Tag Archives: Physical exercise

To Get Fit, Flex this Little-Known Muscle

Jungle Book Baloo DancingI’ve been flexing my muscles ever since I was ten. That’s when I hauled home a record from Disneyland, put the needle on a record, and started to dance. That album, titled “Exercise with the Jungle Book,” had Baloo the Bear leading me in early 80’s aerobics (Baloo had a little extra junk in the trunk, so I liked him better than Jane Fonda.) Thirty-two years later, I’m still on the hunt for that next best workout. Be it abs, glutes, or core, I’ll try anything that keeps me engaged and brings results. So when I discovered a little-known, master muscle that boosts all my exercise efforts, I got excited.

What is this mystery strength, and why don’t we hear more about it? 

To answer that question, I’ll share a story often told and retold around these parts, especially during winter. In fact, it was winter in Butte — our highest Montana town – at Berkeley Pit, our deepest toxic wastewater site (locals call it Berkeley Lake.) Butte’s an old copper mining town perched atop the Continental Divide. It weathers blizzards that would otherwise breeze over lower elevations. One whiteout evening in ’95, a large flock of migrating geese decided to take refuge from a storm. Scanning for water, they spotted Berkeley Pit. They landed, free from icy winds. The next morning, Butte awoke to a sad site. Almost 350 winter-white geese lay dead, floating atop the toxic waters of Berkeley Pit.

Not long after the geese tragedy, a chemist returned to the pit and pulled a rope its waters. It was covered in green slime – life. Researchers at Montana Tech identified the slime as algae. Not just any algae, though. This plant could neutralize acid and absorb heavy metals. It literally thrived in Berkeley Pit. Theoretically — if scientists can scale up the algae’s metabolism to Berkeley Pit size – a Superfund site could become just like any other clean mountain lake in Montana.

But there’s more to the story, and it’s this surprise ending that reveals the mystery muscle.

 The only other place those algae have ever been found is in the guts of geese.  Their sacrifice gave birth to new life. Honestly, if I had been there, I would have been too sad and full of guilt to believe such a miracle. After seeing all those geese dead, any hope arising from those toxic waters would have been the furthest thing from my mind.  Nonetheless, only months later, that chemist did something amazing when he took a walk down to the pit. Scanning its depths, he had to peer past grief to see that rope floating just below the water’s surface. To reach into that toxic soup and keep pulling, hand over hand, he had to ignore the doubt that countered each tug of the slimy rope. Finally, he had to reach for hope when he delivered that rope to experts for examination.

That chemist flexed the mystery muscle. He demonstrated a strength we rarely hear about in exercise circles: returning. Not exercising for a while can bring its own form of loss. The decision to return can be hard. I usually grieve all the ground I’ve lost and weight I’ve gained. Still, I want to move again. At first, doubt and fear follow me into each workout. For a while, I have to decide over and over to return again and again. Eventually, repeated returning helps me break through into hope.

Is “returning” really a muscle, though? How does deciding to return actually strengthen things? 

Neuroscientists point to meditation as an example of how returning can fundamentally change our brains. Meditation rides a looping rhythm of focus, distraction, and returning. It’s less about perfect, zero-point calm and more about returning to the moment. It’s this perfecting of returning which changes the brain. In her article, “This is Your Brain on Meditation,” psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding, MD, explains that meditation strengthens the, “Lateral prefrontal cortex: the part of the brain that allows you to look at things from a more rational, logical and balanced perspective.” At the same time, it weakens caustic neural connections which magnify our failures into flaws. Fewer flaws? Balanced perspective? I’ll take some of that (especially when arguing with myself just to get dressed for a workout).

So “returning” really does change things, but how do I start?

For me, the first, hardest, and most important step is to let go of any shame about being sedentary. As my husband, Frank, says, “I can feel all the stupid that I want, but that won’t keep me from acting stupid in the future.” Shame is a waste of time. It doesn’t make me move any more or work any harder. Positive thoughts actually get me moving. Thoughts like:

  • “It took a while to get here; it will take a while to get back.”
  • “The body is smart. It did what it had to do while you were away; it will adapt as you start to move now.”
  • “You may not be able to pick up from where you left off, but you can pick up.”

Like those scientists who returned to the pit after its greatest tragedy, I can return to fitness. There’s no limit to do-overs. When I decide to return, I flex a master muscle of the mind. For sure, the results aren’t instant. Just like any muscle, returning can atrophy without use. Every time I decide to return, though, it gets stronger, and so do I.

