Provision #527: Wonderful Workouts

Laser Provision

Movement is the secret to life. Only in death do we finally rest in peace. Until such time, the more we move the better off we will be. Our health and wellness, both physical and psychological, are directly related to our activity levels. We’ve made the case for that over the past six months in these Provisions. Today we bring it all together with an exercise and activity schedule that will help you be fit for life. Enjoy!

LifeTrek Provision


Whereas there may be debate as to the relative value of Paleolithic (vs. agricultural) nutrition principles • just see this week’s reader reply — there is no debate as to the relative value of Paleolithic fitness principles. Our bodies were meant to move far more vigorously and frequently than most of us move us our bodies today. The more we move our bodies the better it is not only for individual health but also for the health of our species and, indeed, of our entire planet. Muscle power is the long-lost magic elixir for one and all.

Most people are at least vaguely aware of the connection between movement and health. Virtually everyone has had the following thought cross their minds at different points in time: “I really need to exercise more.” But that doesn’t translate into action. Back in 1996, the U.S. Surgeon General estimated that 60% of U.S. adults did not engage in the recommended amount of activity (at least 30 minutes a day) and that 25% were not active at all. Since that time, the statistics have remained about the same or, in some populations • such as children and youth • have gotten worse.

In 2003, 38 percent of U.S. students in grades 9 to 12 viewed television 3 or more hours per day. That time impacts both fitness and nutrition. As television times goes up, activity levels decrease while the consumption of junk food increases significantly. It’s hard to be fit and glued to the tube.

Unfortunately, as fitness goes down health problems increase dramatically. To mention only a few of the well-documented risks associated with sedentary lifestyles:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Osteoporosis and arthritis
  • Falling
  • Dementia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Mental illness
  • Impaired performance
  • Premature death

Can you imagine not finding time for something that reduces the risk of so many health and wellness problems! We’re not talking minor reductions here, but major risk reductions in every category. Researchers at Duke University, for example, studied people suffering from depression for 4 months. Their findings? 60% of the participants in the study who exercised for 30 minutes three times a week overcame their depression without using antidepressant medication. That’s as good as any medication can boast.

So too when it comes to the other risk factors. Adequate exercise and activity levels both prevent and cure the worst problems of modern civilization. It’s time to recognize the simple fact: how we eat (nutrition) and move (fitness) determines how long and how well we live. The choice and the power are in our hands.

I know it’s made a remarkable difference in my own life. In just six months, back 1998, I experienced the following dramatic changes by losing weight and getting in shape:

  • My blood pressure went down from 140/98 (stage 1 of hypertension) to 118/72 (it should be less than 130/85, optimally less than 120/80).
  • My cholesterol level went down from 217 to 171 (it should be 140 • 220).
  • My HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) went up from 42 to 61 (it should be 30 • 65).
  • My cholesterol/HDL ratio went down from 5.2:1 to 2.8:1 (it should be 4:1 or better; in 1996 my ratio was 6:1).
  • My triglyceride level went down from 266 to 90 (it should be 35 • 140).
  • My body fat went down from 41% to 16% (it should be 14% • 17%).
  • My Body Mass Index went down from 33.3 to 23.8 (it should be 19.0 • 24.9)
  • My benignly enlarged prostate returned to adolescent size and consistency.

Those changes are representative of what happens to anyone whose weight, fitness, and stress levels drop into optimal ranges. We become much more healthy and happy. The key is to start moving in that direction and then to keep yourself in those ranges over time. As Abe Lemmons, a former college basketball coach, once quipped, “One day of practice is like one day of clean living. It doesn’t do you any good.”

So what’s a person to do? As Alan Deutschman writes in his excellent book, Change or Die, it will take more than facts, fear, and force to get people to change. It will take new relationships that inspire and sustain hope, new routines that teach and train behavior, and new perspectives that reframe our thinking.

No wonder coaching is such a powerful methodology for change! It is, itself, a new relationship based upon hope. It continuously generates new S.M.A.R.T. goals that guide behavior. And it offers new perspectives through the intuitive dance of coaching conversations and being together. Let us know if you would like to arrange for a complimentary session.

For those working on health and fitness goals, and often for those working on other goals as well, we move people in the direction not only of the daily recommended minimum (30 minutes of exercise per day in addition to daily activities) but of the more optimal 60-90 minutes per day. Sound impossible? It is for those who think of this as something they should do. But once people fall in love with exercise (a new perspective) and once they find the time for 30 minutes per day (a new routine) they often discover ways to kick it up a notch both on their own and with others (new relationships). It really works.

To get a sense of what this might look like, recalling the various aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises of the Optimal Wellness Prototype, here is a weekly regimen that can be easily modified based upon your personal preferences and requirements. The key is to maintain variety and activity levels throughout the day. To exercise for an hour in the morning, afternoon, or evening and then to sit or lie around in relatively sedentary pursuits for the next 23 hours is not ideal (although it is better than sitting or lying around in relatively sedentary pursuits for 24 hours day!). No animal can long afford such “luxury.”

I like to divide the day into six segments, for both nutrition and fitness. Six smaller nutrition blocks per day (three snacks, three light meals) are easier to maintain and enjoy than three larger nutrition blocks per day. We reviewed the six-block pattern in Provision #493, Marvelous Menus. We can use the same approach when it comes to fitness. Six smaller fitness blocks per day can generate all the movement our bodies require at the same time as they may save our planet from its own premature demise.

Occasion Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
Wake-up Activities Stretching
Breathwork
Dynamic Warm Up
Stretching
Breathwork
Dynamic Warm Up
Stretching
Breathwork
Dynamic Warm Up
Stretching
Breathwork
Dynamic Warm Up
Stretching
Breathwork
Dynamic Warm Up
Stretching
Breathwork
Dynamic Warm Up
Stretching
Breathwork
Dynamic Warm Up
Morning Workout
(20-120 minutes)
Easy Aerobic Moderate Aerobic
Strength
Vigorous Aerobic Moderate Aerobic
Strength
Easy Aerobic Moderate Aerobic
Strength
Extended Aerobic
Morning Break
(5-10 minutes)
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Midday Activities
(10-40 minutes)
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Afternoon Break
(5-10 minutes)
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Moving Around
Evening Activities
(20-60 minutes)
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic
Changing Position
Stretching
Breathwork
Easy Aerobic

The low side of the time ranges, not including the morning wake-up, total 60 minutes or one hour of exercise and activity per day. That represents the bare minimum; less than that and we increase our risk of activity-deficit disorders. The high side of the time ranges total 240 minutes or four hours of exercise and activity. Although that may appear to be crazy-impossible, it still does not come close to the activity levels of our Paleolithic ancestors. For modern humans, however, it represents more than enough exercise and activity for optimal wellness.

As for the specifics of the above exercises and activities, I would refer you to our series on Optimal Fitness. Over the course of six months I have not only given specific examples and instructions (e.g., aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, stair climbing, rope skipping, swimming, and dancing as well as many household projects such as floor sweeping, window washing, lawn mowing, weeding, and snow shoveling) I have also provided many links to other resources on the web (e.g., to Ron Jones’ Dynamic Warm Up and Tasso Spanos’ therapeutic way of Moving Around).

I have also given you the secret of success. Fitness will never be maintained as an obligation, duty, or chore. There is no “should” powerful enough to last a lifetime. Fitness will only be maintained as a pleasure, gift, and opportunity. There is no obstacle too great to thwart desire. This morning I went for a 2-hour bike ride, including a stop at the bank, because I had the time and because yesterday I did not exercise at all. What a joy! The sights and sounds of nature, the discovery of new routes, and the journey to a destination are all things that get me to move and to make my heart sing.

The key to optimal wellness is to stay in motion. Don’t just do it for a day • that will do no good. Do it for all your days • that will keep you healthy and well, for life.

Coaching Inquiries: What are your exercise and activity patterns? How could you get more enjoyment from them? How could you increase both the quantity and quality of your workouts? Who could coach you to increased motivation and success? How could your health and wellness become a source of both satisfaction and performance improvement? What do you want to do to make it so?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..

 


The Paleolithic diet, if authentic, would include badly spoiled meat from scavenging, gorging intermingled with starvation, and a diet high in parasites. As a medical doctor, I find it hard to believe the evolutionary argument that these now extinct peoples were somehow healthier. The “poster children” are the Neanderthals who had a much higher meat content in their diets than our own predecessors, the “Cro-Magnon”: the more varied and opportunistic diet seems to have provided an edge in survival. 

Of note, modern Europeans have become taller and healthier than Americans, and Asians have a higher velocity of height increase, from past generations (think of Yao Ming). The Japanese, with a penchant for rice, have the planet’s longest lifespan. These peoples are probably the healthiest our species has ever produced. Yet, these urbanized moderns have a higher population density, less physical activity, and more (non-survival-related) stress than those isolated pockets of aboriginals who have survived the onslaught of a superior technology and its subsequent better nutrition. 

The point that species adapt their diet to conditions is key: homo sapiens definitely wrote the book here • and thrived wherever we went. The best and most fascinating source is: Atlas of the Human Journey by National Geographic. Their point is well-made that we adapted as we traveled from a few thousand individuals isolated in East Africa to everywhere on the planet in a geologic heartbeat. As Napoleon commented millennia later, “we march on our stomachs”. And we increased our numbers exponentially after domestic animals (with dairy) and cultivated grains were introduced. There is no factual argument against these changes creating much greater individual health and more robust societies. 

The argument here is not for gorging on carbohydrates and swilling milk, but that a balanced diet in factual evolutionary terms is not Paleolithic. A balanced (and earth-friendly) modern diet resembles the new USDA food pyramid, or the Mediterranean or Okinawa diets. Let’s put aside romance and ideology: Rousseau’s “noble savage” is a fictional character: Hobbs’ comment about primitive life being “nasty, brutish and short” has the advantage of accuracy (remember Otzi’s intestinal parasites and untimely death). 

The comments about locally grown food and industrialized meat production are very perceptive from a health standpoint, but are independent of the Paleo diet. Likewise, the dilemma of the applicability of a hunter-gatherer diet (when the world held about a million individuals) to today’s 6.3+ billion individuals is of the greatest moral importance. The hard fact is that industrial meat production is a hugely more efficient use of land than harvesting a few deer and rabbits per square kilometer. The trick is how to make our diets both sustainable and healthy.

The greatest unsung hero and the last century’s greatest antidote to Hobbs and Malthus antidote is Nobel laureate, Norman Borlaug. Dr. Borlaug developed the high-yield grains that • no exaggeration • have saved a billion people from starvation. In spite of the daily newspapers, we are a much healthier species with much less starvation than even 2 decades ago, thanks to his gift of efficient carbohydrates for us all.

As Bob stated, it is good for us and good for our small planet to use muscle instead of fossil fuels. We marvel at the anti-Paleolithic diet, health and willowy slimness of the French: Paris encourages bikes and feet, and by design discourages cars. Several French McDonald’s have been dumped with loads of manure. Although extreme, their hearts are in the right place. This is the political aspect: how can we advocate for a more efficient planet as well as healthier diets, when our own diet is so energy and resource intensive? That is the same moral error as if a President swore to uphold the Constitution, then tortured and imprisoned people indefinitely without charging them.

If we are active politically in issues of sustainability, can our own dietary habits place an unnecessary strain on the planet? It is possible to eat a healthy but sustainable diet: for the past 10-13,000 years that’s what we do best.

(Ed. Note: I agree that agriculture in general and high-yield grains in particular are essential to keeping 6.3+ billion individual human beings alive. I don’t agree that eating those grains, and many other products of agriculture, is the best diet for most of those individuals. That is the planetary predicament! Of today’s popular diets, the two you mention (Mediterranean and Okinawa) are among the best. To consider whether primitive life was really “nasty, brutish and short,” I would encourage you to read The Paleolithic Prescription by S. Boyd Eaton, M.D., or any of the books and articles by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.. Dr. Cordain’s recent newsletters speak specifically to the subject. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #526: Planetary Possibilities

Laser Provision

When it comes to fitness there is no conflict between what’s good for us as individuals and what’s good for us as a species. The better we take care of ourselves the better things will be for others. When we have the strength, capacity, and desire to use muscle power rather than fossil-fuels, for example, we are contributing to the welfare of one and all. That’s why fitness represents such a planetary possibility. There’s really no telling the good we can do once we find the energy and the nerve to start.

