Appreciate But Don’t Deviate

Those of you going through any type of weight loss program can certainly understand me when I say that stepping on that scale is a terrifying thing.  A million different thoughts race through my head when I pull out the scale… did I do enough?  Even if I did, will my weight go up? (it has before!) How long will it take me to get to my goal weight?  How will I react if this number is terrible?  I’ve seen a lot of people on the Calorie Count community wonder why they may not be seeing the results on the scale that they want, especially those who really have the dedication and the drive to work on it.


The way I see it, there are three possible outcomes when you step on the scale.

Outcome 1: The disappointing result isn’t nearly what you thought it was, due to unexplainable weight gain or a small plateau.

Outcome 2: The result is a realistic product of the work that you’ve put in for the week, but not necessarily as much as you would like (because let’s be honest, we’d all like 5+ pounds per week).

Outcome 3: The result is surprisingly better than you expected.


In the last few months, I’ve hit each outcome a bundle of times, but I think I’ve finally realized the secret to handling all three.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Go back and read each outcome above, then read your corresponding advice below.

Advice 1: The body works in strange and mysterious ways, and there have been many times where I’ve done an hour of workouts per day and eaten extremely well only to see my weekly weigh-in go in the wrong direction.  You know how well you’ve been doing and you know how much work that you’ve put into this journey.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Long-term goals are much more important than short term victories.  Keep doing what you’re doing!  Hard work and effort on a consistent basis will pay off.

Advice 2: Try not to minimize your accomplishments.  You have completed a solid short-term goal and are setting yourself up very well to achieve your long-term goals.  A positive step is a step in the right direction.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Keep up the good work and keep charging forward.  Continued dedication will bring the desired results.

Advice 3: This is a huge win for you, and congratulations on your accomplishment.  It’s now time for you to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.  After a big win against a tough team, there’s a term in sports that’s called the “emotional letdown”, which usually refers to a post-“big game” struggle.  Appreciate, but don’t deviate.  Your commitment to this big win needs to be sustained over the long haul.  You did it before, and there’s no reason to think that you can’t do it again!


Regardless of whether you haven’t started, you’re just starting, or you’re right in the middle, I wish you the best of luck in your journey.  Don’t forget that even small victories are victories, so remember to appreciate them.


Getting Better With Age

In life, there are certain things that people will say to you that you will never forget.  I wrote about one such quote in a previous post, Practice Makes Permanent.  Today, I go down a different path to remember a conversation that wasn’t so positive.


Here’s the scene: It’s 10 years ago and I had just started my sophomore year of college.  Two of my friends from high school were getting married and I had come back home for their wedding.  Many people from my high school were in attendance, including a few of my former teachers.  As I was talking and discussing with one of my former teachers what I had done for the last 2 years, she smiled and told me, “That’s so great.  I’m glad you finally got your life together.”


Wait, what?  Finally got my life together?  Did I not have a good life in the first place?  I may not have been a straight A student, but I got pretty good grades; never caused trouble; never disturbed class; got accepted to a great college.  Was my life not together in high school?


To be honest, that conversation disturbed me for many years (come on, who remembers most normal conversations after 10 years?).  I had a lot of respect for this teacher (and still do!), but I was disappointed to think that my self-image may not have matched up with what I truly had been.


I’ve been fortunate over the last few months to meet a lot of inspiring people in the CC and blog community, and what I have come to realize is that life is a journey where many people strive to improve on a daily basis.  Upon setting my weight loss goal, I told myself that not only was I going to get down to my goal weight by the end of December, but I was going to spend all of 2014 trying to get in the best shape that I have ever been in.  I want to improve and get better every day.  A better husband, a better runner, a better son, a better weightlifter, a better brother, a better worker… a better person.  Every year, every month, every week, and every day, I want to see progress.


I challenge my readers to go out and do the same.  Wake up in the morning and challenge yourself to improve.  Pick something that you want to get better at and do it.  Whether you try to improve at your job or improve a workout routine, making the effort to better yourself will be absolutely worthwhile.  The results of your improvement may come quickly or may come slowly over time, but if you are making the effort, you should go to sleep every night knowing that you will achieve your goals.


And now I look back on that teacher and say thank you.  The words that I have mistaken as a criticism for so long were actually just words of wisdom, and have driven me to realize how I need to start living my life.

Appalachian Trail Hike

A few years back, my wife and I hiked up Table Mountain during our trip to South Africa.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and, without a doubt, the most exhausting hike I’ve ever completed in my life.

We should’ve used the cable car!

Today we decided to complete part of the Appalachian Trail, so we set out for a part of the trail called “Raven Rocks”.  The hike is 2.75 miles long (5.5 miles round-trip) with some fantastic scenery and some pretty strenuous trails.  The toughest part was the elevation changes, with over 1500 feet of total elevation gain throughout the hike.  I had heard that this trail is a good test for beginners to see if their heart is really into hiking.


If you are looking for something fun to do where you are getting a lot of great exercise, I would highly recommend hiking.  The goal of the day, in addition to exercising, was to test myself to see if I should keep pursuing this goal or just scrap it.  Below is my test criteria, but I would encourage you to go on your own hike and rate yourself too.


