A Fitness Warrior's Guide to Daily Life
By Chris Kostman
Two-thirds of this was originally published in two parts in Over The Edge, September and November 1994, and in its entirety in three parts in ULTRA Cycling, Spring and Summer 1995, then June, 1996.
Originally written in 1992 as 55 Things, then 15 Things.
- Know that "Nothing is too difficult for mortals to accomplish." (Horace: "Nil mortalibus arduum est.")
- If people can make permanent decisions in their life regarding their choice of mate, religion, or political party, then they are equally capable of making permanent decisions regarding their food choices, fitness commitments, and goals. (The human species is not biologically weakwilled, though you'd never know it if you observed typical human behavior.) Making sweeping, definitive, all-encompassing, and enduring commitments is an incredibly powerful and liberating experience, both in the making and the living up to them.
- When in doubt about whether to attempt anything daring, adventurous, or unknown in your life, just do it (except things that are overly life threatening, of course). It's an old line, but it really is better to have tried and failed at something than never to have tried in the first place.
- Know that the ability to achieve excellence is determined far more by mindset (which can be changed) than by genetics (which can't be changed).
- Diversification in interests, lifestyle, education, experience, and goals is the surest and most powerful path to excellence in both a cumulative and activity-specific sense.
- "All things in moderation" as advice on how to live and act is the reason for the pervasive mediocrity in our society today.
- Know that there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything means something. The trick is to learn to recognize and observe the supposedly random coincidences and adventitious incidents in your life, by living purposefully and mindfully, and look beyond them to their true meaning. What do they hint at? By the way, if you don't know what synchronicity is, find out.
- Realize and appreciate the interconnectedness of all things and all systems. Every aspect of our own personal life systems (mind, body, self, ego, fitness level, quantity and quality of rest, food intake, etc.) is interrelated and dependent on the other links in our life system. If just one of these subsystems is not up to par, then the entire system will function below par or will be taxed further to make up for the weak link. Concurrently, every action of each personal life system is interlinked with every other life system in this ecosphere. This is true at every level of life and even between life systems and supposed non-life systems (e.g., water, rocks, earth). Everything is interconnected. "There's a little black spot on the sun today. That's my soul up there. ... There's a black winged gull with a broken back. That's my soul up there." These are not just lyrics from some song by The Police, but meaningful insight into something beyond what most people even pause to consider, let alone try to comprehend or appreciate.
- Realize that it's o.k., even praiseworthy, to have an ego. If people are put off by that fact, it's because of their own insecurities. Show by example that good, healthy things come of a good, healthy ego.
- Surround yourself with positive reinforcments of your uniqueness, such as by displaying photos and momentos of important incidents from your life. Photos of powerful people, places, moments, or things actually transmit some of the power or energy that they portray.
- Take time to "smell the roses." Don't rush through each day or life. Force yourself to slow down and absorb the present moment, and actually notice your surroundings, the sights, the sounds, and of course, the smells. Life is about the journey, after all, not about the destination.
- Take time to stay in touch with friends and aquaintances. It may seem impersonal, but consider putting out your own newsletter. You can personalize them as need be when you mail them out by sticking a note on them. Keeping the lines of communication open with friends is the best way to maintain relationships and propogate good will.
- Don't let yourself be pigeon-holed by your peers. Nobody is "just" a jock, a marketing guy, a computer nerd, or a housewife. Surprise your peers and yourself by regularly venturing out into uncharted territories, "terra incognita," in any sense of the phrase. In other words, don't live in a rut! On a related note, never use the word "just" in reference to yourself or anything you are doing. For example, don't say "I'm just an assistant manager" or "I'm just going to the community college." Say those sentences minus the word "just." Show respect for yourself and your life and others will show it, too.
- Accept that there must be no excuses for lack of success, only reasons. Recognize these reasons, learn from them, then regroup and press onward.
- Know that everything is cyclical. Cycles of all types and sizes are perpetually in motion in essentially every aspect of existence. Perhaps the largest cycle of them all is the cycle in which a mass extinction occurs every 26 million years on this planet, wiping out some 90% of all living things each time. (We're currently about half-way through one such cycle.) Ponder that the next time you doubt the existence of some grand plan for life as we know it! More common and obvious cycles include the seasons, bird migrations, bears hybernating, the tydes, and menstruation.
