Friday, February 13, 2009

How Long Is Five Years?

(This was originally posted on my other now defunct blog back in September, it just kind of fits with a lot of the conversations I've been hearing lately.)

If you're at all like me you probably have served up more excuses to yourself for not exercising than you can count.

Let's be honest. We all have days when we just shouldn't workout. Days when we're genuinely sick or hurt and training is not going to fix anything or may even do more harm than good.

I'm not talking about those days. I'm talking about the other 360 days of the year when the only thing between a good workout and you, is a great big excuse!

Now I understand, I know how hard it can be to tie a pair of running shoes after a long day of work. And then there's the dilemma of not having the right outfit to wear. And there are at least a half dozen things you should be doing each day before you even think about going for a run. Life is busy!

But... let me ask you a question: Where were you in your life five years ago?

How many of the goals and dreams you said you were going to accomplish actually came to be? And based on the response I assume most of us gave; where will you be five years from now?

I'm not a pessimist, quite the contrary, I'm a huge optimist. I mean as one of my all time favorite speakers, Zig Ziglar say; "I'm so positive, I'd go after Moby Dick in a row boat and bring a five gallon bucket of tartar sauce!" or "I'm so positive, I'd spend my last two dollars on a money belt!"

The honest to goodness truth is that most of us have fitness goals we're not meeting and the biggest reasons are nothing more than excuses.

Maybe you don't have grandiose aspirations in the world of health and fitness like I do. And that's OK. I will suggest, as I learned the hard way, that while it's alright not to want to be an athlete, it's not OK to not have a plan for your general overall health. Every year in this country a greater percentage of our population slides into the "Obese" category and we go on like nothing's changed and everything's just fine.

As I look honestly at the pictures of myself just 3 1/2 months ago before I had my heart attack, I am embarrassed to say that I had slipped into that group of Americans who take health for granted and do little to improve it. I was kidding myself into thinking because I ran once in awhile and had done four marathons in the last two years that I was healthy. I even lied about my weight when they were checking me into the emergency room. I say lied, but the truth is I had paid so little attention to it lately that I wasn't aware of how big I had gotten.

Despite what I thought, I was a stout 250-pounder and all you have to do is look at the picture to see it. Amazingly, I ran a 5K race just three weeks prior. Had I gotten the race pictures back sooner, instead of the day after I got back from the hospital, I might have realized just how bad my condition was.

Fact of the matter is, most of us do this on a pretty regular basis.

Oh sure, we all know we aren't in perfect shape, but we'll get around to fixing it sooner or later, right? And five or ten years later we're still sitting around thinking about getting around to doing something about our health.


I can't say enough about how important it is. I can't impose, impress, stress or anything else, that you have to do something now, if you don't admit to yourself it's time to change now. The saddest part is that most of us know we need to eat better, exercise more, drink less, stop smoking, whatever and still we do little or nothing at all. Incidentally, if you know you are overweight, smoke, drink too much, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or anything else of that nature, please don't go out once a month, over train and call yourself fit. I for one would rather have you around than have you dead.

You don't get in shape overnight. It takes time. If you are overweight, there are two issues to be addressed; the weight and your cardiovascular fitness. Sometimes, it's important to work on the weight first just to get to the point where you can improve your heart. This all takes time. But again, let me ask you the question; If you don't start to make a change now, when will it happen? Where will you be five years from now?

Do you remember five years ago? In some cases it went by so fast it seems like only yesterday doesn't it? Trust me, the older you get the faster it goes! You blink at forty and suddenly, you're forty-five. What happened? And more important, what's changed for the positive?

So what do you do?

As I said earlier, there are a million excuses for not exercising and you've got to get rid of them all.

If you're overweight, start simple. Take a walk in the morning or at night... or both. This is arguably the best fat burning exercise around because it keeps you in the zone where you are burning fat the whole time you are exercising. Start with twenty minutes, ten minutes out and ten minutes back. If you handle that well, increase your time. If you are seriously overweight don't automatically try to graduate to jogging. We want to drop some of those pounds before we work too much on the cardiovascular system. I will promise you this; if you will commit to walking everyday for at least forty-five minutes a day, you will notice a difference in your weight and your shape within two weeks and instead of water weight, which is usually the first thing to go when you diet alone or try jogging, it will be fat loss.

Just do this! If you can afford it, get a personal trainer and join a gym. If you can't afford it, contact me and I'll help you with a training program and a plan to get you healthy free of charge (it's that important to me).

