The Base of Fit Soul, Fit Body: Shamanism

Shamanism is a way of honoring nature.

It is practiced in various forms around the world by different indigenous tribes. The methods of shamanism are diverse. However, they are unified in their inherent basis in the natural world.

Fit Soul Fit Body used the foundations of shamanism as a platform from which many of its keys are built.  Specifically those practices come from the Huichol people of the Sierra Madre Mountains. They are considered to be one of the last tribes in North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions. The Huichol continue to practice their ancient spiritual traditions to this very day.

Sacred Huichol ritual, ceremony, and celebration are ancient tools of personal and planetary transformation. They uplift the soul and create a deeper connection to nature.

Through daily practices we learn to be with nature and to breathe in its sounds. Each of us can do that! Just listen to the world around your. In ceremony we share our gratitude and joy for what we have been given. It helps us recognize simple things. When we stop to celebrate moments like a sunrise, the coolness of an autumn breeze, and the beauty of a waterfall, we are connecting with the power of that moment in our heart. By honoring nature in this way, we are learning to connect to everything around and within us.

The Huichol elders share a story of our common link as human being. They say that the ancient ancestors gained knowledge of the world around them and the powers within. Our ancient ancestors then asked “where should we put this knowledge” so that it would not be lost? They decided to put this knowledge first into the heart of the deer. Then when human beings came, that deer spirit with all the ancient knowledge was placed in the heart of the humans.

The deer spirit guide is within each of us. It’s our intuition.

Through simple shamanic practices we can tap into that knowledge. By quieting our minds, one of the keys in Fit Soul, Fit Body, we start to hear the knowledge of the deer. And that knowledge is available to every human being on the planet. It exists already in our hearts. It’s ours to embrace if we just take the time to be quiet and listen.

That knowledge comes from listening to the everything around us. It comes from recognizing the simple things in life. We tap into it when we are grateful and take time to celebrate each moment. When we follow the shamanic path, we find in our hearts what we already know.

Join us for our next Fit Soul, Fit Body retreat.

6 Kinds of Stress — and How to Reduce Them Naturally

The common denominator in reducing stress, regardless of which type it is, is a balanced workout program. Moderate exercise, such as walking, is the key to overcoming the negativity and fatigue that so often accompany every type of stress. Here are the six kinds of stress and some additional prescriptions for reducing each of them.

#1: Emotional Stress
A recent study found that three quarters of Americans experience significant emotional stress weekly. When we’re undergoing emotional stress, our hormones get out of balance. Cortisol levels go up and DHEA levels go down; the coping hormones get depressed and the pleasure hormones don’t get released.

What to do about it: Respond with calmness. Acknowledge that a seemingly overwhelming task will get done in small acts that add up to a big result, like planting a field of corn one kernel at a time. Another solution is to clear your mind with laughter. Laughing almost instantly clears away emotional stress, like a defroster on a windshield.

#2: Sleep Deprivation–Induced Stress
Sleep is a natural medicine, pure and simple. But without adequate levels of restorative sleep, our bodies release cortisol, which sets up a stress cycle and causes a disruption in the sleep we do get.

What to do about it: To address mild insomnia, reduce your caffeine consumption. Avoid big meals late in the day, which can set up blood sugar swings and wake you up when insulin is overdoing its job. Keep alcohol consumption in the healthy zone–one drink a night. And finally, when your head hits the pillow, go over each of the day’s events and as you do, send it into an imaginary circle located outside your body, just in front of your heart. This helps you prepare for deep sleep without replaying your day over and over.

#3: Dietary Stress
An unbalanced diet causes stress in the body. So does eating too little or too much, which can disrupt your digestive system and hinder your body’s ability to recover from physical exertion or even a day of overwork at the office.

What to do about it: Let your dietary habits be an antidote to, not a stimulator of, stress. Avoid simple sugars and choose carbohydrates that are from whole grains, fresh vegetables, and small amounts of fruit. Cut back on or cut out caffeine. Add some healthy oils–like cold-pressed olive oil or omega 3 fish oil–to help balance your hormones. Eat a healthy amount of protein, which helps build muscle and counters the effects of too many carbs. And eat a good breakfast within an hour of waking, and then frequent small meals every 3-4 hours.

