Do nothing that is of no use

Miyamoto Musashi – The Book of Five Rings

The title of this post is a quote from the Book of Five Rings, or Go Rin No Sho in Japanese that was written by Miyamoto Musashi almost 400 years ago. Written in approx. 1645 but still applicable today. Continue reading my post to understand why.

What

Keep doing the things you enjoy

How we do things can be very important. If you are an elite level athlete how you do things can result in a win or loss. In elite level competition, the winner is sometimes determined by hundredths or even thousandths of a second. And if competing in your chosen discipline is how you earn your living that can result in a  gain in thousands or even millions of dollars or a loss. For the rest of us, the difference can be continuing to do the thing we like to do or prevented from doing these things because of injury, of loss of motivation. Let me explain further by breaking this out into 2 categories:

        • Motivation
        • Injury

Let’s talk about motivation. I’m going to tell you a story that may help make this clearer. A number of years ago I signed up for an introduction to running clinic being offered at my workplace. The clinic was advertised as a way to dip your toe into the water of running, a way of educating yourself on how to run and possibly finish up by running a 5k race. The first day we all suited up in our running gear and then went out and ran a mile, or attempted to run a mile. Most of us, pretty much all of us, had not run a mile in quite a while. Months, maybe years for some of us since the last time we ran or even did something physical that would tax the cardiovascular system heavily. We put on our shoes, shorts, and t-shirts and went out and ran a mile. Some of us did. Not everyone completed the run and not everyone came back for the next class. If I were to be blunt in describing this I would say our instructor broke some people. Unintentionally but that is what happened. She took a group of office workers mostly in their 30’s or 40’s and had them run hard for 1 mile. I look back at this day with much clearer eyes, much more educated eyes and I can respectfully say that was the wrong way to run a clinic. How can I say that? If the goal is to get more people passionate about running and to then help them learn how to run and then continue to run that did not happen. If you were one of the people who did come back it was due to sheer determination to continue and not quit.

We tend to be motivated to continue to do things when we feel good about what it is we are doing. Seeing and feeling results can also build or maintain motivation for most people. Some, not many, are motivated by negative experiences, negative peer pressure, or competition. The classic example of someone driven to succeed to prove everyone wrong which usually means prove their parents wrong, or prove their ‘friends’ wrong (friends who think they are motivating you by putting you down are not really friends, lose those toxic people in your life). And is motivation out of fear, or hate healthy? What consequences come with that?

So how would I run that first day of the running clinic? I would probably follow a proven approach of running and walking. I would also assess my students and off of that determine the run/walk interval. 1 mile converts to 1600 metres approximately. So I might try 400 metres running followed by 100, or maybe 200 metres at a quick walk. That works out to approximately 3 intervals. This gives the students an opportunity to run and then also get their breath back if you will and also an opportunity to gear up for the next interval. Also, it’s not going to be overly taxing. And in the end, everyone ran a mile and can walk away proud of that fact. Motivated for the next class to learn how to improve and motivated to run again.

At the beginning of any activity that is new, we should treat that in the manner that it is new. Are you better at your job today than when you first entered your profession? Absolutely!

If you do things that are of no use, are an impediment, create disinterestedness, build incuriosity than you will not continue. You need to do things and only things that build confidence, curiosity, passion, drive. Those things that fulfill you. Only then will it become something that you will want to continue with. Do only the things that are of use.

learn to run
Proper technique can reduce risk of injury. Credit to sporlab

Let’s move on to the second point. Before I forget, I have broken this into 2 points but there are more. Perhaps I’ll expand on some of the other points in an upcoming post. From years of coaching in the personal training industry and also instructing in martial arts, I have seen many examples of this. People failing to properly warm up, failing to listen to their teacher, failing to adequately rest, failing to properly cool down, failing to use proper technique. I can continue but this should make the point.

