Challenge = Change = Improvement

Two weeks old! We are two weeks into the New Year 2018 and I am needing a challenge. My race calendar is empty this winter and I need something to motivate myself to improve my fitness…so…I am going to challenge myself!

How about you? Will you take the next two weeks, until the end of January to challenge yourself to do some physical activity or exercise every day? Because I want to improve my fast twitch muscle fibers, I will be doing a burpees and jump rope challenge. I make up the rules for my challenge. And you may make up the rules for your challenge too.

Challenge yourself to do better and be better. Growth starts with a decision to move beyond your present circumstances. ~Anonymous

Starting today I will do 10 burpees every day (consecutively) and add one burpee each day thereafter. Additionally, I want to improve my stamina and coordination so today I also began my jump rope challenge. I jumped for 30 seconds without stopping or tripping on my rope. Each day hereafter I will add 10 seconds to my jump rope routine. If needed, I will take an active recovery day from my challenge every fourth day, which means I will only do 10 burpees and 30 seconds of jump rope on those days.

So what do you think? Is there something you want to challenge yourself to do? This is the perfect time of year to begin a new fitness routine. There are many ways to challenge yourself, whether you strive for a fitness goal or strive to improve your creative abilities. Just give yourself a goal that is measurable in seconds; minutes; repetitions; steps walked or run; pounds lost (fat) or gained (muscle); etc.

The sky is the limit so be creative and have fun with your new year challenge. You’ll find  some links to exercise/fitness challenges below this post. Let me know how you are doing as we go through these next fifteen days together!

Two week fitness challenges

Silver Sneakers January Fitness Challenge

 

 

What Are You Waiting For?

To wait is to partake of the human condition.
To wait patiently is to become like the divine.

Why do we feel so put upon, so grated against when waiting is required or requested of us? And yet, every created thing on earth is subject to seasons or periods of waiting. That we feel we should be exempt from a waiting season is perhaps unjustified and irrational.

So then, since we are not exempt from this great equalizer, we acquiesce and assent: we will always be subject to the ‘waiting rooms‘ of life.  Waiting puts us at dis-ease because to wait is to witness the passing of a most precious commodity: our time. And to be human is to experience the tides of time propelling us forward. Onward always time sweeps us unceasingly closer to the shores of our desires and fears or it pushes us further away from the ports of our comforts and homelands.

Waiting can be the most intense and poignant of all human experiences—the experience which, above all others, strips us of affectation and self-deception and reveals to us the reality of our needs, our values, and ourselves.
W.H. Vanstone

Perhaps the problem we have with ‘waiting’ arises from the meaning we attach to it. For myself, I am learning that to wait with impatience is to disdain the chain which anchors me to the present moment. And our modern culture informs us how best to keep time; to make the most of time is to not waste it in waiting.

We are taught to keep ourselves busy…and distractions of each sort beg for entrance into our moments; mindless entertainments promise to fill our every idleness.  Additionally, I believe our modern mind struggles with waiting because we equate waiting with inactivity. And inactivity is deemed an unacceptable waste because we perceive it a detour from the tasks of our own busyness…from rowing ourselves towards the desired shoreline of our next appointment, goal or aspiration.

Now that I think about this, I am becoming aware that it is during the times of my enforced waiting, whether due to sickness, misfortune or deviation from plans made, when waiting feels like the traversing of a wasteland….and I am as one who is adrift on the open sea of innumerable minutes, hours, and days; alone and afloat in my little boat with no oars, a slow leak and only my own thoughts for companion.

Perhaps this is why I (we) so strongly resist life’s waiting rooms, because it is in this place wherein we must sit in such close proximity to self. To wait patiently, cheerily, is to trust that this time of seeming inactivity is an opportunity to grow…to expand…to enlarge…in our relationship. And not only in relationship with our self but also with the others who paddle their boats so near to us.

It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time,
the greater our capacity for waiting.
Elizabeth Taylor

So I have taken these moments today, to try to teach myself again how to be comfortable in the ‘waiting room’. Of course there are abundant opportunities every day to school myself on this topic. You too, no doubt, have similar opportunities.

Consider some of life’s waiting rooms: the lines we stand in queue; the weekday commuter traffic in which we drive; waiting for school or medical test outcomes to be revealed; a vacation hoped for; planing for a move, or birth, new job or marriage; wading through personal wreckage of a failure or loss.

So in waiting I am learning that it is possible to wait with peace and purpose; because in waiting I have found songs to sing; wounds to bind; corners to sweep; weeds to pull; seeds to plant; poetry to write; tears to wipe; arms to hug; prayers to pray; hands to hold; legs to run; dreams to imagine; hurts to forgive; grace to notice; love to make; joy to share; and life to live…whether I’m waiting or not.

 

Of Sheets and Socks

Think...Feel...Be....BodyWise!

