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.

Okay, So It Was Only 180 Miles

Back then, there were no cell phones. Back then, there were no portable GPS’s. Back then, there were no GoPro video cameras, no social media. Back then, I thought I had ridden about 200 miles. In one day.

So now, 38 years later, I finally checked my route on the computer. 180 miles. Give or take.

I had just returned from a Chuck Mangione concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Children of Sanchez. 1978. “Without dreams….” still playing in my head. It was 1978. It was midnight.

My family was on the beach in Rockport, Massachusetts on vacation. I was working in Schenectady, New York for an architect doing drafting work. I had just finished my sophomore year in college. I wanted to take a few days off and go to the beach. So I did. Without a car.

I got up at 3:00 am and started riding. A 10-speed, steel-framed bike with a hard leather seat and non-padded drop handle bars. I had never ridden more than 10 miles before. I did not have padded shorts nor gloves nor a shirt that covered the bottom of back. I did not know what dehydration was. I turned on the generator-powered light. Wrapped a bandana around my head. Off I went.

A flat tire in Hoosick Falls. Before sunrise. Not a car on the road. “Every child belongs to mankind’s family. Children are the fruit of all humanity. Let them feel the love…”

Breakfast at McDonald’s in Bennington, Vermont, just as it opened. 7:00 am.

Up Route 7 to Prospect Mountain and Woodford. Down Route 7 to Wilmington (it was my first visit to the town that I would move to 20 years later). Up to Hogback Mountain. Down to Brattleboro. It was lunchtime. I was hungry again.

I remember having a burger across the Vermont border in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. It tasted like cardboard. I didn’t know why I didn’t have much saliva.

Then all I could remember in New Hampshire was up, then down, then up, then down… over and over. It was over 90 degrees and humid. It seemed like the towns were always about 10 miles apart. I had a paper map. Get a drink every 10 miles. Hold my head up. Peddle on.

There is something about long-distance bicycling that keeps you focused. You just have to keep going. One stroke at a time. I observed my thoughts… Present-moment awareness. No choice.

Somewhere in New Hampshire, I was startled by a chasing dog who happened to get a peddle in his jaw as I was speeding down a hill. Momentum was everything!

“All men need a place to live in dignity….”

My lower back hurt. My butt and hands were numb. My mouth dry.

“Those who hear the cries of children, god will bless…”

As I crossed into Massachusetts, around dinner time, I realized I was not going to make it to Rockport that evening. New Hampshire, the smell of pavement and car exhaust, and 95-degree heat, had slowed my pace. I called Rockport.

You see, I hadn’t told my parents I was coming. “You’re where? Doing what?”

“Can you pick me up in Lowell later?”

So, 18 hours later, my father and my uncle picked me up on the streets of Lowell, Massachusetts, near some town park where July 4th weekend festivities were starting.

I spent a couple days on the beach. Nursing a burnt back. Trying to get feeling back in my hands and butt. Walking slowly. Drinking fluids. Humming music.

“As my children grow, my dreams come alive…”

No pictures to share. Just stories. And the music I remember.

“I will always hear the Children of Sanchez…”

I swore I’d never do something like that again.

But I did.

Many times.

With padded shorts and gloves. And a helmet.

As a yoga teacher nowadays, practicing present-moment mindfulness, I sometimes look inside with a deep sense of peace, awareness, and an inner confidence that knows that everything is okay. This feeling has remained present in my life even when the going has been tough. I suspect it has always been there, even before I knew what yoga was.

Is resiliency a learned behavior, a result of direct experience? Or, is it innate? Is it part our true nature to be open to the adventure and the gifts of living in the present? And to persevere through the perceived obstacles that often get in our way? Is it about letting go of the way we think life should be like?

On this bike trip, I learned presence. I learned the power of mantra and devotion towards an intention or ideal. I felt the unity of mind, body and spirit while living in the moment of each pedal stroke. I was (and continue to be) drawn to the wonder – and the adventure – of a more spiritual and heartfelt existence, and exploring the wonder of living in the gift of the moment. Maybe we’re each really yogis, and we live lives discovering who we really are.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

(John O’Donahue’s “For a New Beginning”)

Bobopelli in VC City 2014


Experiential Learning: Group Exercises for Mindful Hiking

Often times, I’ll lead hikes or trips with a group of people in which our goals are to learn something valuable from the experience that we might be able to apply in our daily lives. Experiential learning. I’ll usually set up an outline, perhaps having a series of quotes which might give a particular perspective, or perhaps having a few engaging interactive activities planned that might enhance the experience. Through the experience, guided reflection, and de-brief facilitation, the insights that people share are often so much more powerful than anything I (as one individual) could have come up with on my own. That’s the beauty of group learning! Here was my simple outline going into today’s Mindful Hiking workshop at Heart of the Village Yoga in Manchester, VT. I’d read a “quote”; we’d brief the next section of the hike; hike a little; do some yoga postures; de-brief; and then move on to the next quote and segment of our little hike.



