checking in on my fitness plan

I've been challenging myself to the same weekly goal since mid-September (you can read the challenge here). Now, 3 months later, seems like a good time to reflect on what I've learned:

  • Big success will come when you have enough little successes to keep it company. Running a couple miles in the morning doesn't feel like anything Earth-shattering; heck, it's not even worth sharing on social media. But the results add up:
  • I had previously only run 50 miles in a month once before; I've now done it two months IN A ROW! (and I'm getting close to the mark for this month too!)
  • On a weekly basis, I had clocked 10 miles only 20 times, with the last one being 67 weeks previously. I have now run 10 miles 9 weeks in a row and 12 of the last 13!
  • You can't short-cut success, anymore than you can wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon. But a short run, everyday, adds up to a lot of miles.

Running in the Cold
  • Is Hard - my very first post on this blog was titled "Running in the cold is hard", and I still think that's true. But I've learned a few things this winter which have made it easier:
  • Gear Matters - As the morning lows have dropped from the 60's through the 50's and 40's and down into the 30's, I've been able to wear the right gear - which makes the cold a little more bearable.
    • Ear Band - a simple, inexpensive fleece headband to cover my ears has made a world of difference. I can't explain why I've never used one of these before.
    • Layers - base layer long sleeve, short sleeve t-shirt, long sleeve microfiber running sweatshirt, long sleeve baggy cotton t-shirt, and I'm out the door! When the temperature is mid-30's or less, I'll skip the last cotton t-shirt and replace it with a heavier cotton sweatshirt. For bottoms, I've been fine with track pants all the way down to 32 degrees. (my coldest run so far.)
    • Gloves - warm hands are a big deal (almost as much as warm ears), but I didn't like wearing gloves. Luckily my long sleeve microfiber running shirt has really long sleeves, so I've been pulling the sleeves down over my hands, and it works great.
    • Feet / Socks - I generally run in Luna Sandals (more on that here), and I rode the cold weather all the way down to 32 in my Lunas. However, that last week of 36, 35, 32 sucked, and my toes were numb after 10 minutes of running each day. I've since decided that anything lower than 38 degrees deserves socks and "typical" shoes.
  • Patience, and Savor your Victories - when it's really cold outside (or wet, or windy), I know before I even start that I'm not going to break a speed record that day. So I give myself permission to run at whatever pace my body wants to run. The victory comes from taming the "lazy beast", keeping the streak alive, and adding miles to my body's fitness, and from doing something all my friends think is crazy. (Maybe I am crazy, but I get a bit of pleasure from knowing I'm the only one out there getting it done.)

Consistency Wins
  • Before the Run - Sometimes I don't want to get out of bed in the morning. Simply rolling my feet over the side of the bed is a huge victory. However,
  • After the Run - I have not once, repeat - not one time, finished the run and thought I would have been better off with another half hour's sleep. I might wish I had gone to bed earlier the night before, but I've never felt like the run was a bad idea.
  • Pace - it's difficult to explain how much better I am at running today than I was 3-4 months ago. My fastest times are faster than they were, which is to be expected. But what's unexpected is just how much easier running has become. My "slow" runs today, where I'm just cruising along at a fairly easy pace without breathing too heavy or exerting myself too much, are at about the same pace as my "fast" runs used to be.
  • Endurance - My 2.25 mile baseline course around the neighborhood - it used to feel like a workout and today feels like a warm-up.

  • It's been 13 weeks - that's a long time compared to one week, but it's a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. That being said, it's a great start.
  • I'm not a marathoner, and I'm not even very fast compared to the "real" runners out there. But I feel a lot more comfortable running than I used to, and I'm getting faster.
  • Add to all this running that I'm able to do more push-ups and pull-ups than I could 3 months ago, and I'm more flexible than I was, and that my weight has remained constant while at the same time I've been able to increase my meal portions - and it feels like a win-win-win.

I think I'm going to stick with this program for awhile longer - maybe I'll revisit this post in the spring..

- Chris Butterworth


200 posts ago: links I like 07-03-12


just because it's there

Does your office supply bagels and cream cheese in the mornings, or have a table-full of snacks in the lunchroom?

Bagels, muffins, and danishes show up in my office's kitchen like magic every other Monday morning.

Does your significant other love baking desserts? Brownies, cookies, apple pie a la mode? Yum!

Maybe lunch was catered and there's a full spread.

Or a candy jar at your co-workers desk, always beckoning. You don't want to offend her, right?

Or you could have another helping of that terrific dinner, or an extra slice of pizza.


You don't have to eat it - just because it's there.

