My 2021 in Review - on Success, Failure, and the big C.

Last year was a special year for me. In summer 2021, I have started this blog around topics that inspire myself and fill my days: business, fitness, and fun stuff. Since that time I had 15.000 visitors on my blog and a lot of personal exchange around "my" topics. Thanks to everyone for this joyful experience.

A few thoughts on each focus topic:

  • I consider myself being successful reinventing myself as an advisor for several companies. I was looking for environments where respect, loyalty, and passion are not only words, but core values for growing a business. I really enjoy each of my assignments and I'm particularly happy having executed an M&A market analysis (I have learned a lot around that and will share some thoughts soon) at the end of the year. It's great to use my own experience for such projects, it's really big to share insights, and being part of something bigger.
  • The fitness side of my life was more disappointing. Year on year I set some personal goals, but I failed on all of them in 2021 due to an injury. My key lesson of life here was and is: if you cannot reach your goals anymore, adjust them, make alternative plans, and execute on that. That's how I found new ways (for example working with fitness ropes and digging into Yoga again) to keep a healthy body (as foundation of a healthy mind).
  • The fun stuff side of life was also very rewarding. For example, I made a lot of new contacts just by driving that nice '66 Mustang convertible. You meet all flavors of society at car meetings and that's another experience that I really like. Everyone shares the same passion for one thing and colour of skin, religion, politics, gender, etc. are not important at all.

The biggest impact on our life is for sure the global pandemic. It has changed every aspect of living on every scale. While I enjoyed business travel so much, that came to a complete hold. I like to go to public music events, that came to a complete hold. I like to meet friends personally, that was at least much more difficult. And I have talked a lot about that also before/during/after my business sessions - mostly on Video these days. I know that the pandemic can bring individuals down and make them depressive. We don't hear and read a lot about that. Even more importantly, I'm grateful for everything that I can give and that I receive on my mission of life.

Have a great and peaceful 2022.

Old School Calisthenics. Or: "Convict Conditioning"

I have already written a little more generally about functional training and about my introduction to training with my own bodyweight. As already mentioned, I am always looking for new impulses to bring variety into my strength training. I stumbled across the book Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade.

At first I thought the title was a bit silly, because you immediately think of yard work, where rusty weights are lifted - as you know it from US films and series. But I quickly realised that there was more to it than that. I particularly like two aspects of the book: 1) the reduction to a minimum of exercises and 2) the gradual increase of the load within an exercise. Both result from the fact that a prisoner has nothing but his body in his cell and therefore has to train in a minimalist way (if he wants to). Of course, this can also be applied to one's own training if muscles are to be built up without much expenditure on material and space. I will go into this briefly.

  1. With 6 Basic Exercises strength can be built up for the whole body. That's all that's really necessary and I always enjoy integrating this approach into my training for a few weeks. The exercises themselves are familiar to everyone, which is one of the great things about them.
    1. Push-up: Chest and Triceps
    2. Squat: thighs (Attention: a lot can be done wrong with squats, I had to learn a lot the hard way)
    3. Pull-up: upper back
    4. Leg lift: Abdomen
    5. Bridge: Spinal musculature
    6. Handstand push-up: shoulders

As usual, functional exercises also train other parts of the body. However, there are also (at least) two exercises for which you need aids (pull-up) or which are not quite so easy (handstand). The pull-up is an exciting exercise - if you can't even do 1 pull-up, you are either too weak or too heavy. Or in case of doubt both. But the book also helps here with the approach of increasing from easy to maximum hard.

  1. Paul Wade goes into detail on how to do each exercise. And brings the exciting concept of 10 steps into play for each exercise. Step 1 is the easiest execution, for a push-up, for example, a push-up standing against the wall. Whenever you reach the training goal for an exercise, you move on to the next step until you reach the top. In the case of a push-up, this is a one-arm (!) push-up. This is then really incredibly hard, but even step 6 or 7 is already top and also realistically doable for everyone. In the pull-up, step 1 is a vertical pull. You stand close to a door frame, for example, hold on to it, slowly stretch out your arms and pull back again. This is a step that anyone can do. The master step (step 10), the one-arm pull-up, is certainly only done by very few people.

Conclusion: I find the book very good, it is simply written and based on practical experience. (Pseudo)science is left out. It is also good that you can start immediately. I would buy the book again and can recommend it.

For pull-ups, by the way, I got myself a rail to which I can attach a bar, for example, which can be easily unhooked again after the exercises or pushed out of the way. I'm sure there are other solutions with less installation effort (in case you're sitting in a cell after all?).

