Enthusiastic Power

I lost myself.  Standing at the edge of the road, I watched her run; strong, confidently, and fast.  She was happy, fulfilled, and doing exactly what she was created to do.  But as the distance grew between us, she grew smaller and I had to squint to keep my eyes on her.  Then she blurred.  And then she was gone.  The agony I felt when I turned around to look in the mirror and not see her there sent me swirling down into despair and confusion.  What had happened?  Why did I let her go?  How did this happen?

I worked hard to develop my career in the fitness industry and finally made it to my dream job…and then we moved.  I thought I would like the idea of working part time again and focusing on my own training again…but I was missing a very important part of who I was made to be.  I felt like I had all of these experiences, knowledge, and growth developed all sitting on the shelf building up dust, and I was withering away; fading into the distance of someone who once was.  Something had to be done.

So I applied.  Everywhere.  Every gym I could think of.  And every job I applied at, I jumped into interviews like it was a lifeline.  And I got hired.  At nearly every interview I got.

I was cleaning floors and machines in one gym, following a generic programing system at another, and working administrative at another.  Every place that hired me would say “you’re over qualified, but we love your enthusiasm!”  I was suddenly working four jobs with the hope that one would open up to an opportunity.  I went to work every day full of energy and positivity, ready to take on the world; knowing that the work I was doing did not fit my qualificiations or passions, but at least I was close to the action.

It was not easy.  I would come home, and in the shelter of an amazing, patient husband, I would crumble to pieces and cry.  Locking the door to the bathroom, lights out, in the warm tub, I’d let the water and my tears mix as one, and there I would sit in my own agony.

But I would get up the next day and put on a brave face.  Every shift I had in any job, I would carry a change of workout clothes, just, per chance, there was an instructor no show.  Then maybe, just maybe, I could shine once more.

Who knew; I was shining already.

As I was getting ready for my shift, my purse accidentally crumbled to the floor in the middle of the offices.  Gathering my stuff quickly, I looked up to see someone standing over me waiting to get past.  I looked up, smiled at her and said, “Good evening!  How are you?”  She just stared at me for a moment and the awkwardness grew, I could not read this woman.

“Have we met?”  She asked.  I knew she was an older woman with her grey hair, but she looked so young to me, her hair looked fantastic and there was just something I liked about her.

“No we haven’t,”  I laughed, “I’m so new.  I’m Ashley.  I just started at the membership desk.”  I stood up and smiled at her warmly.

“Well, Ashley.  You have great people skills.  I’m sure you’ll do great here.”  She answered.

I thought that was the end of it.  Little did I know, she approached my Supervisor and the General Manager and inquired about me.  There was a conversation I knew nothing about.

The next time I ran into her at work, she came up to me and said “Ashley, I knew there was more to you.  Apparently you are quite an experienced fitness professional!”

I laughed answering her, “that I am!”

She asked why I was working admin when I had so much experience in fitness.  I answered her honestly, “I needed an in, and admin was the only position that was available.”

Two weeks later, the position for Fitness Director opened up.  I applied.  And I got it.

It has not been an easy start; the job is massive, and much harder than when I had done this years before.  But I am determined, and I show up to work full of coffee and enthusiasm (those two go hand-in-hand with me!)

I have had several people come up to me and ask how long I plan to survive in this job; making this job both terrifying and intoxicating.  Many burn out in this job, and if I’m not careful, I could to.

This job gives me the resources to build people up, give them a community, and a safe place to come to be strengthened and encouraged.  I was made for such a job as this.

And now, as I look into the distance, I can see her.  She’s older now, and slower in her stride, but her steps are purposeful and light.  She runs home, walks up to her husband, kisses him long and soft.  Pulling back and smiling, she whispers; “I’m back.”

He looks at me, dark brown eyes darting back and forth to meet my gaze, then whispers with a grin; “I know.”

So why the big update on my life?

Because we are going into Power Phase!  Power requires enthusiasm, passion, and energy.  We are introducing plyometrics – exercises that requires explosive movements.  Full force commitment and focus.  Determination and drive.  You will be tired, but you must reach down deep; find that inner tiger and fight.  Your motivation is key and your effort is crucial.

Plyometrics.  HIIT Training.  Tabata.  Farlek Training.  Glorious program designs!  You are now either reading this thinking “what the heck is she saying?”  Or “here we go, she is showing her trainer colors now.”  Yup, you betcha.  Welcome to my blogs, I’m happy you are here.

PHASE TWO.  POWER.  MOTIVATION.  IDENTITY.

January through to March

You have emerged from Phase One.  You have developed your base, and now you emerge out of your Strong-hold campsite and are standing on your grounds.  You feel strong for battle, but not quite ready yet.  Now it’s time to play.  Pick up your sword and practice those drills.  Allow the sweat to sweep your brow and a smile to lift your lips.  Your ready to unite strength with power.

