Goals vs. Resolutions

The most common question that I get asked around the New Year (besides “how was your holiday?”) is “Are you doing any New Year’s Resolutions?”  The answer is yes, but it’s much more than that.  Instead of resolutions, I’m taking it a step further and setting goals for myself to accomplish this year.  I know your next question, and here’s the difference between the two.  Making a resolution is an expression of intention; setting a goal is an expansion on that intention that formalizes an end result to reach for.

 

I’ll be completely honest with you when I say that I have never successfully completed a New Year’s Resolution.  On the flip side of that, over the past year, I have set challenging goals for myself in many different aspects of my life and have successfully completed all of them.  This difference in success rate isn’t coincidental.  If you point me in the right direction and tell me to shoot an arrow, I’m going to fire away, but I won’t be successful at hitting a specified target if I don’t know what I’m shooting at.  If you point me in the right direction and tell me to shoot an arrow to hit the small yellow circle at the center of the target, I have a much better idea of what I’m trying to work for.

I actually took some archery classes a few years ago. My shots usually weren’t this accurate.

Resolutions aren’t a bad thing.  On the contrary, every goal should start by expressing your intention to make a change or to do something that is important to you.  Statements such as “I want to lose weight” or “I want to complete more volunteer work” are excellent resolutions and great initial points for goal-setting; so start there.  Take a moment to write down five resolutions (or two, or ten) for yourself; things that you truly want to accomplish over the course of the next year.

 

Here’s the next step: Make them into goals.  Before my most recent weight loss endeavor, I made resolution after resolution to “lose weight”, but never set up anything tangible.  This goes back to firing the arrow.  You can point in a direction and shoot, but unless you have a target, you’ll never know how successful you are.  Look over every resolution that you wrote down and turn that resolution into a goal.  A resolution such as “I want to lose weight” can be turned into a goal by saying “I want to lose 30 pounds in 6 months” or “I want to be at a goal weight of 185 by December 31st.”  Be specific with these goals and give them a target date; this way, it’s much easier to look back on your goals to determine if you were successful.

 

Finally, come up with a plan to achieve your goals.  Some of your resolutions and goals will be simple and some may be more difficult, but all of them should come with a plan.  A failure to plan is a plan to fail, so do your homework.  If you want to lose weight, develop a plan that is attainable that you can stick to.  If you want to be a better spouse, figure out how you want to achieve it as soon as you can.  A successful product or business comes with lots of careful and intricate planning; so it should be with your meaningful goals.

 

My next post in a few days will divulge some of the goals I’m targeting for 2014!  I challenge you all to construct your own, and if you feel comfortable enough, feel free to share them in the comments section.  You may be able to give some great inspiration to others who are also looking to improve themselves!

Operation: Winter Warrior

When I started this journey almost five months ago, my goal was to lose 30 pounds before the new year.  As of this morning, my weight loss goal was achieved.  Thirty pounds in five months.  I honestly can’t believe how far I’ve come in that amount of time.  When I started, I struggled to run more than one or two miles at a decent pace, my weightlifting regimen wasn’t happening, and my diet was admittedly poor.

Yesterday, I began to converse with a gentleman at the gym; about the same age, a bit taller than me, similar build. He mentioned how he was trying to lose about 25 pounds and was just starting to diet.  As we kept talking, I subconsciously began keeping track of his workouts.  He began to run on the treadmill – 5.5 mph for 12 minutes before running out of breath; similar to where I was when I started; and his weights were very similar to where I was 5 months ago, too.

Once he left, the realization set in.  That was me; my past; who I was 5 months ago.  At some point, I made a decision at the proverbial fork in the road.  Continue to go down the same path, or start being the kind of person that I wanted to be.  When you push yourself, and I mean REALLY push yourself both mentally and physically, you start to realize that you can achieve a lot more than you may have originally thought you could.

Now alone in the gym, my workout stopped as I slowly approached the mirror, looking straight at the floor.  I closed my eyes and saw a picture of myself only five months ago.  Stressed.  Fatigued.  Drained.  Lacking confidence.   I raised my head and opened my eyes, looking at the present picture of myself.  Strong.  Energetic.  Secure.  Confident.

Whether it be at the gym, at school, at work, on the field, or elsewhere, the battle that we face is against ourselves.  Have you progressed since last year?  Last month?  Could the “you of today” conquer the “you of yesterday”?  When I started, the answer to those questions was a resounding “no”, and that was not okay with me.

