How to Make Tangible Goals Out of the Intangible

Setting goals is hard, especially when it comes to fitness.  Unless you are a competitive athlete trying to make weight, break a record or win in your sport, it can feel like making something materialize from thin air.

One of my clients is working through this right now.  She knows she wants to feel and see changes in her self.  But what exactly does she want to see and feel? A certain number when she stands on a scale?  The feel of a bit more room in her jeans?  The sense of strength of picking up a weight she never thought she could?

Thinking it might help, I sent her the Spitfire goal worksheet.  After working with it a bit, she wrote a post on her blog about it.  From reading her blog post, I realized that I have left something off the worksheet or just left it vague.  What makes us want to have or do something?

In striving for an Olympic gold medal, an athlete may seek to push the boundaries of human potential, love from family, fame and fortune maybe even enlightenment.  Fear can also move us though it is about moving away from something than towards something.  I am sure there are Olympic athletes that train and compete to avoid shame, guilt and pain.

I believe Love is the ultimate motivator. Without getting too woo woo, I’ll just say that we humans accomplish tremendous things for the Love of a person or Love of the Divine.  You might run a little faster when you know the person you have a crush on is watching.  You might work extra hard to drop two clothing sizes for your wedding.  You might choose to practice yoga everyday for a month to deepen your connection with the Divine.

So whose Love is your goal for?  What do you want to do or have for them? Do you want more strength to protect your kids?  Do you want to lose weight for your honey or potential honey?  Do you want to learn to change your nutrition for the health of your family?  Do you want to run a 5k to feel a sense of accomplishment and self-Love?

Exploring why you want to do or have something makes creating tangible goals out of nothing much easier. When I was a kid, I worked on my jump shot in basketball every afternoon, because I wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter and loved by fans.  I practiced my camel turn on roller skates, because I wanted a handsome prince to see me perform in an ice-skating show and fall madly in love with me (I blame Disney for that one.).  I concentrated on trying to levitate objects with my mind to gain Jedi powers and experience the flow of the Force in, through and around me.  I was crystal clear what I wanted, why and for whom.

Let Love lead you to your goal.


5 Reasons Your New Year's Fitness Resolutions Will Fail

This year I resolve to:

  • Lose weight
  • Start a fitness program
  • Workout more
  • Eat healthier
  • Stop smoking, drinking, etc.

It’s likely you have had one or more of these resolutions on your list in the past.  It’s also likely you made it a few weeks, maybe even a few months, into the New Year then gave up on your resolution.  Why?

Why do most resolutions fail?

We ask too much of ourselves, we make a job out of reaching our resolutions and we aren’t very nice to ourselves when we slip up.  We become our own overbearing, micro-managing boss.  So, of course, we eventually rebel against ourselves.

Too Many Resolutions

The New Year brings excitement about the possibility of the future.  You may find yourself pumped up to accomplish lots of big and bold goals, so you make a huge list of resolutions.  That’s fine.  It’s good to get things you want to do in life out of your head and onto paper.  That’s the first step to bringing them to fruition.

Once you’ve made that list, prioritize it.  If you could only accomplish one resolution this year, which would you choose first?  Write it on a separate sheet of paper and post it somewhere you will see it everyday.  Honing in on one resolution helps you to get some real traction.  If you accomplish it before the year is up, you may find you have the confidence and motivation to accomplish a few more on your larger list.

Resolution Is Broad, Vague or Complicated

Losing weight is probably number one of a lot of resolution lists every year.    The problem with it as a resolution is that’s too vague.  How much weight do you want to lose?  Losing 50 lbs requires a different strategy than losing 5 lbs.  Losing body fat involves putting on muscle, so your scale and BMI index may indicate that you haven’t lost any weight for a while.

The other factor with the goal of losing weight is time.  When do you want to achieve this goal?  Is that realistic?  How much time to you have to give to your fitness program?

Diet is yet another factor.  Are you willing to change your eating habits?  That takes time too.

When clients don’t see the scale tip 5 pounds in the first week, they get discouraged and want to quit.

Losing weight is a big goal that needs to be broken down into smaller steps, benchmarks and goals.  Instead of resolving to lose weight.  Try a resolution that is specific, tangible and measurable like resolving to walk for 30 minutes/3 times per week or to eat your last meal of the day before 7:00pm.  At the end of each week, you can answer yes or no to whether you have accomplished what you resolved to do.  You may even lose weight as a result.