Blackout. Back to nature.

Yesterday I had one of the many online meetings. One of my network components installed an update and suddenly nothing worked. I was very annoyed at first, but it was a coincidence: apparently the internet went down for several hours in the whole of southern Hesse. It takes a while to find out - until more and more messages arrive in the social media, in Messenger, etc. that nothing works anymore: somehow a blackout and obviously something bigger.

But it's not like nothing works any more. Yes, you can no longer edit emails and the video calls don't work properly either. But instead of getting angry, I grabbed my bike (a Stevens Sonora 2.0 with Shimano Di2 - I'll write about that one day) and rode up the mountain. The weather was changeable, but that wasn't bad either. There are rain jackets.

It was a great experience to spontaneously be outside for a few hours and experience nature. The world didn't end because I wasn't at a few meetings. And I simply caught up on the work that had accumulated in the evening. I know that doesn't work in every case, but if it does - take the opportunity for a "digital detox" and go out whenever possible. It's great out there.

519 metres in altitude - no one on the road. Wonderful.

Murder for coffee withdrawal

Coffee has been a part of my life since I was in college, back in the late 90s. I could only survive so many lectures in which the professor made little effort and which were therefore just boring. Later, at work, coffee was a companion for many exciting hours when we were researching something new at university, inventing something at the company or working on a tricky deal. In the morning, coffee is part of the wake-up routine and at meetings (now via web session) it is still an integral part. At the weekend, a good coffee is part of an indulgent breakfast. So why on earth would you want to get off coffee? I did and I want to report on it here (yes, I survived it!).

Coffee belongs to the sgt. stimulants. We do not need them to survive, but consume them because they simply do one thing: they taste good and they provide (short-term) happiness. This is also the reason for the danger of addiction, which varies depending on the stimulant. But that's not why I gave up coffee, because I love drinking coffee. It was rather a recommendation in the context of a 1-week cure fast to do without any stimulant. And I can therefore confirm that coffee is a) addictive and b) giving it up can lead to real withdrawal symptoms. In my case it was mainly persistent and sometimes severe headaches, but also restlessness, followed by listlessness and a certain irritability. This only got better after 2-3 days, but I managed it with a lot of discipline. At least for one week.

What has it done for me? I see (at least) the following advantages:

  • Conscious perception of body and mind: You learn to pay more attention to the signals and to act accordingly.
  • Concentration: focused work is also possible without coffee. Take a break to enjoy your coffee instead of drinking gallons of it.
  • Natural flow: without coffee you learn to follow the flow of your biorhythm. Work in the high, rest in the low.
  • Better sleep: for me, coffee works 100% and I can't fall asleep if I have another cup after a certain time. Without coffee I can simply sleep better and recharge the batteries.

What's the next step?

Forever giving up coffee and other stimulants. I'm too much of a hedonist for that (another topic for another article). However, the planned and controlled withdrawal has taught me mindfulness (another topic!) for pleasure: to enjoy pleasure consciously . I've since significantly reduced the amount of coffee I drink, and I've been enjoying every cup double and triple ever since. For me, this now applies to many other indulgences and foods as well. If you ever get an idea like that, let me know if you've managed to do it without making a killing.

The power of discipline

In all my years as an entrepreneur, athlete and private person, I have observed that discipline is a virtue that can help you move mountains. For me, discipline is therefore a positive term. It means "the mastery of one's will, feelings and inclinations in order to achieve something."

Discipline is important to achieve goals. If you want to be successful, I think discipline is essential. Because success is rarely luck, but the result of perseverance (do not stray from the path), consistent action (decide and do) and personal responsibility (vs. blame always the others). It is quite possible to provoke success, and therefore happiness, with discipline. A positive cycle to the freedom and self-determination created by discipline.

Applied to oneself, one moves from discipline that is often externally determined to self-discipline. Wikipedia says: "Several long-term studies in recent decades found that the level of ability to self-discipline in childhood, as determined by tests and examinations, was a sure indicator of diverse success in later adult life." I have always considered myself to be very (self)disciplined and can only confirm this from my perspective and career.

In the following articles I write about my experiences with discipline and where it can lead. Privately and at work. Examples of this are manifold:

  • Coffee withdrawal (just went through this in the context of the next topic - I can already tell this takes a lot of discipline for a techie).
  • Fasting
  • Digital fasting
  • Writing a diploma thesis (is called Bachelor and Master today, isn't it)
  • PhD thesis
  • Build a house
  • Various sporting goals, e.g. finishing a triathlon
  • 30 Days Kettlebell Challenge
  • Start a company and make it big

I'm already looking forward to the follow-up articles on this topic, but now it's time to get out into the air. Because the sun is shining and I have to enjoy it. What is your attitude towards discipline?

