The Stairmaster & Integrated Character

I’m halfway through Henry Cloud’s Integrity. It’s been too long since I read it, and I want to get it read before yearend.

Today I read this quote from chapter nine, “Finishing Well”:

The ability to make a move, make the call, face rejection or loss, is a character issue, and if it is missing, results do not happen. Fear of failure, rejection, disapproval, anxiety, unknown outcomes, loss of security, and other fears keep people from achieving the results that they could, if they were not afraid.

People of integrated character do not think of failure that way. They think that if things do not go well, that is another reality that they will deal with and overcome. In a sense, the integrated character never sees failure as an option. These people just see problems to be solved, and they will meet the challenge when it occurs, so “go for it.”

Here’s a simple illustration of this. I’m not running much right now while a left-foot injury heals. So my Planet Fitness craze is the Stairmaster. In response to a couple of challenges and opportunities next year, I’ve decided to push for some new personal records on the Stairmaster. The main record I’m after is time. Until last week, the longest workout I’d done was 35 minutes. Respectable. My new goal is an hour.

I could do it today if I had to. But I’d have to do it at a slower level/pace than I’d like. So my strategy is to add minutes slowly but maintaining high levels. So last Friday night I found a blog post for a 40-minute workout; it was beyond my skill set, so I modified it and went to the gym the next morning with my 36-minute routine ready to “go for it.”

I about died. This is the plan I didn’t succeed:

  • Two minutes starting at level 8 increasing one level every two minutes up to level 13 (12 minutes total). Complete three times.

After the first twelve minutes, I had a pretty clear idea I had overestimated myself. Two more rounds wasn’t going to happen unless I wanted to be the subject of a viral video of what it looks like to be eaten by a Stairmaster. In the end, I ran out of gas at 30 minutes.

I was pretty sure the way to solve my problem was to address my heart rate. I’ve never really concerned myself with it, so I needed to learn about it. According to active.com, it is recommended that you exercise within 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 to 30 minutes to get the best results from aerobic exercise. The MHR (roughly calculated as 220 minus your age) is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity.

Good to know. Why? All along, I’ve been pushing my heart rate way over the recommendation. Using this formula, my heart rate should be between 90-145. On Saturday, I mostly stayed between 155-170. No wonder I ran out of gas.

With a better grip on reality, I went back and boarded the machine yesterday with one goal in mind: monitor my heart rate well in order to get to 36 minutes. Here’s what I ended up achieving:

  • Level 7-2 minutes. Level 8-4 minutes. Level 9-6 minutes. Level 10-8 minutes. Level 11-6 minutes. Level 10-4 minutes. Level 9-6 minutes.

I even had a little left in the tank. As my friend told me, I had some experiential learning. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Knowledge about heart rate on this machine is power for meeting my goal.
  2. Getting there alive is certainly better than not at all.
  3. There is a way to accomplish my goal. Adjust and “go for it.”
  4. The Stairmaster can also integrate character.

There Will Be Pain

I came home two nights ago facing a choice. The choice was how to check off the 10-mile run on the training schedule. To make the choice, I chose to lay down on the bed to ponder (a hindsight look at the choice I ended up making).

As I saw it, I had three choices:

  1. Don’t
  2. Do it now while it’s 80 degrees
  3. Wait until morning, which meant the alarm would go off in time for me to hit the pavement by 4:30

Choice #1 quickly went away to avoid regret somewhere along the race route a week from Sunday. That left choosing between heat and sleep. Choosing heat meant getting it done but with much more strain. Choosing sleep meant getting less and running unfully rested. As usual, my mind ran away from heat strain choosing the dreaded early alarm. Neither sounded fun; both had pain levels more bearable than regret.

Achieving a goal, developing a discipline, and pursuing growth require sacrifice; and with sacrifice there will be pain. Committing to the pain may be half the battle of achieving, developing, and pursuing. Your commitment raises your chances of avoiding regret, knowing your sensible strain level, and rising to the challenge when doubts invade your mind.

