Powered by Puppy

I share my life-lessons learned on this blog each weekday. Here is today’s lesson…

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Want a great exercise tip? Borrow a puppy.

Puppy Power- 151117

Being the proud puppy stepfather of young Oliver, I have learned that puppies have small bladders. And we live on the third floor. That means every hour and a half or so I am taking a trip downstairs to empty the puppy. Empty puppies, by the way, make great playmates. They chase (which means you run), climb (which means you bend and flex), and entice you to rub their bellies (which essentially means you do a lunge 20 times a day).

It’s not 3 hours at the gym, but puppies tire you out while you try to tire them out. We have had Oliver a little over a week and I have already lost 2 lbs on the “Puppy Plyometrics Plan”.

You should try it. Unless you hate puppies, in which case you are the Devil and probably stay slim from the heat down there.

 

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Feeling Like An Amateur

I reflect on each day to figure out what life lesson I have learned. Then, I share each day’s lesson on this blog. Here is what I learned today…

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“I’m sorry I’m so slow,” my friend said. It was his first time on a bicycle in years. We wanted to do something active so we got our bikes and headed to Pinellas Trail.

“Don’t apologize,” I said. “You’re doing fine. The point is just to have fun and get some exercise. You’re doing both.” The ironic part is just the day before, I was riding a bike trail in the woods with a much more experienced biker and I felt the same way–like an amateur.

Here is the thing about people who seem to have mastered (or at least gained great proficiency with) a skill… they were amateurs first.

If you are trying something new, remember you have to start somewhere. Don’t beat yourself because you just discovered trail-riding, or kayaking, or mountain-climbing, or whatever. You were probably busy learning other things that you are quite good at.

If you are teaching someone something new (or just leading the way), remember to be patient and considerate. You were an amateur once, too. What kind of teacher do you wish you had? Be that.

Either way, one of the greatest joys in life is in learning a new skill. The better you become at it, the less your return in investment. You make far greater leaps in learning at the beginning. As your skills grow, your advancement is in incrementally adjusting for efficiency, power, or speed, etc. Being an amateur is the best part of learning–you get the most pay off for the early struggle.

Keep going… and smile.

(Hat tip to Nicole, who always makes me smile when I work: “Does making that face improve your muscle performance? Smile!”)

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Trick Yourself into Walking

Each day, I look back and figure out what life lesson I learned that day. Then I share it with the world to feel like I did something that day. Here is today’s lesson…

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Most days, I know the lesson I am going to share either as it happens or at least by the end of the day. Some days, however, I agonize over each moment of the previous few days to figure out what I learned. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know some days are a stretch but it is still a great exercise. Now, I see lessons everywhere, all the time, as if I have built up my “life lesson detection” muscles.

Except when I don’t. Sometimes I just sit at my laptop for a unnervingly long time, staring into space, not really seeing what is in front of me but rather looking at the day before. This means I spend a lot of time sitting at my desk, doing essentially nothing.

So, I came up with a plan to encourage my life-lesson-detection muscles when they are feeling reluctant, as well as encourage my actual physical muscles. If I do not know what the day’s lesson is, I go for a walk until I figure it out. Since I am lazy, I tend to find the lesson quickly but sometimes the walk can seem endless.

I like this plan because it is a win-win. If I figure out the lesson quickly, fine. That means I spent less time sitting in front of a screen, day-dreaming, which means more time for physical movement elsewhere. If it takes a while to figure out the day’s lesson, fine. That means I spent less time sitting in front of a screen, and I had more physical movement while being creative.

I like being productive, exploring, and thinking, but I hate exercise for the sake of exercise. Any way I can combine the two seems to work for me. For example, you will never see me at the gym mindlessly picking up heavy stuff and putting it back down so I can pick it up again. Hardly a weekend passes, though, when I am not on a paddle board, or bicycling, or walking, or exploring some new part of downtown or trekking some nature trail.

If you are like me, think about some ways you can trick yourself into exercise by combining ideas and setting up mini-games (like, you have to walk until you come up with a blog post idea).

