Hello, On june 5 I will no longer be paying for wordpress premium and I will be putting up an no advertising, non pay site directly at http://yonaitis.com/
There are some things in your life that you can learn on your own. In fact many things can be self-taught. I have been trying for over one year to achieve a new level of fitness mainly by running and free weights and after all of this time I was not pleased with my results. I worked hard, very hard, but was not achieving my goals. So I bit the bullet and I hired a professional personal training to prepare for my upcoming skills seminar (https://www.rmiguides.com/ecuador-seminar/ ) with RMI in Ecuador. (One of the people I have trekked with, Lee Hoedl, shot a great video of Ecuador from his trip: https://www.youtube.com/v/xHH6I2U6ZsM&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&autoplay=1 ).
Upon hiring the personal trainer I arranged for her to train me at my home gym. On the first day she arrived I was cocky of course and figured in advance that I would show/tell her what I did and she would tell me how to improve my workout. So I told her about my running six (6) miles a day and how it was great for endurance. Oddly after I explained my run she disagreed. At first I was a bit taken back because I knew what I could do and I was sure she was wrong. I then demonstrated what I did with weights and she said “OK but your form is all wrong”. I said in response, “OK but my muscles are growing”. So after that we did an assessment so she could help me train.
At the end of the assessment I was in shock at how little I did compared to what she was having me do. I basically convinced myself that she was wrong and that instead, my accomplishments proved that what she was talking about was unimportant. I described my goals clearly and then on every exercise asked her how is this going to help my goal. A one (1) hour session turned into two and I realized that I was not as strong as I thought. While I had achieved more than most people I know I did not have the strength to complete my goals. I was really sore the next day, more so than I remembered ever. What is funny is that I thought back to my past and recalled many exercises that made the ones she was doing seem like child’s play. Somehow I had forgotten them and just let my conditioning fall apart over the last 25 years. I also ordered new gym equipment to match the exercises that I was doing. Mats, Bands, Box, etc. Thanks to Amazon Prime all of it came free and in time for our next session.
In our next session she did a whole new set of exercises and again I felt weak and unqualified. Everything she said to do, I quickly said either, “I have never done that” or “I cannot do that”. I simply did not know how and it all seemed impossible. But with effort I found I could do it, and over the reps my form improved. I actually thought that at two to four hundred sit-ups a day my core would be better. She watched me do the sit ups and said; “what muscles are you using”. I responded “my core” and she responded that “you are using your hip flexors”. You will find that hip flexors are not mentioned in the core.
So we continued and continued and we are now up to our third week. It is very hard. I still say I have never done that or I don’t do that but I always end up doing my best and progressing. It was very hard for me, I am normally the expert at whatever I chose to do, but I have wasted close to two years doing exercises that no matter what did not prepare me for my task. It was interesting for me to reflect, I actually did not want to listen to what I was doing wrong. I even argued my position that what I believed was correct. I resisted evidence in front of my face. However that is over and I am now training daily and learning. In my last session I was doing single leg step ups while holding a 30lb dumbbell in each hand. When I was focusing on this workout it occurred to me that this was how I felt with a 60 pound pack on my back as I was fatiguing. Everything is a progression and I will hit my goal soon, yeah I am sore a lot but I am progressing. I only wish I had hired a personal trainer two years ago when I started down this path. However, Lesson learned, sometimes you need the guidance of a professional to be successful!
When I was a young man I used to go outside on our second floor porch, my house was on J Street in Hull. I would go to my space ship console and set the course to Mars or some other heavenly body. I would insert my Pastrami sandwich, carefully wrapped in aluminum foil, in the cooking portal so it would be ready when I left Earth. I took several trips a week. My Space Ship was a broken down dryer and the cooking portal was the inside of the same – it was 1975. I look back on that precious childhood time that was filled with little responsibility and I miss it sometimes. In the following months I would leave that behind to start the sixth grade and to become a clam digger in the morning on Nantasket beach to help feed my family. With responsibility I lost some of the wonder, and that is too bad.
We ended up moving to Quincy, MA. When in Quincy my love for knowledge and exploration returned with a vengeance. I bored my friends discussing the motion and speed of objects falling in a vacuum and many other topics. I would stay up at night to catch meteor showers and experiment with different chemicals. I wrote my first computer programs at Quincy High School (not North Quincy High). Life became wonderful again for a while.
