What Are You Training For?

The other day, I ran in to a neighbor while checking my mail. He lives directly across the street, so whenever I do a garage workout he can see exactly what I’m doing. Generally, if I’m doing a garage workout, it’s something crossfit-esque like pullups, pushups, squats, squat thrusters, light deadlifts, clean & jerk, snatch, kettlebell swings, and so on. So when my neighbor saw me, he asked what I was training for.

That’s a good question.

I’m not an athlete, nor am I training for an event like a Tough Mudder, nor am I currently pursuing a job that requires a base level of physical fitness. I’m not trying to enter the Crossfit Games or prepare myself for a master’s (read:old guy) bodybuilding competition – which I would be miles away from anyway.

A couple of things that I’ve come across guide my training philosophy:

  1. Strong people are harder to kill.
  2. Your training should fuel/enhance the things you enjoy.

Strong people are harder to kill. This is scientific fact. I’m not aware of any current or imminent threats to me or my family’s safety, but the truth is, I don’t know when a critical incident might occur that will require me to push through to survive it. This could be an accident, a crime, a fire, or a serious illness. The more I prepare myself through eating well, managing stress, prioritizing quality sleep, and mentally and physically training, the better off I’ll be if a critical incident happens. Even if I never trained physically, I’d still be better off by working on the other 4 factors. Do something to strengthen yourself, even if you never push a weight.

Your training should fuel/enhance the things you enjoy. Do you like to play pickup games of basketball? Stop using the elliptical machine (a movement you simply don’t do in real life anyway) and practice sprints and plyometrics.  Do you enjoy backpacking? Build your core strength with deadlifts and squats. Do you enjoy surfing? Improve your ability to pop up on the board by doing burpees. Do you enjoy playing with your kids (in my case, grandson number one is on the way!)? Working on things that improve flexibility and endurance are likely to help.

To answer my neighbor’s question, I’m training to be reasonably strong and keep myself at a level of fitness and flexibility that allows me to do the things I like to do without risking injury.

What are you training for?

Reply-All

I received an email yesterday morning while I was out. While the content may have been of some interest at one time, it no longer applied to my current scope of work. No big deal – I just deleted it. Unfortunately, I was one of 87 people in the “To:” line of the email, so it didn’t end there.

After a few reply-all love-fest messages of support better suited for a Facebook wall for the person’s initiative, I sent a message privately to the original sender:

“Please remove my email address from your mailing list. 

Also, please consider using bcc or a mailing service when sending a mass email to prevent exposing email addresses of those with privacy concerns as well as preventing reply-alls.”
I quickly got an apologetic reply from the original sender, which I very much appreciated. That did not, however, stop the reply-alls from coming. And they kept coming. By the time I got home, the reply-alls had dried up, so I was pretty sure the small avalanche of unnecessary emails was over. At last count, it was 38% of all people on the distribution list were unqualified to use reply-all correctly. This morning, the original sender had some additional heartfelt thoughts on the subject to broadcast, probably starting the entire cycle again so I created an email filter to send all future related messages to the trash.
If you’re thinking about using a reply-all, follow this rule.
Reply-All Rule:
1. Just don’t.

Primal Blueprint – 27 days in

After 27 days following The Primal Blueprint, I can report that I am not wearing a loincloth or spear-hunting wooly mammoth. I have, however, let my beard grow out. I’m no Duck Dynasty stunt double, but it is a little more full and that has absolutely nothing to do with the Primal Blueprint.

The Primal Blueprint isn’t as difficult from a nutritional standpoint as other paleo challenge protocols. It’s still a no grains, no legumes plan, but it does allow for dairy for those that tolerate it – the dairy alone makes it significantly easier to follow. Make no mistake, it IS a worthwhile experiment to eliminate dairy to see how it impacts your health but for some, it’s a little overwhelming to completely rip the band-aid off for 30 days.

