People Aren’t Lucky, They Make Their Own Luck

My second boss with GoodLife Fitness clubs was a women named Julie, a very bright person with a very easy way about her – everyone likes her because she gives off a positive genuine vibe. She understands people, she doesn’t keep them waiting and she is brutally honest in the most caring way. She called me on my crap when she needed to but in a way that made me realize I could do better.

One thing Julie doesn’t have time for are excuses that factor in luck as a reason for ones success. She doesn’t believe in luck. “Frankly,” she said, “when someone blames their lack of success on a short coming of luck they are really saying that they haven’t worked hard enough to be successful.”

She cited an example of a cheap trip she found on line. The price was really low and the vacation was great value. When she mentioned to some of her friends that she finally got the deal she was looking for some of them said that she was lucky. She didn’t think it was luck at all. In fact, she knew exactly how she came to get the trip so cheap.

Once she decided that she wanted to take the trip, she would check 3 or 4 on line retailers for their specials. It took almost no time and she was already logged into the Internet to check email. The first thing she did in the morning and the last thing at night was to check these sites. After just less than a month she finally found what she was looking for and bought the tickets immediately.

All tolled, it probably didn’t take more than about 15 minutes to check 4 sites on 50 separate occasions, but it did require her sustained effort. Her point is that she wasn’t lucky, she was determined. Her view is that there is a huge difference between the two. You can control your determination, you cannot control your luck. Any reference to luck immediately places you in role of victim and removes your control of a situation.

4 Ways To Get More Out Of Your Workouts

Four things that will improve your workouts:

Focus on being present during the workout – when you are working out, work out. Focus all of your attention on the task at hand and be mindful of what you are doing. You will not achieve your potential if you do not put 100% of your awareness into your movements.

Increase the intensity – when you are completely present, the intensity of your actions will increase. The more intensely you move, the greater the amount of work you will completely in a given period of time. More work equates to faster results.

Increase the frequency – if you increase the frequency of your workouts, you are going to see an increase in your results even if you keep the volume the same. For example, people experience better results doing 2 25-minute carido sessions a week than doing 1 50-minute session. The same is true for resistance training, you can increase results by doing half the work in 2 workouts instead of all the work in one one workout. This has to do with intensity – you can work out harder for 25 minutes than you can for 50 minutes, and you can lift with more intensity in the early sets than you can in the later sets.

Increase the amount of overall work you are doing – this is a general statement (use the stairs, walk more, etc…) but as it applies to working out, use equipment that forces you to do more work. For example, use a plate machine instead of a pin machine (loading and unloading plates requires a lot more energy than pulling a pin), use dumbbell movements instead of barbell movements because you need to pick the dumbbells up from the rack and return them when you complete the set and place weights on the ground instead of dropping them.

Breaking-Up – The Fundamental Attribution Error

A friend recently broke up with her boy friend of a couple of years. It had been obvious to all those who knew them that the split was inevitable but when it came, he seemed to take it a little harder than she did. He’s a really dedicated and hard worker and directed a lot of his energies into his career. As a consequence, he hadn’t taken the time to deal with the impending break-up as she did – while it didn’t take him completely by surprise, he was a little annoyed that she didn’t seem to be hurting as much about it as he did. In truth, she had been morning the loss in her own way for a long time before the actual break-up.

In his pain he lashed out at her with some hurtful words, stormed out, and drove away. When I talked to her about it, she said that while it was a little out of character, she wasn’t going to hold it against him because the situation is one that is completely out of the norm. Their relationship had been good, it had run its course and it was time to move on. His behavior at the end struck her as being completely different that she concluded it had to have more to do with the situation than the individual thus avoiding the fundamental attribution error..

We make the fundamental attribution error anytime we assume that dispositional or personality traits play a great role in determining someones behavior than situational factors do. There are many examples of this, but one of my favorite deals with two basketball players shooting free throws. With one of them, the lights are on high allowing them to make more baskets and with the other one, the lights are much dimmer which prevents them from making as many. When people are asked which player is better, they almost always say that the one who made the most hoops, IRRELEVANT of the obvious disadvantage that having less light creates.

