Category Archives: Exercise/Fitness

All the Way

He who would go a hundred miles should consider ninety-nine as halfway. – Japanese Proverb

The last little bit of any endeavor can be challenging. When you move, the last few boxes of “stuff” seem to be the hardest. When you are taking a test, the last few questions are mentally tiring. When you are exercising, the last 5 minutes can be exhausting. When you are driving home from a long day at work, the last few miles can cause impatience. The moments before completing difficult tasks can feel like pushing through mud. Every step seems to be a struggle.

I get through these times by focusing on the task right in front of me. I don’t think about what I have left. I think about what I need to do right this very moment. If I start thinking about how much I have left and what needs to be done for completion, I start to slow down.

The best example for me is exercising. Even though I feel good when I have a regular exercise routine, I still find it hard to maintain. So, this year, I’m trying something new. And that is focusing on the one exercise I’m doing at the moment, not the 15 I have left. I’m finding by concentrating on the activity I’m performing in the moment, time seems to fly by and I do the exercise better. I only look ahead to make sure I’m on track, but I quickly refocus my attention on what I’m doing.

I know this is not a new way of thinking for many people, but it is for me. It seems to be working so far; 35 days of regular exercise. I’ve started another 30 day program.

The funny thing is that I typically applied this type of thinking to other areas of my life, but never exercise. Hmmmmm. I guess there is no time like now to change.

Michael

Kind Words

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. – Mother Teresa

What if each of us gave one kind word to three people everyday?

I think it would change the world.

I’m starting today.

Michael

Wii'd Out

Erica bought a Wii last week. In case you’ve been living under a rock for a year, the Wii (pronounced We) is made by Nintendo. The game uses wireless technology. The cool thing is that to play the game, you use normal motion. In other words, to play tennis you swing like you have a racket in your hand. The Wii sport package includes tennis, baseball, bowling, boxing and golf.

I’m quite amazed with the Wii system as it really feels similar to doing the sport since the physical motion is very close to the real thing. It’s a lot of fun. Plus, I’m finding that I’m better at bowling, tennis, baseball and golf on the Wii than I’ve ever been in real life. I also like the fact that I don’t need the bumpers in bowling. :-)

Erica and I had a tournament tonight, bowling and tennis. I’m sure that my daughter, niece and two nephews would have found it amusing. Hopefully, Erica and I laughed enough at ourselves to cover them. But, all in all, we did fairly well. More practice is in order though.

It was nice to take a break and just play a little. We should do more of that. I’m making plans now.

Be more like children and go play!

Michael

Deep Freeze!

It’s easy to complain about the cold (we’ve been down to -18F in Chicago today). But, I just read in the New York Times that the canals have frozen in the Netherlands for the first time in 12 years. This is a very big deal for the Dutch, who think of skating, according to the story, as “part of our soul.”

I’m thrilled for the Dutch, who have rushed out by the hundreds of thousands to skate on the canals, an old national tradition. Older Dutch are euphoric to relive their childhood memories. For many children, of course, this is a new experience. I imagine how happy, how full of wonder and surprise they must be to see their parents and their grandparents bursting with childlike excitement. How great to learn to be a child from your elders.

Just this morning I told friends that I have never really minded the bitter cold, at least on a sunny day, but that I don’t love it as much since I stopped having the chance to skate outside. And now I’m reading about a country able to skate outside, in spite of water pollution, in spite of global warming.

Can’t you imagine it, the wind pushing freezing tears from the corners of your eyes, your skates ripping into the hard, rough ice, the warmth returning to your feet in your skates as you work your legs and arms. If you are lucky, you hold a small child in front of you with both hands, feeling him feel the ice, the startling lack of friction and weight, as you glide untethered away from shore.

God bless winter.

New Year’s diet

I’m struggling with the diet my wife and I started after New Year’s. It’s only day 4 today, but the first week is always the worst, because that’s when you kick the sugar habit. Eating too much sugar is a life-long bad habit for me, ever since childhood, when I could eat everything I wanted and not gain a pound.

Weaning yourself off sugar (or caffeine, for that matter) does make you ask why you became so dependent on it in the first place. I haven’t read that much about what experts say about “comfort” eating or “emotional” eating, but the sense I have is that they are ways to find a quick, super easy way to feel better.

Of course, the real point is that there are more lasting, reliable ways to feel better, and most of these involve doing something worthwhile like helping someone else or helping yourself by eating right and exercising. Like most things that are worthwhile, these take more work than eating out of a vending machine.

