Nourishment.

Most of my writing comes from self-observations. My thoughts and actions, and their effects seem to drive these musings. You could call them “reflections on actions, taken.”

This morning, the idea of nourishment came to mind. I had not eaten for 12 hours and was still not hungry. Without a workout waiting in the wings (rest day), I had no need to put calories in. I had some coffee and within minutes felt the effects of the caffeine. Later, after attending to a training session I had a small amount of 85% dark chocolate and some peanut butter. Again, I could feel the effects almost immediately. Consume too much creates a drowning sensation. System is flooded. This got me thinking about overconsumption, weight gain, lethargy, and thoughtless action. Simply put, lack of discipline and self-control.

Nourishment is giving the body what it lacks or needs. Water and energy. Stimulation and response. Preparing a large, complete meal, and eating it, should come with relaxation and settling. This is dinner. This takes time, which we don’t have during the day. Our energy is needed elsewhere. Our minds are elsewhere. Understanding what leads to decisions on food is critical to avoid large caloric consumption or eating as entertainment (fast food, soda, etc.). If you stop at fast food on the way to work or at lunch that dump of calories spikes your blood sugar and is processed and stored as fat.

What’s the optimal minimal? Experiment. Be conscious consumers. Start your day with intention and awareness. It’s not hard. Personal accountability is the only requirement. Our actions need to align with our goals. One decision at a time.

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

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

 

 

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.

“Short-Time” Workouts

“Short-Time” Workouts

Ease of implementation is the most important factor in a busy, professional’s ability to consistently workout. It should be no surprise that consistency, with proper application, is the most important factor in relation to obtaining results.

We are going to assume that motivation and desire is not lacking, just organization. A sets and repetitions based strength workout does not require a 60-90 minute commitment to be effective. In fact, 30-45 minutes of focused effort is plenty of time to get results. Even, 10-15 minutes can be enough time to create balance in your physique and make small, consistent improvements. Let’s focus on the 10-15 minute, “short-time”, workouts.

Organization:

In order to be effective in your training there must be organization and planning. What do I need to do today, this week, and this month to make the progress I need to get the results I desire? How do I start and finish a workout?

Time:

Knowing, realistically, how much time (each day) you can devote to working out is crucial. The ego always believes we have more time, and a greater ability to complete tasks than we actually do. Set for yourself a high-end (ego-based) time allotment, as well as a low-end (reality based) time allotment. Always start with the low end. It allows a lot of upward mobility and with completion and consistency, comes confidence.

Knowledge:

This is the most important factor, which means it is always the biggest results limiting factor. Strength training can also be extremely confusing. With all of the tools, props, machines, and programs on the market it can be a foreign realm to step into. This is why classes are so popular. People sign up and follow along. The problem with most classes is there is no evolution or progression built into the programming, creating a reliance and dependency on the class format and structure to stay fit. Knowledge, meaning knowing how to workout, is empowering, it creates ownership of your health and fitness. Once you own it, you simply need to apply it. It’s that simple.

Example:

Being a distance runner, most of my energy for training is devoted to running. Strength training takes a backburner to endurance work pretty much all the time in my world. Does that mean I don’t do it? Of course not, but what I do is place restrictions on frequency and duration of these workouts. During my running season,10-15 minutes, 3 days per week is my allotment for strength training. In that time I’m pulling, pushing, lunging, stepping, squatting and planking. Knowing my time is limited I work off a plan and focus on flow, moving from one movement to the next, always finishing feeling like I could have done a lot more. Compressing my time commitment increases my focus. Quality becomes more important than quantity. The stress of chasing fatigue, and muscular exhaustion is eliminated.

Implement:

It may take 8 minutes, or 15…

10-1 Ladder Circuit (10,9,8,7,…1):

  • Squats of Swings
  • Pushups
  • Sit-Ups

Theory:

The more we promote balance in our life the less susceptible we are to the burnout of over exertion, over consumption, and general “life-binging” most Americans engage in and are attracted to.

Think about it, for many people working out is a means to allow them to, “eat and drink whatever I want.” I hear this all the time. This idea of balancing the good behaviors with the bad behaviors is not sustainable and will never be equal.

As a coach and trainer I prioritize balance, completion, and consistency. When I talk about making fitness a lifestyle, it’s not simply being active more often. I’m speaking about taking the values and ethos of exercise and fitness and implementing them to all other areas of your life.

