Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Life Worth Remembering

Today the business of business will be taking a hiatus on swim upstream/ Innovative Thinking.
Today we will be speaking candidly and passionately about the business of life.

Tim Harriman, pictured above, has graced the pages of this site before. This is not because he is a sponsored athlete (though he was for 2 years), or because is he is famous, or rich, or a political figure. Tim is being held as an example because he's a Class A Human Being and an example of "how to" at life.

Yesterday morning, at the age of 22 years and 3 months, Tim Harriman passed away after his 4th battle with cancer. I have been hit hard enough in sports to have 4 concussions so far, yet Tim remains one of, if not the toughest guy I know.

After first being diagnosed at 14, the "why me" factor was replaced when Tim saw kids (several) under the age of 10 with cancer in the Alberta Children's Hospital oncology unit. After more than 3 years, Tim arose victorious. He swore to raise money for kids' cancers by riding across Canada, and he did so in 2007 (and he raised close to $175,000 which was well above the high end goal of $40K posted by his charity of choice). To date through his Spokeman Tour (, that total is over half a million dollars.

After he resumed life as normal, going to University, taking a job, and proposing to his girlfriend Christa; his cancer returned a second time. And then a third, and finally a 4th time.

For someone who is 22, who had to delay his wedding due to cancer, Tim has no blame, regret, or ill will. A few of us had a chance to sit with him this past Sunday, and here is what I took away...

- though he exercised regularly, didn't smoke, and I don't think I ever saw a drink in his hands, he had cancer 4 times. Though he doesn't understand it, he has no judgment for those who live to be 80 smoking 2 packs a day and taking their health (and life) for granted.

- he missed out on a lot of life experiences many of us may take for granted, yet upon the realization his time had come, his only wish was that he could have helped more kids in his time and through his life's work.

- it's not the quantity of life lived, it's the quality. After 22 years, Tim has said he has lived a full life, and many around him are testament to the fact that in a short time he has created a legacy that will far outlive him.

Though the story today may be somber, it helps all of us with perspective.

If your biggest worry is money, realize you have no worry because if you have the health to wake up tomorrow and go earn a dollar you are better off than a great many. With hard and smart work you can eventually earn what you need to pay your debt and provide for the future.

If your biggest worry is not loving your job, you can work hard and soul search for what you really want to do and then make it a reality.

I bet we all get caught up in the day to day worries, all the while missing just what a gift ONE day is in and of itself.

Tim will be a gift in my life (and in many others') as his example will be one that grounds me and has me asking for more (of life and of myself, not in terms of wealth).

While some may consider it a tragedy for one who gave so much of himself to pass so young, consider this... perhaps an even bigger tragedy is to live your whole life and not know what great things are inside of you. If you are capable of more in your life, and you are not living to your fullest, happiest potential - you owe it to yourself and those whose lives you might change for the better - to do so.

I am sure if you are reading this you are not the kind of person to just sit there and let life pass you by... but maybe today is a good day to ask why we are here and then get busy getting after it.

Tim you will be missed. God bless, and thank you (and Christa) for your example.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Think of Others

Today was a bad day for me in terms of reaffirming my faith in the human race. Not because I think we're inherently evil - no, that's a different discussion. But I do think that we've evolved into an incredibly selfish society, not able to think of anyone beyond ourselves.

In one afternoon of errands, I came across a person taking up two parking spots in a busy parking lot; saw another woman drive into the "Emergency" parking spot at a medical clinic and then proceed to the nearby bank; and watched yet another driver refuse to let someone in from a merge lane.

It's funny, and a little sad, frankly - there are people out there who give so much of themselves to the world. Would it be so much to ask that the rest of us simply try to treat each other with a small amount of respect and courtesy?


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Rogue Wave

No one has mastered the art of living more than Laird Hamilton. He has spent his life in preparation and anticipation of riding big waves. The biggest waves in Hawaiian Islands occur on Maui at a surf spot, Jaws. These waves reach 50 to 70 feet and can only be ridden by a few daring professionals utilizing 'tow in surfing'.