(Quotes adapted from “The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh)

Mindfulness of Breathe: The way to maintain your presence in the here and now is through the mindfulness of the breathe. There is no need to manipulate the breathe. Beathe is a natural thing; like air, like light, we should leave it as it is and not interfere with it. What we are doing is simply lighting up the lamp of awareness to illuminate our breathing. We generate the energy of mindfulness to illuminate everything that is happening in the present moment.

Brief: Let’s use all of our senses to feel, hear, see, taste and smell our breathe… and then use all of our senses to feel, hear, see, taste and smell everything that is happening around us in this present moment.

De-Brief: Does anyone want to share anything about this experience, what you might have observed in yourself or around you?

 Walking Meditation Practice: Walking is an important form of meditation. It can be a very deep spiritual practice. Walk without effort; walk without strain. Just enjoy walking. When you walk in mindfulness, you are in touch with all of the wonders of life within you and around you. For many of us, this can be difficult because our minds are elsewhere and we are not walking with our full body and our full consciousness. We see our minds and our bodies as two separate things. While our bodies are walking one way, our consciousness is tugging us in a different direction. When we understand the interconnectedness of our bodies and our minds, the simple act of walking can feel supremely easy and pleasurable.

Brief: Let’s take a step and touch the earth in such a way that you establish yourself in the present moment. No effort required: your foot touches the earth mindfully, and you arrive firmly in the here and now. You are fully present, fully alive, and you are touching the earth. Breathe in and take one step, and focus all of your attention on the sole of your foot. Smile, then take the next step!

De-Brief: Does anyone want to share anything about this experience, what you might have observed in yourself or around you?

Touching the Earth: Touching the earth each day helps us in many ways. The earth has been here for a long time. She is mother to all of us. She knows everything. With the earth we are very safe. She is very patient; she helps us; she protects us. When we die, she takes us back into her arms. She is always there to support us, in all of her wonderful expressions like trees, flowers, butterflies, and sunshine. Touching the earth is a good practice to heal you and restore your joy.

Brief:  Now, let’s take each step with an attitude of gratitude for the earth and all of her wondrous expressions. Touch the earth; touch her expressions… the leaves, the soil, the water, the flowers… Feel her support and patience.

De-Brief: Does anyone want to share anything about this experience, what you might have observed in yourself or around you?

Children of the Earth: We are all children of the earth. We are continually rising from Mother Earth, being nurtured by her, and then returning to her. All life is impermanent. Like us, plants are born, live for a period of time, and then return to the earth and become the source of food for future growth, future generations. We all depend on each other. We humans think we’re intelligent, but an orchid, for example, knows how to produce symmetrical flowers; a snail knows how to a make beautiful, well-proportioned shell. Compared with their knowledge, ours might not be worth that much at all. Maybe we should bow down to the orchid and the snail. Maybe we should join our palms reverently before the butterfly and the oak tree. Maybe, feeling respect for all species will help us recognize and cultivate the noblest nature in ourselves.

Brief: Let’s walk as if we are nature itself, dependent on each and every plant, animal, and organism… each and every mineral, element, piece of matter around us. Perhaps, as we feel their vulnerability, we’ll feel our own. Perhaps, as we feel their importance in the web of life, we’ll feel our own too.


Does anyone want to share anything about this experience, what you might have observed in yourself or around you?

What is the biggest take-away, most meaningful learning experience, that you’ll take way with you and into your daily lives from today’s hike?


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



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


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.

A Message to: Warriors Live On

A few years ago, I was fortunate to be in a place and time where I was a part of the birth of Warriors Live On. Filled with hope, we envisioned creating transformative experiences that would integrate various healing practices to help combat veterans transition from combat to community. Based on our own successes with various healing modalities- mindfulness-based therapeutic practices, heartfelt and supportive human interaction, mentorship and community-building, outdoor education and connection with nature, and other healthy living practices- we saw the experience of a long trek as being a metaphor for living. Many steps. Ups and downs. Each step an opportunity to let go and move forward. Each step an opportunity to Live On.

I’d like to send my best wishes to those who have made the first Warriors Live On trek a reality- participants, sponsors, volunteers, other supporters. I send my heartfelt respect and congratulations to Eva Belanger for your dedicated and determined work to turn dreams into reality. I am not there in person, but I am there in spirit! I hope to be with you along the next journey. I love you all.

I encourage anyone reading this post to support this effort. You can so here.

I offer this humble personal note to trek participants, just as a way, perhaps, to plant more seeds:

It seems that life is often about finding balance between the opposing forces that pull us in one direction and then another. Each step you take on this trek is like a balancing act. Moving forward is a balancing act between holding on to what serves you well and letting go of what doesn’t support you well. Being yourself is a balancing act between accepting the fabric of who you already are and striving towards the life you’d like to lead. Let this trek help you move forward in a new balanced way. Let the experience of being with others in nature, trekking, sharing, supporting, and learning give rise to new perspectives in your life.

Learning from nature can teach us how to find better ways to live. Living in flow with nature can help us heal and move forward in a balanced way:

Winter is the season of the Warrior: it’s about standing with integrity; it’s about being present like the air we breathe and being strong yet flexible like a tree in the changing Northerly winds. Take moment to stand with your trekking mates, as a group of brothers and sisters, as you know how, respecting and honoring one another.