Do things that are of use

If you look at the quote ‘Do nothing that is of no use’ it also infers the opposite. Do everything that is of use. The incorrect technique will lead to injury. Let’s take running as an example. All of us know how to run just like we all naturally learned how to crawl, walk, and then run. We know how to run instinctively because we had to run away from predators, in short distances to safety if possible, thousands of years ago. It was for survival. But that does not mean we know how to run 5km’s every day, a 10km race, marathon, or an extreme endurance event.

Although as human beings we have a body that is built almost perfectly to run long distances (Kenyan’s would run for days tiring out their prey before killing them) most of us don’t know how to run properly. The majority of people who have not had proper training think that when you run you land on the heel, then roll forward and push off of the toes. I think most people believe this because if you look at a pair of running shoes the heel is extremely cushioned. Why would you not land on the heel with all that cushioning? Now, go by a pair of minimalist shoes and try that. Shortly into the run you’ll have to stop due to intense pain.

So if I have running shoes that are greatly cushioned what is wrong with landing on the heels? Without going too deep into it, it’s the body position when you do this that can lead to other injuries such as in the knees, hips, back, shoulders. If we are such good runners because we naturally know how to run then why do so many people get injured? Repetitive stress injury is one reason. Constantly doing one thing such as running is not healthy for your body. The body will strengthen certain muscles, the muscles doing the work, and the other muscles, usually the muscles opposite the ones doing the work are not getting worked out as much. Muscle imbalances build up and this also leads to injury. Also, the muscles that are primarily being used are used in a certain way, a certain range of motion. If you look at running the hamstrings and quads are not engaged in nearly the full range of motion they are capable of. This is one reason why I’m a proponent of incorporating variety in your workouts.

Now, I get it. I get how people get hooked to doing one thing. I was one of those people who fell in love with running. My long runs would typically consist of runs ranging from 20km’s to 40km’s depending on the week. That feeling you get from the endorphins and hormones being released can be incredible. But you have to incorporate other training that will in the end give you a well rounded balanced body. I’ve run into people who when they find out I train in Karate they tell me they used to do Karate until they got injured doing it. Unless it was due to sparring or another underlying issue I guarantee it was due to incorrect technique. How do I know? Because I educate myself on these things, on how mechanics of the body work to produce power and how improper mechanics will cause injury. Also, I’ve been to Okinawa a number of times training with Okinawan’s who are in their 70’s and 80’s and they are training and doing the same things much younger people are. If Karate killed your body how is this so?

Finally

Fitness should be something for life. Things you enjoy doing should be things you do for your life. Just like eating. Look at the history of fad diets. They all end up in failure, they are unsustainable. Whereas you look at one group of people that have the largest amount of centenarians (Okinawans) and they historically eat a diet comprised of 85 – 90% complex carbs.

Do nothing that is of no use. Think about this, deeply. And if you don’t know what it is that is of no use, that’s ok. Everyone at one point is a beginner. That is why there are experts in these areas; personal trainers, running coaches, swim coaches, sensei’s, etc. Invest in yourself. Why wouldn’t you do that? I guarantee that you’ll be glad you did now, and years and years from now. Don’t eliminate those things that are of no use and it will probably be a short trip.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

A little death…

The mind can be powerful, and the mind can be weak. It can propel us to unimagined heights or it can make us feel like a loser. Sometimes the outcome, or how we feel, can be determined by what we do before a large event, or before an event that requires the mental strength.

Why

We have to take ourselves to that place where our mind will quit, or we will not be successful. We have to do this in order to grow. If we never take ourselves there, we end up becoming stagnant, or we end up plateauing. Taking ourselves there also gives us motivation. How many times have you surprised yourself by accomplishing more than you thought you would because you went pass that point your brain told you to stop. It felt really good, didn’t it. In fact, it felt great. You will never know what you can accomplish if you quit at that first moment the thought enters your mind, ‘this hurts, this feels uncomfortable, I want to stop’. We cannot go on living in our comfort zone. We are more than this. We need to grow. We need to be satisfied. We need to break out of that zone so we can grow, so we can become what we are supposed to be. If you don’t take that chance, you will always regret it. Won’t you?

