Friday, July 30, 2010

Memory Lane

Sometimes it's nice to have the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and remember who you once were, and see if it strikes a chord with who you have become. Recently, I have had the opportunity to come home, and as part of my payment I promised to clean my stuff out of the attic. You can't help but be nostalgic as you view old pictures, read old love letters and pack away mementos from days gone by. As I was trying to decide if another milk crate of notebooks was going in the 'keep' or 'trash' pile, a little chit of paper fluttered to the floor and was lost in the shuffle.

Tonight, as I sat down to write my blog, my sister was reading over my shoulder and I was struggling with writer's block. She looked at me, and asked why I just didn't write something that I had already written and ran upstairs to grab the little chit of paper that I had misplaced earlier today and she said, "Why don't you just write this?" So, I am.

I believe I was lost in the abyss that happens between high school and University, and was waiting for 'real life' to begin so that I could finally have the opportunity to make something of myself, realise my dreams, and find my life's passion. And, one day I realised that my 'real life' had begun and that these things were not going to find me, nor would they be easy to attain - there would be obstacles, work (probably hard work), and I may never get to where I had always envisioned myself being but this would be one race where participation would be more important than finishing.

So without further ado the thoughts of my young self on true happiness:

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin, 'real life', I mean, but there always seemed to be some obstacles standing in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business that needed to be attended to - time still to be served or a debt still to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life and this perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. So treasure each moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

~ Sasha

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Much Do You See?

Today would be as good a day as any to question our perceptions.

When you go to work, is it 1 more day suffered through before retirement, or is it one more opportunity to add to a legacy, knowing one day you might miss where you are right now?

When you consider what you want to achieve for your own happiness, do you make this calculation as though you are an island, or do you consider how you contribute to others' happiness as a direct contributor to your own happiness, knowing we're all connected?

When you finish reading this, do you shift immediately to the next email or task, and resume 'autopilot'; or are you going to take a moment to allow a difference in perspective to sink in and potentially improve your habits? Will you spend the rest of the day in the rat race, or will you do 1 thing that will make you remember today as worth waking up for?

When you approach conflict, do you get louder and louder, and firmer and firmer in your view; or do you decide to be the bigger person and take Steven Covey's advice and "seek first to understand?"

Basically, can you connect the dots and realize that we are all connected, or do you cause disconnect in relationships (and even in your very health) by disconnecting yourself from others through your actions, views, and how you approach others?

Just as the picture above can be interpreted in 2 almost opposite ways, it is very possible that in times of conflict, there is another valid (possibly better) way of doing things. Our ability to see it is limited to our willingness to consider seeing it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Note of Thanks

Thirty years ago, my family moved to Gainesville, Florida, for a year while my dad completed another requirement in school. Now, at six years old, I was a little sensitive to being uprooted - I enjoyed traveling, but being away from all of my friends and the familiarity of our home completely shook me. Furthermore - the differences culturally between central Alberta and a southern state was something that added to my discomfort, without me consciously understanding it as such.

So it was, that for the first few weeks of school, I would often just sit and sob for the entire school day. I feel badly for my teacher (Mrs. Helpling - if you're out there I'm sorry about this) - it couldn't have been easy to deal with... but I have absolutely no recollection of her ever losing her temper.

Now, on one day in particular (and the reason for this post), I actually hit a point of such complete misery (for a six year old, anyway), that I didn't even make it to school. I stopped on a bridge (I still remember this quite clearly) and sat on my bike bawling. I also remember a car pulling up, and a man getting out and starting to walk towards the corner store, doing a sort of double-take as he went in. On his way out - he saw I was still sitting there; he dropped his purchases in his car and walked over to me. "What's wrong, buddy?" he asked. I just cried. I don't even know if I was coherent.

"Do you live around here?" he asked. I was able to nod. "Okay - let's get you home. Why don't you show me where you live...". To which, against all previous instructions and warnings... I did.

Well, as badly as this story could have turned out, it didn't. I walked my bike, crying all the way, and he escorted me back home. My mom virtually jumped out of her skin when she saw me walk up with a stranger, but he just said "Hi - your son was crying on the bridge, and I thought I should get him home before something bad happened...". There was a flurry after this - my mom called the school, who got me an appointment with the counselor, who reiterated what a knuckle-headed idea it was to go anywhere with strangers, and how lucky I was to have met one of the nice people, and not one of the bad ones. And this brings me to the point of this post.

