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Archive for the ‘physical fitness’ Category

This is a simple concept: you have to put your words and ideas into action. You can’t make positive progress towards your goals unless you do. 

However, so many people don’t. It isn’t that they can’t; they can. Just for one reason or another, they don’t. 

I’m just as guilty. I want to learn Latin. I’ve got a good book. However, I’ve not opened it up for the purpose of actually learning the language. It is time to change that. 

What are you holding back on? What have you thought about but not done? Why not start today?

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On workdays I don’t have a lot of time for breakfast. I had gotten into the habit of eating poorly, whether that be grabbing a couple of Pop-Tarts, stopping at a fast food joint for a biscuit (and soda, since I don’t like coffee), or getting a 3-egg omelet from the restaurant downstairs in my office building. Eating is important to getting physically fit and it’s the area I fail the most, which is why I’ve struggled a lot with building fitness and losing weight.

In one of my runner magazines, I saw a suggestion for “summer porridge,” because it was easy, healthy, and something that can be prepared the night before. If you’re not familiar with summer porridge, it’s basically oatmeal that has time to soak the liquid up overnight in the refrigerator, removing the need to cook the oatmeal. Perfect if you have a limited amount of time in the morning. Here’s my simple recipe:

1/3 cup quick cook steel cut oats
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup fruit
1/2 tablespoon honey

Note that all the key ingredients are 1/3 cup. That’s what makes it easy to remember.
I throw the ingredients into a container, mix the ingredients together with a spoon, and then put the porridge into the refrigerator, where it’s waiting until morning. It’s been great! I find the meal refreshing, filling without being too heavy, and I stay full until lunch time. Also, I’m getting real fruit, not fruit juice (which too often has added sugars), I’m getting the oatmeal for fiber, and the yogurt helps with digestion.

Now you may be thinking, “What kind of yogurt?” I did. There are some recipes that say to use Greek yogurt and that if you substitute with regular yogurt, you need to reduce the milk. I am using regular yogurt but I didn’t reduce the milk. For me, it’s the right consistency. For my wife, it’s a little too much liquid, so you’ll likely need to adjust the milk/yogurt amount depending on what type of yogurt and how much liquid you like with your oatmeal.

As for the plain yogurt, I did see recipes that called for vanilla flavored yogurt. In my case, I’m getting enough sweetness through the fruit and the honey. Therefore, I didn’t want the added sugar that you get with flavored yogurt.

That brings me to the last item, which is the fruit. We’re in winter and fresh berries aren’t available where I live. I do have frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc., in my freezer. I have found that if I measure out the 1/3 cup and combine, that by morning the fruit are chilled but no longer frozen. Therefore, I don’t bother trying to defrost them.

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It was my first chess tournament. I was extremely nervous, especially because my parents had come to watch – both of them. Typically my dad didn’t watch my competitions as they made him nervous, which in turn made me more nervous. That was the case that day.

I remember the first pairing. The opening was the Four Knight’s Defense, which at the highest levels tends to lead to draws. Only we were scholastic players, meaning it was a perfectly reasonable opening. We were even through the opening and the middlegame. Then in the endgame I snaked a couple of pawns through and queened them. Game 1 was a win. My nerves quelled some then. Why had I succeeded in the endgame? The reason is because I played constantly against a couple of gentlemen who were significantly better than me in that phase of the game. I had taken a lot of lumps playing, and losing, to them.

Game 2 I had the White pieces. There is an opening that is considered “unsound” at the highest levels and luminaries like Bobby Fischer proclaimed they had developed counters that refuted it (they haven’t). That opening is the King’s Gambit and there are still grandmasters who play it and play it well, so it’s anything but refuted, though there are stronger openings for White. Because of its reputation, it wasn’t played by anyone at that tournament, the SC state scholastic tournament, except one player who liked to attack, attack, attack. That was me. I opened with it in my second game and my opponent crumbled quickly. Within the first twenty moves, my opponent’s queenside pieces were sitting off the board, having been captured in a massive onslaught my opponent didn’t know how to stop. The King was hunkered down behind his defenses but would fall a few moves later. I had earned another win.

Up until that point, I had lost every single game of the King’s Gambit I had ever played. I had played it well over a couple of hundred times and my chess backside was black and blue with the beatings I had endured playing my pet opening.

Some of those games I had lost badly. Others reached the endgame where decisions I had made in the middlegame came back to haunt me. But each of those previous games was against an opponent who was significantly better than me. This opponent had also played the King’s Gambit for years before switching over to other openings. Every time I forayed out the first few moves, I was going against someone who I knew was going to have a significant advantage over me in this particular opening. However, I wanted to learn it. So I challenged myself by playing the King’s Opening against this particular gentleman. I learned just about every way you could lose playing the King’s Gambit. When I got to the state chess tournament and uncorked it, I was ready to win with it.

The secret to my success that tournament was I had challenged myself greatly leading up to it. I had intentionally played the toughest opponents that I knew, especially in openings I wanted to learn that I knew that they understood and had played. In the end I made it to the final round with a perfect record, eventually losing that final game to the state champion.

Challenging myself was the key to my success. I have found this to be true whether we’re talking about games, about sports, about work, or about life. I rarely improve when facing situations that don’t require my best. This is true of most people. If you find yourself in a rut or you don’t think you’re improving fast enough, ask yourself, “Am I being challenged?” If you aren’t, that might be the reason you aren’t growing.

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I’m in downtown Columbia, SC. Right behind where I’m sitting is busy Taylor Street and I can hear the cars on the road and construction at a neighboring property.

