Positive, Purposeful Change

What changes have you made recently?  Humans are typically creatures of habit.  We typically fear change.  I think we fear change because we are surviving under the current circumstances, and any change to our situation or environment might result in us no longer surviving, or experiencing some variety of negative emotions.  I say embrace change!  Change is good!  Change makes us learn and grow stronger!

Life and everything in it responds to stimuli, including the situation of no stimuli.  There is no such thing as a maintenance phase, or remaining just how you are.  Every living thing on the planet is always changing; adapting and evolving in response to their environment.  If you’re environment is soft and easy and unchallenging then you will become weak and unable.  If you’re environment is challenging and hard then you will become strong and able.

I’m not saying to put yourself in dire circumstances.  I’m simply illustrating the fact that humans need change.  On the broad scale, static sitting, and all the negative health consequences it causes, is officially an epidemic.  Globally, obesity is an epidemic.  If obesity and static, prolonged sitting were deadly viruses or bacteria they would rival the plague!  The plague was estimated to kill 30-60% of Europe’s population in the 14th century.  In 2011 WHO reports that cardiovascular disease alone was responsible for 3 in 10 worldwide deaths. Also, “non-communicable diseases were responsible for two-thirds of all deaths globally in 2011, up from 60% in 2000. The four main NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic lung diseases.” (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/index2.html)  These 4 main killers are exacerbated by static sitting and obesity, and minimized by a good diet and exercise.

So yes, if plague proportions of people are dying due to current work situations and laziness then we need change!  If someone was dangling you off a cliff by the ankle, or holding a gun to your head what would you be willing to do to live?  In that scenario you have no control – not up to you.  In our real world, daily scenario you do have the control to do something about it and live!  It isn’t even that hard or absurd of a thing you have to do.  Eat right and exercise and do these things always and forever – not in phases or bursts.  Feel good, get what you want out of life and live longer and happier as a result.  Why aren’t you doing this yet!?

Yes, change is unfamiliar and scary, but it is necessary.  Right away to embrace change is to become comfortable with the unfamiliar and face your fears.  You will also grow as a person, more self-aware and stronger from whatever specific change you go through.  Everyone who is great at anything, or successful took their lumps, failed a number of times but keep growing and learning and changing and adapting until they got it right.  Then they kept changing and adapting to keep what they worked so hard for.  In short, positively motivated, purposeful change is success no matter how you look at it.  I challenge everyone to make one significant change to their life this week!  Let me know about it and how it goes!

Do You Know What Motivates You?

What is motivation?  I personally have a very broad definition of motivation.  I believe that nobody does anything unless they are motivated to do it.  I think it comes in many shapes and forms.  It can be internal or external, positive or negative.  It sure as hell doesn’t always feel like excitement or joyful glee to go grab life by the lemons and make lemonade.  I believe it is a very important thing to have, but that there are many other virtues that you must also possess in order to be successful.  But for now let’s focus on motivation.

If you look around at celebrities, well the good ones at least, you’ll notice they throw around the word “inspiration.”  That is because many of these famous people who are using their powers for good understand motivation.  In order to create positive change in a person or a group of people, the person or group has to want to change.  That is the key here.  No one can force anyone to do anything!  They can try their hardest, but ultimately you have the final choice in what action you take.

In order for people to positively change they must be motivated to change.  To motivate someone who is not motivated you must inspire them.  Inspiration will look different for everyone.  To inspire someone is to truly move them, to appeal to at least one of their emotions strongly enough that they want to get up and do something about it.  This type of motivation is external.  It is caused by the person who evoked the emotional response, and because it is external and emotional it is very fleeting, but it is a start.

Once this initial burst of external motivation is there, very few people possess enough other qualities and characteristics to internalize their motivation and realize their goals by themselves.  What I’d like to do is help people turn their fleeting, emotional, external motivation into rock solid, long lasting, internal motivation.

I realize that some people are already masters at this and some are completely new to it, and like most bell curves everyone else falls just above or just below average at this.  If we look at it like a journey them some people are at the finish line, and some people are looking for the trial head and most people are somewhere along the trail.  For those that are masters – congratulations.  For the rest of us we need to learn and practice the behaviours both mental and physical that will lead us to develop and harness intrinsic motivation.

