What I’m Reading

January 12, 2014

2014

January

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder

“Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls antifragile are things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.

What’s more, the antifragile is immune to prediction errors and protected from adverse events. Why is the city-state better than the nation-state, why is debt bad for you, and why is what we call “efficient” is not efficient at all? Why should you write your resignation letter before starting on the job? How did the sinking of the Titanic save lives?

Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world. Erudite, witty, and iconoclastic, Taleb’s message is revolutionary: the antifragile, and only the antifragile, will make it.”

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

How to focus on doing your best work every day.

2013

December

Bear Grylls – A Survival Guide for Life

Decided to read this on a whim after watching a programme with Bear in the Dolomites with Stephen Fry. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time and changed my view on the guy.

Legacy – James Kerr

Champions do extra. They sweep the sheds. They follow the spearhead. They keep a blue head. They are good ancestors.

In Legacy, best-selling author James Kerr goes deep into the heart of the world’s most successful sporting team, the legendary All Blacks of New Zealand, to reveal 15 powerful and practical lessons for leadership and business.

Legacy is a unique, inspiring handbook for leaders in all fields, and asks: What are the secrets of success – sustained success? How do you achieve world-class standards, day after day, week after week, year after year? How do you handle pressure? How do you train to win at the highest level? What do you leave behind you after you’re gone?

What will be your legacy?

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Have a look at this clip of Barcelona playing out from the back against Getafe this afternoon.

Link

Unfortunately the initial attack does not finish with a goal but it’s incredibly intelligent passage of play, extremely instinctive and almost basketball-like in the speed that the ball changes hands. Despite playing short from the goalkeeper and facing a wall of blue opponents, the play is not rushed and it ‘feels’ secure.

The speed on the ball for each pass is perfect, the rhythm a natural result of the rondo-style practices used throughout Spanish football.

Link

‘Only a master, an outstanding player, can play simply’ – Horst Wein

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I recently attended the fantastic Inspire Football Event in Bristol.

It was a packed day, full of fascinating presentations. One talk from Nick Levett, The FA’s National Development Manager for Youth Football stood out and has inspired me to put my own thoughts on youth football to paper, so to speak. This post outlines my proposed ‘Young Footballer’s Bill of Rights’ inspired by Jeff Atwood, a great from the programming world and the author of The Programmer’s Bill of Rights.

The Young Footballer's Bill of Rights

  1. Every young footballer has the right to enjoy their football, whether it be training, match days or more casual play

    Football is a fun game and young footballers deserve the opportunity to figure that out for themselves.

  2. Every young footballer has the right to play football in a safe, secure environment.

    An obvious one but easily forgotten. Ensure your sessions are safe and suitable for the players taking part.

  3. Every young footballer has the right to be treated respectfully by teammates, coaches and parents.

    It is easy to forget that young footballers are still learning the game. As such, they deserve to be treated with dignity and allowed to make the mistakes required to learn at their own pace.

  4. Every young footballer has the right to be given the opportunity to learn all aspects of the game, without being fixed to a single role or position.

    There are many horror stories of grassroots clubs advertising for ‘experienced strikers’ for Under 10s teams. Young footballers deserve to learn all aspects of the game.

  5. Every young footballer has the right to be a child and be treated as such.

    How many young footballers still think about the game half an hour after it has finished? How many parents insist of raking over the game and any mistakes that occurred? It’s their game!

  6. Every young footballer has the right to learn the game in conditions that suit their size and inexperience whether this be appropriate sized equipment, pitches or number of players on the field.

    Mini-soccer has made great strides in this country for the last decade. Let’s keep it going.

  7. Every young footballer has the right to take part in coaching sessions planned and delivered by coaches who have considered the session and adapted it to suit the player.

    Treat the session with respect. Plan a session that suits the players and meets their needs.

  8. Every young footballer has the right to learn the game by making their own decisions.

    Don’t be a ‘Playstation coach‘. How will the players make decisions when you’re not there?

  9. Every young footballer has the right to play the game with players of similar ability. Better players should be challenged and struggling players have the right to be given the opportunity to catch up.

    It is easy for players to be overlooked, especially the weaker ones. Different people develop at different speeds. Make sure the game meets their needs.

  10. Every young footballer has the right to play the game for the love of the game, without needing to win for the sake of winning.

    In my opinion, results are not important until players reach at least fourteen years old. Even then, grassroots football is more about friendship and camaraderie rather than doing whatever it takes to win.

