Monthly Archives: August 2014

Bad workout? Failure? No! It’s a laboratory!

When you’re first starting, it’s easy to get discouraged. You’re self-conscious. All these guys are throwing weights around. All these women doing effortless yoga. All of these…freaking gods and goddesses who know what they’re doing.

And then there’s you. Screwing up push-ups. Struggling with a simple sit-up while your mammoth belly seems to swell to sixty times its normal size (not really, but it sure seems that way).

A bad workout isn’t a bad workout. It’s an opportunity to gather information. It informs you where you can get better.

Dude, I can get better everywhere. I’m the biggest spaz in the whole place. I’d feel awkward working out in a room with Stevie Wonder and Ronnie Milsap.

When I first started, I refused to work out with people because of how awful I’d look. I only worked out in a room with the door closed. I was doing knee pushups, for heaven’s sake.

Truth is, when you start, you have an endless supply of places to get better. No matter what you do, it’ll help.

Those knee push-ups are setting the stage for the awesome regular push-ups you’ll do later. That sit-up, where your stomach seems so enormous? Keep up the fitness and nutrition and your clothes will fit different before you know it. And that stomach will shrink.

Easy for you. You’re relatively fit.

I fail sometimes.

There’s an obstacle in Tough Mudder called the Funky Monkey that kicks my butt every year. This year, I have the upper body strength to do pull-ups. I got this, right?

This morning at Al Lopez, I tried it on a set of straight monkey bars and reaching forward the first time, boom, down on my butt. In front of people. I failed.

No problem. I know my arms and back are okay for this, so the next step is my hands.

The truth is, I want to fail. If I never fail, I’m not pushing myself. In my best workouts, my ego takes the biggest beating.

If I hadn’t failed, I wouldn’t know I need to work on hand strength. Failure isn’t failure, it’s a classroom. It’s the seed-planting for future success. And that’s all it is.

Don’t let it be more.

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You’re doing it wrong. (An awesome thing to hear)

I was recently schooled about running. Because of the way I run, my calves and butt very little workout goodness. As a result, I’ve compared my butt to a large western state. Personally, I’m looking for a small northeastern state.

So I went out and started running–in summer–in Florida–with my new information. And proceeded to make my calves hurt (in a good way).

After I started, I went back to the guy and told him I exaggerated what I was doing but only went a couple miles.

“Good,” he said, “but don’t do too much too fast or you’ll hurt yourself.”

We’re in this to get better, not get hurt. So I backed off a little, alternated between my old way and my shiny new way. And then started to let the blend take over as I ran.

Today I ran. I’m thrilled to say my calves and butt hurt and I’m on my away from Montana (in terms of butt size) to maybe one of the Dakotas.

But…

Number 15 is just begging for a back injury.

There are some things where your form is so bad you’ll hurt yourself if you don’t seek guidance. There’s a difference between good pain and bad pain.

Good pain is muscle achiness. Good pain typically isn’t sharp, like you’re being stabbed. And absent something like a stitch in your side, it doesn’t typically happen during a workout.

As you do things, you start to figure out what’s good pain and what’s an injury or an injury waiting to happen. Listen to your body. If you have questions about what you’re doing (1) back off and (2) find someone who knows what they’re talking about. Get guidance.

I started with pushups because my back didn’t like how I sagged when I tried regular. My form was more important than my ego. I value my body too much to do something I know will result in injury.

Remember (at the risk of being horribly redundant), it’s about getting better, not getting hurt.


I do not wish

A Facebook friend made an off-handed remark that started with I wish I could…

Starting today, I’m striking the words I wish from my vocabulary. There are two categories of things people wish for:

  • Things that are outside their control. I wish Mets ownership cared about winning.
  • Things they can control. I wish I fit in that pair of pants in the closet.

With the first set, if you have no control over the situation, you have to go along with things. Let them go. Focus your energy elsewhere.

The second set’s most important.

I used to wish I could go up the stairs without my knees hurting. Or that I could do a push up. Or maybe someday a pull-up. Other things seemed too crazy to wish for, like doing a one-armed push up.

