It’s no use going back to yesterday

It’s a strange world we live in today. Our lives have been uprooted by a virus that has impacted us in so many ways that it’s unprecedented. I’ve read that the closest event that compares to the impact on people is 9/11, for us. Of course though this is a worldwide event impacting millions of people.

It is millions, isn’t it. Borders closed for who knows how long. Social interactions such as going out for dinner, the pub, a sit down coffee, and even work are gone and for who knows how long.

It’s taken me to this morning to be able to focus on this post. I’ve been fortunate in the sense that I’ve been very busy with my full time job and it’s helped to keep my mind occupied. But then you leave work and stop to pick up some groceries and you see the impact. Simple things are no longer simple.

A recent post I wrote talked about how to exercise in a small area and be just as effective as going to a gym. Little did I know who relevant that post would be today due to social distancing. That post was focused on the physical side of fitness. Today I’ll focus on the mental side of fitness and health.

Health

outside
empty the mind

Without mental health we most likely won’t have physical health. Our brain is responsible for the things we do, the choices we make. Our brain chooses that today we stay in bed and do nothing absorbed by the negative events happening around us or half way across the world sometimes. Or, our brain chooses to get out of bed and do what’s needed to be done to keep us healthy. That’s very important.

There are a ton of books, videos, podcasts that focus on having a positive attitude. I have actually purchased a book on this topic, The PMA Effect by John Joseph. Read it if you haven’t. To me, it’s a clear story of how through choices his life could have ended up totally different than where he is today.

I train and teach martial arts. I have heard and use motivational quotes all the time: You fight how you train, each day is a new day, 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration, etc. But there is one that over the years I think is very important, maybe the most important:

“Don’t worry about the things you cannot change”

It’s easy to be consumed by various things that impact our lives directly or indirectly and that can be a bad thing. Today we live in a world that we know when something devastating happens thousands of miles away. Or it can be only 50 miles away. I see people commit time, invest their mental health over a murder that might have happened in their city. They get concerned, worried, spend a lot of time engaged in this event. But they fail to distant their engagement by not fully realizing that the murdered and the murderer knew each other. The vast majority of murders are perpetrated by people who know their victim. If you are concerned about violent crime than maybe you should be training 3 times a week on how to defend yourself and now you’ve turned a negative into a positive.

I’m not being crass here. Don’t confuse this as lacking empathy. We should care about each other, our family, our friends but investing your mental health in something you cannot change only hurts you. Stress is a good thing but negative stress or too much stress no longer motivates us to act but becomes a heavy blanket preventing us from moving forward positively.

Today

It’s a new world today. I know this because I can see it. I was downtown in the city I live in yesterday, Saturday just before noon and it was barren. Parking spots abundant on the usually full streets. How long will this last? No one knows for sure. Some say it maybe months.

But we need to be strong and not worry about what we can’t change. I can’t change the fact that I can’t go out and sit down and enjoy a pour over coffee. I can’t change the fact that some businesses will lay off workers, or close.

But I can make decisions that can help. I can patron local businesses more often and tip more than usual. I can reach out to friends and family and see that they are ok. I can do things that help me stay in a more positive mindset and not get dragged down.

zen
Zen Garden

Ever wanted to try meditation? Now might be the time! Do you have a body part that needs attention? Now might be the time! Instead of exercising the same muscles switch it up. Focus on the muscles you neglect, the inside of the legs, lower back, calves, etc. Not happy with the rear muscles of your shoulders now is the time to do something about it. Then when things do get back to ‘normal’ maybe your muscle imbalance will be the muscles that used to be predominantly stronger.

But be safe about it, especially if you are working out intensely. Have you ever wondered why elite athletes get colds more often? Because when you train intensely you compromise your immunity system. Research shows that more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session. Moderate exercise, on the other hand, enables immune cells to circulate through the body quicker and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses. Generally, after exercise ends our immune system returns to normal within a few hours.

Finally

Be smart. Be safe. Take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Don’t focus on things you cannot change.

Focus on the things you can change. You owe it to yourself.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Looking forward ignoring the past

We are almost one week into the new year, the new decade. And I’m checking in on how you are doing. I’m thinking things are going in either of the following directions: 1. you are embracing your new goals and the year is off onto a positive start; 2. It’s not going as you hoped it would as you are not feeling the motivation, the desire to better yourself and the drive just isn’t there.

It can be tough. It’s easy to look to the next day to kick it into gear but that day comes and it’s just not happening so the next day becomes the next day and …

Good intentions. We know what we want. We know what we need to do but the gears aren’t engaging. It’s a common thing, probably more common than most of us realize. Only the person feeling this really knows the severity of it, the toll it takes. We don’t let this side of us show to others in the fear of being judged or the fear of people looking at us as failures. And who wants to be judged like that.

