Posts Tagged 'change'

Strain to Gain

Courtesy of SportTalk.com.au

“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

The macho T-shirts could not be more incorrect.

What is intended as a powerful metaphor for working through obstacles has become a mantra inviting injury.

Pain is an indicator of danger — life threatening danger.

The truth is, the most effective tool for development is strain.

It is the adaptation to an uncomfortable stimulus which stretches us beyond current boundaries, not jumping to the next plateau before we are remotely prepared.

Pushing to the edge leaves us expanded, similar to the joint aches associated with a growth spurt.

In this manner, we move improve inch by inch instead of breaking in two.

Weakness leaves the body by degrees over time.

Strain tests and builds capacity. Pain exceeds it.

Variety Shows

Courtesy of MyScienceProject.org

Switching things up is a key to peak performance in any arena — sports or entertainment, business or life.

The benefits of changing an established routine are manifold. When it comes to fitness, doing so is a necessity. The body is always searching for the most efficient way to perform a given activity.

In order to reach the sort of elite level we all seek (if only deep down), we have to unlock ourselves from the chains of a memorized — and therefore easier — program.

I have a hard time doing this.

I enjoy running. I get some miles in six days most weeks, testing my cardiorespiratory system and relieving stress, to a lesser extent. As much as I hate to admit it, such repetition can eventually do more harm than good.

I’ll get bored.

I’ll get injured.

Thankfully, I know better.

Yesterday, my brother, sister-in-law and I did our monthly measurements. This includes weight and waist-to-hip ratios, as usual, but I added another wrinkle for myself:

I decided to perform an experiment over the next four weeks and abandon distance running.

Early in the evening, I ran 1.56 miles in 9:38. Using math to project this across the traditional 2.4km test, I covered the appropriate distance in 9:12, averaging 6:08 per mile.

Why did I do this, you ask?

This set a baseline for me in terms of Maximal Aerobic Speed and VO2 max, a pair of intertwined indicators of a person’s ability to take in and distribute oxygen during exercise. Generally speaking, higher ratings equate to the ability go farther and faster.

I’m curious about improving fitness with less traditional endurance workouts, a concept I’ve read about but have yet to really attempt myself. I plan to use regiments based on building agility and speed while putting the heart to work. The idea is to create an all-around program built on the intervals I already use, substituting other exercises for out-and-out running to get the desired effect.

In short, I’m going to get back to basics.

Squats.

Mountain climbers.

Lunges.

T-sprints.

On April 10th, I’ll retest and see what variety shows.

The Theory of Change

Courtesy of CBC.ca

I wanted to know how to spend $100 million.

Provoked by the teaser on the cover, I opened a recent issue of Inc. magazine to see how such a large sum of money might help education.

Inspired by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s recent donation to the Newark school system, the author tackled the inherent challenges to reforming education guided by an entrepreneurial mindset.

What it comes down to is the “theory of change.”

This is “a set of beliefs about the best strategy to produce a desired outcome.” Organizations of all kinds — industrial, political, religious — operate under basic assumptions about how results are achieved. In fact, it’s most accurate to say they are defined by these ideas; membership grows based on how many people identify themselves with this or that method for making a difference.

If these central concepts are absent, it is nearly impossible to get anything going.

An agreed-upon approach is the foundation for decision-making, it creates the boundaries for what will be done to reach a stated goal. Used properly, it streamlines the process for advancing from stage to stage.

This is true of people, too. How we go about moving from one station in life to the next — if we ever do — is a function of the perspective we have on tactics.

And, being human, we often cling tightly to what we’re comfortable with, continuing to work furiously despite our efforts having questionable impact.

What must be done to change how we think about changing?

Do we allocate more resources (money, information, time)?

How about taking different action? Is simply doing that enough?

Can it be identified without the 20-20 prism of hindsight?

What, if anything, can be deemed necessary without argument?

It takes commitment.

Early returns do not a revolution make. Challenges are bound to arise when steering a new course. Just overcoming the momentum built traveling the old way is a task unto itself — one which must be completed before going full speed in another direction.

Determination, then, is a component.

It also takes patience.

Change, for the most part, is a gradual process spread over days, months and years. Though we find ourselves frustrated and overwhelmed when it takes a while for everything to coalesce, steadiness of spirit and the willingness to persevere are necessary to witness anything bear fruit.

Regardless of how we anticipate change occurring, we can be certain of one thing:

Deeply-held belief and inspired effort will be harnessed over time to create the hoped-for conclusion.

Trust Issues

Courtesy of PalatePress.com

Developing trust in the wake of pain is a challenge.

When you see the person, if you can stand to look, all you can think of is the injuries suffered.

You show off the emotional scars, the aftereffects of being hurt so many times.

Anger simmers beneath the surface, begging to boil over.

Good deeds are hidden by bitterness.

What matters is your unmet expectations — and the price of that failure.

You sit and count the ways you were let down.

You struggle to forgive.

You wish to forget.

Eventually, though, you trust yourself again.

This is Healthier

Four Weeks' Difference: 1/16 (l) and 2/13 (r)

Some things we have to see to believe.

