Mental preparation

Happiness is right behind you

Ever since happiness heard your name, it’s been running down the street trying to find you
— Hafiz, Perisian Poet

I read this quote, then glanced at the book on the corner of my desk. 

"10% Happier", by Dan Harris. 

I looked at my bookshelf.

“The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Ruben.

“The Art of Happiness,” by the Dalai Lama - just to name a few. 

The next book I'm reading is on Geno Auriemma, the head coach of UConn women's basketball. Thanks Anne. :-)

The next book I'm reading is on Geno Auriemma, the head coach of UConn women's basketball. Thanks Anne. :-)

I looked from the books back to the quote on my computer monitor.

Has happiness been chasing me? 

Hardly. 

Sadness often grips me around my ankles, tugging me towards darkness, baiting me into the shadows and shackling me under the cobwebs and stairs. 

It has sometimes felt like my full-time job to pull out of those shackles and go looking for happiness.

The first time anyone ever asked me whether or not I was happy, I was working as a newspaper reporter for a weekly paper in Western Pennsylvania, making 15K a year and considering graduate school options. 

No, I told her. I wasn’t really happy.

At the time, I was completely floundering in my journey, certain that happiness, if it were to be found for me, was on the other side of a Master’s Degree in creative writing. I didn’t know much, but I was sure of that.    

“Have you ever been happy?” she asked.

I chewed on the question for a bit. I wasn’t sure. 

There were moments I’d enjoyed - playing sports, spending time with family and friends. I’d certainly had fun and laughter at times in my life. 

But happy? Me? 

I’ve always thought of happiness as a sacred place of arrival - the Mount Everest of joy - where we arrive one day panting, breathless, savoring the view and reflecting on our effort to get there.  

Happiness is a place we are trying to get to, rather than a place we already are. 

We’re sure that it’s hidden in the new job, the new relationship, or at our goal weight of 145 pounds. Happiness and 145 pounds go hand in hand, right?

But what if it’s not like that?

What if we really don’t need to look for it? Chase it? Try to win it?

What if we really just need to be open to it?  

What if happiness is in the warm sun, shining on my head as I write this. In Rooney’s contented breathing as he lays on my legs and I drink my coffee. Watching my niece and nephew do push-ups for me while we FaceTime. 

In Sunday morning conversations and coffee with my parents. 

And a gym full of people gathered to watch the original Wonder Woman with me. 

Happiness is in so many places and people and moments. 

Happiness has been chasing us all along. 

We’re not always easy to catch. Because we’re too busy running ahead when really, we just need to stop long enough to let it catch us. 

Today, right now, in this moment - stop. 

Practice that sacred pause. 

And let happiness catch you. 

Each week I send out a newsletter with tips and tricks for working out. Click here to sign up. I won't spam you. I'm not like that. Besides, spam is gross. 

Personality type and fitness

Friday morning my alarm went off, and I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower.

I’d signed up for an early morning networking event. (As I try to grow my business, I recognize that these type of events are important, even if I’d rather slide down a razor blade into a bed of salt than spend my spare time socializing with strangers.)

This is how I get my energy. And also why it's sometimes hard to actually type a blog post, with his head on my wrist and whatnot...

This is how I get my energy. And also why it's sometimes hard to actually type a blog post, with his head on my wrist and whatnot...

So I put my clothes on and as I got ready to head out the door, was slammed with a realization. 

I just…..couldn’t…..talk….to….one….more…..person. 

Not yet anyway.

So I turned around. Put my Captain America jammies back on and crawled into bed with a pillow over my head. 

I felt a little guilty because I’d spent 20 bucks on the event. And my life coach, whom I really like, was presenting on the problem of saying no (I’m sure she was proud that I said no to this event on saying no…) 

But I’d spent from 10:50 am to 8:05 pm on Thursday either talking to or being talked to at the gym.  

I’ve known since college that I am an introvert. My spiritual director administered the Meyers Briggs test and I was an off-the-charts introvert (I’m an INFP if you’re curious). For those of you who know me now, you might be surprised to learn that I'm introverted, as I've learned to be outgoing through the years.   

The terms introversion and extroversion are preferences popularized by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and later incorporated into what is now known as the Meyers Briggs test I referenced above. 

Extroverts tend to be outgoing and talkative and get their energy from parties and engaging with people. Introverts tend to get their energy from quiet reflection, and that energy dwindles during interactions. 

I know what I need to get and keep my energy up, and I know that quiet reflective time (i.e. pillow over my head) is important for me. But I forgot.

A few years ago I read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. I didn’t think the book had much to teach me (I know…how arrogant of me), mostly because I spent so much time working with my personality type in college and when I lived in the convent.

I was wrong. This book was an excellent reminder that it’s not just conversations and being around people that fatigue me.

It’s loud noise (I don’t love concerts), bright lights (I work in ambient light at every opportunity), and any other type of stimuli. Which means the gym is actually a very draining environment for me, no matter how much I love it.

I write this post mostly because I think so many of us try to force ourselves to go against the grain. Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to terrify yourself sometimes (I’ve been doing more Facebook Live videos, which I recommend if you want to terrify yourself. Also jumping out of planes, but I’m not going to do that.) If you don’t challenge your comfort zone, you’ll never grow.  

But if you don’t also pay attention to your needs and energy levels you’ll fry yourself. 