Good luck. Have fun.

 

 

 

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3 Ways To Live Better: Eat More Plants.

This week, there is a theme: my 5 favorite tips that have worked for me in living a better life. Maybe one will help you, too…

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Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of being active. A rock is a machine that is designed to sit. A rock has one function–not to move. It has no parts that can contract like a muscle or bend like an elbow. The human body, by comparison, is a cleverly designed machine built to move. It is meant to walk, run, crawl, lift, jump, squat, bend, twist, stretch, and more. Our bodies are dynamic and not meant to sit for long periods like rocks or trees. As with any machine, though, they wear down over time and require proper maintenance to last long and perform their essential functions well. That brings us to today’s post.

3. Eat more plants and less animal stuff. I am vegan but I am not necessarily advocating being vegan here. I’m not going to preach to you in this post. I am just telling what has worked for me. If you have ever tried to lose weight or get fit, then you know there are many diets, cleanses, and meal plans out there. You can do Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, Bulletproof, and about a thousand others. The science on all of them is almost always filled with bad information, misleading propaganda, or just plain ignorance of actual data. Unsurprisingly, almost every diet that has a catchy name also has a product for sale.

Health is not something to buy, if you ask me. It is our default setting. As a cultured, sedentary society (that embraces propaganda), however, we have strayed away from our prima facie baseline for health. One fact no legitimate scientific study has ever disputed, though, is this: eating more plants is good for you.

There are lots of reasons why and I won’t bore you with an explanation of evolution and the human body–you can look that up on your own if you want (start with finding out why we have useless organs like wisdom teeth and your appendix).

Instead, I will offer the simple, obvious logic that catching meat was not easy for our ancestors. They lived almost entirely off fruits, roots, nuts, beans, and berries… because that was what was almost always available. Chasing big, wild animals with little pointy sticks was both difficult and dangerous despite the Hollywood depictions or artist renditions of super-soldier cavemen with expertly designed spears.

Regardless of how much you might enjoy over-indulging in meat, dairy, and cheese (which is also dairy but for some reason we tend to sub-categorize one or the other), too much of a good (tasting) thing can be bad for you.

Being vegan was one of the hardest, smartest, and most fulfilling choices I have made in life (asking Nicole for our first date falls in that same category!). You do not have to go full-on vegan. I get it. It looks like a bizarre, incredibly difficult, pompous way to eat a bunch of weird stuff. Sometimes it is.

Nonetheless, there is no disputing that eating more plants, fruits, nuts, berries, beans (legumes, if you prefer), vegetables, grasses, and unprocessed foods is better for maintaining your body. Just like your lawnmower, car, or computer need regular maintenance, care, and upkeep, so does your body. Keep your machine running like a race-car by feeding it high-octane fuel instead of heavy leaded regular gasoline and taking it out for a spin each day.

 

Today’s  Lesson: Be vegan if you don’t have commitment issues. If you just can not fathom never eating another dead animal or its waste products, that’s fine. Just try to be more vegan than not. Every other night, trade your steak for an extra helping of green beans and have an apple. It won’t kill you. Actually, it might help you live longer, and definitely better. But don’t take my word for it. 

 

 

 

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2 Ways To Live Better: Be Active.

There is a theme this week: I am sharing my 5 favorite tips that have worked for me in living a better life. Maybe one will contribute to you, too…

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Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of having great integrity. Accept it as a personal mission to always keep your word… even to yourself. You have probably heard the Latin phrase, “Mens sana in corpore sano”, which means “A sound mind in a sound body”. That brings us to today’s post.

2. Be Active. Notice I did not say, “Exercise”. That is a four-letter word in my world. I can barely stand the thought of running in place for an hour or just lifting something heavy and putting it back over and over. Some people love working out, but I find it challenging to think of anything more mind-numbingly boring than exercise for the sake of exercise. It’s just me. I would literally rather sit and do nothing, watching Netflix for an hour instead of actually doing something good for my body (but terribly uninteresting). So, for me, being active is the goal, not exercise.