If you refer to my article on self-awareness, I describe awareness as the catalyst for all human growth.  As your awareness increases then you can begin to problem solve, and consciously influence how you respond to different motivators and what does and does not work for you.  So, use all tools available to you to build your awareness of motivation and motivators.  Use all tools available to you to build your self-awareness and apply what you learn to all aspects of your life.  In this case, if you’re currently focusing on motivation, then apply everything you learn about yourself to what you know and can learn about motivation.  Be aware of times you feel high levels of motivation, be aware of what led you to feel that way, what is going well for you at that point in your day, week, month, life.  Who are you interacting with?  Be aware when your motivation starts to wander or fade.  Be aware of what might be influencing it in this manner.  Be aware of which of those things are within your power to control or influence, and which aren’t.  Be aware of the type of person you become if you do all the things you need to do to reach your goals.

Over time you’ll develop a strong sense of all the thoughts, actions, and people that help you stay motivated.  You’ll be able to surround yourself with positivity and minimize the other noise that may be out of your control, but you can control how you respond to it and how it affects you.  It is through this type of self-mastery that all things can be achieved.  It doesn’t end with motivation, there are many other characteristics that you will discover you will need to develop in order to achieve true intrinsic motivation and ultimately see goals through to their realization.  So, go out and get inspired, then pay very close attention to what happens next!  There is no failure, just learning.

Fastest Way to Grow.

Self-awareness is the catalyst that accelerates all human growth.  It is only when you are aware of things that you can consciously influence them.  For example, it is talked about in stress management.  First step is to identify your stress reactions.  How do you do this? – By becoming aware of them.  If you never knew that you got angry when hungry (or hangry) then you’d never know how to make yourself feel better when “randomly” angry.  Therefore it starts with awareness; first being aware that you are acting differently, in this case angrily.  Then you must identify what is making you feel this way.  Once you’ve identified what is causing your stress then you can consciously come up with solutions to solve and prevent this particular stressor.

If you are being affected by a different type of stressor that you can’t control then you repeat the above process, but instead of trying to control what you can’t (the stressors), you focus on ways to de-stress.  This process again, comes down to being aware of what activities, habits, people etc. allow you to vent your stress and feel better.  I don’t want to digress too much about stress specifically.  I just think it is a good example of the importance of self-awareness.  Literally no matter how you want to deal with stress it begins with self-awareness.

This awareness is equally important in all aspects of your life.  So, how do you build self-awareness?  Some would say it just comes over time, and largely they are correct.  As you experience life you become more and more aware all the time, aware of what you like to eat, how you like to train, what type of work you enjoy, how much sleep you need, what type of people you move towards etc.  I believe there are ways to increase the rate at which you gain self-awareness.

In this world there are 3 circles of knowledge:

  1. Things that you know that you know: ex// I know that 2×2=4 and I am aware (I know) that I know that.
  2. Things that you know that you don’t know: ex// I don’t know exactly how many people live in my apartment building, and I’m aware (I know) that I don’t know that.
  3. Things that you don’t know that you don’t know: ex// A caveman gets defrosted today and sees a car – he has no idea (not aware) that there is an engine inside it making it move – not even aware of the idea of an engine.

These circles of knowledge apply to everything, including us.  So, what about yourself do you not know that you don’t know?  How do you discover these things?  How does the caveman find out there is an engine in the car and what an engine is?

Two solutions I’ve thought of to increase one’s self-awareness are:

  1. Other people: others can let you know that you get hangry, you’re acting stressed, you have negative thought and speech patterns with regards to yourself or others, you over-exaggerate regularly, etc…  It is often easier to see things in others than in our selves, so I believe people who are close to you can be a great help in building self-awareness.
  2. Patterns:  recognizing trends and patterns, after enough occurrences, becomes statistically significant.  Significant enough that only a few conclusions can be drawn from the pattern you have observed and only one of those is most likely to be true.  For example, every time you consume lactose you’re running to a bathroom 45min later = you’re likely lactose intolerant.  Nothing else would tell you this except for a medical test.  If it happened only a few random times you wouldn’t pick up on it, but when it happens consistently enough it becomes valid and you are now aware that you are very likely lactose intolerant.  Now you are in a position to consciously influence this situation.