#4: Physical Stress
This kind of stress typically occurs from exerting yourself too much in a workout, but it also affects those who have the type of job that demands a lot physically, such as a construction worker, landscaper, or waiter.

What to do about it: Be mindful of the symptoms: irritability, inability to sleep, loss of appetite, overall fatigue that lasts 2-3 days, chronic muscle soreness, lack of motivation, injury, and illness. The key to combating physical stress is to get stronger, but to build up strength in a slow, steady, balanced way. See chapter 5 of our book, Fit Soul, Fit Body, to learn how to customize a conditioning program that addresses your particular habits, lifestyle challenges, and symptoms.

#5: Chemical Stress
Chemical stress occurs when your body has to get rid of compounds that are harmful or toxic to it. Most such toxins come from the external environment–everything from the air you breathe, to the water and food you eat, to the home and office you inhabit.

What to do about it: Eliminate caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and chemical-laden processed foods. Eat foods grown without insecticides. Drink purified water. Clean up your inside air with an air filter and fresh outside air. Use natural cleaners. Avoid personal care products that are synthetic and laden with unknown chemicals. Being a conscientious consumer will help you overcome most chemical sensitivities.

#6: Inflammation-Induced Stress
Inflammation is a side effect of stress, but it’s also a promoter of stress on the body. Inflammation comes from a number of things, including working out too hard, eating a poor diet, being overweight, and not getting enough omega 3 in the diet.

What to do about it: Balance your fat intake. Reduce saturated fats and oils while increasing your intake of omega 3 oils (fish oil, beans, walnuts, flaxseed, olive oil). Get consistent, moderate heart-rate exercise to burn excess fat stored in your body, if this is an issue. Limit your intake of carbohydrates. Omit foods from your diet that make you feel tired, weak, or bloated after eating them, or that give you negative reactions, such as itchy skin or a stuffy nose. The most common culprits are shellfish, meat, eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, some fruits, and nuts.

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Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Happier, Healthier You - by Mark Allen and Brant Secunda

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

“Change Coach” Nancy: In your book, Fit Soul, Fit Body, you discuss tips for becoming fit—physically and spiritually. What did the two of you learn as you wrote this book? Were there areas in your life where you were “out of balance”?

Secunda/Allen: One misconception that people may have about authors of books that are designed to help people better their lives is that that the authors themselves have come to some point of freedom where nothing is a challenge for them anymore, where they have things all together and they never have to rise up above their own humanness, that indeed they are completely in balance every step of the way.

But this is just not the case. As we say in our book, life is not a blissed-out experience all the time. Certainly, if we or anyone uses the tools in our book, those great moments where everything does feel in balance will come more often and last longer, but this is not a permanent state. It is one that we have the chance and the necessity to nurture and foster each and every day.

One of the biggest changes that happens over time for us as the authors and for others who apply the keys to our book to their own lives is that we become more adept at catching the imbalances and correcting them quicker. The Huichol Indians are a model for this in the way they approach their ceremonies and their lives. They say it is always better to stay in balance as much as possible rather than let things get out of balance before we act. For instance, they do their ceremonies to bring the rains before a drought happens.

We can think of that as a focus for our own lives—take care of ourselves daily with the small steps before a personal “drought” happens and we need to take drastic measures to bring our body and soul back into a healthy state. These are all tools of holistic health.

“Change Coach” Nancy: Can you share some practical tips that can help us break through blocks to become more confident, more courageous and more authentic?