Take Home Tip from 100poundsin1year.com

It’s this perfecting of returning which changes the brain.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

“I Hate Forcing Myself to Exercise” plus more in “Just Show Up: Why Movement Matters,” a free weight loss eGuide
New Life in a Death Trap
This is Your Brain on Meditation by Rebecca Gladding, MD, in Psychology Today

More Sassy Weight Loss Stories
from Shelby in Every 100 Pounds eGuide

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Scale the 3rd Week Wall with These 3 Big Ideas

Is your fitness routine fading?  Is that promise you made to yourself getting harder to keep?  Welcome to the “3rd week wall.”  There’s something magical about making it through the third week, and its common to get stuck just as you thought you were doing great.  Don’t get down on yourself.  Instead, read ahead for some tools and tips to help you clear this hurdle and go even farther (first published in Living Well, 2013).

We know what they’re going to say: eat better, exercise more.  As soon as health experts open their mouths, we hear their advice like an overplayed pop hit. Our eyes glaze-over. Our minds go numb. Yet, knowing the latest research hasn’t kept us from a nationwide Obesity and Diabetes epidemic. Why? Is there a missing link between what we’re learning and what we’re doing? Or, is it how we’re learning?   Maybe we need easier ideas, something we can do right now that translates all that advice into real results. We need tips that can come alongside us, not create more conflict with our already-busy lives. While we’re at it, let’s demand something we can do and still be ourselves. Make it not too far out of reach but still inspire us to be our best selves.   In that spirit of uncomplicated accomplishment, here are three revelations which can revive any mission to become and stay healthy.

First, Take a Step Backwards

Alyssa Schrock, Mrs. Montana 2013, recognizes that gap between knowledge and know-how. At a young age, she was diagnosed with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. “Here’s a pamphlet, go figure out a plan,” she quips, mimicking the limp advice she received from her doctor. “No one took the time to explain, ‘This is how you cope. This is what you do.’ As a result, it’s taken me all of fifteen years to learn how to manage my illness.”

Today, Alyssa lectures and educates others about how to navigate health challenges by developing a personal care plan. “I like to work backwards by starting with the end results.” Asking people to envision a fuller life, Alyssa poses questions like, “What do you want?” “Why are you doing this?” “What do you want it to look like?” For her, the answers included reducing her prescription medications, becoming strong enough to care for her family, and increasing her overall stamina. With those kinds of long-term desires in mind, Alyssa then considers short-term actions. “They need to be small steps, things we can do right where we’re at today,” she explains. Every time she progresses to the next step, Alyssa claims a win. It’s those tiny victories which keep her focused, so much so that she now has energy to support others. “I still have tired days when I have to remind myself this is normal for me, but I’m feeling good enough now that I can make my bubble bigger by reaching my arms out to the community, so that others won’t have to walk out of a hospital with a pamphlet and no idea what to do next.”

Think Big, Then Think Even Bigger

Just as Alyssa has learned how supporting her community helps her stay healthy, we may need to unite our health routine with a larger purpose. Often times, we find more motivation when connect with the “why.” Nurturing wellbeing can be an expression of our commitment to something bigger. This bigger picture provides fresh purpose to pluck us from stuck places and create momentum again.

The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center of Missoula – one of the nation’s first women’s only gyms which started 30 years ago – takes that bigger purpose to heart. “TWC women don’t separate caring for their health from caring for the Missoula community; to them, it’s all connected,” explains Camie Evans, Manager and Co-Owner of the club. Their latest investment is a saline pool and hot tub. Recently, The Women’s Club converted to a salt water system. “We hear how important environmental stewardship is to our members, and they’re happier when they know their workout supports their values” says Cathy Schwenk, Facility Maintenance Leader. “We’ve been looking at a saline system for years, but it’s only recently that the technology has become compatible with our facility. We like to say, ‘We’re going green, so your hair won’t have to.’”

Get off the Guilt-Go-‘Round

I once heard a young mom with a large family lament her sedentary lifestyle. “I know I need to get me and the kids exercising more, but it’s not easy,” she groaned. “They say this town is such an easy place to be active, but you either have to have lots of time or lots of money, and I don’t have either.” I nodded my head. She indeed was one of the busiest moms I knew. I also knew, however, that there was a public trail system just minutes from her home. Spotting the gap between what she said and what she could do, I surmise her frustration served more as a deflection of guilt.