LifeTrek Provision


At this point in our series on optimal wellness we have described the basics of both nutrition and fitness. In both cases we have gone back to basics, way back. All the way back to our Paleolithic roots. This was the age, extending from 2.6 million until about 10,000 years ago, when our bodies, minds, and spirits evolved into the marvelous creations as we know them today. All of modern civilization stands on the shoulders of that mysterious unfolding.

Optimal wellness, then, depends upon our ability to eat and live in accordance with that genetic heritage. The human organism, like all organisms, thrives when it is in a hospitable environment. Without bamboo shoots to eat, for example, pandas risk extinction. That’s why bamboo harvesting has led to such a dramatic decrease in the worldwide population of pandas that they are now an endangered species. When the food an organism has evolved to eat disappears, it’s not long before the organism disappears.

So, too, when it comes to fitness. When the activities an organism has evolved to do become constrained or even impossible, life itself is at stake. Global warming, for example, has impacted the activity patterns of Polar bears and seals such that they too are now endangered species in many ecosystems. As polar ice melts, changing the salinity of sea water, a wide variety of aquatic animals worldwide are having to move, adapt, or die.

Human beings are no different from pandas and Polar bears. If our nutritional or fitness requirements are not met, we suffer. If that goes on for too long, we die.

Unfortunately, the environmental changes of the past 10,000 years, and especially of the past 100 years, have gone against the grain when it comes to optimal wellness. Most of us no longer eat or live in accordance with our genetic heritage; as a result, we suffer from the “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression. These are not accidents of living longer; these are byproducts of living on foods and in ways that our bodies, minds, and spirits were never meant to eat or live.

The Optimal Wellness Prototype Click swings the pendulum back in the other direction. When it comes to both nutrition and fitness, we have encouraged you to eat and live like Stone Age people in the Space Age • recognizing full well that that takes a high degree of understanding, commitment, intentionality, and planning. Modern habitats and lifestyles no longer support Optimal Wellness; we have to make them so on our terms and in our own way.

Fortunately, that’s not impossible. For months, we described the principles of evolutionary nutrition as the basis for the input side of the Prototype Click. If we want to be free of the diseases of modern civilization, then we need to be free of the foods of modern civilization. The two go hand in hand. What are the foods of modern civilization? The answers may have surprised you. They include grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, conventional meats, and all processed foods. We described the problems with these foods, as well the healthy alternatives, in our series on Optimal Nutrition.

Loren Cordain, Ph.D., at the University of Colorado is one of my mentors and guides when it comes to evolutionary nutrition. I would encourage you to visit his website, www.ThePaleoDiet.com, and to sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can read back issues of his newsletters, in PDF, by following this link. Dr. Cordain has identified seven universal principles of an evolutionarily correct diet:

  1. High Lean Protein Content (ideally from wild sources)
  2. Low Intake of Carbohydrates with a High Glycemic Index
  3. High Fiber Intake
  4. Moderate Intake of Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats with a balance of Omega 3 & 6 Fats
  5. High Potassium and Low Sodium Intakes
  6. High Intake of Fruits and Vegetables with Low-Moderate Glycemic Indices
  7. High Intake of Plant Phytochemicals, Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants

After describing and incorporating these principles into our Optimal Wellness Prototype, with a few modifications, I went on to observe the paradox that the planet cannot support even its current population, let alone any increased population, on an evolutionarily correct diet. What’s good for the individual is not good for the species, and vice-versa (unless you take a long-term perspective).

I called this a Planetary Predicament in a Provision that was filled with dire statistics. I concluded with the following paragraph:

“So what’s a person to do? We can exercise the power of choice. Just as we can choose to eat healthy, organic, local foods without overeating, so can we choose to reproduce ourselves without overpopulation. Replacement-size families would enable the planet to gradually recalibrate without the pain and suffering associated with a mass extinction. That has already happened in many countries. It needs to happen everywhere in order for the planet to heal and to support a high quality of human life for one and all. As co-producers on the planet, it’s not too late and it’s not beyond us to make that happen.”

Fortunately, there’s no planetary predicament when it comes to evolutionary fitness. Whether you take a short-term or long-term perspective, the more we sleep, live, and exercise like our Paleolithic ancestors, the better off we will be both as individuals and as a species, both now and in the future. There is perfect complementarity when it comes to Stone Age and Space Age fitness requirements. The more we sleep, and the more we move our bodies with muscle power, the less fossil-fuel energy we consume. It’s both good for us and for the planet.

That’s the beautiful thing about optimal fitness: it’s good for one and all. Let me give you a personal example. The nearest post office and bank to my home / office is about 10 miles or 16 kilometers round-trip. I have reason to make that trip at least twice a week. In the course of a year, that equals about a thousand miles or 1,600 kilometers which, if I drive my car, translates into 40 gallons or 150 liters of gasoline.

All that gasoline is spared, of course, if I make the trip by cycling or running. And if every car on the road today were to consume 40 gallons or 150 liters of gasoline less per year, the energy crisis as well as the threat of global warming would both abate. So that’s what I do. As often as possible, I make the trip by cycling or running, rather than by automobile. It helps to keep both me and our planet fit.

In order for this to work, I obviously need to be in decent shape. You don’t just cycle or run 10 miles / 16 kilometers without training. So there’s a connection between my exercise regimen and my daily activities. The two support each other in mutually synergistic ways. By paying attention to aerobics, strength, flexibility, and balance in training, I open the door to new possibilities in life.

That’s what I love about optimal fitness: it’s good for so much and for so many. I’ll never forget the transition I made back in 1998 from being obese and sedentary to being thin and fit. So much more became possible, both for me and for others. Even though I was still living in the same place, it was a place transformed. As I became fit, I started hanging out in new places, like trails and the Metro Park System, discovering all kinds of pursuits and people that I never realized were out there.

What makes this possible is an evolutionarily correct lifestyle. Perhaps I could follow Dr. Cordain lead by identifying seven universal principles on the fitness side of the equation:

  1. High Sleep Patterns (ideally 8 or more hours per night plus naps)
  2. Low Intake of Stress with a High Pressure Index
  3. High Air Intake
  4. Moderate Personal Hygiene Routines
  5. High Exercise & Physical Activity Levels
  6. High Intake of Fun & Recreation
  7. High Intake of Engaging Work that contributes to the Well-Being of Others

Those principles underlie not only the Optimal Wellness Prototype but also the mission and purpose of LifeTrek Coaching International. It is how we seek to live and what we assist others to live through our coaching and consulting work. Whether you pick up the path through LifeTrek Provisions, or retain us professionally to work with you and/or your organization, you will see these principles poking through in all that we do.

Coaching Inquiries: Which of the seven universal fitness principles do you incorporate routinely into your daily life? Which ones would you like to develop more fully? What would increased fitness mean to your lifestyle? How could you make it so? Who could become your fitness buddy in the pursuit of both personal and planetary possibilities?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


It’s funny, but I routinely enjoy the message of your signature, that we might be “filled with goodness, peace, and joy.” Your Provisions do that for me, and I am grateful. Thanks. 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #525: Balance Yourself

Laser Provision

Our Paleolithic ancestors were balancing themselves continuously as they went through their active, outdoor lifestyles. We have to generate our own balance challenges as an antidote for our more sedentary, indoor lifestyles. Fortunately, that’s not hard to do. From balance boards, to exercise balls, to simply standing on one foot, there are plenty of opportunities to develop and strengthen our sense of balance. And it’s not just a physical thing; the more we balance our bodies the more our minds and spirits will follow.

LifeTrek Provision


OK, it’s time for me to come clean with my clients. When I talk with them on the telephone, and that is my standard mode of operation, I like to talk with them while standing on a balance board from Fitter First. I know that I have discouraged you from multitasking in previous issues of Provisions, but this is one case where I find it helps me to stay focused on the conversation. While balancing my body on the board, I am better able to balance my conversation on the phone.

That’s the way balance works. Balance in one area contributes to balance in all areas. Two years ago this month, our colleague in Australia, Mike Alafaci, wrote a wonderful series of Provisions on Work / Life Balance. I would encourage you to read the series again. Here were some of Mike’s thoughts on the subject, noting the connection between inner and outer balance:

In the course of our busy lives it is easy to get out of balance on the inside. When we encounter issues and challenges in our Work / Life Balance, most of us respond by thinking.

Sometimes we get caught up in our thinking. We worry about whether something will happen or not, or we struggle to untangle a knot of thoughts and feelings in our head. After a while, we start to feel worse than before we started. And what do most of us do when we get this way? We find ourselves thinking even harder. When this happens, we are out of balance on the inside.

We can try balancing things on the outside, but if we are out of balance on the inside, it all comes undone. Learning to practice inner balance will generate sustainable, well-rounded balance.

How can we do that? How can we practice inner balance? Spiritual teachers and psychology professors have the same message: by detaching from our errant thoughts, the ones that run off without us asking them to.

This is done by becoming aware of our current thoughts and then watching them go by without making any judgment. Or, as Dr. Richard Carlson suggests, we can refuse to follow our negative thoughts by choosing to acknowledge them and then to dismiss them. Instead of fighting our thoughts, we let them drift away. Becoming aware of our ability to do this is all we need to begin practicing inner balance.

Inner balance is not something we have to learn how to do. We already do it, at least some of the time. A friend of mine finds that he can create inner balance on the golf course. Off the golf course he gets caught up in his thinking, but on the golf course his mind is still unless he is intentionally calculating a strategy. Otherwise, he is clear-headed, free of anxiety, and no longer feels driven by his thoughts. He already has the ability to practice inner balance.

But how do we practice inner balance on demand? There are many ways, but the best way is the one that works for us. Here are two good examples to get started: Because the mind is always occupied with something in the past or the future, Eckhart Tolle suggests we use the power of now to bring intense attention into our thought or emotion. He suggests that balance will be restored when we do this without applying judgment. Dr. Carlson suggests something similar by saying we do not need to be afraid of our thoughts, but can choose to watch them go by.

Another way to practice inner balance is to take our attention out of our head and down into our body. We can do this by simply taking a nice, long deep breath • the kind that goes deep into our belly. It may sound like yoga or meditation, and maybe it is in a portable way, but giving it a go without thinking about it or judging it is cheaper than going to an executive retreat for a month after experiencing corporate burnout!

As you read this, your mind may be dismissing inner balance as an overly simple form of denial. Or, even if it seems feasible, your mind may wonder how this would work when the stakes are high. How could we not think, at times of high risk and high stakes?

The answer is: There are no exceptions. Any thinking that leaves us feeling worse is thinking that is taking us out of balance. When the stakes are high, getting back into balance is the best thing we can do. Where would you rather solve a high-stakes problem from: Thinking that leaves you feeling confused and worse off, or from a state of clarity and wisdom?

Inner balance is not denial. It is a choice to acknowledge but not to dwell on thinking that leads to problems. It is the wisdom to use thought as a great servant, but not be used by it. This wisdom is realized by exercising the courage to trust our inner balance to find the right answer or action.

My daughter taught me this just the other day, as we were riding bikes along the Santa Monica beaches in Southern California. I was thinking about something that she and I had on our “To Do” list. She pointed out that there was no way “To Do” this on the beach and she didn’t want to ruin the day by talking, worrying, or planning how we were going to handle the situation. I agreed, but it took me 5-10 minutes before the item had completely left my mind.

Mike’s suggestions were helpful and right on target. Being self-critical about the distraction only added to the noise in my head. By noticing the distraction with the attitude, “Isn’t that fascinating!”, I could let it go more easily and readily.

The fact that balance takes continuous micro-adjustments is no reason for alarm. That’s just the way balance works. There’s no such thing as a steady state when it comes to balance or life. That’s what I like about standing on the balance board while talking with my clients. It reminds me of the work that has to be done in order to maintain balance. First one way, then another, and then a third. Around and around we go until we tip over. Then we get back up and start the process all over again.

Of course it takes strength to do that, to make those adjustments and then to get back up when we lose our balance. That’s why I encouraged you to strengthen your muscles through resistance training in my Provision, Make Stress Count. The older we get, especially past the age of 30, the more important it becomes to work those muscles in a disciplined exercise program. Otherwise we lose both muscle mass and muscle tone, making it difficult indeed to maintain our balance.