Caution

Having said that, we need to be aware that that voice we hear, telling us to stop is not there for no reason. If we are pushing ourselves to the point that we could do physical damage to our body, the voice is there to get us to quit before we could do damage to our body, specifically our organs. If you  have never run more than 3km’s, and decided to run a marathon at a time under 4 hours, it might be a good idea to listen to that voice. You haven’t prepared your body for this type of event and the voice telling you to quit is probably right.

Be prepared

So what can we do to minimize the impact of this voice and continue our workout, our event or whatever it is you are doing when your brain starts to question what it is you are doing.

 

  • Be prepared – I like to use the analogy of having an exam to write. I know with myself, I am much more nervous if I feel I’m not prepared, I didn’t study enough. If I have put in enough study time, I go into the exam feeling confident, and not as nervous (there’s always some nervousness, it is an exam). If you are competing in a big event such as a marathon, or tough mudder, try to include into your prep something that mimics what it is you are doing. For example, if your event is a marathon, be sure to include a distance run that is about 90% the length of the marathon. This way you will go in to the event confident knowing that you only have to run that 10% more than your longest run in training. You’ve eliminating the unknown which can lead to fear.

 

  • Nutrition – Make sure you are properly fueled. If you aren’t, you will exhaust yourself so much sooner, and this can lead to a drop in confidence and motivation leading to our friend the brain telling us to stop much sooner than you should be. Be sure to eat a couple of hours before your workout and try to have something high in carbs about 30 minutes before hand, something such as a banana or an orange. If your workout is intense, and lasts more than 60 minutes you may also want to replenish your glycogen stores by consuming something high in carbs such as dates, or figs. You can even try the gels that runners use. This will keep you going and lessen that voice telling you to quit and give in.

 

 

  • The zone – Time to stop thinking about yourself, about the pain, about the fatigue. Try to think of something, anything else besides the work you are doing. You should find that your mind gets focused on this instead of the workout. I’ll do this when I’m running, I’ll think about the workout I need to put together for class, or I’ll think about my next blog post. Before I know it, I’ve completed about half my run. If the mind is busy with other things, it won’t be focused on everything that comes with the workout.

 

  • Feedback – We do need to listen to our body when working out, we can’t totally ignore it. But, we need to listen to the important things. Finding yourself more tired than normal may be your body telling you that you need to consume some carbs. If you feel pain don’t ignore it! Pain during a workout is never a good thing. Typically that means you have injured yourself. Pain after a workout such as muscle pain is ok since this means you have been successful in creating micro tears in your muscle fiber which now need to be repaired. This is what leads to increased strength and muscle growth.

 

Do you want it

You desire it, but do you really want it? It would be great if we could just take a pill and just like that our cardio would be top notch, or we just added 10 lbs of muscle. Or would it be great? If you are someone who trains regularly, leaves your workout exhausted and sweaty, feel good about that because 70% of everyone else are doing nothing. Then there are those who do something but really will never see any gains because they never get out of their comfort zone.

I know you want it. I know this because you are hear reading this, reading my blog and I like to think I’m honest in what I say in my posts. If you keep coming back to read more, you are probably someone who wants to get the most they can out of life. Do it then. Don’t give in. You know what you want, go out there an grab onto it. You’ll embrace it with open arms knowing it’s right.

Yours in health,

Darryl

It’s still getting worse after everything I’ve tried

What if we decide to break these walls?

It’s already 2 weeks into the new year. So how are things going? I’m thinking things are going one of two ways: you’re well on your way to reaching your fitness goal, or you are already thinking about other ways to spend your time than in the gym.