There are many reason why human being would be prone to commit the fundamental attribution error, all of which stem from our desire to predict others behavior because this will give us a survival advantage. As a tendency, however, it may have run its course in being evolutionary advantageous given that diversity of the modern world.

Regardless, when someone is thrust into a completely new situation EXPECT to see them acting out of character because behavior can be very dependent on environmental or situational factors. Keeping this in mind can help prevent the fundamental attribution error and allow you to stay closer to the truth of the matter.

4 Exercises I’ve Recently Added

Wide grip dead lifts on step – I have never done dead lifting before and needed to work on my technique before I could do them without scraping my shine bone. I found that by taking a wide grip and standing on a step I could get some distance between the bar and my shines. They really work my entire back and I feel them on my hamstrings immediately and my quads the next day. Doing them a couple of times a week over the last two months improved my form enough that I was able to lift 225 on Sunday with a shoulder width grip.

The Corner Barbell Press and Push Press. I love these for two reasons. First, my right side is a little stronger than my left so working each in isolation is helping to close the strength gap between them. Second, they really work the obliques and lower back. The truth is, I don’t enjoy doing side bends at all so doing these helps me work these muscles without doing any extra sets. I’m really happy with the results.

Single arm dumbbell press for the same reasons as the corner barbell press. With both of these exercises, I find myself spending more time working and less time resting – each set takes about twice as long to do, but I need less time between sets because one half of the body is recovering while you work the other side. Overall, I think I’m getting a lot more out of my time at the gym and time passes a lot faster when I’m lifting vs. waiting between sets.

ISO legs press shrugs. I LOVE this exercise! One of my favorites right now. The movement of the machine allows me to use really heavy weights while isolating each side of my body. It is ideal for doing drop sets, cheat reps and pause reps. My traps have seen great improvement over the last 3 months since I started doing these.

RPM 35 – I Got The New Music Today

I got the new music today for RPM 35. I like it a lot. There are a couple of great songs (Only One Too – Lenny B. Club Mix – Jewel, Riding On The Wings – Motiv8 Airplay Extended Mix – Motiv8 ) and a few that I have heard a lot before (Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses, Sunchyme – Dario G and Crazy – Gnarls Barkley). All in all I think they’ve done a great job with track selection.

There are a couple of new things with this release when compared to other releases. First off, they’ve included times in the choreography notes. This isn’t really a big deal, but I’m happy about it because I always went through it and worked out the times myself. The other thing is to include heart rate percentages to the perceived exertion levels. Comfortable roughly equates to 60-70%, uncomfortable is 70-80% and breathless is 80-90%. This is great because it allows the instructor to bridge the gap between all terrain or road drills classes and RPM classes – while I don’t see much of a difference anymore, some people perceive RPM as a fitness only class vs. the high intensity interval training class that it is.

This is the third release that I’ll be learning since I took the training and the first since I got my certification. I won’t be the lead instructor for the release because that honor is going to Rachel; she wasn’t able to do it last time. I love team teaching with her because our styles are so different. Her voice carries throughout the gym and she loves the music really loud, my style is a little more introspective and coaxing, she makes demands, I make requests. There’s great chemistry between us and I think it adds a lot to the presentation. I’m really excited about it!

Given that this is my third release, I know what I’m in for when I receive the release package from LMI. Step one is to watch the video and look for new types of things in the class. Next I look over the choreo notes to see any changes and then I start to listen to the music over and over again. I’ll be teaching this release for every single class for 3 weeks once we release it so I’m going to need to know these tracks perfectly and they are going to become a big part of my life. I’ve found that by listening to the same set of songs over and over again, they come to take on a meaning that is based on what I’m doing at that particular moment in time – Afterglow from release 33 really gripped me and quickly captured the feelings of new love that started to develop in the weeks following the training, Take Me To The Clouds Above came to represent the pleasant escape and unity with another that this new love affords us and Smells Like Teen Spirit is such a hard working track that it came to represent the level of effort that one needs to put into anything to become their absolute best. For this reason more than anything I am looking forward to the next weeks.

