Tag Archives: personal health

Why do your legs itch when you run?

Many experience itching on their legs whenever they go out to run, regardless of weather and regardless of what they’re wearing. Why?

Well, nothing’s biting you and you don’t have some sort of skin condition. So over the counter remedies aren’t going to do you much good.

The reason your legs itch is because when you start running, you activate previously dormant nerves in your legs. The sudden stimulus compels your legs to send the sensation of itching up your nerve fibers back to your brain.

So your legs itch, and the temptation is to think that something’s happening on your skin. But the reality is that your legs are basically waking up and using more energy. Often, if you continue running through it, the sensation passes.

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An impromptu birthday run, and thoughts on aging (even when others don’t notice)

Most people go on an abbreviated run and hope that it’s long enough to count in their training long.

Me? I go tonight on two short runs, to and from the store to get ice cream, and hope the runs aren’t long enough to count. Here I am trying to stick to my guns on a two weeks hiatus following the marathon, and yet opportunity calls.

See, today is my birthday, and I turn 40 years old. I figure why not treat myself? Ice cream makes sense. A 2 mile round trip run… possibly less so, but I certainly enjoyed it.

A lot of people get to this stage in life and face a mid-life crisis. Their health and figure has declined. They’re fighting father time.

Me? I probably feel and look better than I did at 30. Hell, I feel a lot better than I did at 38 or 39. A combination of all this running with substantial improvements to my lifestyle habits have dramatically improved my energy levels, my physique, my health.

So, I realize the number is a specter given it’s a midlife number. Any notion of youth your age offers is pretty much gone at 40. You’re a man, and you’re pretty much on the “old” side of the spectrum.

Meanwhile, I still get mistaken for being 15 years younger, and I’ve let a lot of twentysomething ladies down when I break to them when I was actually born. You have to look closely for telltale signs of my actual age. My face at point blank range looks just weathered enough to indicate I’m no kid. My hairline has mostly held the line, but the front base of hair has gotten a bit thin at the top of my forehead. People get weirded out and some even laugh when I make any effort at being authoritative, because it looks like a college kid trying to act like an old man.

But otherwise people still think they’re dealing with a twentysomething. Maybe it gives me as many chances I wouldn’t otherwise get, as it takes away chances I otherwise would get. Maybe if I race as a Masters runner people will immediately cry foul and accuse me of lying (especially if I win an age group). If I went to see a doctor about some old man thing like a heart scan or (heaven forbid) a prostate screening or something, he’d probably laugh and wonder why a kid thinks they need something like that.

I’m not crazy enough to think I’ve turned back the clock or I’ll be young forever. I feel the bone-and-joint creakiness of having passed 30 now and then and have for years. I just have gotten in good enough condition that it doesn’t really hold me back. I realize I’ve got to work hard to take care of myself to maintain what I can as I age, as much as grow in any way naturally possible.

I ran to the store and back at an 8:35-8:40 mile pace. I couldn’t have imagined running comfortably that fast back in 2010, and certainly couldn’t have imagined that eight years later I’d be running like that, in better shape than I’ve ever been.

P.S. I couldn’t decide between Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup and Häagen-Dazs Caramel Cone. So of course I got both. The former got crushed just now, and I’ll eat the Caramel Cone some time down the road.

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Ideas on how to improve US health care coverage

Right now millions of Americans are paying an exorbitant money for health insurance they barely use. They go to the doctor about as much as I do (and I am grateful for how little I need the doctor). They take care of their health with a good diet and lifestyle, and therefore never need to see a doctor for anything other than necessary procedures or serious problems.

We all certainly want to have health insurance if something awful happens to us and need to go to the hospital… albeit for many this comes at the expense of a $6000+ deductible. So even if you do use your insurance, the threshold for it to activate is so high that you may as well not even have it most of the time. Of course, the (however well meaning but) ill-advised Affordable Care Act has mandated that Americans buy this pricey, mostly useless insurance.

