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!

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.

Managing and Recognizing Stress

Stress. A general term with a broad application.

Signs:

  • Fatigue. General fatigue is often a sign of stress. No energy for movement is a clear indication that the mind and body are worn down.
  • Decreased self-regulation. Are you indulging and grabbing sweets to snack on or an extra glass or wine at night?
  • Looking for ways to feel better? Bad habits rear their ugly heads here as escapism infiltrates our path to change.

All stress is cumulative.

Simply put, it adds up. Adding more stress via excessively difficult training sessions or group fitness classes will not make it better. Remember this: it doesn’t need to be painful. Do you want more stress in your life? Is stress associated with progress and rewards? Discard those thoughts when working out.

The other side of stress.

Adaptations arise from bouts of stress and recovery. This may represent itself at your job, working on a project deadline or sales goal. If met there is often awards and incentives. Positive right? Maybe not… subconsciously you may be seeking out stress or stressful situations to improve your health. Chronic conditions arise when we fall out of balance. Work / Life. Training / Recovery. Hard / Easy. Polarity is a good thing!

Step 1: recognize stress.

Step 2: manage the cause of stress.

Step 3: eliminate the stress if you can.

Step 4: begin your day with mindfulness.

Step 5: end your day with physical activity and mindful nutrition that brings peace back to yourself.

Step 6: review your day and plan for tomorrow.

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!

Aim high. Dig Deep. Fall where you may.

 

Set lofty goals. Goals are there to guide is. They start us on a desired path. The journey begins. Destinations and arrivals signify the beginning and the end of something. Achieving a lofty goal is pleasant, not necessary. All or nothing ensures failure. Aim high to bring your best day in and day out.

Out of goals come habits. Good and bad. Work on the good. Benefits, reaped for a lifetime, will surely come.

“You will never get anymore out of life than you expect.” -Bruce Lee

 

Mornings

Protect your mornings. As the first few minutes pass and you begin to awaken, turn your attention to your favorite form of movement. Move the body to prime the mind for what is about to occur, and what may lie ahead throughout the day.

This time is precious. Do not put off what can be accomplished right away.
Win the day. Accomplish more in your first 90 minutes of awakening than you could ever imagine as they day wears on and its effects weaken your resolve.

Rituals of habit, work. Continually showing up, engaging, and finishing are qualities that transfer to other areas of your life.

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

It’s Stupid To Be Safe

Note: This post was inspired by Maria Popova creator of BrainPickings.org. Fantastic site!

Everyone in this room is going to be gone pretty quickly – and we will have either made something or not made something. The artists that inspire me are the ones that I look at and go, ‘Oh my god – you didn’t have to go there. It would’ve been safer not to – but, for whatever reason, you did.’ And every time death happens, I’m reminded that it’s stupid to be safe… Usually, whatever that is – wherever you don’t want to go, whatever that risk is, wherever the unsafe place is – that really is the gift you have to give.

Amanda Palmer

Choose activities that allow you to go far. We can walk all day with no prior training. We can ride our bikes for hundreds of miles as long as our pacing and fueling is sufficient. We can run all day and into the next with a steady supply of water and a few calories.

If another human can do this, then you to have the potential to go way further than you’ve gone before. Much further. The effects of modern society, coupled with aging, have polluted our minds with endlessly questioning “why” other humans do so called “ultra” or “extreme” endurance events.

Having thought processes of merely entertainment, consumption, and leisure crush our innate desire to create, explore and take action. Now, more than ever, we need to create and inspire future generations to live lives filled clear direction and action. Driven by purpose and desire.

But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that, in short, breaks, ‘violates’…

Vincent Van Gogh

I implore you to be conscious before speaking about another’s experience. Listen, process, and speak only if you desire to learn and employ whatever knowledge comes from your question. Wasted words to often appear in place of focused action.

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.