The Story Of Working At The Running Room

My time at the RR is coming to an end. So I keep mentally rehearsing what I’m going to say about it in future job interviews and subsequently thinking things we all know you never say in future job interviews.

So here’s the tip-to-tail story, to get it off my mind:

It all starts because Liv’s parents, particularly her mum, know I’m into running and was working on being a fitness instructor. There was a sign in the window of the shop looking for people to lead clinics and group runs. They texted a photo to her to show to me and I went in with my entirely cooking-based resume. And I fully expressed that I thought it would be good first chance to start building my coaching resume, since that was my life plan. And I expressed how much I love running which had a impact because everyone else there was only familiar with running as cross training for other sports. Actually hockey. Just hockey.

I got hired to lead the running group. Clinic groups had talks and I had no heads up when we didn’t have a guest speaker so I always had one prepared; I had no heads up if a route was planned so I always pretended I had one prepared.

It was the best of times. I liked who I felt I was to the group and to the store. It was technically a job which was better than technically having no job but really it was volunteering. I got paid 18 dollars per person. Which was astounding when I thought 18 dollars per person 3 times a week, holy shit but it was actually 18 dollars per person for the whole 8 week clinic.

So basically I was making 120 bucks for two month.

Or would have been. Because COVID happened before the first class wrapped up and head office kept all the money while cutting off all communication between the company, and me, and the group.

But that’s March and my story is still in December. Long before the lay-off I accepted some retail shifts behind the counter. And I had expected to be asked, I loved running and I was the only person of the entire staff of 8 part-time, random-shift, moms-and-students to have, frankly, any knowledge about it.

The manager at the time was enthusiastic about that. She even thought I’d be a good replacement for her. She was on her way out; She’d had enough of the corporate culture; Everyone in the company was a stupid jerk, she warned.

Honestly, I thought it must be that she was dumb and lazy. When someone thinks everyone around them sucks it usually means they just hate being called on their shit.

So I was working one night a week and she was leaving. Training was, shall we say, chill. I carried my notepad, I absorbed everything I could – which then all changed anyway but more on that later.

The assistant manager and I talked a little bit about what was going to happen next and then… she left too.

I was suddenly, officially, a full time employee and the defacto heir apparent because I taught the clinic, wasn’t in school, and didn’t have another job. I became the go-to guy when I’d spent about 40 hours in the store over about 3 months.

I was taking deep breaths and thinking I’d figure out all these challenges on the fly but luckily I didn’t have to. Because COVID.

I worked one of the last days before the big lay off and we took in no money while doing 500 dollars in returns. I imagine it’s that, with so much sudden uncertainty, people felt something like guilt about luxury purchases like running shoes and wanted to liquidate that money.

A different Area Manager called me in a confused fury and demanded to know what was going on, why were all Calgary stores in the negative?

I asked him, basically, who the hell he thought he was to yell at me about that and he hung up. And I thought that must have been one of the peeps the former manager was talking about, what a stupid jerk.

So, lay off happened the next day.

I started collecting CERB and living the dream. I always said, in answer to the office space question what would you do if you suddenly didn’t have to work, that I’d just train twice a day and read a lot. Which is absolutely what I did.

When the re-opening was happening I said yes immediately and took the pay cut. I wanted to show loyalty and show my hand’s-always-up.

So the store reopened with me and one other chap working open to close everyday and that was it. We were the staff.

Now he, by education, was a chemical engineer. By athleticism he was a volleyball player. By give-a-shit he was nothing. He had the school boy mentality of doing whatever he felt like as long as he wouldn’t get in trouble. If something happened and he was scared he’d get yelled at it threw him into a panic.

Luckily for him we never got yelled at for anything. The worrying lack of oversight was not worrying to him. He was actually pretty alright and I smile when I think about him – he did get a chemical engineering job and moved to Manitoba.

The first problem we diagnosed – before he left – was the daily paperwork. You see, at the end of a normal day we print off a bunch of stuff and put it in a basket. Back in the day the basket would be empty at the start of each week. And it was Charles who pointed out that it was not. It was just accumulating.