Incidentally, walking is also great because it doesn't require lots of fancy equipment or shoes. If you're embarrassed to have people see you, wait until dark, but at all costs get out and go! Besides, most of us see someone out of shape exercising and think: "Go for it!"

For those of you who have fitness goals involving competitions or races, let me just say... no more excuses! Today is the day where you get serious! If you really plan to run a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, marathon, ultra marathon or compete in a triathlon or some other fitness event, it's time to put your training first.

I know we all have the time constraints involved with work, family and such... so be it. If you're going to compete, it's the other stuff that has to be evaluated. Stop reading this blog and go run! Which will be more important to you five years from now, the fact that you took on a physical challenge and succeeded or the fact that you watched a particular episode of your favorite TV show?

Nothing in life worth having is easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something! It's just that simple! Do you really think there is such a thing as "Five minute abs"? I don't know anyone who exercises five minutes a day, period. And likewise, if you want to complete some form of athletic endeavor, it's not going to happen in five minutes a day. You will find the time when your goal is important enough to you. When you finally decide that this is something you truly want for your life and you will be proud of five years from now when you look back after completing your twentieth marathon or whatever and say; "I did it!"

Tomorrow almost didn't come for me. That may one of the greatest blessings I will ever receive however, I don't wish that on anyone. The key is to get the "don't waste another day" feeling without having to go through what I went through. When you get that feeling, you stop accepting excuses from yourself.

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day and I said to him, "I spent the last five years of my life, "Actively Disengaged". What that meant was, I was going through the motions. I had a good job, making decent money and I worked hard at it, but only as hard as I wanted to because it was in a business I had been in for twenty years and I could literally do it blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back. I mean it just didn't require me to be actively involved mentally. Accordingly, I unplugged in other areas of my life as well. I'm all for being laid back and relaxed, but I took "going with the flow" to all new levels. That's why it took me ten years to run my first marathon. I'd get to the end of a long day and even though I had promised myself I would go for a run after work, someone would say let's go have a beer and I was done for the night.

Actively disengaged is that point where you go on auto-pilot in life. It may be where you're at right now. You may have dreams or goals in your life, but their attainment is something of a haphazard approach of whatever, whenever or even, if ever. It's not a really cool place to be. Most of us have something more we want for our life and when you are actively disengaged you get a lot of feelings of frustration because you're not really moving in any particular direction, let alone towards your desired outcomes. It's kind of like being in neutral.

For me, having been through a heart attack, I know that allowing myself to be actively disengaged no longer means "neutral", it means "park" and "park = dead"! I am at greater risk now that I've had one to have another and even more likely not to survive if I do have another one. How's that for a stimulating ultimatum? I no longer have the choice to be disengaged. I have got to do everything I can to get in the best shape of my life. As odd as this may sound to some, it really is a blessing! I'm not really interested in being dead right now, so my alternative is to get in great shape.

Are you actively disengaged in your life? Do you get home from work and instead of throwing on the workout clothes, you sit down in front of the idiot box... (most homes now have two different kinds of them; the TV and the computer) and chill out. It's easy to come home and tell yourself you just want to unwind for a little bit by doing something mindless. Stop kidding yourself. That TV show you're watching is not going to make you feel any better and it certainly is going to be of no use at mile 18 of your next marathon or halfway through the swim in a triathlon. And there is no scientific data to back up the theory that two hours of mindless TV can improve your 5K time by 20%. There is however, a lot of data to support doing some good solid running or weight training or cycling.

Being "Actively Engaged" in your life is not easy. Oh boy, here we go again with the whole; it's not easy thing again! It is however, very rewarding. When you take the time to know what's really important and then follow up with the right decisions to ensure that you take the right actions, you will experience abundance like you've never known. Look at all the truly great athletes in life and you will see a group of people who knew and made the right decisions more often than not.

I'm not saying you can't be spontaneous once in a while when everyone in the office is going out for a celebration, it just can't be every single night and in lieu of training. If you're serious about your training, people around you will know that and act accordingly. If they'd rather have you out with them every night, even though they know how important your training is to you, you might want to re-evaluate who you hang out with. "If you ain't for me, you're agin me!"

If you're actively engaged in life you make plans and you do what you can to stick to them. It takes (I know people don't like this word)... discipline, but it's worth it!

So, how long is five years?

Not very long and yet it can be a lifetime! It can represent the best or the worst part of your life. And more importantly, you can decide today what you will feel when you reach five years from now. You can commit to what's really important and go for it or you can let life take you like a leaf in the wind. The choice is absolutely yours!

Make it a great five years!

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