Does your training lift you up, or beat you down?

Assessing how you feel before, during, and after a training session is essential.

Some things to consider while training:

  1. Stress comes when you don’t feel in control. After you’ve done the movement in a few training sessions there should be no stress associated. If it stresses you out or requires too much effort to complete, move on to an exercise you can safely complete.
  2. Rep count does not matter. This is exercise not a prescription or competition. A few good, quality repetitions are better than many partial or cheated ones.
  3. Modifications are good. Have trouble with walking lunges? Use trekking poles, or do them in place, next to something you can use for balance (couch, bench, etc.).
  4. Weight. Start light. Take your time. If you can move it easily, work your way up. When it challenges you, stay there for a few sessions to build confidence in the exercise, set or workout. Repetition trumps variety.

How do you feel after a set? Stressed, exhausted, out of control? Those feelings are to be, mostly, avoided. Anxiety, fear, and worry don’t lend themselves to repetitive behavior. On the other hand, elation, positive energy, and enthusiasm build confidence and pleasure, which lead to increased repetition.

  1. Find out what you enjoy and repeat it.
  2. Build skills in 5 or so exercises you can go back to on a daily basis. Developing skill leads to the ability to increase resistance and difficulty. Variety is not necessary.
  3. Remember why you are exercising: to progress, maintain, become more able/capable, increase energy, increase outlook, enhance performance in all areas, and improve both health and quality of life.

Forced oxygenation and deep breathing change your bodies chemistry. This is a bonus to strength training in a circuit format. Transitioning and actively recovering while training is a skill that once possessed, powerfully changes your approach to movement.

Until you have the skillset you shouldn’t seek out the pain and strain of hard training. Shortcuts lead nowhere worth going. Time spent in foundation building is never wasted.

Think of your fitness training as building skillsets to last a lifetime. Moving well throughout your life is more important than momentary glory obtained in youth.

Developing Habits and Fostering Change

I must admit. My posts here come from feelings, thoughts, and experiences in my own life. If they resonate, great, if not, that’s OK too. Life has its way of remaining internal unless we become brave enough to release it upon the world. Writing is my release. Working as a personal trainer, making fitness my career, and experiencing the highs and lows of helping others with what can often be described as a frustrating process has taught me many lessons. It is here that some of those lessons become examined in detail.

Self-analysis is essential. Questioning your decision-making process and your reactions to those decisions can help you understand the choices you make. This is a required step in changing, eliminating, or developing a habit. This can be heavy! Breathe and get through the task. It’s worth it. Remember, knowledge and understanding create leverage.

The art of thinking well isn’t easy, but it’s essential. And doing it well is a matter of essentialism—cutting out the extraneous, corralling the negative, focusing on the constructive instead of the consuming.

Ryan Holiday “The Daily Stoic”

Goals are nice, but habits are better. Feed the habits you wish to define you. Starve those that are holding you back. Be clear on why you want to change. Understand that the negative energy attached to your health is holding you back. It’s only fear.

As your coach. Your mentor. Your trainer. Trust me. Walk with me. Be honest with me. Do your best to make me believe that you really will walk the walk. Always present. Always forward. Forever optimistic.

 

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!

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…

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

Sustainable Approaches To Health and Fitness

The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body. Exercise and athletics are growth. -George Sheehan

How to get the most results / success / gains / change, from the least amount of training? We all want answers to this question. As a fitness professional, having a template that conforms and applies to all individuals would be a dream. Countless hours have been spent trying to create such a product, or system to no avail. Yet, the consumer still desires, and in many cases expects to be offered such products (shake weight, 8-minute abs, 10 minute trainer, perfect pushup, etc…). Substantial physical change requires a lifestyle intervention, drastic measures, and extreme discipline. What are you willing to invest?

  1. Seek improvement and enhancement. Is this visual? Probably not so much. Can you feel it and describe it? Definitely. Does it make you happy? Hopefully. This can be an exercise, a series of exercises, an activity, a sport, or a competitive challenge. Enjoyment. Engagement. Improvement.
  2. Work with a coach, trainer, or specialist to get feedback. This is time well spent. Confidence builder. Very helpful in the day to day, week to week process.
  3. Career enhancement. We spend most of our time working on and in our careers. A huge portion of our life’s satisfaction comes from our chosen careers. Most of us are professional workers, not athletes. What exercises, workouts, and activities can help correct physical imbalances obtained from our jobs? How can they enhance my ability to perform at work? Can being more physically fit help me advance my ___ career? These are the questions to ask yourself, repeatedly.
  4. Know the Impact of Your Choices. If you are a top physician, researcher, educator, or attorney, etc. deciding to invest 15 hours each week into training for a triathlon most likely will have a negative impact on other areas of your life, in which you are already successful. Your optimal fitness may be obtained with as little as 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 5 days per week, and 15 minutes of strength training 3 days per week. Simple, right? Knowing the best, most practical approach to your lifestyle demands is key.
  5. For many of us the endurance activities are all we will ever need. Jogging, cycling, walking, hiking, playing… loving and committing to every moment of it.

The time benefit equation is delicate and constantly evolving. Understand yours, be flexible and forgiving, and optimize your fitness practice to give your life the most benefit.

Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse. Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing. We are our bodies, our bodies are us. Satisfaction is such a minor thing. Joy is what we want. -George Sheehan

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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

Being Emotionally Ready to Change

Being emotionally ready for the steep climb that lies ahead on your ascent towards (personal) excellence is crucial. Human potential is unlimited, but there is no shortcut to the end. Despising the process, while desiring the outcome, leaves us on a undesirable journey.

When a potential new client contacts me (the trainer) I approach this from the perspective described below:

You’ve recognized a problem, or found yourself in a situation that you want to change. You’re now thinking about changing and contemplating how to do so, as well as what this change will look like.

After we have our initial contact, or consultation we’ve now entered the preparation phase. This crucial phase is the “planning for success” step. The client (you) now has direction and direct, guided assistance from the trainer (me). Your team is coming together. Here we must get ourselves emotionally ready. Making lists of both goals, and desires is very helpful. Creating an emotional connection to your health is powerful. You are planning to take action for and in the name of your health. Your connection to this planet comes in the form of your physical being. The trainer (me) is here to guide you, and join your on your personal journey.

Our first training session initiates the action phase. We’ve shocked your system and altered your day. This new activity becomes a focus of your day, not merely another thing to check off your list. Along with the actually taking of action, we need to recognize the greater emotional importance of what these potential changes bring to your life.

Once our meeting times and schedules are well established we are now in the maintenance phase. This is often a difficult period as the “newness” has worn off and we are simply immersed in the actual “doing” of the program. It may help to refer to this as our “movement mastery” sessions. Laying the foundation that will provide stabilization and structure to expand off. Accepting the mundanity of this phase is crucial. The first three (3) months the client (you) need to remember that the workout has a greater significance than mere entertainment. Engaging with your weekly calendar is an essential, not an option, as we form positive associations and habits with our health.

Finally, we arrive at the termination phase. This is where we transition our programming from building our foundation to adding layers of skill. To the client (you) the changes will seem subtle. We use this approach to keep from being overwhelmed, and to ensure initial success and positive experience with these changes to your programming.

Enjoy the journey. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Repeat.