A Cycling Race Not Forgotten

It was 1992. Spring. I was recently divorced and living by myself in Troy, NY. I decided to enter a 24-hour time trial, an ultra-marathon event in which I would pedal for as many miles as I could over 24 hours. The course consisted of a 45-mile loop of rural roads, all of which were open to the public.

I really didn’t tell many people at the time. For me, it was just a chance to see what I could do. I was hoping to pedal 300 miles that day.

I parked my car at the pit stop area, gathered a bunch of energy bars and rode my bike to the start area in town 10 miles away. I noticed that many participants were decked out in expensive bicycles and professional-looking clothing. Many had support crews who were tuning bicycles and reviewing programmed food and drink for their athletes. The race was part of a series for serious ultra-marathon bicyclists. I felt a bit over my head… but, no worries, no one knew me there.

At noon, the race started. And I just started pedaling. I kept to myself. I don’t think I spoke a word to anyone the whole day. Everyone was pedaling faster than me, so it was a quiet day, especially on the first lap or two.

I’d stop at the rest area every 45 miles, get a few more energy bars, replenish my water, go pee, and get back on my bike. It looked like the experienced riders would only stop quickly to replenish food prepared for them by their support crews.

The roads consisted of two-lane paved roads that meandered around small hills, fields, forests, and small towns. After a couple laps, riders were lapping me. I was doing all that I could do to keep going, hoping to average 12 to 15 mph. I think many riders were averaging over 20 mph.

I don’t remember much of the afternoon riding, except for the experiences of dehydration, a sore body, bloating from an energy bar diet, and the unimaginable willpower to keep going.

As darkness approached, I encountered less and less riders. Were people taking naps? Were people riding in groups? Around midnight, 12 hours into the ride, it seemed like there was no one on the pitch-black rural roads. My headlight kept a steady stream of light in front of me, but I started to feel all alone.

The next part of the race I remember like it happened last week.

I had been riding about 13 hours, and I was about halfway around the course loop on my 5th lap… I had ridden about 200 miles at that time… Exhausted, I remember thinking that maybe dawn would occur on my next lap. That kept me feeling positive. I felt like I could possibly reach my goal of 300 miles. Maybe more?

But my mind was going a little crazy. I remember feeling very afraid, like I could be in danger with no one around. Someone could jump out of the woods on my slow uphill climbs and tackle me! No other bikes in sight…

I moved to the center line of the road, away from the shoulders.

I thought that I heard rustling in the trees as I rode slowly up a hill, eyes fixed on the center line of the road. My mind said push harder, keep going. My heart felt fear.

Out of the corner of my eye, along the shoulder of the road where my headlight barely reached, I saw some bicycle parts… bike pump, some accessories… like someone had crashed earlier. I kept riding, afraid for my safety. Should I have stopped? That’s the question that still haunts me.

As I crested the hill and started to glide downhill, I saw headlights of a car approaching. I remember feeling some relief at first, thinking that the entire world was not asleep after all. There were some people still around!

As the car approached, it slowed down. I sped up. The car stopped as I approached. The driver asked me to stop. Afraid of what the driver might do to me, I said, “No!” I kept riding. Faster. The driver put the car in reverse to catch up to me and shouted, “Stop!” I said, “No. Why should I?”

The driver turned on his interior car light to illuminate other bicyclists in the back seat. I words still etched in my memory, he said, “The race has been canceled. There has been a tragic accident up ahead of you.” The riders in the back seat nodded. I stopped.

He told me that two people up ahead had been killed in a car-bike accident.

“What should I do?”

The driver said his car was full, so why don’t I turn around and head back to the pit stop area about 20 miles behind me. In a bit of a daze, I turned around proceeded back up the hill.

As I crested the hill, there were flashing lights, ambulances, police cars. The driver of the car with whom I had just spoken, approached me as I approached the site and asked me to stop again.

“What should I do?”

He asked me to wait off the road in a small parking area and he’d send for someone to come pick me up. I waited, not sure of what was going on…

Eventually, a van came to pick me up, and we proceeded to the site of the tragic bike-car accident that had canceled the race. We picked up other riders, then headed back past the place where the more recent accident scene was happening. I saw a car upside down. I saw a mangled bike… a covered body… and bike parts along the shoulder of the road. The same bicycle parts that I had seen earlier.

