The labor market in Atlanta has changed dramatically. In my line of work, prior to the Great Recession, it used to be we employed a lot of immigrant Americans. Lately, we have been hiring many native born Americans. Simultaneously, I have seen the quality of the candidate pool fall off significantly. This has been a learning experience on many levels, but probably the largest for me is the real impact of quality of education, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Much of the work we do does not require a high school education. It is very demanding, and requires many things, but for many positions, graduating high school isn’t a requirement. Interestingly, in the past, I have not given this much consideration. However, lately I have noticed a correlation between the lack of finishing high school, or having a low quality high school education, and what amounts to a virtual learning disability.
This is not a scientific study. This is simply my own observation. There is clearly not a direct causation, whereas many of our employees came from backgrounds of little, to virtually zero, formal education, however we did not encounter the problems we are experiencing now.
Inability to follow multi-step instructions. Lack of recognition between cause and effect. Shifting of personal responsibility. Lack of carry-over of experience to correlated, though not duplicate, scenarios. Inability to see implications of basic life decisions. Failure to correlate those decisions to current life circumstances. Trouble showing for work on time. Tendency to shift blame for repeated tardiness. Problems learning new basic job skills and responsibilities.
All issues you would expect to find in individuals with developmental learning disabilities.
In the past, I never really found these to be significant issues, and if they were, they were isolated experiences. Now, it seems that a huge proportion of candidates struggle with some or many of these issues. These issues seem to correlate strongest with native born candidates and low quality high school education. Either failure to complete high school, or graduating from low-quality schools and low-quality systems.
I can’t say definitively what the cause is. It could be the labor pool in general, across the board. We have seen a drop in quality candidates in general. It could be the lack of quality high school education, has ill-prepared these people for life so significantly, that well into adulthood, they are unable to compensate. It could be that these people had existing learning, developmental, social issues that are similarly reflected in their inability to succeed in high school.
I can say that anecdotally, for Americans, the effect of low-quality high school education is tantamount to having a developmental learning disability.
I have taken some planned, and some unplanned, time off since completing (read: finishing) Ironman Florida. In that time, I have had time to reflect on what I want to explore in this blog. My focus isn’t going to change so much as it is going to narrow. Heretofore, my focus has been on Warriorship, and in the past 12-18 months or so, specifically on the training aspect of Warriorship. However, it has occurred to me that all of that really begs the question.
The question seems to be more accurately–How do we actually make things happen? or What is the mechanism of Manifestation? These seem to be the questions that go the heart of Warriorship. The Warrior’s key role is to act. The question then is, What does it mean to Act? How does one actually Act? What is it to transform a Thought, Concept, Idea to an Action? and What is involved in Action impacting the larger Reality?
Training and Warriorship remain ideal forums for exploring these questions.
Join me on this new leg of exploration.
Scott Herrick, talks about the necessity of keeping your supply train running smoothly during training, especially for Ironman. Here, he is referring to all the myriad activities which are necessary just so you can show up each day, ready to train. Washing training gear, washing water bottles, buying food, preparing homemade concoctions, resupplying worn gear, shopping, scheduling training, bike maintenance–the list is long–and then, doing all these things well in advance.
There is a training effect from wrestling these decidedly non-training tasks into place. Whereas, being in the best shape of my life is definitely a boon for my general health, well being, and balanced mind-state, the supporting activities are also a boon for the pure organization of my life and my mind.
Simply being forced to think about fitting all the pieces together, and the ensuing effort to fit them together, has made my life in general more organized and simplified.
This has been a progressive adaptation. Much like muscular development: I started out small, adapted, increased intensity, adapted, and progressed. Beginning years ago with a gym program, then getting increasingly back into running, then layering on triathlon, then longer distances of triathlon and more races, now Ironman, which I consider a separate category due to the unique pressures of its training.
I am more thoughtful about my commitments. I am more organized. My day-to-day activities are streamlined and simplified. I have been forced to actually abide by my MIT task-management philosophy. My mental state is clearer. Not to mention, my laundry not only gets washed, but even folded.
