The Strength Is In The Struggle

February 27, 2017 1:57 am Published by

“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.”
Andrew Carnegie
I have an app on my phone that shows a different quotation every day. Some of them really resonate and others, like this one, are worth sharing.
I reflected on this one, as often happens, on what it means in terms of exercise and fitness and health. Since I have spent what feels like just about my entire life in the fitness world (my first job in fitness was in 1981 when I was 14).
With 35 years in the business, I believe I have heard just about every reason to exercise or, more prominently, NOT to exercise….over the past 4 decades, a recurring theme that seems to come back again and again is that of motivation.
“I’m just not motivated to workout”
“I wish my kids / husband / wife / (insert name of other family member here)…..could get more motivated to workout.”
I’m too busy / tired / out-of-shape / lazy / old / not old enough / (insert other reasons to NOT workout here)……”
“I’d like to workout BUT…….(insert just about any reason here)…..”
Motivation for some people can be a highly elusive element. Here today, gone tomorrow. Affected by life circumstances or weather or whether you feel like it or don’t feel like it. Or whether you like to exercise or don’t like to exercise.
I know for me, motivation has always come from within. I like the saying that the “strength is in the struggle.”
In my experience, people who are intrinsically motivated, are generally more successful at becoming fit and staying fit over the long term. They appreciate and are motivated by the process (“the struggle”) of becoming stronger and fitter. Intrinsically motivated people do not need to search for external reasons to exercise or workout or lead a physically active lifestyle. Their process is not affected by external circumstances. Simply put, they find a way, they are not deterred by obstacles or set-backs. They make it happen. They reach their goal.
I suppose the key is how one becomes intrinsically motivated. At the end of every discussion you will have with yourself. At the end of asking yourself do I go workout today or don’t I? At the end of it all, maybe the key is to ask yourself “why?”
Maybe the problem isn’t what answers you get, but what questions you ask yourself.
More to come next blog…….

New Year’s fitness musings…..

January 2, 2017 2:21 am Published by

January 1, 2017….8:20PM

Just came back from a night-time run in Sunnidale Park, hiking boots and headlamp on to light up the trail through the woods. Got a pretty good sweat going from pounding up some snowy hills and a short jaunt off-trail through thigh-deep snow.

As I returned home, I thought to myself that I have always felt better after exercise. Sometimes I have forced myself to go for a run or workout when I am tired because I know it is good for my mental health, maybe at times, even more so than for my physical health.

I was overweight as a young person. By about 25-30 pounds. By today’s medical definitions, I was Class One obese. I have had some pretty good injuries. 5 skull fractures, reconstructive facial surgery, concussion. Cartilage removed from my left knee. Bone chips and ligaments in my left ankle. 9 stitches under my right eye. Scars and cuts, bumps and bruises galore. I even had an infected lymph node removed from my left hip as a result of getting poison ivy so bad during a solo adventure race in 36 degree Celsius weather where I consumed about 14 liters of water just to get through the heat. All of these injuries are the result of physical activity or working out. One might think that after multiple injuries that I might get the message to slow down or stop or just pack it in.

But I just keep going. Stubborn and maybe a little stupid.

But…..exercise and physical activity has helped me battle through depression and anxiety, grief and loss (both parents, my favorite aunt, a grandmother). Exercise and physical activity has helped me battle through multiple personal and business challenges.

Now, on the first day of 2017, in the year I will turn 50, I find myself contemplating that the single biggest factor that has allowed me to be fit and healthy throughout most of my life, is CONSISTENCY.

For pretty much 40 years, I have never stopped working out or having physical activity as one of the main focal points of my life. This hasn’t been easy. It has meant giving up sleep, sacrificing time with friends and family, missing a million TV shows, getting up early, running and cycling in the dark, in the rain, in the snow, in the sleet, in the cold and the heat (everything from +35 Celsius to -35 winter marathon training).

So, if you find yourself pondering what lies ahead in 2017 in terms of your own health and fitness, consider that the single biggest factor that will get you to your goals, is the CONSISTENT, RELENTLESS, NEVER-ENDING pursuit of physical activity and exercise. Getting fit, and staying fit, is basically just a “sh**load” of hard work. It isn’t convenient. It involves sweat and discomfort and some substantial pain at times. You get dirty and smelly and really, really tired. Muscles hurt. Joints sometimes ache. Bottom line is that getting fit and staying fit, is NOT EASY.

