Only €143.99 per rowing workout

Ten workouts in

I mentioned when I bought the rowing machine that I’d be keeping track of the per-workout cost as a way to keep myself going. Now that I’m ten workouts in, the cost of workouts is down dramatically… to just a little under a hundred and fifty Euros per workout.

Sigh.

I have made rowing a priority, meaning that I do it every other day, whether or not I ran on the prior day or not. That means that, if I miss a rund day, I don’t postpone rowing to get the run in. The run is just gone forever.

Still, I want to get three runs in per week, and the dual motivations of doing that and also getting in my rowing workouts has kept me pretty active.

Seeing results

It’s been a little more than two weeks of rowing, and I’m beginning to imagine I can see results. Not results that I can see in my body directly, but I am standing with better posture, feeling stronger.

Recently, I was climbing trees with the kids and found myself enjoying having the core strength to hang under a branch and move along it upside down. I didn’t make it far, but holding up my weight that way made me feel strong in a way that few activities have.

So, in that way, I see some results.

Also… I’m sore a lot. Rowing is a lot on the legs and running… You know which muscle groups running uses. So, I frequently start the day with tired calves. However, once I’m up and moving around, I’m back to normal. Because I’m pushing myself so hard, I’ve relaxed my need to get in ten thousand steps every day. I get them on run days, easily, but I don’t push myself on rowing days.

What I’m doing

I still see myself as a beginner and mostly do workouts just to mark them done. My goal has been to get around twenty minutes of rowing during each workout, and I’ve accomplished that a couple of ways, mostly using videos from Dark Horse Rowing on YouTube.

  • I use one of the workouts from his Learn To Row Workouts playlist, focusing on form in some way. Then, I drink some water and then row along with the 15 minutes of silent rowing video in that playlist. I try to focus on the new form elements during those 15 minutes.
  • He also has a longer workout with warmup and cooldown that includes some of what he calls “emotional work,” with him saying we’re rowing hard to stay ahead of competitors. I’ve done this twice and it has kicked my butt both times. I had to take a nap after my first time through… and I love that, but that’s not always an option.

One thing I have learned is to download the videos from YouTube when I think I’d like to do the workouts more than once. On YouTube, the workouts and interrupted by advertisements (I mostly get Peleton–I’m not buying any more big workout equipment!) and that takes me out of the zone, not to mention the fact that the workout is stopped.

Conclusion

So far, I don’t regret buying the rowing machine and it hasn’t been hard for me to find the motivation to row. I do find that it requires less willpower because starting–getting the machine out and setting up my notebook–is fairly painless. By the time I have to sweat, there isn’t much else to do.

I plan to check in again at twenty workouts and would like to be able to report more clear improvements in my strength, though it should be clear that I do feel abstractly stronger than I did before. I’d just like to know that I’m stronger.

Governors and Generals

A resource sharing game

My first foray into programming was because I liked the idea of making a game that would force players into two-player teams with different roles. It would be a sort of mix between StarCraft and SimCity. The idea can be expressed simply–the two players share resources while doing their best to pursue their various roles, both independently and in support of each other–but it quickly becomes complicated.

The players would be either a General, a military leader, tasked with defense and able to secure additional resources by raiding, or a Governor, responsible for development of the civilian infrastructure.

The idea is that each player would have an engaging activity on it’s own which would be made unpredictable and more challenging by the need to both share resources with their teammate and support them. The General would need to provide defense–and could raid other teams or the NPCs for resources–and would be reliant on the Governor to establish food, education, and other infrastructure.

The idea is that there would be insufficient resources to do both optimally and that there would be forced communication and cooperation–as well as frustration–between the two players. It could be both fun and frustrating and the sort of thing that might eventually feel like overcoming a challenge together.

As a card game?

I can’t program it in the form that I imagine it–something of a top-down RTS/city sim. However, realizing that the RR18XX games are a thing, I had the idea that there might be potential to make a slightly nerdier version of the game.

At the moment I’m obsessed with making something that will be purely online with algorithmic mechanics, but involving virtual cards and dice. My idea is that each player would have cards in their hands, but also be able to “play” cards in front of them, visible for the other players to see. The computer would keep track of the resources and perform some of the game mechanics.

Next steps

I guess the next thing to do is to try and map out–perhaps in sketches–the game play for the various roles and to try and see how they would interact, as well as thinking of how the environment would work.

The €1,439.84 workout

I just had a workout for almost one and a half thousand Euros, and believe me: I can still feel it in my legs.

With time, I’d like to feel the workout less, and to get the cost down. Let me explain:

Why a new workout?

