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!

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!

You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.

A simple Army saying that applies to almost every action we take or avoid…

The mind is our power center. Dictating and directing the body to take certain actions. To do or not to do. To give the power of choice to another (boss, spouse, etc.), or to trust in oneself to make the right decision. Many times the things, tasks, jobs we do not like, are a part of a bigger process, or delayed gratification. Giving in to this process is OK. Repetition is required to learn and then improve all skill.

Your focus must be on the specific microsystem (your mind) that is subject to failure. Your training “action” must stress that microsystem to failure. Mind-power is therefore trained by the decisions and choices we make from the time the alarm clock goes off to the time our head hits the pillow at night. You must believe that weaknesses can be eliminated, if not become strengths.

It is the concept of purpose that distinguishes specific practice from simple experience. Did it happen to you, randomly, by chance, or did you engage, plan, and seek it out?

We are, you are, and I am one simple step from the right path. You don’t have to like, you just have to do it…

The Morning Routine That Sets the Tone

All routines (and diets) work, you just have to stick to it. No discipline. No results.

Rehearse your routine the evening prior. Set a reminder for yourself to begin. Be consistent with your time of awakening.

  1. Wake up, immediately brush your teeth.
  2. Take 10 slow, deep breaths. Inhale as much as you can. Hold for 3 seconds, and exhale all air out.
  3. Drink 20 ounces of water. I prefer slightly chilled, but room temp is fine.
  4. Eat a very small piece of fruit (if needed).
  5. Set timer for 7 minutes. Perform a stretching routine. Where are you weak? What positions do you ignore because of limitations? Work through these. Breathe through intense positions to calm yourself down and relax.
  6. Set timer for 7 minutes. Move and think. Light calisthenic work: squat, lunge, plank, hang, and/or pull. Think positive thoughts and be grateful for the opportunity of today. Mindfulness. Align yourself with the present.
  7. Move forward with your morning.
  8. Each week add a minute to your stretching and movement timers until you reach 11 minutes. Maintainable and Sustainable.

Breaking it down is essential. Create flow by being patient and in the moment. Eliminate external stimuli as best as you can for clarity and presence.

Happy Body. Happy Life.

 

Health: You’ve Got More Than You Think You Have

You are healthier than you think you are. Mindset and behavior.

I’ve noticed how life seems to ebb and flow as priorities and demands shift from year to year, and sometimes more frequently than that. Many years ago, after watching someone drift out of their fitness routine, and then re-engage weeks later, I asked him why he would do this to himself? There’s nothing worse than starting over again from a point of diminished fitness. He mentioned to me how we had three areas of our lives that demanded a lot of attention:

Fitness/Health, Business/Financial, and Family/Spiritual.

He said that each of these elements is present in some form, every day of our lives, and together, comprise 100% of your being. I thought about this for a second and agreed. When the demands of one area dominate the other two, there is some suffering. The point he was trying to make is that this is natural and to be expected. Recognizing and acknowledging what is going on is vitally important to be able to give increased attention and focus to the area of need.

  • Important components of Your Success:
    • Acknowledge the situation.
    • Set clear goals for completion and disengagement.
    • Focus on yourself, avoid comparisons to others around you.
    • Perform maintenance on the areas of less priority.
    • Be good to yourself. Champion your successes. Focus forward.

If you are feeling that one area of your life is significantly lacking, feel free to re-prioritize. Make a list of a decision you need to make with the positives on one side, and potential negatives on the other. Weigh it, and move forward. You may come to the realization that it’s not worth worrying about after all.

Remember, you can’t be all things at all times. It’s not sustainable, and won’t make you satisfied at the end of the day. To achieve anything of significance it takes valuable resources: time and energy, of which we only have so much.

  • Illustrations:
    • Entrepreneur: you are an expert in business, seek help in fitness and spirituality (coaches and advisors).
    • Athlete: you are an expert in sport and fitness, seek help in the other areas (mentors and advisors).
    • Mindfulness / Family Caregiver: you are an expert in family, seek help in the other areas (coaches and advisors).

Do a quick analysis of what your motivation in each of these three areas is and use that information to move forward and assess your success in life.

You are healthier than you think you are! Prioritize, and optimize to refresh your mindset and behavior!

 

Find the Better Way

There is always a better way, so find it. Then find a better one. – Ido Portal

The above quote got me thinking. The one below, drove it home.

Leading is done from the front. I still move, research and explore MORE than my students, even my most advanced ones. Most ‘industry leaders’ have forgotten this while fame and money got into the picture. The rest of the pyramid then dries out as new information stops trickling down. – Ido Portal

The movement “way” is more than a means to an end. With some irony, watching the new Tarzan film, I listened to him describe how his body developed, because of the way he used it. By engaging his upper body in all movements and locomotion his hands grew incredibly strong, and the supporting joints became massively stabile.

Lifestyle drives change. Environment demands bodily facilitations. Engage.

In our training we can all benefit from the basic movements.

The plank, along with downward facing, and upward facing dog, increase strength and flexibility in our chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. Minimal and functional.

The squat demonstrates strength and endurance in our prime movers, the quadriceps and gluteus muscles. Over time, and through consistent practice, it also increase the flexibility of our lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, as well as the knee and ankle.

The hang or pull is a balance to the plank. Stressing your grip, via the muscles and tendons of your fingers and forearms, over time your build strength and endurance. If you like, you can begin to engage the biceps, and large muscles of the back to pull your bodyweight. Strength is built from the small muscles, and the tendons, inward to the large primary muscles.