I was brought back to my car in the pit area. It was quiet. I got in my car, put the seat down, and tried to sleep. At dawn, a few people milled around slowly. I remember the somber mist. Everyone lifeless. My brother-in-law, an ex-Navy SEAL who lived in the area and who had ridden with me before on cross-New England bike trips, visited and told me that he heard on the scanner that 3 people (2 cyclists participating in the race) were killed in two separate accidents, both by drunk drivers, one under-age.

Not sure what to do, I left. Still somewhat in a daze. Confused.

I found out the next day some of the details on the news. How the first accident killed the drunk driver and one cyclist. How the second accident involved under-age drunk drivers who tried to escape through the woods along the roadside and were apprehended the next day. Was that the rustling in the woods that I heard?

I learned later about the two bicyclists that were killed, one having had a science and engineering background very similar to mine. He was a volunteer president of the Boston Chapter of the International Youth Hostel Association, an organization that I had recently joined as I prepared for my planned bicycling trip to New Zealand later that year.

I felt very close to these two people, even though I didn’t know them. We had shared the road together. We were alike. It could have been me.

I understand that laws in New York State changed after the accident to allow prosecution of those who sell alcohol to minors who subsequently drive drunk.

I later received a commendatory plaque for the event recognizing my participation and honoring the two riders. The plaque is still on the wall next to my desk. In a way, I’ve come to know two other time-trial cyclists who I never knew; they have become a part of my life story.

Their names on the plaque remind me daily to live each day fully. Anything can happen. Today, could be my last day. I was the lucky one… then.

But, in that moment, I didn’t stop. Reflecting back, I wonder if I really sensed an energy in the air that something had indeed gone wrong. Or, was I was too immersed in my own fear and and my own need for safety.

A few years later, I left my engineering practice in New York. I think this cycling event had planted a seed in me that eventually sprouted and informed me that it was time to live my life more fully while I was still “young” (I was 34 at the time, a workaholic and a young partner in a well-regarded firm). I knew there was something more that I was supposed to do in my life. In 1995, not sure what was next for me, I moved to Vermont.

All these years later, now as a yoga teacher, I tend to not spend much time thinking back in time unless I’m appreciating a previous teaching moment that had prepared me for a later-in-life experience. With the plaque as a reminder of that day, I do question what I would have done differently if I had a clearer mind and if I would have been more present in that moment when I saw some broken bicycle pieces along the side of the road. Would I have recognized the ambient energy-in-the-air differently? Would I have responded differently? Would I have been able to help?

The plaque reminds me that in any moment, someone might need my help. It reminds me to pay attention… to not ride away from something that doesn’t feel right. To listen to my intuition. To listen to my heart.

For many reasons, this was a race not forgotten. Maybe it did indeed plant deeper seeds in me… seeds that still guide my way today. To pay attention. To see what’s really going on. To help others. To persevere. To do what’s right. To be responsible. To live each day fully.

And to feel grateful… and humble… that I am alive today.

Yoga and Skiing at Snowbird

That moment…

When you see the beauty of majestic granite mountains,

When you smell the fresh scents of tall pine forests,

When you touch the softness of sun-drenched powder snow,

When you hear the songs of awakening Spring life,

And you feel the exhilaration of your body flowing freely with gravity…

Is when you know you have found bliss –

And when you know you have arrived at Snowbird!

 

There is something about Snowbird that makes my spirit soar! Ever since I first arrived over 30 years ago, I keep going back. Maybe it’s just the feeling of being connected to the natural beauty of the mountains. Maybe it’s the deep connection I feel with the Earth. Probably, it has something to do with an acute awareness of feeling my life as it’s supposed to be… free and flowing and joyful.

I brought my family there. I taught skiing and riding there. I almost moved there.

So why lead workshops that combine the practice of yoga and the experience of skiing and riding at Snowbird?

Yoga heightens our sense of presence, our feelings of connection, and our awareness of what’s going on. When combined with the present-moment exhilaration of flowing down challenging mountainsides with beauty and like-spirited friends all around to support you, the possibilities are endless. All of your senses feel peace and become positively-energized at the same time!

And awe-inspiring experiences are meant to be shared.

For me, as a yoga teacher, a ski and snowboard instructor, and a personal coach, it is a heavenly way to bring smiles to faces and to help people feel something wonderful!