Power

Power phase involves the integration of anaerobic activity.  Short, powerful movements that ignites your Type II muscle fibers, like BOOM.  I’ll let you try it now…do 15 simple, safe squats.  Now, place your hands to the floor in that proper squat and with all of your might, jump up as high as you can with arms up over your head and toes pointed down; make it a huge massive movement like your jumping to the heavens.  Now do that rapidly for 15 repetitions.  Your heart should be pounding hard, your breathing heavy, your thighs burning.  If you’ve done it right, you probably had to walk around a little bit to gather your breath.  Woot woot!  That’s a plyometric.  Explosive.  Powerful.  Intense.  HIIT Training is High Intensity Interval Training geared to get your heartrate up and down and side to side!  The implementation of plyometrics is common in interval training to get that heartrate up and create explosive power in those muscle fibers.  Tabata will also be within HIIT programs as well; where you would go hard for 20seconds, rest for 10seconds, and repeat for 4minutes for a total of 8sets.  By then you will be gased, because your oxygen intake and outtake of that 4minutes would be equal to doing an aerobic activity for 45minutes.  Fartlek training are intervals of random timed exercises…literally made to mess with your mind and your heartrate.  Glorious.

Now you can also start adding in more aerobic cardio or develop a running plan for race season, adding in whatever mileage you are currently doing in a week and increasing it each week by 10%.  You get better at running by…running.  Running is a mechanical movement and your body is a machine.  The more you do it, the more efficient you become at it and the easier it feels. Interval training and interval running is excellent for improving your speed and endurance.

Motivation

In order to capture the aggression of a power-based program, you need to have full commitment; physically and mentally.  In the moment you are attacking as hard as you can go for as long as an interval lasts.  Commitment requires a deep sense of motivation.  You cannot dedicate yourself wholly into something unless you are wholly commmited to it.

What is your motivation for doing all of this in the first place?  The definition of the word motivation; “Motivation is a word derived from the word ‘motive’ which means needs, desires, wants or drives within the individuals.  It is the process of stimulating people to actions to accomplish the goals.”

So what are your needs and desires?  Running Spartan races fills most people with an ounce of fear…the idea of challenging yourself to do something you didn’t think you could do and then overcoming.  Why do we have that desire?

Because we were made to evolve.  We were made to grow.  Our bodies were made to adapt and so also our minds.  We cannot become stronger if we don’t push ourselves to our limits.  Our muscles will never grow if we never push them to lift more.  Our cardiovascular system will never improve if we never push it above 60% effort.  We cannot become courageous if we never face our fears.  So we step outside of our comfort zones and register for events that initimate us because we are built to want to grow; whether we do this consciously or subconsciously.

And, like Spartan says, “You’ll know at the Finish Line.”

That victory fire jump you see posted on everyone’s profile pictures in the summer; the hands outspread, chin lifted toward the sky, massive grin on their face; those pictures are genuine.  They are the moment of realization where effort meets victory.  And oh, how sweet it is.

Identity

Motivation can be linked to our identity.  Who you believe you are will effect the effort you place in your workouts.  If you approach your workouts thinking of yourself as weak, as tired, as fat…you will work out like a weak, tired, or fat person.  If you go into your workouts thinking “I am strong.  I am fast.  I am agile.  I will endure.”  You will do all that are more.

Because I wasn’t doing what I was made to do last year, I lost who I was.  I am by no means saying that my job is my identity.  My identity is found in verses that calls one to build up people; “for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort,” and “since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church,”  and “so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.”  (1 Corinthians 14).  These verses rattle my core and set my soul on fire.  I know with every ounce of my being, that I am created to love as Christ has loved, and to build up the church.  If I can encourage and inspire you in anyway in your fitness journey so that you become stronger, more energetic, and confident to do what God has called you to do with your specific gifts and abilities, then I believe one day, my God will say to me; “Well done.”

You, my precious Reader, are loved and molded into the fascinating person that you are.

Because; you are a Child of God.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  Colossians 3:23

Now.  Let’s ignite that Spirit.

Base Camp

The enemies advanced.  The ground shook with thousands of soldiers marching towards his newly established kingdom.  With news of the approaching enemy, the King’s heart pounded along to the rhythm of the quivering ground.  His eyes scanned his own soldiers.  These honorable men – who obeyed his every order, who never waivered in their belief in him as the anointed King – they stood around him; ready for battle.  He tried to read behind their furrowed brows.  Were they as brave as they appeared to be?  Or were they masking the doubt that was taking root in the depths of his own heart?

King David raised up his index finger to lay pause before he spoke.  His men grew silent.

“I must go into my stronghold.”

Pulling his shoulders back in pronounced courage, he walked slowly and confidently into his basecamp.  He knew the eyes of his men were upon him, and he knew he had to be strong for them.  But he also knew for his strength to last, he had to go to the Source.

Below ground, safe from the masses, he knelt to the dirt, clasped his hands together and placed his forehead to his hands.  And there, he met his Strength face to face.  He evaluated his circumstances.  He prayed.  He listened.  He obeyed.

The plan was in place.  He knew where his strength came from.  He knew who he was; the Anointed King of Israel.  He knew the plan, and he was motivated.  Showered with purpose he was able to leave his haven, command his men, and lead them into victory.  (2 Samuel 5:17-25)

Your race season is over.  The battle is won.  Base camp looks pretty good right now.  The weather is getting colder, and those blankets will only get warmer the longer you surround yourself with them.  Enjoy that cup of coffee.  Enjoy those longer nights.  But ready yourself; your battle will again arise, and again you will chase victory.

But is race season over; or is it the beginning of next year’s season?  If your anything like me, taking a week or two or three may just be what your mind and your body needs.  Switch gears, slow down, eat a little more and relax.  You have worked hard all summer long, and with no races in the near future it is easy to take it a little slower.

