A Guide to Fitness, Flow States
and Inner Awareness
Copyright 2008 by Grant MolyneuxFirst Paperback Edition November 2008
ISBN: 9780981145303 (trade paperback)
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be repro-duced in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information browsing, storage, or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Disclaimer Clients names have been changed to protect their privacy.
AcknowledgmentsAs I reflect on those people I owe a debt of thanks to, Im
reminded of the adage, All is one. No truer words have ever been spoken. These words point to the universal truth that every atom and molecule in our universe is intimately linked to every other atom and molecule. In this way everything influences everything else in an exquisite balance and interplay. So it follows that this book is simply an outflow of all the positive interactions I have had with the hundreds of clients Ive had the opportunity to work with over the past 30 years. This book is really their story. It was born out of a desire to communicate the practice of eortless exercise and to share this vision of movement with others who value quality, integrated and sustainable fitness. I have had the good fortune to witness numerous personal transformations and peak athletic performances. My deepest thanks go out to all my clients who have trusted my methods, found the courage to take the path less traveled and embraced an eortless approach to fitness.
Thanks also to Wendy, my wife and alchemical editor. She has transmuted coal into diamonds, taking my often rough and disjointed concepts and weaving them into a cohesive whole. Without her, this book simply would never have made it out of my computer. I can still here her shouting from her upstairs oce, Listen to this ! followed by wails of laughter. She toiled endlessly over this manuscript and to this day knows it more intimately than I do. She often catches me up on details I have long since forgotten; she truly has been the wind beneath my wings.
Lastly, I would like to thank Judy McCallum, Peter Neiman, Keith Hanna and Lee Coyne for critiquing the manuscript and providing me with invaluable insight, connections and suggestions. They too have shaped the final product to a point of inclusion and refinement that makes me feel confident of the final product. Again, and I cant say it enough, many thanks.
Chapter 1: Defining Effortless Exercise 11The Eortless Exercise Vision 12Intuition and Inner Awareness 15A Personal Journey 18Health and Fitness Pyramid 20Sustainable Exercise 22Eortless Exercise # 1: Listening to Inner Body Energy 23
Chapter 2: Inspired Motivation 25The Passion of Play 25Permission versus Prescription 27Staying On Track 28Putting Fun Back into Fitness 31Creating Resonant Experiences 32Eortless Exercise # 2: Practicing Awareness 35
Chapter 3: Creating Flow States 37The Power of Warm-Ups 37The How to of Warm-Up 41
Check-In Phase 4 1Warm-Up Rule 4 2Hydration 4 3Fuel 4 4Breathing 4 4The Itch 4 5
Monitoring Heart Rate 46The Crucial Cool-Down 48
Check-Out Phase 4 8Short Sessions 50Eortless Exercise # 3: Entering Eortlessness 51
Chapter 4: Effortless Endurance 53The Push/Pull Concept 53Finding the Flow 56Nasal Breathing 60
The Heart Connection 6 0Respiratory Eciency 6 1Parasympathetic Calm 6 1How to Nasal Breathe 6 1Darth Vader Technique 6 1Upper Limit 6 2Breath and Pacing 6 2Tips for Runners and Swimmers 6 3
Eortless Training Heart Rate 64Aerobic Intensity 6 5
Determining your Eortless Training Zone (ETZ) 66Method 1: Exercise Experimentation 6 6Method 2: Nasal Threshold 6 7Method 3: Blood Lactate Testing 6 8Max VO2 Test 6 9Setting your Lower Limit 6 9ETZ Adjustments 7 0ETZ is Sport Specific 7 0ETZ Tips 7 1
The Rejuvenation Zone 72Beyond Heart Rate 73Eortless Exercise # 4: Discovering Zen Experiences 75
Chapter 5: Simple Flexibility and Strength 77Pursuing Integrated Exercise 77Eortless Flexibility 78
Stretching and Injuries 7 9How to Stretch Eortlessly 8 1
Eortless Strength 83The Strength Curve 8 4The One-Set Strength Process 8 6Progressing Eortlessly 8 7One-Set Summary 8 9Generic Weight Training Schedules 9 0
Multiple-Set Training 9 1The Rest Requirement 9 1
Eortless Exercise # 5: Valuing Relaxation and Rest 92
Chapter 6: Effortless Progression 94The Forward Training Plan 95The Ten Percent Tip 96Exercise Anchors 97Mind Games 99Sustainable Change 100Measuring Fitness Backwards 101Walking Experiment 101The Magic of Consistency 102Changing Perceptions 104Marathon and Racing Tips 105Effortless Exercise # 6: Progressing as an Intuitive Process 106
Beginners Progression the one minute solution 106Training Progression the 50 percent solution 107
Chapter 7: Injuries are a Gift 110The Injury Epidemic 110Mind Over Matter Thinking 111Avoid Injury Through Intuition 112How to Mend Injuries 112Eight Healing Steps 113Illness as Injury 120
Health and Fitness 12 0Resuming Exercise 12 1Light Weight Lifting 12 2Tips for Swimmers 12 2Environment 12 3
The Overtraining Trap 123Less is More 12 4Recognizing Overtraining 12 4Freshness Question 12 5
Eortless Exercise # 7: Healing Practices 125
Chapter 8: Toward a Life Time of Exercise 128A Typical Workout 128Internal versus External Focus 130Distractions 132
Media 13 2Conversation 13 3Group Training 13 3Group Training Guidelines 13 4
Setting Goals 135Pacing Eortlessly 135The Heart of Exercise Enjoyment 138Eortless Exercise # 8: Enjoying Each Session 141
About the Author 147
9FORWARDThirty-three years ago, as a first-year physical education
student, I questioned my physiology professor about what might be the ideal kind of exercise. His immediate response was, The kind that you do! As I was learning about self-discipline, this was wise counsel at the time. However, as my life has evolved, I have come to understand that although the best kind of exercise may be the kind you do, the exercise you continue to do must eventually become eortless. Grant understands this. Self-discipline and eort may get you started, but they wont get you healthy.
Although eortless exercise would have been inconceivable to me as a university student, I understand today the message Grant shares in his book. When exercise is incorporated into the unique needs of your mind, body, and spirit; when it becomes integrated into your creative authenticity; when it shifts from being a workout to a practice aligned with who you are as a person, exercise can, indeed, evolve to a place where it becomes eortless. The body knows what kind of exercise is right for you and how much is enough. However, it requires that you stop exercising and go within to discover this. Many of us need rest, quiet time, and relaxation much more than we need exercise. As you listen closely to your body and its ever-changing needs, you access all the wisdom required to create an exercise practice that will not only be life-changing, but will be with you for life.
For twenty-five years, as a nationally-ranked competitive runner, running was eortless for me. This didnt mean that there werent days that I hurt from the training. It often took discipline and eort to get my running shoes on and get my feet on the trail. But being eortless meant that I was intended to run in my life. It came to me like swimming to a swan. Even when I started running in junior high and I couldnt run a mile without walking,
it was still eortless because it felt authentic. My particular body and psychological makeup were meant to run. I knew this without even knowing that I knew it.
After running competitively for nearly three decades, my consciousness began shifting. I was running nearly six-minute per mile marathons, but I couldnt sit still for six minutes. I began to understand that even though running was natural for me, I had used running as a way of running away from myself. As my consciousness shifted, so did my relationship to running. As I began growing into a new awareness, running evolved into an eort, and I knew then it was time for less running. It was time to start doing other forms of exercise that deepened my connection with my emerging authentic self.
As I age, I have become increasingly respectful of the diversity of the human experience and the diversity of the ways of getting beyond mere physical health to an authentic life that integrates the physical, mental, and spiritual sides of our nature. I give credit to Grant for being a major contributor to starting me on this path almost fifteen years ago. The first thing I learned from Grant was the dierence between health and fitness and how much of my competitive experience compromised my health in an eort to get fit. As he slowed me down and helped me tune into my body, I began to connect with my authentic desires. As I learned to listen to my body, I emerged into exercise that was integrated with my whole life. As I continue to adapt and re-align my habits with who I am, exercise continues to be eortless.
If you are curious about transforming your relationship with exercise; if you are finding that exercise is merely a discipline to squeeze into a busy life; if you find yourself pushing and injuring yourself in your exercise regime; or if you feel guilty when you dont meet self-imposed, unrealistic expectations of yourself; and if you want to develop a relationship with exercise that is authentic, holistic, and eortless, then this book will change your life as you discover and honor your own unique path. I wish you all the very best on this journey. It is well worth the eort to make it eortless.
