Monday, May 23

Do You Challenge Yourself?

“Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition - such as lifting weights - we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.”

- Stephen R. Covey

Today I started back in my normal routine, and every Monday I start with a GoCycle session. It's a great start to the week, and it puts me in the right frame of mind - one of motivation and determination.

Upon leaving, Craig (my gym cycle instructor) asked where I'd been, to which I replied that I had been in Albury/Wodonga doing my AR training. One of the class members who was still there piped up, and asked what it was like, as it was something she had been thinking about doing, and wasn't too sure if she was too old now. I told her the cut-off age to join is 55, to which I think started the cogs turning in her head. She proceeded to ask me lots of questions about what it was like, and how hard it was physically, etc, as she was now 46.

Michelle (her real name) is a regular gym member and she attends alot of cycle classes as well as doing other cardio and numerous classes. She strikes me as someone who is not afraid to put in hard work and is always striving to get fitter.

Anyway...during our discussion we talked about 'challenging yourself', and how when you get into your 40's, that you either tend to have an aversion to challenges, or you embrace them. It was obvious that we three believed strongly in rising to the occasion and doing things to constantly challenge ourselves, both physically and mentally.

However, I was surprised to hear how some people that Craig talked to did not even understand why you would put yourself through the hard work and put yourself in a position to push yourself physically and mentally. For many, the thought is totally foreign to them, and a life devoid of challenge is much more appealing, because it equates to comfort.

I find that somewhat sad. The reason I find it sad, is because so many people are not living at all and live so far beneath their potential. I know it sounds strange, but I think if you can challenge yourself and know what it feels like to push yourself and be pushed to your limit, you find out what you are really made of, it can make you appreciate the life that you have. Challenges I believe, lead to doors of opportunites you would never have dreamt of. What you can achieve then becomes limitless.

When you get comfortable, you tend to get complacent about what you have. Not just in a material sense, but also in the sense of the skills and qualities that you already possess. Also, I know that in the midst of whatever it is that I am enduring, that if I can get through that challenge, that anything else is easy in comparison. I know I can endure most things.

That's what it was like when I went to Kapooka for my basic training. It was one of the most challenging things that I've ever done - both physically and mentally. And it wasn't necessarily because I wasn't physically strong, but I found it difficult because I'd built limitations within my thinking that held me back. I had put limits on what I thought I was capable of doing, but it came as a shock, because I hadn't realised it until then. Until I was put to the test, and put in a position of taking risks I didn't know how I lacked the courage to put myself on the line and have faith in my own abilities. I thought I was braver than that, but I was disappointed to find that I wasn't as brave as what I thought I was. I was too busy trying to survive and keep under the radar.

So for me, the challenge at first was about physically being able to do what was required. But as the weeks wore on, I realised that the physical was only the start. The real challenges were overcoming the mental limitations I had placed upon myself.

So that is why I continue to do AR. I've learned through putting myself out there and being willing to step outside my comfort zone that I am quite capable, and I've overcome some significant fears and limitations. But it's only through putting myself through that fear and feeling the stress of not being able to do things perfectly the first time that it's happened. It's happened over time. I've stuffed up alot and looked like an idiot, and no doubt I will continue to do that. But eventually, I'll get better and better and it's just a process of elimination. I already am getting better and better.

I no longer fear injuring myself because I set myself the challenge of working on my fitness by continually working day-in-day-out on my rehab exercises and progressive programs. I no longer fear being shouted out (in the AR). If that's the worst that can happen, it's not that bad in the big scheme of things. I no longer fear picking up my rifle and not knowing what I need to do, and doing it safely. I can now pick it up without fearing that I will do anything wrong, and I know how it works, how to fix it if it doesn't, how to strip it and put it back together, and do it all with alicrity. Twelve months ago, that wasn't how I felt. But it's only through showing up when I knew it was difficult for me, that I overcame the fear. It's through constant exposure and repetition, and making mistakes (safely with a rifle, of course). It's through feeling the fear and doing it anyway that I got to that level of confidence.

And when you're out there in the field - when you haven't showered for days - when you're lying on your belly in the dark, with your rifle, and it's cold and you're freezing; you're hungry; you've been pushed to your physical limits; you've had little sleep for days, and your only thought is about the next shot that's about to ring out and how to respond, life kind of gains alot of clarity for you.

As much as I hate that part of my AR training, and I'm asking myself while lying out in the cold "why the fu*k am I doing this?" - in spite of all that, the appreciation I gain of how good my life is and how damned lucky we are is my most significant epiphany. It's also knowing that if I can go through this shit and do something so uncomfortable, then I have it within me to endure most things. It's a test of my character and whether I have the determination and character to persevere, even when things aren't comfortable. I could easily pack it in, but then what would that say about me as a person? Do I give up when I sniff the first sign of adversity, or do I persevere?