Come to think of it, criticizing the sometimes conflicting health advice we receive is an effective deflection, as well. Resistance can cover up guilt over not being healthier. Here’s the good news: guilt doesn’t work, so you can let it go. Guilt is a disconnecting force which short-circuits our best intentions.  Guilt acts like static to our souls; keeping us judging ourselves and arguing with those judgments.  It fuzzes that heart/mind connection where creativity and motivation abide.  So let go of guilt about not exercising enough or eating bad food.

You can create a vibrant lifestyle when you cultivate these ideas. First, begin with your vision for a healthier you. Then, support that vision by connecting with a bigger purpose. Finally, release energy-sucking guilt. Now you can harness all that energy you’ve been using to simply survive the stuckness and shift your focus into drive.

Take Home Tip

We need tips that can come alongside us, not create more conflict with our already-busy lives.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

100 Pounds eGuide:  “Just Show Up: Why Movement Matters.”

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Do Want Your Outside to Match Your Inside? Find out how in the latest 100 Pounds in 1 Year Weight Loss eGuide

When I share my 100 pounds story, people always ask, “How did you keep your will power going to lose all that weight?”

That’s when I nod.  I know exactly how they feel.

Find out how I maintained my will power and cleared common hurdles in, “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside,” the 100 Pounds weight loss eGuide which answers the question, “How do you keep going?”

IWantMyOutsidetoMatchMyInsideCoverSmall100Poundsin1YearIf you’ve been riding the weight loss roller coaster most of your life, then the last thing you need is someone telling you it’s going to be easy this time. I’ll admit it — straight out – easy would be great. Hard sucks. Too hard to lose weight. Too hard to keep it off. Too hard to live with that undying dream of feeling comfortable in my skin again.  That dream never goes away, though, does it? Even people who’ve lost a lot of weight will admit they have trouble matching their new body to their old body image. Even they want their inside to match their outside.

This eGuide stays true to that dream. In witty, practical terms, I cover the mental hurdles I faced while losing 100 pounds in 1 year. In this digital pdf download, I untangle obstacles (It’s never as easy as all the diet gurus want it to be.) I tell stories of how I crossed the gap between what I wanted and my inability to get there. In charting the not-so-straight line from fat to skinny, I unearth the wisdom that taught me how to become a bridge across that gap. Today, I experience life with greater focus, more energy, and expanding joy, no matter what the scale reads. That, in itself, is a huge lift of weight. I hope this eGuide inspires you to launch your own lift.

Buy eGuide from 100 Pounds in 1 Year

Curious why “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside” is different than everything else you’ve tried before?  Try this on for size…

  • I won’t schmooze you with easy, but I will share the insights that super-charged my ability to keep going
  • Gut-level insights to dismantle the mental mud that keeps us stuck
  • Power-packed truths which most weight loss books like to leave out (the messy stuff too complex for simple how-to’s)
  • Inspiration to relieve your burdens and boost you up when the couch beckons
  • When you share in my struggles, then you get to enjoy the triumphs, too!
  • PLUS:

Every 100 Pounds in1 Year eGuide containsBuy eGuide from 100 Pounds in 1 Year

To wet your taste buds, here’s a sneak-peek at the Table of Contents:

  • I Want My Outside to Match My Inside
  • 3 Ways to Get Small or Go Big
  • Am I the Fat One or the Skinny One?
  • Take a Vacation from the Diet War
  • The Funnel of Love
  • Switching Gears
  • Putting the Cart Before the Horse
  • The Gap
  • Bonus Chapter: Living in the Between
  • Reflection Worksheets

100 Pounds eGuides Now DownloadableWhat is an eGuide?

Your 100 Pounds weight loss eGuide is a handy, electronic download.  You can take it anywhere you go:  your phone, your tablet, your computer, the Cloud!

 One reader says:

“Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book on it or something.”
— Ashley
Buy eGuide from 100 Pounds in 1 Year

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

100 Pounds eGuides Coming Soon

Get More Results Out of Less Effort: Learn from the mistakes I made, and the lessons I gleaned, through my 100 pounds journey.  Packed with lots of smart, time-saving ideas to keep you motivated.

What do you think?  Comment below and you will be automatically entered in a monthly drawing for a FREE 100 Pounds Weight Loss eGuide.

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Dang! I missed my workout – again!

62 pounds lost so farI’m crashed on the couch, and it’s not the good kind of crash.  The cushions lack that indulgent give I enjoy after a tough workout.  Instead, the weak squish reminds me of the laziness I sense inside.  I’ve fought to avoid this feeling most my life.  This limpness of will saps my energy.  I’m too tired to exercise but too desperate to be OK with it.  I want a rest, from both my lethargy and the guilt of missing yet another workout.

