PUSHING Yourself During Exercise [Competition Technique]

Competition brings out the best performance in us.

Competition is a technique to PUSH YOURSELF to the ultimate level of fitness.

This is the last article in the series. This technique can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking and running up steps. Those are the two exercises I do most frequently.
You might be thinking that I’m going to cover competition as in racing or joining friends for your exercise so you can push each other to greatness. That’s an amazing technique, but one that everyone already knows. In this series about pushing yourself past current levels of fitness, I wanted to give you some techniques you may not have heard of.

Pushing yourself through competition goes like this…

Usually, I use this technique when I’m feeling unmotivated or even a little down about the state of my run, step climbing, swim, bicycle ride or whatever I happen to be doing. I realize there’s no spunk in my effort and I need something to pick me up and get me up to at least a moderate pace.

In my mind, I assemble a group of my competition. My running competition? Nope. I blog in the motivational / life development area with Aim for Awesome so my competition (though really they are not directly competing with me) are people like Steve Pavlina; Yaro Starak; Albert Foong of Urbanmonk.net; Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net; Donald Latumahina at LifeOptimizer.org and others. There are so many more. Usually, I name a group of twelve. I know what they look like and I picture their natural running style and abilities based on how well their blogs are doing. Choose competitors from whatever area you are striving to excel in. For me, it’s blogging.

I guess the people I named aren’t really direct competition, but they are my role-models and those that I’m striving to equal and eventually surpass online. They’ve got far more readers than I have and they have a high standard for their writing – one that I aspire to. My writing is obviously different and I’m not sure if it has mass appeal yet – but, I’ll find out in a year or so. Anyway, back to the mind-trick.

I picture each person close to me and running with me at first. We’re all in a group and none of us is feeling all that great. This makes me realize, I can beat all of them today because as bad as I feel, I’ve been running all my life. I can crank it up a notch and drop some of them right now.

I go just a little bit faster and see who starts to drop away. I see who picks it up to match me. There are some fighters in the group and I know I’m going to be kicking my own ass to get going as fast as I need to in order to beat them. After the first couple slow slightly I devise a plan. I say to myself, “Around that corner is the slight upgrade. Pretend to go slow right now and then crank it up just around that corner to a 75% effort and see who drops!”

And so I do. I drop a few people there. Steve Pavlina, Yaro Starak, Darren Rowse, Donald Latumahina and a couple others are still with me. Damn they won’t give up.

Depending how I feel I’ll either map out a long-term run strategy where I gradually pick up the pace dropping off everyone except Steve Pavlina or I’ll do some mini-bursts of speed usually up hills to drop people. Steve is great at the high speed, long distance, but I use hills to wear him down – the up and down wear him out. I love the hills so that’s where I destroy him.

Ha, it sounds funny as I write it but! I’m not joking at all. This is a very powerful technique that I love to use. I combine this mental competition with both positive self-talk and with self-coaching to bring out the best in me on bad days. Almost always it succeeds in motivating me to go faster.  Sometimes Steve wins and I vow to break him the next time we run. Sometimes Darren Rowse pulls away and beats both me and Steve. Sometimes Donald comes from behind in a surprise pass that leaves me dumbfounded until I regroup.

Though I haven’t read about any top runners at the international level using mind games to push themselves to greatness like those I’ve written about here, I KNOW they must exist. I guess if you had some really good techniques that you could call on during your deepest moments of suffering during hard exercise that would make you crank even harder you’d keep those a secret. Top secret.

I don’t have many secrets, so I shared the few techniques I use that came easily to mind. As I experience more or as I remember more I’ll post them here to help you take your exercise to a new level.

I use this Competition technique for pushing myself harder about once a week on average. One key to using these techniques is not using them every time you exercise. I use each of these techniques maybe once a week on average. But, sometimes I plan stage races where I race the same group of people over 3 days. I might even include Lance Armstrong as a runner in the pack. I visualize snapping his persistence like a dry twig as we push up a long hill…  haha.

Eat my dust Lance!

So then, try this technique as you need it. Be creative with your own ideas and let me know if you come up with anything cool that I can try while I run or bike.

Best of Life!


My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

Want to Start Running in 2018?

Boy running at beach.

Want to Start Running in 2018?

This article will answer questions like:

  1. What is the start-up process that will give me the best chance of success if I want to start running?
  2. What are some reasons people run?
  3. Why does Vern run?

This article will not answer questions like:

  1. Does “running away from something” count?

People start running for many reasons.

Most of us see running as a tool to keep us under a certain weight that we have in mind as a goal. Some people run to compete. Some people become runners to gain strength and endurance in other sports they’re playing since running has great cross-over benefits.

I’ve run most of my life. I’ve also run for many reasons. My reasons for running seem to change over the years.

I’ve been running since I was six years old. My mother signed me up to play soccer that year, and that set the stage for the next twelve years. I played on regular leagues during the summers and the fall. I grew up in Pennsylvania, so the winters were too cold to play, and a time of rest. I’m so glad there was a rest time!

Up until I was eighteen years old, I only ran when I played soccer. I ran nearly every day. If it wasn’t practice it was a game. If it wasn’t a game, it was a basketball game or an indoor soccer game that some friends and I put together. I didn’t run for pleasure because I ran so much for sport.

Running was an integral part of my life, though it wasn’t for fun, it was out of necessity for playing the sports I was involved in. The idea of running a marathon never entered my mind up to this point.

In my twenties, I became a triathlete and competed in many races including bicycle and swimming races. I loved to exercise, probably because I had already become pretty good at it since I already had twelve years of intense training behind me. In my twenties I really came to love the competition and running, exercise of all sorts became pure pleasure in itself.

In my thirties, I ran to keep my weight down. I am 5’11” and my usual weight in my twenties was 165 lbs. In my thirties, I crept up as high as 180 lbs. and I didn’t feel too good about me at that weight. I ran to lose weight so I could keep eating pizza and spaghetti.

In my late thirties and now – my late forties, I asked myself why I’m still running every other day.

The answer surprised me.

I’m not running for health. I’m not running to lose weight. I’m down to 155 right now and feel great about my current body weight. I’m not running to compete. Besides a yearly run up the mountain here in Southern Thailand I haven’t raced in years. I’m not running to look good. I’m not running to avoid death by staying healthy. I’m not at all concerned about death anymore.

My answer to myself for “WHY” I was running was really surprising!

I’m running because when I run, I feel a control that is entirely self-generated and self-perpetuating.

I love control. We all do I guess, but I really love it. I’m not speaking of control over others – I really don’t like to exert my influence over others if they have no want to change. I am a horrible salesperson. I don’t sell well.

I don’t like control over the person I love. In fact, I abhor it. I think that would be a horrible relationship in which I wanted to control what we did and when we did it, how much we did it… who we saw, what we ate, what movies we saw. That’s not a relationship to me.

The control I feel when I run is something entirely different. It is a very positive feeling. It is an experience where I have told myself what I’m going to do, I have scheduled it, and I am going to do it. There’s no doubt of that. I am in control of my mind that has its own desires that sometimes show up right before I go running.

Making myself run, insisting on running regardless of backlash from other thoughts I’m having, is a form of discipline I guess. I don’t accept the emotional mind’s excuses about the body being tired, a little bit sore, having better things to do, etc. There is nothing better to do because I already told myself I’m going to exercise. I like to show my emotional mind that my logical mind is the boss. I don’t want to hear any whining about what else the body could be doing.

It sounds almost schizophrenic, right? Hey, wait a second, I did have a great aunt that lost her mind in her eighties… So, well, maybe I’ve got that to face later on. I’ll think more about it then!

There is no question, the body is running every other day – whether it’s raining or sunny, hot or cool. It’s running. That’s what we do every other day. There’s nothing to talk about – no questions, no excuses. The body is running on that schedule until I decide it isn’t. It’s not a decision that will be made before a run when the mind wants to bail out ‘just for this one time.’  The decision to stop, if there ever is one, needs to be made with some advanced planning. I don’t think I’ll ever find a good reason to stop – so it’s likely to continue.

Beginning to Run

As you start to run, you’ll find out, it’s quite a game you’re playing. I think I have a good way for you to get started if you decide that is what you want. As I said you can run for many reasons. But, you only need one.

Before I start to run on a schedule I’ve created, I know the body might not feel like it. In fact, it probably doesn’t.

Why would it? It hasn’t been running before and it needs some time to get into the routine – to condition the muscles, ligaments, tendons, breathing system and energy stores to meet the demands of running.

I like to trick the body and the mind into it.

If my logical mind told “me” that I’m starting to run again, naturally, the emotional mind and the body will come up with excuses.

