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When I thought about doing P90X a few months ago I wanted to write out the routines on a calendar so I could cross them off as I completed them. Basic behavior modification. I asked my wife to pick up a calendar for me and when she asked what I wanted on it I told her “whatever is fine.” And so I have an “Extraordinary Chickens” calendar upon which I track my progress.

It now has 7 X’s on it 🙂

I made it through the first week of P90X and did pretty well. I’m still getting used to eating differently. I generally eat lots of carbs and not enough protein in any given week. I’m good with veggies and fruit though (thanks to my wife). In order to really have enough energy to do this program I need more protein. I don’t do any of the supplements or drinks. For one, they’re expensive, and for two, I’m not trying to build myself up to be this awesome bodybuilder or anything. Yes, I know I’m missing out and my body is probably missing out, but I take my multivitamin and now a glucosamine supplement (recommended by a friend since I’m having knee trouble this week). My nutrition and vitamin intake are in the spirit of the program and for now that is good enough for me.

My biggest hurdles so far in the program are yoga and abs. Abs are just plain brutal. I’m doing 12-15 reps for each exercise (instead of the 25) and it’s all I can do for now. As for yoga, I’m just not all that flexible and I have a belly, which gets in the way and has more than once caused me to fall over. Plyo isn’t the monster I thought it was. I can mostly keep up and I try to push myself a bit more each time. I’m getting better at pull ups and, honestly, I’m doing mostly adjusted versions of many of the exercises at the moment to get some benefit and learn the routines. It does me no good to do 3/4 a pull up without a chair when I can do 5-10 with a chair (and I always try to do at least one without the chair each time). That’s my best right now and I’m not sad about it.

Kempo X is probably my new favorite thing. I enjoyed the punches and kicks when I did P90 back in the day and this is a high pace version of that. I’m still learning form, but I can keep up intensity, which is something I can’t do on any of the other programs.

In other news, Fantasy Football starts up soon. I’ve tinkered around a bit this weekend and plan to read up on the guys this year during the week. I’m hoping to find enough people (read: people I know) to start my own league this year. I’m sure I can cobble together 7-9 people to make it happen. Updates on that progress later.

I finish my internship in <1 month. After that I will be finishing my dissertation and hopefully finding a job. I’m applying to a lot of places this weekend and next week. I hate not having a plan and feeling like I have little control over what happens to Maggie and the cats and me for the next 3-4 months. All I know is that by the end of the year I will be graduated. There’s also a small chance that we’ll all be homeless. Now accepting donations.

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A lot is going to happen in my life in the next 90 days. I will complete my internship year at Coatesville. I will be extremely close, if not finished with my dissertation. I will almost be graduated with my PsyD. Maggie and I will be packing to move or have already moved to…somewhere. I will tackle P90X.

Internship has been a great experience overall. I have grown so much this year and learned a lot about myself professionally. Admittedly I was slow to adapt to the program and had to relearn a couple of things, but my professional confidence continues to grow and I feel like I’m making a difference in the lives of many veterans.

My dissertation is stressing me out. I need 4 more participants and I am working to find them wherever I can. If you are yourself or know a gay male college student in the Philly area who might be interested in participating in my research on the coming out process, send me an email (jschwenker@spalding.edu) for details. Once I have the last 4 I can pull all my data together, analyze it, write it up, and get on defending to my committee. I’m ready to move this process along since my proposal was accepted by ISTSS for discussion at the 2012 conference in Los Angeles. Yay!!!

I’m not sure what our future holds. Everything is once again up in the air (or perhaps it has always been there). We’re currently stuck in PA paying really high rent while I scour the nation for a job or post doc that will take me ABD. Looking forward to a time when I can count on just a little bit more stability.

Finally, I have decided to tackle P90X. After 2 years of consideration and a lot of procrastination, I will begin the program next week. I’ve been auditioning the workouts the past couple of weeks, doing one to the best of my ability and taking a day or 2 off to recover. They’re difficult. No question. And I don’t think I would have made it through Plyo without having spent the last 90 days running and building up my stamina and leg strength. Plyo was rough, but I think the real challenges for me are going to be Abs, pull ups, and yoga.

I plan to approach this the same way that I did my running and, to borrow a phrase from Tony Horton, “do my best and forget the rest.” My goal is to complete the program. Do each routine from start to finish. Do all of the exercises. There are some exercises where I can keep up with Tony and the gang. There are others where I absolutely cannot, and that’s fine. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I may not be able to do 25 of each type of crunch, but I am sure I can manage 10 and work my way up. The same goes for other exercises. I can do more than half of what they’re doing and work toward matching for the moment.

