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 Plan. The Process. The Commitment.

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Follow your plan and you will succeed. Quiet the doubts in your mind. Understand that they are natural, and will continue to come. Daily, intentional engagement will lead you forward, onward and upward.

NUTRITION & FITNESS ON THE GO – planning your healthy travel

This is a deep and complex topic that can be condensed into a few takeaway bullet points. Keep it super simple.

Foods For Flight:

  • Carbs: Sweet Potato. Bake it the night before and wrap it in foil.
  • Veggies: Pack a salad, or sliced carrots, celery, and peppers.
  • Fats: Nuts.
  • Protein: Sliced turkey or smoked fish, in a plastic bag. Powders packed as single servings, using plastic bags, w/dash of cinnamon to balance blood sugar.
  • Meal Replacement: bars. Find one you like and stock up. Patagonia Fruit + Almond Bars.

Travel Tips:

  1. Fresh Pineapple, or Coconut Water. Helpful in avoiding headaches and indigestion.
  2. Lemon + Drinking Water. Helps avoid indigestion, bloating, and constipation.
  3. 8 oz Water. Drink a cup for every serving of tea, coffee, or alcohol consumed.
  4. Cucumber or Lemon + Water. Assists with electrolyte absorption.
  5. Small Snacks > Big Meals. This will help you adjust to the lack of physical activity, new time zone, and sleep deprivation.

Movement:

  1. Lengthen the hamstrings. Engage the posterior chain muscles.
  2. Squat. Be mindful, down slow, pause, up controlled. 4 count down, 1 count pause, 2 count up. 3 sets of 10-20 reps.
  3. Push. Use a chair, wall, the floor, or any sturdy object to place your hands onto. Create tension throughout your body and squeeze up. 3 sets of 10-20 reps.

Realistic Fitness (training)

The Meat:

Do your own thing. No, seriously, do your own thing. You don’t have to train like a pro athlete, nor should you want to. You don’t have to be a vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten/dairy free or whatever to have “the look”. You don’t (nor would I recommend) have to quit your job (you’re good at it, get better), to complete a super inspiring bucket list race. We are, understandably, attracted to the “lifestyle” we watch on film, TV, and the web, or read about in magazines, journals, and autobiographies. It’s a beautiful thing… portrayed simplicity… single minded focus… me and my goals… freedom of doing what I want, when I want to, etc.

The Rest:

I’m a firm believer that the mind is our strongest, sharpest, and swiftest tool. Whether we think we can, or can’t we are right. Competition and training place us in direct contact with these thoughts. A few years ago, when I started running trail races and ultra-marathons I had no idea what my potential would be. I knew that as long as I didn’t quit, I would finish. Obvious right? Lining up for my first trail half-marathon in Los Alamos, NM I didn’t know if I’d come in last or towards the front. It was a big unknown, and it concerned me. I’d placed a certain level of importance on how well I would do. Why? I attached “self-worth” to my placing in the race. This of course added stress and anxiety to an otherwise completely laid back and positive experience. In the end the race went well. I started off conservatively, and pushed hard on the back half of the race to finish 6th place overall. I felt good about myself. I felt relieved.

Being self-coached lends itself to walking a fine line. The physical and nutritional is pretty easy to maintain as long as you listen to your body. On the other hand, the mental, emotional, and rational side of physical fitness is very difficulty to keep control over. You see we can talk ourselves into or out of doing anything. We’ve all done it. It’s a tough habit to break and even to recognize. Self-assessment is easier said than done.

The past weekend I found myself browsing facebook and twitter for information on upcoming trail races around the country. After a few minutes of clicking I found myself reading athlete training logs, and blogs from around the country. People are very open in what they are doing to prepare, posting workouts, miles ran, elevation gained, etc. In my head I started comparing my fitness and workouts to what they had done and were doing. I felt I was getting behind. My worry bounced from my climate (icy, snowy, long hard winter), to my lower leg tendinitis, and to other “reasons” why I wasn’t putting in big miles and epic training runs in preparation for my race season. I made excuses (it’s not important anymore, I have other goals now, etc.). A few days later I was thinking back on the first trail marathon, 50-mile trail race and 100-mile trail race I ran back in 2012. I went into each event totally naïve, with no expectations. My goal was to do my best and to finish the race. In short, I raced well that year. I placed 5th overall in the Leadville Trail Marathon (June), 10th overall in the Leadville 50-mile race (July), and 2nd overall in the Heartland 100-mile race (October).

I was excited to compete and it showed in my results. No expectations. No pressure. Plenty of smiles, miles and finish line jubilation were experienced.

Since then I’ve had races that went really well and a few others that didn’t go well at all. In hindsight, the races I competed poorly in I went to them over-trained, tired, mentally fatigued, and with a little self-doubt. I put too much pressure on myself based on past performances. I didn’t rest enough. I raced too often. I was racing and training without a coach. I did it the hard way and it showed.

