How to Achieve Balance in Your Life

Do you work too hard? Do you play too hard? Do you mix Grey Goose and Red Bull because nothing beats two sets of wings?* I’ve heard all my life how we need to have a “balance” in our life. I suppose it is my generation’s (Gen X) reaction to the Baby Boomers that work like dogs but the succeeding generations have realized that there is more to life than work.

The trick is how do you do it. How do you know when you have reached a “balanced” state? The reason most people struggle with this answer, including me in the past, is because we typically work toward a balance that someone else has recommended. In other words, someone else’s idealized image is what you struggle to meet. It is similar to when your doctor who is 50 lbs. overweight tells you that you need to lose some weight.

All of it started for me with a talk by Holly Green, who is the former CEO of The Ken Blanchard Companies. Ken is the author of the One Minute Manager. She simply was asking what does winning look like to your business? I simply extrapolated that to the rest of my life. What did a winning relationship with my kids look like? What did a winning spiritual life look like? What did a winning personal fitness life look like?

Let’s start with the assumption that most people want to tell you how to live your life. Everyone wants to tell you what to do- politicians, your boss, your significant other, religious people, and don’t forget your mom! If you don’t define success for yourself in every major area of your life then someone else will. So do it now! Right now! Don’t wait! Do it immediately! (For those of you who appreciate sarcasm)

Remember when you were growing up, you were advised to get an education, work hard, get that college degree, buy your first car, get married, buy a house, have kids, etc? Every one of these pieces of advice was given from a perspective of an idealized image of what was best for you- by someone else. If you followed the advice, you might have a good life to the outside world, but is it your life?

  1. Figure out what winning looks and feels like to you for each major area of your life. Just a few examples of broad categories are:

a. Family

b. Relationships

c. Work

d. Children

e. Interests/Hobbies

f. Spiritual

  1. Make a chart outlining what winning looks like to you in each area. Some people like to write it down, others prefer a mental chart.
  2. Review your chart each morning before you start work.
  3. Make all of your decisions with your “winning” picture of each area in mind. Ask yourself when making a big decision, “is this going to help me win?”
  4. Know that you are achieving “your” balance and let everyone else who has a different idea of balance pound sand.

At the end of your life, you only have yourself to blame if you don’t feel you lived life the way you wanted to do it. This sounds simple but you get the life you live and if you don’t have any idea of where you want to end up, any road will get you there but you probably won’t like it.

If you are pursuing your ultimate goals to win in every area of your life, you will achieve your balance. Will that be balanced for anyone else? Who knows but if it works for you why should you struggle for someone else’s ideal?

*@takinnotstirred

Fitness – What Happens When You Push Too Far

So you watched the latest episode of The Biggest Loser and you want to replicate the success of the people you have seen on TV. They are working out like maniacs so you decide that you must duplicate their intensity in order to duplicate their success. This is a misnomer.

If you do decide to try Crossfit after you have been sedentary all your life or if you want to do 3 hour workouts from the inception of your exercise program, you must realize that there are some potential downsides.

You don’t have to feel like you are on the verge of dying in order to have a good workout. When you see the people on TV that are drenched in sweat, breathing like it is their last breath, and seeing spots while laying on their back and looking at the sky this is not the ideal for which you should be striving. Steady, consistent exercise is much more effective and you are more likely to stick with the program.

Going on a starvation diet makes your body react like….wait for it….you are starving to death! When you go on a starvation diet, your body decides that times are bad and starts to shut down non-critical functions so you completely defeat the purpose of a starvation diet when you try this. A muted caloric intake is much more effective.

Rhabdomyolysis is a $5 word that is great to use when playing Scrabble but it isn’t great condition to achieve. The NIH defines Rhabdomyolysis as when the breakdown of muscle tissue is so severe that you actually have muscle particles present in your bloodstream. In extreme cases, Rhabdomyolysis can cause kidney failure and death. Most people don’t realize that when your muscles are sore, that is because the exercise has damaged the muscle tissue and the soreness is a result the damage and your body repairing itself. The more strenuous the exercise, the more chance of Rhabdomyolysis.

There are more reasons you should be reasonable in your training but these are the most common results that we see when someone catches the exercise bug and loses their mind when they decide to start.

