Journal Entry 350- Pigeon Forge, Tennessee – Big D’s Retirement Party

Last week my family celebrated my dad’s (Big D) retirement party over the July 4th weekend. He worked at the Post Office for 32 years before retiring. My brother rented a cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee that was literally in the middle of the mountains. It was a really nice place with plenty of room for my parents, my brother’s family and Sarah and me. It had a pool table, which I believe I had the best record. πŸ˜‰ My dad was actually the best skill-wise, but there were a few games I managed to win regardless. We actually ended up cooking in the 3 nights we were there instead of going out. Saved money and we could just chill at night and drink vs worrying about everyone going in the same car and trying to find somewhere to go. The area was actually CROWDED beyond what I was expecting. It is certainly a heavy tourist attraction. The roads around that area were also insanely steep and windy. You couldn’t drive much more than 20 MPH over certain roads.

During our two full days there, we went to Dollywood one day, which is a really massive amusement park there created by Dolly Parton. A quick aside, Dolly Parton is like a hero in this area. Personally, I was looking forward to going but quickly realized there was not a whole lot to do there because I don’t like roller coasters haha. It was a nice place to walk around and there was a ton of food, but it was also about 100 degrees. Appetite just doesn’t really shoot up in those conditions and everyone was sweating A LOT just walking around. Sarah and I did get some dipping dots though which were on point. Abbey, my little niece, was also too small to ride most rides without supervision and she was even turned away from certain rides even with a parent. My brother and sister-in-law (Justin and Rebecca) were nice enough to pay for everyone’s tickets, which were not cheap. That night when we were chilling at the cabin, I saw a black bear walking down the street. My dad also saw it and at the time we were on two different floors. Neither of us got a picture because the woods blocked our view. Really cool to see though. Another quick aside, Black Bears are a BIG DEAL in these parts. Clearly, they are numerous in this area and are seen as somewhat of a mascot in this area.

The second day we were there, Sarah and I went to the Titanic Museum. That I enjoyed. It was a nice place with some really interesting features. Not the cheapest museum though at $30 a piece, but we had fun. Later that day, my brother busted out a surprise for Big D. A Post Office Pinata, that my dad got to smash to let out years of frustration for a poorly run organization, which is sadly only getting worse. Unfortunately, my dad did not really enjoy most of his time there and dealt with a lot of BS during his time there as well as long hours. That’s one reason why we wanted to have a big party for him and then certainly allow him to smash the hell out of pinata representing it!

Sunday we had to clean the house before leaving at the early checkout time of 10 AM. We drove through Downtown Gatlinburg before heading back and it was a cool place. Luckily traffic was not bad so early. We also stopped at a really nice viewpoint of the mountains before officially leaving. The drive back was not fun though. It took about 9 hours to get home for a trip that should have lasted about 6 and a half hours. Traffic was INSANE. Luckily, I took the next day off as a chill day at home.

Overall though, the trip was really fun. I can definitely see doing a trip similar to that each year, where everyone can meet up for a few days being a really a good idea.

 

Journal Entry 349 – Clean House

Another week in the books. This week at work was much better than it has been and felt far less busy and stressful. I actually missed my post last week, because I had a really strong urge to “Clean House.” I was looking in the kitchen and realized that some of our cabinets were absolutely packed. Considering we don’t use that many kitchen items this didn’t really make sense. I decided to go through and organize everything as well as trash some stuff we no longer use. It turned out to be a really good idea. All of the cabinets are organized and I got rid of a decent amount of things, that was literally just taking up space. I extended this cleaning to the closets, the utility room, and the bathrooms. Had about 4 bags of trash worth and the house looks much better now. The main thing I want to add to the house is a liquor cabinet. We have a lot of liquor currently and it would be nice to have something to organize it all.

Anyway, that house cleaning ended up taking the entire weekend, but again I think it was worth it. Sarah and I did end up having a date night last Saturday. We went to Cooper’s Hawk and then got Grapevine to go. Both were great as always. This weekend is going to be a bit more laidback.

I’ve actually hit the gym almost everyday last week. Literally just hitting full body every day doing higher reps and lighter weights. I wanted to take a break from heavy lifting for at least a week, so decided to more or less just “play around” in the gym with no real goal or priority. As for diet, been keeping carbs low this week. I started bringing some hardboiled eggs to eat with me each day during the workweek. This past week, I’ve been eating about 6 whole eggs a day for lunch. Super easy and cheap meal.

Next week is a short one. Only three days for me due to the July 4th Holiday, so really looking forward to that!