But what do you do now?  You are at base camp, withdrawn from battle, and reevaluating your next steps.

PHASE ONE.  BASE CAMP.  STRATEGIZE.  STRENGTH.  FAITH.

End of September to December

Let’s begin next year’s race season by evaluating your current physical state.  Your body has been through a lot.  Muscles are tender and tired.  Tendons and joints have been taxed from all the impact of endurance training and running all season.  It is time to rebuild.

Or, if you are embarking on your first race season, then it is time to build from the ground up.  Either way, we are in this together.

Strategize

There are three areas you need to focus on while you remain in Base Camp; Recovery, Mobility, and Weakness.

Recovery

Do you have any injuries?  Let’s get those out of the way.  Depending on the state of the injury, see your doctor or physiotherapist or speak with a trainer at your gym.  How can you take care of your injury best?  Maybe it needs more rest, more strengthening, more rolling, more stretching.  Give yourself the time and grace to heal.  There are no pressures now to perform, so recover and heal as best you can.

Mobility

Take a look at your joints.  How are your knees feeling?  Your shoulders?  Your hips?  Is there any joint that feels weak or pending injury?  Make a plan to work the surrounding muscles around those specific worn out joints from the season.  To be strong you need to work from the inside out.  Don’t start with massive lifts and movements if your joints are weak or over-taxed, this will cause injury from compensating the weak areas and set you back before you even got to start.

Weakness

Take a look at your past race season.  What slowed you down?  Was it the obstacles?  Do you need to focus more on grip strength?  Was it running long distances?  Was it climbing those hills?  Was it the burden carries?  Whatever you felt slowed you down this past season, make that your priority to strengthen for next season.  One of the reasons I love Obstacle Course Racing, is it reveals one strengths and weaknesses in just one race.

Strength

Strength Phase rocks!!  Let me tell you why, because there isn’t much cardio, you can take your time through the lifts and breathe between each set.  You eventually are lifting big and seeing your strength grow week by week.  As your strength grows, so does your muscles, and your appetite, which is perfect for those cold winter months when salads just aren’t as satisfying anymore!

Here’s a basic strategy for strength building/resistance training.  Begin with lots of repetitions to get the correct form and create a base.  You’ve got roughly three months in strength phase, and you want to increase your lifts by 10% each week.  As you progress through these months, your repetitions will decrease as your weights and sets increase.  Starting with a 15reptition with 2set program for the first week or two, then progress to a 10rep 3set program with heavier weights.  Then continue; 8rep 4sets, 5rep 5sets, then 3reps 5 sets.  Progressing slowly, but still pushing your lifts to your maximum effort will build strength safely and effectively.

Don’t forget to continue doing cardio, as you don’t want to completely lose this.  I usually drop my distance in the off season and do shorter, lighter runs more often.  I remove the pressure these 3 months to progress in running and just maintain cardio.

Faith

Close your eyes and imagine someone who is strong.  What do they look like?  Their shoulders are probably pulled back square.  They stand courageous.  But look at their eyes.  One who is strong internally sees more than what’s before them.  There is purpose in their gaze, there is an unearthly assurance in their posture.

Purpose and drive does not come from the head.  It comes from the heart.  Fight and desire, grit and determination, grows in a fierceness that is not physical.  This type of strength takes root in the soul, weaving its way around a person’s character and blossoming when the Sun shines just right.

How quickly an empty jar smashes when struck, but when it is filled with rich soil, thick and vibrant, healthy enough to sustain life; cracks may happen when struck, but that vessel remains intact holding onto its fullness with purpose.

Plaint those tiny mustard seeds of faith and let them take root within your soul, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak truth into your soul about who you are.  You are chosen.  You are loved.  You are a warrior.

Are you filled?  Have you found your Stronghold?  Have you tapped into the Source?

Winter is coming, the battle is on hold for now, but training has just begun.  Arm yourself now in your stronghold.  Lift heavy, lift confidently, and lift with purpose.  Next year you will race, but you will not be alone.

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  1 Joshua 1:9

Generic Training

I hate swimsuit shopping.  I walk into this brand-new store in the mall and start shuffling through the suits.  One of the staff approach me happily.  She’s beautiful; tall, thin, blonde.

“Hi!  Welcome!  What colour suit are you looking for?”

“Hi,” I answer hesitantly, “I’m looking for a size…”

“Oh sweetheart, let me stop you right there.  These suits are all the same size!  One size fits all!”

I laugh.  “Sure.  Seriously, where are the sizes?”  I look up and gaze across the racks of colourful suits and notice no signs indicating sizes.

“I don’t think you understand.  All our suits are one size.  One size fits all.”  She states.

I stop and look her up and down.  “So, my short, stalky, and curvy figure is going to fit into the same suit that your tall and lean figure would fit into?”

“Yes!”  She smiles condemningly at me.

Good-bye, stupid store.  This is why I hate bathing suit shopping.

I have a Doctors appointment.  Sitting down with my doctor in his office I start explaining to him what’s bothering me.

“No problem,” He answers quickly and opens up his cabinet that is filled with identical medication bottles.  He grabs one randomly and hands it to me.

“What’s this?”  I ask.

“It’s the latest medication on the market.  Cures all.  It helps with headaches, backaches, allergies, depression, weight-loss, anything.”

“This one medication is going to specifically help my condition, as well as anyone else’s specific conditions?”

“Yes, exactly.”  He answers.

