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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Deadlift PR, 570lbs

In July of 2016 I committed to a goal of establishing a new deadlift PR. I had a great system and structure to follow and a coach I knew whom would support and guide me.

My plan was simple

1)Deadlift once a week based off percentages from prior 1 rep max.

Note for the initial phase I only had an old PR from 2010, not exactly reliable. However I knew I could pull 505 & figured this would serve to guide me to build a base, test and set the parameters percentage wise.

All deadlifts were to be done in singles, aka 1 rep only sets.

Structure looked like this

Week 1: 70% for 15 singles, 1 every 30 seconds

Week 2: 75% for 12 singles, 1 every 30 seconds

Week 3: 80% for 10 singles, 1 every 30 seconds

Week 4: 85% for 8 singles, 1 every 1.5 minutes

Week 5: 90% for 6 singles, 1 every 2-3 minutes

Week 6: peak week, 101% and new PR and basis for next wave %

This is a program inspired from Westside Barbell and taught to me by my coach/friend Mark Reifkind. I had done it before and it works for me. It allowed a straightforward approach and a way to control factors such as volume, intensity and load. Of course I had flexibility to adjust as needed.

The last cycle Coach Rif suggested a change, adding in a heavier week at 95% for 3 singles followed by a back off week at 80% then peak week. Due to some scheduling I asked to use back the day and therefore split the 85% into 2 weeks doing an 82.5 & 86.5%. I must say this felt like a great modification even if not in original plan.

The 80 & 85% weeks are most difficult in terms of combined load, volume and intensity. Those can be seen as nuts and bolts weeks but truly it is subjective.

Programs like these demand a lot. One must be consistent week in and week out. One must recover as well and pay attention. As a natural and raw deadlift athlete these loads add up. You will get stronger but you should be smart and conservative in your estimates when starting. Build a strong base and then progress using the %. Adjust reps and rest if need be but only if you feel at an uncomfortable risk. But keep in mind getting strong and lifting heavy always has a level of uncomfortable risk.

The new PR is an awesome feeling. Completing a goal and doing the work to get there is quite rewarding. The discipline that it takes to complete such a goal is one of the great lessons learned during this process. Week in and week out doing what is prescribed and  knowing in advance what lay ahead can seem daunting. But I never was scared, never deterred, never worried about whether I could or could not. I knew if I followed the program, listened to my body and made adjustements as need be (which Rif made a major adjustement in mid cycle) that I could accomplish my task. This was not a ego based or false based confidence but a deep understanding of self related to mindset, physical ability and right amount of desire.

Now days as a “Masters Athlete” i find myself more focused than ever. I chose to continue to learn and grow as a beginner. I chose a blend of things that I feel I am deficient in and things I was to excel at. I have goals and I have many yet that lie ahead which I am training at this time. I keep moving towards a level of understanding and if I am lucky some day mastery.

This is not just personal, its professional. I am committed to both excellence in personal and professional and they certainly intertwine and compliment on another. More than ever I want to be a better teacher and coach and feel that leading by example is key. Allowing my actions to speak and support my words. I hope this program does just that. This goes well beyond a Deadlift PR but it sure does feel good! Celebrate your successes! Accomplishing goals big goals is something that does not happen often, thats why they are truly an accomplishment.

A graphical representation. Linear progressions. Seems so simple and in many cases it is. Don’t let people fool you, linear progressions work.

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Here is a week by week layout

Weight

Reps (all single reps)

70%

315.00

12

75%

365.00

10

80%

405.00

8

90%

455.00

6

Peak

505.00

2

70%

335.00

15

77%

385.00

12

85%

425.00

10

95%

485.00

6

Peak

515.00

2

70%

355.00

15

75%

385.00

12

80%

415.00

10

85%

440.00

8

90%

465.00

6

Peak

535.00

1

70%

375.00

15

75%

405.00

12

80%

430.00

10

85%

455.00

8

90%

485.00

6

Peak

550.00

1

70%

385.00

15

75%

415.00

12

80%

440.00

10

82.5

455.00

8

86.5%

475.00

6

90%

495.00

4

95%

520.00

4

80%

440.00

10

Peak

570.00

1

 

 

3 Aspects of Human Being Worthy of Daily Cultivation

There are 3 aspects of the Human Being worthy of daily cultivation; Body, Mind, & Breath. I will go one step further and state that these are a necessity.

