Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Running For My Life: Lessons Learned From My Half-Marathon Race

Last year I decided to do something crazy; well crazy for me at least. I decided to run a half-marathon. The reason this was a crazy decision was because I hated long distance running! Sure, I played sports, even ran short distances to stay in shape, but to run 13 miles just for the sake of running? That just seemed like unnecessary punishment.

The decision came when someone presented me with the idea of running a half marathon. My first response was, “I can’t, I’m not a long distance runner.”

When I first began training for my race, I could hear the voice of doubt loud and clear. I began to doubt everything. I doubted my ability to build my endurance to be able to complete the half-marathon. I even doubted my ability to stick to my diet and exercise routine. But as time went by, I began to feel more confident. Soon, I began to believe that I could run more than 13 miles.

The Setback

Its seems as though when things when things are going well, there is always a setback that gets in your way. My setback came in the form of iliotibial band injury. The IT Band is the muscle that connects the hip to the knee. When a person increases the amount of miles they run in a short period of time like I did, the band becomes irritated. The irritated band causes pain at the hip or in my case, in my right knee. It was painful! So painful that I was unable to run long distance for two weeks.

During those two weeks doubt infested my thinking. The confidence that I had that I was going to be able complete that half marathon was fading and fading fast. The doubts were flooding in at a feverous pace. I began to believe all of the things the voice in my head was telling me. I thought that I would not recover fast enough to continue my training. And even if I did, I was sure that, “with my luck”, I would get injured again.

The Bounce Back and The Lesson Learned

“With my luck?”, I thought to myself, “What am I saying?” Its strange how the voice of doubt plants ideas into your mind that that aren’t true. What started as a little discouragement due to an injury became a generalization of the way my life should go.

I decided to evict the doubt in my mind. Doubt was no longer allowed to reside in my mind. I was determined to get my old way of thinking back!

First, I started by educating myself about my injury. Even though an IT band injury is painful, I learned that it is manageable but stretching the muscle and icing it. So, I decided to carry an ice pack with me where ever I went. I stretched whenever possible. No matter if I was at work, home or walking down the street, I used any and every extra second I had to stretch the aching muscle.

I began running again with a whole new focus. The focus this time was to not let the voice of doubt rule my life. The more I trained the more the confident I became. The voice of doubt was becoming an inaudible blimp in my ear.

Whether you are trying to run a race or trying to excel in your career, doubt can spread through your mind like wildfire. When we allow the doubts in our minds to run wild, we are allowing are dreams to be taken away from us. Don’t let this happen to you!

Race Day

I was so excited about my race that I could barely sleep the night before. The waiting was killing me so I decided to leave my house extra early. As I was approaching the half-marathon location, I saw several people walking towards the starting area. There were also some other runners doing laps in preparation for the race.

As I parked and walked towards the starting line, I grew more excited. I could feel the energy in the air. Here, along with myself, were going to be about 2,500 people who trained for months just to participate in this race.

When the race finally started my excitement transformed into focus. I watched my pace, breathing, and listened closely to my body for any signs of injury. The cold December air made it a little harder to breath but as time went by and my mileage increased, I began not to notice.

Before I knew it I crossed mile marker #12. The other runners along side of me began to cheer and celebrate. We all knew we were getting closer. I began to feel tired with only about ¾ of a mile to go but I knew I couldn’t stop. I made sure I focused on the finish line.

When I crossed it I was exhausted and relieved. I had done it. Something that I thought I would never be able to do was now on my list of accomplishments. After catching my breath I went back to watch the other runners cross the finish. I watched as they were about to feel the same sense of accomplishment that I was experiencing.

As I walked back to my car I thought back to my race and began thinking about my next challenge. What else did I think I couldn’t do? What other challenges have I been avoiding? Whatever they were, I now had the confidence to take them on and to overcome them too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

30 Day Writers Challenge

During a presentation I gave last week, someone asked about my writing style and how to develop a good one. I answered with a statement about being yourself and using writing as a way to reflect your personality.

