Every American contemplates their fitness levels many times during their lives. For most, it starts as early as 5 or 6 years old. It can spawn from movies, action figures, dolls, cartoons, and of course the behavior of the adults around us. Body image becomes an element of developing our personal identity. Whether actively aware or not, we begin placing ourselves and others in categories of who’s pretty, who’s strong, or who’s adored, and who’s repulsive. Why else would the kids who’s bodies mature faster be more popular than the ones who develop slower or are chubby, or skinny? There is a value system based solely on looks that is fully and universally intact before we even get out of grade school. As adults it is the norm to allow physical appearance to be a decisive tool in many everyday life situations. The pretty girl runs a light and receives only a flirtatious warning, and if she has an appealing shape, she is most likely a competitive conquest between the pack of men she works with. The muscular guy cuts in line without any protest, and if he has a handsome face to go with it, you better believe he has his time as the center of the raunchiest ladies room chatter. The chubby person is either ignored or put in the “friend zone”, but if he or she has a sense of humor, they are everyone’s favorite person to work with. I will add that this happens in the lives of every sexual orientation and gender identity as well. That’s why this isn’t shocking you, but as you read you are thinking back on times in your life, or even moments ago when you either witnessed or participated in the physical grading system. When you step back and look at it, our physical appearance may be the single most shallow element to being Human, yet it is often the most regarded. It’s as if Perception made an intimate bond with Ego and like an invisible Trickster God from the Supernatural series, it delights in being subconsciously worshipped. Some obese millionaires throw money at it to look more attractive. Some models fast for it to become more beautiful and successful. Some bodybuilders sacrifice practical lives to be held as the Trickster’s gate keepers of the ultimate physique. There’s also the one’s who consider themselves “spiritual rather than religious”. They don’t worship traditionally. They think the doctrine is outdated and stifling, so they choose to worship the Trickster inside themselves. They believe that the Trickster is all of us…each of us a piece of the Trickster. Ironically this approach works for those who both do and don’t take personal responsibility for how their behavior effects the condition of the whole of us. Aren’t we just an amazing, beautiful, confused bowl of splintered light? Do you think from space you can see a sign hanging on the Earth that reads: Trickster Bait & Tackle?
I support the opinion that human beings should strive to be in their own personal best health. Of course that would look differently for everyone, and would take different levels of effort to accomplish. The undeniable fact is that if physical health overtook physical appearance in our Ego’s list of priorities, than our quality of life, economics, culture, and ecological footprint would all experience positive shifts. Healthcare would likely be less dependent on the pharmaceutical industry. The average person would develop a more positive outlook, which could feasibly effect crime rates, employment rates, and eventually social inequality. Mental and physical disease would begin to fall from an epidemic to a rarity. Human intake and waste would become cleaner and safer, therefore the Earth itself would become cleaner and stronger. Our Leaders would become more compassionate and productive (see Mental Disease above). So much of our energy and finances are burned in the system of “Treatment” when it should be cycled and invested in the system of “Prevention”. Oh, and guess what. We would be more beautiful because of it! This is an amazing image of the world that I play in my mind very often, but alas, I am just a guy who loves his veggies, workouts, laughing, and then blogging about it. However, as this guy, I do believe that major change comes together when individuals decide to pursue their own personal happiness. There is no doubt that it begins with health and fitness.
For those of us pursuing our personal happiness, we soon discover that there’s a bonafide war within us and outside us. This war shows itself in many forms. It’s virtually a parade of distractions….reasons to stop believing, events that break us down, people that knock us off the path (or we allow them to), even shallow successes that trick us into thinking we’ve arrived. That’s the Ego-Trickster rearing it’s head again. During my journey I have discovered that in order to stay on the winning side of the fight for personal happiness there are two main factors that have to be revisited every so often. The first is our big “Why?” married with an attainable “How?”. The second is an endless stream of disciplined patience and forgiveness as we steadfastly hold on to the core truth of who we are. Within these two factors is where all that scary and exciting “change” stuff happens.