Enter my new challenge, Operation: Winter Warrior.  You will be competing against one other person reading this post in a challenge to improve your mental and physical health.  You will win the challenge only if you improve more than your opponent.  If it’s a tie, THEY win.  Here’s the catch – your opponent was sitting where you were sitting 5 seconds ago.  That’s right, your opposition is you.  Remember where you are today, both physically and mentally.  In three weeks, ask yourself if the “you of today” could EASILY conquer the “you of yesterday”.  If the answer is yes, you have succeeded.

Many people make New Years Resolutions, but here we are, three weeks away from the new year.  Why wait?  There’s no better time than now to start achieving everything that you want from life.

Bucket List #4: Complete

What once started as a weight loss journey has turned into something different; something more.  Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to support others; whether it be with weight loss, an overall quality of life, or just trying to find new and creative ways to make life more enjoyable.

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned since I started is that you don’t have to do something extraordinary to make an extraordinary impact on someone’s life.  You don’t have to stand in front of millions and give a thunderous speech to inspire people.  You can make a difference in someone’s life by being yourself and reaching out.  Whether you know it or not, your actions will trigger a domino effect that will inspire others to reach out.  The lives you touch will touch others, and those lives will touch others.

The fourth item on my bucket list was to run a race for a charity, and Thanksgiving provided a perfect opportunity to do that.  The run was for the Life With Cancer organization, which offers support and education for those who are affected by cancer or who have loved ones that are affected by cancer.  There are millions of people who are living with cancer today, and this organization makes their day-to-day lives a little easier.

Some background: I’ve never run a race before.  Ever.  So this was a very new experience for me.  I did not train for this 5k race and only signed up a couple days before; however, my normal runs are anywhere between 2 miles and 4 miles, so running 5k (3.1 miles) wasn’t a stretch for me.  If you have run races before, you may just want to skip to the end.  If you haven’t run races before, stay tuned; I’ll be going through a lot of lessons that were learned.

I woke up around 5:45 AM for an 8 AM race.  Normally before a morning run (despite most of my runs being in the afternoon), I may have an apple and a swig or two of water.  Today it was 16 ounces of water and a banana, which I drank/ate at 6:25 AM.  I was out the door by 6:45 and arrived at the race site at 7.

Starting line an hour before race-time.

Starting line an hour before race-time.

First lesson: If you’re running a race in November, dress warm!  I feel like I was adequately prepared, but many people brought some of the disposable hand warmers and that would’ve been nice because – IT WAS FRIGID!

An actual picture from 30 minutes before the race.  Yes, it’s below freezing!

An actual picture from 30 minutes before the race. Yes, it’s below freezing!

I’m making the assumption that most races have bathrooms or Port-a-John’s close by, which leads me to my second lesson: For short races, don’t eat or drink anything different than normal.  I was nervous and over-thought the pre-race meal a lot, and as such, I was in the bathroom twice in a span of 45 minutes before the race.  Rookie mistake!

Five minutes to game-time and I’m about 100 yards behind the starting line.  There were over 3,000 people running in the race and I’m guessing I was around the middle of the pack.  Everyone is standing around and talking.  Meanwhile, I’ve got my headphones in my ears listening to “It’s A Fight” by Three 6 Mafia and “Warriors of the World” by Manowar, which aren’t my running songs, but usually precede a general workout.

The horn sounds and we see the front of the pack in the distance start to go.  Lesson three: The start of a race is nerve-wracking and tense, especially for a first-timer, but it’s anti-climactic at best, so be patient.  While everyone at the front was running, everyone around me was slowly walking forward.  I found out later that it took me one minute and 55 seconds after the race started before I reached the starting line.

Fourth lesson: The starting line might not be level to the ground, so be careful.  I tripped over the starting line like an idiot but maintained my balance and started to run.  Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to run better when I’m trying to keep up with someone, so I began to look around for a “pace car”.  In front of me was a woman and her boyfriend?/spouse? running at a decent pace with marathon jackets on, so I decided to stick with them for as long as I could.

Lesson five: Do not be phased by the people you pass or the people that pass you.  Both will happen and happen often, so just run your race.  After the first quarter mile, three younger guys just flew by me, and my initial thought was that I was going too slow and needed to speed up.  I stayed the course.  You’re not competing against 3,000 people or three speed demons; just run your race, I told myself.

Despite knowing that I was still running on pure adrenaline after the first 0.75 miles, I decided to go faster.  I accelerated past my “pace car” and began searching for someone new to keep pace with.  I came up on another couple who both looked extremely slim and fit who were running at a quicker pace than I had been running earlier.  Similar to the last couple, I camped out about 10 feet behind them and just worked on keeping pace.

