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…

12 Hacks of Fitness, Holiday Style

Why add stress to an already stressful season by feeling guilty about getting to the gym? While you are out running errands or getting ready for the holidays, you can still get your body moving and, who knows, you may even enjoy time with your loved ones with these exercise hacks.
1. Take Those Stairs
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it a million times that you get a quick, heart-pumping workout by taking the stairs. You also get to avoid elevators with all awkward social interaction and people couching and sneezing in an enclosed space.

2. Park in the Boonies
Here’s the choice: (1) Park close to the lot exit and walk to and from the store then have an easy escape from the lot. (2) Waste time looking for a parking space close to the store then wait behind a line of cars to get out of the parking lot. Jogging while pushing a loaded cart is a great strength/endurance combo. You might even giggle a little.

3. Speed Shop
With your shopping list in hand, set a time limit to get everything on your list. If you have company, give them part of the list and set a rendezvous time. Since strategy and quick thinking are required, your brain gets some exercise too.

4. Catch That Train
Add cardio into your daily routine by setting up mini-sprints or speed walks. Metro pulling in just as you swipe your farecard? Make a dash for it. Is time running out on the “Walk” light? Put some hustle on it. Last call for boarding your flight? Hug that carry on tight and go for it.

5. Puddle Jump
Leap over puddles, balance on the ice, walk into the wind. Foul weather provides some great training tools.

6. Clean Up the Joint
Leaf blower be damned, a sturdy rack is a better piece of training equipment than any infomercial abs apparatus of the week. Break out the vacuum and the feather dust to get you stretching, reaching and lunging in no time. Clean house + good workout = peaceful night’s sleep.

7. Add Some Sparkle
Pull those boxes filled with holiday decorations and lights down from the attic. Pick out the biggest Christmas tree in the lot and carry it to the car. Get out the ladder and give the body a good stretch putting up the outdoor lights…or, keep the ladder in the garage and hone your climbing skills.

8. Deliver Goodies
Load up your kids’ wagon, stroller or rolling school bag with the treats you made to deliver them to your neighbors. You get fresh air, a little cardio and some big hugs. Caroling is also good, but not as appreciated as cookies.

9. Desk Chair Race
If your office party is lacking spontaneity and fun, instigate a desk chair race. It is great balance of workout and “Weeee!” factor. To increase difficulty, wear a pencil skirt and stilettos or add obstacles, like co-workers or your boss.

10. Play Hide the Presents
Do kids even know how to play Hide-and-Seek or Tag these days? They sure know how to search for hidden presents. Make a game of it. Hide presents in places where you and your kids have to stretch, crawl and climb to reach. Everyone gives a workout and has a bit of family fun.

11. Dance the Night Away
Your office lined up the sweetest dance floor with an amazing light display for the holiday party. Grab your date and hit that dance floor with a fury. Don’t shy away. Go into the light! You might not be dancing with the stars, but you’ll be the smoking hot star of the party.

12. Get It On
The stress of the holidays can smash the life out of anyone’s libido. But you have tried some of the other 11 holidays hacks, so your engine is revved (Especially, sine you were the tango stars of the office party.). Nothing incorporates all aspects of fitness—-strength, flexibility, endurance maybe even balance–like Sex. You get the extra benefits of total relaxation, endorphin and dopamine release and, you know, intimacy. Love on!

Falling Into Your Run

My mom tells me that I skipped the whole crawling and walking thing.  As soon as I was able to stand, I started running.  I don’t remember if this is true or not but it makes sense.  Walking is essentially controlled running.

If you watch kids when they are first figuring out how to walk, they lean forward far enough that gravity pulls them into a fall.  They bring one foot out in front of them to stop the fall.  The process continues with each step.  I’ve thinking about this ever since a friend turned me onto Laurie Anderson’s Walking and Falling in high school.  So, when we run as kids, we simply give into gravity a little bit more than we do when walking.

The ravages of socialization and sitting in desks lessen our ability to let gravity take us into a run.  For adult women, it can be even harder because we start wearing shoes that lift our heels high than our toes, which actually shifts us into that falling position constantly.  We learn to fight gravity by leaning back.  We have to make a lot of effort to run because leaning forward and letting gravity take us has become unnatural.

As an adult, I found running difficult and just so not fun.  Fortunately, I discovered Danny Dreyer‘s Chi Running.  I relearned how to take the effort out of running by coming back to how I ran as a toddler.  It took some time to trust that I could work with gravity without falling on my face, but once I did, running became more enjoyable.

Whenever I work with clients on their running form, I have to get them used to this same feeling of controlled falling.  It is so satisfying to see when they get it and to hear that their knee or hip pain has subsided, because they are working with gravity rather than fighting it.

