier, making sure to encrypt it first. Private and very cost effective since the only time I would need to retrieve from glacier would be in case of both local drives failing (theft, fire?) I sleep better at night now.

Also backup your parents data.

Holidays are almost over and new SSD/W10 install went rogue. Old HDD got somehow damaged so bad sectors appeared. Spent good part of holidays playing with Hirens boot CD, dd and other tools.

That was Christmas 2014 for me!

This year they have a Mac and everything is automagically backed up to a USB drive.

I would try to use potable devices like iPad/Kindle/Mobile more for reading (Hacker news etc) purposes. Most of the time we don't need a full fledged computer compromising the sitting posture.

Do you find that you read better with a mobile device? I tend to find myself adopting awful posture when using any mobile device. With my computer and desk at home, though, I've got a monitor and keyboard at the right height and a very comfortable chair where I can maintain appropriate posture.

Oh that number 3. I've been avoiding it for a year and I already know its very necessary for me. I'm just gonna close my eyes and do it.

The whole site itself is chock full of good advice.

That is all I needed: More resolutions to skip!

"Switch to Dvorak" .. ha :(

I gave Dvorak a very serious 3-month try about a year ago.

I typically type ~90 wpm, and using Dvorak I was up to ~110.

That's great and all, however I am very seldom typing words. More often, I'm inputting key-bindings and pressing shortcut combinations. Some programs offer Dvorak-based keybindings, but not all, and unlearning all those keybindings on top of the typing instincts provides yet another layer of frustration. Not to mention the fact that every time I used my wife's computer I was effectively crippled ;)

Overall, I would say learn Dvorak if you just are really curious or do a lot of very serious word-based typing. Otherwise, it's just a waste of time.

Wouldn't an AHK script in a dropbox fix this problem? I know with linux and OSX things get a bit messier. But that seems like a very easy problem to solve with a fixed cost of creating some small scripts that swap keys and keyboard settings.

I personally would recommend colemak [1] rather than Dvorak. While both are improvements over QWERTY colemak only moves 17 keys from their QWERTY positions, while Dvorak moves nearly all of them. In particular Ctrl-Z, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V require two hands in Dvorak which is very inconvenient. In some applications these shortcuts can be rebound, but in many others they cannot. In colemak their positions (and all of the left-bottom row keys) are the same as QWERTY.

I used Dvorak for ~2 years and then switched to using colemak for the last 3+. OS support for both is widespread.

You can get back up close to your QWERTY speed in about a month or so (maybe less if going from QWERTY straight to colemak).

I switched to the alternatives to reduce RSI rather than speed and found it helped me with both.

[1]: http://colemak.com/

I think this one is a waste of time unless you seek a mental challenge. In my experience, it's just not worth getting confused on QUERTY keyboards all the time, and the 5% speedup or so is really not worth it. It's definitely more a cargo cult/challenge than a useful skill.

I don't think the speedup is worth it, but that wasn't why I became interested in the first place. I'm way more interested in the benefits of a more ergonomic layout for my wrists and fingers. I haven't studied the science of that very carefully, but I'm fluent with both Dvorak and Qwerty and the subjective comfort I feel when typing English with Dvorak is very much worth the effort of learning it, for me. It ticks me off a little bit when people discount it as "definitely" a "cargo cult" thing. If you don't like it, that's fine.

> It ticks me off a little bit when people discount it as "definitely" a "cargo cult" thing. If you don't like it, that's fine.

Read more carefully. I merely said that people mostly do it as a challenge or as a cargo cult, doubtfully because it is a useful skill (unless you happen to spend an extremely large amount of time writing, which likely only applies to a small percentage of those that get told to learn Dvorak).

I'd be interested in knowing what resource(s) you used to learn Dvorak, and how easy it is for you to switch back and forth (if you do it often/daily).

I'm not a dual-keyboarder, so I can't address that question.

