Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Discipline: The desire to achieve is rooted in discipline.

Motivation will wane moment by moment, it is the consistent action of doing the work towards your goal that will help determine your success.

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White belt to black belt mastery:  Process and building the foundation of success.

When it is our desire to learn we do so as a beginner. Through our studies and with a patient and disciplined approach we continue our growth. This takes us to new levels as represented in the color of our belts. But deep within the levels or belt colors lies lessons beyond what we see or experience or for that matter what the belt color might tell us or others. The true mastery is going beyond the lesson of the belt and observing and learning the deeper lessons being offered.

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Teachers and being a student: The best teachers are students.

The best teachers have teachers. Even the master has a teacher. Yes it is possible to learn something from anyone, any situation. But learning from a master provides a level of understanding that goes far beyond learning in random situations and circumstances of daily life. Teachers have a wisdom that can help convey and teach lessons that go beyond the experience. Teachers can help to understand what is beyond say the movement or sport. Learning from an experienced teacher and being open minded like that of the white belt mentality will provide more wisdom than can ever be obtained otherwise.

Preparation: 

When setting a goal it is important to be clear what it is you wish to achieve. To broad a goal and it will be difficult to set in place a plan and properly prepare. As the great coach John Wooden once said, ‘failing to prepare is preparing for failure’. Additionally preparation provides a number of other potential benefits when it comes time to achieve your goal. In cases of performance it can help alleviate many of the stressors aka much of the noise that potentially will hamper or hinder you potential. Understanding what lies in hand and ahead is a powerful way to set your minds potential and adjust your attitude to a place/vision of success.

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Know your limitations:  We all have them regardless of what you may believe.

These limitations are an opportunity to empower oneself. They offer us a deep insight and understanding of who we are and what it is we need to be our best self. Respect the limits, know the limits, understand the limits and move within and beyond.

Become your best self, there’s nothing to achieve: 

Contrary to popular believe there is nothing to achieve other than that in which you have determined worth achieving. If you allow others to determine what is important you will not be living your truth but theirs. While we may see something another is doing or has done as a source of motivation it is important that it aligns with our true self, our true nature. In a world where everyones ‘achievements’ are easily shared it is easier to be distracted and become derailed. It is difficult to ignore what are some amazing human feats and the potential that exists, but it is crucial that we understand how these relate to us before allowing them to impact our direction and choices.

Practice: 

To be good we must learn, we must study, we must observe, we must listen and by all means we must take this into a daily practice. Practice must be clear and directed. One must practice with attention to detail and an open and critical mindset. Practice should not be taken lightly, it is the foundation of success. “All practice takes hard work but not all-hard work is practice.” Practice helps not only develop the skill but also the mindset of success.

It’s not always fun: 

Truth be told, training, practice, preparation and the process is not always enjoyable and it should not be. The essence is the moment, being present and be challenged. Moving the body and mind in a healthy way requires learning how to do so. Most skills take time and have a significant learning curve. Many of the tasks along this curve will be less than enjoyable and leave you wondering if its worth it. I can say that if it is important enough then yes its worth it. Its not always the goal that we are chasing but we don’t often understand this until we are deep into the process and training. As Bruce Lee famously said, “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

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S.M.A.R.T., Structured, Progressive Training = Results

In some circles the idea of progressive training is rather poo poo’d. While there is a case to be made for those whom choose to do as they wish rather than plan, I am a big believer in planning and preparation.

First lets start with a simple idea known as S.M.A.R.T., a method used for goal setting.

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I have rarely if ever met an athlete of any caliber whom did not wish to improve their performance. Whether this be a 1 rep max, a time related goal, etc. most if all athletes train with the idea of getting better. What I know the best athletes in the world is they all have a plan in place to do exactly this. There is little left to chance or error. Minuscule details and 100th’s of seconds can be the difference between gold and no medal at all. I believe this point is clearly evident in many sports especially observed in the Olympic events such as track and field, swimming, ice skating, skiing, gymnastics, etc. And what must also be noted is not always does the ‘best athlete’ or even the ‘best prepared’ athlete win.

The reason this topic came to my attention was a bit of self reflection. While I am not competing on a particular stage, I am always competing in the gym and training against myself. I have specific goals with easily measurable aspects and achievable outcomes available. All of these goals and potential outcomes require attention to detail and very specific programming. While there is room to play and have fun, this is just more part of the process and something enable as such. And just to be clear, achieving goals is fun.

So looking at my numbers over the last number of months and even couple years I have specific examples of measurable and achievable goals I have reached and continue to surpass to new goals which are as a result of prior outcomes.

Example 1 is the Kettlebell 1 arm Swing. For the past 3 years, nearly every Saturday I have done some sort of variation in terms of reps, sets and weight with this movement. The programming is done by our Coach Mark Reifkind and as he will tell you we PR nearly every week in some way or fashion. In laymen terms we are consistently improving our performance and it is backed in real effort and numerical statistics. And note we have successfully completed each test day over the length of this timeframe.

