Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Right Now

There are three kinds of time… The Past, The Future and Right Now.

The Past: We cannot change the past. In life it is sometimes useful to remember what happened though. Notably, when we are dead The Past will make up "who we were" so best not to ignore it entirely.

The Future: We can try our best to control the future by planning. With practice we can get good at planning, and we might achieve great things… alas, there is no 100% guarantee that these great things will happen. Nevertheless, planning is, by all accounts, prudent practice even without the guarantee.

Right Now: The reason why (of the three types of time) Right Now is the most important, is that we have 100% control over it. Not over what is taking place, but of how we view it… We can choose to make right now positive / happier / productive / restful or we can choose to make it $hitty in any number of ways. Our choice. Your choice. Right Now.

Meticulously planned or recklessly ignored, every second of The Future eventually becomes Right Now… and then, as each second passes through our consciousness, our brains have the final say on where those moments are filed in The Past.

Managing Right Now and processing those moments positively is the most important administrative role our brains have, because when the clock winds down, and The Past is all we have left, there's no going back to reorganize those files.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Who Would You Rather Be?

Picture two individuals, if you will - male or female, doesn't matter.

Person "A" can run a 3hr marathon; person "B" runs a marathon in just under 4hrs.

But: person "A" can't manage 10 push-ups. Their posture is horrible from years of doing nothing but running, they hurt their back picking up the groceries, they laugh at the idea of a chin-up and they stumble over their own feet every time they move in a direction other than forward.

Person "B", on the other hand, plays on a rec league basketball team 2 nights a week, goes away once a month on a rock-climbing trip, coaches soccer and, just the other day, completed a 10mile, 15 obstacle race in the top 10 percent of their age category.

Which one is the better athlete? And which one is better equipped for the day-to-day world in general?

Train for more than a single sport - train for life.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Play for That Guy

"When Michael Jordan was well into his career and had already won his first 4 championships, a reporter asked him one question: 'With all these games, travelling day in and day out, leading your team, how do you perform at such a mind-bogglingly high level without fail? How is it humanly possible for you to keep dropping 30 points per game and be such a star?"
"Jordan replied and said, every game I play, I always know that there's someone out there in the stands who's never seen me play before. I go out and play for that guy."
I love this story and can relate to it on a professional level (even though I'm not a pro-basketball player).
It's easy to get caught up in the routine of training, especially when you have a line up of recurring clients who's issues you know, are familiar with, and who you've proven yourself to (which is why they continue to train with you on a regular basis) but it's important as a training coach to view every client (or hour) as 'that guy', the one in the stands who has never seen you play before. That's what's going to make you successful long term, help you keep all of those clients that love you right now and the ones that haven't trained with you yet.
Keep learning, stay humble and never forget that every person who agrees to be your client is an hour you need to earn (each and every game).
~ Sasha

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our friend the Universe

Hump day.
2 days till Friday.
I can be happy then.

Ever muttered any of those gems, even if in your head?

Life is hard, work is hard, success and even progress can be hard.
One thing though my friends I have found to be true time and again.
Work hard enough, take enough steps forward, say "no" enough times when the chance to quit presents itself... and every now and then you are surprised at how easy a certain task, opportunity, or success came to you.

The fact is, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not the other way around. We are energy, and as we exert energy in a given direction or towards our intent - we are met with energy.

Some of that energy is in the form of opposition. This could be opposition from competitors, nay-sayers, physical laws, or even our own instincts if not fully aligned towards our objectives. Therefore, the greater the goal, the greater the amount of resistance we are likely to experience.

Fortunately, some of that energy we are bound to encounter is also in the form of assistance. The good old Law of Attraction. I'm a firm believer that for every step we take, the Universe takes one for us as well. It may not be when we want, and we may not be able to see it... but many times we are far too lucky to be as good as we are, and that's the Universe cutting us some slack for not wasting the finite amount of energy loaned to us while we are alive.

Complaining, whining, blaming, and failing to act; from the perspective of being spiritual beings - doesn't make a whole lot of sense does it?

Actions, on the other hand...


It is interesting where people place their priorities. Some of us spend a lot of money on eating out, cars, clothes, drinks, cell phones, electronics etc… but so very little on our health. I constantly see people driving expensive cars into the McDonalds' drive-through. This tells me that this person cares about what they have but not what they are doing to their body. What is our priority? When does it shift?