As I thought more about that question, I realized that there is much more to it than that. I know that much of being a good writer has to do with practice and persistence. I learned that first hand when I began my writing career.

When I started my site, I was writing constantly for it while writing roughly 20 pages a week for my courses in college. The amount of writing was insane but the results were spectacular. My papers earned high marks and the articles I wrote for the site during that time are still amongst the most viewed.

So, in order to improve myself as a writer I am setting a challenge to write at least 250 words a day for the next 30 days without losing quality. How do I plan on doing this?

1. Time

Most writers and bloggers will talk about the large amount of time it takes to produce good content. There is truth to the idea that good content takes time. But not having enough time is not just a writing problem, but an overall time problem. In "How to Create More Time" I talked about knowing how your time is spent and eliminating the unimportant in order to create time for the important things.

I will use the same method in my 30 day writing challenge. Some of my post require research and verification of ideas. I will have to limit the amount of time spent researching possible ideas and spend most of the time researching facts and ideas that are the most relevant for the post.

In order for this challenge to be successful, I need to be mindful of how I use my time.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Most people who take part in any creative work are very particular about what they create. Artist, musicians and writers are they're own worst critics. I have at times spent hours on an article just to click "delete" on the file after reviewing it. Saying to myself,

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

I have come to realize that trashing every work that doesn't seem worthy is a bad idea. I read some years back about how Sammy Davis Jr hated the song "The Candyman" when he was recording it. But the song won him his only Grammy. Similar events have happened to me on my site. At times the post that I think is going to generate the best response gets ignored while the one that I write and am not completely sold on get an overwhelming amount of pageviews. It is true that everything that we produce will not be golden, but sometimes it is not up to us to decide.

During this challenge, it is also important that I grow my ability to write my thoughts in a clear, concise, and effective manner. Although my actually writing takes between 3-4 hours per week, I often spend a lot of time thinking about what to write and how to write it.

No matter what, it is important to write and publish. This will help me understand my your better and help understand yourself and what makes you effective.

Blackberry, iPhone and Napkins

30 days can be a long time and there are going to be several times when I can say to myself,

"Forget writing today, The Office is on."

That's why I have decided to write as soon as the inspiration or idea hits me. Sometimes when writing, we tend to wait until the idea is crystal clear and defined before we dive in. I have learned that this approach sometimes prevents any ideas from being produced because of the Law of Demonising intent. It is important to produce whenever and wherever you are.

The fist 166 words of this post were written on the Notepad function on my Blackberry during a 15 minute break. Attacking inspiration at its peak will be one of the major actions that will make this challenge a success. Whether its on phone, napkin, or your hand, try not to let any thought or inspiration go to waste.

It is going to take discipline and focus to complete this challenge. There will be many days when I will not feel like writing but by applying these few techniques and a few more, I know that I will come out with great content.
By the way, this is 784 words if you are counting
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lessons Learned During My Self-Discipline Fast

"I don't remember being this hungry the last time." I thought to myself.

I looked at the clock on my computer screen and did the math in my head. "Another hour and a half and its over.". Its a strange feeling to long for a salad, but after not eating for three days, any food is good food.

After I wrote Building Self-Discipline, I thought a lot about my own self-discipline. Being busy had caused me to comprise on my good eating habit. Enjoying pizza, wings, and rich dark chocolate mousse, had taken its toll on my energy level.

I decided it was time for a fast. My last fast was in July of 2008. While I was fasting, I decided to write "Eat This Now..". A post about some the healthiest foods in the world. I though it was a good test of mind control to write an article about food while not being able to eat food.Even though this time I was on the exact same type of fast, during the last day, I couldn't stop thinking about food.