In large part this is because (aside from cancer care, a predatory-posing-as-compassionate industry whose modus operandi is a whole other can of worms I’m not getting to) we’re financing the legal drug addiction and hypochondria of millions of Americans, as well as fueling a US medical industry that has leverage to overcharge all of us.

What would be more useful is something akin to a fixed indemnity plan, where:

  • If you need to go to the hospital, basically everything is covered from the first dollar by your policy.
  • Since you don’t use much of anything beyond that, it doesn’t cover any basic health care.
  • If you can contibute to an HSA that can cover those occasional non-emergency doctor visits, then that can cover your basic health care bases.
  • Flat-Fee Health Care: You have the option to pay something additional like $20 a month for a membership providing affordable access to a quick care medical facility or network that can cover basic care and added procedures for additional nominal fees. This would offer easy, affordable access for people who need regular health care more than others.
  • Health Insurance should be like auto insurance: The less you use it, the less risk you present of using it, the lower your premiums should be for any amount of coverage. When you use it more than others, your premiums can be subject to increase.
  • I realize this sucks for the chronically ill, but this gets into topics beyond the scope of this post such as the future of medical tourism, medically induced emigration, and likely new niche business or angel-invested models for chronically ill health care coverage. Basically, the current US health care coverage model is unsustainable, and we’re moving towards various new models for healthcare anyway.

I’m not holding my breath for such a solution. But I think if the ACA is salvagable and could use a fix, it would be a shift to something like this.

As I get older, I will probably look to emigrate to a country with universal government-funded health care, or safe and very affordable health care. Paying the exorbitant premiums for health insurance in this country, especially for what little you get in return, isn’t acceptable.

I don’t see the US finding a good health care coverage solution for the working class anytime soon, and no: I don’t believe single-paying or universal health care is a realistic possibility here.

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An Idiot’s Guide To Safe, Effective Running Form

One of my keys to reducing, even (fingers crossed, knock on wood, ban all black cats) eliminating injuries, has been ongoing work on my running form.

In March 2017 I had to pull up and back out of a speed workout before it began due to knee pain when I ran, a recurring issue. Having plenty of subsequent time to think about it (since I was obviously not running much while it healed up), I read various sources on running form and took a good long look at the details of my own running form.

Gradually I adjusted the way I ran in workouts until I was able to run regularly, pain or not, without aggravating the condition.

In fact, not only did my recurring knee issues pretty much disappear over the following months, but residual discomfort from a 2008 ankle injury (which remained a come-and-go issue during my recent time running) disappeared and never came back either.

Over the past year I’ve built up my running volume from 20-30 miles per week to around 35-50 miles a week during focused training, without any injury problems or nagging pain. And I train harder and longer in key workouts, more often, than I ever have before.

Anyone who knows me can see I’m no Adonis with magnificent body structure. I have at best an ordinary-looking physique for a guy in reasonable shape. I’m not avoiding injury by being physically gifted. In fact, once again, I dealt with nagging injuries until I fixed my form.

Regardless of what shape a runner is in, even the best and hardest training athletes seem to get injured a lot, even with far more resources available to them for recovery and training.

Meanwhile, I’m an idiot who runs home in his work clothes. What exactly am I doing that works? Do I think I have an idea?

You bet I do.

Continue reading

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Feeling tired? It’s probably one of these things

I can’t tell you how many years in Seattle I battled lethargy despite a busy schedule full of theatre commitments I was very into. I definitely became one of those guys who pounded coffee and energy drinks in the afternoon or evening, to try and keep the motor going for that night’s action.

Needless to say, I’ve since figured out how terri-bad that approach was for my health. I still indulge in the occasional afternoon cup of coffee (decaf if it’s around), or a caffeine-free vitamin/energy drink like FitAid (which they sell at Whole Foods in Chicago).

But generally the only stimulant you’ll see me take anymore is a morning cup of coffee.


Of course, the problem of lacking energy goes well beyond what stimulation you’re giving yourself. Pretty much everyone struggles with low energy and feeling tired, and I’m still to this day no exception.

