All Change Must Start From Within

What is your “why?”

What do you want from life? How will losing weight, finishing the triathlon, going on that hike, or simply having more energy make your life better? Establishing your why is essential to forming new, healthy habits. All change must start from within. The mind is extremely powerful and will win most internal arguments (see what I did there).

Where does your motivation come from? Really own this answer. It will help keep you on the path.

Think small. Look at your priorities and define short-term realistic goals. The change will be incremental, so start with one habit, work on it day by day until you own it. Move on only when ready.

Accountability and Engagement

Accountability.

4:15 AM. Alarm sounds off. Doesn’t matter as I’ve been looking at the clock since 3:00 AM. Night of no sleep due to lack of A/C, summer heat, and humidity over 90%.

Options.

  1. Lay in bed and try to sleep a couple more hours. Reasoning that I can make up my workout in the afternoon, or another day. It’s hot, humid, miserable, and won’t be a good workout anyway.
  2. Get up. Drink some coffee. Meet my training partner at the park for the standard hill workout. Give it all that I can and hang on until it’s over. Win the morning. Sleep can come again later.

I chose option 2.

The accountability of having someone waiting for me at the park, expecting me to be there to suffer alongside him was paramount to me showing up.

Engagement.

Workouts in tough conditions are not going to give you the positive feedback you desire. It will be tough from the get go and you will suffer more than usual. That said, the act of engaging with the assignment and seeing it through to completion will make you stronger. It’s the tough situations you get through that mean the most.

When faced with that first choice of the day. Choose to win. Hold yourself accountable and engage!

Pursuing Peak Performance

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Points of failure in all instances define the limits of systemic function. Right Practice must seek to extend those limits through the pursuit of failure… Outside the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of success. Within the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of failure.

Michael Livingston, “Mental Discipline

When we train, we must seek to fatigue the working muscle or energy system. Doing the plank, or forward-leaning-rest, focus intently on the position you are trying to hold, tight hips, legs, locked out arms, as well as tension throughout. If a break down occurs, stop. There is no honor in spastic extended effort. In your next attempt at extending your time in plank position use your previous best as your bench mark. The same goes for pushups, pullups, squats, or other bodyweight exercises. Crush the muscle group you are training, keeping body tension throughout. True failure is controlled. It still “looks” smooth and easy. Following this protocol helps with injury prevention and overtraining.

In my running/endurance training I love :30/:30 intervals. 30 seconds of very hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy recovery. We must hit these hard, and then back off completely to get ready for the next. The body is adapting and with adequate rest between these intense sessions our fitness builds and expands. New realities, new limits, personal bests, course records, all become possibilities with focused training and recovery.

Respect your efforts and engage in positive recovery practices, daily. The younger crowd seems to frown on stretching, until they become injured. Start your daily stretching practice sooner rather than later. With heightened levels of exertion comes increased strain on the major movers, i.e. hamstrings, groin, and quads in running. Seek to lengthen these muscles on a daily basis via a few simple exercises:

  • Instep-Stretch
  • Pigeon
  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Wide Founder (foundation training)
  • Wide Founder into Windmill (foundation training)
  • Narrow Stance Decompression Breathing (foundation training)

Work + Rest/Recovery = Training

 

 

Mindset: Practice in Pursuit of Excellence

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“Rote, mindless repetition is not practice… it is purpose that focuses the practice, and it is the intensity and specificity of that focus that governs the efficacy of the practice.”

Michael Livingstone

“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms … this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

Albert Einstein

In my personal training practice I teach from the point that the body is a function of the mind. To make physical changes the mind must be able to manifest a vision for what leads to those changes. To simply want the endpoint, or reach the summit is a fleeting desire. Preparing to climb the mountain may lead to a successful summit, but we must start the process of preparation and mental transformation.

Learn to think of change or transformation not from your current condition, but from that of the teacher, coach, or prominent figure that has given you a image of success. What often stands in the way is this feeling of immense physical distance between the present and the future. The body is far from where it needs to be to stand on the summit and without a strong, patient, willing mind, we will never touch our physical potential.

Preparing for transformation will not leave you with a culminating completion. The path becomes the way. The journey of preparation, undertaking of challenges, completion or failure in competition can and may fill your lifetime. True devotion to the process will lead to a new mind and body, one that you can’t envision now, nor will you know where it leads you.

Understand that by seeking knowledge through purposeful practice you may never reach the summit and that will be okay. Success becomes a commitment to the self. You will never arrive or graduate to a state of completion. Know this and pursue your personal excellence anyway. Be comfortable in this knowledge and realize that possessing this level of awareness is not common in Western culture. We are taught from a young age to focus on completion and to endure the valley’s in life to, hopefully, experience its peaks: graduation, marriage, children, promotion, retirement, relaxation, and finally heaven.

“Reason enslaves all whose minds are not strong enough to master her.”

George Bernard Shaw

“The Way is To Train.”

Miyamoto Musashi

Honing the Edge

Real regrets only come from not doing your best. All else is out of your control. You’re measured by results only. Trade excuses and “trying” for results, and expect half-hearted results from half-hearted efforts. Do more than is expected of you. Life’s easy when you live it the hard way… and hard if you try to live it the easy way.

-Joe Polish

The body is like a blade on a fisherman’s knife, or woodsman’s axe. If you’ve neglected it, abused it in any number of ways it shows. Intended effort is met by embarrassing inefficiency. Like the rusted, dull, and abused knife, which when needed is incapable. Our bodies are no different.