One morning Laird and one of his surfing mates, Brock Lickle, were in search of bigger waves and less surfers. They pulled around the corner from Jaws to a spot near the Maui airport which was virgin territory and breaking at 60 to 100 feet wave heights. They watched, analyzed and thought these just might be the waves of the decade. Even though there was no one else in the water they started to sea, racing up the huge wave faces and pounding through white water trying to get through the treacherous break. Just as they thought they had made it through the impact zone, they looked to the horizon and saw a rogue wave roaring towards shore. They raced as hard as they could towards its looming face, but couldn't climb it in time and were tossed like rag dolls to the depths of the dangerous coral reefs. Laird related that he was no longer afraid at these moments because he had been in so many fearful situations in his decades of preparation that this was now his comfort zone. Both were the best in the world and knew that survival depended upon a few basic elements.

Laird and Brock had to hold their breath for up to four minutes as they dove to the bottom trying to avoid their limbs being ripped apart by ferocious impact as wave after wave kept coming at them. Finally, Laird made it to the top of the last wave of the set and anxiously searched for his buddy. He saw Brock floating 200 yards away in a pool of blood and no jet ski. He swam through the washing machine to Brock to find him badly injured and bleeding. Before Laird could get them both to shore he had to take off his wetsuit and, in MacGyver-like fashion, use it as a tourniquet on his buddy's nearly severed leg. He then wrapped his arms around Brock and swam them both to the jet ski bobbing in the crashing surf. He threw Brock on top and opened throttle to shore. Of course, the shore break was 30 feet high so the landing on the beach was the next heroic act. Laird picked his spot, gunned the jet ski, flew over the top of the wave and landed in the parking lot, which was now filled with hundreds of spectators. Laird pulled Brock off the jet ski to safety and then standing on shore realised he was stark naked.

Once Brock was turned over to the emergency team and it was established that he would be okay, Laird grabbed another teammate and a new jet ski and marched back out into the monumental surf. He was not fearful. He got back on the horse and caught some of the best waves of his life.

By taking the worst wipe out of his life he was now better equipped than those other professionals who had been watching unscathed from the parking lot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Fisherman and the Banker

The American banker was at the pier of a small, Mexican coastal village when a small boat with just a single fisherman docked. Inside the boat were several small, yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked him how long it took him to catch them.

"Only a little while," replied the fisherman.

"Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" asked the American.

"I have enough for my family," the fisherman responded.

"But what do you do with the rest of your time?".

The fisherman thought about this for a moment. "I sleep late, then fish and come home to play with my children. We have lunch, and then my wife and I siesta for a few hours... in the evening I head to town and play guitar with my amigos while I drink a little wine."

The banker scoffed. "I could help you. You should spend more time fishing, and collect a bigger catch - using the extra money that you get from it to buy a bigger boat. With the bigger boat, you can catch even more fish - saving money by skipping the middleman and selling them directly to the processors. Eventually, you'll be able to use the proceeds to purchase your own cannery and control the fishing, processing and distribution of a massive corporation. Of course, you'll have to move away from this village to run the company - most likely to New York City. And, of course, you'd have to work from dawn to dusk to ensure it runs properly - but it's only for a while, before you're big enough and have enough people working under you to relax and enjoy your life!"

"How long would that be?" asked the fisherman.

The banker waved dismissively. "Oh, I'm sure we could get all this going within 15-20 years."

"And then what would I do?"

"Sell the company for millions and retire!"

"And then what?"

"Well, you'd retire to a small village in Mexico where you could sleep late, fish a little, and spend some time with your children. After lunch, you could siesta with your wife for a few hours, before you go in and spend some time with your amigos drinking wine and playing guitar..."


~ Guy

Barefoot running - the debate continues

Over the last 12 months or so, there has been a huge amount of conversation and debate in the world of running about barefoot running and the pros and cons associated with it.

I have read a number of articles, blog posts and watched a few videos on the subject and
as is always the case, there are 2 sides to every story.The only way to draw a conclusion is to hear both sides, gather all the information and then make an educated decision.

