I love coffee. I love the smell of it, the taste of it and the jolt of the caffeine hit to my system.
I dislike with a passion decaffeinated coffee, instant coffee, and until recently I loathed all those bucket sized cups of milky frothy crap so beloved of Starbucks and their ilk. If I wanted a couple of pints of milk froth and sugar, I would ask for it, not for coffee. It was alway my motto that my coffee should be as black as my soul, as bitter as my ex wives, taste like bowel cancer and be served in a crucible by nervous looking baristas in protective clothing, using tongs.
In the past year or so, however, I have actively been trying to be less of an asshole and more tolerant and open-minded. Last Autumn I flung my principles to the wind and tried a Pumpkin Spiced Latte from Starbucks. It was quite nice. Since then I have on occasion ordered flat whites, lattes, even those cold frappuccino things. There is probably some correlation between this detente and my developing a manbun I confess, but I have come to embrace the concept of caffeinated beverages that are not espresso. Obviously I would still rather have my tongue torn out by angry marmosets than drink decaf or instant but, particularly later in the day, I don’t mind a milk based coffee. I very rarely drink real coffee after midday.
My morning brew, however, remains blacker than the abyss and strong like bull. I can’t imagine how you could kickstart your day with a mochaccino.
Which leads us onto the meat of the topic:
When and why we drink our coffee…
When I wake up in the morning I first of all drink a cup of tea before doing anything, because tea is life (and caffeinated, thinking about it) and I’, British and it is uncivilised to do anything before drinking tea. But fairly soon after that I make a large pot of strong black coffee, while I am making the chidren’s lunchboxes. I need my caffeine fix to kickstart my morning. This is such a common thing it is no longer really even a joke. How many memes are there on this theme? People wear it as a badge of honour. How many mugs and t-shirts with Grumpy Cat and “don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee!” We are quite accustomed to the idea that we wake up tired and function at half-power until we are restored to active normality by the life-giving powers of coffee.
Which is fine. It works. As long as you are not continuing to pound the coffee all day (I used to do this. I used to drink far too much coffee. Now I limit my consumption to the morning and try to keep it to one pot), it isn’t doing you harm, indeed there is a lot of research suggesting a variety of positive health benefits, and it is very effective at dezombifying you.
isn’t that kind of a waste? The amazing properties of the coffee: giving you an energy boost, stimulating your central nervous system, improving your sharpness, focus, concentration, and generally improving your mood, and we just use them to get from feeling like shit when we wake up to feeling human enough to face the day. What if we saved the coffee until we were already up and firing on all cylinders, and then applied that uplift on top of our normal state?
I’ve been thinking about this because we are supposedly coming into what should be Spring and Summer. There are mornings when I wake up and it’s bright sunshine outside and the air is fresh and I can bounce out of bed (well, kinda) feeling fairly fresh and invigorated about life already. If I pound a big glass of lemon water and get outside into the fresh air and hit the weights I start the day feeling energised and bright, without needing the coffee. As stimulants go, fresh water, sunlight and fresh air are proven to have the most significant effect on our system. Without wanting to get too Primal/Paleo about it (although why not? I’m getting kinda tired of having to hide teh Primal thing), our ancestors woke up with the sun and were fully in the moment from the moment they opened their eyes. No “I can’t engage until i’ve had my java” when you are evading being eaten by a sabre toothed tiger. Our Circadian rhythms work of light and darkness, not waking up and smelling the coffee. So how about committing to using those free, healthy superdrugs to get us from sleep to woken up, and then kicking in the coffee to get to a higher level.
It’s just a thought.
In fact, as it happens, today was not a bright and sunny morning at all. When I woke up this morning it was absolutely tipping with rain and was also miserably cold. It felt more like a bleak January morning than May (soyes, I did have a pot of strong coffee). But this afternoon is beautiful. Bright clear sky and strong fresh wind. The kind of day that makes your soul sing. I did my basic workout outside at lunchtime and loved every minute of it. I have started throwing a lot more conditioning back into the mix now and it was perfect conditions for that kind of work. Although I did a circuit that was bench press @70%, 10 pressups, 10 squats holding a medicine ball at chest height and thrusting it out on the descent and pulling it back on the ascent, repeated for 5 rounds. The squat move was a totally disgusting killer. First round I was wondering if I should do 10 reps of bench press because it was light. Second round my arms were like jelly and I was coughing lung, The squat just destroyed me. Must do those a lot more often.