I don’t listen.

Instead, I convince the body and emotional mind that it’s nothing big. “We’re not really going to run,” I tell them.

There’s not going to be any competition. We’re not running races. I’m not starting triathlons again! The body is relieved at this. The emotional mind doesn’t believe it though because it has been through this charade before.

I then tell them… “We’re going for a walk in the park. That’s it. We’re walking. Any running that takes place is just a bonus. In fact, we’re NOT running unless everything is a green light and all three of us (Logical Mind, Emotional Mind, and Body) are ready to go.”

I go on, “There’s no reason to run yet. We’re starting out. We start out walking. Regardless if the logical mind wants to run 3-5 miles immediately like it used to, we are just walking the first couple times.”

So – going to the park is not in question.We’re going.

But, whether we run, and how much we run, that IS a question. And, it doesn’t really matter since the logical part of my mind already won the game by making us all go to the park when I said we were going to. The logical mind is in control and that makes it happy. It’s good for me to keep this part of the mind happy since it seems to be the one that is most responsible for my state of mind. I need to nurture my logical mind and make it smile more than the other parts.

We Arrive at the Park to RUN

‘We’ meaning, my logical mind, my emotional mind, and my body.

We stretch a little bit. We see how the body is feeling. Stretching the quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, back, lower back, groin, triceps. We swing the arms a bit as if warming up for swimming. An inventory of the body is taken as I’m stretching lightly. If there is some pain or a lot of tightness in the legs or even in the neck – I’ll likely just walk that day. No sense pulling anything. Just starting out you can expect to pull some muscle, nerve, ligament… something, unless you’re very careful and attentive to the body.

I do make the body go somewhere, but I don’t make it do something if it’s not ready. Likewise when I was competing – I was very aware of every little pain in my legs, arms, back, neck. A little pain can quickly become a major pain that knocks you out of the running game for two weeks or more. Then you need to start all over and re-motivate  yourself. That should be avoided when at all possible.

So we’re at the park and we start walking. When I’m just beginning a new running program, I go to a place where there are very few people. Usually, there is nobody around. That’s good for a couple reasons.

Number 1 – I am embarrassed that I’m not running five to six-minute miles anymore. I’m running like ten-minute miles now! That’s what it feels like anyway. I’m not sure exactly what my pace is because I’ve never timed myself running so slow. What is the point? I know I’m doing grandpa miles and I don’t want anyone to see me doing no better than a senior citizen.

Number 2 – I am walking. Sometimes I’m running. I’m running until I don’t feel that it’s fun anymore and then I’m walking until my Logical Mind makes the body and Emotional Mind realize that there’s really no reason not to just keep running. It’s FUN. There is nobody around to be critiquing my progress. I like that.

If it’s not fun then I’m walking. Seriously. You must make exercising fun. If it isn’t fun, then you’re doing something that you shouldn’t continue.

If you’re running – walk for a bit. In Thailand there is no shyness about this. They run 100 yards and walk 200. They might alternate like this for a mile or they might go five miles like that. There is no competition among Thais when they are at a public park running with a hundred other people. They aren’t embarrassed to walk for a while!

That’s where I got this idea, Thailand. If nobody else is embarrassed, why would I be?

No matter what, it’s fun to make yourself go to a park and walk around and look at people and give yourself some quiet time to think about things on your mind. It frees the mind up from doing work and logical things and gives it some space.

Your emotional mind is also happy because it’s seeing people and experiencing the outdoors. The body is happy because it feels like it is accomplishing something even just by walking one mile. The logical mind is happy because it knows this is all leading to something. It is leading to being able to run longer and longer distances and more feeling of control over the emotional mind and body! The logical mind is really psyched to be out there even if we’re not running all the time. It will come… it will come.

Don’t let yourself have any expectation about what you’re going to do when you go to the park. Tell your body and your Emotional Mind that you’re going to the park to give the brain a REST! Look at it as a positive – a reward. That way, you’re definitely going. You deserve a reward, right? That’s what I do… it makes it so much easier.

Just go to a park where there are not three hundred runners and just walk. That’s it… walk. If you feel like it, run for a bit. Only run if it’s fun. If your mind or body is really rebelling and starts telling you – this is no fun at all, stop and walk. Don’t run again until you really feel like it and all parts of the body and mind are “GO!”

When you stick to a schedule of going to the park for a period of time you’ll notice that you’re running more and walking less. It might take a few weeks, or you might jump into it sooner. There will still be days that you don’t think all systems are “go” and you walk the entire time. No worries. You might walk for twenty minutes and decide that your body isn’t up to it. Maybe a muscle or one of your joints is feeling worse as you walk. No matter, go home. Don’t put any requirements on your visit to the park.

The whole thing about exercise is that it must be fun. Don’t do it if it isn’t fun. If you go at a very gradual pace, I think you’ll find it is fun. If you try running for two months and you just don’t like it – even if you’re running ONLY when it’s fun for you and walking the rest of the time – you might want to switch to a different exercise. Or, you might want to realize that walking can do it for you too. Whatever reason you had for wanting to start running – can be the same reason to get on a walking program instead. No worries, don’t set up something in your mind that says:


That’s ridiculous musturbation. There are runners, walkers, tennis players, racquetball players, bicycle riders, hikers, climbers, soccer players, swimmers, surfers, bodyboarders, windsurfers, kitesurfers, stationary bike riders, stairmasters, rollerbladers and skateboarders. Exercise is exercise. I don’t think it matters much WHY you are exercising – you can get the same things from any of the sports mentioned.

For me, running is special, because it’s just my body and mind against the elements. I am making the body run up hills, down hills, through woods, into areas I’ve not been. Running is an adventure. It’s accomplishment. It’s power. It’s control.

Did you ever hear of fartlek running?


I’ll have to write more about those fun types of running in another article.

For me, running is pure bliss! I often imagine that I’m passing people as I run. I use this imagery that I’m passing all the people that I want to surpass with my business goals and my personal goals. I’m blowing right by them because some of them are standing still. They’re standing still because they probably don’t run. I see them up ahead of me and they’re going so slow… I’m going slow too – but you know what? I’m passing them!

This is another reason I like to run when there’s nobody around… I talk to them as I pass them, these imaginary business competitors. Tim Ferris, Gary Vaynerchuk, Hugh Howey, Lee Child.

I’m the master of this race… and there can be no other winner.


Best of Life!


PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise – A Series!

Boy getting out the door to start exercising, no matter what

Getting Out the Door to Exercise is the first and only real priority for the day, and the first article in the PUSHING YOURSELF during exercise series!

This is a series about pushing yourself (motivating yourself) while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise I guess, but in this series I’ll talk mostly about running and walking/running up steps. Those are two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.


1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

The first obstacle to getting started on a regular exercise program is just getting yourself out the door on a regular basis to exercise. There are a couple ways I’ve used in the past to get myself motivated to go exercise.

The first and maybe best step is to make exercise part of your schedule. Make a list everyday in the morning or the night before that details exactly what you want to accomplish as a minimum for the day, but I also include some extras that I’d like to get to if possible. Extras are asterisked.

My Getting Things Done list for today is:

1. Check if all sites are running. Read RSS feeds. Read, respond, archive all email. Check Adsense. Check Google Analytics: all sites.
2. Deposit cash at Bangkok Bank.
3. Start new blog series – exercise – motivational topics. Write 1-3* posts, schedule publishing.
4. Approve Crank101 comments, respond to new comments. Post large comment response to Dave.
5. Change second column to add Mark Allen quote post-it.
6. Store HDD content on DVD.
7. 5 pm., climb the steps up the mountain!
8. Find decent raincoat.


When exercise is part of the schedule it cannot be changed.


It’s written in stone. There is nothing you can possibly do to change it and it must be crossed off the list for the day. It’s helpful for me if I make the list I do every morning required activities. There’s nothing on the list that isn’t going to get done. They are MUST GET DONES.

Notice that number 7, steps, is the only one that has a time next to it. Everything else is flexible, but the time I exercise is not. That’s because it isn’t going to be changed. At 5 pm. every day I leave to exercise. In the past when my schedule was less set in stone I’ve set an alarm to go off two hours before that reminds me I’m going running at a certain time. That alarm alerts me to get everything done that needs done by the time I go running and it also prepares my mind for the activity.

The second thing that makes exercising easier is that I don’t define much about what the actual workout will be. It says “steps” but, in reality it might turn into a run up the hill at a nearby park. There is an amazing hill that goes 4 km (2.5 miles) up this mountain and it’s really a great run and gives me an hour+ exercise. It’s shady and just ideal for a hard workout.