Lets have a look at some of the benefits associated with barefoot running:
  1. Barefoot running is an effective way to improve your running economy.
  2. Research has show barefoot running to be less energy consuming than running with shoes on.
  3. Running without shoes enhances an individuals proprioception and as a result reduces impact forces thanks to increased sensory feedback.
  4. Studies on other sports that are barefoot, such as martial arts and beach volleyball all had lower incidences of lower limb injuries when compared to running.
  5. Increased lower leg strength of the musculo-skeletal system.
Some drawbacks of running barefoot include:
  1. Increased risk of injury from running on rough surfaces, glass and other objects commonly found on the ground. Solution to this is to wear the lightweight "foot wear", such as
    Vibram 5 finge
    rs or the Nike Free.
  2. Increased risk of soft tissue injury from the resulting of change in your gait mechanics as a result of running barefoot.
  3. Obviously climatic conditions will have a big impact on your ability to run without shoes.
  4. Diabetics should not incorporate barefoot running into their routines because peripheral neuropathy reduces the protective feedback provided to the brain from the feet.
  5. Training indoors, at most gyms and indoor training facilities, might not be allowed.
As the debate over "with or without shoes" continues, I have noticed a few more runners out and about testing the shoe-less approach.

One of the guys who trains with us has been wearing his Vibram 5 Fingers to all of his strength training sessions at Innovative Fitness over the last 3 months and he wears them while doing his intervals on the treadmill.

The feedback he has given me is that he has noticed a definite improvement in his running performance and lower body strength.

Just last weekend he ran a PR over the half marathon distance and swears the shoeless training helped him achieve this milestone.

In the April issue of the IDEA Fitness Journal Coaches and Trainers were provided with 10 steps to developing a safe and effective barefoot training program.

This is what was recommended:

Step 1: Start the progression by doing various activities of daily life without shoes eg houswork, gardening etc.
Step 2: Introduce some movements without shoes, on an even, grass or indoor surface. Activities such easy running, other games and even Calisthenics.
Step 3: Progressive overload - run for 5 - 10 minutes at the start of a training session and then at then end of the session for a week or 2.
Step 4: Week 1 & 2 - No more than 30 minutes barefoot running per session.
Step 5: Gradually increase time (remember the 10% rule?) or combine 3 short sessions into a longer session.
Step 6: Variety is the spice of life: run indoors, outdoors, grassy and sand etc
Step 7: Slowly progress onto harder surfaces, starting with walking and then walk - run and then run. Watch out for glass, stones and other items that might cause injury.
Step 8: Use indoor facilities during the colder seasons of the year.
Step 9: If injuries start to arise - stop the progression immediately and work on rehabilitating the injury.
Step 10: Provide customers with information about products that are available which simulate barefoot running.

I agree with these recommendations wholeheartedly, and am confident that if followed, these steps will enable you to incorporate barefoot running into your running program.

Would I run barefoot? The answer is "yes".

I am extremely interested to see how the incorporation of barefoot running into my own training program will benefit me.

The key take away here is that barefoot running can play a positive part in helping you improve your running and your fitness. It should not, however, be seen as a replacement to the traditional running practices, but rather, as an additional training tool program.

Friday, September 17, 2010

If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.

~ Anna Quindlen

What does success mean to you?

I am sure that everyone answered that question differently and if asked whether or not someone you knew was successful, you would probably use your definition to answer the question and therein lies the problem. Everyone has a different definition of success and what it means to them.

We run into problems when we try to apply our definition to those around us. When we use it to judge others by our standards, rather than their own. Who are we to decide what should be important to someone else, and judge them when they don't measure up.

It's easy to forget that not everyone wants what we want and to get frustrated with trying to understand why not, especially if we believe it's in their best interest. But sometimes we need to stop and ask ourselves if we are we trying to fit someone else into our definition or supporting them in discovering theirs.

~ Sasha

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What are your True Colours?

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a 3 day seminar dealing with a subject that has a huge impact in all facets of our lives - peoples different personalities.

We all know that we have certain "traits" that make us who we are, that make us tick and make us respond to certain situations the way we do. I am also sure that we are aware that we respond to certain personality types more favourabely than others.