Did you read my last couple of posts and instead of going full blast you decided to ease into it? I hope so because that is a good strategy to keep motivated and not get burned out. If you are starting to struggle to keep motivated and to keep going to the gym or wherever it is you train, I think now is a good time to reevaluate your approach.

Stand back

Evaluate why you are having a hard time to get motivated. I’m going to list some things that can impact motivation and see if one or more of them seem to be applicable:

  • Lack of sleep – If you are tired due to lack of sleep the primary thing on your mind is getting sleep. It can be tough to get motivated just to carry out simple things when tired so no wonder you are having a hard time getting yourself out for a workout.
    • Remedy: Umm, sleep. That’s it. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep if you can.
  • Getting sick, lack of energy – If you find that you are becoming sick more frequently than normal, are lacking energy even when at the gym there’s a good chance you have over trained. Sometimes we feel that if working out for an hour is beneficial than working out for 2 or 3 hours should be even better, right? Not necessarily. If you aren’t eating properly, getting the proper rest, and have awesome genetics than you are venturing into the territory of over training. The immune system becomes compromised and we get sick
    • Remedy: Stop over training! Reduce your workout by 50%. Do that for a week or two and see how you feel. Listen to your body and what it is telling you. One of the worst things that can happen when over training is injury. A way for your body to get you to finally listen and stop training.
  • Poor eating – Food is the fuel for our body that gets converted to energy. Garbage in / garbage out. If you aren’t eating well there is a good change you aren’t feeling well too. The food we eat has a big influence on our moods.
    • Remedy: Educate yourself on proper nutrition. Or to keep it simple start to eliminate simple carbs such as juice, pop, chips, candy, etc. Start eating complex carbs such as grains, vegetables. Check to see if you are getting enough protein for your body to rebuild itself. A general rule is .5 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight based on your activity level. The more active the higher amount of protein needed. Be sure to eat healthy fats too. Olive oil, coconut oil are good oils to use.

The same message

More of my posts lately have been focusing on how to get to the gym or wherever it is you workout instead of what to do when you are there. Why? Because if you aren’t even working out than what good is it knowing proper technique. We are at that time again where the gyms are full. But, not much longer and they will start to empty, again, like they did last year, and the year before that and…

Will this post make a difference? I don’t know but if it keeps one person working out instead of packing it in than it’s a success.

Don’t quit. Take one day at a time. Be in the minority and be proud of it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

two thirty five

the thief of time.

Building the body is easy. Our body can take a lot. From squatting hundreds of pounds to competing in 100 mile races. The body gets beaten up, but recovers. The mind on the other hand, usually it’s the mind that fails us.

It’s the mind that tells us that we can’t go on any further. It’s the mind that tells us to surrender to the pain. It’s the mind that tells us to quit.

I’ve written a lot of posts over the last number of months covering a multitude of topics. Most covering the how, the what, and the why about exercise and health. But what good does this do you if you can’t even get yourself up to workout. You can have all the knowledge in the world on how to exercise but if you aren’t exercising it really doesn’t do you any good.

This leads me today’s post. I think it’s something worth covering, worth discussing. I always finish the end of my blog with ‘yours in health’ and if I don’t dedicate time to this issue than I am not doing you any good. In fact, I think I’m doing you a disservice. What good am I if I talk only about exercising, technique and don’t discuss why people have a hard time in the first place doing these things? In the end its all the same thing.

The first step

You want to get up and get out to the gym. You want to get up and do something active. You tell yourself you’ll do it after you are done reading, or after you are done some other activity. Or you’ll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and you are able to find a reason to push it out another day. In some cases those days become a week. You really want to get up but you just can’t. It’s tough. I’ve been there and still end up there. Sometimes it’s easier to just relax and not have to think about anything, especially after a busy day.

And that can be the irony of it all. We know that after we exercise we feel so much better. That stress we had during the day is mostly gone. But we can’t always get our mind to see that, even though we have been there. The mind is powerful. It can be like a tidal wave of force taking you underwater.

