Thursday, November 17, 2016

I am a monster.

Let's take a look at Training versus Exercising.  

At a quick glance, we'd probably say they are the same, or similar.

But there is a difference, and as we understand how they differ, the shift may be instrumental for you. 

For example, did you know that hatha yoga was traditionally a method used to prepare the body for long periods of stillness during meditation?

But because of its physical benefits, it's become more commonly known in the West as a form of physical exercise.

If two people were taking the same yoga class, one in preparation for meditation, and one to improve overall health, do you think their efforts, experiences, and outcomes would differ?

Let's look at 3 similar scenarios:

1. If a student were taking a class that specifically pertains to her future career, and another student were taking the same class because she simply needed the credits, would they study the material differently?

2. If an expecting mother read a birthing article to prepare for her delivery, and a non-expecting female read the same article because the magazine was sitting next to her at the salon, would they process the information the same?

3. If a runner were preparing for a marathon, would her friend running with her for daily exercise have the same mindset and determination?  One would likely stop at mile five, while the other would go as far as needed to prepare for the marathon.

In each scenario, the two people would have very different experiences even though they're participating in the same action.  This is because each person has different intentions.


Because we can't see intention, we mimic others' actions hoping to achieve the feelings they appear to possess (i.e. happiness, joy, confidence, love).

  • We work tirelessly because that's what financially responsible people seem to do.
  • We workout, eat healthy, travel, get married, have kids because these are activities in which the type of person we want to be participates.
  • We shop at the stores, drive the cars, and live in the places that seem to bring happiness to people like us.

But actions without intention lack meaning and purpose.  This is why people achieve the exact life they go after, and feel very empty once they get there.  Got married.  Had two kids.  Made VP.  Bought the dream house.  Still unfulfilled.

Why, if someone in her 30's is unmarried and without kids, do her relatives (sometimes her BFF's) ask her when she's going to "settle down".  Who said we have to get married in our 20's, and start a family?  We all know someone that would have had a more fulfilling life without kids.

If we don't connect what we want, what we're doing, to something deeply meaningful, we're going through the motions of life, without purpose.


Think about it for a moment.  When you train, you prepare more than just your body.  You anticipate the obstacles you'll face, the mindset you'll need, and the feeling of accomplishment you'll achieve if you perform well.  And therefore you prepare with intensity and focus, connecting your mind, body, and spirit to the activity.

Look at all of your daily activities and ask yourself "for what am I training, and why?".

Break down your daily activities, and give them purpose.

Here are some examples:

Work: What am I training for?  A work promotion.  Why? Because I want to prove to myself that I can be disciplined and that I can do anything I set my mind to.  Or, because I want to demonstrate my leadership skills, and make a difference in my organization. (The answer will be different for everyone.)

Clean/Healthy Eating: What am I training for?  Test results that indicate no medication is needed.  Why? Because I want to be an energetic, strong and healthy parent/grandparent.

Working Out: What am I training for?  The whitewater rafting trip I will reward myself with when I can do 100 push-ups/bike 20 miles/walk up the steps without feeling winded.  Why? Because it's an experience I want to have, it's the next level for me, it's something I haven't been able to do yet.  Or, because I don't want to be limited in any activity I desire or choose to do.

When you view your actions as training for a specific reason, you give your actions a purpose and your entire life becomes more meaningful.

If you're training to look radiant and happy on Christmas Eve, and to feel wonderful - free from the anxiety and stress that comes with the holiday hustle, getting your workouts in is simply what you do.

If on the other hand, you join The Little Black Dress Project because "everyone else is doing it" or you're hoping that some sort of magic kicks in, there is a missing connection to something of value for you.

Remind yourself why you are training.  Continue asking yourself "why?" until the answer is something you can connect with.

>Because I want be healthy.


>Because I want to live a long life and be my best self. 


>Because I want to grow old with someone I love and create a family and a legacy.

Once your answer is something that resonates with you, dedicate your actions to that future.  Whether it's your children, the partner you have or have yet to meet, or the Ted Talk you will give one day, think of that future as you "train," and your sense of connection will deepen even further.

I used to be amazed when people would tell me how disciplined I am with training and nutrition.  I'm not.  At all.

I could eat more food, and the really, really bad stuff, than anyone you know (except maybe Andrew Whitworth).  And I could easily sit around and get zero activity for months.  I love being lazy. That actually was me at one time.

When I go through the why exercise, I come up with a lot of meaningful reasons to eat clean and train consistently.  But the one thing that gets me out of bed or off the couch is simple.

If I don't do it, I'm a monster. 

I'm not the same person.

Seriously.  I'm no fun to be around.

And because of that, it's the reason I workout regardless of circumstances.

When I go on vacation, I workout.   When we stay with relatives at the holidays, I workout.  You'll see me training outside, in the rain and in the snow when it's 5 degrees, and in some town I've never been before.  All with intention.

I'm not disciplined and I'm not special.  I'm reminded every day of what I could be when I don't train.  I am a monster.

Of course, when I do workout I feel fantastic.  I'm a better parent.  I look better, I feel stronger, I defy aging (at least to a degree).  I'm balanced, fun to be around, more engaging. Etc., etc.  There is an upside, too.  :)

Keeping asking yourself, 'why am I doing this?'  And, why is that important to me?  Challenge yourself to dig deeper until you hit your driving force, your reason(s), your inspiration.  Life will happen either way.  The work will happen either way, but only with intention will it be meaningful and inspiring. 

