Writing And Making Use Of A Personal Development Journal

I started journaling after Natalie died. My next girl friend bought me a Sherra Club notebook and I started writing in it on Feb 18th, 1996. When I reread my first entry, which explained what I was going to do with the journal, I laugh because it sounds more like the purpose of this blog – I had wanted to write down things that others would find useful. It was my intention to help them. It’s funny now because the journal quickly changed from being something that would be useful to others to something that would be useful to me.

Before I put pen to journal paper, I had been writing on individual sheets of paper or in a blue note book. I was grieving and had found writing letters to Natalie explaining how I was feeling about her death to be helpful for me as it seemed to make my thoughts more real. The stuff was sad or self indulgent, I had noticed that I felt better after I wrote out just how unhappy I was because I never felt as bad as my words made it seem. The writing was an exercise that was moving me past the grief and mourning. Since I was feeling better 6 months on, I decided that it was time to make a more permanent contribution to the grief process by doing something that would be useful to others.

The problem was that I wasn’t anywhere close to knowing how I was feeling about death and grief and I was a far cry from being self-aware. My life and mind were littered with impulsive thoughts, anger and immaturity. As such, the entries in the journal moved from being concise and evolved lessons that could be useful for others to ideas and thoughts about whatever seemed to be gripping my mind at the time. From a quantity point of view, it was a fairly productive period because there were lots of things swirling around my consciousness and my unconscious mind seemed to be working in overdrive too because stuff seemed to flow out of me once I started writing. Some of it was really good for an incomplete man in his mid-twenties, most of it was what you would expect, not garbage, but not the stuff with universal appeal that I had hoped would be coming out of me. The journal moved from being a book of lessons to a book about my personal development.

Below are the 5 steps I took to write and make use of my journal:

The First Step in writing a useful personal development journal is populating it with honest information. You need to feel free enough to write whatever is on your mind without fear of being judged harshly by others. You need to write from the heart whenever you can because this is where the truth lies. It’s a journal and it contains your thoughts but these are NOT necessarily facts. We all think a bunch of stuff that ISN’T facts or even what we want. If we think others will be reading them, the depth and clarity of the idea will suffer. In fact, we tend to leave stuff out that may be useful; take blogging for example, I take great care to make sure every word I use is the right word and that I am sure that I think and feel how I am claiming to think or feel. The ideas are not set in stone but I’ve thought about them long enough to say that what I have written is how I think about the particular item. New information can change the idea but it will need to be pretty compelling.

The Second Step in writing a useful personal development journal is writing in it frequently. This one is a little tricky because writing is a skill that you need to practice and what you write as practice may have nothing to do with personal development. Try your best to keep the non-personal stuff out of the journal, but keep the journal close at hand when you are practicing because some of your clearest ideas will pop into your head when you’re writing something completely unrelated.

The Third Step is writing a useful personal development journal is writing about things that are personal to you – this doesn’t necessarily mean personal items, it can, but it also includes stuff that addresses or concerns how you look at the world, realization that you have just had, or things that you have learned that seem significant even if you do not know why they feel important. Information about new jobs, new classes, new friends and new romantic partners should be included. Very often these things will move your awareness very quickly and, at the very least, they open up a world of new experiences that will shape who you are.

The Forth Step in writing a useful personal development journal is filling it with information over a long period of time. While you should only write to the journal whenever you have something personal to say, you should make an effort to write at least once a week. It may not happen, but you need to try. Most often you will go in phases of intense writing, when it seems like you have a lot to say because you have reached a new place in your understanding of the world, followed by no writing, when you’ve captured everything you had on your mind. Keep your journal handy when you enter one of these no writing phases because you have no idea when the dam will break and ideas will stream out. Just make sure to date each entry with at least the month and year, but it’s a good idea to include the day of the month as well.

The Final Step is rereading it from cover to cover a couple of times a years looking for patterns, common themes, changes in your understanding and evolving ideas. This is what will make it useful to you from a development perspective. If you have followed the first 4 steps, this should be fairly easy and sometimes painful to do. Ideas evolve over a period of time and they tend to lag just slightly behind steps of increased maturity, which themselves tend to follow new experiences. Given the lag, it can be useful to read it backwards as well; this will often present you with the enhanced idea, then the moment of increased maturity and then the experience that was the trigger of all of the progress.