The Most Boring Exercise Advice You Will Ever Receive

If you don’t want to read the whole post, you will get the idea with one thought. Consistency and persistence is the key to a healthier life. Don’t read any further because this is boring advice. It has nothing to do with upbeat hip-hop music, group sharing and accountability, being on the donuts only diet, doing something fun, or being entertained while you work out. It has everything to do with being consistent no matter what you choose and having the persistence to stay on schedule.

With that said, if you decide that the “all-you-can-eat bear claw diet” is the one for you I think you are going to have problems no matter what you do exercise wise. On the flip side, the “1 minute a day to great abs workout program” is not going to get it done either. We have to be realistic without going overboard. If you limit your caloric intake without being anorexic or working out regularly without starting out with the Ironman workout, you can get in better shape and live a healthier life.

There is nothing sexy about this. People ask me, how can I stick with my workout when I step on the scale and I lose a pound today and tomorrow I step on the scale and I gain 2 pounds? The answer is STOP STEPPING ON THE SCALE! You aren’t going to reach your goals if you are always second guessing yourself or your mentors.

The way you lose weight, get in shape, and stay in shape is get a program that works and follow it consistently and with persistence. If you sabotage yourself that is also done with consistency and persistence. STOP IT! You must set yourself up for success, not for failure.

If you have a habit that makes you fail, change what you are doing. If you slip up at the neighborhood donut shop, go to work with a different route. If your idea of single serve ice cream is a 1/2 gallon container, stop buying the 1/2 gallon container. If you hate the idea of walking 2 miles a day, start with 1/4 mile. If bread seems to have a magnetism to your buns, avoid the bakery at the supermarket.

The important thing to remember when you start a program is to make a commitment! If you are a 25 year old male with commitment problems, Crossfit may be a better fit for you but if you really want to tackle your weight and/or health issues, develop a nonintrusive light workout that sets you up for success. Drink one less sugary soda each day. Count these little things as wins and avoid the things that create losses for you. You can do it but you need to be consistent and persistent to be successful.

5 Reasons That You Are Crazy if You Exercise Outside

City Pollution

Of course, we promote indoor exercise because we repair fitness equipment and if you run outside, we don’t get to fix your machine. With that obvious bias out of the way, there are 5 good reasons why you should have your head examined if you regularly run outside.

1. Your Health

It almost seems oxymoronic that while trying to do something to improve your health, you are actually hurting your health. If you live in Beijing you don’t need us to tell you that air pollution is a problem. Where the air is a bit clearer, you are being lulled into overconfidence. I remember running when I was young and stupid in a quiet neighborhood and lapping up the exhaust from all the cars going by. With age I have picked up wisdom. Auto exhaust is only one of the problems, pollen, chemicals, and other assorted natural and man-made pollutants are just waiting to pounce upon your body and shorten your life immeasurably. If you run indoors, you have some control over the air you breathe.

2. Your Joints

I have a good friend who was an exercise hound. His favorite was the Boston Marathon but he also ran in several other high profile marathons over the years and ran all the time in local events. Today, he never works out because he has worn out both of his knees so completely that he is just buying time until he has to have both knees replaced. He also has extensive wear on both his ankles and he expects that shortly his hips will have to be replaced too. If you use an elliptical indoors, you will reduce the impact upon your joints drastically. I’ve never known someone who has worn their joints out on an elliptical. I did know one person that developed tendonitis on a treadmill but that was before the era of cushioned decks which are equipped on every treadmill made since the late 90’s.

3. Your Life

As mentioned before, I grew up and regularly ran in a quiet community in Memphis. I remember a year after I started working out primarily indoors that a kid was hit in the head with a full beer can- you guessed it- while he was running in my childhood, quiet neighborhood. Nothing like a fractured skull to help you round out a nice relaxing run. You never have to deal with angry dogs, kids who are hazing in a gang, or someone who is simply evil if you are in your bedroom (unless you are the neighborhood drug dealer and regularly having people kick in your front door).

4. Your Consistency

Nothing stinks like starting a program and then having it interrupted. Weather is NEVER a problem when you are exercising indoors unless you have a meteor hit the Earth, e.g.- the Armageddon movie. So unless you are expecting Bruce Willis to pilot a retired space shuttle through your house’s exterior wall, you don’t have to worry much with outdoor conditions interrupting your workout schedule. There have been a number of times in my years when I stuck my head out the door and even though I had on my sweatsuit and gloves, it was simply too cold to run. You don’t run into that excuse when you can just turn the thermostat.