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Example 2 is the Deadlift. Since July of 2016 I started back on a deadlift program. It has been 6 years since my last program cycle which resulted in a PR of 560lbs. My current program is based of a specific rep number and total each week based of a percentage of my PR which I most recently achieved. At the end of my 5 week cycle I will attempt a new PR which at this point I have successfully achieved at the end of cycle. Note the last lines 455, 481.5 and planned PR attempt have yet to be completed at this time. What is important is that regardless I will do the work at 455 and 481.5 and take a 545 minimum attempt because this is the planned work and end of this cycle, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.

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(Notations ex: 70% for 1 rep every 30 sec x 15 reps. The black numbers aka 7/19 is the date of the lift). What these numbers show is the importance of planning and setting realistic goals. Also, the first cycle was arbitrary meaning I choose to work off what I felt was reasonable considering my past and present. Cycle 2 I simply added 20lbs to each week sans week 4 where I wanted to feel a bit more weight as an specific adaptation. Cycle 3 (515lb) and 4 (535lb) are based of the cycle 2 and 3 PR’s respectively. This will be the case for cycle 5 and beyond.

Example 3 is Gymnastics. Currently I am following the gymnastics bodies foundations program. Since June of this year I have spent an average of 5 days a week training progressions and movements based off the programmed laid out before me. I have had to be humble and patient to allow my body to adapt to the physical demands and stressors of not only the current movements but what lies ahead. I have a specifics goals, with a measurable program which has set out achievable results. This program is far from easy, quite demanding on time and getting more so as I continue to improve. And, yes week by week I just get better setting more PR’s and most important improving my competence in the movements.

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The point of this article and the examples to show how Smart planning and programming in a progressive manner produces true results. Week by week, training session by training session I know I am getting better. This is not just by feel but by specific application of in terms of numerical performance, statistics and overall physical performance. Setting PR’s of week in and week out feels great and it is truly a testament to my training and the planning. And yes it is simple progressive resistance training based of real numbers. I realize this approach to movement and training is not the most appealing due to the structure, it does produce results.

A personal philosophy of mine is to simple to work to get a little bit better everyday in all aspects of my life. Having structure and goals helps to make this possible as does having a tremendous support system and coaching. As a coach myself I value the expertise of other coaches and thus use their wisdom and experience to help guide me along my path. The commonality amongst my 2 coaches is they both come from a gymnastics background and know and understand the value of structure, planning and preparation. The results speak for themselves.

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Why I Train, A 40 year olds Shifting Perspective

I suppose this is an honest question worth asking myself, especially at 40. Maybe even more so why do I train the way I do which includes following a structured plan (albeit with room for play and learning new things), with a focus and intensity aimed at improving, and as an integral part of my existence.

First things first: At 40 structure is important.
This does not mean I cannot go out and have fun and play around because that is included in my structure. Meaning that my training helps me to be ready to do just about anything or activity. But mostly I train structured because of the need to stay healthy physically in terms of joints, muscle aches and the like, the need to minimize stress on my body and my mind, and to continue to adapt and improve. So, recovery and performance are the dictators of my strategy, structure and plan.
The simple truth is at 40, with a lifetime of sports under my belt I am more conscious of the long term prospects. I feel fit, strong, flexible and capable. I am consistent, dedicated and enjoying the process. And I feel healthy mentally and physically. I have no need to be a pro athlete, a super athlete, etc. if anything I am now focused on helping others get to their goals.
Intensity and Focus:
I have a choice on any given day to train or not. Too me training is a microcosm of life. I am in the gym not just to exercise but as a deeper look into my spirit, my humanity, my person. To me sport is a microcosm of the life we live. I feel professionally it is best to lead by example. I would not ask of others (unless pro athletes) what I would not ask of myself. I have been fortunate to personally experience many realms of sport and I believe this helps me to better understand how to coach others.
Training is also a deep meditation for me. My intensity and focus are an opportunity in that moment to be one with myself. My mind quiets and I take all those years of moving into that moment to get the best and most of that moment and myself. This ties into structure and the idea of practice makes perfect. Indeed it does or at least brings one closer to perfection. It is evident in factors such as weight, sets, reps, time, technique, etc. For example when I roll out my mat to do yoga I know the poses, I have been there countless times so I am able to actually flow and dig into a deeper awareness and state of consciousness within the pose both mentally and physically. This is also no different with lifting weights, and other sports. Practice brings about an ease and that intensity and focus is part of being skilled and able to embrace the moment and feel at one with it and that activity at hand. Nothing seems separate and all seems connected.
Integral Part of Life:
As elluded to above, training is an opportunity for me to enhance my being not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. It is in these times as an athlete or during my training and practice that I learn so much about myself and others. It is a way to exert energy, exercise away stress, spend quality time with friends, have fun with your partner, share a platform with your buddies, spend time with your dog, etc. So much of my life personally and professionally revolves around training, sport, exercise, health, wellness, etc. I have chosen this path and I love it. I met my wife and best friend as a result of being part of this world. I have numerous quality people in my life as a result. And I am fortunate to make a living and be able to afford to live and have time to do  what I enjoy as a result. As I said above, training is a microcosm of life.
Another facet which cannot be ignored is the fact that I have as long as I can remember been a curious person with an adventurous personality. I enjoy learning and experiencing life in all facets and means. As a result I have been fortunate to walk many varied path and experience many a varied thing. I have travelled the world, accomplished 3 degrees including 2 Masters and all in different topics; I have studied and learned professionally with and from some of the top names and the list goes on. It is not this list or the list itself that matters. What the list shows is again how everything is a microcosm of my self, the person I be. This helps explain in large part why I chose the life I have and continue to do.
Of course a key aspect of my life is marriage. I must always consult and take into consideration my wife, where as earlier on in my life this was not the case. I have found my wife by in large to be supportive but also keep a healthy perspective on us and our larger goals. The best part is I can satisfy my curiosity and adventurous spirit in my everyday existence and part of this is training. I certainly desire to rekindle my love affair with nature which means more hiking, trail runs and mountain biking versus time in the gym. Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient and the Sun and being in nature certainly fulfills this.
At 40 I feel healthy, fit, flexible and free to just enjoy the process. I do not feel the need to prove, accomplish, win, compete, etc. I am more curious to dig deep within and continue to explore the depths of my being. I hope to be a father and as so be able to lead by example. I suppose I would be lying if I did not say that I hope our kids have a similar love as my wife and I do for fitness, sport, and health.
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The Art of Happiness

