The Chicken or the Egg, or is it Motivation or an Obstacle?

•June 18, 2012 • 4 Comments

Sport

Recently, I have had difficulty, not wanting to get up and workout – AGAIN!  I have felt uninspired and unmotivated to exert or hurt myself (a cycling term for a really hard workout).  I just wanted to stay in bed and skip the workout, while questions and thoughts run through my head in regards to why I feel compelled to push myself physically as hard as I do.  Questions such as: “what am I doing this for?” “What am I trying to prove?” “Could I spend my time elsewhere?” “I need more sleep!” etc, etc.

In fact these feelings, of not being motivation, have been so pervasive I truly had thoughts of throwing my bike(s) away!  These negative feelings are confusing since I really should be SO motivated right now.  I am the strongest I have ever been on the bike, since starting to ride over 4 years ago.  My weight is floating around 215-218lbs, down from 245lbs, when I started, my body fat is between 5-7%, down from 12-15%.  I am currently at my high school/college weight at the age of 49.  Thank you Dr. Phil Goglia of Performance Fitness Concepts (www.pfcnutrition.com) in Santa Monica!

I made a serious commitment to cycling, putting in the time and working with people who are so much better than me, with many more years of experience.  This has enabled me to improve at a much faster rate than if I had tried to sort out this sport on my own.  Then again, I do have to give myself credit since when I pursue something, doesn’t matter what it is, I always do it at 100%.  I personally feel that if I pursue something it is at 100%, otherwise what is the point?  If the motivation is not there, I should then look for something else to do, interesting and demanding enough to allow me to be fully motivated and engaged.

There are no short cuts. I always open myself up to learn as much as possible about whatever I am pursuing.  Listening is an important skill I have developed (the older I get the easier it is for me to do that).  When starting something new I try to open myself up and become a sponge.  I actively seek out mentors, and coaches, experts in an activity I am learning, while quickly sorting out the “talker” from the “real deal.” I have met so many snake oil salesmen along the road of personal development…

As I continue to transform my body to become more efficient on a bike (hard to do for someone who is 6’7” and naturally built more like a rower!).  There is a balancing act required, of losing weight while maintaining strength and power.  I have strategically lost weight slowly so my body could adjust to the physical changes in order for it to produce the same power output with less weight.  This is what gives me the ability to go faster year after year.

Anyway, I am digressing.  These cycles of de-motivation appear quite frequently in my life (I would say that would be true for everyone who engages in doing something that is mentally or physically hard).  Although, when I have a down swing, as discussed above, it is sometimes confusing because there are so many positives surrounding my sport and workout.  Of course, I have to always remember, there are many possible reasons/influences that affect motivation…including stress, over training, low energy, work, a bad diet, lack of sleep, booze, etc. it takes serious commitment to identify and correct the causes and also requires total honesty.

On a side note, I do understand that the body and mind needs some down time, for adequate recovery, as well as being able to stay mentally motivated.  I routinely take off a few days here and there, whether it’s taking time off the bike, or giving myself an easy workout week, cheating on my foods once in awhile, or whatever.  However, it is important to remember that there is a time to reengage again, and not become too comfortable doing nothing or consistently taking the easier route…which all can lead to the beginning of a very slippery down hill road.

In regards to addressing the mental aspect of motivation, particularly the lack of it, I have developed a simple personal thought process/formula to positively adjust my mind set to overcome a lack of motivation.

In order to get back my desire and motivation, I think about the following things:

  • If I stop working out I would just become an average 49 year old – with the potential of becoming unfit, unhealthy, unhappy and overweight.  I do not want to be average!
  • I understand that living a healthy lifestyle helps me get more out of life, including laying the foundation for happiness since, from a physical standpoint; I can participate in so many more fun activities.
  • There is something so wonderfully primeval about being able to athletically outperform younger athletes.  For me it a HUGE motivator.  However, I totally understand I can only do this if I put in the training time, watch my foods, and get enough rest…but it is the choice that I alone make and can control.

These things scare and inspire me enough to get me out of a funk and ass out of bed to workout!

