Where are you standing? On the edge or in the center?

Staying in the center is safe. It’s stable and you have your footing. Shuffling out to the edge will get your stomach into knots and make you sweat – even if it’s ice cold. That feeling in your stomach is called risk.

It’s a different view of the world out there but you can only see it on the edge…and that knot in your stomach is why most people don’t venture out. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away – but it’s worth it and there’s no going back.

Pets and Patience

I was chatting to an old grey hair friend the other day and he shared his rule for working with people:

When he meets with new clients, one of his questions is whether or not they have pets. It gives him a good idea about what they are like to work with. His theory is that pet owners are more comfortable with the imperfections of life and mostly roll with it. Animals vomit on that special carpet or scratch that fancy chair. Their hairs get everywhere. Dogs bark at inconvenient times like when the baby is sleeping, and cats don’t come when you call them. Living with animals is a practice of love and patience.

Animals teach us to throw our hands up in the air and say shit happens! We get exasperated and angry but give the dog a cuddle anyway.

Be okay with surrendering control. Life won’t follow your script. Animals are great teachers.

The fun of plodding perseverance

Exercise and learning are cumulative. The benefits accumulate like climbing a stairway, one step at a time.

Watch a baby learning to walk. First it’s about tummy time which strengthens the neck and stomach muscles. Then it’s about learning to roll over, strengthening muscles and gaining a sense of gravity.  Sitting up and crawling comes next to toughen up knees and strengthen the wrists and neck. The arms slowly get strong enough to grab a stool and hoist up the body. Pulling up and sitting down gets the legs working and toughens up the glutes. The first step finally comes after many tears, false starts, knocks to the head and LOTS of laughs.

What I love about the process is that baby never gives up. Failure is not an option or in the vocab and no amount of falling deters the kid. Every little milestone is celebrated with a toothless laugh and ear to ear smiles.

As adults we need to remember how we learned as infants. Small changes every day and results are cumulative. Don’t give up so easily! Practice, practice, practice. Laugh and celebrate the act of practice.

Be flexible and gentle with your body

A couple of years back I was running every morning. I had a set route through San Francisco with a loop through the Presidio and a final climb up the Lyon Street stairs. The stairs connect Green Street to Broadway and are steep and tough on knees. After each run I’d get intermittent knee pain, and over time it got worse and worse. It eventually got to the point where my knee would swell and tighten up after every run. In spite of the discomfort I loved the endorphin kick of the run so I kept doing it anyway. It finally got to the point where I decided to see an doctor. It turned out to be a very quick appointment. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: My knee hurts.

Doc: When does it hurt?

Me: After I run.

Doc: Where do you run?

Me: Through the Presidio and up some steep stairs.

Doc: Hmmm, does your job require you to run?

Me: No, I do it for my own enjoyment.

Doc: Okay, your knee is fixed. Here’s the deal…stop running up stairs and do some other type of exercise like yoga, or swimming. Your knee will be as good as gold.

Me: ?

Doc: Anything else?

Me: Nope…thanks

My knee has been fine ever since. In today’s age of elective surgery, I’m constantly talking to people who are having shoulder operations, hip surgeries or knee surgeries because they refuse to stop a sport they love even though it’s grinding down their body.

Be flexible and kind to your body. You only get one per lifetime. There are lots of gentler ways to stay fit.

 

 

 

Do a little and do it properly

A lot of people skip daily exercise because of unpredictable schedules, family responsibilities or long work hours. The thinking goes if you can’t get in a proper workout then it’s not worth it. I disagree. Try this instead:

If you’re feeling swamped and can see that exercising isn’t going to happen that day then shorten the exercise window and do one piece of exercise really well. Break your routine into parts like Lego blocks and pick one. Maybe it’s one good stretch or a one set of pushups or five sit ups. Just do that one thing, do it slowly and be present and focused.

Being all in on one thing is way more effective than rushing through a half-assed routine. Most of the time that one thing leads to two things which leads to three things that are all done well and not rushed.

Don’t outsource your ethics

Healthy communities hold their citizens accountable. When someone is dishonest or unscrupulous then it’s up to the community to act, remedy and rehabilitate.

Accountability to neighbors, friends, colleagues and family is a powerful force. I think as a community we’ve got into the habit of leaving accountability up to someone or something else like local government, enforcement agencies and paper laws.

It’s up to all of us to insist on integrity and honesty. Stuff like greediness in companies, sleaziness in politics and inequity creeps in when everyone turns a blind eye thinking that someone else will take care of it. To be silent is to be complicit.

Set a high standard, hold yourself and others accountable, and do it with compassion.

Ease of exercise

Body weight exercises routines can be done anywhere. It could be a combo of stretches, push up or sit ups. And it’s equipment free. So no set up or clunky kit. Maybe it’s at an airport during a layover or in a cramped hotel room to remedy jet lag. 

Going for a run is the same thing. All you need is a pair of running shoes and the side walk is your running track. I think the reason soccer is so popular is that all kids need is a ball and friends. Their soccer field can be a parking lot or a patch of dirt.

Ease of exercise is the key. Forget the fancy equipment or the expensive gym membership. It’s low stress on your body, and as your body ages you can adapt.

Get into a routine that’s first thing in the morning, and make it easy to start. Outdoors is always better, so choose an open space or park nearby your home. If that’s not an option then do it at home, but lower the barrier to entry and make it easy to start.