In addition to resistance training, balance exercises themselves are wonderful pursuits, both for the body and for the mind. Standing on a balance board, for example, offers the following benefits:

  • Improved balance and coordination.
  • Better proprioceptive awareness for injury prevention.
  • Greater trunk and pelvic girdle stability.
  • Increased leg and ankle range of motion.
  • More core and upper body strength.
  • Improved posture and a better overall relationship with gravity.
  • Greater confidence in sports and daily living.

It’s a very real-world exercise, with all kinds of twists and turns. Other balance exercises include the extremely simple, such as standing still on one leg within reach of a steady object to prevent falling, as well the more challenging, such as standing on one leg while twisting, turning, dipping, stretching, or otherwise moving our bodies. Such one-leg exercises can be done anywhere, even in the office, at regular intervals throughout the day.

Another great balance tool is a large exercise ball, also available through Fitter First. I like to do sit-ups on the ball, since I can do two exercises at once: abdominal crunches and body balancing. I know people who have replaced their office chair with an exercise ball for the same reason. They can do their desk job at the same time as they do their balance work. That’s an easy way to avoid the sedentary lifestyle.

Both the balance boards and the exercise balls come with guides for a wide variety of exercises. I encourage you to purchase these affordable tools, perhaps one set for your home and another set for your office, as a strategy for balancing your body, mind, and spirit.

Our Paleolithic ancestors were balancing themselves continuously as they went through their active, outdoor lifestyles. We can use these tools to make our inactive, indoor lifestyles more dynamic and health promoting. Doing so represents a small step with big benefits, both in the present moment and in the trajectory of our days.

Coaching Inquiries: What balance challenges do you face on a daily basis? How could you increase both the quantity and quality of those challenges? What’s keeping you from standing on one leg or knee, right now, as you read this Provision? How could claim a more active lifestyle?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


Your Provision titled Easy Does It has been very shocking to me. My score in the stress test is much more than 5. Until now l did not know that l am stress addicted. I am starting today to use your advice and I will give feedback if you don’t mind. Do you have any coaches in Mexico City? (Ed. Note: Although we do not have any coaches in Mexico City, we have worked with people in Mexico City and elsewhere around the globe using phone and Internet technologies. Gives us a call to see if that would work for you.)


I counted seven things from the stress test in Provisions that I have or do. I found this Provision really helpful. I recently lost my husband and last year, seven days after my birthday, my mom passed away from congestive heart failure. Now, since my husband passed, I have had to file for bankruptcy and it has taken a toll on my nerves. I have prayed to God for guidance and to help me through the tough times and my friends both out of Church and in Church have been helping me too. I am really thankful for the support and guidance your recent Provisions have provided. Thanks for that.


Your Provisions on stress have been very powerful. While having a desk job, I have realized for some time that humans were not made to sit behind desks. Your recent Provisions support that hunch, while reminding me that I need to be more proactive in getting a variety of physical exertion in order to remain well and whole. Thank you!


I never thought of stress as an addiction. I think I try to avoid it on purpose. I think I handle it relatively well but can honestly say at times I meet five or more of the benchmarks for stress addiction. Certainly, eating is an all time cure for stress for me. 

Here’s one for you to think about. How often do you go to the grocery store and watch people in line at the check-out? I do it almost every time I shop. I have learned that I never shop when I am in a hurry or, if I am and I am running late, that trying to hurry through the line is more stressful than just getting through it and arriving at my destination a little late.

I learned to slow down grocery shopping when I was helping my mother-in-law. We couldn’t go anywhere fast and I taught myself to enjoy the whole experience. As a result, when I am getting in line I always look for the shortest line and get in it. But prior to making my decision I usually look around at the people who are approaching and watch their body language and listen to their comments. Often, I ask them if it would be helpful if they went ahead of me. Every time they say yes, I usually see a smile come to their face and a release of stress. A small thing but maybe it helped that person to stop and take a deep breath, if just for a moment. I like doing this • a small act of kindness.

Last week at the grocery store this elderly couple was shopping. It was such a familiar sight. He was trying to help her in her power wheel chair. He couldn’t do a darn thing right and she was complaining about how awful he was. Of course, she wasn’t saying it to anyone but I happened to be there. I helped her get some of her produce and then she arrived at the deli counter after me. I had taken a number and realized that she would be much less stressed if she could get in and out fast, so I gave her my number and took another. No thank you, no smile, but when she was done getting her lunch meat she told me she wished she could shop again without him! I looked at them both, smiled and said, “No you don’t. It is nice that you can shop together.” I said nothing more but you know she stopped complaining so much. Even if just for the remainder of their shopping trip she was a little bit kinder and a little bit less stressed then I think it was helpful.

It’s a great study in people and stress. I recommend it to all! 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #522: Easy Does It

Laser Provision

Last week we made the connection between stress and strength training. This week we make the connection between stress and stretching. If stress is the coiling of the spring, ever tighter and tighter, then stretching is the way to unwind. It relaxes the body, mind, and spirit. After giving you the opportunity to take a 20-question Stress Test, this Provision identifies several practical strategies for stretching stress away. Just do it easy is the way to go.

LifeTrek Provision


There were no replies to last week’s Provision on stress, which makes me think that everyone was either under too much stress to read the message or under so little stress as to make it irrelevant. Something tells me it’s not the latter! ☺

To test that hunch, I thought I would share with you an assessment developed years ago by Thomas Leonard, one of the pioneers of the modern coaching movement. It’s designed to determine the extent to which we have become hooked on stress to get things done. How many of the following statements are true for you?

I drink caffeinated coffee or drinks to get or keep going.
I eat sugar to calm myself down.
I tend to overpromise and then rush to get it done at the last minute.
I find some way to sabotage myself or a project, yet usually pull it off.
I tend to take on more than I really want because I feel I can.
I react strongly to the unexpected.
I find myself getting very upset or irritated (whether I show it or not) when people let me
down, miss deadlines, or do less-than-optimal work. Sometimes I take it personally.
I arrive at work rushed or already “on.”
I get grabbed by surprises and disturbances and then I can’t calm down for a day or
more.
I feel an inner rush or lack of stillness or peace much of the time.
I am clearly winning at work, yet working very hard.
I’m the kind of person who tends to find the toughest way to get something done.
I drive more than 5 miles over the speed limit, tailgate or criticize other drivers.
I tend to run or arrive late, even if it’s not my fault.
I find that I attract more problems and disturbances than I feel I deserve.
Money is currently tight and I have been working on getting ahead, but haven’t.
It is difficult to focus on any one thing for more than 10 minutes at a time.
I don’t give myself plenty of time during the day for the things that are likely to come up.
I talk a lot even after people have stopped listening.
I please people to the point of feeling compulsive, regardless of appropriateness or
cost.

Leonard and those who followed in his footsteps, such as Coach U and CoachVille, draw the line at four true statements. Five or more would suggest that you, like most people in our culture, are addicted to stress.

That may sound strange, to think that people could be addicted to stress, unless you put two and two together from last week’s Provision. Stress, you may remember, is a highly-evolved response of the sympathetic nervous system designed to protect us from danger. Instead of relying on rational, cognitive processing, which takes time, the stress response relies on neuronal and hormonal processing to generate reactions in the blink of an eye. Those reactions • typically fight, flee, or freeze • generate and rely on chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol for their rapid response and heightened sensitivity. Without them, our species would have disappeared long ago.

At their best, adrenaline and cortisol are episodic and short-lived responses to imminent threats. Once the threat has passed, they clear from our system until the switch gets flipped again. The longer we go between stressful events, the longer we will enjoy optimal wellness.

Unfortunately, many of us in our culture have become accustomed to continuously elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol. One might say we have become addicted to the adrenaline rush. As I discussed last week, this has many ill effects not only on our physiology but also on our psychology and on our relationships. The chronic diseases of civilization, ranging from cardiovascular disease to attention deficit disorder to violence, can all be traced back to our addiction to stress. We were never meant to live this way.

So what’s the cure? Easy does it! Here were some of Leonard’s solutions from more than six years ago:

Trigger

  1. Overpromising results, even a little bit …
  2. Arriving exactly on time or late …
  3. Involved in non-essential projects / activities …
  4. Shoulds and have-to’s; someone else’s agenda …
  5. Being optimistic during a rough time …
  6. Doing one thing in order to get another thing …
  7. Having current unresolved matters in your life …
  8. Holding back, being nice, being mad, not owing up to something you did …
  9. Not asking for what you need …
  10. Tolerations; things you’re putting up with …
  11. Letting people walk all over you …
  12. Trying to prove something by your results …
  13. Driving faster than the speed limit …

Solution

  1. Deliberately underpromise, regardless of the person’s reaction or consequence
  2. Leave 15 minutes early for every appointment
  3. Cut out 50% of all personal and professional projects and goals
  4. Get rid of all shoulds, regardless
  5. Surrender to the tough time; don’t try to see it as better than it is
  6. Just do the latter and see if it works
  7. Most people have at least 100; get them done
  8. Have a heart-to-heart conversation and become intimate
  9. Be specific and ask before you need it
  10. Put up with nothing; re-educate people
  11. Expand your boundaries
  12. Shift from results to people and pleasure
  13. Slow way down; you do have the time

I would add at least one more to the list (which may be a byproduct of number 12 on Leonard’s list). Trigger: Pushing through the pain to get the gain. Solution: Enjoying the experience in the moment.

That is the LifeTrek philosophy when it comes to exercise and life. Without disparaging resilience and persistence as important parts of life, we nevertheless question the mantra of “No Pain, No Gain.” All too often that mantra is a surefire formula for injury and disability, whether we’re talking about physiology, psychology, or relationships. It’s better to listen to our bodies and to treat pain for what it is: a message that it’s time to back off or make a change.

That is certainly my approach when it comes to long-distance running and aerobic exercise. I do what I do for the love of it, in the moment, and not for some future results. I push through the pleasure, not the pain, which makes each and every moment a gain in and of itself. There is no pain involved with the push, unless I suffer an injury (which is a rare event). There is rather the joy of experiencing life in all its fullness.

To enjoy life in that way and to avoid injury, “Easy does it!” is a mantra to live by. That’s no endorsement of sedentary lifestyles. Remember: the mantra encourages us to do it. Life is not a spectator sport and couch-potatoes risk more health and wellness problems than those who push the pain threshold. But there is middle way between extreme exertion and no exertion at all. The key is to find the flow zone, the sweet spot, where we risk neither injury nor inactivity.

That’s especially important when it comes to stretching. It’s as easy to go too far as to not do it at all. Neither one is a good idea. That’s why I like the dynamic stretches developed by muscle therapist Tasso Spanos of Pittsburgh, PA. The stretches are a series of walking steps that can be done before and after exercise as a way to both warm up and cool down your muscles. Here’s the drill:

  1. 12 steps Pigeon Toed (toes pointing in), 12 steps Normal
  2. 12 steps Duck Walk (toes pointing out), 12 steps Normal
  3. Repeat 1 & 2
  4. 12 steps Charlie Chaplin (bent over at the hip, hands on lower back), 12 steps Normal
  5. 12 steps West Side Story (lunge and click fingers to outside of flexed knee), 12 steps Normal
  6. Repeat 4 & 5
  7. 12 steps Heel Lift (elevate with each step), 12 steps Normal
  8. 12 steps Skip (smile with each stride), 12 steps Normal
  9. Repeat 7 & 8
  10. 12 steps Sideways Right (right over left and left over right), 12 steps Normal
  11. 12 steps Sideways Left (left over right and right over left), 12 steps Normal
  12. Repeat 10 & 11
  13. 24 steps Backwards, 24 steps Normal

Tasso has other drills as well, that stretch the core, arm, and upper-body muscles. With more than 100 dynamic stretches, his Feeling Better Exercise Video is a great resource for those who want to do it easy. I recommend it highly, either as a warm up to and cool down from more vigorous exercise or as a stand-alone routine.

The classic work for static stretches, Stretching by Bob Anderson, recognizes the same need to take it easy. I love some of the observations, now written almost 30 years ago:

Our ancestors did not have the problems that go with a sedentary life; they had to work hard to survive. They stayed strong and healthy through continuous, vigorous outdoor work: chopping, digging, tilling, planting, hunting, and all their other daily activities. But with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, machines began to do the work once done by hand. As people became less active, they began to lose strength and the instinct for natural movement.

