The Benefits of Designing Your Own Life Training Program

trainingUnlike those in the military, police force or competitive and professional sports, most of us are not required to have a disciplined training program every day. I have come to appreciate that no matter what you do, whether you are a graphic designer, content writer, human resource manager, executive recruiter, financial advisor or dog walker – it doesn’t matter – all of us could benefit by designing our own quality training program for life. I am in the process of reading the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work and while I find it amusing and a fun read, what I am really looking for in my own training program is something a bit more well-ordered and purposeful.

Result Rituals – Mind Wide Open

While I have started a daily program of what I call “result rituals” I am always in the process of fine tuning and adding elements to my regiment to increase my chances of results. My main goal – to become the best version of me I can be.  I think it’s hard to argue that we should all strive to be the best we can be. One book that looks like it might help is Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

A Quality Training Regiment

A quality training regiment (both physical and mental) that includes-

  • A physical workout that also focuses on maintenance to prevent injury.
  • Learning something new everyday to stay up to speed in our field of work.
  • A spiritual program to keep us connected to our personal higher source in order stay in line with our values.

The Frustration of Staying Focused

I had a moment of realization today as I was thinking about how to be more focused. It’s hard to stay focused when we try to do too much. I think my brain begins to realize that if I have 20 things to do on my list, it will be impossible, so without my evening realizing it, my brain doesn’t believe I will get everything done and starts to struggle with the idea of feeling overwhelmed. Unrealistic expectations set us up for failure. Thinking we can accomplish too much in too little time. Be very mindful of how much you put upon yourself each day. Set realistic goals for the days, weeks and months ahead. Goals that have you improve, but with doable steps. We rarely leap to success, it’s usually in the small daily wins that we find we eventually reach our goals. 

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I am currently working toward the following goals.

Be More Here –  All the Time.

Just ten minutes of meditation has helped me throughout the day. I am less apt to get distracted and learning to be at home in my mind and body. Meditation teaches us to watch the state we are in – are you daydreaming? worrying? what are you thinking about? One great tip -have a mirror at your desk and every once in a while look at yourself. Where are you? Are you here?

 A Lasting and Consistent Way to Stay in Line with Our Values

Every morning I have been reading a few paragraphs of Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl which reminds me that it’s easy right now to say that I want to be the highest version of myself, but it is in the midst of darkness and despair when we need our faith and values most. I am training for the future. For the days when things might not be so bright and easy.

A Quote from Man’s Search for Meaning

I mentioned earlier how everything that was not connected with the immediate task of keeping oneself and one’s closest friends alive lost its value. Everything was sacrificed to this end. A man’s character became involved to the point that he was caught in a mental turmoil which threatened all the values he held and threw them into doubt.   Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl

Side note:

Great list of the 10 Biggest Mistakes When Setting Goals by Michael Hyatt.

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#mondaymotivation

Dodging Raindrops, Brilliant Podcasts and Rising Above A Toxic Workplace

sitting-posture

Two words, good posture.

Stop. Did you just do what I think you did? Did you just sit up a little straighter?

Next time you walk into the elevator or a big meeting, think about what your posture says about you as you pass through those doors. Then try these exercises for better posture.

It’s early morning, pouring rain, headed to the office in Soho (70 minutes, stuck in traffic, bumper-to-bumper, followed by a soaking 30 minute walk). Rain coming in sideways. I feel like –

sunshine

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Wellness in the Workplace

Now, while big corporate decides whether there’s enough ROI (return on investment) around creating a “corporate wellness” program at your office (read: you healthier in their work camp), organizations are adding things like energy-absorbing flooring and enhanced air and water filtration. That’s all well and good but you must take matters of health into your own hands and back to your cozy cubby.

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Movement + Meditation = My Medication

When there is no time to work out in the morning I walk the five miles to and from work.

Walking at various speeds with intervals of stairs help me stay energized throughout the day and less guilty about not getting to the gym. Except when it rains really hard. Then I’m just like, what was I thinking?

That’s why I have invested in some serious commuter gear – I have provisions -umbrellas, rain coats, knapsacks, rain boots, you name it.

Love these rain boots and my  jacket below from Uniqlo

sperrySperry Top-Sider Women’s Pelican III Rainboot

UnknownTotes Signature SuperDome Auto Open/Close Umbrella, Black, One Size

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Learning on the Go

Podcasts I listen to at the gym and on my warrior walk to work.

  1. The Unmistakable Creative – brilliant interviews with super creative people.
  2. The Tim Ferriss Show – the #1 business podcast on iTunes right now
  3. School of Greatness with Lewis Howes – because he just wants to get better and better and so do I.

