Stay the Course…

We grow when challenged. Now, more than ever, it is easy to avoid uncomfortable situations. Social, physical, mental, environmental… they can all become non-existent in our lives. Days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years, they hurry by you. Recognizing a challenge and engaging whole-heartedly without fear of failure, or expectation of success is a trainable skill. Approaching your challenge with a personal, meaningful mantra and reason is paramount. I can’t create your why or reason for you. Spend time in your own head each morning. Rise a little early. Break the routine just a little. Journal. Think. Grow. Be accountable.

Epithets for the self: Upright. Modest. Straightforward. Sane. Cooperative.

Marcus Aurelius

Pick your two words. You know you’re going into a tough assignment—say to yourself over and over again, “strength and courage.” You’re about to have a tough conversation with a significant other: “patience and kindness.” You’re about to lead a team of people, and you’re uncertain of your own ability: “calm and composed.” via Daily Stoic

-Let a man not be corrupted by external things

-Let him be unconquerable and admire only himself

-Let him be courageous in spirit and ready for any fate

-Let him be the molder of his own life

-Let not his confidence be without knowledge, nor his knowledge without firmness

-Let his decisions once made abide

-Let not his decrees be altered by any alteration

-Let him be poised and well-ordered

-Let him show majesty mingled with courtesy in all his actions

Seneca

Be honest. Follow through. Recognize that we often quit at 40% … think about that… you’ve got 60% left to give, it’s there, just waiting to be exposed. Whether training or competing you need to wire your mind to dig deep into the well of effort. This is why you do the uncomfortable, repeatedly. Training is just that. It’s practice. Don’t judge practice. You are your toughest critic. Running 100+ miles in 24 hours is a practice of commitment and self-care. Over and over again you are asking yourself to keep moving for no other reason than a personal commitment. No fame, no glory, no money, nothing but completion of the short journey that is endurance sports.

Value your time and you can create an existence for yourself that will bring you pride and joy. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for your soul. Don’t do it for the selfies and likes you may receive. It’s not a reliable source of validation. Accept how much personal power you have. Once realized it may overwhelm you. Move forward and look ahead. The future is now and the path is in front of you.

I applaud your decision to use the sharp knife and make a clean cut on a new future.

Onward and Upward.

On Reflection, Time, and Decisions

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Giovanni Paolo Cimerlini’s etching “The Aviary of Death

I have made myself what I am.

-Tecumseh, Shawnee 1768-1813

Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not let others make your path for you. It is your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. Accept yourself and your actions. Own your thoughts. Speak up when wrong, and apologize. Know your path at all times. To do this you must know yourself inside and out, accept your gifts as well as your shortcomings, and grow each day with honesty, integrity, compassion, faith, and brotherhood.

-Terri Jean

Each morning I reflect on the passing of time. Not in a nostalgic manner, but one of acknowledgment. What actions were pointless, frivolous, or simply self-indulgent? What choices did I make that I’m proud of? The second question is harder to answer as those choices, for the most part, have become automatic. Habitual, if you may. Nevertheless, my goal is to quantify the positives and negatives, assess the behaviors that led to the decisions I made, and move forward, progressively as well as correctively. The analysis is not judgment.

Categories of Decisions (choices):

  1. Mental / Psychological / Emotional / Spiritual. This is broad for good reason. Each of these areas come together to quantify the self.
  2. Nutrition / Health. How much self-respect do you have? As human beings, we are physical clones of one another. We differ, mainly, because of the decisions we make in this category. Simple. Re-read the quote above from Tecumseh. 80% of the time think about food as it relates to health, wellness, and respect. 20% of the time associate food with an enjoyable, flavorful, entertaining activity. Would you attempt an extended endurance activity after eating “that” meal? Choose wisely.
  3. Physical / Fitness. Here you choose whether to seek the feeling and participate in change or not. Simple. Movement practice. Repeatable actions that accumulate and force adaptation. Improvement is felt and seen. The strength of your character. Prioritization of your time. How accessible is my chosen form of exercise? Do you know enough about, or have you mastered the movement to obtain full effectiveness from it?