The baskets where overflowing and the drawer the baskets where in had also begun to verge on overflowing.

And I could not get an answer out of anyone I could contact as to what, specifically, to do with it.

There are, like, 8 envelopes you’re supposed to send off to Head Office each week and my A1 problem was how do I send things to head office. I only know a handful of store numbers if I’ve sent them customer transfers.

But, I figured, the stores are sequential based on when they opened (Calgary currently has stores 013, 065, 078, 086, and 1 more but I’m not looking up fucking Crossiron) so head office might be 001. So I jammed everything from the weeks before the lay-off and everything since into two envelopes and said okay, I know this is wrong but it’s probably so wrong that someone will scream at me about it and I’ll be able to say… thank you, now where is it supposed to go and how it supposed to be filed?

Doing something dead wrong in the worst possible way should be the easiest possible path to feedback.

Instead… nothing.

I wanted to step up, take a shot, and risk looking like a fucking idiot but it turned out I didn’t look like anything.

And that actually explains the tone of the company communication.

You are at best shouting into a void. The norm is shockingly worse.

My favorite bad examples are once receiving an email that was just a question mark and copy/pasted line from a spreadsheet and when I replied could they explain what they were asking they replied a few minutes later your manager should have told you.

And the second thing I can never forget I already wrote about, but when I’m enraged and talking about it I summarize it as me having to track down one pair of shoes by calling California, two people in Edmonton, then getting a call from one person in Kingston, finally to have Edmonton email me to say listen, we sent them wherever they’re supposed to go. But then the next day getting an email saying the shoes were coming direct to my store from Kingston and we don’t know what happened.

Motherfucker you happened. This must be one of the guys the former manager was trying to tell me was a twat.

And this is the whole toxic culture of the place – maybe they really didn’t know what happened. Maybe something got dumped in their lap with no context and no guidance and they did what they thought was possibly correct then felt an absence of gratitude when they got called out for guessing wrong.

Because that’s ultimately all this company is. The answer to every problem (unless you are exceptionally lucky and if you are exceptionally lucky we will laughingly tell you) is I don’t know why that happened and no I can’t fix it.

And it got to me, it toxified me. When customers, innocent and niave people, came to me with a problem my first reaction was to be so dismissive and cold because this wasn’t my problem and I couldn’t help. All i could do was want you to try elsewhere.

The store got a pseudo-manager in the form of the events coordinator. But all he does is tell people he’s the events coordinator. He resents the store and the company more than I do. Because he’s been in it longer. And he hates customers more than I do to the point it shames and appalls me.

But from the companies point of view there’s no one else.

You see, no store actually has employees right now. 2 Area Managers, 3 store managers, 1 Events Coordinator, and me represent the entire, dwindling, work force for the 5 Calgary stores.

And those Managers, over-worked as they honestly are, have vacation days. Vacation days they have no intention of missing.

So my job has turned into just showing up, opening the store, and having no idea if I’m solo for the whole day with no breaks or if I’m on for 3 hours and 1 or sometimes 2 salaried old men are coming in to relieve me.

Oh the email, oh the email I have to talk about the “thanks” email… When someone rage quit and the Area Manager was going to have start covering their shifts (and therefore not covering all the shifts they were already covering elsewhere) they sent out an email telling us that profits are up and it’s all thanks to us doing what we do to keep wages lean.

My highest concern, thanks. All day I had to repeatedly fight the urge to reply that the federal government has paid my rent 18 months in a row but I’m super glad corporate profits are up.

And that’s where we are right now. Everyday on a pad at work I write a number out of ten for how much I dreaded going in and how strongly I feel the pull to just leave. I’m on the verge of just leaving while a customer is talking.

Because… it’s retail. You know retail. I don’t know if I’ve written this point before but there’s bad, neutral, and good customer experiences. And the majority will always be that neutral category. That neutral category though becomes bad when you look back on a day or a week and feel that nothingness.

