Monday, June 27, 2011

The One About Motivation

I thought that if I titled this post like an episode of FRIENDS, it would have more appeal.

Here it is, the promised post about motivation and fitness. I'll start with this one idea: one is a product of the other. In fact, either can produce the other. This should become clearer as I explain.

I'm going to lead you on a little trip: it's the story of how I found my motivation.
I don't pretend to be some fitness guru or even close to being in great shape. What I can say, with confidence brimming, is that I found a start to the journey!

Here's some back-story to bore you all into leaving the computer: If I want to remember what it was like to have a flat stomach, I have to think back decades. Even then, I carried that cute-at-the-time baby fat. Still, I was a healthy little guy. For all the rest of my life, I've had some extra flab hanging onto my body: belly, sides, cheeks, arms, legs, you name it. I didn't consider myself obese, but I knew I was overweight. I know that weight or size does not equate self-worth, but it sure is a factor in self-image. In high-school, I went from being a 210 lb.-sophmore to an eventual 185 lb.-senior...

What had I changed? My junior year I started running, and my senior year I added football to my activities. The daily cardio-burn really helped me shed the pounds. That was a very positive feeling, and I learned something from it: I have the potential to change. I didn't have to abandon hope and accept my belly-flab as my constant companion.

So, I had lost weight. I look back at pictures, and I can see it in my face: I look more lean. However, the mid-section still held onto that stubborn flab. Once I left home in the individual pursuits of the next few years, running became less of an option (especially in Canada) and football was a thing of the past. I slowly regressed into the 210-220 lb. range (thank you, MTC Cafeteria).

Since returning from the mission, I've had spurts of motivation that have led me to the gym pretty consistently to run the treadmill or use the elliptical machine, but it never made a huge difference for me. My weight would fluctuate, but I'd never get any promising results and my motivation wavered.
Let me fast-forward to this year.
2011, January. I was off-track, in Arizona having the time of my life being with family and friends. The holidays at home provided a great dosage of rich food, then I moved to Queen Creek to live with my brother and sister-in-law.
I worked with my brother for a bit, and our most convenient source of food was the entire imaginable gamut of fast-food chains. We also thrived on caffeinated soda to keep us running steadily through the long work-days. I didn't have a scale handy at the time, and was happy to avoid one. I didn't like eating that way, but I lacked desire to do anything different.
Then I stopped working (yeah, it happens to college students from time to time). Suddenly, I had some time to do things. I could read, I could nap, I could walk the dogs, I could visit friends, watch movies, shop, eat, laugh, cry, ponder, spit, hike, breathe, or make funny faces in the mirror if I wanted! This was actually the best thing that could've ever happened for me at that point.

Enter Perla.

Perla had been talking about P-90X. I wanted to try it, so one day we planned to get together and do Yoga. (Yoga isn't for everyone, but I LOVE it. The best de-stressing mechanism for me. Moving on...) Once I had a taste of work-out time with Perla, it became a regular thing. We'd decided a time, we'd get together, and we'd work out. On days when we weren't, I would always go jog the running trails that go through the neighborhood (and they are AWESOME!). I decided to cut all soda out of my diet and to really avoid fast food and sweets. Perla and I also did some looking into foods that are nutrient-rich and low-calorie and started getting creative with including them in my diet. Things were changing.

This was the start of a journey I wasn't even aware I was on.
My weight-drop wasn't drastic, but I started to see subtle signs of a leaner physique.

I want to point out that 1) motivation got me started and 2) improved fitness fueled my motivation.

Let point out some other key factors here: in high-school, my weight-loss was due to cardio alone. Quit or reduce the cardio, and fat will start taking up residence like you've just refurbished its dwelling. I've since learned that a great combo for long-term leanness has three key elements: cardio, weight-training, and eating right.
Let me explain why, and then I'll get on with "the rest of the story". Cardio burns calories and results in a slimmer build. But weight-training builds muscles. More muscle mass in your body means more calories/nutrients are needed to sustain the body, so the calories you do take in are being used -not stored as much. And proper eating even further limits calorie intake so that you get more nutrients and less junk. Summation: you can fight calories from 3 different angles. It's a triple-combo that brings more satisfaction than any combo meal at Burger King ever will.