5. Your Recovery

Exercising on fitness equipment has been shown to provide a more consistent exercise than exercising outdoors. Many marathon runners have told me that they have gone to training on a treadmill because it requires them to keep a steady pace and better prepares them for an event. My guess is that is a more subjective reason but my main reason is that once you’ve completed your run on a treadmill, there’s nothing like hitting stop, stepping into the kitchen, and pulling a cold beer from the refrigerator!

Blame and Excuses – The Twin Demon Enemies of Good Health

No Excuses

I simply don’t have the time. With the kids, my work, and responsibilities, I just cannot SQUEEZE one more thing into my packed schedule. I’m already working two jobs just to make ends meet; do you also want me to donate a pint of blood after I’m finished working out? Does this sound familiar? The reason it sounds familiar is because this is the number one excuse that people commonly give on surveys asking why they don’t work out.

The two topics that mom taught you never to discuss in polite company are religion and politics. Let’s violate her advice on both counts. Politicians are easy punching bags so they do the smart thing. Rather than doing what they can, they point at the other side and say the reason they can’t do anything is because the other side are a bunch of filthy varmints.  When you have a bogeyman that is easy to vilify, it is easy to get everyone’s focus off your own shortcomings.

Don’t you do the same thing with exercise? Rather than admit that the hour you spend playing Angry Birds could easily be spent playing Angry Birds while pedaling a stationary bike, you build up a straw man so you can move the beating to the object of your creation. Rather than doing something about sitting on your butt all day at the office, you talk about how you are chained to your desk so you can ignore the fact that you can do some easy exercises right at your desk.

The preacher scolded me when I was a kid and told me that I was in danger of the fires of Hell if I didn’t start watching what I was doing and be more like him. Later in life I started watching the preacher and figured out that I was doing much better than him. It’s interesting that many people approach us with the advice to pay attention to their right hand to draw attention away from what the left hand is doing.

I might as well offend the car salespeople while I’m at it but they do the same thing. Go for a test drive and feel the power and the smooth ride. Another approach is to test drive the convertible and feel the wind in your hair and take the corner going far too fast and enjoy the tire squeal. Can you see why I bought a convertible a few years ago.

They don’t tell you about the special $400 brake jobs this car will need or the trailing arms that you have to replace if you continue to take corners at twice the recommended speed. That wouldn’t sell cars. The same is true with politics, religion, and especially working out. Everyone wants you to focus on the OTHER guy, the bad things you are doing, or the hot body; NOT the way the person in the infomercial got the hot body.

I guess the reason we (our company) have never been super successful or filthy rich is because we refuse to do these things. We believe in telling the truth. If you don’t have the hot body you envy, in most cases it is your fault. We can blame genetics, time, age, or even the mailman but the ugly truth is that the demon that keeps you from what you envy is just a reflection in a mirror.

If you never want to get in shape promise yourself that you will start tomorrow. The dirty secret is that tomorrow never comes. There is only today…think about it. The politicians tell us that if we elect them, things will be better tomorrow. The preacher tells us that if we believe what he tells us, we will be happy and fulfilled tomorrow. The car salesman tells us that if we only buy his car we will be successful, envied, and get the mate of our dreams tomorrow. The worst lie we buy is when we tell ourselves that we will stop overeating, eat healthier, and exercise more tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes and nothing ever changes. Get off your butt and make a change today!

Are You a Clown?

Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un

Dennis Rodman has always grabbed attention. It is a similar type of attention that the guy in the circus that juggled the rubber chickens always received. Since ‘birds of a feather flock together’ Dennis has teamed up with Kim Jong Un, the dictator of North Korea who according to one former US CIA agent, doesn’t have the ability to run a taco stand.

In the fitness industry, it is always easy to spot those who are the clowns. The clowns always start the movements that end up being fads and the remainder of the industry plugs along and experiences the type of growth that would be expected from an actual business.

