Mountain Therapy

These are thoughtful points useful for life’s adventures

victorialise

Hiking mountains may come to mind naturally when you think of ways to decompress, reconnect, unwind, rejuvenate and more. Well, maybe being surrounded by mountainous landscapes, like the visuals on calming music videos come to thought before actually climbing mountains.  We tend to find peace and serenity within the bounty of nature. I’ve  been hiking mountains for just 3 years but on each mountain I’ve had a different experience with myself, an in-depth look and chance to reflect. More than once it has come to me the multitude of ways in which hiking heals. Below you will find a few I’ve collected along the way……

  1. The first step can be intimidating: When we look at the journey as a whole it can be stifling, it can make us want to quit before we even begin, assuming the climb has already defeated us. It is the first step that leads to…

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Update: My current yoga practice

First, I’ll take you back to post-Rocket yoga training this past Spring when I was asked (er, required) to commit to a daily practice. It lasted through July when I was officially certified for Rocket Yoga teaching. I consider this a huge leap for me on top of my 200 hour teacher training. It was an awesome time of practicing my craft and setting an example (in my mind) for my students. When I would teach Rocket I could say to myself (and my class), “this is what I felt this morning when I did this practice.”

But now, I feel partially like a hypocrite. Its not that I’m not satisfied with my current practice, but I’m not setting a traditional example for my classes.

Since August, my practice has been a weight-loss journey. In the CrossFit world, where my life as a Venn Diagram overlaps, they would say weight means nothing. Its your body composition that matters. And for the most part, I believe this too. I would be perfectly happy carrying 200 pounds at 7% bodyfat on my short frame. But I’ve proven to myself, after losing 12 pounds, that I can do things now that I couldn’t do ever before. I’ve done transitions and binds that I’ve never done in yoga. I feel better about myself. And isn’t the feeling the most important part?

One main reason I bring this up is that I was 2 pounds from my goal. And instead of pushing for that 2 pounds, I let off and tried to let the last part happen naturally. Guess what? It didn’t work. I went 2 pounds the other way. So, like most men (military men especially), I sought to fix what’s broken. Here’s my plan:

5am – wake up – barefoot walk with dogs – run outside or on treadmill – heartbreaker cardio WOD (21-15-9 reps of couplet or triplet with row/ski for cals, double unders, box jumps, burpees, …)
6am – shower or Epsom salt bath, coffee, watch the news
7am – go to work
Noon – keep working, or go for a run if its nice, or maybe do some yoga
430pm – CrossFit WOD 5-15 mins, Olympic weightlifting, maybe bodybuilding and yoga
Evening – yoga wheel, restorative, or other prop; teach or go to yoga class

So, you notice that I don’t list “yoga practice” anywhere. I honestly don’t have a personal yoga practice. That’s not to say I don’t do things that are yoga related or contribute to my practice. Doing a load of dips or bench presses is like chaturanga, plank, or up dog. Toes to bar and sit-ups relate to navasana. And I feel strong in my yoga poses from all that I do. Handstands are nothing when I do numerous handstand pushups or clean & jerk well over 200 pounds. But some things suffer. Flexibility suffers. So I continue to work on that. I listen to my teachers when I take classes. And I try to demonstrate as much as I can in classes.

But I do need to commit more to my practice. It will start with dedicating at least one day a week to a full practice. Or at least going to an Ashtanga class. That’s what I’ll do. I promise.

 

Am I Really That Crazy?

If someone tells me they want to give me something for free, 99% of the time I’m going to run the other way. Why? Because I was once a whole lot stupider than I am now. Unless you believe in love or religion, nothing comes for free. It pays to be skeptical. Let me tell you some of the schemes.

CREDIT CARDS ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES
There is a reason why credit card companies set up booths on college campuses. I fell for it too. Heck, I used to carry at least 5 department store cards and 3+ VISA/MasterCard/American Express cards. I thought the plastic gave me status. And somebody also threw me this line about building my credit. Believe me, it’s all a big lie. They want gullible people to spend more than they have and then charge them 5-20% interest rates. They want you to be in debt to them so they can take everything you have. And then you only pay the minimum amount every month and max out your limit. You are throwing money away and not even knowing it. Pay everything in cash. Or, if you have a little bit of financial sense and are frugal, have one Rewards credit card and pay it off every month. Never carry a balance. Don’t write checks that your a$$ can’t cash!

PAYDAY LOANS
Why do you think they have PayDay Loan places near depressed communities? The same reason why pawn shops are only in the worst parts of town. They want to charge you to float your hard earned paycheck their way for a fee and a quick turnaround. Its those who don’t have any patience in the world who think this is a good deal. There is a reason why they don’t put these places in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods. Smart people don’t fall for these traps.