If I do the steps, how many times I climb is predicated on how I feel, nothing else. If I go to the top the first time and I feel great, then I’ll consider doing it again. I don’t plan on it until I get up and back down to the bottom to see how I feel at that point. Still great? Can you do another 1,237 steps up and back down? Have time? Do it again. I’ll repeat the process at the top the second time. Do I feel great? Good enough to do it again? I answer, but whether I do it a third time depends entirely on how I feel at the bottom after coming down the second time. Still feel great? Have time? Need to stay awake tonight for anything? (Doing it three times wipes me out pretty good and I sleep early as a result!) Do it again! Or not. I may do it once or three times – no telling by the schedule and it doesn’t matter since I don’t put any restrictions on what I do. I do a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise, but there’s no maximum. So if I feel good, I just keep going.

The third thing that makes exercising easier for me is that I am in the moment as I do it. I fully experience the exercise and I realize that it’s the most fun I could possibly be having at the time. I’d rather be exercising and fine-tuning my body for better health than anything else I can think of. I am aware of this the entire time I exercise. I really enjoy it. If I feel good and I’m really pushing – it hurts a lot more, but I’m getting a lot more done so the ego satisfaction makes it worth it. If I’m going slow – it’s easy and fun to be outdoors doing something instead of in the house not doing anything for my body.

Either way – it’s fun. Make it fun for you by not pushing when you don’t feel like pushing. Just make sure you GO and do something, even if it’s walking around a park. If you go to walk around a park then maybe after one time you feel great. Can you do two times? After two ask again – three? And so on. Next time maybe you’ll run one-hundred yards. Then walk for 600. Then run again for fifty yards. No matter WHAT you accomplish as you get started the main thing is you are accomplishing much more than sitting down at home.

Other things that may motivate you to get out the door and exercise:

Some people are motivated by the chance to meet someone of the opposite sex. This possibility does exist, maybe it’s easier at a park or along a river or boardwalk. Choose a place filled with people if that’s what drives you.

Others are motivated to start exercising among a group of people that are not competitive with them. Meaning, if you are thirty years old and overweight you don’t want to go to the local 400 m track and run circles with the high school and college kids training at the track. Better to head for a park or go where the seniors exercise. When you first start out you’ll feel much better as you’ll feel like a champ, not a loser! Make yourself the winner as often as possible.

I have a friend that loves to run in her new shoes. I don’t know what it is, but she buys new shoes often and really enjoys the whole routine of getting in her little short-shorts, tight running top and bright neon Nikes. For her running is partly about being seen. She runs at “Bayshore Blvd.” in Tampa. If you know it – there’s a sidewalk that borders over five miles of ocean and many beautiful old homes in South Tampa. I think she feels like a movie star to run there. If it works, do it!

Plan to run with other people at the same level as you are. This makes it tough to get out of because the other people will be going – and it’s harder to miss it because you’ll have social pressure to make it every day. Some people run well with others – I never have. I really enjoy running by myself but if I was starting out I think I’d find it fun to run with other slow people for a while.

Eat what you like! Part of the fun of exercising a lot – like cycling for four to seven hours or running for two hours is that you have the luxury of eating whatever you like. After a hundred mile bike ride I loved that I could eat a whole quart of coffee flavored Haagen Dazs ice-cream. Then I could have pizza for dinner. Spaghetti for a snack! If you run for an hour at a moderate pace you may burn anywhere from 450-800 calories. That’s a lot of food.

You can choose:

1. Eat just a little more and eat smart. This will cause you to lose weight gradually. Or,
2. Eat what you want to cover the number of calories you just burned. Remember, Greg Lemond, Tour de France Winner, loved his ice-cream!

The rest of this series is dedicated to motivating you to continue exercise or to push yourself while exercising. The mind needs to be overcome and sometimes tricked into pushing the body to do more. This series will deal with “PUSHING YOURSELF!”

Best of Life!

Find me at Twitter HERE >


1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

Running at the park

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Positive Self Talk]

Positive self talk - woman with wide-eyes.

Positive Self Talk is the fourth article in the series about PUSHING YOURSELF during exercise to help you get the highest possible benefit out of your session.

This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking/running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

This technique of pushing myself to go harder when I otherwise might not involves me talking to myself. Sometimes I talk to myself just in my mind. However, if nobody is around it’s much more motivational to talk to myself out-loud.

As I said in the last post, “Shaming Yourself,” I sometimes notice that I’m just cruising through my exercise. I’m good at pushing it at least once per session but when that push is over sometimes I settle down into complacency, just happy that I successfully pushed myself to do something I wasn’t really planning on.

One of the real keys to having fun while exercising is that I never plan on pushing. That’s something you might want to try as well. Put no expectations on your exercise session. Your only requirement should be – getting out the door and doing it. What happens when you’re out there is wide open for whatever happens. You might feel great that day, you might feel on the verge of injury and need to take it slowly. You might have a stomach cramp, but you might use that to your advantage by learning to push through it instead of going more slowly. You might use it to your advantage to learn what to do with a cramp during a race.

If the pace and effort of the exercise is left to be wide open you are surprised and happy when you go beyond what you might have normally done. This is a very positive motivator because there was nothing major planned, but you pushed it – even once – and made it a more beneficial session than you thought it would be.

Contrast this to pre-planning what your session will consist of. If you plan out every detail and make it a strictly followed formula the exercise won’t be fun. I’ve done this. I’ve planned out every sprint on the bicycle, 30 sprints followed by 5 miles of slow spinning followed by 1 mile of time trial followed by 2 miles of slow spinning… etc.

It’s boring to adhere to a tightly planned session. It’s so much more fun to keep the entire session wide open and push yourself to do as much as you can do. I’ve found that it works out much better. I enjoy the exercise way more and I usually push myself as hard or harder than I would have if I’d planned out the session.

Better too if you don’t plan because if you don’t feel 100% and the exercise plan calls for sprints that day you’ll feel bad about not doing them. You’ll feel worse when you try them and injure yourself. If you had an unplanned workout you’d not have considered sprinting when you weren’t 100% and instead you’d have done a slow-medium session and been happy you didn’t injure yourself.

Getting back to Positive Self Talk…

I start talking to myself during a run…

“Feels great. Man what a day to be outside when so many people are sitting at home watching the TV and filling their head with nonsense. How many people are outside right now exercising in this town of 460,000 people? A thousand? How many are running through a park like this one? 100? How many are in this park? Nope. Just four people. Man, you are one of four people able to enjoy exercising like this… Cows. Birds. Lots of shade. Nothing like that Coconut Grove 5-miler in Miami that morning after a fast 20-mile bike ride. Nothing like that. This is easy. It’s like the earth is moving and I’m just moving my legs to catch up to it. Effortless. What an amazing day today… I was able to edit those 120 web pages, optimize my Google Adsense ads, get to the bank, email mom, etc.”

I talk to myself about everything positive that I see around me and that I feel in my body. If I run out of stuff, I think about other positive things I did throughout the day that I was able to accomplish.

I talk about my breathing, my strength, my happiness, my dedication to exercising… the work I did that day, the good things that happened recently… I talk about short-term goals for that night or for the next day. I reason out the best thing to focus on next online… the Aim for Awesome blog needs to have a tighter focus… how could I focus it more? What do people want to read about daily? Can I keep posting such a wide variety of topics or should I narrow it down to exercise, mind, philosophy, meditation? Should I start the relationships series I was thinking about?

Positive self-talk helps me take the focus away from the run, usually resulting in a long run and a very fulfilling run.

I’m always looking forward to my exercise time because I do some positive self-talk every time I run. I really enjoy being outdoors and recollecting all the positive things that have happened since I last talked to myself! I also enjoy it a lot because there are no expectations put on the session before it starts – and yet it might turn into the most amazing session just because I’m working myself up with the positive talk. It’s getting me psyched up and my adrenaline starts pumping!

Try this – and let me know how it goes!

Best of Life!


My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Using Visual Imagery!
2. Shaming Yourself!
3. Positive Self Talk!
4. Delay of Gratification!
5. Coaching Yourself!
6. Illusory Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Coaching Yourself]

Running coach watch

Coaching Yourself is the sixth article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series which is all about helping you reach your ultimate fitness level by pushing yourself beyond your normal best effort.


This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking / running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

I played soccer from the time I was six until I graduated high school. When I entered 8th grade I met my soccer coach, Mr. Richard Spolar at Springdale High, Pennsylvania. He was a physical education teacher at another nearby school and he’d been coaching soccer at my high school for six years already. Coach Spolar had an excellent history of creating great soccer teams. Our school, though small was renown for playing Quad-A soccer though we were only a Double-A school. Coach Spolar never smiled. Coach Spolar was my worst nightmare for four years.

