The view from the top of an insanely tall tree at UC Santa Cruz
Happiness. Joy. Positivity. Beauty. All these things and everything good are always right there in front of you, it's your state of mind that allows you to see them all or not. Have you ever looked at something and just didn't give it the time of day, just walked on by, or even scoffed at it thinking how insignificant it is? Then, all of a sudden one day you see the same thing and you are blown away at how amazing it makes you feel? The thing itself did not change; it’s you that did.
I knew all along during my time of negative thoughts and extreme lack of motivation that I would find it all again. After all, I have always prided myself as being one who saw the bright side of life, and spent more time seeing the good in things than the bad. And it's just so funny to think that out of the blue you can see the world in a whole new light. I'm not about to say that I am ready to go skipping through the woods, rejoicing and singing songs or anything. All I am saying is that I have remembered what my purpose is in life and have re-focused my attention to what I like and what makes me feel alive and good. There are still bad things there, but I am systematically moving them away from me so that I can be the person I've known I wanted to be for so long.
It's incredibly powerful, and awesomely self-strengthening to realize that it's completely up to you to feel good or bad. If something is happening in your life, you ALWAYS have a choice to keep it, or get rid of it. I know that there are times when that legitimately feels impossible, but the fact of the matter is, you really do have the power to be in control.
When you see your life spiraling in the wrong direction. When you are getting sick, getting overly stressed, acting out, expressing anger, sorrow, fear, and you are becoming generally more angry for any reason at all. It could be your job, your family, your relationship, your living situation, literally anything. You need to take a moment here and there to assess whether or not some of the things in your life, or the choices you make on a daily basis are the right ones for you. Here's a bit of a light-hearted example. Over the past few months I have been watching a crap-ton of TV shows on my computer. No joke, I would probably spend an average of about 4 hours a day watching shows (honestly, it had to have been more than that!). I was doing this to avoid having to face the fact that I was acting like a little bitch and avoiding all the things I should be doing. I was feeling so down, sorry for myself, and so many other things that I overwhelmed my own brain and just decided I would do my best to check out. I didn’t go run around the woods, I didn't go climb a tree by the water. I didn't hit an extra workout, hell, half the time I didn't even hit ONE workout. I could watch an entire episode of Arrested Development without even cracking a smile. Now that is freaking bad! The things that made me happy were right next to me all along though. Sort of hanging out, waiting for me to give them attention because they knew I wouldn’t be able to avoid them forever. I guess my happiness is smarter than me.
And all it took was a little change of perspective. A little time where I could rip myself away from the negative things bringing me down, where I didn't have a computer and couldn't escape to my TV shows. When all of a sudden you have a handful of incredibly supportive people next to you, asking you to join them in things you know you love doing, rather than you having to find the motivation to do them yourself, your eyes will just flash open. For me it happened with three major things: running up the crazy sand hills at Baker Beach and looking over the Golden Gate Bridge while gasping for breath and dripping sweat. That was nice. Climbing a tree in Golden Gate Park, somewhere away from the cars and people. And walking a freezing, windy, empty beach at Ocean Beach. Just a couple days and all of a sudden I could not keep fooling myself into being a lazy, negative person. My natural personality reemerged and it was so unbelievably invigorating and exciting.
For me, it was simply putting myself in a situation where people that naturally supported me doing the things that make me feel good could surround me. And where I could not avoid doing things I liked to do. I was able to remove all negativity from my life for a couple days and that was all it took. Maybe all I needed was an hour, or perhaps I would have needed a week or a month. Either way, the simplest way to do it is to step away from things that bring you down, surround yourself with things that lift you up, and boom, you're good to go!