Training with your own body weight

After trying out a few studios(Kieser Training, Venice Beach, etc.), I stumbled upon the "bodyweight training" trend. Then, being someone who likes to read up on new topics, I picked up the book Fit Without Equipment by Mark Lauren. The biggest advantage I see with this form of training is that a) you don't have to travel (you can do it anywhere - at home, in a hotel, outside, etc.) and b) you don't need any equipment except maybe an exercise mat. The work itself seems to me to be a landmark in the bodyweight movement. The author was a former soldier and instructor, but that shouldn't scare you off. The exercises are possible for everyone - after all, you train with your own body.

And that is the big difference to training in the studio. A classic example is a push-up, in which the chest muscles, triceps, shoulders and torso are trained. In the studio I would do this with certain machines or dumbbells to train the muscle group chest or triceps specifically and mostly isolated. At the risk of injuring yourself due to too heavy weights - muscularly or even worse to joints, tendons, etc. When training with your own body, this is avoided if you proceed step by step and slowly increase the load. Because you can do that with your own body, too. For example, beginners start upright with push-ups "against the wall", move on to push-ups on the knees and then to the "normal" push-ups. You can then increase these by keeping your hands closer together, putting your legs on a bench, etc. I confess that I've never seen so many variations of the good old push-ups (which we used to have to do as kids and teens in between swimming practice as a disciplinary measure) before. And so it goes on in the book for all sorts of muscle groups. The functional approach avoids one-sided training, as several muscle groups are always strengthened.

The individual exercises are always described with pictures and an accompanying text on more than 100 pages - that makes up a little more than half of the book. In the new edition, according to reviews, they are also presented in a much more contemporary way and described even better than before. However, the exercises alone are only worth anything if they are combined in a meaningful way. Therefore, the exercises are followed by various programs lasting several weeks, which ensure progressive muscle building - if you bite through. They are divided into First Class (beginners), Master Class (advanced) and Chief Class (extremely advanced). A self-test is included for proper classification. For example, as a beginner you should be able to do 10 push-ups, as an advanced you should be able to do 8 one-arm push-ups per side (hand placed on a medium-high surface) and as an extremely advanced you should be able to do 8 "normal" one-arm push-ups. It quickly becomes clear that most people go into a program like this as a beginner - and that makes perfect sense. If you stick with it, you'll quickly notice how your strength increases and how you can move on to the more challenging exercises.

Finally, something about the beginning of the book. In the first 50 pages, Mark Lauren introduces himself, introduces the topic of bodyweight training, talks about fitness, nutrition, motivation, etc. I think it's worth it to at least skim through that. However, there are also sections that I ignored right after reading - especially on the topic of nutrition, I rather advise to consult works of a nutrition professional.

I find the section on motivation the most important, also because it talks about the excuses you can think of to skip a workout. Discipline over the long term is and remains the key to success in this and any other workout. If you find this too difficult alone, you should look for a training partner, this type of training is also great for a lockdown-compliant video call session.

I would buy the book again and it has given me valuable impulses for the way of training and permanent motivation. It was a turning point for me towards functional training, which I still do to this day in one form or another. You have to approach this, as always, with life in mind. Which exercises suit me? Which ones don't? There are definitely some that I simply couldn't do and had to replace with alternatives.

And here's my suggestion as a test to start here and now: how many push-ups can you do right off the bat? 1? 5? 10? I look forward to hearing your feedback. There is also an app to accompany the book, which I will report on separately.

Functional training

Most people don't move enough, which inevitably leads to misalignment and pain. In times of home office, this can even get worse. Even if you do sports, such as cycling or jogging, problems can arise if you lack body stability. Strength training is therefore essential in my view. The aim should be to get the body so stable that you can move without pain in the long term. In addition, having good muscles helps you burn more calories, making it easier to control your weight. I used to train in studios(Kieser or Venice Beach), but then at some point I stumbled across functional training1.

When training with equipment, muscles are targeted and also trained in isolation. You go to the lat pulldown to train the latissimus. You go to the leg press to train the thigh muscle and the large gluteal muscle. Etc. For many people, this is enough because they value shapely and well-defined muscles. But this will not help to get the body holistically stable.

This is different with functional training. The idea here is to build up strength using your own body weight or suitable aids in movement sequences that are close to natural or sport-specific movements. The exercises involve several muscle groups and joints. I have considered here so far:

I always alternate between these training approaches or mix them - on the one hand, to avoid boredom. On the other hand, to always provide different muscle stimuli (they otherwise also get bored and the training effect stagnates).