And in persevering, I find eventually that what was hard becomes easier. In challenging myself, what I could not do before, no longer do I fear, and I can turn my focus to overcoming the next challenge. In the process I've acquired new skills. I've increased my confidence, and I've reinforced the fact that I can do whatever it is I set my mind too.

I still have things to overcome and many challenges ahead. There are many other people out there in the world doing extraordinary things and overcoming immense challenges. What constitutes a challenge to one person, may not necessarily be for another. It's all relative.

The important thing to remember is that for you, wherever you are right now...challenge yourself. Try something new. Even if it means it might be hard. Or that you might make mistakes. You might look stupid for a little while and you may feel fear. But I guarantee that if you can challenge yourself, that eventually you will become better and overcome that fear, and what you thought you could not do, you will be able to do. You may not even be able to do it magnificently, but over time you could if you really wanted to, if you persevered and focused on what it is that you truly want.

Thursday, May 5

It Feels AWESOME To Be Me!

"Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth."

- Martin H. Fischer

Do you have those days where you feel on top of the world - life has that bright and shiny feel to it, and the feeling of sheer pleasure of being healthy and alive, emanates from every pore in your body?

That's how I feel today, and I'm bursting with such joy that I had to share it before I leave tomorrow.

I had my last gym session today before leaving, and I finished strong. Some might have thought me a little crazy. I finished with a cardio session on the cross-trainer and went hell-bent-for-leather, just because I felt so damned good. The reason why people might have though me crazy?...I was smiling and mouthing the words to my latest fave workout song, because it felt good to be able to push myself and I wanted to feel spent.

So here's my latest fave workout track by Pitbull (feat Ne Yo)..."Grab somebody sexy and tell 'em, hey...Give Me Ev-ery-thing To-night". So I gave it everything I had! ;)

Hope you feel as awesome as I do right now!

Sunday, May 1

It's a Wrap Up...

My new Denali soft-shell jacket (looks better on)

One of my op-shop bargain buys - Cargo pants ($9.95) that fit like a glove

Just to prove that,'s a Size 8!

My other op-shop bargain buy...Pink Volleys ($12.95)...aren't they just so cool?

Little Miss Phil enjoying her pikelets

An Easter treat...pikelets with ricotta cheese, mixed berry sauce & freshly whipped cream

Chicken thigh stir-fry with pak choy, mushrooms, carrot & beans on top of rice vermicelli

Today will be my last post for a few weeks. I'm heading off to Albury/Wodonga for my AR employment training. This should see the completion of my employment training, and I'll officially be an Operator Administrative Clerk. It will also mean that I'll be a full private. It will have taken me only just less than 2 years, as I enlisted in June 2009.

So I've been busy making lists of all sorts...packing, to-do's, nutrition plans. As well as lots of washing and drying. Our dryer decided to give up the ghost, so we've been hot-footing it down to the local laundromat, which I could easily digress into another subject about people who frequent laundromats on a regular basis (but I won't).

I've also been buying some last minute items to prepare me for the cold. As you may or may not be aware - I hate cold weather! That's why I live in Brissy, and even the winters here are too cold for me. Today's weather was max 22deg C and min 11deg C in Albury. Looking at the forecast this week, it looks like the temperature is dropping and a min. 2deg C is forecast for Wednesday...brrrrr...

I have enough thermals, though I'll be spending most of the days inside and it will be heated. But the last few days we have a field trip, so we go bush. That, I am not looking forward too! It's just the cold. That aside, getting to and from buildings and getting to the gym at the end of the day is going to be the interesting thing.

My natural tendency is to stay indoors and stay warm, but I want to get in as much exercise as I can, especially in the first week, as the work and study load really starts to build by the end of the first week, and in the second week, there won't be any time for working out. I'm steeling myself though to get out and go for a run, even if it's for 20minutes. I'll try to get in as much weights during the first week. But it's a 10-15min walk to the gym and the weather down in Albury is just horrible, so I plan on running. I'm sure the AA pick these locations because they are hell-holes, so they can put us to the test.

So...I went out to Anaconda and Mountain Designs today to check out their jackets and hydration backpacks. I have to tell you, I lurve Mountain Designs! I've now a found a new outlet for my clothing. I just wish it wasn't so expensive.

Anyway...I went to Mountain Designs first. I found this awesome soft-shell jacket with hood (in Black, of course). It is wind-proof; rain-proof; insulated; breathable, and it fits like a glove! Except...they didn't have my size in Black...arghhhh! Luckily though. It was on sale. Down from $349 to $199! Bargain!...***cringe*** If they would have had my size, I was going to buy it regardless (stupid me).