- Chris Butterworth


200 posts ago: Fit-20 Workout - sprints, renegade rows, squats

100 posts ago: choosing the right workout partner


potential is a dirty word

Potential is great, for kids. They're smart, industrious, inquisitive, funny, athletic - they can be anything they want to be, and the world is their oyster.

As you get older, potential isn't such a great thing. It usually describes what you could have been (or could have done), rather than what you are (or are doing.)

But we all still have the potential to be fit and healthy.

Eat a little less, move a little more. Slow and steady. Put your potential back to work - it's time to get healthy.

- Chris Butterworth


200 posts ago: Fit-20 Workout (shadow boxing / mountain climbers / sit-ups)

100 posts ago: the curse of open eyes - seeing calories everywhere you look

my fitness plan 092015

You're only in shape for whatever it is you're in shape for. These days I'm trying to stay generally fit - I don't have a big race on the horizon, and I'm not hiking the canyon anytime soon - I just want to stay healthy and fit.

So what's my current workout plan, and why?

  • 10 miles per week, or more.
  • at least 5 runs per week (and preferably 6).
    • Mon - 2 miles fast
    • Tues - 2 miles slow
    • Wed - 1 mile fast
    • Thurs - 3 miles slow
    • Fri - 18 minutes of 1-minute intervals (one minute running fast; one minute recovering at a slow jog; repeat)
    • Sat or Sun - 2 or 3 miles slow, or a nice trail run.
  • I typically run early in the morning, first thing, before eating or drinking anything. I just get out of bed and go.
  • Stretching - I'm enjoying some stretching while cooling down after running on most mornings. This is a big change for someone as non-flexible as me - maybe one day I'll be almost flexible...

  • 3 times per week, do one or the other (alternate exercises each time)
  • 3-4 sets at a time, in rapid succession, of as many as I can do.
  • Add in some extra core work if I have anything left in the tank.
    • For pull-ups, this means knee lifts or leg raises.
    • For push-ups, I can do planks or dozens of other variations.
  • I generally do these in the evening after work.

Why this Plan?
  • The running / push-ups / pull-ups combination gives me a good mix of cardio and strength training.
  • I did this workout a lot over the summer and really enjoyed it.
  • I like how I feel when I'm in "running shape", and I like how I look when I'm in "pull-up shape".

Why these distances / reps?
  • A goal should be attainable, but not easy.
  • I've used RunKeeper to track all my runs since 1/1/2011, and the data shows I've run 10 miles in a week 20 times since then (out of 247 weeks.) I haven't run 10 miles in a week yet in 2015, and I only did it 5 weeks in all of 2014 - with the last one being in May 2014 (approx 67 weeks ago.)
    • This goal is doable, since I've done it many times in the past.
    • But it won't be easy, since I haven't been able to do it very often. Getting 10 miles in on a consistent basis will be challenging, and hopefully rewarding.
  • As for the reps on push-ups and pull-ups - I want to feel sore enough to know I worked out, but not too sore to be comfortable the next day. I also want to get stronger over time, but I don't need to look like a body builder to feel successful. Enough is enough - no need to overdo it.
  • I wrote about the optimal amount of exercise a few months ago - this should be more than enough to stay fit and healthy, without being excessive.
  • I'm thinking this might be a worthwhile plan for the next year, but I'm going to commit myself to it for the next 10 weeks, and re-assess from there.

Eating is King

As always, diet has a larger impact on weight than exercise, unless you're working out for several hours a day. So I'll want to continue to eat a reasonable amount of real foods (or as close to real as practical) to maintain my target weight. Running several days in a row does not give one free license to eat unlimited amounts of fast food!

So there you have it.

Simple, but not easy. Attainable, but not without consistent dedication. And rewarding - I should be in "fit and healthy" shape when my 10 weeks are up (the week after Thanksgiving, coincidentally, and speaking of eating reasonable amounts...)

- Chris Butterworth



200 Posts ago: Fit-20 Workout 06-27-12


mediocre is the opposite of excellence

Terrible seems like it would be the opposite of excellence, but terrible is easy to fix.
  • You didn't workout last week? Pick yourself up and get back on track.
  • You've been eating everything in sight? Stop. Take a breath. Regroup. Re-assess your plan. And get back on track.

Mediocre is much more difficult, in part because you might not even notice it.
  • You've been working out, but maybe not with your desired level of intensity. Or maybe you're getting to the gym sometimes, but not as often as you had planned.
  • You're eating pretty well, paying attention to what you order, where you eat, and how often. But you're not losing any weight. Maybe you're rounding up on your calorie counts, or you might be grabbing a handful of snacks without even realizing it.