Another area where the Primal Blueprint (PB) seems a little easier is in their 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule is based on the idea that if you live mostly in the PB realm, off-roading into non-PB territory every so often isn’t going to kill you. If you started on the PB from this page, you wouldn’t see it, but living 80/20 it is a part of the relaxed lifestyle. Again, for people trying it out, you’re far better off being strict for the month before off-roading. Also, being strict can help you uncover some hidden autoimmune issues. For example, with a gluten sensitivity, you could strictly follow the PB all week then give yourself a single gluten dose on the 7th day. That single gluten dose can impact your systemic inflammation all week long and you might come away with the impression that PB doesn’t work for you, when it’s actually gluten that doesn’t work for you.

So what’s happened for me at 27 days in? Most people would want to know if it’s effective for losing weight. I didn’t weigh myself at the start, so I really can’t verify that. I can, however, assure you that clothes that had been getting tighter are now getting looser. That’s a positive because from Thanksgiving until Christmas (prime eating season), the clothes were getting tighter.

From a lifestyle perspective, I’ve been focused on trying to get as many of the PB principles into play as possible. I started to look at taking the dog for a walk as: “2: Moving around a lot at a slow pace” and “7: Get some sunlight every day” (Side note: I’ve been working on this for a while, so my sun tolerance has increased dramatically over the past couple of years. I spent 2 hours in the 80 degree SoCal winter sun last week with no sunscreen and no burn. 2 years ago, I would have been lobster red and in pain. Be smart about the time you spend in the sun without sun protection. Sun damage is serious business, but you can improve your ability to be in the sun without turning in to a sun-damaged piece of leather). From there, I could add in “4: Run really fast once in a while” by sprinting with the dog. And, throwing the ball or frisbee would add in “6: Play”.

For me, “8: Avoid trauma” needs some work. While it did wisely keep me from signing up for an obstacle challenge race (which would definitely qualify as 6: Play), and it kept me from trying work out while trying to recover from a nasty cold for a week, it did not keep me from pushing too hard on “3: Lift heavy things”. I had been deadlifting and felt some tenderness set in. That should have been a clue trauma was about to happen. I didn’t listen to my body and added more weight. While I did get the lift, I felt the pull in my back and have spent the last week rehabbing it. “8: Avoid Trauma” should be rule #1.

If you’re looking for a short-term diet to lose a bunch of weight fast, it’ll probably work for you, especially if you’re currently fat and sick. If you’re looking to put some health and wellness standards into your life over the long term, I’d call the Primal Blueprint an excellent way to go. Give it a shot!

30 Day Challenge – Sabbath Edition

When I’m not writing here (which is a lot of available time), I occasionally write for our E-Devotional team at EastLake Church. Here’s my latest entry….

Read: Mark 6:31

Reflect: I occasionally give myself challenges to see what a change will do to improve my life. Sometimes it’s a simple behavior change like a 30-day commitment to flossing my teeth. That change became 377 consecutive days, resulting in better checkups. In another experiment, I stopped consuming all forms of processed sugar and artificial sweeteners for an entire summer. My body composition improved and I had more energy. Early in my career, I challenged myself to develop my team and trust them to make decisions without my constant input. My results improved, we became a leader development pipeline, my stress declined, and my ability to take time off improved.

Working backward, a specific result requires some specific setup. If I want good dental health, I need to floss, and brush, and eat well. If I want restorative time off in my life (a Sabbath rest), I need to not only set aside a day, but determine what extra work I will do ahead of time to preserve the day. I also need a plan for how I will use my rest time to offset the physical and psychological cost of the week I just finished.

My plan follows Jesus’ basic framework from Mark 6:31: “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest a while.” When Jesus says, “Let’s go off by ourselves,” he was speaking to his followers—people like me. My favorite quiet place is the beach. And for rest, I prefer to walk slowly–a deliberate change from my regular pace–and a deliberate change of focus.

React: Challenge yourself to take a Sabbath once a week for the next 4 weeks. Take notes on how you prepared for it, what you did to restore your connection with Jesus, and what benefits you noticed from taking on the challenge. Consider sending your story about what God shows you during your 4 week Sabbath challenge to mystory@eastlakechurch.com.