The bad becomes stories and stories give meaning.

The good… few are far between. I still light up when someone has sincere athletic questions and is receptive to sincere athletic advice; I still get customers who remember me and thank me by name. There’s usually one interaction a week where I’m glad and I feel I’m doing my service and I can sigh with relief. Other than that I’m just a listening-whore for old ladies for the remaining 150 interactions.

That’s a shit ratio for job satisfaction. That’s shit job satisfaction for minimum wage.

And yet I feel like if I could just be perfect this wouldn’t matter. Why can’t I be a listening-whore for old ladies, do I think I’m so much better than that, isn’t it egotistical to want to be valued for I want to give?

Maybe. But fuck it, life’s too short to dread your job.

The myth of gait analysis pt 2

So I said in the previous post that even if in-store gait-analysis told us something useful it still wouldn’t matter. I didn’t properly explain that. So here we go:

If I were going to do an analysis it would this one from Bob & Brad:

And yet if someone failed these tests I wouldn’t use that information to sell them a particular shoe I would just say you aren’t ready to run. Go exercise until you are and then come back.

Which would not be a store that could keep the lights on. So instead the business model has to be you’re a pussy? Here’s your pussy shoes. Gimme 200 dollars and go get weaker.

Okay, that was drastic and I wrote it when I was annoyed. But I stand by it anyway. Because, back on point, it wouldn’t matter anyway if someone did pass what should be a bare-minimum-human-body-owners-manuel test – there’s no shoes in most shoe stores for you.

People offer up, desperately, a ton of useless information to their shoe salesmen and it doesn’t matter. Not because you don’t matter but because all the 32 options you see on the wall are basically the same option. I am trying to do good and have a positive impact and give you a joyful educational experience when you’re in the store yet at-the-end-of-the-day all I can actually do is find you a pair of shoes you like.

It’s like tomato sauce. Imagine the store was called The Pasta Sauce Place and yet all we had was 32 different types of tomato sauce.

People come in expecting – Not because they’re bad people (although some are of course) but because they’ve been promised by marketing – that we’ll be able to diagnosis what the perfect food is for them and meanwhile we lowly salespeople with no control over what’s available in the store have to be like …let’s try 4 different tomatoes, then eliminate 2 and try 2 more, then do that again… over and over until we have 2 then it’s finally a technical discussion of if you get heartburn which will make it least bad.

I have this thing where I imagine how to be a happy Sisyphus and push my boulder up the hill each day and I think if I were to push the same boulder, up the same hill each day I could find joy in perfecting the path; doing the same work but having it be easier and easier.

The problem in my job is that sometimes the boulder is a lot farther down the hill than you’d like; farther than it was with the last customer; the farthest down it’s been all week – and you just want to not bother. One time I seriously had an urge to leave the store mid-sentence when I was starting my spiel for a basically pleasant, totally naive old lady.

I was even preparing a you-need-to-leave speech for customers where rapport has failed and they don’t get my process although I have yet to deploy it. Like, if I have to dig you so far out of such an intellectual hole just to get some okay shoes then you are best served by me saying no. Which is a favour people do not like receiving.

I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but I’m some people’s shot of whiskey. And it’s rare I go a whole week without getting to actually explain running form and the value of shoes and do what I’d like my whole job to be.

And I am trying, right now you’re seeing the trying, to get upstream of the problem and educate people before they come in the store. The world doesn’t really need me because we have Kelly Starrett but I’m doing the best I can each day to spread the gospel.

I Do Deal With Good Customers Too

I know that I inadvertently give the impression that I hate my job. It’s just that there’s nothing to dig into and talk about when it comes to good customers.

New runners hungry for advice, experienced runners trading advice or talking about upcoming shoes, just nice people in general, very occasional babes.

But what more do you say about that? It wouldn’t be bragging per se because it wouldn’t inspire envy to be like I had a good day at work. In fact times I’ve mentioned having a good day people are pleasant and encouraging, that’s not the response you get if what you’re doing is bragging. But it’s still a pointless thing to share. It’s sometimes tedious to be told someone is having a god day because it’s really annoying if you’re not.