Resolutions Go Against Personal Values

You know that refined sugar is bad for you, so you resolve to cut all refined sugar from your diet.  Then you are invited to a good friend’s house for dinner.  She made her famous chocolate cake because she know you love it so much.  You value enjoying yourself, supporting friends and accepting hospitality.  You are now faced with a dilemma.  Do you indulge and break your resolution or do you go against your values and risk hurting your friend’s feelings to keep your resolution?

Whatever you decide that day, you will be left feeling bad in someway.  This bad feeling can erode your will to continue to pursue your resolution.  If it doesn’t erode it completely, you may decide to make exceptions or compromises to your resolution.  In any case, you lose your enthusiasm about your resolution.

When you make your resolution, check it against your personal values.  Think of circumstances where there may be conflict between your mind and your heart.  Factor that into your resolution plan.  If my resolution conflicts with my values, then I will _____.  You cannot predict every conflict but you can prevent that conflict from completing throwing you off your resolution.

Willpower Becomes Depleted

There are many theories about why willpower wears thin, but we do know that if you are trying to resist many things at once, your willpower depletes.  That is why having too many resolutions going at once becomes overwhelming.  Also having a resolution that continually denies you of something depletes willpower.

If you resolve to cut out grains completely from your diet, for example, you may find yourself drawn into daydreams about the popcorn that you smell someone microwaving in the office kitchen.  You may not even particularly like popcorn or ever had a craving for it like that before.  Because you are denying yourself of carbs, your brain will trick you into thinking you are depriving your body of something vital.

Maybe your resolution is too severe.  Try weaning yourself from grains.  You can decide to only have grain when you feel like you need them.  Maybe you absolutely have to have toast or oatmeal for breakfast.  Allow for that, but just remember to ask yourself if you really need it or if you think you do out of habit.

Negative Reinforcement

We are so hard on ourselves when it comes to resolutions.  We talk to ourselves in ways that we would never tolerate hearing from other people.  We call ourselves names to coax us into finally doing that resolution this year.  We look at ourselves so critically in the mirror.  One slip up and we call ourselves complete failures.

Before you finalize your resolution, look at what it’s saying to you.  Is it a resolution that’s fun, meaning that it’s challenging and novel?  Are you just creating my burden for yourself and becoming your own task master?  Will you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment with this resolution?  Does it enliven your sense of curiosity?

Let’s take the resolution, “I resolve to workout more.”  Jeez, really?  You already work 50 plus hours each week.  Do you really want more work?

What if you changed that to “I resolve to try new activities until I find one that I really love doing and is so much fun that I cannot wait to do it.”?  You’ve created a challenging adventure for yourself to start looking at sports, recreation and fitness activities of all kinds and trying them out.  You can enlist friends to join you. Who knows, you may find you are natural Parkour Traceuse/yogini.

If you are tired of making resolutions every year only to give up on your list mid-January, join Spitfire’s New Year’s Fitness Resolution Renovation Program.  In this program, you get to the heart of what you want to accomplish in 2012, creating a blueprint to get there, get rid of what’s holding you back, and build a fitness program that suits you, your schedule and your lifestyle.

Learn more…

The Lesson of the Monster Hunter

Stop Fucking Playing It Safe

Ok, cursing in the subtitle is not my style but…

Fuck it!

I’m channeling the Monster Hunter here.

Are you playing it safe with your workouts?  Do you do just enough to say you did something?

You’re weak!

Leave it all on the trail, the road, the floor, the field.

Are you backing off on the yoga mat?  When the sensation of pain comes do you back off?

Yellow Belly!

Soften.  Go inside your pain to unravel the mystery it has to teach you.

Do you give into other people’s demands on your time and sacrifice what you need to do to stay healthy and happy?

You’re such a pussy!

Take back that time.  Your peeps will respect you more for it.  Plus, they cannot be happy and healthy if you aren’t.

Do you hold back your emotions because you think you’ll seem weak?

Fuck that!

Let it out.  Scream, cry, break something, sing, dance, whatever.  Holding onto that shit is just going to make you ill.  You’re human.  Revel it that.

Do you feel riddled with guilt if you enjoy eating too much?

You dainty pansy!

Enjoy the bounty that we are given.  Eat your fill of what nourishes you.  Heap praises on whoever cooks your meal, especially if that’s you.  Share the wonder with as many people as possible too.

You must do these things to be a brave and strong monster hunter.  If you hold back from life, even a little, a monster will smell that on you. It doesn’t matter what you call that monster or whether it is within you or outside of you.

It will press you because it knows you will give ground.  You already have.

It will keep coming at you until you’ve backed yourself over the edge of the cliff.

Live life in all its glory and all its suffering.  You will radiate so brightly that you blind your foe.

