Saturday, June 25

On Failing...

"We often think people who achieve great things never fail, that success comes naturallly to them.  This, of course, is a mistake.  Truth is that risk-taking breeds failure and failure breeds success."

- from the book,'Run', by Dean Karnazes

If you haven't read any of Dean Karnazes books (aka 'Ultramarathon Man'), I'd encourage you to do so.  His books were recommended to me by someone I met a couple of months ago - Rose, who is a marathon runner.

Regardless of whether you like to run or not, this guy is an inspiration.  He's your Lance Armstrong of ultra marathon running.  Just to give you an idea of how freakish this guy is, here's a small excerpt from an article by Wired Magazine.  To read the complete article, just click on the link.

"Dean Karnazes ran 50 marathons in 50 days. He does 200 miles just for fun. He'll race in 120-degree heat..."

Now when I said he's an inspiration, that doesn't mean I'm about to go out and run an ultra marathon, let alone a marathon (marathons are running races of 42.5kms, or 42.195kms to be exact).  Maybe if I would have discovered these pursuits about 20 years ago, I think I would definitely have given them a go. 

But I can learn what humans are capable of and what is possible when it comes to human endurance.  And in doing so, I can evaluate my own performance and question my willingness to give everything in life, the very best of myself.

I think we can always do better than what we're presently doing.  There's no question about that.  The question is...are we willing to do better than what we're doing right now?   And is what we're doing, really our best?

I ask you this question, because I have been asking myself the very same thing.  Why?  It's not only in reading inspirational books, but in learning about people who are in your life right now, who in their ordinary, every day living, lead lives of quiet inspiration.  By quiet inspiration, I mean that you may not have known how inspirational their lives are or were, because they don't share them openly and are so humbling and modest, you may not even notice their presence.

It has been in the last couple of days that I learnt of someone who I didn't know too well, who was a friend of my husband's family. He recently passed away and in his eulogy I came to know of this remarkable man, whom I had met in our local church.  He was a regular attendee, but we never really spoke alot, apart from a small hello or goodbye.

To say that I was astonished at what he had achieved in his life, and the remarkable influence he had on his family, friends and peers was nothing short of momentum changing.

Since then, I've been questioning my own motivation and the fact that I've become so protective of being hurt, both physically and emotionally, that I think I've short-changed myself in what life has to offer and in what I can give of myself. 

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not admonishing myself for what I may or may not have done so far in my life.  But I can see that I haven't quite stepped up to the plate of late.  And it's because I haven't been ready to.  I've been afraid of failing.  And in being afraid of failing, I've pulled back on giving everything I have, in the aim of protecting myself.  Always weighing up every conceivable angle before proceeding, and not trusting in my ability to land on my feet.  Worried about how I would appear to others.  When you're constantly told how strong and confident you are, you worry about appearing anything but.  

Because, when all is said and done, of those things I have feared the most and attempted, I've survived and come through the other side. I have always landed on my feet, and when I looked back at why I was so worried, I realise that the fear lasted only a short while, but the feeling and exhilaration of overcoming, lingers indefinitely. 

In the last 2-3 years I've looked back at what I've achieved, and I have to say that I was scared alot of the time because I stepped outside my comfort zone more than I really wanted to.  Forcing myself to do things that I wasn't confident with, is something I've been doing to take my life to the next level.  I know that if I want to really experience everything that life has to offer, I have to take that leap of faith.

I've discovered in the last six months that some of the things I'd been afraid of, but have pushed myself to do, even though I hated doing it at the time, I no longer fear to the same extent.  It doesn't necessarily mean I'm great at them, but it does mean that I can now use that energy I had previously utilised being afraid, to channel into making progress and putting myself wholeheartedly into it. 

I'm now in  position to push myself to see what I'm really capable of and what I can achieve, now that I have a better handle on the fear factor.  There is still that element of fear, but it's not paralysing anymore because I'm not afraid of failing.  Because in the end, I know that if I give it 110% and give it everything I have, even if I stumble and fall and have seemingly failed, I've won the battle with myself. 

I don't know about you, but to me, succeeding in life isn't about beating others, but on winning the war with, and within yourself.

So how are you doing?  Is fear of failure stopping you from gaining the most from your life?    Because if so, I hope you can find the strength within you to embrace failing, so that you may experience the success you deserve!

Wednesday, June 22

What Brims Beneath the Surface...

"Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies."

~ Erich Fromm

Lately I've been doing alot of reading.  I may have already mentioned this...I love nothing more than sitting on my comfy chair with my nanna blanky over my lap, reading a great book and sipping tea.

My favourite genre of books is Autobiographies.  My favourite types of autobiographies are the stories of struggle and triumph.  Especiallly when it comes to sports and fitness.  I have read others and enjoyed them, but I love those most especially.

Thursday, June 16

Take a Chance...

