When…we know ourselves.
We...can change ourselves.
Then…we can create the new habits of thinking, feeling and behaving
To…live our best life possible

MIND OVER MUSCLE: PART 1

In last weeks post Muscle Loss – The Silent Epidemic I illustrated the vital importance of improving and maintaining lean muscle mass – especially as we enter our 4th decade and thereafter.
Aside from all the benefits I outlined in that post, executing a consistent strength training regime will, believe it or not, provide you far greater results in your mid to late life, than the results you did, or would of, received when you’re in your teens or 20’s…

It’s a big call I know, and it may sound like complete nonsense (because it probably is) but bear with me – I’ll have you converted and singing cheerily along from my Socratic book of mantras in no time…let’s go.

What is it & Who’s this for?
– I will be breaking down this article into 2 posts. This week I’ll be discussing Mindset strength – and why its essential to instal an approach that is realistically practical and executed with purposeful intention when we plan to (successfully) undertake new endeavours – particularly challenging endeavours.

Next week I will outline my own advocacy to strength training, and provide a introduction to my Intention/Intension Training protocol

– These articles are focused on strength-training. Not ‘exercise’, not sport, not professional and amateur levels of participation, or competitive bodybuilding or body sculpting activities. 
In a future post I’ll discuss ‘exercise & play’, which in my book, though just as important (maybe even more important), is both very different to ‘strength-training’ and should be , i think, approached psychologically slightly differently.

Who I am ‘pitching’ this article to?
– My target audience are those entering the back-9 of their lives. If you’re entering your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc, then welcome. This can be, will be…is the best time of your life.
Re-establishing your strength is key to your abundant longevity…the time is now!

– My purpose is to inspire those who have never considered strength-training, and or, never really appreciated it’s vital importance.
I want to reinvigorate those who use to ‘train’ in the past, but haven’t done so recently.
And those that struggle to maintain their momentum, who find themselves unable to ‘stick’ reliably to a regime for the longterm.

– These articles will be particularly pertinent to those who ‘keep-fit’ by ‘doing-cardio’ only.
Nothing wrong at all in ‘cardio’ exercise such as running, cycle, spin classes etc – but I’ll be gently putting an argument forward, in next my post, for those who limit their movement to only ‘cardio-centric’ exercise, with the view to encourage you to initiate and engage in regular strength-training protocol.

– Over the next two posts I’d like to also change the narrative around what it means to be as strong as YOU possibly can. 
To be realistic and pragmatic, and that the process to get stronger doesn’t revolve around the stereotypical imagery and the ill-information that the health and fitness industry perpetuates…frankly, it’s all bollocks. 

– And lastly, I encourage you to ‘use this process of becoming PHYSICALLY stronger’ as a powerful M.E.T.A (most effective tactic available) for you to not only recapture your health and  encourage abundant longevity, but to embrace and understand that this is a fantastic tool, a purposeful opportunity to for you to learn more about yourself, to up-skill your life-resilience via the challenges you self-impose on yourself.

……………………………………………………………………………………….
 

It is with muscles as it is with life – meaningful growth requires both challenge and stress

For those who have never strength trained, the whole idea can be completely intimidating, whilst creating a false & distractive-narrative along the lines of what will I have to do?, where will i have to go?…and how will I look?

This autopilot-narrative that floods our thoughts is completely normal and perfect example of our often very unhelpful and unsupportive brains attempt to keep us ‘safe’ by alerting us to avoid ‘trying new things’...telling us, very effectively you don’t wanna do that!

But the reality is strength training…
Is not complicated or difficult...though it can be tiring and create muscle stiffness & soreness (that, done properly, is a good thing)

Doesn’t require you to join a gym, nor engage a gym-junkie ‘coach’ – you can do all the strength training you need in the comfort of your home, garage etc. I started my own affair with strength training whilst working in Asia, being stuck in hotel rooms…I wanted a training protocol that was fast, effective and time efficient that I could do at the end of my bed in my hotel room….helloooo Dr Izumi TABATA

You’re not going to get ‘swol’…unless you really need to or want to…that is completely your call (‘swol’ = swollen, ‘HUGE’)
My approach and strength training advocacy is about building everyday functional-strength, mobility, movement, flexibility, proprioception, plus metabolic & cognitive health…and longevity…healthy longevity.

