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Archive for the ‘Motivational’ Category

PostHeaderIcon The Greatest Sin is to do Nothing Because You Can Only do a Little

There is a part of my website that I’ve been neglecting for a while and that is my “Local Heroes” section. The reason why I started that page is because of a fortune cookie I got a long time ago that really affected me. It read, “The greatest sin is to do nothing because you can only do a little.”

This phrase stayed with me and often repeats itself to me in my mind. I think of all the times I didn’t do something just because I couldn’t do it all and I think about people who totally give up on life and love because they can’t “have it all” or because the world is already such a harsh place, and they don’t think that they could ever make a difference.

But after reading that fortune cookie and having some very unusual dreams, I realized that if we all just did one thing to help someone else, that it would make a huge difference. If we just did one thing, once a day to make ourselves better, it would make a huge difference. Too often, we look to one person to be the great hero and savior of us all. We often forget that if we all did a little something, it would equal the all that only one person could do. I hope that makes sense.

Every time I ask someone I know if they want to be a local hero, they always tell me that they don’t understand what they did to be a hero. They look at my local heroes page and think that the people on that page are amazing and that they don’t deserve to be a part of it. But after I do a write up on them, and make them aware of all the great things they’ve done, they realize that they are important after all. Some of these people are professionals, some volunteers. Some are people who succeeded in losing weight or overcoming obstacles which can inspire others who are going through the same struggles. Whether they are doing a lot or a little, they are still doing something and that’s all that matters. I started the local heroes page because I wanted to showcase some amazing people who have really inspired me and thank them. I also wanted to tell their stories to see if it would inspire others. While I may not be ending world hunger by doing this, it’s something.

When we take just ten minutes out of our day to do something healthy, that’s something awesome. We may not know how one kind word we say to someone might inspire them to totally change their outlook of life. All these things seem so small, but they matter. There are so many people in my life who have inspired me just by saying one thing or doing their job well. They didn’t have to be multi millionaires or the president of the world to do it. They were just being true to their hearts. So, today I’m reminding myself to just do something to remind the world that we are all important.

This month’s local hero is Sue Press, fellow Parkinson’s chair instructor and cancer survivor. You can read about her by clicking here:
LOCALHEROES

PostHeaderIcon Science, Yoga, and Free Will

A popular study done by David Libet showed that when we make a decision to move, unconscious parts of the brain are activated before we even make a decision. This tells us that most of our actions are not determined by our rational conscious mind, but by our subconscious. Does this mean that we don’t have a choice over our actions? Is everything predetermined? This study brought back the age old question, do we have free will?

I wouldn’t jump on the determinism band wagon right away. As a personal trainer, I have learned that if a person doesn’t believe in their ability to change, they have nothing to motivate them. A large study in New Zealand showed that people who believed in their own free will were much more likely to be successful in any undertaking.

The truth is, much of what we do is determined by our subconscious, but if we force ourselves to be aware, it becomes conscious. For example, some clients come to me with incorrect muscle movements. For any number of reasons, they move in ways that can be harmful to their bodies. While they may not be aware of this, something in their subconscious makes them think it is okay to let’s say, hunch their shoulders while doing a deltoid lift. When I try to correct them, their first reaction is to say, “This is the way I am. I can’t change.” Unfortunately, being content with this line of thinking will lead to shoulder impingements later on in life. I know many older adults who have shoulder issues because they have been doing exercises wrong for so many years.

When a person trains with me for a few more weeks and I make them concentrate on ways to use the correct muscles so they can change their incorrect and dangerous movements, they succeed in moving a different way. With practice, they start subconsciously moving the correct way. This proves that even subconscious movements can be changed to conscious movements if we apply awareness. Once we do this, we change our subconscious habits. This is good because we can change negative habits that sabotage our health into positive ones that feed our health. We can change our habits.

Even the act of breathing, once thought of as an involuntary movement can be made into a conscious movement. The yogis have proven that control of the breath can even give them the power to change their own heart rate and blood pressure.

More on breathing here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=318

The other day, I was listening to a lecture by Bruce Lipton on epigenetics. This is a new science that explores how our genes react to our environment. For example, if we feed our cells certain foods, they either become healthy or intoxicated. How we breathe, move and think greatly affects our health and our genes. Many times, it is our attitudes and perceptions that make us healthy or unhealthy and we can see this when we look at how stress affects our body.

Stress is caused by perceived fear. When we are afraid, our body secretes hormones that cause us to fight or run from the danger. All the blood in the body is rushed to our arms and legs for survival purposes. The body takes blood away from digestive organs and the organs that are used to fight disease. While this helps us survive a dangerous environment where predators lurk in every corner, our body was never meant to be stressed on an ongoing basis. Taking blood away from other functions makes our immune system weak and more susceptible to all diseases. It also takes blood away from rational parts of the brain and puts it into more primitive parts of the brain, lowering our I.Q. Stress seems to be a catch term in our modern day society and people are constantly complaining about it.

People perceive dangers in every corner. Is there someone at your job who rubs you the wrong way? Does she bring you stress? If we think of her as an evil witch who can take away our personal power just by looking at us, then yes, she will. She will make our stress hormones release every time we see her, markedly lowering our immune system. But if we realize that she is just human and has no power to hurt us just by saying the wrong things, then we won’t be stressed. We can brush off her attitude and move on with our lives. So, our perceptions have a great influence on our health.

We may not be consciously aware of the reasoning behind our perception. Perhaps we were abused by a family member who looked like her or said the same things that the person who rubs us the wrong way does. Maybe we were bullied by a kid that said the same things she did and whenever we hear her words, we want to run or fight. Subconsciously we see her as a threat and become stressed by her even if we don’t want to. Unfortunately, many people can’t help the way they react in life because of how they were conditioned growing up. People ask themselves, why can’t I change my situation? Why can’t I stop the negative thoughts in my mind? Why can’t I end my addiction to food, drugs, television or video games? The reason is because they are subconscious reactions to how we were taught to perceive the world. We never made a conscious choice to be stressed, overweight, addicted or weak in the wrong muscles. We are just reacting to our environment.