Regardless of the direction you read, you NEED to do this because otherwise what you have written will never come alive or resonate within you. Keep in mind that human beings are incredible pattern matching machines so keep giving it information to work with so it can start to uncover the patterns. Your brain has a lot of power that isn’t called upon very often so give it something to work with so you can tap into this ability. Remember, when you read something that you have written and it creates a sense of dissonance (a feeling of wrongness because what is written and how you view the world are not in line) you have hit upon something that is likely personal development.

Some of the patterns themes that I have found and what I did about them:

A need and a desire to be by myself (not in a relationship) for a while to figure out what made me tick. Between the ages of 18 and 31 I had been single (not in a long term relationship) for less than 6 months and the longest period of time followed Natalie’s death (about 3 months). It was everything I knew about adult life and, in hindsight, I was unhappy for most of it. There was one entry in particular that just sickened me to read because I mentioned that I was jealous of an X girlfriend who had taken the time after we broke-up to be single while I just found another relationship without thinking about what I had learned from the last one. When the next relationship ended, I took the time and have been, for the most part single and happy since. I finally got to know who I am and what I like doing, which marked the beginning of the most productive period of my life so far.

Finding completion in another person vs. in myself. Along the same lines as the need to be alone, reviewing the journal revealed that my sense of self depended upon being in a relationship. I had worth if I was in a partnership with someone else. I’m not hacking on partnerships, just those that contain one partner who isn’t already a complete individual. They say you cannot be useful to another if you cannot be useful to yourself and I tend to agree, as would my X girlfriends during this time. If the relationship went bad, I suffered and took it out on them because I felt my identify was being jeopardized. I haven’t been in a relationship for almost 2 years now and, while there are things I miss (like making dinners together, holding hands, hugging, feeling unconditional love from someone who isn’t family and having someone to be alone with) I do not miss the doubt and the toxic approach I took to get what I needed to feel complete.

The need to take an active role in my life and define my life by my actions, instead of letting stuff happen. I had the classic victim complex and I was very good at seeing reasons why I couldn’t do want I wanted. I would manufacture road blocks, transfer my feelings onto other people and basically sit on my ass while life was done to me. Oh so much wasted time. Ironically, seeing this pattern years ago, I did nothing about it until I made the conscious choice to remain single. Then, when I started doing things, I really surprised myself by what I was able to do.

A lot of self hatred. I didn’t like myself very much and I think I was trying to kill myself slowly. I was a smoker, I had a poor relationship with food, I stressed about things that didn’t matter and I would destroy anything that was good in my life because I didn’t think I had value or worth. I felt a lot of shame and anger and I blamed myself for everything that didn’t go the way I like. My friends didn’t really notice this, but my parents did and, when I started to realize it, my dad spoke very frankly about how my actions actually made me feel and what they did to him and my mom. (Part of me is very grateful that I had drifted away from my brother during this time because we never had to rebuild our relationship after I destroyed it with my self loathing). My parents stuck by me because that’s what parents do for their children.

Peace. Very, very odd. I noticed that after my trip out east last summer I effectively stopped writing in the journal. There were 3 entries after the trip and the last one was on October 1, 2006 and it concerned the success of a race my bike team entered. In fact, the last 5 or 6 entries are more just reports of events and things that I did. There was no confusion, turmoil or pain. One of them mentions the fact that what I was hoping to find out east was actually within me all along and that I was ready to deal with it. The thing was, once I realized the journey was an internal one, it was over because I knew that whatever I needed to get out of life I could manufacture within myself. All I wanted was to be happy and I can be happy whenever I want and without reason. I did not need another person, another location or another experience to bring it to me, all I needed was the will and it would follow.

My advice to you is that you start a personal development journal and follow the 5 rules. If you are already journaling, take a few hours today to reread what you have written. At worst, you get to see how your writing has improved over the last few years, at best, you’ll see yourself for who you are and finally have the strength to do something about it. Knowledge is power so make the effort to find the knowledge, the quality of your life may depend upon it.

Keeping Your Brain Functioning All Life Long

Imagine reseachers finding out that you can teach an old dog new tricks, uncovering the aging brains ongoing ability to sense, encode and assimilate new information and redevelop previous connection between brain cells to maintain and consolidate knowledge. Well you don’t have imagine because that is what they have found. The Secret To Not Losing Your Marbles by Lianne George of Macleans.ca tells you how.

