Lessons Learned from my Dad

I have three brothers and one sister. Some of my earliest recollections as a boy are of my Dad’s preoccupation with walking.“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”-Thomas Jefferson  As if they had been specifically directed to him, my Dad took these words to heart. The only thing that my Dad despised more than his own automobile was the existence of other vehicles. He would habitually park as far away as possible from our intended destination. He would then make the pronouncement, “We’re here”. As my siblings and I learned early on, this statement simply implied that it was time to hoof it!
My Dad’s parents lived about thirty minutes east of Columbus. I can still remember those wonderful Autumn weekends visiting Grandma and Grandpa. We were in grade school when we first started to attend Ohio State football games. Grandma had been a big fan of legendary coach Woody Hayes. Well, my Dad had a master plan for avoiding the traffic and getting in some serious walking. He would park our car at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, a short 2.5 to 3-mile hike to the football stadium. Good grief! “Health is the thing that makes you feel that now is the best time of the year.”- Franklin Pierce Adams  The Fall months may very well be the perfect time in Ohio for any recreational sport. Yet, in the ignorance of our youth we never considered the beauty all around us as we pushed our bodies to their limit to keep up. Though often tired, frequently hungry, and seemingly unfit for the journey we nevertheless exercised faith in his plan. Dad instilled in us an understanding of the principle of endurance. Simply put, you just have to continue on the way no matter what. We had faith in his knowledge regarding where we were headed. Even though we could not see the end from the beginning, he knew the way. He’s always known the way. So, we followed. Dad would lead the trek with his long, powerful strides. Interestingly, he would always take a different route. We didn’t realize it at the time, but there was a method to his madness. He knew every street and back alley in the Columbus area. “True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body. The two are ever united.”-Wilhelm von Humboldt. Dad was learning everything he could about his surroundings each time he put his feet to work on the pavement. It would be accurate to describe Dad as a human GPS. Somehow, we were never lost even if it appeared that way. Dad had developed an ability to listen to his inner compass. He used to study maps intensely and was not afraid to blaze a new trail. If you happen to find yourself off the beaten path somewhere in the Buckeye state, just call Dad. He’ll lead you home. That is his ultimate goal. “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”-John F. Kennedy  In truth, we thought he was nuts! (Not just the Buckeye type, either.) But not many people can match some of Dad’s accomplishments. He has set foot and, yes, walked in 49 of the 50 states in this great country. His personal GPS performed miracles everywhere he ventured. He was a voracious reader. He once said that he wanted to know a little bit about everything. I can testify to the fact that he accomplished that task. I’ve never met another person so well versed on all things A thru Z.
There is no doubt in my mind that Dad’s love for being outside fueled his brain. In turn, the varied subject matter which he read filled him with enthusiasm to go out into the world and explore. He has always had a great desire to meet new people. He loves to share the many things he has learned with others. I am grateful that he shared his love for exercise with me. He never had to verbalize his feelings regarding walking. By his wonderful example, he taught me of its importance. I’ve been trying to walk in his giant footsteps for years. I have a lot of walking to do to catch up with Dad and even more reading. Dad taught my siblings and I about time and health. These two most precious of assets are barely acknowledged or fully appreciated while we mere mortals walk with ease through life. It seems that only when our hourglass has almost emptied its contents and when the body is depleted of its energy and resources that we pay them their due attention.
Mom passed away over four years ago. I am so thankful that Dad’s will to endure is as strong as ever. The lessons he continues to teach me are invaluable. “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”-Jim Rohn  Though he has slowed down his pace considerably, my Dad is still my idol. If a bridge had ever been built from California to Hawaii, my Dad would have walked the 2,400 miles to visit that last state in the Union. His feet were made for walking, and that is just what they’ve always done!

What is a Workout?