David Irvine,Author, Becoming Real: Journey To Authenticity
CHAPTER 1: DEFINING EFFORTLESS EXERCISE
Learning To Go Within
Wouldnt it be fantastic if you felt great every time you exercised every step of the way? What if you could consistently reach a flow state, where time stands still and you move along eortlessly, where you experience the bliss of the runners high and benefit from all the positive health benefits of exercise without any of the downside of pain and injury. Ask yourself, What part would exercise play in my life if I experienced heightened vitality during and after each session?
Wouldnt it also be motivating if the process of exercise was always enjoyable and positive? Consider how youd view exercise if you didnt have to push through physical pain and worry about becoming injured. What if you were able to reach your goals harmo-niously without the struggle and strain of stressful workouts? Imagine what your life would look like if it became eortless to maintain your ideal weight, play with your kids, climb a mountain or participate in a triathlon on any given day, at any given age.
If you answered a resounding Yes! to the above questions, then this book speaks to you. Its content focuses on the quality of the exercise experience. Whether youre a beginner or wanting to win an Ironman triathlon, the quality of your exercise ultimately determines your outcome. And its the quality of the experience that keeps you coming back for more. The ideas in this book help you to go within for a deeper, richer experience of your body in motion. Eortless exercise focuses on quality training, beginning by listening to your inner body sensations and integrating this energy
with simple scientific tools to create sustainable lifestyle fitness or peak athletic performance through meditative flow states.
Because this book is a paradigm shift for many fitness partici-pants, certain key ideas are restated from chapter to chapter to act as a reinforcement of the eortless exercise vision and to illus-trate how it diers from traditional thought and habitual behavior patterns with regard to various interrelated fitness topics. In this way, some chapters such as Injuries are a Gift can stand alone and may be approached in this way. Give yourself permission to read this review material if it speaks to you or eortlessly read on.
The Effortless Exercise VisionIt is true that an energetic flow state can be dialed in with each
and every exercise session. You simply require a new vision of exercise to guide you toward the eortless state and teach you how to prolong this experience. Eortless exercise runs counter to the no pain, no gain paradigm so common in our culture today. Also training eortlessly doesnt require expensive technological bells and whistles or complicated criteria based training charts or hiring a personal trainer its about getting in touch with a calm, balanced and highly conscious state of intuitive fitness that lies within you.
Learning to find the eortlessness within exercise frees you from having to motivate yourself to do exercise ever again. Youll be drawn into fitness like a magnet and experience the life giving power that is fundamental to movement. Heres an example of how one runner discovered that a marathon can be an exhilarating experience rather than an exhausting one:
I recall a first-time marathoner who agreed to train in the eortless flow state. When we started, I asked Dean to wear a monitor during all of his training runs. In the first week, on each run, he wouldnt warm-up and hed let his heart rate jump to 160 beats per minute every time. Once I explained the eortless vision to him, he was able to bring his heart rate down to the mid 130s and run eortlessly. Dean plodded along as he called it for months but gradually his
times got faster and his experience of eortlessness became deeper. We both witnessed his body unfolding and developing in an unforced and natural way.
After a year of consistent injury free training in a state of inner harmony and flow he entered in the NY city marathon and ran this first marathon in the absence of any stress or pain. He asked me before he left what pace would ensure he had a successful overall experience. I responded by telling him: Let your body be your guide, keep it aerobic, keep it below your threshold, breathe through your nose and enjoy New York. After finishing the race, Dean called me from the plane on the way home and his first words were, When can I race again?
I reflected on this comment deeply because most people view a marathon as a goal that, by nature, must involve pain or suering of some sort. This marathoners experience was one of enjoyment and pleasure, and he couldnt wait to sign up for the next race.
Training eortlessly works for the young or old, competitive athlete or weekend participant for anyone wanting to approach exercise in a sustainable way. This book examines a dierent way to exercise. How dierent you ask? Its for those of you who are discouraged by the mind over matter approach and are seeking a graceful approach. It is also for those fitness participants who are interested in maximizing their exercise experience every day through experiencing that runners high. And its for those who simply want exercise to bring them enjoyment, vitality and longevity as a lifestyle activity.
The eortless vision of exercise calls for a shift in your external expectations and traditional thoughts about exercise and asks that you give yourself the permission to honor your bodys inner process first and foremost. Once beginners and experienced athletes alike learn to listen to their bodys energy they can integrate this inner wisdom with scientific knowledge to create a unique personal training program. Eortless exercise represents a dynamic balance that draws on the best of both worlds. Where science is concerned
within the eortless experience, its all about balance, integration and sustainability.
I use the yin/yang symbol as an illustration: You need a balance between the two opposing energies of light/dark, male/female, objective/subjective or science/intuition to create an inter-dependent and unified whole. The same goes for exercise. If you train solely with your intuition you may find yourself under training and unsure about measuring your progress properly; if you train only scientifically you may find yourself over training or injured and confused about technological complexity. I like to think of the line between intuition and science as a sliding scale. It moves in one direction or the other depending on your age, experience, aerobic base, health, injuries or athletic goals. Sometimes more intuitive listening is needed to heal an injury, and during race planning a greater need for scientific prediction may be helpful. But most importantly, the balance is specific to your unique physiology, and your intuition can best predict that specificity with accuracy.
Its my hope that this book helps you explore the power of exercise as a tool to reshape your training from within as opposed to training being only the exterior force of having to accomplish exercise as a means to an end. Because there is no shortage of excellent research, books and magazine articles on scientific training programs, the main focus of the contents will be on understanding and strengthening the often overlooked intuitive side of the exercise experience. Were going to flip the experience of training upside down and embrace a process oriented mindset to bring a deep richness to each and every moment you move your body. Its from this place of ease and eortlessness that most world records are set.
After watching Usain Bolt easily shatter the world record 100 meter dash time at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it was clear to me that he was eortlessly engaged in a process that went well beyond a simple physical experience. We all witnessed his enjoyment, his elevated and eortless energy and the sheer magic of his perfor-mance. There was an absence of stress and strain and pain. He embodied the eortless experience. This book points towards a similar integrated fitness experience. You may have had that same experience when a race felt easy, or you were floating along during training or you were caught up in the moment and accomplished
a personal best you thought unattainable. This book teaches you how to dial that powerful experience in and capture the deeper, inner experience of exercise.
The eortless exercise experience guides you graciously around the athletic wall rather than insisting you crash through it with more hard work. My thesis remains that if I teach you how to reach a meditative flow state during exercise that youll want to exercise every day for the rest of your life. I wont have to motivate you to do it; youll want to do it because of its intrinsic value. All the outer benefits we fitness professionals profess come from this place of vital inner energy, but it has to start from within to be truly authentic.
Developing this passion for movement is at the core of the eortless exercise practice: Learn to exercise in an empowered, sustainable flow state and youll never become sedentary again. Many clients have remarked upon how easy and great it feels when they exercise in this fashion. They reflect on the joy exercise brings them and how they are drawn magnetically to do more. Its immensely rewarding to see their fitness develop naturally from within.
Each and every one of us has a unique physiology and is equipped with an inner wisdom that is often neglected. Tapping into this inner wisdom and freeing its power is the key to developing an eortless exercise program thats right for you. This book and its exercises and stories are invitations to listen to your inner body energy; its from this intuitive place that you learn how to avoid injury, progress without strain and coax your body to greater physical heights. Youll exercise in harmony with your unique physiology, and youll be equipped with tools to develop your physical talents in the direction of your choosing.
Its exciting to feel yourself gliding along in that flow state, its exhilarating to experience the ease of movement that your body was designed for and its downright empowering to experience the full depth of the exercise experience. If youre ready, lets go within.
Intuition and Inner AwarenessBefore you sign up for that running course, hire a coach to help
you lose weight or even buy a heart rate monitor, begin by getting in touch with your inner body energy through becoming aware of the link between your intuition and your physical body. Eortless
exercise requires first and foremost that you listen to the unique energy signals of your body before, during and after exercise. The eortless exercise experience begins by cultivating awareness through alert stillness.