Fact:  I don’t always feel like exercising
“I’m just too tired today,” I tell myself as I roll onto my other side to quiet the gnaw at my lower back.  My exhaustion makes sense.  Forty years have escorted me to the other shore of life, and I’m ramping down into peri-menopause.  Hormones are ebbing.  Energy is waning.  Plus, since I manage Bi-Polar disorder, it’s taken a few months to recalibrate my meds.  Another “guinea pig” phase.  I haven’t located that sweet spot again.  It occurs to me — while becoming part of the couch – that, although I’ve adjusted my meds, I haven’t adjusted my thinking.  I still hold the same exercise expectations I had when I was twenty.  Those ideals loom far from my new reality.  Honoring them has actually backfired by creating too much space between who I am today and the healthy, happy woman who has always lived inside.  In reaching for my goals, I’ve actually pushed myself farther from her.  No wonder I don’t feel like myself.

Fact:  my reactions don’t usually help
Whenever I miss a workout, I usually react in one of two ways:  do more or do nothing.  Doubling tomorrow’s workout seems a reasonable reaction.  I won’t lose anything, and I can rest easy today.   When I’m too tired tomorrow, however, then I’ve got three workouts to do the day after.  Not likely to happen.  Double-up discipline usually leads to quitting.  I call it the “Bible in a Year” Syndrome.  You know the ideal:  read x number of pages every day, and by day 366, you can say you’ve read the entire Bible in one year.  Good intentions; faulty plan.  After getting bored with Deuteronomy — and tacking on yesterday’s readings for the third day in a row – I’m up to 30 pages and hundreds of “begats” to sludge through.  Too much expectation guarantees give up.

Fact:  I still want an active life
My other reaction involves a hefty dose of guilt.  Guilt loves to hang with me on the couch.  It maintains power because, honestly, I love being active, and I don’t like it when I’m not.  Guilt puts me on the stand and cross-examines my resolve, so I have to prove my loyalty over and over again.  Consequently, I walk around half-heartedly threatened, like I’m only one missed workout away from a remote control lodged between my fat rolls.

Fact:  I’m ready to think different
I want to get creative and figure out what it would take to avoid this moment the next time (‘Cuz I know there’s going to be a next time.)  I need new tenets which allow me to be who I am today and encourage me to move, without doubling expectation or feeding guilt.  After some thought, I’ve got an idea:  fitness tiers.

Using fitness tiers is like moving among floors of a house.  The top tier can be for more energized, “power” days; the second tier for medium “recovery” days, and the third tier (or ground floor) for easy “incubator” days.  When I’ve got lots of energy for a challenge, I could take the stairs to the upper floor and clock a sweaty workout.  When I’m dragging a bit, I accept my lower energy level, move to the second floor and enter my “recovery” space.  Here, my day’s goals are framed around maintaining my fitness, no pressure to improve.  When energy drops to couch-worthy, I’ll call for room service on the ground floor and retreat into “incubator” time.  I’ll still move for a short bit, just to stick a bookmark in my psyche, but I’m giving myself permission to rest until energy returns.

Once my levels are established, then I can envision the kind of movement I want within each tier.  For example, this is how I’m defining my tiers so far:

  • Power Day:  move 60 to 100 minutes and include some extra-challenging intervals (I’ve worked up to this level, after starting out moving just 10 minutes each day.)
  • Recovery Day:  cut my time in half, move 30 to 60 minutes
  • Incubator Day:  move 10 minutes, doesn’t matter how, just move

I bet fitness tiers could help remove other exercise obstacles besides energy level, like limited time or inconsistent travel.  If time keeps me from exercising, then I might define three different tiers of availability.  If travel nixes my options, then how about three different tiers defined by modes of travel?

Fitness tiers are less about the intensity of moving and more about keeping me motivated.  Still, that doesn’t mean I’m settling.  I’m disciplined, but I answer to me, not the workout.  I bet, after using my fitness tiers for several weeks, I’ll actually move more.  Without trapping myself in expectation or guilt, I just might finish more workouts.  I may have a couch moment, but you can bet I’ll be flexing my core or doing some leg raises while I’m there.

Take Home Tip

Fitness tiers are less about the intensity of moving and more about keeping me motivated.

Explore It More By Following the Links BelowSave Me from Myself: a Freakonomics podcast which explores
how a commitment device forces you to be the person you really want to be.
What could possibly go wrong? 

Guilt Free Fitness with Fitness TiersCheck out more fun vision boards about Shelby’s journey at her Pinterest page.