Secunda/Allen: Confidence is often something we feel when things are going well, but that we feel we lack when things are not. So the key is to be able to tap into confidence or trust in our life and our abilities when we are in those tougher moments. Here are some tips:

  • Embrace the challenges. Challenges make us smarter and better. Think of a high-jumper who jumps higher the more he practices the skill, and keeps jumping higher every time the bar is raised. Embracing challenge starts by acknowledging that life is not going to always be smooth sailing. In fact, there is a saying that says “smooth sailing does not make a good sailor.” So in the tougher moments when you may be lacking a sense of self-confidence, remind yourself that challenge is just part of life, even if what you are facing does not seem like anything you signed up for!
  • Accept uncertainty. Tell yourself it’s okay to not know how you’ll get yourself out of a situation that is causing you to doubt your own abilities. It’s okay to not have a clear vision of what will take you to the final step to bring about a change you need. Often just acknowledging that it’s okay in the moment to not be clear about what your next step will be will bring a feeling of confidence that at some point the answers will come. Think of a task at work that, at the time, seemed insurmountable. You probably didn’t know how you’d solve it. But you did. Not because you had a well-mapped course of action, but because at some point you knuckled down and worked at it, and the answers came to you.
  • Quiet your mind. This is a tool that help you find answers to vexing problems, in spite of your fears. Often, coming up with the big solutions is not a logical, methodical process. Those answers may only come when we stop the thinking process, stop the thoughts in our head that may be worried about not having enough self-confidence in our abilities to find a clear solution.

One way to quiet your mind is to go for a walk outside and just observe the world of nature going on around you, to feel the earth beneath your feet, the air on your cheeks giving you life. Imagine the light of the sun filling your body with brightness from the inside out. Just doing this can wash away fear and bring back self-confidence. It will also remind you of who you really are beyond any worries you have. People gain a sense of authenticity, of what their purpose is and what their authentic self is about when they are in a natural setting because, as the Huichols say, we are a reflection of nature.

John F. Kennedy used to marvel at how the earth is about 65% water and so are our bodies. The oceans are saltwater and so is the blood moving through our bodies. We are indeed a reflection of nature and also connected to the power that is there. Feeling the life force that is in every plant, every animal in the earth itself is something that brings us courage to have a good life, to tackle the problems that we may be facing and to help us regain a peace inside, which is also another form of self-confidence.

“Change Coach” Nancy: What message do you want to share with people about overcoming fear and finding balance in life?

Secunda/Allen: The first message is about fear. It is okay to have fear, we all have it at times in our lives. What is important for overcoming fear is to create a vision of what might lie on the other side of fear if we are able to walk through it.

Often with fear the only thing a person can see is the fear of what might go wrong, of what is holding them back, and their life contracts. So to overcome fear, step one is to do as we have mentioned, which is to stand back for a few moments and see clearly what can give your life purpose without worrying about any stumbling blocks that might hold you back. See your life with outcomes that you know are possible without fear being a block. Really feel these visions for your life, see some of the key steps you will take to get there, then go out and take them one at a time.

Any time you feel fear creep in, remind yourself that you can go forward even with the fear, that it does not have to hold you back. And once you take that step even with a fear or doubt, look back and acknowledge yourself for having the courage to move forward regardless of how small or insignificant that step may seem and certainly regardless of maybe how silly the fear might seem. Of course, if it is a big lifetime fear, give yourself a bigger pat on the back for doing what was important to get one step closer to the vision or dream you set out to live.

The second message has to do with balance. Balance is not something that is necessarily going to be possible if viewed moment to moment. For example, athletes will train long hard hours to gain the fitness they need to become champions. Those tough training sessions are not balanced, as they tax the body tremendously. But then they will rest, often in a super-compensated way to put back all the vital energy expended in their training so that they are ready and fresh for their competitions.

Neither of these states is exactly what we would call balanced if we took a snapshot of either—an athlete pushing their bodies or that same person lying around like a slug to regenerate. But over time, the sum total is a true balance. Most people have yearly cycles where some seasons are more introspective with less work or demand and other seasons where the demands can be extreme. But hopefully over the year those two will balance each other, and that is the biggest message for this attribute—to seek balance in your life over time, even if in a moment-to-moment analysis things might look out of balance.