Machines have obviously made life easier, but they has also created serious problems. Instead of walking, we drive; rather than climb stairs, we use elevators; while once we were almost continuously active, we now spend much of our life sitting. Without daily physical exertion, our bodies become storehouses of unreleased tensions. With no natural outlet for our tensions, our muscles become weak and tight, and we lose touch with our physical nature, with life’s energies.

Stretching is the important link between the sedentary life and the active life. It keeps muscles supple, prepares you for movement, and helps you make the daily transition from inactivity to vigorous activity without undue strain.

Stretching feels good when done correctly. You do not have to push limits or attempt to go further each day. It should not be a personal contest to see how far you can stretch. Stretching should be tailored to your particular muscular structure, flexibility, and varying tension levels. The key is regularity and relaxation. The object is to reduce muscular tension, thereby promoting freer movement • not to concentrate on attaining extreme flexibility, which often leads to overstretching and injury.

Stretching is not stressful. It is peaceful, relaxing, and non-competitive. The subtle, invigorating feelings of stretching allow you to get in touch with your muscles. It is completely adjustable to the individual. You do not have to conform to any unyielding disciple; stretching gives you the freedom to be yourself and to enjoy yourself.

In other words, do it and do it easy. Never bounce up and down or stretch to the point of pain. These methods do more harm than good. Instead, work your muscles gently and gradually to promote optimal movement. Whether you use Tasso Spanos’ dynamic approach, Bob Anderson’s more traditional static approach (reach and hold, first easily then developmentally but never drastically), or other approaches such as the Eastern traditions of Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong, the act of stretching gets not only your body but also your mind ready for natural movement.

Stretching is, in fact, the great antidote to stress. If stress is the coiling of the spring, ever tighter and tighter, with all measure of negative effects, stretching is the uncoiling of the spring, ever looser and looser, with all measure of positive effects. If you scored five or above on the Stress Test in today’s Provision, then chances are you’re not stretching regularly and effectively. Given the stressful nature of modern life, the more stretching we do the closer we will come to optimal fitness.

Coaching Inquiries: What did you score on the Stress Test? How does the score impact your motivation for change? What strategies would be helpful to you in reducing your addiction to stress? How could stretching become a daily part of your routine? Could you fit it in around the edges of what you do now? What classes or groups could assist you to get in gear? How could you learn to do it easy?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.


I have a question about your Provision on nutritional supplements Click. Can you please let me know the name of the supplement you take for cholesterol reduction, that contains phytosterols, and also where to buy them? (Ed. Note: The product I use, Cholestepure from Pure Encapsulations, is available only through licensed distributors. Without recommending a particular company, you will find similar ingredients in products by Source NaturalsNutraceutical Science Institute (get discount coupons for NSI products from Vitacost), as well as Puritan’s Pride. Hope that helps!) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #521: Make Stress Count

Laser Provision

There was a time when stress really counted: it meant our life was at risk. Today, in our computer-driven, 24-7 world, stress has become a constant companion. Even when there is no clear and present danger, people have plenty to worry about. What’s a person to do? One strategy is to stress-proof your life by strength-training your muscles. Read on to learn of the connection between physical and mental fitness and to pick up some simple tips for making it so.

LifeTrek Provision


A few months ago I had the opportunity to speak to the annual meeting of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants. My topic, “Stress Proof Your Life,” is one that I have worked with and developed over the past several years. From a one-hour breakout session to a two-hour keynote to a full-day workshop, “Stress Proof Your Life” is both relevant and interesting for just about any group or occasion.

That’s because stress is such a pervasive part of modern life. We do it to ourselves • just look at me with Provisions • and we do it to each other in every imaginable system and situation. From families to corporations to churches to schools, people are stressed out beyond measure. Witness the record levels of stress-related illnesses (e.g., high blood pressure, asthma, and autoimmune disorders) and dysfunctions (e.g., depression, anxiety, and violence) if you have any doubt.

The process of stress-proofing is not designed to eliminate stress from life, as if that were either possible or desirable. Rather, the process of stress-proofing (which takes its name from the process of rust-proofing automobiles) is designed to mitigate the toll stress takes on life. We do that by getting ourselves into the sweet spot where life is interesting but not overwhelming. Stress-proofing enables individuals and organizations to find that spot and to then to stay it for longer periods of time. Just like cars, people last longer and do better when we get the stress right.

There was a time, not long ago in evolutionary terms, when stress was not such a chronic condition. It was more situational and episodic: when threatened with a clear and present danger, people and organisms experienced stress. Once the danger had passed, the stress went away. Darwin wrote about this 135 years ago in his book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Emotions such as anger and fear were born in the crucible of stress, leading to the fight, flight, or freeze response without much cognitive deliberation. We did what we had to do in the service of staying alive.

That’s the way stress is supposed to work: it is a temporary condition, marked metabolically by the rapid production of adrenaline and cortisol, that calms down in relatively short order. It is not supposed to be our standard mode of operation, as evidenced by the chronic diseases of civilization. Adrenaline junkies may be wired for fun, or just plain wired, but they also tend to suffer the consequences. Not only do they put their physical health at risk, they risk their psychological, social, and spiritual health as well.

Unfortunately, that has become the rule more than the exception in the modern world. Think of it as an unintended consequence of carbon-based life forms (human beings) living in a 24-7 world increasingly dominated by silicon-based life forms (computers). There’s no way for us to keep up.

Stress-proofing involves adjusting our goals, routines, relationships, and environments accordingly. That’s what I work through with stressed-out people, both in group settings and in one-on-one coaching. Since the computers won’t pull the plug for us, both literally and figuratively, we have to pull that plug for ourselves. We can’t eliminate stress, but we can make stress count for good.

One way to do that, ironically enough, is through strength training. That was, after all, what people did with stress in the “good ole days” • we used our muscles, together with our brains, to stay alive. Fight and flight both take strength, as well as cunning, in order to meet the challenge. In the process we dissipate all that adrenaline and cortisol from our system. Using our muscles is not only the antidote for overweight bodies; it’s also the antidote for overactive minds.

We’ve written before about the importance of a wide variety of aerobic exercise: 30-minutes per day is the bare minimum both for fitness and for stress-proofing. In addition, we would do well to incorporate regular bouts of strength training, whether in real life (I recently carried a plant with a root ball from the front to the back yard that was heavy enough to require several stops along the way) or in the gym.

That’s especially true after the age of 30, since from that point on the body tends to lose lean muscle mass at the rate of about a pound a year. Why aren’t people losing weight? Because most of us tend to replace the muscle mass with fat (and then some). The only way to slow it down or even, for a time, to reverse it is through strength training.

Real-life strength training is in many ways the best, since it can often give us both a complete workout and a real sense of satisfaction. When I finally got through with my plant move, I may have been sweaty, dirty, and tired, but I had also gotten something done. What more could you ask from a workout! If the project involves pushing, pulling, lifting, lowering, jumping, bending, reaching, or otherwise using your body to move stuff in the physical world, then you’ve taken on a strength training project with real-life benefits. Instead of complaining about or avoiding such projects with labor-saving devices, such as garage-door openers, you may want to take them on as part of your fitness routine.

When that’s not possible or desirable, a well-equipped gym is the next best alternative. The machines are designed to strengthen the arm, core, and leg muscles through a wide variety of exercises. But we hardly need machines to get a good work out. Pushups, chair dips, sit ups, trunk lifts, knee bends, leg lifts, and stair climbing, for example, can be done just about anywhere with positive results. Do them at least three times per week.

Check with your doctor, of course, to determine your physical limitations, if any, when it comes to strength training. In my case, the doctor has recommended less weight and more repetitions rather than more weight and less repetitions. That fits well with the super-slow method advocated by Ellington Darden, who was director of research for Nautilus Sports / Medical Industries for seventeen years.

Darden recommends lifting less weight more slowly in order to develop your muscles more quickly. His research, along with that of Ken Hutchins, has identified a 15-second pattern, divided 10:5 between the initial push or pull and the subsequent release, as the optimal strength-building pattern. Lifting slowly means lifting less weight, but experience has shown that super-slow = super-fast when it comes to building muscle mass.

Coaching Inquires: What’s your pattern when it comes to strength training? Do you do it on a regular basis? On a scale of 0-10, how would you rate your stress level? What steps could you take to stress-proof your life? What would it take to add exercise to your bag of tricks?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


Interestingly enough, I live in Boulder, Colorado and we have one of the few Chautauquas left in the country, from the days of the Chautauqua movement, and I attend regularly, mostly for music (Colorado Music Festival) but often for general events, concerts and lectures. Additionally, I attend Unity and we often have Marshal Rosenberg of NVC fame as guest speaker and lecturer. Your Provision brought two parts of my life together. Thanks!


Thank you for once again sending out just the information I was looking for. Yesterday I said to my colleague here in Seoul, Korea how frustrated I felt not knowing where I could learn more about communication. I work on cross culture and communication, so I am the ‘subject expert’ but I feel there’s so much more to be learned. The descriptions in NVC accurately describe what we seek through cross cultural communication. Thank you for this timely connection. 


Reading your words on your visit to Chautauqua rang so true. It took me back to the incredible summer of 1974 I spent there. I am so thrilled to hear it is still that magical place. Long before I knew that I would my life would take me to health and fitness, as a personal trainer and wellness coach, I studied music at Boston University’s School of Music. As a young college student I was set on becoming a concert pianist. One summer, I went to Chautauqua to live and study music with an incredible, master teacher, Ozan Marsh.

At Chautauqua, I had the time, peace, and tranquility to dig deep into my soul and pay attention to my true feelings, whereby I discovered that as much as I loved music, it was not my calling. I lived completely alone in a small room, top floor of one of the very old boarding houses and discovered that it was wonderful to be alone without being lonely. There was something about the kindness of the whole place, an environment to think, to feel, and to simply be without judgment or competition. My transformation began there.

Today, I am 52 years old, married with two grown boys and every summer I say to my husband, some time I need to take you to the Chautauqua Institution to see what I mean, to feel the tranquility, the peace and the pace of life. After reading your article, I just felt so relieved to hear it still has that magic, that Chautauqua kept its identity and did not succumb to progress of the times now. 

After leaving there that summer, I returned to Boston University, completed my second year as a music major, but then took a year off from college to search for a new path in my life. My parents thought, at the time, that I was sad about all this – that I had abandoned my life’s dream, but to me it was an awakening, a joy and a relief. I had found the courage and strength to say this is not me, I need to change and believe that there was something else that would fulfill my life more than music. Music was something I held onto thinking and feeling it defined me – it did not. There was something in me that wanted to get out.

I know you talk so much about health, fitness, and weight management. At 19 years old I weighed 140 pounds. I sat at the piano for 4-6 hours a day practicing and with every wrong note or frustrating moment of imperfection, I would eat something. It was not me. I continued in the arts, but transferred to NYU. In 1978 I graduated with a BFA in Dance at 115 lbs, and then went on to my get my Master’s degree in Adult Fitness, also at NYU. Now, some thirty odd years later, I am the physical happy person that was screaming to get out as a teenager. I am a healthy 107 lbs and loving every minute. You can see before and after pictures at on my website.

Thank you for bringing the Chautauqua Institution back to life for me. Now, perhaps one day I will make the trip to visit it again. There are times in life that we know we cannot go back to and expect it to be the same. When it comes to Chautauqua, perhaps we can. Feel free to share this story with your readers and those thinking of visiting Chautauqua. If young people still have the opportunity to spend summer weeks there, I highly recommend it.

(Ed. Note: Your story reminds me of the joke • “How many Chautauquans does it take to change a light bulb?” “Change?” It is still the same, wonderful place that it was in 1974. I hope you can make it back.) 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #516: Maximum Mix

Laser Provision

Long-time readers of LifeTrek Provisions know that I enjoy long-distance running. This Provision may surprise you, therefore, since I argue against non-stop running for hours on end. Such exercise does not take into account our evolutionary inheritance. For millions of years, survival called for a diverse mix of endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance activities • when we weren’t lying around sleeping and resting. I’m not ready to give up on long-distance running, but that’s because I use a run-walk method that more closely approximates our physical requirements. Read on to learn how the method works.

LifeTrek Provision


In late 2005 and early 2006, long-time readers may remember that I wrote a four-month series of Provisions on Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Focused, as it was, on a tool that brings together positive psychology, social constructivism, and organizational development, there was not much mention of nutrition or fitness. Instead, we wrote about the principles and practices of strengths-based change.

