Friday, November 13, 2015

Life Long Learner

Whether we know it or not, we are all life long learners. We start at birth. The world comes at us full speed and we learn at breakneck speed: Language, culture, food, play, skills, crafts, music, art, sports, etc. All learned behaviors. Yet most adults reach a point where they feel they no longer need to keep learning. They hit a plateau of knowledge and abilities that allow them to go about their daily lives without much struggle, their world view set and their skill set honed. They might be a master craftsman or a successful business person, a school teacher or a law enforcement officer. They have reached a level where active learning is no longer required. They can do their jobs and live their lives with the skills and knowledge they already have. This is a dangerous place to be. If this is you, keep reading.

We are our best selves when we are humbled by our own lack of skills or knowledge. Deluding yourself into thinking you are "good enough" is the same as throwing in the towel. The good enough mentality breeds complacency.  If we stop seeking to improve ourselves, we cease growth. Every day we wake up with an opportunity to learn something new. Even little bits of learning can go a long way.

If you are already an expert at something, it can be highly valuable to start over as a novice at something new. I have spent 7 years improving my professional skills. In the last year, I started taking piano lessons from man who has been playing piano for 60+ years. In the same way a parent teaches their child the English language, he has taught me the language of music. Learning is a skill that must be practiced. We are so used to instant return that often, if we aren't immediately good at something, we write it off as "I'm just no good at blank." In reality, nobody is "just good" at anything. Some skills might come easier to some people, but we all have the capacity to acquire any skill set we desire.

Most successful people in any field are innately good learners. They seek knowledge. They recognize their knowledge gaps and seek to find the remedy, either by filling the gaps or finding experts in that field. Their constant self reflection, honesty and hunger to get better are their secrets to success. We must strive to be life long learners, no matter how rocky the road gets or how successful we become. It will keep us grounded and help us stay true to ourselves. And it will make us better.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Back on the Horse

Hello all.

It has been a minute since my last post. Life gets busy. Babies are born, scenery changes, responsibilities shift. Throughout all of these changes, one thing remains constant: the drive to consistently improve.

Aren't we good enough already? I don't have time to focus on myself. I have too much on my plate. This mentality is how people get stuck on a plateau. We go to school, graduate, get a job, start taking on personal and financial responsibilities and one day we wake up and find that most of our effort is put toward things that don't get us excited. We establish routines and habits and get set in our ways. Parts of our lives get put on autopilot; drive the same routes to work, cook the same meals, do the same workouts, hang out at the same bars, etc. We have now entered the comfort zone.  This might feel good, but eventually we will feel stagnant, like something is missing. The missing element? Learning, growth and improvement.

How do we get better? Where do we start? A good jump off point is to examine your weaknesses. We tend to hide our weaknesses for fear of being exposed. Talk to your friends and family (and coworkers) and ask for an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. They will most likely list some things that are not apparent to you (and some that are). Pick the one you most want to improve and make a conscious effort to work on it daily. For me, it is a compulsion to be on my phone. I find myself browsing a variety of apps for articles, news and other random things any time I find a pause in life.  While a smart phone can be a powerfully enabling tool, it should not be our default activity. The tipping point for me was having my first child. I don't want to think constant device use is the norm.

Another way to grow and improve is by learning something new. There are so many free online learning sites (Khan Academy, Tutor.com, Codecademy, to name a few) that you can learn most anything you want. Have an idea for an app? Learn to build apps for free. Want to brush up on your math, history or sciences? Take class for free at any level. Knowledge is out their just waiting to be had. And often, the process of deciding what to learn will reveal refine other areas you might want to improve. And as always, read read read.

 Challenge your status quo. Get out of your comfort zone. Keep and open mind. Talk to new and different people with different world views. The world is constantly changing around you; adapt, learn, improve and change with it.

It's good to be back.



Monday, December 2, 2013

Stay Loose on the Go

I fly often. Especially this time of year. Translation: I spend way too much time seated. My hamstrings shorten, my low back and hips tighten and my shoulder blades get pushed forward by the seat. All of these ingredients lead to bad posture, body imbalance and pain. But I have vowed not to simply accept this. There are things I can do to counteract the effects of sitting for hours on end.

For starters, I carry a few mobility tools with me when I travel:
  • The multi-purpose mobility peanut. This tool consists of two hard, tennis ball sized balls in a sleeve. It can be used all over the body as a massage tool. I like to put the peanut on either side of my spine while I'm seated and press into the chair. This helps unlock the tightness in the muscles in between the shoulder blades. I also use the peanut to roll out the fascia in the bottom of my feet, to dig deep into my butt muscles and smash the front of my chest and shoulders. The possibilities are endless.