Who are the clowns? In the present day, it is easy to spot. First, an infomercial is the first sign that you are a clown…not always, but almost always. Second, you either have a product or program that is merciless or is far too easy. Think Crossfit or P90X. These come and go and they DO work if you follow the program. The problem is in some cases, the exercise is so strenuous that people have either been injured or the workout is so gimmicky that you quickly tire and put the program on the shelf.

The equipment world is no stranger to fads and gimmicks. Remember the Shake Weight or the HealthRider? Who can forget the products where you were going to put on a belt and through electric stimulation you had the promise of melting all the belly fat away?

The way that ALL these products and programs are beneficial is that they get people interested in doing something! The fitness flame has been sparked. The danger is that the uninformed will think that ALL fitness products or programs are the same and they clearly are not.

If you haven’t exercised since the earth’s crust was still cooling, that’s OK. The problem is when you don’t start moving once you understand the problem. If you are doing nothing, 1 minute a day of brisk walking followed by slowly increasing the time and intensity is a great thing to do. If you haven’t done any strength training, a minimal workout is better than nothing.

For those who have vitriol concerning my classification of the above products and programs as gimmicks and fads, remember Dancing to the Oldies? Billy Blanks was once a big deal and the NordicTrack had people falling and nearly cracking their skulls. Did people get benefits from these things? Absolutely, but many also had the products and programs in the sarcophagus region of their home never to be seen again!

An interesting aside was a middle-age friend of mine who decided to get a NordicTrack when they were hot back in the early 90’s. He was so excited and called me up when it came in. I went over to see him trying to mount what many call a torture device and once he got his balance, he tried to use it and it ended with him on the floor and, in his attempt to get his balance by throwing his leg violently backward, he literally threw the ski through the sheetrock wall!

The interesting point of all of this is that didn’t discourage him. He decided that he needed desperately to exercise and he sold the NordicTrack and bought a good quality treadmill that easily got him into the best shape of his adult life. Maybe that’s why NordicTrack’s biggest selling products today are treadmills and ellipticals.

Fads and gimmicks come and go but clowns are forever. Who is going to be the next Richard Simmons or the next Thigh Master? Who knows but one thing for sure, the world will never have a shortage of circus acts like Dennis Rodman or guys like Kim Jong Un who should be flipping burgers at Burger King! Maybe that needs to be the next big fitness fad…Dennis and Kim Jong Un in “Flipping to the Oldies!”

Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un

A Punch In the Mouth

The Fastest Way from Point A to Point B and Other Observations

U.S. Capitol

I’m generally an optimist. With that said, you must admit that our schools have a long way to go so society on the whole is able to do simple arithmetic and use a bit of common sense. Two problems have recently surfaced in our world; one local and one national that made me wonder why someone isn’t able to use a calculator and if our leaders have the sense it takes to come out of the rain.

For the national issue, we have the children that are entering the country from Latin America. Although we are unable to take care of our homeless and veterans along with many other challenges, we have big hearts and want the best for the kids. The problem is where do we draw the line? The proposal I heard yesterday said that $3.7 billion is needed to care for the people and provide better security. The government says there are 52,000 children that need help which means we will be spending over $71,000 per child.

I’m thinking of gathering my three kids and driving to Mexico and then crossing back on foot and claiming we are poor refugees looking for asylum. I’m not greedy so I don’t need anything personally but $213,000 for my three would really come in handy.

On a local level, our Memphis government recently announced that they had unilaterally changed the agreement with police and fire employees on health insurance and now retirees were seeing an increase of 100% (essentially out of luck) and active members were going to have their premiums increase by 24%. All of this would save $26 million.

We were told that this was done so property taxes would not have to be increased. As a Memphis property owner I appreciate the sentiment but my property is not worth much if I get murdered or my building burns to the ground.

What I reject is the frame in which people present problems to us. There are always going to be problems but I simply don’t accept that we have only the choices that are presented to us. Can you help people in need without spending $71,000 per person and assuming the obligation of raising a child to adulthood? Also, where do you draw the line? Years ago I saw Angelina Jolie adopt a needy child but even at some point her mansion will fill up. I don’t want the people who have protected our city to be thrown to the curb but that doesn’t mean we have to accept a tax hike and in the grand scheme of things, $26 million is not an insurmountable number. I would prefer not to have to buy an old battle tank to get to work.

