Confessionals of a kettlebell instructor: The Olympics, you and setting your bar a rung higher

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Love or hate the Games, the same phrase still remains the same when I’m watching athletes achieve greatness and world applause. “Damn. They must have worked hard for that.”

We need to remind ourselves – These athletes have chosen this path as their career. They spend their every breathing moment dedicated to the potential success of a gold medal let alone just being able to compete in the Olympics. They are masters of what they do regardless of their final placement in the ranks. On a Friday night when you and I are enjoying a cider at the pub after a week of 9-11 hour days sitting at a desk, these savants are not sitting in the booth next to us. They are at home, sleeping or preparing for tomorrow’s practice. Again.

I’m not discounting your hard work at the office. Goodness knows you have to work hard and smart to move forward in your life & career goals. The question is “Where is your bar? Not the drinking one silly. How high is your bar of standards for yourself these days?’’

What got us to our current success be it in career, family or fitness goals, we need to change our methods, habits, mindset & madness to enable us to achieve new success.

I have a couple of clients who are happy at their new found strength. After 6 months, twice a week practicing kettlebell their weights have become heavier, flexibility is increased, movement is much more fluid and a new confidence is shining through when they smile at me from the door when they leave…. Or maybe that’s them just happy to be running out the door…

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard “Nope. This is it. I just want to stay here. I never want a heavier bell.”

Eh? I says pardon?

I’ve learned from personal experience that the word NEVER, will eventually make a liar out of us somewhere down the line.

Time to check in with ourselves.

We all originally walked into Vancouver Mind-Body Centre because we weren’t happy with something or we had goals in mind to achieve. We sought out help from professionals because believe it or not – We had a standard that we were trying to realize and the avenues currently being taken were either not working or something needed to supplement the game plan. We didn’t lower our bar to make it easier on ourselves and accept that ridiculous phrase ”It is what it is”. We all made a huge first step of acknowledging something needed to change. So we did just that, stuck to our guns when it got tough and worked hard towards that gold medal.

Well congratulations buddy, you got this gold medal. We reached to top of THAT bar.

Now we need to maintain it and set the rung higher again. Maybe not heavier weight right away, maybe something different. Let’s try hold a hanging L-Sit from the bar with straight, locked knees or deadlifts with a 32kg. I know it sucks, we finally got to a place that is comfortable with less sweat than usual. You’ve been quiet since you turned that 8kg bell into a 12kg last month. Sounds like we need to work at your hamstring flexibility, work on your grip strength and cuss at the instructor all over again, because you and I are setting your bar higher. A new gold medal to produce for yourself with your classmates & I as your world audience cheering you on.

Sounds like it is time to start yelling and giving me dirty looks again.

Confessionals of a kettlebell instructor: The Olympics, you and setting your bar a rung higher

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instrutor. Part 2. Section 35 – Food Follow Up.

Challenge – Marcia vs. the vegetables…
(Or: I had a plan. Then the plan changed.)

A while ago I came up with a plan for how to enjoy veggies and make ingesting them as inevitable and natural as brushing my teeth.

Friends – My written plan was glorious. The execution… may have left a little to be desired.

I learned a lot of useful information:

  • I really do enjoy red peppers.
  • Check that your fancy salt grinder isn’t faulty…
  • Overcooked omelettes are completely unappealing.
  • I really don’t know how to cook properly.

So, for all my fine talk about easing into vegetable-love, it turns out that I did the same thing as those of us who see an uncomfortable number on the scale and make a sudden (and drastic) life decision on the spot (like starting a 45 day colon detox, or signing up for 4 months of 5 am daily bootcamps). I didn’t have the right approach or education on how to change a lifetime habit. I was too fast out of the gate and tripped over my feet instead of starting with small, careful and achievable steps.

When I called out for help, a wonderful friend came to my house and showed up with support needed: bag of groceries, bottle of wine and an easy recipe that just so happened to include red peppers. I didn’t have to grocery shop, pick a recipe, or figure out why a cheese knife is different from a paring knife (that was an actual conversation). Instead of trying to do everything, I was able to focus on doing one thing correctly (two, if you count pouring wine).