In April of 2017, we will welcome our Heart of the Village Yoga community to a one-week yoga and ski trip at Snowbird! Join us. You will know when you have arrived!

Spring is in the Air at Snowbird

A Perspective on Eating Well

There are many perspectives on eating well and healthy diets. I try to keep it simple:

1. Have an attitude that your life and longevity is your responsibility. It is a daily experiment in which you are the boss of your lab. As in any experiential learning model in which you do something, learn from it, and do it again (better), learn to pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel… then adjust. In this case, it’s about being healthy, being resilient, sustaining your life. We’re all a little different. Learn. Learn about what works for you.

2. Have positive goals, but make changes one step at a time in a way that ensures success. Remember, it is a life-long experiment; it is a way of life. Start today. Then again. And again… Today is the most important day of your life. Be positively successful. If it is not enough to set these goals for the benefit of yourself, set them for the benefit of others, perhaps a loved one for whom you are responsible. Be their role model. Walk the walk!

3. Have support. We all tend to want to be warriors in life and prove our own ability to do things on our own. Okay. But we will often be limited in our growth to our previous experience and knowledge. Find a coach, a mentor, a health counselor or therapist, or a motivating – yet diverse – support group. If we want to continually change to be healthy and live longer, we must: (1) be aware of possibilities (education), (2) be motivated to change (personal determination, inspired coaching), (3) be ready to actually change (personal responsibility and ongoing support), then make the changes, and (4) pay attention to change as it happens, reflect, and learn. Begin again.

It is often not enough to know what to do, we all will benefit also from learning how to do it. It is logical as teachers to assume that if we provide valuable information, a student will naturally use that information to try to improve what they do. Not enough. As students, each of us will benefit from learning the steps in how to eat better. You say, “Eat real foods and avoid processed foods.” I say, “how?” Often, the “how-to’s” expose themselves in the process of actually doing things and while trying to eat better. Thus, the on-going coaching and support is vital to helping provide these insights.

Where to start? Take responsibility for your own health, set goals, learn, and get support!

For learning, here are a few resources that I have found helpful:

Precision Nutrition’s Blog and Infographics. Here are a couple of examples:

Answers to common questions

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precision-nutrition-fix-a-broken-diet

A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me some simple advice:

(1) Clean out the kitchen;

(2) Go get real food, locally-grown if possible;

(3) Make real food and eat it!

“How?” I asked.

He said, “Try starting as follows:”

At the grocery store, shop around the perimeter where real food is displayed and perhaps chilled. Start with vegetables and fruits of all colors. The center aisles tend to display packaged and processed foods. Real foods are foods that are closest to being in their natural state. If possible, shop at the local farmer’s market. In your diet, taking one step at a time, work towards the following. When you are successful with these items, we’ll go from there and perhaps look at things like vitamins and minerals, supplementation, potential allergies, timing of eating, and of course exercise! Let’s start by getting a healthy digestive system, improving the digestive environment (bacteria and enzymes) of our guts, and reducing associated inflammation in our bodies!

(1) Eliminate sugar and flour: Eliminate all foods that contain processed sugar and/or flour. This includes soft drink and fruit juices, and anything containing high-fructose corn syrup.
(2) Add healthy fats: Use healthy fats such butter, meat fat, ghee, olive oil, lard, coconut oil, whole cream, and coconut milk to replace the calories that were coming from sugars and flours.
(3) Eliminate vegetable / seed oils: These require excessive processing. Use the healthy fats listed above instead, fats closest to their natural state.
(4) Reduce grain intake: This is one of those areas where further research is on-going. Is it the grain itself? Or, is it the source and processing of the grain which causes inflammation in some people? Learn for yourself. Try reducing grain intake, particularly wheat, barley, and rye. Replace these foods with more nourishing and nutrient-dense safe-starches, like potatoes and rice (a low-processed grain), for example. Or, get whole grains from a local, non-industrialized source, a source with minimal processing.

Breakfast of Champions

When we look at our evolution and see that many of the common modern-day health problems weren’t common in our evolutionary history, we start to see the many, many variables that influence a healthy diet. A diet based on evolutionary science, using modern, evidence-based data, would probably look like this:

EAT: Vegetables (including root vegetables), fruit (including fruit oils), nuts, fish, meat, eggs, tubers, and maybe… dairy (especially fermented), legumes, and non-refined whole grains.