Pray: Lord Jesus, a day of restoration is a gift. Show me the roadblocks I put in the way of spending time with you.

The Primal Blueprint Experiment

You’ve got one day of the new year under your belt. Anything different yet?

Maybe you started something like exercise, or eating well, or reading, or writing a letter to a dear friend. Maybe you quit something like alcohol, or candy, or porn. Maybe your proposed changes haven’t taken place yet because of the New Year’s holiday. You need places to be open to make that call you need to make or you need that next paycheck to take a next step or you need the church to be open.

Why do any of us do any of these things?

You have told yourself, and you’re right, you don’t have to live like this. You can have a better life than the one you’re currently living.

All you have to do is work at it. Get ready for some hard work.

It’s not easy to stop habits that aren’t helping you and it’s certainly not easy to start habits that actually would help you and it’s really not easy to stop doing things that are still good but may be holding you back from things that are great. It’s even more challenging to invite others into your pain so you can actually work out stuff that still stings, years later.

It is, however, worthwhile. So, where do you need to start?

For me, I’m taking January to experiment with some lifestyle factors. I’ve done nutrition challenges before – The Slow-Carb Diet, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Diet autoimmune protocol, and most recently the Whole30. This experiment, however, I’m looking at a more holistic view of health and wellness. You can check out The Primal Blueprint here, but here are the basics:

  1. Eat lots of animals, insects and plants (note: I’m not planning on adding insects to my diet)
  2. Move around a lot at a slow pace
  3. Lift heavy things
  4. Run really fast once in a while
  5. Get lots of sleep
  6. Play
  7. Get some sunlight every day (sorry, people not in California)
  8. Avoid trauma
  9. Avoid poisonous things
  10. Use your mind

What are you planning to tackle this year?

Things I’ve Lost

Things I’ve lost on the freeway:

  1. A tent, poorly secured to the roof rack. Fortunately, it flew off after the camping trip.
  2. A full size gas grill, poorly secured to the tailgate of my truck instead of to the cab which allowed for the wind to easily lift it out of the truck bed and on to the asphalt. Again, it was fortunate that it flew out after the event I brought it to. It was also nice that the propane tank didn’t explode or something after sparking away while I dragged it down the road.
  3. Surfboards.

Here’s how yesterday’s surfboard incident went:

I posted the photo to my instagram account.

IMG_0772

Note the ironic statement.

About 30 minutes later, those two surfboards turned in to this:

IMG_0771

What’s the common theme among all three incidents? Obviously, not securing the load properly is a good answer, but you’d get bonus point if you’d guessed that the phrase “It’ll be fine” was used.

With both the tent and the grill, my wife recognized how poorly I’d secured the load and questioned my wisdom and technique. I replied “It’ll be fine” and reaped the consequences. With the surfboards, she had not reviewed the load, but asked me post-incident “Did you look at the way the surfboards were strapped in, shrug your shoulders, and say to yourself ‘It’ll be fine?’” The stupid, deer-in-the-headlights look gave me away.

“It’ll be fine” is my catchphrase that means: I recognize that this may not be ideal, but I’m too lazy to fix it so I’m just going to take my chances. If you hear me say it, know that there’s a good chance you’ll see a disaster.

What have you lost on the freeway?

Entitled

I periodically write for the eDevotional team at EastLake Church. Here’s one for week 2 of our Work Sucks, Then You Die series.

Read: Matthew 23:1-12 (NLT)

Reflect: While pursuing my degree, I worked in the kitchen at a high-end restaurant company. I was certain that I would be offered a management team position once I completed my degree. They didn’t, and I took a job in fast food. Since I had my degree, I felt like I would be promoted quickly into my own restaurant. I wasn’t, and ended up taking twice as long as the average assistant manager. Once I had my own restaurant, I was positive that I would promoted to the ranks of area manager within two years. I failed the pre-qualifying assessment.