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Confession: I weigh myself on a scale several times per week.
The scale, or more specifically, body weight, is something of a loaded subject in our modern ego-driven, hyper-sexualized, glamour driven, air-brushed, before -and-after culture. Most people associate its use singularly with weight-loss. Weight loss being about as pervasive, yet non-specific a topic as can be found in health discourse.
I do not weigh myself with the aim to lose any weight. A few things I am looking for:
- Significant fluctuations, and corresponding behaviors
- Ensure my nutritional intake is in line with my training volume: specifically to stay in a certain range above what I’ve determined to be my best racing (fighting) weight.
- As a figure in calculating body-fat percentage. Again monitoring body-fat for significant fluctuations, and to stay in a certain range.
- To keep my training weight a couple of pounds over my race weight. My race weight being that number I was at when I felt the strongest in a race. Not sluggish, and not depleted. This is only known by tracking weight against performance, along with some other numbers, and adjustments for other impacts on weight like detox and cleanse.
What I don’t care about is the number for its own sake. I don’t care about height weight charts. I don’t care what other guys at the gym weigh (many are bigger and weigh more, but can’t lift more). If the FDA or USDA said it, I probably don’t care about it, and will likely do the opposite, knowing how wrong they are. I don’t care what some guy in Men’s Health looks like, as he probably can’t out-lift, out-run, out-swim, out-survive me, especially once the airbrush work is done. (Wow, how’s that for some vanity)
I track body weight in correlation with several factors, and have determined what is healthy for me.
For example, after Augusta last year, I noted a significant weight loss. I also discovered I was overtrained. The low body weight began before Augusta and also accompanied an increased resting heart rate for a few months post race. My deduction from all this was that I had overtrained going into Augusta. It was likely the result of injuries a month or so ahead of the race, and then my push to compensate for the lost training time.
Lesson: Carefully monitor my training volumes against my recovery times and nutrition, using several measurements to augment my own intuitive sense.
Another use for body weight it determining my hydration levels. If my weight is low, and my body-fat numbers are screwy, despite how I feel, I’m likely dehydrated. It could be my plasma hydration is fine, but my general electrolyte levels are off, affecting my muscle hydration.
Low body weight (below my training weight), can indicate I’m not taking in enough calories, or maybe my protein intake is off. Each of which can cause training to be a negative, or can lead to overtraining.
As mentioned a couple of times above, I track body-fat composition and use that as an indicator for several things.
A pop in body weight, especially after an out-of-town trip, can indicate I was eating too much crap on the road, and am now bloated. Time to flush my system.
Almost all of these indicators are accompanied by a feeling, that if I tune into, my body will tell me what is going on. However, one of the things about being an athlete, is ignoring certain signals our body sends us, despite how loud they may be screaming.
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Yesterday I was scouting out a new 60 mile bicycle route for the Crew. What was supposed to be a ride punctuated with map checks, became a mini Warrior-Up session. This weekend I finished installing a new wheelset, exchanged my 8-speed Hyperglide for a 9-speed, new chain, new rear shift cable, and adjusted my bar-end shifters for the new set-up. Saturday night all seemed well.
Everything started out well enough. The route starts out the first 10-15 miles or so sharing the same roads of other routes we ride. I had to conduct a couple of map checks, to verify intersections, etc., but all was well.
Before the halfway point, my front derailleur stopped shifting to the big chain ring. I made a pit stop in Rutledge, GA, made the field adjustments, and proceded. Then the front derailleur began dropping my chain to the outside. Several roadside adjustments later, and I had that under control.
By adding time to the ride, my water began to get low.
Then, in the second half I couldn’t shift to my lowest gear.
Later in the second half, I couldn’t hit the #8 sprocket.
Then the #7 sprocket.
I stopped the check it out. Clearly a couple turns on my cable nut would square it away. I succeeded in up-shifting to my 12 tooth #1 with a completely stretched out cable, and the one nut on the whole bike I couldn’t adjust with my new onboard multi-tool.
