I can pinpoint the day things began to fall apart for me. It was a cruise I took on the third week of The Open, in Florida. I had been progressing so damn well, and for some reason, I just let loose a little, had a couple drinks, indulged in dessert, stayed as healthy as I could on the ship, but the food is far from high quality. But I'm not blaming the ship. From there I just never found my way back to the rhythm I had found before. I was blogging regularly, training with passion, eating cleanly and easily and living my life in a general position of happiness. Even as I write this I am opting out of working out because I feel my energy levels depleted and I cannot seem to comprehend the idea of trudging alone out to the garage to workout in the dark. I could go for a run, but then again, I haven't written anything in a while and at least I'm getting one thing in that I should. My goal with this post is not to be depressing; more to write an honest perspective I know many of you think I never have. One where I completely lack motivation to do all the things I pride myself in. I understand what it means to be a healthy, happy person. I coach it every single day. I write about it pretty often here. But I have valleys in my life just like everyone else, and while I do honesty believe I function at a level where my valleys are few and far between, I think that adds to the severity of them when I do find myself in one. I am just not used to feeling so unmotivated.
I have all the time in the world throughout my days, even when I am coaching 6 or more classes a day to workout. I have all the time in the world to cook my own food, prepare for the coming days' schedules with the proper balances and amounts. I have all the time in the world to warm up properly, program for my weaknesses, work mobility, foam roll and stretch. I have all the time in the world to do all this while still getting outside on a regular basis and enjoying the wilderness because it never fails to bring me peace and harmony. But having all the time in the world means almost nothing when you lack motivation.
A major positive in the time I spend in front of books and the computer is that I get to read a ton, soak up more and more knowledge about the world of health and fitness. I watch videos of training, read blogs, read articles, books, and studies. I read opinions and comments, and study pictures on snatch and clean form until my eyes burn. I can visualize myself, as clear as day pulling a bar loaded with 250# from the ground, and snapping under it in the perfect catch position; heavy weight strong over my head. But when I grab a bar to demonstrate for clients, my back is tight, my knees hurt, my shoulder pinches and I feel like a hopeless, fat old man trying to get through the day quickly so he can crash down on the coach for his third nap of the day.
But then there are those moments. No matter how bad I might think I am, I get under the bar and power through something stronger and faster then ever before. I have surges of energy where I remember exactly what it feels like to be on top of my game. In my "research" I have found an underlying theme and commonality between all the top-level performers in their specific fields: a never-ending commitment and passion to getting better. In the end, the ones who come thorough in the clutch, who perform day in and day out at the highest level, and have the least amount of weaknesses, are those who never get distracted by anything. Because my focus these past couple years has been CrossFit, I'll use that as my example (but you will find these statements to hold true with anything out there, sport, business, etc.). Over the past year I improved. I improved a metric shit ton. Every single one of my numbers not only went up, but also went WAY up, and this is despite gaining a crap load of weight. I was lifting more, and lifting it faster, my motor grew, my running was faster, my body weight movements became smoother and better, and everything just got so much better. But the thing that didn't click compared to those that did was that I had pockets of down time. When I was taking a week to just do nothing, others were getting ahead of me, getting better. Mind you, taking a week off is fine, but active recovery is a must. Working mobility, messing around with skills and so on. I would literally do nothing. It was like my brain would shut off. Then I would have "half-ass" weeks. These were when I would get my workouts in, but I would rush through them. I would not take the time to get extra weakness-focus work in. I would not warm up properly and stretch afterwards. My nutrition would slide just a little farther than I would have liked and while I still got tons of great work in, I would know in the back of my head that I wasn’t working as hard as I could have been.
“I will watch others laugh and fool around in the gym all day, while I am leashed to the platform.” – Jon North
This guy works hard. He has been committed to being an Olympic weightlifter and nothing will stand in his way. If he is feeling down one day, it doesn’t stop him. Every single day he is doing exactly what it takes to become BETTER. Every day is a step forward and there is never a step back. If you want something, if you want to be something, you need to commit to it and never falter in that commitment. The best CrossFitters in the world are like this. They workout because it's what they love, what they know, and what they want. They train hard, every single day, they eat well, they rest when they NEED and SHOULD. They are better because they wanted it more and dedicated their lives, inside and out, to being better than you and me. They are better because they function at a level where getting better is the ONLY option they have, the only thing they know how to do. Have you ever worked out, or performed with someone at such a level? I have many times and it is clear that all they want to do is beat you, to out perform you. The cool ones do this without being ass holes about it; the annoying ones make it clear they want to beat you. But when you pay attention to how they approach the workout, you know that they are working at a level that has one purpose: to win.