I dare say that I think you could use a little refresher course. You may pontificate all you want regarding your preferred manner of exercise. In fact, you may extol the wondrous benefits of your favorite routine until you are blue in the face. However, I will stand my ground on this debate. I don’t mean to sound condescending, but I believe that you need to be enlightened. That  narrow-minded approach that you’ve clung to for twenty-five years has been detrimental to your physical well-being. And for goodness sake, there is absolutely no need to mock those who don’t choose your methodology. In the great big world of fitness, there is no singular activity that trumps all others. Subscribing to this philosophy leaves you woefully grasping for answers at this stage of your life.  How so? Well,  it’s time for a reality check. How many years have flown by since you last regularly participated in any exercise? So, it’s safe to say that you’ve missed more than a couple of workouts! Remind me again just how old are you now? Not exactly a spring chicken anymore are you? How about you rehearse that lengthy list of injuries with me once more. So, will you admit that you have limitations? This, my friend, is a reality of life. That stale, old way of viewing exercise has to be discarded for you to make progress in your journey.  Demonstrate pure conviction, yes, even stubbornness about achieving your gols, but grow in knowledge and flexibilty regarding your methods! While your previous exercise history is something that I like to be informed of when we first meet, I would prefer that you leave those ancient gym memories where they belong–in the past. It is my intention to clarify this terrible misconception that has plagued you for far too long. Since it is clear that you don’t really understand what constitutes a workout, let’s begin by defining it. 
“A workout is 25 percent perspiration and 75 percent determination. Stated another way, it is one part physical exertion and three parts self-discipline. Doing it is easy once you get started! A workout makes you better today than you were yesterday. It strengthens the body, relaxes the mind, and toughens the spirit. When you work out regularly, your problems diminish and your confidence grows. A workout is a personal triumph over laziness and procrastination. It is the badge of a winner–the mark of an organized, goal-oriented person who has taken charge of his or her own destiny! A workout is a wise use of time and an investment in excellence. It is a way of preparing for life’s challenges and proving to yourself that you have what it takes to do what is necessary. A workout is a key that helps unlock the door to opportunity and success. Hidden within each of us is an extraordinary force. Physical and mental fitness are the triggers that can release it. A workout is a form of rebirth! When you finish a good workout, you don’t simply feel better, you feel better about yourself!”-George Allen 
Do you know what it feels like to be reborn? It is liberating. It is breaking the chains of that which has bound you. A workout is awesome! Can we agree to begin with a cleansing of the mindset that dismissed anything but the usage of  free weights in Olympic style lifting? Biking, hiking, swimming, walking, yoga, Pilates, dancing, water aerobics, any group exercise class, circuit training, resistance training with bands or machines all qualify as excellent forms of working out. Of course, there are too many options to list them all. Age, in and of itself, is not a limiting factor. It does not automatically disqualify anyone from full participation in a specific fitness-related activity. But my assessment of your needs at present is spot on. In my gym, and under my guidance, you shall not do that which I deem to be both counterproductive and dangerous. An unrealistic view of one’s current physical conditioning can often lead to a desire to engage in high-risk exercise. A depressing self-analysis will often lead to doing nothing at all. So, we will exercise patience and take a much more balanced approach. Furthermore, your time is precious. Even if you could workout as you purportedly used to, the simple truth is that you do have the luxury of extra hours in a day to be a gym rat. So, I promise to make the best use of our time together.  Show me  just how determined you are today. We already know how much you sweat! Prove me wrong. “Believing in your goal is the most powerful weapon you have. No matter how tough it seems, if you believe in it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”-Andrew Gerard In six months, a year, or two years perhaps you will be able to turn back the clock. I’d love to see you lifting as you once did especially if that is something you truly wish to do. I ask that you trust me. You are not ready. So, we are not just going to sit around and wait are we? Remember that “life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”-Albert Einstein  That, my friend, is exactly what I shall help you do–keep moving in the right direction!