What do you think? Is there anything you’d add?

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Join the Resistance - A Hacker's Guide to Health & Fitness

“This is everything we asked for but not what we wanted.”

– Any random user

Let’s get one thing out of the way early.

Programming is an intensive way of life.

  • We work long hours on tasks that require absolute concentration.
  • We’re constantly searching for solutions to our issues.
  • We pour over thousands of lines of code, hunting bugs, code smells and any other issue that might cause even the slightest bottleneck in our beautifully crafted masterpiece.

But the one factor we ignore is the most important cog in the entire process…

Ourselves.

The Resistance

How often have you ploughed on long into the night, forgetting to eat, drink or even use the bathroom?

How often have you skipped dinner, choosing instead to grab a coke and something from the vending machine, hero-coding yourself to oblivion?

It’s addictive, isn’t it?

It’s also the number one way to get soft in the middle, and no one wants that.

None of us is as dumb as all of us!

The other day as I was finishing up my work, it hit me!

I want to help 100 of my fellow programmers lose weight, gain strength and create a life of awesome.

Why?

Because we can!

“They did not know it was impossible, so they did it!”

– Mark Twain

Let’s start at the beginning.

We’ll nail our diets, conquer our health, demolish fitness and increment our strength.

Let’s create a movement that’s proud to call itself nerdy coders but also one that can live exciting, healthy, active lives.

Iterate your way to success

If we all aim to make small improvements, constantly investing in ourselves over time then we’ll soon make huge impacts – not only the quality of the code we produce but also in the way we live our lives!

We’re going to do it:

  • without spending hours doing boring cardio!
  • without resorting to minging, dull ‘low-fat’ meals!
  • without spending hundreds of pounds on a gym memberships, equipment and supplements!

In short, we’re going to do it our way!

It won’t be easy and we’ll need focus, but we can get there.

Just keep your eyes on the prize. You’ll be more alert and you’ll feel great!

The Fitness Hacker

My aim with this site is to provide guidance, help and support for every single programmer out there.

I’m not an expert (not even close!), but I’ve felt the massive effect smart eating and regular activity has had on my life and I want others to benefit from it too.

Common Goals

First up, I think we all have some common goals:

1) We want it to be as efficient as possible

Hitting deadlines, learning about the next big technology AND getting in sufficient Xbox365 time is difficult enough without having to bother with exercise, right?

How many times has someone told you that the only way to lose weight is to spend hours punishing yourself on the treadmill?

Let’s clear one thing up early: This is NONSENSE!

Cardio is always the first form of exercise people try when they want to lose weight.

You only need to look out of your window and compare the amount of joggers you see in January with the ones still pounding the streets in March.

It’s not fun. It’s not effective. It won’t be a resolution that you stick to!

Few people have the time needed to get results from cardio.

Not only is it inefficient, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find it boring!

We’ll use workouts that will hit our entire body and be done in less than 20 minutes, three times a week.

In short, we’ll get more done in less time. Beautiful.

2) We don’t want to spend lots of money

While we’re at it, let’s destroy another fitness myth.

  • You don’t need an expensive gym membership to make the fitness gains that you want.

Let’s use short, total-body workouts that can be done in your own home (or even the office) without investing in excessive, expensive gym equipment.

Exercising using your own bodyweight will not only burn calories, it’ll prepare your body for more exercises as your strength develops. And best of all, it’s free!

Done right, it’ll also help you avoid the joint wear and tear that often comes with beginners starting out with cardio.

At most you’ll need one or two pieces of inexpensive equipment (think a pull-up bar and some dumbbells).

What you don’t need to do is spend 25 minutes driving to a gym to spend 90 minutes using every machine in there.

We’ll use old-fashioned, uncomplicated workouts that’ll include:

  • Push-ups
  • Planks
  • Squats
  • The simple pleasure of running flat-out as fast as you can

Why? Because they work!

You wouldn’t improve your code by throwing more lines at it, so why improve your lifestyle by doing excessive amounts of cardio?

We’ll focus on three, high-quality, time-saving bodyweight workouts each week.

You’ll be free to stay active on your off days, taking part in fun activities you might have given up or even take up something new with your new found fitness!

3) We need all the support we can find

Like no other profession, programmers have harnessed the power of the Internet to share knowledge, support and ideas.

Why should our approach to health & fitness be any different?

Everybody has goals, regardless of where they’re starting from.

