Friday, April 21, 2017

Intro to Health and Fitness

So, at the roughly the same time that I started developing a more adventurous lifestyle, I also embarked on a new career path, that of a personal trainer. I am not sure if these two paths are so related that it was inevitable, or if I just got lucky, but I couldn't be more grateful that I traveled down these two paths simultaneously. After a few years a started to realize that many of the adventures I was experiencing were becoming so much more "adventurous" primarily because I felt I could go farther, higher, longer, deeper, or whatever (insert adjective here), due to my increased fitness levels.

To be honest, the bar was set pretty low (from my pre-adventure days).

This is why I feel that our health and fitness play such a huge part in whatever adventurous new path we create for ourselves. It is not just a requirement for living the adventure life, it is an integral part of it. Not just yin and yang, more like yin and yin.

Getting Started
Why is it so hard to get started?
The reason we struggle to get started on a workout "program" is because we really don't want to do it. We don't want to do it because we know it's going to be hard, and there is going to be some discomfort, and maybe even a little pain. But the problem goes a bit deeper than that.

Humans are hardwired to seek the path of least resistance. Our brains have developed to find the easiest solution to a given problem. This is how we have evolved so successfully. If the tribe down the valley discovered a way to hunt mammoths more efficiently, more easily, and we chose to keep doing it the hard way, our tribe would cease to exist. Easier meant living longer.
Easier is always more efficient and we are convinced that that is better. But to get a proper workout and get the results that we desire, we have to do it in the most inefficient way that we can handle. And our brains don't want any part of that.

So, I guess the trick is to convince ourselves that doing hard work, in the most inefficient manner, with no immediate payout, is really the best thing for us. Our brains are going to need some serious convincing.

Whatever that convincing might be required, there is one thing that I am 100% convinced of, and that is that we need to have a sufficient reason to get started. If you truly desire to climb mountains, then you will start climbing. If you really want to run marathons, then you will start running. Whatever it is that you truly want to accomplish, you will have no problem finding the motivation to do it.

All or Nothing Thinking (Funnel cakes or celery sticks?)
If I had to pick one thing that is holding us back and keeps us from making the changes that we need to make in life, it’s the black and white view of the world. And developing strength and fitness is no exception. I have gotten a lot of flack for this idea, but I will share it anyway - “We either want the solution to be easy i.e. a pill, or we want it so brutally hard, that we are doomed to fail, then we can go back to our old ways after giving it a shot. Or just not even try”

It’s these two extremes that keep us from even trying, but the thing is, there is always another way. It’s these extreme programs that always fail in the long run. What we need to do is ask ourselves what do we really want, why we want it, and are we willing to do the work to get it?

If the changes we want are long-term, then we have to make a plan that is long-term. Start with baby steps, small changes that can be maintained for life, not just until we lose the weight we want to lose. With this approach, you can achieve any result you want, given the proper time frame. Me? I want to be the decathlon world champ in the 90 year old plus division. I am not real fast, I have never thrown a javelin, and I’m not a fan of those tights that they wear, but I have 40 years to train and adjust my personal preferences.

Eat to Live (Or live to eat?)
Okay, this may be the holy grail of health and fitness, and it is going to be a tough act to sell, but here goes. If we can’t get our desire for food under control, we cannot achieve what we want to achieve. The good news is that there is a gray area that we can operate within. See previous topic. But if we are having a love affair with food, we need to break up and suggest that we still be friends.

On the Eating-to-Live scale of 1 to 10, eating the purest forms of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, at only the optimum amounts being a 10, and being rolled out of the Rio food court in Vegas being a 0, positioning ourselves in the 3 to 5 range would give us the latitude to make up the difference with exercise and strength training. Having said that, there are going to be foods that you just have to avoid, in quantities that you just have to avoid as well.

A little side note - I used to get into some friendly arguments with my wife at the time about the virtues of the buffet. She would tell me that she would rather eat at a nice sit-down restaurant over an all-you-can-eat establishment. I could never figure out why on earth she would not choose quantity over quality. How could she not see the economic gains that the buffet provides? Well, decades later, I now get it. I am convinced that, although what we eat is so, so important, it’s the quantities that will kill you.

Eat smaller portions throughout the day, avoid the domino foods, and focus on eating what your body needs.

Training is Work
At the very early stages of my career as a personal trainer, I took on a client that really seemed hopeless. She was 70 years old, and bless her heart, she wanted to be an active retiree. But she was overweight and very sedentary, so much so that I had to help her get up off the workout bench. But, after a couple months she was gaining strength that I really didn’t believe that she had the motivation to gain. I was very proud of her, and maybe myself (just a little), but then she made the statement that stuck with me throughout my career and even to this day - “Boy Jim, I can’t wait until this gets easy.” My response is probably what eventually led to the loss of a client. I said - “Gina, this is not supposed to get easy.” I think reality kicked in for her and she eventually moved on to some chair workouts at the elderly center. But, I think that’s all she truly wanted.

So, we need to ask ourselves some extremely important questions. What kind of life do I want to live, an active one or a sedentary one? Do I want to be proactive about how long I live, or just wait for the inevitable to happen? And if I happen to live to an extended age, how will I feel when I get there?

If what we want from life is in sync with the amount of work we are willing to put in to get it, we can achieve anything.

Training is Fun (Not easy!)
Put another way - training doesn't have to be, nor should it be, boring. 

I have a confession to make... I have been running, as a form of exercise, since the age of about 18. I never liked running and I found it boring, but it was what I felt I had to do to keep the weight off. I would always go though phases where I would be into it, then take several months off, then I'd get back into it, and my spare tire would usually visit within the same cycle. But I noticed a change in my attitude about the same time I started exploring the outdoors, because I also started running trails.

For me, the trail adds a whole new dimension to running. I have to prepare for the steep climbs, look out for rocks and ruts, and maybe even see some wildlife. I started getting the feeling like I was looking forward to running and I even found myself missing it if I was nursing an injury or something. For the first time I realized that I like love trail running. 

And mountain biking is the same. There is something about being out in nature that helps me ignore the pain strong discomfort that I may be experiencing for brief, and sometimes not-so-brief moments. And where I live, the payoff for a big climb is almost always an incredible view!

Sometimes, the workout is going to be boring, and that can't always be avoided, but there are many ways that you can make the workout exciting and maybe even fun, but not easy. Try to avoid easy.

The Couch

What’s your motivation? Mine is the couch. The couch is always there, beckoning me to come lay down for a nice rest, the oh-so-comfortable alternative to all the hard work I contemplating. When it beckons me, it does so in such a calm soothing voice commensurate with its comfort level. When I am pushing hard and starting to question why I am enduring this “discomfort”, my shoulder devil reminds me that there is a place that I can go where I don’t have to “punish” myself so. The couch.

But, an instant after I remind myself how pain free the couch is, I remind myself that that is just a deferment of the pain. The pain we will feel in our 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, being confined to the sedentary lifestyle that the couch coaxed us into, will be far, far worse, mentally, emotionally, and physically. When I am done, I am always, always glad I ignored the couch. Ya know what I do then? I go crash on the couch! Ya gotta earn the couch, so make sure you earn it!

The couch is my motivator!

There is a world of adventure out there, and so much of it, the really cool stuff, is just beyond the reach of the average person. And the stuff that isn’t is usually a very crowded place that doesn’t feel like an adventure. But, if we can go out a little further, or climb a little higher, or go when it’s a little hotter, or a little colder, or a little wetter, we step outside our box, leave the crowds behind, and really experience the adventure. That’s my real motivation and I hope it’s yours.

Take care and I will see you out there!