How to Rewire Your Brain from Being Angry to Celebrating Success

Rewiring the Brain

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In June 2013 I was suddenly faced with moving my business.  Being asked to leave our previous location unexpectedly was shocking,disruptive and nearly devastating. The move meant a significant loss of revenue,  loss of my employee and a loss of marketing inertia.

There were parts of me that were extremely angry and stunned while other parts of me went into immediate action mode. Although it only took a couple of weeks to find a new location my anger towards this situation and the person who initiated the move stayed with me until last week.

While I knew this anger was not healthy or useful I wasn’t certain of how to switch my thoughts. Initially I explored counseling, but thought I would try to research techniques on rewiring my brain to achieve more resiliency and less anger.

For my birthday last month I received a gift card to a bookstore. That same day I found, purchased and read “Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being” by Linda Graham.

Bouncing Back CoverThe detailed neuroscience with practical meditation mantras was what I needed. Our brains are plastic. We can switch the negative rewiring by replacing those thoughts by positive ones. When I feel anger towards this situation I send a positive out to the universe and acknowledge the pattern that makes me angry. It has taken a few weeks for this to stop feeling forced, but now those wishes are more natural and genuine.

Last weekend helped me discover that I don’t celebrate enough. My current clinical space came about because Lifemoves needed a new home.  Now every time I unlock the door I celebrate and welcome myself home. Celebrating each small success by replacing negative thoughts with positive reframes has drastically reduced my anxiety while improving my happiness. I am also very grateful for the opportunity such a previously negative situation presented.

How are you going change your thoughts? How are you going to express gratitude and celebrate your successes today?

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Staying Consumer Debt Free for One Year

The following is an opinion and experience piece and NOT financial advice.

It took a long time to climb out of a deep canyon, but this week I celebrated one year of being free of consumer credit card debt.  The debt burden saddled me for close to a decade and prevented me from doing many of the things that I wanted to.  It is also kept dragging down my moods.
 Our financial wealth and our weight often reflect our mindsets.  Though I wasn’t overweight and I was undervaluing myself. 
It took several years of shifting my own thought patterns, disciplined debt re-payments, support from friends and famiyl and financial education to free myself from the shackles of consumer debt.  Thankfully, my interest rates weren’t too bad, however every month I  was paying the credit card companies annual interest of over 8%, instead of having this money invested and paying myself.
Have you ever watched shows like “Till Debt do Us Part”?  It is actually pretty scary how much consumer debt these participants have. This is money owed that is outside of their mortgage.  My fiancée and I have agreed that we want to start our marriage with zero debt that is not building our wealth (such as a mortgage).  We have been judiciously putting money aside on a monthly basis so that we are able to pay for a wedding that is within our means to pay by cash.  I can’t imagine paying for an extravagant party that means that we spend the next 5-10 years paying it off. What a way to start, eh? 
  I got into trouble because I was living outside of means and because the credit card company hounded me to take on a line credit of that I originally said no to.  They also continually increased my limits to beyond my ability to pay it back; lining their pockets with the interest payments. 
 My self-esteem during these years was low, so was my earning power. I found it difficult to find work as a Kinesiologist after graduating in 1999. I also started a previous business because I couldn’t find work. To increase my long-term earnings I did use my credit card to pay for various educational investments which have definitely paid off. However, now I make sure that I have the cash before paying for continuing education.
A few of my fears are being homeless (though I know there are many reasons that people end up on the street) as well as not having enough income to support a moderate lifestyle in retirement.  Much of the financial advice seems to be all very similar and all makes sense.  My goal is to reach retirement debt and mortgage free.
All I can say is live BELOWyour means so that there is always cash left at the end of the month. Money is an object, it only has what value we attach to it.  What is enough? Enough is to know that I can pay my bills on time, have a roof securely over my head, feed myself and my family and have the freedom to enjoy a moderate lifestyle.  Next steps for me are to slowly add to my retirement fund, while building a 6-month cash based emergency fund. 
Being an entrepreneur means that I will have income as long as I am able to build and run a business where others can  perform work and clients are willing to pay for our services.  Our health and wellness is not discretionary, so health care businesses will do well as long as we provide value to our clients.
There is a great piece in the Financial Post on why it is important to pay off your debt NOW.  Have compounding interest work for you instead of for the credit card companies. Another good resource for entrepreneurs who are not financial gurus is “Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers,” which among other things explains how to calculate the value of money invested today. 
The above is based on the author’s experience and opinion it is NOT considered NOT financial advice.