Journal Entry 348 – Cookout

Another week in the books. It was a pretty stressful week at work and was really looking forward to the weekend. We finally used the grill on Thursday, two 12oz steaks, mainly because the weather was perfect outside. The steaks came out really good other the fact that I cooked mine a bit long. Grilling is definitely a different style of cooking that I have not done in a long time. As we were grilling, Sarah said she would like to have people over for a cookout, so we ended up having some friends over on Saturday night. I love having friends over, so it was fun as always. We got 88% lean burgers at Costco for like $16. There was a ton of meat. I also got turkey franks from Aldi, which were actually pretty good. I think I once again cooked them a bit too long, but it still tasted really good at the time. I also made some Guac dip, which not going to lie was pretty damn good. I like it chunky, so I mash mine with a fork and always leave it so that several chunks of avocado are still in the dip. Also, salt is the key ingredient. Sarah bought ingredients for Smores at the end of the night, which were also really good. So a lot of good eating last night!

Still eating pretty low carb at the moment and decided to try the Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar – Cookie Dough flavor. I can say without doubt it was one of the worst protein bars, I have ever had. 1 out of 10. I consider myself a “Protein Bar Connoisseur” and this bar was a disgrace to other protein bars. It was a keto style bar so more fat and less protein and of course low carbs. It was extremely dry and was falling apart before I even ate it. It tasted like chemical chalk. Just really bad. I also tried some Legendary Almonds. These are much better, but still a little pricey for the amount you get. Also, the Buffalo Wing flavor was not great. The Pizza and Ranch flavor (go figure these are my favorite) were much better. I like to eat these during my work week since I don’t really stop for lunch.

My workouts recently have been consistently inconsistent. I had a great workout on Friday though that consisted of Bench Press and Chinups. 4 sets of each. Got up to 235lbs for Bench Press for 5 reps. Chinups was 4 sets to failure with bodyweight. I love simple workouts. Going forward will likely do 3 days a week in the gym with a similar setup of just Bench and Chins.

Journal Entry 347 – Tired

Another week in the books. For whatever reason, I was really tired all week. I would basically go to bed around 9:45 to 10PM and I usually don’t go to sleep til 11-11:30PM. I also bonked out pretty bad in the gym this week. Again not sure what it was by I was NOT feeling it. Even light weights felt heavy.

This weekend has been great so far though. Sarah and I went to one of my good friend’s house warming party.Β  He recently bought and fixed up a house nearby where we live. He had about 10 people over to drink and we all had a good time. He also won an event on Instagram, that featured a newly created Ukrops Food Truck to come to his place for an hour and we could order as much food as we wanted. Good eating. One thing I really liked about his house was the screen porch. I used to love sitting out there when I was young and it’s a great way to always sit outside no matter the weather or season. The biggest benefit is, of course, keeping out the insects. Definitely, something I would like to have again in the future.

Later today, Sarah and I are going to see John Wick 3. Been wanting to see this movie for awhile now and it’s kind of been a sh**ty weekend in terms of weather, so I think its a good day for it.

 

 

 

 

Journal Entry 346 – Avengers Endgame / Rep Goals

Last week, Sarah and I went to Garden City, South Carolina for Memorial Day weekend. Sarah’s family has a beach house down there and its a good time to see everyone during the year. It was a fun time, except I got a pretty bad case of “sun bumps” from a sunburn. The first day I got burnt, even with sunscreen on. We were out for a good 6-8 hours though. The second day I played it safe and wore a shirt, but the sun bumps are still going strong a week later. Not fun.

After a busy week at work, we had some really good friends over for a cookout on Friday night. My dad bought us a grill, so we figured a cookout would be a good idea. As soon as they got to our house, it started pouring rain. 😦 So we “cooked-in” instead and had some burgers. Saturday would have been a much better day for the cookout, but oh well. There will be several more weekends we can do it.

I was finally able to see Avengers Endgame yesterday. Holy $H!T that movie was great. I think it may even be in my top ten. I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to spoil it, but it was extremely entertaining and it did not feel like a 3-hour movie. They tied a tremendous amount of interconnecting storylines together which is not an easy task. I will say Hawkeye or I believe he went by “Ronin” in this movie was one of my favorite characters. He had some awesome scenes with the katana. This movie definitely had some emotional scenes as well that were pretty powerful especially for a superhero type movie.