Whether you’re fifteen stones over your target weight or your two stones under, the support and accountability you get from others is vital if you are going to achieve all that you want to achieve.

  • Get a friend or colleague to join you as your workout partner.
  • Convince somebody to join you in improving your diet.
  • Let me know your story! My own fitness battle needs all the support I can find!

It’s amazing at how many people are crying out for somebody to take the lead and get things underway.

Be that guy!

We’ve got work to do, gents! Who’s with me?

Related Post: Four Health Essentials for Programmers in 2011

I’ll be posting bi-weekly updates covering health & fitness from a programmer’s POV.

If you liked this post, I’d love for you to share it with others too.

You can also receive future updates by joining the Fitness Hack feed.

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Post image for A Beginner’s Guide to the Gym – All You Need to Know

When I first starting training I found the gym an intimidating and confusing place. Today, I honestly believe that training in gym using free weights and full body exercises such as the squat, press and deadlift has had a hugely beneficial impact on my life.

Training is one of my greatest passions and I’ve written this post in the hope of passing on some of that to you.

There are lots of things wrong with gyms today:

  • They’re packed full of useless machines that you don’t need!
  • Most of people there just do whichever exercise enters their head next!
  • The music is rubbish!

If you don’t have your wits about you’ll be heading for the comfort of the treadmill before you know it, dazed and confused.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

How to Get Started

Working out at home is great and I recommend it to anybody who’s just getting started. Home workouts are free, convenient and there’s no reason you cannot have a great workout using basic equipment and your own bodyweight.

Sooner or later though, whether you’re out of town or you’re just trying to mix things up – you’re going to want to try the gym – and your first time in the gym can be a pretty nerve-wrecking experience.

The first question to ask yourself is:

Why are you going to the gym?

  • Do you want to lose weight?
  • Do you want bigger muscles?
  • Do you want to look good naked?

Whatever the reason, you NEED a purpose.

For starters, it puts you way ahead of all the people who ‘go to the gym’ to sit on the bikes sending text messages before getting in the jacuzzi and heading home.

It’s great that you want to change your life for better. Making this decision is the hardest part. It’ll see you through the difficult times when you can’t decide whether to sit on the couch or drag yourself out for exercise.

Gym Equipment

Gyms are full of all sorts of fancy looking machines. The good news is you can ignore 99% of it. Treadmills, cycling machines, rowing machines and the like are OK but you really need to start mixing up your workouts by including free weight exercises.

Free Weights – This is a must. A decent gym will have a good set of dumbbells ranging up to 40kg each. If there are no dumbbells to be seen (or they only go up to 10kg, find another gym).

Squat Rack – Another must. Squatting is one of the most important movements. A squat rack will also allow for overhead presses, deadlifts and power cleans. Do not do curls in the squat rack.

A Pull up bar – Pull ups are vital. Find a bar and get accustomed with it.

Gym Fears – You have to start somewhere

Don’t worry. Everyone has gym fears when they’re just starting out. You don’t want to show yourself up. You’re afraid you’ll look like a clumsy weakling. You’re afraid of what everyone else will think…

That’s OK.

One thing you’ll quickly realise is that everyone else in the gym will either respect the fact you’re working hard to improve yourself or be too concerned with looking at themselves doing bicep curls in the mirror.

As I said, getting started is the hardest part. Stick with it and within a month you’ll be strutting around like you own the place.

All That You Need

A Plan of Attack

  • Take your time:
    When you enter the gym have a walk around and take it all in. If you’re feeling conscious, pretend you’re warming up by including a few stretches. Find some space and a mat. Make yourself at home. You don’t need to spend longer than about 45 minutes in the gym, including a warm up and stretches to cool down afterwards.
  • Warm Up:
    Always remember to warm up. Jumping Jacks are great as are push ups, the plank and bodyweight squats. Try and prepare for the workout you’re about to do.
  • Workout:
    If you want to lift weights, you’ll need a program to lift to. There are lots of guides out there for you to pick and follow such as one book I can highly recommend Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training. If you’re not ready for weights, concentrate on bodyweight exercises. Simplicity is the key. You can increase intensity over time.
  • A note on treadmills:
    I hate treadmills. I find them unnatural, uncomfortable and impractical for any sort of useful workout. If you want to run long distances obviously feel free but I find it so much more enjoyable to do it outside. At a push treadmills are useful for interval training but even then quick changes between speeds are awkward at best. If you have no other option then it’s better than nothing but seriously, a run along the local canal is more beneficial. At least you’re outside.