Stopping a Childhood Bully with Pudding

February 29th, 2012 is National anti-bullying day, known as pink-shirt day. A day started several years ago by two kids who decided to stand up for someone who was being bullied because he was wearing a pink shirt. It has since become a National day of protest against bullies. 

I was bullied at the end of elementary school and well into high school. The psychological effects of these years of torment lasted me for years, which required counselling to rebuild a battered sense of self-esteem and overcome depression. It was only a couple of years ago that I stopped being stuck in the past and identifying with the self that was bullied.
Perhaps I was bullied because I was the outsider  or perhaps it was because I was smaller and what some called a “late bloomer” or perhaps it was because I competed in sports (cross country skiing and biathlon) that kids thought were wimpy (they were proved wrong during a trip to Cypress for PE 11) or perhaps it was all of the above,  but I am not sure.

In 1988 we moved to Vancouver from Regina and I started Grade 7 the following September. Even elementary students have built friendships and cliques starting in kindergarten which solidify by Grade 7.  To this day it is difficult for me to accept people who want to be friends or have me be part of their group as being genuine.

There are different ideas of how to stop bullying including having the tormented stand-up and push-back. It seems as though some people fold and commit suicide, believing that is the only way out or go on a shooting rampage to get noticed (both sad situations). On several occasions I did consider that ending my life was the only way for me to end the horror. Other times I would run home to lock the doors because I truly feared for my safety. 
 I am not certain what the solution is, though I do distinctly remember one day in high school when I stopped one of my childhood bullies with pudding.
In between classes I would sometimes go to the cafeteria to get a small bowl of chocolate pudding. After I would find the lockers beside the next classroom, sit down on the floor to enjoy it in solitude.  This bully decided that it would be fun to sneak up on me to flick my spoon.  With a split second reaction I hurled the entire bowl at him.  
It splattered all over his favourite sweater, the lockers across the hallway and the Chemistry room’s door.  There was this big streak of chocolate pudding down the hall.  This was the only time I was pulled into the Principal’s office for bad behaviour.
We were made to clean it up. I washed the bully’s sweater then hung it up in the boiler room to dry.  That was the last time that he bothered me. Bullying is often group oriented, so the bullying itself didn’t stop there.
Bullying doesn’t only happen in school it also happens in the workplace. There is a new private members Anti-Bullying bill to have the Workers Compensation Board pay for the psychological affects of workplace bullying.
What are you doing to take a stand against bullying? It is great see kids taking up arms against it.

I commit to a bully-free life. Do you?

12 Business Lessons from Big Box Gyms

There are pivotal times in life when one decision alters your career path;. mine have been in 1994, 2000, 2007 and 2011. After twelve years of being involved with a larger multi-location fitness facility as an employee and vendor I moved my business to completely independent. Which oddly enough has opened more doors of opportunity.


In 2000, I thought that working as a Personal Trainer who specialized in rehabilitation, such as Fitness World for a few years would help launch my career.   


I became one of their top selling Personal Trainers and a Group Fitness Manager during seven years of employment before negotiating a strategic alliance that became Lifemoves. 


Before the merger Fitness World was a family run business with the original founder still very much involved. I am very grateful for the support I was given to open my own business within a business in 2007.  The idea was to test run a rehabilitation centre within a larger fitness centre with multiple locations however, this changed in December 2010.  Little did I know how long I would be involved with them or what I would learn. 

12 Lessons Learned While Working in a Big Box Gym

1. Large Companies Take Awhile to Get Simple Things Done

As a group fitness instructor it took me one year to get new equipment for our programs.  When there are multiple layers to go through, sometimes there are road blocks that occur. These road blocks prevent organizations from thriving or taking advantage of competitive opportunities.  As a company grows make sure that your employees have enough freedom with guidance to see their own initiatives completed.  Evaluate each project on its own merits, but don’t take so long that opportunities are missed.

