The Perfect Trap

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
― Anne Lamott

A common phrase uttered in the world of sport is: practice makes perfect… or, better yet, perfect practice makes perfect. In relation to competition, this may be the very thing that is holding many of you back from peak performance.

Competition in sport has a way of exposing your weaknesses. Maybe you train to your strengths, or obsessively compare one workout to the last, judging your performance in the present moment. These tendencies, over time, become hindrances to progress. You improve by encountering failure, embracing the unknown and using experience to move your forward. This is the antithesis of perfection.

In the above quote, Ms. Lamott is speaking of writing, and obsessing over perfection. How will this look? How will this be perceived? How does this make me feel? Is it (am I) ready? Its application is directly relevant to sports and competition. In endurance sports, you are your main rival. The other competitors are their own rivals on race day. It is your body of work that is represented when the gun goes off. All dreams of perfection must be released and the importance of acting and reacting must be prioritized.

So, how do you avoid the perfect trap? Here are a few examples:

  1. Ditch the watch: run by feel and emotion. Biofeedback is fun to track, but it can hinder the mind if the numbers aren’t where they “should” be.
  2. Train with a group: training partners, friends, and teams can provide the necessary stimulus to lift you into a new training experience. *Communicate with the group members and understand the goals of the workout before beginning.
  3. Go off road: nature is calling. Hitting the trails is a great way to add new and dynamic stimulus to your training. The mind works harder to engage with the environment. The body reacts to sudden terrain changes. Pace and speed go out the window when the terrain dictates movement. Also, proprioception, coordination, mobility, and strength are enhanced by training off road.
  4. Remind yourself that your finishing time matters to no one else. Nobody cares, but you. Nobody remembers, but you. Release the social pressure of achievement and be happy to be able to participate.

As the great Stoic Marcus Aurelius wrote:

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”

We take on these difficult challenges, because they bring out the best in us, on that given day. Be happy in the moment and embrace the beauty that competition and sport bring to life.

Onward and Upward!

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Sustainable Approaches To Health and Fitness

The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body. Exercise and athletics are growth. -George Sheehan

How to get the most results / success / gains / change, from the least amount of training? We all want answers to this question. As a fitness professional, having a template that conforms and applies to all individuals would be a dream. Countless hours have been spent trying to create such a product, or system to no avail. Yet, the consumer still desires, and in many cases expects to be offered such products (shake weight, 8-minute abs, 10 minute trainer, perfect pushup, etc…). Substantial physical change requires a lifestyle intervention, drastic measures, and extreme discipline. What are you willing to invest?

  1. Seek improvement and enhancement. Is this visual? Probably not so much. Can you feel it and describe it? Definitely. Does it make you happy? Hopefully. This can be an exercise, a series of exercises, an activity, a sport, or a competitive challenge. Enjoyment. Engagement. Improvement.
  2. Work with a coach, trainer, or specialist to get feedback. This is time well spent. Confidence builder. Very helpful in the day to day, week to week process.
  3. Career enhancement. We spend most of our time working on and in our careers. A huge portion of our life’s satisfaction comes from our chosen careers. Most of us are professional workers, not athletes. What exercises, workouts, and activities can help correct physical imbalances obtained from our jobs? How can they enhance my ability to perform at work? Can being more physically fit help me advance my ___ career? These are the questions to ask yourself, repeatedly.
  4. Know the Impact of Your Choices. If you are a top physician, researcher, educator, or attorney, etc. deciding to invest 15 hours each week into training for a triathlon most likely will have a negative impact on other areas of your life, in which you are already successful. Your optimal fitness may be obtained with as little as 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 5 days per week, and 15 minutes of strength training 3 days per week. Simple, right? Knowing the best, most practical approach to your lifestyle demands is key.
  5. For many of us the endurance activities are all we will ever need. Jogging, cycling, walking, hiking, playing… loving and committing to every moment of it.

The time benefit equation is delicate and constantly evolving. Understand yours, be flexible and forgiving, and optimize your fitness practice to give your life the most benefit.

Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse. Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing. We are our bodies, our bodies are us. Satisfaction is such a minor thing. Joy is what we want. -George Sheehan

Friendships and Coaching

The right prescription, assignment, plan, outline, etc. does us no good without the inner confidence that we are capable of improvement, completion, and success.

Friendships develop over time. Often taking months before a level of trust and willingness to care is manifested. This trial period of sharing experiences, exposing weaknesses and displaying strengths is a delicate dance requiring equal participation of both parties. One can not want it more than the other.

Establishing this relationship fosters the potential for new heights. You must give to get. We cannot create more time. A reprioritization must occur and remain to keep the potential a possibility. Commitment.