Like the axe used diligently by the woodsman, or the filet knife used repeatedly by the fisherman, it takes care, respect, and reliance on that tool to efficiently complete the task. As Abraham Lincoln exclaimed, “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This time honored approach, which when read or heard is recognized as the wise way to proceed is the neglected answer.

Physical training is the beginning of enlightenment. Approach the matter as an adult, void of all excuses. If a willingness to express unhappiness or disappointment in current physical condition and appearance is communicated, then have the maturity to rectify immature decisions.

In my daily life I’m in the position to gauge effort levels. How much of one’s self is given to the stated goal, direction, or objective? Some display a fevered intensity, while others give what they give and justify why that is acceptable. In the end, I can’t make anyone want it. I can’t make dreams come true. Motivation is clear, cut, and dry… either you have it, or you don’t. Behavior is learned. Self-limiting decisions, repeated over many years, yield a complacency that no quote, or motivation video can rectify.

As trainees we learn, over time, to repeat the training sessions that continue to yield results, and discard those that don’t. Being OK with repetition, and honest in effort and self-assessment is the way to progress.

Keep your blade sharp. Keep the edge honed and ready. Make it glisten with shine and beauty. Honor the tool that completes the task. Life is worth living, and living well. Be the best representation of yourself, always, for these behaviors you will never regret.

Trim The Fat

TRIM THE FAT

Change is good. Change is necessary. Change is often overdue.

Most of you know what I’m talking about here. We are a part of the information age. Flooded, from all angles with studies, before and after photos, proclamations, testimonials, money back guarantees, etc. etc. It’s relentless and it’s also tempting to read, to listen, or to watch, and ultimately, to buy. The skilled and heavily backed (financially) marketers have the power to pray on your needs and wants, with sole interest in whether you buy or not. Once you buy, or even click, they have you. Your weakness has been exposed and now they will surgically work on that vulnerability… that perceived interest, until you either crack and buy more, or clear your cache, and remove and block the marketer from harassment of information.

It’s time to go back to the basics. Old-fashioned work is done by necessity to finish or accomplish a day. I’m talking about real work, chopping wood, shoveling snow, or bailing hay… something along those lines. When you do real work you don’t worry about reps or time. The physicality is measured more by feel than it is quantified by sets, reps, or weight. You get in a groove and do work. You complete what is to be done that day. You rest and fuel as needed to make sure the body is able. As your muscles fatigue you change your grip or motion to keep working at the task.

If you are a beginner, or new to the work, it may be these tasks:

  1. In the Gym: squats, pull-ups, push-ups
  2. At the job site: pushing wheel-barrel, hauling shingles, swinging axe

As a new guy, green horn, novice, whatever, you will need more rest. The simple movements and tasks will exhaust you. With vigor and excitement you will approach what is to be done. Soon you will confront the reality of the difficulty. It is here you must accept your current condition and lack of skill and proficiency. Do the work.

If you have a foundation or experience with this type of work you will use that familiarity to work by feel. If something is hard or atypically difficult you will take note and adjust expectation for that session, or that day of work. You will not quit, but will instead work to your capacity. The work will get done. The fashion may not be impressive, but completion of job is the only requirement. Finish what you start.

A change of mindset and approach is essential to longevity in any activity. When you start something new, or take it up again after years of dormancy, you are a new guy. Act like a new guy. It’s basic knowledge. You’ve been through it before in other eras and areas of your life so why should this be different?

Train alone or with a seasoned, patient coach. Make a gym in your home. A functional gym with a pull-up bar, a couple kettle bells, couple dumbbells, some rings or other suspension training system will go a long way. Dedicate some space and step into that environment daily. Work on pushing, pulling, and squatting… move well. Trim the fat.

Seek knowledge from people you respect. The wise will not jump on fads or short cuts, because that is not how they cut their teeth. Fitness is defined by the training objective. An “image” is obtained by training for and gaining mastery in said objective. Think, a swimmers broad shoulders, a rock climbers chiseled back and biceps tied to a lean sculpted physique, a cyclists impressive quads and calves, a wrestlers powerful and explosive hips, and battle ready body/demeanor. Years and years of repetition, progressing through stages of development: novice, intermediate, advanced, and professional, have led to the “look” trainees are after.

Do the work. Do the time. Trim the fat (distraction, impatience, non-essentials…).

Talk – Action = Zero

Got it?

 

 

Commit. Learn. Resolve.

 

Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second. Give your dreams all you’ve got and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.

-William James

There is a common theory in the fitness industry that most programs will work for 6-weeks, few will provide continuous results, and none will work through merely “trying it”.

Be discerning and educate yourself on the path you decide to take.

What we can learn from the quote above and this statement is that it is through commitment, learning and resolve that we change. Life is a constant personal competition. If we seek to give our best on a daily basis great progress will follow. The key is to keep the competition personal. Avoid judging your progress, work, and accomplishments based on what others are doing. This will help to avoid burnout and keep us on a path of continuous improvement.

In the context of fitness, whether you win or lose is not based on where you placed in the race or competition, but solely on if you gave your best. We have to be willing to risk failure, to open our mind to new possibilities. Let the competition, test, or deadline bring out your best. You may win, you may blow up, but if you truly give your best, you will have learned something.

Commit to what you start. Continue to learn and own what you are doing. Use this information and self-analysis to strengthen your resolve.