Which takes me back to the first week of a diet. I find that I go into mourning for snack foods that I love (“I wish I had a black and white cookie.” “I wish I had a piece of chocolate cake.”) Then, the further into it I get, the more I admit to myself that I will appreciate being fit and in shape, and I will also appreciate not being controlled and hypnotized by processed, fatty foods.

Smokers say that after they quit smoking, they get to the point where they can really taste their food, and the same thing is true to a lesser degree with eating less junk food. All of the fresh vegetables start to taste delicious. I’m not allowed much fruit in the first week of this diet, but the fruit I am allowed (a tablespoon of raisins, a dried apricot) taste like candy.

There is a metaphor in this, that giving up quick, empty joys clears the way for you to notice deeper, more substantial joys. In three weeks, this will make me really happy.

For today, I am clinging to the fact that I have lost 2.5 pounds, and I get to eat a little applesauce for a snack later today.

Vacation

We arrived in Palm Desert, California, yesterday for the Thanksgiving long weekend. Our daughter is playing in a field hockey tournament. I’ve written before that I love life on vacation, probably most of us do. Something about discovering new people and experiences gives me a shift in perspective that reminds me to be on the lookout for experiences to appreciate.

One of the best things about it is that my wife and I travel exceptionally well together. On the road, I have a better sense of how to accommodate her and make her life easier. Here, as always, she also encourages me to strike out on my own and enjoy myself.

This morning I walked up the street to a hotel where we ate last night. I had seen they had a nice fitness center, and I hoped to buy a day pass. When I got there at 6:00 this morning, the attendant at the fitness center, a really nice woman from the Indian reservation on which the hotel sits, apologized and told me that they only allow hotel guests. So I asked her whether there was another gym close by, and she told me there was a really nice one just a short drive away.

I walked back to the hotel, took the car, and drove to the new 24 Hour Fitness in Indio, California. It was the nicest gym I can remember using. It’s only been open 3 weeks, so it is state of the art and super clean. The staff there were exceptionally helpful, and I had a tremendous workout. I’ve felt great all day.

Last night was just the same. Some of the team parents, the coach of the club, and half the girls went to the hotel buffet next door. There were 18 of us, and we had an all you can eat dinner. Not only was the food outstanding, shockingly great, but the head chef came to the table when he heard there was a high school team in the restaurant. He thanked them personally for coming to the restaurant, and he wished them good luck in the tournament. When we left, he waited for us at the door and thanked us again.

The entire team and I have been thrilled with how well we have been treated by everyone. It is just great how friendliness begets more friendliness. It is already a marvelous Thanksgiving.

Exhausted (but in a good way)

I’m at the airport, waiting for a delayed flight home from Chicago. It snowed here, today, very light flurries, and it made me wonder why I always love the first snow of winter with a full, childlike heart and then come to hate it by mid-winter. This year, I will try to love it for its beauty and take the inconvenience as only a temporary nuisance.

I’m exhausted. True to form, I stayed up past midnight last night working on PowerPoint slides for a customer meeting this morning. Then I got up early to finish them before a planning breakfast with colleagues. Less than an hour before we needed to take a taxi to the client’s headquarters, I had a file mishap and lost quite a bit of my work.

We looked at one another in horror, wondered out loud for three minutes what had happened, and then spread out to fix the problem as quickly as we could. It sounds like a small thing, but when we had regrouped and replaced 4 hours of work in 50 minutes, we all felt a little giddy. Effective collaboration has a way of doing that for me. It is just thrilling to be reminded whom you can count on when you hit a major setback.

The meeting went well, we had lunch and completed our meeting debrief, and then everyone scattered, leaving me alone to catch up on email and some projects I owed to people before heading to the airport.

To my surprise and delight, I finished quickly enough that I had time to swim in the hotel pool. If any of you are ever looking for a great place to stay in Chicago, the Intercontinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue has the most beautiful indoor pool I’ve ever seen at a city hotel. The pool itself is tiled with tiny, mosaic squares. The deep end is nearly 15-feet deep, the room in which it sits is decorated like a modern-day roman bath, and the pool itself is 25-yards long, large enough that a workout feels like a workout.

I swam a little more than half a mile and sat in the sauna for a few minutes before dressing and heading to Midway airport. To make matters even better, Midway’s Southwest terminal has Harry Cary’s restaurant where I ate pork chops, steamed broccoli, and a side of pasta with a basil-fragrant tomato sauce. Absolutely delicious.

