Monthly Archives: December 2014

Why uncertainty is better…

I self-identify as a Christian. And I more or less work at it. But when it comes down to it, if I die tonight before my head hits the pillow, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I don’t know because faith is different than knowledge. Faith is daring. Faith is taking a chance. Faith is, to some degree, uncertain. God may or may not be there. And he may or may not reward me for whatever it is he judges by.

But sometimes, faith is better than knowledge.

Put another way. There are certain things I know I can do. I know I can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I know I can mow the lawn. I know I can walk to the curb and get the mail. Doing those things adds very little meaning to my life.

Conversely, it’s when I’m certain that I can’t do something that I lose my mind over it. I can’t do this, but I should, therefore I must totally suck. By believing I can’t do it, I’m robbing myself of the chance to be creative and find a way to do it. And I’m robbing other people of my potential solution.

When I do Tough Mudder every year, I don’t know I can do that. I’m pretty sure I can. But I don’t know it. Not for sure. It’s the uncertainty that makes it exciting and worthwhile.

Certainty is boring. If you’re certain–100% certain–that you can do something, where’s the challenge in that? How do you avoid complacency? And if you’re 100% certain that you can’t do something, why bother? You will fail, if for no other reason, because you believe you will fail.

It’s the in-between that can make life great. It’s the possibility of failure that marks the greatest achievements. Tough Mudder is one of my proudest achievements precisely because I don’t know I’ll be successful each year. It challenges me. It makes me reach beyond my comfort zone.

Certainty can damage people. In this age of boutique news sources, we’ve become more and more certain that certain beliefs are the only right way. That certainty makes us brittle and inflexible. That inflexibility is increasingly common in public discourse, be it political, religious, or the ever-increasing list of items that are offensive and must therefore be eliminated.

If I am 100% certain that I am right and you differ, then you are wrong. And if you differ a lot, you are way wrong. And since my certainty in what is right is complete, what I believe is super-right, maybe even morally right. If you disagree with me, you’re not only wrong, you’re corrupt.

It is certain, because I am certain.

Certainty is a relatively recent part of the human experience. When I run out of food, I know I can drive to Publix and get more. I know I can turn on the heat when it’s cold and the AC when it’s hot. I know I have a job to go to tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. I know if I break my leg, I can get it fixed and I won’t be left behind because I’m slowing down the tribe. I know I have a family that loves me.

Yet, for a culture that has more certainty than ever before, we seem thirstier than ever to banish what remaining uncertainty exists.

With respect, Westley had it wrong in The Princess Bride. Life isn’t pain. Life is uncertain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

The power of your example

One of my co-workers went through a pretty lengthy phase where she showed amazing (in my view) discipline in her food selections. I was in awe. I told her she was food hero and I needed to be more like her.

She didn’t think what she did was a big deal.

This morning, I posted my workout on Facebook. P90X3, Total Synergistics. It was hard (especially after yesterday), but it’s what I do. I get up, pop in the DVD, and do the workout. Same as almost every other day. No biggie.

One of my Facebook friends posted that my post was inspiring.  To be honest, it’s not the first time I’ve heard that.

My mental response is always something like it’s really no big deal. I just work out. I post the workouts to keep myself honest, as a tool to keep me going. I didn’t even realize anyone even cared until people started saying I inspired them.

Apparently, it’s a big deal and it (maybe) motivates people, the way my co-worker has motivated me to eat better.

So if my co-worker’s food choices inspire me and if the fact that I work out once a day inspires you, then what are you doing that might inspire other people? Whatever it is, keep at it.

When you’re sore after a workout

A common complaint about working out, especially from beginners, is about being sore after a workout. Muscle achiness can turn even the most mild-mannered person into a maniacal anger monster.

I worked out two days ago and I still hurt and if I could move, I’d beat you to death.

Why are you sore? Is it good for you? And what can you do about it?

When you work out–or do anything else that’s physically demanding–you cause small tears in your muscle fibers. When those tears are repaired, your muscles become stronger and bigger. But these tears are tears; they hurt. In other words, to strengthen your muscles, you need to hurt a little.

The pain is typically worse when you first start a program, when your body isn’t used to what you’re doing. If you keep at what you’re doing, eventually, you’ll feel less soreness doing the same thing.

And that soreness is good for you–to a degree. This type of pain, typically called delayed-onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) typically sets in as early as eight hours after a workout and peak within a couple days, then gradually recedes. It’s not a stabbing pain, but a more general soreness. If your pain isn’t like that, or if it starts during your workout or lingers significantly beyond two days, you might want medical attention.