Life

As in sports there are always situations in life that take some effort.  I don’t’ necessarily feel like going to work every day, making a presentation, sitting through a performance appraisal, going to jury duty, and so on….we all encounter things we don’t want to do but have to, unexpected unpleasant situations we are forced to deal with.

I have come across many people who do not push through something that might be outside of their comfort zone, or are too lazy to see a task through because it requires considerable effort.  To my mind this group of people, form a high percentage of the general population and fall in the category of “average.”  When I come across someone like that it in fact motivates me, since I do NOT want to be average…

Working for a company, or doing any kind of job/project, is like being in a marriage.  How I assess whether things are ok is by determining the bad, or not so fun things, and match (list) them against the great and interesting things that are part of the same universe. If the positive things overshadow the negative things, then things are going well.  I am constantly looking at the negatives and thinking about how to make them into positives.  So, even if it takes a while I always give myself a fighting chance.

Part of living life and learning along the way, is by overcoming obstacles.  Only by overcoming obstacle and hardships will I learn and grow.  So, when I hit a bump along the way I can ether try to avoid it, thereby not learning anything other than maybe the art of avoidance, or meet the obstacle head on gaining whatever learning and experience that will result.  The resulting knowledge and experience adds to the foundation for overcoming obstacles in the future.

Finding motivation, overcoming obstacles and challenges, are for me the same thing.  Not having or loosing motivation is like coming up against an obstacle which needs to be addressed quickly and head on.

“Having a strong desire or being successful does not mean that you are going to feel great all the time. No matter how enlightened I become, I will not be positive all the time. You have to understand the swing of the pendulum. It must swing back and forth. The only other alternative is to sit still in neutral, which is precisely what most people do.” ~ Thomas D. Willhite

 

My Life Weapon of Choice…Faith

•March 12, 2012 • 5 Comments

The older I get the more I like the word “Faith” – Faith in myself, faith in my family, my friends, faith in something higher.

Faith is sometimes the only tool I have when the world makes no sense, and when life throws me the biggest obstacles and heartaches, or when life just doesn’t seem fair in general.

Just by living life it is guaranteed that all of us had, or will have, something difficult happen.  Sometimes, to overcome these, you just need to believe…to believe in something bigger than yourself, and to believe that there is something good just around the corner, to believe that after you close your eyes and wake up in the morning it just might be alright.

What makes life so exciting is that I never know what is waiting for me. When I think back, there have been so many times when I felt so claustrophobic, exasperated, stressed, depressed about a situation, or by certain negative accumulative dynamics filling my life during a certain period, that are surrounding or swamping me, all with the potential of pushing me down the emotional abyss.

However, something always happens that instantly gets me out of the funk of self pity…all it takes is something small, whether it is one conversation, one phone call, one text, one e-mail, one chance meeting, or a sunny day.

Getting an injection of joy, positivity, support, whatever it is, has the potential to feel like someone has switched on a warm inviting light within a previously dark depressing room…and it is THIS that makes life interesting and fun!  One minute I am living in darkness and the next, my heart is beating with excitement.

People can always give up – that’s the easy path!  I have come through some tough periods in my life, particularly recently, and they have certainly helped me to grow as a person.  I have mentally moved on up by incorporating faith in the way I view and handle many of life’s toughest challenges. There is always something to look forward to.  It is true that in our greatest adversity we can sometimes find our greatest joy.

Faith tells me that the next day will come and there will be a reason to go on with my life, always providing me with a reason to live life to its fullest.

Faith goes up the stairs that love has built, and looks out the window which hope has opened” — Charles Spurgeon

This may be the last time…

•February 4, 2012 • 11 Comments

I have found that I prefer reality shows from across the pond.  They appeal to me so much more than the ones available in the US. To me the English reality shows tend to be more gritty, have a documentary feel, and come across more “real.”