I plan on tracking my progress here for each of the phases (tracking my measurements anyway and maybe a few pics). I will be tracking my daily progress on Fitocracy now that I’ve managed to translate the P90X exercises into Fitocracy’s language. I have my calendar marked and my worksheets printed. I take my initial measurements tomorrow (Sunday) morning and I start fresh on Monday after work. All that is left is to do the work and stay focused, which applies to more than just my exercise.

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I am currently in Nashville preparing to gather data for my dissertation. Let me catch you up to speed.

I have 18 participants so far for my dissertation and need 7 more to meet my goal of 25. Trying to find people in PA has been largely a bust as only one person has volunteered despite completing the IRB process at 3 universities and contacting local groups for assistance. I am in Nashville today because of a plea for friends to find friends of friends who might be interested. This has led to a road trip from PA to KY to TN to NC back to PA. Presently I am scheduled to work with 4 people and hope to cobble together 3 more before the trip is through. I’m waiting to hear back from others, but I can’t say for sure how many people I will have by the time I return to PA on the 4th.

I’m ready to be done with this project. Very ready. Following this portion I have to score each data set, send it to my dissertation chair to have her score it as well, compare notes, input the data into a program, download that information into 2 stats programs (SPSS and Excel), tinker a bunch, confer with my committee, run analyses, tinker some more, write up results, run everything by my committee, finalize edits, defend, and make final final edits. All of this needs to be done before Sept 8th (and preferably before Aug 31st) so that I can graduate in October.

Deep Breath

And so I am traveling approx 1,900 miles across 9 states to hopefully wrap up data collection so that I can throw myself headfirst into analysis and writing.

In addition to dissertation stuff, I am seeing lots of old friends, meeting new ones, and seeing many family members. In Louisville I got to visit with mom and Alicia. I had lunch/breakfast with several Murray friends as part of a fortuitous reunion, as well as spend time with my brother, his wife, and two kiddos, meeting my nephew for the first time. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Murray/Mayfield. Now I’m in Nashville visiting more Murray friends and doing dissertation stuff. Tomorrow I head to NC to meet friends of friends and gather more data with the outside chance of having a meal with friends and/or family (time and schedules permitting). I’ll be spending the 4th driving north and getting back to PA around bedtime for work on Thursday, rounding out the trip bookended by Thursdays.

I’ve been running where/when I can and I am nearly finished with my 90 in 90. I have 5 days left and, unfortunately, I believe I have injured myself. I’m almost certain it is shin splints, which have plagued me from the start. Given the rigor with which I have structured this goal (i.e., no days off) I have scantly rested my legs other than to alternate running with elliptical work to minimize footstrike. I have decided that I will walk briskly my last 5 days, further minimizing injury, and will follow up my goal with at least 2 weeks of rest. More on that progress later. I intend to restart P90 by the end of July, but I need to make sure I haven’t injured myself more severely than I think before I start something as rigorous as P90. I plan to alternate that with C210K to keep up my running, opting for longer running periods but shorter bursts of running.

So that’s where I’m at right now. Pushing to get this project done and staying healthy. Wish me luck. The next step is graduation, jobs, and moving away from PA.

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It takes the average person 90 days to implement a new habit. I talk about this process twice a week in the Biofeedback Clinic at work. We talk about stress management, relaxation training, breathing retraining, anger management, etc. “Skills not pills.” That sort of thing.

Research suggests that it takes about 3 months of consecutive effort to change a habit and/or replace it with something new. Research also says that we can change our brains and grow new neurons. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is a good way to do this. Meditation is also. Exercise programs do 90 days (P90, etc.). Alcoholics Anonymous has a 90 meetings in 90 days program. This stuff works people.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not going to quote research here or provide links or references. I don’t feel like finding such things at the moment and my supervisor wouldn’t have built a career and a government funded program around something that didn’t have research support. Trust me on this one.

I have yet again fallen off the wagon, which is funny, because I was never really on a wagon so much as running down the street–literally. I started up P90 again and failed to be consistent. I have been mostly consistent with running on a weekly basis, but I got shin splints a couple weeks back and decided to rest up, which has made it hard to start back up again.

My strategy for running has been wildly variable. Some days I run for distance, other days for duration, and still others for speed. It mostly seemed like I was doing so on a whim, though I fed myself some logical exercisey reason that sounded like I knew what I was talking about. All it really did was add to my inconsistency.