When I talk about shitty customers I’m trying not to merely complain either. Because obviously that’s pointless and annoying too. I’m trying to dissect the situation to see if I’m at fault or if I can learn anything even about just not being a shitty person. And if I can learn then I can share – That’s blog worthy – or not worthy per se but it causes things to rattle around my head and necessitate writing.

And there are absolutely times when I’m just coming clean because I know I was the shitty one in a situation.

But back on the topic of good customers, something I should mention is that I rely on good customers. I put in a lot of emotional work into not staying angry, not reminding myself to stay pissed off long after a situation is over, not believing in bad days only bad minutes. So after a garbage customer or boss interaction I leap into the next encounter deliberately believing it’s going to go well.

And most often what happens at work is disappointment rather than any kind of confrontation. It’s odd when you say it but the majority of Running Room customers are not runners. It’s actually rare that I get to deal with runners and actually get to use the expertise I’ve been building.

And I can avoid the bad day/bad life feeling when dealing with problems but dealing with the pointlessness of ferrying grandma shoes puts me in a self-hating spiral, bringing out increasingly worse versions of me. So like I said, I cherish the good customers I get. Sometimes I think it’s just my elitism that I resent dealing with people there for non-athletic reasons but at the same time, a lot like working in kitchens, it’s also that I hate being merely a body. So of course I value when I get to be me and bring something I’ve worked hard for to the conversation.

Really, a good customer is just one that’s receptive to advice. Often times people want the advice they already think and can get upset if you give them something else – which sucks because the deliberate and accidental swirling misconceptions around shoes are legion.

Actually a long time ago, thinking about how I could take action to improve my job satisfaction, I started putting up infographic posters in the store thinking maybe I could sneak some facts into people’s heads and stop dealing with the same misconceptions over and over but no luck so far.

What Really Goes On In A Running Store: The Myth Of Gait Analysis

Opening definitive statement: Any gait analysis that doesn’t involve a treadmill and a high speed camera is nonsense and even then there’s no useful running shoe information gathered.

This video, so shockingly lamely produced, is actually the best informational video on running shoes I’ve found in my years of searching.

It’s short, it’s clear, it’s unequivocal.

And if it were widely seen I could stop being confronted with the same moronic expectations every day at work.

I serpticiously put a poster up in the store that contains a bunch of this information to try and preempt the tedium and nonsense but, naturally, posters just become part of the scenery.

Now of course I worry about confirmation bias so I’ve been digging back in lately, trying to find out what the other side says and I’ve found… nothing. There is no other side. There’s nothing I can find defending heel drop shoes, orthodics, stability shoes and pronation control, etc. It’s just all grandfathered into the industry and the cultural knowledge.

I used to keep my copy of Brian Metlzer’s Kicksology at work with a highlighted passage about a running shoe study. This study took two groups, one assessed and assigned footwear using conventional gait analysis while another group was assigned at random… And there was no difference in injury rates. So if you go to a running store and they have you walk around barefoot and they nod knowingly – they’re still as good as you guessing at random.

Yet, I deal with people every week who want that bit of smoke and mirrors. It pervades the industry not because it gains any useful information but because it builds trust. It creates the illusion of expertise and it reinforces the customer’s vision of their own specialness. Just like everywhere else in society a wildly above average number of people are convinced they aren’t average. They believe that if the situation was simple they wouldn’t be confused; if this didn’t require expertise there wouldn’t be so many experts; so many options; so much.

But the truth is that’s not expertise, it’s just marketing. It’s all the same capitalism where what we’re selling is feeling good. We’re selling the act of purchasing and all the noise and ritual is just to enhance that so you’ll do it again. And the incentive in the industry is to keep you buying and buying again sooner.

The exponential increase of capitalism means an industry that sold 3 billion pairs of shoes 5 years ago needs to sell 6 billion this year to stay afloat.