I certainly don’t have all the answers but I’m wondering if we have put a bunch of idiots in charge. I have a sinking feeling that the higher ups aren’t idiots but they assume we are. What in the world does this have to do with fitness and exercise equipment? It has quite a bit in common actually!

The truth of the matter is many times we have the “expert” tell us that we have to make a radical change and everything is black and white. “You’ve been a VERY bad boy” so you must become a vegan overnight and move from being sedentary to a Crossfit phenom. The truth of the matter is that it took you a long time to assume the shape of a gourd so if you get started, you won’t look like Jillian Michaels this evening. Start to move and make one good choice with your eating habits.

S – L – O – W – L – Y increase your activity, even if it is only 1 minute a day and make one more good dietary choice. Before you know it, you will be doing better. Don’t worry about weight. If you do this properly, your fitness level will get better and if it doesn’t, see a doctor. I was doing everything right in my quest to lose 100 lbs and when it didn’t get better, the endocrinologist figured out I had a thyroid problem. Once that was fixed, the weight came off but I first had to get the diet and exercise right.

You can do it but you can’t accept the framing of the argument that anyone else has. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t make it just like I’m not going to take the politicians telling us we have to shoot children crossing the border or giving them the Life of Riley.

The reason I tell you that you can do it is because it is breakfast time and I have the choice of a fat-laden, gorgeous, tasty, 800 calorie blueberry muffin or a 90 calorie Cliff bar and a banana. I will be making the right choice. You can too and it most certainly won’t involve telling the police officer that makes sure you sleep safe at night that you appreciate the help but you won’t lift a finger to help him.

Where Do You Invest?

Where do You Invest?

On a trip to Denver a few months ago, I met a man named Alex Mandossian. He was giving a presentation at Ken McArthur’s conference trying to help those of us with the sales skills of a ham sandwich get a little bit better in our presentations. He really had the sales stuff down cold so I listened intently.

The day before, he had done an introductory talk trying to get us to determine the verb that best described us. My verb was a shocker to most attendees. We had to write our verb on our name tag and most attendees had written something typical like “I encourage,” “I love,” or something similar. My verb was “I criticize.”

For the readers of Treadmill Doctor that will come as no surprise (I’m a treadmill critic) but when the lady with the name tag that reads, “I HUG” comes up to you and then turns the other way when she comprehends what your tags says, it makes you think for a minute or two.

In Alex’s wonderful presentation he was trying to get us to buy additional training products to be a better sales presenter and he did a great job of framing it as an “investment.” It got me thinking about where I invest.

Where do you invest? Do you have a 401k, some mutual funds, maybe a side business? Do you have a plan to invest in your family? Most importantly, nothing else makes a difference if you don’t invest in yourself. What does the best family and all the money in the world do for you if you are bedridden and unable to enjoy life?

Alex did such a good job that I wanted to give him a little thank you so I pulled out my personal checkbook from my briefcase and wrote him a check with “thank you” written in the “For” line. He asked what that was for and I told him to read the “for” line. I guess he felt he needed to report on how he used the money so about a week later, he texted me and said that he spent the gift on extra personal training.

My immediate thought was when I normally give cash gifts, it is used to go to grab a bite to eat, or maybe used for something that they have been saving to buy but Alex used it to “invest” in himself. Why don’t you do the same?

Which One Will Survive?

Mark Cuban, Donald Trump OR Michael Vick’s Dog in a Cage Match

Trump Tower

Picture this! We collectively get an old style professional wrestling squared cage and put Mark Cuban, Donald Trump, and one of Michael Vick’s champion pit bulls in the cage and let them fight to the death. Which one do you think will emerge victorious? My guess will probably not surprise you but my reason might.

A few weeks ago I was sitting at a conference and Mark Cuban was one of the keynotes. I’ve always had a quiet admiration for the guy but also wondered why I always have a visceral reaction when I hear Mark speak. This was the conference that Mark made his now infamous “if I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street” comment. I thought at the time, “you really shouldn’t have said that” and by the end of the day, the news feeds had taken his quote totally out of context resulting in a severe berating for his poor choice of words.