The difference between the 2011 Me, who would pound a 5 Hour Energy before a show performance to keep from falling over, and the 2018 Me… is that 2018 Me knows the reason for feeling tired comes down to one of these four things:

Continue reading

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How I almost ran track in high school except for that damn kidney stone, and why it was a good thing I didn’t run track

I took up running as a practice fairly late in life, though I’ve always had an ability to jet on my feet. As a kid I played a lot of basketball, soccer, touch football, softball, kickball, etc.

Other than maybe basketball, I didn’t have much talent for sports: My hands may as well have been chopsticks. I could catch a ball about as well as trying to catch a brick. Speaking of bricks, even in basketball I could pass and cut well, but I laid more bricks than an urban refurb project, the rim might as well have been a snow globe during layups, and I dribbled about as well as a duck.

But I could run. Despite growing up with asthma, I ran outside with the other kids all the time, and shot hoops at my home after school and on weekends (spoiler: I’ve long since been able to breathe without problems, no inhaler or anything). I outran most kids in P.E. on runs around the yard. I would have medaled in the long run in my elementary school’s one field day where awards were given… had I not caught pneumonia the week before and had to miss it. And now and again I could out-sprint an angry dog in my less-than-safe neighborhood.

I got other interests as I grew older, and I knew anyway I couldn’t ball well enough to make a basketball or soccer team. However, my junior year in high school I found out the track team was holding open tryouts. This basically meant you showed up, ran as a group through campus for about a couple miles and as long as you didn’t puke and you remained interested you were on the team.

I showed up after school that day and ran. As we ran through the outdoor corridors, up the stairs and back down, I ran at a fairly brisk pace and even passed quite a few guys that I recognized as existing members of the track team.

It definitely felt like a workout, but I felt fairly good coming out of the run and headed home as usual. I figured I was good to go as a new member of the track team.

——-

During the middle of that night I woke up with a lot of abdominal pain, like I needed to get sick. I went to the bathroom and nothing came out. But the pain was bad and getting worse. I woke up my parents and said take me to the hospital ASAP.

Off we went to the ER, and the pain was so bad that during our far-too-long wait in the waiting room I snuck into the restroom and laid on the floor just to find some relief, since I couldn’t even sit up.

They finally got me checked in and into an ER bed, pumped me full of enough painkillers to make life reasonable (but not before I puked into a bag while still in pain), and ran some barium tests. The doc came back and said, “You’ve got a kidney stone.” There was some sort of prescription or such to help it dissolve and dislodge, and they gave me a jar and paper cone to piss in just in case I could catch the actual stone as it came out someday, but otherwise said to wait it out and maybe fix my diet.

In any case, I felt a lot better walking out, and both my mother and I agreed that maybe track wasn’t a good idea… thinking that was the impetus for the stone to finally lodge in my tract and cause what happened. So that was the end of that.

——

Looking back, do I regret not going out for track again, knowing now that I can run for volume and that training at that age may have led to more?

Absolutely not!

  • While the kidney stone was likely just a result of drinking the poorly filtered tap at home (an issue I fixed by switching to better filtered, later distilled, water), I also didn’t eat the best diet at that age. I was skinny, and that means I probably wasn’t getting enough calories to withstand the daily ass kicking of track workouts. I wouldn’t have had the sense back then to make sure I loaded up on extra protein.
  • I know a lot more now than I did then about proper form, cooling down, and recovery. Even if my nutrition was sound, I probably would have gotten myself injured or ended up with long term lower body injury problems from a high volume of faulty running. Coaches can only do so much to monitor your form. Not running track probably saved my legs and now allow me to run just fine as an older-something today.
  • I also didn’t know how to pace myself. I would have run too hard to effectively develop my aerobic stamina. I probably had a better chance at over-running myself into another asthma attack (years removed from my last one).
  • My shoes were fine for being a generally active high school guy, but probably weren’t up to the task of dozens of miles of running a week. And my folks did not have the budget to buy me $100 pairs of shoes/cleats just to run track. I probably didn’t either, even though by that point I was working part time at the library.
  • I handled the 1-2 intro miles we ran that afternoon, but what could I have capably run if I did indeed join the team? And would I have had the endurance + speed to be competitive in those events? I did run fairly hard for my capabilities that afternoon. As much as I could run, I was only two years removed from struggling to finish the mile in freshman year P.E. class. I could run fast at shorter distances, but I don’t think I had the speed of other good Clark County sprinters. And sure, with regular aerobic training I might have been okay for cross country. But I wasn’t a great fit at the time for any event: I lacked the endurance to suitably do the 5K or 10K, and I didn’t have enough speed to excel at sprinting. Maybe I could have done the 800 or 1500. Big maybe.