This is where awareness comes in. If we can end the chatter in our minds that is nothing but a subconscious recording of how we were conditioned to act in life, we can start to consciously make changes. Yoga teaches us to still the mind and bring awareness to what we are doing right here and now. Even doing physical yoga poses, and teaching ourselves to bring awareness to how we feel in the poses teaches us to use our conscious thinking to guide us. When I teach my regular yoga classes, I try not to preach. What I have to say doesn’t matter. My main goal is to help the students still their minds, be aware of their breath and bring awareness to how the poses affect their bodies, so they can be aware of their own habits and tendencies. Only then will they be able to change anything.

Taking the time to practice awareness can literally change a person’s life. It teaches us to stop reacting to what is going on in the outside and pay attention to who we are on the inside. What do we want? How do we want to live our lives? What makes us happy? What feels good? What doesn’t? Why?

So in the end, yes, much of what we do are just subconscious reactions, and if we were ever raised on any negative ideas, that isn’t very good news. However, through awareness, we can change those patterns in our muscles, our brains and in our cells. There are many resources out there to help us do it. Guided meditations help because they help us tap into that subconscious state so we change our unconscious patterns of thinking. In fact this is the idea behind hypnosis and this is why it is often used to help people lose weight and end addiction. We can take yoga or pilates class that emphasizes awareness of the body. We can find a personal trainer who will make us aware of how we move our bodies and help us change our habits. We can also learn to meditate or try neurolingquistic programming techniques. These are coaching and psychological techniques that teach us to ask specific questions and replace old perceptions and habits with new ones.

For more information on relieving stress, check out these posts:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=256

http://heroestraining.com/?p=169

For more information on using meditation to help change our habits check out these posts:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=206

http://heroestraining.com/?p=653

PostHeaderIcon Memoirs of a Chubby Kid Who Wanted to be an Athlete

Some people may look at me and think, “She doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle like I do. She’s already in such good shape.” This wasn’t always the case. When I was a chubby kid, I had all kinds of self image issues. I injured my back three times in my life. I’ve also dealt with a knee injury, a hamstring injury, and a groin injury. Like many moms, I dealt with an awful laceration when giving birth to my large son, while the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. I know what it’s like to have never been fit. I also know what it’s like to lose the ability to move and have to start over from scratch.

The hardest part of my job is teaching group fitness classes that cater to mixed levels. I give many options and modifications in my classes. It’s still difficult for a beginner, who has never taken a fitness class before, to do the easier modifications while those who have been doing it for years are doing harder moves. “Just do the beginning move,” they hear the perky instructor say, as if it were no big deal, as if it’s not a blow to the ego to realize that one is not as fit as everyone else.

I know how you feel. Actually, most of us do. Some of the greatest athletes were beginners once, eating everyone’s dust as they struggled in the back of the herd. It’s okay to be a beginner. To be a beginner is exciting. It means you are doing something you haven’t done before and there is nowhere else to go but up.

I still recall my first week of high school. I spent the summer working out at a gym for the first time in my life. I wanted to take the next step and lose more weight so I joined the cross country team. Everyone else on the team was so fit. I struggled, barely being able to run. I wanted to be able to run like them, but I couldn’t. They could run for miles and miles. I barely jogged and walked the warm up.

On Friday of that first week of school, a boy who knew my older brother teased me and said that my brother told him that I joined the team to lose weight. That day, after practice, I cried. The stress of my first week of high school had built up inside me and I let it all out.

The main thing that gets me, when I look back at this memory is the horrible feeling of embarrassment I had for wanting to lose weight. It was true. I didn’t want to be the chubby one anymore. I was tired of the fat jokes. I was tired of being slow. I wanted to be thin. What was wrong with that? First I was ridiculed for being overweight. Now I was being ridiculed for wanting to do something about it.

I’m sharing this memory with you now because I want you to know that you are not alone. There were times when I felt overwhelmed and wanted to give up. It’s a perfectly normal feeling, especially if you are new to something. Think of the first time you started a new job. In a way, the physical part is easy. The psychological part, the part that is dealing with the stress of change and the reactions of those around us is the hard part.

By the end of my first week of school, I had blisters all over my feet. My coach told me to purchase running shoes but I told him the sneakers I already wore were brand new and that my parents couldn’t afford new running shoes.  I guess my coach got tired of seeing me kick those shoes off because of my blisters, preferring to run on the football field grass. One day, he pulled me aside. He said that he liked my spunk and that if I kept trying, even though I could hardly jog, I would get better. He gave me a check for 100 dollars to spend on running shoes. He told me that it was scholarship money.

I couldn’t believe it! It seemed like so much money and I never spent that much on shoes before. I bought my first pair of Nike running shoes with that money and they felt amazing. It made me feel like a real athlete.

I probably would have quit if people like Coach Martin hadn’t supported me, letting me know that not giving up is better than winning right away. On my first cross country meet, I almost finished last. There might have been one or two girls behind me. I learned what it was like to literally eat someone’s dust. A whole herd of girls ran ahead of me, kicking dust into my face, mouth and eyes. Before I knew it, they were out in the distance and I was alone in the back with a few of the stragglers. At some point of the 5k course on hills, a new group of girls passed me. Yes, another race started and I hadn’t even finished the first one. Struggling up “pukes peak,” a steep hill at the end of the race, was shear torture. Still, I didn’t give up. My goal was to finish the race and I did.

