200 Push-up Challenge

About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to be able to do more unbroken push-ups. I tried two workout plans to advance my max.

First, I did 20 every hour for about 8 hours of the day. I did that for a few weeks and found that it was too distracting from my work and I made little gains.

I then tried doing my max, unbroken push-ups once in the morning, and again in the evening. Using this method, I was able to advance my max by 20 whole push-ups over the period of about a month.

I was doing this max push-up routine twice a day, and found myself stuck at about 50 push-ups. I wanted to make more gains without taking too much more time out of my day. That is when I stumbled onto this 200 push-up challenge. I knew I was capable of doing 200 push-ups, as I had previously done 200 push-ups in an evening, but that was nothing in comparison.

Here is how the challenge works. You do your max, unbroken push-ups, and then pump out what ever is left to complete the 200 push-ups. Then you do this for 30 days strait, without rest days. You record the time taken to complete them, and the max that you did in the beginning.

A little over a month ago, I started the challenge. I did my max unbroken push-ups to start which was only 45. About 100 in, I was down to reps of 1 before taking a break, and it was taking far too long for my liking. I took a couple hours break and came back to it. After two days, I stopped breaking my 200 up, and did them all in one go (making the times for the first two days not fully honest compared to the others). Here is a graph of my results:

As you can see, in the beginning my max takes a sharp drop as my time goes up. The first week was brutal and all I had was sore muscles with little apparent gains. Slowly but surely, my times dropped, and when I felt comfortable, I tried to crank out 5 more at the start (that way I wasn’t wasting a bunch of time trying to get just 1 more).

After doing this for 20 days, I was bored of doing so much of the same motion. I mixed it up by doing push-up variations every other day. Out of my 200, I did 20 inclined push-ups, 20 declined push-ups, and 20 diamond push-ups.

At the end of the challenge, I was at 55 for my max. This was good, but I knew that after a couple rest days, I could do better. Three days later, I got to it to see what new personal record I could set. I got to fifty quite quickly and then not to long later, I was at 70. It was a struggle on those last few, and although I might have been able to do a few more, I was happy with that even 70.

Many people have discussed the importance of rest days to make gains, and although I am happy with the gains I made during this challenge, I am quite interested in what the results would be with rest days.

LMMS Custom Synth Presets

Have you ever wondered how to create your own synthesizer presets in LMMS? It is really quite easy, although it can be a challenge to make good, usable sounds. The nice thing about LMMS is that there is a ton of presets to choose from, and sometimes just altering one dial can change the entire feel.

To save a preset, just press the save button on the synthesizer and the preset will show up in your My Presets tab.

I have spent some time experimenting with different sounds on LMMS and it was really fun to see how all the synthesizers sounded. For example, the FreeBoy synth that comes with LMMS, often creates sounds that you would hear in a GameBoy game. I created this wipe out static sound that I have used in a couple songs now. If you want to try using it, just extract it into your presets folder for LMMS.

I created a couple decent sounding LMMS presets, but couldn’t figure out how to use them. A few trial projects later and I ended up tweaking a few presets to blend better with the others. I used a bunch of them in my new song, Into Orbit, and I am really happy with the result. Here is the preset I used in the arpeggio and it sounds great!

Fixing A String Trimmer

I got my first string trimmer a couple of years ago, but immediately ran into trouble the next summer because I didn’t know how to winterize my gas powered tools. In fact, I just left it outside under the deck, and after a cold winter, as anyone who knows anything about engines would know, it didn’t start. I got some help from a friend, and he thought it was a problem with bad gas, which is a common problem with leaving gas in extreme weather.

The first thing we tested was the spark plug. I actually broke it when pulling it out, so there was no question about whether or not it needed replacing. I bought a new one, and still it wasn’t working. At this point we should have tested again for spark, but we didn’t think that gas was getting in there. This is where I learned a little trick to get small engines started. We took an eyedropper full of gas and squirted it into the cylinder beneath the spark-plug, carefully re-threaded the spark-plug (so as to not break it), and gave it a few pulls. Now, although this didn’t work in this case due to other problems that I still need to explain, this trick has come in handy in other circumstances.