But, I can absolutely, hands-down guarantee you that nothing will ever take you further in life than being healthy and fit. You will never be let down or disappointed if you dedicate yourself to making YOU fit. Your physical health and mental health will be, simply put, BETTER!

So scrap your New Year’s resolution and just decide to get fit. Stop trying and start doing. Be relentless. Don’t give up. Don’t stop because you’re tired or sore or stressed or too busy or too something (fill in the blank with your own excuse here)……

Go. Be fit. Be strong. Stop thinking and talking about it and just move. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you actually do, as long as you do SOMETHING to be active.

Thanks for reading see you soon in the gym or on the road or in the woods.

 

 

 

 

We are all Kaleidoscopes

March 31, 2016 5:17 pm Published by

In my last post, I talked about the spokes in your wheel or the elements of our lives that make us healthy.

Lately, in my own life, I have really been trying to strengthen my Emotional spoke. For years, both as a result of life circumstances and choices I have made, I have neglected this area of my life.

My journey continues…….life-long…..and well-worth the effort…….

I came across the latest album by the band ColdPlay called A Head Full Of Dreams (Copyright 2015). This album is full of introspective songs about life, love, fun, not giving up, forgiveness and the essence of being human. To me, the “gem” on this album is a song called Kaleidoscope.

I wanted to share the song’s lyrics below:

this being human

is a guest house

every morning, a new arrival

a joy, a depression, a meanness

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor

welcome, and entertain them all

be grateful for whoever comes

because each has been sent

as a guide

……Love, Peace, Understanding, Faith, Patience, Forgiveness…..but most of all Love…….

How are the “Spokes in your Wheel?”

March 31, 2016 5:05 pm Published by

As a personal trainer and Kinesiologist, I have spent a lot of time talking to people about health and fitness. In the majority of these conversations, individuals focus primarily on their physical health (mostly involving nutrition, exercise, sleep and how they’re body seems to be “behaving” or “acting” for them).

However, we are so much more than our physical health…..there are a variety of other “health areas” or elements that inter-relate with our physical health.

These elements are much like the spokes in a bicycle wheel…..and if one spoke is weak or diminished, the entire wheel doesn’t work as well. It will be weak, wobbly and the bike’s performance will obviously be negatively affected. Certainly, being “strong” in all areas of health or in all your wheel’s spokes can be a difficult and tricky balance to achieve. However, the “struggle” is well worth it, because every improvement – however small – we make in any area of our health (or “spoke in our wheel”) is an investment in ourselves and the life we each live.

Often, the first step to making improvements in anything, is first building an awareness of what is “weak,” or “challenged” or what needs to be changed.

In this post, I ask you to consider the Spokes in your Wheel…..

Physical – as mentioned above, this spoke encompasses your physical fitness (strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness), how and what you eat, your sleep quality and also how you manage physical risk factors for disease, such as cholesterol, blood glucose, your blood pressure, body weight and other parameters.

Emotional – this spoke involves a huge variety of elements….the impact of your mental health state can greatly affect not only your physical health, but EVERY other spoke in your wheel. Being emotionally healthy can involve how you relate to yourself (do you talk down to yourself, beat yourself up or do you love, support and forgive yourself for your faults and shortcomings?) Are you open and honest about your feelings or do you tend to bottle things up inside and ignore them? How do you handle the stresses in your life? How do you accept and deal with “negative” emotions like anger, guilt or resentment?

Spiritual – do you believe in the presence of a Higher Power acting in your life? Do you pray or worship? Do you consider your relationship to the Universe and your purpose or presence within it? It is well-documented in research that people with strong spiritual connection are healthier and more able to deal with life’s challenges. Do you spend time outdoors or in nature?

Intellectual – how do you think and solve problems? How do you process information? Are you constantly learning and growing in your knowledge? Are you willing to take on learning new skills or advancing your knowledge of an area with which you are unfamiliar?

Occupational – we all need money to live. We all spend a certain amount of our time (sometimes too much) working to earn money to live our lives. What is the relationship of your work to your level of life satisfaction? Is your work interesting or fulfilling in some way for you? It has been said that a job is nothing more than something we DON’T want to do to get money for the things we DO want to do….or is your Work somehow connected to what you are passionate about?