Or sometimes I simply walk and meditate. Huh? How do you do that? Well, you breathe and walk and just be aware of the fact that you are breathing and walking. Unless you are like me and want to Instagram every little stupid thing. Then you might want the guidance of a walking meditation app.

Movement meditation can be a very accessible way to restore the equilibrium of the mind.

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Workouts During the Work Day

Not as powerful as sweating it out for 45 minutes on the elliptical at the gym, moving throughout the day gently keeps my body and head in check. Evidently, according to this Forbes contributor, there is something to this fidgeting.

Here’s what I am trying to do every day at work.

  • 10 Exercises to Do at Your Desk on Forbes.com here
  • A full glass of water (8oz) every two hours.
  • A healthy lunch – salad with protein.
  • Two 100 calorie snacks. Almonds or apples. (buy in bulk at Costco).
  • Always take the stairs and go outside every few hours.
  • 1 minute of breathing meditation at my desk on the hour.
  • A moment or two to laugh. Best of Jimmy (Fallon) here
  • Network – spend a little time connecting with others.

waterbottlemarkedwithtimeAre you shy? Want to make friends but feel a bit socially awkward?

Listen to this brilliant Tim Ferriss episode How to Build a World Class Network in Record Time.

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1% Better Each Day

sitting-down-all-day-at-work-is-killing-us-why-you-should-use-a-sit-to-stand-desk-tableRight now you are probably sitting down reading this blog post. How long have you been sitting there? If it has been over 30 minutes since you last moved around, then get ready to get up and begin a healthier new habit.

Today’s guest post includes three easy ways to counteract the frightening and unhealthy side effects that stem from sitting at your desk all day.  Sitting down and slumped over a screen has become an important lifestyle risk factor linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes and it is estimated that around 9% of premature deaths have been linked to sitting all day.  That’s about five million people a year. Want to learn more about why you need to get up and move? Watch this TedEx original here.

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I asked Alex Guillien, the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach/Instructor at Dakota State University for his best exercises to help us get up and move throughout the day.  Alex aims to inspire and empower others to become the best versions of themselves, beginning with physical training.

Sitting has been dubbed the new smoking,” explains Alex. “I am grateful for the work I do as a Strength & Conditioning Coach because one of the uncommonly thought of benefits is I am on my feet most of the day. Some may see this as a negative but it allows me to have limited time sitting down; which you fill learn has dire consequences.”

Below are a few passages from the Science Daily article titled, Sitting for long periods increases risk of disease and early death, regardless of exercise.

“The amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise, according to a review study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.” 

More than one half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary — sitting, watching television, or working at a computer”

“Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease.” (science daily)

So are we all going to die!? Yes, we are. But it doesn’t have to be because of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Or at LEAST, we can reduce our risk of these things by limiting our sitting times.

Your New 2 Minute Healthy Habit

Get up every 30 minutes for 2-3 minutes. This will get the blood flowing to the vital organs and reduce those times when you may sit for 2-3 hours at at time. It will also improve creativity as motion will bring blood to the brain. You should be getting up to pee anyway. If not, you’re not drinking enough water.

dudley117Stretching out your Legs & Back

Undo that hunch. Do the Super Couch. stretch.  Click here for a quick 16 second how to video.

2. Wake up the Booty

Sitting too long will cause glute amnesia, aka your butt turns off (going numb). Sounds bad. It is. Nearly 80% of people will have low back pain in their life. It sucks. So get your glutes aka da booty functioning by squeezing them for a set of 30 seconds every time you get up out of your chair. You may look like the weirdo in the office but your butt and back will thank you.

3. Improve Your Posture

Bonus: Grab a EliteFTS Pro Resistance Band  so you can improve your posture by doing pull-aparts. Watch the video here for a band pull apart super series.  Work up to 100 total each day for improved posture, a stronger upper back, and enhanced shoulder health.

I (MJ) also like to add chair squats to the mix –

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“The sedentary life…is the real sin against the holy spirit.” 
 Friedrich Nietzsche

officeFor additional ways to improve your health and work out routine, visit Alex’s website at  gorillastrength.net.  My favorite videos include his variations on the push up.

Have you adopted any healthy work habits? If you have any tips/advice or additional ways to move through the work day, please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

Insanely Useful Weight loss and Training Gear Investments

I’m not necessarily a gear girl because I absolutely believe it’s not the tools, it’s how you use them, however, on the other hand, I truly appreciate great quality when I find it. I wish I would have discovered a complete list of the best of everything when I decided to turn things around.

I have found the following weight-loss and training tools have stood the test of time, lasted way longer than I expected and helped me lose 25 pounds while getting stronger over the past year.

athleta Athleta Be Free Capris and the Relay Capris are both flattering with an awesome fit, even as I lost the weight. Perfect for warmer weather and summer months, even through 95 humid degrees in Florida summer heat.