As I said...luckily they didn't have it my size, so I popped over to Anaconda. They happened to have a soft-shell jacket - hood; wind-proof; rain-proof; thermal insulation; Black in a size 10! Woohoo! Only $169.95 thank you very much!***cringe***.

So here I was turning the cost over in my head, thinking I couldn't really afford it, but damn I look good in it! :P So I go to the checkout thinking it was cheaper than Mountain Designs (though not as spiffy), and justifying the expense because I was going to get 10% discount being a Defence Force member (which Mountain Designs do not give). I flash my Army ID, and I wait for the price......waiting...heart is beating faster...and the girl says to me..."that will be $71.50 thanks!" WTF! She must have made a mistake...oh well...she must be right. She did scan it. I showed my ID. Bargain! Needless to say, I was ecstatic, and felt like doing the highland jig right there at the checkout (but it would have looked too uncool). Thanks very much ADF! Sometimes it does pay to serve your country in more ways than one.

I've also planned my in-between meals (at the mess). I think I've got it covered! I'm taking down a stash of protein bars, so meal 2 will be probably a protein bar with a piece of fruit. I'm also planning to go shopping for supplies, such as tinned tuna and chicken, microwave steamed vege packs, cottage cheese, froz berries, miso soup, yoghurt, etc. This way, I'll have no excuse to eat crap in-between meals. One of the ideas I have, is throwing in some tinned chicken into the miso soup and adding some steamed veges for my protein and complex carb sources. I tried one of the tins of chicken, and it was quite good. I am sticking to the ones without any sauces of course, as they have hardly any fat. I've bought myself a little food thermos to pack in my army daypack, so that I can have soup ready-to-go if I want.

The hardest time will be at the end of the day, as everyone goes to the boozer and drinks and eats crap. I don't drink, so that's not a problem. But last year I got stuck into the beer nuts and chips every night. I also ate ice-cream for dessert every night as well as hot chips for dinner. There won't be any of that while I'm down there this time! I'll save myself for the end-of-course dinner in town, and think I will have a nice treat meal then.

Anyway...Easter was lovely, and after Lent it was on...with the food...heh..heh... Actually, it wasn't that bad. I didn't pig out, but I didn't calorie count or plan my meals too strictly either. I just went with the flow and ate pretty much what I wanted. Above you'll see that on Easter Saturday morning I made these beautiful pancakes with Ricotta cheese in the batter, and topped it with mixed berries (with a little castor sugar to lessen the tang), and freshly whipped cream! We all enjoyed it. I also promised myself some well-deserved chocolate. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate, but I love roast almond chocolate! I bought myself two family blocks (they were on special :) ), and ate them both - I didn't share with anyone!

The last photo is just one I decided to take. I'm starting to experiment a bit with my food, as now I know what quantities of proteins, carbs and fats is ideal for me. I can now 'mix-n-match' all of these to keep my nutrition interesting and appealing. I love chicken thighs, and prefer the taste to chicken breast, so I've been cooking alot of stir-fry with thighs. It means I have to cut down on the quantity, because of the fat content, but that's okay. I'm enjoying the meals more, which is very important.

Okay...I'm all over the place...the cargo pants...

As you can see, I've been bargain shopping at my favourite op-shop here in Beenleigh (Endeavour Foundation). They have some real cool stuff at reasonable prices, and it's a huge store. My LJ camos are too big so I'm in dire need of some cargo pants that fit me (that's all I wore last winter). Yesterday I tried on about 6 different cargo pants in a size 10. They were all too big! So I tried on these size 8's (thinking originally they would be too small) and you know what? They fit just perfectly! I was one happy little vegemite. It's my first size 8! :)

And don't you just love the hot pink Volleys? I couldn't believe that they had them in my size and they are sooooo comfortable. The girl just put them out, so I was lucky to snap them up.

Not only did I indulge over Easter, but through circumstance, I couldn't get to the gym for 5 day. Apart from recovery week earlier in the year, that's the longest I haven't exercised. Of course I put on weight on the scales (I only measured at the end of the 5 days),but I 've been doing this long enough to know that it's all carbs. I no longer stress about these little events or periods in my schedule. I honour myself during the week, and I'm pretty disciplined most of the time. I have my occasional moments, but I'm cool with that.

The most rewarding feeling is to get to a place where you know how your body responds, and you can relax. I know that within 3-4 days of clean eating, I am back to my normal weight. I'm currently sitting on 56.97kg's, so I'm at my happy weight. It's good to know that I can do this quite happily, and not stress. The hard work I've put in, has enabled me to get to this place, and it's a good place to be.

So when I get back it will be time to renew my vigour and start my new training and nutrition program. I can't wait to return and start training hard again on a consistent basis and get back into the flow of training.

So it's ciao for now...and I'll talk to you when I return.


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