Performance / Success / Discipline

“A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge, and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges. – Don Juan, Carlos Castaneda

Application of the concept of right practice, the pursuit of excellence, or the process of formative lifestyle change/improvement applies to all areas of your life. Making this distinction and honestly engaging each aspect of your existence with these principles is a skill to be consciously employed.

“I appreciate greatness and I appreciate hard work. It’s something about devoting a piece of every day to something that’s far off that’s really inspiring to me. I know there are areas where I can improve, which gives me a lot of confidence that it’s not the peak for me.” Dylan Bowman – Professional Ultrarunner

“Performance is about being your best and learning to do something better. Excellence does not come easily, nor is it automatic for even the most talented, highly-motivated individuals. Rather it stems from the desire to be really good at something and the discipline to make a lasting commitment.” – Connie Carpenter 1984 Gold Medal Cycling

“A performance gap is thereby delineated with maximum specificity between the performance system subject to premature failure and the image of purpose. By employing the force of will, moment to moment, to sustain the training exercise past such points of premature microsystemic failure, the performance of that particular episode of exercise is enhanced.” Michael Livingston – Mental Discipline

Most athletic practice will embrace some fundamental performance objective, and this objective properly will be embodied in a general image of purpose. Discrete performance objectives / maximum specificity. Each microsystem must be trained with maximum intensity.

The purpose of walking the path is not to attain some final destination but simply to progress ever further along that path.

The ego distorts purity of practice. Product-oriented pursuits serve the ego, seeking some objectified result to be achieved through that practice. There is no purity of practice. No commitment to the process.

The purpose must possess a process orientation. This process orientation to the image of purpose, in turn, has two dimensions: intention and direction. The force of will acts on the mind in two ways. First, the mind must be directed, toward some conceptual goal. Second, the mind must be propelled or animated to move in that direction.

The greater the specificity and intensity of practice – that is, the more purposeful – the more effective the practice will be.

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!

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.

Peace. Pity. Action. Progression.

Inspiration, instigated by a thought provoking read.

Action requires information. Let peace inform your actions and your intention will be displayed. -MFT

Too much posturing. This is what I do. What I’m good at. What I’ve done. What I have. Where I’m going. Enough. Absorb information. Inquire. Learn. Who you are will be displayed through how you move, speak, and engage. No declarations. Just listen. Ask.

Stop. No more looking for pity. Don’t desire those who love and care for you to give answers. They will and you probably won’t take action. The cycle continues. Time goes by. You don’t need pity. Opinion does not equal actuality. Black and white. Win or lose.

Life is swift. Enough digressing. Forward is the way. Not in the future, but in the now. You are here. There is no past, or future, only present. 365 days go by fast. 365 sunrises. Opportunity is offered only so often. Is it too late to begin? Not if what you want is worth the pursuit. Limitations are self employed.

Peace of mind. Not giving a fuck what others think of YOU. That’s progression. No groups. No need for belonging. Flow happens when you engage. Acceptance is not worth the time or effort.

“Yes, I teach. I lead. I coach. I declare. But in the same breath I learn. Because anything else would mean I am dead: either death-dead or living-dead, stagnant, redundant, repetitive, stuck. I have wasted time, of course, but I won’t waste life. And that’s why I’m here, on the road, in the dirt, atop the bike but sometimes on the ground next to it wondering what just happened. I am a student. This is how I learn.” – Mark Twight

Friendships and Coaching

The right prescription, assignment, plan, outline, etc. does us no good without the inner confidence that we are capable of improvement, completion, and success.

Friendships develop over time. Often taking months before a level of trust and willingness to care is manifested. This trial period of sharing experiences, exposing weaknesses and displaying strengths is a delicate dance requiring equal participation of both parties. One can not want it more than the other.

Establishing this relationship fosters the potential for new heights. You must give to get. We cannot create more time. A reprioritization must occur and remain to keep the potential a possibility. Commitment.

You must know your “why” in creating change. Admit a void, or known weakness, struggle, insecurity, etc. and be confident in your decision. Continuing down your current path will not produce the desired change. Comfort breeds complacency. We cannot hope to maintain that which hasn’t been maximized. Not knowing our full potential (will we ever?), those words, “maintain”, should never be uttered when speaking of our health. Continuous engagement requires an allocation of energy resources. When training, you are building/working/fatiguing, then recovering, where you lose, in order to regain the energy/resources to begin again. See the full picture.

Committing to coaching requires a letting go of emotion, control, and routine. This is not easy, but it is the only way. Trust requires vulnerability. Change requires months, not days and weeks. This should embolden you to let go of repeated judgment and give in to the daily assignment.

And do you know what I found after several decades of life? We achieve our goal, we become a level of ourselves, and then we want to go further. And we make new mistakes, and we have new hardships, but we prevail. We are human. We are alive. We have blood.

Patti Smith

Checking In: Connecting Trainer with Client

“If you are prepared, have confidence and persevere, you will always have the edge.” Howard Ferguson

As a personal trainer, I find the most difficulty and dissatisfaction in those days in between my training sessions with my clients. On the way to meet the trainee I’m pondering how their week went. Did they workout? Eat well? How are they sleeping and recovering? Days always turn into weeks, turn into months, and eventually years. Time is always of the essence, so for me, finding a program that allows me to be connected and locked in with my clients in the virtual world is essential, but until now, it wasn’t a reality.