Prioritize. Repeat. Learn.

It’s cliche, but true. Your most valuable resource is time. We can only hope to waste as little as possible. The expiration date is usually too distant to fully comprehend it’s magnitude. But you must. Your life is a gift. Your health is a choice.

  1. Create and assign values to every aspect of your life: physical / social / mental / spiritual / work / family
  2. Make sure your decisions align with your values.
  3. Repeat.
  4. Reflect, but don’t judge.
  5. Learn.

Onward and Upward.

 

Smart Training = Avoiding Fatigue

Have you ever experienced the feeling of decreased self-control, or willpower due to simply being tired? I know I have. Finishing a long run, depleted, I’m susceptible to cravings and impulses I simply do not normally have. Sweets, carbs, bread, beer, etc. Following the “positive” comes a negative.

What do you think this is telling your body?

The same can be seen in the effects of excessive high-intensity interval training. Crushing workouts followed by fatigue, lead to diminished discipline and heightened reward signals.


  1. Know the purpose of your training:
    1. Why are you exercising? Body composition change? Image enhancement? Mental and physical performance? Hobby?
    2. Your purpose should direct the type of exercise you employ, as well as your nutritional needs.
  2. Avoid the extremes:
    1. Injuries happen when you ignore the signals your body is giving you. Excessive fatigue before, during or after exercise is a “Red Flag” to be respected. Stop and reassess.
    2. Only use a training weight that you can manage effectively. Ignore rep counts that you can’t mentally stay engaged long enough to handle.
    3. Where the mind goes the body follows. If 100% focus is not happening, then stop the exercise. More harm than benefit may be had on this day.
  3. Leave a little in the tank:
    1. Learn to leave something in the tank for the other events of your day, or tomorrows workout. Consistency and repetition are where your results will come from, not the temporary beat down of too much too soon and subsequent delayed recovery.
  4. Exercise in a 1:1 environment or alone:
    1. Distractions help pass the time, but it is not passing the time that we are after.
    2. Mind/Body is not a byproduct. Manifest the desired outcome and picture it happening.
  5. Less is More:
    1. Simply put. Learning to engage a muscle, what it feels like to achieve a proper contraction and seeking that feeling each repetition will give you amazing results.
    2. Eating less frees your body up to focus on aspects other than digestion and recovery.
    3. Less time spent exercising means more time spent living with your fitness.

Remember that your fitness and health are positive enhancers to your lifestyle. Engage in the learning process. Mastering a few key aspects of movement will do more for your health than any amount of variety can muster.

Onward and Upward!

Evolve

Into The Unkown / Arrowhead 135 Extreme Endurance Ultramarathon

Sometimes, head down, into the unknown, is the only way to go.

Changing course can be a stressful event. Exchanging comfort and control for the unknown is often too much for one to handle. From personal experience, I can attest to this. Recognizing, though, that time moves quickly, and making transitions requires taking action, I’ve become more open to evolving. Opinions, priorities, habits, people all must at some point be questioned. The desire to be yourself must be greater than the need to be liked or to fit in.

Have I become stagnant? Am I moving forward? Is my mobility upward?

Honesty, with yourself, is essential. Self-assessments can be harsh. You must remember that it is easy to judge yourself harshly. Comparisons (to others, and society) are easy to make, yet often disregarded is the fact that your (my) goals and direction may be different from the common human. Moving through life, living true to yourself, accepting the discomfort of alienation (self or group imposed) requires maturity and confidence. Thus continuing to evolve, your positions should be questioned and challenged.

It’s up to you. If you are happy with your current trajectory, by all means, continue onward. For those of you that are still curious, don’t fret, you are not alone. Take comfort in that. Understand that your self-confidence is paramount to living an authentic life. Evolve from within. Learn new skills. Disengage from that which may be holding you back. We all know what those things are in our lives. Evolving requires honesty.

Do not be afraid to use the knife on the reins of your existence. Freedom is always one swift slash away.

Xclusive Mindset Approach to Execution

Horns and crew...