AVOID: Added sugars and nutritional products of industry (including refined fats, and refined carbohydrates)… items from the center aisles!

Simple enough? Okay. Let’s go! Take your health to new heights… Eat well. Keep hydrated. Move and exercise. Get rest. Have support in your life. And learn!

Keep it simple. Be successful. It’s up to you. Walk the walk. Today.

Here’s to a long, hearty life!Tetons- Maggie's Pictures 170

PS: Thanks to my friend and mentor, Tyler S for your guidance, information, and inspiration… You know who you are… and many reading this will too. If you want me to share your info, let me know!

Another reference: blog.dansplan.com/a-meta-analysis-of-the-paleolithic-nutrition-pattern-an-interview-of-authors.

 

 

 

2015 Functional Training Summit

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I just came back from a long weekend in Providence, RI attending the Level I Certified Functional Strength Coach (CFSC) program conducted by Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning (MBSC) and the Perform Better Functional Training Summit. I thought I’d share some of the things that I learned or some things that were reinforced for me in new ways.

I was fortunate to not only work with Mike Boyle and the MBSC staff, but I also attended workshops conducted by Eric Cressey, Gray Cook, Martin Rooney, Todd Wright, Gary Gray, Bill Knowles, Roman Torgovitsky, and Evan Osar.

Some random thoughts and take-aways:

Good coaching is good coaching, good teaching is good teaching; no matter the sport or the subject. Be clear, be passionate, be inspiring… and care about your students.

CFSC has developed a clear system that is applicable to all people; young athletes to aging adults, weekend warriors to professional competitors. Learn about your students’ functional strengths, movements, and limitations, and apply the program utilizing prescribed progressions and regressions to help them move better, perform better, and just feel better.

Especially since the work of the Postural Restoration Institute relative to alignment and breathing, the fundamentals of yoga breathwork, asana postures, and core function is being more widely accepted in the functional fitness world. Exhale deeply to engage the core muscles (like you are about to be punched in the gut is the way an athlete would describe it). Focus on breathwork to develop focus, activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and to stabilize the core.

Avoid loaded core work that flexes and extends the spine. Avoid twisting work that twists the lumbar spine. Focus on stabilizing core work that develops a stable pelvis and better motor control, and mobilization work that allows better mobility of the thoracic spine (where ribs are attached).

Develop scapular range of motion for healthy overhead work to protect the shoulders from injury. Pulling shoulder blades down and back in retraction is not healthy for the shoulders. Scapula should be spread wide (outwardly rotated away from spine) and posteriorly tilted; the rings of your rib-structure should be stacked vertically (and slightly tilted down in front) to allow the shoulder structure to sit and “float” on top. Imagine “suspended” shoulders, not depressed shoulders! Engage core to keep ribs from protruding forward and lumbar spine from arching too far in extension (which in turn will cause forward shoulders, tight pec minor muscles, and aching backs and necks).

Design workouts in a manner which develop stability through a wide range of joint mobility using a rational approach which includes healthy, 3-dimensional body movements in the sagital plane (forward flexing and extending), frontal plane (side bending and lateral movements), and transverse plane (rotary movements). The CSFC system filters many possible movements into a system which includes a joint-by-joint approach to developing client-specific functional training programs. (Of course, yoga asana practice can be designed to do the same thing.)

Training people for performance has the added benefit of helping people avoid injury. Training routines should increase performance and help to recondition injured clients; they should not cause injury! Avoid movements and workout programs which exceed the limits of an individual’s capabilities or which reinforce dysfunctional movements. The goal of any program should be to reduce injuries.

Manual therapy (massage, foam rolling, and specialized self-massage techniques) is an important daily practice to move fluids and to develop healthy fascia structure.

Continue to include gymnastic-type training and strength training in my programs! Roll, stretch, warm-up and activate, focus on functional movements, train for overall power and strength, and include conditioning work. Our bodies are designed to be generally upright… walking, running, climbing, jumping, even crawling… train with this in mind. Core… hip-dominant movements… knee dominant movements… pushing… pulling… vertical plane… horizontal plane…

Develop an assessment or functional movement screening process to measure progress and functional improvements. For me, my next steps will be to learn Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen (FMS) program!