Social – how are your relationships with others? Family, friends, children, co-workers and other people in your world. What do you do to maintain those relationships and ensure they are healthy? How often do you tell the people in your life “I love you?” How many face-to-face encounters do you have daily? In this age of social media, there can be negative shifts in how we interact socially.

Environmental – with this spoke, you need to consider how you take care of the planet. Do you regularly practice some form of environmentalism? Do you reduce/re-use/recycle? What is your consumption of fossil fuels? How does the way you live (your consumption of resources such as electricity, plastic, paper, etc.) along with your waste production, water usage and other items impact our planet? We tend to live in a consumer-based society that is bent on just getting more “stuff.”

If reading this post stirs in you any questions about the spokes in your wheel, then “mission accomplished!” You are already on your way to making an improvement in your life.

Take that next step – Go for a walk or workout, say “I love you” to someone, be honest with yourself, use less water….the list goes on…..

Whatever it is….commit to strengthening the spokes in your wheel.

Life will be better – guaranteed – when you do!

 

Will you be like Smokey the Bear?

February 24, 2016 7:15 pm Published by

Will you be like Smokey the Bear?

In my last blog, I asked the question, “What will make up your 80.4 years of age?” I discussed the idea of whether you will decide to live your life in a way that strives towards optimal health (however you define “optimal”) or whether you will choose the path of most people and have your health deteriorate as you age.

In this blog, I want to talk about fires.

If you look back through the history of the fitness industry, there have been many trends and gimmicks (Thighmasters, Ab Rollers, Step aerobics, Jane Fonda, Dancer-cize and even the jogging craze of the early 1980’s to name a few.)

Some of these gimmicks made a lot of money but didn’t necessarily make a lot of people fit!

In western society, we have always tended to look for short-cuts and ways of doing things that maximize efficiency while providing convenience and decreasing the effort or energy required to complete a task. Think TV remotes. Or drive-thru banking.

But we also tend to treat our health and the care of our health in much the same way. If we get a headache, we don’t tend to look at the underlying causes for the headache, we tend to reach for medication to make the symptoms go away. If our back hurts, we don’t tend to think about our posture or strengthening our core muscles or getting adjusted by a chiropractor, we tend to go to bed and take a pill for the pain or to “relax” our muscles. If we are overweight (as are 2 out of every 3 people in North America) we go on a diet for a short period of time rather than address the reasons in our lifestyle as to why we gained the weight in the first place.

In each of these cases, it seems like we are only really treating symptoms rather than focusing on underlying causes or prevention. In a way, we seem to be focused only on fighting fires rather than preventing them from starting in the first place. Smokey the Bear was an iconic American advertising  character created in 1944 to educate the public about preventing forest fires.

Will you be like Smokey the Bear?

Take a look at the habits you have every day – how you think, how you eat, how you stand and sit, how you work, how you exercise (or how you don’t), how you sleep, how you handle stress.

It is these every day choices that gradually accumulate over the course of our life that become our lifestyle. If each of these habit areas, are you running around trying to put out fires, or are you being vigilant in preventing fires and taking useful and effective steps to make healthy choices?

Until we talk again, slip on a pair of shoes or comfortable boots and take yourself out for a walk. Spend some time thinking about whether you are putting out fires or preventing them. The ironic part of this is that as you are thinking, you will actually be taking steps to prevent a fire by taking yourself for a walk. Regular physical activity is the single most effective and important way we can achieve better health.

For more information or to get some help on achieving better health, please contact us at Thrive Fitness (www.thrivefitness.ca). Of course, you can always try to find Smokey the Bear too……

 

Live To a Ripe Old Age

January 29, 2016 5:37 pm Published by

Have you ever thought about what your life expectancy is based on how healthy you are RIGHT NOW?

According to Statistics Canada, the average Ontario resident will live to 80.4 years of age.

This “ripe-old age” is surely due in part at least to the high standard of living that Canadians in general enjoy, including universal health care and relatively easy access to a wide variety of advanced health care options.

But this statistic also begs the question – “What makes up that 80.4 years of living?”

Will you enjoy a full life of optimal health or will you live at some portion of your life with a disease, illness or injury limitation that significantly impairs your ability to live optimally?