Equipment

There aren’t too many things you’ll need before you’re ready to hit the gym.

  • Clothing:
    A loose fitting t-shirt, loose-fitting shorts, socks and comfortable trainers. You’ll also need a towel – for showering and for mopping up any sweat you’ll leave on the machines.
  • Notepad & Pen:
    This is my favourite bit of kit. I love tracking my workouts. You can note down your routine and any notes for future workouts as well as the number of sets completed, weight lifted or running times. Seriously, do this. The motivation you’ll feel months down the line when you look back at your progress will blow your mind.

Mindset

  • Fear:
    Leave your fear in your locker. Don’t hold yourself back. You’re stepping up and taking control of your life. This is a great thing!
  • Focus:
    If you go to the gym without a plan, you’re setting yourself up for a frustrating waste of time. You can go with all the best intentions but if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself sticking to the machines and the boring treadmill.

Creating Your Plan

I recommend following the workouts outlined in the following mammoth book – The Men’s Health Gym Bible

This program includes enough workouts to get you through your first three years training!

It stood out to me because it keeps things simple and avoids a lot of the crap that is out there that only makes things more complicated.

Wrap-up

I know I made it seem that there are lots of people in gyms who don’t know what they’re doing – and that’s partly true. But it’s also good to know that you will find people who have spent their lives in gyms who are full of useful advice. Be open to it and take onboard all that you can, especially when it comes to form. Good form (performing exercises correctly) is important. It’s better to perform a set perfectly holding light weights than it is to perform a set at a higher weight badly. You’ll only do yourself damage.

To finish up, a quick note on gym etiquette. There’s a lot written about gym etiquette but the basics come down to this – respect other people’s personal space, only occupy work stations if you’re using it, work out quietly when possible, wipe up your sweat patches with a towel when you’re done and always put your weights back on the rack when you’ve finished. That’s all there is to it.

If you have any questions, please get in touch and I’ll do my best to answer them. You can contact me either through the comments below or by emailing me.

Have a great workout!

This site is intended to provide health & fitness advice for web developers, designers, programmers, software developers and any other regular computer users. You can subscribe to Fitness Hack updates using RSS or email. You can also follow my own mission to lose fat, get strong and run fast on Twitter.

Important Posts:

Photo by The Killer Biscuit.

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Life’s Too Short to Play it Safe

October 12, 2012
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I’ve got to be honest with you… The thought of failing to make the most of the limited time I have scares the hell out of me! There have been times too when the determination to do my best became all-consuming – paralysing me into inaction. Here’s a quick example: I had my first driving [...]

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Medical Advice & Coaching Advice – A Discussion

May 5, 2012

This is a post that I found really interesting… Tony Gentilcore and Joe Lightfoot discuss the differences between medical advice and coaching advice. So do doctors know about lifestyle advice? The short answer is no. You’d be mortified if I told you how much education and training I’ve had regarding exercise and nutrition. If I [...]

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The Dragon Flag with Al Kavadlo

May 4, 2012
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It’s a bank holiday weekend in the UK this weekend so it’s the perfect time to get some training in. I’m currently following Dan John’s Mass Made Simple program and training day four begins tomorrow morning. It’s a great program and I’m excited to see the results in a few weeks time. I’ll share them [...]

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Don’t Think Outside The Box (Until You’re Ready)

May 3, 2012

When you’re a beginner trying to lose weight and build strength and speed, there is always a temptation to move onto the next latest and greatest program or workout. The grass always seems to be greener on the other side. In reality, there are few reasons to modify your program and Ben Bruno outlines this [...]

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Sleep Has Become Expendable

May 2, 2012

There’s a great post on Livestrong today. Lots of things stand out but Martin Rooney‘s thoughts on sleep probably apply to 99.9% of us! As your day becomes “busier” with each passing year, sleep has become expendable. In fact, I would be bold enough to say that the human species is the only one on [...]

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Good Reads For The Week: 27/02/2012

February 26, 2012

I’ve got another great list of reads for you to help finish off February. Let’s get started. Fitness A Newbies Guide To Nerd Fitness by Steve Kamb Nerd Fitness is one of my favourite sites on the net. Seeing the growth Steve has achieved has been incredible and it’s completely deserved because he continues to [...]