Fasting is a good way of detoxing your body of impurities. Since your body does not have to work hard digesting food, it starts to get rid of all of the unwanted junk that it had to put in the "to do" box of your digestive system. My fast officially started on Tuesday at 8pm and ended on Friday at 8pm. When I fast, I do a juice fast. That means that I replace food with fresh vegetable and fruit juice.

I don't like to advertise my fasting to everyone around me (yet somehow I'm able to broadcast it to the world on my blog). I guess one of the reasons I usually only let the people closest to me know about my fast is because of all of the questions and reactions I get. I usually do a juice fast about 2 times a year. This is the first time that I have taken note of the effects and results of my juice fast. This is what I learned.

Temptation Follows You
One of the first things I learned on my fast is that temptation follows you. If you ever want a free meal, go on a fast. During my fast I had so many people offering to take me out to lunch or dinner. It seems that whenever you abstain from something in your life-good or bad-it seems to appear everywhere.

The company I work for was bidding for an important account. We were trying to retain a very important customer whose account we're managed for years. The loss of this customer to the competition would mean a loss of jobs. The last day of my fast, the staff was pulled into a meeting where they announced that we've won the bid for the account. That was fantastic news for everyone who valued their job.

So, does this Fortune 500 company send an email thanking everyone for their hard work? Nope, instead they throw an ice cream party. It was a great gesture I'll admit, but here I am and I haven't eaten for 3 days and ice cream is flowing like water. Not to mention I'm getting strange looks from co-workers because I'm refusing to partake in the festivities. Now the people I work with probably think that don't care about my job or that I'm lactose intolerant.

You Don't Know What You've Got Until Its Gone
We don't realize how much influence some thing have in our lives until it is removed. We need food to fuel our bodies but food has become more than just a way to stay alive. It has become a way of life. Food is associated with work, home, and social activities of all kinds. If you go to any event there is food available. When you go see a movie, you may think that you the theater is making money from the $9 ticket. But actually the movie is there just so they can cash in on the 300% profit margin on popcorn and soda.

When we are eating we are usually doing something else. Whether you are with friends, watching tv, or reading a book. During my fast I found that I was hungry during a certain time of the day but during certain activities. The way I combated this was by applying my focus more to the activity. For example, if I was with a friend and they were eating, I would be much more involved in the conversation.

Also, I seemed to have more brain space to apply to anything I wanted. Without thinking about what I'd like to eat for lunch or dinner, I thought about other more important things. Since the decision not to eat had already been made my days flowed very well.

Fasting Gives You a Burst of Energy

I've read about the effects that fasting may have on your energy level. During a fast your body is not working as hard to digest food. Like I mentioned before, I was on a juice fast so I was still consuming vitamins but those nutrients could be absorbed and then used to fuel my body.

This is really the way the body is supposed to work but with all of the processed foods we take in, our bodies work extra hard to break down these foreign substances. For three days before the fast, I ate nothing but fruits and vegetable. The burst of energy may have been a residual result of the overall diet change. Either way it felt great! I literally hopped out of bed on the second day.

Learned How to Tell My Body 'No'
This was learned during the third day. I was finishing up some online work when I started to feel hungry. I scheduled my fast to end a 8pm and around 6:30 I thought to myself, "Go ahead and have an apple. An hour and a half is no big deal."

But it was a big deal. I was very close to giving in and eating before 8 but I had to tell my body 'no' because one of the reasons why I took on this fast in the first place was to build discipline. If I gave in then the purpose of the fast would've been lost.

But I made it. I plan on doing another discipline challenge in the near future. I've learned a lot about myself in those three days and I'm curious to see how much more I can learn and grow.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Keeping Promises to Yourself

I stepped out of my car today into the 50 degree weather where I parked across the street from the city lake where I often run. It's February and unusually cold for Florida, especially in the late afternoon. In addition to the unseasonably cold weather, it had been raining the entire day but now the pouring rain has now settled into a windy drizzle. Images of myself walking into the living room where I would settle on my couch and cover myself with a blanket while watching Wheel of Fortune and waiting for the tea kettle to whistle, kept running through my head. "Proof" back to reality. There is no hot tea waiting for me. All I have now is the rain, wind, and a promise.