So, in April, I came back to Rexburg for school and I got a screaming deal on a gym membership (seriously, it's 10-dollars a month with no contract). I weighed in at 212 lbs. when I got here. Since then, I've dropped 12 lbs. I remain right around 200 lbs. as I swap muscle mass for fat.
Every week, I see new changes for the better. I wear a 32-waist now, and that just thrills the heck out of me (thrift-store shopping possibilities just increased!). I try on shirts, and they fit me really well. I can look in the mirror with real satisfaction and smile at what I see. I do that every day now.
Looks aren't even the best part. I feel so amazing! I keep kicking myself for waiting so long to feel so good! Prior to my changes, I felt sluggish most of the day. I could do what I needed to do, but felt like a nap was what I really needed most. Now, I am energetic, much more happy, and I feel things much more! When I laugh, I feel the emotion, not dulled by any bodily fatigue. When I am moved to tears, I feel that emotion in its fulness. When I feel joy, I really feel like I'm brimming with goodness. My body was made to perform! Let me emphasize that by repetition: My body was made to perform. It seems to go against our intuition that a tired, worn-out body would benefit by added activity. But it does!

My friends here at school have noticed the change in my mood and behavior and will frequently ask me what energy drink I'm on. It's fun to be able to respond, "LIFE!" I seriously feel that I have been physically reborn. I have a new and different frame. I have defined muscles. I can see that there is a frame under the layers of flab that were once there. I see the veins that operate to send nutrients to the ends of my limbs. The body is an amazing machine, and it is made to perform.

The reason that I have taken the time to write this down is 1) I need to record these thoughts for later, 2) I have learned a lot through this process and feel obliged to pass it on, and most importantly, 3) I hope that my insights can serve as a spark to make some changes in your own daily routine. *I am not trying to brag.
I know that you are many things: parents, students, teachers, employees ...and it is a real challenge to find the way to bring fitness into your life even when the motivation is there. Start with eating right. That's one of the biggest favors you can do yourself. Eat often, and eat the things that are good for you. Learn to turn down sweets. It's an un-American thing to do, but it's so good for you.

I can stand confidently and say that every person reading this has the potential to change. Some things are out of our control. We can accept that. Our personal fitness is completely in our own hands.

Now, if you're serious about this, here is your first assignment: find your motivation.
Here's how I found it: I went to Vegas, we took pictures. When I came back, I was really not pleased at all with how I looked. That got me started. The progress I see along the way keeps me going. Find your motivation, and start your journey -even if it's small steps in the start.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Days

I have a lot to say. Some of it will be worthwhile, some of it will be extemporaneous. If you know what that word means, props to you and I hope we're friends.

First, let's talk about the weather. Summer has finally come to Rexburg ...for now. Today we reached a scorching 85 degrees! (I give the Arizonans my full consent to laugh) It's so fun to watch the town transform with good weather. Students at the school will find a patch of lawn and just stretch out and soak in the sun. The parks are filled with all sorts of activity, the streets are busy with long-boarders, cyclists, and strolling couples. We really know how to take full advantage of good weather in these parts.

Now on to other things. I've thought a lot about learning lately. I think I am absolutely addicted to learning. After being in school for as long as I have, you make some observations about the process and about yourself.
I think that it's a shame that we know so much and pass on so little. All of my more aged instructors have stories to tell of when they were in high school and how much algebra they were taught. What happened to those days?
I try to imagine how life would be if I had learned, really solidified the basic operations of algebra in high school. My college experience would be enhanced exponentially. I'm now taking calculus and just barely getting comfortable with nearly all the aspects of algebra. The world has known these concepts for centuries, and yet children and adults alike float through life completely in the dark ages where math is concerned. I am seeing more and more how learning truly is power; it's a cliche expression, but the truth stands. This world is looking for good thinkers. Subjects like tough math develop thinkers; look at the people we admire for their contributions to our current advances in understanding the world -they all knew how to work with math. I have struggled with math in the past, as much of the world's students do, but that's the point: I struggled. I learned. I am empowered because those ideas are now mine. Oh that every child could learn the great ideas that open the world to amazing possibilities.

I've been taking a communications class semester called group dynamics. Let me interject and say that all of my communications classes have proven to be the most enjoyable and useful of all. If you ever get the chance to take a communications class, you'll be glad you did. I want to share some of the concepts I've taken from the class recently. In that way, I think my readers are getting some real meat along with the cotton-candy fluff of my usual posts.

For class, I attended a Forum put on my Robert Whitman. He is the Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Franklin Covey. He is so much more than that, but I think you get a hint of what kind of guy he is from his job title. It was AWESOME to get insights from someone who has been so successful in his profession. I'm going to share my notes from the forum here:

Be “a game-changing person” or someone who improves whatever they’re involved in.

Choices an individual makes in order to achieve success:

1) Believe in yourself: What would you try if you knew you could not fail? A true mirror (undistorted) reflects that all are gifted (example: Paul Potts, opera singer, Britain’s Got Talent, YouTube clip). If you don’t believe in yourself, find friends that believe in you.

2) Be strong in the hard times: Do the work that your goals require of you.

3) Put God first in your life: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.

4) Stay away from the avalanche zones: Remember Reinhold Messner (Italian mountaineer considered to be “the greatest climber in history”).