So I have to say that the day rewarded me for my patience and hopefulness. My work friends were wonderful this morning, bringing me coffee, offering encouragement, and doing everything they could to help. It was an inspiring way to start the day, and the swim was a refreshing way to end it.

I feel blessed.

New Exercise Program

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it. – Plato

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states. – Carol Welch

I started a new exercise program on June 30th. I’m not sure what has been harder; the actual 6-day a week program or getting started. I believe that getting started has the edge on being the hardest as it took many months to get to this point.

I know myself well enough that when I’m heavily resisting something, it almost always means that I really need to do it. In psychological terms, it’s the ego that begins to lose control when you start to do things that benefit yourself or give one confidence. The Buddhists call it the monkey mind. The ego or monkey mind uses the subtle techniques of fear, lack of confidence, judgment and etc. to prevent us from being who we truly are. The ego wrongly believes it will die if it loses control.

For sometime my ego has worked overtime to make sure I don’t exercise. I have a clever technique in the fact that I have always had a “good reason” why I can’t exercise at any particular moment. Granted some of the excuses are lame, but they’ve been working quite well up until June 30th.

I’m getting through this one exercise session at a time. If I start to think ahead too much, my ego kicks in and I start thinking about how much work I have to do and how far away I am from my ultimate goal of finishing this 90 day program. So, my one goal is to complete today’s program. That’s all. I find it much easier.

This week, I’m starting to feel better as I’ve gotten over the hump of very sore muscles and feeling tired. Each day, I make a small amount of progress over the day before. It feels really good. I’m striving to build a good habit in 90 days, but I suspect I will have to watch my thoughts for quite some time.

Sometimes all it takes is to take one step forward. The inertia of that action will help to carry you forward and generate another step.

Michael

Bicycles, Strawberries and Homemade Ice Cream

Erica and started off the day with a 10 mile bicycle ride around Ocean Drive in Newport, RI. It was a perfect morning for a ride; sunny, deep blue skies, early enough so there wasn’t much traffic and a cool, salty breeze off the ocean. As we approached Brenton Point Park, we could see that many people were already launching kites to take advantage of the strong winds. We particularly enjoyed two enormous (automobile size) rainbow colored kites.

After returning home, we made a beeline to Sweet Berry Farms to pick strawberries. We picked two large containers of the ripest ones we could find. Erica took some of the largest and best to make a wonderful fresh strawberry pie. Strawberries are my favorite fruit. Being able to pick them fresh off the plant and then consume them was a huge treat for me.

Lunch consisted of three slices of a freshly made, thin crust pepperoni pizza. For dessert we savored two homemade ice creams; coffee and ginger. Both flavors were exquisite. The coffee ice cream had a rich full bodied coffee taste while the ginger ice cream had large chunks of candied ginger.

The only drawback was that the sugar made both of us sleepy so we took an afternoon nap to recuperate. :-)

The point of this story is to get out and do anything fun. Don’t sit around. Go explore. Do something different. Discover new things.

Have a great day!

Michael

Newport Cliff Walk

Cliff Walk Newport Rhode IslandErica stayed local this weekend. We decided to take a long walk on the famous Cliff Walk in Newport, RI. The total length is about 3 1/2 miles one way. We didn’t walk the entire length, but we did go about 2/3 of the way.

Yesterday was mostly rain, fog and wind. Today, the fog lifted by noon and the rest of the day was windy and partly cloudy; a simply stunning day.

It was a leisurely walk as I was doing some geocaching along the way. Erica turned out to have a knack with the geocaching game. She found a difficult one that I couldn’t find. :-)

Mansion on Cliff Walk in Newport Rhode IslandI enjoy looking at the mansions along the way. These places are huge and represent a different time and place. I really like the stonework on a lot of them.

Today was a great day for surfers. We watched them for quite some time. The waves were around 6 feet high and were rolling into the coast in groups of three.

I love watching the ocean waves. I find it mesmerizing and relaxing at the same time. So, it was a thoroughly enjoyable walk combined with the ocean, waves, blue sky, huge cumulus clouds, stone mansions and some great company.

I feel really rested from this weekend. It was fun to just do very little and like I mentioned yesterday, make time to play. We tend to get too tied up in the world around us and forget to take time for ourselves.

Michael