The 9 songs that make up RPM 35 will come to mean something very important to me. Right now looking forward, I have little idea what that will be. That’s a big part of the fun of instructing. Music is primal and it is a great way to capture the essence of an experience in a way that allows us to recreated the feeling at will. In 10 years when my life has moved forward, I’ll be able to come back to the early summer 2007 by throwing in the release 35 CD. For better or worse, a moment in time will be captured and preserved forever.

How To Enjoy RPM If You Are An All Terrain Athlete

Some road, triathlon and mountain bike riders don’t take RPM classes because they don’t like them. I used to be one of these people. Our biggest concern with RPM is that there are a lot of times when you are not working very hard. We’re working on our cardio base by holding a steady heart rate and the RPM class has the participants HR going up and down over and over again. We don’t see it as valuable training for us because we need to ride flat road for hours.

Even though I teach RPM, I still understand this concern and it is legitimate. As an athlete you have workout parameters that need to be followed in order for your training to progress. Unless you have an idea of what the instructor is going to ask you to do next, you cannot adjust your workout on the fly to satisfy these parameters. The outcome is a lost workout and a bad taste for RPM.

This article will outline what RPM is so you training athletes can plan a cycling workout accordingly.

RPM is different from the other group cycling classes in that it is standardized and it follows a formula.

LMI standard:
All of the RPM instructors teach the same choreography and music, RPM 33 at Milton will sound and feel very similar to RPM at South Common or any club that teaches it.
There are a finite number of songs that you will ever hear at an RPM class so you will hear some tracks a number of times. Each time you do a track, you will get better at it.
Once you get good at riding each track you will be able to focus on your form and your effort level making you more successful.

RPM consists of 9 working sections of varying intensities and is regarded as an interval training program.

The participants are encouraged to work with three levels of physical exertion in mind, comfortable, uncomfortable and breathless. These are subjective and determined by the participant.

Songs are 5-6 minutes long. Track length remains fairly consistent between releases.

The Les Mills RPM classes are choreographed using the following formula (each track position serves the same training function on each release):

  • Track 1 Pack Ride – it’s a warm-up
  • Track 2 Pace Track – continuing to warm up and find your top pace
  • Track 3 Hills – seated and standing climbing – first cardio peak
  • Track 4 Mixed Terrain – speed and hill climbing – recover from track 3
  • Track 5 Intervals – quick peddle speed with seated and standing attacks – second cardio peak
  • Track 6 Speed work – series of races to top speed – slight recovery from track 5
  • Track 7 Mountain climb – seated and standing climbing with heavy resistance – third cardio peak
  • Track 8 Ride home – cool down
  • Track 9 Stretching

You are working to the same perceived exertion level for each track position on each release:

  • Track 1 Comfortable
  • Track 2 Almost breathless
  • Track 3 Breathless
  • Track 4 Comfortable
  • Track 5 Breathless
  • Track 6 Uncomfortable
  • Track 7 Breathless
  • Track 8 Comfortable
  • Track 9 Comfortable

There will be some recovery between tracks as songs fade out and new ones buil

Key aspects of the profile are:
Your heart rate should peak three times during the class, track 3, 5 and 7.

Your heart rate should recover almost completely during track 4 and somewhat during track 6.

Expectation of RPM riders:

You work as hard as you need to achieve the recommended level of exertion, recovering or increasing resistance as needed.

How to adjust your workout to make the most of an RPM class (assuming you are there for training and not just the fitness class):
Class lasts about 50 minutes and the last 7-8 minutes of that are cool down and stretching. Arrive early enough to make sure you get the time on the bike that you are hoping for before track 8. Your workout is over at track 8.