It used to be held as religion among neurology experts that the brain was plastic, or malleable, in our infancy; after that, its infrastructure was set. “Within the last five to 10 years, I used to teach — we all used to teach — that when you’re older, your brain is finished, kaputsky,” says Stuss. “[This idea] was actually the basis of a Nobel Prize that was awarded to two scientists from Harvard — David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel — and it was largely horses–t,” says Merzenich. “Their notion was that the brain developed into mature functionality by the end of this critical period and beyond that period, it was like a computer — every neuron knew what to do.” A person had a finite number of brain cells and once they were gone, they were gone. But if this were true, says Merzenich, how do you account for learning? “You can learn to play the piano if you’re 70 if you really want to, through driving your brain to master that ability. The brain is plastic through a lifetime.You never lose your ability to acquire ability.”

This lifelong ability to adapt, called brain plasticity, and the ability to generate new brain cells, called neurogenesis, are now heralded as the twin pillars of aging smart. Research conducted by Merzinich and others in the ’80s and ’90s was among the first to prove they work. In early studies, they observed the deterioration of aging rats. “They gradually lost their ability to control their paws,” says Merzenich. “They struggled to feed themselves by manipulating food and ultimately, they lost control of hind limbs, dragging them around.” Using brain imaging technologies, scientists found that part of the problem was the poor quality of sensory information the rats were receiving at this stage of life. When the rats were directed to perform certain activities in a particular manner and order, Merzenich and his colleagues found they could help them recuperate their motor skills and prolong their lives by 15 to 20 per cent. “The rats didn’t lose their mobility for an extra three months,” says Merzenich. “And when you looked inside the brain of the rat, you had actually restored substantially the quality of information that was coming from the paw. The point is, these kind of experiments demonstrated that you could take these very old brains — rats, not humans of course — and you could drive them to learn things and acquire new skills.”

As a 34 year old, I’m grateful that this research has come out now while I’m still young enough to do something about it, but the finds are very encouraging for the older generation too, in fact, even more encouraging. I’m active, healthy and still learning, this is one of the most enlighening periods of my life so I’m feeling pretty confident about the present state of my cognitive functioning. The future is bright with technological discoveries so there’s a good chance they’ll come up with something that will help my ailing brain when the time comes. But for older people who have been burned with the “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” stigma, the findings are great news, provided they are willing to invest in getting their brain functioning back. Like most changes, it is going to require effort but while your brain isn’t the sponge it used to be but it will still absorb whatever you immerse it in.

Too Many Lifting And Fitness Tips To Count

4 Days in 15 Minutes A Summary of the 2007 Health & Fitness Summit by Chris Shugart of T-Nation has so many tips in it that you really don’t have a choice but to read it; well, maybe you can attend next years summit.

  • Textbooks are often wrong by the time they’re published. Textbooks are not “evidence.”
  • The body is built to walk 3.5 miles per hour, or about a 17 minute mile.
  • Just 17 minutes of physical activity a day can lead to a pound of fat loss a month.
  • The first step in playing fast is to eliminate excess body fat.
  • Too busy to eat breakfast? Then you’re too busy to be good!
  • Grape juice is just as good as wine when it comes to antioxidants.

This is one of those threads were it pays to read the comments as well. There’s a lot of wisdom there for the taking!

Become An RPM Fitness Instructor – Personal Account

I decided to become a group cycling instructor. I selected Les Mills International’s RPM program. The training consists of 2 8 hour days of practice and lessons. There were about 17 people in the group and we had 2 trainers. There were about 10 people who were already teaching another LMI discipline and there were a couple of cyclists in the class. It was an eclectic bunch of people, not quit random, but very nearly. The only thing we all shared in common was an enjoyment of cycling (indoor or outdoor). The weekend was amazing and I’ll write more about the specifics in another post.

After the training weekend, the real work began. I wasn’t a fitness instructor and before I would be able to teach I needed to find out why I was doing it, how I would know when I was successful, what I expect to get out of it, what I expected out of the participants, what I was trying to bring to the experience that was uniquely me and what was the biggest thing that I needed to work on.