Lower Body Strength: This part of the Appalachian is extremely rocky, so the steep ascents and descents really test the strength of your legs.  In addition, keeping your ankles stable on uneven terrain is critical.  I didn’t really help myself out by wearing normal tennis shoes.  Next time I’ll invest in better hiking boots.

Lower Body Strength Grade: B+


Stamina: If you are going to test yourself, test yourself with a hike that is around 100-200% of your normal long run.  Usually, I tap out on a run at 3.25 miles, so a 5.5 mile hike (170%) was a pretty good challenge.  Elevation change is what really drains your stamina; varying the elevation and terrain is a tough, but worthy trial.  To be honest, I think I held up fairly well today.  At the end of your hike, if you feel like you still have some decent energy to keep going, you did well (or you didn’t go far enough).

Stamina Grade: A


Upper Body Strength: Not all of hiking is with your lower body, especially if you’re carrying essential items on your back.  For me, this meant lunch for me and my wife, plenty of liquids, and my light camera equipment.  Multi-day hikes obviously come with even more essentials.  I’ve always had back problems, but my workouts in the weight room have improved my upper body strength tremendously.

Upper Body Strength Grade: B+


Pace: Everyone walks at their own pace, but continuing a trail walk at a strong pace can be the difference between making it to a shelter and not.  In the harsher climates and weather conditions, this is even more important.  Today was a beautiful day (60 degrees and cloudy), so weather didn’t factor into play.  We were able to walk 5.5 miles in 3 hours and 30 minutes, and if you strike a few brief pauses and 20 minutes for lunch, I think the pace was pretty solid.

Pace Grade: B+


Equipment: Here’s where I get docked a lot, but this is part of the learning process.  Walking poles are important.  Well-soled hiking shoes are important.  I didn’t really know this when the day started, but seeing the people out there (who knew what they were doing) shed some light on the subject.

Equipment Grade: D


All in all, it was a great day for hiking, and while the hike definitely put me to the test, I think I’m ready for something longer and more challenging.  My grades weren’t all A’s today and there are many ways that I can improve and get better.  But whether it be a multi-day hike or just a short day trip, if you are getting out there, exercising, and having fun, you’re already improving and getting better.

Down, but never out

Your humble blog writer has been sick with the flu for the past few days, which likely isn’t helping the weight loss goals.  I’m still staying under my calorie count each day, but the inability to workout is going to catch up to me eventually unless I get over this sickness soon.  The most important thing to do when you’re sick is to take your medicine and rest up.  I can stay in bed for the day, but most of the time is spent trying to clear my head rather than actually sleeping.  With a head cold, I find that staying upright (walking or sitting) is a lot less stressful than lying down where the congestion just goes to your head.


Then I thought, there needs to be a way where I can work out without physically destroying myself.  There needs to be a way where I can be sick but still work out in a limited capacity.  Even though the majority of the last two days have been spent miserably going through tissue after tissue, I was determined to find small ways where I could stay active.


Workout choice #1: Treadmill

And when I say treadmill, I mean walking on the treadmill.  During a usual run, I’m going around 5.8 to 6 mph, sometimes faster on a good day, sometimes slower on a bad day.  Walking on the treadmill while you’re sick means you should cut your average time in half, maybe more.  Today, I walked for a mile at 3 mph, and even that may have been a bit fast for me.  Take your time and don’t worry about walking fast.  In addition, don’t worry about making the walk continuous.  I broke up my 20 minute mile walk into three pieces.  When you feel even a bit tired, it’s time to stop.


Workout choice #2: Stretching

I have never tried yoga, but subtle stretching seems to work for me.  This is less of a workout and more of just getting your muscles and joints loose.  The stretching that I did today helped ease the stiffness that I’ve been feeling over the last few days.  It also gets your mind focused on other parts of your body rather than what hurts the most with the flu.


Workout choice #3: Walking the dog

This goes under the same premise as the treadmill, except you are getting some fresh air and so is your dog.  The unfortunate part about today was that my dog and I were home alone and we were both sick (I won’t get into the details of her sickness).  I think the fresh air helped us both.  I liked the outside walk because I could control my own pace and take breaks as necessary.


I will reiterate that the most important thing to do when you’re sick is to rest.  Take care of yourself and don’t overexert your body.  I began to feel the symptoms on Thursday night, and Friday I did absolutely nothing but rest.  When you are sick, listen to what your body is telling you.  If your body says rest, do it.  Today, mine said to try and slowly get back to normal, but I recognize that it will take time.

Bucket List #12: Complete

Senseless acts of violence are absolutely terrible, but it hits much closer to home when it’s in your own neck of the woods, and I cannot even imagine what it must be like for the people and families who are tragically involved.  From 9/11 to today’s events at the Navy Yard and everything in between, I just can’t understand why things like this happen, and what logic people follow when they commit these horrendous crimes.  My heart and prayers go out to everyone involved in this incident at the Navy Yard.  I wish nothing but the best for you and your families.