You will know when to press forward, when to stand your ground and when to drop and roll, so that the monster will wear itself out and give up.

This is a lesson I am still learning from the Monster Hunter, Benjamin Mufti.

When in doubt about what action to take, I ask myself, “What would Mufti do?”

We honor Ben’s memory this weekend at:

Tne Ben Mufti Memorial 5k Run/Walk
Sunday, December 4th
Picnic area 24 in Rock Creek Park (next to the Carter Baron Amphitheater and the Tennis Center).

Cos is $25 for charity (+ a nominal service charge for online registration).  There will be no race day registration.

Register here:

Triathlon Training Pirate Style

A Take On Ben Mufti’s Traithlon Training

  • Get many tattoos to learn to laugh at pain.
  • Set an extraordinarily high goal f
    The Jolly Roger of Barbossa's Crew, which was ...

    Image via Wikipedia

    or yourself.

  • Chart your course well.
  • Taunt any and every athlete you encounter with your obviously superior abilities and looks.
  • Hoard equipment and shoes.
  • Flaunt your booty so all may admire your treasures.
  • Bury some of your treasure in various locations.
  • Become a master at charm.
  • Attack your adversaries without warning.
  • Laugh heartily as often as possible, especially at your own jokes.
  • Fuel your training with huge meals and heavy drinking.
  • Celebrate your victories by gourging yourself or eating something that requires signing a waiver.
  • Break hearts and take no prisoners.

Mufti Memorial 5K Run/Walk

Sunday, December 4th
Picnic area 24 in Rock Creek Park (next to the Carter Baron Amphitheater and the Tennis Center).

Register online or in person at the Northwest Sport & Health (4001 Brandywine St. NW)

Cost is $20 for charity (+ a nominal service charge for online registration).

The cost will go up to $25 on Monday November 28th. There will be no race day registration.

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The Lotus of Yoga

To say this past weekend’s yoga teacher training changed my life is an exaggeration and yet it’s true.  Just as moving a table in the living room can change the whole decor, I experienced small changes in my body, emotions and thought that are rippling through my whole self.

The way I approach my yoga mat is new.  The way I dance is new.  The way I walk is new.  The way I practice Combattitude is new.

Even deeper than that, I feel different in the world.  I feel grounded and strong; at peace and brave; alert and relaxed; and connected and independent.

So what magic occurred that brought on such change?

Diving deep and surrendering into my yoga practice from the foundation of my yoga and dance practices.

Just like a deep massage is painful, our practice went deep into painful area of my body but relieved the tension and stagnation that had been chronic.  Our first practice opened and released the ribs, diaphragm and chest.  These areas are associated with the 3rd chakra (will) and 4th chakra (heart).

Through my dance work, I know how to use images to affect the body.  Gopi suggested to the class that we imagine a lotus blossoming behind the heart as we were in an intense backbend.  She assisted me in getting deeper into the backbend.  As I placed the lotus image behind my heart and she moved me deeper,  I felt an electric charge right in that spot behind my heart that dispersed through the rest of my body like a firework blossoming.  It’s a feeling I have felt before in acupuncture so I knew that an energetic channel had been opened.

Our second practice dove into opening the hips in all directions to prepare for lotus.  Resistance was strong in me during that practice.  I had trouble finding the breath.  The sensations in my hips were powerful.  As we held pigeon, a pose I usually enjoy, my mind taunted me with reasons I felt pain and why I should get out of the pose.  After a while, my whole body started to quake.  Tears came.  I did not give into Resistance’s badgering.

As it turns out, everyone had a similar experience.  Later, you could see that it had moved something in each of us.  Some felt impatient and a bit angry.  Others felt exhausted.  I felt incredibly calm and unperturbed.  I realized that I became a little more tolerate of discomfort and uncertainty that day.

I still feel this after two days.  Creativity has been flowing.  I suddenly feel ready to get back to performing.  That is pleasant surprise.

To be less than half way through this yoga teacher training and experience this kind of change excites the imagination of what’s to come.

Have you had a similar experience with yoga?  Or anything?  Please share in the comments below.

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Secure Your Own Mask First

American Airlines 757 1

Image by aomd88 via Flickr

The kid was panicking and trying to use me to climb to higher ground.  The water was too deep for me to have any foothold.  Before I could catch a breath, the kid would push my head under the water.

I loved the swimming hole near my uncle’s house in Arkansas.  It was cool, deep and really clear.  At some point, while just a few of us kids were swimming, I found myself holding onto a kid that was younger than me and didn’t swim too well.