You can not expect a chance of success in anything unless your plan begins with the “Why” and “How”. In Health and Fitness these factors can alter as you go along. We are dealing with our minds and body…living organisms that change every second. Our tactics and goals need to change too. That’s why you must stay “in touch” with your self and revisit this factor often. Example: If you find an exercise regimen and diet that works amazingly then 5 months later you’re still doing the exact same, you may find yourself spinning in mud and making no progress. You may lose interest because you stop advancing. Within 5 months your body has changed and it needs a different approach. Hell, even your mind needs new levels of thought to feed on or it gets bored and disinterested. Think of your body as a type of mind. Progress is not about finding something good and sticking to it. It’s about adjusting and rediscovering the new “good” continuously. Where a lot of us go wrong in fitness is we pick a shallow “Why” and a too difficult “How”. Some want to fit into a dress for one special night. Some want to look like that dude in the action film they just watched. Some want to attract hotter dates. The issue with goals like that is they don’t always hold up in challenging times. You drop the plan as soon as you have a bad day, or perhaps an argument. I’ve known people to go off plan because their team lost, or a show they’re obsessed with didn’t end the way they wanted. This is because their reason to get fit was not strong enough to begin with. Plus the time limit they put on themselves was too difficult and unrealistic. As a non Athlete, your “Why” has to be meaningful and connected to your heart and your goals of what kind of person you want to be. Your “How” has to be stern, but with reasonable time limits. This is a gentle, self loving change that will create life long results.
My late Mother suffered from severe back and neck pain. It seems we have a mild scoliosis condition. The pain, however, is nothing near mild. This was passed down to my Sister and I. One morning I was in so much pain that I had to lift the back of my head with my hands in order to sit up in bed. This condition would flare up through the year, but was worse in cold months and during stressful times. I am a chronic solution finder. Seriously. If I have enough free time, I will create catastrophic scenarios in my head, just so I can break them down and fix them. Anyway, I’m cursing and crying in pain while trying to make coffee this one morning. I pictured an idea that if I build up my shoulder and back muscles, it would help to secure my spine and vertebra in place, therefore making the discomfort of the condition much less severe. I began lifting weights and since the early 2000s I have never again been in pain like that. (Disclaimer; this is not medical advice.) I’m just sharing my truth. That was my first “Why” and “How”. Some years have passed and I’ve seen friends and family suffer from illnesses that could have been avoided if health and fitness had been just a few steps higher on their priority list. That inspired me to add a focus on inflammation issues and strengthening my bones for the inevitable perils of the elderly years of bumps, trips and falls. I had an immensely stressful year in 2011. Upon a standard Doctor visit with some blood work, I was informed that I had severe hypertension (High Blood Pressure), and the results of my blood test also revealed that I was “pre-diabetic”. I was given the finger wag, prescribed meds and sent on my way. Of course Solution Man kicked into gear! I began to research all the ways to reverse these conditions. There are foods like boiled white potato, and dark leafy greens that Nature has designed to suppress inflammation. There are vinegars and fermented, pickled foods that create free flowing bowels, which keep toxic waste from building up in your body. That also lowers inflammation levels. Stress and Inflammation are two of the top culprits that help create sickness and disease in the human body. I began doing colonics every 6 months. Its a water based colon/intestinal cleanser that allows your digestive system to have a much needed rest. Just think of the tons of crap we stuff down our throats for decades, expecting the digestive system to be a rock star and clear it all out with no vacations, holidays, or even sick leave. Colonics can be a little uncomfortable, but nothing compared to an intense and invasive colonoscopy, or worse. Choose your colonic practitioner wisely though. My last one was a beautiful young woman who I developed a light crush on. There is nothing more awkward than trying to gaze romantically into the eyes of a woman who has a hose in your bum and is shooting water into your colon to observe the coloring of your waste as it slides through a tube like kids on a water slide. NOT advisable.
Essentially, the “Why” and “How” is about listening to your body, and your spirit, then educating yourself on how to go about adjusting your lifestyle to include actions that allow for your happiness, health, and longevity. You will no doubt face obstacles daily. Many of them will be created by yourself, but your reason for doing it should be so important to you that you find ways to stay on track. You will become a better you. You will become an inspiration to others, and the Earth will thank you.
This Factor is based on Disciplined Patience and Forgiveness. Patience and Forgiveness are amazing traits to have when dealing with other people. It keeps peace. It opens up mutual understanding. Really, it’s the fuel that Love runs on. That being said, it is the most difficult thing to give back to ourselves. That’s where discipline comes in. No change will occur in any aspect of our lives without strict shifts in our daily patterns and habits. You’ve got your Why and How, but now it’s time for the actual work to begin. It’s not just about diet and exercise. Those things are extremely important, but you have to think differently too. You have to see yourself with loving eyes. Most times people give up the first time they cheat on their diet, or when their life schedule causes them to miss a few gym sessions. If you’re self loving and think with patience and forgiveness, then you are more likely to reward yourself by hanging in there and following through on the goal. Remember, our why and how is no longer about petty level vanity, or shallow goals. This whole journey is about self love. You’re bringing the best you out from under the folds and weight of anxiety, fear, and delusion. You’re about to be on some personal hero sh*t! This experience belongs solely to you! Just be patient and forgiving within the disciplined setting and you can’t possibly fail.
