“Embrace the Suck”

It happens daily.  I give my client an exercise or movement and they immediately respond with “There is NO WAY I can do that.”.  To which I say “Of Course!”.  I’m a trainer, who gets paid to challenge people and push them beyond their expectations.  Of course I am going to give my clients things they are bad at, that is the only way to grow.

Embracing the “suck” is my way of saying to get your ego out of the way and focus on developing and expanding your movement and mind in new ways.  Our bodies are designed to adapt, they enjoy new challenges and demands.  It is important that we feed the need or we risk the chance of getting bored, unmotivated, weak, and maybe even depressed.

Once, I was at a yoga class with a slightly eccentric teacher (looking at you Full Throttle Yoga), and someone asked the question “What’s the big deal with handstands these days?”.  The response was so honest.  The instructor replied “There isn’t anything special about them.  If you’re an a$$hole, you’ll still just be an a$$hole in a handstand.  The reason we are doing them is to challenge you to do something new.  After you accomplish a handstand, you may go out in your life and accomplish something else.”  Just the act of going upside down can lead a person to gain confidence in themselves and their abilities.

The idea is simple, practice what you suck at more and spend less time practicing what you are good at.  Our fear of failure lurks in every part of our lives, including our workouts.  It is important to start identifying your fears, asking yourself why you don’t like to do this or that and start to slowly put yourself in uncomfortable (but safe) situations.

Reaching outside of your comfort zone and moving in different ways not only expands your physical skill set, you can literally strengthen your brain.  Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change throughout your life.  Exercise has been shown to increase the grey matter in your brain (actual neurons) and it triggers a reaction that stimulates neuroplasticity.  When you try something new, something you are not quite sure how to do, your brain looks at is as a riddle.  Your brain immediately starts to try to solve the problem, working out the different routes to success.  So the long and the short of it is that you get the brain benefits of not just exercise, but also of problem solving.  So stop thinking about pumping up your biceps, and starting thinking about pumping up your brain.

I know, I bet you are starting to cringe at the very thought of being embarrassed or bad at something, but hear me out.  Moving out of your comfort zone and challenging your mind and body is not only stimulating and fun, it is a sign of maturity and can allow you to grow way beyond your own expectations. I am by no means saying you must go out and do a handstand.  It can be something as small as saying “yes” when you would normally say “no”.  So, pick something attainable, just on the other side of your comfort wall, and bit-by-bit, impression-after-impression, make yourself stronger in every meaning of the word.

Play Day-to-Day

The world is a heavy place with a lot of responsibilities.  You have responsibilities to your family, to yourself, to your work, not to mention simple responsibilities like taking out the trash and washing the car.  It seems everyone right now is weighted down with this sense of responsibility.  I normally add to those responsibilities with solutions of how to take better care of your body, but today, lets take a breather.

Today, I want you to approach your day with a little more play.  This doesn’t mean you have to skip the office for the playground (but you should skip instead of walk), just add a sense of joy and lightness to your day.  I will even make this post brief so you don’t have to be so adult and READ, you can just DO!

Here are just few easy ways to bring some play to your day-to-day:

  • Play games – Busy at the supermarket?  See if you can duck and dodge your way through the crowd without bumping into anyone!
  • Notice what you like – The sky, the color of the car next to you, some ladies hat, the wagging tail of a dog.  It doesn’t have to be a lot.
  • Engage with strangers – When you lose the game in #1 and you bump a stranger, smile, laugh, make eye contact, or give them a compliment.  You can do this with people you don’t bump into (and probably get better results) as well.
  • Enjoy music – Sing or dance or just carry the tune in your head as you go about your daily errands.  When you notice someone belting out Whitney Houston in the car next to you, don’t you smile and think that person is having the BEST time!
  • Smile – Just cause.
  • Move – Exercise is great, but as adults, we have even taken the fun out of that.  Challenge yourself to skip, hop, crawl, chase (children and dogs are excellent playmates), instead of just going for a jog.
  • Laugh – At how much we take ourselves seriously when we have absolutely no control over anything.