More pragmatically, if the soreness causes you to miss workouts, it’s not a good thing. You aren’t doing yourself good if you overdo it in a workout, then wait several days and start over. If that happens, back off a little, then try again–only not quite as intensely.

(If it helps, even people who work out regularly can experience this kind of soreness. It’s the newness of the activities that will cause this kind of pain. Put another way, even though I could run ten miles, when I started P90X3 again, my body was pretty sore for the first week or so as I completed my daily workouts. By the end of the second week, the soreness was much more manageable.)

If you experience this type of soreness, you can treat it with ice (heat might help at first, but some ice will speed healing), increased protein and Omega-3 consumption, Epsom salt baths, sleep, and massage. Foam rolling is an option for the massage.

Ironically, moving around–more exercise–can help, too. You don’t have to go nuts, but moderate exercise can help with the pain, as well.

Resources consulted:

You aren’t alone

I typically work out very early in the morning. It’s what works for me. Pop in the DVD and go! No one’s there with me because who likes doing military push-ups at 5 in the morning?

It’s 5 am. Time for PUSH UPS!

No one, that’s who!

But I’m not alone when I work out and neither are you.

I drove about five miles home from a workout I did this morning. It’s a semi-rainy, fully cloudy morning. And I passed two people on bikes, six people jogging, and a couple people out walking. There was a lady out running behind a stroller–not a stroller designed to run with, just a stroller. There are also countless people at the Y, or Crunch, or LA Fitness, or Orange Theory, or wherever–working out. There are people playing tennis, skiing, shooting hoop. There are people doing yoga or pilates. There are people doing P90X, Insanity, or something by Jillian Michaels.

They’re all on the same team as you. They’re all going after the same general goals as you. They’re all getting out and doing the hard work it takes to improve their lives.

Just like you.

When I was running a couple summers ago, I’d get to the farthest part of the run, the part with no trees and the gradual uphill to the end ahead of me, and I was discouraged because I was all alone. That was wrong.

Other people run when it’s hot, too. I’ve run when it’s 19 degrees outside (it was wonderful). A friend did outside yoga the other night when the temperature was in the forties. I spoke to someone this morning who did an outside boot camp one day this week when it was in the upper thirties.

They weren’t alone either.

And neither are you.

Every single person who lifts a weight or runs a mile or does a vinyasa is on the same team as you. Their specific steps might be different, but their overall goal is the same.

You aren’t alone. Don’t get discouraged when it feels like you are.

It’s a lie designed to keep you in your safe zone and wear you down. But the vast majority of people doing the same or similar work as you would give you props for putting the time in.

Nice. Freaking. Job!

Redefining hardcore

I did the Color Run this weekend–it markets itself as “the happiest 5K in the world.” A month ago, I did an event that markets itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet.”


As we were nearing start time at the Color Run, I started my pre-event getting-ready process. Usually, there’s some introspection, some quiet time as find the motivation I need for the gut-check ahead.

At the Color Run, they were doing Zumba.

Zumba? What the hell? Not me. I’m hardcore.

So here’s the thing…I ran with a relatively new friend, someone who saw this as a challenge, not to make a time, but to run the thing all the way through. Someone who was pushing herself and working really hard. Someone who worked a lot harder than I did.

So I thought some more about Tough Mudder. One of the reasons I like Tough Mudder–one of the reasons I need some time to get mentally ready–is I’m never 100% sure I can do it. Some of the obstacles test my weak points–like anything that involves heights. When I say I have butterflies, it’s a phalanx of butterflies in my stomach.

And I thought about the woman I ran with today. This was a test for her. She extended herself all the way at this event. Maybe there was Zumba instead of a guy telling you how tough you were. Maybe there’s chalk instead of dumpsters of ice water.

But it doesn’t make the event any less hardcore.

It’s no big deal for me to pop in a DVD and do a work out (except for Insanity). But it is a big deal for some of the people who ran or even walked 5 kilometers Saturday.

Maybe it’s not the activity that should be described as hardcore. Maybe it’s the participant.

This isn’t a race. It’s not a competition with other people. That’s why I love what Tony Horton says: Do your best and forget the rest.

It’s about what you can do. If it’s hard work for you to walk two miles and you walk two miles, then you brought it. If it’s a test for you to jog a mile and you do that, that’s not nothing; it’s everything!

Don’t look at the other person. Don’t listen that voice in your head that says, “Big deal, anyone can do what you just did.” This isn’t about anyone, it’s about you.

Be selfish in that regard.