- Know that a "sixth sense" or intuition is real. It can also be developed and fortified. This insight can be handy and enlightening.
- Live by this motto: "Aut inveniam viam aut faciam." (I will either find a way or make one.)
- Watch the sunrise at least once a month. Don't just be up and about while it happens; actually watch it. You'll see why.
- Travel. Expand your horizons by seeing firsthand that there is life beyond your natural home turf. Enjoy and learn from the diversity that you see and experience both across your country and abroad. Get a little perspective on things by taking yourself out of your comfort zone.
- Words to live by: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If there's nothing to lose when staring at or dreaming of a new venture or possibility, then just go for it!
- Be flexible, like Gumby. This means physical, mental, and emotional flexibility! Work on your range of motion, expand those parameters you live by (or learn to disregard them altogether), and live to stretch, reach, and grow.
- Remember the slogan of The Republic of Tea: "Life should be enjoyed sip by sip, rather than gulp by gulp." So slow down, enjoy things a bit longer, live with Tea Mind, rather than with the American coffee break mentality. Why hurry up just so you can screech to a stop for a few moments to pour some caffeine in your veins and then start the insane pace all over again? No! Slow down and you'll find life not only more enjoyable and memorable (literally), but also far more productive, truth be told.
- Pay or pay now later, but know this for certain: As Dr. Michael Shermer says, "There are no free lunches in an entropic universe!" Everything has a price, a string attached, because every action causes a subsequent action or reaction. And what began as the Big Bang will eventually become the Big Crunch, so eventually EVERYTHING has its price!
- Know that when you've gotten by with less, in any forum and for any reason, then you can always get by with more. As people "progress" through life, they become accustomed to more and more conveniences, money, opportunities, social events, etc. Then if something seemingly dramatic and life-changing happens that "takes some of this away," it's possible to feel like it's impossible to go on. But it's at those times when one can reflect on when life was "simpler" and there was "less" going on and see that it's the quality of life and experience, not the quantity, that matters most. Learn to be happy with a little and you'll not only feel that you have more, but you will have more.
- Commit your life to the constant reinvention of yourself!
Planning for Success
- Always carry a pad and a pen with you to write down notes, thoughts, ideas, goals, etc.
- Make a list every day of the things that you have to do. Referencing it regularly during your day will ensure that you get everything done as quickly as possible and don't forget anything important.
- Make a list of long term goals and post it somewhere obvious so that you'll encounter it regularly. Don't be afraid to add goals to the list, even if you add goals faster than you cross them off. Relish the act of crossing off accomplished goals.
- Develop an organized plan for accomplishing each individual goal. "Stack" your goals whenever possible so that some goals are inter- mediate to other, further goals.
- Break long and arduous projects or activities, whether mental, emotional, or physical, into smaller and easier to handle segments. Focus on arriving at each intermediate destination one at a time. Don't truly focus on the final goal or finish line until you're in the home stretch. Breaking down the process into managable and imaginable stretches gives you endurance without really trying.
- Keep a diary, journal, and/or training log. Writing down and systematically tracking your experiences is the best way to monitor progress and reflect fruitfully in any and all endeavours. Where we go in life is a result of where we've been, after all. Athletes and professionals can most benefit from this simple task, however rather than segmenting one's athletic or professional life from the rest of one's life, track and reflect on one's whole life.
- Take pictures. Keep photos of the moments, memories, and people of your life experience in order to help better remember them all, as well as share them with friends and family down the road. It sometimes seems goofy to line up and pose a shot at some get-together or party or event, but do it. Remember, a picture says a thousand words.
- Learn a foreign language. Languages provide beautiful insight into cultures and mindsets through their vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. Enrich your vocabulary by adding that of a second or third language to your current built-in dictionary.
- Keep going to school, taking classes, expanding your repertoire. Continuing education is one of the most powerful and meaningful things you can do with an evening or two or three a week. So check out the local community college or university extension program and see what they have to offer. You'll be surprised!
- Know your target heart rate zone for aerobic exercise (THRZ): (220 - Your Age) X .65 to .85 = THRZ.