We had a path that was 9/10th of a mile around our high school field. About four complete soccer fields could fit into this area. Coach would make us run around this loop not just on good days, but even if we were sick or had some injury that prohibited us from practicing but that jogging wouldn’t hurt. If someone had a stomach ache or headache coach would make them run around the field. If someone had a broken arm coach would make them run around the field.

He never looked up to see how many times they circled, he never gave it a second thought. After he told you to start running you ran until the end of practice. Sometimes that was two hours later. Sometimes three. One player ran around the loop 18 times over a three-hour practice. One dared not stop or the assistant coach would tell him and coach would blow the whistle and make the entire team run around the loop for the entire practice. Or worse, he’d make us line up for 100-yard sprints or suicides. The worst exercise in his repertoire was “hills” which is the topic of a whole new post if I ever want to relive them. One of coach’s primary beliefs was that the entire team got punished for any infraction of an individual. Of course, that individual later got the hell beat out of him so it didn’t pay to be the one causing coach grief.

Coach loved “three-a-days” in the Summer. You know how most kids have off for the summer to do as they wish? Coach made us practice three times every day during the peak of summer heat. We’d have two hours in the morning working on springs, suicides, hills and individual ball control skills. In the afternoon it was team skill building for two hours. In the evening we’d play small practice games offense on defense for three hours. Seven hours of practice each day rain or shine. We much preferred the rain.

Coach Spolar told us on numerous occasions:

“What you see here. Do here. Hear here.
Stays here when you leave here.”

Coach knew some of his tactics would cause outrage among parents, probably get him fired as a coach and teacher in the school system. So, nobody was ever to find out. None of us dared to tell.

When coach got in your face to gripe you out it was as if the blood in his head was boiling and he was going to explode. He would be one inch from one of your eyeballs and screaming and spitting as he did so. Spittle would cover your cheek, lips and even get into your eye. If you flinched he got angrier. He could fire that temper up in an instant and be jacking somebody up in no time if he saw them either

1.) Being lazy.
2.) Not doing what he told us to do.

One of his favorite tortures, he had many, was making a player hold a half-pushup position until, arms spasming they gave out. We had a couple guys that could hold that position almost indefinitely. He’d rest his foot on their shoulders as he talked to the team. When someone’s arms gave out before he thought they should he’d get in the player’s face and scream at them until they got back up and held it again. The second time he told them if they dropped again they were dropped from the team. Coach was going way beyond the level of being a bastard, but we did win the state championship in my senior year.

It was coach’s anger and seriousness in the back of my subconscious that created this form of pushing myself to exert more when I feel like I’m at the end of my resources. It seems to have just occurred naturally during my hard exercise one time. I realized I was yelling at myself in my mind to keep going, to push it harder. It wasn’t my voice though. Coach was STILL IN MY HEAD!

How this usually happens is just that, it happens on it’s own. It’s my self-talk that just pops up when I need it to push me a lot harder. Maybe I’ve already done a hellacious workout and I’m tired and don’t feel like pushing anymore. I start telling myself in a low growl like coach used to do.

“Get your ass up that hill and do it faster than anybody else or you’ll be sitting on the bench for the next two games. You understand me?”

“YES SIR.” I yelled. (Oh, I forgot to tell you – we had to address everything as YES SIR or we’d suffer for it.

“What did you say?” He’d ask menacingly.

“YES SIR!” I’d scream at the top of my lungs so anyone up at the school 300 yards away could hear it.

“That’s what I thought, now bust your ass up this hill and don’t let one person beat you. YOU GOT THAT?”

“YES SIR!” I yelped out, louder than before.

Reliving those episodes in my mind I’m able to push myself beyond what I ever thought once I start coaching myself just like coach Spolar used to do. I’m amazed that the old feeling comes back – the feeling that there is no chance to get out of what he just said. It must be done because the consequences are much worse than the effort to be expended.

This technique works magic on me. If there’s nobody around, I growl out orders to myself out loud and it works even better. This is the only technique that has the power to literally transform me and make me do something. It never failed. Not once.

I’m sure it can work for you too – even if you didn’t have an insane coach during your younger years. You could make it your dad’s voice. Or create a coach in your mind that is relentless and that will not accept failure to do exactly what he/she tells you. Start talking to yourself in a very forceful and unrelenting way.

“Pick up the pace now, you better be doing seven-minute miles over the next two miles!”

“If you walk now, you’re not coming back here to exercise for three days. You want to waste three days?”

“Reel that guy in that’s 150 yards away by the time you make another lap. DO IT NOW.”

“Don’t EVER say you can’t do something as simple as this. GET your A&& moving and don’t stop until I say you’re finished!”

Try those or be creative with your own. I get much more creative cursively but better not to have those here in the blog!

Try it!

Best of Life!



1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Delaying Gratification]

Boy not thinking of delaying gratification as he pushes himself to run on the beach in the heat.

Delaying Gratification is the fifth article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series which is designed to help you get the most possible benefit out of your exercise session.


1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking/running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

Delaying gratification is something I use whenever I feel really strong and I know my exercise session is going to be a heroic effort. You know those days when you feel on top of the world as you start exercising and it doesn’t get worse – it just gets better? So you push, and it still feels great. You push more – still great.

I use this technique of delaying any gratification I allow myself to feel on days just like this so I can keep the level of effort high and stretching out as long as possible.

What this means is – I don’t let myself feel happy about what I’ve already accomplished. I stay level-headed and rational about it. I recognize that I’ve done well so far, but I concern myself more with the next push and what it will entail than focusing on the how great the effort I’ve already made was.

In this way I’m able to stop the mind from saying, “Ok, good enough! Wow, that was great… let’s take it easy and call it a day. We did a good job.”

On those days when I have an abundance of energy, strength, and endurance I want to get everything possible out of my session. This happened on the steps about three weeks ago. I usually have my notebook computer, battery, charger, camera, phone, some shirts and sweatpants as shock padding for the notebook, water and a carton of milk for the mangy dog that’s at the top of the hill some days. On occasion I have a kilogram of rambutan too – if you haven’t ever tried rambutan fruit you must see if the asian market in your city has some. It’s the most delicious fruit in the world…  I digress.

So I’m usually on the steps with a backpack that weighs ten to thirteen pounds. I can go up the stairs with the backpack twice with no problem, but I’ve only done the steps three times if I didn’t have the bag with me. On this day I had the bag but I felt good at the top the first time. I went down to the bottom and I still felt good – so I went up again. I rested about ten minutes and went back down. I still felt great. I had some time so I thought, ahhh, do it again. I did it the third time and I STILL felt good but had run out of time.

I don’t think I would have gone a fourth time anyway, better to do 3x a few more sessions before I try four times up and down. The problem with steps is that it’s easy to pull a muscle going more than twice. Usually it happens on the way down I notice a little twinge of pain in my foot or behind my knee cap.

The reason I was able to do three times that day (3,711 steps up and 3,711 down) is because I didn’t let myself feel the satisfaction of doing it the first or second time. Even after the third time when I thought I might give it a go the fourth time I still hadn’t let myself feel good about the effort yet. Once I feel good about what I’ve done I notice that I’m less inclined to push myself much more.

Delay the gratification by not letting yourself feel the satisfaction that is due until you are completely done with the session. Then – bathe yourself in compliments for pushing it so hard!

Best of Life!



1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

27 Reasons I Love to Go Running [Don’t miss #12, 13, 27]

Boy getting out the door to start exercising, no matter what

27 Reasons I love to Go Running…

1. It’s a reward for sitting in the house at the computer for 8-10 hours or doing other things I don’t really want to do. Yes, I said REWARD! If you run just enough to make it fun and don’t run when it’s not fun – then it’s always fun – yes?

2. See wildlife! Over the years I’ve seen (Hawaii, Thailand, Florida, Pennsylvania):

  • Snakes! Thailand has a lot of snakes.
  • Big red, white and blue woodpeckers!
  • Centipedes and millipedes and all manners of crawling insects, some of which go “crunch” under my feet – accidentally.
  • Lizards that change color, and flying lizards, water monitors (7+ feet), Tokay Geckos squawking.
  • Flying insects – some of which get sucked into my mouth and chest if I’m not paying attention to keep my mouth 80% closed!
  • There are these cicada type things in Thailand that make the whole park scream at 6 p.m. every night in the Summer.
  • A large eastern diamondback rattlesnake crossing the road  – it was as thick around as my 15-16 inch neck!
  • Deer, hippos, bear, leopards, peacocks, and vultures (I ran through a small zoo regularly in Thailand that was connected to the park!)