If you look further at epidemiological data, two-thirds (2 out of every 3) of the adult population in North America is overweight or obese. The leading cause of death in Canada is cardiovascular disease (stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure) and the next most common health condition is type-1 diabetes. Cancer continues to be a primary health challenge.
Arthritis, joint pain, low volume of muscle mass and excessive body fat afflict many older adults, leading to lack of mobility, increased risk of falls, loss of balance and fractures.
Sleep apnea, COPD, and other pulmonary diseases decrease many Canadians quality of life through their middle age into their senior years.

Depression, addiction and a host of other mental health issues also appear to be on the rise.

We routinely report chronic, unmanageable stress along with lack of time to enjoy life, be active and spend time with those we care about.

As a young or middle-aged person, what can you do to ensure your 80.4 years will be as healthy as possible?

Will you live from age 45 or 55 or 65 with a significant life-limiting health problem? The onset of many health problems often begins much earlier than middle age and progresses slowly over time and only become symptomatic as we enter our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

“What do most of these health issues and diseases have in common?
The fact that they are largely preventable.”

These diseases can typically be traced to our lifestyle…..the choices we make each day in terms of how much exercise and physical activity we get, the food we eat, how we choose to manage stress, our habits with alcohol, cigarettes or drugs, the quality of our sleep and our use of technology are all choices that become patterns that become habits that basically make up our lifestyle.

In addition to our lifestyle habits, one of the other major contributors to diminished health is our approach to health care. In North America, we tend to treat symptoms rather than causes. We take massive amounts of prescription and over-the-counter drugs for whatever ails us. We wait until we already have disease symptoms such as high cholesterol, angina, elevated blood sugar, excess body fat, heart palpitations or hypertension BEFORE we become willing to do something about it. And even then, in most cases, we only take a drug that manages symptoms, rather than making concrete long-term changes to improve our health.

Isn’t it at least a bit humorous and sort of pathetic that most people feed their dog or cat better than they feed themselves? Even if your dog lays around all day, he likely still gets more exercise than you do, statistically speaking.

So what do we do? Do we accept poor health and diminished enjoyment of life as the price we pay for living to a ripe-old age? Do we just make do and compromise? Do we just give in to the idea that “we’re too old” or “we’re too out of shape” or “we can never do that” or “that we don’t have enough time?”

Do you just become like everyone else and become a statistic?

Ask yourself – “Do you value your health?”

You will most likely answer “yes.”

Do you want to feel better physically and mentally?

What are you actually doing to REALLY keep yourself healthy? How well do you eat? Is your diet balanced? Is it mostly plant-based with adequate protein and intake of healthy fats? Do you eat more than 6-9 teaspoons of sugar per day? (The average “healthy” granola bar can contain up to 3 teaspoons of sugar on its own).

How much do you exercise? If you don’t do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (moderate means you actually have to break a sweat!), you will NOT be healthy. This is not a myth or cliché. It is a scientific fact! In other words, your health WILL suffer. It is not a question of IF, but WHEN……The Heart & Stroke Foundation, Health Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Centre for Disease Control, Canadian Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic….the list of organizations and groups advocating healthy lifestyle habits is much longer than your list of excuses or reasons for not being proactive about your health.

So, what will you do? Will you simply throw in the towel, let yourself go or give up?

Will you just carry on with poor health habits and hope you will be lucky?

Or, will you place a higher value on your health and take steps to improve your chances of living healthily for all of your 80.4 years?

Take it from me…..I am 48 years old…..my father died of heart disease at age 47 and my mother died of cancer at age 54. There is not a day that goes by where I do not value and safe-guard my health.

Don’t compromise. Don’t just accept poor health as part of life.

Take a step. Do something. Move forward. Get help. Ask for advice. See your health-care professional. Hire a personal trainer. Go outside right now and take a walk. Breathe! Laugh! Decide that you WILL value tour health and fitness. Make yourself better…..and not to steal a line from Home Depot, but “let’s do this!”

Steve Coons, B.Sc.H.K., Registered Kinesiologist, Co-Owner of Thrive Fitness & Part-Time Faculty Humber Institute of Advanced Learning & Technology. Specializing in Individualized Personal Training, Sports Conditioning and Coaching.