Initially – before I taught a class

  • Why I was doing it? Since I think my purpose is to try and help others actualize some of their potential I thought that was a good reason because many of the participants aren’t as hooked on exercise as I am. When I’m in front of the group, I’m trying to lead them to a place were they find the strength within to work harder than they believed possible, were they move more efficiently than they did before and when they find enjoyment in the physical sensations of working hard were none existed before.
  • What I expected out of it? A free membership and permission to ride the bikes to practice.
  • What I expect out of the participants? To listen to what I say and try to work hard.
  • How do I know when I’ve been successful? I am successful if I deliver the participants to a place where they make the decision to work instead of stopping. I am successful EVEN if they decide to stop because they make the decision. My success is determined by my ability to get them to see that there is a decision.
  • What I bring to instructing that is uniquely me? By teaching with passion I will be giving permission for participants to be better. I have a belief that if people copy what I do in the gym, on the bike and if they eat like I do, they will enjoy the same level of energy and passion that I have. I try to model passion to let them know that there is nothing wrong being good at giving something your all.
  • What do I need to work on? The choreography and knowing the music.

But something happens when you actually do something, you realize what the experience is really like and your reasons for doing it will change. You may still hold on to some of the initially reasons and add to the list, but one thing is certain it will be different once you have lead a class.

Evolving reasons – 1-3 classes

  • Why I was doing it? Once I started doing it, I realized that it’s fun and it feels good because it’s exercise. There is a part of the experience that is immediately gratifying and that is something that I’m going after now. I maintain my initial reason to help people find success, it’s just fun as well.
  • What I expected out of it? To get a bit of a rush from performing and leading the class.
  • What I expect out of the participants? To give me feedback of things I was doing wrong and to fix their form when I coached them.
  • How do I know when I’ve been successful? If any of the participants took my coaching advice or if they were able to follow the flow of the class.
  • What I bring to instructing that is uniquely me? Hopefully someone will see me NOT feeling shame for trying to be better and will join in.
  • What do I need to work on? Voice qualities should match expected perceived exertion. I need to lower my effort because I am working way too hard.

As you gain more experience, you get better at it and can start to focus on improving certain parts of the process. As certain parts of it become automatic (the choreography or form on the bike) the liberated energy is directed to other areas.

Evolving reasons – 4-10 classes

  • Why I was doing it? I do it because it is fun and because it helps people, but now I want to get better at it for the sake of improving. I’m starting to get a feeling that if I pour myself into it with all of my passion I could become very good at it which will increase my chances to do it. The more I can do it, the more fun I’ll have and the greater the impact on other people. I want to be the best at it not to say that I am the best at it but to enjoy the rewards of being the best.
  • What I expected out of it? I’m focusing on delivery now – precuing and cuing and the performance aspects of instructing. I expect these things to improve with each class.
  • What I expect out of the participants? To learn what they view as success and work to achieve it. I’m delivering an experience template, they are filling in the work and determining their effort. I expect them to actually consider the workout in terms of what they can get out of it, how they need to behave to attain it and finding what they need to follow through on these predictions.
  • How do I know when I’ve been successful? I’m feeling comfortable with the template that I’m delivering to the participants so I feel successful when I see the results of their hard work (sweat, breathless states, eye contact and facial expressions that indicate a high level of engagement and effort) and when they give me feedback that indicates that they got something out of it. I will know that my performance is improving when the participants are doing the choreography the same way I am – the precuing and cuing are sufficient to help the participants find the flow of the class.
  • What I bring to instructing that is uniquely me? The understanding that I need to be seen as vulnerable by some of the participant. I had the realization that I am a lot fitter and better at RPM than 95% of the people who take the class, so a little dorkiness in the presentation is going to endure me as an instructor.
  • What do I need to work on? Lowering my effort level. I’m still working too hard. I’m very nervous before each class and have learned to direct that energy into working hard. It’s hurting my ability to connect and communicate with the participants.

What now? Well, I record and submit my video to get my certification. I start teaching my own class on Saturday mornings starting in April. I’ll try to create interest in group cycling at club so they offer more classes and I get to teach more. I’ll start to bring more of myself into the classes and try to create a community of cyclist at the club so I’ll have people to ride and train with this summer.

One thing that is certain, RPM is becoming part of my goals and it’s going to be interesting to see how they evolve as I actualize some my potential.