I know it's all way easier said than done, but saying it, or finding out what to do to make your life better is so simple. Age-old quotes and sayings are age-old for a reason; they work. Get rid of all the negative in your life, and surround yourself with the positive. If you choose to make excuses about why your life sucks, that’s on you, it’s your damn choice to make things better. If you know what you want out of life, pursue it with more passion and energy than anything else in the world. And if you don’t know what you want, constantly try new things so you can learn what it is you were built to do best. I am a rare case it seems. Rare in the fact that I have known what I wanted since I was pretty young. I wanted to play professional baseball. I mean, I REALLY wanted it. I never knew anything else besides that desire. And when baseball became a reality, that same passion and drive was found in wanting to inspire others to become healthier. I hope to inspire people, not just through writing and coaching, but through living my life the way I always talk about and share with others; you know, practicing what I preach. And I preach to be honest with yourself, wear your personality on your sleeve for everyone to see, good and bad, and do what makes you feel good and right (as long as you're not hurting others).
I still have plenty of things to work through, and I will always have negatives in my life. It is ridiculous to think or expect that everything will always be wonderful and perfect. But if you spend most of your days completely understanding what it is you are living for, it makes it so much clearer and easier to figure out how best to deal with the negative and the bad.
I am waking up each day now thinking about teaching and coaching. And right next to those exciting thoughts is an eagerness to spend my quality time with the barbell and the outdoors each and every day. And the people in my life that bring me warmth, and respect me for who I am will inspire me today. And the ones that question me, and bring me down with their negativity will not get my attention.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Quick tangent on how bad I can be sometimes: I even thought a large steel frame holding contraption at the damn Holocaust Museum would be the perfect addition to my gym… yeah…
Anyway, back to the point. I find it increasingly frustrating to see how many people either don’t exercise on any sort of regular basis, or, make it a very low priority in their life. Ironically enough, most people out there have some pretty serious issues, like stress, high blood pressure, hypertension, sleep issues, anxiety, depression and then a whole slew of other serious medical conditions. And these same people will sit all day and bitch and moan about how crappy they feel, yet instead of taking the greatest dose of anything they could have (um, exercise), they opt for helpful little drugs. Caffeine to wake up, sleeping pills to go to sleep, aspirin to make their twinging knee pain go away while walking around in horribly designed shoes and sitting at a desk all day.
If you want to see one of the coolest videos I have ever seen on the best drug you could ever take for pretty much any ailment, click on this sentence NOW.
Besides that, just take a minute or two and think about your priorities. You must work, you must be social, you must watch your TV shows, you must take your kids here and there, you must eat certain foods, you must drive a fancier car, you must wear specific clothes; the list goes on and on. And to make sure those things are taken care of you just don’t have time for regular exercise.
Simply put people: regular exercise will make the good priorities in your life better, and the bad priorities in your life seem less important.
I had a guy tell me yesterday that he knew he wanted to workout more but just lacked the motivation. He came and worked out with me today and told me, while beaming from endorphins after an awesome session of flipping tires and hitting things with sledge hammers: “that was fun!” You see, fitness to so many people means a slow trudge through an impersonal gym, hitting a set here and there and then heading home. But there is more out there people! Fitness can be something you crave, something you look forward to every day. Health and fitness can be something that wakes you up in the morning bubbling with energy and excitement for what you are able to do that day. Fitness can be a driving life force in anyone and everyone’s life.
But you must want it. It’s out there, always, without fail and without judgment. All you have to do is take a step or two in the right direction and your life will forever be changed.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
I don’t mean you should become some obsessed fitness junkie like me who can do nothing but think about all things health and fitness.
If you head out and grab the November issue of Men’s Health, you’ll find an incredibly good article about CrossFit tucked into the middle of the thick magazine. I was initially amped up about this piece because I bought the magazine to entertain me during my plane ride out to California. Much to my delight, I opened the pages to see a picture of my good friend and old training partner Blair Morrison! Pretty cool.