The real art of fitness the skill, the proficiency through practice, the miraculous creativity and the unique personal evolution develops through a conscious inner connection with your body. This deep connection to your individual physiology respectfully takes into account your age, weight, strengths, injuries and illnesses. This way you ensure that you are consciously driving technology, rather than technology unconsciously driving you. Fitness experts can measure your chemical parameters, gifted athletes can share their training protocols with you, but only you can truly listen to the internal signals your inner body energy sends you. Everything else is your intellect rationalizing and analyzing input from the external world. A mind game, really.
When you give yourself permission to quiet your mind and focus solely on internal signals and cues, rather than being driven deeper into stressful training situations by analytical thought, over time and guided by a deeper intuition, you become your own Master Coach. Its from this place that world records are set, where time stands still and the true potential of each persons body is realized. Its here that exercise becomes an eortless art form. Over thinking drops away and you become one with the vital energy of exercise.
By way of example, lets consider the cheetah, one of the worlds fastest animals. The cheetah follows his instinctive cues: he hunts when hes hungry, runs with purpose, conserves his energy, rests when he needs to, and licks his wounds when he has to. His energy is naturally in balance. Youll never see a cheetah over thinking his run program, comparing his hunting split times to his spouses times, or limping around with an overuse injury because he over trained trying to keep up with the younger alpha-male cheetahs. The cheetah stays in balance and harmony because he listens to his inner body cues or to what his instincts tells him.
Instincts are inborn survival behaviors, and animals simply react without thought. For humans, intuition is more complex. It represents a pre-thought knowledge or a deeper wisdom of the organism. We are dierent from animals in that we possess free
will and can choose to act or not to act on our intuitive impulses. Where fitness is involved, athletes often cloud the big-picture by over thinking every detail of a training program and by valuing scientific knowledge over their own intuitive wisdom.
Given appropriate training time, an attitude of trust and oodles of patience your bodys inner energy signals will guide you towards optimum health and fitness. The greatest barrier to athletic success and a contributor to injury is Western societys impatient, fast track attitude and our need for instant gratifi-cation, quick results and the constant need for progress. Initially, eortless exercise sets aside external expectations, future plans, past failures and competitive egos. Instead, it begins with a total acceptance of where each person is at this moment in time rather than where he or she desires to be sometime in the future.
Rather than beginning with a scientifically tested exercise program, charts created in laboratory situations, magnificent technological tools or expert advice from the latest fitness guru, begin by simply learning to calm your intellectual mind and sense the energy signals your body sends you. In this way, the eortless exercise experience flips the usual training process upside down and begins by asking you to trust your intuition call it what you will: gut feeling, first impressions, or higher consciousness and give yourself the essential permission to become alert to your life energy as it animates your body. Committing to the idea of permission, which supports implementation of the entire eortless exercise process, your fitness potential gradually opens up as you experience a deeper personal empowerment.
This is because your intuition remains in tune with every blood cell, nerve fiber, muscle, tendon, ligament, and organ in your body. Its an excellent internal monitoring system. At any moment this subtle awareness can sense if you are in pain, sti, well rested, dehydrated, getting ill or full of energy. Highly intuitive athletes are capable of letting their intuition direct their actions, they harmonize with the environment and arent afraid of facing challenge and change.
Working to rehabilitate exhausted and injured athletes, Ive found their intellectual thoughts are conditioned to detach from their inner body energy fields and that they thrive on second guessing the intuitive process. Their mentally tough egos also get
involved and further override this patient voice by driving their bodies toward their goals through no pain, no gain training and a win-at-any-cost attitude.
When our competitive egos take over or we obsess about meeting the schedule of an externally generated program, we become unbalanced through excessive anaerobic stress and eventually run into problems. Here, potentially successful athletes are left prematurely injured, exhausted, immune suppressed and unable to fulfill their plans when they rely exclusively on external goals, a short training time frame and generic scientific training programs. Without the permission to allow a deeper sense of intuitive wisdom to come into play, this type of training scenario can truly be described as mind over matter. My past training challenges certainly illustrate the need for balance and integration very well.
A Personal JourneyIts human nature to resist what we know is good for us and
to have to learn lifes lessons the hard way through pain, trial and error. Suering seems to bring our experience more drama and meaning. We feel as if we have won against all odds. Its also human nature to keep looking outside ourselves for that magic bullet training program that carries us directly to our future goal. Let me share my personal story with you:
A few years after I graduated from University with my Physical Education Degree, I dabbled with running. Then in 1982, I saw the Ironman triathlon on Wide World of Sports. I immediately felt drawn to the sport of triathlon. Something ignited a passion within me and sparked a desire to embrace this multi-sport. In triathlon, I saw a way to stay fit in three dierent disci-plines. I thought, What a great all-round physical developer. I was hooked.
The first ten years of training were all about competing an egoic outward focus. I was young, strong, and had time to train so train I did. I experi-
mented with every known scientific exercise program on the market. I raced as much as possible and focused my attention on going faster. And my times got quicker, but I was overriding my inner body energy. Through those ten years I accumulated 13 leg injuries, was frequently sick and often exhausted, and, for the most part, felt unhealthy. I always complained about how this or that felt wrong and found racing stressful.
Eventually I got married, my son came along and I started the inward journey of listening to my intuition. I was sick of being tired and tired of being hurt. Over the next ten year period a deeper learning began. I slowly started becoming aware of my inner body energy.
It was tough at first, having been schooled in the old no pain, no gain mentality and strong habits are hard to break. In fact, I even returned to University for my Masters Degree in Kinesiology seeking further intellectual answers from the scientific approach, without realizing that all that data was cluttering up my brain and silencing my intuition. Somewhere within me I must have still believed that science held all the truths and answers.
Over time, through listening to my intuition, my body healed. I started to feel well once more. Eventually I discovered the joy of exercise returning, and, like a kid, I became magnetically drawn into exercise again. But I found I had to be diligent in the intuitive listening process. With each step forward I had to remain conscious every second of my training, because slipping back into my old habits, while easy, resulted in my body sending me two steps backwards with yet another ache or pain to deal with.
It then occurred to me that my injuries, though driven in deep, were my greatest teachers. They kept me honest, ensured I listened to my intuition and
coached me on the path toward healthy fitness. It is true that my injuries lead me toward the eortless exercise experience and made me into the coach I am today and Im deeply grateful for that.
Today my exercise experience remains focused on participation and realizing how well my body functions in harmony with my health. My fitness sessions remain diverse and ever changing, but at the heart of training reside these simple intuitive truths:
Always seek the flow state quality of eortlessnessBe diligently alert remain inner body aware during each exercise session and act on these cuesGive yourself the permission to exercise in harmony with your health and intuitionRemain integrated in your exercise approach involve body, mind and spiritBe totally present in the moment, and reap the enjoyment of the process todaySimply stay consistent with exercise frequency, and tomor-rows goals unfold in powerful ways
Health and Fitness PyramidIf you honor your bodys prompts of stiness, pain and fatigue,
your body will keep your fitness program in alignment with optimum health and wellness. In the health and fitness graphic outlined below, greater levels of fitness are progressively possible, provided they are built upon a solid foundation of health. You simply cannot achieve greater fitness if you are unhealthy.
When asked, many athletes admit that there were subtle clues along the way to becoming injured or ill, but they ignored them and continued to train through the strain. Its best to error on the side of patience and only add progressive building blocks of duration and intensity if you have a solid foundation of health to support this growth. Be alert to your inner energy and youll sense if your body is healthy, energized and ready to go forward or if it needs to maintain the current level of activity or even rest and rejuvenate. Pain is your body communicating to you that the activity is harmful or at the very least unsustainable in the long term. Pain represents
a call for deeper listening, greater awareness and a change in your current training process.
If eortless exercise resonates with you, then youre ready to follow your inner prompts and trust that your intuition provides the holistic choices and the right course of action for your physi-ology. Allow your intellectual mind to be guided by your intuitive impulses and create feelings of motivation, inspiration and flow. Simply listen to these inner impulses and then act on them. This type of exercise is always healthy, promotes growth and is pleasurable. We all know this intuitively, but often allow our rational minds and the pressures and expectations of the outside world to talk us out of taking the appropriate action. At times like these, the best Coaches become energy conduits by helping clients realize and act on the validity of their inner strength and intuitive wisdom. This type of awareness is the birth place of positive change. Once established as the foundation of their exercise process, many individuals find that the simple skill of intuition can be used as guidance in other areas of their lives. It is a profound truth that all answers lie within.