I would have many more sections of my life or better put seasons into my late 20’s. From University to starting several failed and successful companies. It occurred to me in Concord, NH that it was all a lie. Well that is strong – maybe it was just a misinterpretation. In fact we could bend our life or lives in such ways that in short periods of time we could amass countless memories that were boundless and basically a multiple life existence that did not only impact our friends or families but many people and communities around the globe that we never met or interacted with.
This becomes important if you consider that so many people feel helpless because they feel trapped into a single existence. However, this is a myth we can change or bend reality. We can do many things and really have no boundaries except those that we impose on ourselves. People should experiment with this because once you realize that you are in control of your destiny the world opens up to you. You start to gather experiences at such a high rate that it can be mentally exhausting. You then reevaluate and do it again. With every experience you contrast to previous experiences and you learn. Contrast is the spice of life in my opinion.
I believe that the phrase, “You only get one life”, used in many quotes is false. I believe this based on empirical evidence, my own. I have had many lives and some running along the same time frame. Writer, Teacher, Scientist, Engineer, Philosopher, Artist, Carpenter, Explorer, Steel Worker, Rich, Poor, Empty, Full, Happy, Sad, Lost, without hope, Starving-to-full, and everything in-between. You get as many lives as you want – it just takes imagination and good use of time. Of course there is one life in our comfort zone, one that we know, and one that we do not fear. I would pose that you leave your comfort zone – take some risk and turn experience into your favorite food. Even if it scares you =)
Becoming a pilot taught me many life lessons-too many to actually cover in one post, it would take a book. There was however one thing that I learned that I have carried forward to every aspect of my life. Most of us are familiar with the idea that “fear is limiting” and of course we all are familiar with the expression “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”. Being aware of fear is of course one thing and doing something about it is another. There is one fear that many people still struggle with on a daily basis-the problem of admitting our failures and things with which we have trouble.
One story in my past illustrates this well. As a pilot I liked to fly in mountainous areas. This is fun and requires good knowledge of winds. When I was sitting around the local Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at airports in NH, NY, and ME I participated in many conversations about difficulties in landing and shared stories about how to adjust related to winds coming from this or that direction. This group knowledge and discussions on how to handle the aircraft made everyone in the discussions a better pilot. However, there was one friend of mine, also a pilot, who always said he had a “perfect landing” whenever we met, no matter what the conditions. Even in the worst circumstances he always made perfect landings.
One day I went flying with a friend versus using my own plane and I was hanging out at the FBO at Fryberg, ME (IZG). I saw a plane come in for a landing, a Cessna 172, and the pilot was having a very hard time. I was surprised that the pilot did not do a “go around”. A “go around” is when you abort the landing attempt for safety reasons and try again. The pilot instead completed the landing and a very hard one at that. We all stopped looking and went back in for a coffee and some candy (Hot Tamales). Several minutes later my friend came in (he had been the pilot) and it was one of the rare times we saw each other at an FBO. We talked about this and that and then the topic of the high winds came up and he said the winds had been “no problem” and said that his landing had been perfect, textbook.
He went outside and showed me the rental he had just came in on, it was the Cessna 172. He was a good friend so I said “man, why did you not go around that was a scary landing?” At first he said he was fine it probably looked worse than it was but it was a textbook touch down. I pressed and said “come on what happened?” He stopped defending the landing and said he had just gotten behind the plane and was a bit out of control. We discussed the winds and then went out and did some practice take offs and landings together and had some good lessons on controlling the plane in more difficult crosswind conditions.
My friend was happy and thankful for the piloting lessons and conversation. I also hope that he learned that no one is perfect at anything and we all need to be open to others views and experiences if we are to grow and be better at any endeavor that we choose. Above all we need to be honest about our successes and failures to grow. We also need to work harder at recognizing this in our friends in case they are struggling and we can lend a hand.