You must know your “why” in creating change. Admit a void, or known weakness, struggle, insecurity, etc. and be confident in your decision. Continuing down your current path will not produce the desired change. Comfort breeds complacency. We cannot hope to maintain that which hasn’t been maximized. Not knowing our full potential (will we ever?), those words, “maintain”, should never be uttered when speaking of our health. Continuous engagement requires an allocation of energy resources. When training, you are building/working/fatiguing, then recovering, where you lose, in order to regain the energy/resources to begin again. See the full picture.

Committing to coaching requires a letting go of emotion, control, and routine. This is not easy, but it is the only way. Trust requires vulnerability. Change requires months, not days and weeks. This should embolden you to let go of repeated judgment and give in to the daily assignment.

And do you know what I found after several decades of life? We achieve our goal, we become a level of ourselves, and then we want to go further. And we make new mistakes, and we have new hardships, but we prevail. We are human. We are alive. We have blood.

Patti Smith

Effective Strategies For Health and Wellness Pt. 2

The previous post was a bit of an extended lead in to this one. Now, onto the nuts bolts of applying and implementing knowledge.

Sleep/Wake:

  1. Get to bed on time. Put some closure on the day. Plan the next days events, including your workout time. Schedule everything.
  2. Wake up EARLY. Just a few minutes at first. This is step #1 in winning your day.

Nutrition:

  1. Schedule a cheat-day. Keep it the same day, no matter what your week entails. I like Saturday.
  2. Keep foods out of the house that are known culprits of indulgence: alcohol, peanut butter, potato chips, any and all sweet or savory snacks.
  3. Hydrate first. When feeling tempted to eat, or overindulge at a restaurant, drink a large glass of water first. Then, make the proper decision.
  4. Join or start your own group, for accountability purposes. Believe me, there is power in numbers when seeking to elicit change. Well established, in place, peer and work groups are great places to start. Who doesn’t want to make positive change?

Cardio/Aerobic:

  1. Think about activities you’ve been interested in in the past. If they’ve gone completely dormant ask yourself why, then decide if their benefit could possibly outweigh their cost. With a new mindset/outlook/goal you might be surprised at the answer.
  2. Get it in before the day starts. Four days each week wake up to that early alarm and start moving. I find getting it in before sunrise gives me a lot of power and momentum to seize the day. Start with 20-30 minutes for the first 6-weeks. Patiently increase your time each subsequent week until you reach that 50 minute sweet spot.
  3. In areas or times of inclement weather, or simply if you prefer indoor exercise, try utilizing media to make the time pass and gather knowledge at the same time.
  4. Seek enjoyment! The mind is powerful. If you believe what you are doing is improving your health, giving you more enjoyment, and increasing quality of life, you are more likely to be proud of it.

Strength:

  1. Keep it super simple (K.I.S.S.). No sense being overly creative here. The same exercises that worked in the early 20th century still work in the early 21st century.
  2. Be creative in your programming. Utilize ladders, timers, games, competitions, and keep track of your workout totals.
    1. Max reps in 10/20/30/60 minutes. Take 1-3 bodyweight exercises and do as many reps as possible in the allotted time period. Squats, lunges, pull ups, push ups, and dips work best here. Metabolic conditioning movements, such as burpees or squat thrusts are great as well, but don’t combine these with the other movements as they are most effective, in this format, when isolated.
    2. Kettlebells. Simple and sinister. Check these out, but be sure to learn proper form and technique. The best exercises are the Goblet Squat and the Swing.
    3. Deadlifts. If you’ve got a background in strength training, you’ve probably done a few deadlifts. Check out the form here, and then keep the reps simple. Build a solid base of 5-10 reps at 100-150% of bodyweight before cranking out super heavy sets.
  3. Rest 48-72 hours between workouts. Unlike cardio, it’s not advised to “lift” on consecutive days. You can get away with this in your youth, with hormones raging, but let commonsense play out and recover properly. Proper recovery insures we absorb these hard training sessions.

Yoga/Stretching:

  1. Do it. Once a week, minimum, spend 45-60 minutes breathing and stretching.
  2. Focus on the hips, low back, and shoulders. Breathing is everything here.
  3. The foam roller can be extremely therapeutic. I use it as a passive activity for my back and spine, but you can get extremely involved with it.

Search, Seek and Employ. The solutions are right in front of your eyes. Make the time. Make it happen.

Onward, Jake Lawrence

Effective Strategies for Health and Wellness Pt.1

The intention of this post is to place you on the path of health and wellness success. I’ll do this by giving you tips and information to begin utilizing immediately. Positive Action > Positive Thinking …

It’s not what we can do. It’s what we will do. We can do anything. Doing, always trumps thinking. Repetition is the mother of skill. – Tony Robbins.

I like quotes. Short, to the point messages that provide a nice summation of successful thinking. Modeling others that have achieved success is the smart way to make changes in any area of your life. No sense wading through the muck, searching for an opening, when others have done the muddling, and found the path to success that you now seek.