The Art of Happiness

  • Discover your passion
  • Find a way to express and live your passion
  • Find meaning in your work and life
  • Be generous, often finding passion in work that helps others brings more joy to your own life
  • Find joy, smile and laugh
  • Be compassionate, place yourself in the shoes of others and see life through their lens. This will often provide clarity and perspective and this will lead to a great understanding, empathy and compassion. This is similar to the concept of non judgement but in my thoughts an easier way to conceptualize and integrate.
  • Be grateful and make the most of out lives everyday opportunity (refer to the above)
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  • Meditation is a form of absorption. It is being so consumed by what we are doing in the moment that all else ceases to exist. I would surmise that many of have experienced this. I know as a practitioner of yoga, an athlete, a doctor and a coach I have felt this many a time. One instance that stand outs was my first ever rock climbing experience in Joshua Tree. Scared, sweating profusely and filled with negative self talk there were 2 distinct moments when all ceased to exist, I consumed and at peace, my mind quiet, my breath at ease and I was able to take it all in. I can still to this day relive this moment in my mind and body.
  • Think Happy, See Happy, Breathe Happy, Be Happy, it is an attitude and state of mind. If we surround ourselves in our everyday lives with passion, meaning, empathy, generosity, laughter and gratitude we will find our peace and be happy.

This meditation and reflection came about from my current reading and listening.

Here are links to the 2 talks

New Years Resolution Tips

My New Years Resolution Tips:

1) it all starts within you. Our attitude can have a tremendous impact on the state of our health. It is important to have a healthy relationship with yourself. This includes your mind, body and relations with others. Put yourself in places that help to foster this healthy attitude.

2) food is #1!!! Yes not exercise but food. I see plenty of people who exercise but are overweight and truly unhealthy.

A) Get rid of the sugar first and foremost!!!! This alone will have a huge impactOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

B) embrace healthy fats as a substitute such as avocado, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, almond butter, etc.

C)Eliminate dairy. This is often a huge cause of allergies and this is in large part to the production processes. If you can get fresh, raw made then do it but otherwise avoid.

D) gluten may or may not be an enemy. Best to eliminate and proceed with caution. I believe the verdict on this is still yet to be determined despite the common media perception.

E) eat your veggies! Dark leafy greens, garlic, onions and more! Steam them and enjoy. Cook in some healthy oils and and enjoy.

F) embrace spices and herbs in your cooking. There are ample health benefits and medicinal qualities.

3) move your body! Simple! Exercise is important and depending on your goals you can tailor the type, intensity, duration accordingly.

A) breathe! This is beyond important and often overlooked. But it is the hallmark of yoga, tai chi, qigong and many other healthy movement systems.

B) find some quiet time and meditate. No books, screens, or even other distractions. You can use music and candles. You can sit l, lay down or take a walk in nature. Breathe deeply and enjoy!

C) stretch! Our lifestyle changes the structure of our body and the relationships of various muscles, joints and affects the organs. For
Instance if you have round shoulders and mid/upper back it collapses on the lungs and makes breathing more difficult. This is one of many examples. So open and stretch. Yes, yoga is by far the best system and way. From here you can discover what works and do your own practice in time. Be mindful
And pay attention!