It's hard to get down on yourself when you're trying, and mediocre masks how hard you're trying.

Mediocre is frustrating. It robs you of your results. It fills you with hopelessness, and makes you want to give up, because you think you're doing the work but you're not seeing the results.

Changing your habits, and your body, and your health, is hard. It takes commitment, and it takes excellence.

Pay very close attention to your actions, and to your results. Keep a journal. Be reflective. Are you reaching excellence, or merely mediocre?

- Chris Butterworth


getting great results on days you don't want to workout

Some days you just don't want to work out, and there are dozens of reasons why:

  • You're too tired.
    • You went to bed too late.
    • You didn't sleep well.
    • You got up too early.
  • You don't have time.
    • You're too busy at work.
    • You woke up too late.
  • You'd rather go to bed early.
  • You're too sore from yesterday's workout.
  • You don't feel well.
  • You just can't get motivated.
  • You're battery is almost dead, and you can't workout without your music.
  • The weather's no good.
    • It's too hot outside.
    • It's too cold outside.
    • It's raining / snowing / windy outside.

These are all legitimate, yet none of them should be enough to stop you. Sometimes the very best workouts are the ones you didn't want to do.

When you can motivate yourself to get a workout in on the days that you don't want to - even if it's not one of your best workouts, you get very powerful results:

  1. Physically, you get a workout in. From a fitness standpoint, this beats the heck out of sitting on the couch or laying in bed.
  2. Mentally, you get a huge victory over that lazy devil sitting on your shoulder - you get to prove to yourself that you're more awesome than you thought you were.
  3. Surprise yourself. Sometimes once you get started, you end up having a great workout. I've broken a few PRs on days I didn't really feel like running when I started out.
  4. Illness remedy. Sometimes when I'm not feeling 100%, getting a good sweat on helps shake off whatever's been bothering me. On the other hand, if you're really sick, with a high fever and all those other bad symptoms - maybe that's a good day to skip the workout and stay in bed...
  5. Muscle stretcher. When you're really sore from a previous workout, doing a light workout can help stretch out your muscles and ease their recovery.

Missing a workout once in awhile isn't going to change your life. But getting into the habit of not workout unless conditions are ideal will - it'll rob you of your fitness. Let's face it - conditions are rarely ideal, and once you start giving yourself permission to skip workouts, it gets easier and easier to do.

Tell that lazy devil on your shoulder to shut up, then get up and get moving. (before you change your mind!)

- Chris Butterworth


small. consistent. big.

Small, done consistently, becomes big.

We see it everyday, without even realizing it.

  • That guy in your office who used to be a lot bigger? He didn't just drop 60 pounds one day last year - he lost those 60 lbs a little bit at a time over the course of the last year. You just didn't notice it right away because each week's change was so small.
  • That friend of yours who's been posting on Facebook about her first marathon? She didn't just decide last week to run in the race next month - she's been training for it, running a little bit further each week than the last. Heck, she probably couldn't run a full 3 miles without walking on her first training session.
  • Those giant-sized, high school aged people living in your house and emptying the refrigerator daily? They used to be those cute little kids who looked so grown up ten years ago when you dropped them off at their first day of school. Turns out they've been growing and maturing, a little imperceptible amount each day, for a long time.

Today is probably not the day you're going to achieve your goal - your end goal will be the accumulation of lots and lots of tiny victories compiled over a much longer time period.

But today could be the day you lose your goal. Apathy, laziness, and just "not doing it" are the enemies of actions achieving goals.

Keep your eye on that big goal way out in front of you. And keep moving forward, one small step at a time.

- Chris Butterworth


US wins Women's World Cup

Congratulations to the US Women's National Team, who scripted a perfect ending to the Independence Day weekend by avenging their bitter shoot-out loss to Japan in 2011's championship game in a big way - blowing the game open early in route to a 5-2 whooping.

This was a terrific example for all of us - of what's possible with dedication to a goal. Long term, hard work, consistency, discipline, laser focus, day after day...

It led the USWNT to be World Champions. What can it do for you?

- Chris Butterworth


the 1, 2, 3 getting started plan

With today being the first of the month, and the first day of the 2nd half of the year, I thought I'd share a simple idea to get started down the road to fitness. Here's a simple routine to get off the couch and work lots of different muscle groups in a short amount of time:

Push-ups, Sit-ups, Squats

  • July 1st - do one of each. That's it, just one.
  • July 2nd - do two of each.
  • July 3rd - do three of each.
  • and so on.
  • Each day, add one more of each exercise to what you did yesterday - you'll do the same number of each exercise as the day of the month.
  • It doesn't matter if you do them all in one set, so long as you do them all on that day. For example, on the 20th:
    • do 20 in a row, all in one set. Or,
    • do as many as you can, take a short rest, and then continue. Take as many breaks as needed to get to 20. Or,
    • do 10 in the morning and 10 in the evening.
    • As long as you 20 of each exercise on the 20th, you're on target!