Think of yourself, from now on, as an athlete. Once you begin to connect with your body, in a physical-training program, you are on the path to becoming athletic. The mind must direct the body each and every workout. This process of creating, or becoming athletic, or even simply more physical, is not inherently natural to most people. You see, the disconnect that has occurred for some, their entire life, has engrained thoughts and beliefs about our bodies that we must reprogram. All of that begins in the mind. Learning to feel each repetition. Connecting with the breath in a way that allows you to be okay with the struggle an elevated heart rate applies on the exercise. Realize that this is the process. Applying effort through patterns of movement and recognizing strengths and weaknesses we most likely weren’t even aware of is key to this process.

I hope this is beginning to make sense.

Now how to make it happen.

  1. Set a schedule. Pick a time each day where you actively engage with your health. If it’s random it won’t happen, or if it does, it won’t be nearly as effective. The importance of this step is immense. Hiring an experienced personal trainer is a smart way to make health a priority, as they will bring a high level of importance to your days, weeks, months, and years.
  2. Experiment. How do you feel? When do you feel high energy? When do you feel low energy? Weather can have a large impact on this, as can the seasons. On low energy days, stretch, do some yoga, foundation training, or other low impact flowing activities. On high energy days focus on strength building movements: pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging and stepping. Be adaptable, but when the internal battle, and choose to engage!
  3. Eat like an adult. Quiet bizarre food cravings. We eat too often, and too much. Protein rich foods will help satiate your hunger. Plan nutrition. Limit dining out to your “cheat day” and if you have to make an exception, stick to vegetables and protein.
  4. Hydrate. Keep it flowing. You should not skimp on water consumption. No need to force it down, but make sure you drink water.
  5. Keep a success journal. Be honest with it. Write daily, and always make notes about the next day. You will recognize small gaps, and potential windows where you can pepper in some strength training or focused stretching. Remember, have options, and listen to your body’s signals.
  6. Realize that this is a journey. What happens to an apple you neglect to eat? It goes bad, and rots. Our muscles are the same way. Ignore them, and they wilt. The body hates dormancy as much as the mind.
  7. Disconnect. Walk. Moving without stimulation is sublime. Go out early in the morning, or later in the evening and explore your neighborhood. Create micro-adventures within your own city, walking to brunch, relax with a coffee or tea, hit up a few shops and galleries, walk to grab some dinner, then walk back home. What I just described is a GREAT cheat day.
  8. Use your breaks in the day. Do a movement flow circuit during your breaks and one at lunch. Engage and challenge your body, don’t just stimulate it.
  9. Avoid high intensity interval training. Once you’ve established that you enjoy the exercise you are practicing, and you are on the way to becoming a physical athlete, then you can dabble in high intensity. No need to rush into this type of training.
  10. Absorb information. Read about the success of others. What tips did they use or habits did they employ to make it a habit? Never stop learning!

In part 2 I will give you specific examples I use with my clients to help them achieve the success and results they desire, bringing out the physical athlete within.

Mindset: Practice in Pursuit of Excellence

miyamoto_musashi1

“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

Mindset: Change Your Focus

Arrowhead 135 Finish

Finishing the Arrowhead 135 after 42+ hours of effort. Condition the mind for success.

Think not of what you can’t do or control, but think of what you can. Changing your focus is crucial to getting one step closer to your goals. The inner game (between your ears) is won in isolation, many times each day. Engage in the battle with a solid conviction and no fear attitude.

Life is solely how we project our feelings in the present. Each day either moves your forward or sets you back. What’s your direction?

Keep the main thing. The main thing. Onward.

Massive Change / Simple Action

Forget the outcome and focus on the daily task.

I started to achieve, as an athlete and fitness professional when I looked at what I needed to do each day to progress. At first this was a “to-do” list of exercises, minutes, and miles. A list of foods to eat, and foods to avoid. Guidelines. Slowly, over time, this became a “feeling” that I sought in my daily movement and nutrition. Now I was thinking of how to win each day by finding satisfaction in feeling positive about my actions. This change was slow, and not something I set as an outcome, but it was revolutionary. It’s a mindset we utilize in other areas of our life, but often forget to apply to our fitness.

Win each moment. Recognize, when you made a bad choice, and take note of it. Don’t over dramatize it, but look at what led to that choice. Also, look at the impact of that choice. Sometimes the impact is small therefore you need not fret too much. Perspective.

  • Be present. Make cognizant purchasing decisions.
  • Know the purpose of the activity. During aerobic activity seek a feeling of flow. Look for those moments when it all clicks and you are locked into that positive state. When performing calisthenics or strength training recognize what each exercise requires, and work to maximize the effect of each movement.
  • Form follows function. The mode of fitness needs to be consistent with your desired outcome. Aesthetics differ from performance, greatly. The shape of your life should be based on your intended purpose.
  • Why. Stop here and really think about “why” you want to change. Make this a layered response. Meaning, start with you, add in your family, friends, and finally think of how you want the world to view you.