Pauline Nordin...still my benchmark

Satay Chicken Pizza

"So take a chance...and don't ever look back...don't ever look back."

- from the lyrics of 'Teengage Dream', Katy Perry

Well hello! I can't believe it's been over one week since I posted.  Well...I can...I sought of went underground.  I have to admit I went through a period of uncertainty.  Sometimes in life there are too many choices, and the problem is deciding what to choose!  What a dilemma hey?  How fortunate am I that, that is about as challenging as my life gets?  Yet it is exactly what's been happening in the past week.  You could say I have been through a bit of a pyschological slump.  I have been overwhelmed with all my options about what I want to do and what my present goals are. 

In all honesty, I still haven't quite worked that out.   Though I've worked out what I don't want.  More on that later.   But after a little bit of a training lull due to illness and general confusion, I have taken some timely and wise advice from the coaching guru herself, Liz.  And that advice?....Just keep moving!

So that's what I'm doing.  And at the moment, I'm not really fussed about how I'm moving.  I'm just doing whatever I feel like at the moment.  I'm following my heart and enjoying the ride.  I figure I'll work it out on the run. 

All I know is that when I'm moving, I'm happy!

So during my 'lull' I did quite a bit of baking (and partaking in the eating of that baking...oops!).  I made my first ever pizza base, made of wholemeal spelt flour and I made one (or two) awesome pizzas.  The first (pictured) is a chicken satay pizza. I'm not very creative.  I got this recipe from a great blog called Bake, Bike, Blog.  Check it out!  The pizza was heaven!  My first attempt was thick and crusty, and my second attempt was thin and crispy and I changed the topping to ham and pineapple with tomato, mushrooms and bocconcini cheese - special request from Miss Philomena. Ahhh...Belissimo!

There endeth my food confession.  There are few more, but we won't go into detail about those, apart from having a lovely wedding anniversary dinner that AW and I had last Saturday.  A lovely dinner up at my fave place, Mt Tamborine, eating in front of warm, inviting fire place.  I even had a couple of glasses of Moscato (I'm not really a drinker).

Now...onto more important training!

Once I hit my 57kg's, I didn't really have a goal.  Where do I go from here?  My goal is mainly to stay lean all-year-round, so maintaining between 57-58kg's is the aim.  The last week I've got up to my limit of 58kg's and have promptly reined in my nutrition again. 

Liz suggested doing a BB comp as a way to stay focused, so we were hush,hush about that as I didn't want to put it out there as I hadn't really decided if I was going to do it.  The What If? factor is so powerful.  I thought that was  great goal, and also to do another photo shoot at the same time.  I went along to the INBA titles at Chandler a couple of weekends ago, thinking that would put the fire in the belly.

And guess what happened?....NOTHING!  In fact I felt annoyed.  It didn't have the effect I was looking for.  It didn't inspire me the way I thought it would.

But I kept training, and that's when I got a bit unstuck, not realising what had happened.  After a little chat with coach, we kind of figured that a BB comp was not going to give me the focus and I needed to find another worthy goal.

So I've accepted that doing BB comp is really not who I am.  There!  I said it!  It sounds so appealing, and I've had visions of a ripped version of me up there on stage, strutting my stuff.  But in all honesty...that's not me.

I like the notoriety of being just me at my best and looking lean and defined every ordinary day of my life!  My dreams and visions are just a better version of me! 

I still want a Pauline butt and better legs, especially around the top of my thighs.  But I'm happy with my body and I love feeling this lean and fit.  I love the fact that I can now just about attempt any type of activity and be able to smash it - feel spent, and then get up, walk away, feel energised and be ready for the next thing...whatever life has to throw at me.   And without injury! 

Pauline - the perfect combination of lean and muscular

Last week I did an MMA class at my gym.  It's a new class called Cage Fit - a 45 min MMA conditioning class (longer than 45 mins).  And it's awesome!  No PT's  or fitness instructors taking this class...nah-ah...a MMA fighter takes this class.  His name is Nick is he's ripped!  We were waiting for him to remove his shirt, but we were sorely 

Michelle Gutierrez - female MMA fighter

Anyway.  I have to admit - it wasn't what I expected.  It was challenging but I was delighted at how well my body handled it, considering that I'd done a big leg session that morning.  No soreness the following day (only from squats and rack pulls), which we were told would probably happen.  According to Nick, our first session was 'easy' compared to the type of training that your typical MMA club does. I'd believe it.  Two girls walked out and said it wasn't for them.  We finished off with a 'cardio' session which consisted of 3 x 3 min rounds of boxing, punching, knee strikes and the dreaded 'Defence' move.