There appears to me to be much common ground between ancient Eastern yoga asana practice and Western evidence-based functional training practices. And more than one speaker also mentioned the mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of training and manual body work through the intentional, awareness-developing aspects of mindful movement (referencing recent evidence-based neuroscience research, of course)!

I was impressed with the organization of the CFSC program and training system. As both an engineer and a ski teacher / clinician in my previous professional careers, I regularly sifted through many variables and alternatives to find systems or solutions (building structures… skiing movements… training material) that were clear, easy-to-understand, efficient, relevant, sensible and accurate. The CFSC program seems to satisfy these considerations.

The audience here was certainly different than the audience at Wanderlust or at a yoga conference. This audience certainly had more men than most yoga events I’ve attended, for sure! But, overall health and wellness goals, fitness education, personal improvement, and the desire to serve others, are common characteristics of both audiences. Similar goals, different paths, healthy people.

Summer Personal Coaching

As most of you know, I maintain a very regular practice of personal fitness. It has become my lifestyle over the last 20 years, beginning with long-distance bike riding, mountain biking, triathlons, and other endurance sports, and evolving to more attention to strength training, yoga, and close attention to nutrition. I’ve sought to build my body and mind in a balanced way, strength and flexibility, striving to be better while accepting all that I am. Recently, I’ve started to teach yoga and fitness classes at Heart of the Village Yoga Studio. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and coaching sports… skiing, snowboarding, soccer, baseball… This past winter, I coached Special Olympics athletes. Recently, I taught yoga to some high school students and teams. So, why not coach some individuals this summer, too?

I’ve decided to work with a few selected individuals this summer as a way to get started. I am a ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). I have been working myself for the past year with Dave Knight at Spectrum Fitness Consulting in Beverly, MA, and have been inspired by my friend in California, Tyler Simmons of Evolutionary Health Systems. In addition to numerous yoga teacher-trainings, I have attended many strength and conditioning workshops over the years with Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA, and will be working towards my Certified Functional Strength Coach and Precision Nutrition certifications this summer. I will be looking for 5 individuals who’d like to work together with me for 3 months!

Now, to get the word out… I just joined Thumbtack.com to help me spread the word. I also have a new small website for my business name: Perspective Coaching.

Yes, life is a balancing act. For me, it is a lifelong practice. So much to see. So much to do. So much to learn. So much to share.

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Photo by Ali Kaukas for Heart of the Village Yoga Studio, Manchester, VT

 

 

Twelve Wellness Perspectives

As a yoga teacher, a strength training coach, and an outdoor educator, I thought I’d summarize some of what I’ve learned throughout my own personal life experiences in the format of my own 12-step outline for personal wellness. I call them perspectives because they are topics to be considered and perhaps explored further (they’ll have different meanings for different people), and because that’s what I’m now calling my Vermont-based coaching work: Perspective Coaching.

So, today I am posting a draft of my outline for my friends to review and to help guide me as I develop content for the next twelve posts.

I come to this effort with a desire to help readers evolve to a healthier – perhaps more sustainable – lifestyle. My assumption is that each of us are struggling to exist in a challenging world, that each of us have our own life-story of hardship and distress, and that each of us is looking for a way to flow through life with a greater sense of ease and common good. I’m also offering these 12 wellness practices from a guy’s perspective… but I’m not intending it to be only for guys.

My preliminary outline is below. Within each topic, my plan is to develop how-to’s which give some options for people to try. Please contact me with comments.

I’ll discuss perspectives my own experiences in Yin Yoga and Power Yoga, indigenous cultures, experiential and adventure learning, therapeutic and adaptive yoga and sports, western strength training and wellness practices, and my own body-mind-spirit explorations.

1. Calm Waters: Finding Safety in the Storm. (I’ll discuss basic practices to help calm the nervous system, including surrounding yourself with support.)

2. Breathe: Our Primary Focus. (I’ll discuss breathing techniques and some visualization practices to enhance abilities to find calmness and focus.)

3. Cultivating Awareness: Being our own Witness. (I’ll bring attention to the concept of observing your thoughts and not becoming attached to them.)

4. Heart Sense: Moving from Head to Heart. (I’ll discuss concepts such as acceptance and compassion, and share practices which help develop intuition and sense of inner knowing… and moving away from a life of judgment and comparison… and moving towards a thriving life, naturally.)