2. Pay Attention to Your Numbers But Not So Much That You Lose Sight of People

We always had to know our daily numbers which lead to our projected figures and monthly revenues. Those without a business sense weren’t sure why it was important. If you don’t know what your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are or where they at for a particular time period you are unable to make necessary strategic adjustments.  Over the last few years I have figured that there are specific indicators of our performance that leads to revenue. Our income statement is merely a reflection of the actions we took to execute our strategies.

Part of what makes people want to work or participate in a great environment is the people. With the merger the energy of the gym shifted from something that was really friendly and family oriented to something more corporate.  I want  Lifemoves’ clients and staff to be part of a family whom feel as though we are all working together to get people moving for life. As a business owner I still have to manage our KPIs.


3. Managers are Not Always Leaders and Leaders are Not Always Managers

A manager has specific tasks to accomplish throughout the day and things to look after. Leaders take initiative, coach and guide people to become better at what they do. New Personal Trainers would approach me for guidance even though I was not their manager because I took the time to help them improve their teaching and business skills. With the merger there is now more coaching happening.

4. Freedom Manager Can Be Detrimental for Some While a Micromanager Can Be a Crazy Maker

There are two extremes of management – Freedom Manager and Micromanager Crazy Maker. As one manager told me “we are all adults, so we are capable of doing our jobs.” This is why we were all left to our own devices. Some people thrived while others who needed more coaching or guidelines eventually left. On the other side is the manager who is always taking over or always checking in without trusting that staff is actually doing their job properly.

Each employee requires their own level of management. I try to find their particular level that keeps them motivated, our clients happy and the business running smoothly. To survive as an employee I had to do my job, learn to let whatever the micro manger said slide off my shoulders and take initiative.

5. Listen to and Take Care of Your Clients and Staff

While we are unable to accommodate every client’s whim or whimsy clients want to know that they have at least been heard. Whether it is a complaint or commendation keep your eyes and ears open.  If there is action that can be taken to resolve an issue, don’t just brush them off. Take care of it.  If clients are paying for a premium service, such as Personal Training they want the extras like water.  Even in a down economy there are ways to cut costs without reducing the quality service you provide or how you take care of your staff.

6. Find Ways to Improve

If you want to thrive in a retracted economy, find ways to improve and add value. Now is the time to innovate and improve the quality of service so that clients remain clients, while they also sing your praises to their friends and family.  Taking away little perks from clients or staff only produces more grumbling.

7. Reward Current Clients and Staff

It took awhile, but I believe this is happening. Fitness World would have great promotions for new training clients, but not current ones. This created “a what about me?” attitude. Some of the promo packages now are fantastic. It took several years for Personal Trainers to be part of the bonus system, which we often complained about. Find ways to thank all your employees for their efforts and contributions.

8. Compete on Difference and Value Not Price

Lifemoves© is trying to figure out how we can best reward our clients without offering large discounts. You don’t hear of a Physiotherapist or Chiropractor offering to discount their services, so why should we? The concept is to give something extra instead. It has been our general policy not to discount.  Personal Trainers are paid on a percentage fee split – so with discounts they are paid less until the client renews. Clients who paid for packages with large discounts often had difficulty seeing the value of paying full rates.  This is why we pay employees a flat rate instead of percentage (it keeps payroll simple too) and don’t offer discounts or participate in GroupOn type services.

9.  During Times of Change People Will Often Look Out for Themselves

In times of change and turmoil some people end up protecting themselves. A merger takes a couple of years for the dust to settle and for others to adjust. Sales people are motivated by commissions. If there is the perception that their income is threatened they will sometimes be ruthless at protecting it.  If you are in a company going through a merger or big changes try to help each other out.

10. Communicate Clear Expectations

To avoid the above situation and others it is very important to make sure that everyone is communicating clearly during times of change. New staff in one department doesn’t always know what is happening on the other side and vice versa.  Keeping everyone involved in the loop will ease tension and prevent conflict from happening in the first place.

11. Have Checks and Balances but Keep Things Simple

It was clear during my tenure that there were multiple redundancies that had to be checked and balanced to ensure that everything was completed correctly. I still believe that this important, but how many steps are really needed is still questionable.   As my business grows it becomes increasingly complex, however I am conscientiously always trying to find ways to make it more efficient.  A system with redundant or unnecessary steps will cost you money.