I was putting away a basket of clean laundry this morning and I noticed how my little running socks and dryer sheets could hide out unnoticed in the deep pockets of the king size fitted bed sheet. It made me chuckle because I have often re-discovered a lost sock or small clothing item many weeks later when putting a clean fitted sheet on the bed for the first time after its laundering. Upon such a discovery, I’ll scold myself for not checking the deep pockets before putting the clean sheets away, and then think nothing more about the lost and found item while I return it to its rightful place in my drawer.

But this morning after putting the clean socks and sheets away, I considered how often these lost items go unnoticed, until I need them most. Then I made this funny little connection about little lost things…like the little…

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Picture This…Best Training Practice

A picture is worth a thousand words. It is cliché, over-used and perhaps under-appreciated but this tired quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte is still powerfully, resolutely true regardless of the realm or genre in which it is employed. 

Why is this so? While the answer lies within the science of brain neurology and biochemistry, which is greatly beyond my own knowledge and training, I nonetheless have experienced the truth of positive mental imagery within the realm of my physical fitness training.

Whether pictures are generated mentally or viewed through the lens of our physical eyes, imagery excites our being at a subconscious level. Whether it is a symbol, a photograph of our beloved one(s), an artistic rendering or creation, or landscapes and portraits discovered in nature, imagery impacts us profoundly. Positively or negatively, imagery triggers changes in our thoughts, feelings and biochemistry.

Our brains translate our words and thoughts into images. Images ignite our mirror neurons. These mirror neurons are located next to our motor neurons. The excitement in mirror neurons resonates in the motor neurons and vice versa. This is why athletes can improve their athletic performance with visualization. Jennifer Morse MS PhD

When we invoke this positive biochemical cascade frequently enough, especially with the use of personally meaningful images or imagery, we create a neurological super-highway within the structures of our brain. These mental super-highways construct bridges from our mind, to our brain, then into our body so as to build memory maps into our muscles. Continued, regular activation of our imagination via our mind/body super-highways, create predictable physical responses in our body which thereafter translates or replicates into habitual, memorized re-actions.

And we all know how easy and how difficult it is to overcome an acquired pattern of moving or behaving. Habits are naturally preferred by mind and body because they using the neural super-highways. These super-pathways require reduced thinking resources from our conscious mind. Hence, once we birth a new way of thinking or being, these new pathways become preferred patterns for our doing and/or behaving.

Failure is an inside job. So is success.
If you want to achieve, you have to win the war in your thinking first.
You can’t let the failure outside you get inside you.
You certainly can’t control the length of your life—but you can control its width and depth.
You can’t control the contour of your face—but you can control its expression.
You can’t control the weather—but you can control the atmosphere of your mind.
Why worry about things you can’t control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you?
The Maxwell Daily Reader

Perhaps you now realize where I am leading you in this discussion. If the idiom we have considered is true, and we know by experience that it is, then you may avail yourself of its power when you use and think upon those images which create positive attraction or emotion within you. Your attention to this detail (image attraction/repulsion) is keenly important.

During your playful imagery research, take notice also of the quality of feeling excited within you when viewing a particular image or symbol. Once you discover and identify the imagery which pings you or sparks your imagination or creates hope to stir excitedly in your center, refer to and call upon those imagines whenever your thinking needs inspiration or refreshment.

Have fun stocking your mental image vault. Keep only those images which propel you positively toward your desired goals. Cycle through them as needed, whenever you need a lift or motivation or you require a change of direction.

Just picture this…You reaching your goal…reach for it! Climb, go on…climb higher still! Scramble, hike, run! Chase it down, don’t stop, don’t stop ever…only wait until you are done!

DECIDE…TO…MOVE

Living in a healthy, strong body does not happen by chance, but rather by choice. This is most honestly true if the body you are living in has celebrated at least 50 birthdays. If your current body is one of the 50+ year old models, do you regularly choose to move yourself in a way which might be construed as exercise? Do you walk, jog, lift weights, bike, dance, swim, go to a gym or fitness class at least once a day? If not, how about these activities: sweeping or vacuuming floors, washing dishes by hand; cleaning windows; gardening. Do not discount your household activities, they require bodily movement and as such, may be considered purposeful exercise for your body.

Whatever activities you do to move your body for well-being, the best fitness outcome will occur when you actively, mindfully move yourself every day. If not everyday, how about every other day? If you cannot or choose not to move yourself on purpose most days of the week, then prepare yourself, and your body for some disturbing news: if you do not change what you are doing today to become more active, by this time next year you will have gained weight and lost strength!

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. John C Maxwell

Now for the good news! Every day presents you with opportunities; perhaps that is part of the problem, too many choices. Regardless, every day provides you with at least 10 minutes from which you may engage yourself physically so as to build strength, stamina and flexibility. All you have to do is make a decision to move and then…MOVE IT!