That’s a horrible way to live.

I’ve never once gotten anything except a few cents poorer by throwing money in a fountain.

So from this day, the words I wish don’t exist for me. I’m replacing them with I can’t change it so I’ll just deal with it or Here are the steps I’ll take to change that.

Keep your wishing well. Keep your ads that say I can attain what I wish if only I spend money on the right product. Keep your constructs that people learn helplessness.

Wish not.

Do or do not.

There is no wish.


Cynicism sucks and what I’m doing about it

A year ago, if you’d have said I was cynical, I’d have said I’ve spent most of my life as a Mets and Jets fan–I’ve come by it rightly. But let’s be honest. Cynicism sucks.

Cynicism is when someone says you should look at the world and see possibilities, rather than limits and you say, “Nah, that’ll never work. Ha ha!”

Except, to quote the great Al Capone from The Untouchables, we laugh because it’s funny and we laugh because it’s true. I only make the “It’ll never work” joke because on same level, I believe it. And that’s a bad thing.

In response to that bad thing, I’m working on a good thing. Every day, I post on Facebook at least one thing I have gratitude for. Unfortunately, that’s a hard thing for me. Some of the difficulties are legitimate. I don’t want to paste the same thing every day. For instance, I typically feel gratitude after I work out. Posting that every day is a cop out.

Also, I don’t want to post the stuff that normally goes without saying every day, either. But some days, it’s good to recognize that you have a house and clean water and relatively decent health and an abundance of food. A lot of people don’t.

What I don’t like about the whole gratitude thing is when you’re all annoyed about something and someone says “Yes, but there’s someone who has it worse than you, so you should be grateful.” (Yes, and there’s someone more annoyed than you, so you should be quiet.)

Gratitude only works when recognized freely. For instance, I realize I am very lucky to have a good house and central air. But when it’s 96 degrees out and the AC isn’t working right isn’t the best time to remind me.

Gratitude doesn’t stem from guilt.

It stems from a free recognition of the bounty you have. And taking the time to thing of places where your life is great, that can only lead in a good direction.


Five rules to remember when you change your life

I’m not exaggerating when I say Tony Horton helped me change my life.

He’s the guy behind P90X, the most visible trainer in all the Beachbody programs. Though he’s built like freakin’ Adonis, he’s not a fitness jerk. He doesn’t make you feel like the last guy picked in gym class.

Tony was the one picked last at gym class. He didn’t work very hard, was never the student he could have been, never made full use of his talents and abilities. He was afraid of everything. Ev-ery-thing.

Obviously, that’s different now. But it was a gradual change. He got into fitness because he was trying to be an actor and was told, “Dude, no one hires fat actors.” While he was learning, he showed people what worked for him. The next thing you know, Tom Petty’s asking for him for help. (And, yeah, that’s pretty much how it happened.)

So Tony figured, if I screw this up, Tom Petty’s gonna say…(the joke almost writes itself)…

It was a journey. In other words, you didn’t dig the hole your in, in a day. Don’t expect to get out in day, either. You’ll have to work and be patient to get out, but that’s okay, because you’re worth it.

Getting out is easier when you apply some rules:

  1. Stop being shamed by the hole. You aren’t just standing there any more, you’re working your way out. That’s something that takes courage and commitment. You’re changing your life. Keep hold of that one basic fact, even when things seem dark.
  2. Stop defining yourself by the hole. You got fat, divorced, went broke broke, fot fired, whatever. Done is done. Concentrate on what you can do, not what you did. You’re not the sum of your worst mistakes.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Tony Horton uses a phrase that’s filled with amazing wisdom. Do your best and forget the rest. “That guy/woman has a million dollars/a great marriage/can run ten miles.” So what? That’s life. Do your best today and tomorrow and the next day and pretty soon you aren’t in the hole, or the hole’s a lot shallower.
  4. Stop expecting perfection. I used to be an angry guy. I’d go to work with good intentions, and then boom, I’d go off on someone. That would make me sure I was stupid and worthless and change was impossible. But over time, I was doing that less and less and then eventually not at all.
  5. Understand perception lags reality. You got in your hole because of your actions. Now you’re changing. People won’t notice until after you change. They’ll still treat you as that angry/untrustworthy/cheating/whatever guy, even after you change. That’s when you double down on your changes, not walk away from them. While you’ve been changing, they’ve been living their lives and haven’t noticed. But most of them will, if you keep at it.