12. Learn to Leverage Technology: Databases Are Great

In 2001 I developed an access database to track client sales and sessions; in 2006 I started to use a PDA for my calendar. It was in late 2007 when they were talking about moving to an electronic system.  How are you able to search client records in paper? Databases give you a lot of flexibility to manage a lot of information more easily.  When I found out about electronic management service providers in 2008, Lifemoves© made the leap.

Conclusions

There are many more lessons I learned throughout my twelve years, including that having systems is important to produce long-term results and  business growth.

I will miss Fitness World, as I have many fond memories and am thankful for everything that I have learned while there. 

I am looking forward to growing my company and continuing to Get People Moving for Life™

Facing the Cold Hard Truth for Enough Growth

While supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement complain of excess spending and compensation packages of corporations and banks I have been wondering what is Enough?  Part of question comes from trying to figure out how to protect my business and myself from the financial Aftershock.  To answer this I have to continually be ok with facing the Cold Hard Truth about my particular situation and the economy. To succeed I have to come to Common Purposes with my fiancée, my family, our clients and my staff.

All of these are books I recently read that have given valuable insight into how prevent personal and business financial crises, grow my business and lead into the next few years.  Does my business need to grow to become a large organization like some big box gyms with twenty or more locations? No, but a business does need to grow, evolve and remain profitable as the markets, society and environments change. This growth needs to be done at manageable so that the owner and staff stay sane and don’t have their own meltdowns.

Achieving Common Purpose

The original vision of Lifemoves, locations in at least one Fitness World in each community is no-longer. Fitness World’s new ownership and I were unable to come to agreement in May, so we are looking for new space and a new direction. This new direction has been set (which will be revealed in the appropriate time frame).  Engaging your team in discussions based on the question “what is next?” or “how can we improve?” leads to a two major values: 1. team members feels more valued because they are making distinct positive contributions; 2. the conclusions of the conversations become the common purpose.

On Friday, we had a very productive team meeting at a coffee bar that lead to an understanding of what our long-term goals and challenges are as well as knowledge of the steps needed to get there.

Facing the Cold Hard Truth

Growing up with parents who were both librarians (information junkies) and one who understood the power of databases (he created a school library system) means that I know the intrinsic value of having accurate searchable data. Our records give of an idea of what has happened in the business.  Accurate records enable a business to make appropriate analyses and decisions. Sometimes this data can be chilling.

Last year I hired a couple of new Kinesiologists with idea of floating the hourly rate with the current session fees that my other Kinesiologist was booking until the new hires were fully booked.  That all crashed when the original employee quit less than a month later taking much of that business with them. Action should have been taken a lot sooner to right this situation because it put Lifemoves in a financial hole that we dug out of, but it was an arduous and long task.

As we move from a single location to several remote locations I am thinking more and more about our records management system. How can maintain communications, accurate information and financial control?  I am always aiming to build this company so that we are mobile.  Adding more employees and more locations adds to the complexity of our systems. However we still need to continually evolve our records management system towards Canadian and ISO standards (which I discovered recently) while keeping it as simple as possible.  
Gaining the perspective of your employees also helps the business improve, create new initiatives and understand our strengths as well as our weaknesses.  Although, Aftershock primarily describes the future of the U.S. economy Canadians can still take home a few lessons from it.  The major one for me is how to position my business in the future. Health care will take hit in the coming years however, it won’t be as bad as discretionary spending such as retail. We need to shift further from a fitness company to a health care provider to continue to grow in a “melting economy.”

Figuring Out What is Enough?

Everyone will have their own determining factors for what is enough when it comes to life, money and business.   
  • Enough is being a market leader in several municipalities. 
  • Enough is being able to pay our accounts receivable on time.
  • Enough is being to able people full-time in a career which they are passionate about and in a company that they are thrilled to work for.
  • Enough is being able to provide appropriate benefits for our employees so that they are taken care of.
  • Enough is having zero commercial credit card debt – business and personal
  • Enough is having a flexible work schedule to enjoy recreational pursuits when I desire
  • Enough is being and to contribute more to my community
  • Enough is have $1.00 more than I need.
  • Enough is feeling like my family and I are financially secure and will be secure as we age.
  • Enough is having loving, trusting, mutually supportive and meaningful relationships.

Please share what enough and the cold hard truth means to you? How are you going to protect your business and yourself from the financial meltdown?