I had to ride it out like that, hills and all.
There were at least two hills I considered dismounting and walking.
Eventually, the school parking lot where my truck was parked was in sight.
It didn’t kill me.
I’m glad it happened–now. We don’t want to have to Warrior-Up every training session. Once in a while, we need a little extra suck–those sessions where one thing after the other, after the other, goes wrong to really test and stretch us mentally.
In the gym lifting yesterday, I had an epiphany. An article tweeted by @EastTriFitCrew drew the analogy of your body as a vehicle you train and prep for race day–a vehicle that it is then up to you the driver to drive for the race. I found this analogy striking at the moment, a great distinction between your body, training, and your self who must actually execute on race day, mechanical malfunctions, inadequacies and all. It is similar, but not exactly, like the guy with the $5000 bike, the bike alone won’t make him go fast. (I also appreciate the role of the self as the observer)
However, in the gym yesterday, it occurred that this analogy can be extended further, and more meaningfully to Practice and life in general. We practice for what purpose? It is not an end in itself. Nor is it for the purpose of the real side benefits–reduced heart rate, longevity, improved health, better focus–but to prepare ourselves to navigate this life, many of whom’s ultimate goal is to not rinse-and-repeat next life, but ultimate freedom from Samsara.
Practice that only aims for the side benefits, falls far short. Yoga, zazen, tai chi–whatever your practice, there are many side benefits (so readily marketed to us now), but what is the point if you don’t then use that improved vehicle to navigate this life.
You are the driver. Your body is a shell. You will eventually shed your body, your mind even. Until then, to what use will you put them?
Training is my Practice. It is what actually keeps me functional in this life. For me the vehicle and driver analogy is perfect. My truck with 316,000 miles on it–I do the maintenance so it will remain functional, and continue to help me navigate around town. I don’t do the maintenance just so it will look nice, or people will think it is cool (though some actually do think it’s cool). I practice so my mind and body will remain functional (sometimes even at peak performance), and I can use them to help me navigate this universe.
Today is a random day. Nothing particularly remarkable relating to my, epic-sounding, Road to Ironman Florida. Of some significance is that I am recovering from another back lockup/seizure episode. Last Sunday was my first triathlon of the season, Spring Fling Sprint at West Point Lake.
After the race that afternoon, I helped my buddy fix his hot water heater, and helped my son with his AP Statistics homework (well, as I could, its been a long time since college statistics). I then promptly passed out on the couch.
The next morning, I was feeling great. Went to work, and hit the gym late morning. Finished my day. Ran practice with my girls’ team. Hit the pool that evening. Went to bed tired, but feeling good.
Perhaps that was a bit too much, because Tuesday morning, when I tried to roll out of bed, I could not stand up straight. My back was in full-scale revolt.
This happened to me in the final weeks of training going into Augusta 70.3 last year. Last year I tried to push through, and ended up on the sidelines for two weeks. A costly two weeks. What I did discover, was that my back would loosen up in the pool.
So this time I did two things. 1) I ceased all attempts to push through, or do any work thatmight cause my back to lockup. 2) I went to the pool that evening.
I actually swam more and better this week than I have ever. I have had several breakthrough moments this week in the pool. As of today, my back is still tight, but I can walk, get in and out of my truck, sit at my desk–things I could not do at this point in last year’s episode.
Perhaps, this was a forced recovery period. I have not been cycling my sessions as I know I should (an unload week every third week). In fact, I’ve been pushing for bigger strength gains in the gym, in advance of my reduced gym time in the weeks going into Ironman Florida.
In reality, this is the ghost of years past–too many hard training days without good recovery when I was younger, too many holes and ditches dug in concrete-hard, drought-dried, August-baked Georgia clay. A consequence of living a certain number of days, and doing a certain number of real things in those days. I’ll much rather take it now, rather than in the weeks going into Florida.