  • Track 1 – you will be peddling a lot slower because everyone else will be warming up. Use a lot of tension and treat track one as a seated hill. Make sure your legs are well warmed up. Hold the effort through the break between songs.
  • Track 2 – group peddling speed will be higher during this track. Adjust tension to find training HR. Carry effort to next song.
  • Track 3 – a beat matched track; riders should try and find push point to the beat. There will also be a couple of recovery period throughout the track and seated climb usually follows standing recovery. The best option is to seated climb thought recovery sections and adjust tension as needed to hold your training effort.
  • Track 4 – this is racing and standing climb at your pace, make it whatever you need it to be.
  • Track 5 – faster paced seated and standing attack. I think you should do this track, use it to spike your heart rate. I offer no suggestion for other options but it’s a high energy song so you could probably get away with staying seated the whole time.
  • Track 6 – this is racing at your pace, make it whatever you need it to be.
  • Track 7 – seated and standing climb, beat matched track. Seated climb through the standing recovery sections and adjust tension as needed to hold your training effort.
  • Track 8 – end of workout.

If you have any questions concerning how to modify your workout to better fit with the RPM format, just leave the questions below and I will address them or come to one of my classes and ask me directly.

Taking The Good From Leaving Chatham Ontario

My life over the last few months has been tremendously different. I’d have to say since I quit my last real job at Chatham in January 2006 things began to take a turn that makes a lot of things possible. Below are 6 important lessons I have taken out of the experience over the last 18 months:

1) Sometimes you need to follow advice, particularly if the giver never tells you what to do.

Des told me to “get the heck out of Chatham” around 2:30 am boxing day. We had been drinking and he came right out and told me to do it. Des doesn’t tell me what to do. He suggests alternative ways of looking at things and supports me when I make silly choices, but he NEVER tells me what to do. Except this one time, so I listened.

A few months ago Tony made a comment to me that I was like a venues fly trap when it came to dating because I would grab hold of whoever was around me instead of taking the time to look for someone who I was more compatible with. It was one of those comments that cut pretty deep because it was true and because it meant that I was either lazy and didn’t want to take the time to find a suitable partner or that I didn’t believe that I deserved the happiness that true partnership affords us. He was right about me, only so far as it concerned my past because I had taken a couple of years off of dating because I had noticed the same thing. His was a warning comment not to go back to my old ways. It is advice that I don’t think I’ll need to take again, but when a friend who is usually silent tells you what to do, just make sure you listen.

2) There are consequences to things but they are not what you think they will be.

I had wanted to leave Chatham for a few months before I actually gave my notice that I was stepping down because I was pretty unhappy and felt that I wasn’t going to be able to do the job I was hired to do. I had wanted to leave right after Suzanne moved to BC about three weeks after I took the job but stuck it out because I felt I owed it to the person I was when I made the decision to take the job. I tried as hard as I could for 6 months until I realized that I wasn’t going to be successful and Des told me to leave.

There was no fallout worth mentioning. Okay, I’ll never get the chance to manage another GoodLife Fitness club and I don’t get to see a lot of people I met while I lived in Chatham, but the world didn’t stop spinning and no one hated me for leaving – my friends there understood that I had to go because I wasn’t happy. After a couple of days back in Milton, I felt fantastic because I was back to living the life I liked.

3) I am a reflector and am almost incapable of spontaneous displays of a mood.

I’m generally happy, but if someone around me is miserable I will be come miserable almost immediately – I socially reference to a fault. It makes me very engaging if you are engaging, very bitter if you are bitter and one of my clients if you believe that I know what I’m talking about.

Des pointed this out to me the day before my 33rd birthday. As soon as he did, I saw what he was talking about and realized that I had always been that way. A few days later, I stopped hanging around people who tend to put off a negative vibe and I noticed that my level of happiness improved dramatically. Then I cleaned house and stopped spending time doing things that made me unhappy or created negative feelings within me.