References

David Wiedemer, Robert A. Wiedemer and Cindy S. Spitzer Aftershock: How to Protect Yourself in the Next Global Financial Meltdown

James Cunningham Race Sets Humbling New Standards

Today was a humbling yet motivating experience in the rain. It was just over ten years ago that I participated in my first James Cunningham Seawall Race.

Endurance running was never something that I had focused on so, I never became all that great at it, however I was proud of what I did achieve, including a 4:08 hr marathon after training for the half (not recommended, but I knew I could do it and that his a another story). In the early 2000s I was trying to prove to myself that my knees were capable of running great distances without giving me grief.

What is measured and acted upon will always improve. The past few months my training has solely been on the Grind; with very little endurance training in between. Entering today was a whim, inspired by a few friends who said let’s do the James Cunningham Race and see how closely our Grind times correlate. The point of today was to see how fit I was compared to ten years ago, as well as set a baseline for future training.

In the book The Running Edge, which I reviewed, the authors mentioned that a 10 km race pace is approximately equivalent to your lactate threshold pace. I had not done a blood lactate running test since a few months before Seek the Peak in July.

The Race

It was cold and raining before the race as everyone was huddled under tents trying to stay dry and warm. Unfortunately we didn’t have any warm-up time, but the rain did subside before the official gun went off. In big crowds I never seem to get my starting place right. The first ten minutes were spent bobbing and weaving as I strived to find a place to get into a running rhythm. My Garmin was set to beep and if I went below 8.3 mph or above 9.5 mph and every 1.475 miles which was one quarter of the distance. Eleven minutes went by and I was setting a good pace then a stitch hit me like a brick which made it difficult to ran faster without pain. My heart was 183 beats per minute. This is about 5-8 beats above my lactate threshold.

To continue I had to slow-down. I was holding on for the second quarter trying my best to slow down and deepen my diaphragmatic breathing to get rid of the stitch. There were even instances where I drafted behind someone to see if they were going at my pace. In a lap race like the seawall – take the shortest path, the inside lane; most of the time I hung there and somewhere above 7.4 mph. Along the third quarter someone kindly asked if I got rid of the stitch and offered advice about how to get rid of it. It subsided, but never really went away.

While climbing the Grind and now on this running race I noticed that I get a stitch if my heart rate goes above my lactate threshold; there is a lesson there. By the time I hit the fourth quarter I could see a friend ahead in the distance. 7

I repeated the following mantras in my head to stay motivated “Just keep going, place one foot in front of the other and pick up the pace a little”

I caught up to my friend as the tents of the finish line came into view. We encouraged each other as I passed by him. Seeing the finish line, I sprinted to finish in a time of 46:19. This is a minute and a half slower than 2000.

Age Graded Finish Times

How did I do? Do I compare myself to me 10 years ago? My age graded time is 57.7% and 55.6% of the world’s fastest times for 10 km. On the Grind my times are about 78% of the fastest in my age group; still in the top 30 As a fitness professional I have always believed that participation and self-improvement are important and need to be celebrated, however as a someone who participated in sport at a National level I still have the competitive drive. It is great to see where I fit on a regional, national and world-class level. To be the best at something you have to know where those standards are. When I competed in Biathlon international competition spots were given on a basis of how close you finished to the top as a percentage of time; the standard to meet was usually 90% or more.

Lactate Threshold and New Pace Zones

Today helped established new pace zones. I use The Running Edge: High Tech training for Peak Performance (p.54) Pace Zone Index to establish my training zones, which need to be evaluated every 6-8 weeks as fitness changes from training stimuli. Since my last blood lactate test this has dropped from 32 to 36.

Conclusions

Seek the Peak is awesome event which I trained for specifically by building my base then going for specific interval runs on the terrain that would be the event route. I want to in top physical condition related to my age as I age for both physical strength and endurance. That leaves me with a few things to focus on the half-marathon, 10 km, Seek the Peak and the Grouse Grind. Overall placement is not important however gradual improvements relative to previous years as well as percentage improvements relative to age group are important. I want to be in the 80% – 90% at the very least.

Now it is time to build a plan around these new standards and goals. There are striking similarities between high performance and business: the need to review, set standards, set a new plan and take actions.

PS – I find it confusing when the chip time and gun time are the same. I pressed my stopwatch when I stepped on the mat, which was a minute after the gun time (see the age group results – here). Either way I placed 16th in my age group and have four more years to reach the podium.