I love my running. But, I don’t feel like it’s enough. So, I’ve experimented with various workouts though the years, and I’ve posted about a bunch of them here. (For example: the burpee project and, most recently, an at-home ninja warrior workout.)

Nothing has stuck the way running has stuck. And nothing has made me look forward to the workout the way running did. So, yes, I did find myself doing more burpees in a set or feeling stronger while carrying my kids around… but I didn’t feel success.

Then I read a book…

As with so many things in my life: I got an idea reading a book. The book was recommended by my family for at least a year, but I didn’t think of myself as the kind of person who read books about sports. And rowing? It’s not for me.

Still, whenever I mentioned needing something to read, everyone recommended “The Boys in the Boat.” It’s the story of a Washington University rowing team that, in spite of some unsportsmanlike conduct both in the U.S. during qualifying and in the Olympics, went on to win the gold medal.

It’s a story of the adversity of coming of age in the depression, as well as sticking it to the Nazis? How could I not be enthralled.

(An aside: this is further proof that, when someone you admire recommends a book, you should consider that book. When more than one person recommends the book, go and buy it!)

I found myself watching things like this:

And, all the while, admiring the boys and enjoying the adventure. Each chapter started with a poetic and inspiring observation by George Pocock, who made shells in the boathouse of Washington University. I found myself thinking: I would like to discover in myself some small part of what these young men found in rowing.

Enter the rowing machine

That’s why today’s workout was so expensive. On Saturday, I bought a rowing machine, with limited accessories for €1,439.84. It wasn’t entirely spontaneous: I spent some time researching rowing and rowing machines online. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t want to be the beginner in a 40-and-up rowing crew where the other members have been rowing for the last twenty years.

After assembling the machine–it was a fair bit of work, and, more than once, I had to go back and add washers to bolts that I forgot to add them to–I went though a “your first workout” video which focused more on form and how to sit on the machine. So, though I did about ten minutes of rowing and definitely felt it yesterday, I’m not counting it as a workout on my running costs (see below).

Today, I did this workout focused on the catch, and, feeling that ten minutes wasn’t enough–we’ll see if aching muscles tomorrow tell me otherwise–I added this one as well. After all, when you pay over a thousand euros for a workout, you want it to last more than ten minutes.

Running costs…

I’m intimidated by the amount of money I spent. However, if it keeps me sane–or is even a major factor contributing to my sanity–it’s worth it. There are some factors that I think make it worth the investment:

  • It’s at home, I don’t have to invest time in travel to go anywhere.
  • My kids can see me doing it. That means that I’m a role model, but also that they can say they’d like to give it a try. They’ve all been on it a little. Further, it’s something that the oldest has mentioned as a way to help him manage his blood sugar.
  • It’s something I start and then do all the way through, requiring willpower only once. I’d found myself delaying between exercises when I did other workouts and taxing my willpower over and over again to get things done.
  • It should hold it’s value. I’m reasonably confident that, if I don’t get into it, I’ll be able to sell it for at least a thousand Euros and be four hundred Euros smarter. We’ll see. If I do, I’ll adjust my running costs.

As a motivation, I’m keeping track of the number of workouts I do and trying to get myself to lower the cost of each individual workout. So, this first workout cost the whopping thousand four hundred euros but, as soon as I do another workout on Wednesday, the cost of each workout sinks to €719.92.

My long-term goal is €2/workout (720 workouts), but next I’m aiming at €143.99 (10 workouts).

We will see…

The Corona Plan

I’m #CoronaBroke

Being freelance seems to mean that you either have time or money, but never (or only seldom) both.

Now, with Corona raising it’s ugly head, I’m lucky to have good weather and the kids at home all the time. However, a lot of my work has been cancelled (and I expect the rest to cancel pretty soon) so that I once again have free time but no money.

Make the most of the opportunity

I suppose it’s reasonable to expect that I’ll be sick — or caring for sick people — at some point in the near future. But, until then, I’d like to feel like I’m managing my own time productively. Partly for the sense of moving forward, partly for the structure it’ll bring to my day, and partly because I want to think I’m the kind of person who doesn’t need a job to be a “contributing member to society” or “productive.”

So, towards that end, I’ve started brainstorming things I can do to feel productive, as a teacher and as an entrepreneur.

The Teaching To-Do List

I’ll make a longer, more detailed list of things to do on my teaching blog, but mostly I’m aware that I’ll be able to use this time to make materials. I’ve been making what I think are great materials at the last minute, but I do kinda know what’s necessary and I’d like to get that going.

So, I’ll have that to do.

What to do with my entrepreneurial energy?