Because the truth is a holistic approach to fitness will get you what you’re really after but it’s not super profitable to any one industry.

There’s a study referenced a few issues back in Runner’s World where pronators and neutrals were assessed for power output and the stability shoe group was in fact putting out less power – then they gave them some exercises for arch strength and got that power balance corrected.

So even if you believe that you need a stability shoe the right thing to do is still not to buy a stability shoe or an insole, it’s strength train and get your arches back.

Everyone else, every manufacturer of shoes and orthopedics and physio who convinces you your feet are just broken and you’re weak and need something more just wants your money even if they don’t know it. Even if they are well-intentioned salespeople trained by well-intentioned salespeople.

Cheer Up, It’s About To Get Worse

I just learned about a study across 72 countries about age and happiness and it turns out there’s a huge trough from roughly 35 to 44. Great news for me and my core friends who are all closer in age than non-twin siblings can be.

And I was looking forward to 35 too because as a dude (which 2/3 of my core friends are as well) under 35 we’re most likely to die by violence or accident but over 35 it switches to the big 3 where we’re most likely to die by cancer, Alzheimer’s, or heart disease and those are things you can prevent with daily habits.

But no. Statistically I can expect to be more depressed for the next decade and having spent my entire life up to this point being severely, suicidally depressed that’s just, well, that’s depressing.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel though that all the people studied turned sharply upward after 44 and mostly got happier and happier until the end of days. Statistically speaking the happiest age to be is 82. So get stoked.

It’s not talked about in what I read but I wonder if there’s survivor bias in there. Like, all the unhappy people kept dying (which is true, loneliness is more deadly than smoking according to a different study) and therefore the study only included the survivors. Would they be grateful they survived or did they survive because they’re grateful? A hard study to design.

But it all got summed by Jim Jefferies a long time before this study. He talks about what he learned from his elderly father is that you just have to out live your depression. When you’re young (and this part is echoed in the discussion of the study I read) you think you’re going to get all these wonderful things like a fulfilling career and a wonderful partner and then you don’t. Pause for laughter. But eventually you look around and go it’s not that bad though.

In the grand scheme we know there’s two kinds of unhappy people, those who got what they wanted and those who didn’t. And it’s because happiness when you’re young is about purpose and you lose purpose either way. Happiness when you’re older is, seemingly and probably, about small gratitudes and that sort of lame shit.

So get miserable because you’re going to cheer up.

Sleep Cues

I’ve written in the past about my hunger cues. In fact, the lack thereof. And even though I’ve written it I still get annoyed about it. I have to deduce that I’m hungry like a detective – am I quickly irritated, do I feel unmotivated yet antsy? And then I have to do the math of how long since I’ve eaten to know that I should eat. I wish I could get a signal while I’m still in a good mood that it would be a good time to eat.

And as I was thinking about that I got thinking about how I do have good sleep cues.

I can stop for a second, take a self scan and go I could sleep, 10 minutes ought to do. And then go lay down and fall asleep. Almost anytime, almost anywhere.

I know so many people who are really tired but they’re not sleepy. They’re physically and neurologically in need of sleep but they don’t have the mental and emotional awareness. So they fall asleep as soon as they sit still for a while like watching Netflix or in the passenger seat.

And because they don’t feel like going to sleep they think they can’t sleep, so they keep their phone in hand and/or laptop open visually blaring one of their comfort shows.

Maybe you’re not actually hungry, you’re tired; maybe you’re not actually bored, you’re tired; maybe you’re not actually existentially depressed, you’re tired. So sleep.

If I skip some sleep I end up doing nothing anyways. I’d stay up late and get up early then just zone out on twitter for all the hours that I might as well have slept in.

But if I sleep in uncontrolled my routine falls apart so there have been days where I’ve gotten up and done my while morning routine and then gone back to bed.

A friend mentioned a while ago that as people age they need less sleep, which I’d never heard before and turns out is a myth. What’s true is that as people age they’re more susceptible to sleep problems and they merely adapt to it. According to Daniel Levitin in Successful Aging that loss of sleep is mistaken for cognitive decline much more and much sooner than a person is actually mentally declining with age.