So, looking back, it was probably for the best that whatever kidney stone I had manifested after that preliminary run. Sure it may have been cool to run track, and who knows what could have happened. But knowing what I know now, it may not have been great, and it might have screwed me out of all the much more rewarding running I get to do now.

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Put One Foot In Front of the Other And Run

Let’s diverge off performance art for a bit.

I’m hardly a poster child for good diet and fitness. Anyone can look at me and clearly see it. Nowadays, I eat way more packaged/processed anything than I probably should. Over my life I’ve gone back and forth between keeping my diet clean and keeping the acquisition and preparation of meals simple (and truth be told, I have found meals to be insubstantial when I’ve tried to do both). The latter usually means eating a good portion of processed, fat-producing food.

I walk a lot, live a fairly busy lifestyle and have a tendency to crawl all over the place in improv scenes. But I don’t work out and I certainly don’t look like someone who body sculpts let alone gets in regular workouts.

Recently I got back into running, which I’ve done off and on for years. Growing up, like many, I had trouble running any sort of distance without getting winded. As an adult, I tried interval running on a treadmill, where you start at a walk, ramp up to running hard briefly, then slow to a walk and repeat the gradual acceleration to a sprint. But I still found myself getting winded if I had to run at all otherwise, for any extended period of time.

In recent years, I discovered Hal Higdon’s training website, one of many out there. The career running enthusiast’s running program is nowhere as popular as Couch to 5K. But one simple piece of advice, probably even a throwaway line to him, became the turning point for me and running.

It’s his description of the term ‘Run’:

Run: Put one foot in front of the other and run. It sounds pretty simple, and it is. Don’t worry about how fast you run; just cover the distance–or approximately the distance suggested.

Like many, throughout my running experience I always felt I needed to push myself at a brisk pace traditionally akin to running. Of course, I would always get winded. Whenever someone jogs, they feel they must maintain a certain intensity and pace. Higdon’s advice suggests that’s not necessary. As long as you’re moving your arms and you put one foot in front of the other, before the back foot is totally planted (the technical definition of walking), you’re technically running. No matter how slowly you do it, you’re running if you do at least that.

This couples with another discovery I had in Seattle. I trained in Alexander Technique with Carol Levin, who taught me this important series of facts:

– Your lungs do not have muscles, and you cannot substantially improve the strength of the muscles that control the movement your lungs.
– Your stamina doesn’t improve by improving the strength of your breathing. Your stamina improves when you improve the efficiency with which all of your body’s muscles work.
– Your lack of efficiency in a task forces your muscles to work harder than they do once you’re efficient at it.
– You don’t get short of breath because your lungs are tired. You get short of breath because your muscles have been pushed so hard in such little time that the amount of oxygen a normal breath gives your body is not sufficient to keep them going. Thus, you breathe harder, to take in more oxygen more quickly and better re-supply your body.

It hit me: The reason running makes people breathe hard is because most people press too hard when they run. They feel they must run at a given pace and intensity, higher than they’re comfortable with. This quickly taxes the body, you quickly run short on oxygen, and your lungs go into overdrive to re-supply your body. Thus a lot of beginning runners run hard, run out of breath, slow to a walk, run hard, get tired, slow to a walk… often practically hyper ventilating as they tire. It doesn’t feel good, yet runners get used to pushing themselves like this. The vaunted “runner’s high” is actually a renewed rush of oxygen to your brain and organs after their extended forced shortage.