I ran cross country throughout high school and discovered martial arts in the meantime, something I could get really good at. Over the years, I discovered more movement modalities such as yoga and pilates. I learned that exercise isn’t just about weight loss and muscle gain. Exercise can be used to achieve relaxation, rehabilitation, energy and healing. Over the years I have helped athletes, seniors, kids, beginners and elite practitioners, all with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

I want everyone to know that there are so many fitness modalities that can help you in your journey to being healthy and strong. You just have to start looking. Try walking, running, dancing, martial arts, yoga, weight lifting, aqua classes, chair classes or many more. We are all on our own journey, a journey that will make us explore our bodies and minds. It will make us come to terms with what we can and can’t do, and what it means for us to be healthy.  I hope to offer to my support, no matter what your set backs and accomplishments might be.

For more personal stories and struggles check out:

Be Kind For Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=502

PostHeaderIcon Meditation: THE ILLUMINATED PERCEIVER VS. THE AFFLICTIVE MIND

Often we will be told to find “awareness,” but what does this mean? Yoga teaches that we can separate the parts of the mind. When we meditate, we find ways to observe our own reactions, subconscious impressions and emotions.

Some translations of the Yoga Sutras call the part of our mind that is able to observe itself, “the perceiver.” To me, the perceiver is the part of us that has common sense, a knowledge and acceptance of how things truly are. When we meditate, the perceiver is the accepting friend and counselor in our head. Someone once told me that common sense is not so common, but I think we call it “common” because deep down inside, we know the truth. The hard part is accepting it. Only when we are in touch with the perceiver, or our illuminated mind, will we react with common sense. If we are confused or overwhelmed with “afflictive emotions,” we will react in a destructive manner.

In this post, I will attempt to describe the difference between the perceiver and the afflictive mind in a way that we can relate to in our modern lives. I will also offer suggestions on how to tap into the perceiver while meditating or dealing with life’s problems.

The difference between the perceiver and the afflictive mind:

The perceiver is our true self. It is our higher state of awareness. The perceiver is enlightened and when we tap into it, we are in touch with what religious people call God. Non-religious people call it a higher power that can see and accept the way of nature.

The afflictive mind is not our true selves. It is simply the toxins that confuse us into being someone that we are not. The Dali Lama described it in a wonderful way. He said that our true selves are like pure water. The negative emotions such as pride, anger, hatred, jealousy etc. are toxins that cloud the water. However, pure water is still there. We simply need to rid ourselves of toxic emotions and we will find peace and knowledge.

If you are having difficulty tapping into the perceiver during meditation, simply tell yourself that you are not your anger and you are not your jealousy, etc. If you were not emotional, how would you act and how would you feel?

Pretend that you are talking to an objective friend, mentor, adviser, family member, or spiritual leader. What would that person say if you came to them for advice? If you were God or an omniscient being, how would you look at the situation?

The perceiver is detached from prejudice emotions such as greed, lust or hatred. Yet, detachment doesn’t mean that the perceiver is a sociopath or doesn’t care. It is the perceiver’s supreme love and compassion that makes it understand that all life is important and that we are all interconnected. Knowing this makes it want to help all living things and refrain from harming ourselves or others.

The afflictive mind identifies and clings to its emotions. When it is enraged, jealous, confused, or violent, it may say “this is who I am.” It may hang on to hatred for another country or person. It will unfairly side only with people who are like him/her. It cannot see how we are all connected. It grasps on to identities such as race, religion, politics and pride.

During meditation, focus on how we are all alike. We all live. We all suffer. We all feel pleasure. We all have bad days. We all get angry or frustrated. If you are having a hard time understanding someone who is being ignorant or rude, think of a time that you made a mistake and acted ignorant or rude and try to see yourself in that person.

The perceiver seeks peace.

The afflictive mind seeks trouble and drama.

When meditating, ask yourself if your thoughts and actions are bringing you to a state of peace, or if your actions and thoughts are creating more drama, confusion or trouble.

The perceiver spreads good karma. The definition of “karma” is actions and the result of what we do. Always seeking to do kindness and to spread peace, the perceiver creates success for him/herself. On a small scale, the ability to stay calm and make wise decisions brings the perceiver success in business and relationships. On a higher scale, people may gravitate to the perceiver and his/her wisdom helps people beyond him/herself. These actions also help future generations

The afflictive mind spreads bad karma. The confused mind attaches itself to emotions and reacts with violence, or trouble. This creates drama that could lead to altercations with friends, relatives, co-workers and the law. This bad karma will lead to lack of success and a sad life. On a grand scale, this suffering can spread to others, perpetuating the cycle of war and violence. These actions can be passed on to children and future generations.

Meditating on karma is a very serious matter. Look at how the actions of others have affected you. For example, someone might have insulted you and this has made you angry. In turn, you insult another. If this cycle goes on, it could escalate to more people. Make a choice to become aware and end this cycle.

Choose to smile instead. Say something kind to another. This kindness will spread and will lead to a better environment for you and everyone else.

The perceiver takes responsibility for his/her actions and seeks to find solutions to life’s problems.

The afflictive mind blames everyone and everything else for his/her problems. Passing blame onto others, he/she  relinquishes self responsibility and free will, never finding solutions.

When faced with a problem, take the blame off of others. Instead, take full responsibility. Start brain storming solutions. Ask yourself what you can do and search your mind for solutions. Maybe even research the internet. Write down as many solutions you can.

If we focus on the solution, the universe will reward us with solutions. If we focus on the problem, the universe will react by bringing more problems.

The perceiver is accepting and forgiving of the self and of others. The perceiver knows that the self and others have afflictive emotions. It knows that problems are temporary. It knows that these emotions do not represent who we truly are and it forgives itself and others, choosing unconditional love over judgment and self loathing. By not holding grudges and hanging on to afflictive emotions, peace is easier to find.

The afflictive mind gets angry and frustrated at itself. This makes failures and life’s problems bigger than they really are. It is also hard on others and gets easily insulted when other people have afflictive emotions. The afflictive mind just can’t let go and find peace.

When faced with the ups and downs of life, feeling guilty and beating yourself up will only worsen the problem.

Also, passing judgment on others only feeds the afflictive mind which is obsessed with anger.

