Macbook air, textmate, Octopus card, Fitness First, Red Bull, Volvic, iPhone, Gmail, Caffe Habitu. All of these were jarring to me as a reader, as the article would read more naturally with generics--laptop, text editor, charge card, gym, energy drink, water, phone, email, coffee shop--with no loss of meaning. Many of these brands are mentioned 4 times or more during half a dozen paragraphs.
Whether intentional, it demonstrated the power of good branding; get inside someone's head, make them associate good habits with your brand, and you will become part of their daily ritual. They no longer 'go to coffee shop', they go to Caffe Habitu. It's not buying a bottle of water and hitting the gym, its "purchasing a Volvic in the 7/11 then doing the 3 minute walk to Fitness First". They don't check email, they check gmail.
A related takeaway from this blog post is the inherent "bragging rights" people feel when they stick to a habit. This guy doesn't just get up in the morning, it gets up at 5.50am people. Now that's early! Now it's time for 12 reps at 30kg at Fitness First as I knock down my redbull after crushing some sick bugs on my macbook air at the crack of dawn working in the cloud at my webapp startup.
Premium brands do the same, and it's part of the reason for the consistent brand-dropping here. People don't have phones they have iPhones, not because they are ubiquitous (like hoover became the vacuum) but because people must differentiate normal phones from their phones, due to the premium pricing they paid. And by using the new product as part of a habit (like your iphone is an integral part of a morning workout), it becomes more justification for the purchase.
I don't know the exact price of Red Bull or Volvic, but at $5 a day and 260 weekdays in a year he'd be spending $1,300/year.
Volvic is $28.81/12 on Amazon. At the same 100% mark-up, it's $4.80/bottle at 7-11.
That's $8/day, plus local sales taxes, or nearly $2100/year.
Getting a good water bottle and filling it at home is likely too cheap to meter. Making good coffee at home and using that for the caffeine boost is a lot less than $3.20/serving, and then there is this:
The results of a study showed that the ingestion of one, 250mL can of sugar-free Red Bull, in a sample of 30 healthy young adults, had an immediate detrimental effect on both endothelial function, and normal blood coagulation. This temporarily raised the cardiovascular risk in these individuals to a level comparable to that of an individual with established coronary artery disease.
Finally, he jumps straight into 12 reps dumbbell press @ 30kg (66lb per hand). Riiiight!
I can't read the article you linked, but what would be the difference between drinking a 8.4oz red bull (~70mg caffeine) and drinking 1 espresso shot of coffee (~65mg caffeine) with a B-complex and taurine pills?
That really isn't that much weight- imagine bench pressing 60 kilos.
30 kilo dumbbell presses shouldn't all that strenuous for someone who works out regularly.
A more general rule is Bench Press = 3 x 1 dumbbell weight. Pressing dumbbells is harder because it involves more balancing, so it is harder to press 30kg dumbbells than one 60 kg bar.
So, I could probably handle 65lb dumbbells @ 12 reps, but I wouldn't start there for a warm-up.
Which was my point.
<s>It was the power of the Iphone that allowed him to do so. </s>
On the other: you have to triage. If you want to establish a morning routines like this, then you can't worry about every optimization or you will never get anywhere. I'm impressed as hell at his consistency.
When the price differential between 7-11 and Costco becomes the biggest problem in his life, and when he has plenty of time and space to screw around with inventory management, he can surely come up with a plan to fix that. Until then, 7-11 is solving the stocking problem for him.
My aim with the post was to be extremely detailed, in order to try and emphasise how many different aspects have become habitual. Clearly, the way I ended up being detailed was to use brand names. Now you mention it, it makes sense. I remember writing "bottle of water" and thinking it will have a better effect if I make it more specific, hence "Volvic". Now it makes a lot of sense that I could actually be more detailed in many other ways and still achieve the same effect.
This is great learning, and something I'll try and improve next time!
I think it has to do with how you see creating your own products too. Are you trying to make a product that would be indistinguishable from the competitors, or one that's so good that people mention it by name?
I'm not criticizing the author, but just highlighting that he either implicitly or explicitly uses brands to form habits, and how he reinforces them with this very blog post (there is little reason to mention Octopus Card 3 times in the article, nor red bull five times).