Previously I wrote about small achievements in fitness. This scenario is on the same path in a different medium: a small achievement in the culinary arts.

The successes (and lessons) that came from the grand red pepper challenge were:

  1. Figure out what your plan A is. Decide how you will know if it is working (clear deliverables are the secret to any successful project).
  2. Be prepared to change plan A if it does not appear to be working.
  3. If it is definitely not working, step back from what just happened. Ask yourself:
    1. What happened? (salt grinder exploded all over my food)
    2. What failed? (the salt grinder’s mechanism, apparently)
    3. Make a plan to avoid it next time. (note to self: purchase new salt shaker without fancy grinding mechanisms)

These three steps take any situation from an accident to a ‘learning experience’. You are learning.

  1. Be a sponge. Soak up any education and lessons from your first kick at the can. If you don’t know the first thing about what you are doing, it’s hard to know where to pay attention, and what things are less important. Ask questions! Now you’re more prepared than you were before.

This all being said – I can now make a badass quesadilla. Check out the progress.

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Tomato, red peppers, green onions, salsa, fromage, chicken thighs, small burrito wraps.  And most importantly – wine.

 

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No fingers were lost in the making of this dish. No foodsafe rules being broken by having a glass of wine in the same proximity as the green onion.

 

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Yes. I need a roll of the paper towel in place of napkins when I eat.

Written with love by Marcia Lucas
Edited with vigor by Megan Chalmers

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instrutor. Part 2. Section 35 – Food Follow Up.

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Challenge – The Beach.

confessionals_03(Or: Summer is coming.  It is okay to love yourself.)

Summer is coming.  If you are like me, you likely have some painfully honest swimsuits in your bottom drawer ready and waiting to pounce on you like a spooked cat.  

Before you run off in panic to Whole Foods to purchase a 30-day raw diet cleanse, why not take a step back to breathe and assess the person looking back at you in the mirror.  You can do this fully clothed or in your swim suit.

We’ll start with the basics:

Are you standing up straight?

  • Check your hip placement – Hips over knees, knees over heels.
  • Roll your shoulders back to help work out the kinks from a long day at a desk.
  • Pull your belly button in and up to the back of your spine.
  • Breathe. (You have permission to briefly release your belly button while this happens)
  • Smile.

Who’s looking back at you?

If it’s a rockin’, can’t stop me now hottie: Fantastic! You keep doing what you’re doing.

If it’s someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, someone with flaws you dislike, or someone that doesn’t look the way you feel inside, please take a couple of minutes to think about what you’ve accomplished lately.

Are you able to hold a solid plank that you couldn’t do 6 months ago?  Have you recently increased your kettlebell size from 6kg to 8kg?  Did you realize last week you can keep your heels on the ground while in a squat?  What’s going on at work? Are you grinding hard to earn a promotion? Did you parallel park the car in front of your boss in one shot?  

It’s easy to dismiss both big and small accomplishments: when the hard work is over, it can be difficult to remember how much effort you had to put in. You may even have moved on to your next goal without even taking a minute to appreciate what you have just achieved!

We all have big goals, but each one of them must be broken down into many small, short term accomplishments to get there. It’s trite but true: a journey of a million miles must begin with a single step. And often step #1 feels a lot harder than step # 3, or #15, or #12,569. Think back to those moments  when you successfully jumped to the chin-up bar unassisted.  I remember a client’s face brightening up with surprise like a kid at Christmas.  That was a big deal for both of us; a moment to be savoured and remembered. It’s a memory to keep, even when it’s outshone by a new accomplishment.  Remembering your success might help you look at the person you are and the bikini or board shorts in a different way.

So, back to the mirror. You’ve taken a minute or two to savour your achievements; to appreciate the work that you’ve put into both your physical and mental self. Do you see someone physically different looking back at you?

Are you still looking in the mirror?  Standing straight? How about that smile — does it look a little more natural now?

Written with love by Marcia Lucas
Edited with vigor by Megan Chalmers

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Challenge – The Beach.