As we age, our strength can be found or lost…
In our ability to ‘keep up’ with our kids and grandchildren.

A desire to embrace activity, and reject or be fearful of physical movement…maintain vitality and an enthusiasm to ‘play’ and continue to pursue activities you love.

It’s reflected in our moods, how we think, our vitality and virility. 

It’s our ability to ‘bank’ our physical-superannuation, so can enjoy even greater benefits from our financial superannuation as the years roll-by.

To avoid frailty as long as humanly possible – frailty is defined as poor muscle strength, poor mobility, low physical ability, and poor endurance. Being frail is being less resilient to surgery, infection, chemo…less muscle mass means decreased ability to tolerate stress.

And…It’s carrying all the shopping bags from the car to the house in one trip.

 

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MIND OVER MUSCLE-MASS
Don’t believe, for one minute, what your brain is telling you.

The first hurdle to successfully navigating our way through anything new and challenging (such as strength training) is being aware of what is going on between your ears.
Because ultimately its that annoying, self-deprecating, self-sabotaging, over-analysing, judgemental ego/internal narrative that largely dictates what we do…or don’t do.

There are 2 not-so-easy, but completely doable steps to developing a more purpose-driven and resilient mindset.
1. Remind yourself to ‘practice’ seeking, identifying & observing your internal dialogue, identify and gently partition that’ distractive narrative that tends to keep us and our thinking a slave to the past.
I don’t think we can fully rid ourselves of this ego-driven inner-conversation, nor am I convinced we’d want to – comes in handy at the right times – but this is a mindfulness habit worth reminding yourself to pursue everyday. 

It often has comical consequences, what becomes apparent after a concerted period of consistent sober reflection – is that you not only become very aware of the nonsense constantly percolating through your head, but you begin to become adept at changing the course of your thinking mid-thought, gladly, and before the negative, self-sabotaging narrative has an opportunity to escalate further…as it invariably does

This is an incredibly powerful tool to recapture a purposeful, calm mind.
This practice also voids us from expending unnecessary time, energy and focus on dealing with the fallout from the words and actions that impulsively free-flow from an unhinged ego…we’ve all been there, done that…and still do that. 

Trust me, It’s highly satisfying when we manage to take control of our errant thoughts and narrative, we’re rewarded with a little internal smile of gratitude, a mental bravo-pat-on-the-back and a deep inner-appreciation for ‘not reacting like you normally do’ (just be mindful not to wander around with a smug look on your face)

I’m no shrink, but I think that’s ‘self-awareness’.
 

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds
– Bob Marley

2. And Now…The BIG ONE.
You Must Protect Your Thinkinglive the best life you can that supports your endeavours to have best mindset as possible.
Mindset mastery is a habit, and like all habits, requires dedicated practice…our psychology demands a lifetime of proactive practice and protection.
To ‘practice’ successfully, we need to: 
A) Remind ourselves to practice, sounds basic I know, but we’re human…we always ‘forget’…especially ‘the chores’. 

B) ‘Make time for it’. Again simplistic. But rather than simply ‘adding more tasks’ to your day, it’s vitally important to ‘make room’ in your daily schedule to allow you the opportunity to ‘practice’. 
‘Making room’ means simplifying. Identify what areas in your current lifestyle that you need to sacrifice & relinquish to properly and effectively allow you to dedicate the precious resource of time to your commitment. 
It is distraction, and lack of time, that are the enemy of disciplined practice.