Forgive yourself and others.  When you forgive another person, you do it for yourself, so that anger and loathing does not ruin our own life. You’ll be amazed at how much ending a grudge will allow you to focus on bigger and better things.

Ask yourself how the person who has wronged you has made you stronger and thank them for the lesson.

The perceiver understands when there is too much or too little of a good thing. It practices discipline and moderation. It treats the body and mind with compassion.

The afflictive mind may over indulge in pleasurable activities until they become destructive. It might seek to escape in drugs, eating disorders, alcoholism, gambling and other vices out of frustration and self loathing.

Practice awareness in everything you do. Pay attention to how you feel. Take a moment to breathe while you are eating. When exercising, take a moment to see how you feel in order to avoid injuries.

When escaping into drugs or overindulging in any act, ask yourself if this is helping your situation.

If you still can’t stop overindulging, seek outside help.

Because the perceiver has a higher view of the universe, it is stronger in character and principle. It is less easily swayed by suggestion, peer pressure or manipulation.

The afflictive mind is easily swayed by commercials, subliminal messages, insults and psychological conditioning. Some people seek therapy and yoga to find their perceiver because their lives have been controlled by negative conditioning in the past.  The perceiver can stand outside of the mind and see when it has been manipulated.

When you feel strong feelings arise in you, think before you react. Look at your past and ask yourself how your past experiences could have positively or negatively lead to how you react to events today.

When you find yourself wanting to own something just because of commercial advertising, ask yourself you truly need that item and if it is worth the cost.

Turn off the TV and computer now and then to clear your mind of clutter. With the rise of social networking, websites such a facebook can lead to addiction.

The perceiver is the angel on your shoulder. The perceiver is the sensible part of yourself that tells you when you are getting into trouble. It is your higher intuition.

The afflictive mind is the devil on your shoulder. The afflictive mind doesn’t listen to its higher intuition and chooses the lower path which often leads to trouble and regret.

There is an old Native American parable that goes: There is a fight going on inside me between two wolves. One is angry, and full of destructive emotions. The other is happy, calm and full of love.

Which one wins?

The one we feed.

When you feel afflictive emotions rising in you, try not to feed them by seeking council with people who patronize them by perpetuating malicious gossip and hate. Tell yourself that you don’t want these emotions inside of you. Find friends that are objective. Surround yourself with positive influences. Keep practicing awareness. It will come in handy during challenging times. Keep books, poems, essays, mantras, letters or songs of wisdom handy and turn to them when you find yourself feeling negative. Over time, the positive and more intelligent and intuitive part of your mind will win over the negative and destructive part of your mind because you choose to feed it more.

For more insight on how I asked a family member to be “the angel on my shoulder,” check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=607

For more insight on  meditation, check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=206

For more information of the wisdom of the yoga sutras, check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=17

For more insight on the act of compassion, check out this link:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=502

PostHeaderIcon Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall

Introducing my guest blogger Alyssa Curran! Alyssa has done something to hold herself accountable. She started a blog that logs all of her fitness progress. Reading her blog is a fun way to connect with other people who are going through the highly experimental journey of weight loss. Alyssa has made a commitment to health and she holds herself accountable by writing about it publicly. Having a public persona puts more pressure on her to keep her promises as she doesn’t want to let her readers down. What a great way of holding yourself accountable and having other people hold you accountable.

For more creative tips on how to hold yourself accountable, click here:
BUT WILL YOU?
I’d like to share this very entertaining post about Alyssa’s first fitness injury:

Hello all! This morning started out like any other; my alarm clock blared at 6:45, I hit snooze, rolled up in my blanket, nuzzled my pillow and refused to accept the fact that I had to get out of my warm bed and go get sweaty. Then, I heard the “buzz buzz” of my phone, letting me know I had a text. My workout buddy was sick and wouldn’t be going to bootcamp. Instantly, I thought “I shouldn’t go either, especially if she’s not going.” Then, the skinny girl in my brain said “Get yo’ ass out of bed. You have no excuse not to go. HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THIS?!” and with that, I got out of bed, got dressed, and drove to the park. So that was victory number one of the day. Victory #2 is odd because nobody should be happy they got hurt working out, but it’s kind of like this weird badge of honor like, oh, I didn’t get hurt because I tripped on my wedges, I got hurt because I was doing something AWESOME. Tara from Worth Every Ounce ironically posted about this today, too – how getting hurt when you’re doing something cool has way more “cred”. For people working hard to get in shape it’s kind of like, wow, I guess I really am workin’ it! Anyways, how did I get hurt doing something awesome?
Our awesome bootcamp teacher Gordon uses all kinds of creative methods to make sure we get a maximum calorie burn. Today, we all pushed and pulled an orange sled filled with free weights and barbels. I was shocked how hard it was, because the sled was HEAVY and the dirt patch didn’t give it any traction at all.Plus, you have to be way low on your knees and push fast – NOT an easy workout.

PUSH!!!
As I pushed it, my momentum got the best of me and I lurched forward, having that “Oh sh*$. I’m going to fall” reaction. I quickly thought “not on my wrists”, because as a writer and computer nerd, god forbid my wrists get jacked up, but instead I had my knees pointed out…

On my way to a wipe out
Going, gone, gone. I was down, landing on my right knee with all my weight. I cried in pain and the teacher called for an ambulance as I read my last will and testament… JUST KIDDING. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Here’s another reenactment, because I’m all about the dramatic:

Ow, ow!
I laughed it off and got up, a little muddy and a little embarrassed, but it didn’t feel like anything more than a scuffed knee until we started running sprints. I had to jog in place because my little scuffed knee had started to throb in an unpleasant way – and tonight, I have a battle scar of a purple bruise and a swollen knee.
So yeah! Weird, right? Sucks to get hurt, but thankfully it’s mild, and if anything, I feel all hard-core being like “Yeah. I fell. Pushing a sled filled with 70 pounds of weight. What did YOU do today?” Have you ever had a fitness related injury? What was it? How’d you overcome it? I know my poor dad tore his ACL when skiing and his knee has never been the same…

If you’d like to follow Alyssa’s blog and support her in her journey, check out http://doublechindiary.com/

PostHeaderIcon But Will You? (Accountability)

Over the years of being fitness professional, I have focused my attention more and more on the psychological aspects of achieving success in health and fitness. I realized that it doesn’t matter how knowledgeable a person is if he/she doesn’t put that knowledge into practice. I think back on all the people I have known who clearly understood that eating that second serving of ice cream and falling out of their fitness regimen was not good for them, yet they still did it.