Athletics are no different from academics or business. To be our best selves we need mentors, leaders and coaches. No excuses. Our time on this planet is so short. Each experience and endeavor deserves our best effort. Our most intelligent approach to the process, which will lead us to the product, can be the most elusive piece to the puzzle.

As a coach by profession, my job is to make you headstrong, confident, injury free, and able. Through self-trial and error I’ve learned invaluable lessons on performance, prioritization, and realistic goals, planning, training. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything as they’ve made me a better coach. Where I am on the path is where I want my students to be, without the low points, struggle and self-doubt that it took me to get here.

Intervals

Intervals

I just finished reading an article in the New York Times about HIIT, or, high intensity interval training. The title of the article, “How to Get Fit in a Few Minutes a Week” caught my eye, as titles like that usually do. The article does a good job of using science and study to give evidence based recommendations to the reader without too much complication in application. The concern is benefit and improvement in aerobic endurance capacity.

The “hacking” of fitness and health is extremely popular. The common theme is that we don’t have time to workout anymore. One hour of physical activity is just too daunting of an endeavor for the common human. The reasons why this is so are far too many to discuss here, so in interest of sticking to the topic I’ll move on to the nuts and bolts of interval training.

The body adapts very quickly to the stress we place upon it. If we do the same thing, at the same intensity day after day, week after week, our improvement stops, and as is often the case, overtraining and a loss of fitness can take place. Not good. Doing intervals is an effect way to layer differing intensities on top of a solid base aerobic fitness foundation.

  • What I mean here is that after running 50 minutes, 6 days per week at a moderate intensity, for 8-12 weeks it would be wise to substitute a couple higher intensity interval workouts into your week. You’ve got a base, now we can work on getting faster, building speed and power, 30 seconds of very hard effort followed by 60-90 seconds of recovery jogging, for as many as 10 repetitions.
  • Or, speaking in terms of strength training, instead of doing 4 sets of 15 kettle bell swings or burpees, resting between sets you would do 8 sets of 20 seconds of exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This varied demand takes us out of a certain comfort with the exercise and training, forcing us to adapt and become more efficient in the movement.

These are just two examples of application. Implementation of interval training is not a daily occurrence. Recovery is essential to improvement and sustained fitness gains. A good standard to follow is 48 hours between these workouts. Here, we are not talking about complete rest. It is always advisable to perform a lower intensity, endurance based or corrective exercise on these recovery days. Looking at our week of training, usually 6 days, we can space these sessions on days 1/3/5 with our targeted aerobic/endurance or corrective/recovery workouts on days 2/4/6.

Creating a flow in our training is essential. When thinking of efficiency don’t focus on cramming the workout into 8-12 minutes of pure sprint/recover training. Instead focus on optimization of those 30-60 minutes you are working on your fitness. In the gym take 3 full body exercises: burpees, kettle bell swings, and ball slams. Use an 8 x (:20/:10) or 4 x (:30/:30) format for each exercise, resting 3-5 minutes between them. Simple and effect application for 4-6 weeks, followed by assessment of progress toward your goals is the standard assignment.

Remember. Know your desired outcome (point B). Whether you are trying to get fit from a long period of inactivity, diligently training for a competition, or fixing a problem or weakness in your fitness (mental, physical), you need to keep an accurate assessment of your training.

As Dr. Phil Maffetone (endurance athlete coach)  says: Work + Rest = Training

 

 

Commit. Learn. Resolve.

 

Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second. Give your dreams all you’ve got and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.

-William James

There is a common theory in the fitness industry that most programs will work for 6-weeks, few will provide continuous results, and none will work through merely “trying it”.

Be discerning and educate yourself on the path you decide to take.

What we can learn from the quote above and this statement is that it is through commitment, learning and resolve that we change. Life is a constant personal competition. If we seek to give our best on a daily basis great progress will follow. The key is to keep the competition personal. Avoid judging your progress, work, and accomplishments based on what others are doing. This will help to avoid burnout and keep us on a path of continuous improvement.

In the context of fitness, whether you win or lose is not based on where you placed in the race or competition, but solely on if you gave your best. We have to be willing to risk failure, to open our mind to new possibilities. Let the competition, test, or deadline bring out your best. You may win, you may blow up, but if you truly give your best, you will have learned something.

Commit to what you start. Continue to learn and own what you are doing. Use this information and self-analysis to strengthen your resolve.

