Outperforming Yourself

I have been thinking about my fitness lately. I am not nearly where I want to be. Will I ever? Who knows? In the same manner, I have been thinking about how my level of fitness can make me a more virtuous person. Is this possible? I’m starting to think that living a life of virtue is a sacred duty that all should undertake. Fitness will either help me in this endeavor, or it will detract from this higher calling. There is no end to this journey of becoming more virtuous. Similarly, there is no end to this fitness journey.

How you can learn virtue through fitness:

Fitness and Wisdom. What are the keys to wisdom? Desire, knowledge, and understanding. One can even add listening to this. To get to your desired levels of fitness, you need to be constantly learning. You have to listen to your body and if possible listen to a coach who has more wisdom and experience than you do. Not only do you have to understand the exercises, but how your body moves and what it needs for fuel and recovery. This is a science, you are the scientist, and your body is the laboratory. And without an unmitigated desire, none of it will be really of any use. You have to want it.

Fitness and Discipline. On paper, it is an easy concept. Do the work. In practice, it is a whole different story. It is an area that I have struggled with over the years. Even when I thought I was being disciplined, I wasn’t. As a consequence, my results were never as good as I wanted it to be. And if you or I ever want to get the results we desire, we have to stick with it. We have to practice to become better. Because if we stop practicing, it is so much harder to get back going again. Remember, objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

Fitness and Justice. What? How does fitness and justice go together? Obviously, there are ethics involved in sporting events. Cheating is not allowed. Good conduct and following the rules is highly condoned. But how does that apply to general fitness? You have to do what’s right for your body. You can’t cheat yourself and expect to win. And when it comes to shortcuts, there are none. In this arena, you have to play the long game, and you have to play it right.

Fitness and Courage. The Ronin Musashi once said, “You can only fight the way you practice.” Breaking personal records and doing the things that once seemed impossible only comes through preparation. You have to practice to get the courage, otherwise you will be fool-hardy and prone to injury. The more you practice, the harder you can safely push the limits of your capabilities.

The greatest achievement is to outperform yourself. – Denis Waitley

Outperforming myself in all areas of my life is what I am trying to do. This week, I have been looking at how the rowing machine will teach me virtue. Here’s what I have learned so far:

Wisdom. You have to know the technique, or you could get hurt or even waste your time with nothing to show for it. A good coach will take you a long ways. Being in a community with other rowers, the same. Watch, listen, learn.

Discipline. I haven’t been doing enough or staying consistent. As a result, I am barely any better than I was when I first started. To meet my goals, this has to change. The only way that can happen is to spend more time doing it. “Practice, the master of all things.” –Augustus Octavius

Justice. No shortcuts. No pretending. I may never be a world champion rower, but I can become an ambassador for the sport. This means getting better at it, coaching others, and becoming a valued part of the community. This is the right thing to do if I truly believe in its merits.

Courage. I got a new Polar H10 heartrate chest strap this week. I was using my FitBit but was concerned it wasn’t accurately tracking my heart rate. The good thing about using this chest strap, which syncs to my rower, is knowing my pulse at all times. In the past, I would get into the 160’s and think I would die. Now I know that I can accurately push my HR into the mid 170’s and be fine. The courage comes in safely pushing my limits. When I am in the 160’s and sprinting, I know I can push a little harder and still be okay. As a bonus, I can also pace myself based on my HR zone and not gas out too early in the workout.

This is my third post in the Concept 2 Life category. I’m curious what I can learn about myself from this machine and hope that what I learn confers some kind of benefit to those who take the time to read.

Salud.

Are you still ____?

“Are you still working out?”

I loathe this question. It is one that I told myself I never wanted to be asked again. Why? Because your level of fitness is one of the things people, whether they want to admit it or not, notice first. And for someone who is borderline obsessed with strength and endurance, the last thing I dread is for an uncle I haven’t seen in a few years pointing at my midsection.

I work hard to achieve my fitness goals. I willingly share those goals with the idea that those closest to me will hold me accountable. It is my way of staying on the path. It is my way of forcing a little extra discipline in my life in case I get a little too comfortable which happens from time to time. I have faith that I can get where I want to go, but the key to getting there is discipline.

Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential. –Liane Cardes

I believe my potential is wrapped in strength and intelligence, but I don’t naturally have them. If I want to build both of these, then I need continuous effort. Discipline. It truly equals the freedom I am seeking.

There is another question I have come to hate hearing. It is a pointed barb that upon hearing strikes to the quick. Once it is there, it is embedded deep and my mind will not let it go.

“Are you still writing?”

I took a two week break from my blog. I didn’t schedule one. It just happened. I allowed other things in my life to take precedence. I veered off the path and started to become fat as a writer. Writing is similar to physical fitness. Once you stop, you begin to digress and become out of shape. The only way to keep from stopping is through continuous effort. Through discipline.

When I began my fitness journey, I had to ask myself some tough questions about whether or not it was worth it. What are the benefits of good health? Are you happy with your present condition? How much more could I do if I was fit? They may seem like they are all selfish questions and to some degree they are, but my fitness impacts my family’s well-being. It impacts my relationships with friends and co-workers. It improves my professional performance.