I am not going to pretend that I have the solution to this. I’m not going to pretend that I am the motivational guru and I’m not going to pretend that there is an easy answer. I guess what I’m hoping is by sharing my own experience of what worked for me, it might end up helping you with your goal either directly or indirectly.

235

I have always been into fitness in one form or another. Biking, swimming, running, resistance training. I was overall in good shape. I was fortunate enough that I was able to get my workout in at my place of work. I still feel lucky to have that opportunity. Work started to get busier. A major project came up and I wasn’t taking my lunch break like I usually would, by heading to the gym.

At first I wasn’t too concerned. I have months behind me of working out so I’ll rely on the fitness I already have and should be able to bounce back when I need to. Weeks went by. I started to find myself finding reasons not to go to the gym when I did get that odd break. I was tired from work and the hours I was putting in. I knew that if I worked out I would feel better but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t reason with myself. I kept thinking next week, next week I’ll start. Weeks, months went by of neglecting my fitness. I knew I was no longer in good shape. I started getting winded by going up 2 flights of stairs at a faster than normal pace. But I ignored it. I knew I was putting on weight. But I ignored it.

A stormy winter day. Snowing all night and I had to get myself to work. On my drive to work I spotted a car that was having trouble getting anywhere. I pulled over and offered my assistance. There was just me and the driver of the car to get the car moving. So you know who would be the one pushing the car. It probably took about 2 minutes of rocking the car back and forth, pushing the car trying to get it moving more than a foot or two. Finally, the car is moving.

But I’m not moving too well. Sucking air, sweating and generally not feeling too good. I had that taste of copper in my mouth that you get when you really exert yourself. But this was only 2 minutes of work. I have done much more than this.

I knew at that point things had to change.

180

I knew what I had to do, and I think I had the desire to do it. But I had to find a way to help me keep on track. A way to get my ass into the gym instead of my ass being in a chair.

I read an article on a way to help people reach their goal. It seemed like a simple idea. All I needed to do was print a calendar out for the period I designated to reach my goal. That’s when I realized I didn’t have a goal in the sense that it was a target, something I could shoot for.

That’s when I determined my goal is a number. The number I wanted to weigh. I now have my goal. I now needed to determine the time frame to reach this goal. I printed off my calendar for the duration needed.

The next day I did my workout. Put an X on the calendar for that day. It was only one X but it felt good to see it on the calendar. It told me I did something. And it was a big X taking up the whole square for that day. The next day I worked out again. Another X. On the designated days off from the gym I would still put an X for that day if I didn’t deviate from eating healthy.

I wanted to see an X every day. I didn’t want the chain to break. Of course it did once in a while but looking at a month mostly filled with X’s kept me motivated to continue. That and experiencing the results I was getting from sticking to my schedule. It felt good!

There is a saying, ‘do anything for 21 days and it will become a habit’. I’m not so sure about that. That in itself would assume we are all the same and of course we aren’t. But, do something long enough and I think it will become a habit. I know myself if I miss a few days of working out I feel out of sorts. I don’t know what the number is for you, but you’ll be able to find it.

There is one more thing I did. I wrote my goal on a piece of paper and kept it in my wallet. I kept the piece of paper simple; 180. I didn’t want something in my face every day. That would have been too much. But the odd time I would open my wallet and see that number I would be reminded of what I was trying to achieve.

Who knows

I have no idea if this would work for you. Did doing this help me achieve my goal, or would I have achieved it regardless? I’ll never know for sure. I think it did. Those times where I was getting sucked in by the couch and would tell myself that’s it’s ok to miss today,  I would look at the calendar and think about what it would look like missing the X for that day.

If there is one important point I can make from all of this, it’s that it really helps to have a goal. Something measurable and realistic. Write it down, picture it. Those days you feel tempted to push off that workout remind yourself you will get closer to that goal if you get up and do it.

Yours in health,

Darryl