My steps back toward to finding my motivation, my drive, and my dedication look a little something like this: reestablish what it is I am working towards. Bring back to the front of my mind what I want out of life, then remove the things that do not support that. Lately I have found myself surrounded by things that assist in my not living my life the way I have always wanted. I need to put on my table (both literally and metaphorically) the things that I know make me who I want to be. Once those things are directly in front of me, and the "bad" things are removed from the table, my choices will be limited and clear. And once I have begun changing the way I live each day, I can then begin to look into the more detailed goals I might have for the next month, few months, and year. Do I want to pursue the CrossFit Games again? Do I want to get into something else? Whatever it is, I must make that choice with a clear, happy, excited, and eager mind. Then I will know that I can do anything I want. Then I will be able to clearly see how to be completely committed to something GOOD.
(I promise my next couple posts won’t be as depressing!)
Never Stop, GET FIT
Let's step away from overused metaphors like glasses being half full and such and break it down as straight forward as possible. How do you see the world? Some people know instantaneously that they are positive or negative people and to those people, well, you got something pretty big figured out. To be honest, I can respect a bit those people who admit to being really negative; at least they are honest with themselves and with everyone around them as to who they are. It allows for people like me, and others who don't much care for over-negativity to not hang out with them on a regular basis. The other type of person is one that doesn't really know where they stand. Perhaps they are both? Perhaps they think they are positive in general, but are really pretty negative. This is a tough one because how is someone supposed to be honest about who they are if they have no clue they are lying to themselves, or, they just don't care?
Here's a go-to test. Take one day and decide to make note of the first thing that comes out of your mouth. Interestingly, what will inevitably happen is you'll either not say very much (and still, the things you say, pay close attention to them), but what you CAN do now is really see what it is you wanted to say. When you get cut off, do you want to say something to express your frustration? Did you actually say something? Or did you just pay no attention? Or did you notice something really cool the person cutting you off was wearing? The fact is people, while it is a choice to act on your negativity and/or aggression, for some people it is much more deeply rooted than simply being able to just stop. If your natural inclination is to think negative thoughts most of your day, there is something deeply struggling inside of you. Its funny, I know by writing this I am going to get a lot of blood boiling in negative people. But that right there is perfectly proving my point. If my post here annoys you, pisses you off, gets you all defensive and you find yourself making excuses, or throwing stuff back at me, either in your mind or maybe in email, or to my face, well, simply put, you're a negative person!
If it IS your natural inclination to exude negativity, I can only offer my advice on some things I have found work for me. I am obviously not a therapist or anything like that. So, that being said, take my thoughts as merely experiential and based on my young years of learning from people, myself and over-analyzing pretty much everything. Here's one my Mom used to tell me when I was a kid. I always found it cheesy, but when I tried it, it worked absolute wonders for me. I still use this method to this day when I feel negativity taking over in my head, and it still works so well. When something happens (let's use the getting cut off scenario again) and you feel those negative thoughts and angry feeling bubbling up. Take a second and try to find something unique, or cool, or interesting about the person. Perhaps they have a cool hat, or a shirt that you relate to, or a sweet pair of shoes on, or an interesting hair cut? Tell yourself this. And for added effect, say it aloud to yourself so you can hear your own voice. If you really want to feel the full effects, tell the person who cut you off the positive thing you found about them and watch what happens. A positive thought usually leads to other positive thoughts. You see someone with cool shoes and you begin to think about your own shoes. Then you remember an awesome pair of shoes you had as a kid and the time you and your mother or father went shopping for them and had such a fun experience. And just like that, the tiny little “being cut off” thing vanished into a wonderful daydream of a happy childhood memory.
Maybe you can take that little shift in thinking, and ponder about how stressful wasting your time on feeling negative towards everything really is. How, if you are always putting other things down, it’ll be pretty damn hard to look at yourself, and the things you want to love in a positive light. Negativity begets negativity people, and it is powerful enough to strongly affect the people you surround yourself with.
Oh, and one last thought for todays post: when was the last time you smiled for no apparent reason, someplace in public?
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.
This past weekend was a great learning experience for me. First and foremost it showed that I am improving as a CrossFitter. To be able to head into such a well-respected CrossFit competition as The Hopper, and do so well says a good bit about my level of fitness. Ok, cool. Now that the positive comments are out of the way, it's time to get on to the critique!