And so, I submit to you here today my very simple plan to get back to being consistent…and staying that way:

Starting Monday, April 9th, I will run 30 minutes each day, for 90 consecutive days. My only rules are that I will run a minimum of 30 minutes each day. I can run outside, on the treadmill, on the elliptical, or whatever, but I have to do 30 minutes. It is tough to find an hour to run, this much I have found. Or at least it is easy to say an hour is too much of a commitment. Regardless, 30 minutes a day for 90 days. I met my last running goal, but it took me a lot longer to do than I had intended. I think this one is straightforward enough to work.

So that’s that. I will update a bit more regularly to keep my progress public and to hold myself accountable. It will also encourage me to write on my blog more, which I’ve been sorely neglecting. Which sucks really, since I had intended for the blog to be a way to communicate to everyone at home (read: friends and family) to know what I’m up to and how I’m progressing on lots of different things. That being said, here is a quick update on the things from my last post from January (/facepalm):

  • Update on my workout and running progress
See above.
  • Update on post docs
Struck out so far. Looking at other options and jobs. Post on this in the future.
  • Update on internship experience
Going well. One more month on my current rotations and ~5 months total left. Post on this in the future.
  • A post about living in PA
Wow. I need to get going on this. I also need to get out of the house.
  • Update on my dissertation
In denial. Don’t wanna talk about it. Future post.
  • Fantasy Football season post
Won some and lost some. If you’re really interested in this, comment below and I’ll post about it later.
  • Prolly a rant in there somewhere
You bet.
  • A post about food/cooking

Actually, I do want to post about this. I have been cooking a bit more lately. Expect a future post.

That’s all. Wish me well for my 90 day challenge. Let me know if you want to play along. Feel free to check in and follow my progress. I’m also posting on Runkeeper and Fitocracy. Message me on Facebook if you want to know my username(s), or click on links as they get posted to Facebook to follow my progress.

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I am well on my way to collecting data for my dissertation. I have acquired IRB approval at Spalding and I’m awaiting approval at 4 other universities. Funny, the one in North Carolina is much more on their game than the local ones in Louisville. I have printed all of the documents I need and will be stuffing packets this week. I also need to purchase a couple of things, including a locking document box (which are harder to find than you might think) and an external hard drive (multipurpose since I need to back up my compy anyway). Other than that, I need to track down participants and get to it.

Friday is Match Day. I will know then where I will be for internship (or if I need to freak out a whole bunch). I’ll be glad to have an answer either way. I’m tired of waiting. I’m growing impatient for my future. I’d like to be able to say with some certainty where I will be in a year.

I have started to consider my health again. This time last year (give or take a month) I began exploring P90 and doing Sparkpeople. I’ve left the latter in the dust, but I have strong intentions to restart the former. I am 225 lbs–the heaviest I’ve ever been. Internship interviewing and all of the stress from these past few months have led to more stress eating and a tendency to want to sit and veg at the end of the day. I turn 29 in 10 days and I’d like to be healthier on for my 30th birthday than I will be on my 29th. Part of that means eating healthier and part of that means exercising regularly. I plan to jump start this process sometime in the next couple of weeks by kicking my own ass with P90X. I also intend to begin paying more attention to what I consume. Portion size is a problem as is eating when I’m not really hungry. I plan to reduce the number of times I eat fast food and how frequently I eat greasy/fried foods in general. I hardly ever drink soda anymore and I have been increasing my water intake, so I do have something to show for myself. I’d like to get back down to between 165 lbs and 175 lbs. Online BMI calculators are telling me 160-176 for a medium frame and 129-169 (BMI 19-25) for my ideal body weight. Honestly, once I’m down past 200 I’ll be happy.

Let’s see, what else? I get to visit Maggie in a couple weeks for a couple weeks. My spring break and hers bunch up against each other, so it’ll make for a nice mid semester vacation. It won’t be all play though. I will be gathering data for my dissertation at her school while I’m there. I should be visiting her from around the 7th to the 19th of March. Really looking forward to it, I must say.

That’s all for now.

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Last Interview

I had my final internship interview today. Piece of cake. Here’s the info.

Site 10 – Phone Interview – VA Medical Center

I interviewed at this site on-site last year. They have a strong inpatient/outpatient PTSD program and strong Neuropsych program. They offer Biofeedback, EMDR, and hypnosis and I’m guaranteed inpatient experience. Nothing about this program really stands out other than it is a solid training experience.

Pros: PTSD + Neuro + Biofeedback

Cons: Lots and lots of assessment. Perhaps too much for my taste.

Best question asked of me: Tell me about your practicum experiences. Really, like you haven’t ready my stuff already?

That’s it. That’s all 10 sites. Gonna rank and move on with my life. I got a dissertation to work on now.