Swift movements that may require some balance demand kinesthetic awareness. Here not only are you improving cardiovascular health, you also engage the brain by moving in this way and environment.

Action, reaction. Cause and effect. Explore and Learn.

We have new information, yet it increases our focus on the end product, not the journey. Goals are nice, but often mere pillow fantasies. The journey to the peak is found in the exploration.

Find a new edge. Draw a broad boundary. Create space. Evolve.

Home Training

The other day I went to a gym to workout. It was a very good gym with lots of cool equipment and tools for fitness. Lots of open space, and people doing mostly functional workouts. In essence, it was motivating. When I went in I didn’t have a plan of anything I specifically wanted to do. Burpee pull-ups, some kettle bell exercises, dips, planks, etc. ended up being on the menu. I worked through the session and finished in about 45:00. A good session by all means.

Usually, I work out at home. I have a room in my house that I call the “Icebox,” because it’s a cold, uninsulated seasonal porch. I do wish it had heat, but this is Minnesota. Get used to the cold or add it as another excuse to why you aren’t fit or doing your daily workouts. I choose to make it work.

These home strength sessions are simple and efficient. I have a pull-up bar, two sets of rings (low and medium), three kettle bells, a bench, and a set of DB’s, 25’s and 35’s. In addition I have my bike hooked up to my fluid trainer (so I can ride indoors), a airdyne bike, and a concept 2 rowing machine. Now, this is much less than any gym will have. Also, much less than I would have if I had more space. But, this is also more than I would need to train, workout, or suffer, and in the process, get a lot stronger. My sessions in the icebox are anywhere from 10 minutes to 60 minutes (if I’m doing intervals in addition to strength). I really have nowhere to hide, wander around, or waste time. Thus, every minute I’m in there I’m training or thinking about the next set, rep, etc. I’m also getting strong at a lot of functional, full-body exercises. By having less options (lighter KB’s or DB’s) I’m forced to learn how to move the heavier weight. My form improves. By working out alone I focus on quality reps all of the time, rather than most of the time in a big gym environment. No distractions. No showing off. Nobody interrupting my workouts.

I’ll leave you with this. If you are interested in creating a functional home gym, meaning, no bulky equipment (weight machines, etc.), please contact me.

If you’d like to learn how to workout and make impressive gains with minimal stuff/options, please contact me.

Having this option, in your home or office, is a huge advantage over the typical gym-goer, that may be wasting up to 6-8 hours a week by training in a gym, instead of working out at home.

If time is an issue. The home gym is the answer.

Proper Self Care

If I were to ask you if you were a “type A” personality would you answer yes? I’m talking about career driven, high energy, self-motivated individuals. If so, you are a common client of mine as Type A individuals dominate my list. They also are my toughest customers because of their tendency to neglect self care during times of high stress, when self care would be most beneficial.

What is proper self care?

From wikipedia we get this definition, “Self care refers to actions and attitudes which contribute to the maintenance of well-being and personal health and promote human development.”

Let’s look at a day in the life scenario. Starting each day the focus should be on meeting your self care needs. Eat a light breakfast or snack , placing some fuel in your system so you can get your workout or training session in. Be in the moment during these workouts as it may be the only time all day when you can focus solely on your health and performance. Make a quick breakfast smoothie to take with you to work.

Doesn’t that sound easy? It is, but it takes practice and planning. It won’t be automatic, no matter how motivated you are, self care takes discipline, along with a strong valuation on the concept.

As your day unfolds you must schedule a time away from work, not a time to meet with others and talk about work. If you didn’t workout in the morning, this would be a great time to take 1.5-2 hours out of your day to hit the gym or go for a run. Some prefer this time of day to break things up so they can start fresh again post-workout. Another option would be to take a walk to grab a coffee or tea. Fresh air, sunlight, being outside for just a few minutes can do wonders for your sanity. Leave the smartphone at work during this time. Break the habits that have placed you in a imbalanced state of health and lost self care.

If you work off of appointments, which most of us do, make sure you are wise with your scheduling and delegation. Stretching yourself thin with late nights, weekends and early mornings may give you a sense of accomplishment financially, but the downside is that something always pays for that imbalanced state. Have a strict end time for work or at least for seeing clients. Some days won’t be perfect, but you will know where you stand each day… balanced or imbalanced. Learn to delegate. This will free up a lot of energy and simplify your decision making processes. Can someone else do it? Most often the answer is yes. Prioritize and vocalize your needs. We all know where we are losing time and efficiency. Work to correct this sooner rather than later.

After work. Come up with a strategy or system for disconnecting. Ask your spouse how his/her day went. Plan dinners. Cooking if it is a option for you, is a nice way to sink into the evening. Treat your dinners as nourishment. Choose the majority of your foods this way, avoiding eating for comfort and mass consumption. Again, slow things down. Wash the dishes, dry them, put them away. Make sure to hydrate. Run a bath, light some candles, listen to relaxing music. This is your life. Take care of yourself. The TV, computer, phone, whatever the distraction may be is not beneficial. Learn to engage with your environment and not merely spectate.

Sleep. Get some rest. By treating your evening in a similar fashion as I described above you will transition much easier into sleep. Darken your room. Lower the temperature. Read for a few minutes until you are ready to fall asleep.

If you’d like some help in nutrition and lifestyle planning, please contact me. I’m here to help. It’s my passion to see you living at your highest level possible!