When facing choices, maybe these questions can help:

  • How important is avoiding regret?
  • How much is too much?
  • What am I willing to sacrifice?

2017 Running Review

Almost 365 days ago, I ran an 11k in North Carolina on 1-1-17. Not a whole lot of those offered. So why did the race coordinators plan that? The mantra was do a little more, which I translated, push yourself. So instead of running traditional 5ks or 10ks, we did 6ks and 11ks. I wasn’t terribly excited that morning, though. Two days prior I had some ridiculous stomach virus unlike anything I’ve ever had. So without much energy I lined up at the start line. Thanks to good training and raw stubbornness I managed to finish first in my age group.

What I took away from that experience was the goal to do a little more throughout this year in my running. So in setting a total mileage goal for the year, instead of 1,000 I set the goal for 1,111. Happy to say I met that, and a little more (1,133).

In my blog entry on January 17, the word I set my mind on for 2017 was thrive, and for the most part I did. Being a numbers guy, here are a few of my stats:

  • Completed 7 races: 5k, 10k, 11k, and four half marathons
  • Checked off 6 states on the goal to running in all 50: AR, DE, IN, KY, NC, TN (Total stands at 15)
  • Total miles for the year: 1,133 (For the last 9 months, mileage increased from prior month making December the highest total month for the year).

Looking into next year, my phrase is this-More of the Same. Here are my goals and current plans:

  • Total mileage: 1,200
  • Run an ultra marathon-(50k, 31 miles)
  • Check off at least 3 more states-(my eyes are on MS, OH, PA)

Running may not be your thing. Whatever your thing is, how did 2017 go and what do you want to achieve in 2018? 

Winning at the Game of Life

(This is the ninth and final post in a series on wisdom from baseball; and how about it posting just a few hours before GAME 7. In this article, Mark Stanifer continues to mine his playing experience for insights into how to better play the game of life.)

One hundred and sixty-two regular season games. Three wins for the Division Series. Four more wins for the League championship. All for the chance to win four more games and be called the best in baseball. Only the Dodgers and the Astros have a chance to reach this final goal for the season.

Over the course of our article series, baseball has provided some excellent material for how to excel at the game of life. Of course, it is not a perfect analogy, but it is a good one.

Clear Goals Are Important

Last season, the Astros finished with a record barely over 0.500. The Dodgers lost in the League Championship to the eventual World Series winners. Both teams came into this season with something to prove, and they have. Although only one team will finish first, all the goal setting, planning, and hard work have paid off for both teams.

It’s likely that the other twenty-eight teams now watching the games on TV set a goal to win the World Series as well. Setting a goal does not guarantee it will happen. There are many factors which go into achieving a goal, some of which are outside of your control. But without a clear vision of what you are working for, how will you know when you achieve it? If the Astros had set their goal as simply “do better than last year,” it is likely they would have significantly underperformed. Winning the World Series is a big stretch goal, but it is specific and clear.

Team Effort

Each team has stand out players, but without the whole team, winning championships doesn’t happen. During this article series, we covered the importance of playing your role, doing the little things, and being the ideal team player. Suffice it to say, it takes a team to win the World Series.

It takes a team effort to win at the game of life too. Anyone who has achieved a level of success, broadly defined, has had help along the way. I don’t mean to diminish the individual effort. Instead, I want to emphasize the role that others — parents, mentors, coaches, teachers, partners, friends, spouses — play in their success. Moreover, truly successful people help others to be successful as well. MVP’s and all-stars garner a lot of attention, but I believe being praised as a great team player is a more desirable accolade.

Staying Focused

Spring training starts in March. The World Series sometimes finishes in November. That’s almost nine months of baseball, and over 200 games all told. How do teams stay focused for that long? There are multiple factors here, but I want to highlight one in particular. The players make a choice to stay focused on what they are pursuing — a championship.