“Do something today which your body will thank you for 10 years from now.”

Here’s what I do for myself to make it easy. This might work for you too. Just move for 10 minutes! If you don’t feel better after moving about for 10 minutes, then return to your former activity and try again a few hours down the road. This is how an inactive person becomes a more active person, 10 minutes at a time.

In case you find yourself in front of the television or computer screen for more than 10 minutes today, you can move it (your body) in between your sit time with some of these Move It moves:

  1. 10 squat touchdowns
  2. 10 high knee steps
  3. 10 wall or floor pushups
  4. 10 pogo hops
  5. 10 inchworms

To stave the decline of passing years upon your body, DECIDE TODAY to make physical fitness a PRIORITY in your life. I know this sounds like work to you, but I promise you this: If you will choose activities which seem like fun to you, then moving your body more minutes each day will seem less like work and more like a gift for yourself. Just move more and NEVER GIVE UP TRYING. 

 

 

Signs of Life…Being Alive

Our community chorale has been practicing Stephen Sondheim’s music “Being Alive” and the lyrics have completely imbedded in my head over these last two months. So much so, that I find myself wondering about what it means to ‘be alive’.

In terms of my personal training business, I train my clients to be fully alert so they may focus their attention on their working muscles and breath when they engage in their strength and cardiopulmonary training. An unfocused mind during an exercise session is a lot like sleep walking: the body is moving, but the mind has no awareness of it.

“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Saint Irenaeus

Life is full of intriguing, wonderful mystery, begging us to live out loud and on purpose. Yet, for all our aliveness, we often take being alive for granted. The question which plagues me and begs for an answer is this: What does a life look like…feel like…when it is lived fully alive?

If living to the full brings glory to the One who gives us life to live, then surely we must have built into us a capacity, a drive, an overwhelming need to live in abundant, over-the-top alive-ness! And as I ponder these thoughts frequently these days, the words of Sondheim’s song give me some insight into what life looks like when it is less than fully lived:

Somebody hold me too close
Somebody hurt me too deep
Somebody sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive, being alive

Perhaps we choose to live less than fully alive because being fully alive is uncomfortable! And yet I know from my physical training, that if I want to improve my stamina or strength, then I must learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable for a while. Now, that’s a funny way of thinking isn’t it? Yet, ironically this is another tool in my trainer’s tool box. The principle of learning to be comfortable with discomfort is a tool which athlete’s ply every time they train their physical body to perform, whether in practice or in competition.

Interesting how this idea of becoming accustomed to discomfort is best realized in the sphere of  relationships. As in, how we relate to others, ourselves, and the Divine directly impacts the quality of our aliveness. Relationship is the humus of a life fully lived. Because being alone is alone…not alive!

being alive

You Choose!

Most of the time, given the opportunity, I prefer not to choose. My general preference, when the time to choose arises, is to let my spouse or friend or client or employee make the choice for me: where to dine; what to work on; where/when to exercise; which movie to watch or music to listen to.

This is not a comfortable or flattering thing to admit about myself, especially since I am the type of person who likes to ‘work out’ my body. How strange then to realize that I am quite lazy when it comes to choosing in the realm of the everyday and mundane. How hard is it really, to make a choice? Why would I rather deflect an opportunity to make my own choice onto others? And yet, to not choose is making a choice too, isn’t it?

“The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.” “Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it doesn’t have when your actually living it.” Donald Miller

Perhaps the problem with choosing comes from the fact that there is so much from which to choose. If choice making was always about this or that; black or white; yes or no; stay or go, perhaps choosing would be easier. On one hand I wish that making a choice was a one-and-done deal, like when I say I choose to lose weight, gain strength or improve my health status, then BAM, my choice is made and I’m done. Wouldn’t that be grand? No more decisions to make. But that system wouldn’t work too well for me if I made just ONE unwise choice. How could I undo a poor choice if I only had a one-and-done choice making system?

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Fortunately, for all of us, life is full of choice making opportunities, except when our perception tells us otherwise. If we feel stuck, plumb out of choices, then it’s time to remind ourselves this one thing: as long as we are breathing, we may choose; and we may choose as many times as is needed and we may choose differently every time.

Even though I am a lazy choice maker, I am grateful this life I live is not a one-and-done game of chance. No, this life is more like playing the slot machines with the statistical advantage stacked in my favor, because I am privileged to choose; and my choice to choose means I may choose over and over and over again…or not.

In this life, it’s a happy, powerful sentiment to know we have the authority to re-write our life’s story line if we find our story less than meaningful. If by our choices we choose to do the same things enough times, eventually the statistics play out in our favor and our choices become our habits (for better or worse); then our habits create our life (for better or worse). So here’s to the wonderful, wacky world of choice making, and here’s my note to self: You CHOOSE…like your life depends on it!