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Redefine your year of success!

The No. 1 factor holding people back from achieving what they are truly capable of is not a lack of knowledge, intellect, or information. It's not some new strategy or idea. It's not hard work, natural talent, or luck.

Execution is the single greatest differentiator.  Simply put, successful people execute better than those that don't achieve their goals.  It's the number one barrier standing between you and the life you are capable of living.   

One of the things that gets in the way of effectively executing and achieving our best is the annual planning process.  Nice for me to share that with you now, after encouraging you to set 2-3 major goals earlier in the week, huh?

As strange as this might sound, annual goals and plans are often a barrier to high performance and achievement. This doesn't mean annual goals and plans don't have a positive impact. They do. There is no question you will do better with annual goals and plans than without any goals or plans. However, this annual process inherently limits performance.

The trap is referred to as "annualized thinking." At the heart of annualized thinking is an unspoken belief that there is plenty of time in the year to make things happen. In January, December looks a long way off. We mistakenly believe that there is plenty of time in the year, and we act accordingly. We lack a sense of urgency, not realizing that every week is important, every day is important, every moment is important. Ultimately, effective execution happens daily and weekly — not annually. 

If my goal is to lose 30 pounds by December 31, 2016, it's very tempting to start "next Monday" … and of course, more often than not, "next Monday" never comes. 

Let's redefine a year: A year is no longer 12 months; it is now 12 weeks. There are no longer four periods in a year; that's old thinking. Each 12-week period stands on its own — it is your year.

Now you have a new end-game date to assess your success (or lack thereof). It narrows your focus to the week and more to the point, the day, which is where execution occurs. The 12-week year brings that reality front and center. When you set your goals in the context of a 12-week year, you no longer have the luxury of putting off the critical activities, thinking to yourself that there is plenty of time left in the year. Once 12 weeks becomes your year, then each week matters more; each day matters more; each moment matters more.

The result is profound. Here are three steps to help you achieve more in the next 12 weeks than most will in 12 months:

Set a 12-Week Goal: 

Annual goals are helpful, but they lack immediacy and urgency. Twelve-week goals create focus and urgency.

Get focused on what you want to make happen over the next 12 weeks. The goal should be an outcome: "I will lose 10 pounds of body fat by March 31, 2016" or "I will replace 6 pounds of body fat with 6 pounds of lean muscle (my weight will not change, however my body fat % will drop significantly, as will the size of my body) at the end of 12 weeks."  Your goal should represent significant progress towards your longer-term vision that you worked on earlier in the week (see Monday and Wednesday's emails).  Again, limit your goals to a maximum of three and make certain each goal is specific and measurable.

Build a 12-Week Plan: 

Twelve-week planning is so much more effective than traditional planning because it is more predictable and focused. The key here is less is more. A 12-week plan embraces the notion of being great at a few things versus mediocre at many.

For each goal, you will need to identify tactics. Tactics are the daily and weekly actions that drive the accomplishment of the goal. If the goal is the "where," then the tactics are the "how." Here again, less is more. Keep it focused on the critical few. Identify the four or five actions that you need to take daily and weekly to accomplish your goal, those are your tactics.

  • Workout five days per week, combining strength and cardiovascular exercise
  • Eat 1250 calories per day comprised mostly of lean protein, fruits, veggies, and some grains
  • Get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night and sleep in one day per week
  • Stretch and foam roll after every workout and schedule one professional massage once per month

Apply the Weekly Routine: 

Having a goal and a plan is helpful, but it's not enough. The key to your success is executing your plan. To ensure you execute at a high level, adopt the Weekly Routine. If you do the following three things on a weekly basis you can't help but get better.

The Weekly Routine:

Plan your week — Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to plan your week. Use your plan to identify the tactics that are due this particular week. The plan is not a glorified to-do list; rather, it reflects the critical activities that needs to take place this week in order to achieve your 12-week goals.

Score your week — At the end of each week you will want to score your execution. In the end you have greater control over your actions than you do your outcomes. The most effective lead indicator you have is a measure of your execution. You are scoring your execution, not your results. Calculate a weekly execution score by dividing the number of tactics completed by the number of tactics due.  Each workout for the week equals one tactic (five total).  Each day you eat 1250 calories represents one tactic, or seven for the week.  Same with each day you get seven hours of sleep (seven total).  In our example above, stretching and foam rolling after every workout would be another five due tactics at the end of the week.  In total, using this example, you'd have a total of 24 tactics due each week.  If you hit all 24 for the week, you got a perfect sore!  Well done!  If you're serious about hitting your goals, you need to hit 21 out of 24 tactics each week consistently 12 weeks. 

Meet with a peer group – Did you know that you are seven times more likely to be successful if you meet regularly with a group of your peers? Find two to three other people who are committed and willing to meet for 15 to 20 minutes each week. In your meeting, report on how you're doing against your goals and how well you're executing. Encourage and challenge one another.

That's it! Three simple steps. Plan your week, score your week, meet with a group of peers. Do them, and you will improve. Here's the catch: The steps are easy to do, and even easier not to do. So make a commitment to engage with them for the next 12 weeks and watch what happens!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins


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