I’m not going to lie: things have basically stalled with my amazing vocab review worksheet website. But, I still use and love it, so I think that other teachers will, too. (One day…)

To that end, there are a few things I can start working on now:

  1. Interview the one teacher who used it, and talk about why she stopped.
  2. Make a survey to send teachers asking what they actually need. (Maybe I should have done that before, but you live and learn)
  3. Begin making tools to make it easier to automate the “localization” of the worksheets, so that I can look for early adopters from a broader range of teachers…
  4. Integrate Stripe. Less because I expect a rush on the site but instead because I would like to establish early that it’s a thing that gets paid for and that people can have a temporary free trial, but that I plan to make money with it.

Time to get to it!

Enough writing here. I have work to do!

Burpee Challenge: Reflections and reboot

The idea of my burpee challenge is pretty old. I began training for it back in August, and finally started the project in September. In the very first week, I missed a day, and–without posting here–figured I’d restart the one-week challenge.

I managed three weeks on the terms of getting a total of 300 burpees per week (50 burpees per day for six days). I missed the occasional day, but then did two sets the next day. Once, I even managed a long, drawn-out set of a hundred.

I got stronger. I began to enjoy the middle few burpees–after warming up, before beginning to be exhausted–and started wondering what I would do after the challenge. After all, this doesn’t seem like something that would turn into a lifestyle.

Then, last week got crazy and I missed three days. I kept the running tally of the burpees I still had to do, but realized I wasn’t going to catch up.

So, because the challenge is six weeks of six days, I’m starting again. I’m not giving up, yet. There is something to be gained from the burpees, and I’m enjoying the feeling of strength I get from them.

So, here we go again…

A ladder to what comes next

I’ve been thinking a lot about “what comes next.” After all, I genuinely don’t believe my job will exist the way it is ten years from now. So, I may as well prepare.

Some introspection

It seems to be relevant to ask myself “what do I want to be doing in ten years.” And, the fact of the matter is, I don’t know. I have some general ideas:

  • I’d like to be making meaningful decisions
  • I’d like a certain degree of social standing from my job
  • I’d like to be proud of the skills I have, and of the impact they’re having
  • I’d like to work with people in a collaborative (i.e. not customer-service provider) capacity

So, if I think I have time, I guess I should be using it to develop skills that I can sell in ten years. But, the only skill I’ve really worked on recently–in addition to teaching–has been coding and I’d really rather not code for other people. I just find coding too frustrating to do in the realization of someone else’s dream.

A plan of action

Where does that leave me? Well, it leaves me managing a business and a half–if you consider both my freelance teaching and my EFL worksheet generator businesses–while looking at how to move out and up to the next thing.

The move out and up is important, because I’d rather not make a lateral move. That’s where the word “ladder” in the title comes from.

So, I’m here with two businesses more or less under my control, and I need to figure out how to make the most of my experience now as I try to find something I can leverage to get out and up.

I could tread water in my teaching business as I do this, but I am beginning to believe that that would be wasting opportunities.

Learning skills

There are skills I can learn with both businesses, which may be valuable later. Here are a few that I’ve thought of:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Marketing
  • Sales and customer acquisition
  • SEO
  • Content marketing
  • Content generation
  • UI and UX (user interface and user experience)
  • And, yes… coding

At the moment, I run three websites as part of my “I’m an English teacher with a great online tool for English teachers” web presence. I think the combination of that–plus the idea that I can teach for myself rather than just for language schools–gives me plenty of leeway to learn skills.

The trick will be learning them.

No master plan, for now

I don’t really know where I’m going for now. I know that I’m going to make it a goal to start selling lessons on my own as a teacher–partly for financial reasons, partly for the experience–and I’m going to work on my businesses as planned, but I’m going to also keep two things in mind:

  1. What skills am I developing and using? And am I enjoying them? After all, if I find that I enjoy the challenge of sales, maybe I should look at a job there.
  2. Can I do the German thing of certificate collection? Part of my recoils at this thought. But, if I need to (or really want to) learn something anyway, why not do it in a structured way and get a certificate? It would help with a later job hunt.

Lastly: the unspoken option

In all of this, there’s one thing that’s not being mentioned: there’s a better than even chance that I–or future me–having gathered all these skills, will be able to maintain myself on my earnings from a lifestyle business.

So, maybe that’s why there’s no master plan: I’m hoping that, in building my safety net, I’ll learn the skills I need to never make use of the net.