Under ArmourUnder Armour Women’s Heatgear Capri Pants got me through the frigid temperatures last winter in New York, whether I was up at 5:30 am driving in my jeep to the gym or running to Soul Cycle in Union Square.

Extremely Mindful Eating – guarding Calories In & Out

I truly don’t believe I would have dropped the pounds if it wasn’t for tracking my calories. Now, I’m on my third Fitbit because I lost the first two “zip” models that you clip on your sports bra or pants, so I don’t recommend them at all. I have found that the wrist band stays on and when synced with the app is a truly mindful weight loss tool.

 Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband, Black

When I first started wearing my LG Headphones around my neck I got some pretty strange looks, but they have become incredibly popular and since I’m the kind of geek that has practically strangled herself with her earbud wires wrapped around the Elliptical arm, well, these babies are both blue tooth and powerful.

LG Electronics Tone Pro HBS-750 Bluetooth Wireless Stereo Headset – Retail Packaging – Black

Supposedly drinking 2 to 3 liters of water a day will speed up your metabolism (read the NCBI study here), but regardless, staying hydrated is critical and also helps fill you up.  I dropped $24.00 on this Ello Glass water bottle at Whole Foods, and like everything else, I found it for much less on Amazon – under $10.00. It’s durable and dishwasher safe. Better for the planet, but also for your body.

 Ello Pure BPA-Free Glass Water Bottle with Lid, Coral Fizz, 20 oz.

Practicing Mindful Portion Control

I haven’t eaten off a regular size plate since I started enjoying nutrient-dense, high-fiber slow-carb meals. Small plates help keep portion sizes under control.

Boston International Ceramic Appetizer Plates, Nautical Flags, Set of 4

Speaking of fiber, I found Goya Beans, specifically black and small white beans added to every meal (just a few table spoons will do) are just what you need to keep the scale moving in the right direction.

Goya Premium Small White Beans 15.5 oz

It all started with changing the way I ate, which was absolutely mindless and mostly in front of my computer. The diet that changed my life, is The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.

The 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman

He’s the grandfather of self-improvement and performance coaching. Yes Anthony Robbins and yes his book Ultimate Power helped frame my new empowered mindset.


Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement

As fun as they are, do not buy the headbands at Free People or Urban Outfitters. They unravel and slide off, even during Pilates and Yoga and they don’t absorb jack. Try Mava’s instead.


Set of 6/4/2 PCS Multipurpose 12 in 1 Headbands for Athletic and Casual Wear, Highly Comfortable Seamless Bandana, Balaclava, Scarf, Face Mask, Best Moisture Wicking Headband With UV Protection, Suits Both Men & Women, Mava Premium Quality Headwear (Set of 6)

While they became a thing about five years ago, I am still in awe at how comfortable, light weight and long lasting my Nike Free trainers really are.

Nike Free 5.0

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And as the weather turns cooler here in the northeast, I love my Uniqlo down vests and jackets for working out. They are inexpensive, long lasting and wind resistant.

Do you have any workout favorites? Anything to recommend? I’d love to learn what helps you perform.

Training and Tracking the Quality of Your Time

A sudden and shocking moment of realization came upon me the other day as I was listening to one too many self-help podcasts. The moment when a voice inside of head said, Why, Madeline, this is all starting to sound, well, a bit ridiculously redundant. You my dear, are swimming in a deep-blue sea of self-motivation sameness.

It took me less than two minutes to figure out that I needed a mid-course correction.  Just how many hours was I was spending trying to fix what isn’t broken? Pattern interrupt once again. I had to track my trance of non-productive learning. So I downloaded ATracker, by Wonderapps.se (.se is Sweden)

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I actually do get more than 1.5 hours of sleep, but this pie chart is for today only. And look at all that commuting/driving time spend today. Ugh.

I am still learning how to work this baby, and I am not sure it is the best time tracker, so if you are using one you love, please send recommendations my way. I am totally open.

Quality over Quantity while Upgrading My Time

The goal in this little self-experiment is to not only figure out how much time I am wasting, but to look at how I can jack up the quality of each minute of my life. I want to upgrade it all, the books I am reading, videos I’m watching and how I am training my body.

trxWhich got me thinking about how much I hate my dirty old gym and how I want to try new methods of training. I am stoked about TRX Suspension Training at Covert Fitness along with two to three days of Spinning instead of just the weekends. I am also going to test out a few Streaming Fitness Videos.

The Daily Burn has a 30-day free trial that I am going to sign up for and Shape Magazine has this link to 13 Killer Streaming Videos I just wish there were more hours in a day. Oh but how little time we have.