Often people dont realize that they can be fit and unhealthy. I was a walking example of that. I call this state the walking wounded. Many athletes live in this ironic state, and couch-potatoes fear its pain and suspect its mixed messages. In todays atmosphere of fast food and quick fixes, competitive, mentally tough people drive their bodies into unhealthy stressed states in pursuit of the immediate rewards of goal oriented success.
However, you can choose to enhance both your wellness and athletic performance through sustainable exercise. You can compete in a marathon or Ironman triathlon with this eortless approach, all it takes is the mindfulness to remain present as you train. It also requires more patience and an investment of a greater portion of training time to reap the benefits than conventional exercise regimes would have you believe. With eortless exercise, you enhance your performance by aligning your life energy with healthy, progressive exercise, allowing your body time to adapt at its own unique rate. Its pleasurable and injury free. Its the bigger picture of fitness for life and its sustainable in the long run.
Sustainable ExerciseAll resonant flow experiences are simply energy working in and
through you. Trust that when an activity or exercise feels vital you are working in a positive state of inner and outer harmony. This type of exercise doesnt lead to injury, but instead promotes an abundance of health and vitality deep within you. It also provides sustainable training that guides you toward higher levels of fitness and eventually to your greatest physical performances. Its from this flow state of eortless ease, when all your energy is positively aligned, that miraculous athletic endeavors occur.
As each day unfolds, I am convinced that scientific training programs cannot alone substitute for my intrinsic wisdom. Born out of consciousness itself, intuition is immediately accessible and limitless. The eortless exercise vision provides athletes with an exquisite balance point supported by intuition, inspi-ration, creativity and consciousness. Exercise becomes more process orientated and less goal orientated. It is more about direction than outcome. The synergy created is incredible when you practice inner body awareness and then follow your intuitive
prompts with action. You may even find yourself achieving goals and performances you had not thought possible. Begin with the following eortless exercise and let it guide you toward a new way of exercising in joy, health and harmony.
Effortless Exercise # 1: Listening to Inner Body EnergyTo get in touch with your intuition by way of being aware of
your inner body energy, begin with the following listening exercise. Dress in comfortable clothing and find a quiet room where you will not be disturbed. Sit in a chair or lie on the floor. Experiment with both positions until you find the one that works best for you.
Relax. Begin the process by closing your eyes and relaxing your entire body.
Breathe. Take three deep nasal breathes and direct your focus deep within your body. Feel the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen as the air enters and exits your lungs.
Calm your mind. Now cultivate open awareness versus intel-lectual thinking. Relax your rational mind. This means letting go of all preconceived thoughts formed out of critical, analytical, or rational reasoning. Rather than focusing on thinking, open yourself to awareness, an awareness of your body. Do not allow your mind to wander over thoughts about your outer appearance or athletic talents tall, short, inflexible, strong, fast or slow. Instead, focus your awareness of the vital energy that animates and is alive within you.
Focus. If you currently have an injury, imagine a cell in that part of your body, if not start with a cell in the index finger of your right hand. Focus your awareness on the life within that cell. See the cell glowing with white light and vibrating with life force. If your mind wanders, bring it back to this receptive, open awareness and continue to take deep breathes.
Sense your body energy. Allow the light and energy to transfer to the surrounding cells in your finger. You may experience heat or a tingling sensation. Now, allow this heat and light to travel to
your whole hand and eventually to your other body parts. Feel it animating your entire body with heat and light and energy.
Be aware. Remain in this glowing state while allowing the energy to radiate out from your body in all directions and breathe into this state of energized Being. Relax, breathe and be aware.
Perform this exercise as often as possible until you gain a profi-ciency for connecting to you inner energy state. Soon youll find you can reach this meditative state quickly and maintain it with your eyes open. This then creates a conscious state of awareness. Besides feeling relaxed and blissful, improving your immune system, and increasing your bodys healing abilities, it quiets your mind and brings you powerfully into the present moment where you can act from this vital energy with intuitive wisdom. This exercise assists you when you start to move your body and creates exercise thats meditation in motion. Try practicing this exercise before your next training session and be alert to what follows or try this meditation on the starting line of your next race and note the dierence in your athletic experience.
CHAPTER 2: INSPIRED MOTIVATION
Finding The Passion Within
Lets start with children. Kids have a natural desire to move and play. Theyre a great illustration of motivation that comes from within. Watch them play hide-and-seek or tag, and youll notice their ease of movement. Without working on it or even thinking about it, children naturally have great running form. They work with gravity rather than against it; they seize the moment and wrap it in joy. For them, as for the cheetah, movement is instinctive. They focus entirely on the passion of their play and truly live in the moment.
The Passion of PlayIn our early years movement represented play and freedom.
Somewhere along the line trainers turned it into work or more specifically, a workout, which by definition became hard work. In our quest for greater levels of fitness, all the joy, spontaneity and flow of exercise have been replaced by hard work, pain and strain. Indeed, exercise has become grueling work instead of passionate play. Sadly, for many people, fitness becomes only a means to an end: to lose weight, to look thinner, to race faster, to beat your opponent. Western society seems to have lost touch with the joy of exercise.
How many times have you heard the adage, Train through it. This training demands that you disconnect from your intuition and override your bodys internal energy signal of pain, illness, injury, stiness, or frustration lets just call these prompts negative energy. This training advice usually leads to stress and greater physiological problems.
Imagine if we went into schools, recreation centers and obesity clinics and replaced the demand to train through it, meaning pain, with the invitation to train with it, where it represented the passionate flow state of permission, play and pleasure. Exercise could then carry with it a positive rather than a negative impulse. Weve all had experiences where we felt like going for a walk, climbing that mountain or hopping on our bike, but instead we ignored this inner motivation and fell back on our prescribed training schedule because the coach, our competitors or that recent magazine article told us to workout dierently.
To transform workouts into passionate play, listen to which direction the positive energy current is flowing in your body on any given day, and then follow that creative flow with passion and enthusiasm. Consider taking a week and following where your inner energy takes you with regard to exercise.
My wife is a great example of following her exercise intuition. She has never aspired to become a competitive athlete, but enjoys a variety of cross training activities. The only activities she schedules are two weight training sessions per week. She also remains aware that she must remain consistent and lengthen the duration of some of her aerobic workouts over time for her fitness level to grow. The rest of her program remains flexible. What this means is that on any given day she can wake up and go in the direction of her energy, intuition, and passion. If she feels the need to stretch, she attends a yoga class. Or she may say she feels like a run in the sunlight and fresh air of the forest. The key here is that shes in touch with the present moment and what her body intuition tells her at that point in time. And in over 30 years, she has never sustained a chronic injury. For her, fitness is about the joy of movement, staying strong and functional, and connecting with her friends and the cycles of nature.
While competitive athletes do have disciplined schedules to follow, many athletes also follow this motivational technique, allowing their intuition to act as a guide in the training process. Remaining flexible and free to make intuitive training adjustments sustains and extends long term athletic careers. It allows the positive energy of choice, recovery, cross training and adventure to infuse their training program and redirects negative stress.
Consider adding some passionate play to your program. Whether you are a beginner, recreational or competitive athlete, your bodys unconditioned intelligence remains in a constant state of flow; learning how to direct that flow in the area of your passion is the central motivational theme of eortless exercise.
Permission versus PrescriptionThe first step in the eortless exercise experience is to reconnect
with what motivates you and pursue that movement with passion, with all your life energy and commitment in the present moment. Give yourself permission to follow the prompts of your inner body energy field on a daily basis.
If you love a particular sport and have a prescribed scientific program to follow, dont toss this plan out altogether. However, keep every day open to explore a dierent direction. Tune in to your inner body energy in each session to confirm if this schedule is aiding you in building fitness and health in a positive way or if you need to make intuitive adjustments. There are subtle benefits derived from following our intuition that we actually cannot perceive or even detect on a scientific level. One of my favorite coaching encounters illustrates the artful use of body wisdom:
Sixteen year old Luke was a provincial level triathlete and a master of body awareness. I remember checking his log on many occasions and Id see numerous 5 and 10 minute runs. I asked him what these seemingly short sessions were all about. He said that he would go out for a run and if it just didnt feel right, hed walk home.