Hypothesis: If I ran slowly, I could run longer distances without getting short of breath. And over time, as my body becomes more efficient at running, I’ll be able to cover longer distances more comfortably.

A few years ago in Seattle, I decided to take Hal’s advice and, no matter how slowly I had to run, focus simply on putting one foot in front of the other at a pace only fast enough to ensure my back foot came off the ground before my front foot was totally planted, while moving my arms. Even as I get tired, I just kept in mind the simple advice “put one foot in front of the other”. As long as I could do that per the above, I would not stop.

My first 1.5 mile run was a pleasant surprise. Despite running the first half mile uphill in the hilly Seattle neighborhood of Queen Anne… I never once had to stop or walk to regain my breath during the entire run. It took 30 minutes to finish the run and it was somewhat difficult, but I spent all 30 minutes of that run running, and more so I had just run 1.5 miles without stopping, without having trained prior to doing so. I ran slowly and deliberately, definitely slower than the brisk “jogging” people are used to doing, but I ran the whole way without stopping.

Two days later, I completed the same run the same way, without losing breath or stopping. And so I continued, roughly every other day.

Within four weeks, not only could I run two miles without stopping, but as my body’s running muscles got stronger my pace began to pick up. I was finishing that 2.0 mile run in *less* time than it had originally taken me to run 1.5 miles just a month before.

What happened was not that my lungs got stronger, but that the muscles my body uses to run got stronger. My entire body got stronger at running and over time could run more efficiently. Not only could I run longer distances, but I was able to run more quickly.

This tale doesn’t end with me moving on to 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon racing. At the time I discovered this, I was also practicing and training as a performing artist (which included intense dance and physical theatre training), and eventually the commitment became so rigorous that I had to stop running after a few months. I did pick it back up at a couple of points, with the same approach and the same good results, before having to shelve it again weeks later for similar reasons each time.

I started running again recently. While difficult in the early going I still managed to run 1.5 miles without stopping or getting winded on day one. I’ve been busy and haven’t been able to run three times a week like before, but I try to do it at least every Saturday, if not other days during the week. A few weeks in and counting, I’m curious to see how far I can take it this time around.

I’m sure there’s some sort of parallel we can make to performance art, to doing improv, to making theatre and being a regularly active performer. But I think the point that running doesn’t have to be a hyper ventilated stop and go pain in the ass is point enough for now. That, and sometimes all you need to do to keep getting better at what you do is to put one foot in front of the other and run… so to speak.

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Things my 36 year old self would tell my 25 year old self (and other 25 year olds)

Disclosure: I’m old. I may look and often act younger than 36, but according to birth records from the State of Nevada I was born in 1978 and thus am 36 years old.

At the end of one recent Saturday night my roommate, who’s 25, asks me what advice I as a 36 year old would have for a 25 year old, a broad and loaded question to ask someone at 2am after a few drinks. I had a little bit of advice, but I thought more over subsequent days about the question of what I’d tell my 25yo self.

That became a list of things I’d tell any 25 year old, which of course I broadened out a bit:

General:

– You think you have life figured out, and absolutely know who is right and who is wrong, but you don’t. You’re not even close. And that’s fine. The key to life is realizing that virtually no one really does, even the people who really seem to have it together. We’re all just living our lives through a series of educated guesses.

– So take it easy on people who don’t see the world the way you do, or you feel are fundamentally wrong about something. Chances are there’s much more to it, to them and to life than that. So, unless they’re directly hurting you, themselves or others, let them be… no matter how shitty you feel their POV is.

– Each of us are entitled to and deserve absolutely nothing. This is both a bummer, and liberating. It’s a bummer because we’re not owed any benefits or success, even if technically by the letter of the law we are. Anyone can honestly decide at any time that you’re not entitled, and everyone can decide at any time not to stand up for you even if you’re right.