As I mentioned on facebook a couple of weeks ago, I have been watching this intense reality show on BBC America called “24 Hours in the ER.” In the intro a nurse says – “Everyone should walk through an Emergency Room once in their life, because it makes you realize what your priorities are. It’s not the rush, rush, rush and money, money, money. It’s about the people you love and the fact that one minute they are there, and the next minute they are gone.”

I do not know why, but this statement really affected me.  Maybe, it was because of the visual setting of an Emergency Room.  Amongst the injured people coming and going, the buzz of activity, the blood, the screams of pain, this nurse spoke in such a calm and wise way, that it cut through the craziness and it came to me so clearly…Regardless, this statement left an impression I cannot shake.  It motivated me to started thinking about a few things.  The most important aspect I settled on was that I really needed to be more “present” than I possibly have been in some situations.

Anyway, this simple statement made me think about where I have come from and where I am going with my life in regards to the people I am surrounded by, my family, friends, acquaintances…basically, all the components that provide stability, comfort, resources, and security in my life.

It is so easy to take things for granted.  For instance, I may not be totally engaged all the time, with the people whom I see on a regular basis, because I know that I will see them again soon.  Or, when visiting a familiar place, I may not look around, or not be fully aware of the surroundings, since I think I know it so well and I will be there again soon.  If I let them, everyday things and activities can become so superficial.  I am there, but I am not there…I think that everyone can relate to this.  Being truly “in-the-moment” is a very difficult thing to do, because our mind is so over-stimulated and cluttered!

This statement reinforced the fact, for me at least, how important it is to really make an effort and be in the moment.  When I sit with a friend I really want to be fully engaged, enjoy their company, take in what they are saying, make eye contact, fully listen, and open my mind to totally understand their perspective.  Same thing when I go to a familiar place.  I want to really open my eyes and other senses…I will always discover something new!  The scent of flowers, how the setting sun’s light is playing on the side of a building, the way the wind is moving the leaves in a tree…

I have made an agreement with myself.  I will try not to take anything for granted going forward.  I will never know when it will be the last time I experience certain situations again, and once gone they are lost forever.  I really want to “absorb” the person, place, and situation.  I want to be appreciative and thankful as to what I am experiencing.  In this way, these moments will be with me for the rest of my life, and will be something I remember and treasure.

 

 

Happy New Year and, by the way, a Leopard doesn’t change its spots…

•January 11, 2012 • 2 Comments

Sport

For the longest time I have been a person of routine and order, with a systematic approach to life which carried over to my sports.  I have found to be successful, I personally need to follow a specific routine, a path if you will, hitting certain fitness milestones along the way in order to achieve my ultimate objectives or goals.  This is true whether I am talking about a specific race, losing weight, building strength and conditioning, whatever it is…

However, being super organized can be a double edged sword. While it helps me meet my goals, it can play games with me by mentally affecting and negatively impacting my workouts, if I let it.  For instance, the evening prior to a morning bike workout, I will prepare all the apparel and equipment needed.

Bike – visual bike check, pump up tires, fill two water bottles and place in cages, snap my charged Garmin onto my handlebar bike mount – DONE.

Kit – Layout on guest bed a Jersey, bibs, vest, undershirt, arm warmers, knee warmers, socks, heart rate monitor – DONE.

Miscellaneous items – On the stairs to the garage, place helmet, sun glasses, shoes, Shoe covers, garage opener, gloves, tire repair kit, cell phone, ID, and coffee money – DONE.

God forbid if I forgot one of these items! I would usually find out I have forgotten something once I had already left for the ride.  For example, let’s say I forget the heart rate monitor.  Discovering that I forgot the heart rate monitor, or another item, would really PISS me off!  This would mentally plague me to the point where the quality of my workout would be affected since I would have it constantly in the back of my mind!   To get the best of the workout, I need to have a clear mind.

As described, there are many items I need for a ride.  Therefore, it is not uncommon for me to forget something at least once every week or two!  Since I ride 5 times a week, this means I would be negatively affected around 10 – 20% of the time I was on the bike.  I needed to change the way I thought, to free my mind, otherwise I would continue to lose too much valuable workout time!