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Good Reads For The Week: 20/02/2012

February 19, 2012

I have some more interesting posts for you this week, covering fitness, development and a few other things. Fitness Ten Tips To Help You Live A Longer, Healthier Life by Charles Poliquin Lists like these are pretty easy to digest and take good things from. There’s nothing groundbreaking to take from it but it’s good, [...]

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Good Reads For The Week: 12/02/2012

February 12, 2012

I have a great list of articles for you this weekend and I’ve altered the layout a little bit too so it’ll hopefully be a little easier to follow. I was pleased that my Jeff Atwood post picked up some interest this week and found its way onto the front page of Dzone. It’s encouraging [...]

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All Good Devs Make Things Happen

February 11, 2012
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After publishing last Friday night’s post, I woke up to rain leaking in through the window. Instant motivation killer! I dodged the drizzle to get to the gym where I did squats, pull ups, push ups and finished with a interval training workout on the treadmill. Then I called in to see my grandpa. You [...]

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Never Let Go by Dan John

February 9, 2012
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I don’t recommend many books to you through this site but this is one of my all time favourites. If you’re interesting in training in anyway, then this is one book you won’t regret purchasing. I bought the Kindle version of Dan John’s ‘Never Let Go’ last summer and despite ploughing through it in a [...]

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Thanks, Jeff

February 7, 2012

I know, I know. Another non-fitness post. This time though, I’m OK with it. I want to pay my own little tribute to one of the inspirations behind this site. In case you missed it, Jeff Atwood today announced that he will no longer be a part of Stack Exchange. Through his blog at Coding [...]

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Good Reads For The Week: 05/02/2012

February 5, 2012

It’s that time again. Seven days have passed since my last weekly recap of Good Reads and to kick off February I have some interesting links to share with you. I’ll kick off today’s post, as usual, with a round up of great web development posts and I’ll follow it up with interesting fitness posts [...]

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Good Reads For The Week: 29/01/2012

January 29, 2012

Another week is over, January is almost done and I have another link dump filled with some of the things I’ve been reading over the past seven days. Web Development Get involved in Open Source todayScott Hanselman is one of the most well-known contributors to ideas surrounding ASP.NET, Microsoft and development in general. Here he [...]

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Good Reads For The Week: 21/01/2012

January 22, 2012

I hope everyone had a great week. I did and I’ll hopefully tell you more about that soon. For now, I’d like to share some great reads I came across this past seven days. There’ll be some fitness posts in there but there’ll also be Hacker News style articles and basically anything else I’ve come [...]

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Stick With The Program

December 5, 2011

Find a way to get focused. Somehow, some way. Most people have zero focus and thus zero control of their lives. Don’t be another multitasking, confused, out of control, getting nowhere fast member of society. We have more than enough of those. Jason Ferruggia It’s funny how it’s always children that are tarred with the [...]

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How Many More Injuries Have I Got?

November 27, 2011

So updates have been non-existent. What’s my excuse? There isn’t one that’s good enough! Training had been going well. In October, I began following Jason Ferruggia’s Minimalist Training program. It’s a great program. It cuts away a lot of the stuff that’s non-essential and allows beginners like me to focus on lifting without overcomplicating things. [...]

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The Food I Eat… (and Why I Eat It)

July 22, 2011

*knock, knock* Is this thing on? I want to get back to writing on this ‘ere site by covering the food I eat and the reasons I eat it. If you’re interested, awesome, if not, that’s OK too. There’s a tl; dr version below if you’re short of time. Now I know talking about the [...]

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In Life, Like Software, There Are No Silver Bullets

April 11, 2011
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In folklore, the silver bullet is supposed to be the only kind of bullet for firearms that is effective against a Werewolf, witch, or some monsters. – Wikipedia What was the “Next Big Thing” when you were starting out? Was it one of the following technologies? Object-Oriented Programming UML Design Patterns Agile Development TDD Each [...]

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How to Run Fast

February 19, 2011

I don’t want to run marathons. Even thinking about 10km makes me ill. Treadmills bore me to tears. I just want to run fast. I don’t want to ‘pace myself’. I’m want to be Christie, Bolt, Lewis and Johnson; all rolled into one. I want to relax on the start line, force back the nerves [...]

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Can Programmers Learn From Cavemen?

January 24, 2011
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You know David Attenborough, right? He’s the friendly old guy who does voiceover for the nature docs shown on the BBC and Discovery Network every year. Have you ever considered what he’d say if he had to voiceover a day in your life? Here’s my effort, taken from my Uni days: “Our subject is male, [...]

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