Have a happy day my friends!  If you feel like it, let me know how you found play in the comments below!  Also, let your friends know so they can start playing too!

Opt Outside! Treadmill vs Outdoor Running

The great debate – treadmill walking and running versus outside.  Well, you can tell by the title, I have my own clear winner.  But, if you are still reading past the headline, I bet you want to know more…you want to know the WHY.

In a nutshell, when you run or walk outside, the muscles of the leg have to propel you forward.  When you run or walk on a treadmill, the muscles of your leg have to catch you as you fall forward.  So even though it looks like the same exercise, they are actually two different exercises using different muscles.

When you are on a treadmill, the floor is moving under your feet.  With each stride your body is hitting this moving surface and getting pushed into a forward motion.  Your opposite leg then has to get out in front of you and hit the treadmill before you fall forward.  So with each stride you are literally just catching yourself from falling instead of running forward.

Outside, the ground is stable, so your foot has to push against that stable surface and push you forward.  For one, this takes a lot more strength and muscle activation to do than running on a treadmill so you will actually burn more calories and get a better workout.  Secondly, and my favorite part, is that it is safer on your body.  By pushing yourself forward, you are using your body the way it was designed to be used, as well as using all the muscles of the back of the leg to help counteract the effects from all your sitting time.  Total win.

When we go around catching ourselves from falling instead of propelling ourselves forward, we put a lot of stress on our hip, knee, and ankle joints.  Not to mention the load we put on our feet.  This extra load leads to some of the most common aches and pains among runners – plantar fasciitis, hamstring tendinopathy, and runner’s knee just to mention a few.  Where as running (correctly, more on that below) outside can actually help strengthen some of the most commonly weak postural muscles in the body.

So you are now convinced to take your run outside.  Fantastic!  Just a quick word…It is also possible to do the “fall and catch” outside as well.  This usually occurs because the mobility in our hips and ankles restricts our body’s ability to move our legs in the appropriate way.  So make sure you spend time opening up your hips (try these hip openers) and your calves.  In fact, you can start right now with the exercise below!

Class Review Wrap-Up

This year, one of the things I wanted to do was try new things in the fitness world.  I am always reading and researching and learning from the other therapists and trainers at my studio.  I also try to soak up as much knowledge as I can when talking to the great practitioners in my network, but I haven’t actually been out there to try what the other guys are doing in a while.

So, I worked my way around local and online classes that I had always wanted to try.  It was a fun year exploring the different class options that are around Boulder.  Even if the class did not sit well with me, I always learned something, saw things from a different perspective, and, usually, I had fun.

Below is a quick summary of the experiences I had over the last year.  What I loved and what I wouldn’t try again.

My Favorites:

Outlaw Yoga  – The best yoga class I have ever taken.  I had the added benefit of doing it outside, on a beautiful, Colorado morning, with friends, but Mark still rocks no matter what setting you put him in.  This class was fun, challenging, and Mark’s organization and cueing were spot on.

Boulder Movement Collective – My exposure to BMC and the movement training of Ido Portal has made a lasting influence on my own training.  Fluidity and rhythm are now as much a part of my training as alignment, balance, and strength.  It has been a fun and challenging year adding these new elements into my training and I continue to get into the BMC studio whenever I can.

Not My Favorite:

Yoga for Athletes – If you have read my reviews, this should not be such a surprise.  I was deeply disappointed in this class.  I thought I was walking into something that would focus on alignment and posture specifically for an athlete, instead I got an unorganized, very informal class on a cement floor.

Additional Reviews:

 

 

 

Daily Health Checklist

In times of high stress, it is easy to get out of our daily routines.  It is easy for us to feel overwhelmed and defeated, to lose our way, and just feel a sense of “making it through”.  We seem to only have the energy and the focus to get the day-to-day tasks done and our ability to care for ourselves starts to fall to the wayside.  However, it is during these time of high stress that we most desperately need our good habits.  We need sleep and good food to help us regain our strength and energy.  We need a plan we can blindly follow till we right the ship and feel like ourselves again.