Body: Movement is the key. Moving in a variety of ways is crucial, whether you do yoga, martial arts, Crossfit, run, climb, bike, hike, dance, etc. The key is move and keep learning new ways to do so. This will not only benefit the body, but the mind/brain as well.

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Mind: I will sum this up purely from my personal perspective. Mind is attitude, perception, thought process, mindfulness, ones ability to see things beyond the social norms. Mind is and may be the most challenging of all. For me it is an understanding of life and what is happening in and around me at all times. It is being compassionate and remaining calm in the present moment. It is being mindful of those whom I am communicating with, relating too and thus not holding judgment. It is a practice cultivated through meditation, reading, body movement practices, interactions with others, and reflection. Consistency in this area is by far the most challenging as I have so many social norms, environmental norms that I developed at a young age when I had no concept of this aspect of life and how crucial it would become. I feel that for the past 20+ years I have been working to change patterns of my mind and through this time I have progressed far but as would be the truth, I am only at the beginning. 🙂 For this reason and many more I am placing more emphasis on this aspect of my being. For myself, for my wife, for my family, client/patients, friends and general encounters with strangers. I feel this part of me needs more attention to detail and more practice and time developing. I feel I have great strides to make and I am excited for this.

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Breath: Breath is the essence of life, without it we will cease to exist. Breath is something we spend little time thinking of and we need to spend more time developing. Meditation and movement are to excellent practices which offer us a chance to develop our breath. And, these practices offer us 2 unique ways to do so. I believe meditation is the key practice as this teaches us how to calm the mind and body. Once learned one can then learn how to apply in different situations where a strong foundation and breath practice will serve. Examples include movement, stressful experiences and beyond. Yoga is an excellent practice for cultivating breath and breath within movement.

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Components of Training, Forming a Strong Foundation

Below is a list of some essential components of training. As an athlete of all levels it is important that we have a strong awareness and foundation of these components. Training and competing is more than just showing up and doing the work. We must have rhyme and reason behind what we do. If not it is more than likely we will under perform, injury ourselves, burn out, etc. I like to think of training as a life long journey. Along the path it is likely that we will learn new methods, approaches, techniques, sports, philosophies and the like. Whatever it is we do it must be steeped and rooted in an underlying philosophical approach to success and integration. The foundation which we build is the key to the additions we will add throughout our life. Having a solid foundation is the key to building a strong and well integrated structure of varying physical activities, movements, sports, etc. Here are a few things that come to mind.

Progression: 

Elite level athletes follow the simple concept of progression. If your not progressing your digressing and in the world of athletics and in general this is a bad idea. Tudor Bompa does a fantastic job teaching how to program a progressive program for optimal performance. He gives you the framework and concepts. Additionally, it is my professional opinion that the conjugate method is the best for the majority of athletes who are in the lifting world of sport and athletics. This system was Developed and fostered in the old Soviet Union and popularized for good reason and measure by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding, in this case the numbers. We must plan and execute for success and in order to do this we must have a system in place that addresses our strengths and weaknesses with the overall goal in mind. Progress does not happen by guessing and hoping, it is determined with an overall picture of the goal and the work that needs to be done to get there.