I was only 9 or 10, but I knew the kid would drown me, if I didn’t get away.  Don’t ask me how I figured out what to do next.  I just knew that if I didn’t make it, neither of us would. When I was able to steal a deep breath, I went feet first under the water.  The kid, not wanting to go with me, let go.

I found a way to push off the bottom with my feet and give the kid little shoves toward the shore.  Fortunately, I was a strong swimmer and regularly practiced swimming as far as I could on one breath.  We both made it with little damage, except bellies full of water.

Yes, I did go on to work as a lifeguard.  One of the first things you learn in lifeguard training is to protect yourself from the person you are trying to save.

A metaphor from the airline safety speech that I often find myself referring to with my clients, who are parents, is, “Secure an oxygen mask on yourself first before you try to help someone else.” Every day, things come up in a parent’s life that can prevent her or him from sticking to a fitness routine.  Parents would do anything for their kids.  So often though, I see clients, who are moms, sacrifice their fitness time because something comes up with the kids. Given the stress that families experience day-to-day, this can easily become a habit.  Parents can find themselves drowning in their kids’ schedules or the wind knocked out of them by family problems.

I think that so many women understand this now. Moms are taking over the gyms from the body builders, especially in the mornings, when kids are in school or day care.  Most of the yoga classes I go to are filled with women.  While I lead my outdoor camps, I see groups of women running or walking together.  They understand that the health of their families is dependent on their own health and well being.

Because they have a fitness practice, these women stay healthier for their families. When they catch some illness that’s made its way through the family, they bounce back quicker.  During stressful times, they are better able to manage.  They make healthier meal choices for their families because they understand and feel the difference when they eat right.  They also set an great example for their kids.

It’s difficult for me, even as a trainer and single person, to prioritize physical activity sometimes.  I cannot say I truly know how hard it is for parents.  That is why I so admire anyone, who is a parent and makes time for their own health, fitness and well being.  You are the saviors of your families.

  • Has fitness helped you be more available to your family?
  • Has your practice helped you manage stressful family situations?
  • How has your own fitness program affected your family’s health?
  • What tips for other parents do you have about managing time for a fitness or training program?

Please leave a comment below.

Share your thoughts with other parents on Twitter or Facebook.

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Do It Already!

Meatballs (film)

Image via Wikipedia

Some sweat and a lot of tears, not so much blood, have gone into getting this puppy online.  I am no webmeister or WordPress guru so the learning curve was Everestine.  I would take stabs at figuring it out then get discouraged and think that it would have to wait until I could pay someone.

Eventually, I had to face the truth that it just didn’t matter because, as a bootstrapping entrepreneur, I had to do it myself or it wouldn’t get done.  Just “Ship It,” Seth Godin would say. “Do the Work,” Steven Pressfield would say.

“It just doesn’t matter,” Bill Murray as head camp counselor, Tripper Harrison, in Meatballs would say.

That is what I say to you now.

It just doesn’t matter.

Can’t seem to find time to workout in your busy day?

It just doesn’t matter.

Think you can’t take Tango lessons because you are uncoordinated?

It just doesn’t matter.

Would love to say you’ve done a marathon but you’re not a runner?

It just doesn’t matter.

Can’t workout today because you forgot your Lululemon outfit?

It just doesn’t matter.

Yes, I am throwing another Bill Murray reference at you.  There will be many to come, so go with it.

If you don’t know the story of Meatballs, it’s about summer camp.  At the end of summer, there is an inter-camp sports competition.  Camp Mohawk, the rich kids camp, always wins.  Camp North Star, filled with lovable misfits and fun-loving camp counselors, must face Camp Mohawk.  The night before the final competition the camp is gathered together.  Everyone is feeling down because they can’t seem to catch a break against Mohawk.

Tripper, through a rousing exaggerated sermon reminds the camp that, “It just doesn’t matter.”  It doesn’t matter if Camp Northstar sucks or is great.  It doesn’t matter that Camp Mohawk takes their training seriously.  It just doesn’t matter because it’s not permanent.  Life goes on.  It just doesn’t matter because Camp Northstar is going to have a blast, whether they are great at an event or suck rotten eggs.  Most importantly, it just doesn’t matter because…well, I’ll let Tripper tell you.

So, when you think you can’t do something physical because of this reason, that excuse, just say, “It just doesn’t matter.”  Then, Just Do It.

Make the time to workout.  Find a good Tango partner that will make you look good.  Enlist a friend to start running with you to get you moving toward that marathon.  You don’t need the latest fitness fashions to go for a walk.  Find the work-arounds.  Get creative.

What are you putting off trying?

Share what your putting off in the comments below.  Let’s throw our hands in the circle and shout, “It just doesn’t matter!” together.

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