Well, as I write this I am actually on the plane (will probably finish n my old Starbucks in San Mateo seeing how we are only 20 minutes out!) and I am so eager to keep my eye on shit-show that will be CrossFitters complaining about how stupid the article was. Interestingly enough, my initial reaction was similar. How dare this guy rip on the fitness methodology and now sport that I believe in so much? How dare he go so far as to even use the nutritional upper-lord Robb Wolf as a resource to strike up more controversy about the program? Well, once I put my angry kettlebell down, cleaned up the chalk, and put my short back on I realized something: this was one of the best articles on CrossFit I have read in a long time. I say thins because the truth was written.
My frustration with the piece was similar to that of one written by a Washington Post Express journalist who decided to try out the whole minimalist shoe craze. He bought a pair of Five-Fingers and went out on a 5 mile run. He then promptly ripped the craze a new one because he couldn’t walk for a week! Well, any somewhat smart human would understand that he was an idiot. If you spend your whole life running in moon-boots and then one day go barefoot, you can’t expect run for hours and be cured of all your problems. That would be like an obese person deciding to eat healthy, doing so for one day then saying it doesn’t work and is stupid because he didn’t lose 100 pounds! The writer of the CrossFit piece became so turned off by CrossFit that after one final humiliating day where he finished dead last in a workout surrounded by women, he walked out, never to return.
Well, my immediate reaction was: out of the now 3000+ affiliates around the world, perhaps you just went to a crappy one? Perhaps if you went to an affiliate who’s coaches understood that learning the kip as part of foundations is probably going to lead to a lot of injury. Or where they don’t program 4 days of weighted, heavy loaded snatch work in one week. Or, where they don’t ask you to deadlift 225# in a 15 minute AMRAP on your first day! Unless you’re “drunk on the kool aid” you’re probably going to burn out at some point pretty quickly at a place that pays no attention to your needs. I mean, all of the problems this guy had at his “box” pissed me off because I would never let those happen at mine. So, I found his article stupid.
Then I realized something. His article was clearly NOT stupid. I mean seriously, I have been to some 50 CrossFit affiliates and I would say that well over 30 of those could easily be placed in the category of CrossFit that the author was writing about. If you went and talked to the coaches you’d hear them talk the same way founder Greg Glassman talks about the program, that it’s about become generally physically prepared, that it’s about becoming overall athletic, and not specializing, and that their program is the best thing you could do for your body. Most coaches (and depressingly, nowhere near all of them) could even go into the science behind why CrossFit style of training is so beneficial. They talk about the need for good form over good times, about how they teach a full understanding of the basic movements. They talk about avoiding injury and how their program is scalable and modifiable. Then you walk into their gym and see 15 people thrashing around trying to complete “Fran” as fast as humanly possible. Backs are rounding, heels are off the floor, hands have a death grip on the bar, people who cannot perform 2 consecutive pull ups are swinging around the pull up bars, screaming as they push out one more rep. And those coaches who talk so wonderfully about their program, about how focused they are in avoiding injury and taking care of each and every one of their athletes? They are standing their screaming at everyone to get back on the bar, fight through, keep going, don’t stop, go faster and on and on! All of a sudden everything they just talked about is thrown out the window and the truth comes out as to how this place is run.
Damn, I guess this guy was right! I guess when we step out of the crazy cult following CrossFit has become and look at the whole thing objectively, you find something pretty damn scary. Step back in and do a little searching and you find some really freaking great places that take the time and energy to do things right. But with 3000+ affiliates around the world, how many of those do you really think do it right? Judging by the poor quality of gyms, trainers and coaches out there in general, we can probably assume that not too many of them are all that great. So what does that mean for you? Well, this is where you, as the consumer must take on a bit of responsibility and take the time to make sure you’re finding the right fit. And of you find that fit, I can pretty much guarantee that your life will change for the better! If you don’t take that time, if you just expect things to work out for you the first time you walk into any CrossFit gym, well, as sucky as the truth is that you’re probably going to be let down, just the writer was.