I found out two major things over the weekend that are the primary sources holding me back from being the competitor I truly want to be. But before I go into them, I want to be sure to let you, the reader, know that the goal with this post is two-fold: to articulate an analysis of myself so that I can help myself get better; and, to inspire you all to do the same with yourself in the process of making YOU better. I am willing to bet that the two issues I detail here are two EXTRAORDINARILY common issues with most people as they drive towards their goals. Next point to be made is what my goals actually are. Well, when I moved back to the East coast I decided that I would make an attempt to calm my absolutely out of control mind by focusing on only a few things for a while. I've written about this a bit before, and if you know me, you know that I come up with a new idea to "change the world" pretty much every few hours. I have literally hundreds of pages of notes, drawings, scribbles, phrases and more, collected over the years, it's crazy. I am very aware that to actually get anything done, I need to pick a few of them and just focus. So, when I moved back I picked two: open a gym, and, make it to the CrossFit Games.
So, back to this weekend. Well, it wasn't really the weekend that showed these issues to me, it really was just the straw that broke the camels back if you will. I know that I am a very good CrossFitter. But, I also know that I am not at the level of those at the very top. If you take the top numbers of all those elite CrossFitters, I would be on the bottom of the charts for pretty much everything. But that's not what I am concerned about. I have faith in my training program and my determination that my numbers will creep up there come Games season and I'll be able to hang with any of those guys. It's my weaknesses. Just like anyone, I have a collection of weaknesses. Except mine are VERY weak. I can not do more than 3 strict handstand push ups. I can not walk on my hands for more than 6 meters. I can not do more than 5 muscle ups. While an elite CrossFitter will show strengths and weaknesses, the differential of ability is nowhere near as great as mine. That is why I placed 1st, 1st, 3rd, 19th, and 3rd on this past weekends events. Clearly I need to "kill my goats". So, upping the body weight work and incorporating that intelligently into my programming is an absolute must.
The second thing I found was that I don't have as strong a fire as the top level competitors. Perhaps it's my baseball background (that's a reference to the fact that baseball by nature is a much more passive game than most sports, and I have learned to approach my athletic endeavors a bit more "chilled" out than others), perhaps it's the marathoning (10 in a year will slow you down a bit). Or, it could be that I legitimately LOVE CrossFitting. I enjoy the struggle of getting through a workout so much, that sometimes I feel as though I just lose myself in the middle of it just to ride the wave. All those top beasts I have met have this intensity before, during, and even after a workout that I just do not share. I don't really compete with the person next to me, or to someone elses' time, I just feed off their energy and then spend what attention I put into each workout seeing what I am personally capable of. Now don't get me wrong, I am still a highly competitive person; just not at the level of most other elite CrossFitters. I feel like those guys want to seek and destroy at all times!
Now here's where the fun begins. From this weekend on I have committed myself 100% to the effort of being a "Serious CrossFitter". This means that everything I do is going to be based around achieving my goals. I will not miss workouts. I will not go on a binge week with food, or sacrifice a portion of my program to go hang with friends. I am lighting that fire as bright as it can be lit and going all out. I am making CrossFit "My Sport", and doing what it takes to get to the next level.
I can see a lot of my friends rolling their eyes at me right now. And to that I respond: everyone knows me as someone who likes a challenge and is willing to experiment with pretty much anything in the activity/fitness/sports/nutrition fields. So, I am experimenting with the idea that if I actually commit myself 100% to something, I could actually be really freaking good at it. This does not mean I am going to spend the rest of my life walking around with a cooler of steamed broccoli, grilled chicken and protein powder. This does not mean I will never again indulge in a brownie or 15, or have a drink or two, or three. It just means that from now until the Games I am going to be "that guy" I am going to be a little more one-track-minded about my priorities in life and I am going to see what I am TRULY capable of doing.
This is going to be a really fun and interesting adventure.
The fire has been lit.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Don't get into a discussion about food with a large group of teenagers. You'll never get anywhere with them all. Rather, make it a one-on-one thing.
Look at what you can do to make things better rather than what is going wrong. You'll be amazed at how much better your workouts and nutrition can and will be when you take a slightly more positive approach.
Take an hour a day, a week, whatever it takes, to figure out exactly what kind of lifestyle you want to live. Eat and train accordingly...
...it's not just WHAT you eat; it's how well you fuel YOUR LIFE that leads to complete success.
If it's hard, difficult, challenging, and/or intimidating, KEEP GOING.
If it hurts, STOP.
Accept that you know very little about most things...
...if you plan to make a change, learn how to do so, properly.
...if you are going to judge, take a look at what you are doing.
...if you are going to make a claim, find out if it's right.