I did the second day of the burpee challenge too, and with a full minute of rest between sets rather than the 30 seconds I took yesterday, it was… even harder. I only got the first set in at 3 second tempo. the seconds was 31 seconds, the third 34. I just stalled around rep 7 on each of those sets. My body just wouldn’t go. I had really forgotten how much I hate burpees. But being sensible (if taking on a sub 5 minute 100 burpee challenge can be n any way sensible), I am sure it is just the shock of doing them again and in a week or two they will still suck but won’t be such a shock to the system.
At the same time, part of me is wondering if the sub 5 minute thing is a realistic goal. I’m not trying to duck out after 2 days, but the 3 sec per burpee tempo is a killer. It is flat out sprint pace. I spent a bit of time this afternoon looking on You Tube for people doing the challenge. The first warning sign was the fact that when you type “100 burpees in…” in the You Tube search box, the first whole list of suggestions are 10 minutes, 8 minutes, 12, 15 etc. Watching the people who do the 100 burpees in 8 minutes, they are going at a fair clip. I did finally find some of people doing them under minutes. Here’s one doing it in 3:23:
What I noticed about the sub 5 minuters, in fact what I noticed about everyone who had posted a 100 burpee video be it 5 minutes or 10, was that they all seemed to be less than half my age and generally Crossfit or martial arts instructors or something similar. There were absolutely no regular civilians in there and no one over the age of 30, let alone 50. Which rather leads me to suspect that the sub 5 100 may be a bit over ambitious. What I haven’t decided is whether to accept that and drop the tempo requirement and just work on building to 100 unbroken in whatever time, or to keep with the 3 second pace and just see how far I can get.
I think I’m going to stick with the plan for a couple of weeks until I get into the groove of it and take a view on it then.
And so to music. I am not sure if I posted the piece I wrote about music a few weeks ago. In the last couple of weeks I have shifted my approach to my workout music somewhat. I don’t always work put to music. I don’t particularly like wearing headphones at the best of times: it rather freak me out not being able to hear what is going on around me. When I used to go to a gym that played dreadful music or, somewhat inexplicably, had ‘Homes Under The Hammer’ blasting full volume on TV screens all the time, I did use headphones to blot that out. At the gym I currently use, the music choice is generally pretty good so I can live with it. At home my outdoor gym is just outside the back doors so I can listen to what I want. If I am using music to motivate me I tend to stick to fairly obvious workout fare: blasting metal or rap if I am lifting, sometimes dance music if I am doing cardio (not often then) or big epic orchestral soundtrack if I am really having to dig deep and grind through a long workout or run.
The last few weeks on Facebook there has been one of these challenges that go around from time to time: this one was to post the cover of an album that made a particular impact on your life, and that you still listen to. These roll around like the seasons. 8 favourite songs. 10 books that changed your life. 10 great gigs you have been to, etc etc. sometimes I take part, sometimes I don’t, depending on how much time I have to kill idly at my computer and how engaged I feel with facebook at the time. I got nominated or this one a couple of times and eventually played along. What was interesting with this one though was that it wasn’t, as usual, a pure nostalgia trip. It wasn’t 10 albums you loved growing up. Seeing what all my friends were posting, sure there were a lot of old classics in there, but there was also a lot of more recent modern music, most of which I had never heard. Given that a lot of my friends have pretty good tastes in music (not that I would tell them that), I delved in to quite a few and found myself discovering lots of new music I really liked and would otherwise not have come in contact with, across a variety of genres; some indeed, in genres I had previously not even considered listening to. Which has kinda revitalised my use of music, I’ve been listening to a lot more, and really enjoying it. And, to get back to the point, experimenting with what types of music I use for certain things, working out particularly. I’ve been moving away from just amping myself up with music that is the aural equivalent of a jolt of strong espresso (see how I’m bringing this whole thing full circle here?) and trying stuff that is more sunshine and fresh air. And it’s been a really positive experience. I’ve found it has improved my concentration and focus if anything.
So tonight I am doing my kettlebell swing EMOM to the sultry cinematic sweep of Lana del Rey. Not that LDR is new to me, but definitely new to my workout playlist.