Do not focus on the time if you haven’t mastered the movement. Focus on the movements first, then increase the time your exercise or maximize the movements done in a specific time. Quality sticks. It progresses your forward. Quantity builds, but without quality, it promotes poor movement patterns and an outcome based, competitive focus. Their is a time for everything. Quality before quantity.

Your thoughts are a pattern. Master the pattern of thinking and decision making for daily success and you’ll achieve great things in your health and fitness.

How I Improve “It” Every Day: Base Fitness

The biggest question that is asked of me, and that I ask of others is what or how do you do it? This question is always hard to answer, because as a trainer/teacher/coach I have a strong understanding that everyone is different. Thus, I’m fearful of others diving down my path to achievement or success. Needless, I have found some very strong parallels in those that have continual success. For the purpose of this post, I will keep it fitness related, though it applies to success across all areas of life.

Time. How much time does it take? When I’m training to maintain my fitness, while also enjoying life (food, drink, etc.), one hour each day is my bare minimum. This can be one hour of running, or a split hour of biking and stair-climbing, or a tri-hour of biking, rowing, and stair-climbing. Focused movement, one hour. As an endurance athlete, my “quality time” is that which is spent training specifically for endurance. This is the time each day/week/month that I track to make sure I’m staying consistent. I do also spend 60-90 minutes each week strength training, but I only track that if it is specific to my endurance training (squats/deadlifts/lunges/kb swings).

How do you find the time? When I consume media, I’m doing my cardio. Podcasts, books, or the occasional documentary are all enjoyed while working out on the indoor trainer (bike), or stair-master. I really enjoy this. If I were to recommend one takeaway from this article it would be to find an endurance activity that is convenient for you (could be just walking) and do it while listening to a podcast, audiobook, or in the case of indoor activities, reading on your kindle/iPad.

Enjoyment. You’ve got to enjoy fitness for it to show. No way around this one. If you enjoy working out, and attend to that part of your life every day, it will show. For most people, this is the goal, for it to show… to be recognized by your peers, family, and friends as someone that has a certain level of fitness. You can’t fake this. It’s so easy for me to invest the necessary time, because I enjoy it, and I really really want it to pay off, either athletically, or simply in enhanced appearance.

Activities. The more you have, the more you can pull from, the more likely it is you will be successful each day. The hardest part of programming or writing weekly workouts is the rigidity. By nature, I’m extremely flexible in my daily fitness. I’ll have 2-4 things I can choose from to address my fitness needs each day. Usually, running is at the top of the list, but on occasion, that will get swapped for a workout on the trainer, a row on the concept 2, or a long climb on the stair-master. I like it all, so I’ve got options. Options = Success. Remember that by skipping a workout session, you skip the essential hour of exercise each day. When those skipped days add up, it’s pretty obvious why you aren’t being successful.

Correlation. Working out (exercise) is a fairly sufficient beast on its own. You can make some great gains in your strength and cardio by only focusing on the workout. With nutrition, you can also make some great gains in the area of weight loss by only focusing on nutrition. When you combine the two, and use them to keep you accountable and attentively to both elements, results happen VERY quickly. Starting both at the same time is a pretty strong shock to the system, but stick with it for 3-4 weeks and you will start to re-wire your operating system. You see, it’s all about TIME. How much you invest each day, each week, each month, and ultimately over your lifetime. When you make it quantifiable it is easily trackable. By tracking it, you can see patterns develop (both success and failure) and work to accentuate the positive behaviors.

Daily. With the goal of one hour of movement (aerobic based) each day, this will set you on the path to success. In addition, by starting to add some basic strength exercises: squats, pull-ups, and/or push-ups into the equation you also address the structural needs of your physique. Squats build and define your thighs and butt. Pull-ups build your biceps, back, shoulders, and core. Push-ups build your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. This is the “secret” …. daily practice. When something gets easier, you can do a little more. Now, you are on the confident and success driven path. You’ll find yourself willing to set aside more time for these activities.

The Mind. This is the big one. Initially you must conquer the complacency of the mind. The mind seeks comfort and consistent patterns. Interruptions are resisted, but must come anyway. The body communicates it’s current ability. When your fitness level is very low, the body must be driven forward by a disciplined mind. Once these two work together, making daily choices on exercise and nutrition, which positive path to take, the success process takes form.

Engage in the process. Immerse yourself in learning about topics, people, and practices of successful, enhanced living.

Tracking: attackpoint.org

Podcasts: Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, Tara Brach

Books: whatever motivates!