That is the way the seasons in nature work, isn’t it? In the northern states, we get extreme cold, rain, and snow for a few months and everything sleeps in the short days of winter. But then by spring and summer everything is blooming and the rains stop, allowing the plants to thrive and soak up the sunlight of summer. Both of these extremes are necessary, but are only considered balanced if looked at over the course of a year. And we as humans can strive to model our lives after this incredibly balanced model that exists around each of us year after year.


Thanks so much to both Brant Secunda and Mark Allen for sharing their wisdom! And I invite all my Change Buddies to share their stories of fear — what has held them back from doing what they most wanted to and how they overcame it! And stop back at the Make A Change blog each Sunday for more tools and tips on making a change!

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Six Ways to Break Out of a Fitness Plateau

Starting a new workout or eating plan is easy; sticking to it isn’t. What do you do when, after the first couple months of a new eating or exercise regimen, you hit a place where you’re not making progress, your motivation is flagging, and you feel discouraged?

Don’t worry. It happens to everyone. Here are six simple ways for you to move beyond negative emotions so you will get re-energized and refocused on your health and fitness goals.

Address the stress.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that stress causes a decreased willingness to take on new endeavors. If you’re stuck in the same old eating and exercise habits, get out of that rut by clearing away the stress in your life. Increase your sleep; seek out lighthearted people and fun activities; reduce your intake of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol; and get more sun and fresh air. Reducing stress helps you regain the motivation to change.

Fight your fear.

Believe it or not, fear is a key reason that we hit fitness plateaus and then stay there. By fighting your fear of failing, you’ll feel triumphant and gain a renewed sense of energy and purpose. When fear pops up and tells you it’s hopeless, fight back by breaking your task into the smallest steps you can manage — say, by doing the first 5 minutes of your workout — so you will experience yourself succeeding and chase away that fear.

Have a structure.

Many people respond well to structure. If winging it does not keep you on track, then make a schedule of your workouts and your personal goals each week. Hold yourself accountable to them. This creates clear, short-term, week-by-week goals. A written fitness schedule is akin to making a contract with yourself.

Ease up.

Instead of beating yourself up for hitting a plateau, be good to yourself with your exercise. Recharge with an easier training session than planned. Make your workout into something soothing by reducing the intensity, cutting back on the length, finding a friend to come with you, or picking a route that has beautiful scenery.

Reflect on your goals.

Sometimes the reason we get discouraged is because we allow our mood to influence our actions. Maybe you’ve had a bad day and tell yourself it’s pointless to work out, or you convince yourself it’s too hard. Instead, set aside a quiet time to reflect on your goals. One of the best times to do this is when you are trying to decide what your next step or workout should be. You’ll find that the choices you come up with will be quite different if the end goal is what influences the decision rather than your immediate mood or life constraint.

Visualize success–again.

Numerous studies show that if you visualize a goal–and then reinforce it by repeating that goal to yourself over and over–you will probably achieve whatever it is you set out to accomplish. Visualizing your success over and over again allows you to stay involved with your original enthusiasm. Use this any time there is a lull in your motivation.

photo of Fit Soul, Fit Body authors brant secunda and mark allen
Co-authors Brant Secunda and Mark Allen

Shaman-healer and MacArthur Award finalist Brant Secunda and six-time world champion Ironman Mark Allen teach seminars worldwide on fitness, health, and well-being. Their new book, based on the approach they developed, is Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You (BenBella Books). Find out more at

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8 Springtime Health and Happiness Strategies

If winter is the time to hunker down and be meditative, spring is the time to, well, spring into action! If you’re ready to shake off the winter blahs and the extra padding you accumulated over the past few months, take a cue from nature.

Think about it: The animals are coming out of hibernation and getting active. New shoots are breaking through the frozen earth and feeling the sun. The sunlight is brighter and the days are lighter and longer. Nature sends us messages about how to get healthy by making seasonal changes too. All we have to do is listen.

Here are 8 new springtime health strategies that lead to good health for your body and soul, and will help you look and feel your best.

“Spring up” your diet.
Indigenous people who live close to nature eat seasonally. It’s a healthy way to eat that naturally helps you shed those winter pounds and make you feel light and springy. Seek out foods that are fresh this time of year, such as green leafy salads with sprouts and radishes; strawberries and baby asparagus; and seasonal fish and shellfish.