These are the two main ways I can think of to help build self-awareness more quickly.  At first they might be challenging.  You may respond poorly to your loved ones telling you about your trends – be aware of how you react to them trying to help you and problem solve the dynamic until it is healthy and working for you.  You may also have trouble identifying patterns in yourself, but like everything else in life it gets easier and you get better at it the more you do it.  The result is more self-awareness, more self-mastery, and you will get more of what you want out of life and spend more time feeling how you want to feel.

If you have any other tips or advice on building awareness, or the benefits of high self-awareness, or a success story please comment below.  Any questions or requests for more information are also very welcome!

The Best “how to” Videos!

There are tons of instructional videos on youtube, some are good, some are bad.  As a beginner in the gym how can you tell if what you are watching is good or bad?  Let me help you!  Check www.certifiedstrong.ca periodically and I’ll have some new links pointing you to videos that I feel are good instructional videos.

For the first one: “so you think you can squat” by EliteFTS is one of a series.  “So you think you can…” videos are broken into 5 parts.  They also have “so you think you can deadlift” and “so you think you can bench”  These are the best instructional videos for these lifts in my opinion.

Here is “so you think you can squat”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ME8gEN54Ao

Here is “so you think you can bench”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHx1gYTA-Rw

Here is “so you think you can deadlift”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS2wLZSdeDg

Sink or Swim

A phenomenon that is well known, and is repeatedly observed all over the world is the flow of money and resources to the top few, while the poor get poorer and more numerous.  So, if the rich class continues to grow, and the poor class continues to grow then the middle class must be shrinking.  I think that this same phenomenon is happening with respect to fitness.

The numbers don’t lie, obesity is at an all-time high and continues to rise, this has been well documented, accurate statistics kept, and we know this.  What we don’t yet “know” in the same way is what is the rest of the population doing?  I look around and see big box gyms popping up everywhere, and not just one brand name, a whole class of competitors.  Each one of these gyms has approximately 2500 members, 15 busy personal trainers, and group classes that are always full.  We’re in an economic down turn and these gyms are still opening new locations and being very successful.

In addition to big box gyms, there are whole others brands of fitness and fitness-related events that are new, popular and successful; Cross-Fit, Tough Mudder, and Colour Me Rad just to name a few.  Cross-Fit has branded the sport of fitness with their Cross-Fit Games.  To me these are all indicators that the fitness population is also growing.  So, if the obese population is growing and the fit population is growing then the middle population must be shrinking.

I once had a football coach point out to me that it is impossible to be 100% exactly the same from one day to the next.  That leaves you with two options, a little better or a little worse.  To ensure that you are getting a little better each day you need to work towards SMART goals.  If you can track your progress towards goals that are important to you then you can truly measure the fact that you are improving in one way or another every day, which is very motivational and self-perpetuating.  Find out what is important to you and work towards it relentlessly!


How Important Are You?

“[Man] sacrifices his health in order to make money.  Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.”(Dhali Lama)  What does this mean to you?  To me it is nonsense.  Not the quote, this quote is dead accurate, but the fact that people will literally ignore their health for their whole life until they reach some breaking point then they are willing to trade every dollar to live even one more day.

This poor lifestyle has some very serious implications.  An individual living a life of poor health no matter how much money they throw at it near the end will live a shorter life.  They will live a life where at various time intervals they lose abilities.  At first they are minor abilities.  Some time in many people’s teen years they lose the ability to hold their own body weight with their grip, an ability most children display on the monkey bars.  In their 20’s they lose the ability to jump more than 12 inches off the ground.  In their 30’s they lose the ability to stand on one leg, do a push-up, and many people sadly reach mid-life at this point.

