Where the Mind goes, the Body Follows

One thing I have learned is that the body follows the mind.

mind-body

If you take your mind into deep dark alleys of negativity, you will find that your body succumbs to the traps of food marketing easier. You will find that your willpower is depleted, exercise happens less often, and over-eating happens quite frequently. Ultimately, it becomes a cycle that spins downward.

I have also learned, the mind will follow the body. If your body can take actions like exercise, your mind will often respond with positivity even if you never get the “runner’s high” many physiologists talk about.

The key,  as I have said all along, is consistency. Consistency of action makes actions easier.

Right now, I’m in the habit of over-eating and decreased activity.  — Somewhere, somehow, that has got to stop and be over-ruled. Still trying to tough it out.

Perspective

As a trained scientist, I learned that theories and hypothesis are not absolute. We find this element in our daily lives, our conversations, and even our politics. Einstein explained this by saying its all relative. Here’s a quick example: If I’m in a car going 100 km per hour, from my front seat, the water bottle in the cup holder looks stationary. Yet, the lady sitting on the mountain overlooking the highway in the valley, the water bottle is definitely not stationary. You see, if you change your perspective, the situation changes dramatically. In my example, the change is from not moving, to moving 100 km/hour. Huge, Huge difference!

Earth Rise as Seen From Lunar Surface

Why?

As I re-trace my steps looking for my roots, changing my perspective dramatically changes my mood, my motivation, and my eating habits. When I am spinning out of control in the emptiness of outer space, orienting perspective is rather challenging. (By the way, I highly recommend the movie Gravity.) That is true for any of us. When we are negative and panic, our egoism takes over and forces us to think at a micro-self level. As we slow our breathing and relax, our mind can jump out of the micro level and look at the bigger picture.

How does this apply to eating and exercise habits?

So, you just ate a half a quart of ice cream, that decision is in the past. There is nothing we can do to change the past. We can only make a decision in the present, and that choice will change the future. Being self-critical is actually detrimental to your fitness goals. How? If we criticize ourselves and dwell on not meeting our own high expectations, we increase the stress hormones. We get tense. We begin that spiraling in space where once set in motion, we’ll stay in motion. This means: the next time you are presented with a choice for the office birthday cake, you’ll indulge again and again due to the cycle of self-critical release of stress hormones.

Now, if instead, we forgive ourselves for those recent poor decisions. We let them go, and by letting go with self-compassion, we actually relax ourselves which of course reduces our stress hormones and gives room to breathe. Thus, we’re not spiraling out of control, and we gain a different perspective. If we go back to the offer to eat a piece of the calorie-dense office birthday cake, you will choose wisely. No thank you cake.

Self-compassion brings perspective which leads to relaxation and better fitness.

Put Perspective in Practice.

Take out a piece of paper or your computer’s text editor. Write yourself a note. Answer the following questions:

  • What am I glad for?
  • What recent decisions should I forgive myself?
  • What recent actions should I celebrate?
  • What do you plan to eat the next 24 hours?
  • When will you move/exercise in the next 24 hours?
  • What can I do right now in the present that will change the future?

By answering these questions daily, you will find the beautiful mountain of perspective to balance the highway of your chaotic life which of course leads to better fitness decisions.

Return to Roots

I keep a lot of information in my head. Rarely, yet it happens, I forget basic items like, where did I put my wallet. When I do forget where I put my wallet or keys, I try to remember the last time I saw them. I re-trace my steps. I keep walking backwards until I absolute know from memory that I had my wallet at that point in time. I call this **returning to the roots**.

roots

In many areas of my life, I am doing great. In fact, if I look objectively with an outsiders perspective, I’m doing fabulous. Yet, I am my own worst critic. I have high expectations for myself even surrounding actions that I didn’t even know I had expectations about. I expect excellence from myself.