This told me that he was aware of his inner energy and had the courage to turn around, even though he had pressure to perform competitively. I then asked him what he would do on those days. He said he simply went home, rested and would continue his training tomorrow. Now thats mastery of being self-connected! He, in fact, was never injured in the years I
coached him. He simply never pushed himself to that point because he paid attention to his bodys signals.
I remember remarking on his performances, which were outstanding. He won the provincial junior triathlon championships many times on one-third the training volumes his other competitors were involved in. It is interesting to note that Luke also never concerned himself with what others were doing in their training. Hed found success in the process of inner body awareness and he masterfully maintained that marvelous balance between science and intuition for one so young.
On days where your prescribed training schedule becomes a stressful workout follow Lukes example, and based on your intuition, cross train, shorten or stop your workout, or rest. Ask yourself what youd enjoy doing instead of your prescribed training, move in the direction of your passion, then be totally accepting of your decision and honor your unique physiology. As much as possible, aim for comfort and balance in each exercise session.
Like the example above, competitive runners and triathletes often use scientific training programs as guidelines, but first and foremost they follow the warm-up process outlined in Chapter 3. Warm-up slowly and if you feel vital and want to proceed with your scheduled program go for it. If, for good reason (e.g. Im experi-encing pain, illness or exhaustion - not Im too lazy and would rather lie on the couch, eat chocolate and watch TV), you dont feel the energy to follow through, adjust your training for that day and dont feel guilty. Forcing athletes to follow strict scientifically tested regimes leads to burn out, drives added stress inward, impairs growth and leads to injury; while allowing athletes the time and permission to develop their unique talents in an intuitive process fosters both improved health and sustainable performance.
Staying On TrackOnce youve found an activity you enjoy, staying motivated
relies on your ability to create positive exercise loops. This involves
engaging in exercise in such a way that the whole experience is positive, playful, and draws you back for more. Once youve created a positive experience, the vital energy generated returns and strengthens your motivation to seek out that experience again. This energy binds and regenerates all levels of your being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Youll feel empowered.
Most Westerners, however, approach exercise in the exact opposite fashion through force. Just look into the faces of people at your local gym and what do you see? Strain, suering, grimacing or some form of discomfort. Experiencing negative energy pushes you away from exercise. The experience of suering and struggle creates a negative motivation loop and eventually leads even the hard core exercisers to the side lines due to a plateau in results or mental burn out.
Sedentary individuals have figured this cause and eect situation out already. They look at those who exercise and, for the most part, see struggle, discomfort and competition. When the training experience doesnt appear to have an intrinsic up side they ask, Why would I put myself through this? People beginning or returning to fitness find themselves sore, discouraged and most at risk. And why is that? Because they place all their faith in scientific programs and will power; instead, view science as a marvelous tool in an integrated exercise process. Remaining solely focused on external, generic exercise programs interrupts beginners from listening to their inner body signals and doesnt encourage the permission needed to act on their intuitive cues.
Traditional approaches to exercise prescribe a scientific training schedule, based on the standard fit formula, which outlines the frequency, intensity and time needed to gain a certain external result. And these results are often driven by a future oriented goal and therefore short-circuit process oriented training. The programs in fitness books and magazines are designed in cook-book fashion by scientists or coaches from the event backward, whereas eortless exercise is designed from where you are today forward. While these experts have good intentions they create an experience that, for the most part, turns out less than optimal for most participants. Canned programs are generic in nature and dont take into account your fitness background or lack of conditioning, age, weight, genetics, past injuries or illnesses.
The overreaching aspect in these generic programs turns exercise into hard work.
Ultra-endurance athletes who at one time or another have crossed over the line talk about the energetic debt to be repaid. They tell me, You cant escape it. If youre going to push your body, it will eventually push back. Dons training story surely illustrates the benefit of eortless exercise and how it created a healthy, positive training loop for him.
Don was an avid ultra-marathoner. I asked him to conduct an experiment to experience the dierence between two training methods. He performed two 6 hour trail runs a few weeks apart. In the first run, he allowed his heart rate to climb and average in the 130s, breathed through his mouth and basically ran as he usually did. I asked him to report how he felt after that session and in the following days. Basically Don felt tired, took about four days to recover and even needed a nap on the afternoon of his big run.
On the second run a few weeks later I asked him to cap his heart rate at 120, breathe through his nose, warm-up and cool-down for at least 30 minutes each and pay very strict attention to his natural environment, being present and enjoying the trail as he ran. He reported a completely dierent experience. Don said he felt invigorated after training, he didnt need any recovery days and, in fact, went running the following day. He loved the experience and wanted to repeat it again the following weekend.
In his own words: There was no comparison, I recovered much quicker and felt as though I hadnt even worked out when I breathed through my nose. When I breathed through my mouth, it took me four to five days to recover! I saw a new excitement and enthusiasm within him; he was fired-up for more. Don created his own positive exercise loop and was drawn into becoming an eortless ultra-endurance athlete.
For fitness to become a lifestyle it is important to create and maintain positive exercise loops. You can find that balance where your body grows stronger and exercise is enjoyable. Ill cover the specifics of heart rate, nasal breathing and warm-up/cool-down techniques later in the book. For now, in your daily training process, begin to let go of the obsession with time and future goals, and view exercise as a process of daily enrichment and vitality. If you exercise as if it were meditation in motion, a quality of calm presence enters your life, and you welcome your next training session.
Putting Fun Back into FitnessOver 93 percent of North Americans list good health as their
number one priority. If you ask a hundred people at random if they think exercising is a good idea, all of them will answer with a resounding Yes! Yet less than 15 percent of North Americans actually exercise enough to accumulate any health benefits, and the average American spends less than two percent of his or her waking time exercising. Why is this? The answer is simple: We do not ENJOY exercise. If people enjoyed exercise, wed all but eliminate many of our current sedentary lifestyle diseases.
Look at other activities that our population engages in: watching videos, watching sports, going out to dinner, smoking or drinking. At the core of these behaviors is a basic attraction to the activity because we perceive it as pleasurable. Most people seek out pastimes that bring them pleasure, thats only natural. If schools and fitness professionals embraced a method of exercise that made the experience of movement enjoyable, motivating participants to continue would become much easier.
The largest jump in health benefits occurs when we leave the sedentary state and simply get moving. Yet its not enough to simply sell people on the health benefits. To be successful, Western fitness professionals need to alter peoples perception of exercise by making it attractive, fun and exciting in short, a resonant experience. Many of us might find the motivation to get o the couch and less reasons to avoid the pain of the next workout if we were given permission to exercise in harmony and well-being. Performed in a flow state, exercise becomes a powerful
motivational magnet and provides for both a rewarding athletic career and an enjoyable lifestyle pursuit.
Most people exercise for outer reasons: to lose weight, improve their health, live longer, accomplish a goal or set a personal best. These reasons always involve delayed gratification, hinge on future events or oer external, material rewards such as a better body or a race medal. On the other hand, if you consider an exercise experience that emphasizes the process in the present moment enjoyment of movement exercise becomes play or at the very least you take the work out of your workout. Each training session becomes a positive energy experience where physical results and performance become natural by-products of this inwardly guided health oriented process and over time, the goals take care of themselves.
Creating Resonant ExperiencesThe key to getting people involved and keeping them motivated
for a life time hinges on creating a positive energy experience. Here are some tips to help you get started:
engage in exercise that you are passionate aboutexercise when you experience that excitementexercise in such a way that it always makes you feel vitalized each and every moment during the entire sessionmonitor that exercise leaves you feeling refreshed and invig-orated immediately after the session and also the next daybe aware that pushing to exhaustion drives additional stress into your body and ultimately leads to physiological breakdown
The eortless experience remains attainable regardless of where you find yourself on the fitness scale, whether you are sedentary, overweight or a seasoned athlete. Seeking a flow state is the in-tent of each practice session. A state where you spend time slowly warming-up, listening to your inner body energy prompts and then allowing your intuitive knowledge to guide you to ever increasing intensities without strain. Michaels story illustrates how this pro-cess worked in a beneficial way for him:
Michael came to me frustrated and confused about how to get started on an exercise program. He had been sedentary for many years, was afraid of getting injured and didnt know where to start amid all the confusing media hype. He was also overweight and uncertain about joining a gym.
