Category Archives: mental factor

Give Me Give Me MORE

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more

 

Do more, work more, accomplish more, be more, have more.

And more is causing us chronic stress.

And more is giving us ulcers, migraines, acid reflux, and high blood pressure.

And more is slowly but surely killing us.

 

I’m done with more.

 

From now on I’m striving for better.

 

I don’t want to train more and spend half my life at a gym. I want to train better, because by training better I can multiply my results and reduce the time invested.

I don’t want work more and end up resenting my job. I want to work better, respecting my own creative times and tuning into what is important.

I don’t want to give more. I want to give better, focusing on how I can effectively impact others, and, equally important, give to myself: my down time, my playful time, my mindful moments.

I’m done with more for the sake of more. This is simply about getting better at what we already have going. Because through the accumulation of little betters it is that we can achieve great.

 

And I don’t know about you but I’m all for being great.

 

Bring it.

Better.

Just better.

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The Beginner’s Guide To Going To The Gym

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gym

I didn’t name this a “guide to the gym.” I named it a “guide to going to the gym.” See, it’s nice to want to learn about machines and exercises, about gym etiquette and basic rules. But to wrangle those things we first have to tackle the very real fact that most people never actually set foot in a gym. Imma help with that.

That’s why I came up with this handy-dandy guide intended to help you get your butt out the door and actually in the gym; to finally shut up that jerk of a voice in your head telling you you’ll look ridiculous and out of place, so why bother going at all. Enough of that shit.

And why should you listen to me?

Because this is what I do for work and how I earn a living. I have insider information.

And also because once upon a time I was in your exact same shoes.

Which brings me to The Things You Should Know #1: Every single gym rat, buff guy/girl and fitness enthusiast you may ever come across, has at some point in their lives started off as a newbie. Just like you. We’ve all been there: the uncomfortable feeling of stepping into new territory, the self-consciousness of knowing we’re going to mess up and be ridiculed, the awkwardness of thinking we don’t fit in, so sure that others will see right through our pretending, sorry asses. Actually (and you have my permission to laugh. Because, really.) I want you to know that I was in your shoes just two years ago– and I was already a personal trainer! Even though I was a fitness professional, I had lots of experience, I knew all the ropes… I couldn’t help but feel scared when the time came to start training at my new place of work. You would imagine that with all I knew and the cred that comes from having put your fair amount of time training yourself and others I would be immune to the mental B.S. But I wasn’t. Because when push comes to shove, survival instincts kick in and fear of the unknown is a very real defense mechanism. It took me one week to finally walk down that narrow hall into the weights area, the lonesome girl amidst the lifting guys. And it got better. Real quick, actually.

That fear you feel is normal.

You got that? It’s normal. 

It’s actually kind of natural, expected and even somewhat healthy to feel this way. Back in the days when our survival depended on our awareness and familiarity with our surroundings, our monkey brain evolved to be uncomfortable and hyper-aware in new situations. Although our lives have drastically changed, to this day that part of our brain feels threatened as we experience something new, as though we were in great danger, and is trying to kick us into fight or flight mode. I mean, what if a sable-tooth tiger jumps out from behind the leg press machine, right?

Our logic, conscious mind knows that new can be scary though not necessarily bad or dangerous. But monkey brain didn’t get that memo. And this is why you have to remember that your brain is simply doing its part in keeping you safe from harm when these feelings arise. It’s trying to convince you to stick to what you know, to what’s familiar and comfortable (like staying at home instead of going to the gym.) Thank your brain for taking such good care of you, but don’t let the fear dominate your life experiences. You got this.

A powerful exercise to deal with such thoughts of doom is what is called notice and name. When the uncomfortable thoughts arise, simply notice their presence without judgment or trying to push them away. “Oh, there’s fear.”  “Why hello, self-doubt.” “Hm, I’m thinking thoughts of ridicule.” This simple action strips them of their iron grip over your life. You become an observer, no longer the main character suffering the story these thoughts want to tell. Sure, it takes practice to catch yourself, but trust me, the benefits of noticing and naming cannot be understated.

 

And while we’re in the subject of “thoughts of ridicule,” let me introduce you to The Things You Should Know #2: No one went to the gym today with the sole purpose of judging, criticizing or humiliating you. Really. Our tendency may be to make everything about ourselves, but in this case it’s just not. Most people in the gym are genuinely there to exercise. Shocking, eh? Most don’t have a whole lot of time in their day to stand around pointing fingers and laughing and newbies (and if they do, how sad is their life?) Even though you feel extremely self-conscious and like all eyes are on you (remember: Your brain is in hyper-aware mode) remember other people have their own worries, goals, insecurities, and time frames to even give you or me a second thought.

Some day down the line, once your gym is familiar territory and you’re rocking to your favorite tunes and kicking ass in whatever you’re doing, you will suddenly realize how you truly don’t pay much attention to anyone else around you. You’ll know with all certainty you had nothing to worry about in the first place.

 

I want to make this as easy on you as I can. So here are my easy-peasy pointers to successfully get your rear in gear.

1) Find a gym you like.

Big, impersonal chain gyms aren’t the only option out there. Find a gym or studio that gives you a nice feeling, that reflects values and ideas that are important to you. If being surrounded by bodybuilders isn’t your idea of fun, maybe stay away from Gold’s gym. There are so many quirky, cute, special and unique spaces where there is a sense of community within members– if that’s your thing. If you’re a loner and would rather not share space with many others maybe find a 24/7 gym to which you can have access at odd hours and rock it out alone. This is about you and what you enjoy. You won’t go to the gym if you can’t stand what it looks like, smells like, feels like, and represents. Be true to yourself.

