The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on how things have gone the year before and decide how to make things better this year. I don’t like to dwell on the past (it can hold me back!), but I find looking at the lessons learned and nuggets of wisdom picked up from various places can help me move forward more productively.
With that in mind, I’m going to get a little personal and share some of my insights from last year. Maybe some of them will help you make 2018 more successful. And yeah, you’ll get to know me a little better too.
The Power Of Knowledge
I like to call myself a lifelong learner and I’m always striving to find out more about things that interest me. Any successful person I know has always continued educating themselves long after they graduated from school or university.
There’s no better way to keep your mind young than to keep learning.
I love to read and I never feel like I have quite enough time to do it, but I do my best to keep up-to-date with the latest in fitness, nutrition, and sports psychology. I’ve always been a fan of the self-help realm and also enjoy reading biographies of famous people that I admire. Elon Musk’s biography by Ashlee Vance was a highlight in 2017.
Two of the most helpful books I read last year were “Fluent in 3 Months” by Benny Lewis and “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. The former helped me realize some of the limitations I felt about re-learning my first language, Czech, and got me inspired to take action on the big goal of becoming more fluent.
Carol Dweck’s book is one of the most important of the “self-help” genre, as it’s science-based info about what it really takes to achieve success. I’m planning a blog post about mindset, as well as other psychological strategies to get lean permanently, for later in the year…so stay tuned.
2017 was the end of the 3-year period required to get my credits to keep my CSCS (Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist) qualification active, so I watched a lot of webinars and did a few courses. I studied Bodybuilding Anatomy and finally completed Scientific Back Training from the CHEK Institute, which I’ve had lying around for about 3 years.
I also did short courses on Ginseng, Fiber and Cardiovascular Health, Metabolic Training For Fat Loss, Nutrition and Supplements for Injury Recovery, and Protein Benefits. I promised myself I wouldn’t leave so many CEUs on the table the next time my re-certification comes around too!
On the weight training front, I read “Programming” by Mark Rippetoe and “High Intensity Training” by Mike Mentzer.
I’ve been a big proponent of weight training for a long time. I started doing it myself when I was 15, and I’ve based my career on helping people learn how to lift weights effectively.
I still believe that weight training is the most efficient and effective way for someone to get the lean physique they want.
The importance of cardio came back to me this year though. Not that I mean spending hours slowly peddling on a stationary bike, but regular physical activity makes you feel good. And telling people that they don’t need to do it to be lean is a little different from advising people against it (yes, there are small fitness communities that advocate avoiding cardio altogether).
A few of my coaching clients reminded me this year that they enjoy cardio. They find it helps them relieve stress and clear their minds. I don’t doubt that.
Years ago, when I was living in Bondi Beach in Australia, I used to love going for jogs along the water from Bondi to Coogee Beach. And if you don’t think it looks inspiring/beautiful/stress-relieving then you’re clearly messing with me:
Whether that’s HIIT, Metabolic resistance training, or outdoor workouts, some cardiovascular exercise is helpful. Yes, you can get that with weight training by doing things “circuit style” and limiting your rest, but sometimes you want a break from weights in your week. Other times you want to get outdoors and just feel your body move in the way it’s designed to.
Some form of cardiovascular activity is important.
So while it’s rare to catch me on a cardio machine at the gym (although I’ve done the odd bit of Step Mill to finish off weights sessions in the last few months), I spend the warmer months cycling, rollerblading, and walking whenever I can. I don’t worry about whether it’s in the “target heart rate zone”, which I believe is an outdated method of assessing an exercise’s value, but it gets the blood flowing and makes me feel good. Loving the way your body moves and feels is a key component of fitness.
Nutrition Lies Are Everywhere
I learned this important info from a marketing course that I did, but it’s actually the sad reality of the nutrition world on the internet:
People will believe anything if you have confidence in yourself.
That’s NOT a positive thing. There are several notable Internet nutrition “experts” who are making ridiculous claims, but saying it with so much confidence that thousands (and sometimes hundreds of thousands!) of people believe them. I won’t name these “experts” because I don’t want to increase their already over-inflated popularity.
Science got dealt a pretty hard blow this year. Prominent people denied climate change is happening, and many people are even trying to prove that the earth is flat. I’ve been shaking my head so hard sometimes that my neck hurts.
Admittedly, there are plenty of things that science doesn’t know for sure. These gaps are where charlatans move in for the kill.
Actually, they also go directly against the body of scientific evidence without once acknowledging that there could be another truth (like, you know, the actual truth).
In a year when fake news was ubiquitous, nutrition is packed with it. Going through all the nutrition nonsense on the internet would take several blog posts, but here’s a few of the current truths:
- No pill/supplement/lotion will make you lean without effort
- The cure for cancer HAS NOT been found
- Toxins ARE NOT keeping you from losing weight
- Carbs ARE NOT killing you
- Protein IS NOT killing you
- Vegetables probably WON’T save your life, but they should be a major part of your nutrition plan
Meditation Is The Thing Most People Realize They SHOULD Do, But Don’t
Most extremely successful people (billionaires, CEOs, Oprah) have some form of meditation practice in their lives. Many feel that it’s an ideal start to their hectic day. Meditation relieves stress, lowers blood pressure, increases focus, and can even lower your blood sugar levels!
So why isn’t EVERYONE doing it?
Most people don’t see the value, despite the scientific evidence. Some people try and don’t see the effects fast enough so they give up. In a time-pressured world, meditation gets left behind. The irony is that the people who need it the most (the busiest and most stressed) are often the ones who are least likely to do it.
I’ve had my own relationship with meditation over the years, somewhat bumpy at times. I started doing meditation as a young martial arts student, then used visualization and focussing techniques as an international karate competitor for many years (while I studied Sports Psychology at University). I practiced mindfulness and self-hypnosis for my drug-free labour with my son almost 4 years ago (yes, it still hurt!). I haven’t been consistent with meditation over the years and it’s one of the things I’m going to be working on for 2018.
What helped me when I was consistent with meditation? Using the Calm app on my iPhone. I did daily meditation for months last year, then it fizzled out when I stopped using the Calm app and thought I would do it on my own.
Everything is gamified these days, even meditation. It doesn’t matter how you get yourself meditating regularly, just do it. If you want a simple way to start, check out my blog post about meditation HERE.
Be patient and don’t expect too much and you’ll find it’s a worthwhile way to spend 10 minutes (or more) of your day. I’m back on the app and on a 9-day streak for 2018. It works!
This is the first year in as long as I can remember that I didn’t go on a vacation! We moved to a new place in downtown Toronto, my son started daycare, and it all went way too fast. The only trip I took was to Quebec to compete in the IFBB (Bodybuilding) International Events Qualifier.
In 2016, my husband Ryan, son Kai, and I had gone to Australia, The Czech Republic, and Holland…so it was a bit disappointed that 2017 was vacation-free. I’m long overdue for a holiday so the plan is to have a couple of those in 2018.
Onwards and Upwards
I admit, 2017 wasn’t the best year of my life. While some things moved forward, it wasn’t at the pace that I was hoping for. My plan now is to accelerate my growth by working my butt off in 2018. And yes, I hope they’ll be at least one trip to the Caribbean!
If you’ve been on this journey with me for a while, thanks for being here. I hope 2018 is the year where you make big things happen for yourself (and others). Let’s make magic happen.