And for those looking to build brands, it hammers home just how valuable they can be if they form a part of someones habits. This guy every day spends $5 to go and buy a small bottle of water and energy drink on his way to the gym instead of bulk-buying at home or drinking free tap-water because it's now part of his daily ritual. Then he will happily tell others both on his blog and in real life and advertise these products, likely without even knowing he's doing it.
On a more humorous note, the first portion of the piece reminded me of this gem:
"I live in the American Gardens Building on W. 81st Street on the 11th floor. My name is Patrick Bateman. I'm 27 years old. I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and rigorous exercise routine. In the morning if my face is a little puffy I'll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now. After I remove the ice pack I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower I use a water activated gel cleanser, then a honey almond body scrub, and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply an herb-mint facial mask which I leave on for 10 minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an after shave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older. Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion. "
I moved all the things I need to exercise into one place, streamlined the entire process, and reduced the mental inertia it takes to do things that are good for me.
Part of it is simplifying the process, the other half is making it a habit. I'm also a fan of picking some rationalizations.
For stopping caffeine - every time I drink Coke I'm just thirsty for water, and should just drink water.
For the gym - every time I've ever gone to the gym I feel good when I get home and don't regret going.
For food - I'll enjoy this for 5 seconds and won't even remember it by tomorrow, but it's got the caloric value of 30 minutes of exercise.
The disclaimer is I work where I can be into the office a little later in case I have a late night. But the main point is once you convince yourself you're going no matter what, suddenly your lizard brain has a hard time saying no.
I think, for cardiovascular workouts, it's a much better solution to try to hack your commute into a run / bike ride, if that's possible. You get to use that time twice, since it is both commute and exercise, and this kind of multitasking actually works well. Sure, the workout may not be as "efficient" (locally) as doing everything under perfectly controlled conditions, but this is really not the main concern unless you are inte competing.
Walking desks are a similar kind of hack, even if I find them a somewhat perverse use of electricity.
For muscular workouts I haven't yet found anything that would function as well as the gym, but with less life-overhead.
You can get non-electric treadmills.
Then maybe you shouldn't do it?
I don't mean to pick on you too much, but one of the things that makes me crazy about Hacker News on topics like this is the amount of "you're doing it wrong" that people produce.
The guy has a routine that he likes and meets his needs. He was smart enough to put together a routine that works for him; presumably he's smart enough to change it when he notices something negative about it.
Does Mark Zuckerberg work out? How about John Lasseter?
It honestly doesn't seem fitness has any relation what-so-ever to success but I'd be happy to be proven wrong with actual data rather than anecdotes.
Richard Branson's main piece of productivity advice is "work out".
A strong counterexample would be Warren Buffett, who was once the world's richest man, never worked out, and ate terribly.
Ultimately though it's best to look at the studies other responders to your post cited, which do show some correlation between exercise and mental performance.
Edit: forgot my links
Here is a video where Branson says he achieves "twice as much" on a day when he works out compared to a day when he doesn't exercise: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFjgMKwpz_k
The ways exercise benefits the brain was discussed on HN before multiple times.
How Exercise Fuels the Brain (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
How Exercise Can Strengthen the Brain (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
A search for 'exercise brain' returns many more results. Now it's up to 'is improving your brain function cornerstone to success?'
But the kind self-control you need for fitness could also help you become successful. If so, there might indeed be some correlation between fitness and success.
I don't think your lack of pain has anything to do with your working out. More likely luck, genetics, or lack of other activities that would lead to pain.
Octopus card: The Octopus card is a rechargeable contactless stored value smart card used to transfer electronic payments in online or offline systems in Hong Kong.
I've done this in the past and I always overtrain and race too early. I have a bad race and stop training shortly after that.
I've found a much more effective way: Between my wife and I whoever is in the gym less in any given week has to pay the other person on Friday -- around $50. There is still competition (neither of us want to admit to losing) but there is also a very tangible penalty.
The combination is an excellent motivator and neither of us have missed a single day since we started it. It's similar to having a partner (a partner got me through 3 years of weight training in college) except that you don't have to work out at the same time, which is much better for busy people.
