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 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
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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