Let’s say you are a high introvert and decided to sign up for Crossfit* at the beginning of 2018 because your friend insisted you try it. It was okay at first, but gradually, you found yourself dreading each session - maybe because you didn’t feel like working out, but maybe because you also just want to put your headphones on and be left alone. I’m not knocking Crossfit here, but the community aspect is part of it’s appeal. If I spent my day working in an office and rarely talking to people, I could probably enjoy that community vibe. But given the work I do now, there’s no way I want to do a workout that requires engaging with people. 

Choosing an exercise routine that aligns with your personality is a great way to make it stick. That might mean that you work out by yourself two days a week and take a spin class two other days. If you’re an extrovert, that might mean that you find a workout group or class for all of your workouts. 

Last Friday was an eye-opener for me. Despite my self-work and knowledge around my personality, I had to acknowledge that I can’t always force something. Going to a networking event is important and I will go to them. But next time around, I’ll plan that event around my work week and my personality and I’ll attend the event when I’m fresher. I’ll honor my introvert.

*I'm not knocking Crossfit. I just know that the Crossfit environment is largely successful because of the strong community aspect of it.  

Each week I send out a newsletter with tips and tricks for working out. Click here to sign up. I won't spam you. I'm not like that. Besides, spam is gross. 

Beyond the scale: Five Strategies for Gauging Progress

Quote from a client last week:

"I didn't gain 40 pounds overnight. So I'm not going to lose 40 pounds overnight."

I followed her statement with 17 high fives, a cha cha dance, and a bear hug. (It's okay, she was cool with it.) We were having a conversation about what it takes to stay focused on your fitness routine when you're not seeing the changes, especially on the scale, that you want to see after a few solid weeks or months of training.* 

 
scaleklf.jpg
 

And I thought her above statement was spot on. We put weight on for a variety of reasons over the years; stress, having children, slower metabolism, maintaining the same diet at 41 as we did at 21, and when we start the journey to take off some of those pounds, the process can feel maddeningly slow. 

So how do you find a way to keep on keeping on when you haven't seen immediate results? 

1. Focus on consistency

Are you getting to the gym three days a week? Have you been doing that for the past month, when you weren't going at all two months ago? That is progress. The saying that has been all over fitness websites recently is that your best rep scheme is 3x52. Show up three times a week, 52 times a year and you WILL see results. I promise. Are you going to see all of those results after only one month? No. 

I know that you want the needle on the scale to move. I know this. And I know you want the waist measurements to go down. And the body fat percentage to go down. But focus on building the routine. The results will follow. 

2. Throw the *^%%$*& measuring stick out the window.

What is your measuring stick? One of the other mom's at the soccer game? The woman next to you on the treadmill? Gwyneth Paltrow? Your scale? What is it? Who is it? 

Throw it out the window. Yes, I just said to throw Gwyneth Paltrow out the window. And I meant it. You've been lifting. You can take her. Comparison is one of our worst enemies. 

3. Focus on performance goals

I'm willing to bet 50 yard line seats to the Pittsburgh Steeler-Baltimore Ravens game that by the time you work your way up to a bodyweight deadlift, you will have seen the results I asked you not to obsess about in number one. 

Change the focus from losing to gaining. Yes you want to lose body fat, but place the focus on your performance - the number of push ups you can do - whether or not you can deadlift your bodyweight - whether or not you can do a chin up - I promise that if you focus on these numbers and not the other numbers, and if you don't eat like a tool** you will see results.

I mean I'm willing to bet Steelers' tickets on that.***

And speaking of results, let's do the math on progress. Say you've been doing 15lb dumbbells for three sets of 10. That's 900lbs your lifting. If you can up that to 20lbs, that means you're lifting 1,200lbs. That's 300lbs more. 

300. Pounds More. 

Don't worry about the scale not moving. Because you can now break it with your bare hands. 

4. Find good people for your corner of the ring

I went to my first cornfield party when I was 16 or 17 years old - we were somewhere in rural Western Pennsylvania, there was a keg, red solo cups, and it was November....Someone had the good sense to burn a tire for heat, and the gathering ended with someone yelling cops and us scattering all over the place.

But what I remember most about the party was people coming up to me and taking my one beer out of my hands (I didn't like the taste anyway). They asked what I was doing there. I remember one guy especially telling me that I was a great softball player, was going to get a scholarship, and that I shouldn't be messing around at parties and lose that opportunity. As he dumped my beer out.

Despite the fact that we were all teenagers with under-developed frontal lobes, most folks knew I wanted to be an athlete and they were encouraging me to stay true to that journey. 

You need to find those kind of people to support you on your journey. You need to find the people who remind you to focus on you and feeling better and that you matter and are important and that good things will happen.

Find these people. Keep these people. 

5. Have a "go to" workout

I'm laid back about most things in my life. I rarely have opinions on plans, restaurants or the organization of my closet. I'm so type B I'm almost a Z. Except with my workouts. I am obsessed with doing whatever routine my coach wrote for me that day. It's taken me a long time to come up with a secondary plan for days when I'm short on time or nursing some minor injuries.

What is plan B? Well, I have a movement day that I keep in my program. And my movement day means that I'm at least going to the gym and foam rolling, warming up, and then doing 3-5 exercises. On days when I'm not feeling up to it, I get to the gym just to do this 20 minute workout. What I've found is that sometimes I feel good enough after the warm up to do the original workout. The key for me is having something in my back pocket that I gives me permission to go easy, but still gets me to the gym.

It keeps me in the routine. 

*By now, most of you know how I feel about using the scale to measure your progress. 

**It's important not to overlook this piece. You can't out-train a really poor diet. But let's focus on building the habit of getting to the gym first. 

***If anyone has tickets to the Steelers-Ravens game....I can be free.