When I first got a computer, in college, my father recommended I learn Dvorak instead of Qwerty for ergonomic reasons.

My keyboard was one of the typical 80's/90's beige color, so I took a black sharpie and wrote the Dvorak equivalent on each key. When I was typing, I focused on trying to remember which finger had to move where for each character. If I couldn't remember it for more than a second or two, then I could look at the keyboard.

It only took a couple of weeks to get the basics down, and it was several weeks after that that a friend pointed out I had worn off the sharpie for my most frequently used keys (I hadn't even noticed) and I was typing at a speed comparable to all the Qwerty keyboarders in the dorm.

Is it possible to switch back and forth easily, or is it one of those things where the constant context switching is more trouble than it's worth? I know very little about Dvorak, is it a software setting in the OS (e.g. you can relatively easily switch a single keyboard back and forth) or a hardware/firmware setting in the keyboard itself?

It's a software setting, though the setting varies in each OS. OS X has my favorite layout: Dvorak with qwerty shortcuts. That gives me normal placement for cmd + x/c/v/etc.

I really like Dvorak. I don't type much faster, but typing requires much less effort. If you know someone who types Dvorak, take a look at the wear patterns on their keyboard. It's pretty much the home row. Contrast that to qwerty, where the top row (especially the E key) gets an inordinate amount of wear.

Most major operating systems have supported Dvorak for well over a decade (I started using it almost 2 decades ago and have never used an operating system that didn't have support baked in).

It does take a minute or two to initially set it up. Here's an old listing of ways to do it on a wide range of operating systems - https://kb.iu.edu/d/aepk And I would recommend setting up a keyboard shortcut to switch between them.

Once you have it set-up, including a keyboard shortcut, switching your keyboard is just a shortcut away.

I only type in Dvorak, so I can't speak to the ease of a single typist switching back and forth. I have pair programmed quite a bit with Qwerty typists and other than occasionally switching keyboards and momentarily forgetting to switch it, it has never been a problem.

I had a coworker a few years back who used dvorak with vim. I've been vimming for five years, and there's no way I would ever want to retrain myself to use dvorak.

Stopping sugar and caffeine changed my productivity and sleep patterns in a very positive way.

12 resolutions is too many for me. Set 1 resolution and stick to it.

1. Follow the 12 resolutions

Some of those resolutions are more transformative than others.

I would add:

- Relearn what you already know.

stop using facebook

"Go analog" covers

At least 1920x1080 please.

Initial reactions to each of these list items:

> 1. Go analog.

Hahahaha NO. I get paid to solve problems, not be happy or healthy.

> 2. Stay healthy.

"Stay" healthy? Heh, for me and a lot of programmers I've known, that ship has long since sailed. Maybe "become" healthy would be more appropriate.

> 3. Embrace the uncomfortable.

Well, if more people did this, we'd probably not have religious conflicts.

> 4. Learn a new programming language.

Yes. Usually a good idea.

> 5. Automate.

Yes. Automate more, hire less.

> 6. Learn more mathematics.

This could be useful for most people.

> 7. Focus on security.

I already do this, but I agree that most programmers should focus more on security every day.

> 8. Back up your data.

Ditto with security.

> 9. Learn more theory.

This could be useful for most people.

> 10. Engage the arts and humanities.

Ugh, hell no. That's for other people to enjoy.

> 11. Learn new software.


> 12. Complete a personal project.

Wait, you mean to tell me that "start a personal project and actually finish it" is a thing people are capable of?

> I get paid to solve problems, not be happy or healthy.

> that ship has long since sailed

> that's for other people to enjoy.

> is a thing people are capable of?

You seem very unhappy.

Pretty much, but who really gives a shit?

Ha. Agreed. I'm surprised you got downvoted for your content-full post. I've made worse shitposts and been upvoted for them. You addressed each point. They may have been negative cynical but still substantive. "Please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News" was said to me recently.

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