Like most people, one of the things that I have decided to improve this year was my physical fitness. For most of last year I was in great shape. Year 28 of my life was filled with a comment to participate in races, maintain leafy green diet, and hours in the gym lifting weights. But so far this year I have relaxed my promises to myself. "I've been so busy lately, I better just grab some drive thru." and "It's January, the gym is going to be too packed." have been the excuses that I've sold myself.

But yesterday as I was finishing off the last of the Tiajuana Flats chicken Quesidia, I made a promise. "No more excuses." Tomorrow I start my previous health routine. If I would have looked at the weather forecast for today I probably would've delayed my promise until more favorable circumstances permit. But there I was, at the lake, in the windy rain scrolling through my iPod looking for some inspirational music wishing I had downloaded the theme to Rocky like I had intended to last year. I kept scrolling until I realized I was just stalling so I clicked on a playlist that I conveniently called "running music".

As I began my run, the idea of hot tea became more and more appealing. As I looked out over the lake I noticed something very strange. There was nobody else at the lake, anywhere. Usually this time of day would cause me to swerve around elderly power walkers, slow joggers, and baby strollers. But today I was in solitude. Sure it was cold but it wasn't freezing. Yeah it was wet but the rain had become a light drizzle.

It dawned on me that there must have been someone else, somewhere, today that told themselves that the were going to walk or run around this very lake that I was currently making my way around. But here I was, all alone.

We make promises to ourselves all of the time that we never keep. New Year's resolutions are a prime example of that. I realized at that moment how important it is not to break promises to yourself. The moment we tell ourselves we are going to do something (like start exercising, getting a better job, or anything else we want to do that will improve our lives) and we back out of our promises to ourselves due to obstacles, we make it easier to give up when thing get tough.

The key to achieving any goal that you set forth is to commit to doing what is necessary to achieve that goal. Once you allow yourself to back out of a commitment that you make to yourself, you will be more likely to do repeat that habit of retracting. No matter how tough the task or the amount of obstacles that you may encounter, you must do everything possible to keep any commitment you make to yourself.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Channel 3 Focus

I was listening to the audio form of the book Succeed on Your Own Terms by Herb Greenberg. The book consist of different stories of people who have succeeded despite great obstacles. One of the examples the book uses is of Tyrone "Mugsey" Bogues who was the shortest player ever to play in the NBA. Mugsey was 5'3" and I remember watching him play on TV when I was in middle school.

While interviewing Mugsey, he said something that I thought everyone could use in their life. When they asked him how he was able to overcome people always telling him that he was too short to play basketball, he said that all he did was to focus on basketball. Mugsey grew up in a very rough neighborhood and could have easily been caught up in the negative environment that surrounded him. He made the decision that he wanted to play basketball and there was nothing that was going to stop him from doing that.

"You know how in order for your VCR to have a clear reception it has to be on channel 3? I was like a VCR and I had to stay on the basketball channel. If I switched channels, things would get blurry." Bogues said.

This during this time of year, people often set goals of how they would like to be and what they would like to do in the New Year. Most people set those goals because they feel as though they have to. Others are very serious about accomplishing what they've resolved to do. The majority of people, however, never see their resolutions come to pass. The problem that they seem to have is the lack of focus or they are focusing on the obstacles instead of the goals. Instead of staying focus on their financial goals or their goal to get in shape, they focus on how bad the economy is or how difficult it is to eat right when there is so much temptation available. So they change their channel from 3 to 4 or even 5.

I myself tend to loose focus when I attempt to accomplish to many things at once. Doing this divides my focus and makes it harder for me to accomplish everything I set out to do or I just end up doing the smaller, less important things. I have already made my New Year's resolutions and have been working on them since November. But thinking about that interview has made me realize that my list should be revised and made so that I am able to put the most important goals on channel 3. I am planning specific steps that will make it possible to reach those big goals. I know they will be easier to accomplish once I fix my mind to stay focus on the goals and accomplishing them.