100 Pounds in 1 Year

100 Pounds in 1 Year

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Why I Already Have What I Desire, No, Really, I Do

 

Trigger: /ˈtrigər/ (verb) Cause (an event or     situation) to happen or exist; to touch off.

60 pounds lost so farDo you have a trigger?  No, the better question is, “What is your trigger?”  I can’t imagine anyone NOT having some sore spot that opens wide when the perfect storm of circumstance fires an arrow fast through all those layers of self-protection and hits a hard-core bulls-eye, as if the armor didn’t even exist.  Has that ever happened to you?  It has to me.  In fact, it’s happening right now.

I’m writing this post at Bernice’s coffee shop, seven hours after my trigger hit.  I still feel a residual burning in my stomach.  I’ve tried all my go-to work-arounds:  talking it out, deep breathing, asking for hugs, fresh-squeezed juice, looking at the big picture, exercising into exhaustion.  Yet, I have a cup of coffee and a cream cheese Danish next to my computer.  Hold on a sec… just took another gooey bite.

Damn, that tastes good.

This is my world of emotional eating.  This time, I’ve not quite descended into the gorging nightmare that used to be my stress response, as I have collected some back pocket understanding along this journey  For example, I know I’m a “sensual” comfort personality type; meaning, when I stress out, physical comforts like food or massage can chaperone me back to sanity.  Knowing this, my danish doesn’t have near as much guilt sprinkled on top.

Hours before, however, I got a big bite of stress.  I knew pulling out the get-er-done stick wouldn’t work because that’s what caused my panic in the first place.  There was too much to get done already.  Too many people wanting too much time.  I couldn’t keep all my commitments, let alone the promises I’ve made to myself.  No time to work out.  No time to write.  No time to do the things I know to do in order to shape my dreams into reality.  My brain went flat line, overheated by the pressurized push and pull between responsibility and desire.  My body kicked into fight or flight, and I couldn’t do either.  I spent the day stewing in a toxic brew of cortisol, which – I also know – is the ideal way to stay fat (learn more at my post, Chronic Stress and Weight Gain).

This I know for sure:  if I want to outgrow my emotional eating — learn, heal, or do anything worth doing — all I need to do is begin to desire.  I’m not talking about craving a danish.  I’m talkin’ Big D Desire.  I’m unpacking that secret box, the one we all keep buried in our heart’s closet of best intentions, collecting dust like unused sports equipment.  Desire laden with regret as hard and cold as a bowling ball.  For years, I moth-balled my desires.  Then I decided to lose 100 pounds in one year.  That was a big deal for me.  Surrendering to this desire was scary, vulnerable, and very, very brave.  Desiring is a courageous thing to do.  To understand why, all I need is to notice how much I distract myself from doing exactly that.  In my worst years, I chose denial over desire because I thought that would keep me from my pain.  On most days, though, it’s much easier to ignore Desire and stay too busy with everyday life.  That’s why Desire is enough to get the healing process started.  I don’t have to go diggin’ and scrubbin’ for something to fix inside.  Keeping myself in that desirous space will bring plenty of opportunity for profound work.

Most of my life, in order to keep me too busy, I’ve used my Story.  Just like everyone has a trigger, everyone has a Story.  It’s the play of thoughts and emotions we act out, sometimes knowing what we’re doing, sometimes not.  In our Story, we are — at once — the lead, the audience, and the critic.  The stage is our life.  The circumstances may change, like this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park players, but the script reads the same.  This morning, my Story had me as its captured audience.  It would have had you hustling to the popcorn machine during intermission.  Would you have ordered extra butter?

As I was getting ready for the day, familiar thoughts appeared like titles for each act.

Act 1: There’s too much to do.

Act 2:  I can’t do it all.

Act 3: I am not enough.

I can slather a balm of sooth-sayings atop those cutting thoughts.  There’s lots of understanding responses to every Story.  The problem is, a Story must stick to the Story.  Caring words are often rewritten to bring the play back ‘round to plot.  It’s like having an OCD automaton for a script writer.  For example, if I believe I’m not enough, then I’ll edit the kindest thought and boomerang it around in my head until it establishes that, once again, I am not enough.  I’ll prove my point, even to my own detriment.