  • The stretchy therapy band. This simple piece of rubber tubing provides resistance for many easy-to-do exercises and stretches. I like to take the band in both hands and stretch my arms as wide as possible, squeezing my upper back muscles. I do this at my waist, chest and overhead. I also like to wrap the band around my knees and drive my knees outward while sitting. It makes the outside of the hip, which is turned off when seated, activate in a serious way.
  • Golf Ball. I keep one of these in all my travel gear. It is the ultimate tool for smashing knots, especially in the feet.
In addition to these tools, I also have a few travel habits that help keep me loose on the go.
  • I never sit in the terminal chairs. I either stand or sit cross legged on the ground. Anything but more chair sitting.
  • I do forward fold. A lot. It may look weird to touch one's toes in an airport, but I don't care, it's worth it.
  • Hydrate! The air in planes is dry, which sucks more water out of your body when you breath. Dehydrated muscles are tight muscles.
I use this set of tools mainly when I fly, but you can take them on a road trip just as easily. Travelling can wreak havoc on your body, but with a properly stocked toolbox, you can arrive at your destination feeling loose.

Limber travels,


PS - Shout out to the airlines that are allowing small electronic devices throughout the flight, per the new FAA rules. Some airlines are still not playing ball, saying that they need to update the training programs for their flight crews. I call BS. Just stop telling people to turn off their devices for take off and landing. How hard can that be?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Get Strong

When you exercise, what motivates you? Do you want better health; to lose weight; to look good in a bathing suit? Do you have a concrete motivation that you rely on to get you off the couch and out the door? One that will last past beach season?  I think one of the most lasting motivations you can have is to be stronger.

There are myriad reasons to get strong. Most people don't think of themselves as needing strength, but in reality we use our strength every day. We carry groceries, play with kids, and help friends move sofas. You don't think about needing strength until you go to lift something and it doesn't move. Strong people are generally more useful than weak people.

In addition to being more useful, strength helps you avoid injury. If you're strong, you will be able to handle challenging situations that would injure a weaker person. Look at football players. These guys take some serious physical abuse, yet they (usually) get back up and keep playing. If the average person took just one of those hits they might never get back up. They can take so much punishment because they are strong. Their muscles and conditioning protect their organs, joints and the rest of their body from serious damage.

Being strong also facilitates increased confidence and mental toughness. Knowing you have physical abilities that allow you to do things other people can't gives you a confidence that will spread to all aspects of your life. If you regularly improve your strength and physical ability you will reap the benefits of self confidence and a strong mind.

Finally, being strong will ultimately aid you in surviving the zombie apocalypse. When the dead walk the earth, there will undoubtedly be plenty of things to move, lift and carry. The weak will be the first to go.

Seriously though, being strong is always preferable to being weak.  Whether you are a business person, a home maker, a fire fighter or a special forces operator, strength is an essential trait. Here are some of my favorite ways to build raw, useful strength;
  • Farmer's Carry - Pick up something heavy (dumb bell, kettlebell, suitcase full of bricks, etc.) and walk until you can't any more. Rest and repeat.
  • Clean - Find an odd shaped object (sandbag, log, suitcase full of bricks, etc.) and lift it from the ground to your shoulder. Put it down and pick it back up.
  • Pull-up - find anything you can hang from (bar, tree, rafters, etc) and pull your head above your hands. How many can you do?
There are many ways to get strong. Challenge yourself by working on your weak areas. It's better to have strength and not need it than to need strength and not have it.


PS - Today's Gameday Games were a doozy. We watched the afternoon RedZone games (Eagles at Broncos, Jets at Titans, Redskins at Raiders and Cowboys at Chargers). Every point we did one plank V-up with feet on the swiss ball (160 total). Every first down we did 5 sumo deadlift high pulls with a kettlebell (29 total, but we only did the ones showed on the Redzone coverage. There were many more.) Every turnover we did one minute of wall sit (8 minutes total). Every sack we did one minute of bridge (9 minutes total). What were your Gameday Games?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

!st Official Gameday Games!

What's up, Sports fans? I don't know about you folks, but I'm fired up about the return of football and all the associated activities: grilling, fantasy football and, of course, Gameday Games. For those of you unfamiliar with this idea, Gameday Games is the practice where we assign certain exercises to various actions in football games. This approach can be applied to any sport or other event with quantifiable results. I prefer football.

Today, we watched the afternoon Redzone games between the Packers and the Niners and the Rams and the Cardinals. For these games, we did 10 weighted lunges per first down (50 lb for me, 23 lb for the wifey). For each point scored, we did one inchworm with feet on the swiss ball. This move consists of plank with your feet/shins on a swiss ball. You raise your butt up in the air and then straighten back out into plank, keeping your core, butt and quads super tight. If you don't have a swiss ball, just do a plank where you walk your feet toward your hands and then back out into plank. For each sack we did 10 kettle bell deadlifts (again, me with 50 lbs and wifey with 35 lbs). For each turnover we did a one minute wall sit. The totals: 95 points scored = 95 inchworms, 45 1st downs = 450 lunges (!), 6 turnovers = 6 minutes of wall sit (painful after all the lunges) and 6 sacks = 60 deadlifts. We were both glad when this round of Gameday Games finally ended. The lunges were brutal.

