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!

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…

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.

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.

Massive Change / Simple Action

Forget the outcome and focus on the daily task.

I started to achieve, as an athlete and fitness professional when I looked at what I needed to do each day to progress. At first this was a “to-do” list of exercises, minutes, and miles. A list of foods to eat, and foods to avoid. Guidelines. Slowly, over time, this became a “feeling” that I sought in my daily movement and nutrition. Now I was thinking of how to win each day by finding satisfaction in feeling positive about my actions. This change was slow, and not something I set as an outcome, but it was revolutionary. It’s a mindset we utilize in other areas of our life, but often forget to apply to our fitness.

Win each moment. Recognize, when you made a bad choice, and take note of it. Don’t over dramatize it, but look at what led to that choice. Also, look at the impact of that choice. Sometimes the impact is small therefore you need not fret too much. Perspective.

  • Be present. Make cognizant purchasing decisions.
  • Know the purpose of the activity. During aerobic activity seek a feeling of flow. Look for those moments when it all clicks and you are locked into that positive state. When performing calisthenics or strength training recognize what each exercise requires, and work to maximize the effect of each movement.
  • Form follows function. The mode of fitness needs to be consistent with your desired outcome. Aesthetics differ from performance, greatly. The shape of your life should be based on your intended purpose.
  • Why. Stop here and really think about “why” you want to change. Make this a layered response. Meaning, start with you, add in your family, friends, and finally think of how you want the world to view you.

Do not focus on the time if you haven’t mastered the movement. Focus on the movements first, then increase the time your exercise or maximize the movements done in a specific time. Quality sticks. It progresses your forward. Quantity builds, but without quality, it promotes poor movement patterns and an outcome based, competitive focus. Their is a time for everything. Quality before quantity.

Your thoughts are a pattern. Master the pattern of thinking and decision making for daily success and you’ll achieve great things in your health and fitness.

A Call to Action

Fit. Healthy. Confident.

2013Superior100

A Call to Action.

Get Noticed. Be Different. Stay Successful.

Do you see how “fit, healthy, and confident” translates to “noticed, different, successful?” Now, do you think those words mean the same thing to all people? No. Everybody has a slightly different vision of their end-point. But, you can begin to understand that being fit and healthy will give you confidence. What might that look like? Well, to me it’s someone that stands out (getting noticed for being different), their presence is stronger than the rest of the group. A quiet confidence comes from knowing you’ve given yourself an edge over a vast majority of your peers (you are fit and healthy). You want success right? Well, take heed in knowing that by carving time out of your busy schedule and daily demands to “workout” and producing results from that time commitment is the ultimate representation of success. Make no mistake, physical fitness and the confidence that comes from knowing you are doing more in the same 24 hours that we are all given, is an elite edge.

Are you my ideal client? Do you want to be fit, healthy, and confident? Do you want to get noticed, stand out, and exude success? If so, I can help you gain the edge.

Your time is valuable. Unless you simply go through the motions day in and day out. Living the same complacent life as your parents, neighbors, or friends… a consistent acceptance of mediocrity. If so your time is not valuable. Your time is expendable. The throes of complacency have gripped you, wreaking havoc on your ability to manifest powerful images of success, and transform those thoughts into action.

It’s just a decision away. Stay on a health and fitness path (if any) that is not producing and eliciting, or do a 180 degree about face. Without decisive action you won’t make distinctive change.

In parting, you are closer than you think you are. You can handle more than you think you can. The future reveals an empty canvas of potential.

  • Focus on building an able body to take on and complete athletic competitions
  • Dial in your nutrition and obtain a complete understanding of your bodies response
  • Give yourself daily options to stay on the path of results and success
  • Maximum results / Minimum time
  • Give yourself an edge
  • Stand out wherever you make your presence felt
  • Become inspirational in your social and community circles

Mobile: 505.715.9316 / Email: jake@xclusivefitness.com / Local: Twin Cities Metro

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.

Flowing Fitness Continuum

The flowing fitness continuum.

There is a multitude of ways to workout and gain fitness: calisthenics, kettle bells, free weights, machines, cardio, yoga, and Pilates just to name a few.

  • Where should you start?

I can’t say there is a perfect place to start. If you begin at a young age, your introduction to fitness will most likely include tumbling, running, some gymnastic, apparatus based movements, and maybe a few basic exercises such as pushups, squats, and sit-ups. Ideally, we’d all start here and stay here for quite some time. Learning by doing, and being inquisitive about movement is the best way to “do” fitness. Interest in exercise stays peaked longer, avoiding the boredom and monotony that most common fitness programs seem to evoke.

  1. Free weights are excellent to have access to. Many of the movements done with them are very effective and functional. Yet, the drawback is that a multitude of weights are needed and you really can’t travel with them, anywhere.
  2. The kettle bell (KB) is a fascinating tool. Simple in design and function, the (KB) directly targets the most commonly weak area on almost all humans, their posterior chain: hamstrings, glutes, low and mid back. The (KB) also provides an excellent non-impact cardio component to your workout. Simply put, if you can learn one implement or tool, make it the (KB).
  3. Unless you are in a rehab facility or situation, machines are completely unnecessary. Size, cost, non-functionality, there are simply too many drawbacks to basing a fitness program around machines.
  4. The mind-body movement, including yoga and Pilates, is one that needs its own article. I have only positive things to say about both of these disciplines, especially when used in conjunction with a sound strength and conditioning program.
  5. Lastly, we have cardio: running, biking, skating, skiing, rowing, swimming, etc. Nothing beats endurance training. It’s extremely positive for your body and mind. Any activity that allows you to propel your body over long distances, under your own power is going to be the ultimate form of exercise.