So, the question remains, how do we hold ourselves accountable for our actions? How do we ensure that we will do what we set out to do? Just like anyone else, I find it difficult to balance healthy eating with my professional goals and raising a family so I have learned many creative ways to hold myself accountable. I’d like to share some of these findings with you. If these methods worked for me, they might just work for you.

Make a commitment or promise: This is a very simple shift in mindset that has changed my life. I stopped being wishy washy about the things I set out to accomplish. I started making strong promises and commitments. There is a world of difference between saying that you “might” work out or show up to a fitness class if you feel up to it, and promising to be there. When you make a commitment ahead of time, you will set your alarm, wake up, get ready and be there whether you feel like it or not. We can’t let our every day moods dictate what we do in our lives. We need to be in charge of our own destiny. If we don’t commit, we won’t get there. That’s the bottom line, so make a commitment to being the person you want to be.

If you can’t hold yourself accountable, find someone who will: This is where I started getting creative, for it is one thing to let myself down but letting someone else down is something else altogether. Oprah lost weight by hiring a personal trainer who went with her everywhere she went and told her what she should and shouldn’t eat. I did the same thing but for a much cheaper price. I hired my son who is now eleven. I was getting chubby as my busy life was causing me to eat out too much and indulge on deserts that I mistakenly thought I “deserved” due to all my hard work. I knew I needed to stop this. I told my son that I would pay him five dollars for every pound I lost. Of course, if I gained and lost a pound, it didn’t count.

My son latched on to this idea like a pit bull. Nothing makes children happier than the opportunity to turn the tables on their parents and to make money on top of it. My son was relentless. He never let me eat junk food and he forbade me from ordering desert. If I ate too much, he made sure I worked it off. The waitresses thought he was so mean for stopping me when I tried to order a brownie a la mode at Denny’s but he didn’t care. He loved telling me what to do. I lost seven pounds since we started this. The best news is, my husband joined the program and lost seventeen pounds so far. Now my whole family is eating healthy which has changed the whole culture of our household. There is less junk food around and we are all dedicated to eating healthy. My son has gained a new awareness for health as well. It was a win win situation all around.

My son isn’t the only one who holds me accountable. You do too. Yes, you, my readers hold me accountable. My students and clients hold me accountable. My job is to motivate others and if I can’t do what I expect you to do, then I am one big hypocrite. So thank you, for being one of the main motivators for me to be super fit and healthy. I have benefited so much from your support.

This is very important as our friends and family members can sometimes pressure us to eat unhealthy and skip our workouts so we can spend more time with them or so they have someone to drink and eat chocolate with. If this is the case, it is very important to find people who support you in your goals. I tell my son that he is my “angel” because he is the angel on my shoulder telling me to eat right. Of course, I consider him my angel for many other reasons.

Here are some other things you can do to get others to hold you accountable:

Write blogs, form groups, find a workout buddy, hire a coach or make a strong promise to someone else. Sometimes I give people deadlines and if I don’t get something done by then, I ask them to contact me and get on my case. If this happens, I feel bad and make sure I get it done.

For a great example of how to use social networking support to hold yourself accountable, check out my guest blogger: http://heroestraining.com/?p=604

Write it down: Not long ago, I was reading a fitness journal. In it, a study was conducted that showed that if you write down what you eat, you are 50% more likely to lose weight. This method worked for me. As a matter of fact, I had been trying to lose weight after having a baby for four months and I didn’t start seeing results on the scale until I finally wrote down what I ate. I have my clients do this. Most of them don’t realize how they eat until they do this. Writing it down makes a record of your progress and it holds you accountable. You may not realize that you eat more calories than you should or that you starve yourself for hours, lowering your metabolism until you write it down.

Write your goals down as well. There is something profound about a written contract. It sets everything in stone and shows that you are not just thinking about it. Write down your actions in your diary or date book. Write down your workouts and rest days. Set your weekly and monthly goals, Make notes, have a check list. Update it on your blog or social networking site so your friends can hold you accountable. It makes a huge difference.

Ask “how can I” questions: This is something I learned from Anthony Robbins that I find to be so life changing. I learned that the mind is capable of amazing things but if we focus on the wrong things, we waste a lot of time and energy. So, when you want to improve your life, ask questions that are proactive. Instead of asking yourself why the government sucks, or why you weren’t born with a slim waste, or why can’t ice cream be good for you, or why we can’t be more beautiful as we grow older, ask yourself questions that directly relate to what you can do to change your situation. I notice that people waste a lot of time on what they can’t change.

I call these “how can I” questions. How can I write to my leaders so I can improve the current laws? How can I slim my waist now? How can I find a level of health that will make me feel younger? Once we stop blaming the world and start taking responsibility for our actions, change becomes easy but we have to know that it is us that makes the difference, not our friends, our government, our employers or our families. What can I do? I will do this. I have found that when I do something proactive to make a change in my life and in the world, the world follows suit but we can’t expect it to work the other way around.

Meditate on your character: Here is something I did which really turned my life around. I asked myself what character traits I needed to change in order to see a positive change in every aspect of my life. In the beginning of the year I made a list of these character goals:

Slow to anger

Better discipline and attitude towards work

Perseverance

Reliability, keep my word

Honesty and tact

Practice selflessness

Practice humility and support for others

I meditated on these character goals, realizing that if I can improve these aspects in myself, my fitness, relationships and career will all get better. I realized that life isn’t handed to you with a magic pill. Without perseverance, for example, we can’t succeed in anything. After four months of making these character traits my new years resolution, I have seen positive improvements in every aspect of my life.