I haven't participated in a race since around '93 or '94, we're talking 2 races that I've done - both Bloomsday runs in Spokane with family.
My current normal week has me at the gym every day and twice on Wednesdays. I do strength training 2-3 times and I usually run over 110km. The only person I compete against is myself.
I hate going to the gym, and I hate working out. But I much prefer having a BMI of 23.4 than the 40+ I used to be at. It's not fun, but once you get used to it and consider it a necessity, you can stay with it.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that everyone work out as much as I do. --A rather innocuous visit to the doctor earlier this month ended up with a blood test that showed a severe iron deficiency. So now I'm taking 300mg of supplements a day for at least 2 months... And that much iron tends to have a bit of an effect on my digestive system, although the opposite of what the doctor warned me about.
It helps that progress in my main forms of exercise (indoor climbing, weight lifting) is easy to measure, and relatively straight forward to drive at my level.
I also dable in dancing, where I am still so awful, that progress is easy to gauge. And mixed martial arts, where the whole point of the sport is some form of competition, even though sparring doesn't see you go all out.
Obviously doing any physical exercise you should be safe about it (wear a helmet while biking, have a light and reflectors if you ride at night, etc., and of course be conscious of your surroundings), but running solely by itself can be detrimental to your health because of the force you put on your knees on impact running on paved surfaces.
Given the constraints of what we're given, biking is far better for your overall health than running.
Around here, biking is too damn dangerous. Narrow, twisty roads.
If you run on the balls of your feet, rather than heel-strike, the impact is greatly reduced.
Running isn't super bad for you. You need medium impact to build bone density, which is a major protective factor in old age.
Both of the sports will cause damage, as they are both straight line repetitive motion exercises. In either case you want to think of them as specific or specialized uses of your fitness, while creating proper base fitness like flexibility and muscular balance in the gym/yoga etc. would be your non-specific work.
Any time you go very specific you are going to find a weak link.
Why do people prefer to run for hours instead of a more intensive workout in a minutes?
Looking at the typical runners , why would you desire a physique like that?
Note that sprinters as well as endurance runners have to lift some weight at one moment or another. When I run my first half-marathon I was surprised that my arms were more sore than my legs.
Any exercise is going to carry some risk of injury, it's up to you to learn how to mitigate it.
Not all risks are equal.
Competition is too much of a motivator for me and my competitive personality. As soon as a competitive element is introduced to exercise it completely takes the fun out of it.
I like having a race booked because it gives me a reason to get out and run even when it's cold and rainy: I want to be ready.
On the other hand, I've stopped caring how I do relative to other people. I go run the race. Sometimes I just run it for fun. Other times I'm working to beat a previous time. But either way, I keep in mind that my main goal is fitness, not victory.
My experience with over training was that it gave signals that could be ignored only willfully.
But if you aren't wired for competition, consider companionship. If you run, joining the right weekly running club can do wonders for your motivation.
The aspartame and sucralose may or may not be a problem for you.
When I find myself doing the exact same thing every day I think of it as grinding towards the grave without ever doing anything original. Life is full of new experiences, unless you are just placing one foot in front of another for 2 hours a day on a treadmill while watching a screen.
It's a pretty dim view of a lifestyle others love but I don't care of it at all. I guess I guess love chaos too much.
The cool part is, I can keep building on top of the repetitive routine, and these additions are the variation for me. The hour of coding before the gym (and getting up an hour earlier in order to do it) was a recent addition, and took some time to achieve as a habitual thing. That's what keeps it interesting and exciting. I don't succeed right away with these additions, they take time. However, the power of habits is when they are actually habitual (and are good habits) and you don't use energy and willpower to accomplish them - that's what I tried to focus on here.
That said, it reads almost exactly like the opening to "American Psycho". Sure, Bateman's routine is slightly different than yours, but both narratives have the same affect.
Best of luck, and I can't wait for your article on business cards!
The point I was trying to make, which I've clearly not succeeded with, is that I don't actually plan it as it happens, and I don't think individually of all these details as I do them. I'm not a robot with an algorithm of each step, going through them one by one with perfect precision. Rather, if I sit down and think hard about literally every step that I go through, this is what the routine is. In my mind, I think of none of it - it is completely habitual and I'm on autopilot. I can do the whole routine without expending much energy, so I have all the energy for other things - the more unexpected things that come up and we need to deal with (happens plenty in a growing startup).