2) Get at least a one-hour session with a personal trainer.

Many new gym-goers skip on this because of financial reasons, but you have no idea what even one hour alone with a trainer can do for your gym life. You have one hour to ask all the questions you want, they will tell you about the gym rules (the stipulated ones and the unspoken ones), they will teach you how to use the machines and equipment. This can give you all the confidence you need. Plus, it allows you to solidly meet one staff member. Bonus: Have them introduce you to other staff members! They’re you allies, your spotters, your guides. They want to see you succeed and keep coming back. Use them.

3) Do what you like.

If you hate cardio please don’t spend endless hours on the treadmill or elliptical. If you hate cycling don’t join a spinning class. At least in the beginning focus on what you like. Remember we’re in the process of making the gym a familiar place where you feel comfortable. You’ll have time to tackle more new things soon enough. In your first few tries, be kind and patient with yourself.

4) Prep. Practice. Mentalize.

Prepare your gym bag (shoes, water bottle, iPod and ear buds, wallet with gym membership card) the night before. Leave your gym clothes laid out, too. Choose a training program you’re excited about following and (trick of the trade) PRACTICE. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the equipment, simply practice the motions when you’re alone at home in front of the mirror until your body feels comfortable with the movements. Make it easy to succeed! Find YouTube videos explaining proper form for each exercise and practice the shit out of ’em. Mentalize yourself doing the exercises at the gym– this adds to the feeling of familiarity, since your brain can’t tell the difference between what you imagined and what you have in reality experienced. So, as far as your brain knows, you have been in this gym doing these exercises before. Less stress, yay!

 

This should be enough to set you up in the path of being an avid gym-goer. Welcome to the dark side, rockstar.

 

This is an 86 year-old woman doing gymnastics. Your argument is invalid.

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After a couple of friends shared on Facebook the video of 86 year-old Johanna Quaas performing her floor routine– complete with cartwheels and jumps– I wanted to learn more.

Watching the video I (like many others, I’m sure!) instantly assumed that German born Quass had been dedicating her entire life to gymnastics, surely being one of those child prodigies who just had it, like magic, since birth. Of course what I was doing was immediately giving myself a reason why she and not I was capable of, at her age, performing the way she did. But get this: This graceful senior only began practicing gymnastics at the age of 30. In the world of gymnastics by 30 most careers are very well over; you’re simply past your prime, a dinosaur, definitely too old.

But at some point came along this determined woman and told them all to suck it. And here are the results:

 

Apparently, the lovely Mrs. Quass believes gymnastics will keep her youthful. I think she’s right.

 

If you think I’m a mean workout machine, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

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I’m certainly not one of those who’s always all OMG RUN YEAAAH or I CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO THE GYM. No. I procrastinate, I look for excuses, I work trade-offs with myself in my head. I’m a pretty regular human being most of the time.

I think the only difference is that I’m aware of the tricks I play on myself. I recognize the voice in my head, and I know it’s lying. Maybe I don’t need to work out, maybe I don’t have to work out. Most of the time I don’t necessarily want to work out. What I do want, what I do like, are the results. I love feeling strong, I like seeing my body defined. It makes me happy when I can do things I couldn’t do before. And because I enjoy the results, I know the work that must be put into achieving them is worth my time.

This doesn’t mean that I’m automatically transformed into a work out beast. Right now, after over three weeks of doing ZILCH (because I was away for holidays in Mexico visiting my family, whom I hadn’t seen in three years) I’m discovering I need to coax myself into starting over.

For some people it may work great to just dive into the madness of spending hours exercising after a period of inactivity. Not for me– at least not this time around. My approach is beginning slowly, building back up to where I was pre-vacation. And I think I found the perfect way to start!

I just came across this website, myfreeyoga.com, and found it to be a great resource. It’s full of free yoga class videos, and I did this session this morning, in my house, still in my pj’s– so no excuses as to why I couldn’t. It felt great to get moving, but OY. So many things cracked and popped, and my muscles were super stiff– a big wake-up call as to how weeks of inactivity slowly creep in and regress a bit of what we’ve worked hard to achieve.But, it only gets better from here :)

So, if you’re looking for a way to get back into the exercise mindset, but haven’t been able to convince yourself to hit the gym or train for a marathon, you may find it beneficial to start slow like I did. It doesn’t matter how small or slow you start. JUST START.

The vegan label conondrum

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I just finished watching a Ted conference by Mark Bittman titled What’s wrong with what we eat, and it left me thinking.

I’m thinking about how I’m considering going ‘vegan’, and it hit me: Why are there even labels to classify the way we eat?

Because in our society, eating animal products is the “default setting”. Regular people  don’t call the host the day before the party and say “Is it ok if I bring a carnivore appetizer to share?”   The standard folk won’t walk into a restaurant and ask if they have carnivore options in their menu. Because meat and animal products are everywhere; they’re the default setting, and the assumption always is you eat them, too. You’re expected to.

It is clear to me now how conditioned we are from a young age by consequence of where we were born. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start a rant against the government and society for the ills they’ve caused, that wouldn’t help much. This more like a step in the widening of my vision, my trying to understand why we do the things we do and believe the things we believe. I love to question things, and this matter is no different.

 

To watch the conference video, click here:

http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_bittman_on_what_s_wrong_with_what_we_eat.html