Typically when we receive an ultimatum of some sort, we change our priorities to meet those needs. When the doctor tells you that, if you are don't start exercising, you are going to get diabetes, is a good example. Some people take this recommendation and decide that it is time to make a change; some just keep doing what they have always done and let their health suffer. The latter group will eventually hear another ultimatum when the doctor tells them that, if they don’t get their diabetes in check, they are at risk for even more severe health complications. Again, there is a moment to shift our priorities, but only some people will actually make the change. What does it take?

At some point in all of our lives, health will become priority one. Health will become a priority either when we come up against an ultimatum that is serious to us or when our basic urge for survival kicks in when our health begins its inevitable decline. The real question here is: Are you going to decide to make health a priority on your own terms? Or are you going to wait until it decides for you? The choice is yours…for now.


Monday, January 23, 2012


I rolled up to the local pool the other day for a swim, and as always, they have a warning sign up:

"Criminals have been active in this area. Please do not leave valuables in the car."

Good advice, I thought to myself as I locked the car and headed in. As I walked into the change room, I noticed another sign over the lockers:

"Break-ins have increased in the locker room. Please lock valuables in your car."



Friday, January 20, 2012

Are You a Good Programmer?

I was reading through Rachel Cosgrove's book, The Female Body Breakthrough, and I came across an interesting statistic, and visual tool that she uses and I would like to share with all of you. She wrote that according to the National Science Foundation, you are bombarded with about 50,000 thoughts per day, and since you only have so many thoughts each day you can't afford to waste any on negative ones. Every thought you have will either empower or dis empower you. She used the visual tool of being a computer programmer, which is as follows:
You are your own computer programmer. You have the ability to write the computer program that will create the person you want to become. You have about 50,000 commands (thoughts) to send to your computer (brain) every day. If you use the right commands, they will program you to become what you want. Every thought you have is another programming message to your brain instructing it, just like a computer, to tell your body to behave a certain way. The one thing you have total control over is every thought you let enter your head, and therefore what you program your brain to tell your body to become. You must program your brain. Be aware of how you talk to yourself and what you think to yourself daily. Every thought is a message taking you closer to becoming the person you want or farther away. You are programming yourself, and you have total control. Whenever you become aware of a repetitive negative thought or programming message, ask yourself: Are you giving your body the commands it needs to create the program to become the person you want to be, and are you using your 50,000 commands a day to the best of your advantage?
~ Sasha

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Let's get one thing straight.
We may all be created equal by God, or the higher power you choose to attribute origin to... but we don't stay equal.

It may come as news; even a shock to some- to hear that they aren't entitled to the best job or a top salary.

The near certainty that their name won't be in lights in the imminent future is a reality check many can't wrap their head around.

The fact is, I feel extremely lucky to be born in Canada in a time that I've known at least domestic peace for all of my nearly 35 years. I've never had to miss a meal because of poverty, even though there were many times I couldn't afford this or that growing up. I am LUCKY. Work ethic and talent have factored in, but I can't give myself nearly all the credit.

It's been said that to get along, you have to go along. I think that concept is being lost on more and more people as the selfish extrinsic motivation focuses more on reward than an intrinsic motivation focusing on celebration.

What's the difference?
Extrinsic = trying to find happiness from the outside in. Buy the right brands, get the gear, have the right friends, drive the right car, work in the right industry, and the respect and admiration will follow. Hopefully those feelings will carry more substance than the fleeting high retail therapy or surface friends do may be the logic. The end game is reward. Get, get, get.

Intrinsic = trying to find happiness by looking inside first. Doing the hard looks in the mirror and all the self work. Focusing on what you NEED vs want, and learning the secret of appreciation vs longing. The end game is progression, and it manifests in that like-minded inviduals aren't competing; they're collaborating in their quests, and celebrating one anothers successes without jockeying or comparison.

In the context of Occupy Wall Street et al., try and guess which one of these groups makes up the 99%, and which one the 1%?

In the spirit of truly hoping each human being finds happiness, I'd invite them to get out of their own way to that objective by challenging their mode of thinking. Trying to be more instrinsic and socially motivated than extrinsic and selfish.

In the spirit of fair warning, to those who are all flash & dash; mile wide & inch deep - at least get out of the way of the 1% as we leapfrog your lazy excuse-giving a$$es on the way to taking advantage of the opportunities you want but won't work for... we have very little patience for what you think you deserve and how you think the old school ways don't work any more.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Overcome Adversity - "Chip Down Thinking"

You might be a pretty lucky person - maybe you'll steer clear of significant setbacks for years at a time – or a parent will bail you out… but you can rest assured that, like everyone else, your time will come. Life is full of adversity, and at some point we all find ourselves faced with difficult situations and a lack of obvious solutions.