Oh, and a HUGE point that should not be taken lightly: just because a head coach knows how to talk about CrossFit, does not mean he/she knows how to teach it. Think of it this way: if some guy is really good at pithing his amazing new smoothie, how healthy and good tasting it is, would you just go ahead and buy ten boxes of it right then and there? If you would, your kind of an idiot. No, you’d probably want to see an official ingredients list, and taste the damn thing, right? Same goes for finding your perfect gym. If a coach tells you that he/she has the best training program, yet tons of the athletes there are getting hurt, are out of shape, complain, or just don’t; represent what the coach is pitching, well, maybe it’s not the best place for you! But don’t write off CrossFit gyms in general because of that; just write off that one! What I really need to write actually is a note to all CrossFit coaches to stop putting out crappy programming and so on and do better! And well, I have that post started already. But please, please, please, as a consumer, as athletes or soon-to-be-athletes who want a better lifestyle and are looking to CrossFit to be that change, take it upon yourself to find the perfect fit. Find a gym that programs intelligently, supports each and every member equally and passionately, supports an honest, healthy lifestyle, and doesn’t just talk about it. If you take the time, you should be able to catch on to this within one or two classes. And if the gym won’t let you try their space out for a few classes before committing to some crazy membership scheme, well, go find another place!
Remember, finding the right gym for you is just as important as eating the proper foods, working at a good job, finding a great partner and so on. It should be a complete part of your entire lifestyle, one that YOU want a part of. So be patient, be demanding and be open. And to all those would be CrossFit bashers out there, if you want a better view of CrossFit, give me a call, if you can’t come to my gym, I have a pretty good list of gyms you could go to to have a great experience!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
So far this week has been way easier than I expected. I don't mean that I had easy workouts. On the contrary, as I write this I am just wonderfully sore from head to toe! What I mean is that I was surprised at how seamlessly I feel back into a pattern of being very strict with workout times and nutrition. I thought I would have a much harder time getting back into the diet plan that allowed me so much positive change a month or so back. But, I guess I was able to form a pretty good habit when I did that whole program. And, inspired by a couple conversations today, and thinking about the whole process, I totally understand why. Establish What Works For You: When I was challenged about 3.5 months ago to follow a super strict nutrition plan, it clicked instantly with me. After a few weeks of following what was given to me, I made a couple modifications, and ultimately found a nutrition plan that just straight up worked. For me. And because it worked so well, my body responded accordingly. I lost fat, gained muscle, decreased my stress, had more energy and slept better. And because of all these positive changes, I psychologically became "hooked" on this lifestyle. My desire to stay up super late, to watch TV, to eat cookies, to skip workouts, all those things that I tended to do before, they all just went away. I learned first-hand that the body really, truly wants to be fit and healthy; and if you take the time and effort to allow it to be, it will crave those GOOD things instead of the bad. Now what works for me may not work for you. But the idea of cleaning everything out completely allows for your body and mind to have a cleaner slate so that you can honestly look at what works. For me, eating every 3 hours works wonders. Consuming the proper amounts of foods during those meals helps even more. I don't know what works for you, and a believe me, sometimes this can be really freaking hard. It took me about four years to find out how to literally melt body fat off me. And I am a fitness expert who has the time and wherewithal to try many different things. S be patient. There IS a process that works for you if you are willing to search for it. This brings me to my next point: Don't Be A Wimp: Yeah, I said it, you're going to have to be tough. One of my conversations today was with a lady who was feeling really lethargic, gaining weight, having skin issues, and struggling with sleep. I asked her about her eating habits and simply suggested she keep a food journal. A month later (today) I asked her how it was going and she said she only kept the journal for about a week and then just forgot about it. Interestingly enough though, upon my bringing it up she realized that the week she kept the journal was the most energetic and stress-free week in a long, long while. This made me think; not about the obvious, that having more control of your food makes you eat better, but of the effort she, and so many others put into change. Here's what I mean. It's