This quality is a mixed blessing. It allows me to be very engaging with others and it helps me connect to people in a way that many cannot. But it can also see me feeling very poorly about a lot of stuff and, in many ways, I’m kind of lost. When I’m with someone who is the same way, my general level of happiness tends to come out and shape the interaction as positive, the same thing happens when I’m with someone who is happy or when I’m alone. But when I’m with a dark force (a black hole as I tend to call them) things do downhill very quickly. Des telling me that I am a reflector was a huge step forward in my self awareness and it liberated me from these black holes because I was finally able to see them for what they were to me.

4) What you are looking for is an understanding and not a thing that exists anywhere other than in your own head.

When I quit my PT job, one of my clients Kim gave me a card saying “… I hope you find what you are looking for on your travels and when you don’t, I hope you realize that it has been within you all along.”

She was right. I found a lot of things during my trip to the east coast but what I was looking for was not one of them. There were moments when I almost stumbled upon it – I took a wrong turn down a trail in Fundy National park and had to hike with my bike for about 2 hours down and up some valley – it was the hardest I have ever had to work and there were times when I thought I’d have to put the bike down so I could crawl out just to save my life but I got through it without finding what I was looking for. I already knew I was strong and had a poor sense of direction.

I found what I was looking for about 5 months later when I got sick and thought I was going to spend the rest of my life relying on kidney dialysis. I’m still not sure what I found but on a conscious level I’m acting like my life is ending soon and I’m making the most out of each moment. I think that was what Kim was getting at when she gave me the card. When I asked her want she meant she said that I’d know when I found it. I’ve always feared that I was going to die one day, but now I realize that I am going to so today I must live because it’s all going to end eventually.

5) I am going to be horrible at most things the first time I do them.

I did the RPM training the first weekend of February 2007 and I almost didn’t go back for the second day. I still think the only reason why I did go back was because I was car pooling with Rachel. I got rather sick after the first day – I over did it and was physically exhausted. I got sick a couple of times on the way home from Waterloo. I had the worst head ache I have ever had that Saturday evening so I didn’t get to practice. However, I got through it. I wasn’t very good at instructing the tracks I had been assigned as homework, but I had an intensity that Rick and Carole (the national trainers) felt could make me a good instructor once I learned how to do it. They were right. Many of my participants like my classes because it’s clear that I’m working really hard and have a passion for it.

The same thing is true for blogging, learning power lifting exercises and learning how to play guitar – until I know how to do it, I’m just trying to do it and I’m not very good at it. Everything takes practice but if you do it enough times, you will get better at it and eventually you will become it (an instructor, blogger, power lifter, whatever). The key thing is to accept that you’re going to be dreadful the first few times and that this is something that you share with almost everyone else on the planet.

6) People know more than they give themselves credit for but may not listen to themselves because they do not believe that they have a right to be great or happy.

It serves an evolutionary function to feel this way. Smug people tend to be alienating and we regard their arrogance as a negative thing because it is dangerous – listening to them in our evolutionary past would more likely lead to our death than ignoring them given that they don’t know what they are talking about.

People who know themselves are confident and NOT smug or arrogant. They are aware of how the world is and exist within it in a calm and peaceful way. They are attempting to shape their own opinion of the world through learning and not trying to shape others opinion of them.

It’s important to keep this in mind when considering your own place in the world because there is nothing wrong with being confident IF you have a clear understanding of what is going on. If it is based on reality, it isn’t smug or arrogant and you SHOULD listen to yourself. Only a fool would continue to make a mistake after they have learned that it is a mistake. Unfortunately, many people keep doing the same thing over and over again in spite of knowing how it will work out.

My First Pay Cheque

Recently I got my first pay cheque from my fitness instructor job. It was for $20 less tax, EI, and Canadian pension.

It was a happy moment for me. This is the first job that I actually had a passion for BEFORE I started doing it. That’s a wonderful thing. It’s also the first job that I have had that I thought that I couldn’t do. Instructing is a skill that I have never had before so it’s completely new to me. I have been a personal trainer, war canoe coach and manager before, but these things are unique and different from instructing.