Everything else about sleep hygiene you already know so go take a nap

Consistency Is The Priority

I know 2020 was a weird year, an easy year to not be consistent – or to excuse one self for not being consistent at least.

Because actually the best part of the year for me – in terms of consistency and fitness – was the lockdown here in Calgary. The store closed, I got the CERB, I worked out twice a day. Which is what I always said I’d do if I could get paid for nothing.

But after that with the re-open it got chaotic. Nothing was ever settled enough I could build a routine around it. I just figured out each day but there was no way a day fit into the larger context of a week or a week into a month and everything felt like limbo.

And my goals for last year – to be Tidy & Prompt – slipped all over the place. I was my best self in a lurching and sputtering way.

So to start the new year off my goal for 2021 is Consistency. Because consistency is the meta skill that makes all the other skills work.

And, as I’ve said before, you gotta standardize before you can optimize. It’s better to have an imperfect daily work out routine that you’re trying to improve than a bunch of notebooks full of weekly routines you should be doing and hate yourself for not.

It does tie-in to my desire last year to be Prompt. Procrastination is my worst habit that will go away if I just stop doing it. Like, you can be a dry drunk and still have a fuck ton of problems but if you can stop stopping yourself from doing thing then you’re fine.

There are other specific things I want to do this year but life is more about what one doesn’t want to do. Because ultimately we all want to do everything. We want to be everywhere. Living is about figuring out what isn’t worth it. You can’t be an astronaut and a world class ballerina.

And all I really know for certain currently is that I don’t want to drift. Even in inconsistent times I can be a consistent person with a little focus, with just gentle self-reminders.

Toxic Philosophy At Work

We had a garbage day at work. One of 3 days in my memory where I thought I’m so angry I should leave not because I’m rage-quitting but because I’m actually being a liability.

Like, I won’t go to work shitfaced because that would make me bad at my job; and I’ve been so angry that I’m equally as bad at my job as I’d be while wasted.

I almost berated 3 customers today and one of them wasn’t even my customer. She was just being so stupid with someone else that I wanted to interrupt and fucking destroy her.

But anyway…. deep breath… We had a chance to talk during a lull and as I explained a philosophical difference between my co-workers and I, I realized a difference between my bosses and I too. Because all I really do is philosophize.

So my peers hate work. They represent a work philosophy that I see as typical middle class teen where to them work is no different than school – you’re forced to go and your goal is to do as little as possible. So their goal isn’t to get something done but instead their goal is find a good enough reason it can’t get done. And then do nothing.

And I felt superior because I like getting useful information and then using it to accomplish something. I thought I only got pissed off when people gave me useless information and expected me to use it.

Customers, as you can expect, are often a well of useless information they expect to use. My co-workers don’t get upset when customers waste their time because they’re looking for an explanation as to why they can’t help so the more useless the better. I’ve seen customers get passive-aggressively infuriated lobbing more and more basic questions at them when they realize that all my co-workers are doing is shutting them down.

Meanwhile customers can get openly furious with me because I reflexively treat people like they’re stupid when they act stupid. When people want my help they get the best of me, when they just want me to do something for them they get the worst.

And now, my bosses hate people too, they’re disgusted with customers – with every customer – to a degree that I can’t imagine having that vile black inky hatred inside me. But I realize that they hate everyone. Preemptively. They don’t ever hope that an interaction goes well so they’re never disappointed, they don’t see anyone as human so they can’t feel like someone is dehumanizing them.

It’s why I’ve seen them use the exact same joke, at the exact same time in the conversation, and laugh the exact same way, with everyone they interact with in a shift.

And I put all this information in the spin cycle of my extremely caffeinated and angry brain and realized that for my philosophizing and superiority it’s just that I don’t do emotional labour.