Fitness, I have learned, does not have to come from lifting weights and running on treadmills. It can come from exploring your city by foot or bicycle. Or just moving from one room to the next in funny ways, like instead of walking from room to room, run like a bear or monkey with your hands and feet on the floor. Whatever will make you or your partner laugh. Do crab-walks to the kitchen. Hop. When you are sitting, fidget a lot. Tap your foot. Wiggle. Anything.

The point is to only rest when you are sleeping.

 

Today’s Lesson: Exercising sucks (if you are like me, anyway). Being active is simple: Just keep moving.

 

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Commitment Anxiety?

I struggle with making time to exercise. Here is what I do to keep at it…

 

Some people love exercise. It puts them in a zone, makes them happy, or helps them alleviate stress. For me, exercise does not that. I don’t like it. For me, it is time-consuming, mindless, and boring. I would rather do dishes because at least I would feel like something was accomplished. I prefer immediate results over long-term results (and here, you could replace “exercise” with just about any goal). Nonetheless, I recognize both long-term and short-term results are important. I know I should exercise for the myriad benefits to health and wellness and because my body is a machine that needs proper care to function well, like any machine.

I find there are three secrets to making my long-term goals work for me.

 

  • Keep changing my approach. This keeps me from becoming bored and dropping it. For example, I might change the time of day I exercise (but I find I will almost never do it in the evening because I am usually mentally exhausted), or I will change the exercise itself. The last few weeks it has been push-ups and crunches. This week my morning exercise will be Sun Salutations.
  • Make it simple.I was waking up each morning and doing 30 push-ups and 20 crunches, basically 10 minutes of exercise. That’s it. If I commit to more, I find that I will procrastinate until it is too late. If I am feeling energetic and motivated and happen to wake up earlier than usual, I might go a little longer, but that does not happen very often. The way I see it, one push-up is better than none and 10 minutes is better than 0 minutes. I don’t beat myself up if I do not make it through the set either. Sometimes my energy or motivation is low. The important thing is I showed up and attempted.
  • I will not give up. Some days are better than others. Sometimes I am all over it; I have great command of my diet, plentiful energy, and all cylinders are firing. Other days, I am not into it. I might be feeling under the weather or just feeling depressed about my body. I am not going to commit 2 hours a day to working out because I have other goals to accomplish as well (and I do not like exercising that much), so I embrace that. My body is what I choose. If I have “extra padding”, it is because I choose to eat too much and exercise too little. That is okay (until it isn’t). I can choose to exercise more, too, when I am ready to sacrifice other time and energy to devote to it. I refuse to feel guilty or beat myself up for choices I consciously and willingly make. I accept the consequences (until I don’t, and then I choose to do better).

 

Today’s lesson, then, is this: don’t let yourself become bored with your routine. Keep your commitments simple (and over-deliver when you can). Make powerful choices and be aware when you choose, you also choose to accept the consequences of the action, and the non-action associated with your choice.

 

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Today’s Lesson: Consistency and Disorder [140914]

Being consistent is important to success. If you want more upper arm strength, doing 10 push-ups will not make much difference. Doing 10 push-ups every day for a year will have greater impact and you will definitely be stronger.

 

Consistency is obviously a building block to success. One overlooked building block, though, is the importance of Disorder. Having a little chaos to shake things up can drive the power of consistency even further.

 

Doing that 10 push-ups a day for a year would work… if you really did it, but of course, we know what happens. It becomes monotonous. After a month, you let it slip one day, then another, then a week, and then you are not following your habit at all. Many of us fail because we forget the law of opposing forces. Order needs Chaos to define it. They must work together. So, after a few weeks of doing push-ups, you are much more likely to succeed if you then switch to pull-ups for a few weeks, then to weights, or hand-stands, or a mix of each.

 

The same is true in other areas. If you do the same work the same way, day in and day out, you will quickly lose the challenge of novelty and become bored. Your work will suffer. Embracing change, though, will help drive you forward, increase your mental aptitude and ability, and give you more energy.