The first few days may seem easy. That's OK - half of the battle is mental, and simply getting motivated to do the exercises is just as important as the physical exercises themselves. You're changing habits and building routines, which isn't easy in and of itself. Just relax and keep at it - it'll get physically demanding soon enough.

By the end of the month you'll be doing 31 push-ups, 31 sit-ups, and 31 squats in a single day. (and you will have done 496 of each during the course of the month!) This will be a great starting point to build from next month.

Remember - the goal is long-term health and fitness. You're not going to completely change your body this month; you're simply making forward progress down the path of creating a better you. Six months from now, a year from now, 5 years from now - it won't matter whether you started with 1 push-up or with 100; if you exercise consistently you'll be "fit".

Now go get after it!

- Chris Butterworth


2015 is half over - where do you stand?

Tomorrow marks the end of the first half of the year. 181 days down; 184 days to go. (because there are more months with 31 days in the 2nd half of the year - and no February.) How are you doing on achieving your goals?

Little things done consistently add up to big things. You can move a mountain by moving a few stones each day.

25 push-ups a day doesn't seem like an outrageous number. In fact, once you get into "push-up shape" it's probably very easy to do. And if you've been doing 25 push-ups a day, you've done 4,525 push-ups so far this year.

Walking, jogging, or running a mile a day doesn't take long. And if you've been doing it you've now run 181 miles so far this year - about halfway from Phoenix to Los Angeles!

Anyone who can do over 4,500 push-ups, or who can run 181 miles, is in pretty good shape. A lot better shape than if they had spent the first 6 months of the year sitting on the couch! If you haven't done 4,500 push-ups so far this year, now's a great time to get started on the 2nd half of the year.

What mountain are you going to move this year, one little stone at a time?

- Chris Butterworth


What is a 30-Day Challenge?

Forming a new habit can be difficult, as it requires you to make both physical and mental changes, and sometimes these changes aren't easy. This seems to be especially true when you're trying to do something that's "good for you."

image credit -

Trying your new habit out for 30 days (a 30-day challenge) can be a great way to test drive your new habit, without having to commit to it forever.

What is a 30-day Challenge?

This isn't rocket science - it's pretty easy. Challenge yourself to do something, or to quit doing something, for 30 days. Every single day, no matter what, for 30 days. The challenge gives you an opportunity to:
  • Give something new a try. A new task / habit / change can seem daunting. By giving yourself a 30-day time frame you're able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's that whole "I can do anything for 30 days" mentality, where you're more willing to endure some difficulty because you know it's not permanent. This makes it much easier to start a new task - both mentally and emotionally.
  • 30 days isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it is long enough to effect changes to your body and mind.
    • Work out really hard for 30 days, and you'll see and feel the difference in your body.
    • Cut your calories drastically for 30 days, and you'll lose a lot of weight.
    • Changes to your diet will have enough time to impact your digestion, sleep patterns, and energy level. Do you feel better after cutting sugar (or alcohol, or gluten) from your diet?
    • Changes to your daily routine will have enough time for you to see the fruits of your labor. Have you made progress on a hobby because you're watching less TV, or because you're waking up 20 minutes earlier in the mornings?
  • Try something you might have been afraid to try on a more permanent basis. There may be things you would be afraid of failing on, but you'd love to give them a try if it's temporary.
  • Determine what parts of the new habit you liked best, and what parts weren't meant for your long-term life. You can then continue to make that new habit part of your life in whichever way works best for you.

How to make a 30-day Challenge work for you.

Try doing something you've wanted to do, and see how you like it. Commit to it - give it everything you've got - for 30 days. Keep a journal, or at the very least be cognizant about how you feel during the process. Did you lose weight, or get stronger, or get more flexible? Are you sleeping better? Do you have more energy? Enjoy the accomplishment, and take stock about what you gained from the process.

After the 30 days are over, you can decide whether to make that new habit a permanent part of your lifestyle, and on what terms. Maybe you're only going to do it 3 days per week instead of every day..?

Smaller is better

You can't run a marathon every day, but you can run (or walk) a mile. Doing something every single day - rain or shine, weekday or weekend, even when you're sick or tired - is hard enough. Make that new something a Herculean task and you're doomed before you even begin. Keep it simple - you can always modify and expand on it as time goes on.

