Friday, June 15, 2007

Follow The Plan

So I’ve been thinking, why do some people seem to get what they want, and others don’t? Why do some seem to get all the breaks, and others don’t? I mean, is it just luck? Good genes?

Or is there something else going on. Could there be a behavioral component to success? Is it possible that some people just do certain things that make them more likely to succeed?

This might not seem related to fitness, but stay with me. One book called “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, looks at hundreds of self-made millionaires. Stanley and Danko’s study showed clearly that most of the millionaires did very specific things along the way.

They never spent more than they earned. They always saved. They kept things longer. They tended to live in the same house all their life. They drove their cars longer and usually never bought a brand new one. Instead, they’d buy one that was a year or two old.

They tended to stay married to the same partner. They were very conservative in their approach to investing, and very disciplined about putting money away. They were committed to it.

Remember, these are self-made millionaires. They started with nothing, and worked their way up. They made their money doing different things, but each had the same things in common.

Now let’s look at fitness. Have you ever seen a fat sprinter? Not for long, right? What about runners? There were thousands lined up for the St. Louis Marathon this year; all different types, but fat? None.

What’s it take to run a marathon? To make it, most people need to train 3-4 times a week. Your first running day (Tuesday) is speed work; running 400 or 800 yards at a pretty fast speed. Walk for 2 minutes, and then run another quarter or half mile. Start with 4-6 repeats and work up to 10-16 times if you’re doing 400’s. Start with 2-3 repeats and work up to 5 or 6 if you’re doing 800’s.

Your second running day (Thursday) is a tempo run; several miles at just under your race pace, keeping strict time. On Saturday or Sunday, do a long run. Start at 5-7 miles, and work up to 24 miles. Try to stay at a comfortable yet brisk pace the whole time. A lot of runners use distances like this: 7 miles, 9, 11, 13, 8, 15, 17, 10, 19, 21, 10, 23, 14, 24, 10, 8, Race Weekend.

You can also do a light recovery run, about 3-4 miles at a relaxed pace, and have a couple cross-training days where you do other things, like weight training. You also need a couple rest days.

To be successful, you need the discipline to do this for 3-4 months. Much less, and you probably won’t make it.

Another consideration is to start small and work your way up. I’ve been running about a year and a half now. At first, I had to run a little bit, and walk a little bit. Then I got up to a mile, then two, and then three. Now I rarely run less than three miles.

Unfortunately, I’m not yet on the millionaire list, but I have run two marathons now. The first time, I didn’t follow the plan, and didn’t make it running all the way. This time, I took an hour and a half off my time with no injuries, and worked out the next day!

So, to become a “Millionaire Next Door,” we need to be disciplined. Quit spending more than we earn, quit trying to impress people, and start putting a little away. A little turns into a lot, and if we’ll do a little now, we just might be worth a million bucks someday.

It’s the same thing with your health. If you’ll just get out and exercise 3-4 times a week, who knows? You might never run a marathon, but you could if you want to. And even if you never do, I bet you won’t be fat.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Journey

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine sometime ago. Now he’s a big guy, but he’s still carrying at least 80 pounds more than he needs.

Of course, this raises his risk of developing onset Diabetes (Type II), and heart disease significantly. It also makes his life much harder than it needs to be.

For years now, I’ve talked about him doing the things he needs to do to take that weight off. For years, he’s come up with reasons not to. Now, it’s cost him another promotion in rank, for the 3rd time.

Basically, his argument is that as a salesman, he’s on the road a lot, and he’s very active in church. When he’s home, he needs to focus on things there. So, he really doesn’t have time to do what it takes to get it done.

I’m all about being active in church, and spending time with family. I even understand the difficulties presented with being on the road. As a singer/songwriter (one of my other hats), I travel quite a bit too.

Frankly, I was stymied. I’d already made all the arguments. When I travel, I visit the Y or a gym where I’m going. If the hotel has a fitness center, I use that. If I’m in the boonies, I go out for a run and do pushups, situps and squats in my room.

If he can drop the weight, he’ll have more energy and ability to do more at home and church. We can do so much more, when we feel better. If he reduces his risk of diabetes and heart disease, he’s really serving his family.

This weekend, I was re-reading a book called “Wild at Heart” (John Eldredge) for the fourth time. Basically, men are made with a warrior’s heart, most alive when discovering new lands, slaying dragons, and fighting for the hearts of fair maidens.

And maidens? They are most alive when they know there is a true love; one that pursues them, willing to do battle for their very heart. Both are made in the image of God, and both display his character.

If you doubt this, as Eldredge points out, note the feelings that well up deep inside us when watching movies like Braveheart, or the Patriot, where a man must overcome great odds, fighting for right, and is found capable. That’s what we want.

And if you’re a lady, how do you feel when you see the extent to which someone will fight for her heart; to do whatever it takes to win not just the battle, but her.

It may not be politically correct these days, but I believe both of these desires live deep within all of us. If we’ll have the courage to stop and think about it, we’ll finally learn who we really are, and who we’re supposed to be.

Life is like a journey, a marvelous adventure, unfolding like pages of a novel before us, and we all have our own pages to write as parts of the bigger story. You are the co-author of your own chapter, too, and what’s written on those pages is largely up to you.

Like most journeys, though, you can only take so much with you. Sometimes you have to just get on board and go where it takes you. You’re old baggage doesn’t fit where you’re going. It’s going to take new clothing, new ideas.

I finally realized that there was something deeper keeping my friend from addressing what would be obvious to anyone else. Like the lion in the Wizard of Oz, he’s lost his heart, and doesn’t know how to find it.

Sometimes, it takes more than we possess. There are times when all our resources still aren’t enough to get the job done. When all we can do is pray and keep going.

But once we strike out across our own desert; once we join battle, it’s when we finally feel fully alive. It’s an exciting journey, finding your heart. Have you found yours?