In all of the rush and confusion of my bad choice, my emotional state, making sure I learned my lesson from all of this - I don't know if the guy who got me home safe was ever thanked. He certainly wasn't by me...

So I'd like to do my best to rectify it. I don't know who he was, and realize the likelyhood of him reading this is pretty remote - but hey, less-likely things have happened. On the off-chance he is reading, or someone who knows him is - I would like to take this chance to thank him. For getting me home safe, for getting to me before someone who might have wanted to do me harm...

Basically, for being one of the good guys. Thank you.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Fitness or Figure?

Every time I am in the grocery store I can't help but flip through the magazines as I wait in line up - a guilty pleasure to be sure. I am usually torn between the weekly gossip rags and the newest fitness magazines on the shelf, and lately, more often than not, it is not the women's but the men's fitness magazines that I am more inclined to read.

Which brings me to the focus of this week's blog: Why is it that women's fitness magazines have uber buff females on the cover, and in the pages focusing on exercises to help me get a better booty, tighter tummy or toned arms? To be clear, I am not opposed to any of those things, but I want to not only look good, but perform better and use my body more efficiently - which is why I prefer to read the men's magazines.

I am sure that on a broader scale they are catering to the masses, however, if we every want to change women's perspectives on their bodies and their ideas of fitness, playing into their insecurities is not the way to do it. Why not have articles on how to build the power in your legs, strength in your upper body, or pictures of women being athletic outside - that's inspiring.

How great would it be to read more articles about your fitness, rather than your figure? Something to think about the next time you are waiting in line at the grocery store.

~ Sasha

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

There is a lot to be said about spending time outside your comfort zone, and seeking ways to challenge and better yourself.

Champions in business, sport; heck - in life- always look to get better. That is why feedback, and the ability to give and receive it - are so important. Feedback has been called, "the Breakfast of Champions".
Ver batum, our stance on feedback is as follows;

The Feedback Cycle
1. Fighting: Taking personally/ not taking ownership (personal accountability) – ignoring the message because of who it comes from or your interpretation of their intentions
2. Blaming: Justify/ Rationalize – blaming someone else or giving excuses for why you did this or failed to do that.
3. Implementing: Subconsciously – on a barely conscious level following the advice or systems
4. Results: Begrudgingly – hating to admit that your boss, co-worker, or even parents- were right. Seeing results through a process that you fought but now begin to see may be true after all.
5. Advocacy: agreeing/ telling others/ showing others. – following systems A – Z and reaping the benefits; teaching others how to do so.

At all times we must be advocates or else we limit our own and others' growth. They won't accept the straight goods if we can't, because we won't be delivering it properly and tying the feedback away from the person and into the performance only.

Types of Feedback
1. Positive Reinforcement: “Great job on client retention John, you hit 100% client retention this past term because you were so consistent following the systems”
2. Constructive Criticism: “The reason your client retention was 75% John is not because you’re not a good personal trainer; it’s because you didn't follow systems and your clients had no direction (ie program) or destination to inspire them to train and stay. This is why the systems are so important – it’s not just about our personalities it’s about providing a tangible, proven plan of attack”
3. Negative Feedback: “John 75% retention sucks – that was a terrible job and you better shape up!”

You will only receive (and we only tolerate hearing) the 1st 2 kinds of feedback. If you ever receive negative feedback, please inform your manager. If for some reason it is from your manager, ascend the ‘chain of command’ until you can discuss what has happened and why and ensure you are at all times a) challenged b) supported c) learning and growing and d) treated with respect.

Feedback makes us better, period. We grow largely through our ability to improve giving and receiving feedback. On a great team, anyone can give anyone else feedback without fear of ‘pulling rank’ or being seen as a ‘pot-stirrer’. Championship teams concern themselves with solutions (feedback) not blame (pointing the finger).