Examples of good 30-day Challenges

Good 30-day challenges shouldn't take a lot of time, and they should be easy to track. When you're going to bed at night, there shouldn't be any doubt about whether or not you were successful. (and the answer better be that you were successful!)
  • Run 1 mile every day.
  • Remove something from your diet - soda, sugary drinks, desserts, wheat (gluten), alcohol.
    • Changes to diet can have a big impact on other parts of your well-being, so pay close attention to how you feel, how you sleep, and your overall energy levels.
  • Counting calories - give yourself a daily calorie budget and stick to it.
  • Limiting your time spent on Facebook and/or social media. (or eliminating it altogether.)
  • Stretching / Yoga
  • Stand up from your desk and do jumping jacks for 30-60 seconds, 3-4 times per day.
  • Exercise during TV commercials. push-ups, shadow boxing, 100-ups, mountain climbers, and squats work great for this.
  • Drink 8 glasses of water per day.
  • 30-day challenges don't have to be fitness related either; they can work on all areas of your life.
    • Limiting your time spent watching TV.
    • Reading for 15 minutes every day.
    • Say hello to a stranger / smile at somebody.
    • Learning a foreign language for 15 minutes a day.
    • Learning to play a musical instrument for 15 minutes each day.
    • Writing a couple hundred words in your novel, or your blog.
    • Meditate

Tracking your 30-day Challenge

I like to print out a 30-day worksheet and cross off a Big Red X for each successful task/day. (see my post "Don't Break the Chain"). I keep the worksheet at my desk at work, and it motivates me to continue my forward progress. Here are some worksheets you can print and use. (if the jpg files don't print great for you, shoot me an email and I can send you a pdf version.) I always start on a Monday, which is the beginning of a new week for me, so my tracking schedules start on Mondays...

once per day

twice per day

three times per day

four times per day

eight times per day

a Few of My Personal Challenges

I've taken on a number of 30-day challenges over the years, and sometimes the results have surprised me.
  • 1 Mile per day - some days this was planned as part of a workout, while other days I took a long walk during lunch. And there were a few times where I was getting ready for bed and said "Oh S***! Honey, I'll be back in 10 minutes.." before running out the door! When the challenge was over, I had decided that running wasn't so bad, and I've run a large number of miles since then.
  • Giving up soda - soda has been my vice as far back as I can remember. I've flip-flopped between diet and regular, and I've tried limiting my intake, but it's always difficult. So I made a concerted effort for a 30-day challenge. (I ended up turning this into a 60-day challenge, but that's beside the point.) I was sort of expecting a great cleansing feeling from doing this, but surprisingly it didn't have any impact on my energy, sleep, digestion, or otherwise. So, when the trial was over, I decided to re-introduce soda back into my diet (sugar only - not diet because I don't trust the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners), and I'm using my weight and calories to help determine if and how much I can consume. (because at 150 calories per can it can add up to trouble quickly.) If my weight and eating have been good, I get to indulge.
  • Facebook holiday - I removed Facebook from my phone for 30 days, and realized I really didn't miss it all that much. When the challenge was over I added it back to my phone, but even today - 2 years later - I still don't use it nearly as much as I used to.
  • Being "there" with my kids - this was my favorite challenge I've done, and I liked the results so much I've continued with it ever since then. Instead of being near my kids while doing my own thing (working, or being on my phone, or watching a game on TV, or whatever), I try to be actively engaged with my kids - all that other stuff can wait. My relationship with both boys has become stronger because of this.

In the end, a 30-day challenge is nothing more than an easy way to tempt you into trying something you either wouldn't have tried at all, or that you'd try and then give up on too soon. That being said, a 30-day challenge is also extremely effective and can have long-term, life-changing benefits.

I recommend keeping the 30-day challenge as a tool in your health and fitness arsenal, and using it anytime you're not sure whether a new habit might be right for you.

- Chris Butterworth

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On Amazon - a couple noteworthy items to check out