A couple of weeks later, I was in Chicago for another conference (are you seeing a pattern here?) and as the cab was crossing the Chicago River I couldn’t believe my eyes. Donald Trump was having a monster sign installed on the Trump Tower spelling out his last name

“T – R – U – M – P“

The workers had just installed the “M” and I found myself wishing they would have started with the P and worked in the other direction so I could get an appropriate photo with my cell phone. It’s his building but people have always admired the beauty of the Trump Tower in Chicago and to me, putting TRUMP on the building is akin to drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa. He is another person that creates a visceral reaction and it has nothing to do with his politics.

It dawned on me that the guys creating this visceral reaction within me are the ones that have a total lack of humility. I admire their accomplishments and maybe their lack of humility is the reason they are so accomplished but for the love of God, give us a break!

What does this have to do with the aforementioned “Cage Match”? Regardless of reason, let us assume my dream cage match has materialized. Which one would win? The pit bull right?! Probably, but my guess is, because the two other know-it-alls would each have it totally figured out and wouldn’t have the humility to admit they don’t have all the answers and work together. The dog would kill each one individually and the world would be a happier place!

What does this have to do with the fitness business? We all have to remember that we don’t have all the answers. We must keep humility at the forefront of our minds because an adjustment to our diet, a change in our routine, or the addition of a new type of exercise could take us to the next level. Routine can be comforting but remember to keep humble and look at everything with an open mind.

Do I Love My Customers?

Why Companies Lose the Love

5 Star Customer Service

I was sitting at the Misfit Conference last week listening to David Baeza speak and he really hit the nail on the head. When I asked, “why is it so common for love to leave a business?” David replied with “As soon as the only goal is revenue, you can kiss the culture goodbye.” I could tell by his succinct answer that he has his finger on the pulse of that problem.

I’m sitting in Chick-Fil-A having some #grilledlove and it dawns on me that even though Chick-Fil-A has explosive growth and massive size, they still love their customers. If you don’t agree with their politics, you probably still love the company. I remember when I was a boy and went to see my Grandma in the hills of Northwest Arkansas. She regularly took me to the local Wal-Mart. She loved the place and so did I because I was getting a new toy. Back then everyone talked about how they loved Wal-Mart. Then Sam died and the love left the store. Wal-Mart has never been the same since.

This revelation made me realize how much I love my customers. They have made it possible for nearly 40 people at our company to earn a good living and for our company to consistently solve problems to keep people moving! A customer wrote me a few years ago and asked why we charge a restocking fee and I told him because my customers shouldn’t have to subsidize those who return a part due to buyer error. Everyone should pull their own weight. If we waived the restocking fee, other customers would have to pay higher prices due to all the costs we incur associated with returning a product. Reasonable people understand this.

On a totally different topic, I love the music of The Smiths and Morrissey. I’ve never seen Morrissey in concert so I decided to go to his show in Atlanta. I was headed to down there in my car listening to a podcast and remembered that I forgot my tickets. I called StubHub (where I bought my tickets) and asked if they could help. The lady was very helpful and then said, “Oh! Did you not get the email this morning stating the concert has been cancelled?” I hadn’t but she quickly informed me that StubHub was issuing a full refund and they appreciated my business.

The next task was to cancel my hotel room because I wasn’t going to complete the trip to Atlanta. I logged on and the app told me I couldn’t cancel because the hotel requires 24 hours notice. That was fine with me and since I had used loyalty points to book the room, I figured I was out the points but still called #Hilton and #EmbassySuites to let them know that they would have another room they could rent because I wasn’t coming.

After getting transferred 4 times the rep finally told me that if I didn’t show, I would either lose the points OR at their option, they could bill my credit card the full list rate for the room. I responded with “I was trying to be nice and let you know you could rent a room and take my points (even though I didn’t like it) but if you charge my card there would be hell to pay.” The point being what kind of a$$ comes up with a policy like that!?! Then I remembered David’s talk and answered my own question…someone who has lost the love and makes a policy that puts revenue above customer service.

You won’t make everyone happy and there are always people who will try to make your life hell but the majority of people are good and try to do what is right. Maybe one of these days we can all get together and stop doing business with the companies that hate their customers and do more business with those that love their customers.

I’m going to get back to my chicken sandwich and try to figure out how to love my customers and employees even more. Neither I nor our company is perfect but at least we have our priorities straight.