Honor Yourself

“Listen to your body,” “take care of yourself,” “honor your body,” “be kind to yourself,” and so on. I come from the yoga space, so I hear stuff like this all the time. How should we interpret it? Does honoring yourself mean that you should never challenge yourself? Does listening to your body mean never pushing past your comfort zone? Does taking care of yourself mean bubble wrapping yourself in hopes of protecting yourself from any possible damage? I don’t think so.

Living organisms benefit from stress. We adapt. We strive to be what Nicolas Nassim Taleb calls “Antifragile.” Something that is fragile breaks when forces are applied to it. Something that is merely robust is unchanged when forces are applied to it. But the antifragile gets stronger and improves from the stresses placed upon it. That is what we should all strive to do.

Taking care of ourselves should include regular doses of stress: physical, mental and emotional. That which does not kill us makes us stronger, means the stress should be significant but not life-threatening. A good workout in my mind, is an ordeal; a task that I fear might be too much for me to bear. Before it begins I’m nervous and when it’s done I am relieved. Many of my yoga friends would look at a workout that arduous and wonder why someone would do that. I would respond that I am honoring my body.

The Pursuit of Better Than Yesterday

The hyperbole surrounding self-improvement books is vast. We are all attracted to the idea of greatness, the chance to really strike out and make a name for ourselves. So we throw good money after bad buying books, products and seminars that promise to make us great. However, the truth is, we are not all going to be gold medalists in life.

Just because you will not go to the Olympics and win gold for swimming does not mean you can’t go swimming every day and love it and benefit from it and improve at it. If we tie our actions to grandiose end results we will, more often than not, fall short and become frustrated and disappointed. If we focus on the process and tiny, incremental improvements we will find great success and fulfillment.

My process is to focus on the aggregation of marginal gains. My goal is not to be the best at any one thing. My goal is to have an awesome life. To me that means so many different aspects of my life have to keep improving: not just my fitness, but my income, my relationships, my peace of mind and more. So the plan, as far as I have found, is to make small, 1% improvements to each area of my life over time. The aggregation or sum of all these improvements leads to a better life with less things to complain about and more happiness.

Each day I try to do something positive in the areas of nutrition, fitness, hygiene, finances, mindfulness, relationships, gratitude, generosity, and more. If I put pressure on myself to do something epic in each area, I will fail. If I merely try to make a positive action with regards to all these areas it not that hard but the cumulative effect is that I have created a better day and feel good about myself.

Create a list of 5 or 10 things that would positively effect your life and try to do make a small impact each day on that list.

It’s All Connected

When someone has a “mobility issue” it is often tied to other “issues.” For example, someone has an injury or experiences some pain in a position and the body compensates (consciously or subconsciously) to restrict movement around that position. There is a shoulder impingement that causes pain when the shoulder goes into flexion thus the body decides that movement is now off the table. Eventually these short term solutions to pain become long term restrictions.

Another side effect is that when a person decides that they need to use that range of motion for survival or sport, the body will find numerous ways to “work around” the issue. Instead of lifting the arm overhead into shoulder flexion the body will now compensate by bending backwards and creating undue hyperextension of the lumbar spine: a creative short term solution with bad long term repercussions.

This is all just to say that when dealing with “mobility issues” you have to address pain management issues as well as movement re-education issues. Unfortunately most people think like shoe salesmen, they see you run and then prescribe a shoe that will supposedly fix your feet. It doesn’t work that way.

Cook

Nutrition is a controversial topic like religion and politics. The chances of changing someone’s opinions about food are about as likely as changing someone’s sexual orientation. Nonetheless, we try and try. I start with the forrest and then eventually worry about the trees. You can (and probably should at some point) get very obsessive with counting the amount of proteins, carbs and fats you are eating (macros!). However, I believe the biggest improvement you can make to your nutrition is to start to cook.

Now anybody can put a chicken in the oven, but that don’t make them a chef. I am not saying you have to be a good cook, but outsourcing all your food prep to someone else is giving up control of an extremely important part of your life. If you want to improve or optimize your health and performance, you have to pay attention to your nutrition. When you start to cook, then you pay attention to the ingredients. When you start to cook, you pay attention to the portions. The process of cooking awakens you to so many things and makes you conscious of what you are putting in your body.

Ordering in, or heating up pre-packaged meals, is extremely convenient but makes it easy to take for granted everything that goes into preparing food. The gratitude you have for the food and the meal is heightened when you prepare everything yourself or when you cook with friends or family.

I am always shocked when I meet people that don’t cook, but they really exist. If you have never cooked, start small and work on making one meal. Maybe hang out with a friend and have them teach you how to cook. It’s not that hard.

That Voice

Last night I was exhausted and that voice was saying I should just stay home and rest. I reflected on how much I would regret not going to jiu-jitsu and decided to ignore that voice and go and train.