3. I saw 38 guys in dresses running through downtown Honolulu once… It was a run sponsored by the Honolulu Hash House Harriers Hawaii (H5). I can’t remember if I had one on too, but if I did it was something dashing and sophisticated, yet slutty and with a drastically plunging neckline!

4. Speaking of the Hash House Harriers, once on a run at the top of Tantalus mountain on Oahu I was off the trail and on what I figured to be the correct trail… I was running down a small stream full of rocks… turns out I didn’t have much time to catch myself before flying (literally) over a 1,700 feet cliff off the edge of the mountain! Talk about a RUSH!

Petzl – NAO+ Headlamp with BlueTooth

5. I know I’m in the top 1% of the general population by running 3-5 times every week. I like doing as many things as possible to be a 1 percenter!

6. I’m 48 and I can still run. When I was 20, I thought 40 would bring death, or at least no more exercise. I didn’t know anyone that was running at 40 yrs. old. I run because I can still do it – and it makes me think that “The Body” hasn’t changed much. I feel like I’m in my teens when I run, especially during one of those “flow runs” where it’s effortless and fast.

Competition brings out the best performance in us.

7. It gives me a rush when I run. Not only as I’m doing it, but afterward too. I have this light-headed feeling that lasts for an hour or sometimes more after I’ve finished. I joke that I’m a worthless endorphin addicted junkie for the period of time following my runs. I cannot talk to anyone and make sense. Nor do I feel like talking. I can’t rationalize at all, nor do math of any kind. I’m not creative in the least, and writing after I run is a horror show. I’m on some kind of mind-chemical high, and it’s legal and it’s OK!

8. It’s the only time I can have sopping wet pants in public and it’s socially alright. People are OK with that, even in a mall. At least they don’t say anything.

9. I can practice “no-mind” or a mind without thought while I run. It’s one of the few physical activities I can do it with. (See my other site Jhana8.com).

10. I have time to myself. Nobody on the phone. Nobody on chat. No computer to check email, to read blogs, or to get frustrated at! It’s one activity that I do alone. I don’t understand running with someone except the Hasher group, which isn’t serious running at all. They call it, “A drinking club with a running problem.”

11. I can be completely alone out in public if I want to. I can run through the woods, up a mountain, or on an old country road. There is such a peace about running where nobody else is.

12. Unexpected experience. I was running around a golf course around midnight, as I like to do occasionally, and I heard the most BLOOD-CURDLING scream. It froze me right there like ice. I could not move. I was questioning whether it really happened as it made no sense at all to suddenly hear this piercing scream right in front of me – and there was nothing there. I stood rock solid for more than just a couple minutes. I was looking with my eyes, but I was too afraid to move my head. It was a scream as if a banshee had just escaped from hell right in front of my face. As I had scanned the entire area in front of me and found no reason for it, and was about to doubt my sanity, I started to look upwards a bit. Then a bit more. I saw what must have been the noisemakers, but to this day I don’t know if they can make this noise. There were two very large owls on the high-power lines about 30 feet above. Does anyone know, can an OWL make a scream like a demon possessed? I might have to Wiki that.

13. More unexpected ‘adult’ experience. More than once I’ve had women come out on the porch or second-floor balcony without a top on, when I ran in the early morning before 7 a.m.! GOOD MORNING TAMPA! (happened a lot there)

14. Running through the rain when it’s warm reminds me of being a little kid and going out specifically because it IS raining outside, just to play.

15. Running through the rain when it’s cold reminds me of Air Force basic training, which wasn’t all THAT bad an experience. I think that is probably another 1 percenter experience.

16. I love to sweat. In my mind it means I’ve done something positive. I think growing up I heard many adults say – “Go sweat a little bit, it’s good for you!” I feel good when I start sweating because I’m doing something physical too. Like I’m pushing myself to do something that the body wouldn’t do on its own. I’m showing the body that the mind is in control. If it says “RUN!”, the body runs. I like how that works.

17. I can wear my comfy Nike socks and running shoes. This might not seem like a big deal to you, but living in Florida, Thailand, and Hawaii flip-flops (slippahs, Hawaiians say) are the standard. But, when I run, I can wear the most comfortable shoes I have!

18. I can FARTLEK to my heart’s content. Huh? Yes, you read that right. Fartlek running is a bit like well, running however you want. There are no expectations before you go – except varying the speed of your typical run. You might do some slow running on the street and then move to a track for some sprints, then head out into the woods and back to the track for some steps at the stadium. You might do some short 50 yard sprints in the middle of your run through the woods. You might do some pushes to 95% and see how long you can stand it. You might skip or run backward sometimes. It’s a German word for “have fun” or something. Ok, I won’t be lazy, I’ll Wiki it for you. Ok, it means, ‘speed play’ in Swedish, not German. And it can be any exercise that, while doing it puts stress mainly on the aerobic system. The intensity of the exercise varies – and is basically up to you. It’s a bouncing between the aerobic and anaerobic systems. I don’t know why it’s called fartlek, but I do enjoy fartlekking all over the place when I run, I’ll tell you that.

19. When I’m in a running program it gives me energy all the time. When I’m not running for a few weeks I feel lazy and tired much of the time. Running keeps the energy levels up.

20. It puts me in a good mood. I’m consistently more positive than I already am. I might think that I’m my same old self when I’m not in steady running mode. Then, I’ll go out and run and I realize – wow, I was missing something. There’s a definite difference when I compare “Vern not running” vs. “Vern in running mode going every other day”. A substantial difference.

21. I love to push myself. Though I run mostly by myself, I love to push myself during the run if I’m feeling good. I might crank up the pace and challenge myself to hold that pace until I get to a certain landmark. That might be 200 yards ahead if I’m flying, or it might be 2 miles away if I’m running 80-85%+ of maximum rate. I am my own best motivator. There is little that motivates me externally. I’m ruthless with myself at times, pushing myself to run when I don’t want to run. Pushing myself to run faster up hills, never slower. Pushing myself to hold a 2/2 breathing pattern until I need to slow down to make up the oxygen deficit that is being created from the sustained push. It’s fulfilling to do little challenges throughout each run!

Petzl – NAO+ Headlamp with BlueTooth

22. I run so I can eat a little more of what I like to eat. I love pizza and other bread and pasta products. Because I run, I can eat more of these things than maybe the average person with my same metabolism. I will do nearly anything to be able to eat more pizza. In Thailand when I stayed in a small village in the countryside I would drive an hour each way on the motorcycle to go to the next biggest town to get some pizza! It was a must, not an “extra”.

23. I run because if others see me running, some will also realize that they can do it too. I wish more people would run. When I go to the main park in any town, especially in Honolulu and I see less than 200 people running around the park at night and maybe another 200 running through the streets of Honolulu, I don’t feel so good about mankind. Here we are, probably 70% of us have the physical capability to run and 90% have the capability to walk – and yet less than 1% run and less than 5% walk as exercise on a recurring basis. WHY? I want the world to run because then people will be happier, more secure about themselves. They’ll be more confident and happier and I’ll get to interact with a happier and more well-adjusted populace. Put on your running shoes people!

24. It’s a part of my life and who “Vern” is. When I stop for any length of time, I don’t feel like me anymore. I’ve run my whole life, so when I stop – it’s like I’m just not “being me”. It’s like I must do it to keep being me.

25. It erases all stress for the time I’m running. It’s impossible to feel stressed as I’m running. I don’t know why, the endorphins I guess?

26. I run because I can play fantasy games of passing my competition. I visualize passing successful people. I pass them one by one and yet I always leave some of the top people ahead of me so I can get them next time or next time. I like to have someone that I’m trying to beat ahead of me and I just can’t get to them for a while. Eventually, I pass them all and I’m the winner. I’m always the winner in my mind.

27. The number one reason for why I run is that it makes me feel powerful and in control of my body and my mind. It gives me confidence, strength and energy, and sense of balance. I feel like I’m a much better business person and friendly person. I feel like I’m being proactive and a go-getter by running when others are sitting on the couch watching television. I feel like I have more patience to deal with others and also with myself. I have a lot of frustration at things that don’t go smoothly. Computers for instance. After I run it gives me a better perspective on life and things aren’t as serious anymore.

Best of Life!


PS: When I’m in Hawaii the most amazing run is along the Ala Wai canal at about 9 pm. with the moon rising over Diamond Head Volcano. Wow.

Why do you run?

Post your reasons in the comments section below!

[Boy running image from Woodleywonderworks at Flickr]

Flow, Pseudo-flow, and Mind Tweaking during Exercise!

This article is about pushing your mind out of the picture so your body can do what it wants to do – go faster and harder.