In this world of hyper-sharing and apps designed to make us look better in selfies we need to realize that life is not as perfect as it often seems in our news feed. Everyone has things they are good and bad at or some cross that they are bearing. Perfection is a goal not a reality for most. No one makes a perfect landing every time, no one passes every test life throws at them. We all work to learn new skills and constantly work to perfect the same. We all need to remember that by hiding the problems we are having we are limiting our chances to solve the same. So if you are having some issues landing, managing your team, solving or dealing with a situation that presents itself to you-remember that if you do not ask for help-you may decrease your likelihood of success.
Today I received my BowFlex Max Trainer M5 at around 730AM – FedEx was quite early. The boxes were heavy and I dragged them through my house and back to my Carriage House. The first floor of the carriage house has been converted into a gym of sorts. I opened the boxes and started taking out all of the parts. It was pretty straightforward and I laid out all of the parts. I made one mistake on Step One (1) but it was simple after that, it took about 30 minutes to put it together – I took my time after the step one error.
After I got the machine together I tried it to make sure it was working – it was but it was very hard to use. This was because it was new. I decided taking out the trash would warm me up a bit for a workout. So I cut up the boxes as it is trash day here in Concord NH, and I took out the trash and recycling. After taking out the trash I decided to go for a four (4) mile run and then do a couple hundred sit-ups to warm up. When that was done I decided to give it a go again.
It was great, it took about five (5) minutes to get into it – learn the machine. After that I was fine – I then did two (2) 8-minute workouts on the machine – on the interval setting. If I had to explain the workout I would have to use the word real. It felt like I was climbing a head section of some mountain. I could feel it in the legs and core. It was very real in comparison to a real outdoor slug.
Tomorrow I will start doing two (2), 14-minute workouts a day on the M5. In addition to everything else I am doing of course. This is a good thing – I would have hated to return the M5. What I found today was that the BowFlex Max M5 was:
- Easy to set up
- Took 5 Minutes to get used to
- You have to be warmed up and fully stretched – Do not try it cold
- A good workout
So my Initial take is thumbs up, I will tell you if I still feel that way in 30 days!
Over the years I have written technical and travel titles that started with either “Understanding “ or “Going to.” The “Understanding” titles had the central goal of explaining a technical topic in plain English and the “Going to” titles covered a specific destination, place, or adventure. These have been fun to write and they have also changed me for the better in many ways. I believe that when we write about real experiences and knowledge we sort of put ourselves out there. We make mistakes. We learn. We grow. We share the experience.
With this in mind I decided it was time to take a different approach to my writing and my living as well. Everything that I am about to do is based on the following statement; “people can and do change.” Based on that premise I have started my next series. So the “Becoming” series will require changes in myself some comfortable, some uncomfortable and all leading to a goal that I want to achieve.
My next personal goal is going to require a different: discipline, knowledge, diet, strength level and overall balance. This is not as easy as it sounds because putting into practice large changes in behavior can be a daunting undertaking. With this in mind over a week ago I began my journal. The first thing I noticed is that there would be no instant gratification. Not from diet, workout, study or any effort. In fact it would be discouraging. The only thing that has actually gotten easier was the discipline required to accomplish my goals. My discipline seems to be getting stronger every day.
Additionally, it seems that besides studying the specific sport that I am interested in I have to start learning everything about workout routines, nutrition, sports nutrition and how to hack my own system (body). This stuff is hard. I think my biggest change was to get to the point where I eat for energy and strength gain as a primary goal versus just enjoying food. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the food but choices diminish. Or better-put most of the food that is readily available and that is inexpensive is not actually good for you. I am convinced now that food is designed to be addictive to make sure you keep buying as much as possible regardless of health consequences. This is very upside-down in my opinion. I went from counting steps to counting reps, points and endurance. I still run about six (6) miles a day but I have added sport specific reading and about two hours in the gym a day.
I have made some mistakes or my body has made some mistakes, my arms are growing unevenly – I have a fix for this. I have hurt muscles from being too ambitious. I have also taken my normal 100 sit-ups to 500 sit-ups a day. It will be a slow process, but I will get there. My next climb will be in August and on the climb I will see how all this sport and strength specific exercise has helped.
I have ditched the Fitbit – way too much noise and who wants to charge a device constantly. I replaced it with a MisFit. No charging required and waterproof. It is good to not have to worry about how I am doing against others for the week – now it is just how am I doing daily. So overall I am spending about 3-4 hours working out daily – with one rest day a week. The simple question remains, can a person change a lifetime of habits and become something new.