Good grief.

I’m noticing a trend within the fitness industry.  Generic Training.  One size fits all.  Corporations get group fit classes from up above and descend it down to their instructors.  Instructors don’t need to think anymore.  Just push play.  Just read the script.  Just follow these steps.  Self-proclaimed, uncertified Trainers announce proudly; “I did this workout and I look like this!  Train with me and do exactly what I do and look like me!”  This is how you know they are uncertified.  A true trainer knows that this is incorrect in so many levels.

It makes me cringe!  Stop the madness!

Before I break down my argument, let me first clarify one thing; I love teaching group fitness, bootcamps and programs where everyone works together.  I strongly believe these are important and help one work harder.  You will also develop a social health that is super important to your wellbeing.  There are programs and exercises that everyone would benefit from within these workouts if done properly.

However, we are not all built the same with the same physical background and same occupation with the same daily physical strains on our bodies.  We cannot train like the athletes we see on Instagram and push our bodies to its limits and neglect the details.  These athletes we follow have developed a foundation in their fitness.  They work on their weaknesses off screen and recover and stretch.  They had hours of practicing proper form and months or years of eating the right foods and gradually placing progressive overload on their bodies for the specific sport they are in.  They did not just jump into a fitness regime and get where they are now in a couple of workouts.

Let’s take a person who has an office job.  They are sitting for nearly eight hours a day.  During that time, they are most likely leaning over their computer, causing their shoulders to round, straining their back in several places.  Shortened and tight muscles will begin to develop in their shoulders and chest, as well as their hip flexors.  Although they should and can jump into a bootcamp class, they will also need to focus on specific exercises to prevent chronic injury; they will need to do some shoulder-retraction exercises and like the lat pull down, seated row, as well as some antagonist exercises to balance out these exercises; such as push ups or chest presses.  The goal is to counter-act their static position in the workplace.  They will also need to perform hip flexor stretches more often than someone who has a standing job.

What about the mother who is constantly sitting cross legged on the floor with her kids?  That position shortens the IT band and in turn can cause severe knee pain.  She will need to stretch and roll, as well as strengthen the muscles around her hips to keep her knees in alignment.

My encouragement to you is to truly look at your specific, unique, beautiful, and one-of-a-kind Body.  What is needing strengthening, stretching, rolling, or maybe even physio?  Preventive exercises are the most important ones to place in your workout regime.  So, join a class, but don’t be afraid to ask specifics.  Talk to your trainer.  I love teaching group fitness classes, but I always feel like I’m just skimming the surface of the participants’ wellness.  There is so much more I can help them with specifically but am unable to do so in a group setting.  To dive in deeper into their physical anatomical needs and give them that solid, detailed foundation on top of a group fitness setting; how glorious would that be?  I believe most trainers feel the same way as I do, so do not be afraid to ‘bother’ them with your personal needs, that’s what we are here for!

I recently read a meme that I loved and will end on this;

Workout because you love your self, not because you hate your body.

Lion Heart

She stood at the base of the climbers and looked up at the bar above her head. It was too far from her reach. She tried climbing up the side of the pole to reach and failed.

“Mom! I can’t reach!”

I got up from watching her and lifted her up onto the bar. Hanging from her hands, she swung her legs around freely and giggled with pleasure. After I helped her down, she brought her eyebrows down into a determined scowl.

“I want to get up there by myself.”

“Ok,” I answered, “Try.”

I sat down and watched her leap with all her might to grab the bar. She missed it by a long shot and fell.

Doubt and fear entered my mind, but I held my tongue. She got up and tried again. And fell. She got up again. And again. And again. Her ‘ngers were just grazing the bar, just out of her grasp. A Mom sitting beside me began to take notice.

“She’s determined.” She observed.

“Yes, she is.” I agreed with a slight laugh.

She tried again. And fell. Again. Without hesitation, my girl would jump up from falling and climb back up and try jumping again with all her might. I thought about distracting her with maybe trying another thing at the park, but I know my daughter. She is not a quiter and she is extremely stubborn.

She jumped again, this time the palm of her hand touched the bar! To my surprise, a couple other Moms watching took a gasp in excitement for her small little victory.

I looked around and noticed everyone was now watching my girl.

She didn’t notice the attention she was creating. Again, she jumped and failed.

I shouted encouragement to her, “You’ve almost got it!” My heart twisted inside hoping she would be able to catch it just once. And then it happened. She jumped, and with one hand she grasped the bar. Her tiny body swung in surprised victory. She reached up without hesitation and grabbed a hold of the bar with the other hand.

I could not contain my excitement! Nearly jumping off the bench I shouted a victory as the other Moms joined in. She did it!

She hung there for a while, swinging her legs, relishing in her triumph. And then she jumped down, ran into my open arms and shouted; “I did it!!” I was so proud of her!

Coming home from the park that day, I thought about her victory and the impression she left on the other Moms at the park. If she had jumped her first try and caught the bar, victory would not have been as sweet, she would not have gathered as much attention, and the moment would have been quenched quickly. Her jump and catch was incredible, but that is not what made this moment something I will cherish about her forever. It was her relentless effort, her unwavering determination and focus to complete what she set out to do. It is in her failed attempts that makes her a lion heart, because in every failure, she stood, looked up, and tried again. There was no time to nurse her bruised knees and dirty clothes. She was on a mission, and with every once of her little frame and mind she set on completing it.