5. Setting Intention: What am I Practicing? (Based on the idea that we become what we practice in life, I’ll discuss goal-setting practices and the benefits of setting positive intentions… and living in a manner as if they are already happening.)

6. Reach Deep: The Courage to be Your Self. (I’ll discuss practices to let go of “what you think should be” and to develop an attitudes of positivity and courage. I’ll discuss the concept of Dharma, and realizing your strengths.)

7. Mindful Movement: Finding Inner Power and Balance. (I’ll discuss basic principles of yoga asana and mindful strength training practices, and developing physical balance and alignment. I’m guessing that this will my focus for further posts too.)

8. Nurturing Harmony: Stabilizing Attention and Intention. (I’ll discuss practices which support finding equanimity and personal harmony, including the benefits of nutrition and regular practice.)

9. Adventurous Spirit: Maintaining Attitudes of Awe and Discovery. (The world is constantly changing. I’ll discuss practices which enhance abilities to learn, adapt, and sustain an awesome life in the light. Live a life full of experiences.)

10. Practice Loving-Kindness: The Karma of Connection. (I’ll discuss the concepts of Karma, Oneness, Gaia, and the importance of feeling connected and engaged in the bigger picture, with others, with nature… and perhaps leading changes within your family and community, one relationship at a time.)

11. Reflections: Strengthening Learning and Self-Regulation. (The learning occurs during the times of reflection. I’ll discuss non-judgmental reflection and de-brief practices.)

12. Starting Again: Life Goes On. (I like to look at my life according to the legend of Kokopelli, bringing joy to my surroundings, one day at a time, planting seeds, then moving on. I’ll discuss this perspective, the power of living in the present, but also the concept of being part of the evolutionary cycle of life. My Soul Lives.)

Power Number II

After speaking with a friend or two, I revised my so-called “Power Number”!

By revising the age-factor, perhaps the new number will place less emphasis on age and more on power. Also, it seems to me that 35 is an age that many athletes consider themselves to be at their “peak” performance (and perhaps twice as powerful as a 70-year-old might be expected to be!).

Take your age and divide it by 35, and call it your age-factor. Use minimum value of 1.0 if your age is less than 35 years old. For me, 1.63.

For a given day of power measurements, measure your weight. For me, 185 pounds.

Measure your 3-rep maximum weight for the following power-lifting movements and calculate weight-to-bodyweight ratio:

Barbell (not Smith machine) Bench Press. For me, 200 lbs; 1.08.

Back Squat (thighs parallel to floor). For me, 305 lbs; 1.65.

Weighted Chin-Up (suspended weight above body weight). For me, 70 lbs; 0.38.

Barbell Deadlift. For me, 375 lbs; 2.03.

Add the ratios together and multiply the sum by your age-factor. For me, today: my “power number” equals 1.63 x 5.14 = 8.38!

So, I guess, now it’s time to strive to be a 10.00, remembering that my yang capabilities thrive with corresponding expansion of my yin (inner body knowing) awareness and acceptance.

End of year update: My 57th birthday is next week. I’ll plan to relax somewhat over the next week or so. My current power number for my best efforts this past week:

Age-Factor: 1.63

Weight: 185 lbs.

Bench: 205 lbs; 1.11

Squat: 315 lbs; 1.70

Chins: 70 lbs; 0.38

Deadlift: 385 lbs; 2.08.

Power Number: 1.63 x 5.27 = 8.59! 

 

Power Number

I wrote recently about the balancing of yang and yin forces in life as a way to find a sense of inner power and feelings of flowing-with-life. I often think of it also as a balance of (1) acting in a manner that manifests your best self, and (2) understanding and accepting who you naturally are.

So, understanding that I am inspired by long-term and big-picture perspectives, and knowing that I desire to maintain a perspective of my life in which my best self improves with age, I thought I’d come up with a strength training formula that might help me measure my progress.

Someone out there has probably already come up with something similar, but I came up with the following way of tracking my progress.

Perhaps, it might also be a way to level the playing field regarding age and inspire increased performance each year for the rest of my life (and disprove the assumption that our power peaks somewhere in mid-life)!