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Variation:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting the same results. In training this rings true. Again looking at progression and the conjugate method as an example of, they embrace the idea of change. It is crucial that ones program and movement is in a constant state of change. Variation, stimulating and learning new movements, changing weights, reps, rest, etc. Are all part of variation and progressive adaptation. For instance, one does not squat the same weight for the same reps and sets week in a week out. This would lead to a negative adaptation if continued for  any length of time. The body is like layers, it will build and add upon itself and will need appropriate stimulus to do so.
Pattern identification
We must understand that the body moves in patterns and sequencing. We have to understand what it is we are working to achieve and be sure to enhance that particular pattern and sequence with our training. Weaknesses must be known and addressed but we must never forget where our strengths lie in the process.
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Your weakest link
The old adage says, one is only as strong as their weakest link. How true it is. If for instance you have weak hamstrings this will have a direct effect on your ability to sprint, squat, Deadlift, clean, etc. A program should honor the individuals strengths and weaknesses. The program should see the body as a pattern of sequencing with a chain reaction. If one of the links of the chain, or the sequence fails to fire correctly the body will be compromised and unavailable to attain true peak potential and performance.
Form and function matter
In order to function at your highest level and achieve maximal results from your efforts you need perfect form. This is especially true in sports like track and field, gymnastics, ballet, martial arts, etc. But it is also true in sports where we attempt to achieve max effort lifts such as Weightlifting, Power-lifting, and even Crossfit. If you move better you will be more efficient and this will enable more movement potential as you will expend less energy. These two principles flow together to form perfection.
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Technique is key to success
As the above states, technique is the difference. If you look at sports other than Track, gymnastics, Weightlifting, etc. and take a look at Crossfit and its top competitors you will see they move heavier weights/loads more efficiently. This is due to their technical ability and law of specificity in training context. But as we discuss technique, even in Crossfit technique is the one of the key differences between the best and the rest. Just watch Athletes like Rich Froning and Julie Foucher.
Breath matters
Breath into your diaphragm activating your deep core muscles and creating a stable environment for your spine and his enhancing your “core strength”. Remember where you have ribs, you have lungs this means your breath circulates around the whole body. Coordinating breath and movement is another crucial aspect. You must learn and know how to breath for the movement. For instance with a squat, we inhale as we squat and exhale at or on the rise.
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Rest is the missing link:
I love how people are really pushing the limits and testing human potential. From pro athletes, Crossfitters, Ultra Endurance athletes, etc. Humans are pushing into new areas of performance. Another key to optimizing this performance is rest. This includes sleep and rest days from training. The body and the brain need a break. If you listen carefully to your body it will tell you via a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors it needs rest….I.e. Elevated heart, insomnia signs, low energy, poor appetite, injury, slow recovery, etc. A good program and coach will be sure to include rest into the plan and hopefully avoid these factors that signal towards overtraining.
Listen to your body
Yes, your body is really smart and it will clearly communicate to your brain what it needs. Most likely we fail to observe and listen and this gets us in trouble. This is less of an issue with elite athletes whom are being coached. The challenge I have seen is the non professional who is competing at a high level in sports like crossfit, triathlons, marathons, etc. All these sports almost allow one to overtrain easily simply due to variation.
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Mind over Matter
Physical ability is one thing but the difference between great and good is in the mind. Training in itself is a process of mental preparation and training. The old saying goes that training should be harder than competition. This is certainly true as far as I am concerned. Competition has so many unknown and unfamiliar variables that present potential distractions, the last thing we want is too feel unprepared physically and mentally. Now, as a coach and athlete we should always understand and prepare for the unknown to minimize distraction and optimize performance, this also goes along with the mind over matter. It is not just physical!

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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Incremental Progress

Incremental Progress

Long ago I learned the value of incremental progress. A process requiring patience and attention to detail. Incremental progress takes the approach of having a plan with an end sight in mind.

For example: In the sports of Power and Olympic Lifting competitive athletes know the exact dates of their meets and their current numbers. Within these 2 key aspects of the plan in place, the athlete will plan from the meet date to the first day of the new cycle aimed at prepping them for the meet. For instance if they have a meet in June and it is currently January, the athlete will start their plan from the June Meet Date and look backwards all the way to the current January start of the cycle.

In this example the athlete knows the numbers they currently have, approximately the numbers they should achieve at the meet and the time frame. Certainly we can call this a goal but it goes beyond just having a goal. For these athletes they have spent time day in and day out training making incremental progress towards this day. Often the next meet is not their last but a stepping stone to their next. Along the way the focus on a planned an incremental progress. Along with their coach they have a damn good idea of what each day from January 1st to June 1st will look like in terms of their training including exercises, weights, sets, reps, rest, nutrition, sleep, etc. at least on an elite level.