C) Time To Adult-Yourself…soberly audit, identify and work on changing your habits & your environment that robs you of your ability to think clearly and with purpose.
Self-audit your behaviours & habits from the moment you wake till the moment you go to bed. Identify and partition all the habits that contribute to your life, whilst identifying and partitioning those habits that are contrary to your wellbeing, outlook and vitality.
It’s the self-destructive & distractive behaviours that rob you of time, patience, focus, clarity – such as insobriety, fatigue, stress, gossip, excessive social media, ‘being busy’ etc that ruins your ability to cognitively face ‘the you’ that you need to deal with.
 

We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark:
yet  the real tragedy of life is when adults are afraid of the light

-Plato

This is a M.E.T.A.Principle
I believe, you cannot successfully attempt point 1, without doing point 2…and vice-a-versa
Our ability to reclaim (consistent) control over our internal narrative will have a hugely profound impact on.every.aspect.of.your.life.
This is fundamentally where we manage our choices.
And have the best opportunity to choose better quality problems for ourselves.

Reality Check...one-two, one-two
OK, so hopefully we agree that improving & maintaining lean muscle mass is essential as we age?
I trust we also agree that to achieve ‘sustainable progress’ it (training in this case) needs to be done for the longterm?

With this in mind, we also need to accept that it will be downright boring.
And therein lies the real obstacle (or potential growth curve depending how you look at it).
If this obstacle is not anticipated, not recognised and not embracedyou will impede and upend your progress.

Doing ‘new things’ is hard
Doing ‘hard things’ isn’t innately motivating
When we’re ‘not motivated’, we get bored.
When we ‘get bored’, we get distracted
When we ‘get distracted’, we’re not disciplined. 
When we’re undisciplined, we’re not free
-Human

“Good habits begets good habits just as bad habits begets bad habits”.
It’s important to keep this mantra front and centre.
Why?
Because the reality is, bad habits are easy to enact, but very difficult to relinquish and give up.
Bad habits offer immediate gratification, but provide little or no long term benefit what-so-ever.
Bad habits keep us locked to the past.

Whereas good habits, are challenging and difficult to enact.
Good habits are very easy to sabotage and ‘forget’.
Good habits offer very little immediate gratification, but offer huge long term growth, satisfaction and benefit.
Good habits builds our resilience and creates a good flow of life.

Do good, be good.
If we consistently act like the person we’d like to be,
we can methodically work to overcome the parts of ourselves that hold us back.

So when it comes to strength training how do we possibly a) make time for it, now knowing that we have to do it ‘for-eva’, and b) create & initiate new lifestyle routines so that eventually it (strength-training) becomes a lifelong habit – because if it doesn’t become a habit, then the reality is that no matter how good your desired-intentions – it will more than likely, sooner rather than later, come to an abrupt end.

Now I deliberately highlighted routines & intentions, because it’s important to identify, acknowledge (and accept) that the majority of our goals don’t come to fruition, because we fail to do primarily two things:

1. Structure realistic, achievable and scalable routines that will set us on the right-trajectory.

2. We ignore and/or fail to take into account all our existing conflicting lifestyle behaviours & habits, and our environment, that will interrupt, interfere and thus kibosh our well-intended realistic, achievable and scalable plans. 

Sorry to repeat myself, but our refusal to dedicate (the precious resource of) ‘time’, ignoring our alcohol in-take, resisting to get ‘adequate’ shut-eye, eating nutritionally deficient foods, and constant residual stress are just some of the key ‘distractions’ that will bankrupt your psychological and physiological resilience to execute your desired efforts.

Oh the irony!
Ironically, ‘we’ tend to make the ‘decision’ to improve our health & fitness, attempt weight loss blah blah blah, when we’re at our worst. Those times when we’re invariably fatigued, stressed, intoxicated, run-down, feeling fat, bloated, gassy etc.
The New Year is popular time when we’re both feeling at our worst, and driven to make some pretty huge ‘shifts’ in our life-habits.