Do you have a goal that you would like to accomplish but somehow cannot stay focused on what you need to do you accomplish it? How can you set that goal on channel 3 and keep it there?

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Extended Assertivness

Send a Clear Message
Ambiguity is a mistake that many people make when they want to deliver a message. Being straightforward and sending a clear message solidifies what you want. Over 50% of what an average person says is misinterpreted during a conversation. Be aware of what you are saying and how you are saying it so that your intention is clear.

Alter Body Language
Your body speaks a powerful language. People will read into whatever you are saying by your facial expressions and body language. If a smile is genuine and warm, then someone saying how nice it is to you will be better received. In the same way, when you are asserting yourself, your body and face should go right along with what you are saying. Use direct eye contact and establish a presence.

Stand Firm
In one section of my article I mentioned how important it is to be right when you are asserting yourself. In most cases there is plenty of room for negotiation and compromise. In some cases, however, compromise is not an option. When dealing with integrity and something you know is detrimental to a person or situation, you should stand by your convictions. Many times the right thing to do is not always the most popular or the easiest, but that doesn't mean that it should not be done.

Standing firm and holding your ground means that you've asserted your ideas and voiced your view on the opinion and will not back down. The most difficult thing to do is not to succumb to pressure and outside influences. Christian Nestell Bovee said, "Justice, not majority should rule". This means that the right thing to do should be on the forefront not what everyone else is doing.

This is a follow up on my article Assert Yourself Effectively posted on my
Personal Development Site

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Connecting daily activities to work-life goals

Everything these days is marketed to keep you moving. The Drive-thru, text messaging society we live in revolves around time saving, convenience so that you have more time to live your life. So why does it seem like we have less time for the important things in life? Even though we have responsibilities like work and family, personal development and goals are an equally important part of life. So how does someone handle work life-goals and daily activities?

Prioritize what is important
At different times throughout your day, you should be asking yourself if what you are working on is a priority. Most people will spend too much time on activities that aren’t as important as they may seem. Find out what are the major priorities for your day and handle them first. The devices and systems that are in place so that we have more time may actually work if we don’t waste the extra time we’ve saved.

Map your life goals
The morning DJs on a local radio station in my city asked people who were about 28 or 29 years of age to call in and tell them what they thought they would be doing 10 years out of high school. A lady called in and said, “when I was in high school I wanted to be an actress and I’m still pursuing that dream.” When the DJs asked how she intended on “making it big” she replied, “I’m looking for an agent but I’m not sure what else to do.”
Knowing your life goals is one thing, but understanding how to get there is another. It is amazing how many people know what their goals are in life but have no idea how to get there. When you map out how you intend on accomplishing your goals, you eliminate the possibility of taking a wrong turn. Know where you are going before you try to get there.

Delegate task
CEOs understand that they can’t do it all. That is why they have people under them to complete the task that they don’t have time to complete. Begin to incorporate the help of others into your life goals. Share your goals and passions with others and you will be amazed by how many other people have the same dream or know of someone who does.
Successful people are usually eager to help other people who want to succeed. Have you ever wanted to lose weight? If you told your goal to lose weight to someone who has lost weight, they usually jump at the chance to tell you how they did it and give suggestions on what you could do to accomplish your target weight. Use the knowledge, skills, and experiences of people around you.

Enjoy both life and work
Taking time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life can be an enormous boost. My father once told me “wherever you are, be there”. When you are working, be there. When you are with your family, be there. There is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a nice dinner with the ones you love, while thinking about the horrible day you had at work. Learn how to separate the two so that the negative aspects of the different parts of your life do not ruin the positive aspects.
With a clear vision, a good plan, and some help, you can reach your life goals without sacrificing life.