I resisted putting him on a typical program to get fit and lose weight. Instead, I asked questions and listened carefully. I queried him about what he enjoyed doing the most and he immediately said he felt his best walking. He said it was easy something he felt successful about. He especially enjoyed being in nature and that this didnt require a trip to the gym! He could walk when away on business and he had no fear that the activity would injure him. Walking made him feel great. I sensed enthusiasm. Walking repre-sented a resonant experience for Michael because it helped him avoid his fear of the gym at this time and instead allowed him to connect with nature, which was a positive and renewing activity for him.
Next I asked him exactly how long he could walk without feeling any discomfort or any negative stress. He quickly replied 10 minutes. And so we started there. A year later and 30 pounds lighter, Michael enjoys his hour long walks daily. He knew where to start; all he needed was the encouragement and permission to trust and follow his intuition.
If fitness goals are perceived as daunting, many people wont even get started. However, one eortless step in the right direction creates momentum for the next one, and so on. With a trimmer body and a firm exercise base, someone like Michael could start hiking in the mountains, add a walking trip to his European vacation or ultimately plan to climb Mount Kilimanjaro if he so desired. Regardless of where your fitness is today, positive energy pervades eortless training, sessions are enjoyable, injury is
avoided and peak athletic performances can be realized without added stress.
For the amateur, the magic of staying active and physically fit for a lifetime centers on discovering this resonant experience: a physical activity that youre drawn to, that you enjoy, where time seems to fly by when youre engaged in it. Think of motivational energy pulling you toward an activity you love rather than pushing you away from an activity you dislike. Its about becoming internally process oriented and following that passion with enthusiasm.
Positive exercise loops create greater health and fitness. More importantly, exercise progression is guided from within. Your body naturally makes the subtle adjustments necessary for greater fitness. If you are aware of your inner body energy, this subtle vitality tells you exactly what exercise is best for you, whens the best time and how long and how hard to exercise. Your job is to simply become aware, stay connected and then take action. If you seek resonant exercise experiences and remain consistent with your training, the marvelous organism that is your body takes care of the progression for you.
Still, many people remain dicult to motivate and ask, Why exercise in the first place? Lets consider a mystical answer to that question: Exercise allows your body, mind and spirit to vibrate at a higher level. It encourages you to ultimately sense this inner energy field and allows that energy to grow within you and regenerate you. However you define that feeling of life, that internal force you feel when vital energy flows through you, exercise is simply a tool that increases that vibrational flow. Like the word recreation states, we re-create the vital energy of life every time we move.
Ask any 25 year, five-day-a-week exerciser and theyll tell you the fundamental reason they exercise is because it makes them feel vital. Its a positive energy experience, during and after exercise, and its a natural high. The health benefits and performance enhance-ments are all by-products of your body, mind and spirit in action. At the core lies the fundamental truth that exercise is enjoyable when undertaken in the harmony and balance of eortlessness.
Through eortless exercise we experience the power of our life force. It doesnt matter about age or ability level, we all possess the wonderful gift of movement; and through this positive activity we become much more internally energized, empowered and
connected to our authenticity. Find your passion and re-connect with resonant energy experiences.
Effortless Exercise # 2: Practicing AwarenessHere are some tips to keep you focused on your passion and
ensure that exercise motivation is being created out of a sense of inspired positive energy.
Re-connect. For the next week become aware of the subtle inner body energy clues pointing to the desire to move. Dont judge these signals, simply sense them and if you have the opportunity to act in the moment, do so. Follow your exercise inspiration with enthusiasm. If you dont have the opportunity, simply take note of the impulse and when you have the time allow yourself to be drawn into this type of exercise. Try exercising for a week without a schedule but in total body awareness and see where this experi-ence leads you in your training.
Seize the energy of the moment. If you are having diculty starting an exercise program, first become aware of any ideas that come to you and seem enjoyable and easy to take action on. What did you enjoy as a child? Dont spend time thinking about this intellectually; in fact, dont think about it at all, simply act on playful inspiration. If you find yourself drawn to these ideas try them out as soon as pos-sible. Dont set any criteria around your exercise, start moving, be alert and allow your inner body energy to dictate how far and how fast you go. The key is to experience the eortless state. Be sure to under do it and thereby create a resonant training session so youll remain drawn into more exercise in the near future. If you have a positive experience youll want to embrace it again.
Motivation. To assist in your motivation to exercise reflect on the answers to the following questions. If you find an immediate desire, pay attention to the energy and follow it in that exercise direction.
Do you feel drawn to nature?Do you like music?What inspires you about exercise?
What is it about movement you enjoy?How do you want your body to feel when you move?Do you experience more energy from movement?Do you enjoy working out with people?
Pay attention to these details and try to incorporate them as much as possible in training. Work with your strengths and capitalize on the energy created in positive exercise experiences.
CHAPTER 3: CREATING FLOW STATES
Being Drawn Into Exercise
Think of the eortless exercise process as being akin to an airplane in flight. I dont think anyone looks forward to a plane trip filled with turbulence, fuel shortages or crash-and-burn landings. Everyone hopes for a safe round trip. One where the pilot arrives and checks all the working systems, then once everyone is on board he slowly taxis down the runway and makes a gradual climb to cruising altitude. The trusty pilot maintains this steady state for the length of the trip, making adjustments if need be, and then begins a long, slow decent into the destination city, followed by a soft touch down.
Eortless exercise follows the same progression: check-in, warm-up, training pace, cool-down and check-out. To produce this meditation in motion, you begin by first finding a sense of calm through nasal breathing, next becoming aware of your inner body energy, feeling the pull of your resonant exercise experiences, and then from there you finally start to move.
If you create a seamless bridge between rest and a flow state, then you become drawn deeper into exercise. Whats even more important, youll find the exercise experience extremely enjoyable. With time and practice, youll also be able to access the high of peak performance that many athletes find elusive and which only seems to occur by chance. Heres how to create the meditative and intuitive Zen experience of eortless exercise.
The Power of Warm-UpsDialing in to the flow state requires that you warm-up. Always. I
cant over stress the importance of this critical step. Over the years,
I have conducted a secret survey. Ive asked countless participants: How long does it take you to feel good when you exercise? Most answered around 30 minutes and some said they never felt great. I then asked them about their warm-up protocol. Most said they skipped the warm-up altogether so that they could spend more time training intensely and maximize their workout time. Others said they began slowly, but after a few minutes they would take o at their normal training pace. In fact, many athletes confessed that they experienced a negative I want to stop feeling in the first few minutes of exercise and mentally pushed through this sensation.
What Ive rediscovered is the value of a proper warm-up; and it is crucial when creating an eortless exercise experience. There is just no way around it, to warm-up takes a significant amount of time. You are asking your bodys systems to make a seamless transition from a resting state to a dynamic flow state. It takes time to turn on those support systems and reach the internal body temperature needed to function optimally during exercise. If you begin your workout in a stressed or agitated state with an elevated heart rate, you will continue to drive your heart rate even higher into your anaerobic zone during exercise. This type of high intensity exercise is stressful to your body and dicult to recover from. Its a physiological truth that the harder you intend to exercise, the longer you need to warm-up. I advise clients that before a 5km race they should run for an hour to warm-up. Thats right; it takes an hour to be physiologically ready for such a short, high intensity race.
If you carry over a relaxed meditative internal state into your exercise session, then you discover your body becoming more comfortable and relaxed as the session unfolds. This allows the rested and calm feeling of your warm-up to spill over into the dynamic motion of your workout. Being calm internally means you can create greater motion physically, all in the absence of negative stress.
Lets consider mans best friend the dog. If each time you took your dog out for a walk, you strapped his leash to your bike and rode o at break-neck speeds pulling him along behind your back wheel, it wouldnt take long before hed be hiding under your bed licking his skinned foot pads when you invited him for his next walk. Certainly dogs love to run, but they also like to do it at a pace they can sustain, and they integrate it with other activ-
ities such as sning the wind, stopping at the odd pole or two or tracking the scent of a rabbit. They enjoy exercise because the experience is one of comfort and balance.
The actual parameters of a proper warm-up can vary daily, based on temperature, time of day, how rested you are, etc. You wouldnt turn on your car and race out of the driveway at high speed and expect the engine to purr along either. On a cold day it often takes a considerable amount of time to allow for all the engine parts to become lubricated and heated to the point where they perform smoothly. The same principle applies to your body. By easing into exercise, allowing only the feeling of eortlessness to guide you, youre able to access the flow state every time you exercise.