Meeting with others interested in startups

This story starts the way a lot of things in my life start:

A lack of motivation

I’ve been struggling to get back into my amateur entrepreneurship since the summer ended. I have a few excuses for why time hasn’t been sufficient, but I’ve been struggling to get my motivation up. It’s a lot like getting back into music practice: knowing how much I’ll have to do, just to get back into the material is a bit of a hurdle.

Still, because the IndieHackers podcast emphasizes learning from other founders, I’ve been looking to get into contact with others. In spite of a lot of imposter syndrome, I wanted to start talking to people about the worksheet generator. I wanted people who would get excited about the idea as a business, rather than putting up with my enthusiasm.

So I organized a meeting

At first, I checked Meetup.com to see if there were groups for founders. There were, but they all seemed defunct (or, in the middle of some kind of summer break). I was discouraged.

Then, I rationalized: I have nothing to lose.

In each group–they were free to set up–I started a conversation saying “I want to meet other founders–and people interested in founding–to have a beer.” Then, I put all of the people who seemed interested into a group chat and we started working out a time.

Meeting with others

The meeting was just what I said it would be: people talking over beers. Of the four of us, there was a software engineer who was a dad, a recovering engineer, a student, and me. It was fun to get together and start talking about business ideas.

I was the only one with code written, and it was encouraging to hear them say “this sounds like a great idea,” and to tag on with their own ideas.

It was interesting to hear that they were plugged into a lot of English-language startup things I was interested in. Even more, it was interesting to hear about German-language “celebrities” in the world of startups and marketing… though I still haven’t bought any of the books mentioned. (I think I should, but where will I find the time?)

Next steps

It was nice to feel like I had an idea, I thing I wanted to get done, and that it happened. I even got one of the people at the meetup to signup for my worksheet maker, report a bug to me (oops!) and then start using it to help his girlfriend learn English.

Perfect.

Will it get me back to work on the worksheet generator as a business? I hope so. It got me to fire up the code editor and fix the aforementioned bug. That’s nice.

Will I organize another meeting? I’m not going to rule it out. But not this month.

The burpee project begins!

I decided that September would start the burpee project. For a while, I was pretty consistent with fifty burpees a day — at least every other day — but told myself that I was just warming up.

At some point, however, it seems logical that the experiment had to begin. And, with September starting on a Sunday, that seemed like a happy coincidence. The burpee experiment starts in September.

Here it is:

  • 50 burpees per day
  • 6 days a week
  • (Or the equivalent)
  • 6 weeks

What’s an equivalent?

To give myself some flexibility, the basic goal is 300 burpees per week. I’ll count a week as successful if I do three days at 100 burpees each. Or even if I do 300 burpees in one day (not today, thank you!).

The idea here is that I am afraid I’ll miss a day and then lose motivation because I “screwed everything up.” So, this gives me the chance to fix my mistakes.

Starting data

I should have timed myself doing 50 burpees. I haven’t, but now that I’m writing, that seems like the kind of data that would be interesting to keep track of. I do know that I was 106.9 kg at the beginning of this week and that I’m both eating and drinking less than usual at the moment. It’s a little unfortunate, because it will be hard to know if the burpees or the reduced calorie intake has the most impact.

Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing the data at the end.

The burpee experiment

I have an infatuation with burpees. Along with pull-ups and rope climbing, they’re the exercise that has the most mystique. In fact, maybe I like them most because I can actually do at least a few burpees at a time. (I can do a single pull-up, I cannot climb a rope… the kids play on the one I hung in the tree outside.)

A month or so ago, I watched this video.

You can guess what happened.

Naturally I didn’t think I was up for kicking into fifty burpees a day right away. I’m getting older and I’m very afraid of hurting myself. But I did go right out and do a total of fifty burpees in who knows how many sets.

And I felt it the next day, just like I expected to.

So I took a day off. And I started writing down when I did the burpees.

It felt good to see the list grow and occasionally calculate how many I’d done in total.

Being on vacation, burpees were a great exercise to feel like I was getting something done without checking out from the family for an hour for a long run (with the consequence that I now have to break back into running).

My goal: Do fifty burpees six times a week for six weeks, starting in September. I’ve had goals like this before, but we’ll see.

Indie Hackers: An amateur entrepreneur tip

It’s been a while since I’ve said anything about the amateur entrepreneur project. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing much.

I’ll post more on books that I’ve read / am reading soon, but for now I wanted to say that an important part of how I’m learning about entrepreneurism and founding startups is through the stories in the IndieHackers podcast.

I like that a lot of the stories are from boostrapped businesses, and I like the line of questioning that the host uses.

So, until I have time to write more about my own adventures and frustrations (still more of the latter), it’s a good place to be inspired by successes.