When I fail, and we all fail many times, I recognize that its a part of life. I do my best to manage my own expectations, but I still have this derisive voice in my head generating all sorts of negative self-talk and “yes, buts…”. If you let those negative thoughts permeate too long, too wide, and too deep, your entire basis self will become lost. Then, self-doubt creeps as you wonder is this new “yes, but… negative” self-talk the real self or is your old basis of self the real self.

The answer is both. Yet, we don’t recognize that being so close to the situation. When you’re in the middle of it with a first-person account, you become lost. What does a person do when they’re lost? Try to re-trace their steps in the forest. Dig for roots. Look for the path back to finding the items lost.

Let’s go to the roots: My exercise habits have decreased, my blogging has decreased, and my weight has increased. Coincidence? Correlation? Causation?

One way I’m re-tracing my steps is by re-reading the book that set me on my healthy path. I’m working on healthy habits, and I’m doing my best to try to re-trace my steps looking for the North Star in the woods leading me out of the Forest and onto my own individual path.

Meditate and think on this: Eat Plants, Drink Water, and Move. Food In = Food Out. Change the equation and you’ll become healthy. Its really simple to know, but challenging to execute.

Return to your Roots!

Change Comes Through Action!

Virtues don’t come through simply thinking about them. You have to “exercise them.” Aristotle’s promise is this: if you want a virtue, act as if you already have it and then it will be yours. Change comes through action. Act first, then become.
via How to Feel Like a Man | The Art of Manliness.

If you want to be thin, then act as you already are thin.

If you want to be fit, then act as you already are fit.

If you want to lose weight, then act as if you already lost weight.

How do I mean?  Basically, What do fit people do?  They exercise consistently.  What do thin people do?  They eat consciously and sparingly.

The body follows the mind.  Where is your mind taking you?

Action Happening

Work, Life it happens. Time does not stop (at least that I know of).

So, action must happen as well. I have been working out inconsistently. I have been eating too much food. I have been eating the wrong kinds of food. What happens with this type of action?

Weight Increases. Endurance and Stamina decreases.

I was getting down on myself.  Mentally beating myself up.  Then I read and contemplated this idea:  What kind of person do I want to be?

At the core, I just need to act, behave, and do the things I think good healthy people do.  The rest will follow.

What I mean by that, is if I think healthy people exercise consistently, then I should exercise consistently.  Just do it.  Change happens that easily.  Just take small steps.  Yes, you’ll have negative feelings.  Yes, some days will be good, others will be bad.  Just take small steps towards the person you want to be.  Change will happen when Action happens.

I am training for a standard olympic distance triathlon again this year.  Running has been a challenge due to leg pains, but Biking and Swimming have been awesome.

More to come…   What action is happening by you?

Mission Impossible: Add one & Subtract one

2011 was good.  It was supposed to be my year of the product.  It didn’t work out like that. 2011 was more the year of the thinker for me.  2012 is awesome! 2012 is the year of the doer!

Start Singing.

1 What is your mission for January?

January double dog dare:  My mission should I accept it is to add something and subtract something for every month for the entire year 2012.

I just re-read some of older posts and entries regarding goals and New Year’s resolutions.

This one, “Do not tell me your goal, and you will succeed.” sticks out for me.

Let’s break it down in plain english.  You tell your friend you are going on a diet, and plan on losing weight.  You now feel satisfied, because you’ve done step one.  You’ve made your goal public like many experts state.  However, just because you have taken a step and made it public, you start to feel like you are already attaining your goal.  So, since you feel like you are already losing weight, you actually don’t work as hard to attain your fitness goal.

This is the reason I was intentionally vague with my January mission.  I wrote down my January challenge in a post dated in February 2012.  When that date comes, I’ll let you know if I completed my challenge. In the meantime, what is your mission should you accept it?  Break them down into smaller pieces.

1Photo Source

Recipe for Recovery

In my last post, I described my setback.  How I’ve been lacking discipline and allowing bad habits to creep back in my life. I also described how I hurt my groin. In this post, I’ll write my Recipe for Recovery and how I am recovering from my groin injury.

