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.

It’s Stupid To Be Safe

Note: This post was inspired by Maria Popova creator of BrainPickings.org. Fantastic site!

Everyone in this room is going to be gone pretty quickly – and we will have either made something or not made something. The artists that inspire me are the ones that I look at and go, ‘Oh my god – you didn’t have to go there. It would’ve been safer not to – but, for whatever reason, you did.’ And every time death happens, I’m reminded that it’s stupid to be safe… Usually, whatever that is – wherever you don’t want to go, whatever that risk is, wherever the unsafe place is – that really is the gift you have to give.

Amanda Palmer

Choose activities that allow you to go far. We can walk all day with no prior training. We can ride our bikes for hundreds of miles as long as our pacing and fueling is sufficient. We can run all day and into the next with a steady supply of water and a few calories.

If another human can do this, then you to have the potential to go way further than you’ve gone before. Much further. The effects of modern society, coupled with aging, have polluted our minds with endlessly questioning “why” other humans do so called “ultra” or “extreme” endurance events.

Having thought processes of merely entertainment, consumption, and leisure crush our innate desire to create, explore and take action. Now, more than ever, we need to create and inspire future generations to live lives filled clear direction and action. Driven by purpose and desire.

But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that, in short, breaks, ‘violates’…

Vincent Van Gogh

I implore you to be conscious before speaking about another’s experience. Listen, process, and speak only if you desire to learn and employ whatever knowledge comes from your question. Wasted words to often appear in place of focused action.

Effective Strategies for Health and Wellness Pt.1

The intention of this post is to place you on the path of health and wellness success. I’ll do this by giving you tips and information to begin utilizing immediately. Positive Action > Positive Thinking …

It’s not what we can do. It’s what we will do. We can do anything. Doing, always trumps thinking. Repetition is the mother of skill. – Tony Robbins.

I like quotes. Short, to the point messages that provide a nice summation of successful thinking. Modeling others that have achieved success is the smart way to make changes in any area of your life. No sense wading through the muck, searching for an opening, when others have done the muddling, and found the path to success that you now seek.

Think of yourself, from now on, as an athlete. Once you begin to connect with your body, in a physical-training program, you are on the path to becoming athletic. The mind must direct the body each and every workout. This process of creating, or becoming athletic, or even simply more physical, is not inherently natural to most people. You see, the disconnect that has occurred for some, their entire life, has engrained thoughts and beliefs about our bodies that we must reprogram. All of that begins in the mind. Learning to feel each repetition. Connecting with the breath in a way that allows you to be okay with the struggle an elevated heart rate applies on the exercise. Realize that this is the process. Applying effort through patterns of movement and recognizing strengths and weaknesses we most likely weren’t even aware of is key to this process.

I hope this is beginning to make sense.

Now how to make it happen.

  1. Set a schedule. Pick a time each day where you actively engage with your health. If it’s random it won’t happen, or if it does, it won’t be nearly as effective. The importance of this step is immense. Hiring an experienced personal trainer is a smart way to make health a priority, as they will bring a high level of importance to your days, weeks, months, and years.
  2. Experiment. How do you feel? When do you feel high energy? When do you feel low energy? Weather can have a large impact on this, as can the seasons. On low energy days, stretch, do some yoga, foundation training, or other low impact flowing activities. On high energy days focus on strength building movements: pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging and stepping. Be adaptable, but when the internal battle, and choose to engage!
  3. Eat like an adult. Quiet bizarre food cravings. We eat too often, and too much. Protein rich foods will help satiate your hunger. Plan nutrition. Limit dining out to your “cheat day” and if you have to make an exception, stick to vegetables and protein.
  4. Hydrate. Keep it flowing. You should not skimp on water consumption. No need to force it down, but make sure you drink water.
  5. Keep a success journal. Be honest with it. Write daily, and always make notes about the next day. You will recognize small gaps, and potential windows where you can pepper in some strength training or focused stretching. Remember, have options, and listen to your body’s signals.
  6. Realize that this is a journey. What happens to an apple you neglect to eat? It goes bad, and rots. Our muscles are the same way. Ignore them, and they wilt. The body hates dormancy as much as the mind.
  7. Disconnect. Walk. Moving without stimulation is sublime. Go out early in the morning, or later in the evening and explore your neighborhood. Create micro-adventures within your own city, walking to brunch, relax with a coffee or tea, hit up a few shops and galleries, walk to grab some dinner, then walk back home. What I just described is a GREAT cheat day.
  8. Use your breaks in the day. Do a movement flow circuit during your breaks and one at lunch. Engage and challenge your body, don’t just stimulate it.
  9. Avoid high intensity interval training. Once you’ve established that you enjoy the exercise you are practicing, and you are on the way to becoming a physical athlete, then you can dabble in high intensity. No need to rush into this type of training.
  10. Absorb information. Read about the success of others. What tips did they use or habits did they employ to make it a habit? Never stop learning!

In part 2 I will give you specific examples I use with my clients to help them achieve the success and results they desire, bringing out the physical athlete within.

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.