So this potentially ‘life-altering-decision’ is actually just a ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to how crap you’re feeling and thinking.

“God I feel like shit, I need to do __________________(insert New Year Resolution)

It is an after-thought…purely a reaction to the lifestyle choices that you’ve made over previous weeks & months (probably years + decades) 
Now if we’re being honest, these New Year decisions / resolutions are void of any realistic purpose, achievable goals or consideration to the routines that will be needed to properly implement said ‘decision’.
That’s why they fail…
Hence the stop, start, stop, start nature of our health & fitness management – and our propensity to resort to, and ‘rely’ upon, BS ‘cleanses’ & ‘detoxes’, why we seek out ineffective supplements, undertake unbelievably difficult, restrictive & foreign diets, or commence training regimes that are both completely unenjoyable and unsustainable. 
These behaviours are not only unhealthy physically and mentally, but they are in fact, just another distraction, another impulsive action that redirects your attention away from what you should be looking at….YOU!

Happy New Year!!
Recent surveys in the US show that 8% of Americans who make New Year resolutions actually keep them all year and 80% have failed by the start of February.

The 10 Most Popular New Year Resolutions…80% of which fail within 4 weeks are…

Exercise more 
Diet & Lose weight
Improve finances
Get a new job
Eat healthier
Drink less alcohol
Manage stress better
Stop smoking
Improve relationships
Spend more time with family

What does the above list tell me?

Firstly, it identifies the direct-causes as to why this current generation will be the first in history that will not live longer than their parents – the Most Effective Tactics Available (M.E.T.A.) to us, when it comes to living the healthiest, most resilient life possible, are all now an after-thought...
Yep, evolutionary speaking, it’s the first time in 200,000 years that we’re heading in the wrong direction. We are failing on a global level to do the basics well enough, to keep us well enough…
 


“Paleo Humour”

Secondly, if our days are not intentionally spent taking care of ourselves, then both as a species and as individuals our ability to propagate the resilience required to survive and thrive modern life is going to be beyond challenging.

It is now, more than ever, that we need to recalibrate our intentions, rediscover and redefine both ‘what is important to you‘ and begin to master ‘what you actually need’.
Whilst, working everyday to reduce, limit and eliminate all the self-inflicted noise, distraction and ill-behaviours that messes with your mojo.
 
So what’s answer, when it comes to improving your physical and mental strength?
In short:
1. Like every aspect of your health-wealth, your physical strength cannot be an after-thought.
2. You cannot outsource your health…you have to do the work.
3. You have to be honest, realistic and patient…understand, accept and embrace that your health and resilience trajectory is not linear…it’s hard & complicated. Remember, things that are hard to bear are sweet to remember
4. And you must do everything you can to protect your thinking and develop a growth mindset.
 

How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? – Epictetus
Our growth, strength and resilience is found in our ability to make the right choices and overcome the associated obstacles and problems that arise from those choices – and it is here, with the benefit of being older and wiser that we can properly glean the true results of our endeavours – something that we easily miss and overlook when we’re young n dumb.

Because we’ve circled the sun a few more times than our younger-selves, the midlife-years offers us perspective, we have nous, fiscal security, a supportive network friends & family…we have common-sense right? 
With this prized life support-framework around us, would we not want to be as healthy and as strong as possible to enjoy it?

Oscar Wilde said to me once “youth is wasted on the young”.
I propose that as we glide into mid-life we actively re-engage our energies from our youth, and remind our mind and body what we’re capable of…and what brings us joy.

Don’t Give-In, Give Up…
Just because you’ve turned 40, 50, 60 etc doesn’t mean you ‘give in’…this is in fact the perfect time to ‘give up’.
Give up the lazy mindset
Give up the poor choices
Give up intoxicating yourself
Give up that tired, tardy narrative
Give up the habits the are stealing your energy, your virility and outlook

As my old mate Marcus Aurelius said “get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes and get active in your own rescue.” 

Till next time…

Luke