Last night after being asked if I was still writing, I once again had to ask myself some tough questions. Do I believe I have a message worth hearing? Could I have a positive impact on the lives of my readers? If I believe this is what I was put on this earth to do, then why am I not doing it?

The answer is yes to all of them, and I believe it is possible. This is the direction I have chosen to travel in my life. But if I want to be a strong writer and endure as one, I need to apply continuous effort. I need discipline. Faith alone can only get me so far. However when I couple that faith with discipline, I can truly maximize my potential.

I am a firm believer that physical fitness has taught me the virtues of discipline more effectively than any other method including my time in the Army. I also believe that if I can master discipline in terms of my body, I possess the necessary tools to master it mentally as well. My body is starting to bear the fruit of my labor. I have no doubt that my mind, if practiced in the same fashion, will also bear fruit.

Don’t make excuses for why you can’t get it done. Focus on all the reasons why you must make it happen. –Ralph Marston

The above quote was from the same man that said, “Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” I think they go well together. I have to believe in the journey I’m on. I have to believe I can get to my destination. My eyes have to stay on the prize. Excuses won’t get me where I need to go, but a resolute focus on the objective and a continuous effort will.

Balance and Refined

I am a huge fan of fitness analogies! The process of getting your body into its optimal condition is the same process as getting your mind and your soul into their optimal conditions. In order to get better, you have to train. You have to give it the right nutrients. You don’t get stronger unless you work. To be a complete package and not a lop-sided three-legged stool, then you have to work your body, soul, and mind equally. These are the three pillars that must stay in balance.

Everybody is unique. The best fitness programs cater to our individuality. We look at the areas we want to do better in. We try to identify our weaknesses and make them stronger. We adhere to programs that will help us achieve our goals. Those who are constantly working on their bodies, are in a constant state of learning. They learn what works and what doesn’t.

In the same way we should be training our minds and our souls. We strengthen them through practice and repetition. We discover areas that need improvement and work to develop them. A person lacking courage can slowly immerse himself into controlled situations to overcome his fear.

What can you do today to become better tomorrow? Hone your strengths. Sharpen them and use them to your advantage. Identify your weaknesses and work at them until they are no longer holding you back from achieving the results you desire. We should be in a constant state of refinement. Like the chemist, we should be mixing and matching until we have created within us the perfect formula for our version of success.

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own. –Bruce Lee

Open Your Eyes

My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. It was Sunday morning. The house was quiet. Everything was quiet. Instead of getting up, I hit the snooze button. My body was stiff from the day’s previous training. The comfort and warmth of my bed was enough for me to stay in it. After all, it was 4:30 in the morning. I didn’t really have to get up. I finally rolled out of bed a few minutes past six.

This morning I was doing a EMOM workout. Every minute on the minute I was doing 70 skips with a 1 lb. jump rope. After the 13th minute, I was beginning to feel fatigued. During the 14th minute, my little boy opened the door to the garage and told me good morning. I finished the 14th minute. I was done. I could have gone longer. I hadn’t possibly done all that I could, but the motivation changed. My priority shifted from myself to my son.

1 lb. Intensity Rope
https://www.crossrope.com/ By far the best set of jumpropes I have ever used, Crossrope!

What would have happened if I was up at 4:30? First, my workout would have been completed no later than 5:30. The next hour could have been spent reading or writing. My plan this day was to write. Then, by the time the family was getting up, I would have been knocked out the two biggest personal time goals that I had for the day. The rest of my waking hours would have been devoted to spending time with the family. But because I slept in, I got in an abbreviated workout and did not write.


IMG_0360This was just one day, actually several weeks ago. The days after this, with consistent practice I was able to get up earlier, stay up, and get the things done that needed to be accomplished. Everything was becoming more and more routine until I hit the Christmas holidays. Then the travelling began, and really didn’t end until this weekend. It wasn’t really possible to get up early without the risk and waking up the house I was staying in. With the exception of 1 or 2 days, that was about 16 days of sleeping in. I worked out when I could, barely wrote, and read a ton. In my mind I had a plan, and that plan was not executed. And now, I feel like I am back to square one.

Tomorrow, I am back to work. My alarm will be set for 3:55. It is imperative that I get up and start completing on my before work tasks (workout and reading). If I do not, then I won’t get another chance that day. By the time, I get home after six in the evening, the opportunity to work out will be gone. Evenings are reserved for family.

I remember the way it was last winter. I wanted to wake up and workout before work but did not have the discipline to do it. I had good intentions, but intentions without action are useless. I did not want to get out of shape, but I allowed it to happen. My waistline kept getting larger, my appetite kept growing, and the weight started creeping in. I had lots of desire just not the action to back it up.

Fitness is just one measurable part of my life that impacts almost every other aspect. Being conscious of my fitness causes me to be conscious of all my other actions. I tend to make better choices about the things I eat and drink when I am thinking about the impact it has on my body. The structure and time I plan for working out are all part of a larger daily plan for accomplishing tasks throughout the day. I start with the workout, scratch it off my list, and then move on to non-fitness related activities that need to be done. To have a successful day, I have to get my list done. To have a successful day, I have to be able to turn off that alarm and get up.

My son:

Open your eyes, and you will have bread. -Proverbs 20:13