South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon

I have been wanting to hike the Grand Canyon for a long time, but when we took a family sight-seeing trip there this spring break it became less "I want to" and more "I'm going to". Well, last weekend I did it - my brother and I hiked down, and then back up, the South Kaibab Trail, in the same day. It was an awesome experience. Some thoughts below, in no particular order:
  • The vastness and the beauty of the Grand Canyon is un-explainable. Pictures don't do it justice - it's one of those things that you need to see with your own eyes.
  • It was 38 degrees at the south rim at 4:45 am, and over 100 degrees at the bottom (the high at Phantom Ranch was 106 that afternoon). That's a huge temperature swing - if I do this hike again next year it'll be in May or even April.
  • The hike has 4 different sections - Rim to Cedar Ridge; Cedar Ridge to Skeleton Point; Skeleton Point to Junction / Tip-Off; and Tip-Off to Bridge / Canyon Floor. Each section is similar to hiking Camelback Mountain or Squaw Peak in Phoenix.
  • The trail is well-maintained, so the hike isn't technically difficult, but it is a long, long, steep, staircase-type of climb. Did I mention it was long? Going down, on the other hand, was surprisingly easy; we got to the bottom without exerting too much energy.
  • The approach to the canyon is unlike any other climb you'll do. There isn't any anticipation factor from seeing the mountain in the distance, which keeps getting bigger as you get closer. With the Grand Canyon, you're driving across a desert plateau, and then suddenly the earth simply ends - and you're there.
  • The sense of accomplishment is more pronounced then most other hikes as well, because you can see the trail below you (and where you just were not too long ago) very clearly. It's amazing how fast you ascend, yet also how long it takes.
  • As for training, I did a lot of trail running, for 60-90 minutes at a time, on and around the local mountains and preserves. Next year I will incorporate the revolving staircase in the gym into my training as well.


South Kaibab Trailhead, 5:10am

South Rim at dawn. (the smoke in the canyon is from a wildfire burning on the North Rim.)

An eagle soars over the canyon at sunrise

Early in the hike. (I can tell because we still look fresh and clean!)

After crossing the black suspension bridge

Cooling off in the Colorado River. (the water was very cold!)

Finished! The ice-cold Coke and turkey sandwich waiting for me at the car never tasted so good.

If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, go. It's a must see. And even if you're not up for hiking down to the bottom (and back up), it's worth the effort to hike down 30 minutes or so - the views are spectacular.

-Chris Butterworth


my butt is big.. and healthy

my butt is big.. and healthy

Fitness. Healthy. Athletic. In shape. Strong. Toned.

Did you notice a word missing from that list?


my butt is big - nike

HT to FineFitnessBlog for posting this ad.

The goal isn't about skinny; it's about Healthy.

I've already used Nike in this post, but I feel like I have to say it.. right here...

Just do it.

-Chris Butterworth


5 thoughts BEFORE you make your goals and resolutions

5 thoughts BEFORE you make your goals and resolutions

pad and pen ready to write down goals image Microsoft clipart

This post is a follow-up to my 8-point primer on goals and resolutions earlier in the month..

1.) Your goal isn't fun. (at least, not in the beginning)

Nobody sets a goal of playing more X-box or eating more donuts. We set goals that will make us happier in the long-term, but that require giving up something fun (like X-box or donuts) or inducing discomfort (like working out or focusing on writing a novel) in the short term.

Understand and embrace this trade-off. The short term pleasure is a drug; the long term benefits of your goal - whether physical, financial, emotional, social, or spiritual - will far outweigh whatever it is you're giving up.

2.) Goals involve change.

Understand that your goal will require you to change what you do and how you spend your time. Obviously, right? Because if you were already doing your goal you wouldn't need to set a goal for it.

Change can be uncomfortable. Change requires motivation, energy, and dedication. Change can cause friction. All good things - if you were happy with the way things were, you wouldn't have set this goal!

3.) Goals can be a grind.

The first time you workout, or meditate, or block out time to read, or write a few pages - it feels exhilirating, like you're controlling your own destiny. The second and third time will feel cool, too, but not quite as powerful as that first time.

But pretty soon you'll hit your first dip, where you aren't seeing the results you expected as quickly as you expected. You're tired, you're frustrated, and you can think of plenty of other things you'd rather be doing instead. It's critical to push through this first dip and continue on your new path.

You'll have more dips along the way - setbacks, illness, family obligations, projects at work - but they'll be easier to push through than that first one. And push through you must!

4.) Success breeds success.

Once you see results, it gets easier to buy into why you're making the effort you are. Maybe you've been able to:

  • Run a mile without stopping.
  • Drop a few pounds off the scale.
  • Meditate deeply for 15 minutes.
  • Finish reading a book.
  • Develop characters and a plot in your own book.

Whatever it is you're working on, seeing your own success makes it easier to continue making those short-term sacrifices and pushing through the dips. In fact, most people turn up the intensity once they start seeing results.

In addition to being more successful in that particular goal, seeing success also gives you the confidence to start thinking about the next goal you want to tackle!

5.) I want it BAD.