- At least three times a week, exercise in such a way as to elevate your heart rate to your target zone for at least 45 minutes.
- Go for a run right after it rains. Rumour and science have it that the increase in negative ions will boost your body's energy levels.
- When exercising, drink before you're thirsty and eat before you're hungry. If you wait for these signs, you've waited too long.
- Enroll in a yoga course. Whether you actively or regularly do yoga afterwards or not, your posture will be improved forever and your postural awareness fortified.
- Learn to recognize how and when your body is tense. Take a deep breath through the nose and low in the belly, let it out slowly, and loosen tight spots in your body. Do this regularly, plus see a massage therapist at least once a month.
- Know that homeopathy works.
- Go snowshoeing. It's invigorating and rejuvenating, and is simply great exercise. Hot tip: it's also going to be one of the BIG sports of the Nineties. Be one of the first on your block to snowshoe. An intrinsic reason that snowshoeing is so special is the fact that it involves water (snow). Experiences and interactions with water are uniquely satisfying, in part because they remind us subconsciously of our prenatal (intra-uterine) past and our own primordial origins beneath the waves.
- Climb a mountain or a hill or a tall building, whatever, just get to the top of something under your own power. Enjoy the view. On that note, always use stairs. Never use elevators or escalators.
- Regardless of your level of training and supposed preparedness, enter some kind of organized athletic event: run or walk a 10k or a marathon, ride in a 50 or 100 mile bike event, etc. Just get out and do an event, enjoy the scenery, meet people, get caught up in the power of mass numbers of people doing something physical. Speed is irrelevant. Participation is everything.
- Take naps. Sometimes the body needs a little extra, so don't be ashamed to give it a break once in a while. We're a culture of chronic under-sleepers, so take some time to get caught up on sleep every so often. You'll find that your productivity, energy, and attitude will increase dramatically.
- Understand that aerobic exercise is not only about specifically burning calories while working out. More importantly, regular aerobic exercise will accelerate your metabolism all day long, allowing you to build overall fitness, burn fat, and live healthier at all times, not just while actually training. So get the workouts in consistently, but enjoy the fruits of your commitment at all times by stepping back and seeing the bigger picture of how you are positively impacting your body and life.
- When you go shopping or errand-running by car, don't waste time and fuel by searching for a close and "convenient" parking spot. Just pull in the lot and take the first spot you see. That way, you save the time you'd have spent looking for a closer spot, you keep your stress level a bit lower, AND you get a little exercise and movement in while walking fifty or a hundred yards. You'll feel a lot better for it!
- Know that the human body is anywhere from 57 to 75% water, depending on age and other variables. We are water creatures.
- Know that 72% of the surface of our planet is covered by water. We live on a water planet. It's no coincidence that this percentage mirrors that of the human body's water percentage.
- Know that tap water is very polluted nearly everywhere in America and elsewhere around the world. Invest in a high quality water filter that attaches to your kitchen tap. Also, know that store bought prepackaged water has absolutely no guarantee of being any better than (or even different from) tap water. Few regulations exist to enforce any level of quality in bottled water. Save the money; buy a filter.
- Drink water whenever possible. Keep a gallon of filtered water on hand and empty it (down your throat, not the sink) every 24 or 48 hours. Every time you see a drinking fountain, take a drink. Better yet, carry some of your own filtered water with you and drink that.
- Know that the user of more than half of all water consumed for all purposes in the Unites States is livestock production. Think about that the next time you're told to cut your home water usage, or quit watering your lawn, or not wash your car, for the sake of helping out in a time of "drought."
- Know that even a small decrease in blood volume, due to a minimal level of dehydration, will cause your blood to sludge and its circulation to slow. This will make temperature regulation difficult, especially in the extremities, causing you to become chilled and in some cases and climates, this will lead to frostbite. While SCUBA diving, this will slow the release of inert gases in your bloodstream, which is something any diver wants to avoid.
- As most people, especially those who exercise regularly, are chronicly dehydrated, this blood sludging effect and other negative aspects of dehydration are constantly at work. Thus, if proper amounts of water are consumed, major gains in endurance and / or workload ability will be reaped, relatively speaking. Though the body will only retain as much water as it actually needs, this "water loading" or "super hydration" will bring impressive results in the body's ability to perform under stress and in general.