Creating a state of flow, via movement, is transcending. Once it’s felt, the value becomes inherent, an un-fleeting element of one’s existence, and a way of life.

Conclusion:

10, 15, 20-minutes… it’s enough to make a difference.

Running: Structure for Beginners

Running: Application and Implementation for Beginners

Becoming a runner is extremely satisfying. Having the ability to cover a certain distance, in a given time, is very freeing and enabling. You now can exercise almost anywhere, at any time, as well as plug yourself into the wildly popular and very welcoming running scene, whenever you feel like it. You can’t say that about too many other forms of exercise. Running is the best.

As you begin this journey, you must approach application in a patient manner with the intent to make it a lifestyle, not “bucket list” undertaking. I hate the idea of having a bucket list, but that’s beside the point here. Your first run may feel awkward. You may experience side aches, dull joint paint, dry mouth, and even boredom. This is OK. You are a beginner. Having two legs and being able to walk does not qualify you for anything. All good things come to those who persist, so as a beginner it is important to enlist the virtue of patience, often. Any time both feet are off the ground at the same time, you are running, not walking. There is no “pace” that you have to keep to be a runner. If it feels extremely slow, do not fret, you are running!

Running, like all endurance sports is measured in volume (mileage or time). As a beginner, understand that each week has seven days. Each week you will need to “rest” from running, three to four of those days. Sounds like a lot of rest right? It is. Your body needs time to adapt and accept what it is you are asking it to do. Think of it this way. Have you ever taken a long car ride or plane flight and had sore legs or back for a few days afterwards? I have, and that’s from being in a foreign position for far too long. Your muscles shorten, ache and may even spasm from just being a certain, non-strenuous, position. Well, running, or run/walking is the same way. You may be able to run/walk for six days in a row, but the unknown is how the cumulative fatigue will affect you the following week. Most likely it will leave you hungry, tired, lethargic, and unmotivated to keep up the activity. This, of course, is not what we want. Using our seven-day analogy, we need to structure our week like this:

  • Run or Run-Walk: Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday
  • Rest or Low Impact Activity: Monday/Wednesday/Friday
  • Full Rest: Sunday

I have not met a beginner yet who was ready to run or run/walk more than three times per week, successfully. At this stage quantity forces a sacrifice in quality, which leads to injury and burnout, and obviously we don’t that!

You may be asking how long? The answer is one hour. The answer is usually one hour. This includes warming up and cooling down. If you devote an hour you will get some quality work in during that time. Trying to shave it down to 30 minutes is OK for experienced athletes or exercisers, but not beginners. One-hour sounds like a long run, right? It is, and as a beginner you’ll want to break up this hour into small chunks of running and walking. A common application is running for 1-minute, walking for 2-3 minutes, and repeating until you’ve covered the hour. Remember it’s easy to scale your workouts up, meaning make them harder, but it’s harder to cut back after you’ve gone too far, both physically and mentally. Applying the run/walk technique also makes you a more efficient and aware walker. Your pace quickens while you walk as you work to keep your heart rate elevated. This also keeps your mind engaged in utilizing each minute. It’s not boring, because you have something to monitor, you are covering ground, and working on the new you.

After 4-weeks of 1-minute running, 2-3 minute walking, you will want to increase the time of the run to 2-minutes, while keeping the walking at 3-minutes, or dropping it to 2-minutes. At this time you should be motoring along, walking briskly, and running each interval comfortably. Notice I did not say quickly or fast. You are still building tolerance for the activity, allowing your whole system to adapt to the applied demands of running. What will not change is your volume. One hour, three days per week stays constant.

During your rest or off days from running I encourage you to partake in non-impact activities. Strength training, cycling, swimming, rowing, and yoga are all novel activities. Be aware of the amount of effort each of these requires. You will want to avoid grueling, high-intensity sessions. Volume is cumulative, so adding three hours of yoga and three hours of strength to your weekly running workouts will simply leave you tired, and looking for a way to boost energy. We don’t want that. It doesn’t work! Our virtue is patience. Cycling, swimming, and yoga are nice additions to running. Different muscle groups are prioritized and utilized during these activities, which is helpful, but the most important benefit is that they all need cardiovascular endurance to accomplish.

Remember, the key is to monitor intensity and volume. As a beginner, you must err on the side of caution and be diligent in your progression. Adding a variety of activities, especially if you have a comfort level in them already, will help you build cardiovascular endurance. Again, monitor intensity!