It was important that I became more flexible, to just go with the flow, and not be so rigid.  Once I did I quickly realized I could get just as good a workout whether I had or did not have the monitor (or tire repair kit, or coffee money, or my cell phone, or whatever!).  The only difference is not having a heart rate reference during the workout.   Also, after the workout I have no numbers, relating to heart rate, to download into my electronic workout log. SO WHAT! The world is not going to stop turning! My fitness will not become less because of it!

I started riding with feeling instead of relying on hard numbers!  I have found that I actually ride better that way.  Now when I race I don’t even use my heart rate monitor and belt.  It freed me up.  I think in the past having my heart rate numbers available during racing (even during hard workouts) slowed me down, and put up self-imposed mental barriers… “Oh, I am closing in on my maximum heart rate, I better slow down. I still have another 30 minutes to race!”  Not knowing my heart rate keeps my mind open and doesn’t allow me to shut down my performance, influenced by visual queues.

Life

In past, I was all about lists and prioritizing.  I used to get really upset when things would not go my way…like someone calling an impromptu meeting when I thought I had the day free to work on my projects and get caught up, or if I could not complete my “to-do” list sequentially, as I had laid out the prior evening.  This all created stress for me.  In life, as in business, things never really go the way I exactly expect since there are too many variables that constantly pop up. I can’t control this, no one can!

Over time, I realized that I needed to change the way I conducted my life otherwise finding true happiness was going to be impossible.  I can’t remember when it was, but there was a day, not that long ago, that I just “surrendered” to the daily forces that come up.  To not do this was getting way too tiring.

I still like being super organized, efficient, ordered.  But, if things get out of place, a little crazy, or something gets in the way of what I have planned, so what!  I do not get flustered or frustrated.  I allow myself flexibility, knowing I will complete the task and close the loop a little later.

A leopard doesn’t change its spots, but I can sure as hell change the size of the spots…

Friends for Life!

•November 30, 2011 • 4 Comments

Sport

I feel so fortunate regarding how fantastic the friends are that I have made over the last four plus years, since being part of the local cycling community.  The level of friendship rivals those I have with people whom I have known for much longer!

When I relate to people on multiple levels it definitely pulls me towards them.  I think that is just natural for most people.  But, I think the bond, or the pull, is even stronger between people who go through the same experiences, particularly visceral ones.  There is something there, that is so pure, when people are involved in an activity that requires focus, dedication, mental toughness, physical stress, where the activity has to become a life-style in order to attain a certain level of performance, all of which cycling encompasses for me.   Also, I have found another huge benefit that arises out of meeting and befriending people on a visceral level first, and that is these people will then tend to be open to “mature” conversations, where people sincerely listen to each other regardless of the subject, even when it involves some of the most polarizing subjects, such as politics and religion.

Life

In my earlier years my brother was much more gregarious than I.  It appeared that he was always surrounded by a mass of people.  I envied his ability to achieve this.  I was always more closed off and more protective regarding letting people into my life.  I definitely found that there was a certain security by being more secluded, while also giving me more time to do the things I wanted to do.  But regardless of the small benefits of minimal friendships, in reality I found that it was much better to have friends… Amongst other things I found that true friends will always be there for you, that one person to talk to, to like you for whom you are, to hang out and just talk.  Anyway, there was a point in my late teens when I made a conscious effort to become more gregarious, open, and interested in meeting new people.  I quickly learned to follow the quality versus quantity philosophy.  As soon as I did that, it was as if a whole new world opened up to me!

To me one of the most important aspects of life is friendship.  Without true friendship life is empty and meaningless.  I have been so fortunate, so far, by having unbelievable friends, while having the ability to still make new friends.  Life is truly amazing, and what makes it even more so are my friends!

…Enough already! Take it easy and contemplate!

•September 19, 2011 • 7 Comments

Sport

Being a serious cyclist (4-6 days a week on the bike), I am always looking for ways to improve.   As I have stated in previous posts, it requires a lot of hard work and commitment.  In order to be prepared for certain races, I have to go through a systematic training program called “Periodization” (An organized training approach, concentrating on certain training aspects during specific periods of time.  It is a way of building fitness, allowing me to peak at the right moment).