Exercise — Better Than Medicine

better-than-medicineWe have all heard it too many times: exercise is good for you, get out and move, etc. We often get tired just from hearing all this. However, please, don’t ignore this advice. Several recent medical papers have shown a significant, provable link between exercise and longevity.

The April 2016 journal of the BC Medical Association describes research conducted at the University of British Columbia showing that increased fitness lowers the incidence of cardiovascular mortality (heart-attacks), reduces high-blood pressure, incidence of diabetes, stroke and even cancer.

Coincidentally, the March 2016 CMAJ and April 2016 CMAJ (journal of the Canadian Medical Association) published an article stating that prescribing exercise results in similar outcomes in the treatment of many chronic conditions as does prescribing medication. The article states that prescribing exercise for the treatment of non-life threatening conditions such as back pain, type-2 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome and other conditions is often even better than prescribing pharmaceuticals.

The American Cancer Society states in their guidelines that second only to avoiding tobacco, the most important factors for reducing cancer risk are weight control, dietary choices and level of physical activity.

If you exercise regularly, you KNOW the value of exercise. But know this, the biggest health benefit from exercise is gained by adding some exercise to people who do not exercise. The biggest gift you can give your sedentary friend is help them find a fun exercise that they may enjoy doing. You will literally will be adding years to their life!

Exercise — Better Than Medicine

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. PART 2 – FOOD.


Challenge – Eating Vegetables vs Me….
(Or: It is time to come to terms with my grudge against vegetables.)

confessionals_02I loathe vegetables.

I have been at war with them for as long as I can remember.  My mother can tell you about nights where I sat alone at a dark dinner table for hours, stubbornly staring down at cold cauliflower and broccoli on my plate.  When it comes to vegetables, I modelled myself after Jane Austen’s character, Elizabeth Bennet “An obstinate, headstrong girl.”

As an adult I’ve decided it’s time to change my mindset and approach to help me actually grow a desire & love for veggies. A victory would be avoiding a frown while chewing on broccoli and sucking back water to wash it all down… you know… the look a 5 year old makes while eating brussels sprouts.

So I call to arms beginner veggie eaters like me to unite & take this one step at a time.

Step 1 – Groceries

Pick a veggie.  Only one. Carrots. Red peppers. Broccoli… Educate yourself about it, learn the nutritional values and Google search recipes. Start to understand how your veggie can be prepared with foods you enjoy.  If we don’t understand something, we (humans) have a tendency to avoid it. Food for thought — Have you eaten vegetables at a restaurant and enjoyed it? Probably. How was it prepared?

Step 2 – Recruit your foodie friend.

Grab a friend who loves to cook and enjoys vegetables (Vegans and Vegetarians are great resources for this).  Let them know about your one veggie challenge and quiz them about how they prepare it.  What are quick ways to prepare this item?  Is it better raw or baked?  What should you avoid?  Over boiled broccoli is terrible.  Let’s win at just cooking it properly first.

Step 3 –  “Experience: That most brutal of teachers.  But you learn.” – C.S. Lewis

When you are working with food, the only way to learn is trial by fire (or marinating, or steaming). Once you’re set with recipes, it is time to do some cooking. Set aside an evening, purchase multiples of your choice veggie and get cooking. Focus on using your vegetable in a few different ways. Can it be prepared as a pickle? Is it best roasted? How does it taste from the BBQ?  Made into a soup?  

Cooking can be creative, so try to keep your testing low-risk and fun while you experiment.  If your recipe is terrible then try another… but make sure you re-read the old one to make sure you correctly followed the instructions.

Bonus Step – Purchase in season produce.

In season and local produce can taste a lot better than out-of-season and tends to be less expensive. This can help keep costs down as you experiment.

A fellow kettlebell-ist, Ayden and I were chatting about food preparation where he drove a concept home for me.  “Making time to prepare food at home is much more satisfying.  When you put the work in you can make a healthier, more colourful and tasty meal on your plate. It is just so satisfying.”

Well Team.  I’ve picked red pepper for this first round, I’ll report and show you how it goes in about a week.