How does this relate to pounds on the scale?  Consider, if I believe I am not enough, plus I’m a sensual comfort personality type, then I’ve got two options when it comes to my relationship with food

  1. Eat until I’m stuffed, creating a physical sensation of more than enough
  2. Keep weight on, building an actual barrier of body fat between me and the world, thereby making up for the weakness of my lack

There’s only one way I know to short-circuit my Story.  Compassion.  Self-understanding is a form of forgiveness which can disarm the toughest triggers.  Ironically, it’s also one of the last tools we think of when it comes to weight loss.  Jean Fain, a psychotherapist at Harvard Medical School instructor, talks about the importance of compassion in her book, “The Self-Compassion Diet.”  She explains, “Most plans revolve around self-discipline, deprivation and neglect.   Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan,”  OK, Jean, I’m going to experiment with compassion right now, in this coffee shop, with this post.  Here goes…

First, compassion begins by asking me to resist the temptation to label my Story as a villain.  “Why not choose gratitude?” it suggests.  I can thank my Story for serving a needed purpose.  O.K.  I’ll try it out…

I want to be enough.  I can see how my Story of “I am not enough” holds the promise that someday – maybe even this time – I will be enough.  Thank you, Story, for keeping that desire alive.

O.K.  So far, so good.  Next, compassion dares me to believe that I already have my deepest desire.  This is hard to see.  No, actually, it blows chunks.  Here’s what I want to say to that lovely nugget of wisdom…

Don’t tell me I am enough when, obviously, I’m not.  You can’t tell me what to do.  Everyone is telling me what to do.

Compassion isn’t putting up a fight.  It’s just there, quiet, letting me rant.  I’m staying angry.  I’m imagining a backstory of tiny offenses to support my victim identity.  I’ll do this until I’m ready to not do it anymore.

Intermission

After all that, compassion still won’t condemn me for my tantrum.  This level of unconditional acceptance calms my defenses, and I feel safe enough to look deeper.  At these depths, stuff just seems to leak out unguarded, like it almost wants to be seen.  If I’m honest with myself…

I want to be not enough.

It’s what I’m used to.

It’s what I’ve always known.

If it wasn’t this stress today, I would find something else tomorrow.

I think I am addicted to my Story.

Compassion is nodding, not with condemnation but with caring.  I hear, in a soft, motherly voice, “That’s not all you are.”

I want to lean in.  If compassion had a shoulder, I would rest on it.  Finally, the acid in my veins is disintegrating.  I can take a deep breath.  This time, each expanding inhale reminds me that compassion is right; there is more to me than this.  I am looking around.  I remember my day.  I see a new reality…

I did get a workout in today.

I am writing, right here, right now.

I will encounter understanding when I explain why I had to ditch out.

While I’m being honest…you should know that I just deleted two paragraphs that I had spent 15 minutes writing.  At this point, I’m tempted to lift my struggle up into a hopeful, insightful bundle of lessons learned and bridges crossed.  If I could send this post to you via snail mail, I would wrap it in a pretty bow.  That’s what I was doing with those paragraphs.  Then, I thought…does it have to always end on an up note?  Sometimes, sure, yeah.  This time, though, I would be cheating you and me both out of a truer truth.

No matter how stressed I feel, how enlightened I might sound, or how messy the space between those two extremes becomes, one thing remains:  I am.  I am not enough, or I am enough.  But I always am.  I am stressed, or I am at peace.  Still, I am.  What if I am is the point of it all?  What if I don’t just set the standard in my life, but I am the standard?  If that could be true, then there is no such thing as falling short or not being enough.  Neither is there such a thing as wanting too much or being too this or too that.  I am is the benchmark.  I am is flexible, too.  It measures exactly enough while still holding limitless potential.  When I start arguing with that paradox, or devising a method to skip over it, then I get into trouble.

My methods usually depend on judging some part of me “good” or “bad,” then making adjustments from there.  In contrast, compassion refrains from judging.  It sees me as whole, even as I birth another sub-species of angst in the diverse ecosystem called “me.”

Where do I want to end this?  No bows in sight, so I’ll just say that I am.  There is no right me.  There is no wrong me.  Sure, I can gain more traction with some choices more than others, but always, I am.  What I really desire, what I truly want, if for this I am to taste sweeter than any cream cheese danish.

Take Home Tip

This I know for sure:  if I want to grow, learn, heal, or do anything worth doing, all I need go do is desire.

Explore It More By Following the Links Below

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges

“The Self-Compassion Diet” by Jean Fain

You Already Have What You Desire, No, Really, You Do

Enjoy more Vision Boards at pinterest.com/100Pounds/lose-100-pounds-in-1-year/

Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet:  to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.  She began on Thanksgiving 2011.    Will she make it?  Find out by joining Shelby on this journey, not only of the body, but of the soul and mind.  Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.  She also writes a blog about what it means to be true to ourselves at RadicallyAuthentic.wordpress.com.