What it comes down to is personal preference. What do you enjoy the most? Do the activity that brings you the most enjoyment. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to do it. The more you do anything, the better you get at it. It’s all very personal, but having a basic understanding of various fitness disciplines is helpful in choosing your path. Become the best YOU!

  • Does mastering one discipline help prepare you to master others?

Yes and no. Mastering the ability to control your body, kinesthetic awareness, is the best way to begin. This means gymnastic, bodyweight movements are the preferred method. That being said, it’s not practical for the average adult to begin training as a gymnast. Having the background, learning how to move well at a young age, is the ideal beginning. Being sufficient at more than one discipline is never a bad thing. If I can enjoy more than one activity, the variety at my disposal is greatly increased. Endurance/cardio activities pair well with any other form of fitness. Love to move!

  • Which one is best, for me/you?

Just move. Begin. Walking, running, light calisthenics, some pushups, squats… develop a pattern, make it habitual and you’ll feel better, do it more often, see and feel an immediate difference. If something peaks your interest, go for it. Use any sudden spark of ambition to begin again. Respect that you are starting from the beginning. Don’t sweat if the initial activity is hard, challenging, and leaves you with residual muscle soreness. One last note here: if you can do it on your own, free of class, or gym/facility commitment, your ownership will come much more quickly. Learn, progress and move forward!

Our lives are our own. Enjoyment is 100% personal. Find the things you love and do them often. Don’t waist time on activities that provide you with no enjoyment. Contrary to what many believe, this includes exercise and fitness. There is a path for all of us. The focus, movement.

Patience. Presence. Persistence.

Why You/I Need a Coach

Why you/I need a coach.

While shopping for solutions to your health and fitness needs you will run across a multitude of programs, videos, special equipment, and many other products. This is easy to create and sell. Generally the marketing of the products is centered on how simple it is to do on your own. This is where the problems can start…

Starting a self-applied training program is a big step in having some ownership of your health. You are making a commitment. Time in your day that once was given to some other activity is now being assigned to this new fitness endeavor. Comfort and security is traded for discomfort and insecurity. You are being asked to begin the learning process again. It’s easy to start, but will you be able to finish? Can you quell the voices in your head as the soreness sets in the next morning? Will you make the right nutritional choices so that your body can begin to work on changing its composition? These are big questions, but they are real.

So what can a coach do for me? We all have notions of what the role of a coach is, some are positive, some are negative, but for most of us we’ve never had a personal coach. Coaching is usually seen in a group/team environment, focused on the group’s outcome. In our adult lives most of our achievements are assessed on the personal level. How do you stand out? Why are you achieving? What’s holding you back? Fitness coaching and Health coaching are two sides of the same coin. On one side your have fitness coaching, which is mainly concerned about the nuts and bolts of your physical training on a daily basis. On the other side you have health coaching, which is concerned with who you are 24 hours a day. The focus here is on your life: your stresses, job, demands, time, health, habits, etc. As you can see a lot goes into helping someone become successful. In modern, urban life it’s not innate or natural to have balance. The scale is always tipped one direction or the other. Solutions are there to be found, but we can’t assume that we have the capability, time, or energy to invest in personally finding those solutions. It’s a complex web of factors that produce your current state of health and fitness.

A coach works with you to provide solutions. On a basic level, it is accountability and commitment. On a deeper level it is accessibility. Having a guide to answer your questions, not generally, but specifically, will arm you with real personal solutions. For me, knowing that I have a good coach, with my best interests at the forefront of their thoughts and actions is invaluable. General knowledge is helpful, but it is often communicated as “the way” when in fact there is no one-way.

In parting, keep this in mind:

  • Establish Goals
  • Develop Action Plans to Achieve Goals
  • Become a Part of a Team
  • Receive Individual Guidance
  • Be Armed with Knowledge to Make the Needed Corrections
  • Experience the Power of Personal Health Solutions
  • Own Your Health and Fitness

 

Resistance

Resistance

The mind controls it all. It fabricates, incentivizes, dramatizes, and elicits emotion in nearly every moment of our lives. Focusing the mind to be fully connected with what we are doing, when we are doing it, is a skill that when possessed, is the most powerful of them all.

When I define a goal it often has loose consequences. It’s arbitrary whether or not I succeed or fail. Those who love me do not place value on my performance, therefore the prioritization is all my own. The preparation, planning, and sacrifices are my own. To achieve a best performance in this regard requires a very strong mind. A high level of personal importance is required in order to give everything to my goal, or event. My events are long. Anywhere from 3 to 24+ hours. Knowing this I focus on not looking forward to the end of a training session. At the point the training becomes uncomfortable, for any reason, intended or not, I must be in the moment. The mind connects with the feeling of the body; am I tired, thirsty, hungry? What of those things can I control? Am I slowing down? If I am, it’s most likely due to the mind letting the body take control and forgetting proper self-care. I must also focus on positive thoughts. Reassuring the purpose of the event and its priority in my life. This is where I want to be.

General fitness training fails when there is no consequence.

“A lot of people try to get around goals by not being specific enough. Your goals have to be quantifiable with a by-when date!”

Commitment and priority are quick to waiver. Your body will put up a fight to any sort of change: dietary, sleep, workout, and schedule. Understanding and expecting this is mandatory. Giving your self the option of cancelling or saying no is the beginning of the end. You must commit. Clearly define why you want to make changes. Superficial, image based goals can spur you to begin training, but when things get tough, they are not strong enough to keep you on track. Do you want to be an example to your family and friends? This can’t simply be a nice surprise. Please don’t dabble. Being an active participant in your life means eliminating the passivity in how you approach each day. Train with vigor.