Choices like this require sacrifice. I don’t mean to imply that a single minded pursuit of goals is always admirable. Rather, I’m highlighting a principle Greg McKeown writes about in Essentialism, which is this: “The way of the Essentialist rejects the idea that we can fit it all in. Instead it requires us to grapple with real trade-offs and make tough decisions.” Said differently, staying focused on your goals requires consistently choosing activities that lead to accomplishing your goals, and saying no to things that don’t. It also reinforces the importance of being clear about goals. Regrets arise from saying no to things that should have been a yes.

Not Just One Winner

The big flaw in using a sports analogy for life lessons is that in sports there is only one champion. Not so in life. A winner does not have to come at the expense of a loser. Winning, again broadly defined, is achievable for many. That said, let me be clear — I am not advocating for “participation trophies.” That diminishes the achievements and actions of those who have truly excelled. Rather, I’m advocating for a perspective that allows for many winners in the game of life, as each plays the game in the way they were created play. Some might call this an abundance mindset.

If I were to summarize this series in just a few sentences, it would be this: Be clear on where you are going and do what is yours to do to get there. Recognize the importance of being on a team and do the little things to help each other win. Realize that much of this game is mental and overcoming mistakes or failure will be critical. If you do all these things, it won’t guarantee victory, but it will increase your chances of living up to your full potential, and of winning big in life.

But I Don’t Want To

One reality to living alone-if you don’t do the chores, ain’t nobody else going to either. As a task-oriented guy, not usually a big deal.

But then there’s these two things: mopping and dusting. What is it with these two? Does anyone else dislike them as much as I do? I won’t tell you my lack of getting them done in order to protect my reputation of being neat and tidy.

I’ve noticed something else. There are also some spiritual disciplines that I have the same problem with. Just like house chores, some spiritual disciplines are just more enjoyable, easier, or natural. Yet, when I make myself do the less enjoyable ones, just like when I dust or mop, I’m glad I did. Like the reflection of mopped tile, my soul feels cleaner and more reflective of God.

So how do we tackle these “but I don’t want to” chores and disciplines? It doesn’t seem to work to wait until the mood strikes or to just suck it up and grudgingly put them on the to do list, on which they seem to easily get bumped down. I’m not sure what would work for you, but I can tell you what happened today to cause me to dust. I decided I wanted to see clean, to see a reflection more than anything else. It comes down to choice, to wanting better, to having the end in mind, to not settling for easy. My want has to change.

The example I can draw from in a different area of my life is running. Right now, I’m back to running 20+ miles a week-haven’t been there in almost 4 years. I’m doing that to build a foundation that will prepare me to train for the longest race in my life next year. I want to run this race. I don’t always want to get up in the dark and run. I don’t always want to endure the summer humidity. But when I remember the end in mind, I get up and hit the road. And I’m glad I did when I finish.

What’s your end game? What do you need to decide you want in order to do what you don’t want to do? Nail it down. You’ll be glad you did.

Running Tuesdays: Convenience vs Agenda Running

For the last two weeks, Lorraine and Michael shared their thoughts on running alone and running in groups. My turn.

I mostly, which means +90% of the time, run alone. And the answer is really quite simple. CONVENIENCE.

Running when, where, how far, and at what pace I want is really more important to me than anything else. Being able to decide that either on the spot or the night before is more difficult when others are involved. I’ve tried to run routinely with others, and it has mostly ended up being more of a hassle or frustration-counterintuitive to the rewards of running.

Even though I thrive on the convenience of running alone, there is a reason I engage in group running. That reason is when I need to focus on a set AGENDA for which the group is already committed or can help me achieve. That agenda could be anything from building up distance, running a particular tempo, or strength work on hills or a bridge. That agenda overrides any desire for convenience. For me, convenience gets sacrificed to the drive to fulfill the agenda.

You may have heard of the struggle some people have between playing at their work or working at their play. You can guess which way I lean. Some runners are really good at “playing” while they run. I generally have to work to play at my play. By work I mean I mentally have to tell myself to chill, relax, and don’t think too much when I run with a group. One simple way I’ve done that is to not run with any type of technology. If I don’t know my tempo, it keeps me from adjusting it. Ironically, I sometimes choose to run with others to force myself to pull back. I’m one of those odd birds that self-motivates. Those birds need others to help them chill. You could say that my agenda sometimes needs to be not to have one.