“Small.” “Baby.” “Too short.” Are some of the labels my daughter has heard and has rejected. She is small for her age. After receiving her kindergarten class photos, I was surprised to see how much younger she looked than all of her classmates. But looking at her petite frame, I am amazed that it can contain such a courageous spirit. She has the heart of a lion, and only turning six years old, I am inspired by her and admire her so much.

The world loves the triumphant hero, but what captures the heart of us all is the spirit of resilience, the underdog’s perseverance turned into triumph.

Before you start labelling yourself the victim, or not good enough, or a failure – think of this; the world needs you to stand. Your family needs you to get up, and run, and triumph. We are waiting for you to rise, to grind, and to shine.

So live and live well. The world awaits.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Stumbling off Course

There have been some very dark moments in my heart this past month. I would look in the mirror and glare at my reflection. I was downright pissed at myself and could not even tolerate the person looking back at me.

My fitness plan was perfectly mapped out. I had learned so much about running this year through the courses I had attended, and I was so excited to put all of that knowledge into practice and better my running efficiency in everyway. I was even in a good headspace and wanted to run, I enjoyed every moment of it! And then it hit me. My right knee suddenly flared up and I could not even run around the block. Then my left knee started screaming the same awful tune. Out of commission. Ultrasounds and physiotherapist appointments. Sitting on a couch with ice on both knees, not being able to step down the stairs without holding my breath and hobbling from knee to knee. Long story short; loose ACL on my left knee, tight IT band on my left leg which was pulling my knee cap out of its proper space and giving me patella femoral syndrome. Six weeks of sitting on the couch, getting more and more depressed, and eating more and more of my emotions.

Yeah, this race season was starting off with a real bang. This should not happen to me! I am a fitness professional. I should have seen the signs. I should have stretched more. I should have taken less time on mileage and more time on recovery. I should have…if only…

Like a line up of dominoes my life came crashing down. I use my run time for prayer and obviously that began to lack. Feeling down and untrained, and then having to go to the gym to train athletes who are at the peak of their fitness level sent me spiraling further down. The couch and food became very close acquaintances.

Yup, I am an excellent role model and an inspiring trainer.

Let me stop my pity-party there, because that is exactly what I have been doing for the past six weeks and I am done. What was the real problem? Because it is not my knees, yeah that part super sucks. Nope, the real problem is I lost my focus. My eyes lingered off the real prize; my true purpose, and with that I fell hard off the path and found myself searching my fitness GPS for what went wrong.

I have discovered three awful ways we can find ourselves completely discouraged in our journey in fitness. I believe if we are aware of them and remind ourselves of these wrong turns maybe we can prevent ourselves from ending up on the losing side of wellness.

THE BEAUTIFUL

Flip open your phone and search Instagram for anything fitness related. I bet a lot of you are already following many impressive athletes and social media fitness models and celebrities. We start out watching and following them with good intentions; we want to learn from the professional, we want to be inspired, and we want more tools in our own toolbox to keep our active lifestyle exciting.

But how do you feel with some of the images? Are they legit teaching you exercises or are they just impressive images?

I have recently made a commitment to myself to unfollow several people who post a lot of body-focused pictures. I follow a lot of fitness people on Instagram because I love learning new exercises, accomplishments, and inspirations, but if I find myself looking at an image with no content and suddenly feel down about my own body – I unfollow them. It is too easy to linger and allow your mind to start critiquing your own body. That is not healthy.

THE BEST

Being in the fitness industry there is this unspoken need to perform. I need to teach the best classes, so people attend, and I get paid. I need to be the best athlete so clients will want me to train them and will be inspired by me. This need has trickled into my personal life as well…I need to be the best Mom I can be for my kids and the best wife for my husband.

I’m not asking for much…just flawless perfection!

I recently heard a phenomenal speaker at our church; Kingdom City; his name is Doug Balzer. He had asked a startling question that has really set me back on the right path. He asked the congregation where our appetites are placed. He listed three different categories; Power and Control; Affirmation and Importance; and Intimacy and Delight. Just pause and think about that for a moment. Maybe answer that for yourself. I instantly new what the real problem was in my life when I considered this. None of these appetites aligned. They were all very inward, selfish gains. And if it all just stops at me, then this life is meaningless, greedy, and a complete waste. My purpose should be aligned in the parallel pursuit of wellness; my spiritual, physical, and social wellbeing should all be linked into these three appetites and all three appetite categories should be pointing in the same direction.

THE UNBREAKABLE

There is a song that has become fiercely dear to my heart. It’s called ‘Lay It Down’ by Jorden St.Cyr, in it he sings; “Hallelujah, I am broken; I’m broken wide open. Hallelujah, I am emptied out. Hallelujah I am nothing; thank you for being my everything. I’m ready now, to lay it down.”

Who knows, if my knees were fine and I was well on my way with my running program, would I still be dependant on God? Would I still feel I needed to cling to Him? I have a race in a couple days…twenty kilometers with 30 obstacles; and I have not been able to run more than ten kilometers without having severe knee pain and having to stop. Would I be as terrified, as broken, and as dependent on my Healer and my God to pull me through? I would like to say I would be, but honestly, I fully believe He removed all of my personal dependence to be fully dependant on Him. Without being broken, I may not have even realized that my appetites had shifted from my prize.