The hardest part with instructing, at least for me, is modeling proper form on the bike. When I race, I tend to get into whatever position I need to to get the bike moving quickly. Sometimes the back is rounded, sometimes my knees are pointing in, sometimes my head is down looking only a few inches in front of my wheel. This form doesn’t cut it with instructing because when you are leading a class, you can count on some of the participants copying and exaggerating you positioning and habits. My bad habits become the things that injure participants and that isn’t good for anyone.

I also passed my video which means I’m almost a certified RPM instructor. There is some paper work to complete and then it is done. I’m really happy about this because the feedback I got from the reviewer was mostly positive. As far as positioning goes, the only bad tendency I had on the video was a little upper body bouncing on the seated climb; the video was taped at the end of April and I have been working on this flaw since I noticed it. She also mentioned that I need to connect with the participants more and modulate my voice during some of the tracks; both things I am aware of and have been trying to address.

The positive feedback addressed my physical strength on the bike, my high level of fitness and my knowledge of the choreography. I was very pleased with the choreography comment because this was the first time I had ever learned anything like this so I’m still able to learn new skills.

My class this Tuesday night was my best yet. The participants are getting used to my coaching style and they seem to follow the cues I give them. I heard a lot of gasping at the end of track 5 and 7, which is what the choreography calls for and there were a few smiles during tracks 4 and 6. It is a fantastic feeling when it all comes together.

I still need to work on connecting with the class a little more, but the fact that they are following my coaching and positional cuing means I’m getting some of it right. Is it the world class experience that they are hoping to get out of it? Yes for some, not yet for others. But given that it has been 4 months since I took the training, I’m really happy with the progress.

Oh, and the $20 less deductions went to gas for my car.

Sometimes Bad News Is Good News

Last November I got really sick. I have no idea what it was but at the time I was certain that I was dying. My lower back and neck hurt, I was waking up soaked from a fever and I was tired and weak. I lost about 7 pounds because I wasn’t eating and I couldn’t go to the gym. When I finally went to the doctor the preliminary urine test was positive for protein. A quick search on the Internet revealed that protein in the urine is a bad sign, often an indication of kidney problems and there didn’t seem to be any non-serious reasons for it being there.

So I did what I do best, I thought about the implications of kidney failure and planned the rest of my life. I was scared and sad. At 33, if the test was accurate, I was in for some big changes. It was a tough couple of days before I went to my doctor to get the result of a formal lab test. It was negative for protein. In fact, the test was normal for everything. The doctor said that I’d die one day, but it wasn’t going to be from kidney failure related to what I was sick with at that moment in time. He didn’t know what it was and since I wasn’t feverish anymore or in any pain, I should just go back to living my life and assume that it was just an infection of some kind that my body killed.

And that’s what I did, for the most part.

It was a warm November day when I got out of the doctors office and as I walked to the GO train station to find my way back to Port Credit where I parked my car, I was smiling and happy. The news that I was going to die eventually was good news to me because I thought it was going to be a lot sooner. I bought a coffee and read a few chapters of “Way Of The Peaceful Worrier”. I’ve read the book before but on this particular day, the words seemed to resonate with me more than usual. I felt a little out of sorts; I felt wiser for some reason and I was more grateful than I had ever been.

That feeling is still within me. I wake up most mornings with a profound sense of joy for being healthy. I’m still eating better and taking pretty good care of my body. I’m sticking to my workouts and trying a lot of different training approaches with new exercises. The biggest change has been my movement towards doing new things in general, be it food choices, fitness activities, hobbies or new attitudes towards things, my life is more enjoyable now than any time before.

I think it was because I had started to prepare myself for a fractured life revolving around an illness that I didn’t end up having. The uplift from thinking that I was going to die from something to realizing that I wasn’t going to die from it clearly demonstrated to me that my mood has very little to do with the reality of a situation and almost everything to do with my perception of the situation. I’ve had this lesson before but this is the longest it has stayed with me. I hope it sticks around.