If you are toying with running against your normal routine of running alone or with others, I suggest giving yourself a week or two to experiment. Do at least one run a week outside of your normal routine. You’ll most likely learn something about yourself that will move you forward. Think about what feeds you but also what pushes you. Then go about making it work. Find the balance. Enjoy the road.

4 Running/Life Seasonal Questions

I’ve lived in Florida for 30 years, but I’ve only been a runner 9 of those years.  In the fall of 2007, I graduated from an occasional jogger to an intentional runner.  When the summer of 2008 came around, I encountered for the first time what it means to have to change gears because of the rise in humidity and heat.

A friend (occasional runner) brought this up today-how he’s challenged to run over a mile right now, having trouble breathing, etc.  Breaking News: Running in December is not the same as running in July!  After that conversation, it crossed my mind how the adjustments runners must make based on seasons is very applicable to seasons of life in general.  

  • Season of raising a young family
  • Season of transition (job changing, moving, retiring, empty nesting)
  • Season of busyness (school starting/ending, holidays, kid’s recreational activities)
  • Season of recovery (from surgery, from loss, from the other seasons)

With that in mind, here are some questions from a runner’s perspective that might help you get through your season of life. 

1.  How long might this season be?

This might sound trivial, possibly unnecessary. Think about it though. A woman knows roughly how long her pregnancy will be.  We all know how long winter lasts.  That knowledge, in some sense, gets us through that period of time.  So, to the best of your knowledge, determine how long your season might be.  Do some research on empty nesters.  Read about how long to expect your family to acclimate to a new city.  Step one, know the length of your season.

2.  What adjustments do you need on make?

One adjustment I’ve made in the past for the summer is to move indoors, train on the treadmill.  Another is to change my weekly routine-how many days I run and how long each run will be.  And every year it may look different.  Your adjustments might be changing your bedtime or when the alarm goes off.  Maybe using social media more or less.  Your whole routine of life may need assessing.  Not a problem.  If you’ll embrace it, you may find some exciting changes that you’ll wish you’d made long ago.

3.  What should your pace be?

Summer running pace is much slower.  You find that out the easy way or the hard way.  Making adjustments can also be easy or hard.  So pace yourself.  Don’t put too much pressure on finding your new norm too quickly.  Be gracious to yourself.  It’s a new season.  

4.  What are your short term goals?

Summer is not racing season.  Much like baseball players in the winter or football players in the spring, you should set some short term goals that keep you in shape for the “show.”  If survival is all you can manage, then shoot for it.  Most likely, you can do more than survive.  You might actually consider hiring a life coach to walk you through this season.  If you are pretty good at goal setting, then determine what you hope to achieve by the end of this season.

God brought you to this season.  You don’t have to dehydrate, heatstroke, or find yourself on the side of the road asking yourself how did you get there.  Stop right now and make yourself answer these questions.  This season will pass.  Get the most out of it.  Determine the length, make adjustments, set your pace, and reach for your goals.

3 Productive Denials

Production begins with a set direction, a determined goal. Each morning the choices you make determine your direction, your production. So the production of each day is determined by the things you choose to do and the things you choose not to do – what you allow and what you deny. 

To be productive, here are three things that should be denied:

Deny any bend toward laziness

  • A productive day begins with exercise of mind, spirit or body – determination to get up and start moving, to stretch your mind, to engage your spirit (Proverbs 26:13-16)

Deny any bend toward holding on

  • A productive day begins by resisting temptations of anger, bitterness, negativity, unforgiveness (Philippians 3:12-16)

Deny any bend toward independence 

  • A productive day begins by admitting we are better together (Psalm 49:13-14)

Pray, “Lord, I desire to be productive today. Whatever bends I have away from you, I deny them in order to move toward you. Your will be done today as it is in heaven.”