In my experience and through my training we focus on making incremental progress. In Kettlebells it may be a 1 size increase in bell week by week for 4 weeks, an increase of 1 set per week or even 1 rep per week during that 4 day period. It depends on the movement and overall goal.

In Olympic Weightlifting it may be 1-5 kg from week to week within a movement complimented by a proper adjustment of sets, reps and volume. Typically as the weight increases the sets and reps decrease as a whole, the law of supply and demand and an inverse relationship.

The point is do not rush your training, do not feel as if each time you need to test your limits. Instead focus on building brick by brick, layer by layer, making incremental progress. Schedule and plan back off days and weeks. This applies to all athletes not just elite and probably even more so than those whom train hard while working a regular job and having a life where their sport does not pay them in money but in other more intrinsic rewards.

The Elite perform as such not because they hammer or grind or crush or push and test but through incremental progress and intelligent design. It is fine to push, grind, hammer, test, etc. but have prepare for it so when you do you set a new PR and have something to build off of, a foundation moving forward

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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

Motivation

Motivation

Inspired by a conversation with friends I decide to look within myself to better understand what motivates me to train my body and mind.

I think back to my younger days as a youth into college and my early 20’s to 30’s and it was clear, I was an athlete competing in sports. This made motivation easy. But, truth be told I never understood when I was competing what it took to be my best. Because of this I never achieved anywhere near my potential. Today, through years of competing, coaching and training I have a much different understanding of what it takes to achieve ones personal best as an athlete.

First, I do not consider myself a competitive athlete in terms of competing in a sport. What I am is competitive within myself. I am interested in learning, exploring and experiencing all sorts of different fitness and athletic endeavors. Currently I am learning the sport of Weightlifting and have put a focus on these particular movements. Highly technical and skilled movements they take a tremendous amount of energy, time and focus which I am glad to dedicate. Because I am not competing in a meet anytime soon I continue to practice my yoga and others forms of movements.

One thing I have embraced is the idea of enjoying the process. As a friend said to me, we are healthy and fit and it is a privilege to be so, therefore we should train and explore. I could not agree more, it is a privilege to be of sound mind and healthy body.

Another aspect comes to be a role model for my patients, clients and students. I am a firm believer in actions more so than words. We are inundated with words these days with ample forms of content available. I, personally cherish forming relationships and the direct contact I have with people both as a student and a teacher/practitioner/coach. Therefore, as a student I reach out and do my best to learn from others in all forms of movement.

But I understand my true motivation is intrinsic. I do this for me, myself as I value and appreciate  the internal effects I receive from being disciplined, studied, and consistent. I value exploring the depths of my person inside and out. I value that I will one day be a role model for my wife Sara and I’s children. I value my wife and want to be healthy physically, emotionally and mentally in order to be the best friend, husband, father, partner possible. Movement not only keeps my physical body healthy but also my mental and emotional states of being. This is why yoga and meditation are so crucial for my well being.

Note, I am of the meditation concept along the lines of Vipassana. To quote Gil Forsdal “Insight meditation aka Vipassana is nothing more mysterious than developing our ability to pay attention to our immediate experience.” This is the idea of mindfulness or concentration/focus on the moment and the task at hand. For those of who train or have competed you most likely know of this feeling even if never described as such or understood in this manner. When I move I feel very connected to the moment and use it as a way to build my meditation practice.

This is why when I train I enjoy distractions. These distractions challenge me to stay in the present moment and focused on the task. I believe this is a valuable tool for any athlete to develop as 99% of the time you will compete in an foreign environment surrounded by all sorts of distractions. The athlete must not allow these to interfere with their task at hand.

It is conceivable that I will one day compete in a game, on a platform or in a race. Maybe it will be for fun or maybe it will be because of a higher goal of testing myself, whatever it is, it is the process and journey to the depths of myself that interest me most. Sure, I love seeing big numbers, feeling more fit, getting better, etc. these are absolutely wonderful experiences and things I believe that should naturally come with right action aka consistency, health, discipline and a good program design. Nothing beats the feeling of inner peace for me and the love I have for my family, my clients/patients/students and my simple peace that I am of a sound mind and healthy body.

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