Judging from your replies and inquiries, many readers of LifeTrek Provisions found the series to be transformational. Prospective coaching clients called to ask, “Can you assist me to find my strengths?” School leaders and pastors called to ask, “Do you think this process would work in our situation?” Executives and managers sought to bring AI into their companies and work groups. It has been fun and rewarding to field and respond to the requests.

One of my AI trainers and mentors, Jane Magruder Watkins, will be offering a five-day foundations course in Lincoln, England (near London) from September 24-28. At the same time and in the same location, my friend and colleague, Barbara Sloan, will offer a five-day workshop on the use of AI in coaching. The two events, running in combination, should make for an exciting week. For more information and to register, go to either the AI Foundations Link or the AI Coaching Link.

I mention this not only to promote a valuable training opportunity in a delightful location, but also to connect the dots between AI and Optimal Fitness. That may seem like a stretch, but it all revolves around the title to this week’s Provision: Maximum Mix. That’s the formula for success when it comes to both Appreciative Inquiry and Optimal Fitness, which all goes back to our evolutionary inheritance.

Variety, they say, is the spice of life. It’s also the source of life. Populations that fail to interbreed become increasingly susceptible to recessive traits. It just isn’t good to marry your sister. It also isn’t good to connect only with the person in the office next door. That’s a surefire formula for the Dilbert principle, as managers become increasingly disconnected to reality.

The magic of Appreciative Inquiry is not only that it gets people to talk about and to build upon their strengths, it’s also that it gets people to talk about these things with new faces and voices. Maximum mix is the mantra when it comes to both the invitation list and the instructional design for an AI process. The more stakeholders the better, including both internal and external constituencies. That’s because you never know where a good idea is likely to come from. If someone has a part to play and an investment in the outcome, then they have a vantage point worth discovering.

A typical AI Summit begins with one-on-one interviews to discover people’s best experiences, core values, generative conditions, and heartfelt wishes. The instructions always include the following admonishment: “Don’t interview someone you know well or work with closely!” After the interviews are complete, a process that can take anywhere from 30-90 minutes, the dyads find two others pairs to share their discoveries in groups of six. Once again people are told, “Mix it up! Form circles that cross platforms, work groups, buildings, reporting lines, and decision trees. Be on the lookout for hidden treasures. Expect the unexpected. Seek to learn new things.”

And so the process goes, playfully getting people to discover the wisdom that is often hidden below the surface in organizations. It works the same way in coaching. By asking positive questions from a strengths-based framework related dynamically to a client’s learning goals, coaches enable clients to reconnect with the ambitions and resources of their own personal and professional lives. These, too, are at times hidden from view.

Once they come out, whether in organizations or in individuals, the growth can be rapid and dramatic. Seemingly insoluble problems lose their grip on people; instead, people get interested in new things and start moving forward in new directions. Even though I have seen the process work on numerous occasions, it never ceases to amaze me. The mere gathering together of diverse peoples and interests, in the presence of well-crafted, positive questions, is enough to set things spinning in new directions.

So, too, when it comes to Optimal Fitness. If you have learned anything from the past two months of Provisions, then you have learned the importance of mixing up our activity patterns for optimal wellness. We need to work out and rest up, to go and sleep well, to breathe fast and slow, to respect the rhythm of day and night, to build endurance and strength, to push out and pull back. Maximum mix is once again the mantra when it comes to what our bodies require.

That’s because our bodies evolved over millions of years in rugged, outdoor environments. Our survival was dependent upon our ability to run fast and to sit still, to shout loudly and to whisper softly, to jump high up and to reach low down, to lift and carry heavy things, to stretch our muscles and to balance our bodies • to mention only of a few of the diverse requirements that come with scavenging, hunting, and gathering in wilderness settings. The best exercise programs mirror such real-world challenges in order to build endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance through a wide range of activities.

I mention that as a way of backing into a discussion of my perspective and pattern when it comes to endurance training. Many of you know that I enjoy marathon running, and even an occasional ultramarathon, as a way of staying in shape. That does not mean, however, that my weekly regimen involves nothing but running — a mistake made by many long-distance runners. On the contrary, I try to mix it up as much as possible from day to day and even during the runs themselves.

One way to mix it up is to rotate your shoes. I rotate through four pairs of shoes from four different shoe companies. Most of the time I rotate from day to day but, on occasion, I even rotate my shoes halfway through a long run. That’s because every company makes their shoes, and especially their soles, in slightly different ways. These nominal differences change the foot strike, however so slightly, which adds variety to the run. It helps with injury prevention and, in the long run, it doesn’t cost any more money than buying the shoes consecutively, after they wear out. I purchase four pairs of running shoes, all at one time, every two years.

Another way to mix it up is to rotate your routes. I never run the same route two days in a row; that generates variety as to elevation, pitch, and roll. One day may be flat, another hilly, and yet another filled with obstacles when I go trail running. I do trail running at least two days a week precisely because of the variety it introduces. I love that variety on every level: it is both physically and psychologically satisfying. Every foot strike comes at a different angle, and every turn presents a different vista. Recently I saw ospreys in the nest, a large snake across the path, and a small box turtle, not to mention the spring flowers and foliage. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

A third way to mix it up is to rotate your paces. All runners do that to some extent, especially when they do interval training (short, all-out sprints followed by slow recovery walking or jogging). There’s no other way to get faster in the long run than to start going faster in the short run. Jeff Galloway, however, has taken pace variation to a whole new level, urging people to become run-walkers, rather than runners, for their long-distance outings. Here is what Jeff has to say about the practice:

“To receive maximum benefit, start the walk breaks before you feel any fatigue, in the first mile. If you wait until you feel the need for a walk break, you’ve already reduced the potential benefit. Even waiting until the two-mile mark to take the first one will reduce the resiliency you could regain from walking in the first mile.”

“Would you like a discount? To put it in shopping terms, walk breaks give a discount from the pounding on legs and feet. If you walk often enough, start early enough, and keep the pace slow enough, a 10-mile run only leaves five to seven miles of fatigue, and a 20-miler produces only 12 to 15 miles of tiredness.”

To set up walk breaks, Jeff offers the following pointers:

  • On long training runs, the more often you take walk breaks, the better your legs feel at the end.
  • Beginners take jogging breaks in their walks (one minute jogs, every five minutes or so of walking.
  • As beginners get in better shape, they may reduce the walking segments gradually (1-4, then 1-3, 1-2, 1-1).
  • Fitness runners will take a two-minute walk break after two to three minutes of jogging.
  • Average runners take one to two-minute walk breaks after three to eight minutes of running.
  • Advanced runners take one-minute walk breaks or “shuffle breaks” every mile (after about eight to 10 minutes of running).

Jeff has made the run-walk method so famous that people who practice it religiously, such as myself, are called “Gallowalkers.” He puts forward a lot of scientific research to demonstrate how the method improves performance and reduces the risk of injury for anyone running a marathon slower than two hours and fifty minutes. That’s the vast majority of people.

Beyond the issues of performance improvement and injury prevention, however, there is the argument of evolutionary fitness: run-walking approximates the way human beings have moved for millions of years. Our Paleolithic ancestors seldom or never set out to continuously run 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) (although they may have done so and more to get out of harm’s way). Instead, our ancestors would mix running and walking with plenty of other activities ranging from languid to intense. That was how they survived and those were the genes passed on to us.

Arthur De Vany describes the situation this way:

A historical source reports that 5 Indian braves drove 5 bison into a pit. After they killed these 2000-pound bison, they pulled them out of a pit more than 10 feet deep, lined them up, skinned, and butchered them. Then, they carried as much as they could back to camp to get others to return for the rest. I think that is a wonderful model of fitness, combining speed, power, strength, stamina and courage. You can be sure this successful hunt was followed by plenty of rest and play and feasting. This model is what I seek to  emulate.

To do that in today’s world, De Vany recommends an “evolutionary model” that:

combines activities of varying intensity to mimic our ancestral hunter-gatherer existence. The key is to hit the right balance of intensity and variety. You have to live in the fast twitch (FT) muscle fiber zone where your metabolic rate is many times your basal metabolism for intermittent, brief intervals.

This requires brief, but intense, work outs in the gym (the FT zone) with a wide variety of activities that mix intensity and duration randomly (mixing the Intermediate and Slow Twitch zones with brief spurts into the FT zone). Roller blading, bicycling, walking, sprinting, tennis, basketball, power walking, hitting softballs and so on are the sorts of activities that mix IT and ST fibers with intermittent FT action.

Activities are spaced randomly according to a power law distribution which not only fits the hunter-gather activity rhythms but also virtually every process in a healthy human being.

Although De Vany limits both the duration and frequency of aerobic exercises as part of his “evolutionary model,” he would definitely recognize the evolutionary value of Galloway’s run-walk method. Especially if you walk backwards, sideways, and with all manner of foot angles during your walk breaks so as to increase the variety even further. If you’re going to push yourself to the limit, rotating your paces and strides is the way to go.

The ultimate way to mix it up is to rotate your activities. Whether you compete as a triathlete or not, the mix of swimming, cycling, and run-walking is an excellent mix when it comes to aerobic activities. When possible, I cycle two days a week, run-walk four days a week, and swim every chance I get. The cycling and run-walking take place in the morning, soon after I wake up and before I do other activities. The swimming, when I manage to do it, takes place in the afternoon or evening.

If swimming, cycling, and run-walking are not your activities of choice, then look at De Vany’s list and do what you love. The key is to be consistently active in a wide variety of physical pursuits. Gardening and yard work, for example, can be pursued as excellent aerobic activities. However we do it, optimal fitness will result only by attending to our evolutionary inheritance when it comes to both the quantity and quality of our activities.

Coaching Inquiries: What is the nature of your daily activities? Do they incorporate enough variety, intensity, and duration? How could they become a healthy part of your daily life? Who would enjoy doing activities with you? How could move yourself in a positive direction?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


I just read the article you wrote for the most recent edition of AI Practitioner. The article opened my eyes up to this path of development. Your words and teaching have a lasting, powerful impact on many coaches (myself included), both in our personal lives and in our growing professional identities. Just wanted to drop you a note to let you know how much I appreciate you and learn from you. Thank you!


Your words of guidance and encouragement regarding my daughter helped a lot! Thank you very much! I needed to hear everything you said and will take you up on the book recommendation. It looks very interesting! God bless you a lot as you continue to help people!



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #515: Push Yourself

Laser Provision

For millions of years, people didn’t have to worry about pushing themselves. Life pushed us, with one survival challenge after another. There were moments and days of intense activity followed by moments and days of relaxation. Such is our evolutionary inheritance when it comes to optimal fitness. We need to mix it up if we hope to experience the full benefits of exercise, whether aerobic, strength, flexibility, or balance. Lest you fall prey to under, over, or nonproductive training, this Provision will give you a few pointers for your next workout.

LifeTrek Provision


After writing last week about “Go You Chicken Fat, Go” • a 6• minute callisthenic drill set to music in 1962 during the filming of “The Music Man” and distributed to every school in the United States • I decided this week to return to my childhood and to actually do the drill on a daily basis. My routine was to first do the “Dynamic Warm Up” by Ron Jones that I wrote about two weeks ago. That took about 5• minutes. I then did “Chicken Fat for another 6• minutes, before going out for a run or bike ride.

The first thing I noticed was that “Chicken Fat” was not nearly as strenuous an activity as I remember it from my childhood. That reflects two things. As a kid, I was usually chubby and out of shape. So naturally I would identify when Robert Preston sang, “Now, struggle up to your feet! Strug…(Struggle!)” after doing ten push ups. It was a struggle back then! This week, however, as a 52-year-old marathon runner, I had a hard time understanding what the big deal was more than 40 years ago. It helps to get in shape.

The second thing I noticed was that “Chicken Fat” includes a variety of fast-pace and slow-pace exercises. It’s not just a frenetic dash from start to finish, as I remembered. It even includes a breathing routine that could fit right in to the yogic Sun Salutation. “Inhale, arms sweep up inward. Exhale, arms out and down. Inhale, slow, every morning. Exhale, clear down.” Ten such breaths, combined with the earlier arm circles and torso twists, make for a well-rounded and complete spate of exercises. It’s a nice increment from the “Dynamic Warm Up,” and a nice prelude to even more vigorous exercise.