Spring, the present season, is the season of the Healer: it’s about being whole-hearted; it’s about being supportive, like the earth we stand on, and learning to trust the interdependence of all living things as we spring to new life. Take a moment to lay down in the loving arms of Mother Earth and feel its infinite support for you; look South, feel the warmth that’s always there.

Summer, the season you are approaching, is the season of the Visionary: it’s about seeing and telling the truth without blame or judgment; it’s about walking forward with authenticity towards your life’s purpose, being your true shining self, like the summer sun. Take a moment to be mindful of your true self, without judgment, as you walk forward, look East with the clarity of a new day, and live on.

Autumn is the season of the Teacher: it’s about reflecting upon and accepting things without attachment to the outcome; it’s about trusting and letting go, like leaves falling from autumn trees or water flowing down meandering streams; it’s about finding the wisdom in all things and being your own teacher. Autumn is about transformation, like water, as we constantly seek our source. Just as the sun sets in the Western California sky, let go of today and have faith in the new day ahead. Tomorrow, you will be a mentor for another warrior….

Balancing our Warrior and Healer instincts, our Visionary and Teacher attributes, we too flow towards our source, I believe, the center of our being, the ocean of inner peace and love that connects us all. For me at least, when I am in this place where I feel this balance and deep sense of connectedness, using nature as my model, I feel at home. (For me, this usually occurs in the mountains… where my spirit soars!)

To each combat veteran trekking with Warriors Live On this month, I wish you the best. I send you my best wishes, my support, my love, and my unconditional respect. I hope that the experience in nature with a team of supportive brothers and sisters helps you find balance, see new perspectives, and feel the connectness that we all share. Trek On! One step at a time. As Warriors, Healers, Visionaries and Teachers…

In all four directions, in all four seasons- and like the air, earth, sun, and water- may you find balance, inner peace and inner power, and Live On!

And please know that you can travel in all directions and still find your way to Vermont! I’d love to meet each of you one day.


Bob Speck and Eva Belanger. The day we met.

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.


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.)

Be Selfish. Practice Yoga.

When teaching yoga to young people, especially when many of them are new to yoga, I remind them that the practice of yoga is really about learning about themselves and perhaps how they each relate to the world. I ask them to be selfish; to take away from their yoga practice the necessary skills and knowledge that might be relevant to their current lives and their personal goals.

At a fundamental level, our basic instinct is to survive. We can’t help anyone else if we aren’t alive and able. Learning how to adapt and be resilient in a changing world is fundamental to our existence, each of us, individually and collectively. This starts with awareness and presence. What’s going on now? Use yoga to learn present-moment awareness. Use mindfulness-based practices to not let your personal intentions get “hijacked” or disrupted by distractions and unimportant mental constructs. Use yoga-based movements to train your body to be balanced, strong yet flexible, hard yet soft, determined yet adaptable, aging yet youthful. Use these skills to be aware of change as it happens and to survive through, or breathe through, or move through, the inevitable hardships and stressful challenges in your life. Use yoga to re-program your body when stressful or traumatic events happen, to re-wire your neurological circuitry and let go of bodily stressors which no longer serve you, and to build resilient whole-bodies.

In a competitive world, our desire is to perform well. To win a game, we practice playing the skills of the game better. To score well on an exam, we study and learn the information being tested. If we don’t perform well, it’s not a reflection on who we are, the fabric of our being; we just didn’t perform well. Use yoga to learn focus and to enhance personal mind-body-spirit performance. By learning to let go of thoughts and behaviors that aren’t serving you well nor enhancing your overall ability to perform well, you are better able to focus, to see clearly, and to perform naturally as you have learned and practiced. By focusing on the performance of your whole being – body, mind and spirit – you bring your whole best-self to the game of life.

In our modern world, our instinct is to strive for happiness. We tend to be happier when we are well. We tend to be happier when we feel engaged and connected to people in our lives and in the natural world around us. Use yoga to discover your strengths, what makes you thrive, and to learn how your body responds to healthful and unhealthful habits. Use yoga to discover the natural and instinctive needs that our bodies desire for supportive personal interactions, community, time in nature, and feelings of acceptance, compassion, gratitude… and love.

Of course, survival and performance and happiness are all connected. We are all connected. Use yoga to explore the wondrous possibilities of mind-body-spirit connections, the miraculous possibilities of our human existence, and the infinite Oneness of our Universe. Feel connected. Accept possibilities. Have faith. Practice.

Infinite Possibilities

Infinite Possibilities

Yoga is not just about seeing how far you can stretch or push yourself into a posture. Yoga is about learning about yourself and how you relate to everything around you; it’s about finding balance between your desire to strive and your natural instinct to just live; it’s about learning how to move through – and breathe through – life’s rough spots and living well when you’re tested; it’s about being aware, paying attention, and letting your whole-self thrive naturally and holistically.

Go ahead. Be selfish.

Survive well and be happy. For yourself.

Practice yoga.

We’ll all benefit from each other’s wholehearted practice!




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!