Find your age graded pace – click here

I am still very happy with the last six months of events and training. What are your standards? What are you measuring and taking action on?

6 Ways to Elevate Fitness Professionalism: Post-Vancouver Think Tank Thoughts

Friday night I was invited to a meeting of the minds by Carmen Bott of Human Motion who is also the new provincial director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). This meeting brought together some of the top Strength and Conditiong Coaches, Personal Trainers, Physiotherapists, Kinesiologists, Yoga Instructors and Fascial Stretch Therapists in Metro Vancouver.

One big question that came from this gathering was “How can we elevate the standards of fitness professionals?” This was in order to figure out who we could invite to present at a provincial NSCA conference who would attract the veterans and the rookies.

I have been involved in the health and fitness field since 2000 and since that time have always surround myself with people who will motivate and encourage me to elevate my standards of practice. To raise our standards as a collective we need to lead by example, those who are poor or weak in one profession will eventually leave.

Anyone who is in the top echelon of their profession is there because they have they too have sought to be mentored by those who have been in the trenches for many years if not decades. I have been aware of a pervasive feeling of annoyance because many Personal Trainers are lured into the business with promises of a quick few weekends of study, an exam and then being able to bill out $65 per hour without really honing their craft and leading clients through exercise that they cannot execute properly – possibly doing harm soon or in the long-term. They quickly learn that after expenses their take home is not $65 per session and hopefully they learn that they are billing their time not their expertise.

The state of the industry is that young and easy to get into the fitness industry, but there is also a lack of mentorship afterwards. I have had clients, have used the services of trainers for years, say “Wow, I have never had someone teach me that,” with some something as simple as cueing scapular retraction and depression during a lat-pulldown (that scares me). Trainers get their certifications and then think they can become independent trainers right away – are you an entrepreneur? No, you own your job that is it.

The independent training studios are so full to brim that the experience of clients starts to decrease in quality. Does the consumer know the difference between an expert trainer and someone who is fresh on the floor – who is there to push you to your limits? Generally not. The culture of these studios is to hold on to the clients that you have, don’t coach other trainers – because they are the competition. Could they become better than you, maybe? If you have any business sense you will know that there are plenty of clients for everyone and that each professional has their own niche, or at least you should!

Six Ways to Raise the Bar

Is it up to us to elevate the game of those who do not wish to? You can only coach those who wish to be coached.

  1. It starts by creating an environment where we speak to each as peers whether you have 1 year of experience or 20 years of experience – we all have different life experiences, therefore different insights into human movement and how to teach people to become better at it.
  2. Surround yourself with peers who challenge your way of thinking (whether you end up agreeing or not).
  3. Be open to new ways of thinking, new ways of teaching, new ways of doing business – e.g. look at all the technological changes.
  4. We need to mentor the young ones who are eager to learn and are ready to be coached.
  5. Be proud of your profession. It doesn’t entirely define you, but shout it out!
  6. Learn from everywhere – books, peer-to-peer discussions, workshops, even outside of your profession

When I told someone I was going to be a Personal Trainer they asked, “When are you going to get a real job?” It took awhile to make a living, because I had to buck the trend that “there is no money in fitness!” What BS! By the way – I am a Kinesiologist (another pet peeve is Kinesiologists calling themselves Personal Trainers, just because not many people know what a Kinesiologist is or does).

Only those who really want to be the best at what they do will go out and meet the best at what they do. They follow in their foot-steps while creating their own path.

Today I met some of the leaders in our field in Vancouver as well become reacquainted with others who I haven’t seen in a long time. As Canadians are we too meek to step-up and say confidently “We know stuff! Let’s share!”? Today was the first step in sharing our knowledge. Step up and be confident, people pay us for expertise not our time.

Other thoughts from this meeting by my peers that were written in less than 24 hours:

Fit Pro Think Tank Sept 2011

Bridging the Gap Between Strength and Conditioning and Yoga

Using Technology to Keep Motivated with vV0(2max) Interval Analysis

Technology helps me keep motivated since my goal races of Seek the Peak and the Grouse Mountain Grind Race are 6 and 9 months away. Performance management tools (software and devices) have come a long way in twenty years. I started using Polar Heart rate monitors to ensure that I was in the target training zone, not too high and not too low. Heart rates had to be just right like Goldilocks. The problems with using a heart rate monitor alone are that they don’t show far you go or your pace for each zone. Last July, after using Polar monitors without GPS since I was a teenager, I was convinced to switch to a Garmin 305 Forerunner with GPS to track speed, distance and heart rates.