I generally concentrate on races known as criteriums, which are better suited for my larger frame.  A criterium, or crit, is a bike race held on a closed road course.  The length of the race is determined by time, commonly around one hour.  It is shorter than that of a traditional road race, which can last many hours.  However, generally the average speed and intensity are appreciably higher.

The race season ends in September, I generally take a couple of weeks off, during which I don’t even look at or touch my bike.  By the end of these two weeks, I am itching to get back on my bike!  I then start with what is called “Base” Training, consisting of two to four hour rides, riding consistently at about 75% of my maximum heart rate.  The bulk of Base Training is done between October and December.  The idea here is to build and increase my capillary network.  The result is more efficient oxygen flow throughout the body, allowing me to ride faster for longer periods.

From December to February I start doing more intense shorter rides, mainly consisting of Interval Training.  This type of training conditions the body to cope with explosive efforts.

During the actual race season, which runs from February to September, I do “Maintenance” rides to maintain my race fitness.  The intensity of the rides vary depending on the timing of my races, and how fatigued my body is.  It becomes a balancing act, and requires discipline, with the ability to be totally honest with myself and back off from intensity if I feel tired.  Many racers, including myself, end up becoming “over trained” during the racing season.  Being over-trained can lead to injuries and illness.

I have always done well with sporting activities that require a structured process to achieve my athletic goals.  It suits my personality.  I love the systematic layering process to improve skill, strength and fitness.  However, there is a danger of getting lost in it all, becoming too absorbed in the process, to the point that I sometimes lose sight of the big picture of why I started riding in the first place. I wanted to have fun, enjoy my time on the bike, as well as with others!  But, like many activities, there is a fine line between taking the things you love to an extreme!  Going through seasonal training with the goal to consistently perform better can create an over-the-top seriousness, on the bike, I never intended.

However, recently I have had a series of injuries that forced me to take it easy and just “spin” easy on the bike.  So, I am doing the rides that I would normally “hammer” through, at a less intense pace.  This has allowed me to lift my head, relax and look around at the beautiful scenery I am surrounded by, the ocean, the Santa Monica Mountains, to have coherent conversations with other cyclists…I noticed things that I have not before!  The way the sun hits the water, the morning mist, beautiful trees that line the roads, birds singing, the odd lizard rushing across my path…I know this sounds a little Grimm’s fairytale-ish, but I am serious…for the last four years I was missing, as in not seeing, the simplest things around me while riding my bike!

I also noticed that I smile more, and riding was becoming fun again…my head is filled with bigger picture thoughts, other than those solely focused on performance…And, this is the big one: I started to praise myself more in regards to how far I have come as a rider (versus thinking thoughts like, “Oh shit! Such-and-such just passing me again!” or “are you kidding me!  My power output was much higher the last time I did this stretch of road!”).  I actually have started to pat myself on the back!

When I return to the bike in mid October, after my trip to Germany, I am really going to make an effort to carry this rediscovered enjoyment forward into the new season.  Realistically, if I want to continue to improve on the bike I still need to follow a program to attain my goals.  However, I can still achieve these goals while sprinkling in one or two easy days, when I do not think of heart rate, cadence, power… just ride to ride, ride for the enjoyment of riding, no pressure, with the opportunity to look around me, take in my surroundings, and with plenty of time to smile!  I have a feeling that the inclusion of these days will add to my overall development as a rider.  They will help me become more relaxed about my training, providing me with more balance.

…I have a feeling that the 2012 racing season will be my best yet!

.Life

Over the last couple of years, I have made a conscious effort of thinking more about the way I live and have lived my life.  The result of this process is an attitude that pushes me to pursue the possibility of living life to its fullest.  For me this is achieved by developing the ability to learn from the past and applying the learning toward how I live my life now, and intend to live my life in the future.

As part of this process it is so interesting that I now can identify past behavior patterns and learning that mirror my training and “hammer” mentality described above in the SPORT section.