Thats why its important to follow your inner signals and allow yourself the flexibility and permission to make daily adjust-ments to warm-up duration as you seek your normal exercise pace and heart rate. Over riding this key practice creates unnecessary physiological stress and pushes many athletes away from the quality experience they seek.
There are many physiological benefits of a proper warm-up, but the single most important function of this transitional phase is the sensation of flow and the heightened experience of the exercise high. This state can only be accessed if you allow your body to determine the pace every moment of the session right from your first step. And this is where the skill of inner body energy awareness is such an asset. Robert found that a proper warm-up improved both his run distance and speed without any additional training:
Robert was a long time triathlete who regularly trained hitting his pace in the first few minutes of every workout. After fully explaining the eortless vision and outlining the benefits of a proper warm-up he decided to give it a try.
One weekend, when he had no commitments he started his workout with an extremely slow walk and allowed his body to prompt him toward his training pace. He spent the first 10 minutes calming his mind, walking slowly, checking-in with his body energy and allowing his physiology time to adjust. He focused on
his form, relaxing all of his non-working muscles and waited for his body to give him the impulse to pick up the pace. He didnt set any parameters, expectations or time around the warm-up. He simply went with the flow of his bodys systems.
Once he felt like running, he began with a slow jog all the while listening for discomfort. If he sensed this he would walk again. His short warm-up run phase started to lengthen. Roberts one hour run became a three-hour quality eortless experience. He described the feeling of floating along and never experiencing mental or physical stress of any kind.
When we discussed it later, he mentioned it took a good 45 minutes until he hit his normal pace and felt fully warmed-up. He also shared the fact that he never experienced that stage in the beginning where he often felt poorly. During the middle of his run he said he found himself running faster than he had ever run in training and was astounded that he was traveling so fast without any additional eort. With a proper warm-up, Robert constantly runs farther and faster with none of the down side he used to experience.
To further explain the process lets return to the analogy of an airplane getting ready for take o. Rarely would a pilot jump into the cockpit, rocket down the runway and climb vertically to 30,000 feet as quickly as possible. Before the plane has even left the airport the pilot has spent up to an hour checking all of the gauges, dials and systems and ensuring that all passengers are on board. The same applies to exercise participants: Spend five minutes and preferably 10 minutes in the check-in phase of the warm-up. Begin exercise very slowly while you remain calm and listen to your inner body energy. Once all systems are a go and youve taxied down the runway, you are ready for take o. Still, you only pick up the pace slowly. Remember it takes a good half hour at a very slow assent rate to reach cruise altitude. Youre not in a risky rocket pulling G forces and worrying about blowing apart.
Youre in a passenger plane where getting to your destination safely is most important. The same applies to exercise, if youre seeking comfort and balance while in a dynamic state of flow then its important to warm your body up very slowly.
Certainly this warm-up practice is health building for first time or lifestyle exercisers, but competitive athletes report that they are more often able to reach states of peak performance through maintaining an internal feeling of calm, comfort and flow. Many have commented that a proper warm-up puts the enjoyment back into training and competition.
Another benefit of the slow warm-up is that it encourages fat burning. Our bodies naturally want to burn sugar as soon as we start to exercise. In fact, many of us have conditioned ourselves to burn sugar from the first step we take because we ramp-up quickly into a stressful anaerobic state. Weve trained our bodies to expect this stress.
Turning on fat burning metabolism takes time. If we dont spend enough time warming-up or we go out too fast, well switch to sugar burning and default to sugar burning mode during every training session. Once in this stress induced state, its very dicult to reverse this condition during exercise. Thats why its critical to warm-up slowly. If you were a pilot on a long-haul flight, youd certainly want to have enough of the right kind of fuel to reach your destination without any additional engine wear.
When you start exceedingly slow, your body has time to match the energy demands moment to moment by utilizing oxygen and burning fat through aerobic metabolism. It takes at least 20 minutes to fully turn this fat burning system on and the pace must start at a slow rate and build very gradually to ensure the desired outcome.
The How to of Warm-Up
Check-In PhaseBegin with the check-in phase. Just prior to the exercise session,
get in touch with your thoughts and feelings regarding the activity youre drawn into. To flow eortlessly from a rested state to an exercise state you must first be drawn into an activity that youre passionate about. If you feel enthusiasm and anticipation before
you exercise, then youll benefit from this positive energy. If not, consider whether you should workout. Dont be fooled by your thoughts, often temporary and transient feelings of tiredness or low blood sugar mask a deep down need to exercise and rejuvenate your body systems. Eat, hydrate and then spend a few minutes in meditation, calming your breathing and connecting with your inner body energy (as outlined in the exercise at the end of Chapter One) before you write a training session o.
Some clients also find that music creates a mindful state both before and during your check-in phase. The atmosphere created by the right rhythm, beat and vibration invites calm and relaxation and brings a certain inspirational energy to your check-in. Soon youll be able to hum this tune in your head and re-capture this grounded energy at will, such as at the start line on race day.
Warm-Up RuleNext, practice the warm-up rule. This is also part of your motiva-
tional strategy. Often, if we dont make exercise a priority in our lives, it simply gets overlooked. Be sure to create space in your life to exercise and make going out for your warm-up non-negotiable. A multiple marathon finisher expressed this fundamental rule in his own words:
My own experience is that on days when I do not feel like going out, I still do, but I give myself permission to come back home if I do not enjoy the run after 15 minutes. In ten years I have yet to come home! When I ran Boston in 1999, Grete Waitz, ten time winner of the NY City marathon, gave a workshop the day before. She said what I am saying above; only she limited it to 10 minutes, instead of my 15. Put it this way, I have never stood in the shower after a workout and said; Now that was a mistake going out. The hardest part for some is to tie their shoelaces after that it is a piece of cake. Few people have to enter in their day timers take a warm shower, eat desert, or make love. Whatever we enjoy becomes easier to do and remember.
This means that if you have any mental excuse, except illness or injury, you must go out and at the very least complete your warm-up. On lazy days action the push energy of your will power to help you get started. Once you have chosen your activity only plan to warm-up. Continue inner body listening during the warm-up phase, where you remain body alert and go out extremely slow, then you have the pace right.
It should feel so easy that its absolutely eortless and almost dicult to go that slow. If youre planning a run, then it starts with a slow stroll, not even a walk. If youre riding your bike, then put it in first gear, ride with the slowest cadence possible to maintain balance. The trick is to start eortlessly and to maintain this sensation as you progress throughout your entire exercise session. As you move along at this slow pace your body sends you signals. Your only task is to simply listen to these signals. This is also a good time to learn to relax all your non-working muscles, especially the muscles of your jaw and face. Practice this experience of letting go of all inner tension both physically and mentally. Soon youll find that as your body warms-up the feeling of laziness disappears and is replaced with the pull into energy and vitality.
In fact, under the eortless exercise experience the only primary criteria that you need place on an exercise session is that you simply go out and warm-up. The other parameters such as intensity and duration all become secondary. Let your bodys energy determine where it wants to take you. Let this transition phase pull you through the experience and if the feeling improves go into exercise further, if it worsens consider quitting or slowing down to recapture the feeling of comfort and balance. The key to warm-up remains: Be aware, listen and take appropriate action. Let go of expectations, judgments, comparisons, future goals or negative self-talk and enjoy the movement and the moment. Many people discover that once they have tied their shoe laces and warmed-up, the negative thoughts and low energy levels have disappeared and they go on to enjoy a revitalizing exercise session.
HydrationThere are a number of other practical items to pay attention to
before you begin exercise. First, make sure you are well hydrated. How do you know if you are hydrated? Simply by the color of your
urine. Yes, thats right. It should be almost clear. If it is dark yellow it may take a day or so until your fluids are replenished. Would you take your car on the highway without checking the fluids and the oil? Of course not. Once you feel thirsty, it takes your body 48 hours to rehydrate completely. Make sure you are well hydrated, and carry a water bottle with you at all times.
