Exercise is honest. Are you?

“I never try anything I just do it. Wanna try me?”

You can, or you can’t. You will, or you won’t. There is a point in every hard workout where I contemplate stopping early. Eight hills are plenty for today. You don’t feel great. You didn’t sleep well. It’s OK to back off a bit. Twenty minutes in the gym is good enough. Fifteen pushups? Not this set, let’s stop at ten. The discipline to say yes to more is definitely not automatic. It’s not a born trait. It’s not genetic. Your behavior is cultivated through repetition. Therefore, you become predictable, in a good or bad way, successful or unsuccessful, with each and every decision you make. Do you look for solutions, or seek a way out?

Comfort zones stagnate. Time, distance, weight, repetition, rest, etc. all play their respective roles in progressing you towards improvement. Each element is adjustable. Each adjustment either increases or decreases difficulty. Staying at a consistent stimulus, or working within the same parameters, causes stagnation. A new normal is continuously being defined. As you adapt to stress, via exposure and absorption (rest), you grow. This growth is both physical and mental. The mental aspect is key. Once it’s been done you know that it CAN be done. And done by you, not merely another human being. Physical growth comes during the period of rest or recovery (period of easy movement) that follows a new stress stimulus. A little faster, a little further, a little higher, a little more resistance, a few more reps, a couple more sets. Choosing one, or a few and agreeing to “go there” is making a decision to improve. You’ve planned to expose yourself to something new. When the moment arrives and you follow through, you’ve just expanded your world. That one small present-moment decision changes everything.

Schedule (plan) these opportunities for yourself to improve. Place them in your schedule often enough to build decision making confidence and success. As always, things take time. These “growth days” are green light opportunities for your mind and body. Understand that your success cannot be rushed. Callouses form with repeated exposure. Revealing yourself to the effort and demand not only callouses the body but it hardens your mind as well. Through this process, you gain the ability to accept more (load, repetition, duration) and in turn, give more the next time.

Personal Story: The year is 2012. One week prior I completed the challenging Leadville Trail Marathon. A 26+ mile run beginning and ending in historic Leadville CO, which sits at over 10,000 ft elevation. Almost two miles high! Living in Albuquerque, at relatively high elevation (5000 ft), the altitude factor was not something I worried about. Having no prior experience with physical effort at altitude, I was soon to find out its effects. The race went surprisingly well. I finished in 6th place out of 500+ runners. Not a bad day on trail by any means. The following week is when the event exacted its revenge on my body. I was exhausted, hungry, and sore… all week long. Knowing I had the 50-mile race a mere two weeks after the marathon, I had to listen to the wants of my system while also looking ahead to the big event on the horizon. Thus, one week after the marathon, and one week before the 50-mile race, I set out to run a 25-mile loop in the Sandia mountains. The idea was to harden up the legs and callous the mind to the effort and elements. You see, Albuquerque in July is hot, windy, and incredibly dry. Often times the forests are closed due to fire danger. Meaning humans are not even allowed to recreate in them. Those three elements (heat, wind, dry climate) are a dangerous combination. Nonetheless, I set off with two water bottles and a few hundred calories of sports drink and energy gel. I chose a route that would take me up the iconic La Luz trail. A rugged, beautiful climb from roughly 6,000 ft elevation to over 10,000 ft in 7-miles. It presents a nice challenge amidst a long loop in the mountains. My plan was to re-supply with water at the top and if my body was not up for that length of a run, to take the tram down, shortening the run from 25-12 miles. Early on in the run, I went to close one of my water bottles by hitting the cap on the bottom of the other bottle. Just as I did this I heard a pop and saw all of my fluids quickly draining out. I had punctured the bottom of the bottle with this action. Now, I was down 16 ounces of fluid and one bottle. Surely I would shorten the run at the tram and cut my losses. I had plenty of fluids to get me to the summit and consumed the calories I had, figuring I may as well keep my energy stores topped off. My spirit was good and legs felt OK. Cresting the summit and reaching the tram I saw a sign posted. Closed due to high winds. Hmmm… that’s not good. At this point, I am almost out of water and calories. With an almost empty bottle of water, 100 calories and a couple of salt tablets on hand I had to make the trek back to the vehicle. The day was beginning to heat up. Add that factor and it was bound to be a character building experience. 90-minutes later I found myself descending a familiar trail, coming to a spot where I had always seen water pooling. It was a spring in the mountainside. Now, I’ve always been cautioned to steer clear of any water coming out of the ground for fear of giardia, which wreaks havoc on your GI system. Undeterred, I stopped at the trail and filled my water bottle. I downed it. Then I cooled my head, arms, and chest with the cool water. It felt amazing. Filling the bottle one more time, I tightened the cap and continued descending. My pace was slow, my steps a little unsure, but my resolve was strong. Mile after mile I kept moving until finally, I broke free from the dense tree cover into the exposed foothills. With close to two miles to go, it was now a full-on assault in the mid-day sun. I finished the run. Exhausted, depleted, yet satisfied. I’d did probably the hardest thing I had ever done in my life up to that point and did it solo. What’s fascinating is that to this day I can pull from this experience and use it to push through difficult endurance events. I did not know what it meant to endure until this moment. A week later I finished the Leadville Silver Rush 50-mile Trail Race. Coming in 10th overall I again exceeded my expectations. As predicted, the race brought many ups and downs. It reinforced the idea that the mind is primary. Once the mind has been exposed to new stressors and overcomes the desire to quit, stop, or feel sorry for itself, your potential is now greater.

How do you know until you know? You don’t. Create opportunities. Adapt to challenges. Broaden your experience. Create new definitions for both your capability and possibility.

Exposure. Environment. Execution. Expectation.

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: Growth Choices

A wise friend of mine once told me that you can’t prioritize everything in life all at once.

This statement came after I asked him why he had been away from the gym the past three months. To me, it was shocking how a person could minimize their fitness after making remarkable gains over the past six months.

He began to explain to me the immense importance of another area of life, business, had become and the undivided attention it needed. He also explained how we have three crucial elements to our lives that will need constant juggling and prioritizing, health, business/career, and family. We can’t expect 100% improvement or focus in any one of these areas at a given time. A balance, would be nice, but a conscious negotiation will ultimately prevail in how that 100% will be divided up.

Realize that to grow in any one area of your life you’ll need to prioritize it. Understand what this effect will have on the other areas, and plan ahead. Be strategic in timing, setting short-term goals and benchmarks, as well as keeping the long-term outlook in focus.