Now to say this is completely God who caused my injuries would be wrong as well. I was literally unbalanced with my training. I had fallen in love with running and trying to make distance, and with limited time to train and run, I put it all into running. I would run longer and skip out on stretching because I didn’t have enough time. Or I would skip my lifting/resistance days because I wanted to run more the next day. It was foolish of me and now I’m paying the price. In any fitness program there needs to have balance. When you look at your fitness goals and programs make sure you have all four categories; cardiovascular, muscle strengthening, stretching, and recovery. They all depend on each other to keep your body in peak condition and prevent injuries.

Race season and summer season is fast approaching. As we click on our fitness GPS, maybe we need to scroll out and see the bigger picture – are we on the right path and are we heading in the right direction…or do we need recalculating?

Recalculating…

Legendary Living

Heroism.  We read about the heroes of the past and marvel at them.  But what is it that captivates our admiration?  Perhaps it’s their tenacity to pursue their destiny with unwavering, relentless pursuit.

Phippedieous, a mere Greek messenger became the first known man to complete a marathon, but his heroism is the stuff of legends.  Not because he ran 26 miles and announced Athenian triumph over Persia, but because he ran 300 miles prior to that with critical information that was key to their strategic plan for victory.

Three hundred Spartans stood fearlessly before the Persian army numbering in the thousands.  Without hesitation, every one of the men fought to their deaths defending their honor and freedom, and to this day they are revered and respected soldiers who captured and inspired the world with their courage and bravery.

Desmond Doss refused to carry a rifle into the battlefields in World World II.  He was labeled a coward and a religious nuisance to the army.  Then over night he became a hero; dodging bombs and bullets rescuing over 75 soldiers in the battle at Hacksaw Ridge.

Jesus Christ is the greatest hero of them all; our aspiration for honorable, holy, and heroic living. God-Himself in the flesh, came to earth with the soul purpose of offering up his life for the final sacrifice once and for all for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  He was ridiculed and mocked.  He was tortured and nailed and hung on a tree.  All the while having the power to stop it at any moment.  He gave up His life and ignited a spiritual revival and hope for the entire world.

There are two attributes that shine through each hero; it bursts through their chest like a glorious sunrise; it blinds us as we gaze upon their heavenward faces.  First off; they have an unwavering knowledge of their True North.

Joe De Sena, the founder of Spartan Races, says the first principle in living the Spartan Way is to “Find Your True North”.  Your True North is your purpose; it’s what drives you and fills your life with passion.  To discover this, you need to identify your guiding values and beliefs.  Your purpose is somehow linked within that.  What we sometimes forget is that we tend to put your passions on the shelf in order to just get through daily living, but what we need to do is align your values and beliefs with your daily activities.  Your life should bloom and grow within the nutrients of purpose and passion.  It’s who you are.

“Your True north is directly related to your legacy.  And everything you do, every action you take, every decision you make, must move you forward toward this legacy.”  The Spartan Way; Joe De Sena

The second attribute is that of sacrifice.  A hero’s True North is greater than themselves and it inspires the people influenced by their Hero to live fuller and better lives and perhaps even enables them to grasp their own True North.

Here’s the question then; what is your passion?  What is your purpose?  If your struggling to identify your purpose, start by writing out your obituary.  What do you want people to remember you for?  What would you like written on your tombstone?  Whatever you write down should ignite a desire to see it through.

I have a huge desire to encourage and strengthen those around me.  I wish to empower people to live their fullest and enjoy the healthiest versions of themselves.  I love to work with seniors and help strengthen and develop muscles surrounding their joints so that they can move with ease and enjoy their retirement.  Working with parents, I desire to give them the assurance that taking the time for themselves for their own health gives them that much more energy for when they are with their children.  Working with children in an obstacle-course-based gym has given me the unique privilege of being able to teach them that fitness can be fun, and with persistence they can achieve nearly anything they put their minds to.

Writing out my purpose looks a little like this; “She loved, inspired, strengthened, and encouraged.  She lived relentlessly.”  I hope to inspire and encourage you, my friends, my parents, and my kids, by any means possible…and if that’s writing blogs to reach across the globe, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Everything in your life should align and point towards your purpose.  You might have to adjust different areas of your life so that they run parallel with each other to keep you focused on your goal.  Whatever sets your soul on fire was planted inside of you by your Creator.  It’s part of who you are.  You are a creation built for a purpose.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

Your mind is the most vulnerable part of keeping your focus.  It needs to be fed consistently with positivity, inspiration, and encouragement to stay the course.  Your mind should be obsessed, everyday, to live according to your purpose.  Filling your mind with knowledge surrounding your passion helps keep you focused.  Read and research what inspires you and constantly add kindling to the fire!

“Mastering the mind is a complex process.  A warrior has confidence; yet is not blinded by foolhardiness.  He knows that victory is never assured, regardless of one’s abilities.  Mastering the mind requires an intimate awareness of one’s weaknesses and shortcomings as well as the mindfulness to mitigate and overcome such vulnerabilities.  A warrior is humble and unassuming, knowing that despite possessing great strength and discipline, triumph must be earned each and every day.”  The Road to Sparta; by Dean Karnazes

I have come to the realization that my mind is the pinnacle of my weaknesses.  I can allow my mind to wander down some dark places of believing I am insignificant, weak, worthless, and heavy.  Instead of allowing my mind the freedom to find those places, I try keeping it busy with filling it with new knowledge and inspiration related to my passions.  I search for books and courses that inspire and challenge me. I also surround myself with friends that lift me up, make me laugh, and encourage me to be the best version of myself.  I am also currently working on giving my reflection positive reinforcement.  Without judging those stretchmarks, loose skin, and grey hairs, I’ve looked at my reflection after a workout and said; “you did it!”.  With that simple statement I am acknowledging my commitment to the workout, the strength and resilience it took to complete it, and I can be proud of that simple victory.