Western States 100 – 2017

REPETITION:

  • Rep to rep, day to day, step by step. Positive, useful, negative… it all adds up. Choose wisely. DO THE WORK.

ROUTINE:

  • Reps/Sets/Minutes/Miles.
  • Warm-up = easy/prep.
  • Work = quality/present.
  • Cooldown = mental/nutrition/future.

PLANNING:

  • Scheduling.
  • Days priority. Know it. Respect it.
  • Energy dispersion and allocation. Finite resource.
  • Nutrition and supplementation. The timing of fueling.

MENTAL:

  • Start the process each day.
  • Break the fast.
  • Embrace the day’s challenges.
  • Eliminate self-sabotage.
  • You can do it. Mindset/approach.

Remember in tough times, this too shall pass…

PERCEPTION:

  • Of… reality, possibility, difficulty, ability… all manifested within.
  • Be aware of this.
  • Breathe deeply, move forward.

ABILITY:

  • You must realize this is your responsibility. To give your best effort when called upon regardless of circumstance.

EPICTETUS’ Foundation of Excellence:

Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Therefore give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast… and one day you will build something that endures…

Breakthroughs

The first 15 minutes of my day are tough. Not physically, but mentally. Do I get after it, or do I snooze a bit longer? Tuesday mornings, this is especially the case. On this day of the week, a standard hill workout is scheduled. Hyland Park’s South Ski Hill provides the incline via a 0.5-mile loop going up the hill and back down a class 5 gravel maintenance road. A trail runners version of the “track” workout. This is done to improve climbing and descending ability, as well as accumulate elevation gain in the mountainless state of Minnesota.

So, the alarm sounds at 4:10 and there are 30 minutes to departure time (Hyland is a 20-minute drive from home). Depending on the previous nights sleep this can be an especial cruel start to the day. Nonetheless, it’s time to move.

Somedays breakthroughs happen when we least predict or expect them. When the mind settles the body will often follow. Having commitments, scheduling consistent events in your week, and sticking to a routine is the most effective way to set yourself up for success, and even a personal breakthrough.

Breakthroughs aren’t planned, they happen. For me, on this day, I experienced a mental-physical one that has been a long time coming. Controlling the thoughts in my head: doubts, pity, defeat, and weakness. Letting themselves out while I do what I love (run) is giving in to the athletic process.

Eliminate the decisions you need to make. The fewer choices the better. Show up. Give your best effort. Don’t quit. Good things happen.

Acceptance / Expression / Creativity

Among people, a great majority don’t feel comfortable at all with the unknown — that is anything foreign that threatens their protected daily mould — so for the sake of their security, they construct chosen patterns to justify.

I have come to accept life as a process, and am satisfied that in my ever-going process, I am constantly discovering, expanding, finding the cause of my ignorance, in martial art and especially in life. In short, to be real…

By martial art I mean, like any art, an unrestricted expression of our individual soul… The human soul is what interests me. I live to express myself freely in creation.

Bruce Lee

Your physicality is a very special thing. “Appearance is a consequence of fitness,” phrased Mark Twight (Gym Jones / Extreme Alpinism / Kiss or Kill). Such a powerful statement. Picture it, the forearms and biceps of the rock climber and gymnast, the quads and calves of the cyclist, the shoulders and back of the swimmer, the core of the 400-meter runner. The activities associate with the image fairly clearly.

Personal accountability, a positive association with your sport-activity, consistent repetition, enables physical transformation. Get after it! Don’t shop for the next quick fix program. It’s short-lived. It’s not about the praise you receive from others it’s about the flow state you’re in while moving, and the feeling of achievement you get in the seconds after completing the activity.

My hope is to help you move better and sort out what is holding you back. From taking action, sticking to your chosen activity, or exacting proper self-care in your daily life. We are in this together. You and me. Constantly learning. Asking questions. Being motivated. Seeking mentorship. Coach / athlete relationship. Yes, when you move your body in a focused manner you are an athlete.

So, what will the consequence of your choices represent? What will you repeatedly do? How much time do you really have? Choices.

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.