FuelAlso about a half-hour before your exercise session, eat a snack
that contains quality protein and fat. A whole wheat peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk is a quick combination. This balance of macronutrients helps give you the sustainable energy youll need for prolonged exercise. Be mindful of over consuming sugar before you exercise because the energy rush and subsequent crash will occur while youre exercising and become an obstacle to reaching the eortless flow state. Also, by eating sugar before exercise youll encourage your body to prefer sugar during exercise and this naturally shuts down your fat burning metabolic pathways.
Try eating consciously as well. This is a simple and natural way to help with weight control. Eat your snack slowly and allow your body to tell you when youre full. Savor every bite and enjoy the taste. Practice this at all meals and youll be surprised how often and how much you actually over eat. This way you can enjoy smaller quantities of those foods you love, rather than experi-encing the scarcity that dieting engenders.
BreathingThe last and most important pre-exercise item is to practice
conscious breathing. Take some long deep breaths through your nose to help you relax your body and calm your mind. Breathing through your nose entirely on the inhalation and the exhalation stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and lowers your heart rate, thereby giving you more reserve for exercise.
Many world cultures have expounded the benefits of paying attention to your breath as a tool for becoming present. Use this simple tool before and during exercise to keep your body/mind/spirit matrix unified and able to support the eortless experience. Being conscious of your breath anchors you in your inner body
energy rather than becoming lost in your busy, intellectual thoughts or other distracting, external stimuli.
Pay attention and feel each breath: Enjoy the sensation of air moving in and out; be aware of the energy this creates. Your heart rate is intimately connected to the quality of your breath, if you have calm, slow, rhythmic breathing, then your heart rate will be lower and your overall feeling of comfort at any exercise intensity will be greater. As you warm-up, sensitize yourself to hold on to this feeling of calm and allow the slow, relaxing breaths to become a rhythmic guide-post during your exercise.
The technique of nasal breathing will be covered in depth in the next chapter, but suce it to say that even competitive athletes can run intervals all the while practicing nasal breathing. They experience greater comfort, recover after each interval faster and have much lower heart rates at varying intensities during the intervals.
If at any point your breathing becomes labored, especially during warm-up, slow down to re-capture the feeling of rhythmic, easy breathing. Let breath be your guide for ramping up the warm-up, especially in the initial stages of eortless exercise training.
The ItchDuring this slow warm-up stage your body may send a signal
that youre tight and need more time to loosen up, it may send a sensation that your knee is hurting and you should stop this session or it may send you a cue I call the itch the impulse to speed up. Your job is to honor all of these signals and respond to what your body is telling you. If you receive any negative signals alter your pace, breathe deeper and see if you can quiet your bodys stress; if you cant, its time to stop for the day.
Stiness is the precursor to pain, and pain is the precursor to injury dont force yourself to push through these sensations. Thats a mind trap. Listen to your body, not your mind. Your body knows better; honor this intuitive knowledge as it guides you toward well-being. Instead, alter your pace, become conscious of your form and allow your body to slowly adapt to what youre asking of it. Youll find you can circumvent aches and pains and finish most exercise sessions in an eortless fashion. It simply takes time, patience and a conscious eort to break with old training habits and expected outcomes created by pre-set workout criteria.
If youre able to diminish the stress, you can progress deeper into the exercise experience. When you experience the itch, thats your first cue to pick up the pace. When you feel this sense of energy and flow, slowly take your pace up a notch. Stay with the experience of your bodys desire to go faster. At this point do not be distracted by external signs such as your watch or heart rate, simply be patient and alert and act on your internal impulses. On your first time out, you may not experience a flow state, thats fine, but be assured that youve started the process of eortlessness.
How long should a warm-up last? This depends on many factors. It can last up to 30 or 40 minutes or longer depending on the weather and the event. Every day is dierent and each persons physiology is unique. If youre in a warm environment, it can happen quickly; and if youre in a cold environment, it may not happen at all. Thats why when exercising in the cold its paramount that you dress in layers to keep warm, otherwise you invite injury. Listening for the itch is the best internal indicator that your body is warmed-up, ready to increase your exercise intensity and enjoy an eortless exercise session.
Monitoring Heart RateThere are a number of body generated signals you can listen to
as you warm-up and level o into the aerobic portion of exercise. One of those is heart rate. The details and how-to of training heart rate zones will be covered in detail in the next chapter. For now, lets examine the scope of heart rate as it pertains to the warm-up only.
Before you start to exercise you should be both relaxed and as alert as possible. This calmness within, as measured by heart rate (HR), should be well below 100 beats per minute (bpm) for most people. If your heart rate is above this, then you are already in a stress induced state and the likelihood of reaching a flow state or burning fat as a fuel source during exercise is greatly dimin-ished. It follows that the lower your starting heart rate, the lower your heart rate remains during exercise with greater eortlessness being the result. Healthy exercise progressively trains your body to accomplish greater work loads at LOWER heart rates. If you start your session with a low heart rate, you will stay low and you will
finish low. This helps to release stress and tension both physically and mentally.
Try this experiment with your heart rate. Begin your session in a meditative state. Dress slowly. Then sit quietly for five minutes. During this period breathe through your nose only, slowly and rhythmically, become aware of you inner body energy. While continuing to relax and breathe, monitor your HR. At whatever low rested HR you establish, begin moving toward the check-in phase of your warm-up. Try to stay within 10 bpm of this rested HR during the internal check-in phase.
Over time, youll find that if your HR was 75 bpm while sitting, then as you start to exercise youll be able to note yourself moving along around 80 or 85 bpm. By repeating this process before exercise youll learn to capture the feeling of meditative calm, which then carries over into your exercise session. Youll also access fat burning as an energy fuel and be able to access the zone of peak performance on a regular basis. Rosss triathlon story illustrates the benefits of nasal breathing and a low HR in creating meditative calm at the beginning of an important race:
Ross was standing in the water at the start of an Olympic distance triathlon. He had begun his pre-race ritual of wading into the water, swimming a little and then positioning himself so that he could meditate for at least five minutes before the gun went o.
Halfway through his meditation, crammed in with other swimmers, he heard the beep of his neighbors heart rate monitor. Aware of this he quietly asked this competitor where his HR was. One hundred twenty bpm was the response. Ross was comforted to acknow-ledge the reading on his monitor was solidly in the 70s. He took the swim start in stride and went on to have a race experience that was smooth, comfortable and relaxed. Ross couldnt help wondering throughout the day what his fellow competitor was experiencing, as he had started out in an entirely dierent fight or flight, sprint-to-the-finish adrenaline state.
Practice warming-up in this way, and youll soon find that youre able to exercise or race from a new place of calm, presence and empowerment. Youll also find that the enjoyment of both exercise and competition skyrockets as youre drawn into this positive exercise loop. Honor your body with a proper warm-up and it will open up to the Zen of peak performance.
The Crucial Cool-DownIf we continue the analogy of an airplane trip, then after the slow
assent of the warm-up you level o and complete your training session in a flow state of eortlessness, ending the trip with the gradual decent of the cool-down. Just as the warm-up is crucial in creating eortlessness in peak exercise, completing an adequate cool-down is essential for your body to make a healthy transition back to a rested state.
Check-Out PhaseThe overlooked and often neglected check-out phase of exercise,
which is often truncated early, directly contributes to the epidemic of injuries in exercise participants. Because our society values the intensity of the workout and were often forced to fit fitness into our busy schedules, once our main exercise session is over we rush o to our next commitment, leaving our bodies to try and re-balance the stress. Without the graceful transition to a rested state, our bodies are left sti and sore. These symptoms are a function of skipping the cooling-down. Post-exercise soreness (myositis) may also be the result of excessive exercise: pushing your body too long or exercise that is performed at too high an intensity.
A progressive cool-down following your main exercise set allows the body to gradually re-distribute blood flow back to the internal organs, allows muscles and tendons to return to their pre-exercise state, encourages proper removal of waste products from muscle tissue and allows for a return to normal homeostasis after exercise. Joyces story testifies to the greatest benefit of a proper cool-down that it circumvents feelings of pain or stiness and leaves you refreshed and rejuvenated:
Joyce liked to lift weights. However, one of her common complaints was that it always left her sti and sore. She would push herself because she liked the muscle development, but never cooled-down, thinking that squeezing the last possible moments out of her weight session would benefit her more. After suggesting that she ride the bike easily for 15 minutes after her leg day and swim slowly for 15 minutes after her upper body day, she reported she felt great for the first time. The post-exercise sorenes
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