Know your limits, then outsmart them. Schedule your exercise session during the time of day when you feel the most energized. Otherwise you run the risk of coming up with excuses to blow it off. Treat your exercise time like a serious business meeting that you can’t afford to miss. Speaking of business “meeting”, it’s a really good idea to have a workout buddy. It can make a huge difference in your drive during a workout. This supports the spirit of light hearted competition and will intensify as the session goes on. It also brings in an element of humor as you will surely give each other a hard time when one tuckers out before the other. On the other side of it, you get to share stories of how your getting through your journey, and that kind of support can be invaluable.
Another solid option is to join classes at your gym, or hire a personal trainer. This takes the pressure off of you to continually research and discover new exercises and proper forms. Lets be honest, that is time consuming. Plus, if you don’t exercise correctly, it’s practically worse than not doing it at all. Obviously not everyone can afford a trainer, but for most of us, part of the changing of our thinking can include how and where we spend our money. If you really focus on changing some habits, most of the time you will discover extra money in your budget. When I committed to real change I chose to have a personal trainer with a workout partner. I went all in!
It definitely feels good to have clothing fit my body a certain way and feel strong and attractive, but I’m more excited about how I have begun to slow my aging. I rarely get sick. I have more energy and an overall feeling of longevity. Between both sides of my family, there is a deep history of lung disease, skin disease, and cancer. My diet and exercise has already removed my high blood pressure and strengthened my lungs and keeps my skin in excellent condition. If Cancer ever decides to visit me, we will have a war of the ages. I know that some of this is heredity, but a lot of disease can be delayed, weakened, and even avoided due to your choices and lifestyle. Another major fact is that as we age, our bones become fragile. With regular training, you have less of a chance of a severe injury after a fall. On top of that, if you do fall and break a bone, your body will more likely be strong enough to withstand most surgeries and rehab programs. Your healthy eating habits will help you regenerate and heal faster.
You should consider your gym choice, your gear, and your trainer very carefully. These parts have to work in harmony and with ease so you can focus on the other aspect of your life like work, relationships, and other goals you’re aiming for. I currently live in Philadelphia. I sampled about 8 gyms before I decided to join Sweat Fitness https://www.instagram.com/sweatfitness/. For me the appeal was that the environment was focused on health more than sales. The equipment was in good shape. The customers were serious about their health. (no posers) The monthly cost was reasonable, and it takes me 10 minutes to get there. This lead me to my amazing personal trainer. Jamell Harris https://www.instagram.com/1fitnessking/. My reason for choosing Jamel is simple. He had the athletic shape and strength that I wanted for my own body. I explained my How and Why and he took it from there. I couldn’t be more happy with my results!
Now on to the gear! One thing that really bothers me is when someone comes into the gym and works out in street clothes. Granted, it’s always good that you made it in, but to me it’s an indication that you’re not fully committed. Proper workout gear like shorts, leggings, supporting sneakers enables you to move properly and also allows you to see your form and the response your body is giving to the exercises. This all helps you stay inspired to follow through. You can’t see good form while wearing baggy jeans and a pair of work boots. I tend to lift heavy weights these days. Rough, callused hands can be an issue. My workout partner, who is an insurance salesman will tease me from time to time about my use of gloves and pads, but I prefer to keep my skin nice and as blemish free as possible. Yes, it’s a little vain, but I stand behind it. I have used a few different brands of gloves, but I recently got a pair of Handlz Gloves http://www.handlzgloves.com/ . These are the best on the market in my opinion. They are light. They breathe well, and have individual honeycomb pads for each of your fingers. So no matter how your lifting form is, you’re covered. My favorite part is the style, because I feel like a Superhero when I wear them in the gym.
Lastly, and my favorite thing to talk about; Food, drinks, and sweets!! It is best to abstain from bad fats, empty carbs, and of course sugars for the beginning of your journey. This is important for a few reasons. You break bad eating habits. You teach your body how to absorb proper nutrients from your good choices. You also bring discipline into the mix. Once you are seeing results, you can then have your occasional cheat days here and there. When you finally get to where you wanted to be, you should then be able to guiltlessly have days of decadence, because your discipline is so strong that you know you will be in the gym burning that party weekend off for the next few days. It becomes a balance of enjoying life, keeping the memories and working off the residual crap. I love wine, beer, fatty foods, pasta, and tons of dark chocolate. I also love my health and fitness and the discipline that drives it.
So forget worrying about how you look for a minute. Focus on how you feel. Just get your Why and How, then start! You will find your balance and you will be more beautiful than ever.
I hope that some of what I said helped you, or even just reminded you of what you know you should be doing. Lets try to be as happy as possible while we’re here. It will help us be better to ourselves and each other. It will make a real difference in the World and the Universe. I promise.
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BE FIT AND PROSPER!!!