I’m not better than you because I’m fit; I’m better than I was because I’m fit

In a recent post, I said that I bought into the lie that I was fat because of things beyond my control. I want to go back to that for a minute because I want to be crystal clear on one thing–I don’t people based on their size. Fit people aren’t better than fat people. I’m not fat-shaming.

I’ve known plenty of in-shape sphincters (if you catch my drift).

For me though, fit is better. I’m happier, more productive, and more at peace when I’m fit. I wasn’t eating crap because I was happy. I was eating it because I was desperately unhappy and stressed. And I gave up my personal power over food and drink.

That’s my experience.

Getting fit changed my view of the world. I have a lot of personal power. A lot. Of. Personal. Power. (So do you, by the way.)

When I hauled my ass out of bed at four-thirty to do P90X, it built a sense of self-worth. After all, you don’t haul your ass out of bed that early for someone you don’t care about. As I did that, it built a sense of self-worth.

You never accomplished anything worthwhile in your life!!!

Wrong! I completed P90X. And then I completed Insanity! Then Body Combat! Then T25! And now P90X3! And I completed a Warrior Dash and a Spartan Sprint and three Tough Mudders! In fact, if you click the link, you’ll see me proving my self-worth at Tough Mudder in 2012. I got my money’s worth.

For me, that built serious credibility. And that credibility is transferable. When things go bad at work and I start to fall back into the habits of saying I’m stupid and never accomplished anything–that’s simply not true. I have the proof. I am the proof.

I work out because I’m worth the effort. I’m starting to eat a lot better. Same reason. I’m seeking out like-minded friends–to re-enforce what’s important to me right now.

I’m not a better person than you because I’m fit. I’m a better person–a far better person–than I was because of what I learned getting fit.


You can’t do it in a day

Today (as I write this), I did the ALS ice-bucket challenge. It was fun and considering it was August in Florida, it was perfect outdoor activity.

The problem with the ice-bucket challenge wasn’t the water temperature. It was this…

That’s not the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Or the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man. That’s me. I look a lot better than I used to. But I’m still puffy around the middle.

I can do a few pull-ups and a lot of push-ups. I can throw weight around. And I’ve recently made a huge step forward in choosing food.

But I’m still not Adonis-like in the middle area.

And that’s okay. You can only start where you start. Though I’ve zig-zagged, my eating habits have gotten progressively better over time. The truth is, it took a long time to build my imperfect body. It’ll take a long time to rebuild it, too.

For me, working out is automatic. The food, not so much.

Food shouldn’t be that hard. You just put good things in your mouth and avoid bad things. Easy, right?

Sure.

Until you have a day from hell to end a week from hell and you crave sugar and alcohol the way the coyote craves the roadrunner. Except the coyote has to catch the roadrunner. Sugar and alcohol are there for the taking at Publix, Chili’s, Dunkin Donuts, and <insert almost anyplace else with a lighted sign>.

Wherever you are, it’s because of your choices over time. It didn’t take 15 minutes to get there and it won’t take 15 minutes to get back, either.

Be patient. Work the plan. Understand you’ll stumble.  But over the weeks and months and even years, as you learn more and surround yourself with like-minded people, progress will come.

Do your best today. And if that doesn’t work out, do your best tomorrow.

The proof? There’s cake in the kitchen with a bunch of frosting. Nearby, there’s a bag of yellow corn tortilla chips. And two boxes of Trader Joe’s Jo-Jos (like Oreos, but better). I haven’t eaten a single one of them. I won’t, either.

It took me forever to get to this point. I still have a lot of not-great days to make up for. But it’s where I am today. If I string a mess of today’s together, that’s progress.

You, too.