In business management there is a saying “what is measured, will be managed,” so what are your key performance indicators when improving your fitness? Mine are 1. Speed at lactate threshold increases; 2. heart rate at X speed decreases or speed at X heart increases. Recently my focus has been to boosting my VO(2max) and vVO(2max), the maximum amount of oxygen my body can process and at the pace that I can sustain that effort at.

Combining the GPS of the Garmin Forerunner 305 with Training Peaks WK0+ enables me to analyse each training session to see if my speed at certain heart rates is increasing. By comparing the same type of sessions over several weeks noticed some trends. Below is a comparison of the last three weeks of vVO(2max) interval sessions which were mostly completed on the treadmill at 8.9 – 9.2 mph for vVO(2max) periods.

Date

vVO(2 max) Intervals (Work:Recovery min)

Duration

TSS(IF)

Normalized Grade Pace

Min HR

Max HR

Avg HR

Recovery Pace (mph)

26/01/2011

3.0 : 3.0

24:11.0

38.1 (0.936)

7:55 (203.3 m/min)

115

195

153

5.1

21/01/2011

3.5 : 3.0

25:58.0

0 (0)

114

188

153

4.5

19/01/2011

3.5 : 3.0

25:58.0

0 (0)

108

189

154

4.5

14/01/2011

3.5 : 3.0

25:59.0

0 (0)

99

185

153

4

05/01/2011

3.25 : 3.0

24:59.0

0 (0)

100

187

152

4

03/01/2011

3.0 : 3.0

24:06.0

0 (0)

93

187

151

4

Today was such a beautiful day that I went outside on a fairly flat area of North Vancouver. It was quite a challenge to figure what 8.9 mph – 9.1 mph feels like on the road (see this workout on training peaks). This week is a recovery week, so the duration of the work period was reduced to 3.0 min. Throughout the last three weeks I was able to keep the average heart rate similar for each session, maximum heart is close to the same level, recovery pace increased without a big jump in heart rate while speed for each interval increased from 8.9 mph to 9.1 mph.

All of this data only becomes information when it is analysed and then knowledge when I use it to adjust my training. Over time next four weeks I will continue to complete these vVO(2max) intervals and retest my VO(2max) at near the end of February. Tomorrow I should have the Footpod for the Garmin which will log the indoor pacing more accurately during inclement weather.

Seeing these small increments and feeling the ease at which I am able to run for 40 minutes is keeping me motivated to continue training for Seek the Peak and informed that my workouts are having the physiological affect I want.

How do you keep motivated to reach your fitness resolutions or goals? How do you keep motivated to reach your business goals? What do you measure? How do you translate the data in information and then into valuable information that affects your decisions?

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Getting Unstuck from Doing Long Slow Distance to Increase VO(2max)

Banishing Depression with Energy Management

Last year I discovered that the instesinty of my depression related to my mindset and how I managed my energy. This year I am getting unstuck from letting my work get in the way of my physical training. In 2011 I am taking a very different approach to training for Seek the Peak and the Grouse Grind while maintaining a busy Kinesiology practice.

In November I really started to monitor various volumes and intensities of exercise with how tired or depressed I felt afterwards. My depression symptoms were clearly related to how much training stress, how much work stress I was under, how much exercise I did and how much I reconnected with the outdoors. In the summer I discovered trail running and this winter I am snowshoeing.

If I had not balanced the high fatigue days with proper recovery strategies including nutrition and recovery or off days my symptoms would become worse. Last year I thought depression was something “I had to live with for the rest of my life.” Not so, it can easily be managed. It is not a life-sentence; I know believe that my depression is gone. When I feel the symptoms I know it is time to down regulate my stress a variety of ways including alternate nasal breathing, Yoga, a recovery walk, nutrition, stretching, a day off, vacation, more sleep and/or the infrared sauna.

When I look at my work schedule it is clear that most Tuesdays and Thursdays are usually full 10 hour days while I have been able to carve more time on Mondays and Wednesdays. Fridays and the weekend have less going on so that it is possible to complete more fatigue inducing training on those days and have a bit more space to recover before getting back to writing, business development and spending time with family and friends.