You’re the one who was out there doing the work. If you get done and you say, “wow, that was pretty good,” or “I worked hard,” you can’t ask for anything else.

Too many people set unrealistic expectations based on what they think other people can do or what they think they ought to be able to do. Start where you are and do your best. Give yourself a break. You’re doing the work.

That’s always, always enough.


Finding the right workout

As previously mentioned, I work very early in the morning by popping in the DVD, pushing play and letting a Beachbody trainer kick my butt. It’s what I can maintain. It’s what works for me.

There are no excuses. I can’t get up and say “Oh, it’s cold,” or “It’s too hot,” or “It’s raining,” because it’s none of those things in the room where I work out.

A friend of mine borrowed some of the DVDs and said, “You know, I could probably do this, but I don’t like to work out alone.”

And that’s fine. I happen to like Beachbody. I believe in their products. I’ve been able to use them to change my life. And they work for me.

But if you want to be successful, you have to find out what works for you.

I did a free sample workout for a place called Camp Gladiator this morning. Several of the people knew each other and there was a camaraderie among them. After all, when you get up and get in the car for a work out that starts at 5:30 am–and it’s about 40 degrees out–there’s a certain amount of us against the world. It’s a very social workout, which is nice for a lot of people. (If you like that kind of workout, check their webpage.)

The most important part of working out is working out. A work out you won’t stick with can be worse than no work out at all if you beat yourself up about it.

If you try one type of workout and it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy or worthless. It means that wasn’t right for you. Try something else. Try doing something with people, like a boot camp. If you aren’t comfortable with people, maybe you’d like the DVDs, or maybe just going to the gym and working out on your own. Maybe running’s your thing. Or biking. Or yoga.

Yoga. It’s so beautiful. Except when I do it.

Maybe the reason you hang clothes on the treadmill is because walking on it is boring; maybe it’s not because you’re a fat lazy slug.

Give yourself a break and keep looking.

Skinny bitches, stick-figure Barbie dolls, and perfect bodies from the bottom to the top

So here’s Meghan Trainor, a relatively attractive 20-year-old, who caught lightning in a bottle comparing body types to musical terms.

In case you, like me, are clueless about pop culture, this cute little diddy is about how if you’re a girl, every inch of you is perfect from your bottom to your top. No matter what.

Unless, of course you’re a skinny bitch (referenced in the lyrics) or a stick-figure silicone Barbie doll. Those things are bad, you see. Mostly because Meghan’s mom told her that boys like a little more booty to hold at night. (Because this is smokin’ hot and not at all freakish.)


So basically, it’s okay to be…curvy–but only in the right places–because it makes boys want to have sex with you. Full disclosure: as a former boy, I can safely say curviness isn’t required. The great philosopher Toby Ziegler was right about them…us.

Show the average teenage boy a lug wrench and his mind will turn to thoughts of lust.

Why would you base your approach to your body on the perceived preference of someone who can be distracted by thoughts of a lug wrench?

Wait a minute…you, a middle-aged dad, are cranky because of lyrics in a pop song? Here’s a link to the dictionary definition of irony. Most people got over this months ago. And I’m not on your lawn!

All well-made points. But so are these:

You don’t need to be a size-zero to be acceptable. That’s stupid. And yes, it’s foolish that plus-size is getting smaller all the time. And that women often pay more for it.  (Possible connection: the lower the number associated with plus size, the more clothes they can charge higher prices for.)

In fairness, Calvin Klein never called this model plus-size. But she wears plus-size sizes.

It’s even getting political, as the reaction to school lunch menus shows. (For the record, the quality of school lunches varies widely. Some of them seem to be pretty innovative to me. I mean, black bean and quinoa quesadilla? Sweet potato fries? Chili with cornbread and Italian roasted cauliflower? Seasoned black beans? Sign me up. Sounds better than the mushy vegetable medley we got when I was a kid.)

It has never been easier to exercise than now.  No matter what you like, there’s a fitness option available for you, from P90X to walking to Zumba. And it’s never been easier to eat right* than it is right now, either. Quinoa doesn’t have to be that yicky stuff.

Why not be okay with yourself because you have a plan and you’re working to that plan–to your plan? Why not learn that if you work at something, you’ll get results, whether that’s fitness or a sport or healthy eating or just going out and finding something fun to do?

Not every body is perfect. Some are unhealthy, whether they belong to overweight people or skinny bitches. Pretending that no matter what you do, it’s perfect doesn’t solve anything.

*–My diet is periodically atrocious, so yes, I am a giant (pun intended, get it?) hypocrite on this point.