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.

Find Your Limiter

Your Limiter

Simple movements will expose you. Therefore, they should be, and are, all you need to evolve in your body-knowledge. Developing an understanding of what skilled movement patterns require takes patience and commitment.

I thoroughly enjoy this process! Lowering repetitions, yet keeping time under tension high has forced me to engage more, mentally.

In my profession, the plank allows me to assess where the client is weak. Their limiter could be core-strength, unactivated glutes, poor leg-tension, weak chest, weak shoulders, weak triceps, or an un-present mind. Movements are linked and connected, thus, how you do one thing is how you do everything.

Modifications are numerous. The plank can be performed from your knees, or with hands on an elevated bench, chair, or bar. Yoga blocks and parallettes are fun additions.

Simple Implementation. 1:00 Plank. 1:00 Squats. 1:00 Walking Lunges. 1:00 Rest. Repeat three times.

Free your mind and make it happen.

Live the Script to Nutrition Success

Image result for jack lalanne

I train like I’m training for the Olympics or for a Mr. America contest, the way I’ve always trained my whole life.  You see, life is a battlefield.  Life is survival of the fittest.  How many healthy people do you know?  How many happy people do you know?  Think about it.  People work at dying, they don’t work at living.  My workout is my obligation to life.  It’s my tranquilizer.  It’s part of the way I tell the truth – and telling the truth is what’s kept me going all these years. – Jack LaLanne

Despite being quite fit and strong since I can remember, there was always something missing. I never missed a workout, and if I did, I’d make up for it by doing calisthenics in my spare moments at home or in between commitments. Instant feedback, endorphin rush, muscle pump, vascularity, increased energy, etc. kept me coming back day in and day out. Nutrition wasn’t even on my radar. I consumed too much of everything bad and had an immature relationship with nutrition and health. I was lazy and took shortcuts whenever I could. Luckily, this didn’t last…

Fast forward to late 2005. I had started to make fitness and personal training my career. Surrounded by friends who had matured in their nutrition and consumption behaviors, as well as clients that struggled with this aspect (some mightily), I started to take this aspect more seriously. Still, I wasn’t ready to give up the food as pleasure outlook I’d been living my entire life. Jump ahead a few more months and my training curiosity placed me in the bodybuilding world in the summer of 2006. Good nutrition builds lean mass. A heavy rotation of protein: steak/fish/chicken/eggs, and healthy carbs: sweet potatoes and brown rice, had me realizing the work hard, eat smart equation produces results. I signed up for a competition, which built-in accountability and added a deadline feature to this process. A magic formula if there ever was one. My food choices were narrowed down to only those things that would guarantee a successful outcome. Elimination works. Just getting rid of the sweets, refined sugars, and most carbs had me leaning out and putting on muscle. The decision fatigue that plagues many adults was no longer present. I had begun to evolve as an adult.

After competing in the bodybuilding competition I realized that the weightlifting lifestyle was not for me. Being active, mobile, light, lean, and adaptable was much more appealing. I started rock climbing and trail running. Both sports require a maximum strength to weight ratio. Like bodybuilding, the sport, or activity, was the driver for the nutritional component to follow. Fueling for prolonged movement meant eating less (volume), but more nutritionally dense foods. The focus was on feeling light and agile. Over time, my appearance shifted quite drastically. I was smaller but leaner, and more striking in physicality. Think Bruce Lee versus an NFL linebacker. The saying, “appearance is a consequence of fitness” became something I could actually relate to.

Epiphany. I can control how I look and feel by moving daily, and eating only healthy foods. We all know this works. Live the script day in and day out. By doing this you will develop your own standard.

My Nutritional Environment:

  • Drink a lot of water with a pinch of sea salt. Start your day with 20-24 ounces of cold water. Drink up to 1 gallo throughout the day depending on the activity level and environmental demands.
  • Water. Coffee. Tea. An adult beverage in the evening.
  • Smoothie:
    • Almond or Coconut Milk
    • Almond Butter
    • Blueberries
    • Spinach
    • Protein Powder
    • Local Honey
  • Snacks (options):
    • Mary’s Gone Crackers (costco in bulk)
    • Avocado
    • Kirkland Protein Bars (costco in bulk)
    • Hardboiled Eggs
    • Dates
    • Macadamia Nuts
  • Dinners:
    • Chicken / Sardines / Venison / Steak
    • Occasional sweet potato, brown rice, or other carbs
    • Spinach salad w/beets, carrots, feta, avocado oil and sea salt
      • or similar combo of veggies, sometimes sauteed.
  • Cheating:
    • 1-2 meals a week. Keep it to a meal, not an entire day. Make sure you are very active on that day and it won’t set you back very much.
  • Always check in with how your nutrition is making you feel. This is key.
    • NOTE: be honest with alcohol. Don’t consume within 90 minutes of bedtime or you’ll pay for it in quality of sleep, hydration, and performance the next day.
  • Be smart when you intake carbs. Make sure they go right to an activity or are being stored for a big cardio/endurance event the next morning.

Many years later I still adhere to this philosophy. Make good choices easier by limiting your options. Repetition is beneficial or harmful. I choose to make it beneficial by making the high-calorie meal the outlier. Plan for success. Foster the environment for this to occur.

Make the transformational process of owning your health a focused competition with hard deadlines. This works! Remember that today is the best day of the rest of your life and live it that way. Positive choices > Negative choices. Win the day.

Writing this reminded me of a great article that arrived in my inbox last summer. Click here to read.

The Absolute Minimum

Life, it happens. Work and family demands often interrupt our personal time for health and exercise. When this compounds from a single training session to multiple days or heaven forbid weeks, you have a problem. Time stops for nothing. Thus, the prioritization of self is truly not a choice. It’s a habit. Learning to say “no” is a skill that needs to be trained. When you respect yourself, others, in turn, show you more respect and understand your value.

Here are some tips to make things happen when you’re forced to modify.

  1. Have a list of “go-to” exercises you can quickly engage with. Ideally, these create a large oxygen demand, lending themselves to higher repetition training, via one continuous set, or multiple sets linked with short rest.
    1. Kettlebell Swings
    2. DB Cleans
    3. Squat Thrusts or Burpees
    4. Walking or Standing Reverse Lunges
    5. Step-Ups: weighted or unweighted
    6. Plank Mobility Complexes
  2. Short cardio bouts are good to implement as well.
    1. Warm-up for 5 minutes easy.
    2. Intervals: 10 x (:15 hard / :45 easy) or (:30 hard / :30 easy)
    3. Cooldown with 5 minutes easy.

Remind yourself to ask the question “how can I,” instead of stating “I can’t.” You can do it. Send me an email, give me a call, I’m here to help you implement, strategize and succeed.

Onward and Upward!

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!