For instance, I would go into work and then work, work, and work!  I would get the work done, meet deadlines, and attain objectives and goals.  I would then go home, then do it all again the next day, and then the next…  Over time I became stressed, unmotivated, tired, and sometimes felt unappreciated.

In order to keep things level and stay motivated, feel appreciated, and to continue to enjoy my career, I found that it was important to sometimes STOP what I was doing, and recognize my accomplishments!  Particularly, if they were not being acknowledged or noticed by others!  Doing this allowed me to put into perspective the importance of things I was working on, why I was doing what I was doing, and consider the things I have achieved.

The bottom-line is that I have enough experience under my belt to extrapolate the positive things I have learnt in the past and apply them to what I am doing now.  It just takes a conscious effort…kind of like adding the one or two easy days to my training!

Stop, contemplate, take it easy…and then re-engage!

…REPEAT often!

 

Competition with Myself, what’s it worth?

•August 29, 2011 • 4 Comments

Sport

When I decided to begin bike racing half way through the 2008 season, I thought I was going to take the sport by storm, dominate and crush the competition!

…And that is NOT how it turned out!  I quickly got my ass handed to me!  In fact during my first race, I was lapped twice before being pulled out of the race by the official!  After the race, I was so depressed, embarrassed, and de-motivated.  I thought to myself, “How was that possible? I am a brute, and have dominated most of the sports I have competed in!”  It felt like a horrible dream, or rather a nightmare!   And it became very important for me to quickly change my mentality, before I got to the point of giving up and throwing away my bike!

Over time, I began to realize that cycling is so much more than just raw strength.  Amongst other things, it is about the amount of time on the bike (the more you put in, the more you get out), patience, dedication (cycling is a lifestyle), bike handling, efficient peddling, strategy (knowing when to make an effort and when not to), the correct bike fit, and bike fitness.

I also realized that many of the people I ride with, amongst, or against, have been riding for years, in many cases since their teens or 20’s.  Their bodies have developed differently (cardio-vascularly, ability to convert oxygen, and ability to perform under anaerobic stress, etc.).  It is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison when it comes to comparing myself to others.  So, the easiest and quickest way to overcome the need to compare myself to “other” riders was to look within, and at, myself.  Compare myself to myself!

I still catch myself comparing myself to other cyclists sometimes, during or after racing, or even during training.  I beat myself up because I feel that I didn’t perform well, or I wasn’t as fast as I thought I should have been.  When I catch myself doing this, I immediately turn it around and compare the day’s performance against what I have done in the past on the same ride – “How did I do last time?  How did I feel?  Was my power output less or more?  Was my cadence faster?  Where was my heart rate? etc., etc.

The secret lies not with other people, but within me.  If I constantly improve against myself, my hard work and dedication will naturally translate in the “real world,” by allowing me to significantly improve my performance when I’m in competition with other people.

It’s interesting that this coming November I will have been cycling seriously for four years.  And, year after year, the older I get, the stronger I become!  So, comparing and competing against myself is working for me!

.Life

I remember when I first entered the corporate world.  I was always comparing myself to other people, particularly co-workers at my level!

I was always worrying about the possibility that my work was not as good as someone else’s.  It forced me to do stupid things, like staying at the office much longer than was necessary if someone was still there after hours, due to the possible perception that that person was more dedicated than me!  Constantly observing what other people were doing, and mirroring other people’s habits, caused so much unnecessary stress and resentment.

The day I realized I was my own person was the day that I freed myself!  It was so liberating and instantly built my confidence.  It substantially decreased my stress and the need to beat the crap out of myself!  Deep down I always knew my work and contributions were of a higher standard.  But, when I was constantly comparing myself to others (in some cases against less talented people) it seriously held me back!

So, comparing myself-to-myself, what’s it worth to me?  It’s worth peace of mind, the ability to relax and feel good about what I am doing, and it frees me from unnecessary stress.  It allows me to hold myself, and only myself, accountable to my goals and the things within my control.

What’s it worth to me?  Turns out, it’s worth a lot!