Defence is a move where you basically drop to ground like you're doing a push-up, and then jump up again as quickly as you can (it's to avoid a mid-section tackle or pile drive).  Needless to say there were alot of Defence cues in the rounds.  How stoked was I to find that I could do this move and jump straight back up, over and over?  No lower back soreness or compromising of form, and I was amazed at how strong and quick my legs moved.  A testament to all the core and leg work I've been doing with Liz!

So tonight I'm going back for more!  Nick's goal for us is to get to 10 x 3min rounds (1 min recovery in-between).  He said if we have the same group we can learn alot of technique as well as improve our fitness.  So I want to see how fit I can get.  Anything in the quest for  'fit-and-lean-for-life'!

I've  had a better week...some great leg sessions on Monday and Tuesday, followed with a smashing RPM class yesterday with Chila, burning those legs to the extreme, and then a very 'ouchy' massage.  Tonight it's MMA conditioning...tomorrow some upper body work and cardio, and Saturday it's back to Wing Chun.

Anyway...I'm hoping that I'll soon be able to put a finger on what I really want. Meanwhile...I'll just keep moving and enjoying my ordinary, everyday leanness! :P ;)

How AWESOME is my life?  Yeah...okay...just back up on a high again...Woohoo! :P

Tuesday, June 7

What I Look Forward to In My 'Older' Years...

"Every man can, if he so desires, can become the sculptor of his own brain."

— Santiago Ramon y Cajal

Above is a scene shot from the movie Sabrina (1995)Sabrina is one of my all time favourite movies.  I'm yet to see the original with Audrey Hepburn, and I think that's what I'll be doing tonight, as I am home with a head cold which seems to be getting worse.  In the above photo, Tom (John Wood) is sitting in his lounge room and there are books scattered everywhere.  When he isn't chauffering, he's reading.

This is one of my favourite scenes, because this is what I'd love to do more of...reading.  And it's how I imagine myself as I get older and I have more time to indulge in such a decadent past time. 

I'm finding that as I get older, my love for reading is become more voracious.  My interest and curiousity in the world is really starting to pick up at quite a pace, and the world just seems to be so much more interesting, don't you think?

However, I've also found lately that my mental faculties are just not as fast as they once were, and I'm having more and more trouble remembering things and retaining information.  I find this most unsatisfactory, considering I want to learn more, not less.

It's slowing me down, and I need to go over things more often, which just takes more time.  It also affects my confidence and my ability to learn.  Considering I will be going to university next year to begin studies, I was a bit concerned about my ability to take in information and retain it.  The reason becomes more poignant when you realise that I'll be doing a language and linguistics degree, so the importance of my listening and retention skills becomes paramount.

It wasn't until I read the above book, 'The Brain that Changes Itself', by Norman Doidge, M.D., that a flicker of hope about my current dilemma, presented itself.  My very good friend, who herself is experiencing difficulties, in relation to her brain and nervous system after a simple operation, put me onto this book (side-effects from anaesthetics).  I am grateful for the referral, and after reading this book am astounded and amazed at the brain's ability to change, in order to improve the way our body works and how it can heal itself.  Neuroplasticity is an amazing area of science, and one that is absolutely fascinating! are a couple of excerpts from the book, 'The Brain that Changes Itself'.  I highly recommend it.

1.  "Neurosplasticity research has shown us that every sustained activity ever mapped - including physical activities, sensory activities, learning, thinking, and imagining - changes the brain as well as the mind.  Cultural ideas and activities are no exception.  Our brains are modified by the cultural activities we do - be they reading, studying music, or learning new languages.  We all have what might be called a culturally modified brain, and as cultures evolve, they continually lead to new changes in the brain.  As Merzenich puts it, "Our brains are vastly different, in fine detail, from the brains of our ancestors...In each stage of cultural development...the average human had to learn complex new skills and abilities that all involve massive brain change...Each one of us can actually learn an incredibly elaborate set of ancestrally developed skills and abilities in our lifetimes, in a sense generating a re-creation of this history of cultural evolution via brain plasticity."
So a neuroplastically informed view of culture and the brain implies a two-way street: the brain and genetics produce culture, but culture also shapes the brain.  Sometimes these changes can be dramatic."

2.  "One of the first people to begin thinking about how plasticity must change the way we think about culture was the Canadian cognitive neuroscientist Merlin Donald, who argued in 2000 that culture changes our functional cognitive architecture, meaning that, as with learning to read and write, mental functions are reorganized.  We now know that for this to happen, anatomical structures must change too.  Donald also argued that complex cultural activities like literacy and language change brain functions, but our most basic brain functions such as vision and memory are not altered.  As he put it, "No one suggests that culture determines anything fundamental about vision or basic memory capacity.  However, this is obviously not true of functional architecture of literacy and probably not of language."
Yet in the few years since that statement, it has become clear that even such brain fundamentals as visual processing and memory capacity are to some extent neuroplastic.  The idea that culture may change such fundamental brain activities as sight and perception is a radical one."