This 3 day, True Colors, seminar was the tip of the proverbial iceberg for us, but what an interesting iceberg it turned out to be.

Without delivering the entire seminar to you in this posting the primary purpose of True Colors , is, "to provide a model of personality identification that is easy to understand, remember and apply."

And boy did it deliver!

A simple process using 4 color coded cards, and a word cluster evaluation, allowed us to identify our primary color (the one that represents us the most), and our secondary, tertiary etc colors.F

From here, we began to delve into a number of relevant and extremely enlightening discussions and activities.

Each one brought us a better understanding of the different colors and what motivates them, what they value, what brings them joy and what brings them frustration.

In fact, a complete 360 degree picture appeared of all 4 of the personality types. How they operate at work, in love and in life.

This insight allowed us to identify and develop strategies to improve personal relationships and elevate job performance.

In fact, we were all surprised how simple, and logical, the whole process was.

As an organization, Innovative Fitness is extremely excited about implementing True Colors into our corporate culture and we are extremely confident of the positive impact it will have.

True Colors provides a FREE online assessment for you to get a better understanding as to what it is all about. I highly recommend you take 5 minutes and work through the questionaire.

And if you are interested, I am a primary Gold, followed very closely by Green, then Blue and finally Orange.

What are your colors?

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance." ~ Will Durant

In the past, when I've attended a course or seminar, I've walked out and talked to some of the others about what they took from it. Now, naturally there's room for individual interpretation and understanding - this is the beauty of perspective.

Unfortunately, I find that occasionally someone goes in with the goal not of learning, but confirming. Whereas I do my best to enter with an open mind, and an attitude of "show me something I don't know" (and I'll be the first to admit that I don't always succeed at this), I find there are some people who have their mind made up when they enter the room - and they twist and manipulate all the information into an entirely different meaning to make it fit into their idea of what's right, thereby rendering the entire process meaningless.

So the next time you're going into a class, seminar, meeting (etcetera), I offer you a challenge: go into it hoping to be shown something entirely new.

Seek an education, rather than validation.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Celebrate Setbacks!

Failure? I never encountered it. All I ever met were temporary setbacks.

~ Anonymous

I was speaking with someone the other day who had recently experienced a setback in their training and was having a difficult time not turning it into a negative experience. And, as recently as this morning, I heard someone else talking about the same thing happening in regards to their training - things weren't going smoothly and they were experiencing some technical difficulties.

Listening to these stories made me realise that just because we know what we enjoy doing, it doesn't mean that it's going to be easy. There are going to be setbacks, and we are either going to work through them or give up, and if we give up, then maybe we really didn't love doing, what we were doing, as much as we thought.

Setbacks are a part of life, and I believe we define ourselves by what we do when we encounter them, not so much what we are doing when we experience them. They help us to understand what type of person we are in the face of adversity - will we rise up or roll over? And, if we rise up than that's worth celebrating because there's nothing negative to be taken from facing a difficult situation down and coming out on the other side.

So lets celebrate your setbacks because hopefully they will be your next successes!

~ Sasha

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Thank you Vancouver and Calgary, San Francisco, as well as all over North America and the world...
Today is the 1000th blog we have the privilege of sending to you from Swimupstream/ The IF blog.

Here is where we started on Oct 19th, 2006 (, and thanks to your loyal readership, and your belief in what we have to say - we are now still coming at you almost 4 years later!

1420 days to be exact, and in that time, we have been in your kitchen on average every 1.42 days. This whole endeavour got started because a group of people saw opportunity to teach and learn from those who were willing to listen, in hopes of making a difference in the world.

It gets said way too often, "I'm just one guy, what difference can I make?"

well thanks to the vision of Matt Young and my colleagues Curtis, Scott, Guy, Sasha, James, and Mark (as well as those who have also contributed over the years),

- this platform has been viewed on every continent but Antarctica
- this platform has been viewed thousands of times in over a hundred locations
- this platform has led to published books, speaking engagements, and many many success stories.

