motivation

A Metaphor For Life

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This weekend I ran my first Tough Mudder. I found it to be one of most impactful events I have ever experienced. During some of the more grueling parts of the event I couldn’t help but think how much this challenge paralleled life itself. Even though this event was very moving, this experience is not to be confused with the most significant events of my life, such as my marriage to my wife, Carrie, and the birth of my children.

The challenge started with some pomp and circumstance and we were off, full of excitement and anticipation. We were treated to a beautiful jog along a meandering path. Why not, life can be beautiful. We joked and chatted. There was talk of the obstacles ahead, but the concern was minor. I mean, at this point, like life’s struggles, these obstacles were not real because we had not yet encountered them.

Soon the first obstacle was upon us. We crawled through cold mud under barbed wire. Everyone came out successfully. We continued on our way. But I noticed the bounce had left everyone’s stride. Running with mud filled shoes and wet heavy clothes can be difficult. It was like going through life with an added burden. Participants started to understand it was going to be a long day.

The next obstacle was a little more interesting. It was a wall that slanted backward. The only way to overcome this one was with the help of friends and strangers. Our team was still together. With a little help from our friends we all overcame this challenge fairly easily. We gave each other high fives. Success comes easily with the support of friends. The celebration of friends overcoming life’s challenges can be energizing.

The obstacles and the miles kept coming at us. Individuals started wearing down. Friends separated. The support and kind words of strangers became important. Each person’s response to the stresses was different. We were in this together. If one person faltered, another was there to help them along. The reason the human race is able to move forward is often by the kindness of strangers.

So why is the Tough Mudder a metaphor for life? As I approached each obstacle, the first thought I had was that I wouldn’t be able to overcome this. To overcome obstacles in life, you must cancel out those negative thoughts and develop strategies that will lead to success. I spent most of my summer training for this event. I had to trust my training and change my self talk. I traded, “I am not young anymore” with “Age is a mindset. I am strong enough.” I looked for ways to be successful. I immediately came up with a plan of attack. If needed, I asked for help. With each success, I gained confidence. I grew stronger.

When I finished the event I started thinking about my past. As I replayed my life’s movie, I remembered obstacles that I thought I would never overcome. When I look at myself now, I see an individual made strong by life’s trials. Life is a “Tough Mudder.”

Life will keep coming at you like the climbs and descents of this challenge. Life doesn’t have to defeat you. There will always be obstacles. Be as prepared as you can. If needed, reach out to your friends and to strangers. Know that when you come through the challenge you will be stronger.

In life you never know what is going to happen, however, you do know that something will happen. Your car will break down. You will get sick. Since there really is no way to prepare for what you don’t know, you have to believe in yourself. You have to have a positive mind set. You have to have grit. For this challenge I had to ignore the demons who whispered that I would fail. Obstacles aren’t there to destroy you. Obstacles strengthen you.

In closing I am going to get real. By sharing my experience, I hope to be able to motivate others to overcome obstacles and to reach their goals. However, if you are really looking for inspiration, talk to a cancer survivor or listen to stories of D-Day and the invasion of Normandy. Have your dad or grandpa tell you what it was like trudging through chest high water in the jungles of Vietnam. Ask these people how they overcame these obstacles. Those experiences are not just metaphors for life. That is life. Experiences like those reduce one of my most impactful, moving experiences to nothing more than crawling through mud and playing on Monkey Bars.

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Sometimes You Have To Stop And Enjoy Listening To The Rain.

imageIt is a Sunday morning and a gentle rain shower is passing through. I can hear the soft rumbles of thunder in the distance. I am sitting here contemplating what I should do first this morning. I have already made the comment that I am such a lazy slug. It is that kind of morning. I momentarily allow myself to succumb to the gentle rhythms of the falling rain. As I waffle back and forth between enjoying the rain and planning my day it hits me like a bolt of lightning followed by gentle thunder. Sometimes you have to stop and listen to the rain rather than obsess about getting a workout in.