Get in a springtime mood.
Scientists have proven that we have around 60,000 thoughts a day, the vast majority of which are negative! For one week, every time you catch yourself having a negative thought, which robs you of energy, state it in the opposite way. Replace “I can’t” with “I can.” Make that shift over and over until you begin to see more and more time pass between negative thoughts. Watch how much more spring you have in your step at the end of the week.

Commit to outdoor time.
Scientists have proven what shamans have known for millennia: that being outdoors in nature makes people happier, calmer, healthier, and more energetic. Make a conscious effort to spend at least 30 minutes outside daily doing anything. You will feel significantly less stressed, more connected, and more energetic as you get in step with the spring light, spring smells, and spring activity.

Try something new.
Springtime is a time for renewal. To get into the mood of change and forward momentum, try a new sport or an old one you haven’t done for a long time. Often, when we engage in new activities, it’s especially motivating. The more types of activities you engage in, the more energetic you’ll feel.

Sprout some new eating habits.
Did you get into a carb habit over the winter? Try this: For one week, cut out all sweets, pasta, and breads. Then slowly add more carbs back in—but only complex carbs with lots of fiber (whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, beans, etc.). Notice how much lighter you feel.

Refresh an old workout routine.
This spring, don’t let workout boredom squelch your motivation to get in shape. Change your workout course. Do the familiar course in the opposite direction. Or find a workout partner. Or work out at a different time of day.

Take a springtime trip.
Pick a wildly beautiful place in nature. Schedule a weekend to go camping or hiking. Or simply take some extended time to relax in a wonderful outdoor place where spring is showing its colors and beauty. Taking a trip in nature will jumpstart your springtime energy and will shake off the hard work, restlessness, and stagnation from winter.

Accept that challenge is normal.
Lots of us this time of year look in the mirror and think, “I’ll never get in shape by swimsuit season.” Think of a fragile crocus pushing its way up through the frozen earth. Challenge is a normal part of striving, growing, and overcoming obstacles. Realizing this will help you manage your fear and negativity and propel you forward.

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10 Ways to Be Happier and Healthier at Work

Running a business is kind of like running a marathon. To succeed at either, you need to be in top physical and mental shape. In today’s guest post, authors Brant Secunda and Mark Allen share 10 tipsadapted from their book Fit Soul, Fit Body that can help you and your employees be happier, healthier and more productive on the job.

According to the annual Conference Board job satisfaction survey, more than half of Americans (52%) say they are dissatisfied with their jobs. But it’s not the work that’s makes us unhappy — it’s how we deal with it while we’re there.

Boredom, perfectionism, anxiety, and impatience make us hate what we do. And feeling physically bad — from sitting too long, caving in to stress, and eating poorly at work — just make things worse.

Here are 10 strategies you can put into practice tomorrow that will make an enormous difference in the way you and your employees perform and feel about your jobs.

1. Stand up to your office chair.It’s great that you have the newest ergonomic chair. But if you sit in it all day, you’ll reduce the amount of fat-burning enzyme called lipoprotein lipase by a whopping 94%. To keep this enzyme active and burning fat requires only 30 minutes a day of standing up to read, to talk on the phone, or to consult with a coworker.

2. Embrace the power of repetition. Here’s a trick that helps top athletes train every day for hours at a time. Embrace the repetitive aspects of work. Start to see chipping away at the same tasks day after day as powerful ways to reach your financial and professional goals. This is similar to the way our ancestors could plant an entire hillside with corn by hand, one kernel at a time, year after year.

3. Brush away impatience and frustration. When you’re impatient with a task that’s taking too long, or frustrated with a complication such as a technology glitch, here’s a simple way to quickly reset your workplace mood. Think of whatever you are doing at that moment — say, consulting the user’s guide for your computer — as your top priority instead of the means to an end.

4. Change your routine to prevent monotony. Like the idea of cross training for athletes, workers can stay mentally fit by mixing up the routine. If you work 9-5, try working 8-4. If you always check your email first thing, do something else for the first hour. Rearrange your office. Try making calls instead of emailing.