Four weeks ago, I wrote a revealing post about my desire to shift my body composition in subtle ways by paying more attention to what I eat.

I gave up sweets and focused on eating more meat, seeds, nuts and leafy vegetables.

I decided to work out again — in the way I always told myself would be ideal.

The change is evident.

First and foremost — because I know you’re wondering — I did lose a fair amount of weight. I was 170 pounds when my brother, sister-in-law and I did “before” measurements on January 16th, four days into adopting the Paleo lifestyle.

I clocked in at 155 on February 13th, fifteen pounds lighter — a misleading number, for the record. A nasty case of stomach flu tore me apart that weekend, leaving me either in bed or on the toilet for the better part of 30 hours. After a snack early Saturday afternoon, I was unable to eat or drink anything until Monday morning.

It was Tuesday before I returned to full strength.

Dehydrated and starved, my weight skewed downward.

The next evening, after eating three meals more like my normal intake, the scale hovered at 160 — what I played soccer at in college. I consider this “unofficial,” as I stepped on the scale merely to reassure myself (as I said before, my intent is to be lean, not emaciated) and skipped taking other measurements.

Looking at the pictures, you’ll notice the differences in two spots, primarily: the face and abdomen.

A comparison of the jawline highlights the change: it is far more apparent on the right than left. Though it would be unfair to say I was chubby before, a distinct streamlining has occurred in a highly-noticeable area. This is why I advise anyone tracking weight loss to take up-close-and-personal facial photos — when the rest of the body seems to lag behind, those pictures tell the (encouraging) truth.

Now, notice the beltline. My waist slimmed by two inches, a portion of which must be attributed to my inability to take (or even sniff, really) a bite of food at the time. Still, the visual is telling: an increase in tone and decrease in, ahem, “softness” at the area most men stealthily begin packing on pounds after college.

Despite being very pleased, I have to admit the pictures tell a small part of the story:

  • Sleep feels deeper and more refreshing
  • Energy levels are more stable throughout the day
  • Meals satisfy appetite longer
  • Exercise recovery seems faster

This weekend, we decided to incorporate some of our old favorites back in. I had some pizza, a couple beers and some of the desserts I used to enjoy again.

The fast food was bland.

The fries turned my stomach.

The cookies were unbearably sweet.

I look forward to my next slab of meat and handful of baby spinach more all the time.

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This is Not Healthy

The Upside of Chaos

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
Friedrich Nietzche
 

The great ones always seem to have something more to prove.

If we tracked the career arcs of the most-admired athletes, entertainers and businessmen, we would often find them hunting for new ventures after high achievement in their chosen field or simply chasing down new dimensions to work they produced before.

The public sees the riches and fame and asks, “Why?”

Maybe they’re greedy.

Maybe it’s just ego.

Maybe it’s something different altogether.

When passion rules our lives — the kind tied to true purpose — there is an innate determination to keep going, like a surfer heading out again and again in the hopes of catching the perfect wave.

It’s not about the compensation.

It’s not even about the competition.

It’s about the connection.

To express our essence — whatever we are created to do — is to ride lightning.

The energy is necessary, because fulfilling our potential is a tiring endeavor.

It requires a single-minded doggedness and unfailing grit.

Those who push forward — who strain for the very edges of what’s possible — have a certain restlessness. Their minds are driven by the relentless pursuit of the horizon. When reaching a destination, they look around and say, “What’s next?” or “What could be done better?”

This “chaos,” as Nietzche calls it, is in actuality a quiet discontent with the idea of leaving something incomplete, of walking away before the tasks of this life are finished.

Seeking that kind of fulfillment naturally leads to upheaval and disarray.

Becoming engaged in the quest for the best of oneself demands inner turmoil.

We ask what’s possible.

We face what holds us back.

We change or rot.

We come to understand the underlying truth of what makes us legend:

No turbulence, no growth.

Unreality Check

Courtesy of BearSkinRug.co.uk

There are a few sentences I contend with immediately.

My brain is encoded to detect these phrases from across rooms. Like a sophisticated set of military instruments, my ears perk up and I instinctively tune in to the subsequent conversation.

“The University of Louisville is a fine institution.”

“Wearing brown and gray together is impossible.”

“I can tell he’s a __________ because he bought __________ and voted for ___________.”

“You have to be realistic.”

Though I refrain from running off at the mouth due to the conventions of polite conversation, I am completely unable to keep my mind from asking a simple question:

“Why?”

Those five words command people to stick with what they know. Look at what’s reachable and go for that.

Reality is stark and unfriendly.

Focusing on the perils of day-to-day life strips us of the imagination necessary to go beyond it — absent the slim hope of lottery victory.

What’s real to us is often far beneath what’s possible.

The capacity to think beyond what we can see and comprehend is the greatest of humanity’s gifts.

It defines us.

It moves us.

Advancement in any arena is the direct result of gazing towards the horizon and setting out to discover what lies beyond it.

History is the compilation of stories about those who believed this simple truth:

We can only be extraordinary if we are first unrealistic.


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