Anyway...I could go on about this forever, but you'll just have to read the book!  There are case studies of people with differing ailments, such as those who have suffered strokes; those who have lost sight, vision, limbs, etc, and the fascinating ways that they have 'rewired' their brains in order to function better and to regain some type of normality in their lives.  Lots of fascinating stories about how neuroscientists are able to change, rewire and recreate 'brain maps', so that people can use other senses or parts of the body to do the job of senses that are lost.  A bit like those who lose sight, who use their fingers to read.  Their fingers take on the role of 'eyes'.

So in my quest to improve my cognitive abilities, I've started doing Brain Exercises using Brain Training Software, in the same way as I exercise my physical body.  I probably won't see a real change or notice any differences until maybe another month.  But I will let you know down the track how I'm going. 

Meanwhile, I'm currently enjoying some time out while recuperating in my cave.  My new book "Ultramarathon Man' by David Karnazes should arrive at my doorstep either today or tomorrow, and I can't wait to get into it!

Wednesday, June 1

Finding Comfort in our Discomfort

"Definition: a Paradox is a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition. The term is also used for an apparent contradiction that actually expresses a non-dual truth such as two true sentences which put together seem incompatible as both being true."

- Wikipedia

The photo is of practicioners doing 'discomfort yoga'. It looks very uncomfortable to me. But I'm presuming that people do this kind of stuff thinking that it's supposed to be comfortable (eventually)?

So today I'm expanding on my last post in relation to challenging yourself. Funny how simple conversations can lead to deeper thoughts. The conversation which led me to think about Finding Comfort in our Discomfort, was one that I had with a woman in the gym on Monday, after our cycle class.

Craig, our usual enigmatic instructor was nowhere in sight, and a young female instructor came in and announced that she was taking over the slot and then proceeded to play crap music, at which time I knew we were in for a crap cycle session.

Not only did she instantly put us off with her choice of music, but basically began to tell everyone that they needed to all be cycling at the same level of resistance and exactly what that level was (Craig points out that we are all at individual fitness levels and to work to whatever level you are, with the aim of always improving your effort and results). She never asked if it was anyone's first session (Craig always makes a point of doing this, and showing them how to set up their bike, etc), and I doubt whether she'd taken the time to find out more about Craig and how he ran his classes and how she could help with a smooth transition. She also gave the class a kick in the guts during the session, saying that we weren't trying hard enough and to push harder...WTF?

One woman walked out during the class, and you could guess at how lively the conversation was afterwards in the little girl's room. So anyway...the conversation with one woman...

We were talking about how the sudden change in both instructor and the way the class ran, instantly made us all feel uncomfortable. We've become so used to how Craig instructs - his upbeat personality, lively banter and enthusiasm, and his awesome ability to choose and arrange his tracks in a way that motivates and inspires us. When we're in that cycle room, he makes us think we're out on the road, and we're in the race of our lives. Whether it's pacing, racing or tackling those mountain climbs - we're right there with him.

So when our cycle session began, I was loathing it. I was observing all the negative thoughts running through my head, about the crap music and how boring the session was going to be. I had built up such an expectation of my Monday morning cycle class, because it's the first thing on my training schedule for the week that I use to get me pumped and motivated for the week ahead.

A truth then struck me: When something happened that changed my expectation of what I was about to experience - an experience I was normally comfortable with...I became uncomfortable.

I began to inquire into the reasons I felt this way, and realised that my discomfort was born of comfort. Comfort in my routine...comfort in my expectations...comfort in knowing how the session would be instructed...comfort in knowing what lay ahead when I cycled in one of Craig's classes.

I then looked at the reason why I was actually here in the first place, and it dawned on me that I was looking for the wrong reasons and that originally I started doing the cycle class to experience a level of 'discomfort' I hadn't known before.

It was in doing something different...something I found challenging (because my legs at first were quite tired) that made me want to try Cycle classes in the first place. I knew I had to work on improving endurance in my legs. I first found it challenging, and I still do because I always push myself and work on improving...increasing my level of resistance...doing my best on pace work, which I'm not good on. But now my legs have become stronger and my endurance has improved, I no longer view my sessions as being uncomfortable.

So with this realisation, I decided that I would forget about who was taking the class, and the crap music, and focus on the real reason I was there. To get uncomfortable and to push myself in a different way. Not only physically (because she did push us hard!), but to push myself mentally and to challenge my limited thinking.

We become comfortable when we train our thoughts in ways which see us placing limits and boundaries on them. And we need to recognise when we're doing this, because it stops us from experiencing new things and therefore limits our ability to transcend our current level of existence.

If we want to make real and lasting progress, and move forward as a person, then we need to embrace discomfort, because it's only then that we really understand and appreciate the comforts we are gifted with. Therefore, I find comfort in my discomfort and I'm excited every day by the possibilities of what I can achieve and and into the future.


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