So, what was the problem? Well, I set about testing for a spark by touching the metal of the spark-plug to metal on the engine (while the spark plug was still attached to the cable coming from the ignition coil), and pulling the starting cable. In my case there was no spark, but you should see a blue spark jumping across the two contacts of the spark-plug. Of course, yours could be dirty, but mine was brand new. Here is a YouTube video explaining how you can do this. Do take caution, because the spark produced could lead to death, so don’t be touching the metal, and keep it away from gas while testing it!

stringtrimmer

I also set about testing the kill switch just in case it was constantly on. I tested it by simply unplugging it and then trying to start the string trimmer again. This also didn’t produce the intended results. In my mind, there could only be one more reason there was no spark and that was the ignition coil. I looked it up online how to test it with a multi meter, and sure enough it was broken. Ignition coils can be expensive, but I found a replacement for a reasonable price. After some clean up, and installing the new ignition coil, it now runs great.

I guess I learned my lesson about winterizing my gas tools, but that shouldn’t break the ignition coil right? Well, there are two things that greatly contribute to ignition coil breakdown. One is excessive shaking, but my string trimmer runs really nice. The other thing is too much heat. Now, that summer, before it broke, I ran it like a horse, always at full power. (It was my first time using one.) I actually had black smoke come out of the muffler on several occasions (I think that the black was from burning oil). Anyways, I think that the ignition coil was broken before I stored it away for the winter. My improper storage made it harder to identify the problem, but I took some precautions to reduce the chance of it failing again. First, I turned down the idle speed (as it was pretty high). Second, I put some plastic washers between the ignition coil and the engine housing to reduce the amount of heat that it can absorb at once. And finally, I also oiled the crankshaft with some 2-cycle oil to reduce the head produced. Of course, the easiest way to prevent an overheat is to just run it slower, which I have been doing, but when I need it, it still has great power. Anyways, learn from my mistakes, and if you have a similar problem, maybe this will help you identify it.

Low Quality Sounds Good?

As audio equipment has changed over the years, so has the ability to produce higher quality sounds. When I say higher quality, I mean less background noise (white noise), or just more realistic, or normal sounding audio. I don’t know if you’ve ever used a cheap microphone, but often they tend to make your voice fuzzy, muted, and there is a lot of extra, often unwanted noise. This Lo-Fi (low fidelity or low quality audio) sound, just like with old TV shows, video games, or T-shirts has become retro. It has become a recognizable sound that is used all over in the music world, and there are whole genres built around Lo-Fi music. Another example of lower quality sounds being used is rock with it’s distorted (extreme audio clipping) guitars. Here are two ways to incorporate lower quality sounds to actually enhance a song and not detract from it if done right.

The first is, as I mentioned, distortion on a guitar. Probably everyone who listens to music has heard a distorted guitar at some point, and equates that sound as what a normal guitar sounds like not realizing it’s an audio effect. Here is a song that I made with distorted guitar in it: On the Horizon (from my Neon Mist album). One thing to keep in mind is that it is easy to over do the distortion and drown everything else out which might not always be what you’re going for.

Another low fidelity effect is a Vinyl emulator. It just adds the crackle and pop of a vinyl record as nice background sounds. A song I made with this Lo-Fi sound is: H2O (from my Chill Zone album).

Delay Changes Atmosphere?

Now I’m sure you’re probably wondering what the difference is between echo and delay, but trust me there is a difference. Echo forms a train of delayed sounds, whereas delay gives you complete control over how much delay, and unless you use different channels it will only delays once. It really gives you a more hands on control of what happens to the sound, and there are some cool things you can do with it. Here is a dry demo that I will change later to show the effects of delay.

Dry Delay Demo Track

Here is a fun little trick using delay to change the stereo feeling of a sound. I just set one channel to have slightly higher delay than the other, and came out with this closet feeling.

Muffled Delay Demo Track

The reason why it works is because in given natural environments sound bounces back from different places, some further away, causing the audio to be more delayed. This, in a way, emulates that natural effect, and it changes the atmosphere of the sound.

Here I used a different delay effect and did the same thing with different levels of delay and came out with this tin can feeling.

Tin Can Delay Demo Track

Just from messing with differing levels of delay I found it changed the feeling of the environment many different ways, which makes sense, because different rooms and landscapes have their own unique sound delays off of different objects reflecting the audio. The delay effect is certainly one of the more versatile effects when it comes to creating an environment.