As I was walking to jiu-jitsu, my pulled hamstring was bothering me and I could feel how sore I was from my morning workout and that voice was telling me to just train really light and not go hard. When I got to the academy the new Tuesday night instructor put us through the toughest class I have ever taken there. We did an extended warmup with running, jumping, crawling and partner calisthenics. We did multiple 3-minute rounds of guard pass drills for reps (i.e. As many reps as possible in 3 minutes!). We trained multiple 5-minute rounds of live rolling. It was non-stop for 90 minutes.

That voice always tries to sell me short. It always tries to get me to do less, be less, to relax, to rest and to stop trying. That voice is like a drug dealer that pretends to be my friend and tells me what I want to hear, but only wants to get me hooked on the easy fix.

Be on guard for that voice. It comes whispering softly to you and tries to get you to let down your guard and rest. Keep working. Keep fighting. Ignore that voice. Recognize the danger that lurks at the end of the siren song.

The best way to silence that voice is to do the work. Take action and that voice loses its power. Once you are in action you recognize that voice for what it is: resistance, doubt and fear.

Wake Up And Get Sh*t Done

I’m not a morning person, yet I’ve been up for an hour now and it’s only 6:30am. I would much prefer staying up until 2 or 3am and then sleeping until I wake up to the smell of coffee and bacon wafting through the house. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. Now in order to be productive, I must set my alarm to 5am so I can journal, use the bathroom, neti, brush my teeth, meditate, blog, put on coffee, do dishes, cook breakfast, stretch and check social media before my little one wakes up and demands my attention.

I have contemplated and even attempted to use the time after he goes to bed to do many of those things but it’s just not the same. By the time the evening rolls around I’m doing mobility in front of the tv. In order to have solitary time I would have to wait until my wife falls asleep and then there is simply no fuel left in the tank. Also the dark hours at the end of the day is when the cravings start. If I am left alone in the middle of the night it’s all too tempting to make grilled cheese sandwiches and raid the cupboard for snacks.

After years of fighting it, I am convinced that there is something worthwhile to waking up before the Sun. My body and mind fight me every day but I winning the battle so far. I don’t know that I will ever be a “morning person,” but I am content to be getting things done. The momentum created by being productive first thing in the morning is tremendous and the reward for waking up. I see now why so many people do it even though it would seem preferable to sleep.

The Mindfulness Trap

Many people believe being mindful and being present means being slow and thoughtful as if always in slow motion. But game, mission and life all require being present and performing at full speed so we must learn to apply our mindfulness practice to these endeavors.

I don’t always roll as hard as I could because I sometimes think that I can be more present when I’m going at half-intensity. However, that is not always the case. When drilling I think it’s important to be methodical and not push too fast to finish the drill but instead take time to address the details.

When the drilling is over and the live rolling begins, I often roll at half-intensity and spend a lot of energy thinking about my next move. I tell myself that I’m being mindful. However, I seldom roll my best when I take this approach. I roll my best when I don’t limit myself and I allow myself to go at full intensity. I have conflated over-thinking with being present. Being present means being in the moment and reacting things as they happen. We have this notion from kung-fu movies and mainstream zen that being present means moving slowly. However that is not the case. Being present is being in the moment not thinking about the moment. In sports and much of life that moment happens quickly and our mindfulness practice has to learn to keep up.

We learn mindfulness slowly with simpler tasks but eventually we have to train ourselves to be present at full speed.

Get Up And Move Around!

I heard Tony Robbins say that when he feels a funk coming on he gets up and starts moving. Doesn’t matter what it is: running, lifting, or bouncing on a trampoline. Once you start moving it changes your mood. We are wired to move. It can reset us. A bad mood can often cause you to want to sit around and veg out because a bad mood wants to persist. If you can get up and start moving you can send some endorphins to your brain and get out of that funk. Start with something easy like walking or dancing or doing a downward facing dog or swinging a kettlebell. Soon enough you’ll find you want to do more. Don’t wait until you are in the mood to workout. Start moving an let the momentum carry you.

Observation Vs. Perception

To note that the thing has happened is observation. That is objective. That the thing that happened is good or bad is perception. That is subjective. Our observation is limited. Our perception is infinite. In order to be most effective we must learn to distinguish between our observations and our perceptions. Deconstruct and untangle the events from the stories we tell ourselves about the events.

Healing

I keep coming back to the idea of healing. In the western terms “healing” means returning to health. That is path many of us are on whether we know it or not. Things we do should move us in that direction. Things that don’t move us toward health should be questioned.

I am starting to question the things I do and ask whether they are healing or not. I am also reflecting on all the various healing strategies I have learned throughout my life and wondering how I can start to incorporate some of them back into my life.

Many of us love to use and abuse our bodies, especially when we are young, but as you get older you realize your body has to last and in order to last, you need to start looking at and utilizing various healing strategies. Get to it!