I hear it time and time again. “I don’t know how I am going to get my workout in.” “I feel guilty because I missed my workout”. Working out becomes another negative stressor in your life. If you are training towards a goal or counting calories, the stress of missing a workout can bring about anxieties so severe, they can ruin your day and the day of anyone near you.

So how do you cope with this stress. First, sometimes you do have to stop and listen to the rain. I know what you are thinking. That is easy for you to say. I have goals that I must reach. My response is it isn’t easy for me to practice what I am preaching. My wife will be more than happy to attest to that fact. So what does one do? Here are some suggestions on ways to cope.

The first thing you can do is be proactive. Look at your up coming week. What do you have on your schedule? Some days are packed full and you know you will end up being exhausted. Other days may be lighter. On the days where you know you have a full work schedule, plan your rest days or make this day a day where you will just go for an easy walk or an easy run or do just one set of strength training in the gym. Use this easy activity time to unwind and process the day. On your lighter days plan your hard workouts. You will have more energy and focus allowing you to get in a quality workout.

If you look at the week and know the whole week will be rough. No problem. A strong exercise program always includes low intensity weeks. This can be a maintenance week. This gives your body a chance to repair and recover allowing you to come back strong and excited to get back at it. A maintenance week will also prevent you from over training.

What if something unexpected keeps you from your workout. Again, no problem. Even with careful planning you will still have “the dog got his leg stuck in the tub drain and we have to cut the drain off and bring the dog to the vet” kind of day. On these days, you can almost be assured you won’t be getting your workout in. Skip the workout. Tomorrow do the next day’s planned workout. There is no need to make up the missed workout. You won’t lose any conditioning.

It is okay to miss workouts, but be honest and don’t look for excuses to skip workouts. Instead look for reasons to workout. Place motivational notes in prominent areas to remind you why you are doing this. If you are tired, don’t cancel completely. Tell yourself you will go easy for a little while. Once you are into the workout, you may feel better and you will complete the workout as originally planned. Most importantly, if you are not honest and you continue to search for excuses to skip workouts, the guilt will sabotage your chances of success. We all don’t feel it some days, however something is better than nothing.

But remember, sometimes you have to stop and enjoy listening to the rain.

You Don’t Feel Like You Measure Up When Exercising? This Is How The World Sees You.

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I run a fitness Bootcamp. My Bootcamp is for all levels of fitness. Some of my attendees are beginners. However, as the Bootcamp progressed, the attendance of my beginners was spotty. For some it was because of life, but some of it was because of feelings. There was continued communication on Facebook and with time their concerns became clear.

As I listened to, or actually read their posts and messages I tried to understand their feelings. It then hit me that there are two realities. One realty is the feelings and perception of the beginner trainee. The other reality is how the rest of us perceive these beginners. Our perception is much different then what the beginning trainee thinks it is and this is what I want to address.

I want to address this because it is this reality that can actually strangle someone’s ability to pursue their fitness goals. By participating in a fitness event a person becomes totally exposed. If you are proficient at the activity, this exposure can be a positive boost to your confidence. However, if you are new to the event, this exposure can result a feeling of inadequacy. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is that inadequacy one feels when working out side by side with more fit individuals.

Before I talk about how the rest of us perceive your efforts, I want to assure you that your perceptions are valid. If someone fails to understand that, it means they have never tried to pursue an activity they don’t excel in with others who do. No matter what the pursuit, the feelings are the same.

So let me tell you how the rest of us perceive you. We see you as a warrior because you fight the hardest. We see you as an inspiration because your effort encourages greater effort from us. We see you as a champion because a champion isn’t someone who wins, but someone who never gives up. We see you as a winner because you don’t give up. We see you full of courage because you have over come your fears. We see you as strong because you surpass physical limitations. We see you as invincible because you will not be beat. We see you for what you are. You are a person who will no longer let life control you, but is taking control of life.

I realize you may think these perceptions I have stated may not be shared by others who are participating in the world of fitness. So I encourage you to go to a local 5K run. Listen to the cheers given to the first place finisher and the last person to cross the line. I can assure you everyone there knows who the real winner is. When you feel inadequate about your fitness abilities look at yourself through my eyes and I can assure you there is much admiration and respect.

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