5) Bring others with you across the finish line: Remember that life is a team sport.

That's the end of the notes. I just loved what he had to say. He had awesome insights, and I felt empowered by his comments to go and make some changes to how I approach life. I hope at least someone finds this beneficial.

In my comm class, we have full access to the entire collection of Harvard's online material. Only two schools in the world have this access: BYU-Idaho, and Harvard. It's some of the best material, and I always come away from class discussions completely engaged in thought and so enriched by the discussions we have. Anyway, one of the neatest things we do with the Harvard material is a simulation of climbing Mt. Everest. We get together in small groups, open up our laptops, log in, and start the simulation of climbing day-by-day together. If you implement the skills of group dynamics we've been learning in class, you do much better succeeding in your goals and it grades your success as a group at the end. We get to do the simulation a number of times, and each time we do it, we have so many things reinforced about life and working together. There's a lot to be learned from all the accounts of groups who have attempted the Everest climb. We all have some challenging things to face in life. A successful end is much more likely when we help each other, lift each other, and work as one.

Okay, one last bit of wisdom from that class, and I'll move on.
Every week, we get to come up with our own "Sharpen the Saw" activity. This idea comes from Stephen R. Covey's book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I know, some of you are thinking, "Well excuse me for livin', but I've never read it." (Ten gold stars to whoever can guess where that quote is from, although I think Cat has a slight advantage). And then there are those of you who have read it who are thinking, "It's so good." I digress. Sharpening the saw is basically the idea that a person can work hard all day trying to cut down trees with a saw that is a little dull from constant use. If he would stop occasionally to sharpen the saw, the work he did with a sharp saw would be much more effective. A lot of people are so concerned about keeping on task that they don't want to take the time to stop and sharpen the saw.
Covey points out 4 dimensions to sharpen in life: spiritual, physical, social, and mental. We should get in the habit of taking some time each week to focus in on one of the dimensions that needs sharpening and figure out a way to sharpen it. I've had a real blast doing a weekly sharpening activity. It's been really neat to see what a difference it makes. It's a neat concept, and I think everyone should give it a try.

HEY! I just found out that I am an uncle again! My brother and his wife just had their first son! He has red hair! His aunt Julianne will be thrilled, no doubt.
I'm just as thrilled as can be to have yet another little guy enter our family. I can't wait to be able to actually see him in person. Congrats to JC and Mari!

It seems so trivial to continue on with what I was going to say, but then the blog must go on. I am way too concerned about my collection of movies. Most of you know this, but I was reminded of it today. I opened my DVD wallet to select a movie to watch as I blogged (yeah, I think Alicia and I are related ...for reals). I found an empty slot. This is not good. Since they are alphabetized, I usually know exactly which one is missing. This time, it's School of Rock. My first reaction was "No! Where is it?!?! Who has it?!?!" Then I calmed down and thought, dude. You can buy another copy for like 5 bucks if worse comes to worst. Then I had a good laugh at how silly I am about my dumb collection.

I guess that does it for now. Thanks for enduring to the end of the post, and I hope your summer days are as gorgeous and enjoyable as mine. Of course they are, you're not in school. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go check our DVD player...

PS: My next post is going to be about fitness goals and desire. Be ye warned. If that's not something you're interested in, feel free to ignore my next post.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sink Me If I Didn't Go and Do It

I'm sure you've all noticed that, judging by my lack of entries, I've either 1) dropped off the face of the planet or 2) not been keeping up.

I can't really apologize, because it wouldn't be sincere. I've meant to blog, but each time I sit down to the computer, I'm not feeling it. And if I'm not feeling it, it wouldn't be a read-worthy post anyway.

I sit here and I have a feeling a lot like the feeling of sitting on a porch looking out on a yard that has been left unkept for months: not at all pleased with what I see, but excited to jump in and transform it.

So here it is: the barrage of thoughts that you, no doubt, have wondered where they could have been all these long weeks (or is it ...months?):

First, I'm not going to talk about fitness. I feel good. The end. Now you can sit back comfortably and read the rest.

This semester, I'm assistant manager for a show called "Jazz Night". The show is going to be the night of June 25th. We'll hold auditions this coming week and get a line-up of performers. The show is going to be outside on a gorgeous lawn on campus. It's also a free show, so that makes it even easier to publicize.
I've had a lot of fun scheming up ideas for our poster, our show set-up, and etc. I'm excited to see how that pans out.