If more people learned to accept, even ASK FOR feedback - the speed, effectiveness, profitability, productivity, and even enjoyment of our businesses, our teams, our relationships, and our lives flourish. Like all great lessons, feedback is meant to be shared. Knowledge that is not shared - dies with you, and that is not leadership. Go be better, and help make somebody else better today too.

Monday, July 19, 2010

How Far are You Willing To Go?

Whenever I meet someone new - either at a social gathering (when they hear that I'm a personal trainer) or when I'm first working with them at the facility, I get the inevitable first question:

"What's the best way for me to lose weight?"

At this point, I tell them that it's actually quite simple - eat better.

From here, the responses go from denial ("But I eat well") to justification ("I'm just too busy to plan my diet") to blame ("Oh, my wife/husband eat badly, so I wind up eating badly too").

The truth is, I have a response to each and every one of these - but out of social courtesy and/or a effort to be inspirational rather than demotivational, I don't point out that they're all just excuses. See, the thing is, while some might argue that they are doing everything right but they just can't lose weight - if there's a medical cause, they could find out by seeing their doctor.

But most don't even check, because that would take away their excuses.

Or, if it's genetics, the simple answer is that while this may contribute anywhere from 25-40% of their potential - they can still take control over the majority of it themselves. Some people will simply have to work harder than others for the same result - but hey, that's life.

The problem is, people want an easy solution - one that's not there. Even as a trainer, while I can help you get stronger and faster, help improve your cardiovascular health, balance and flexibility - when it comes to weight loss, if you don't eat properly, you're not going to see the changes in your body composition that you want. Which is why the title of this post is a question, and one that you need to answer honestly before you ask me what you need to do to lose weight - because you might not like the answer I have for you.

So - how far are you willing to go?



Flagel, Katherine M., Carroll, Margeret D., Ogden, Cynthia L., and Johnson, Clifford L. (2002). "Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among U.S. Adults 1999-2000." Journal of the American Medical Association 288(14):1723-1727

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ferrari or Jalopy?

'People are just like this fish; unaware, the noose of death descends upon them.'

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib

Up until recently, I didn't realise how spoiled I have been with the customers that I have had the good fortune to train. Being part of a new location you don't realise what a true beginner is until you actually work with someone who has never taken an interest in their health, or it's been so long that they can't remember the last time they laced up a pair of running shoes.

It's challenging to say the least. When you are working with someone who has no frame of reference for what their capable of, where do you start, because even the beginning seems extreme to some.

The scariest thing about this is that some people go their whole lives without ever realising their potential. They use their bodies to get from one point to another but they never test the limits of what why can do, or improve upon what they have.

In the words of Tony Little, 'You can drive a Ferrari or you can drive a Jalopy, it's up to!' I know that I don't want to get to the end of my life never having used what was given to me and is probably the only thing that I will ever really own, do you?


Monday, July 12, 2010

Is This You...?

I was in Calgary over the weekend - it was a great trip. Plus, I had the opportunity to check out Dinosaur Park, one of the exhibits at the world famous Calgary Zoo. I would say it's probably laid out as well as the "Jurassic Park" ride at Universal Studios - but you don't get to ride through the park on a raft, the plants are all real, and you don't finish with a waterslide... more of a nice afternoon walk.

But I'm not writing this to operate as a tourism advertisement for Alberta. No, rather to address something that happened with regular occurrence. You'll note the sign I took a picture of to the right - and where it says "Please Stay on Path", followed up with pictures of staying off the dinosaurs. Now, have a look at this picture, taken moments later in the same place:

Yes, you're seeing correctly. An entire family of tourists, climbing all over the rocks that they've been clearly asked to stay off of, behind the fencing, while other families below are trying to explain why the others are up there when they have to stay on the path. What makes this worse is that, not only are all of these kids up there - so is Dad, with Mom taking pictures and telling them where to put themselves.


If one of the parents of this family happens to be reading this - or someone who's behaved similarly - I have a question for you: are you completely ignorant, or just that selfish?

See, it's people like you who ruin and eliminate possible experiences for future generations. You and your like are the reason that the rest of us can no longer see Angkor Wat up close, can't climb the pyramids of Chichen Itza, can't explore Stonehenge... the list of things you've vandalized and destroyed simply through your self-serving and egocentric behaviour goes on and on. These rules aren't in place to oppress you and your freedoms - they're there to ensure that others can continue to enjoy these experiences long after your gone. And you're taking this from them. Seriously - shame on you.

