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…

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.

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

Maintenance for Longevity

“A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage… For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Coveting the new, finished product is not an unknown concept. Yet, it is the act of ownership obsession that stifles personal growth.

All items that make our lives easier and/or more convenient require maintenance. Fairly infrequent is the act required, meaning our confidence and expectation trumps action in upkeep. When failure occurs, which it will, it takes both time and capital to get our life up and running again.

Our mind and body are no different. Neglect, and pay the price. Abuse, and live with the consequences. Time/age escapes no one. The fade may appear slow, until the check engine light flickers on. What will the diagnostic test reveal? What’s the damage? For many this is a trigger to wake up and forge a better life. For others this is the beginning of the end. The mind accepts the sentence.

Maintenance prolongs life. By now you should be familiar with what is minimally required of you to keep your arteries clean, blood pressure down, BMI at an acceptable level, and a myriad of other necessities to live a respectable life. But you slip. You stop learning. You envy the healthy and vigorous. You spiral into the depths of self-disrespect, and loathing.

But wait, doesn’t that new car come with an owners manual? The proficient dealership whom sold you the car is so kind to send out reminders of when service is needed. Just call, schedule, drop off the car, heck, you even get a loaner for the day… how convenient and caring of them? You clean your car, washing it weekly. It requires “premium” gas. You justify the extra expense by reminding yourself it is required to keep the engine performing. All this for the peace of mind in knowing that you’ve done what is required, as an owner of this find piece of machinery.

Now think of all of the luxury items this applies to? Maintenance is a daily process. The more things we own, the more maintenance we must do. Look at all the businesses that are simply products of required maintenance. Pretty amazing to think about.

Now back to you. Why does this one thing that you’ll take to your grave get get abused, punished, polluted, neglected, etc.? How has this become acceptable? It starts at a young age. A few silly choices, and habits start to linger. As you grow older those few bad habits start to multiply. Pretty soon the effects begin to show. Fatigue, lethargy, weight gain, acne, flatulence, and dependency creep in and take hold. Some can fake it longer than others, but the cold hard truth is unavoidable. Your time has come. With more neglect comes greater reliance on modern technology and medicine to stay alive. More dependence…

You, the ultimate possession, the un-replaceable commodity, the selfless giver to the soul, deserve more. The process is rather simple, yet the journey is long. Correcting behaviors is simple. Nutritious food. More sleep. Less stimulants and depressants. Exercise. Hydration. Choices that all add up and lead to change.

Enough already. No more ignorance and complacency. It’s time to give back to ourselves. Stop. Think. Engage. Honor. Refuse to “wish you had” and instead be “grateful for” the gift of sound mind and functioning body.

Very few things are needed.

Sustenance: food and drink. Nourishment. Water. Meat. Vegetables. Fruit. Nuts. Grains. Recognize when you embellish. Don’t chastise, minimize. Why? Understand weakness. Unavoidable slips need not derail commitment.

Fitness: Lift. Climb. Step. Crawl. Jump. Push. Pull. Stretch. Run. Walk. Bike. Swim. Ski. Row. Dance. etc. Experiment to discover enjoyment. Fulfill daily. Options are unlimited. Consistency is key. Repetition is the mother of skill. Daily engagement resets your mind, fueling the drive to give the body what it needs. Internal as much as external. Heart. Lungs. Brain.

Growth: Mind. Body. Soul. Books, mentors, friends, family, spouse, lover, student, coach, community. Growth comes from listening, and applying advice and lessons. Simply taking a step back, surveying, and making a decision is often all that is needed.

Onward.

“EACH OF US IS born with a 70-year warranty, but few of us read the instructions. We blindly go through life without consulting a manual for the operation of the human machine. The maintenance and preservation of our bodies doesn’t concern us. We believe that longevity and freedom from malfunction have been built in by the Creator. And they have. But we can live long and stay healthy only if we take care of our bodies as we would our automobiles. We have to follow certain rules to get maximum performance and maximum longevity out of what we were born with. We have to apply the biological wisdom gained over the centuries to our day-to-day living. Make no mistake about it: Nature does not allow for error, and she is not reluctant to inflict capital punishment. Deviations from the correct regimen can certainly diminish one’s daily well-being and eventually one’s life span. True, aging is inexorable. And death is inevitable. But neither should occur before its appointed time.” -George Sheehan

 

Movement, Muscle and Metabolism

“And while these pounds were being shed, while the physiological miracles were occurring with the heart and muscle and metabolism, psychological marvels were taking place as well. Just so, the world over, bodies, minds, and souls are constantly being born again, during miles on the road.” – Dr. George Sheehan

  1. Invest your resources in your chosen mode of movement. Facilitation of activity.
  2. Cardio/endurance commitment precedes strength training. Build habits before refinement and instruction.
  3. Avoid all diets. If it has a name or title, it won’t last, and you’ll spend a lot of money in the process.
  4. Keep a journal. Document how lifestyle choices (food, work, sleep, entertainment, drink, stress, etc.) make you feel.
  5. Graze throughout the day.
  6. Schedule periods of relaxation during the day.
  7. Sleep 7+ hours a night.

“What the jogger’s face shows is not boredom but contemplation, which Thomas Aquinas described as man’s highest activity save one—contemplation plus putting the fruits of that contemplation into action.” – Dr. George Sheehan

Be confident and adamant about how you live your life. No explanations. No excuses. You own it, when you no longer feel like you are missing out on your old lifestyle. Movement, the endorphins and positivity it cultivates, is the way.

Our life is a game. Play it often and play it well. Don’t take what you do, or the decisions you make too seriously. Do your best. That’s enough.

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