  1. Rest and Relaxation
    Well, For the first few weeks after the self-diagnosed groin pull, I just iced my groin and rested.
  2. Stretching and low intensity
    I re-introduced my stretching and really slow walking with very low incline. This is difficult for me. I love to have the incline at 6 or 10. It keeps my Heart Rate up. At low inclines and low speeds, my heart rate doesn’t rise as much as I’d like.
  3. Real relaxing.
    I had a family vacation at Disney World. Although, I had to walk all over creation. My leg hurt, but was bearable. Mentally, it was quite nice to break from the couch potato time. In fact, I tried my best during the vacation to stay off email, twitter, Facebook, and the internet in general. If I had screen time it was with the kindle app.
  4. Return to low-intensity training
    My groin had a set-back due to all the walking at Disney. So, I went back to slow walking, but I added swimming in the pool and stretching.
  5. Slowly increase intensity.
    Only recently, have I re-introduced my dumbbell exercises and weight lifting. Although, I’ve kept my squats workout simple.
  6. A return to Books.
    Instead of TV watching (since I’m not on the treadmill or elliptical as much), I’ve been reading a ton more. Not just internet articles either. I’ve been reading books. Normally, I’m reading two to three books at time time. I stopped that since the Internet candy reading supplanted much of that.
  7. Mix in better weather.
    I’ve been able to get out on the bicycle a few times. I’ve been able to walk outside, play with the kids at the park.  I know I don’t have any control, but getting out in the Sun really does help the body.
  8. Friendly Challenge and competition.
    My brother dared me to a little challenge both physically and creatively.  It jump started my motivation to reign in my eating habits.

This is where I’m at:

Its really a bummer when you want to exercise, but physically you shouldn’t. I was planning on doing two or three Olympic Triathlon races this summer along with a few smaller warm-ups mixed in. I’m not sure that’s happening. I’m only committed to doing the 2011 Chicago Olympic Triathlon.  I still would like to add a long bike ride and possibly a shorter Triathlon, but I haven’t found much yet.

As my bad habits came back in droves, so have my good habits returned.  As soon as I made a commitment to myself to reign in my eating habits, my exercise habits followed.  Add in, I’m blogging a bit more, I’m doing some new creative work.  I have my ups and downs, but I know I’m on the road to recovery.  In my next post, I will take a look at lessons I’ve learned while going through this process.

1Photo source: National Library NZ on The Commons

Setback


Beware: Bad habits come out in droves! Over the past few months I have:

  • Failed to stretch regularly (I used to do it 6 times a week.)
  • Deliberately not counted calories nor watched what I ate.
  • Increased my expenses while decreasing my income and increase my work.
  • Increased my TV viewing habits.
  • Increased my Internet Reading habits.
  • Decreased my exercise intensity.
  • Not published many blog articles.
  • Failed to achieve many of my 2011 first quarter and second quarter personal goals.
  • Let my productivity in my non-work time decrease dramatically.

I could go on, but I’ll stop before I start depressing you too.

Couch Potato Netflix

What’s the deal? What’s going on?

I don’t know really. Once the tidal wave gets started, it picks up steam, and boom you are back at the beginning.

Take my blogging. If you are still reading my site and read my recent posts, you can probably get a sense of my lack of urgency. I just haven’t wanted to publish. Note: If you are trying to lose readers and followers, not publishing is a fabulous way to do it.

Self-discipline and moderation was difficult for me in College. Yet, I learned my lessons, and for the most part, in my post-college life, I’m a disciplined and controlled person. In fact, I’d like to think I am better than the average joe.

What happened? What has changed?

A confluence of events have taken place.

Event #1: We added a beautiful HDTV to our household last year.

Event #2: We decided to add a Netflix subscription to our lowest of low Cable TV package. (Believe me when I say low Cable package, I’m an ardent Chicago Sports Fan, and we don’t even have ESPN, TNT, and other stations.) In general, I’m just not much of a TV watcher. Yet, my past taught me to stay away from time-sucking habits. Its one reason we don’t own a DVR.