Knowing everything you're going to give up in exchange for your goal (sleep, TV, video games, fast food, facebook, sweets), and how hard you're going to work at it (sweat, sore muscles, hunger pains, cravings) - you better want this goal badly. You need to be able to elevate it above everything else in your world:

  • Being skinny is more important than eating the snacks in the break room at work.
  • Exercising is more important than that last 20 minutes of sleep.
  • The kids will be OK while I do my thing for a few minutes.
  • Finding peace and tranquility is more important than seeing pictures of other people's kids online.
  • All that stuff.

It's going to be hard. It's going to be uncomfortable. It's going to be a grind.

It's going to be successful - IF you want it more than you want your short-term drugs.

Here's to your success in 2013!

-Chris Butterworth


my car won't start - the yin and yang of emotions

my car won't start - the yin and yang of emotions

This morning my car didn't start.

my Toyota 4Runner

It was early - 5:15 am. It was dark. It was cold. And my first two reactions were anger and frustration. I rattled off some cus words. I banged my hand on the steering wheel. Then I changed my mind.

I realized there wasn't any reaction on my part that was going to have a positive effect on the outcome of the situation. Instead, I spent a minute contemplating my options and the potential outcomes on my day. I came up with a game plan, and then I executed:

  • The door lights and audio chimes worked, and the clock had the correct time, so it probably wasn't the battery. Maybe it was the starter?
  • The engine made no sound whatsoever when I turned the key. Strange, if it was the starter, I should hear the car trying to start..
  • I was definitely going to be behind schedule today. Could I get to work on time? Not if I needed to be towed and wait around for a mechanic's shop to open.
  • The mechanic I trust is near my office, but that's too far away for a free tow. How much would it cost to get my car over there? Would it be better to find an authorized repair shop near my house?
  • OK - let's get to it.
  • First, I have to try to jump start it. If that doesn't work, I'm not out anything. But if it does work and I didn't try it, I'm an idiot.
  • Then I'll call my road side assistance, and I'll have to adjust depending on what happens from there.

I pulled opened the garage, backed out my wife's car, hooked up the cables, and Voila! My car started easily.

Sometimes we make a bigger deal out of something than it really is. We overreact. We give too much power to things we have no control over.

Better to focus our energy on the things we can control. Be proactive. Be ahead of the curve. Be prepared for uncertainty. And be ready to choose your reaction to things you can't control.

It reminds me of a Chinese proverb I read about awhile ago:
Once upon a time there lived a farmer in the three kingdoms of China.
This farmer had a son who worked the farm with the help of a horse.
The horse ran away one day.
The local farmers came and said, "How unlucky, your horse ran away."
The farmer said, "Perhaps."
The next day, the horse came back, but was followed by a whole herd.
When the local farmers found out, they said, "You have great luck."
Again, the farmer said, "Perhaps."
Another day passes, and the farmer's son broke his leg while riding some of the new horses.
The local farmers again came, and this time they said, "What bad luck, your son broke his leg."
The farmer repeated, "Perhaps."
On the fourth day, the emperor's army were recruiting for the army and because of the son's broken leg, did not recruit him.
The local farmers this time said, "What great luck, your son did not get recruited."
The farmer again, repeated, "Perhaps."

In health, fitness, goal achievement, and life in general: Do your best. Try your hardest. Control what you can control. But there will be setbacks. How we react to the setbacks can be the difference between winning and losing.

-Chris Butterworth


goals and resolutions - an 8-point primer

goals and resolutions - an 8-point primer

It's about that time of the year - we're winding down this year and New Year's Resolutions for next year are just around the corner. (We all know how crowded the gym gets in January, right?) I've succeeded, and failed, at scores of goals over the years, and here are some of the key points I've learned:

man running stairs
(microsoft clipart)

1.) Not too many! Pick 1 goal, maybe 2, that you can give your full attention to, and win on that goal. Over time you'll be able to modify that goal and add additional goals.

2.) Envision your Goal; Act on your Subgoals. Losing 40 pounds will be great - envision the skinny you as hard as you can. But your daily actions will include the subgoals of eating less and exercising more.

3.) Consistency Counts. 50 push-ups a day doesn't sound like a lot; you could do a few in the morning, some more throughout the day, and then a few at bedtime. Do this every day next year and you will have done 18,250 push-ups! Small actions, done consistently over time, become great achievements.

4.) Achievement Goals. Running a marathon, writing a book, learning to play guitar. Achievement goals require massive amounts of focus and energy, but once they're done, they're done. You will always have that achievement in your life-resume. Dream big on achievement goals.

5.) Habit Goals. Regular exercise, reading more frequently, writing a blog, social commitments. Habit goals take an enormous amount of time and energy, and their time commitments add up cumulatively. Start with very modest habit goals; you can always add to them later.