1 Michael Boyle: Functional Training. ISBN-10 : 3742301489, 2017

Classic Studio Experience: Kieser Training

Once you realize that training is important and want to get down to business, you have to make a decision about how to do it. Train alone? With dumbbells or bands or??? Or go to the gym? At the time, I decided to go to a gym - and signed a contract with Kieser Training.

The reasons for this lay in the Kieser concept, which in my opinion is reduced to the pure purpose: namely the training. There's no radio blaring, no bar, no sauna, etc. there. I like it that way because I am very focused in that respect and don't want any distractions. Furthermore, I go to the workout to ... work out. Nothing more, nothing less.

Another advantage I see in the approach and the idea behind it to train the essential muscle groups effectively. The goal is the healthy body, without back pain, etc.. For this purpose, an individual plan is created, with which the muscles and the counterparts are systematically trained. Since most of the time the opposing muscles are underdeveloped, this stabilizes the body after a short period of time. Speaking of time: a workout can be completed in about 30 minutes - that is enough to load all muscle groups and since they are loaded to exhaustion, one is also completely served in a positive sense. It is also intended to check again and again via measurements how symmetrical the muscle build-up is and where there may still be deficits. Finally, it is possible to train with your studio card in any Kieser studio - I have tested several times and it works flawlessly. The training plans from the "home studio" can then even be transferred to the guest studio.

My conclusion: I see many advantages in the Kieser approach as described above. The disadvantage is perhaps that the plans become monotonous after a certain time, but then you have to talk to the staff and change the machines if necessary. Kieser is also not a cheap form of training, but those who like an efficient concept without frills, like me, will gladly pay for it. For this reason, I can answer the question of whether I would do it again with a resounding yes.

Later I went to Venice Beach, I'll write about that later. But then I discovered functional training for myself - which I still do today with success and a lot of fun.

From 130 to 79

A good friend of mine had after the birth of her children and various life circumstances 130 kilos on the scale with a height of 1.71. She used to do a lot of sports, but for many years then nothing at all. When we met, she was down to about 100 kilos through a lot of hard work in the gym. And there it has stagnated. One of the reasons is surely that cycling in the gym is one of the most boring things you can imagine. Another reason is that you should take a closer look at your diet and exercise.

When it came to diet, I clearly saw that there was a quest for (supposedly) good food. For example, muesli for breakfast. But then also two plates full. I didn't easily manage to dissuade her that she "needed" it. We then installed an app for her to log and analyze her meals and that was a real aha moment. Of course, one has to be careful not to be enslaved by such apps. Food is and always will be a pleasure, after all! But to see where you have enough and where something is still missing - they are good for that.

When it comes to sports, we started very small. With jogging. At first it was "I can't" or "I've never done that before". But then we just started. I ran slowly, at first only 1 km with breaks. That hurt her in many ways - there were blisters on her feet and the first sore muscles! But: she did it and tasted blood. With the time we were then at 10km (!). And that at a very acceptable average of 6:30 min/km. We are now in "give me more" mode.

We have supplemented the endurance with self-weight exercises. And we had and still have to this day the issue of maintaining the desired weight (today no less than 79 kg). Because maintaining a target weight is much more difficult than losing weight itself. Topics for the next articles ...

Going off the Rails on a Crazy Train

Allright now, as Ozzy always says. Let's get going ... as the life clock goes past 40, sport becomes more and more important from my point of view. And sport has to be different than it used to be.

Why important? I've always been athletic since I was a kid, sometimes more, sometimes less (college, new job, etc.) and I've always felt good about it. Because that's what it's all about: a healthy mind needs a healthy body. Of course, there are those who have never exercised, or haven't exercised for a long time, but have recognized the need, I've written some thoughts on that here. And then there are those who have never exercised and don't plan to - I'm not writing about them.

Why different? I don't know exactly when it started, but sometime around my mid-30s I realized that it wasn't as easy to maintain your figure with your previous workload. I put on a lot of weight during that time and I didn't like it - visually or in terms of feeling good. And then I set out to find options, which I will address in further posts. It's primarily about combining strength, endurance and nutrition in the right way, but also varying it. I think the latter is very important, as I find some variety essential for both the mind and the body.  

Even Ozzy (you don't have to like him, but he's one of my musical idols) does sport from time to time and has amazingly managed to continue to stumble through the world on two legs in relation to his lifestyle! All aboard?