5 Advanced Mountain Bike Racing Tips

1) Give your brain the information it needs to guide you through the race

Your brain knows everything that you do. It may seem like a silly statement but many people will ignore what they spontaneously think in favor of something they consciously think. Don’t look at rocks and think “there is a rock”, scan along the trail ignoring what you see. Come back to the rocks only if your eyes come back to them, but it is most likely that your brain will determine a better line and look at something other than the rocks. To do prime your brain with sensory input, deliberately move your eye fixations back and forth along the upcoming trail allowing the sensory input to flood into your brain. Doing this will give your brain the best chance of creating an accurate mental image of the trail that it will then work with to determine the best line and effort level.

Doing this requires a lot of focus and it is pretty draining. The good news is that you’ll only need it when you are going very quickly or riding on pretty technical terrain.

2) Do not pay attention to things that you cannot impact

When you are riding fairly quickly, there is little point in looking at what you are about to ride over because there is very little you can do about it – if you cannot react to what you see, you are not looking far enough ahead and you shouldn’t be aware of it.The same applies to other riders. Do not count on them to make a mistake or call you round because that takes the out come of the race out of your control. Your goal is to get to the finish line injury free and as fast as you possibly can. Anything that takes away from that goal should be eliminated from your race behavior. Flawless riding will get you to your goal and that will only come to be if you focus on the riding.

3) Start your nutritional recovery as soon as you cross the finish line

You should consider consuming dextrose / maltodextrin during the ride. This will allow you to take advantage of the window of opportunity for increased cellular transport.If you have no idea what dextrose and maltodextrin are you should read my post on Post Workout Nutrition. It represents the most up to date science available for body building nutrition and deals with getting the most amount of recovery sugar and protein to the muscles to promote the fastest recovery. Studies have shown that there is a finite absorption rate for each macro nutrient and my recommendations are based on these values – bring in ONLY what your body can use per unit of time. If you bring in more than your body can use you are increasing the likelihood of fat storage. While still unlikely after intense racing, it is possible when you are dealing with high GI carbs like dextrose.

4) Follow an adequate training tapper before your races

If you have no idea what I’m talking about here, just make sure you are well enough rested on race day to perform will as much intensity as you need. Athletes and their coaches tend to come up with complete ways of describing their simple behavior and for they’ve come up with the term tapper to mean a reduction in training before a competition to ensure complete recovery.

Depending upon the event you are participating in, you will need to vary the amount of rest you get. Cross country racers will need to about 2-4 days of dramatically reduced work load before a race because this event does not rely heavily on coordinated muscular strength or power; you are basically holding your top maintainable pace for the duration of the ride. Downhill racers may need to reduce work volume in the week leading up to the event to make sure the nervous system is completely recovered allowing for improved muscle coordination and synchronous firing that can be needed for aggressive down hill racing.At the very least an athlete should not ride with full intensity in the 3 days leading up to an event and they should focus on nutritional recovery after any training or pre-lap rides they take.

You are going to need to experiment with the volume and duration of your tapper for find the perfect balance between rest, recovery and performance. When you find that sweet spot, I’ve found that most of the nervousness about racing goes away because you know you are as well prepared as you can be.

5) Train all year round

This will have more impact on your racing results than anything else you can do. While less important for younger riders, the over 27 crowd doesn’t have a choice in the matter. If you are close to your 30’s, you are going to lose cardiovascular functioning during the off season UNLESS you train with high intensity for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Note, this is just the maintenance level. Improvements are very unlikely with 90 minutes of training per week – think about the gains you make during the season, they are based on riding almost every day. The rule of thumb is the more you train the more you will improve, both in skill and in your body’s ability to adapt to the work.The training needs to be varied and you will benefit from cycling through different phases – strength building, cardio building, maintenance phases, and race tappers.

During the race season you should continue to perform some resistance training to maintain muscle and connective tissue strength. This will help you stay strong throughout the season and avoid injury. It has the added benefit of helping to burn up any extra calories that you may consume after your rides. 4 or 6 sets per body part per week should be sufficient to allow you to hold on to your strength and size.

Fake It Till You Make It

I was getting caught up with Suzanne last week and one of the topics that came up with the whole “fake it till you make it” approach to life – just do the things that someone who is what you want to be does and eventually you’ll find yourself being one of those people.

