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!

Mindfulness and Movement

Your mindfulness practice should begin and end each day. Mastering your first conscious thoughts is a skill, necessitating practice and repetition. Calming nerves and heightening focus, we can sort through the clutter and clear a path for our mind to focus. The truth of our existence is so simple it can seem unbelievable. Hopefully, your surroundings help draw your attention to this matter.

Movement is natural. Spontaneity can direct the when, where, and how, but action needs to be taken. Similarly to mindfulness, it must be engaged in at certain points of your day to make it concrete. You should begin to create a few minutes for movement flow. Inflexibility and the inability to support your body weight in various positions is a weakness that can easily be eliminated. Persistent practice opens windows. How did I learn to do anything? Practice.

Modern life is filled with barriers to the learning process. The main culprit is the service industry. Anything you need to be done you can pay someone to do it for you. Thus, they take you to the end point, or simply put, they let you skip the process and give you the product. The ability to see things through from beginning to end is lost… for now.

Practicing mindfulness and directing focus place you on a path. Beginning movement connects you with your body and breathe. This experience is an exploration of how your mind and body engage with the world. You learn by doing. Being clear and alert to what you are feeling and thinking. Slowing down to breathe and process.

Calm. Focus. Examine.

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

 

 

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!