So ask yourself what beliefs and character traits you need to change in order to help you get to your goals. Ask yourself how you can get there. Make a promise and commitment to get to those goals and find creative ways to get others to hold you accountable.

PostHeaderIcon How To Prevent Injuries and Maintain Longevity

Now that the New Year has started, some of you will be coming out of a hiatus due to holiday stress or illness. Others will be setting New Years goals by starting up a new fitness routine or athletic endeavor for the first time in a while. This puts you at high risk of getting injured. During my career as a fitness professional, I have many students and clients tell me about their injuries. Most of these injuries could have been avoided. A few years ago, I wrote an article about what to do in case of an injury. If you already have an injury, see a doctor and read this article by clicking the link below:

WHAT TO DO IN CASE OF AN INJURY

Today I am writing an article about how to prevent getting injured in the first place. If we can prevent injuries, we will achieve our fitness goals faster because injuries often cause us to stop our routines or exercise with less intensity. While planning out your fitness goals, keep these injury prevention tips in mind:

Leave your ego at the door:

Before you start your work out, resolve to leave your ego at the door. I’ve seen the ego monster trick many people into getting injured. Humbly ask for help if you don’t know how to use a piece of fitness equipment. Do the safer modification in a group fitness class if your gut tells you that the other move is too advanced, even if it hurts your ego. Don’t pile on more weights than you can lift just because you want to impress a sexy woman who is in the same room. Trust me, she’s not looking at how much weight your lifting. Don’t compromise form in order to get the fastest time in the crossfit class. All of these things can get you hurt. The truth is, people don’t care what you are doing. They are worried about their own workout, so put your ego in her place and use common sense.

Always use proper form, especially when dealing with weights:

I have a rule that keeps me safe: If I can’t lift a weight with proper form, I don’t. Bad form puts your spine and joints in a weak position and adding weights to bad form will exasperate muscle imbalances, causing chronic stress and injuries. If you can’t squat with proper form, work on your muscle imbalances first, before you add weights. Find out why you can’t do it with good form. Maybe you have to achieve more flexibility in your shoulders. Maybe you can do a squat with good form, but once you add 100 pounds, your knees start to go way over your toes. That’s when you know that you’ve reached your limit. Give yourself time to get stronger before you add more weight. Maybe you can do 10 squats with good form, but after 11, you start to slouch. Then you know that it is time to take a break at 10. As soon as you lose your form, your muscles have given up and your joints will start experiencing wear and tear.

Achieve mastery one step at a time:

We learn to walk before we can run. When implementing fitness into your life, don’t attempt to run five miles on your first day, if you’ve never walked a mile in your life. Take into account what you are capable of doing and gradually add to that. If you are smart, your goal is to get fit for life. Set long term goals and take it one step at a time. This will prevent injuries and burn out. It will also make you more likely to stick to a fitness lifestyle permanently. After all, if you do it for only three months, you will go back to being unhealthy as soon as you stop. Add a bit more every two weeks to one month at a time.

Always warm up and cool down:

Years ago I got injured because I was a receptionist at a small yoga studio. I was allowed to check everyone in and take the last yoga class, but I had to walk in a few minutes late. I got an adjustment to my down dog before I had even warmed up. I got hurt. It may not seem like a big deal, but jumping into heavy weights or high intensity moves before your body is ready can get you hurt. If you don’t understand the science of warming up, please read my post on proper warm ups here:

WARM UP FOR INJURY PREVENTION AND ENHANCED PERFORMANCE

Balance–Always work the opposing muscles:

Our muscles tense up and get shorter in order to move our bones. For example, our biceps will shorten in order to flex our elbows in a bicep curl. When this happens, our triceps will lengthen and relax because it is on the other side. If we keep doing bicep curls without doing triceps extensions, we will have short and tight biceps and weak and long triceps. This is why we should work both muscles. If you do bench presses without doing rows, you will have short and tight pectorals which will cause your shoulders to turn in and may lead to a hunch back. Therefore, always do rows in order to strengthen your upper back and provide flexibility to your pectorals. If you always do abdominal crunches without working out your lower back, you will have tight abdominals which can cause your lower back to round excessively due to having a long and weak lower back. These imbalances can cause chronic pain and injuries, so always strengthen and stretch the opposite muscle groups.

Balance your fitness:

Speaking of balance, make sure that you aren’t overdoing it in one area of fitness and completely slacking in another. Our bodies need stability in order to protect our ligaments and joints. Therefore, only stretching without strengthening and stabilizing can cause loose ligaments and weak joints. However, only strength training without stretching can cause muscle stiffness and stress. Cardio and aerobic fitness helps circulate our blood, increasing our ability to recover. It also gives us stamina and strengthens our heart. In order to stay balanced and healthy, we need to balance out our fitness.

Learn to differentiate muscle pain from joint pain:

A gold medalist once said that our muscles protect our joints. Once you feel that your joints are in pain, stop. This means that your muscles have given up and you are just putting stress on your joints. If you run without overdoing it, the cartilage in your knees will actually get stronger. However, if you push through joint pain, you will hurt yourself and wear out the cartilage in your knees and hips. I have been applying this rule to my life for years. This is also a great tip because most of the complaints I hear from students regarding injuries are joint injuries due to overuse. Overuse injuries can be avoided if we stop when we are supposed to.

Vary your training:

I stated earlier that we achieve mastery one step at a time. Try not to stop at step one or two. If you do the exact same exercise for many years, you could still get hurt. Maybe the first time you did a particular routine, you felt massive changes in your body, so you kept doing it for years. Then one day, there is an emergency that requires you to move in a different way. Since your body has been programmed to move the exact same way for years, you get injured. The brain and the body are connected by a vast system, but habit can cause some connections to disappear completely.