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Start from Anywhere

bicycle wheel“You can start from anywhere, but begin.” – Osho

What’s the best way to begin a new exercise routine?  That’s a question on many minds as the lazy, sun-tanned summer cools into crisp fall days.  As nature begins to tuck herself in for a wintery rest, I feel like I’m waking up; imagining possibilities and making plans.  Fall has always been like this for me, bringing a surge of zest to infuse me with can-do spirit and inspiration.  I dust off notepads; the quadrille ones are my favorite.  Their grids of uniform squares help my whirlwind of ideas fly in formation as I outline topics and sub-topics.  I love to plan.  I especially love to craft new exercise plans.  I’ve filled pages with charts and timelines detailing new regimen; months broken down into weeks, weeks broken down into days, days broken down into hours.

Unfortunately, I’ve often loved the planning more than the exercising.  My schedules looked stellar on paper, but follow-through in the gym wasn’t nearly as pretty.  I might have stuck to my schedule for a week or two, but then it all got too much; too much effort, too much list-checking, too much expectation.  I would let my routine slide — workout by workout — until I gave up; my spirit slumped at the base of this mountainous goal I had built for myself.  My mind became littered with guilt, disappointment, and resentment, like the oxygen containers scattered along abandoned routes to the top of Mount Everest.  All my hopes for reaching my peak, perching at the top of my self-esteem, and admiring the vast landscape of my accomplishments, they would dissolve, sometimes into tears, like clouds that hit Everest and have no choice but to weep at its towering wall.  I would never bag that peak.

With my history of stopping all that I’ve started, I’m more than a little curious about Osho’s admonishment to begin – anywhere – but just begin.  He describes growth like a bicycle wheel, with its array of spokes poking out from the center and connecting at various points along the rim.  Any of these points are a valid place to start because they all lead to the center.  So, any point is guaranteed to reach the goal.  In Osho’s world, it’s the starting that’s most important, more than the goal, even more than how I get to the goal.  That’s great news for me!  I’m a professional starter!

But how can this work?  Just starting – just moving – doesn’t seem like enough.  After all, I’ve given a lot of exercise routines a lot of effort.  I’ve collected all the smart ideas from the best magazines, poured over best-selling books, consulted with Certified Personal Trainers and college professors, and combined all that information with results from the latest health research.  Then, I mustered as much mind muscle as I could to power these plans into action.  I was like an Irish farmer whipping a bullock through rocky clods to plant a row of blighted potatoes.  It still wasn’t enough.

It’s obvious to me that I have trouble sticking with a program, but forsaking all my best ideas for Osho’s bicycle wheel?  That seems impossible.

Until now.

My plans may have resembled the lock-step march of a precise military procession, but I missed the whole parade.  I never gave myself a chance to discover one, crucial lesson:  I can trust my body.  I was so busy pushing that I overlooked my body’s quiet, humble reaction to movement.  This time, I’ve stuck with my 100 Pounds In 1 Year commitment long enough to notice that, when my body meets a challenge, it responds with strength to do more.  Muscles start to urge, lets go harder.  Lungs whisper, lets do one more.  My heart teases, lets go faster.  When I let go and trust my body to respond, it always asks for more.  Maybe that’s what Osho means when he insists that any point on the wheel can reach the goal.

As far as structure and control, I’m learning why less is more.  In my last post, “What’s the Best Exercise?” I came to the conclusion that the best exercise is the one I’ll keep doing.  It may not be the one that burns the most calories or meets expert guidelines, but it’s the one that keeps me asking for more, too.  When I allow myself to start from anywhere, I always finish feeling strong and new.  Permission to simply move always ends me on a high.  I bagged that peak after all.

Today, I want to discover this new world of fitness without a map or GPS, without tracking the exact coordinates of where I am on the cardio cartograph .  I want to ditch the notepads and spend time with my body.  I want to honor its pleas for rest.  I want to feel its pent-up craving for another challenge.  I want to let go and feel it stride out like an unbridled horse sprinting for freedom.  To be this linked with my body, I need to let my workouts evolve as I evolve.  No more charts and graphs.  I don’t want to miss out on another moment of bliss, unknowing and discovering all at once, starting from anywhere and knowing exactly where I’m headed.

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What’s the Best Exercise?

