Don’t Say It’s Genetic

Let me preface this post by saying that it is not a bragging post! It’s a post intended to inspire fitness goals by encouraging what I believe is the key component to any successful training plan, and that is, consistency!

I got to thinking about the idea of this post several weeks ago, when my work colleagues and I had gathered together for a lunchtime meeting (for those of you who don’t know, I work at a fitness centre that specializes in Supervised High Intensity Strength Training). Our employer, who led the meeting, was about to point out that some individuals – and he looked in the direction of one of our team members – are blessed when it comes to body composition and how they respond to resistance training. But before he could get the words out, my colleague – the one who had been singled out – was quick to interrupt with the following words, “DON”T say it’s genetic!”

This co-worker of mine is undeniably shredded; he looks amazing, and is in way better shape than most other guys. He was quick to respond because he objected to what he assumed was about to be insinuated. And I can hardly blame him. As a woman who is unusually lean and toned – when compared to other Gen-X’ers – I am frequently told how genetically lucky I am to be able to skate through my mid-life years without gaining too much fat or losing too much muscle mass.

Here’s the thing; while it’s most probable that some individuals are ‘hyper-responders” who tend to see their exercise efforts pay off a little quicker than others, the end result  ultimately goes back to hard work and consistency. Someone I know – whose training disciplines I really admire – sometimes challenges me when he knows I’m physically holding back; he’ll jokingly say, “Those muscles aren’t painted on!” While said in jest, he also means it quite literally. He knows my lifestyle, and the daily habits that I rarely deviate from. My co-worker too, is solid in his everyday commitment to living his life in a way that produces specific and intentional outcomes.

So whether you’re a hyper-responder or not is completely irrelevant, because anyone is capable of getting rid of fat and improving muscle tone…… regardless of age, size, or genetic ability. Granted it may take a little longer for some, but change is inevitable when CONSISTENCY is the core driving factor behind any training and nutrition plan!

Early morning PT session with my favourite instructor, Sarah Colebrook

Learning To Celebrate The Small Wins

Note: originally posted in 2012

A couple of situations arose last week which inspired me to write this post. The first one was the unfortunate high temperature last Monday, which forced hundreds of Boston marathon runners to exit the race prematurely. The second had to do with yesterday’s Kourijima half marathon here in Okinawa, which due to humid and rainy weather conditions, also turned out to be a tough race for those who attempted to run it.

Perhaps because I had a personal interest in these races (my coaching partner and good friend Anna Boom was a participant in the Boston marathon, and one of my running clients was a participant in the Kourijima half marathon), was I moved to share my thoughts and convey a message that race results are not the “be all and end all!”

Setting PB’s (personal bests) and achieving podium-status awards should not directly equate to success or failure. On the contrary, race results should be treated as part of the overall prize package – with the prize package comprising of all the intrinsic rewards that are earned throughout the entire training process. There is much to be celebrated along the way. Greater endurance and speed for example, or perhaps a better body composition or greater confidence and self-discipline; these are all smaller “wins” that are worth reflecting upon and using as measures of overall performance.

My client, who recently ran the Kourijma Half Marathon, spent the past two months training incredibly hard. Her commitment to consistently follow a progressively structured training plan without taking any short cuts has led to faster run times and significantly improved endurance. Furthermore, she has gone from being a relatively inexperienced runner with uncertain expectations, to being a stronger, more informed runner with a whole new level of confidence that is spilling over into other areas of her life.

Would it make sense then to box up all of these positive outcomes and shelve them as obsolete because her race day goals were not met? I suspect that under better race day conditions, and on an easier course, my client would have done exceedingly well. I also have no doubt that my good friend Anna, who instead of reaching the Boston Marathon finish line almost collapsed in a first aid tent, would also have experienced a great race if not for the severe weather conditions. Understandably both ladies were disappointed, despite the obvious challenges they each faced.

However, while it’s normal to feel defeated and discouraged when hopes and goals are not realised, we should allow for only a brief time of permissible despair. You’ll be a far better person and athlete if you can quickly move on and reflect upon the entire race experience as a whole. In doing that you’ll be reminded of all the progress made since day one of training, and hopefully be more mindful of seeing future races as opportunities to celebrate the smaller but everyday gains and wins. And if race day goals are also achieved, then BAM! – that’s the icing on the cake.

Kourijima Half Marathon – rain and wind didn’t steal this couple’s joy; they finished and that’s worth celebrating!

I’m A Runner – But Not Defined By Running

Jannine Myers

I remember reading an article back in 2015, before Rodale ceased publication of it’s Running Times Magazine. The article, which featured New Zealand ultrarunner Anna Frost, touched not on her status as an elite athlete, but on the severe depression she experienced when injury forced her to take a break from running.

© www.annafrosty.blogspot.com

© www.annafrosty.blogspot.com

Anna’s story isn’t uncommon; depression during times of forced rest and recovery is something many runners struggle with; it’s so common in fact that it’s often the topic of discussion on various running forums and websites. While most recognize that depression occurs because there is a huge loss of emotional and physical fulfillment, the idea that a sense of identity is also lost is not so perceptible.

In Anna’s case, that’s exactly what happened; she faced the possibility of never running again and found herself asking the question “Who am I, then, if I’m not Anna the runner?” She wondered how she would spend her time, and worried too about peoples’ reactions, especially those who knew her as Frosty, one of the world’s leading female ultrarunners.

Even at the non-elite level, everyday runners can experience a similar host of emotions. Regardless of achievements and status, a runner is a runner is a runner…… so if running is no longer an option, it’s easy to see how feelings of a lost identity might evolve. Most runners for example, wake up each day and anticipate their morning, afternoon, or evening run, and others even, who schedule life around their runs (versus fitting in a run only if time permits).

For someone like Anna, who filled much of her time with training and racing, thoughts and priorities were heavily focused on things related to her running goals. To suddenly find herself in a position where all running had to be ceased, it’s not surprising that a period of depression ensued. Fortunately she was able to recover by training her mind to accept only positive and empowering thoughts, and as her emotional health improved so too did her physical health.

Anna eventually went on to run and win more events, but her return to training and racing was accompanied by a much healthier mindset. These days Anna balances her life by also making time to swim, make jewelry for her online business, and enjoy quality time with friends and family.

Running may be the “thing” we most love to do, but it doesn’t define who we are. Anna’s story teaches us to seek out other enjoyable activities, so that we don’t box ourselves into a life that can only be enjoyed if running is at the heart of it.