Throughout the week, I have been racking my brain to figure out how I want to change my routine up. I considered going back to full on bro-split, but settled for something a bit different. I think I’m going to like this setup a lot:

Bench Press 4 sets of 8 reps / Dips 4 sets to failure
DB Rows 4 sets of 8 reps / Chins 4 sets to failure
OFF or Incline Walk
Inc DB Press 4 sets of 8 reps / Dips 4 sets to failure
Trap-bar Deads 4 sets of 8 reps / Chins 4 sets to failure
Pushups 8 sets (25 each)
Chinups 8 sets (10 each)

 

*Main Moves – Rep Goals:
3 sets of 24 reps – Avg – 8 reps
4 sets of 30 reps – Avg 7.5 reps
5 sets of 35 reps – Avg – 7 reps
Once achieved increase the weight by 5lbs

As you can see, simple just like I like it. However, this routine has a large amount of volume (*24 sets for Push and Pull Muscles each week, including some lighter stuff ) and I have also brought back an old concept called Rep Goals. Rep Goals literally mean once you a specific number of reps over a certain number of sets (WITH THE SAME WEIGHT), you increase that weight by 5 pounds the next workout to drive progressive overload. It’s a very simple method. No pyramid schemes. Use the same weight that gets increased when you achieve the Rep Goal. It is basically Push / Pull every other day. The trap-bar deads introduces some legs into my routine and I may make the off day a leg day, but not sure yet. The dips and chins are literally there to annihilate the rest of the working muscles. After some heavy benches or rows, dips/chins don’t feel so light anymore and they also light my muscles on fire. I take these to failure and get as many as I can. This not only drives up my volume on the working muscles but helps to act as a finisher and I can knock them out very quickly.

I was thinking about doing 2 isolation moves after the main lifts each day instead, but I liked the simplicity here and I think I will enjoy it more with bodyweight finishers. I’m also working more total muscle as well this way. However, the isolation moves may certainly be something I try in the future.

 

Journal Entry 345 – Can’t Hurt Me – By David Goggins / End of Game of Thrones

On the way back Scotland, I started reading a book from David Goggins called “Can’t Hurt Me.” I actually finished reading the book this morning. I would give it a 10 out of 10. I first heard about David Goggins on Joe Rogan’s podcast and he was one of the most motivational and unique people I have ever heard. Here is a brief summary/review:

David Goggins is a retired Navy Seal and ultra-endurance athlete. The book is about his life and the challenges he faced and overcame. He had a horrible childhood with a very abusive father, but a very supportive mother. They left his father when he was young and they were dirt poor. His father had a clear impact on his psyche and it clearly affected his pain tolerance, which he would push to the brink several times in life. He was not a good student in high school and faced some discrimination due to the fact that he grew up in a very rural area in Indiana. He did not use this to become a “Victim” or become part of the “Victim” mentality that is common in today’s society. He admitted at the time he felt like one, but quickly realized this was a long path to nowhere and used the experience to “callous his mind” and make him stronger. After high school, he had a period of time where he gained weight to the point of obesity and was working a very uneventful job that provided some money and job security but little else. He wanted to seek more meaning in his life, so he joined the Navy Seals. Prior to joining the Seals the first time, he had to pass two tests. One was a written exam. The second was to lose over 100 pounds in 3 months. He was able to do both. The first two times he joined the Seals he was discharged due to injury. But Goggins desperately wanted to become a Seal and had to pass Hell Week 3 times and was the first person to ever do so. After becoming a Seal, Goggins became an ultra-endurance athlete. This came about as a result of running for charity to raise money for the military, specifically for families of fallen soldiers. Goggins realized ultra-endurance races required an immense pain tolerance and insane levels of physical and mental strength to complete. So he was all about it. During the novel, Goggins recalls several stories of mental toughness and pushing himself to the edge. He completed several ultra-endurance races, winning several, became an Army Ranger in addition to being a Seal, a famous recruiter for the military, a wildfire fighter, broke the pullup record and several other accolades. Some more interesting facts about Goggins is that he said stretching and flexibility literally saved his life. Due to exercising at such an intense degree, his body had become as tight as “steel cables.” Goggins had reached a strange point, where he was beyond fatigued every day so much that he thought he was going to die. Stretching out his tight body, resurrected the blood flow in his body and literally released knots of tension he had throughout his body. I found this very interesting. Also, while Goggins has a very large Social Media following, he literally hates it and follows no one. He mainly uses it to inspire people as it is easy to reach a large number of people by using it. Overall, his drive is very inspiring and considering he is now currently 44 years old, has a whole lot more he plans to accomplish. He’s already accomplished more than 99.9% of people will in an entire lifetime. My review is very much a summary and the book is about 364 pages. I certainly can’t do justice with a short summary, but I highly recommend reading it.