On December 15, Spitifire launches Ready, Set…Run!, an online program for runners.  The program includes:

  • Why and how to warm up and cool down from your run
  • Techniques to speed recovery
  • How to prevent muscle stiffness and tightness
  • What women need to think about that men don’t
  • Cross-training tips for runners
  • Resources to improve running technique

For more information and to sign up, visit the Ready, Set…Run! page.

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
8:00am
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: http://www.racepacket.com/calendar/frace.php?fid=77

Mentors, Teachers and Crushes, Part II

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind. ~Kahlil Gibran

Where did you get that exercise from, Jen?  Did you make it up?

How do you know all this?

I get these question from my clients quite a bit.  Sometimes, I do make movements up, though I’m sure someone else thought of it long before I did.  Other times, I can point to where the exercise came from.  Usually, it came from or was inspired by one of mentors or someone whose work I admire.  Who are these people?

I’ll tell you a bit about the people who have profoundly influenced me in creating Spitfire Fitness Arts in this series of posts called Mentors, Teachers and Crushes.

  • Mentors– People that I trained under for many years and shaped who I am.
  • Teachers– I have taken courses from, learned from their work on me.
  • Crushes– I never met them, but their work heavily influenced or inspired my own work.

Part II-Teachers

Colette Yglesias Silver: Through theatrical movement classes at Studio Theatre, Collette taught me about posture and alignment in movement, not just sitting or standing upright. She also taught me about the qualities of movement.

Dr. Sean Woods: My chiropractor for 8 years, Dr. Sean helped me get to know each vertebra of my spine and how to perceive when they are out of alignment. This helps me understand clients’ injuries and health issues caused by spinal problems.

Paul Chek: When I first started as a trainer, I struggled with training program design. I took Paul Chek’s course on the subject and it was never a question again. I first came across the idea of primal movement patterns from Paul Chek. Probably, the most significant, albeit gross, understanding I gained from him is the relationship of intestine health to core engagement and development.  If you’re full of crap, your core muscles cannot move.

Polina Gregory: Co-Founder of Elements of Motion Resistance Training Studio, Polina Gregory is a Muscle Activation Technique Master Specialist and personal trainer. Polina taught me that muscle imbalances aren’t always about tightness or strength. Often it is about the communication between the muscle and the nervous system.  Polina’s passion to help her clients feel better reminds me of the importance of what fitness professionals have to give.

Chuck Wolf: The gold nugget that I got from Chuck Wolf is that the feet are important.  The feet are important but we take them for granted.  Through a series of exercises during a seminar, Mr. Wolf demonstrated that you can change what is going on in the knee, hip or anywhere else in the body by changing how we stand on our feet.  In essence, he reminded us that every part of the body is in relationship to every other part of the body.  With this knowledge, I could help a client figure out that her knee pain was actually a symptom of hip problems.

Megan Davis: I have taken a few workshops in yoga therapy from Megan Davis. She has a vast knowledge of anatomy and alignment in posture.  She gave me an even deeper understanding of the importance of healthy, stable feet.  Megan also teaches undergraduate philosophy and religion.

Shiva Rea: Shiva Rea is a rockstar in the yoga community.  I have taken a couple of her workshops and practiced some of her yoga videos.  I think I really like her because she looks like one of my favorite cousins and she surfs, but she certainly deserves her rockstar status. She has a deep understanding of yoga and our relationship to nature and the Universe.  I particularly appreciate the ebb and flow of her practice.

Pete Egoscue: Reading an article by Egoscue gave me a tool to give to clients to discover the source of their pain by tapping into their body’s innate wisdom.

Clifton Harski: I took a one-day MovNat workshop with Clifton in Spring 2011.  He has such a great sense of humor and fluid way of teaching that we were all a little sad that the day was over.  Didn’t matter that we were tired, wet and dirty from 7 hours of playing in woods and on the playground.  From Clifton, I got a good sense of the MovNat principles laid down by Founder, Erwan Le Corre, as well as a slew of fun things to do in the woods.

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Q&A: Thoughts on Crossfit

Today’s question comes from Michael on Facebook.

Question:

What do you think about Crossfit?

Answer:

Crossfit can be very valuable, as long as function and safety are the main objectives of the Crossfit organization you train with. It is fun and challenging.  It’s popularity continues to grow as both a fitness program and a sport. ESPN 2 just broadcast the Crossfit Games in September.

According to Crossfit Founder, Greg Glassman’s “Foundations” in the Crossfit Journal:

“CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program. We have designed our program to elicit as broad an adaptational response as possible. CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy.”