Trainerize, an online personal training software has changed the game for me. My plan is to fully integrate all clients into it’s usage moving forward. The ability to see how each week is structured, and how those week’s lead and build into a 4-6 week block of training, is a game changer for clients. It shows them where the process is going. As much as it is about the daily workout, the focus is more on the long-game. Are you building or are you dabbling? Are you hoping it gets easier, or are you planning to get stronger?

I won’t wax philosophical too much, but I will challenge your involvement with the success process. It’s as simple as checking-in. Once that becomes automatic, a connection is established that gets strengthened on a daily basis. For the client, knowing that I’m not judging what they did or didn’t do is crucial as well. I want to know and understand they “why” so we can implement some strategies and find other paths to success. It’s there, but we need engagement in the process in order to unlock your/our potential.

Check in. Utilize. Implement. Engage. Discover. Succeed.

Onward and Upward,

Jake

PS- I’ll leave you to ponder all of the crucial moments of your life where you were required to check in. Listed below are just a few examples.

  • Your first days of college. Checking in at the dorm, registering for classes, exploring options of engagement with the university and your peers.
  • Medical/dental/legal appointments.
  • Sports practices.
  • Job interviews and admissions interviews.
  • etc

The list can flow on and on. Give the process a certain importance and your actions will follow.

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

 

 

Discomfort

The awkward, uncomfortable feeling of physical struggle we feel when the workout gets hard is essential to growth. Most people seek to avoid this at all costs, but to do so is to avoid growth and progress. Be clear on your “why” before, during, and after.

“Working out” is your pure practice of engaging in lifestyle change and enhancement.

Discomfort never lasts. Comfort never progresses.

When it’s over. You won’t regret it.

Engage!

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.

Variety in Health and Exercise is Unnecessary

Assessment

In the active, athletic, fitness, and wellness world it seems every week we are presented with new exercises and ways to workout. From slight variations to a pushup to complex training programs for niche activities [think stand up paddle boarding], it seems there is no end in sight for “new” ways to train. Programs are designed to be gender and age specific, emphasizing the unique needs of each group, and defending why the approach needs to be different. My opinion on this matter is that this is completely unnecessary in the area of physical training and sport. Remember, we are not talking about physical therapy or injury rehab, thus a specific isolation should not be needed.

  1. Hacking or Shortcutting: the idea of finding ways to get more out of less is not unique to the fitness world. We (humans) are very strongly drawn to new products, theories, and “revolutionary” ideas of improvement. In training we are working on mastery of movement or sport specific skills. Essentially we are seeking change or lasting imprint on our being. You could even say building and defining a new “self”. When a person attempts to invest time and resources into “hacking” an area of their life that is a complete mess (health and fitness), the best that can be accomplished is an arrival at a slightly better representation of bad. Skip the hype.
  2. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): the idea of focusing on interval training to achieve a better workout, or metabolic effect, in a much shorter period of time. In true representation, as a part of a broad training program HIIT is an excellent addition. When properly executed along with strength and power endurance as well as pure endurance activities the immense benefits can be seen. On its own, as the backbone of your training, this is a very poor investment of your energy. Too many times I see people lose focus, patience, and sight of what a well-rounded training program is designed to do. Your training is grounded by the endurance work you do each work. Increasing the size and capacity of your engine (think burn more calories, go faster, recover quicker) should never be shelved in favor of the less is more faction.
  3. Gender Specific Training Programs: lame. Both men and women will benefit from the same exercises. Sure, many very fit women will never be able to do a pull-up or knock out a set of push-ups on the rings. That being said men don’t need some specific testosterone enhancing bench press program, which I’m sure exists somewhere. Likewise, women don’t need “sculpting” programs using special balls and bands. Men and women, benefit equally from training movement in a full range of motion. Bodyweight is often a factor in making high rep sets or stabilization exercises easier for women, just as upper-body dominant exercises done in isolation are easier for men to perform. Standards may differ, but execution should be the same.
  4. Nutrition/Diet: if it has a “name” its bad. Our society has too many eating and food related disorders already why start more? All things in moderation are OK. Just like your exercise/training program, balance is key. The desire to look like a Paleolithic being is bizarre to me when considering their short life spans and severely restricted access to any sort of nutritional variety. Be a smart person. Avoid the extremes.
  5. Complex training: this idea that spreadsheets and confusing rep/set/time formats will provide greater results than the simple. Not true. As someone that loves to exercise, and write training programs, my greatest enjoyment is in seeing mastery and progression. For this to happen the trainee cannot be bogged down in confusion and complexity. Your desired physique comes not from popping in and out of complex training, but from weeks and months of consistency. Skip the new finagled programs, Olympic lifts, and excessive plyometric routines. You won’t regret it!

Find your constant and be true to that activity. For many, this was a sport or leisure activity. Now, I see many people with strong ties to “fitness” classes or programs. My constant is running, preferably on a trail. Most of the time I do this to calm my mind, but for a period every summer I focus intently on honing my training to complete to the best of my ability in a key competition. The emotions elicited from this process help me grow and see possible new realities. Being constant in my focus allows me to grow. I may never “arrive” at some final endpoint of potential, but I’m OK with that.

Respect the amount of energy it takes to change, and avoid the tendency to jump on the newest fad in training. Remember, muscles don’t get confused, and there are no shortcuts.

Grounding Exercises: Squats, Deadlifts, Pull-Up/Body Pulls, Pushups, Dips, Planks, Lunges, Step-Ups, and Kettle Bell Swings and Cleans. Common sense variations of these are applicable and worthwhile.

Never stray from the basics.