This article will answer questions such as:

What is mind tweaking? What is Flow? What is Pseudo-Flow?
What is your E-mind? L-mind? CS-mind?
What is “stopping the mind”?
How can I go to the next level of competition?
What is Vipassana meditation? How can it help you have “flow”?

First I talk about three parts of the mind we all have in our heads:

1. Logical Mind – L-Mind
2. Emotional Mind – E-Mind
3. Common Sense Mind – CS-Mind

Is your mind limiting you while you’re exercising and going for Olympic gold?

Mine does. Or rather, it tries to.

I’m not a competitive runner or cyclist anymore. Now I run five or six times a week and I don’t have my road racing bicycle or membership at the local Olympic swimming pool where I used to spend many hours each week. My days as a triathlete are over (for now) and yet I’m still going through some mental gymnastics on most of the days I run hard. What I mean is, I’m trying to break my mind so I can go harder or faster.

I’m running mostly for fun now, but there was a time when I was running for the money so to speak. I was training for 3 – 9 hours per day over the course of two years. I entered running races, bicycle races (roadie), and biathlons and triathlons. I would work the overnight shift at a seniors care home and then drive two to four hours in my Jeep to make it to the starting line early in the morning. I was dog-tired before some of those races because I wasn’t quite conditioned to the overnight work schedule. Yet I was still able to compete because I refused to accept my mind telling me “The Body” was tired or that it wasn’t such a good idea to be racing after a night of no sleep.

In fact, whenever my emotional mind (E-mind) tells me it’s stupid because it can’t be done or really shouldn’t be done – I go ahead and make myself do it. I want to show this part of my mind, along with the common-sense part of my mind (CS-mind) – which is small sometimes, that little things are of no consequence really. I won’t bow to common sense all the time or to mind-blocks thrown up by the E-mind – ever. I won’t let these parts of the mind’s processes overcome what I’m going to do.

I take it personally!

It’s funny, but I really see it that way.

I refuse to let those two things slow down my plans for exercise.

Now I’ll talk a little about the relationship that I have with “the mind” and it’s parts…

To go deeper about the various parts of the mind, the “E-Mind” is the emotional part of the mind. It’s the one that fears things. It’s the one that wants to slow down any attempts to do something that is out of the ordinary or that will require a great deal of effort, whether physical, emotional, mental, or social. The

Climber at Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand.“CS-Mind” is the part of the mind that relates to common sense. I’ve been known for a lack of it sometimes, and when others see it and point it out to me, it’s usually very surprising.

I tend to see the big picture clearly, but I don’t see the common-sense details all the time. The CS-mind helps me and yet it also joins the E-mind’s side rather often. So, I need to take control over it by using the L-mind.

The “L-Mind” is the part which is logical. It’s the part that is closest to who I think “I” am. It’s almost “The Me” but it’s more like the part that must analyze everything and make decisions that are based on the evidence collected. It’s the part that basically controls me, tells me what to do, unless the emotional or common sense side is briefly in control. The L-mind is the part that I want to handle things because I don’t trust the other two parts – they are too unpredictable and too prone to bad decisions.

“The Me” is the sum total of who I am. It includes all the parts of the mind, as well as “The Body”.

“The Body” is, of course, everything related to the body and how it feels. The L-mind is always monitoring the body, but so too is the E-mind. Sometimes they have conflicting opinions. CS-mind might also add it’s point of view if it seems important. L-mind usually listens to all of it. However, during certain activities, like running or other intense physical exercise where I’m pushing myself to some limit, L-Mind doesn’t listen much to any of it.

L-mind is well-versed at manipulating the other parts of the mind. It knows some little tricks. These little tricks to overcome something… some obstacle, are what I call “tweaks”. Mind tweaks are those mental gymnastics that the L-mind must do to get around the resistance from the E-mind and CS-mind, and sometimes “The Body.” This results in plans being accomplished in a way that will bring personal satisfaction, joy, bliss, accomplishment and success.

Sometimes mind tweaks are done overtly by the L-Mind, other times they are done covertly. Sometimes ignoring the other parts of the mind makes the most sense and the L-Mind just ignores everyone altogether.

If you’re a serious athlete or any kind of athlete that pushes yourself hard in a race or even a time-trial against yourself, this article may help.

If you’re focused on getting better results all the time and you’re running up against a performance barrier that doesn’t seem to be falling down… this article might help you.

I’ve been running all my life beginning at six years old in soccer as a kid growing up. I haven’t stopped for more than a few months since then, and I’m now forty-eight.

I’m a really logical person in general. There is very little I do that is based on emotion. Logic rules me and I feel good like that. I can be emotional, very emotional – but logic drives me all day. I really get revved up about doing things efficiently and producing something of value. Those are the things that drive me, so I let the L-Mind drive the vehicle nearly all the time.

I also have something that affects the mind in another way. I have attention deficit disorder (ADD). I refuse to take medication for it because I don’t want to stifle any creativity, but with this problem there is always something new to pay attention to that has nothing to do with anything I have planned.

And maybe that’s part of the problem while I’m running.

The L-mind is always active. It’s always monitoring things. When I’m writing – like now – the L-mind is monitoring the spelling of every word. It’s judging whether I’m chugging along fast enough to be able to write a five-thousand word article by the time this internet cafe closes (I’m in Thailand at the moment). It’s also monitoring ten other things going on nearby. There is a boy and girl chatting at the table twenty yards away. A guy is washing dishes behind me. Music from a radio station is playing on the speakers. There is email making a ding when it lands in my inbox. The discomfort of my seat. The birds I heard… etc.

When I’m exercising, the L-Mind is studying every single action that is going on with the body and anything coming in through the senses as a byproduct of ADD. The L-Mind registers each movement and is gathering bio-feedback from “The Body”. Unfortunately the E-mind is getting it too.

I wish there was a way to knock out the E-mind completely for hours at a time. The E-Mind part of the brain is the one that tells me that I’m maybe going too fast and I’m going to pull something. It tells me that there’s no rush, run again tomorrow or later in the day… don’t push it too hard – something bad will happen.

It, along with the common sense mind (CS-Mind) tells me things like, “there’s moss on that sidewalk – and you can feel you’re slipping a bit, what if you fall and tear a ligament?”

Or, “What if you twist your ankle on all these broken sticks laying all over the path after the summer storm yesterday?”, and, “It’s dark, is that a snake? You know there are many different kinds of poisonous snakes here in Thailand…”

I don’t know if any of you reading are like this – or if you notice it. I think you must have this little monologue running through your heads too as you’re exercising. I’d hate to think I’m a weirdo on this. But, my brain is constantly in this “fear mode” when I’m running or exercising and pushing myself over 85% of my maximum effort.

The E-Mind is paying too much attention to fear.

The L-Mind is watching without emotion or reaction to the variables – but it’s monitoring them, and when something really IS worth paying attention to, it will do so.

Now when I’m running, the logical side is monitoring breathing and it’s counting in and out-breaths in relation to how many times the feet are hitting the concrete or path.

Logically I know that 4 strides for an in-breath and 4 for an out-breath is a nice easy pace about 60% (or less) of maximum effort and I can go at that for quite a while without any trouble. In fact, I could go like that for 2 hours if I wanted. I don’t see any point in long, slow, distance (LSD) training like that for me now – and so I don’t do 4/4 breathing for any length of time, just for ten minutes of warm up and to see how I feel before I go harder.

I know that 3/3 – three strides for an in-breath and three strides during an out-breath is medium effort but still on the low end. I’m at about 70-75% of max when I’m at that breathing rate.

When I hit 2/2 breathing that’s a pretty big range of effort considering it can be 75-100% of maximum.

I do hit 1/1 occasionally, but it doesn’t last long. It is very difficult to keep that up for more than a few minutes.

I usually have to tweak the mind a bit when I get into the 2/2 range – and especially at anything over 85% of maximum effort.

There are some days though that I am “flowing”… it appears as if there is no mind and I am only “The Body”. The Body is flowing without the mind – and there is no thought really, just a unfathomable concentration on what the body is doing. The focus is totally on the present and it’s not a form of zoning out – it’s a form of just zoning IN and being entirely present with what the body is doing – without the mind at all except a feeling of smoothness or fluidity. It’s an incredible state that happens when it wants, there’s no making it happen consistently.

But you know what?

I know some of you know this state. It happens to great athletes quite a bit. They have practiced their movements during whatever it is that they’re doing – so that it becomes second nature… they get into the flow quite a bit and have these incredible peak experiences that most of us dream about. Their peak experiences are the top in the world, but that doesn’t mean as mortal men and women we can’t have some darn good ones too!