Now, if you are reading where this is going, a couch potato is born

In fact, if I look at the dates, my blog production started to really deteriorate when my Netflix subscription started. Coincidence, I think not.

Now: You might think that my exercise habits have regressed too, and you’d be correct in many ways. However, when I’m watching Netflix, I am often on the treadmill or elliptical. Its a soft rule I have: if I’m just watching TV mindlessly, I must be moving.

I don’t follow the rule entirely, but more times than not I will.

Wait a minute, I thought I said above, that my exercise intensity is down? You’d think if I’m doing all this TV watching which means exercising, that I’d be in buff summer condition.

Picture Snoopy the dog pointing at me rolling on the Floor Laughing.

My winter sedentary-season training habits combined with my active-summer-season diet results in weight gain. My calorie burn is not enough to keep up with eating.

Event #3: A couple of months ago, I decide after a reading a great article on weight-training, that I’m going to get back into my exercise intensity groove. I think to myself, I’ve been on the treadmill for a few weeks. I’m just going to pick up the intensity of my workouts.

One day, I decided to combine heavy dumbbell deep squats in my morning workout with evening incline treadmill workouts and very little rest. Mix in a lack of stretching, and Boom: I have a leg pains.

Although, I don’t remember the date. I can vividly imagine the circumstances leading up to a painful leg. I’ve self-diagnosed a groin pull with the help of from medial friends. Leg pain is not fun. I’m only now starting to get over it. I still have not ran yet. I’m going to test my leg at Fitbloggin.com’s 5k this year.

Three Events start to rattle the cages of bad habits, then one habit starts the ball rolling. Then another and another and before you know it, I’m engulfed in an avalanche.

In fact, I’ve been so frustrated at myself for my lack of self-discipline, that I’ve let anger seep into my personal relationships. I know its wrong, and yet I can’t seem to control it.

Stay tuned for my Recipe for Recovery!

Why Are You Destroying Yourself?

For the first time in 6 weeks, I set my alarm to wake up this morning. I’ve been fortunate enough that kids, wife, or nature will wake me up in time to be productive for the day. However, I noticed that my son is arriving to school a little later each day. I don’t like it when he’s at school and they have already started the lesson plan. So, I figured its time to set the alarm.

Boardwalk through cattails on a lake during Autumn.

When I awoke, I was groggy, and wanted to go back to sleep. Of course, I snoozed twice. I am a snoozer if I can. Finally, I decided its time for me to get up, but I wasn’t ready. I’ve got about two dozen books on my nightstand ready for browsing and reading. On a whim, I opened my bible to random page like I like to do:

Here’s what I read:

God…asks you: “Why are you destroying yourselves?”
Jeremiah 44:7 New Living Translation

Wow, what a wake up call for the morning.

How am I destroying myself?

  • I’m announcing my goals and failing to meet them i.e. Not blogging every Tuesday & Thursday.
  • I’m exercising when I feel like it rather than making exercise immutable.
  • I’ve been terrible in the productivity department. Take now, I’m writing this blog post when I have other more pressing priorities and tasks.
  • I’m searching for my working identity. Where is it?  Who am I?
  • I eat too much food. Its autumn and my appetite is out of control. I’m not exercising as much. I wonder if my ancestors were cold weather hibernators. Does my body feel the cold Chicago winter coming on and is it building its winter fat stores? How cruel.
  • My diet is bad. Its not terrible, but its definitely not good. Take today. I had two fast-food hamburgers, a large french fry, and a small chocolate shake from Culver’s. I just had a hamburger on Sunday, and have fast food at least once or twice a week.
  • I will eat too much ice cream, cookies, cake, or other sweets for after dinner desserts. Even if I just have a benign grilled chicken with vegetables, I end up eating too much.

Who’s at fault for the destruction?

Its not the food’s fault. It’s not my family’s fault. It’s not my injuries or anything. Its my fault. As God mentions above: Why are you destroying yourself? I am the one at fault.