My co-workers don’t want to do intellectual labour, they will blatantly say they refuse to think for themselves because that’s the bosses job. They will leave things broken and blame the boss for not showing up and telling them to fix it.

Meanwhile I’ll do all the intellectual labour you want, I love organizing and solving problems. But I won’t do the slightest thing to make a stranger I don’t think is a good person feel welcome. I won’t squash my emotions, I won’t lie, for money. And it’s no different than people who won’t work any harder than they have to for a job they don’t consider a career.

My life long relationship with food

10 years ago, working in pubs, I had a reputation for eating huge amounts of rich and bizarre foods while being very skinny. Stuff like poutine pizza or a steak sandwich that was a literal steak between burger buns.

Naturally peeps were like oh how can you be so skinny eating like that? and I took it for granted that I just could.

But really it’s because I was an accidental anorexic. I’d eat nothing all day and then naturally crave the most high fat, high carb, most oversized meal by the evening at work. And then I’d have nothing but beer and Jameson for the rest of the night. So I was eating like 800 calories a day and drinking 800 more.

And that habit was built on the time before I drank and worked in bars when I was in school and I ate nothing. I’d wake up too late to eat breakfast or make any kind of lunch, plus I thought eating breakfast or especially making lunch was just too keener, so I’d eat nothing until dinner. I was probably eating 500 calories a day, which qualifies as starvation.

And that habit was built in early childhood where no one cared or noticed if I’d eaten at all. I’d inadvertently being living on soda for days because my body craved high energy foods and I couldn’t distinguish between sincere malnutrition and feeling like a pop.

The first time it was ever questioned was the final time I was in school mandated therapy and, after a lot of sessions talking about depression and authority and all that, my therapist just asked what have you eaten today?, it was like 5pm and I said nothing. When she finally understood that I meant literally-nothing not just nothing-special she was aghast and started thinking I was anorexic.

And she, when I was 17, was the first person to ever to imply there was some connection between how I felt and what I ate or to ask me to eat breakfast.

Which I did for the sole reason that I didn’t want her to think I was anorexic because that wasn’t my brand – I was rail thin and depressed and looking forward to being a heroin addict, sure, but anorexia was somehow extremely lame to me. Thank god, I guess?

Curiously I did wind up being an accidental anorexic again later when I went no carb. My normal eating pattern was fine, I was eating 3 meals and snacks and drinking beer so I was caloricly supporting my lifestyle no problem. Cut out sugar though… I went from eating huge burgers with buns and cheese and fries and soda to eating a burger patty in a bowl with a diced tomato, for example. From 800 calorie meals down to, like, 80.

After a few weeks of eating like that I did the math just out of down-time curiosity. I was living on 400 calories a day.

So that was the start of me eating tons. Try eating 3000 calories a day – just a ball park number for an ‘active’ person – and getting one gram of protein per pound of body weight and not eating carbs. It’s a mountain of food.

Which was kinda fun and then on the weekends we’d eat some big treat we’d looked forward to all week and that was awesome too. We, Liv and I, found our favourite restaurant by Googling best lasagna in Calgary and ending up at La Brezza. Fingers crossed they survive this era.

Being no carb and having designated cheat days turned into cheating just a little when I was tired or bored or someone offered me something.

Funny how I can be such a zealot and such an excuser – one day I was fasting, not a single calorie from going to bed thursday until waking up saturday and I went to a show where the band bought pizza for the whole crowd.I just laughed, not tempted in the slightest thinking when you do something bold the most amazing and surprising things will be thrown at you; yet months later it’s just I didn’t sleep well, better eat these doughnuts ’cause they’re here.

And all that brings me to now. I had a good thing going when I was working full time where I obviously had to eat breakfast before work and I obviously had to bring a lunch and I obviously planned a good dinner when I got home. But then not working full time – yet still working just a little – I could, on my days off, forget to eat or think I was doing myself a favour by fasting a bit until midday when I’d confuse a craving for mere calories with a desire to have a drink, and/or I’d wait to eat all day and then feel like only pizza would make me happy.