When that situation arises, and your "Get Out of Jail Free" cards are gone, you will need to summon the best version of yourself.

Most of us have experienced what it's like when the "chips are down". Maybe you:
  • remember a time when you procrastinated at school, then crammed all night and learnt 3 months of material in 12 hours. You passed right? Wow.
  • remember a time someone said you couldn't "make the team". You played harder than you ever did before…
  • remember a time when a friend said "she'll never go out with you". You turned on the charm more than ever…
  • remember a time when a doctor said "you'll never play _____ again" - how hard did you work to get back in the game? Thought so.
  • remember a time when you didn't know how you'd pay rent next month. You stopped spending right?
  • remember a time when someone close was dying but you needed to support the person beside you. You held it together to be the 'rock'.
Imagine for a moment if you could summon that same level of discipline, the same level of focus when it wasn't quite so critical.

That's "Chips Down Thinking."

The most effective people in the world have learnt to play each "hand" they are dealt in life as though the chips are down!

You've done it before - now do it again, and again, and again!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

What I Learned in Sports

Teamwork - Hockey, Football
Courtesy - Hockey, Football, Golf
Etiquette - Golf
Humility - Tae Kwon Do
Discretion - Hockey
Leadership - Hockey, Tae Kwon Do
Passion, Commitment and Integrity - All of the above

To all of the parents who don't keep score or worse, won't put their kids in sports because of the possibility of injury, worry over what it will do to their self-esteem, or a fear of competition - consider what they're missing out on by not taking part.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Fear of Failure

Something about the fear of failure intrigues me. This intrigue is probably because I suffer from a bit of that fear and also because I see it everyday in the fitness industry. When it is a fear of failure regarding business and there is money on the line or when it is a fear associated with a life and death situation, I can fully understand it. When it is fear of failure of and by itself, however, I have a hard time with it.

When we don’t complete a run, a ride, a workout, or something else that is essentially without actual penalty, we seem to be simply afraid of letting ourselves down. This in itself is an interesting concept. The fear of not completing something that we start is obviously rooted in something beyond our fear of letting just ourselves down. It is most likely rooted in letting down our parents, family, friends, or loved ones (as if they will love us less if we don’t finish a run!).

This fear of failure can discourage us from trying things that are outside our comfort zone. Not only does this limit the potential for doing great things that we didn’t think we could do, but also it stops us from truly excelling at anything. How do you know your limits unless you have reached them?

When athletes compete, there is a feeling of anxious excitement leading up to the moment of competition. When we lose that feeling, it is time to hang up the sneakers because that feeling of excitement, that fear of the unknown, is the whole point of competition and, without it, we are just cruising along inside of our comfort zone never achieving our true potential.

As I mentioned above, if there is monetary risk or a life and death risk, then it is important to always weigh the risks and rewards of our actions. If, however, the risks are based only on our own fear of not being able to accomplish a task, then it is essential to look critically at the situation and step up! If you don’t, then you will never know your true capability. If you fail, then you simply have found your limit on that day or in that event. It does not mean you are less of a person. It does not mean that you won’t succeed in the future. It especially does not mean that anyone else should look at you with disappointment especially the people who love you. Those specific failures actually can be the best teachers and the greatest motivators because they give you specific, concrete information as to your current level and encourage you to reach for higher goals.

We've all heard the old quote about "fall down seven times, get up eight", but I prefer the quote by Rabbi Hillel: "I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing." The "dancing", in whatever form you experience it - the exhilaration of finishing a tough work-out, the smell and feel of the outdoors on a good run, the energizing pleasure of competition - is what will keep you from feeling that the momentary failures are permanent.

The fear of failure is in your head. Attack the challenge and you will experience more success than failure. Sit on the couch and attack nothing and you have already failed.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MIT Swims Upstream!

In a world where knowledge is power - and pretty big business - you would think that an institution like MIT (Massachusettes Institute of Technology) would carefully protect its product - the 2000 (or so) courses it sells to students for $26,000/year (each!)

Well, that type of attitude wouldn't get the school featured on Swimupstream / Innovative Thinking!

Starting with MIT OpenCourseWare in 2001, MIT made a conscious decision to give away the course content of (at first) a small number of courses. The goal had already been set to eventually offer every course online at zero charge.