I have been there, folks.

Last week, I was reading an article on the importance of a checklist.  The reporter had interviewed a doctor about a recent surgery that had gone bad.  The doctor was able to save the patient’s life, pumping the patient’s heart with his own hands.

“But skill and brainpower were not the reason Mr. Hagerman survived.  (Dr.) Gawande says what actually saved his patient’s life was a plan the surgical team had made before they began the surgery. This plan wasn’t grand or complicated. In fact, it was a humble checklist.”

Pilots, doctors, fireman and other high-stress occupations use (humble) checklists all the time so they can follow a plan even under the most difficult situations.  If these work when something goes wrong while fighting a fire, I am sure I can get one to work for me when my life is crazy.

So, I created my own checklist.  A daily list of reminders that is not too demanding, easy to follow, and allows me to keep my health and self-care a priority as life gets crazy.  Download the following checklist for the next time your life gets overwhelming and be prepared.  Health doesn’t have to be “grand or complicated”.  In our busy lives, simple and easy is the way to go.

Download Your Daily Health Checklist Here

 

Save Time and Stack Your Life

Recently, a client of mine came in for a session and just looked beat-down.  I asked him what was going on and he explained that deadlines at work had caused him and his team to work long hours, miss summer vacations and weekend trips, and basically rescheduled their lives.  He felt overwhelmed and stuck.  There was no time to exercise or take care of his personal life.  His energy was so low that by the time he did get home, he had nothing left to give to his family.

It seems most of us are having a hard time squeezing in all we want to do in the short 24 hours we get each day, myself included.  There just isn’t enough time to get it all done, so we end up prioritizing and letting things slip to the back-burner while we feel a lack of accomplishment at the end of the day.  This can’t be the best way to go through life, but what are the options?  Let me introduce you to the idea of Stacking.

“I aspire to achieve the efficiency of a worker honeybee.  A worker honeybee has one of those jobs with all-day movement packaged in.  The work necessary to meet it’s personal needs for food and movement and to perform it’s particular job on behalf of its community are happening simultaneously.” – Katy Bowman

I was first introduced to the idea of Stacking when I read Katy Bowman’s book, Movement Matters.  She describes, much better than I can, how we humans have lost our natural way and started to separate and segment our lives.  At one point in our existence we needed to forage for food (exercise + grocery shopping), build shelters (learning + problem solving), and we usually did these things with a community or tribe (socialization + babysitting).  In our modern world, all of these needed parts of our lives have been divided out, leaving us with no time to spare.

While it is unrealistic for a lot of us to start growing or foraging our food by tomorrow, we can apply the principles of Stacking to our everyday lives.  In the simplest of terms, we can find a way to accomplish two things at once.  I am not talking about checking your emails while you are eating breakfast.  I am talking about changing your mindset so that you are actually doing less but fulfilling your needs more.

“Multi-tasking involves trying to accomplish many discrete tasks at once.  Stacking your life involves the search for fewer tasks that meet multiple needs, which often requires that you’re clear on what your needs actually are.” – Katy Bowman

Assuming we already have shelter and sleeping pretty much requires that you are only sleeping, let’s look at some of our other basic daily needs:

  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Transportation
  • Family/Friend Time – Childcare, dog care, parent care, etc.
  • Employment
  • Play

Now, I am a person that always goes for the low-hanging fruit first.  I am a believer that small accomplishments are the only step-stools that will get you to the large accomplishments in life.  So let’s start easy…

Let’s look at the idea of a “play-date”.  It is the epitome of Stacking.  Parent’s socializing, children playing.  However, what if we could also do a play-date on our bikes?  Or at the park?  Now we have stacked socialization, childcare, and exercise in one.  Now, why don’t you all bike down to the local fruit stand?  OMG – Socialization, childcare, exercise, transportation, and grocery shopping all in one!