Take plenty of rest days. You will not become fat and out of shape; you will get in better shape and prevent injuries. Recover with the same intensity with which you train.
Get to know your kitchen. Seriously, I know more people who can talk their way around local restaurants better than their own kitchen, it's pretty sad.
Earlier today I was unfortunate enough to get involved in a pretty humorous argument my college guys were having as they warmed up before class (this obviously inspired my first point above...). While I immediately realized it was just not going to end with any sort of progress made, it got me thinking about how much most people do not know about health and fitness. As a fitness professional, hanging out with other fitness fanatics like myself, and reading article upon article about it all, I sometimes forget that the world I live in is still a pretty limited world in terms of its serious population. Shoot, even people who claim to be a part of this world have no idea what's going on (how many "trainers" have you seen who are over weight, relying on rehabilitation machines for their workouts, and eating like complete crap?! I have seen TONS!). What I have found over and over again is that peoples lack of knowledge in what is truly good for them is a slippery slope to injury, sickness, limited or stalled fitness gains, and an overall negative and lethargic lifestyle.
If your energy sucks, if you sleep like crap, if you're overweight, if your productivity is down, if you're in a bad mood all the time, feeling frustrated, depressed, angry and so on, perhaps you need to make a change. And as stated above, REAL change will be hard to come buy if you are not educated in what you need to do. Read a book, read an article, talk to a professional, take a class, watch a documentary, try things out.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
I have always been one to advocate the importance of taking good care of yourself, physically AND mentally. But recently it has been on my mind more than normal. Perhaps it’s been the attention of the CrossFit Games process where I ate like relative crap, skipped workouts and moved across the country while training to compete as one of the “Fittest In The Word” (obviously didn't work out so well). Perhaps it was my near death experience a few weeks back when I flipped my car. Perhaps it’s been connecting with a whole slew of young athletes who have no idea what health actually means (generally not their fault at all on this one...ahem...parents...). Or maybe it’s being around a decent number of people who just let things slide, over and over again until all of a sudden one day it all comes crashing down on them. Whatever it is, I have been reading, researching, studying and talking more and more about what it takes to be a healthy person, and I have come to find that it’s all about a shift in perspective if you want good and lasting results. First things first: I have never, and I repeat, NEVER met a human being who truly knows how to take care of him/her self both physically and mentally (myself included here!). I have talked with a good deal of people who are on the right track (serious CrossFitters are the closest I have seen), and I have met a real lot of people who think they know what they are doing, but this is so easily the most difficult thing to recognize in life. If I had a nickel for every time someone explained their “healthy” lifestyle to me to get my opinion and it involved sneaky amounts of complex carbohydrates, sugars, alcohol, lack of sleep, high stress, imbalance, and splotchy activity I'd be a millionaire! So often do I wish I could just violently shake these people while screaming, “just read a book on health and fitness and your life will be 100% percent better! Seriously, like any book!” Shoot man, I'll buy it for them! But, who am I to define health? I have my opinions; I have my beliefs on the best ways to live if you want to have a life filled with activity, not too much body fat, general happiness and fun relationships. But I am not everyone else and it’s not up to me to dictate how you want to live your life. Unless you ask, unless you want help, unless you are doing something that is clearly detrimental to yourself and others around you, I have come to the realization that there is nothing I can do. All I can do is whole-heartedly believe in what I passionately know to be true, support the people who want to get better, and not talk down to and alienate myself from those that don’t. I say this last part because I also believe that a person who chooses to do something unhealthy will eventually be motivated to make some form of change. And when that change is wanted to be made, they, like everyone else in the worked, deserve help and support from others. So, to all you people out there striving to be healthy, wanting so badly to fight the craziness of bad food and inactivity in the world; don’t be a source of fear and conflict to those who are not like you. Rather, be a source of inspiration and motivation. I little piece of cheesiness I like to share with people when talking about how to lead a healthy lifestyle goes like this: When we are born we are given nothing but two guaranteed things: our bodies and out minds. We are not guaranteed family, friends, wealth, food, cars, houses and on and on. If we get those things, they are all additional gifts that we are lucky to come by and have. If you can take a step back and see that the only two things we enter this world with are usually the things we take most for granted, your life will instantly become that much better. Make a priority of giving both your body and your mind the most care, and it will be impossible for things to be bad in your life. Every pesticide, every bite and sip of processed poison, every lazy day in front of the TV on your couch in the blasting AC, every car ride (you get the picture here) deteriorates your body and mind just a little more. Take the time to take care of them, and you will be rewarded with a truly healthy, happy, positive life. Never Stop, GET FIT. Josh Courage