Here’s a small secret…

there IS a way to make it happen sometimes.

More about that in a minute.

There are a couple little mind tweaks I might implement over the course of a run. Actually, I sometimes start before the run. Mind tweaks are nothing more than little Jedi Mind Tricks that fool me into something.

Say it’s before the scheduled run. The E-Mind might be whining about something. It doesn’t want to go running. It knows already there is no question about whether running is going to take place today. It IS going to happen. Yet, the whining emotional mind continues with small reminders that it’s not really with the plan. It might bring up some alternatives to running that sound quite attractive. Pizza dinner. Writing more articles for Crank101. Sex!

Crazy things, it can pull out all the stops.

Usually I focus on something else on the agenda that I must do and E-mind sort of disappears quietly into the background. I don’t give any more attention to the emotional mind. As long as I don’t pay it any attention, it won’t come back until we’re at the park to run.

So, that’s Mind Tweak #1. Ignore any protests from the E-mind by refocusing on something else. The subject you choose to focus on can be just about anything if the protests are weak.

Or, you might play hard-ball. Once you realize the E-Mind is going to try to trick you into not running, you could start getting your shoes on immediately – upping the ante. Maybe you planned on going at 5:30 p.m. but since the E-mind is whining already you’re going to go an hour earlier because you really don’t want to be dealing with it for a whole hour while you try to get other things done. That’s a good way to shut it up the next time, and I actually found that the mind does very little of this type of mild protest whining before we go running anymore. In fact, usually there is nothing at all.

Many people have doubts about running or exercise before they go, and the E-mind ends up talking them out of the activity! I can’t let that happen! Neither can you, apply Mind Tweak #1 or #2 quickly.

The emotional mind must understand that it’s NEVER in control when it comes to things that matter. Running matters. Running is a logical thing. It’s emotional only when winning a race or doing especially well – and that’s at the end of the race when some emotion pours forth – spontaneously.

And how cool is that?

There’s nothing coming out of the E-Mind that I’m going to listen to before a run unless it deals with The Body complaining that it isn’t 100%.

I do listen to that. After many years of running I have a good idea what an injury feels like before it happens. I usually know when I can take some tylenol or coffee and run though it. I usually know about how much to push myself during a run in which The Body isn’t 100%. I usually know how much time I can exercise without pulling something. I also know the signs of an impending injury, like when the pain increases at a greater rate than it was up until that point.

If you’re a runner or other athlete that regularly pushes your body, you will probably also have a good sense for how “The Body” feels and when it’s a good idea to listen to it. Some people never get a good handle on it – and they continue to push when they shouldn’t. They’re often injured because their logical mind doesn’t listen to “The Body” or the E-Mind – which will kick in too, and loudly once it realizes there WILL be an injury unless the exercise is halted immediately.

So, always listen to various parts of the mind if they’re talking about “The Body” and evaluate. Err on the side of caution and over-protection so you keep yourself from getting injured.

I know, it’s easy to say that right? When you’re motivated to run and accomplish your fitness goals, it can be quite a hard thing to listen to the E-Mind telling you “Um, bro? ‘The Body’ is not 100%”. Because when I hear that, the first thing I responded with in the past was, “You’re NEVER 100%, now let’s pull it together and do this!”.

However, that isn’t the first thing I say anymore because I used to get injured too much.

These days I take a good look at the pain. If I’m exercising, I might stop and see what makes it worse. Does it go away when I stop? Does it feel like a tightening? A knot? A sharp pain? Sharp pains rarely get better if you continue. Dull pains of some sorts just go away as you loosen up. Calf muscles are like this. Sometimes I sit for twelve hours at a computer, and then ten the next day before I go running. My legs have atrophied from doing absolutely nothing but trips to the restroom some days!

Calves are still an area where I pull something every now and then. Groin too. I tend to have a longer stride when I run fast – perhaps too long, and that pulls something occasionally.

So, moving on. The next mind tweak I’ll describe is put into play as I’m running.

Let’s say I’m at a 3/3 breathing level. Three steps as I breathe in and three as I breathe out. I have slowly ramped up from a 4/4 and now I’ve been at 3/3 for about fifteen minutes or so.

I notice that The Body wants to go faster. I feel strong, the breathing is good.  The Body wants to go into the 2/2 range. This is also the range where the L-Mind and E-Mind start getting revved up because now we’re doing some speed. There’s something to be proud of at this point. This is what control and power is all about when I run. I love to feel that – all systems are go and we just kicked the body into a hardcore workout. This is a great state to be in and the one that I try to keep the body in for as long as possible before dropping back down to a 3/3.

Though the E-Mind is excited and should savor the bliss of the experience, it is more fearful. It will question the logic of increasing speed. “Does the body REALLY feel that good?” It asks. “Is it safe to push that hard right now? How is the heart? Pulse? Breathing? Calves? Toes? Are the shoes snug enough?  Are your socks too wet – will you get a blister? Is it too hot? Could heat stroke happen? Did you sleep enough last night?”

And so it goes through all these questions. Sometimes the L-Mind, in an attempt to appease the E-Mind will just patiently answer all the questions. Once they’re all satisfactorily answered the L-mind gives the order to “The Body” to go full after-burners.

So, that was Mind Tweak #2. Exhaust all questions about whether “we’re” ready to increase speed and go hard. By exhaustively answering the questions, the L-mind gets the greenlight because the E-Mind has nothing left to ask and shuts up. This is a good tweak to use if there really might be a possibility that it isn’t a good idea to crank hard at the present time.

Mind Tweak #3 can be implemented during the same kind of run… going from 3/3 to a 2/2 level. The emotional mind starts to build the list of questions… the logical mind, being so in-tuned to the body, KNOWS that all systems are go – and it’s time to take it to the next level. At this point the L-Mind will just ignore all questions from the E-Mind and instantly increase the effort to max, effectively killing all questions from the E-Mind.

Ignoring all the questions in Mind Tweak #3 tends to put the mind in a state of quiet. As the body goes into the high-speed 2/2 mode the mind is watching all systems like a virus scanner watches the computer. It’s watching to see if there is any serious problem with anything in the system. There is usually not much thought at ALL at this point.

This is the experience of “being” the exercise. It’s like there is no mind present. There aren’t any thoughts of yesterday, tomorrow, or your spouse. You literally ARE the exercise. You ARE running. You are only that. You are focused entirely on the doing and there is nothing else.

When this happens it’s a good thing – needless to say. This is sometimes referred to as being in the flow – but to me there is more to being in the flow than just this. For me this state of being the exercise occurs during nearly every run or intense exercise. The Flow does not. It happens occasionally. For me, true flow happens one or two times per week, and only a big handful of times each month.

I found recently that I can initiate the flow to some degree.

When I do it, I call it “Pseudo-Flow.” I’m not sure how close it is to the original, or how valid it is since it’s kind of a manipulation of mind to get there – but, it is a flow of some sort that I can’t distinguish from regular flow in terms of performance. However, the factors that brought it on are different (forced) and the feelings or lack of them are different during the experience.

I’ll try to explain.

First a little bit about natural flow.

The natural flow happens on it’s own. There is almost no thought if I’m running and in the true flow. Sometimes it even kind of starts before I even start running. During a run where flow is present there is a natural slow buildup to speed and an easy, effortless switch into high gear that is blissful and not painful or negative in any way. It is pure experience and yet it’s experience at a very high level – the body is functioning in a way that feels effortless. There may be a numbness to the body… and yet the eyes are taking in the speeds that are being reached, so though the eyes and logical mind know something incredible is happening, “The Body” and the E-mind are kind of subdued – they are almost numb too. It’s like dopamine numbing the mind and yet one is fully present and aware of all that’s happening.

It’s a state of bliss because there is no thought, only direct experience and amazingly efficient and fast exercise without realizing that it’s taking bodily or mental effort. There are some feelings that go along with true flow though. It’s a feeling of being in a peak experience. It’s a bliss or a feeling of great competence, of being a master of the activity. It’s like I feel as if I’m slippery through the water when I’m swimming, I’m making exactly the right strokes with my arms and my hands feel the water perfectly as I push it to propel me forward. Or, if running, it’s as if I’m so light on my feet and yet I’m flying really fast. I’m breathing fast and regularly but it’s a perfect state of existence during the run – my body is a perfect machine and there is no pain or negative that exists during it.

“Flow” can exist in many things. It exists with activity that requires thought – writing for instance. I might bang out a 10,000 word article straight through in 2 hours. It happens sometimes. I’m not sure what is going on – but there is such an efficiency achieved… a fluidity and an ease of producing great writing that it’s just about unexplainable.

Pianists talk of flow. Basketball players and golfers. Swimmers and football running backs.