We shall see, it will take a while for this first title and yes, I have not figured out the name for the first book yet!
I came back from Aconcagua a couple months ago. It was a great expedition to the Southern and Western Hemispheres highest mountain. The Travel Journal was done pretty quick and then I released an initial draft and sent it off to the editor. The Editors other commitments made it impossible for him to work on the journal.
In the end this was fine by me as it gave me the opportunity to rewrite the journal, smoothing it out and adding subtle detail giving it great new flow. I also had the opportunity to add many more pictures and set up web sites with more photos and some videos. So it is not very similar to the pre-release.
I am really pleased to announce that this title will release next week and also of the news that I will be releasing both Going to Aconcagua and Going to the Amazon in the Spanish Language over the next few months.
Thanks for all your support!
Sunday night while I struggled with figuring out a productive field course location for the third day of an AIARE 2 Avalanche Course Kate Matrosova, a 32 year old climber from Russia who lived in New York City as an investment banker on Wall Street, was struggling to stay alive. Her husband had dropped her off at the Appalachia Trail-head at 5:30am for her solo-attempt at a Northern Presidential Traverse; Mount Adams, Madison, Jefferson, Washington. A seemingly fitting objective for the Presidents Day Weekend.
Kate was no neophyte to mountaineering. Her Facebook page showed someone who had passion, skill, and quality gear for recreating in the mountains:
She was also quite bright. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the Haas School of Business, she must have had a solid head on her shoulders. So why did she attempt this exposed alpine traverse with this weather forecast?
From Mount Washington Observatory:
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On February 2, 2015 a man, whose name is unknown to me, began his summit bid of Aconcagua. During this attempt he felt that he could not continue. The guide found him shelter and had him sit down as he continued up the summit with another team member. When the guide returned a few hours later the man was dead. In everything that we do or don’t do there is a cost. This travel journal is dedicated to all of those that test their limits and explore their world.
Before I get into the journal about my Aconcagua Expedition I thought I would spend a few seconds explaining how I got here. I mean how an ordinary guy, software engineer, decides to take an expedition to the southern and western hemispheres highest mountain. Well it was not out of the blue and better put it was a progression. It started years ago as I continued my education, a move where I did not stay focused on one area, but I expanded my education across many disciplines. Upon doing this, it occurred to me that I knew nothing about the world in which I lived.
So, when I got the opportunity I started reaching out. I learned to fly – talk about changing perspective. I travelled to; Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. It seemed that the more I travelled the less I understood about everything. With travel not providing answers I continued education and then looked to more exotic travel; camping in Antarctica, Touring flooded forests on the Amazon, tracking lions in Kenya while on business with the UN. Still, I found no great meaning. I then climbed MT Kilimanjaro (Kili). It was cool, the world’s highest free standing mountain – it was great.
I noticed climbing Kili that the challenge was the meaning. The shared journey with people was the meaning. With this lens I looked back and I realized that I was always trying to go somewhere and that was not very important. The more important part was the friendship – completing the climb with team members. As I climbed Kili much became clear. Not that a mountain or a challenge can change someone – although it can, this was not my experience. For me the mountain brought things into focus.
As my life came into focus on the mountain it was imperfect, there were things that were like thorns, these things were feelings, emotions, or memories that just did not fit in my world view any longer. On the mountain an amazing thing happened, these thorny thoughts or better put memories that I would not let go of somehow got left behind on the mountain. Much like meditation when done the climb it was like my life was realigned in a positive manner.
After Kilimanjaro I continued climbing; small mountains in the white mountains of NH, mountains in New Your like Black Mountain, The great wall of china (The Hard One) the Tiger Mountain Great Wall bordering North Korea, and many more. Not that I was a junky or anything or a mountaineer – I am not. What I found however is that an ancient Chinese proverb is true: You cannot add water to a glass that is full. Climbing the mountains and/or other adventure travel provided space for new understanding by doing some mental housekeeping.