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Last week was my second interview trip. I visited two sites and spent time with Maggie and friends. There were fun times and frustrating times, but overall, I consider the trip a success. Site info and highlights to follow:

Site 8 – On-Site Interview – VA Medical Center

It took forever to get there, but I’m glad I made the trip. I encountered a  lot of travel problems enroute to this site (see previous post) and following my arrival in NH, I had to drive 90 miles to my hotel in VT. I’m talking speed limit 45 due to the icy mess that was the road with cops posted every mile or so to catch you for speeding. I’m talking arriving at my hotel at 1:30 in the morning for a 7:45 am interview time. But hey, I got a nice rental car. 2011 Ford Edge with heated leather seats, Sirius radio, AWD traction control, and only 4.5 miles on it (I was the first to drive it). Hella gas guzzler, but fun to drive.

The site was nice. Moderately sized campus,  as VA campuses go. The site offers pretty much everything I’m interested in in an internship site, including PTSD emphasis (with a connection to the National Center for PTSD), inpatient experience, broad assessment opportunities (including neuro and Rorschach), and outpatient opportunities at a local university counseling center. They also offer intensive training in Cognitive Behavioral and Brief Psychodynamic therapies. I knew going into it that this program would be intense and the interns confirmed it. One of the highlights of the trip was that I was interviewed by the executive director of the National Center for PTSD and, whatmore, he was intrigued by my dissertation topic.

Pros: Lots and lots of stuff that I want. I like that I get to try new things and challenge myself and I know that I will get good training at this site. There are a lot of unique opportunities at this site and it sounds like I’ll have some flexibility with my cases.

Cons: Less flexibility than other sites. Very intense 50-55 hr/wk program. Cost of living is moderately high, but hey, it’s New England, so the cost of living is high pretty much everywhere.

Best question asked of me: Nothing really out of the ordinary. I got grilled a bit on my theoretical orientation, but I used that as an opportunity to talk about their CBT and TLDP emphasis and how I want to explore additional theories to further strengthen my theoretical orientation.

Site 9 – On-Site Interview – VA Medical Center

I have to say I was a bit surprised by this site. It is ~1 hour from Maggie (which is a big selling point with her) and I was happy to stay with her and drive her car to the interview. I liked this site a lot on paper, but I like it even more now that I’ve made a visit. They seem very innovative in their thinking and program structure. They also offer a lot of flexibility and are doing things that no other VAs (to my knowledge) are doing, such as including family therapy as a mandatory part of an intern’s training. I’m very excited about their inpatient and outpatient PTSD programs and the manner in which they are organized. I will get opportunities to work with combat trauma and military sexual trauma and will learn several empirically supported treatments for PTSD. They offer a “come as you are” approach to training in neuropsychology seeking to teach the basics to interns who are new to neuropsychological assessment and preparing interns who are more serious for applying to a neuropsych post-doc. They also have training in, and opportunities to practice, hypnosis. The man who interviewed me also uses EMDR and is very interested in ACT and mindfulness, both of which are areas of current study for me. Overall, I’m pretty excited about this site.

Pros: Strong PTSD program, neuropsych and hypnosis training, and emphasis on group therapy. The staff were very welcoming and eager to provide a great experience for the interns. They even asked for feedback from us about the interview process. Cost of living is pretty good and, of course, it is near Maggie 😉

Cons: There is no peer supervision at this site and the opportunities for Rorschach are few given the time commitment to administering/scoring/interpreting/etc (which I completely understand, though I’m going to be a lot faster after this dissertation is done).

Best question asked of me: How would your friends describe you and how would you describe yourself?

So that’s that. I have one more phone interview on Friday and then I rank. I’m not gonna post my rank list here for obvious reasons, but I will keep you posted on how things turn out. Match Day is February 25th, so I’ll definitely post something about that.

Travel Highlights:

  • Flights canceled: 2
  • Flights delayed: 3
  • Total layover time: 8+hours
  • Airports visited: 5
  • Cars rented: 1
  • Hotel stays: 1
  • Days with Maggie: ~4.5
  • Meals with friends: 3
  • Parties attended: 1
  • I got to stay in a sweet suite in VT for approximately 5 hours (check in to check out)
  • I attended Maggie’s Alexander Technique class, which was a lot of fun
  • I met more of Maggie’s friends at a party/get together
  • I got to drive a couple fun cars
  • I got to hang out with Carl and play video games
  • I got to see snow mounds that were ~7′ tall

That about sums it up. I’ll update on my final interview later and find something else interesting to talk (or complain) about soon.

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