The third thing I noticed was that I ran and biked faster, at least in the first mile, than I usually run or bike because of having done the warm up and the callisthenic drill. My muscles were warm and my heart rate was elevated, which meant I was ready to push myself a little harder from the get go of my aerobic routine. We’ll talk more about the benefits of dynamic stretching in a few weeks; for now, however, I want to celebrate the value of light exercises designed to promote general fitness without apparatus.

That is, after all, what exercise amounted to for the broad sweep of human evolution. There was no designated time for working out, since all of life was a workout. Day in and day out, people had to exert themselves in order to hunt, gather, and prepare food, to make, move, and break camp, to protect themselves from the elements and from predators, to entertain themselves, and to socialize in family and tribal groups. There was no such thing as a sedentary existence, let alone a virtual reality; there was only an active existence and a physical reality which, by definition, takes a lot of effort.

Paleontological evidence makes clear that for millions of years people were far more muscular and fit than most people are today. Were these people to be transported through time to the current day, they would rival or exceed professional athletes whose endurance and strength far surpass that of the average person. Survival itself amounted to full-time training, with regular bouts of maximal effort in order to either catch food or to avoid being caught.

That’s where the proverbial “fight or flight response” comes from. For millions of years, it was very real. There were no sedentary dangers and deadlines. There were only existential ones, that required whole-body responses in order to survive. Even those who have never hunted or who never want to hunt can imagine the alertness of tracking an animal, the calm before the storm, and then the absolute frenzy of confronting and killing a wild animal without firearms.

In his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan describes his first and perhaps only experience of hunting in graphic and memorable terms. He found the experience to be “thrilling”:

It embarrasses me to write that, but it is true. I am not by nature much of a noticer, yet here, now, my attention to everything around me, and deafness to everything else, is complete. Nothing in my experience (with the possible exception of certain intoxicants) has prepared me for the quality of this attention. I notice (everything) with a hungry attention, reaching out into its surroundings like fingers, like nerves.

My eyes venture deep into thickets my body could never penetrate, picking their way among the tangled branches, sliding over rocks and around stumps to bring back the slenderest hint of movement. In the places too deeply shadowed to admit my eyes my ears roam at will, returning with the report of a branch cracking at the bottom of a ravine, or the snuffing of a … wait: What was that? Just a bird. Everything is amplified.

Even my skin is alert, so that when the shadow launched by the sudden ascent of a turkey vulture passes overhead I swear I can feel the temperature momentarily fall. I am the alert man.

Since there is nothing I can do to make the encounter happen, my energy as hunter goes into readying myself for it and attempting, by the sheer force of my attention, to summon the animal into my presence. The drama of the hunt links the actors in it, predator and pray, long before we actually meet. Approaching my prey, I instinctively become more like the animal, straining to make myself less visible, less audible, more exquisitely alert. Predator and prey alike move according to our own maps of this ground, our own forms of attention, and our own systems of instinct, systems that evolved expressly to hasten or avert precisely this encounter.

Then it happened. I took my shot. One pig was down; another seemed to stagger. I pumped my gun to fire again but the adrenaline was surging now and I was shaking so violently that my finger accidentally pressed the trigger before I could lower my gun; the shot went wild, skying far over the heads of the rioting pigs. Something like the fog of war descended on the scene.

After it was over, my emotions were surging and confused. The first to surface was this powerful upwelling of pride: I had actually done this thing that I’d set out to do; I had successfully shot a pig. I felt a flood of relief, too, that the deed was done, thank God, and didn’t need to be done again. And then there was this wholly unexpected feeling of gratitude. But for what exactly, or to whom? For my good fortune, I guess, and to my hunting partner, of course, but also to this animal, for stepping unbidden over the crest of that hill, out of the wild and into my sight. More than the product of any labor of mine (save receptiveness) the animal was a gift — from whom or what I couldn’t say • but gratitude seemed in order, and gratitude is what I felt.

As Pollan goes on to recount, the sense of elation didn’t last long. There was hoisting the dead weight around, hanging the carcass from the limb of an oak tree, pulling out the viscera, and butchering the animal on the hood of an ATV. The whole process took a strong stomach and an enormous amount of work, even with a gun. It’s a good thing there are so many calories or kilojoules in an animal, or it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

That’s the way life went for millions of years. From the stillness of tracking to the adrenaline of attacking, from silence to violence, in an instant, only to do it all over again, every day or two, for millions of years. When people were not hunting and gathering, they were getting ready for or recovering from hunting and gathering. They were also dancing, at least several nights a week.

All that began to change with the advent of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago. Farming may be hard work, but it is steady work. The rhythm of tracking and attacking, of silence and violence, is broken. Instead of engaging in regularly intermittent periods of maximal effort, such as killing and cleaning wild animals or making, moving, and breaking camp, farmers engage in relatively steady periods of sub-maximal effort, such as raising cattle or crops in one location. And that’s before industrialization and automation! Today’s farmers use machines to reduce the effort even further. Never in history have so few worked so little to feed so many as we do today.

The point here is not to promote hunting (I have never done that myself) nor to denigrate modern civilization (although we are stressing out both the planet and human wellness); the point is to follow the evolutionary trail in order to identify the forms and patterns of exercise for which our bodies are best suited and designed. On that score, the experience of hunting and gathering is instructive since that was the experience of human beings and other animals for millions of years. Without the protective canopy of civilization, our way in the world proceeds in fits and starts. It is a precarious way, requiring both strength and aerobic fitness in order to cope with the vicissitudes of life.

My guess is that no one wants to go back to the days of being predators and prey. Those were tough days filled with plenty of adrenalin-pumping fights, flights, and frights. But we can learn from those days in order to optimize our activity and exercise patterns. We can replicate the rhythms of pushing ourselves to the max and then backing off for a day or two, with seasonal rhythms of greater and lesser intensity, in order to develop the endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance our bodies require.

It’s no accident that these rhythms are exactly what exercise physiologists discover in their laboratories and recommend in their fitness programs. They are discovering the ancient inheritance that is common to us all. Undertraining and overtraining are both equally problematic when it comes to optimal fitness. So, too, are repetitive activities with little to no variation as to intensity, duration, nature, angle, and object. Imagine, once again, the range of physical and emotional challenges involved with a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The closer we come to replicating such challenges, the closer we will be to optimal fitness. This involves:

  • Alternating high-exercise with low-exercise periods (perhaps several months at a time)
  • Alternating high-intensity with low-intensity exercises
  • Alternating long-duration with short-duration exercises
  • Alternating aerobic with resistance exercises (perhaps by day)
  • Alternating between activities and routes
  • Alternating muscle groups
  • Alternating exertion and rest

Such variety is not only the spice of life, it is the source of life. It makes us feel good to push our limits and then to back off in recovery. There was a time when we didn’t have to push ourselves; life pushed us, day after day. It’s not like that anymore for many people, at least not very often, so we have to push ourselves in order to get back in the rhythm of life.

We’ll write next week about some of the specific ways to push ourselves in aerobic exercises and resistance training. For now, it’s enough to realize that steady, moderate activities are not sufficient to promote optimal fitness. Without regular, intermittent periods of maximal effort we will not thrive in body, mind, or spirit. We will not be the people we hope to be.

Coaching Inquiries: How could you push yourself this week in at least one form of physical exercise? How could you go beyond gentle or moderate activities to vigorous activities, if only for a few seconds or minutes? What activities would be the best ones for you to kick up a notch? Who could become your personal trainer in this journey?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


I just listened to the recording that you mentioned in your last Provision, Just Move, and Chicken Fat is brilliant! I did not have the privilege of having that in school. I was however Marcellus Washburn in “The Music Man” who sang “Shipoopi.” Just as rousing as the Chicken Fat song but about women and kissing :-). As someone who the doctor just told to “get moving” every day for 30 minutes, your article resonated loud and clear. I will put Chicken Fat on my iPod to use while walking and remember my youth. Thanks and peace.


I think I took your last Provision literally. Yesterday I “just moved.” 🙂 I’m tickled and delighted to no longer be renting. Albeit after a most stressful renovation, I’m happy as can be. This house has courtyards, gardens, and joy! I’m glad Provisions showed up to make me feel right at home. Thanks!


Excellent site – do keep up the good work. 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #514: Just Move

Laser Provision

When all else fails, just move. That’s the message of this Provision. It’s a message that’s hardwired into our genetic code. For thousands and millions of years, the human being has been a motion being. We are meant to be physically active and strong, far more so than most of us are today. For the past hundred years, our fitness and, in turn, our health has been slipping away. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take it from Jack LaLanne who, at age 92, still exercises two hours per day: it’s not beyond anyone to move.

LifeTrek Provision


Although his presidency lasted an all-too-brief 1,068 days, I remember US President John F. Kennedy better than any other President of my youth. Unlike today, when terror has become part of the cultural landscape, President Kennedy’s assassination was a real show stopper. I will never forget the school bus driver abruptly stopping the bus on a steep hill, commanding total silence, and then announcing that the President had been shot dead. I, along with my mother and much of the nation, spent many days in front of the television (which switched to 24-hour news coverage for the first time ever). I can remember her telling me to pay attention, because this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. Oh, if only she had been right.

I remember many other things about President Kennedy, including, of course, his famous remark, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” He also asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the “common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” We are still fighting those enemies, and it seems appropriate • given that it is Memorial Day weekend in the United States • to memorialize one of our truly great leaders. It was an age of idealism that infected me as a youth and lives on yet today.

Three things stick with me as to President Kennedy’s time in office. One was the creation of the Peace Corps. Although I never served in the Corps, it became a model that I followed through the Appalachia Service Project and my time in the inner-city of Chicago. We were all paying forward to create a better world. Another was the challenge to put a person on the moon before the end of the decade. Kennedy did not live to see that day, but I had the privilege of sharing a stage with Neil Armstrong, the first person on the moon, not long after he returned from that distant and hostile environment. “We choose to (do this and) other things,” President Kennedy asserted, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Which leads to my third sticking point • the hardest of them all, or so it seemed at the time. In 1956, President Eisenhower created the President’s Council on Youth Fitness to serve as a “catalytic agent” concentrating on creating public awareness. President Kennedy, after he took office in 1961, changed the name to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness to reflect an expanded mandate. The Council continues to this day to “advise the President through the Secretary of Health and Human Services about physical activity, fitness, and sports, and to recommend programs to promote regular physical activity for the health of all Americans.”

Soon after President Kennedy changed the name and mandate of the Council, Meredith Willson (of “The Music Man” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” fame) composed and Robert Preston recorded a song that is remembered by just about every baby-boomer who attended elementary school in the 1960s. That’s because the song • “Go You Chicken Fat, Go” • was distributed to every school in the United States with the idea that it would be played over the Public Address system in the morning while students did calisthenics. Imagine Harold Hill leading a Jazzercise class, and you get the idea.

For many of us, myself included, the song lives on in infamy. First of all, it’s one of those jingles that you can’t get out of your head (“Give that chicken fat, Back to the chicken, And don’t be chicken again. No, don’t be chicken again.”). Second of all, for those of us who did the six minute and thirty second workout routine day in and day out during gym class or at some other time during the day, we remember sweating and groaning our way through the drill: Toe Touches, Push Ups, Toe Touches, Push Ups, Marching In Place, Sit Ups, Torso Twists, Pogo Springs, Jumping Jacks, Marching In Place, Arm Circles, Bicycle Rides, Deep Breathing, Running In Place first Slow as a Tortoise than Fast as a Hare. Finally, “Everybody sing! Go, you chicken fat, go! Go! Go! Dismissed!”

Phew! I used to dread that song, as Robert Preston’s perky voice ratcheted things up to a frenetic pace. You can listen or even move to the music yourself, if you dare, by Clicking Here.

Long before President Kennedy and the 1960s, America’s first physical fitness guru, Jack LaLanne, was busy in San Francisco with the same mission: getting people in shape by getting them to move. Born in 1914, LaLanne lives on today with a vigorous fitness regimen at the age of 92. As a child, LaLanne was addicted to sugar, junk food, and acts of violence (he set his parents’ house on fire and attacked his brother with an axe). After hearing a lecture by Paul C. Bragg, when he was 15, LaLanne and his mother became convinced of a connection between his diet and his violent acts. As a result, LaLanne turned his life around by adopting a strict diet and exercising daily.