Talk to Me

Before any work begins, a little quality time spent with a prospective student is important to me. Call it a fitness consultation. Call it an assessment. Call it a meet and greet session. Call it a pseudo workout. Call it a what ever you want. I call it invaluable. An introductory date with this personal trainer is as varied as the students I train. I tend to ask a lot of questions. Mostly, though, I just want to learn about my new acquaintance. I want to know more about people than simply their current weight, blood pressure reading, resting heart rate, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, injuries, aches and pains. Of course, these and other health indicators are worthy of discussion but people are more than a series of numbers and a list of battle scars. So, when I seek information about someone, I’m more interested in what “makes them tick”. What are your passions and hobbies? What motivates you to wake up each morning? What are your goals in life? Prior to making you huff and puff, lift, push, and pull heavy things, and sweat from every pore I seek an answer to these probing questions: “Who are you?” “Where are you from?” “Where are you going?” “What do you want to become?”
Answers to these basic questions are essential for everyone to ponder. Today is as good a time as any for serious reflection. Most people are very candid. Some are lost and in need of being found. Others are on the right path but sense that something is missing. When I inquire “What do you need from me?”, I hear a myriad of responses. I want direction. I want someone to teach me. I want someone who understands how difficult things can be. I want someone who doesn’t judge me. I want someone who will listen to me vent. I want someone who feels my pain. I want someone who can help me find myself again. I want someone who can help carry my burdens and take this extra weight from me, now! I want someone to give me hope.
Someone once wisely said “We are not given a good life or a bad life. We are given a life. It’s up to us to make it good or bad.” I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly which can be encountered through the course of our journey here on earth. I have also seen, heard, and felt the better and the best that this time has to offer. With all the sincerity of my soul, I want you and everyone I meet to experience so much more, even an abundant life. I want all to feel worthy of that life. Since everything that we know to be real and tangible can change in the blink of an eye, I want you to enjoy the present and be full of hope for the future. Our days are numbered. Yet, we know not how many we have left. Therefore, I want you to begin this day to measure the value of what you have. Be grateful for your body, your mind, and your spirit. I want to help you understand the importance of taking responsibility for yourself; for your thoughts; for your decisions; for your actions; for your future. I want to help you believe that you can change the things that need to be changed. I want to help you get through some of those bad days. “It is extremely important for you to believe in yourselves, not only for what you are now, but for what you have the power to become.”– Neil A. Maxwell  I want nothing more than to help you discover that you already possess the power  to change your circumstances. Please repeat the following: “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”– Stephen Covey 
So, though I may put you through a comprehensive fitness evaluation, the objective of my initial consultation is to find out so much more. Do I care about your current cardiovascular conditioning? Yes. Do I care about your overall flexibility and range of motion? Yes. Do I care to know how much force your muscles can produce through a series of movements? Yes. However, if you meet with me, I am certain that you will find a safe, comfortable place to rest from your troubles for a while. You will discover that this taskmaster will  invite you to envision loftier goals. A challenging, yet, worthwhile journey awaits. I believe that anything is possible. I believe in miracles. Do you? If you have  doubts, let’s discuss them. If you are fearful, let this encouragement lift you today and always: These four words “do not be afraid” can be found 365 times in the Holy Bible. That is a powerful, loving reminder from our Heavenly Father that He wants us to live each and every day being courageous.

I Heard a Rumor

I heard a rumor about you. It seems pretty intense. I think it is my responsibility to address it. The rumor mill has been churning out the same story for a couple of months now. It appears that we may have a fully blown wildfire on our hands. Lest I be accused of active participation in the circulation of gossip, I make this promise. Fear not. I am not here to pour gasoline on the blaze, but rather to stoke the flame of desire within you. No matter how or when this rumor began, I am confident that only something very good will come of it. Furthermore, this day it ends with me.