A complete myth. A wise man once said “How hungry you feel should dictate how soon you eat, not how much you eat.”

Nevertheless that’s my thoughts on my life long relationship with food, like all thing in life I feel a bit cheated that seemingly no one tried, or at least nothing did, get through to me about food and health. When you’re young and can just roll through anything on bravado you never make the connection between how you feel and what you’ve eaten – I still don’t honestly. I know it objectively like a cheat code. I was empty-stomached at work the other day when a shockingly rude customer came through and while I was deliberately calm during the interaction I saw myself spiraling up and up afterward. Alone in the store, telling myself the story of why I’m mad over and over again, just getting into a frenzy I was like Alastair, break the fast, have a snack and I bet you’ll notice you’re not as angry about this. Sure enough, by the time I got home and talked about how my day was I couldn’t find a tenth of the anger I had, it was merely a funny story like any other.

It’s a thing I know I need to check myself on daily – have I eaten my good foods? Eggs, sardines, my vitamins; or have I fucked up and tried to make myself feel good by eating bad? Which, you’ll notice, never works anyway.

I Need To Rebuild My Fitness Rituals

There’s a terrible pattern I’ve gone through a bunch of times where I notice that I’m not working out as much as I’d like and I try to work with that rather than against it.

Like, after the re-open my work days took up 9am to 7pm with immovable schedule stuff. So not a lot of time before work and I found myself planning a lot of work outs and never doing them.

Then I was planning more, better stuff for the coming week. I became one of those people that was satisfied doing nothing because soon, so soon it’s basically now, I’d be more on track than ever.

And I read Body By Science. Curse that book.

When you find you’re work outs dwindling to a few times a week, a book that promises you you only need to work out once a week is just too damn tempting.

But really it’s like every other thing in life – a change in schedule became a change in routine became a change in lifestyle became a different person.

And I’ve written about this in the past – you can never go back. When people say they need to go back to the gym or they need to go to not smoking it never works. You need to go for the first time, as the person you are now rather than the former version you wish you still were.

You can try and get back old rituals but if they were actually strong enough for the current situation they wouldn’t have changed anyway, right?

When it came to work outs I was always planning the big stuff, the work out itself, the time, etc but I forgot to plan the little stuff that truly makes it happen.

When I took up running I did it right by laying out my clothes each night and putting them on first thing each morning – once the running clothes were on (and they were clothes that I only wore for running) the running became inevitable.

I don’t know how I lost that with strength training in this latest round of being a lapsed athlete but I’ve got to figure out some modern equivalent.

And it’s got to be every day. All the times in the past I’ve tried to have a plan anymore intricate than just do it everyday I’ve fallen off. Even in marathon training when I followed a great plan for months I didn’t set the weekly plan like ‘Thursday is speed work day’, my plan every day was open book, do as told.

Thinking back, there was a time that I was doing follow-along work out videos in the morning and that could be a good solution again. Open laptop (which I’m going to do everyday anyway), pick video, follow along. Sometimes you gotta put the training wheels back on I guess.

Really though I think it’s as simple as committing to something kindergarten-level, every morning, before coffee. Because my morning routine is so autopilot I suspect only a major interruption will work. And once I start checking the time, and doing the math backwards from have to leave to have to make lunch to have to get dressed to oh it’s right now and I’m on YouTube, I just emotionally shut down. The feeling of possibility goes away, I feel locked into the trajectory of the entire day. Which isn’t true or helpful – and your self-talk should always be at least one of those things, preferably both.

And if you’re not diligent about it then it won’t be. Most people’s self-talk veers negative when left on auto. Just like habits veer towards using the least amount of energy.

Bad habits have a gravity because they’re easy – even when they’re not fun and you hate them – they’re just going with the flow. And when you, when I, think about the whole day and my whole self and what is my life anyway there’s no point to anything… It feels too hard to go against all that flow.

But the truth is, I don’t have to. I have to start somewhere, with a small stone, and damn the flowing river of habit until it flows somewhere I do want it to be.