I hope y'all give this a try. It's a fun and healthy way to watch the game.


PS - After a high volume of exercise focused on a certain body part (we abused our legs today) it is important to stretch and mobilize said body part. We took turns using the roll stick on each other's legs. We will reap the benefits tomorrow when we can actually walk up and down stairs.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sleep, sleeeeeeeep . . .

Sleep is arguably one of the most important activities we do in terms of health and well being. Both our body and brain need sleep; our body repairs damage and replenishes used energy stores while our brain organizes and stores thoughts and other information from our waking hours. Yet many people neglect their sleep habits, operating under the premise of "sleep is for the weak" or "I'll sleep when I'm dead." People get poor sleep and wonder why they feel tired, have headaches and generally perform less well. Instead of assessing their sleep habits, many people turn to external sleep aids, such as drugs (Ambien, alcohol, etc.). For many who have years or decades of poor sleep habits, the negative effects of poor sleep might not even register as abnormal. Chronic sleep deprivation is a way of life for many. You may not put that much thought into sleeping, but we spend roughly 1/3 of our lives asleep. So don't you want it to be the best sleep possible?

You might be thinking, "I get plenty of sleep and feel fine." That may be true, but you may not be operating at 100%. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about the quality of your sleep;

  1. What is my sleep environment? Do I fall asleep with the TV on? The lights? Music? These kind of noise and light producers activate part of the brain, telling your body that you should be awake. The result is a longer wait to fall asleep and less restful, less deep sleep. What's more, studies have shows that seeing a multitude of faces (i.e. TV) triggers a part of the brain that encourages social interaction, which discourages falling asleep and restful sleep. The fix? Remove the TV from your bedroom, black out your windows and turn all the lights off at least 30 minutes before going to bed. I turn all lights out before I brush my teeth, which gives me a few minutes of total dark before going to bed. If you like/need some noise to fall asleep, try a fan and/or a noise machine. Nothing like the sound of rain on a window to lull me to sleep.
  2. What do I do before going to bed? Is my nightly routine stressful? Do I fall asleep every night on the sofa watching Sportscenter, only to wake up at 2:00 am and relocate to bed? Do I eat dinner right before bed? Any combination of these or other factors can make it harder to go to sleep, even if you feel tired. I try to taper my activity level down as my target bed time approaches. I also avoid eating a big dinner or a late dinner in favor of an afternoon snack and a small dinner at least 3 hours before going to sleep. I've also found that a cold shower before bed puts me out like a light (especially if it's hot).
  3. When do I go to bed? Many people go to bed at varying hours throughout the week. Some people sacrifice sleep during the week, planning on playing catch up on the weekend. Your body doesn't work that way. You can't "play catch up" or "bank" sleep for later. What you're doing is essentially jet-lagging yourself on a weekly basis. Not good. I try to go to sleep at the same time every night, including weekends, to establish a strong circadian rhythm.
  4. Do I count sheep? The age old remedy for restlessness is actually rooted in a meditation technique. Instead of counting sheep, I count my breaths. Each inhale/exhale counts as one. I rarely get to ten with out either falling asleep or letting my mind wander.
While you may feel like you get good sleep, I'd wager all of us can improve our sleep quality at least 1%. Being well-rested equals better performance in all aspects of your life. So examine your evening and bedtime habits. Maybe cut out the bedtime snack and definitely get that TV out! (When I stay in a hotel, I can never go to sleep because I can't help but have the TV on. It knocks at least 2 hours off a good night's sleep). Get to work constructing your cave of slumber and enjoy the benefits of deep, restful sleep.

Sleep tight,


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gameday Games are Back!

We are weeks away from the start of the NFL regular season. And with that comes the return of Gameday Games. I have been eagerly awaiting football this year. I am missing a big part of my Sunday routine without Red zone Gameday Games.

For those of you that have never tried, Gameday Games is a method where one assigns exercises to various parts of a football (or other sport) game. For example, 5 pushups for each point scored, 20 situps for each turnover and 20 seconds plank for each first down. These rules can be applied to both teams or you can assign separate exercises for each team. If you have a favorite team, this can enhance the enhance the viewing experience and get you off the couch. If you and a friend/family member are pulling for opposing teams, the rules could be that if my team does x (score, first town turnover, etc), than the fan of the opposing team must do y (pushups, situps, etc.) This is a method that I have not tried but I can imagine how fun this will make watching a game together. I think I will propose that my brother (a Jets fan) and I (a Bucs fan) will play the inaugural head-to-head edition of Gameday Games on September 8th when our two teams open the season in New Jersey. Game on!

The whole point of this game is to add a level of activity to what otherwise amounts to sitting on the sofa for 8 hours. So next time you are gathering to watch the games, get moving by making your own Gameday Games.

Can't wait!


PS - This whole idea stems from watching the Oregon Duck, who has been doing a pushup for every point his football team scores for years.