I’m destroying myself by my actions. These actions are not indicative of the lifestyle I want to live. Yet, I know by talking about it, I have just relieved the mind. At the same time, I also know I’m not as bad as it sounds.

What can I do to stop destroying myself?

One) I can stop the negative self-talk.
Sure, I’m not exercising 5 times a week each day for 60 to 90 minutes a day like all the science studies suggest. However, I’m still exercising two to three times a week. That was much more than I was doing this time last year. This time last year, I was not exercising at all. Productivity wise, sure, I might not be doing the high priority tasks, but I am doing the medium priority tasks. Action: Accentuate the Positive!

Two) Make Exercise Immutable even in the Fall/Winter/Spring time.
Find an offseason training program that can i fit in my schedule pronto! Find my next event to participate in.  Century Ride?  Triathlon?  Walk?  Hike?

Three) Plan meals better.
I often eat out due to my lack of meal planning.

The thing is, I still have not answered God’s question: Why am I destroying myself?

How about you: How and Why are you destroying yourself?

Get Back At It

It took me a long time to learn the lesson. Too Long if you ask me.

Learn Your Lesson, You are Not Perfect!

From grammar school to high school, I was an excellent student. I almost always did my homework. I rarely missed a day. I wasn’t perfect, but I tried my best. I was very close to perfect. I had no doubt I was going to college. In fact, I could pretty much pick the college I wanted to go to provided my family and I could afford it.

Something changed in college, my focus changed. It went from academics to social. It took me almost the entire four years of college to regain my academic focus. I skipped classes. I took homework for granted. I was able to get B’s and C’s in most classes without having to do too much work. Yet, how did I slip up? What lesson did it take me too long to find?

What would happen is I would miss a class. I’d miss a homework date. Then, I’d miss another class, and another. I’d think to myself. Since, I already missed a class and homework, I can’t be perfect. So, I might as well miss more. Then, mid-term would come, and I’m spending the night before cramming my butt off, because I didn’t do the day-to-day work. I’d get a B or a C on the midterm. This success without work quickly became a bad habit. The thinking since I wasn’t perfect, I might as well slip up even more was poor judgement. The if I’m not perfect, I might as well be the exact opposite.

How does this apply to fitness?

Its the same as thinking, well, I just had a bowl of ice cream, I might as well eat the whole pint.

Its the same thinking as I missed my exercise the past few days, I might as well not do it today.

For me, the lesson I learned is that perfection thinking is crap thinking. Just because you slipped up yesterday, and you can not be perfect anymore doesn’t mean squat. I’m not perfect. I’m human, and humans are not meant to be perfect.

The lesson that took me so long to learn was: If you get off the horse, get right back on as soon as you can! I’ve talked about this unperfection lesson in a different way in the past in the blog post: Begining with the end in mind.

Why do I bring this up? Well, This past week, I fell off the horse. The prior week, I was great. I met all my fitness goals. This week, not so much. I did some great hiking on Sat, Sept 19. (I know that is last week, but the hiking was pretty strenuous and I needed Sunday and Monday to recover. Okay, that seems like an execuse and probably is.) So, I skipped all my weight workouts. I did Bike Wednesday a nice strong 17 miles. Yet, I feel like a failure especially considering I have not adjusted my diet to match my lack of activity. I am even posted late this week. I did a late Tue, but where is Thursday’s post like I said.

But, when you fall off the horse, you get right back up as soon as you can. I’m blogging today, Friday. Saturday, I plan to walk around most of the day. Sunday Morning, I plan on running with my wife for an anniversary jog. I’m still figuring out the rest of my exercise schedule, but I’m going to do it! I’m making exercise immutable.

In other news, I get a chance to practice my photographry skills as I’m going to the Chicago Gourmet Food & Wine celebration this weekend. I will plenty opportunity to take all sorts of great shots in Millenium Park. I’m excited about all the tastings and the chance to hear some expert Chefs and Sommeliers speak. If you have any recommendations on what tastings I should hit, let me know.

Remember. You are not perfect! Yet, you can get dust yourself off and get right back up! You can do it just as I can.