Do you remember 2001? Everyone was trying to figure out how to sell things, or show things, or do things online to make millions (Amazon, Ebay etc.) University's were no different... apparently almost every campus had a team of people racing to figure out how to upload a University and download it to the PAYING student.

MIT's bold move to forgo charging, making a world class education (albeit without the paperwork) available to anyone with an internet connection, went against every fibre of the 2001 business culture.

The announcement in the New York Times back in 2001 set a goal of having all 2000 courses uploaded by 2011 at a cost of $100 million. The immediate prospects for recouping that investment were likely minimal since huge dot.com businesses like Amazon weren't even making any money and they WERE selling things.

Read the announcement and you'll quickly realize that the whole vision was to share knowledge with the world and create a better planet by making information and knowledge more easily accessible. Noble indeed.

It's not just a heartwarming story for people who appreciate GREAT vision. These tools are here for all of us to use... and there's a lot more than just hardcore Math like the MIT you saw in Good Will Hunting!

Do you think there are any courses from a top business school you could benefit from? MIT's entire Sloan School of Management is online... as one example.

Have a look at the Departments available.

Not content, MIT's newest project, MITx, will take the offering one step further by providing the course content, student interaction, evaluations and certificates of completion for a vast range of MIT courses... again free of charge.

Hopefully MITx will become the new Angry Birds or Farmville, creating millions of addicted 'students' battling to see how many certificates they can get!

Congrats MIT! Thank you for swimming upstream!


Monday, January 09, 2012

Seeking Guidance Is Not a Sign of Weakness

I was working out at the local rec center the other day and as I looked around, a line from the recent Sherlock Holmes movie occurred to me. The heroine of the story and Sherlock are dancing as he scans the crowded dance floor for the criminals and she asks him what he sees...

"Everything. That is the problem."

Which is how I feel when I'm trying to train in one of the public gyms. I see the guy loading up the bench press far beyond what he can handle, taking it off the rack and barely getting it back up after a horrific one or two repetitions. I see the girl reading a book while she rides the exercise bike, going so slowly that the bike's computer keeps pausing. I see the 65 year old grandfather trying to do a 95lbs Olympic lift because he saw it on a video somewhere...

I see all this, and more. And I cringe.

The thing is, I'll give these people their due - they've taken it upon themselves to start moving more. But when they do it wrong they are, at best, less effective in their efforts and at worst risking serious injury. It's part of the reason that I rarely work out in public gyms - it is not my place to say anything to any of them, and yet I feel incredibly irresponsible for letting it go.

If you've decided that you want to take your health into your own hands, please understand - I'm not suggesting that everyone needs a trainer. However, it's in your best interest, believe me, to find an incredible training coach and book in with them for 1-2 hours; ask them to recommend a program and then spend those 2 hours learning how to do the exercises properly.

After all, if you've made the commitment to get in shape, the last thing you want to do is wreck all of that work by injuring yourself.


Friday, January 06, 2012

It's the Little Things ...

What do you want to accomplish before the end of the year? Alwyn Cosgrove shared a great lesson that his Taekwon-Do instructor taught him (excerpted from the Total Body Breakthrough) about how success is just a series of small behaviours repeated over and over and how if you set the behaviours in place, the outcomes will arrive in due course; all you need to do is break it down into smaller steps and win the next play.
I can remember having to face a scary opponent in a championship match once. This guy was on the covers of all the martial arts magazines and this was my first time competing in this weight class. He was bigger, stronger and more experienced than I was.
In short, I was terrified. My instructor, Mr. Campbell, recognized this and asked me -
"I know you're scared. On a scale of one to ten, how scared are you?"
I answered with no hesitation "TEN!"
He smiled and said -"Ok. How scared would you be if this match was only one round in length?"
I answered "Not as scared. Maybe a seven out of ten."
He said "Well keep that in mind. You only have to fight the first round. But what if the first round was only one minute long? Would you still feel the same way ?"
Me: " No. That would maybe be a five out of ten"
Mr. Campbell nodding: "Ok. What if it was just a single exchange in the middle of the ring? One time. Then it's over. How do you feel about that?"
Me: "Ha! No problem. Maybe one out of ten. I'm too fast for him if it's a single exchange!"
Mr. Campbell: "Ok - let's just attack once and then we'll take it from there."
At this point I'm buzzing with excitement, stepped into the ring and attacked my opponent. And just repeated that single activity over and over. No fear at all.
And I won the fight.
~ Courtesy of Alwyn Cosgrove

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Perfect Mile

Is it just me or is there a lot of free advice being handed out about goals and goal-setting at this time of year?