5. Stop procrastinating for 5 minutes. Do you put off working on large projects or tasks as the deadline gets closer, and then eat yourself up with worry at night obsessing about them? Try this. Commit to working on it for just 5 minutes. That’s it. Once you start, you might find it’s not that bad. But even if it is, it will be easier to complete if you’ve been chipping away at it for 5 minutes a day.

6. Slow down to get faster. Fitness scientists know that working out at a comfortable level is more beneficial for health than pushing through at top speed or effort. You can apply this principle to your workplace activity as well. If you consciously slow down, take time to think things through, finish one task completely before going to the next, perhaps even ignore incoming calls and emails temporarily, you’ll find that your productivity will increase along with your happiness.

7. Take time to feed and water yourself. Don’t skip breakfast. And eat small healthy snacks every couple of hours, such as fruit, yogurt, almonds, carrots and peppers, nut butter sandwiches, dark chocolate, and soup. Keep a liter of water on your desk and sip it all day long. Watch how energized you feel — especially midafternoon, the time you normally crave a sweet and some coffee.

8. Weightlift for your soul. “Weightlifting for the soul” is giving up negative thoughts that weigh you down. The next time a negative thought comes into your mind, force yourself to restate it to yourself in a positive way. So, “This is too hard” becomes “I have all it takes to make it through.” Or, “This is a waste of time” becomes “What can I learn right now?”

9. Look at the now. Are you a perfectionist? Do you beat yourself up for not doing things as masterfully as you think you should? Try this: Ask yourself if you are doing the best you can right now with everything going on in your life. Instead of focusing on absolute perfection, make the goal to give the best you can in the moment, even if you know on another day it might be better.

10. Keep making deposits. View your physical, emotional, and spiritual health as a bank account that should always be tended to. Being healthy goes hand in hand with being happy — in and outside of your business. Every day you are sedentary, eat bad food, or indulge in negative thinking is a withdrawal. Every day you eat well, get enough sleep, stay hydrated, exercise, and are optimistic is a deposit.

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7 Ways to Use Nature to Boost Your Moods

If you’re depressed, stressed out, anxious, or fatigued, the cure might be right outside your door. New research from Holland shows that people who live near a park or wooded area experience less depression and anxiety. And a study from the UK found that a walk in the country reduces depression in 71% of participants. Scientists have long known that sunlight can ease depression – especially SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, in winter.

When you tap into the regenerative power of your environment, it can have instant and profound effects on your mood, transforming negative emotions such as fear, depression, anger, and anxiety into a peaceful, happy state of mind. Try these techniques:

See the big picture.

To bring fear or worry into perspective, focus on a positive event in nature that will continue whether you face your fear or not. Recall the colors of the last sunrise you saw, or think of the present season and its inevitable progression into the next one. You’ll see that such large events continue – whether you and your fears are there or not.

Embrace the darkness.

At night, find a place in nature where you’re not surrounded by things manmade and the only light is the stars. Get enveloped in the welcome darkness, listen to the sounds of nature, and connect to your world.

Get lit up.

Set your alarm in time to get outside when it’s still dark. As the sun is rising, concentrate on the dawning light. The sun’s rays transform the darkness of night into the brilliance of day. It will brighten your mood naturally too.

Get “soleful” love.

Take a walk outside – someplace where you feel peaceful. Put one foot in front of the other slowly, and quiet your internal chatter. With each step, visualize the earth’s love coming into your body through your feet and dissolving any problems you have.

Center between earth and sky.

Sit or lie on the ground outside. Visualize the light of the sun entering the top of your head, filling your heart and body, and then going down into the earth. Feel the earth beneath you, and draw the love of the earth up into your heart and body, and then send it up to the sun. Feel your connection to all life.

Invoke the deer spirit.

The Huichols use the image of the deer to represent innocence, gentleness, and clarity. To melt away emotional stress, visualize the image of a deer surrounded by a circle. Ask the deer, out loud or to yourself, to help you find harmony and balance, and help you to stand tall like a tree.