So here it is. (Yes, I am a numbers guy, too…)

Take your age and divide it by 10, and call it your age-factor. For me, 5.69.

For a given day of power measurements (performed within 90 minutes), measure your weight. For me, 184 pounds.

Measure your 3-rep maximum weight for the following power-lifting movements and calculate weight-to-bodyweight ratio:

Barbell (not Smith machine) Bench Press. For me, 200 lbs; 1.09.

Back Squat (thighs parallel to floor). For me, 300 lbs; 1.63.

Weighted Chin-Up (suspended weight above body weight). For me, 70 lbs; 0.38.

Barbell Deadlift. For me, 360 lbs; 1.96.

Add the ratios together and multiply the sum by your age-factor. For me, today: my “power number” equals 5.06 x 5.69 = 28.79!

Can I make this number get bigger and bigger for the rest of my life?

I know if I can maintain these power lifting numbers and keep my weight the same, the “Power Number” will increase with my age. That’s okay, as I see it. An upward trend is always satisfying and motivating.

But can I make this number increase at a faster rate than my age? And, can I do it for the rest of my life? The “Power Number” would motivate me to maintain or decrease my weight while getting stronger continuously while I get older… or even increase my strength at a faster rate than my age!

Maybe I’ll start with a goal of 30.00 for my next birthday in 3 weeks, and see if this Power Number exercise seems reasonable, and measure again every 1/10 of a year.

Thoughts?

I know this appears very yang-based, with a focus on strength and effort.  It is my perspective, however, that the internally-motivated factors which will drive improved yearly measurements will only thrive if I understand and accept myself as I am, and maintain a balanced perspective and a connected mind-body-spirit presence.

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Consulting vs Coaching

Years ago when I was in high school considering college options and thinking about career choices, I knew I wanted to do work that benefited people and the planet. I was good at math, science and art. I was more attracted to being outside than spending time indoors. And, I seemed to enjoy figuring things out on my own. My dad was an engineer. My neighbor told me about civil engineering (engineers solving people’s civilization problems). So for me, it was a decision between architecture and engineering. Within 4 years of graduating from college with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in engineering (civil/structural), I was a professional engineer working with architects on building design projects. Within a few years, I was an associate and by the time I was 30 years old, a principal (part owner) in a top-ranked structural engineering firm in New York State. I was on a fast-track for sure.

My work gravitated to project management, client relations, and more and more, human resources and staff leadership. I enjoyed being a mentor. I enjoyed exploring personality styles to consider ways to improve office communications. I enjoyed building a sense of team and improving the quality of our services by taking advantage of multiple talents and areas of expertise.

All during these years, from the time I was a sophomore in high school, I taught skiing on weekends. I became full-certified as an instructor while still in college. My spirit has always soared outside, in nature, in the mountains, in the trees… skiing, riding, hiking, biking, camping…

After more than a dozen very successful years doing engineering work, I decided to take a year away. I felt the desire to take a time-out. I had never really taken an extended vacation before. Things in my personal life were in a bit of an upheaval as I went through a divorce, and I just knew inside that there was something more that I was destined to do.

During these years of renewed career decision-making, I rode my bicycle around the south island of New Zealand; I competed in triathlons and bicycle endurance events; I took a month-long NOLS course in the Washington Cascade Mountains; I led mountain bike tours. I was offered full-time employment in a ski school as a manager. I met Jo and Alex and Natalie. I moved to Vermont.

Since that time, my life has been in a continuous state of change and exploration, exploring consulting engineering work and outdoor education work, being a step-father, and learning more and more about myself as I was thrust back towards my original childhood vision… helping people.

My consulting work in Vermont is a little bit more hands-on and directed more towards earth-friendly pursuits- timber framing, sustainable design, community revitalization projects, home design. In Southern Vermont, however, people don’t often value the services of structural / architectural engineers; the people of Vermont are little bit more hands-on and self-empowered to do their own design and construction work.

My coaching work seemed to build more and more upon my strengths-based perspective learned first during my engineering work, later magnified when leading a snow sports program founded on strengths-based principles, then ultimately coming to fruition while coaching adaptive sports later on.

I’ve learned also that if we want to ultimately live in a more sustainable and earth-friendly way as a society, it is going to start with an aware and motivated society. It seems to me that I may be of more value to society (and the earth) helping coach people to be more aware and motivated to take care of themselves (which in turn necessitates taking care of others and the world they live in) than waiting for the aware and motivated client to look my way for sustainable design services.