Speaking of shows, I went to a show on campus tonight that was unexpectedly PHENOMENAL! Have you heard of Nik Day? He's from Idaho Falls, goes to school at BYU-Provo, writes the best contemporary piano pieces, and sings and performs like you would not believe. Check out his stuff on YouTube and iTunes. His album will be my next purchase. He is incredible.
Opening for Nik was the comedian Stephen Jones. If you don't know him, he's also a BYU-Provo student. He was featured in the YouTube commercial parody of the Old Spice commercial called "New Spice". It's on YouTube, a must-see.
I can't say which I liked better: Nik's music or Stephen's comedy! They were both so good! Stephen had me laughing so hard that I was nearly too exhausted to laugh at the end of his act! This has been, by far the best show I've seen on campus. Collin Ray was incredible, but this show topped it.

Continuing on with the theme of entertainment, I have some most exciting news!
This Tuesday, YES! This Very Tuesday, a special event is coming to our dollar theater. Are you ready? LORD OF THE RINGS. YES!!! They are showing the Fellowship of the Ring this week, The Two Towers next Tuesday, and The Return of The King the week after that! These movies are meant to be viewed on the big screen! I am seriously giddy at the prospect of seeing The Fellowship on the big screen again. I'm not sure I'll go to the other two, but it really is a great chance to see them this way. We'll see.

Now what's a movie without dinner? Which brings me to my next topic, eating out. So I rarely eat out here, but when I do, I prefer these eateries: Costa Vida (yes, we have one now, with Sweet Pork Salad, Horchata, the whole bit), Great Harvest (Ooh, if you've never tried this, do yourself a favor and TRY IT! I love the turkey pesto sandwich. Mmmmm), or Mill Hollow (a local frozen yogurt / sandwich joint. No yogurt for this boy, but they make the best baked subs on their own home-baked sour-dough. It's truly scrumptious ...and sumptuous. I love how those words compliment each-other).

You all know that I'm a nerd-at-heart. I've told you this, you've surmised it, you've seen me look at rocks, it's common knowledge. Here's the thang (typo-intended because I say it like that a lot): even though I've got a nerd-core, I struggle with Physics. I struggled with Calculus, but this time around (retaking it) I've done really well and I'm actually liking it and registered for Calculus 2. But Physics, it's been the most difficult thing my brain has ever faced. But I am beginning to make progress. Conquering these concepts would really boost my confidence. If I can conquer Physics, I can face any course and succeed. I truly believe it.

Do you have an inner-nerd? Do you take secret delight in grammar or literature or some other nerdy subject? Guilty, right here. Rocks included. I've noticed that I will always jump at a chance to flaunt that inner-nerd. If anyone has a question about something I know about (and feel absolute pure passion for), I perk up, step up to the plate, and swing for the fence! I suppose it's because it's not every day that our nerdiness gets that chance to shine, to be of some use to someone. I'm sure I overdo it and annoy people with spouting knowledge, but when I'm their phone-a-friend life-line, they'll thank their lucky stars that I have that little nerd deep at my core, ready to offer my brilliance on cue.

Here's a random bit: I took my chica-friends to Taco Bell to grab dinner to go on Friday. While waiting to order, my friend picked up a packet of Verde Sauce and said "I think I am converted to this sauce." "Well," I chimed in immediately, "welcome to the church!"
What would life be without Taco Bell? I can't imagine college life without that one universal constant. Yes, it's unhealthy. But I guarantee that if it weren't there, college kids would find another way to get their cheesy grease-fix. Taco Bell does it for cheap, they do it quickly, and it tastes surprisingly amazing. Honestly, what kind of magic created a Chalupa? The soft, yet crunchy, texture of that shell... ahhh.

I'll wrap this up, but first, this: Practicality. I've noticed something.
There are some really practical people in the world. They are not normal. Practicality has its place, for certain. But since it's not a universal norm, it most often comes across as quirky.
I'll illustrate. Most boys and girls walk to class dressed in casual but tasteful combinations of wardrobe pleasantries. They carry their necessities in their backpack, and tote their book in hand, so as not to weigh-down their backpack and make it look slouchy. They saunter in, take their place amongst their peers, and breathe deeply and satisfyingly as the begin their coursework.
Then, there are others. They leave the apartment with an extra-large backpack (usually camouflage as to ...blend in?) that holds ALL their books, a strapped laptop case, plain clothes selected from the cheapest clearance section available (simply there to cover nakedness), knee-high socks from a surplus store, hiking boots in case they end up in a survival situation, a quirky brimmed-hat to keep the sun out of their eyes and, if they're really serious about practicality, they've got a fanny-pack full of granola bars. Do not laugh. These are real people!
They are the people who make you think to yourself, "What's it like to be a weird person? Wait, or am I weird, and they're normal and I perceive them as weird because I'm not normal?" But then you shake it off because the status quo demonstrates that it's simply not possible.
I wonder what it's like to be so practical. I think we all need a healthy dose of practicality to help balance our chi and keep us in check, but it can be overdone.

Now I've exhausted my superfluous thought reserves and can leave you satiated with all this verbosity until we meet again. Until then, ...granola bar anyone?