What’s your veggie of choice?  How do you prepare it?  Hit me with your pictures and ideas!

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. PART 2 – FOOD.

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Part 1 – Food.

 

confessionals_01Challenge: Willpower vs Food

(Or: That certain food vice that always beats your brain)

Everyone has a food vice.  For example – If I were to shout “ICE CREAM!”,  some of you would immediately start walking to the freezer.  But that’s okay.  Instead of feeling guilt, let’s deal with this head on.  When it comes to food, we just need a few rules to help our willpower control our food cravings.

When I decided to become a kettlebell instructor, I knew there were (and still l are) some tough habits/challenges I had to face.  One of them is my love for chips. I can smell those salty, crispy morsels from a room away when a bag has been opened.  If I could, I’d duct tape that beautiful foil bag of fried potato salt to my face like a horse’s feed bag.

Marcia ! What the heck?  Aren’t you an adult with responsibilities and a mortgage?  Where is your willpower?  

When it comes to salty, crunchy savoury food, my willpower has as much effect on me as a red light does on a late 99 B-Line Bus: as in, none at all.

Depending on willpower alone is like tackling Mount Everest without a sherpa.  It might happen, but it takes a heck of a lot more effort.  When it comes to our vices, be it ice cream, chips, cigarettes, liquor or cotton candy, we need a plan and perhaps some sherpas to help us along.

Here are some rules that I try to stick to.

Rule 1 – Groceries:
No chip buying.  Chip bags aren’t allowed into my house.  EVER.

Rule 2 – Parties:
No unnecessary grazing (and really, is grazing ever necessary?) I make sure to stay out of the kitchen area and other food stations to avoid eating for sport.  It helps to make sure I have a glass of water (or wine depending on the occasion) in my hands. Occupied hands can’t get into chip bowls.

Rule 3 – Mindset:
I struggle every day to get more vegetables in my meals. Yet, I have zero struggle with chips.  But what if I tried switching my mentality?  Veggies = good and yummy.  Chip = overcooked potatoes that fell into the salt jar on the counter…

This one is still underway, so I’ll have to get back to you!

Bonus Rule: Tell your people (or, get help climbing your mountain)

There are many reasons people communicate their dietary limitations; they may be celiac or diabetic, vegan by choice, have food allergies, or just struggle like me.  Your friends and family can be a huge support system when you’re out at restaurants and parties, if they know about your goals, maybe they can help you too.  

You may find implementing one of the above steps into your day may be a huge help in the small steps leading to great rewards.  

I’ll check in a couple of weeks to tell you how it is going. In the meantime, how do you handle willpower and a chip bowl?

The Confessionals of a Kettlebell Instructor. Part 1 – Food.

3 Ways Yoga Can Improve Your Life

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1. Breath & Awareness

Breath is the foundation to any yoga class. Often, you’ll see a class start with everyone sitting, observing their breath. This allows us to connect with the breath and pay attention to the stress that we may be carrying in our body. This is a great tool to carry out into everyday life. Do you notice how stress starts to build in your body? Constriction in the breath? Tight muscles? Yoga builds awareness and connection.

2. Practice & Commitment

Showing up: Sometimes, that’s the hardest thing to do. If your goals focus on simply moving through many postures, or becoming as flexible as possible in a short time, you may never get there. Your body needs time to change and adapt. Yoga is about committing to consistent and mindful movement. You’ll gain flexibility and strength from a regular practice. Commitment is the key to unlocking the benefits of yoga. Comparison and perfectionism results in unhappiness. By choosing to show up and observe your breath and movement, you’ll gain what yoga has to offer.

3. Flow & Meditation

In flow, we link every movement from the beginning of the class to the end of the class with breath. Often, in daily life, we live in our heads. I, like many others, sit in front of a computer for 7+ hours a day at a desk job. I live in my mind. Taking time out to practice yoga gets you out of your head and into your body. You don’t have to sit still to meditate – flowing with yoga is a great way to find power that is much deeper than a set of postures on your mat.

3 Ways Yoga Can Improve Your Life