It’s liberating because no one deserves to stay in a bad situation, not have opportunities or be treated like garbage. You can pretty much do anything you seize the opportunity and put forth the effort to do. I prefer to look at this truism in a positive way. We are capable and able to do many things, even if there are no guarantees should you fail.

– That said, everything you do is a choice, and everything you receive is a product of someone else’s choices. Respect the times people make the choice to give you something or do something for you that they don’t otherwise need to. And take note of the times people make choices that hurt you and others. Do with this info what you will.

– Vice versa, take note of how the choices you make help and hurt other people, even inadvertently. The more mindful you are of how you affect other people, the more mindful you can help them be of how they affect you… and the more highly people will think of you over time. Many will not care, but many will notice, and those often are going to be the people that have your back going forward.

– Talk to people directly when they’re troubling you. Don’t withhold that shit, even if you feel outing yourself can get you into trouble or fired. You’ll be surprised how often talking about it clears the air and makes everyone feel better.

– People rarely think about how their personal habits affect their bodies until they get older and it’s too late to undo decades of damage. Don’t wait. Cut down on the drinking and smoking (both cigarettes and pot). (If you do anything harder than that and you seriously want to be something more than a working class stiff, then shame on you for hurting yourself like that, and fucking stop it right now.)

(Don’t let the successful addicts of history fool you. They succeeded despite their drug habits, and many of them were ultimately destroyed by those habits. Take the high road.)

– Don’t trust any feature article or blog post you read on the internet. Seriously, there’s so much subversively sponsored and agenda driven bias behind literally everything written that I pretty much spambox about 95% of it, even when good friends post it. Even mainstream sources like HuffPo and Slate. In fact, I feel bad for friends who repost this stuff. Learn to spot the agenda behind everything you read, and just don’t take any of it too seriously.

– Not convinced? Read Ryan Holiday’s book “Trust Me, I’m Lying”. I’m not a fan of Ryan as a person, but I find the information in his book very telling and valuable, as he and his employers actually used these tactics to manipulate public opinion and still do today. Literally everything on the internet is about generating clicks and even outrage through false premises. Dividing communities is how websites conquer the need for revenue.

– Use paraben-free deodorant, e.g. Tom’s of Maine. The aluminum and additives in regular deodorant may be far worse for you than sponsored studies are letting on. Plus the additives are what stain your armpits in white shirts.

– Stop waiting for the right time to do something, or when you’re ready. That day is never coming. There’s never going to be a perfect time, or even a good time, to do that thing. And it’s never going to turn out perfectly the way you want it. This is the folly of wedding planning, the obsession of creating the perfect version of an event. It doesn’t mirror the rest of life in any real way whatsoever. Nothing is perfect, and what you get instead can still be great if you put the effort to it. Yes, it could easily be awful too, but it’s never going to happen either way until you move ahead and make it happen.

– If you’re gonna pursue an endeavor or practice you really want to do, DO IT HARD. Take it seriously. Make sure the rest of your life complements your time and ability to do that thing. Make sure you’re practicing it several times a week unless/until it’s clear to you that your interest in it is no longer serious.

Sports talk host Jim Rome has built a multi-million dollar empire over his 25 years on the air. During a Q&A with fans, he was asked how he felt he made it from the small time in L.A. to the top of his profession. He said, basically, ‘I’ve known countless people who are more talented or skilled at this than I could ever be. But they quit. They eventually gave up. And I never did. That’s a big part of how I got here.’

Commit in your life to building it around the things you want to do, right down to how the way you eat, sleep and take care of yourself serves your ability to do your passion.

– If you’re gonna go out and drink, that’s cool, but don’t be the loud douchebag/bitch at the party. Being gregarious among your friends is fine, but don’t force the rest of us to listen to or deal with you. I tend to cut those people out of my life (not just for that; such people usually give me a few other associated reasons to do it) and I can’t imagine I’m the only one who does. Respecting the host’s home, a neighborhood, or the space of a public establishment isn’t just about not breaking their shit.