Seneca on Time

Who can you show me, who places any value on his time, evaluates the worth of his day, and who understands that he is dying daily?   

Read more stoic philosophy here

On the Shortness of Life (Penguin Great Ideas)

 

 

 

 

 

Pattern Interrupt, Pushing Through and Improving Your Workouts

russian-twist-exercise-illustration

Usually habits are really useful. When we are on “auto pilot”  our brains have become so efficient at doing something we can tune out our conscious minds, which can be helpful sometimes, like when brushing our teeth, but not when working out.

More about the upside of habits in this awesome book:The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Problem with Mindless Patterns

Habits and patterns can also be a real problem. We can eat mindlessly and therefore overeat. We can tune out important people and not actively listen. We can exercise without paying attention and not get the most out of our workouts.

Russian Twists

I’m focusing on a bit of mid-course correction while making sure I don’t become weary from unconscious behavioral patterns during my morning exercise routine. The minute boredom sets in, I am reminded to “pattern interrupt”. It keeps things fresh – and improves results. So I do something different – I step up my stride, moving faster; add 20 more squats with calf stretches and try new exercises, like today – the Russian Twist (see illustration above) for toner abs.

Chi Walking and Core Movement

I’ve also been practicing engaging my lower abs throughout the day, especially when walking, jogging, running and sprinting. It has taken my routine to the next level.

When you correct your posture, you will be able to tighten your abdomen while you are walking. Leading your stride from your pelvis or what some call “Chi Walking” teaches us how to redirect the workload of propulsion to our core muscles around the pelvis and lower trunk area.

Pushing Through

When you are working out  every single day, it is easy to find yourself in a state of apathy about the mundane routine. Four things that help me push through –

Focusing on my super hero strength.  Yes, that’s me, in my mind, when working out. Lara Croft. Beautiful and brainy, with a fearless quest criss-crossing the globe, in an amazing attempt to save the world. 

Lara_Croft_film

Break it down into small increments. 200 squats in a row my ass. I do 10 sets of 20 deep squats and jog in-between. Before I know it, I’ve completed 200 squats with a tighter tush.

Goblet_Squat

Feel your body and get to know the slow, soft burn. Get to know what small progress feels like in your muscles. Where there is energy, there is life and growth – Seneca. More philosophy and wisdom here: Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

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Don’t focus on the time. Cover the clock and speed up the pace, even if it is just a bit quicker.

What are your workout tips? 

Do you have tips to push through to the next level? Something awesome to help make workout routines more fun? I’d love to know what you recommend. Leave a comment below.

 

Mount Climbers, Transhumanism and Being Bored to Genius

transhumanismNever one to get too comfortable with my routine, I’ve added mountain climbers (fat burning, toning and strength-training all-in-one) to my daily workout, which now includes – 60+ minutes of interval cardio with strong sprints, 100 bicycle sit ups, 30 push ups, 50 squats, 50 forward and 50 backward lunges, 25 side lunges and 30 mountain climbers. I am aiming for 100 of each daily.

Podcast Picks

Tim Ferriss and Srivanas Rao of The Unmistakable Creative both had interviews with artificial intelligence experts this week.  You can listen to a fascinating interview about the future of technology and the human race with Zoltan Istvan, the transhumanist running for U.S. president here.

What exactly is a “Transhumanist?”Transhumanism_h+_2.svg

Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international cultural and intellectual movement with an eventual goal of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. Think bionic eyes and robotic hearts. Note: I am not a member of this tribe, I just find their stories of the future very intriguing.

One of my favorite Zoltan (his name even sounds transhuman) quotes from the interview –

“I do not let emotions be part of my decision making

process because it leads to dangerous things.”

Zoltan warns of the dangers of “going with your gut” when making big decisions. He claims that one should really consider the long term effect each decision may have. Emotions shouldn’t dictate every decision because they may lead to irrational choices – and you know what happens then.

I must remind myself that today I am a result of the decisions I made yesterday. Deciding to workout each day a year ago, has made me a healthier and happier person today.

The takeaway: Decisions are what get you where you want to go. Everything you are today is a direct result of a decision you made at one point in time.

Some should be made through the prism of reason.

In the meantime, back on the treadmill, I can make bigger decisions because I have Fitbit technology to track my workout habits and success.  Habits + technology help free up the brain. Not having to think about tracking my movements or what to eat for breakfast, leaves more brainpower for the bigger, creative ideas. Read more about the science behind being bored to genius.

Fitbit Charge HR Wireless Activity Wristband, Black, Large

fitbit

Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband, Black

As you think, so shall you become. – Bruce Lee