crazy daunting to think that the way you live and eat is flat out hurting you, and that it is actually possible to change. this is the part that is NOT easy in any way. You have to change a habit. And usually, this is a habit that's been engrained in your brain and body for years and years. So think logically through this one with me. If you've taken years to create a way of living/eating, do you really, honestly expect to change that habit in a week? Thinking of it this way, it should actually be a breath of fresh air to know that you can mostly change habits over the course of a short month! Either way, it's tough as hell to change like this (a "how to" on this is clearly a great topic); but, suffice to say that if you can find a way to dedicate a month to your program, things will inevitably become a LOT easier. Again, the body wants to be healthy, give it time to recognize the healthy things you are doing and it will react positively. A concept that is really well described by Robb Wolf in his awesome book The Paleo Solution is that you can eat as much as you want. Totally, go to town! It’s just that when you are eating clean and living well, “as much as you want” tends to be healthy doses. This occurs because your mind and body are more closely connected. You finally stop eating emotionally and you eat to live. Finally, Your Flow: I think I’ve found my flow. I think this because even when I fall off for a month, it’s so much better than I’ve ever been my whole life. Sure, when things are down and I am more emotionally unstable I may have a cookie or ton; but I have formed the habit of eating regularly. So the point to all this, the only way to really find that flow enough that it is engrained in you as a genuine part of you life. Give it all a fare shot. Take your time, trial and error, add things, take things away, chart EVERYTHING, be patient and be tough. You’ll have to go through hell before the simplicity of being healthy can actually occur. So don’t lie to yourself in thinking that you can figure it all out in a couple days. Trust me, it will not happen. If you want to be healthy, fit and happy, you need to commit to following a program for at least a month (preferably 2 or 3). And always remember: it took you years to become as unhealthy as you are now, you need to understand that true change may take a little time. Never Stop, GET FIT. Josh Courage
Why do you lift?
Why do you run?
Why do you suffer?
Why do you smile?
Why do you get angry?
Why do you hang out with friends?
Why do you spend time alone?
Why do you read?
Why do you watch TV?
Why do you listen to music?
Why do you challenge yourself?
Why do you make excuses?
Why do you stand back up?
Why do you search for answers?
Is it to become a better person? To internalize all the information you receive from all the different resources you can find and find a way to use it to make your life, and the lives of everyone around you better?
Or do you use it to judge? Do you use it to justify potentially negative actions on your own part? Do you use it to learn enough about others to talk behind their backs about how stupid their lives must be?
It is human to complain and judge. It is human to be negative and down. It is human to be angry. But if these things dictate your life; if you let them take over your personality and become what defines you, it’s time to make a change.
Stop using others as your gauge for how life should be lived. Take a good look at yourself, I mean a damn, long, hard, good look within yourself and think about what it is YOU want in life. Are you doing everything to attain that/those thing(s)? Have your surrounded yourself with people who support your needs? Have you pursued the lifestyle, the career that will satisfy you the greatest? Are you every day becoming more and more the person you truly want to be?
What are you good at? If you know what it is (even if it’s many things), are you living that/those? If you don’t know what it is, are you doing anything about that? Is your life hurting or helping yourself? Is your life hurting or helping others? Is your life compromised? Are you settling? Are you happy? Are you pursuing happiness?
Sometimes it’s worth sitting down and asking yourself some of these loaded questions. If you’ve never done this than you are missing out on a HUGE part of what I think life is all about: healthy growth. You think this is cheesy, overwhelming, pointless, and/or too difficult; well, than it’s YOU who should be doing this more than anyone. Swallow your pride, or what ever it is holding you back from learning about YOU, and make the time. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can never truly take care of another. If you don’t love yourself, you can never truly love another.
Why do you do the things you do?
Never Stop, GET FIT.
About a year and a half ago I figured it was time to give the whole Paleo Diet a try to see what all the fuss was about. I was already gluten and dairy free, I just had to cut out sugars, additional grains and legumes. As with most Of my nutrition challenges, I was going to try this out for a month and see how I felt.