Fight negativity with fire.

Transform negative emotions such as fear, anger, and jealousy by sitting before a fire outside or a candle inside and looking at the flame. Imagine your heart opening like a flower and see yourself breathing in the fire’s light. Do this for about 5 minutes. This technique also gives immediate relief to the part of your body that’s holding the emotion (e.g., your stomach).

Shaman-healer Brant Secunda and world champion Ironman Mark Allen teach seminars worldwide on fitness, health, and well-being. Their new book, based on the approach they developed, is Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to Healthier, Happier You (BenBella Books). Find out more at

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Evolving Goals

Regardless of whether you are pursuing a fitness goal, striving to achieve something at work, trying to change home life dynamics to be positive or are on a spiritual quest to better yourself, a common thread that can support your journey is having a clear picture of why the efforts have meaning to you. This is what we call in our book “Know and Set Your Quest.”

There is always a picture, feeling, thought or indefinable energy that draws you to take action. The positive form of this is an idea of something that you have yet to embody. Perhaps it is a physical change. “I want to lose weight. I want to complete a race.” It may be emotional. “I want to find something positive even in the toughest moments of my life.” Perhaps it is spiritual in nature. “I am going to take time each and every day to stop and feel the springtime unfolding.” Whatever it was that inspired you to take the first steps toward a goal, remember it. If you cannot recall those initial thoughts or if the original idea doesn’t have meaning, now is a good time to regain an image that does.

Here is an example from my racing career of an evolving goal. Initially my overall driving quest was to win the Ironman. It was a clear goal. Yet it was complex because of the number of valuable facets of preparation that could help me achieve it. But it was worth embracing as many of them as I could. This goal influenced every aspect of my training throughout each season. And indeed in 1989 through the incredibly good luck to connect with the Huichol tradition and Brant Secunda I became that champion.

But then what? Win again? Okay, that inspired me, and I achieved that…a couple more times.

But then what? By 1993 I could see that my quest had to change. “Knowing and Setting Your Quest” is a call to look deep inside and find the picture, thought or focus that has meaning deep in your heart. A good way to gain this perspective is to place yourself at the end of your life and take a look back. What do you want to see? What reasons do you want to see that inspired meaning to do the things that you did?

I saw that “winning” was great, but not really quite the right focus. The quest changed. Through personal reflection and with Brant’s help I dedicated my quest in racing from that point forward to the pursuit of being the best I could be on race day. The placing was secondary. This was Knowing My Quest. It’s a quest that continues today and transcends time, situation or circumstance.

What is your quest? What inspires you about your efforts?

What is it about your quests that focus your efforts in a positive direction? These are the things that will carry you far.

5 Basics for Health

I want to give you 5 Tips for Health and Happiness. None are new and most likely you have seen all of them before. Each one has its roots extending back to the beginning of time. All are worthy of another mention and reminder today. The emphasis of how we work with each may be different than what our ancestors did to thrive and survive. But each is a must for grooming health and happiness to a polished shine.

The first is eating healthy. Most of us in the modern world have at least three or more chances throughout the day to focus specifically on how we integrate this into our lives. A modern world twist to this has first and foremost to do with portion size. Regardless of the actual nutrient value in our meals, no matter how balanced and healthy our sources of carbohydrate, fats and protein, if the amount we are eating is too much, the effects reverse themselves and we can find extra weight being the result rather than good health. Solution? Smaller dishes! This makes cutting portion size simple. Second tip for controlling portion size is to drink a glass of water BEFORE you dive into the main dish. Then finally, increase the frequency of meals so that you are never going into any meal feeling completely ravenous.

The next key to great vibrant health is exercise. This can be in the form of traditional sports and health club classes or it can be as deceptively simple as walking, moving things around, gardening or anything else that gets your body off its duff and in the upright position. Even if you do a 30-minute run in the mornings, make sure to get out and move a few other times throughout the day. This also has a side benefit of helping curb your appetite. So if portion size needs some help, go for a walk first!