Personalization

“Any other path leads to someone else’s dream.” -Lyn Christian

I came across this quote earlier this morning and it sparked something in me. You see, this past weekend I was lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time with my father-in-law, Jan. We both have a high interest in fitness, health and running, but with a strong emphasis on “being”. To give a little background, Jan was one of the first athletes to complete the ironman triathlon in Hawaii, as well as the western states 100 in California. With numerous other “experiences” of endurance in his CV it’s clear that there is a strong connection between fitness, athletics and experience. It’s the personal journey that makes the doing worthwhile. Back to this past weekend, we spent a part of each day doing some calisthenics and going for a run. The importance of this is that it made the day “complete”. We weren’t training as much as we were experiencing, living, and bonding. This brings up a strong point of emphasis when helping others find a place for fitness and health in their lives. That place is personalization. The quote above from Lyn is a strong message to live by when discerning if a certain path will be the path you take. We all love to hear testimonials and look at photos of transformation. What is missing from these messages though is our own dream. Knowing ourselves completely and honestly.

When thinking of your pursuit… your point “B”… your future… focus on your personalization. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, but find solace in what you can do each day to make it complete. Incorporating fitness, exercise and health is a very powerful thing, but it’s different for everyone.

Our paths will differ in some way. Be truthful on your path. Live your dream through your actions.

Simplify. Focus. Flow. Be.

Expressing who we are and what we stand for is a difficult thing to do in the information age we live in. Finding satisfaction in our days and our decisions carries a greater importance in our lives now, more than ever. Taking care and investing in ourselves is part of this glorious gift of life we have received.

As my father-in-law says, “enjoy the journey”…

Adapt or Fall Behind

Adapt or fall behind.

Looking at my training logs over the past 4 years I’ve seen a clear shift in the direction of my training. Going back to 4 years ago, much of my time was spent cross training, and doing intense strength sessions in the gym. I trained a lot on the rings, with kettle bells, and with a lot of plyometric movements. My strength was high and fairly balanced, though I tended to focus my attention on what I was good at. 3 years ago I got into trail running. I had a major shift in the direction of my fitness training. Instead of hitting certain numbers in the gym, I focused on time, distance and elevation on the trail. Running, as well as biking, took me to amazing places. I covered vast distances and started to learn about endurance. Of course I took some of these adventures pretty far and developed some injuries. Taking time away from running and training was not easy to do, but during this time I realized the importance of those activities in my life. 2 years ago I took this racing thing head on and competed in many trail races, from 10k to 100 miles. I had some great results and along the way I learned to balance my training. The core/strength/gym work was essential to keeping me strong and balanced. I found that with two 45 minute sessions each week I could stay strong and fit, while spending the rest of my time focusing on developing endurance and training on the trail and the bike. A new path was forged and a new enthusiasm for fitness and training was fostered.

With gym training your only objective is showing up at the gym and working out hard and long enough to feel like you maximized your time. Thus, each session and each workout ends up having the same importance. Over time, training like this leads to burnout and huge peaks and valleys in our fitness. By having an event based focus I could prioritize my sessions, spending more emotional energy on the hard/taxing workouts, and much less on the day to day therapeutic/recovery sessions. I realized that if a certain week was busy/long/hard that it was part of the process of preparing to race a certain distance and terrain. Completing a workout brought me closer to my goal “event”.

This past year felt very similar to the previous one. I raced and trained much the same. Competing well in some races, even winning a few, but experiencing some low points as well. Poor performances, injuries and a general unsatisfied feeling. This posed some good questions for me leading into this winter. I took a break from running during the month of december. My body rested, I worked on short focused strength sessions using minimal gear (kettle bells, bands, bodyweight exercises, dumbbells). By breaking these exercises down I really learned the movements again. Focusing on stabilization, body tension, and breathing really helped maximize the effect of each exercise in every training session.

As I start to increase my running miles again and look ahead to races in 2014, I am drawn to the many motivating events each and every month around the US. This is a great problem to have, but it also takes discipline as an athlete to pick and choose the ones to focus on. My race schedule this year will be very minimal. Instead I will focus on exploring new areas on foot. Using running as my mode of travel through vast expanses. Building strength, recovering properly and gaining an intimate knowledge of the places I will race.

I have only three races on my schedule currently:

  • 7/12/14: Eugene Curnow Marathon, Carlton, MN
  • 7/26/14: Voyaguers, 50 mile, Carlton, MN
  • 9/5/14: Superior Sawtooth 100 mile, Lutsen, MN

I hope you are contemplating your goals for 2014. Try to branch out in your thinking. Find an event or activity to train for. Image and mirror based goals are Ok, but they often lead to peaks and valleys, emotional ups and downs, and a general disappointment in your time in the gym. They also represent extreme diets and restrictive lifestyles, which as you all know are not fun to endure.

Our choices will either move us forward, or lead us to fall behind. The physical “you” can be your greatest source of happiness and discovery, or it can be the strongest trap and inhibitor in your life.

Gain control and forge your future. Use the past to help guide your actions and decisions, both today and every day forward.