Day 28 – Progress report (Part II)

Handstand challenge

I realized early that my core musculature and shoulders are just not strong enough to even start attempting the handstand. Therefore, my strategy for the first month has been to focus on exactly this: building up some core strength.

And I must say that I am very happy with my improvements so far. Except for two breaks around running the half marathon and Midsummer’s eve, I’ve been following my morning exercise schedule almost every morning:

  • 3×30 push-ups
  • 3×30 sit-ups
  • 3×30 tent presses (each arm)

(You might be wondering what a tent press is. It is simply a shoulder press with a 4.5 kg tent instead of a dumbbell… simply because that’s the best I have to work with.)

This has turned into a very nice morning routine that both improves my strength, as well as completely kick-starts my day. I still try to find an excuse every morning not to do the workout, but thanks to my strict morning plan, I force myself down on the floor; and once I’m there, I am disciplined enough to finish the whole set.

Obiously, three exercises in the morning is not a complete body workout, so on top of this I’ve also been going somewhat regularly to BodyPump®©™ (All rights reserved), Power Yoga, and Pilates; all three perfect for working towards my handstand.

I now feel that it’s time to start working harder on the balance, so I will now pick up the handstand tutorial again.


Day 27 – Progress report (part I)

It has been very quiet from my side lately, so it’s time for a progress report. For the next three days I’ll be writing about one of the three challenges. I’ll then try to finish off this month with a plan for July.

Memory challenge – Memorize a full deck of playing cards

Since my first milestone of memorizing a full deck of card was reached ten days ago, I haven’t been working too much on this challenge. I’ve memorized a couple decks more to test whether I can store several stories in my memory palace without confusing them, and it actually seems to work quite fine. Now I just need to practice this to get faster.

But I have to admit that reaching the initial goal so fast took away some of the motivation. Only speeding up the process is not very exciting, so now I need a good idea for how I take this a step further. Therefore, I think my next step will be to translate this technique (or a modified version) into something that I can use a bit more spontaneously, for everyday things. I would also like the memory to be more indexable, so that I won’t have to walk through my entire palace to find out what I stored where.

Intrigued by Gonçalo‘s praise for the book, I decided to order Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein, which should be arriving in my mailbox any day now. Hopefully I can get some new inspiration and motivation from there.

Day 16 – A deck to remember

Hot, sunny Sundays are perfect days for practicing, and today I finally kicked off my memory challenge. And believe it or not, after only a couple of hours in Birsköpfli, I managed to memorize the entire deck of 52 playing cards! And not only temporary; five hours later, after both beer and wine, I was able to show off my newly acquired skills to my friends!

ImageSo, how did I do it? As described here, I first gave each of the 52 cards unique initials. I then related these initials to people or objects. Then, using the memory palace technique, I worked my way through the deck, card by card, and stored these people/objects as stories in the rooms of my palace. For example, the Swedish band GES was playing in my front yard; Jesus Christ wearing a crazy hat was prevented from entering my house by Arnold Schwarzenegger; and a naked Mahatma Gandhi was singing Frank Sinatra songs together with Donkey Kong, to the beautiful sound of a violin.

The cool thing about this technique is that I am really not memorizing cards, but a story. I could impossibly tell which the 29th card is from the top of my head – I don’t even remember the first three cards! But by walking through my palace and the events, I can decode it into cards.

Okay, it took me an hour to memorize the entire deck, which is about 12 times slower than the final goal, but nevertheless – it’s a day/deck to remember! The question is now what will happen once I start memorizing new shuffles. Will I confuse those new stories with my first? I guess I will soon find out…

For personal and future reference, here follows the the order of my first memorized deck of cards:

7♠ Q♠ 10♣ A♣ 5♣ A♠ 8♠ 3♣ J♣ 2♠ J K 54 3 2 A 5 9 3♠ 10♠ J A K 86♣
K♣ J♠ 7 Q♣ 4♣ 6♠ 10 3 4 K♠ 7♣ 2 69♣ 9♠ 10 4♠ 5♠ 8♣ Q 6 9 8 Q 2♣ 7

Day 15 – In urgent need of handstand abilities

Some people have been asking my why I want to learn the handstand, and I sometimes find it hard to explain the usefulness of this skill.

But after days like today, mastering the handstand would great. I opened my hiking season today with a 35 km hike between Bulle [French pron.: byl] and Fribourg – in flip-flops. As a result, my feet are now completely dead, hurting for every step I take. It would therefore be very convenient if I could now replace walking by handstand walking.

Unfortunately, I still have a long way to go. But, progress is being made, and although I ain’t no hollaback girl, I can soon call myself a hollow body boy.

Business as usual

Time for this week’s blog advertisement.
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Day 9 – The day of the zeroth challenge

A challenge I haven’t mentioned before, since it doesn’t really belong in this blog, is one that I had with Kristina, a friend of mine here in Switzerland.

Cuorsa dil Rein profileFor her birthday last October, I decided to challenge her to run a half marathon with me this summer (I’m such a nice guy, huh?). Boiling of joy and excitement for this wonderful birthday present, Kristina looked up possible Swiss half marathons, of which “we” chose Cuorsa dil Rein: 21.1 km, starting at 1200 m of elevation, reaching up to 1450 m. We can call it moment of hubris.

After a long spring of focused and hard very limited training, and running over 100 km less than 15 km in the past month, I couldn’t be more less prepared for the big day today!

So, we left Basel yesterday around noon, heading for the beautiful alps of Graubünden in eastern Switzerland – more specifically to the Romansch speaking part. After a hot, sunny day in Disentis, getting ourselves prepared by eating a big plate of pasta very greasy and cheesy Capuns, we woke up this morning to cloudy skies and a slight drizzle. Perfect weather for running!

And the result? I had set up two goals for myself:

  1. do the 21.1 km in less than two hours,
  2. manage the entire circuit without walking or stopping.

And I managed both! 1:55.26, and running the entire 21.1 km! A kilometer time of 5.28 might not be fast, but considering the conditions (high altitude, very hilly, and as far as I remember never having run more than 11 km before) I am incredibly proud.

Now I need to celebrate and restore the order with a glass of Zubrowka!

Day 7 – Ferry captain rejection fail

Seems like this is turning into a rejection fail blog.

Basel Wettstein ferryI went for my second rejection today. Basically, here in Basel there are some special types of ferries that are crossing the Rhine from side to side. The ferries are tied to a line, and then they just slide along the Rhine and let the current pull the ferry across.

Anyway, my plan was to ask if I could steer the ferry across, and land it on the other side. Considering how strict the Swiss are (?) with their rules, I was sure to get rejected.
But no. The ferry captain (Sabrine) kindly answered “sure!”, and then showed me how to do everything.

A failed rejection, but a fun experience! The question is how I make up for this now. Should I ask the other three ferries as well?

Day 4 – Random Access Memories

While my blog neighbor Gonçalo is apparently making big improvements with his memory challenge, my own memory still has more in common with Daft Punk. No, I’m not talking about words like “great” or “immortal”, but rather “Random Access”, or “Get Lucky” – titles that explain my current recall capabilities pretty well.

My point is: I haven’t gotten started with this challenge yet. I need a quiet evening after work, where I can sit down and build my memory palace. I’m hoping for Monday. Stay tuned.

Doin’ It Right