I also suggest you practice functional moves so that you can use them in everyday life, such as learning proper technique for picking things up off the floor so you don’t hurt your back. Learn to use your muscles in different planes of motion because you just might need to move that way during an emergency. I have had students thank me many times because the moves I taught them have helped them in emergency situations. As I get older, I become more reliant on cross training because my body can’t handle doing the same moves everyday. Moving in different directions gives some of my muscles opportunities to rest while I work out others. Remember, the fitter you are, the less likely you will be severely hurt during an accident. So in order to keep from getting hurt, stay fit.

Weigh the risk of competition:

Many people get hurt during competition but some will say that it was worth it. Before you are about to break your ankle while crossing the finish line in tenth place, weigh the risk of competition and know how far you are willing to go to win. A professional athlete makes millions of dollars putting his body on the line and has the best orthopedic surgeons at his disposal. You have to ask yourself if finishing that marathon or getting beaten up in an amateur cage match is worth the risk of injuring yourself and being out of commission . Ask yourself why you are competing. If you join a marathon to lose weight but break a leg and gain all the weight back, is it worth it? Maybe winning a competition is a life long dream that you are willing to sacrifice everything for. Only you can decide what is best, but definitely premeditate on the risks before you go in the field. Then you will know if it is okay to risk it all and when to ease off and let someone else take the spotlight. Of course, if you want to reduce your chance of getting injured during competition, train smart. Strengthen your muscles so they are ready for the abuse they are about to take. Don’t compete without practicing and training like an athlete. I’ve seen many weekend warriors break bones or wreck their bodies because they competed without training for the event.

Don’t forget recovery:

Make sure you are getting enough nutrients for growing muscles and for recovery. Make sure you are giving your muscles adequate rest and time to adapt, and that you are getting enough sleep in order to avoid overuse injuries or fainting episodes caused by fatigue or low blood sugar.

For a short post on recovery, consistency and why some people practically kill themselves but still don’t improve check out this link:

WHY AM I NOT IMPROVING

PostHeaderIcon Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle.

Today, I took a yoga class with Chaz Russ and burst into tears in happy frog pose… again. The first time this happened, I was taking a hip opening class with Vinnie Marino at the Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival.

The trauma I hold in my hips, thighs and lower back stem from abuse, fear, poverty, anger and athletic injuries in the past. Some of these issues go back years and are invisible to me until I focus all my attention on those areas. When I indulge in my own practice, and experience my own pain, I become more compassionate towards everyone else living in this world who ever had to suffer. I become so grateful that I found the yoga path and that I share the same room with people who are going through the same thing. Years ago, I thought I was alone.

There is a famous quote that has been attributed to Plato and John Watson (aka, Ian MacLaren) that goes: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

This quote is my mantra of teaching. It is also the hardest part of teaching. I know that people come to class expecting to suffer. I know how hard it is to have a body that might have been neglected or traumatized by injuries, aging or disease. The courage that it takes to focus on something that most people choose to ignore is immense. When we challenge ourselves with any fitness regimen, we have to face our greatest weaknesses. We have to fight the demons and the shadows that put us down because we aren’t as energetic as athletes, or strong as superheroes or beautiful as supermodels.

When I say, “isn’t this fun?” while teaching a class. It’s a bit of a Zen koan. I am poking light at our suffering. After all, I wouldn’t want to make things worse. Also, I’m sending you a subliminal message that will hopefully make you want to come back. Yes, I know it’s not always fun but if I can shift your awareness for a moment by saying this, sometimes your grimace turns into a smile and when this happens, it makes my day. I think there is a reason why the pose that makes me cry is called “happy” frog. These funny names are chosen to make light of our struggles. Even though we have to face ourselves and our suffering, we don’t necessarily have to dwell on them.

A woman once told me that she was cycling up a mountain and really struggling to get to the top. She said that when she reached the peak, she heard my voice in her head saying “wasn’t that fun?” I was so pleasantly amused by this story. I am happy that she heard me say this over anything negative.

That being said, I still understand that we are all fighting our own battles, whether mental or physical, outward or inward, in public or in private. When you come to me with your questions and ask me about the trauma you experience in your body, I am grateful because it makes me realize that I am not alone in dealing with my own trauma.

Ian MacLaran expressed this state of compassion well when he said:

This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.

I shall put my heart on my sleave share an excerpt from my diary. This was written a couple of years ago, after experiencing a huge crying fit during Vinnie Marino’s hip opening class:

He had us sit with one leg bent back and the other straight to the side and we had to fold into the center.  I don’t know why it hurt so much.  Probably ’cause I actually hurt myself a while ago, long story.  I found myself adjusting myself a lot and then it happened.  This uncontrollable sobbing just spewed from me.  It wasn’t sorrowful.  I hadn’t just dealt with loss.  I honestly can’t say what it was that made me cry but I cried and cried and continued with the class.  I’ve cried before in yoga. I cried once during shavassana after doing a heart opening workshop.  But this was half way through an hour and a half class, and the funny thing was, I couldn’t stop crying.  I was in a class of a hundred, in a huge tent overlooking the mountains.  Everyone was in their own world on their mat.  I didn’t stop crying until the end of class.

The teacher just gave us the poses and let us experience them.  He played very specific folky music with very significant lyrics.  Almost as if the songs were guiding us through.  I remember lyrics that dealt with letting go, with being okay with who we are.  One song said, “I know you’re in love.  I can see it in you.”  He didn’t have to explain anything.  The crying didn’t stop and I was okay with it.  I was breathing deeper than I ever did in my life as I struggled through the poses, yet I wasn’t struggling.  I was letting go of something that had wanted to be released for a long time. I once wrote in a blog that we are in love with everyone we have ever been and change is hard even if we are changing for the better, but its okay.  We’ll change when we’re ready.  I would deepen my poses, then ease off, then deepen them.  I kept breathing and experiencing everything and I felt that nothing else mattered than that moment and the crying was ecstatic almost.  I couldn’t be happier.