This new year falls in the middle of the week and some might take that opportunity to push off their goal to the following week reasoning that the new year really starts after this weekend. If you aren’t feeling ready to embrace the change you want to than that embrace may not come. Pushing the changes you are trying to take on out each day is probably going to end up in that the changes will never come.

We measure strength as a physical attribute but I think strength is a mental attribute. Without a strong mental disposition, physical strength and prowess can almost be unattainable. It’s almost the inverse of a house. Let me explain: to have a strong house requires a solid foundation, or a solid footing (what’s under the foundation). I believe for us to have a strong body requires a strong mind. One is at the bottom underneath the structure and the other is at the top, above the structure.

Keep in tune with how you feel. Take the time to reflect and analyze where you are at. If you are having a hard time accomplishing what you have set out to do for yourself DON’T beat yourself up, but do take the time to better understand if this is just a ‘one-off’ or if it’s something that is too frequently happening. Then take care of yourself. Fix what you think might need fixing.

You are not alone. And you have friends. You have people that care about you and you will get that cut in your jib back.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Teach your silent sleep

Slow dawn

Many of my posts talking about working out usually emphasize the importance of intensity. For good reasons of course, intensity brings the results you need and are looking for.

But, there comes a time when you need to slow down. It’s referred to as the taper.

What

What is tapering? Tapering is taking the last week or more before your event and tapering back on the workouts, the intensity. Tapering is a very important cycle in your training regiment in preparation for your event that allows you to train less, eat more and sleep more! Tapering will help you perform  the way you want to perform in your event. It often gets overlooked as people generally think that they need to train hard all the way up to the event. Makes sense why we think this but this will do you more harm as you won’t be in peak performance shape.

Tapering allows the body to regain glycogen stores, repair any small damage that has been done to muscle and connective tissue. Enzymes, antioxidants, and various hormones depleted during training  are given the time needed to return to optimal ranges. Your immune system vastly improves too. Lastly, some studies have shown an improvement in performance of up to 3%. Tapering before your event sets you up to perform as best as you can. It sets you up so you are going into your event day feeling as best as you can too. Performance stress is not only on the physical level but also the mental level. You want to be sharp, confident, and feeling well, not foggy, shaky and feeling mentally fatigued.

Less can be more.

How

Tapering can be anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks before your event. During this period you will want to cut your training down to 20% – 30% less than what you would normally do on a high volume week. If your workouts are 5x a week, you would then drop down to 3 to 4 workouts a week. Also, that should be the same for intensity when it comes to resistance training. If for your event you are relying on your legs to help you get through it, I guess that’s pretty much anything thinking about it, you want your legs to be fresh. Cut down on any training that impacts the legs. Any leg work should be done solely for the purpose of dynamic stretching, cardio and mobility reasons. You can keep training upper body but be sure to drop the intensity level as you would not want to go into your event with any sore muscles.

Let’s look at tapering and nutrition. Even though I’m not a fan of supplementing it may be wise to err on the side of caution and ensure you are getting adequate protein levels to aid in the repair of soft tissue for that last week before your event. That’s it. That’s it if you are following a whole foods plant based diet. No need to worry about carb loading as you would already be consuming the high level of carbs you need.

Be sure to consume enough water. Peeing more than normal is better than being dehydrated for your event. Cut back on diuretics such as alcohol and caffeine.

Do these things and you might even notice that you have added a couple pounds to your body.

Summary

  • 1 – 3 weeks before
  • Do 20% – 30% less
  • Eat more
  • Sleep more
  • Drink more water
  • Keep moving, mobility is important
  • No killing yourself in workouts

Finally

It seems counterintuitive to taper but embrace it. Your body has already made it’s adaptations weeks before and is ready to go. Maybe an experience of mine will illustrate that this works. Years ago when I was in the Navy I would travel back to my old home to visit my family twice a year. Previous to one  of those trips I got heavily into body building, working out 6 days a week, 2 hours a day on a 3 day split program. I was a hard core gym rat. My trip home was just over 2 weeks long where I caught up with family and friends which meant a lot of relaxing, eating and no working out. When I returned back to the Navy my friends there couldn’t believe how much bigger I had gotten. That 2 week period was my taper even though I didn’t know it. My body had the time it needed to repair muscle tissue and add the muscle it needed to. When I was back and started to work out my performance levels also increased.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Implement a taper and use that extra time to relax, mentally prepare and I think you will be so much better going into your event than you would have otherwise.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Staying home to watch the rain

And you are young and life is long

It’s usually the mental aspect of it that gets us. It’s what ends up being our downfall be it that day or worse, our life. Everyone of us is capable of great things but for a lot of different reasons we don’t execute on those great things and end up living a mediocre life. That might be alright for some but for most it means a lost of adventure, a loss of things that ‘could have been’.