Now, I know this is not as easy as it sounds, but you will be surprised at how many options there are to Stack your life if you just start getting into the mindset.  Opportunities will arise without a lot of work.  Let’s go back to my client that I mentioned at the beginning…

During our session, this same client mentioned he would be traveling to California on business and he was even more overwhelmed by the idea that he would lose more time to work.  I mentioned to him to look for ways he could make his day better.  So, I asked him what CA had that CO does not.  Easy answer – the Ocean.  We decided he could rent a bike to get him from his hotel to his work each day, taking a longer way home that would go by the beach.  Just the thought of getting a little play and exercise into his day, seemed to relieve some tension in his shoulders.

One little adjustment in our days can completely change our attitude.  That change in attitude has an exponential effect on our perspective, our approach to our lives and our interactions with others.  Bottom line, stop getting less and doing more and get more by doing less.

“Thinking differently is a process not so distinct from learning to move your arm or leg in a particular way to get a muscle to grow; your thoughts shape your choices.” – Katy Bowman

 

Bike Retreat in the San Juan Islands

Every year, I have the fortunate opportunity to take people from all over the country to play in my home state.  I spend a week biking, hiking, and kayaking all around the San Juan Islands with the most amazing, interesting, and strong women.  It is an annual tradition that reminds me that we are stronger when we lift each other up than when we tear each other down.

This year, I had the added pleasure of having 4 people from my studio join me.  To have people on the trip that our close friends and clients, gave the trip an extra special feeling.  It warmed my heart to see these women out of the gym and in nature, challenging themselves, and allowing themselves to have new experiences.  I believe it takes a lot of guts to head to a destination you have never been, with a group of almost all strangers, and attempt things that are unfamiliar and out of your comfort zone.  I also believe that it is in these spaces and experiences that we grow and surprise ourselves.

To say that this trip is just a biking trip, would not be complete.  Yes, we bike.  We bike everyday, but that is just a catalyst to the magic that actually happens.  If you are a cyclist, you have already experienced the intimacy you feel when you discover a place on two wheels.  On a bicycle, you experience everything.  The change in temperature, the smells, the mist on your face, the sounds of the birds, the sunshine and the shadows.  You see the landscape at a slower pace so that you notice painted mailboxes, a small metal statue, old-growth forests, and in the case of Orcas Island, faces on trees. Riding a bike gives you the feeling of being a kid and the independence to move at your own pace.  This feeling creates the foundation for the retreat, a space that is about your feelings in the present, the amazing qualities of the people that surround you, and the joy that can be found when we remove the daily stressors from our lives.

This year, our group was one of the most humble and strong groups we have ever had.  They were understated and kind.  Helpful and supportive.  Grateful and generous.  It seemed that each woman’s personality and natural character lifted and supported the group as a whole.  One woman mentioned that she was starting to get tired on the hike, so decided to start a conversation with the woman next to her to take her mind off of the work.  That sparked an incredible story about travel and adventure that energized both ladies to make it to the top.  On another day, at the end of a long day, one woman’s energy burst and laughter made the ride home from the ferry feel like a breeze.  There are dozens of these stories from the week.  When we allow ourselves to be true and allow others to be themselves, we lift each other up without even trying.

6 days with these ladies felt like 6 years, and I mean that in the best way. It felt as if we were old friends, like we had accomplished and done so much together (it may be that we do A LOT on these trips), that we knew each other so well that we could make each other laugh with just a look.  Biking around these stunning islands, having conversations about our thoughts not our to-do lists, and playing with the whales, the seals, and all of nature brings you back to a place of joy and opportunity.  Every day feels like a new occasion to celebrate rather than time to just get things done.  For me, this acts as a reset button.

So THANK YOU to all the women who joined me this year and to Colleen Cannon, Jacqueline Stanford, Tracy Byrnes, and Women’s Quest for helping make this dream trip come true.