Two of his maxims became, “If man made it, don’t eat it.” and “If it tastes good, spit it out.” In what represents an early version of the Paleolithic diet and the Optimal Wellness Prototype, LaLanne gave up sugar, coffee, processed foods, and dairy products in favor of whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish. Diet alone would not have done the trick, however.

“If all else fails, just move.” became LaLanne’s third maxim. And move he did. At a time when strength training was not in vogue, LaLanne developed not only a vigorous daily regimen, involving swimming and weight lifting, he also developed the first weight machines in the country. Today, such machines are standard equipment in the fitness industry. In 1936, LaLanne opened his first health spa and in 1951 he became the first TV fitness personality with shows that ran until 1984, when LaLanne retired from television at the of 70.

To celebrate his 70th birthday, LaLanne fought strong winds and currents as he swam 1.5 miles, handcuffed and shackled, while towing 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach, California harbor to the Queen Mary. He had done crazy stunts like that all his life, including a number of world records (such as 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes and swimming the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, underwater, with 140 pounds of equipment, including two air tanks).

But one doesn’t have to be that extreme to follow LaLanne’s third maxim, “If all else fails, just move.” In fact, ironically enough, for more than thirty years on “The Jack LaLanne Show” he focused primarily on exercise aimed at homemakers, using items found around the home. LaLanne demonstrated that it’s not only possible, it may even be preferable, to get in shape through everyday activities rather than through athletic contests.

That’s why we first made the suggestion that you shift your body frequently throughout the day. What could be simpler than that? It’s a far cry from Chicken Fat or Jack LaLanne, but it is a step in the right direction to stand up and to sit back down, for example, at regular intervals throughout the day. Or to get up to change the channel rather than to use the remote. Or to turn your head all the way in one direction before turning it all the way in the other direction. Such gentle movements are essential to Optimal Fitness.

But they’re not enough. That’s why last week I encouraged you to step it up a notch with Ron Jones’ “Dynamic Warm Up. In less than six minutes, and with none of the Chicken Fat frenzy, Ron takes you through a series of 10 warm up exercises that replicate the balance, reach, and strength requirements of everyday activities. I find Ron’s routine to be a great prelude to more vigorous exercise.

This assumes, of course, that you have no physical limitations when it comes to exercise. Even the “Dynamic Warm Up” may be too much for some people. When in doubt, check with your doctor. One way to check yourself is with the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q). Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following seven questions:

  1. Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
  2. Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
  3. In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
  4. Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
  5. Do you have a bone or joint problem (for example, back, knee or hip) that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
  6. Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (for example, water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?
  7. Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity?

If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions, see your doctor first. You may have to follow special instructions in order to ease your way into an exercise program. But some form of exercise will work for just about everyone; even heart patients do better when they get the body moving. That should be your orientation. You’re not asking your doctor if you can exercise; you’re asking your doctor how you can exercise. Remember LaLanne’s maxim: “If all else fails, just move.”

  • If you don’t have much energy, just move.
  • If you’re feeling kind of groggy, just move.
  • If you’re depressed and down in the dumps, just move.
  • If you have too much work to do, just move.
  • If you’re feeling anxious or afraid, just move.
  • If you can hardly eat another bite, just move.
  • If you’ve been sitting at your computer too long, just move.
  • If you want to spend time with someone, just move.
  • If you need to clear your mind, just move.
  • If you don’t know what else to do, just move.

LaLanne put it quite succinctly when he said, “You eat everyday, you sleep everyday, your body was made to exercise everyday.” Those are the things we have been doing since the beginning of time, only now we are eating more, sleeping less, and moving hardly at all in comparison to our ancestors. In 2002, for example, 25 percent of adult Americans did not participate in any leisure time physical activities in the past month, and in 2003, 38 percent of students in grades 9 to 12 viewed television 3 or more hours per day. No wonder we have so many health problems! President Kennedy’s mandate has not been fulfilled; indeed, we’ve gone backward rather than forward when it comes to physical activity in the past 40 years.

Here are the current recommendations to promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight:

  • 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity physical activity, in addition to whatever you normally do at home or work, is the bare minimum.
  • Doing more than that in both intensity and duration generates greater health benefits for most people.
  • 60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity assists most people to maintain their optimal body weight.
  • 90 minutes per day supports weight-loss for people who want to reach their optimal body weight.

This means that not even Chicken Fat, as exhausting as it may be, is enough activity on a daily basis. Six minutes and thirty seconds just isn’t enough (although it felt like an eternity in the fifth grade). We need to warm up and then to challenge ourselves with a combination of aerobic activities, strength straining, stretching, and balance work. The more well-rounded the regimen, the better.

Moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activities, such as walking, running, swimming, or cycling, form the base of the exercise pyramid. That’s not because they are more important than strength training, stretching, and balance work; that’s rather because they take the most time.

Next week we’ll talk about aerobic activities that you may want to add to your daily routines. Between now and then, you might find it illuminating to keep a movement log. Write down your movements throughout the day, including their starting time, duration, and intensity, to get some sense of your activity level. Are you at or below the 30-minute level? The 60-minute level? The 90-minute level? Awareness is the keystone to change.

Coaching Inquiries: What are your favorite activities? Do you do them as much as you would like? Who do you enjoy doing them with? How could you increase their duration and intensity? How could you make them more fun?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


In your last Provision, Warm Up, you refer to the lazy way dogs wake up, with yawns and stretches. That may be true for domesticated animals, but wild animals leap into action without warming up beforehand. Not everyone thinks it’s so important to warm up; being consistently active is the key. (Ed. Note: Thanks for pointing this out. I will have more to say about stretching in the weeks ahead.)



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #513: Warm Up

Laser Provision

Professional athletes are not the only ones who need to warm up. Everyday activities, from the most sedentary to the most vigorous, go better when we take the time to warm up. Think of it as preparation. From the start of the day to the end of the day and all throughout the day, moving our bodies gradually, gently, dynamically, holistically, and completely is a great way to promote full engagement. By paying attention to the transitions, we improve our chances for success and significance in life and work. Read on for some tips on how to make it so.

LifeTrek Provision


Have you ever watched dogs wake up? Unless they are startled, they wake up by warming up. First, they stretch, then they yawn • a big yawn • then they stretch again, then they yawn again. Front legs, back legs, neck, shoulders, and hind quarters. Then they get a drink, and perhaps a bite of food, if it’s available, before going outside to walk, do their business, and walk some more.

May that be a lesson for us all. When we shift from one activity to another, it’s important to warm up all the muscles of our body. To go from stillness to all-out effort with no warm up in between is a formula for not only minimizing our performance and enjoyment of the effort but also for risking injury and even death. By failing to respect the laws of motion, especially inertia and momentum, we set ourselves up for failure.

That may, in fact, be the reason why many people fail to stick with an exercise program. They don’t pay attention to the transitions and what it takes to successfully get into motion a body at rest. The more violent the transition, like breaking a set of pool balls, the more noise, unpredictability, and chaos in the resulting action. It just isn’t fun, unless you enjoy extreme sports. The more gradual the transition, however, like that dog waking up, the more music, intention, and attention in the resulting action. Warming up makes everything easier and more enjoyable.

Classroom teachers know that success or failure depends upon careful attention to the transitions. Once a class has their instructions and gets engaged in a learning activity, things tend to proceed smoothly and dynamically. Teachers can float around the room to help individual students, to identify learning gaps, or even to engage in other activities. That’s how momentum works. People get into flow and things proceed more or less on autopilot.

Transitioning to the next activity is another matter entirely. Getting students to stop doing one thing and to start doing another takes a lot more effort. These are also the points where things can really fall apart. If the instructions aren’t clear, if the students don’t want to stop, if they have other needs, if the room isn’t ready, if the equipment isn’t handy • there are countless reasons why classes may fall apart at the transition points. Excellent lesson plans take all this into consideration. They plan not only the activities; they also plan the transitions. How do we get from one activity to the next? Therein lies the crux of successfully getting through the school day.

Therein also lies the crux of getting through life in general. Optimal Fitness requires us to pay careful attention to the transitions. As we said last week, we first need to plan out the quantity of our transitions. The more frequent the better. Even during sleep, our bodies naturally shift, turn, roll around, and move. That’s even more important during waking hours. To do the same activity in the same way using the same muscles in the same position and the same plane for hours at a time with no breaks and no diversions is a formula for disaster. We’re just not made to work that way. Shift frequently.

After we get in the groove of frequent transitions, we then need to plan out the quality of our transitions. That’s where today’s Provision comes into play. We need to warm up. We need to stretch, twist, yawn, scratch, drink, and wag like a dog. Our transitions need to be gradual, gentle, dynamic, embodied, holistic, and complete. And that goes for far more transitions than most of us realize.

Everyone knows that athletes warm up before their competitions. They just wouldn’t think of pushing their bodies full force from a cold start. Not everyone realizes, however, that the activities of everyday life require the same degree of thoughtful and engaged preparation. Whether it’s doing laundry or sitting at a computer, whether it’s shopping or participating in a meeting, whether it’s yard work or reading a book, whether it’s building roads or driving on them • every single activity challenges us to apply ourselves and to expend energy.

That means every single activity represents a kind of competition for which we would do well to warm up. The times before we do whatever we do, the transition points, are opportunities to prepare ourselves for what comes next. Teachers understand this when they ask their students to stand and stretch between activities or when the class is acting restless. Meeting planners understand this when they schedule “bio breaks.” Sleepy drivers understand this when they stop, get out of the car, and walk around.

No matter what we are doing, the body, mind, and spirit need to be fully aligned and engaged if we hope to be successful and satisfied with our performance. Warm ups enable us to get that way, whether we are about to run a marathon, complete an assignment, or give a speech. Warm ups are good things to do.

One of the most simple and gentle of warm ups are a series of three standing poses recommended by Susan and Larry Terkel in their book Small Change. They can be done virtually anywhere and any time to warm us up for activities at any level.

  1. Downward Facing Pose. Stand about three feet away from a table, desk, sink, or counter top. Place your feet hip distance across and pointing forward. Bend forward from the waist, with legs straight, and grab the edge. Draw your tailbone away from the edge, elongate the spine, look up slightly, and then arch your back. With your tailbone six to eight inches behind your heels, breathe deeply and hold the pose for 30-45 seconds (or through five deep breaths). Smile.
  2. Upward Facing Pose. With your feet in the same position, stand up straight, then bring your hips forward toward the edge of the table or counter top, without moving your feet or bending your knees. Rise up on your toes while pushing down on the edge with straight arms, into a standing backbend. Roll your shoulders back, gaze at the ceiling, breathe deeply, and hold the pose for 30-45 seconds (or through five deep breaths). Smile.
  3. Standing Tall Pose. Bring your feet together, toes and ankles touching, and stand as tall as possible. Your shoulders should line up over your hips, over your knees, over your ankles, and over the front of your heels. Take several deep breaths while standing erect but not tight or tense. Smile.

These poses are best done dynamically, in two to three minutes, as one pose flows gently and gradually into the other. There should be a sensation of mild warmth and openness. They relax and invigorate at the same time. They get us ready for what comes next, whether quiet and sedentary or loud and active.

If you have a few more minutes, less than six total, you may want to consider a routine called the “Dynamic Warm Up” by Ron Jones. I like it because it is more comprehensive and dynamic than the three standing poses. It is also easy to follow (after practicing the movements and using the cue card). It is a great way to transition into work or vigorous exercise.

Ron’s warm up uses, works, and builds the following dynamics:

  • Joint Stability • the ability to maintain a posture or control motion.
  • Joint Mobility • the ability to move both proactively and reactively.
  • Core Muscles • the ability to stabilize the spine whether at rest or in movement.
  • Functional Balance • the ability to recover balance after imbalance.
  • Propioceptive Demand • the ability to perceive and regulate movement.
  • End-Range Position • the ability to meet movement requirements without injury.