- Eat rice, regularly. 2 billion people can't be wrong.
- Eat amaranth. The Aztecs knew things about which we're only just now beginning to have a glimmering of understanding. One of them is the quality of the grain-like amaranth seed.
- Increase your intake of the mineral chromium. Foods high in this nutrient are cracked wheat, wheat bran, whole wheat, wheat germ, buckwheat, cornmeal, apple skin, prunes, melon, and mushrooms. You'll be hearing a lot of good things about chromium in the near future.
- Avoid processed foods high in refined flour and sugar.
- Eliminate alcohol from your diet.
- Eliminate caffeine from your diet.
- Know that whole milk's 3.5% fat figure is misleadingly based on weight. In fact, the amount of calories provided by fat in whole milk is actually 50%.
- Know that cholesterol is found only in animal products. Labels such as "Cholesterol-Free Margarine!" or "Cholesterol-Free Vegetable Oil!" are a total farce, because there never could have been any cholesterol in those products in the first place. By the way, your chance of dying from heart disease if you never eat cholesterol is a mere 4%. (And heart disease is the most common cause of death in the U.S.)
- Know that American men on a diet free of meat and eggs will have only a 15% chance of death by heart attack, versus a 50% chance for the average meat and egg eating American man. For those who also don't eat dairy products, the risk drops to 4%.
- Know that the average measurable bone loss in female meat eaters at age 65 is 35%, but only 18% for female vegetarians at age 65. Osteoporosis is directly linked to animal protein consumption, as is kidney failure. (So don't think that popping calcium pills alone will effectively deal with the problem of the onset of osteoporosis with age. Rather, attack this issue from every angle: do weight-bearing exercise regularly, especially strength training; consume a vegetarian diet with includes kale, a more effective calcium source than dairy; minimize your animal protein intake.)
- Know that meat is not the only available protein source. Examples: rice = 8% protein, wheat = 17% protein, and broccoli = 45% protein. Develop a consistently nutrient-rich diet primarily made up of grains, fresh vegetables, legumes, and fruit.
- Realize that the label "organic" on food does make the food product healthier for both the body and the environment. "Organic" is not just a marketing tool, nor a term loosely bandied about. California Health and Safety Code Section 26569-11 requires that products with labels reading "organic" not have synthetically manufactured materials used in the cropland or water for one year prior to the growing of crops, as well as during the actual growing and harvesting of the crops, and then during the subsequent handling and transport of the food items to the retailer. Organic foods are worth their extra cost.
- Know that a plant-based diet is superior in every respect to an animal-based diet. Eliminating all meat, cheese, eggs, and fat-containing dairy items from your diet is far and away the best thing you can do for yourself, the ecosphere, and our common future. If you must, consume only nonfat dairy (milk and yogurt) and fish. However do some homework and learn to be a healthy, well fed vegetarian, rather than a poorly fed vegetarian, or worse yet, a non-vegetarian (who is necessarily poorly fed in the greater scheme of things).
- Eat according to the seasons. It's a very recent and decidedly weird situation that we can essentially eat any food at any time of the year, thanks to the current global economy and fast jet delivery of foreign foods. But the body expects to be in tune with the seasons and its own local climate, so don't stray too far from what would have been natural as recently as fifty years ago. Besides, why support the waste and pollution generated by flying and trucking in strawberries from Mexico or kiwis from New Zealand? Are your year-round taste buds more important than fighting pollution or supporting the local economy, not to mention throwing your body out of whack?
- You don't "earn" the right to eat or drink something unhealthy (like pizza or a milk shake, for example) by exercising. If you want to put something in your body that's unhealthy for you and the environment, don't delude yourself into thinking that you earned it just because you ran a 10k or put in some extra reps at the gym.
- Grow something. It doesn't have to be a full-blown organic garden, but plant and grow something, somewhere. Plants, fruits, vegetables, they'll grow just about anywhere: on the roof, in the bathroom, on a window sill, on a fence. Growing something brings some green into your life and space, produces more oxygen for the world, puts one in touch with the natural rhythm of things, and can even fill a dinner plate or two.