Abstracting out doing things that are good for you into a “habit layer” seems unlikely to turn you into a robot or inhibit emotions (as rfugger suggests). Instead, it may allow to focus on higher-level activities and decisions. You can still switch abstractions and go low-level anytime if you have to, if benefit-cost ratio is high enough.
Also, there's probably a lot of unexpected and interesting things happening around that you can notice even as you do your ritual thing. (Important though is not to contemplate on them, at least for me it can destroy the ritual very quickly.)
PS. Thank you for your posts!
I should also admit that, although grandparent expresses the idea I had after reading Joel's comment, myself I don't have that orderly life and many good habits. More of the opposite, actually, and I also often enjoy making decisions on-the-fly.
I find the abstraction analogy appealing and inspiring, though. It probably could help people like me, whose stumbling point in forming and following habits and rituals is the lack of motivation.
I've learned, though, that to feel truly alive I need to turn off the autopilot, feel the emotions that come up, both painful and joyful, and accept the way that they demand to inform my direction on a moment-to-moment basis, often in ways contrary to what I had planned. That's life.
Its true, this habit stuff is powerful.
(Disclaimer: I have 2 kids, I manage to exercise each day, but it definitely comes at the expense of other things).
I feel like there was a tiny bit of prep work before you could just wake up and run in a circle :D
1) Notice how patio11 isn't commenting here.
2) Closes tab.
For a hacker news post, I'm sorely disappointed. The body will secret epinephrine once you start working up a sweat, there's no need to add caffeine and shitty simple sugars to your body before a workout. Eat a brown rice granola bar or bring some Gatorade with you if you really need the sugar boost to get going. Usually, glycogen stored in the liver from previous days will suffice to rocket the body's bloodstream with sugar.
Adderall is an amphetamine, lasts about 10 hours and is basically a controlled substance, banned by major competitive sports organizations as a performance enhancer. Caffeine lasts about five hours and (as far as I know) isn't banned anywhere. There's more sciencey ways to compare them but i'm lazy. Check the wikipedia pages.
There is also little to no risk of cardiovascular disorder from using caffeine in "normal" doses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine#cite_note-Dam08-18). The thing that actually strikes me as interesting about the Red Bull thing is its ingredients and perceived benefits. Here's a brief description of the ingredients: http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/15-07/st_r...
Apparently not only can the caffeine make you more likely to be dehydrated, it takes between 45 mins and 1 hr to absorb fully into your blood stream. So really, if you want to try to use caffeine (or a caffeine-like substance like Guarana) make sure you take it about an hour before your workout for peak results. And i'll remind you all that continuous use of caffeine can make you dependent and dull the supposed benefits over time. And also, stay hydrated 24 hours before you work out; chugging a bottle of gatoraid while you run is not being hydrated.
(All that being said, I think it's a lame cheat to use a stimulant or performance enhancer when working out. Unless you're trying to win a marathon (which is still cheating) you don't need any "extra edge" provided by $2.50 sugar water. Do the reps and get sleep and eat good food and you'll benefit the most)
If you're going to be working out all day or doing something like a marathon, then you need to consider something to help replace the salts you lose when sweating.
"The results of a study showed that the ingestion of one, 250mL can of sugar-free Red Bull, in a sample of 30 healthy young adults, had an immediate detrimental effect on both endothelial function, and normal blood coagulation. This temporarily raised the cardiovascular risk in these individuals to a level comparable to that of an individual with established coronary artery disease."
To be honest, I only even read half of it. (All of the above says nothing about the exercise habit, nor the point of the post. Just the actual effect of reading the post.)
I feel like: if I had the actual habits described in the post, few things in life would feel as good or as rewarding as immediately breaking them, forever.
This isn't to say this is true: just that this is the impression the blog post leaves me with, due to the style, writing, format, etc.
Nevertheless humans loves routine and working effectively for two hours (coding, then gym) is a productive use of those early hours of the day. Many waste it in bed.