– Exercise. I don’t necessarily mean pick heavy things up and put them down, or do oven hot yoga, or run 7 miles a day, if that’s not shit you want any part of. (If you do, then knock yourself out). But do something a couple times a week that challenges your body’s limits. Play sports. Go on long hikes. Take some modern, ballet or jazz dance classes (sorry, but ballroom’s too physically easy to count). Carry your 30 pounds of laundry down to the laundromat and back. Walk to the supermarket and carry your groceries back instead of driving there.

If you absolutely don’t want to do much exercise, at least do a cheap but daily exercise program like 5BX or the Hacker’s Diet workout. Or even a challenge program like One Hundred Push Ups. Something is better than nothing, and you may be surprised at how much it improves your body/energy.

– Clean up your diet, e.g. meat you cook yourself, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds as close to their original form as possible, rice and/or beans cooked yourself, water and coffee/tea. Deviations should be incidental and infrequent. Sometimes you don’t have a choice, but when you do go for the clean option.

The processed shit pumps you full of sodium and other additives that make you retain water weight and jack around with your body function. Plus it’s more expensive per serving.

– Never mind getting in shape. Hell, even if you’re ripped or rail thin now you should clean up. Your energy levels and your health over the next few years will be much better than if you don’t.

– Sleep is so NOT overrated that by now I say it’s vastly underrated. Turn out the lights by 11 on work nights and make sure you get at least 7-8 hours in bed each night. Take an afternoon nap on the weekends if you feel run down. By his own admission, Tom Jones looks pretty good at 70-75 because he drinks a lot of water and gets a lot of sleep.

Love:

– You know what IS overrated? No, not love, but settling down. Don’t make binding decisions like marriage, children or homebuying lightly, because you’re sacrificing so much more than you realize. It is not nearly as easy to break out of an unwanted mortgage or a bad marriage as people make it out to be, and having kids is a much bigger (and more expensive) pain in the ass than anyone lets on. Do not believe the hype. And no, that’s not your hormones or biological clock egging you that way. That’s cultural and peer pressure.

– Love does not conquer all. In fact, it’s motivated more horrible mistakes than anything.

– Don’t feel bad if you’re not married or in a committed relationship by now. We culturally teach people to get hitched at 18-25, but people don’t really figure out who they are and what they want out of life until their 30’s. Who and what you want now might not be what you want in 5-10 years, and if you make any commitments before then (marriage, a house, kids), it’ll be too late to change without serious damage to people’s lives.

– If you need a relationship to be able to afford your life (e.g. you’ve got to live with your boy/girlfriend), you probably need to focus on getting a better job or career, if not trimming your expenses.

Arguing with people:

– Don’t, unless there’s just no other viable choice, unless it involves a situation directly, adversely affecting your life. If you’ve got to risk being an asshole, be an asshole for the right reasons.

– That said, stand up for yourself. And don’t be afraid of yelling at the creeper on the train or the street if they’re giving you and others a hard time. Pretty much none of them are serial killers, or even at all skilled in hand to hand combat. You think they’d be on the street sliming random people if they were?

Bills and money:

– Pay your bills. On time. Every time.

– Don’t take rainchecks.

– Don’t break a contract or a lease. Don’t sign either one if you want the flexibility to leave before the term expires.

– Take a year or two, minimize your spending, and pay off your debts if you’ve got any: Your credit cards, your student loans, etc. I wish I had the wherewithal in the early 2000’s to suck it up, align my life and get those paid off. I’m still paying the price today. Life and your finances do not get any easier, unless you miraculously get rich.

– It doesn’t seem possible to both have a life and not spend any money… unless you’ve got good friends or a practice/hobby doing something you’re passionate about. Find them if you don’t have them.

Artists:

– The usefulness of classes follows a bell curve. Take too few and you’re not skilled enough to practice what you want to do. Take too many and you’re not putting yourself out there, building a practice and carving your own identity. Plus, you’re institutionalizing yourself, exploring a physical pursuit in such an academic and puppet strung setting for so long that you can’t branch out on your own.