After reading the book, I don’t plan to join the military or run in ultra-endurance races, but I really connected with several tips he was saying. The exercise he did was a tool he used to get his “mind right.” I do plan to start stretching more, implement some of the tools he uses and probably start doing a lot more pushups and pullups.

Today is also the end of Game of Thrones. A lot of people hate this season. My biggest criticism is that it does indeed feel rushed, which is a shame. I want to give the show a chance to finish, before ripping it apart, however. A lot of whiny people I hear complaining about it did so in the third episode. The season is not over. Once it is over and everything is resolved then you can start whining about it. I expect the series finale to be a good one and HOPEFULLY resolve the show in a positive way. I will admit that I am very excited about it.

This was my first full week back from Scotland. I hit the gym 3 times lifting heavy and also won my first tennis match in our tournament at work. My diet has been pretty low carb and very high protein. Overall, I have felt pretty good this week. After reading Goggins book, I plan to keep reading and likely will try to read at least one book a month.

Journal Entry 344 – SCOTLAND

For the past week, Sarah and I decided to go to Scotland for our First Anniversary Trip. It was really an awesome experience! Scotland looks and feels like “Lord of the Rings.” The landscapes have mountains, rolling hills, green grass, flowers, lakes, rivers, livestock, small houses and huge castles strewn across its land. One of the most picturesque places I have ever been to. That was also my first trip to Europe, so I think we picked a good place.

We were able to see a pretty decent sized piece of Scotland for the time we had, which was about 6 nights. We started in Edinburgh for the first two days and toured the entire city. Edinburgh has a ton of history and very old building structures that are still in use today by several pubs, restaurants, and stores. We walked everywhere in this city and even did a “Harry Potter” tour. Apparently, J.K. Rowling wrote the first 5 books in Edinburgh and also got much of her inspiration from the city. Edinburgh Castle was also massive and nice place to visit.

After Edinburgh, we went to Hertz to rent a car. It was a relatively painless process and for four days with insurance cost us about 364 pounds or $473. Unfortunately, the pound in the United Kingdom is worth much more than the U.S. Dollar. This meant Scotland was not a cheap place to visit, but it was a vacation so I didn’t let it bug my frugal mind too much. I will say though that driving in Scotland (or Europe) is an eye-opening experience at first and not to be taken lightly. You drive on the other side of the road, the signs are different and it can be pretty scary. Driving is largely a subconscious activity once you know how. I consider myself a talented driver and driving over there will take some getting used to. This trip was based on driving though as we wanted to visit several places. It would not have worked without driving, so I mastered it pretty quick.

After we got the car on the third day, we went to Stirling Castle. Stirling Castle was an awesome place with a rich history. A very important Stronghold in Scotland. Later that day we also visited William Wallace Monument. A huge and very steep tower dedicated to the Scottish Hero. It had both his Claymore (two-handed sword) and Robert the Bruce’s Sword. Really cool to see. Once you made the very long and steep climb to the top, you were treated to a pretty awesome view.

The fourth day we went to Loch Lomond and then hiked (or should I say climbed) a mountain that was part of the “Three Sisters” in the Glencoe area. After a 3 hour hike, we drove to Corran and stayed at a hotel that was right on a lake. It was a really nice place, but the restaurant near it was closed so we had to drive about 15 minutes to the next closest town to eat dinner. Scotland has a lot of small towns and windy roads. It is very easy to get lost. I do want to mention that before hiking we stopped at a cafe for food and I got a Smoked Salmon Sandwich with Cream Cheese. Not going to lie, it was one of the best things I ate there.

The following day we left and headed up North to Inverness, which is the city you can reach. Before Inverness, we stopped at Urquhart Castle. A castle that was a ruin, but had a great view. Many castles are positioned on the very edge of a cliff for defense purposes. It also gives a tremendous view of the area. After purchasing a decent amount of gifts from the shop here, we passed by Loch Ness and then finally hit Inverness. A much more moderate city than Edinburgh, but a nice one. It featured some pretty nice shopping centers that we went to and had a more modern castle in the middle of the city. We did visit this place as well. For dinner, we went to “The Castle Tavern” which was built in the 1700s. We tried Haggis for the first time here and I honestly thought it was good. Haggis is made from sheep intestine or stomach (gross I know), but its a local delicacy. It tastes kind of like sausage. We also went to a bar afterward for some drinks.