During the week there is a lot of fluctuation in terms of demands and scheduling, so my workout times are slightly less rigid. Though, I will always find time to fit a training session in. Anything that requires more creativity or detailed work I need to do it in the morning when my mind is clear; this means a training session before lunch. Lunch is a perfectly timed hour when I can replenish my mind and body. When 1:00 PM rolls around I am ready to tackle what needs to be done. The confidence gained from completing each training session keeps me happy and energized.

These days I am focused on managing my energy by finding ways to keep it consistent and at its peak, this included getting off the stress train of caffeine. It has now been over two weeks since I quit drinking coffee. Too much stress was contributing to my depression.

Do you manage your time or your energy? Too much stress, including exercise stress combined with poor nutrtion makes depression symptoms worse. Reduce stress by being flexible with your exercise times and quantity to stay on track with your fitness goals. For example if your day went side-ways and you couldn’t go for your 45 min walk at noon, but you have time and energy for only 20 minutes in the evening go do it, because you still receive many health benefits.

How to Keep a Clear Mind After a Computer Failure

People often panic after a computer failure for several reasons: 1. we have developed so much dependence on them and we aren’t sure how to live without them; 2. they don’t have adequate back-up systems; 3. they don’t have an alternative system in place that can be used.

As David Allen of Getting Things Done says, our minds become cloudy when know there is so much to do, but are not clear on all that needs to be done, how to do it or even where to begin. My mind became overcast when my laptop which I am dependent upon to conduct my business wouldn’t boot up at 9:00 PM on Sunday.

Just before I purchased the five year old Toshiba, I also bought a desktop – exactly for this type of occasion. Since the screen was at my work office I had to cart the tower, keyboard and mouse on the bus to North Vancouver. After booting it up, I discovered that it had not been updated in a long time. Nor did I have a written system for getting back up and running.

How much work that needs to be re-done depends on how often computer files are backed-up. Having redundant systems in place minimizes the amount of downtime businesses have when one system crashes. This past week this lesson hit me squarely. After nearly five years my laptop decided that it no longer wanted to boot-up on Sunday night. Luckily the last time I backed-up most of my files as a few days earlier and some of the work information is located on a cloud system, accessible from anywhere.

Operational downtime also included going to get the problem laptop diagnosed. It was really bad but, thankfully they were able back-up the hard drive. Since repairs would have been $500, even with an unstable computer it was time to buy a new one. Having the desktop enabled me to continue operations at a minimal level – because I had access to our cloud, the files on the external hard drive and our online booking system. This process was clearly going to take most of several days, days that I had planned to use for writing my articles for IMPACT.

My mind was cloudy trying to make decisions on day-to-day operational tasks because dealing with this situation required a multitude of decisions including researching laptops available then purchasing it, figuring out where all my software was to reinstall and how to retrieve lost passwords that are so often conveniently stored in the browsers. The process of getting the primary system back up and running was a big distraction which would have been a lot easier had I made sure that my desktop was updated at least once per year, had a systematic back-up and if I had printed instructions of what needs to be done to get a new computer loaded. In my boxes of original program disks it is difficult to figure out what is still useful versus what is left-over from past systems.

A regular back-up system needs to be in place to ensure that all non-program files are saved on a regular basis, maybe once a week or even once every couple of days. It really depends on how much data changes on a daily basis. Keep back program disks together in a box or if they download files now often file downloads on a USB drive and store with their registration information in a text file or spreadsheet. Solutions also include a larger external hard drive or investing in an online cloud so that back-ups off-site and are safe from fire and water disasters (think of Australia).

What did keep my mind clear is that my own physical training sessions took priority. Completing each session gave me confidence that something on that day was done well. Taking physical breaks clears the mind. Take heed, make sure that you have a system and where all files are organized in a systematic way. Also, think about how many different ways your business could keep running despite various disasters.

Doing so will drastically reduce your mental fatigue and stress level by giving you piece of mind when something does happen. After all, it is only a matter of time. Another piece to have organized is passwords in a safe secure place so that you only have to remember one of them to retrieve the rest. Having a system in place that deals with the initial computer crash all the way to reinstall will make the process a lot quicker, keeping your mind clear.