So, more and more, I try to limit the consulting time I spend on design projects that are not complimenting my idea of a healthier society, and more and more time coaching people towards a healthier state-of-being. For me, it’s similar work in that I try to “connect the dots” (figure out solutions to client goals), whether for people-coaching-type work or for building-consulting-type work. For me, it’s also interesting to reflect back on the choices I made, and the paths I followed, and how they all tend to fit together. Original childhood dreams and talents… discovered strengths and abilities learned through many career paths and personal explorations… tough times and more joyful times… logical choices and intuitive choices… all have unfolded in mysterious and magical ways. There has been something learned, something valuable, from each step of my life.

The NOLS educational experience was a game-changer for me; people having heartfelt, team-building experiences in nature, then going back to their own real worlds inspired to make positive nature-sensitive and people-helping-people changes in their local communities. It seemed like a good model to me! I feel like since that time, I’ve been pulled towards creating similar-type educational experiences for people.

Maybe my consulting will be more and more about coaching. Hmmm.

Time for another time-out? After all, the learning is in the reflecting…

AbilityPLUS at Mount Snow

It’s official. I’ll be returning to Mount Snow! I’ll be doing some coaching, training, and special program coordination work with AbilityPLUS, a couple days per week, starting now. Anyone want to be a volunteer adaptive ski or snowboard instructor at Mount Snow?

PRESS RELEASE:

West Dover, VT– Bob Speck, an accomplished adaptive sports coach and educator with more than 40 years experience in snow sports, adaptive sports, and outdoor education, has joined AbilityPLUS as Special Programs & Training Coordinator. Bob will be based at the adaptive sports organization’s Mount Snow location, where he will work with Program Director Linda Walsh to coordinate volunteer recruitment and training, facilitate PSIA/AASI events, assist in the development of special programs, and act as head coach of the AbilityPLUS Alpine Race team for Special Olympics and Paralympics events eligible athletes.

“AbilityPLUS at Mount Snow, our volunteers, and the individuals and families we serve are extremely fortunate to have Bob Speck join us as Special Programs & Training Coordinator. Bob is a remarkably insightful, mindful and compassionate person, with a wealth of experience in the adaptive sports world and beyond,” said Walsh. “This season, we are poised to exponentially strengthen our programs serving the Mount Snow family, and Bob is the perfect addition as AbilityPLUS continues to grow and move forward!”

Bob is a PSIA/AASI certified ski and snowboard instructor, a former member of the PSIA-E educational staff, a registered yoga teacher, NOLS outdoor educator, and certified personal trainer. He teaches yoga at Heart of the Village Yoga Studio in Manchester (www.heartofthevillageyoga.com) and is involved with non-profit organizations dedicated to working with combat veterans with disabilities, including www.warriorsliveon.org and Wounded Warrior Project. No stranger to Mount Snow, Bob was formerly a Mount Snow ski school instructor, staff trainer, program manager, and mountain bike guide more than a dozen years ago.

“The thing about Bob is he knows no limitations – as a coach, mentor or leader – and he instills that attitude naturally in the individuals and families with whom he interacts,” noted Walsh. “We’re truly blessed to have someone of his ability and dedication accept our invitation to devote his skills to the AbilityPLUS family.”

In addition to his work with people with disabilities, Bob is a registered professional engineer in the State of Vermont and currently performs consulting work with Stevens & Associates in Brattleboro. He maintains a part-time practice designing timber-framed structures and helping develop design concepts for homes and barns that integrate efficient structure, design aesthetics and sustainability. Bob bases his work on the concept that everything is connected – personal wellness, healthy homes and community, and the natural environment. Bob, his wife Jo, and their dog Emma, live in Manchester, Vermont.

AbilityPLUS is a not-for-profit charitable organization that offers life changing athletic and recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, to create freedom, promote independence, support inclusion and help those individuals and their families discover their full social, emotional and athletic potential. AbilityPLUS serves people with any physical or intellectual disability, from injured service men and women to people with autism across the spectrum. AbilityPLUS is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, and is a Paralympic Sport Club. For more information about AbilityPLUS programs, volunteering and financial needs visit www.AbilityPLUS.org.