The signature of Crossfit is the WOD (Workout of the Day).  A Crossfit WOD incorporates a few or many of what Glassman calls “fitness domains.” This challenges the body to adapt, as it shifts from one to the next. You might go from squats to overhead press to sprints to ab work to gymnastics.

Crossfit is designed to be scalable to any fitness level. For anyone, who is curious about it, I would recommend trying it. Just do some research about the organization and the instructors/trainers. There are many exercises in Crossfit that can cause injury, if either the participant or the instructor takes safety for granted.

Know and understand for yourself the function and purpose of each movement and exercise. If you do not understand why you are doing something, ask! Make sure you and your instructor know the body mechanics and intention of what you are doing.

I enjoy jumping into a Crossfit workout from time to time. It challenges my body and shakes the cobwebs out of my brain. I have learned quite a bit about Olympic style lifting from my Crossfit experience.

Crossfit is great for women, especially if your trainer understands how to adapt movements to the female body.  You get strong and lean.  Your confidence grows as you continue to top your own personal record.  There is also a strong sense of community in Crossfit organizations.

For more information, a list of Crossfit affliates and video demos of WOD, visit the Crossfit website.

For folks in DC- I love the good people at Crossfit DC and Crossfit BalancePrimal Fitness also has a great reputation.

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Go Upside Down for a New Perspective

Inversions, Climbing and Hanging Around

[Keating stands on his desk]
John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
John Keating: No!
[Dings a bell with his foot]
John Keating: Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

Dead Poet’s Society, 1989

Having trouble thinking of new ideas?  Is there a problem you can’t quite solve?  Are you stuck in a rut?

Maybe you just need to change how you see the world by changing where you see it from.  Give one of these ideas a try:

  • Take a yoga class and practice headstands, handstands and inversions.
  • Try out the climbing gym or an outdoor rock climbing class.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Play on the monkey bars at the playground.
  • Hang from your knees on the Smith Machine at the gym.
  • Do some crunches on the inversion bench.
  • Find an AcroYoga or AntiGravity Yoga class.
  • Get a TRX Suspension Trainer.
  • Talk your honey into testing out those new positions on that app you downloaded on your Android or iPhone.
  • Swing on that pole.
  • Dust off those gravity boots in the attic, closet, under the bed.
  • Fly on a trapeze.

Getting more blood to your brain could help too.

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Solar Massage

The Sun, as seen from the surface of Earth thr...

Image via Wikipedia

We receive so many mixed messages when it comes to health and fitness.

Eggs are bad for you.  No, eggs are good for you.  Low fat, high carbs–no, high protein, low carbs are best for you.

I think all this mucking around contributes to cultural neurosis.

We don’t know how to trust the intelligence of our own bodies.  If it feels good, it’s ok.  If it feels like s**t, it probably is.  If we tap into what our bodies are communicating, we can better moderate what we consume or expose ourselves to.

Sun exposure has been relegated to evil status for a couple decades now.  According to popular belief, at best, it wrinkles and dries your skin to leather.  At worst, it causes incurable melanomas.  Hhhm, so how have cultures and tribes that live outdoors in little more than loin coverings managed to survive the onslaught of skin cancer they must be experiencing?

At heart, I am a summer girl.  I love the sun and the water.  From age 4 until a couple years after college, I was outdoors most of the day during the summers.  I spent hours upon hours swimming and sunbathing (Lucky me got paid for it as a lifeguard/swim instructor in college.).  My butt became a blinding moon in comparison to my tanned skin.  My hair bleached to a golden blond.

My face does show some of the damage done by so many years of staying in the sun.  That is because I did not moderate.  Sunscreen was not a priority.  In fact, I preferred to baste in Hawaiian Tropic or Panama Jack tanning oils.

For a while, I fell in line with all the hype and avoided the Sun.  Maybe, it kept me from turning into a prune but I was definitely missing something–that sun-kissed feeling.

The weather is truly incredible here in Southern Miss. right now.  It feels criminal to be indoors.  I decided to lay out for a bit this morning.

Lying on my belly, the Sun’s heat seeped into my shoulders.  I felt the tension there relax and I drifted into that state between waking and sleep.  Lying on my back, the Sun hit my solar plexus and recharged it like a battery.  I was only out there 20 minutes.  My body told me when I had enough.

Even after coming inside for a bit, I feel the Sun’s warmth sink into my bones.  Maybe that’s the Vitamin D soaking in.  Whatever it is, it has changed me a bit.  I vibrate a little more.

Do not fear the Sun.  Celebrate it.  Enjoy it’s life-giving energy.

Just respect its power and your body’s ability to know when enough is enough.

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