From a practical point of view, I like this approach because I tend to just jump right into things once I decide to do them. I won’t spend much time learning the back ground and theory until I can see the value of knowing them because knowing these things before I start doing something has rarely helped me in the past. I need to be immersed in the experience and work hands on prime my brain for working with experience. This is the only way to decide it you like something enough to try it again. Often it will turn out that we didn’t really want to be something we thought we did.

When you’re doing something, even just pretending to be something you may not be, you will most likely be surrounded by other people who are doing the same thing. This is a great opportunity for you to learn how to be more like something. Take bike racing as an example. Good racers do a bunch of things differently than most riders because they’ve learned how to get more out of their bodies on race day. Surrounding yourself with these people is going to teach you a lot of what you have to do to be successful “bike racer”.

Faking it does actually allow you to tap into your intention. If you really want to be something, why not just be it? It is the doing that makes the difference. Knowing a lot about a bike is very different from racing a bike. If you want to be a bike mechanic, learn about bikes. If you want to be a bike racer, race bikes. When you get right down to it, the only thing you need to do to be a bike racer is to race a bike. This approach answers the philosophical question “what does it mean to be something?”

The catchall is that even if you don’t become one of them you get to do the things you wanted to do and that isn’t so bad.

10 Things That Will Make You A Better Mountain Bike Racer

I love to race. It was tough at the beginning because I tried to beat other people. Once I realized that I couldn’t go any faster than I was able, it began to make a little more sense. If you are new to racing, you may find this “10 Things That Will Make You A Better Mountain Bike Racer” helpful.

Training:

  • 1) Practice fixing a flat – You won’t need to do it very often, but when you do, you’ll be glad you know how. The best practice is to switch your tires – move your front tire to the back wheel and you’re back tire to the front wheel or buy a different set of tires and switch them on. Make sure you have plastic tire irons and new tubes. When you practice be sure you run your fingers along the inside of the tire to check for protrusions that would have caused a real flat. Try to make it an automatic process because when it happens during a race, don’t assume that you’ll be able to think clearly because your heart rate will be elevated. Considering hydrating during this time.
  • 2) Train all types of terrain – hills, rocks, single / double track, if you’ll be riding it race day, make sure you know how to ride it.
  • 3) Dedicate training time to hill climbing – probably the biggest bang for your training buck right here. If your races are 60 minutes, train hill climbing for 60 minutes once a week. Find a hill and just ride up and down focusing on seated spinning and standing climb. Mix it up because you’ll be using both during any race. Hills end 50 meters AFTER they level off so continue climbing effort until you find your top speed and then recover.
  • 4) Learn how to identify when your thinking abilities are being impaired by the intensity of your work. Racing effectively and safely demands that you keep your wits about you. There are countless studies demonstrating the relationship between elevated heart rate and cognitive impairments. Rates of between 160-170 are associated with tunnel vision, impaired judgment, and an inability to think logically and rationally. You need to learn how to avoid this, or at least, gain the ability to remain aware that your thinking is impaired. What seems like a good pass at 165 may actually have been a concussions.

For race day:

  • 5) Make sure your cables will make it through the race. Losing rear derailer function or rear breaks makes for a tough race. Cables wear out, change them before they break. Change damaged cable housing while your at it.
  • 6) Make sure your gears are tuned up. “Grind it till your find it” is what happens race day. I know this because I only see broken chains on race day. Bring it to the shop if you don’t know how to do it yourself. You want crisp and precise gear changes. You need it to stay in gear until you change it.
  • 7) Race with an empty stomach or one containing liquid only. Until you find what works for you, try not to over eat. I need to avoid fat as much as possible because it takes me longer to digest it. I eat mostly low GI carbs and whey protein powder before races. These things clear my stomach quickly and if I need to get sick, they come up pretty effortlessly and without that burning acid.
  • 8) Be well hydrated but freshly peed right before the race begins.