Speaking of which; your body is the movement for your purpose.  No matter what your purpose is, your health is essential for your success.  If you are not healthy you cannot live fully.  And being healthy requires movement.  So commit.  Ask yourself this question often; “will this bring me closer or further to my purpose?”  You’ll soon see some of your habits might be pulling you away from your purpose.  Whether that’s eating the wrong things, negative self-talk, procrastination, working too much, or hanging out with the wrong crowd….you may find that you need to do some ‘pruning’ to be able to produce fresher fruit in your life.

A friend of mine gave me an amazing visual of an eagle clutching onto a heavy weight.  It tries to soar while it madly flaps its wings, but it could not freely fly until it released its vice.

What is holding you down and preventing you from taking flight?

“You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?  That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.”  Galatians 5:7-8

I am training to run more obstacle course races this year and my focus is to become more efficient with my running.  In order to keep focused, I have written out a running plan that will increase in length until I’m at my desired distance for the longest race I have planned for the season.  I must run a minimum of three times per week, and each week my mileage increases.  On my calendar, I’ve written how many runs to be completed that specific week and the distance of each of them.  When I complete a run, I place a checkmark above it to know that I’ve done it.  It makes it a little easier to keep your focus if it is written down as something to be completed by the end of the week.  I challenge you to write out your workout goals in a strategic plan; “workout 3x this week” or “run 5km 3x this week”.  Suddenly you can plan your entire month’s workout and at the end of the month step back and see how dedicated you are by how many checkmarks are on that calendar.

You are the only one who is responsible for fulfilling your life’s purpose.  You are in control at how well you live life and how hard you embark on your life’s adventure.  You alone are responsible for your health and your body will adapt to whatever lifestyle you give it.

How strong you want to be is entirely up to you.  You are the hero of your own story.  Own it.  Take charge of every moment of every day.  Commit and do not waver.  And don’t take your eyes off the prize and forget who you are living for.

To My Audience of One

And this is my prayer;

When the race is finally run,

I want to hear “well done”

From the Audience of One.

I’ll be content

To serve the Audience of One.

Only His approval counts

When all is said and done.

Tripod to Wellness

Holidays are over.  Guests have all gone home, and schedules are finally getting put back into place.  But wait; who is this new fluffy friend who has joined me?  She fits snuggly around my waist and she seems so nice and soft.  The kids love her as she wriggles and forms around them like a water bed when they jump into my open arms while I’m sitting on the couch.  She does not like my jeans and tries to pull herself out and over them like magnificent waves of lava breaching the surface.  But no.  She is just my pride rolling out of my pants.  “Hello Miss Pounds.  I know you snuck in while I was distracted by chocolates, breads, and cookies.  I acknowledge it was my own indulgence that led to your contentment; but you cannot stay for long.  I cannot have you holding me back this year.  So resist the urge to hang on tight, cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride, because I’ve got a game plan.”

I purposefully took two weeks off aggressive exercise and allowed myself the holiday.  I felt I needed a break from the constant focus and pressure.  I wanted to enjoy my family visits without stressing out over squeezing in a workout or two.  And you know what’s wonderful?  Sometimes we need the break!  We need to let worn joints heal, lactic acid to subside, and our bodies time to rest and recover.  It’s a brutal come back, but do not mentally beat yourself up about it; accept and acknowledge the rest and food you part-took in, and then jump right back into your health strategy.

I have a wellness strategy that I try to live by that I would love to share with you to encourage you as you embark on 2019.  The Tripod to Wellness has three categories that I believe work together to improve your overall health; Social, Physical, and Spiritual Wellness.  Each piece relies on the other to remain strong and centered and empowers you to stand firm.

Social Health

I recently was talking with a dear friend, and she was mentioning how she had tried a gym and a few classes there and felt even more depressed and frustrated with her current fitness goals.  She shared with me her frustration with the gym itself – she had been going regularly and had said hello to a few women in the gym, but nothing grew into a friendship.  She felt lonely and began to lose the motivation to go.  I shared with her about an experience I had with a gym I was attending – I tried to have light conversations with the gym staff and some of the members, but in the end, no one really had the time or was interested in making a connection.  After a year of going to the gym at the same time three times a week and meeting no one, I ended my membership.

I firmly believe that the most important aspect of any gym is community.  If the members are not friendly, and the staff doesn’t care enough to invest their paid time to be open and friendly and encouraging to you; find another gym that will.  But before you leave, really take a look at yourself first.  You may need to step out of your own comfort zone to meet people.  Attending classes is the best way to find community.  Nobody has their earphones in, and everyone must work together or side by side during the class.  A good instructor will make an effort to get to know you; a great instructor will make an effort to get you connected to other participants.

Once you find the gym that’s right for you, that community will begin to fuel your motivation for physical health.  Once you are connected to someone or a group; an accountability forms for each other.  You’ll finish your workouts with a “See you tomorrow/next week/next class.”  And if you’ve missed a couple days, you can bet your friends will say “I haven’t seen you in a while, where have you been?”