When something that is overwhelmingly negative occurs, it is extremely difficult to maintain faith.  When a tragedy occurs such as this one, it’s tough to maintain faith in people.  If someone goes through a bad breakup, it’s easy to lose hope in finding love.  Even something as little as seeing a higher number on the scale can cause a difficult strain on your psyche.  Today, I was determined not to lose faith in society just because of one nut case.


For those of you that haven’t read my “Bucket List 2013”, I welcome you to do so.  I didn’t start the day thinking that I was going to complete one of the “pay it forward” items, but my hope was to spread just a tiny bit of good will to someone, even if I didn’t know who that someone would be.


I pulled up to the drive-thru at Wendy’s and ordered the usual… two Grilled Chicken Go Wraps.  Considering the fact that it is fast food, it’s actually somewhat healthy at only 500 calories for the meal, and I usually can mix in a fresh apple for variety.  It was a little after noon and I saw a packed line behind me.  As I pulled up to the window, the gentleman told me the total with change already in hand.  I gave him the money and told him that I wanted to pay for the car behind me.  He looked a bit confused, and after completing the first transaction with my full change, he then told me the total of the car behind me: $6.91.  I paid for that as well, after which he handed me my food.


I don’t know who I paid for, or whether it was a man or a woman (they had very tinted windows).  I didn’t look back.  I didn’t see a reaction.  To be honest, I didn’t want to.  My hope is that I was able to give whoever it was in the car behind me a slightly better day.  My hope is that six dollars and ninety one cents made one person see that the world may not be as messed up as it sometimes seems to be.  My hope is that even the smallest good deed will inspire good deeds elsewhere.


“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” -Jane Goodall

Workout Boosts

Working out for some people isn’t as fun as it is for others.  For me, personally, it’s a mixture.  Some days I’m EXTREMELY motivated to work out.  Other days, that is one of the last things I want to do.  They key for me is to have more motivated days than unmotivated days.


Sometimes, all it takes to get motivated is a little outside pressure, or maybe a workout goal to attain, or maybe something fun to help you workout.  Sticking to the same workout routine can be monotonous, so I’m always looking for new ways to keep things fun and interesting.  In addition to the “About” and “Bucket List 2013” page at the top of the screen, I’ve also started a “Workout Boosts” page.  If you need any ideas for workout boosts, feel free to head there.  No, I’m not a personal trainer and didn’t create any of these on my own.  I will, however, post my own personal reviews of each of these.


The one I tried most recently is an iPhone app called “Zombies! Run!”.  Yes, I know I’m extremely late to the party, but let me tell you… this app is flipping amazing!  While the cooler weather may have contributed, I ran a 5k faster and had much more energy than ever!  I’ll post a full review at a later day; but the long and short of it is, this app is fantastic!


I hope this helps keep workouts fun and entertaining!  Stay active, my friends, and keep checking back for new content!

Complimentary Breakfast

Actually, this isn’t a post about breakfast or food, so if you were looking for a free bowl of cheerios… sorry, I got nothing for ya.

Rather, this post is about the true power of a compliment.  Has anyone ever gone through a time in their life where they’ve felt a lack of motivation, confidence, or drive?  All hands should be up.  Everyone has their subtle insecurities; questioning your ability to do something, questioning your self worth; questioning your self-image.  On occasion, those insecurities will pile up to the point where your motivation, confidence, and drive will exponentially suffer.  For me, it sometimes feels like quicksand.  Sometimes the harder you fight, the deeper you sink.

But also like quicksand, sometimes it takes a compliment to help pull you out of it.  Compliments don’t solve problems or complete tasks for us, but they absolutely boost our self-confidence to be more productive.  A journey towards getting healthier and losing weight provides a perfect example.  I feel as though I’ve been working very hard to work out and follow a strict diet for the past 2 months to lose weight.  There are times where I’ve told myself, “Is it worth it?”, “Maybe I’ll just work out tomorrow.”, and “I just want to have some junk food!”.  All of those doubts are the quicksand pulling you down, negatively impacting your motivation and drive.

Yesterday, I was stopped by someone who I see in the gym regularly.  We don’t hang out outside of the gym, but we often talk, give advice, and share stories while we are there (and getting advice from someone who is pretty fit seems like a wise idea).  We exchanged greetings and chatted for a minute or two, after which they said, “You look like you’re trimming down a lot.”

How would this make you feel?  When you have put your time and effort – your blood and sweat – your heart and soul – into something, achieving positive reinforcement from someone else to affirm how hard you are working is exceedingly rewarding.  Those eight words made my day!  What I appreciated the most was the fact that this person didn’t HAVE to say that, but did.  Whether it be at work, at home, in the gym, or on the field, people can be motivated by acknowledging their efforts and achievements.

So here’s what I’m asking from you, my readers (do I have any yet?).  Make a concerted effort to give one compliment a day.  It could be a simple “Good job” after a tough set in the gym, or a “I thought that report you turned in was fantastic work.”  Never underestimate the power of a good compliment.  A few words can bring a lot of joy.

Complimentary breakfast for everyone!