Well, almost three months later I dug into a glorious piece of gluten-free pumpkin bread and right then and there I decided to quit the Paleo Lifestyle and head back to the way I was eating before. For me, with the level of activity I had, I just could not handle the lack of carbohydrates, and my energy levels not only plummeted, but stayed down for the entirety of the experiment. Total bummer man! And what annoyed me so much about this not working for me, was that I had known SO many people who had this plan work absolute miracles for them. Oh well I thought, and I was back to minimal grains and legumes, along with higher energy levels and an overall better sense of self.
Now, pushing two years later, I began a program that has worked these miracles on me. Losing 15 pounds of fat, seeing dramatic gains in my lifts, having hoards of energy all day long, and sleeping deeper and better than I have in years. And here's the catch of this post: about three months in (last week sometime) I all of a sudden realized I was eating completely and totally Paleo.
How the hell could this be? How could something completely NOT work for me at one time, then, out of the blue work so damn well? Real quickly (because this post is not about this phenomenon), it's because I was not focused enough on the meal plan. My meals were not balanced, I doubted the plan while doing it, there was no pattern to how I was doing it, and I ate out WAY too much. But how does this tie in to what I am talking abut here? Well, it's the approach. This time around I had a totally different approach in how I decided I would eat to fuel my life. I would eat because needed fuel, not because I craved and desired certain foods. This effected my results dramatically from a psychological standpoint because I was focused on the foods direct impact on my well being rather then if I liked it or not. I wasn't dieting, I was changing my life.
When the dust settled I found that shifting the way I viewed what I was doing completely altered the outcome. For almost two months now (except for around 4-6 meals) I have eaten only food that I could have eaten in the complete wild. Almost all of these meals I have made myself, seasoning to my liking with natural herbs and spices. I have cooked it all by either grilling it, sticking it in the oven, steaming it, or eating it raw. To keep this up while taking on a full client and training schedule, I have found wonderful comfort in spending a few hours every four days or so in the kitchen and out at the grill. I cook up 4-8 chicken breasts, turkey, fish, and bacon (turkey and pork), pounds of broccoli, asparagus and spinach and I hard boil dozens of eggs. They all get stored in glass containers in the fridge, and when it's meal time, I'm ready no matter what! The best part is, I've shared my meals with a handful of people and all have been blown away by the simplicity and taste. Point being, I have yet to even hint at being bored with what I am making.
To add to this new fueling pattern, I have been keeping up with my typical workout schedule. Plenty of gym work for sure, but more often then not, I am outside. I am using the great outdoors more and more as my playground to stay active. Shirtless, drenched with sweat, wielding a sledge hammer and a sandbag in the woods. I then head home to a feast of grilled chicken, mixed nuts and a plate full of leafy and cruciferous greens. It's days like these (most days out of the week) where I have the same thing always running through my mind: I feel like a Warrior; I am alive, I am happy.
I have decided that I am NOT on the Paleo diet, I am not on any diet. I simply live the life that is closest to what I believe we as humans should live. I spend my time outside as often as possible, I eat foods that are found only in nature, and I constantly challenge myself to be fitter, stronger, healthier and happier each and every day. If I had less responsibility I would probably be living in the woods somewhere, wearing little clothing and spending my days just surviving. Warriors were the original athletes. If they wanted to live, if they wanted their communities to thrive, they had to be able to overcome all sorts of physical and mental challenges. They pushed themselves each and every day to not only survive, but to support survival in the people around them.
Eat, train, sleep/recover, socialize, prepare. Let's look at that in a little more detail. Eat (food. Real, good food). Train (get outside and run, climb, crawl, lift, push, pull, swim, throw and slam). Sleep/recover (relax, let muscles and mind regenerate). Socialize (be part of a community that you love and support and that loves and supports you). Prepare (know your surroundings, know yourself, prepare for the unknown and know what to do if you are not prepared).
Become a Warrior.
Never Stop,GET FIT.