Community will also fuel your motivation for spiritual health.  I am blessed with a couple amazing friends who encourage me and inspire me in my faith.  As they share their lives with me, I am inspired to grow in my own faith.  I respect and admire them and have learned so much already on how to further my relationship with God.  They have become my family and knowing they are in my corner gives me the strength to face everyday challenges.

Physical Health

I could write a book on this one!  Get your pen and notebook out, here we go!

What are your physical health goals for 2019?  Don’t lie…everyone has them developed in the back of their minds every new year…just none of us want to be the person who admits it!  So…gone on….what are your fitness goals?  Write them down.

The hardest and most important element of fitness to master is frequency.  It’s ok; cringe, sigh, and shake your fist at the sky!  It is true!  And it is hard to be committed to frequency when there are no long-term goals.  Let’s say you picked a goal for end of August or September and it is to run for 10km.  Now develop your plan backwards.  Plan to run 8km in August, 6km in July, 4km in June, and 2km in May.  And it’s only January!  Take a look at your knees, your heart, and your back; what needs to be strengthened before you begin. Maybe you should start on a bike and progress to running when you feel your body can handle the impact.  You have four months of training and preparing your body to run for 2km.  Suddenly your goal is measurable, realistic, and attainable!  You have a goal in mind, a plan in place, and a purpose to your workouts.

Another important aspect, and this is the one I struggle with the most, is to eliminate your weaknesses.  If you have an injury; get it looked at by a professional.  Strengthen your weaknesses before embarking on a lofty fitness goal.  The details are important.  My weakness….is food.  All sorts of food.  Glorious food.  Anything and everything.  Potlucks are the worst…I want to try everything, and if I like it; I want seconds.  If there are cookies in the house, my thought process is to eat them now, so I won’t have any to eat tomorrow!  I go through a roller-coaster with my eating habits, which I’m sure most people do as well.  What do I do to try and focus again?  Two things I remind myself of; first; everything in moderation.  Having a cookie is not going to kill me.  If I deprive myself of the treats I love, I will resent pretty much everything and everyone, no lie.  But if I’m careful and I remember the second thing; that what and how I eat effects my long-term goals, I’ll be a little more hesitant to finish off the entire box of double stuffed Oreos after the kids go to bed.  I don’t do things like that…this year…anyways…

Whatever your fitness goals, remember that your body requires balance.  There’s a physical tripod within The Wellness Tripod; Cardiovascular health, Muscular strength, and Flexibility.  Each element supports the other and requires your attention and focus.  If one is lagging…it will eventually bring the others down.

Physical health fuels Social Health – as your physical health increases, so does your energy, and that energy should encourage others to want to join you on your adventures.  You will also have added energy to burn, and if you are an extrovert, you may find yourself looking for more social outings because sitting on the couch sounds boring to you.

It also fuels your Spiritual Health – I find after I have a good workout, I am infused with happy hormones and I just can’t help but let that overflow into my prayer life.  I am thankful for movement and health.  I am thankful for beautiful weather where I can take those workouts outside under His presence.  The negative thoughts seem to slip away, and my mind is open to hear what God desires of me; and I have the energy to read and pray and listen to His voice.

Spiritual Health

I imagine that if these three pieces of the tripod are metaphoric tanks we must fill and fuel our bodies, that our Soul would be the largest of the tanks.  It is the gasoline to our engine.  Without it we are running on empty, and eventually we will just stop moving.  Your soul is more important than your body because in the end, that’s what your stuck with.  Your body dies, but where does your soul go?  I guess that all depends on what you feed it.

When we get the chance to drive up and visit the Canadian Rocky Mountains my soul begins to burn within me.  It’s as if my heart is pressing up against my chest and together my soul and heart are reaching towards the unknown in an unexplainable wonder and longing.  As I look up at the Rockies; their greatness and mystery tower over me.  The mountains are a reminder of how small I am, and how glorious our Maker is.

Do you ever feel that?  That ache inside of you, like there is some missing piece to your soul?  Like there is a great adventure calling out to you in the distance?  We are not finished creations.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made to be united together and in love with our Father and Creator.

Without faith, there is no purpose, because everything here is made to die.  Without faith we return to dust and our lives are meaningless.  But with faith; that changes everything.  You are purposefully set on this earth to encourage and love, and to embark on the greatest adventure of your life.  God didn’t create the mountains for us to pass by.  He created them for us to dive in anyway that we find delightful, so that He too can delight in us!  Our destiny is not in the dirt; it’s in His glory.  We have one chance to live, so let’s live it to our fullest and enjoy every moment of it and breathe in deeply every breath we are given.

When you are Spiritually Healthy your love will overflow out of you and impact everyone you encounter.  When you are Spiritually Healthy, you will grow into a beautiful tree with lush green leaves and you will fuel your Community with fruit to bless others with; of peace, love, joy, and hope.

When you are Spiritually Healthy you cannot help but praise and worship your Creator with energy riddling up through your body.  You’ll want to dance in his fields, run through the trails, and climb the highest mountains.  You will worship Him with your movements because You are His.  Created to be His.

For 2019, I encourage you to grab your Tripod, discover what fills up each tank, and keep it overflowing as you embark on the greatest adventure of your life.