The next big trek that I did was in Nepal, to Mt Everest Basecamp (EBC) . This was an interesting trek because it was Nepal – Starting with Katmandu. I had no gear (It went to Istanbul) and none of my comfort items – But I had a credit card and lots of stores to buy knockoff gear in. Of Interest, I wore my boots so I had them. The trek was at the end of the season and it was long and constant. I will not forget the day that we made it to basecamp, the prayer flags and the sense of team accomplishment. When I got back to New Hampshire I had no immediate plans of doing anything but getting better. You see at EBC I got a terrible cold, a broken toe, and a lost nail or two. So Lots of Theraflu and well, I did nothing for my toe. I did nothing because on New Year’s Eve (2014) my friend Brian (whom I did Kili with) called me and said hey man, want to do Aconcagua. I answered immediately yes. Training started immediately and my toe healed really funny in 6 months.
Having said yes I immediately started training. I ran a lot, in; Paris, Beijing, Changchun, Shanghai, Dalian, New Hampshire, San Francisco – Wherever I was I just ran. Before the Aconcagua Expedition I was up to running at least five (5) miles a day and in the end did one marathon two weeks before the expedition. In addition I did free weights and hiking with a pack loaded with 50 pounds but made the horrible mistake of only going up to elevations of 4000 feet – I say it is a mistake because I should have done more very high altitude to better condition myself.
So, that is how I got here and this travel journal explains my experiences in my own words – massaged a little by an editor. I hope you enjoy the journal as much as I enjoyed the expedition.
Most of what we do starts with a series of steps calculated plans and organization. In this case it was January 21 and I was near the time of the start of my expedition. We were staying at a hotel in the Penitentes area. In a pseudo warehouse next to the hotel was where all of our gear was stored for the expedition. It was getting very real now, the expedition, and the team had begun to go through a bonding process. This was important you have to understand that most people only knew one other person at best and we all had to somehow get to know each other. So on the previous night we all sat around talking about this and that and getting to know each other. From the beginning, the first dinner in Mendoza, I have believed that we had a great team – sure little blips here and there but a group that could work together on this expedition.
Now Argentina is known for its beef. On our first night in Mendoza we had beef, on the second day we had beef and on day three on the way to where we were at we had beef for lunch. By beef I mean imagine a ¾ pound steak. On this, our last night, of choice people were ordering the fish and pasta! One of the team did mess up and order a steak soaked in Malbec. There was much laughter surrounding this error. You see you have to be careful with the menus if you are depending on translations, sometimes they are not as they appear.
In the dining room there was a group sitting by us that by appearances they had just completed a successful summit, I say this based on their general demeanor and the fact that they were popping a bottle of champagne. I tried not to look over or pay much attention. There are some things that you don’t even dare to whisper because you may jinx yourself, and the potential of a summit is high up on that list. I did scan the group and I saw age groups spanning what seemed to be 35-65. When it comes to mountains capability matters but the will to complete is not far behind.
My friend Brian, whom I climbed Kilimanjaro with had invited me to take this expedition with him. Tonight at Dinner I sat next to him. We discussed this and that and mainly focused on the start of the trek. We would be doing 4.5 hours through the Vacas Valley. Everything I read said the heat and dryness should be the biggest stress, I focused on this but I would come to find the heat and dryness was not such a big deal, there would be other trials. On this our last night it was clear that we all had jelled to a good starting position. Now we were ready to spend 21 days together. It was time to sleep because the expedition started with the next wake-up.
Seven AM came early, and on this morning, I had arisen first thing with the goal of putting some stuff in my duffle bag that would be carried to Basecamp, versus all of the intermediate camps, by the mules. When I got to the room I searched about for my bag and I found it, the problem was that it was not tagged so it would most likely never reach me. I was able to fix that easily by talking to some people, I weighed and tagged my bag and then I weighed myself, 98KG. It was time to begin the journey.
As always, on first days, I was not very hungry at breakfast and I felt a bit sick in the stomach. It is amazing how your thoughts can travel so quickly between; friends, family, professional and of course loved ones that have passed away. For me, I always think of the forever present thought – How did I get here? It was now game time, no time to think of the celebrating team from last night. You simply switch to focusing on your expedition team members because as of now they will be the ones that get you through, Now, it was time to sit in the warehouse and wait.