One of my favorites is someone I've never met who credits the book with helping him battle and overcome depression.

But today is not about me, us, or even swimupstream. It's about legacy.

and it's simple. If you have something worth saying and you're passionate about it enough to do the work to get it off the ground - than you have the ability to impact people a world away and the true measure then of your legacy is immeasurably good... we have no idea how far each person in India, Asia, Africa, or anywhere else who has been inspired through one of our messages will take their legacy.

You can change the world around you, which is all the power anyone in the world could ever need... but it won't happen without you doing the work.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Then Don't Ask...

Sometimes, I don't understand why people even bother asking for other opinions.

You see it every day, and it goes something like this: a friend calls you up, and says they need your advice. They tell you the situation, then ask you what you think they should do. After the suggestion is dispensed, they then proceed to say "Yes, but..." and go on to justify to themselves what they had already decided they were going to do anyway. At this point, it goes one of three ways (depending on how much energy you feel like wasting):
  1. You agree with them, and they say "That's what I thought, too...".
  2. You argue your point, they say "Yes, but..." about 20 more times, then they go off and do what they wanted to do in the first place - they just don't feel as good about it.
  3. Or, you argue your point - and they listen to you.
People ask me why I tend to be cynical - and it's because 99% of the time, people do one of the first two... and usually, it's the second option. Which, quite frankly, is exhausting to be a part of, and ultimately very, very frustrating if your the person who's been asked. The problem is (as Michael Boyle has said), people "...don't ask for advice - they are looking for consensus and agreement." And the truth is, if they don't get it they're simply going to call someone else until they do.

I have a simple solution. Don't ever allow yourself to say "Yes, but...". Even if you disagree COMPLETELY, remember - you asked for the advice. Stop, close your mouth, roll over what's been said a couple of times, and then use it or dismiss it outright... frankly, it doesn't matter. Just don't argue.

You may or may not ever listen to anyone other than yourself - but at least your time is the only time that's been wasted.


Friday, September 03, 2010

What's your word?

"He went on to explain, in a mixture of English, Italian and hand gestures, that every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there. If you could read people's thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought. Whatever the majority thought might be - that is the word of the city. And, if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you really don't belong there."

~ Elizabeth Gilbert

For those of you that have not yet read or watched "Eat, Pray, Love," there was a point in the story in which the topic of conversation turned to what one word defines certain cities - for instance, New York was 'Ambition", London was "Stuffy", and Rome was "Sex". The one word definition was then given as a personal challenge - how would you define yourself in one word?

What I found most interesting about this question was how difficult people found it to define themselves by something other than what they did. If people could pick a label, that was their answer.

So often we lose sight of ourselves - our wants, our desires, our needs and we get really good at defining ourselves by our jobs, our relationships, and our families or friends. But, it's important to take a moment and think about who we are - not just what we do, or mean to someone else because if we're always defining ourselves by everything but, how will we know what we want and what to do to get there?

So, who are you? What one word would you use to define yourself? Do you know?

~ Sasha

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sometimes you need a Plan F

Most of the time, especially over the long term - winners win for a reason.
The reason is simple; winners know how to win.

They have a goal
They have a plan
they work the plan at superhuman levels to achieve the goal
... but that's not the profound part.

The difference between winners and losers, between victorious and victim...
is that victims fail and then change the goal; while winners fail and then change the strategy (the plan) whereas the goal, if it truly matters, never changes until it gets achieved.

You need a back up plan or set of back up plans when disaster strikes, and to avoid disaster, you need a set of back up plans that you never use.

Plan every detail, and then plan what you'll do when the plan doesn't work.

If you've ever been to Disneyland or a 5 star hotel that blew your mind - the experience was made by planning and details you never saw. Someone had a vision for a great experience, and the foresight to plan around mishaps so you were none the wiser to the same circumstances that befall us all. Adversity happens, but you just don't see it in true champions because they know it's coming, they plan for it, and they handle it so well.

Goals are what make us get out of bed morning after morning - but ensuring you achieve them by planning and back-up planning is what allows you to get out of bed with a smile on your face while others wonder how you do it.