After the age of 40 the reaper may come disguised in many ways; a heart attack, cancer, diabetes, stroke, liver failure, and with the passing of each year some other ability is lost.  If death does not strike then it is not long before people are unable to climb stairs, go outside in the winter, or safely operate a motor vehicle.  The pattern of many people’s lives is a series of vague memories from age 0-4, school from 5-25, work until 60, retire, spend all their life savings clinging on to the last few years of painful, limited life, then die within a few years of retirement.  Life does not have to be this way.

For an increasingly large population of people their lives are quite the opposite.  From a young age these people are encouraged to eat properly, and they never stop playing as they did as a child.  The games get bigger and better, but the result is the same; mental and physical wellbeing throughout a long, happy life.

You see the ads all the time, 10 minutes per day…30 minutes three times per week…doctors recommend 30 minutes per day…etc.  The key, the special trick to a long, healthy life is simple.  It is eat right and exercise.  That’s it.  There is no quick fix, pill, supplement, diet, single piece of exercise equipment that beats it.  Nothing will reduce your medical bills by a larger margin.  Nothing will improve your quality of life by as much.  Nothing will cause you to retain abilities longer and at a higher level as simply a good diet and regular exercise.

There is also no need to make diet and exercise complicated.  Eat three fist sized portions of vegetables, with a fist and a half sized portion of protein a handful of some kind of carbohydrate like rice or something whole wheat.  For exercise, workout 5-6 days a week and alternate a day of cardio with a day of weight training.  This investment in exercise and good eating will add significant time and quality to your life.  That’s right, you won’t be adding 10 more years in a wheelchair or being feeble in any other way, you will literally add quality decades to your life!

I’d like to share a success story with you.  I trained a couple whose last visit to the gym was 20 years ago.  They both were suffering from arthritis and had lost several basic, ‘life-function ‘type abilities.  They knew it was time to address their situation and they did the right thing in seeking knowledgeable, professional help.  We weight trained together, and I gave them some basic cardio and dietary advice.  The changes they noticed were very substantial.

I’m going to refer to the guy as “X” and the girl as “Y” for privacy reasons.  X has osteoarthritis (most common) and he used to creak his way out of bed, limp down the stairs and was frustrated while preparing breakfast and other meals.  He loved cooking, but was limited in his ability to pair fruits and vegetables, he couldn’t do it in one fluid motion.  This may seem like a minor thing, but any time you aren’t very good at, or are limited in pursuing a true passion of yours it doesn’t make you feel very good.  The couple enjoyed a low-set Italian sofa that required a full body (arms and legs) maneuver to get up out of.

Y had a more severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, where the body’s immune system attacks its own joints causing deterioration, pain and loss of function.  She was seeing a rheumatologist who had her on pain killers and anti-arthritis medication.  Her condition was not improving.  She was in pain for very significant length of time every day.  She could barely move her wrists or ankles at all, her grip was getting weaker and hands less dextrous.  Her other joints were similar, maybe a year behind.

After 1 year of basic weight training, some cardio, and some positive dietary changes the improvement in their quality of life was so remarkable that it truly touched me and their story has really stuck with me.  I was amazed and surprised at how much positive change they had experienced.  X was springing out of bed, jogging downstairs, and happily pairing foods in one fell swoop.  Y was completely off pain killers, and had drastically reduced her dosage of arthritis medication!  Her rheumatologist was amazed at her progress (of course she attributed it to the medication) as it was very significant on scans and in tests.  She had the most function and least pain she’d experienced in 10 years!

They both were squatting up off that low Italian sofa using only their legs.  Their skin was better, their hair was better, their nails were better.  Their attitude was better, they were healthier and happier and had more function and ability than they had in a decade.  It brought them closer as a couple going through this process together, and reduced their stress which had a positive effect on their relationship.  They referred to lifting weights as the fountain of youth, and I believe them!

The total amount of energy in the Universe tends to move towards disorder, this is the general idea behind a scientific theory called Entropy.  On the small scale we see things get temporarily more organized all the time, seeds grow into trees, embryos grow into people, compounds get mixed and form buildings and other material things.  All things once created and grown-up begin falling apart.  All things last longer when you take care of them properly, from the start.  What is more important to you…than you?