A third key to having both the energy to exercise and an appetite that comes from the needs of your body to replenish itself and not from an emotional hole that crying out for filling is to manage stress. Long-term stress zaps energy, can lead to depression, can initially cause weight loss from muscle wasting then later cause weight gain because fat burning is inhibited, none of this being desirable.

You may not necessarily be able to eliminate the causes of stress, but there are ways to reduce its negative impact. One is to do what we call in our book “Quieting The Mind”. There is an entire key devoted to this. In tough moments often the only thing that can be changed are the thoughts that are running through our brains, and usually they are not the ones that help us out! But if we practice quieting the mind, then at least we can give ourselves a break from our own internal chatter, which often opens up the space to hear the answers and solutions we are working so hard to find.

Then in addition to this, use nature as a source of stress reduction and personal inspiration. Walk in the woods, sit by a stream, jump in the ocean, and breathe in the colors of the sunset. These are all tools Brant has us do in workshops he leads. Every single one can give you a calmer feel inside and reinvigorate your trust in life. It sounds simple, and it is, but it can also be a powerful tool for bringing a healthy and happy attitude back when you may not feel it so strongly.

Then lastly, reach out and connect with the community you are part of. Having social interaction has shown to be part of having a healthy mind and body even in the twilight years of one’s life. Community has served humans well for survival both from a logistical standpoint but also because being in community infuses our souls with a sense of belonging, with the side benefit of bringing our being into a more positive state that can actually be measured physiologically to be healthier and happier!

Take Advantage of the Ups and Downs in Life

Take your workouts off the beaten path

Life in the modern world can be overflowing with complexity to the point of overload. Even our goals for health can sound overwhelming. What if you had the tools to lose weight, improve your blood sugar balance, de-stress and soothe your soul, charge up with energy and keep your brain functioning properly? Sounds like a lot of activities would be necessary to gain all of those benefits. Surprisingly, one simple tool can help you achieve these goals! You ready? All of these incredible benefits to your body and soul can be had by simply walking or jogging on uneven terrain that has a few hills along the way. Read on to hear why…

As we all know, moving our bodies is what gives us fitness. A sedentary individual is more likely to die at an early age than an active one who smokes cigarettes! So going for a walk or a jog on a daily basis will cover the first item on our health list. If you incorporate some uphill and downhill sections in that outdoor adventure, you will start to engage the use of the largest muscle in the body, which is appropriately named the gluteus maximus. Using these large muscles stimulates the body to metabolize stored fat. The second task is now taken care of.

If your favorite trail winds through any kind of natural setting, which most trails or unpaved roads do, there will likely be a bit of nature going on around you. Right now we are in springtime, which is the perfect season for absorbing the wonder of life renewing itself and bursting forth with energy and color. Take a look around and soak in that life force. This simple act takes our minds off of what might be otherwise weighing us down and gives us a break from the normal obligations in a way that feeds both our body and our soul, and charges us up with positive energy. Another task covered!

So what about the blood sugar and brain benefits? Some interesting research has shown that walking or jogging on uneven ground actually stimulates the brain to improve its circuitry. In short, when the ground we move over is unpredictable, meaning there are little rocks, twigs, maybe some bumps, divots and other non-smooth features, the brain gets used in a way that stimulates its growth and health. Want to get smarter? Walk through the woods!

With regard to blood sugar, a number of studies in Europe have shown that while uphill walking is good for burning calories and losing body fat, it is the downhill that gives a huge boost to the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. Downhill walking uses our eccentric muscles, the ones that accept a load rather than generate it. Using these muscles when we walk downhill helps bring blood sugar levels down and actually increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

This second benefit enables a person to efficiently handle dietary carbohydrates (sugars) without having to release large amounts of insulin. For those of you who have read our book, you may remember that a big release of insulin shuts off fat burning, which is not something many people want to have happen. Just make sure that you go easy on your knees if you do decide to make downhill part of your exercise program. And if you can’t find a hill, there are always stairs. It’s just hard to find ones that are lined with blooming trees and flowers!