In fact, on behalf of all the people of the world who have not, and never will, experience these things because of behaviour similar to what is seen in the picture above...

Thanks for nothing.


Friday, July 09, 2010

Be the Bigger Person

Character is much easier kept than recovered.
~ Thomas Paine

For those of you that watched the So You Think You Can Dance results show last night, you would have heard one of the judges, Mia Michaels, apologizing to contestant AdeChike Tolbert. The evening prior, she had offered a particularly harsh and controversial critique of his performance which created quite an uproar with both the audience, and viewers.

I'm not sure what happened behind the scenes from the time she made the comment to her apology, however, assuming she wasn't asked to apologize, I appreciate her taking the time to do so last night. It showed strength of character - it takes courage to admit you were wrong, especially in front of millions of viewers.

Furthermore, the contestant who had previously appeared broken in spirit seemed visibly lifted and relieved. It's never easy to apologize but it's always worthwhile. Something to keep in mind the next time you make a mistake, or someone is looking to make amends with you.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Yet Another Challenge

On Monday, June 28th, the cost of coming down the tram from Grouse Mountain went from $5 to $10 - which is very, very disappointing.

Now, I know there will be people (likely from Grouse Mountain) who say "This is the first increase in 13 years" and "they simply need to stay on top of costs" - which yes, I get. My issue isn't the price increase, but how much it has increased. First off, unless they are now paying the employees double what they were being paid in 1997, and all other costs have increased by 100% over the same time - this increase is out of whack. I understand that they need to match inflation (though I think this increase is completely out of whack with it, but then, I'm not an economist) and that price increases are inevitable. Maybe they handled it badly - small, incremental increases every two years, with a note about "why" to maintain transparency, etc....all of these things would have helped.

But frankly, that's not what I find disappointing. What really troubles me is that by doubling this cost, we're creating an even larger obstacle to the people of British Columbia getting themselves into shape. At $5, you could hike a family of four up to the top and come down again for only $20. Pack a healthy lunch from home, and this is an unbelievably healthy way t spend an entire afternoon - and for only $20. You can't even get two full tickets to the movies for $20...

The point is, the BC government needs to be looking at situations like these as opportunities to really make a difference. I would much rather see my tax money be used in a pro-active way like subsidizing the Grouse Grind, rather than being spent reactively to help people who have already developed Type II diabetes or heart disease because of inactivity, smoking and poor eating.

Now, before I get angry emails about health care for all, I'm not suggesting we, as a society should only be looking after people who are active, healthy and eat properly (although, ironically, these are also the same people who don't need as much help). No, what I'm saying is that maybe, just maybe, if our province's (and the whole country's, in fact) politicians would just start thinking a) outside the box, and b) forward, then maybe we'd have more people who fall under the "healthy" category, and therefore have to spend less money reactively.

Reactive health care isn't working - it costs us more and more each year, and we continue to fall behind. Maybe the proactive approach wouldn't save us money - maybe it would cost the same - but then we'd have a whole province/country of fit, active and healthy individuals for the exact same price.

I'd still be happy with that....


Friday, July 02, 2010

It's a Privilege not a Punishment

I was flipping through a magazine on my lunch break today, and happened to read the following, 'Eating healthy and living an active lifestyle is a privilege, not a punishment.' I paused for a moment and let the words sink in. Being in the health and fitness industry we take for granted what we do every day and there are times, everyone has had them, where we have complained about getting up early, the drive to the gym (or event), how hard the workout was, and the list goes on.

If you actually stop to think about it for a second - we are lucky. We are lucky to live in a society where we have wholesome foods at our constant reach, where we have the ability to go to the gym or outside for a run and we have bodies that can engage in many kinds of activities.

Maybe it's because we have had all of that given to us, that we don't truly appreciate or take advantage of what we have, instead we complain about it. I know that the next time, I reach over to hit the snooze button I will think about how lucky I am to be able to get up and enjoy whatever it is I am heading out to do, rather than dread it.

In the words of Charles Darwin, 'A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.'