To strengthen these six abilities, Ron’s warm-up walks people through ten dynamic movements. Based upon your level of readiness and fitness, the movements can be done at greater or lesser levels of intensity. The best way to learn and practice these movements is to purchase and use Ron’s DVD. There you will have 4-5 minutes of instruction on each movement as well as a tempo warm-up that works through all ten movements in less than 6 minutes. The titles alone give you a sense of how these movements work to warm up and challenge all parts of the body:

  1. Spinal Rotation
  2. Scorpion
  3. Calf Stretch
  4. Squat & Back Extension
  5. Single-Leg Balance Reach
  6. Forward Lunge Reach
  7. Backward Lunge Twist
  8. Drop Lunge
  9. Lateral Lunge Reach
  10. Spinal Flexion/Extension & Shoulder Retraction

Like the Terkels’ three standing poses, Ron’s dynamic warm up can be used periodically throughout the day, at the transition points. It’s obviously an excellent way to warm up before vigorous exercise, whether aerobic or strength training. But it’s also an excellent way to get into and out of our daily activities.

Amateur athletes who are pressed for time would do well to note the importance of warming up. If one only has 20 minutes to work out, it is better to warm up for 6 minutes and then to work out for another 14 than to jump immediately into the workout at high intensity. Cramming in a workout without warming up is a formula for discouragement and injury. It is a great way for the “weekend warrior” to end up back on the couch.

Don’t let that happen to you. Warm up before exercise and other activities. Become intentional about the things you do before you do things. Don’t rush from one thing to the next, without adequate and appropriate preparation. Take lessons from that dog! It’s really not hard to do.

Coaching Inquiries: What kind of attention do you pay to warming up? What would it take to incorporate either the three standing poses or the dynamic warm up into your daily routine? When would be good times to do these? Who could do them with you? How could you make it so?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


I love your newsletter and look forward to each new issue. Your positive suggestions are so uplifting and make such good sense! I especially enjoy the way you share the thoughts and writings of others you meet during your travels. Congratulations on your daughter’s fine academic accomplishment. I know you are so proud of her!


Your Provision, Shift Frequently Click, challenges me to get back to track. I have been letting a few things slip by lately. Thanks for the inspiration. PS • Congratulations to your daughter…hope she is ready for the next phase.


This has been an excellent series, and this one is my favorite even at 5:30 am (certainly not sleeping enough). I have listed my cup fillers, now the question is “how/where can I fit them in my day without it becoming a burden? Thank you for the knowledge you share. I certainly look forward to your email every Sunday.


I like this series since there is so much in it that I can use myself, even though I am so physically challenged nowadays. 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services

Provision #512: Shift Frequently

Laser Provision

With all the attention we’ve given to sleep and the three “R’s” of Optimal Fitness • rest, relaxation, and recovery • you may be starting to think that we’re never going to get you moving. Au contraire! Today we take a final stab at the three “R’s” by encouraging you to make the most gentle of movements on a regular basis: shift your position at least once an hour. Make variety your routine. Shift frequently. Interrupt repetitious patterns with varied explorations that increase your gusto for life. Read on to make it so.

LifeTrek Provision


For the past six weeks we have laid the foundation for Optimal Fitness by focusing not on our exercise patterns but on our sleep and relaxation patterns. That may have surprised you, but Optimal Fitness depends upon our having both energy and motivation. Where do those come from? From sleep and relaxation. Without enough rest and without enough fun, there’s no way to even the tackle day’s basic requirements let alone to add in an hour or more of vigorous activity.

That’s why I view sleep and the three “R’s” • rest, relaxation, and recovery • as the foundation of the Optimal Wellness Prototype. They are the wellspring, the deep aquifer, from which both energy and motivation flow and to which they return. Perhaps one final story will serve to make the point explicit.

I have been inspired by and have written before about Dewitt Jones, a professional photographer turned motivational speaker who worked for National Geographic magazine for some 20 years. Dewitt has produced a series of excellent videos, each 20-25 minutes in length, exploring life lessons gleaned from his time as a photographer. You can watch them for free, in their entirety, by registering with www.StarThrower.com. I encourage you to do so.

His most recent video, “For The Love Of It” (c) 2007, is second only to his first video, “Celebrate What’s Right With The World” (c) 2001. It is chock full of stories, pictures, and video clips that you won’t want to miss. At one point, Dewitt tells the following story about his time with a group of business executives:

Let me tell you a story about my mother, one of the most positive women I ever met, right up ’till the day she died. Mom used to say to me, “Dewitt, begin each day with a full cup.” And she was right. She was right because, ultimately, love is about passion and passion is about energy. And if we’re going to fall in love with what we do, we need all the energy we can get. I mean, we need to be so stoked on life that we’re just about to burst.

A couple years ago, I was hired to teach a seminar on creativity to a wholesale food company in New Jersey. And I found out that the motto of this company was “Price is all!” Boy, there’s a vision that could drain anybody’s cup.

So I came out to the company and they ushered me into this conference room with about 40 of their top salespeople. All men, all wondering why they had to take time out of their busy day to listen to a photographer. It was like looking out in a room full of Danny DeVitos!

So about half way through the seminar, I began talking about the idea of the full cup. How important it was to have something that filled you with energy. That kept you up at night smiling. That took your breath away. And I could hear them, I could see them. They’re going, “The full cup? No man, the full bank account, that’s what’s important!”

So I asked each of them to take out a piece of paper and write down five things that filled their cup up. Five things they did outside of work that brought them joy. And I waited. And the pens were moving very slowly on the paper. They were struggling with their lists. I thought, “These guys are running on empty!”

And finally, I said, “O.K., after each idea, I want you to write down the date of the last time you actually did it.”

And right there, in the middle of that conference room, one man put his head down on the desk and started to cry. The page in front of him was blank. Completely blank. No cup fillers. No dates. And Danny DeVito in tears.

There was a long, awkward silence. A couple of the guys came over to console him. And then the room erupted in one of the most amazing discussions I’ve ever been part of. On that day, the men in that room got it. They saw and they felt, at a very deep level, just how important having a full cup was.

Mom was right. You can’t fall in love with your work unless you come to work with a full cup. There are a thousand ways we can fill up our cups. We just have to realize how essential it is to our well-being and make sure we take the time to do it. Because when we fill ourselves up it spills over into everything else we do.

That story describes well the importance of the three R’s. If we don’t find ways to relax, recover, and rest, we will not show up at work or anywhere else with a full cup. We will certainly not have the energy to exercise or to tackle any other “over and above” activities. We will do the bare minimum, and our life satisfaction will register no higher.

To change that, you may want to do Dewitt’s exercise for yourself. Write down five things that fill you up with energy and when you last did them. Five of my cup fillers, for example, are getting a good night’s sleep, reading a thought-provoking book, sitting in a hot tub, having a special dinner with family or friends, and going for a walk or run in the woods. Your list may be totally different. Whatever fills your cup, however, the key is to actually do them on a regular basis.

That’s why I titled this Provision, “Shift Frequently.” Look at your list and then look at my list. What do they share in common? All the cup fillers require us to shift our body, mind, heart, and soul in new directions. We won’t get a good night’s sleep unless we stop whatever it is we are doing, turn off the lights, and lie down. We won’t read great books unless we pick them up and turn the pages. We won’t sit in a hot tub unless we take off our clothes and get in. We won’t have special dinners with people unless we plan them, show up, and engage. We won’t walk or run in the woods unless we put on our gear and go.

This may seem obvious, but according to Pete Egoscue, an anatomical physiologist, shifting frequently is the key exercise necessary for promoting wellness and stopping pain. It may not even sound like exercise to get up and change the channel on the television rather than to use the remote, for example, but shifts of that ilk have more to contribute to Optimal Fitness than most of us imagine.

The reason for that, as Egoscue notes, is that modern civilization makes for severely motion-deprived human beings. With every passing moment, more tasks are being automated. We no longer have to move our arm to brush our teeth; we just stand there with an electric tooth brush. We no longer have to open the garage door; we just sit there and push the button. We no longer have to go to the store to buy things, we just point, click, and go.

That’s a dramatic change of pace from our evolutionary inheritance as hunter-gatherers, and our bodies are not faring well under the weight (literally and figuratively) of such sedentary lifestyles. The point of the three R’s is not to lie around and do nothing all day; the point is to shift frequently from activity to rest, from work to relaxation, from exertion to recovery. It is the rhythm that fills our cup; it is the shifts that keep us in the game.

So the first exercise for Optimum Fitness is simply to shift frequently. Don’t watch television, sit at the computer, or drive a car • to mention only three of the most common offenders • for hours at a time without interruption. Shift your position and / or move around, at least once an hour. When it comes to televisions and computers, that means standing up, looking around, stretching, and walking. When it domes to driving, that means stopping more frequently than most of us are used to stopping and, in between stops, using progressive muscle tensing and relaxing techniques.

For position shifts to contribute to Optimal Fitness they need to become a habitual routine. It’s not enough to shift position only on occasion, or when we get reminded (like by reading this Provision). That’s good, but not good enough. Every hour we need to move our bodies in a different plane and in different ways than whatever we’ve been doing for the 60 minutes prior. If we’ve been sitting still, we need to stand up and move around. If we’ve been swinging a golf club, we need to sit down and breathe. If we’ve been lying on our back, we need to roll over and lie on our stomach.

You get the idea. Mix it up for health! Whatever pattern we’ve been in, do something different. One might say, ironically enough, that we need to make a routine out of having no routine that lasts longer than an hour. To that end, Pete Egoscue recommends the following activities as “patterned motion busters”:

  • Reaching over your head with both hands.
  • Twisting laterally at the waist.
  • Turn your head all the way to the right and left.
  • Looking at the ceiling.
  • Sitting on the floor.
  • Kneeling.
  • Flapping your arms like a bird.
  • Standing on a chair.
  • Balancing on one leg.
  • Carrying your suitcase instead of wheeling it.
  • Opening the garage door without a remote.
  • Changing the channel without a remote.
  • Putting the telephone someplace where you will need to stand and walk to answer it.

He also makes the following suggestions for transforming exercise into variable, health-promoting “motion-cise”:

  • Run and walk at different speeds along varied routes.
  • Vary the time of day that you exercise.
  • Work on the four halves of the body: right half, left half, top half, and bottom half.
  • Spend some time on all the machines in the gym or health club.
  • Identify the piece of equipment or routine you hate, and use it once a week.
  • Vary the impact, demand, and stimulus of the machines.
  • Enjoy exercise quickies, and make time for slowies.
  • Exercise with different partners.
  • Change the environment, the terrain, the temperature.
  • Get up off the ground; get down on the ground.
  • Take off your shoes.
  • Turn off artificial soundtracks (like TVs, CDs, MP3s, DVDs, and radios) and listen to the body’s own rhythms.
  • Keep aerobics in perspective: there’s more to wellness than strengthening the heart.

Can you tell I like this guy? These are not only simple exercises that just about anyone can do, these provide the variety that represent the spice of life and fill up our cups with energy, gusto, and love.

As I write this I am in Atlanta to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from medical school. We just came back from a family outing to an adults-only bowling alley. I’ve never been carded before to go bowling! Bowling is one of those activities that works on the four halves of the body, with lots of variety as to impact, demand, and stimulus. It’s also great fun with lots of surprises and laughter. It’s the kind of activity that reconnects us with our evolutionary fitness heritage. Fast, slow. Go, stop. Aim, focus, target, release.

I’m glad I was able to go. I’m glad I was fit enough to go. And you can get there too if you just start shifting frequently for life.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you more likely to vary your activities or do you get stuck in ruts for long periods of time? How could you mix things up more frequently? How could you make variety the norm rather than the exception in your life? Who could be your partner(s) in all of this? Would could you do right now that would give you a break from what you’ve been doing for the past hour?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


Savor Silver Linings” was a great provision. It immediately made me think of the movie, Life Is Beautiful, the story of a father and young son (about six years old) in the holocaust. Once in a concentration camp, the father shields his son from the horrible insanity by pretending that it’s all a game. What joy and love and grace, can be gleaned from even the darkest corners of the world. If you haven’t seen this movie, I urge you to make it a priority. (Ed. Note: I love that movie. Thanks for making the connection between the movie and my Provision.)


I signed up for Provisions about four years ago, after hearing you speak, and I have thoroughly enjoyed them ever since. It’s a wonderful way to start my Sunday! I have been interested in self-healing, holistic medicine, and wellness for many years now, and your Provisions are delightful reminders of things I know I should be including in my life but often neglect. I know how much thought, research, and attention must go into each and every one, and I would just like to say that I truly appreciate the love you share with the world through that effort. Thank you.


I was a little late getting to last week’s Provision and it is well worth savoring.


Thanks for last week and this week. I think this series is my most favorite! 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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