The next morning we had breakfast at the “Rona’s House”, which was the B&B we were staying at. Funny enough the owner of the house has a daughter that lives 20 minutes away from where we currently live in Virginia. The B&B was very nice and I had a Full Scottish Breakfast here with some of her homemade bread. Sarah had Museli with yogurt and fruit. This started the last day of our Scotland trip.

We drove down to a distillery called Dalwhinnie and did a tour of the Whiskey they made there. Interesting process. We also bought a “Game of Thrones” themed Whiskey there. Apparently, 8 Distilleries in Scotland each have a house from the show. Luckily we got the best House, “House Stark” from this distillery The reason they were House Stark was that it is the coldest Disterlly in Scotland, which is fitting of the North the Stark’s are from. After this, we hit a Chocolatier run by a French couple, which was too expensive and not great, unfortunately. We then hit our final castle tour, which was called “Castle Menzie.” This was referred to as a “Tower House” and was literally in the middle of nowhere. The closest town was Aberfeldy, which we randomly stumbled upon once leaving. The owner gave us a pretty interesting History lesson, about the Clans of Scotland and said most of the Castles in Scotland were actually called Tower Houses. These differ from the more well-known Castles because their location is more centrally located inland, not surrounded by huge walls and were mainly Clan houses that acted as defense from other Clans. Scotland as a long history of warring Clans (different families) that fought over pretty much everything.

After the last Castle, we drove back to Hertz and turned in the keys, which marked the end of the trip. We stayed at a Hotel near the Airport for our last night and paid for some overpriced food from the Hilton Hotel restaurant. It was just far too convenient not to stay there because we could walk to the airport. We had a shuttle flight to Dublin, then the main 7-hour flight from Dublin to Washington DC, then a 3-hour drive home. We got home around 7:00 PM. However, that would have been 12:00PM Scotland time. Scotland is 5 hours ahead of us, so we lost that time on the front of the trip and gained it back at the end. This meant we were pretty hungry when we got back as we had been up for a very long time.

Here are some final points I will end with:

  1. My favorite part about the trip was the scenery and history. It really was an amazing place to see. Some places look better in photos than when you are actually there. Scotland looks better in person. It just has a different “feel” to it than the U.S. probably due to the very old history.
  2. Driving is essential here. If you really want to see the country, then you need to get out of the major cities and not spend too much time there. That being said, driving is NOT FUN at first. You will need some time to adjust and it can be scary. Once you do get the hang of it, driving and seeing the country is a pretty rewarding experience.
  3. The travel there and back was not fun. The 5-hour time gap can mess with you big time and you can expect to lose a full day from travel from the U.S. Unless you are lucky enough to get a direct flight there, which would be IDEAL. It would cut travel time and headache in half.
  4. Β The food was good, but not great. Sarah and I both agreed it would be rated 7 out of 10. We stuck to local places and really tried to order local Scottish fare. Haggis was good, but not amazing. The Meat Pies were both of our favorites. I think I had some form of potato every single day. Scotland also has a ton of Oatmeal bars. It has very few “high protein products”, such as protein bars, protein powder and stuff I normally like. This is very different than the U.S. Also, the coffee was horrible. I will come out and admit it. Toward the end of the trip, I just stopped drinking it and I drink A LOT of coffee. You basically had to brew your own and I really didn’t care for it. Also, this country does not have Ranch dressing haha. Dear God what a sin.
  5. The Local Beers were excellent. I had at least two beers a day from the draught menu and I really looked forward to those each day. I drank way more beer than liquor (hardly drank any) and almost no wine. This is mainly because Scotland certainly doesn’t specialize in wine and I was trying to get the “Local Fare.” However, still rare for me as beer is usually the lowest on my totem pole.
  6. Scotland is expensive. There is no getting around this one. The country uses pounds, which are more valuable than the dollar.
  7. The internet is spotty here.
  8. The countryside was my favorite by far.
  9. Some people say Scottish people are really nice. I certainly noticed that in some cases, but nothing out of the ordinary. I think it’s pretty similar to America in that its mainly based on the personality of the person and not a general rule.
  10. Certain peoples accents were so thick, I could barely understand them.
  11. Would I come here again? Absolutely. I would prefer to visit Ireland or England as well though and maybe even first. I would certainly do some things differently the second time around, especially with the travel piece, but would certainly revisit. We had a blast and time FLEW BY.

Sorry for the very long post about I had a lot I wanted to get down in this post!