6.) Quitting Goals. Smoking, drinking, sweets, soda, watching TV, aimless internet surfing.While quitting something doesn't take time or money, and often gives you time and/or money back, they require a great deal of emotional and mental energy. I think they're the most difficult type of goal, because you'll have multiple opportunities to fail every single day.

7.) Time-Free Goals. Saving money, eating healthier, being friendlier to strangers. These goals require the same dedication and consistency as the others, but they are essentially free - they don't take you away from your other time commitments.

8.) Why this goal? Dig deep to understand why you're working on this goal. Losing 40 pounds sounds good, but why are you doing it? To look better for others? To look better for yourself? To be healthier - to stop taking blood pressure medication? To be around for your grandchildren? To be able to do more "stuff" without getting winded? Goals driven by internal factors are more likely to be successful; goals with an external focus are harder to define and harder to achieve.

This should give you something to think about as you start working on your goals and resolutions for next year. Let's make next year the most successful year yet!

-Chris Butterworth


weekend motivation - triathlon video

weekend motivation - triathlon video

Looking for a little motivation to get out there and make it happen this weekend?

Here's a video showing highlights from the Ironman World Championship (Triathlon) in Hawaii:

Here's the link, as videos don't always come through in feed readers:

Awesome stuff - when I watch this video my adrenaline starts pumping and I'm ready to take on any workout!

swimming in hawaii
image clipped from video

Have a healthy weekend!

-Chris Butterworth


Embrace the Grind

Embrace the Grind

Alabama football coach Nick Saban

Some things in this world are a grind.

  • losing weight
  • being healthy
  • being successful at your job
  • writing a blog!
  • Anything where the end result is made up of dozens of choices throughout the day, day after day, month after month.

Coach Nick Saban

Nick Saban is a college football coach. He coached the LSU Tigers to the national championship in 2003. Then, after a brief stint coaching in the NFL, he came back to college to coach the Alabama Crimson Tide (LSU's rival), where he won the national championship in 2009 and 2011. And he's currently ranked #1 in the country again, after having just beaten LSU (again) last weekend.

Coach Saban was interviewed on the radio last month, and the host asked about how he can be so successful in a business which can be a such a grind - teaching players, teaching coaches, strategy with coaches, recruiting new players, scouting opponents, devising game plans, coordinating with student advisers, dealing with all the problems that come with a few dozen 18-22 year old boys, etc., etc.

His response: "Embrace the grind."

Achievement Goals vs Elimination Goals

If your goal is to exercise in the morning before work, you only need to battle your inner demons once - you wake up, and have to motivate yourself to get out of bed and get moving. That's it. One battle, and you're victorious for the day.

If your goal is to lose weight, and you're doing this by watching what you eat, you need to battle your inner demons all day long.

  • Bagel with cream cheese and a glass of orange juice? No, just a small bowl of cereal instead.
  • Mocha frappuccino on the way to work? No, small coffee, black.
  • Dave brought donuts into the office? No thanks, I'm fine.
  • Mid-morning snack at the vending machine? Nah, I'll just have a few almonds to hold me over 'till lunch.
  • Lunch with the group, and that pizza smells awesome.. I'll have the small garden salad with grilled chicken strips.
  • Afternoon blahs - a snickers and a Coke sound pretty good. No, better make it half an apple and a glass of tea.
  • Dinner - I'm hungry, and everything sounds good - I want it all. Wait a minute, stick with the plan - I'll have a small burger (with minimal sauces and bun) and a salad.
  • Dessert - I've got ice cream in the freezer, but I'll have a few grapes instead.

Wow - that's a long, exhausting day of winning battles. You don't win the day unless you win every battle. And you don't win your goal unless you win almost every single day, for several months in a row.. What a grind!

Embrace the grind. Know that every time you win a battle, you're on pace to achieve your goal. Relish in the victory, savor it, embrace it.

An Example

Your goal of losing 50 pounds over the next year? It amounts to losing a pound a week, which means you need to be at a calorie-deficit of 500 calories per day, every day, for a year.

A 30-year old female, 5' 3", weighing 170 pounds, needs approximately 1,750 calories to maintain weight. She can eat 1,250 per day to lose her pound per week, or she can eat slightly more if she mixes in some high intensity exercise.

It's a grind. Yes, there are milestones along the way - losing 10 pounds, getting below 150, losing 25 pounds, etc. But none of those stop the grind. Taking a day off, having a cheesecake celebration - anything like that only sets you back.

The grind equals success. Failure to embrace the grind, equals failure.

Embrace the grind.

-Chris Butterworth