Lesson six: This may not apply to everyone, but it does to me.  Do scout work ahead of time.  I knew exactly where the mile markers would be and, in addition, despite not having a watch, I knew exactly where I should be in my playlist when I hit those markers.  At the 2-mile mark, I was still with my pace-setter and WELL ahead of where I should’ve been had I followed my normal pace.  I evaluated in my head whether or not I should continue to keep pace with him while wondering how long I can keep up the pace before running out of gas.

The side-stiches came at the 2.5 mile mark, with only 0.6 miles to go.  Not now!  Not when I’m so close!  The pain continued until a couple minutes later when the finish line was in sight.  I heard my pace-setter motivating his significant other, “There’s the finish line.  Keep going.”  The distance between us opened up as I could see them going faster.  I sped up and caught them again, trying to muster every ounce of energy to stay within my normal 10 feet.

At the last tenth of a mile, my pace-setter went into a dead sprint, leaving his partner behind.  I followed as we broke away from the small pack that we were with to cross the finish line.  It was my fastest 5k time that I’ve ever run by a full minute and 45 seconds.

Race Results

Race Results

Your actions, however large or small, can be inspirational to those around you.  Unbeknownst to them,  by just running their race, that couple inspired me to push harder than I ever have before.  Maybe one day, I’ll serve as the pace car to someone else.

Operation: Autumn Aggression

The winter puts a lot of people into a funk, and many people can suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is basically a fancy term for the winter blues.  I have to admit, my motivation level has been extremely low over the last few days as it’s starting to get colder and darker every day.

When I was younger, my friend and I started running in November when the soccer season ended to prepare for the next season.  We ran 1.4 miles every day before school.  Sometimes, motivation can be found when you have someone who is battling the same fight that you are every morning in sub-freezing weather.

So it’s time to issue a challenge – a week-long “operation” – to myself and to others in the world who are impassioned enough to join me.  I plan to issue a different operation every Sunday to challenge and motivate all my friends, family, and readers out there.

Katniss knows a thing or two about overcoming challenges

Operation Autumn Aggression:
There is no “can’t” this week.  For those that are working to eat well and stay in shape… do you remember why you started?  Remember it now.  You wanted to better yourself, because you’re worth it.  So do it!  This week ends one month and starts another, and so we’re going to leave October with a bang and come out firing in November!

Primary objective: Workout harder than you did last week.  If you’re like me and struggled last week, get back on track and push yourself!  If you killed it last week, kill it even more this week!

Secondary objective: Hit your calorie targets this week with healthy foods.  Halloween candy may tempt you, but don’t let it consume you.  You don’t have to completely shut it down, but make moderation a priority.

Feel free to join me in Operation Autumn Aggression.  Monday through Saturday – LET’S DO THIS!  If you leave a comment for me, I WILL respond back, and will absolutely follow and support you as closely as I can during the entire week.

 

Good luck everybody!

-SharkStopper

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.

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!

Do Short Workouts Really Work?

Today’s words of wisdom come from none other than the man, the myth, the legend; Rocky Balboa.

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth, but you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t what you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”

 

Damn straight, Rocky.  Damn straight.

 

How many times have you gotten home later than you expected and, unfortunately, you only have 15 minutes before you have to start making dinner or (insert any kind of home chore here).  What if you don’t have general access to a workout facility?  Having traveled to a very wide variety of countries and having stayed in a wider variety of hotels, I can say that workout facilities in hotels are not as common as you’d think, and sometimes the term “gym” to a hotel actually means a 6×6 room with a TV and a stationary bike from 1972.  The point is that we’re not always going to get the most ideal conditions when we want to stay active.

 

A friend of mine who travels a lot recommended “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout“, and it seems to be fantastic for the on-the-go traveler who has no access to a gym or any type of workout equipment.  I don’t travel too much anymore, but I decided to try it out.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s only 12 simple exercises for 30 seconds each (with 10 second breaks in between).  This routine is a bear.  I don’t think I realized how painful the “Wall Sit” was until about 20 seconds in, and to go from that to push-ups and then to crunches burns your abs.  What I like about this workout is that it’s quick and it can be done in any location; even in the comfort of your own hotel room.  It’s easy to get into a routine when you go to the gym.  When I go to the gym, I have a normal weightlifting routine that usually takes me around an hour.  I still do that, but I’ve included this workout as part of the normal regimen.  This will make it much more comfortable if I’m ever away from the weights, and I will still feel as though I can have a successful workout.

 

If you’re a frequent traveler, or just want to get a good workout in wherever you are, give this a shot.  I think you’ll find that when you do it, it won’t completely wind you, but it’ll get you to work up a small sweat.  Once that’s accomplished, do it again, and maybe one more time for good measure.  You’ll be glad you did.