 

The irony is we tend to fear change (which makes sense because change used to be bad early in our history–venturing outside the cave or tribe meant increased risk of death).

 

Instead of abandoning something that is helping you (exercise, a valuable work habit, daily meditation, etc.), try changing it up. What can you do differently to keep you engaged and moving forward?

 

 


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Today’s Lesson: Bicycle! [140906]

After bicycling for 25 miles today, I came to the conclusion that bicycling is good, but not great, exercise.

The mechanics of a bicycle (at least a good one) are designed to minimize effort over long distances.

The up-shot is, of course, you can see and explore a lot more but if you really want to work up a sweat and burn calories, give minutes of jogging will accomplish more than 2 and a half hours of biking.

Nonetheless, today’s bicycle ride down White Pines Trail around sunset allowed for great sights and great sightseeing, complete with turtles,  squirrels, rabbits, butterflies, gophers, and deer.

For a nice way to exercise moderately and enjoy a little nature away from screens and raucous noise, grab a bike, find a nature trail and ride!

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The Lesson I Learned Today… 140703

We don’t have to compromise with our thoughts.

Every morning for a few weeks now, I wake up and follow the same routine. Ritualizing my morning helps keep me on task and ensures I honor my commitments to health, habits, and personal energy.

There is one commitment, though, that I try to get out of every morning. Exercise. I’m not a fan of exercise. I love being active; I just hate mindlessly repeating a task for the sole purpose of making my body sore so it will, in theory, feel better. Nonetheless, I recognize the importance of exercise and because I lead a very sedentary, non-active life most of the time, I know I need exercise.

It’s a small commitment, too. Each morning, I wake up, remind myself to be in a good mood and embrace the day ahead, open the windows, start my work computer (which takes 20 minutes to boot up), drink a BIG glass of water, feed the cat, use the bathroom, start up a podcast, and then… 30 push ups and 3 minutes of jumping rope, followed by a little stretching and 10 minutes of meditation. It’s not a lot (it used to be less), but it’s better than no exercise at all. It’s a small enough commitment that I can fit it in the morning and not hate my life.

Still, each day, I try to rationalize my way out of it. “You woke up too late,” my brain says, “There’s not enough time today,” or “You’re tired; just double up on it when you get home instead,” or “You deserve a day off… just one; make up for it on Saturday,” etc. Sometimes it’s just a straightforward, “I don’t want to!”

It’s very taxing mentally, to have this internal debate each morning. I really don’t like exercise for the sake of exercise and I won’t sacrifice any more time to go to the gym or take classes or find other times to be active, so what am I to do?

I only just came to realize that I don’t have to listen to my brain! I don’t have to compromise. I can just do the exercise anyway. My brain’s job is to be lazy, to put the minimal amount of physical effort forward (after all, if I’m not doing anything, then my brain is no in danger of being hurt) and my brain wants to conserve energy for thinking (because that’s all it does so it wants as much energy as possible to devote to its only task).

My brain doesn’t want my body to waste time and energy getting strong or worrying about fitness or looks. My brain just wants to think. And it will think about anything. If the most interesting thing going on is debating over exercise or more sleep, it’s going to think about it (and it’s going to vote for more sleep where it does its best and funnest thinking!).

So today, I realized my brain is just trying to trick me into doing what it wants instead of what my ego wants. “Ego” is a bad word in modern society but I do not agree with that at all. My ego always wants what is best for me. It wants me to be my best, to look my best, to eat better (so I look my best), to feel great and have high self-esteem. My ego’s job is to help me live up to my potential. Despite what people “think”, ego is not bad. Of course, too much of anything can be bad but to those people who say the only way to live is to be selfless and only considerate of anyone but yourself, I say: “Leggo my Ego!

To be fair, many people don’t use their brains enough, but sometimes it is better to ignore your thoughts and just do what you set out to do… because you know what’s best for you even if you try to think your way out of it.

 

 

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