I used to struggle with explaining what this meant, what pushing yourself brings to us as individuals. I couldn’t convey it into words. Then I looked into it more trying to understand all things that are rewarded unto us when we work hard, when we push ourselves. I would look back on my own experiences of success and failures and it started to make sense to me. When we push ourselves and work hard towards a goal the end result is the reward. It is what makes us feel alive, feel that we have a purpose and adds a lot of positives to our reflection of what we are as an individual. Self doubt starts to diminish and our confidence starts to grow.

Also, doors may start to open and sometimes those things happen organically. If you are someone who pushes themselves in a group type of environment, maybe you are a competing triathlete, think of all the people you have met along your journey. Coaches, experts in your field, fellow competitors, and so on. You don’t get this exposure sitting on the couch every night and weekend. And then think of the people you meet if you are doing things considered on an elite level. You will be surrounded by people who generally are more positive, outgoing, other people who push themselves hard all the time. We tend to become the people we associate with. Hang out with negative, unmotivated people and you will tend to become the same because those people don’t want to be involved with someone who isn’t: it makes them feel like failures and they will never meld with you if you aren’t also complaining and being pessimistic about things. Surround yourself with positive people and you will tend to rise to that level.

But I digress. This post really is about what can we do to help ourselves do things that are lengthy in duration and can be really mentally overwhelming. What can we do to trick the brain and keep pushing through a long tough event. Here some ideas:

  • Compartmentalize: Depending on what it is you are doing, never, NEVER look at the event as a whole. This will crush you even before you get out the gate. Let’s take a triathlon. 3 major events: swim, bike ride and a run. Depending on the type of triathlon this can take maybe 8 hours. If you think of this at the beginning as an 8 hour event you have already lost, you have planted the seed in your mind that this is going to kill you and you will never get through it. To start, break this down into the 3 events it already is: swim, bike, run. Then, break it down further if you need to: break the swim into half. Break the bike ride into quarters, or fifths, or more. Same with the run. If it’s a marathon length run, break it into quarters and after each quarter mentally check it off – Done, 3 more quarters to go.
  • Distraction: Believe it or not you do not always have to think about what you are doing. Have you ever arrived somewhere and you cannot recall how you got there? You’ve driven the same roads, the same route to work for years and it’s all muscle memory. You arrive at work and you can’t recall how you got there. Same thing here. Let the brain wonder off onto some journey, maybe to Alaska to see the northern lights, or maybe thinking about the last book you read. This happens sometimes to me when I’m running on the treadmill. Your mind comes back and nothing changed, you are still running. The muscle memory took over and you probably were running better because of this. You were probably more relaxed since you weren’t tuned in to every muscle twitch, to every foot step. Give this a try and you will find it tends to make a long event fly by.
  • Hero: Do you have a hero, someone you look up to? Who inspires you, who do you want to be in a sense? Try to be that person mentally. When I run on the treadmill and things start to get tough I think of a person who has inspired me: John Joseph. This guy is the hard ass endurance athlete I would like to be. No excuses get it done kind of guy. John’s first triathlon was done with a fracture in his foot after playing a concert the night before in the band he’s in. Yeah, played a concert (high output as his band is a punk band), fractured his foot, long drive home, little sleep and then completed the triathlon in the August heat of New York. If that’s not inspiring I don’t know what is.
  • Readiness: If you fail to prepare you have prepared to fail. This is so true. Be ready for your event. Of course long term preparedness means getting in the training. Short term are things like testing any fuel you plan to use. There are many stories of people who on the day of their endurance event change their fuel, they try something new like a new brand of glucose gel. These people typically end up in the porta potty due to GI issues. Always, ALWAYS try what you are going to consume at least a few times weeks before so you know it agrees with you be it gels, sports drinks. This goes for quantities too. Don’t just sip the drink you are going to use to replace your electrolytes. Use it in your training so you know how your body is going to react to it when under stress. Clothing, make sure it comfortable and suits the needs of the event and of you. Rest, rest, rest.
  • Mind set: Before your event I want you to tell yourself how amazing you are, tell yourself that you are the rock star you want to be. Because if you are doing this that is what you are! A lot of self doubt exists in us for reasons that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Put there by others, put there by false perceptions of what society thinks we should be. And it’s easy to self doubt. It is so hard to pay ourselves a compliment or two. Try this. The next time you doubt yourself, ask yourself if you would say the same thing to someone else and when you answer no, think about that. Think about why you wouldn’t say this to someone else and then ask yourself why then is it OK to think this of yourself.

Finally

That’s all I have for today. For now. We all have the ability to do great things, if we let ourselves.

Yours in health,

Darryl