I was definitely not happy with where I was at in life. My self-inventory revealed a tremendous sense of entitlement. I felt that my degree was my ticket to automatic respect and promotability. I didn’t want to participate in the learning process in the workplace, expecting that others would honor my pedigree. I had a lot to learn about operating in humility.

My employer had offered me an opportunity to participate in personal and professional growth, yet I chose arrogance and entitlement. Fortunately, I kept my job long enough to recognize the mistakes I was making, and had the opportunity to change my approach. I began to pour in to my team for their benefit – not mine. If they turned in to better employees for me, great. If they moved on to a better job, I was happy for them. And if they took my counsel and changed some things to improve their personal life, I was ecstatic! A change in perspective turned my career around.

React: You are invited to participate in God’s plan. In what areas of your life are you choosing your way over God’s way?

Pray: Father God, help me uncover and eliminate feelings of entitlement so I can focus fully on your plan.

Before You Hit Send

I received an email I wasn’t too excited about. The policy change needed more thought to come up with the best solution, so, I hit the reply button and began to go through many of the reasons why the policy change wasn’t such a good idea. When I was done typing, I re-read my message for tone and accuracy, then copied and pasted the text into a Word document. I saved the draft email, then printed the document, folded up the paper and placed it in my pocket.

I walked to my co-worker’s office and asked for some time to discuss the policy change. Fortunately, time was available right then and we had a valuable talk around the whys and the whos and the whats. I didn’t need to refer to the printed document in my pocket – that was just preparation for the conversation. Through the talk, we were able to see each person’s side of the concern and work through other possible solutions.

Before you hit send, consider:

  • What am I trying to accomplish by sending this message? Is there a better way to communicate this?
  • Is there a potential for misunderstanding or hurt feelings by sending this?
  • How’s MY emotional state? Was I stressed or frustrated when I wrote this?
  • Have I read and re-read my own message? If my message is a reply, have I read and re-read the original sender’s message to make sure I’m not misunderstanding anything?
  • Have I asked a trusted peer to preview it before I send it?
  • Would I be comfortable with my message being printed out and posted for public consumption?

 

Prescription Meds

I was recently at a healthcare presentation where the presenter, trying to get some audience participation, was asking show-of-hands questions. One of the questions was “how many of you are on some sort of long-term maintenance prescription?” The question (besides being inappropriate for a public setting) of course, was designed to identify who would benefit from the lower costs of their mail-order prescription system. Hands shot up all over the room.

“Nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half take two, Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center researchers say.. Antibioticsantidepressants and painkilling opioids are most commonly prescribed, their study found. Twenty percent of patients are on five or more prescription medications, according to the findings, published online in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.” Full article here.

My ER doc friend says “My nursing home patients are on boat loads of meds. Average is probably 12-15, not uncommonly I see 20 or even 30+ meds for a single patient. And younger people are on psych meds by the truck load.”

Prescription meds definitely have their place, there’s no doubt about it. They can improve quality-of-life, extend a life, and even save a life. There are countless stories of people that will tell you “I feel like I’ve gotten my life back.” And yet in the three anecdotes above, I can’t help wondering how many medications didn’t need to be taken had the hard work of a lifestyle change been done.

I get it, though. A pill is easy and a lifestyle change is hard.  If you have high blood pressure aggravated by stress, it’s easier to picture taking a pill than it is to picture a job change. If you have GERD aggravated every time you eat the spicy food that you love, it’s easier to imagine controlling the symptoms with a pill than it is to avoid the cause.

Taking the pill before exhausting controllable options might suggest that you believe health is the healthcare provider’s job, not yours. That’s sheer crazy. I’d like to suggest that the healthcare provider is there to partner with you and your efforts, not mask your lack of effort.

To summarize, if your doctor serves as your prescription factory so you don’t have to change anything:

1. You may want to get your mess together before you have to start carrying a rolling suitcase for your ever increasing meds.

2. You may also want to find a new doctor, one that values whole health over symptom management.