One thing you don't hear too often is someone outright suggesting a goal for you. With goal-setting being an intrinsically personal thing, I suppose it isn't really appropriate to volunteer goals for others (especially en masse via a blogging platform).

Nevertheless, this is Swimupstream, and we go places where others don't dare to tread so...

In case you haven't selected a goal for 2012 you should consider this one to get you started:

1. Read The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb, then

2. Train to run your own "Perfect Mile".

Question: Why this book?

Answer: The Perfect Mile is an awesome read recounting the efforts of three men to be the first to break the four minute mile. Even though most sports fans may know who achieved the milestone first, hearing about the methods, journey and fierce competition that captured the world's attention is inspirational. Plus 90% of people should probably read AND exercise more... so it makes sense to start here.

Question: Why set your own 1 Mile record?

Answer: Well, if you read the book you'll want to run a fast mile for that reason alone. There is a legendary, epic, historic thing about the mile and once you rip through Bascomb's account of Bannister vs. Landy (in Vancouver!) you'll want a little taste of it for yourself. Learning, and working to drop your mile time will positively effect any running you do - you'll likely become more efficient, you'll definitely become more fit, and you will learn how to accept (maybe enjoy) a little pain - skills that will serve you well in any endurance sport activities. Plus it isn't too hard to work a little mile training into your day, or into your current training plan.

Final Note: I read this book (a favourite of mine) for the second time over the holidays and have decided to embark upon my own quest for the "Perfect Mile". It won't be sub-4 minutes (alas) but I am going to have some fun working to make it fast. I plan to drop my 2012 Mile on Feb 29 (dramatic, symbolic date...), if anyone out there is reading and wants to do the same leave a comment... we can compare notes and congratulate each other!

Monday, January 02, 2012

What Kind of Boss Are You?

I was having dinner with my cousin a couple of weeks back, and we were talking about work. She had moved out here to the West Coast for a job - what she felt was her dream job. Unfortunately, as she spoke, it became apparent that she wasn't loving it - so I asked why.

"It's terrible, actually..." she replied, "I have the job that I've always wanted, but I can't stand the people I work for."

As we talked further, certain things that she said jumped out at me - things that echoed what I had found myself (as both an employee and an employer), and things I had read (like the fantastic "Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni and "Good to Great" by Jim Collins). Now, I'll be the first to acknowledge that not everyone is a great employee - there are going to be some who hate everything you do no matter what approach you take (this is a separate topic - but the long and short of it is move these people along as quickly as possible) but when there's a problem with (an) employee(s) I will always take a moment to look at myself, first, and see if the issue stems from something I could/should have been doing differently.

What I've narrowed it all down to is my own, completely unscientific "Top Six" list - the top six actions/attributes that I think we all need to possess and demonstrate in management and, before assuming the problem is with the employee, to use as a metric for our own performance.

6. Leadership
You're a team. Yes, you are the captain, but you're a team nonetheless, and they need to know that although you call the shots - you're with them and have their back.

5. Credibility
Do we know what we're talking about? Do we practice what we preach? There can (and should) be people on the team that are better at certain things than you are (hopefully that's why you hired them) - but that doesn't mean it's okay to know nothing. Stay up to date on everything related to the business.

4. Consistency
In implementation, in attitude, in relationships. Yes, sometimes you need to "bring down the hammer" - but you're far more effective if you do so without losing the plot... that just becomes a rant. Rant too often, and people simply tune you out. You need to be a steady influence: playing favorites, highs and lows in energy, moving targets and goals without warning or explanation - these can all lead to an instability in your team.

3. Adaptability
The above point notwithstanding - know when to bend. You're not always right, and times/situations change. Be savvy enough to know when to stay consistent, and when to adapt.

2. Appreciation
This is a huge one. Daily, sincere recognition of how important the team is and what they're doing for you goes a long way. In fact, simply thanking them for some small thing they did to help ("Hey, thanks for taking that garbage out") can have incredible effects on morale. Plus (going back to credibility) - on the occasion when you do need to offer less than favorable feedback, you're far more likely to have a receptive audience.

1. Humility
You're not the best. You're not always right. You're not infallible, and you're not perfect. Continually strive for this (Nike had a slogan once that stuck with me: "Always train like you're number 2"), but don't let your ego get away from you. And when you're wrong - be big enough to admit it. You'd be amazed how far this can take you.