The BEST workout is the one you'll keep doing.The best exercise is the one you’ll keep doing.  It’s the one that challenges you – not because it hurts so much – because it draws the best version of you to the surface.  When you’re finished, you shine; both on the outside and on the inside.  If you’re not glistening with sweat and satisfy action after your workout, maybe it’s time to shake it up.  This brings us to another obstacle in my “Tips for Getting Over the Exercise Hump” series:

“I’m bored with my routine and don’t know what to do.”

About every four weeks, I get bored with my workouts.  It’s like clockwork.  The standard advice from fitness folks is to spice up my routine with new challenges.  Go a little longer, a little faster, a little harder.  These are not bad ideas.  I found tiny improvements – especially when I first started exercising – helped me stay motivated.  Instead of five minutes on the bike, I pushed for seven.  Instead of ten laps in the pool, I stretched to eleven.  These upgrades were like little celebrations on the way to a big party.  In fact, I started chopping up my progress into littler and littler goals, just so that I could have more to celebrate.  It was a fantastic way to keep my aching body moving forward.

Once I ramped up to a level of endurance which could take me farther and allow me to do more, I had to find new ways to keep boredom at bay.  I’ve found two methods quite helpful:

1)      Grow with the seasons.  Use Mother Nature as a guide for defining your workouts.  This works well in places like Montana where we have four, distinct seasons and lots of outside exercise options.  In the spring, I chose to train for a half-marathon.  Early morning training walks became magical as the dew distilled all those fragrant, spring aromas into crisp air.  I felt alive!  This summer, I’m getting back on my bike and combining my daily commute with my workout.  Feeling the wind against my face, and the speed under my wheels, reminds me of being a kid.  This fall, I will awaken my hiking legs and bag a couple of local peaks with some stellar views.  By winter, I’ll be ready to snow-shoe through the powder and bask in the blue skies of February.  Then, next spring, I’ll brainstorm it all over again.

2)      If outside activity is not an option for you, then I suggest shaking it up with special, short-term programs.  My gym hosts a plethora of five-week classes like:  Core Obsession, TRX, and more.  Adding these topic-specific programs allows you to sample new exercises.  Who knew you could get such a surge in your routine out of a giant beach ball?  How is it that a couple of well-placed straps can reveal muscles you didn’t even know you had?  Using your body in new ways can sculpt and trim your frame quicker and easier.

What if you’ve done all this, however; and you’re still bored?  If you’ve celebrated small goals along the way, played outside, and tested new programs – but still suffer from incessant boredom – it’s time to look inward.  I try something new every four weeks, but I wonder…will I just get bored in another four weeks?  What happens after that?  I’d like to understand this habit of boredom and overcome its numbing power.

I found understanding in an astute observation from Marianne Williamson:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

Marianne’s words challenge me.  Could I be using boredom as an excuse?   If nothing keeps me engaged anymore, then maybe it’s more than boredom.  After all, I’m the common denominator in all this.  Could I be blaming boredom when I’m really just avoiding exposure by my own light?  If I truly lived up to my potential, then I’d have to admit that I am the only one in my way; I bare responsibility for how my body feels and looks, even for how my life looks.   That kind of accountability feels too stark, too bright.

But, I can’t resist the hope inside Ms. Williamson’s words.  If I could learn to live in my light, imagine what I could do!  Imagine how I could feel!  Maybe I could start with small steps – taking a queue from when I first started exercising – and learn to live in my light bit-by-bit.  Maybe my exercise routine is the perfect place to start.

If I could forsake boredom by insisting upon bringing my light to something as simple as riding a bike, then I could discover what’s on the other side of that weary fog.  Where do I start?  By making how I’m working out just as important as why.  First, I want my workout to be something I love which makes me feel more like my true self.  Then, as I’m breathing heavy, I go inside.  I notice how clean and clear I feel.  I focus on each instant, inhabiting the present.  I sense strength as my muscles meet every flex with vigor.  I hear my heart beat solid in my throat.  I tap into a power source greater than breath and body.  I glow with energy.  In this moment, I am the light, and I find myself smiling.

So, if boredom is an exercise hump that keeps you from your light, let your workouts evolve just as you do.  Change, grow, and become the person you’ve always wanted to be.

Take Home Tip

Find a workout which makes you feel more like your true self.

 Explore It More By Following the Links Below

100 Pounds weight loss eGuides: “I Want My Outside to Match My Inside”  “Just Show Up: Why Movement Matters”  “Eat to Thrive”

 

Shelby writes sassy, inspiring stories about weight loss.  In this blog, she chronicles her weight loss journey.    Shelby lives in Missoula, Montana where she works out at The Women’s Club Health and Fitness Center.

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