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While I can hear the noise, there’s no one around me. I have this tucked away garden all to myself. It’s like this every time I’ve been here at lunch. This hidey-hole, and places like it, is where I can get alone and recharge.

To get to this particular spot takes some walking. It’s easy to reach in a lunch hour, still giving me about 30 minutes of privacy. Therefore, coming out here serves two purposes: I get a bit of exercise and I get some alone time. For an introvert, the lunch hour doesn’t get much better than this.

Wherever I am, I try to find spots like these. Often times they are hiding in plain sight. Parks and public gardens like the one I’m in now are usually the first places I investigate. Do you have a quiet, private place to which you can flee? Even if you’re an extrovert, it’s still good to have a couple of such places when you just need to get away.

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I think, “Thieves’ Cant.”

In first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, anybody playing a thief character has an additional “language” called thieves’ cant. It was supposed to represent the code words, hand movements, etc., that allowed thieves to communicate with each other while in the company of others. Can’t and cant are pronounced the same way.

What does this have to do with anything? I’m glad you asked.

One of the things attending The Citadel taught me is that a lot of times when we say, “I can’t,” we’re imposing an arbitrary limitation on ourselves that’s not rooted in any sort of fact. The Citadel and many military “schools” (US Army Ranger School, etc.) push students beyond their pre-conceived limits, revealing to them that they can go beyond those limits. After a few times pushing past the limits you thought you had, you start to realize that we’re terrible at forecasting our true limitations.

In other words, when we say, “I can’t,” we likely can, we just don’t believe in ourselves and therefore we won’t test that limit. Because of this, I typically try and play a simple mind game. When I hear “can’t,” I change it to, “thieves’ cant,” and I challenge that limit. I get rid of “can’t” so I can mentally push forward.

Have you attempted to push past your limits before? If you haven’t, try a similar mind game. Change “can’t” to something else. Challenge those limits. Start with something relatively safe. Maybe it’s your reading habits or your handwriting or your ability to read through and follow a simple recipe. Or maybe it’s the number of push-ups you can do. Pick something and attack it.

What if you fail? Assess whether you’ve gained anything and if you can one day reach and pass that limit. For instance, if I tried to cook a recipe, maybe it didn’t come out so well. Maybe it was a disaster. However, if I learned how to measure liquids better or gained a better appreciation for keeping on top of food under the broiler, it’s not a total disaster because I’ve improved myself.

Also, remember that a lot of times are limits are expandable. Maybe I can’t do 500 push-ups today. But what if I stayed with it? Maybe I’m at 50 today. Others have gotten to 500 and beyond. My limit today will likely not be my limit in six months if I actively work at doing push-ups.

What arbitrary limits are holding you back and what are you going to do about them?

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A few weeks ago I read a post by Sebastian Marshall about getting everything over the bar first. It was based on something he himself read.

It struck a chord with me because I was reminded of my days at The Citadel. The gist of his post is this quote:

You have to get all work over the bar — meaning, good enough quality given your requirements — before polishing anything in particular to perfection.

At The Citadel, a knob’s (freshman’s uniform) is expected to be perfect. That’s the standard. The duty shirt should be pressed and without wrinkle or stain. The nametag should be properly aligned, as should the “4” signifying the class (4th classman) and the company letter for the company the knob belongs to. The duty trousers should also be pressed and without wrinkle or stain. The brass and the shoes should be extremely highly polished without any scratches or gouges. As you might guess, it takes a bit before knobs begin to reach this standard. What is typical is for the worst of the lot to be focused on. For instance, “Your shoes look like you shined them with Hershey bars!” And gradually, but quickly, a knob’s personal appearance is brought up to the standard.

What in your life isn’t over the bar? What’s below standard? Often times folks notice the things about us that are most deficient. We could be extremely good at something, but where we fall short is all that’s seen. Or, whatever it is that is below standard holds us back from our other goals. For instance, if you’re overweight, that saps at your overall health and energy levels. You could be excellent at something, but likely you can’t fully make use of it or demonstrate it because of the fact that your health isn’t over the bar.

Action: Carefully consider yourself. What in your life isn’t up to a reasonable standard? If necessary, ask trusted friends to help you identify what you need to work on. Then put together an action plan to attack those items and get them over the bar.

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I have heard holding on to a grudge as, “Swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies.” This is a great analogy because often times the only people affected by our resentment is us. Resentment has a way of coloring our view of the world and building a “chain” of perceived hurts and slights. Another analogy I love with respect to this chain of resentment I saw in this article, where that chain was compared to, “carrying around a bag of horse manure.” If you’ve ever smelled horse manure, you know how that can immediately change your outlook on a given situation.

Holding on to bitterness and resentment can lead to physical problems, too. For instance, in a recent study mentioned in many places, but here as well, the researchers concluded:

“When harbored for a long time,” Wrosch said, “bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease.”

It is a natural response to feel resentful and bitter at times. However, because we experience and feel those things doesn’t mean we have to hold on to them. In fact, we should look to get over them as quickly as possible. Resentment has a way of building greater and greater resentment. It accumulates. And if we hold on that resentment and bitterness, we could damage our own bodies due to the stress.

So how do you let go of resentment? Depending on the slight, it may be extremely difficult. The first step is choosing to let go. We may not “feel” like it, but we have to make a choice of the will. After that, it depends on the circumstances. Usually, if the resentment is towards a coworker, friend, or family member, it helps to talk it out. I’m no longer surprised at how many times I’ve heard one person is resentful and the other person doesn’t even know there’s an issue. Often times talking it out reveals the problem and that second person is truly remorseful and seeks to correct the situation. However, until the first person brings it up, that second person can’t act because he or she doesn’t know that there needs to be action.

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