So, “they” say that you are extremely anxious to start a more advanced exercise program. “They” say that you cannot get this idea out of your head. There is an old Irish proverb that might be applicable to your situation. “You will never plow a field by turning it over in your mind.” I am pleased to hear that you have been engaging in some walking. Indeed, that is wonderful, but do not drag your feet any longer. You may be hesitating to contact me due to fear of the unknown or of the possibility of failure. To some degree in some area of our lives, each one of us experiences these feelings. To overcome them, we must recognize that along our journey there may be stretches when we find ourselves being tripped up and falling. But, when accompanied with trust and faith these moments of real or perceived failure will most assuredly lead to success. If you fail to try, then you will never be fulfilled and your journey shall remain incomplete. There is so much to learn in a new adventure. “Sometimes we need to extend ourselves into deeper waters in order to meet the unseen opportunities that remain just off the familiar shore.-Greg Olsen

We have not met before yet I feel as if you know me. I sense that you can and will soon place yourself in my care. Perhaps you started this rumor because you were aware that it would make its way to me. So, to get to where you wish to go there are a couple things to keep in mind. “There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.”– Sheri L. Dew “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”– Henry Ford

I believe that you are ready. Your first little task is to take a deep breath and then exhale. Feel better? Now, your next tiny step is to reach out to me. My arms are outstretched still. I have not given up on you before we’ve even begun taking on this next endeavor together. Have confidence in your ability to learn something fresh, new, challenging, and exciting. You know where to find me. I’ll be patiently waiting while still cheering you on from a distance for what you continue to do. So, keep walking but change your course heading a bit.

“This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes this day will be gone forever. In its place is something that you have left behind. Let it be something good!”-author unknown

The Doctrine of D.I.E.T.s

Many define themselves, in large part, by their current choice of daily food consumption. They are, in fact, very religious about their D.I.E.T. By training such a diverse group of people, I have come to meet some who are devoutly committed to the doctrines of their diets. At the same time, there are others in these same congregations who don’t fully embrace certain articles of the particular faith. As I have witnessed, there are hot and cold times– seasons of life when you are “all in” as well as periods when you have one foot out the proverbial door. While some say that this is an extremely private matter and no one else’s business, others, however, never shy away from boldly proclaiming the things that they believe to be true and therefore helpful to all. I have seen an increasing number of people walking around with tee-shirts announcing their D.I.E.T. affiliation. Wearing one of those immediately turns them into a walking billboard for their latest food fad. The eyes of those who are yearning for something to satisfy their appetite for a new and better way are ever open and searching. Noticeably as well, are the new meeting houses which draw in legions of  faithful followers by specifically catering to their dietary desires. Other locales, without wholly subscribing to any one D.I.E.T., are now appealing to various groups by promoting their own unique translation of the menu to please these ever growing faiths.

I am not one to mock or criticize anyone’s allegiances. I am grateful for all that I have learned over the years from people like yourself. Just because we are raised in different cultures and align ourselves to a different food tradition does not mean that we do not share much in common. I do encourage everyone to continue to seek for more that is good and healthy throughout their journey. If you feel prompted to join with those of another food denomination, I hope you do so with conviction and confidence.

The reality is you do not have to abandon any of those things you hold dear about your previous “food lifestyles”. You can bring the best from your personal experiences and join it with what you now know. Adding to it will only made it better! So, don’t be too quick to dismiss the possibility that there might exist more good that you can embrace and incorporate into your way of eating.

Are you kept from trying something a little unique because you are not sure where to find it? Or are you confused because there exist so many different conflicting ideas regarding how to eat properly?

You can feel confident that you will no longer be scattered to and fro by every wind of doctrine from yet another self proclaimed guru of food. Have you discovered the Three C’s of life: choices, chances, and change? “You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.”-unknown  Have you ever heard of the elimination diet? “Remove anger, regret, resentment, guilt, blame, and worry. Then watch your health and life improve.”-Charles F. Glassman  So, do I have any specific words of wisdom to pass on to you this day? Surely, I do! Eat more delicious vegetables and fruits. Consume more whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Eat meat sparingly. Dropping as much sugar, and processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol from your life can increase your well-being. But, don’t take my word for it. Experiment and find out the benefits and blessings yourself.

Whatever you decide, I have a feeling that I’ll be hearing what you are up to one way or another. There exists today the opportunity to declare and share the tasty details of one’s food relationship to the four corners of the earth via various social media. What a magnificent time we live in!

photo credit: Road-side apple via photopin (license)