– Theatre, dance and improv instructors promote classes and workshops because that’s how they make a good portion of their income: The tuition you pay to attend. Most people and organizations will never make enough money from performances to pay the bills. Classes are pretty much the only reliable revenue stream… but only as long as students feel persuaded to attend. Classes, while they do have a significant benefit for a performer, often are more beneficial for the host than they are for you. Just remember that instructors are like realtors discussing the purchase of a home: They’re always going to endorse doing it, because that’s where they get their money. Proceed with caution.

– Find out what skills and practice you need to develop, and take enough class to develop that. Then stop taking class for a while. I’d recommend not taking more than a couple year’s worth of classes in a row. After that, form a group to practice together or find a place to regularly jam. It’s the practice that’s going to teach you most of what you need anyway. Only consider going back if after several months you notice a clear key weakness or skill you need to improve, and there’s a class or mentor in place that can absolutely address it.

– General exception: Take a workshop, intensive or one-off class if the subject matter is interesting or relevant to what you’re seeking or trying to do. But only then. If you find yourself taking a lot of these classes, step back the next time one comes along.

– Do. Find out how to produce your own shit. Don’t wait for someone to let you into something. Never mind the value of active practice. You don’t want to give others all the power over your artistic life. It’s cool to want to join an iO Harold Team and audition for it, and it shouldn’t be the end of the world if they don’t take you. Have other shit going on so if they say no thanks there’s an abundance of other pursuits in your future.

– Don’t spend time around people who don’t want to work with you or respect you. If you’re getting big-timed or the cold shoulder in response to your support or attempts at conversation, seek a better crowd.

– Go to shows because you want to see them, not as a favor to people whose attention you want, or otherwise out of obligation.

– You can block people on Facebook from sending you event invites. Please use that function on the people who never talk to you but like to spray invites. They’ll annoy you far less. Also, be okay with declining invites. I’ve got a lot of shit I do with my life and most people know others do too.

– Hey, don’t be that person: If you create a Facebook event or want to invite people to someone else’s, take the extra few minutes and selectively invite people you know can and might want to attend. People who don’t block you will appreciate the selectivity, even if they’re not interested in the event.

– Unfriend the people who never seem to give a shit about you, never come to your shit, etc., but always want to promote their shit to you. Don’t be a fanboy or a groupie. People who care about you ought to get your love and attention. (People who don’t give a shit about you but also never bother you are obviously okay.)

– Don’t act like an asshole unless someone’s directly violating your space or dignity. If someone’s just being a dick, give them the “yeah OK” treatment and GTFO of there as soon as you can. File that info away for future reference.

– There are going to be days as a performer, student or ensemble member where you are able to perform but you just don’t want to go to class, go to practice, go to a jam, go to an open mic, not because you’re seriously worn or burned out but just because you don’t want to. Those are the days you NEED to go, get up there and seriously give it the best you got. Muhammad Ali once said he didn’t count his sit-ups until his muscles started to burn, because those were the ones that counted. Those were the ones that were helping his body grow past its current limits.

– Likewise, the times you’re nervous or uncertain about getting up there are the times you need to push yourself up there and just do it. It’s never going to get easier until you force yourself to experience what you fear, and get into your muscle memory the habit of facing the light and doing it anyway.

– And the times when you’re knee deep in something and it sucks are the best times to soak it in and work through it, because there will be a lot of days where life punches you in the face on show night, and you’ve still got a job to do, colleagues and mentors counting on you, and (often) people who paid to see you perform. There will be a lot of nights where everyone gets off on the wrong foot. You can save the show by connecting with your fellow performers and working through it, or you can sink with it and end up wasting everyone’s time.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw 4 interceptions in the 2015 NFC title game, and still led a 16 point comeback in the final minutes to win a trip to the Super Bowl in a situation where almost any other team would have totally given up.

******

If I told all this to a 25 year old, they would tune about 90-100% of it out, partially because we all forget 90% of what is said to us, and in part because many young adults have a black and white POV in a grayscale world.

So I don’t expect anyone to take this totally to heart and I even think many will disagree with much of it. But I hope you get something of positive value from it.

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