During the race:

  • 9) Try to keep your heart rate in an effective range. Everyone has a sweet spot, a level of exertion that is their best. Try to find this as early in the race as you can and hold it. Your goal is to be close to spend at the end. A heart rate monitor will be very helpful to you here.
  • 10) Assume that all of the other racers have tunnel vision from an elevated heart rate. State your intentions of other riders and, if they won’t call you round to pass, don’t yell back at them when they call you on your aggressive riding. They are tired and not thinking clearly so if you scared them, they are going to call you an a-hole. Most people will do what you tell them because they don’t want you behind them. If you hear a rider approaching you and you want them to pass, tell them when and point to the opening you are giving them. If someone lets you by, say thank you.

10 Keys to the Lean & Sexy Look

In this first post from new T-Nation author Jen Heath 10 Keys to the Lean & Sexy Look, Part I we get keys 1 to 5. The article is geared towards women.

What most people call “toning” is actually a muscle getting a little big bigger (yes, that does mean it increases in “bulk”) and the fat cells covering a muscle getting smaller. You put those two things together and you get “tone.”

Most women I talk to would like more muscle in their arms yet don’t necessarily want behemoth guns. Whenever a woman tells me she just wants to “tone” her body with light weights, I usually end up having a conversation similar to this:

Jen: “Okay, so if I understand you right, your arms now measure 9 inches, but you wouldn’t mind getting them up to a firm and solid 12 inches. At the same time, you don’t want to get 16 inch monster arms, right?”

Client: “Yes, that’s exactly right!”

Jen: “Well, let me ask you this: Would you rather take a month or two to build that 12-inch arm or would you rather it take you forever?”

Client: “I want it now!”

Jen: “The reason I ask is because the same thing that builds the 16 inch arm the fastest will also build the 12 inch arm the fastest — lifting intensely with progressively heavier weights. Once you achieve the amount of muscle you desire you can always reduce the volume to maintain.”

Client: “Ah, I see!”

I think most trainers have a similar conversation with 90% of their new female clients. Jen’s approach just nails it.

Great article, check out the original and part two.

At this age, it IS fun being that bad at anything

6 years ago I went on a date once with a lovely girl. It was a blind date with a cousin of a university friend and we went to a patio for a few drinks. During the evening we chatted about many things and, after she told me that she had taken a lot of dance classes when she was younger, I mentioned that I had been considering taking ballroom dancing lessons. I had been, so it seemed like a good chance to set up for a second date.

When I said it she immediately said that I shouldn’t do it. When I asked why, she said “at this age, it isn’t fun being that bad at anything. You are going to be horrible because it’s new, so why bother?”

That statement stuck with me more than she did because there wasn’t a second date.

It is, of course, incorrect as it applies to me. Yeah, I suck at most new things, and yes, it is horrible to be that bad at anything. She was wrong because she was saying I shouldn’t do these things because I would be bad at them. To me, you try something new because it may be fun and if it is, you’ll stick with it and improve. It’s the doing of the thing that is important.

Her attitude also took out of play the enjoyment or pleasure you will get from actually improving at a specific task. I think this is the more tragic aspect of her comment. Learning can be fun if you like what you are learning but the act of learning is also very rewarding. Think about the last time you had something difficult to learn, blogging software perhaps. Do you recall the moment you finally got it and what that moment felt like? Many people refer to these moments as epiphanies and there is usually a sense of well-being associated with them. For me, the moment of getting something that I’ve been trying to learn is a good moment, it feels good.

It doesn’t really matter what it is, I feel good when I get it. I’ve had a bunch of different and seemingly random jobs, but all of them share two things in common, a chance to learn and a chance to improve. My ability to load bundles of Roxul insulation into a trailer may never be tested again in my life, but it was a rewarding skill to acquire – you’d be surprised the number of ways you can load a truck wrong, but each small improvement was accompanied by a small reward. Challenging employees is one of the key components to keeping them highly engaged because it creates a self-reinforcing environment for the worker. Once you stop learning, if you do not find the task enjoyable, you will soon stop performing the task.

I know with certainty that if I took up ball room dancing, it would have been challenging and I wouldn’t have been very good at it. But I would have practiced and I believe that I would have improved; others have learned how to do it so there’s a good chance that I could learn too. And I know with equal certainty that I would have found the learning to be rewarding because that is what motivates us to keep learning.

Maybe one day I will try ball room dancing and I’ll know for sure what it is like to be that bad at something. If she was right, it will be harder today than it would have been 6 years ago. If she’s wrong, I’ll find the activity enjoyable.