Here’s how I initiate the pseudo-flow, as I call it.

Remember I told you about Vipassana meditation at the beginning of this article? Vipassana meditation can slow the mind down over time and one can actually reach a point where the mind can actually STOP. Well, it can stop all the thoughts in the mind. The mind becomes so at peace that thought ceases. It’s an incredible state that could never be explained with words, yet I often try to. If you are interested you can read the free e-book here and if you’re more interested you can try it for yourself. It may take months to reach a point where you’re able to reach a silent mind or a mind that has stopped all thought.

Soccer flow, Thailand.I think if you follow the steps I’ve outlined you CAN though. It happened to me in a short time of meditating. It wasn’t long before I could do it any time I chose. For instance, as I’m writing this I can stop the mind and though I can’t type I am fully aware of everything that is going on around me. I am just living pure experience without relying on memory or the mind chatter that asks me questions, names things, and accesses memory and fear about the future. It’s a great state to live from and it’s said that perhaps those that are enlightened live in this state 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.

I’m not sure about that, but I do know that it’s been an incredible tool to have over the years.

I use it to analyze anger, frustration, any emotion that pops up… any attachment that leads to disappointment. I use it to relax. It is incredibly relaxing in that state. Some claim to not need sleep if they just lie in bed in that state for a half hour or so every few hours. I believe it, though I’ve not tried it much more than a few days – and yes, I felt great without sleeping. Perfectly fine really. Doing it long-term I’m not sure about – but I think it must be possible.

How I use this to reach the pseudo-flow is like this…

Anytime I’m feeling very good and yet the mind is too active with questions and concerns about running or maybe even concerns that have nothing to do with running. Maybe I’m worried that I’ve screwed something up on my web site code that can’t easily be fixed… maybe I’m worried about a family member… it could be anything.

If I choose, I can stop all thought in the mind. I can shut off the thought.

When the thought shuts off – there is nothing that is distinguishing it from the true flow – except how I came about getting there and there is literally NO feeling about anything – no feeling of mastery or anything about feeling very efficient and competent. But there is no pain or fear either.

Later as one goes faster and faster without adding any more concerted effort, the feeling is one of bliss and yet it’s a little more moderated maybe. It’s a little less “feel good” because the mind is completely absent. There is a good feeling to be running… and there is no pain. There is no mental or physical effort that can be noticed, and yet one can run at maximum speed for a while before the breathing catches up and shuts the body down a bit – forcing a drop down to 90% effort for a few minutes before trying again if one wishes to.

There is less experience of “power” or “control” than with true flow because there aren’t thoughts to reinforce those feelings.

In a way it is nicer than pure flow because one is not happy or sad – just DOING. It is truly just doing, whereas “true flow” has some more recognition of the emotions that are present… Psychological needs are being fulfilled because one feels powerful, exuberant, in control, efficient, strong, balanced…

With pseudo-flow there is none of that going on emotionally. There is balance. There is peace. There is an effortless moving in a very efficient manner. There is a realization that this is “pseudo-flow” though there is no feeling of achievement for having done it – just a real zero-emotion state but one in which the body is operating at the same peak state as pure flow.

I should try some experiments on my own – but I think they’d be too subjective. I’d like to know – is there any difference in performance between the two types of flow. I think too hard to experiment with because the true flow just comes on when it wants and I’d not be able to tick off the distance or times and I probably wouldn’t even care to. Perhaps it would kick me out of the flow experience? Not sure.

I’ve not read of anyone else talking about this stuff and I’m surprised. Well, I am and I’m not. I’ve not met anyone else that can stop the mind at will, but I’m sure there are some. I’m SURE others can do it if they follow the steps in my e-book, though, to be honest, meditation is not such an easy thing to tackle. It’s hard work! It is very difficult to watch the mind time after time, watching thoughts, watching breath… to the point where the thought starts to slow and then stop.

Most people fuse religion with their meditation which heaps on expectations about the experiences one will have – this alters the whole process and actually puts more stumbling blocks in the way of the mind becoming quiet.

I’d like to hear from anyone that has tried this technique to compare thoughts and observations. Though it’s new to me and I think I’m the only one talking about it, on the other hand I realize that SOMEONE else has done this – so maybe they’ve got it online.

I’ll Google it and see what I can find!

As a technique to overcome e-mind and “just do it” so to speak, I don’t think there could be anything better. But, there might be, and I’d love to hear about it if you want to tell it!

As always, send email (AimforAwesome ~ at ~ gmail) or leave comments if you have any questions or comments about this article!

Best of Life!

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3 Days – Trail to Peak, Flat Concrete, Stairs

Exceptional views at the top of this 500m mountain.
Exceptional views at the top of this 500m high mountain.

I’ve been working my way up gradually to competition level fitness. I stopped doing triathlons, running, and bike races around age 31 as I just didn’t have time for the long training anymore. Now I have the time again, and I’m being smarter about it. I’m training for some 10k, and half marathons on trails coming up in 2014 and I’d like to not suck, considering I’ve never sucked at any of the sports I trained for in the past.

I’m 47. For the past 6 years I’ve done nothing but stair climbs. My stair climb of choice is a 900 foot high elevation block of limestone in southern Thailand close to where I live. There are 1,256 steps up the side of it. The steps average 8.75 inches high, much higher than a normal stair height. So, it’s a nice challenge to do in 95F heat and high humidity. I’ve climbed it over 1,200 times now – way over 100 vertical miles. It feels great to have done it, and I was happy doing that 5 to 15 times per week as I had time for. I knew I was just training my anaerobic system and my body was burning pure muscle glycogen as I climbed, but again, I wasn’t competing so there was no problem. I felt like I was in good shape. My heart rate was down to 45 BPM most times I measured it, and I had no health problems except I was gaining weight since my mid 40’s.

Today I’m ramping up to longer trail runs of 6 miles to 13 miles. I hope to do a marathon and some ultra runs in 2014, but even just a marathon would be a great milestone reached.

So, I found a 3-day program that I really enjoyed doing. I’ll share it here.

The problem with working up to running every day is that my joints are only ready to walk up and down stairs. There is no variety in the angle of the steps, no roots, no stones, no sand, no dirt. My main focus is trail running so I started out my 3 days of intense workouts with a trail run up 1,500 feet of elevation on a mountain trail bordering the ocean. It’s a wonderful run, very technical, and I bust my ass to get up in 41 minutes. Then I turn around and run halfway down, then back up to the peak, and finally down to the bottom. Bottom to peak, it’s 3.7km, though my GPS has tracked it as between 3.7km and 5km. I think it’s closer to 4.5, but it’s just a guess. Anyway, that’s my first workout. It takes about 2.5 hours to do it, and I’m trashed at the end of it – but could still run on the flat some if I had to. It’s my favorite run, by far.

The next day I run at the park near the river. It’s a 1.1 km perimeter run around the park on a concrete trail. It’s flat, with 2 little bumps just to aggravate runners. I do 8-10 km. The first 3-4 km go pretty fast (for me) at 8:30/mile pace. It’s so funny to write that. When I competed I was doing 6 minute miles for races, and I never did try a one-mile to see how fast I could go. Under 6, but no idea what my fastest pace for the mile would have been.

I feel good after that, and tired. The next day I head up to the stairs and do 1 to 2 climbs. The first – quickly in 13-14 minutes. The second, slower in 15-16 minutes. By the end of that I still have energy, and could climb a couple more times on most days, but the following day is a rest day and I know I need to curb my enthusiasm.

My goal is only to work up to running nearly every day at 5-6 miles per day. Then I’ll ramp that up and add a long-run and some intervals into the mix.

So, this schedule works for me. It may work for you if your goal is to run up mountain peaks on trails. My times on the trail have been dropping considerably since I’ve combined these three exercises, and it doesn’t even feel like much work. I’ve also lost 8 lbs, so it’s like not carrying a gallon of water up the mountain. Feels great.

By running my favorite trail up the mountain first – I can do it at speed and with all the effort i can put into it. That makes me feel emotionally, spiritually happy inside. That’s essential. The next day is basically recovery by running on the flat concrete at the park. When I can I move over to the grass if it’s flat enough. That helps. Day two at the park, though I run 5-6 miles, feels like an easy day. The next day is another hard one up the stairs, but it only lasts a short time for both climbs. In 1 hour, I’m finished and on my way home.

At the moment there is this one nice trail leading to a peak around here. I hope to add another, very nice climb to 4,300 feet elevation once I can get a guide to go up a closed trail with me to scope it out and make sure it’s safe to run on. There was a landslide there two years ago which killed about 18 villagers below during a wicked rainy spell.