At some point, the teacher made us do happy frog and Danny started sobbing too.  I don’t know if it was because I was.  At the end of the class, I learned that other people had cried and Danny also didn’t know why he cried.  It just happened.  This was one of the most profound yoga experiences I ever had because it was completely out of my intellect.  It was pure acceptance and experiencing.  The only thoughts that went through my head was that I’m okay and that everyone is okay.  It was complete non-judgment and I loved everyone in that moment and it was okay if they were ready or not ready and it was good enough if they tried and I thought of my friends who were struggling with one issue or another and I thought, “they’re okay.”  No one was at fault for anything.  I also thought that we could all put our energy towards self destruction or doing things that would lead to growth, like yoga.  I felt cleansed after that.  That was the true beginning of my vacation, a real shift from my everyday tasks.

PostHeaderIcon Yoga and the Art of Letting Go

Last week, I took a yoga class with Chaz Russ for the first time. Chaz quoted Joseph Cambpell in the beginning of class by saying, “we must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

Chaz explained that a caterpillar must, one day, shed its skin in order to become a butterfly. If we are to mature and grow in life, we must “shed our old skin.”

We tackled poses such as eagle or cow. We crossed our legs tight and bound our arms; so when we finally opened up and let go, it felt so good. I could feel myself shedding my skin, not just the trauma and stress I hold in my hips and shoulders, but the silly restrictions I have put on myself by planning out my life.

At a young age, I created an identity for myself. I was to be an edgy artist. After many years of hard work, I realized that the lifestyle of an actress didn’t suit me at all. This was my decision, yet I have found myself beating myself up for never making it.

I guess I’m at that midlife crisis age when we realize that we aren’t the person we always thought we were.  All the creative visualizing that I have done in the past, regarding who I was going to be in the future got shattered by the lessons I learned along the way. I’m so much more now, than the person I ever thought I could be.

I never knew I would grow up to be a fitness professional. I never imagined the growth and contribution I have achieved from completely re-inventing myself.

So, I ask myself, does it matter if I become a successful billionaire if all I cared about was that goal and learned nothing along the way? Or is it the quality of the journey itself that matters?

How did I love? Did I appreciate life? Did I enjoy the view or was I so preoccupied by my plans for the future that I missed out on all the little moments in between?

Do I bind myself to identities and expectations the way I bind myself in my poses? Do I sometimes forget to release the bind, let go and open up?

Am I so set on sticking to one path that I lose my sense of the adventure, forgetting that other paths may open up?

I am reminded to enjoy the feeling of my yoga practice, to appreciate the serenity and peace that it brings me, and not to beat myself up just because every pose isn’t perfect.

PostHeaderIcon If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall For Anything

Last year 17.5 million people died of lifestyle related diseases that could have been prevented with a change of diet or exercise.  More than 75% of people who start a fitness program give up within three months.   Exercise is prescribed by doctors. It is a must for staying healthy, yet only 10% of the population exercises regularly. The rest are leaving it up to their doctors to keep them alive, relying on prescription drugs to solve problems they would not have if they only got off the couch. Yet, while the average American spends seven hours a day entertaining themselves in front of a screen, most people will say they do not have the time to exercise.

I look at statistics such as these and realize that no matter how much information I offer people regarding fitness, none of it matters if they don’t apply it.

I ask myself why people act so powerless when we have so many choices. One could take a walk, or sit for another hour watching TV; Grab a smoothie instead of a beer; Eat some fruits instead of potato chips for a snack; Order a salad, soup, or lean sandwich instead of a hamburger and fries; Have some water or tea instead of soda. Why do people often take the choice that will destroy their health over the one that will give them vitality?

After much musing over the subject, I have found the answer. People do not take power over their health because it just isn’t important enough to them. They are being led by the commercial media to believe that junk food and material possessions are more important. This will make them weaker and easier to control. We can’t empower ourselves with strong choices if we have no purpose. There is a great quote from the movie, “Sucker Punch” that goes:  If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

So my advice to anyone who is on the fence about taking responsibility for their health is to ask yourself what you really want out of life. What do you truly care about? Some people think about their children or family. If you are diseased or dead, how can you be there for the people you love? Having a healthy lifestyle will bring you energy and a clear mindset. This will help you inspire your loved ones and your community. Are you passionate about your career? How successful can you be once your body gives out on you and you can no longer work with the energy you need to be successful? The money you save by eating nothing but potato chips for lunch won’t make up for the doctors bills and sick days you take, not to mention the loss of productivity that comes from being sluggish due to lack of nutrition and proper movement.

Before I became a trainer, I had injured my back several times. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t carry my son. I could barely walk. When this happened, I made it a point to never be that helpless again. I realized that when I was strong, I didn’t get injured as easily. I realized that if I didn’t keep my muscles strong, my joints would have less support and I would be even more helpless. I realized that if I didn’t lose weight, I would be putting more stress on my injuries. I realized that if I didn’t move, I would not understand my body at all and would be prone to more injuries. I made fitness a top priority, not as an off and on thing, but for life.

Being healthy is at the root of making all our dreams come true and we really have to ask ourselves what we want out of life. If we do not ask ourselves these questions, we are just drifting along.

Write down your vision of what life should be. Be clear about your dreams and aspirations. Whenever you are pressured to do something that does not vibe with this vision, read it again. Let your dreams be the motivator that encourages you to stay healthy. Ask yourself what is important to you, so when someone tries to pressure you to do something that goes against your values, you will have the strength to stand your ground.

Find people who will support your healthy choices. If you don’t know anyone in your immediate circle, there are many support groups online. Also, read materials such as this blog and other healthy periodicals. This way, you will have influences that will pressure you to make choices that vibe with your vision. The best day to start is today. Stop dying and start living.

Check out this inspiring video of a man who went from being obese and disabled for fifteen years before he finally found the strength to lose the weight and learn to walk again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qX9FSZJu448

By Rhea Morales