PREDATORY LENDING
There is actually no such thing as “predatory lending”. There are only new suckers being born every day. Bill Clinton pushed the idea that everyone should own a home. So they opened up the housing market saying people who couldn’t afford a home should be able to buy one. Only, this opened the door for lots of scammers to jump into the market. They’d offer ultra-low interest rates and low or no-down payments just to get you to sign the dotted line. Then, after 3-5 years, you’d have an interest rate that you couldn’t afford and would go into foreclosure. Then the bank owned your home and you were out on the street. Don’t sign the dotted line on those kinds of deals. If you don’t know what you are doing, ask a real financial advisor or attorney. Better yet; educate yourself!

NEW CARS
Actually, this goes for NEW anything. People want status symbols. There is a reason you see people in dire straits with the latest clothes and shoes and a shiny new car, but you go to their homes and they live in a dump. People want to LOOK rich when they are ACTUALLY drop-dead poor. Forget status. Instead, do the hard work, get educated, learn a trade, and work for a living. Don’t lease a car to own. You don’t need a new car every 2 or 3 years. Buy an old jalopy and learn how to fix it up yourself. You don’t need to carry a car payment…EVER! A car is NEVER a good investment. Its always a money pit. Save money and wait for the right time when you can pay for it with cash (if you need a car in the first place). Learn how to save! You don’t need the latest iPhone or cable TV package. Believe me, you won’t die without one.

THE LOTTERY WILL MAKE YOU RICH
OK, its safe to say that rich people don’t buy lottery tickets. Its only people who spend $40 a week on a carton of cigarettes and blow $200 on a Friday night at the bars who play the lottery. Stand at the local 7-Eleven and see who buys lottery tickets. It isn’t the rich people since they are busy storing leftovers from a home-cooked dinner in a GladWare for their lunches the next day instead of blowing $10 at McDonalds. The people who win the lotteries are the same people who quit their jobs and live it up for 2 or 3 years, then are dead broke again. They didn’t know how to handle money in the first place and didn’t know what to do with so much wealth. They buy homes knowing nothing about property taxes. They buy expensive Jaguars not realizing how much maintenance costs are for those things. They let their nephew Jeffrey who has a few college credits under his belt or Pastor Ed who they trust to manage their money for them. Its like buying $1,000 worth of fireworks and shooting them all off in less than 20 minutes. It’s fun while it lasts. There is a reason why these people fail.

There are no good get rich schemes. Learn to invest. Learn to save. Educate yourself and climb the ladder. Learn contentment and satisfaction in people who really love you. Don’t listen to scam artists (and politicians) who sell you pipe dreams that will never happen. Don’t look for instant gratification. Think long-term and find grounding in what is real. Don’t look for free tuition or free anything. Money doesn’t materialize from dust. Somebody has to pay for those things. Rich people are rich for a reason. I know you think they step on people and are always corrupt, which is how you think they got rich. It doesn’t usually work that way. Its because they put in the hard work to get there. If you think they are going to pay for your education or any other kind of welfare, then you go ahead and buy that lottery ticket and hope for the best.

NOTE: There is an interesting book called “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. If you want to succeed financially, don’t take advice from a poor person (or politician who has always lived off the taxpayer). Its like taking diet advice from someone who is morbidly obese; or like getting marriage tips from a celebrity who divorced 4 times. Just don’t do it!

People I Like

I was kind of a jock as a kid. A quiet one. If I wanted to be popular, I could have been. If I wanted to beat my chest and say how good I was, I probably had at least a little right to do so. But I am inherently shy. Even an introvert by choice.

So when it came to making friends, I was the one who stood next to the kid who was by himself at the wall during recess. I was the one who sat with the lonely kid at lunchtime. I am still the one who walks over and shakes the hands of the elderly couple who are sitting alone during greeting time at church.

In turn, I’m also the guy who waves back at someone when they were waving at someone behind me. I am the guy who says “Good Morning” to someone on the street and they ignore me. I am the guy who attends all my friends workshops and they don’t go to mine.

But its ok. I’m the kind of guy who lives a simple life. If I lived in a cabin among the aspen trees, far removed from the posh environs of Breckenridge or Vail, I’d be a happy man. If I was mowing my lawn and a Tour Bus stops across the street with some [insert celebrity] sign on the side, I’d just mow my lawn.

My friends are real. They don’t have a weak handshake and give a fake smile. They have electricity in their grasp. And their eyes warm your heart. I am drawn to the unpopular. They have the best stories to tell.

Old Habits, easy to break?

Yeah, when something major happens to you, to your body, to a loved one…old habits are easy to break. When you value your life and those around you, its not all that difficult.

For me, it was a heart attack, only it wasn’t a heart attack since it was on the wrong side of my body. I woke up in the middle of the night and it felt like someone stabbed me under my right shoulder blade. I laid there uncomfortably and decided to get up and take a Tylenol. When I stood up, I dropped to my knees and then to the floor seized in pain. I painfully groaned to my wife for help. She helped me get going and opened the hatch in the car and I laid in the back. We rushed to the Emergency Room. ER’s aren’t fun at all. The staff there seemed to be numb to pain since they see so much of it. I waited for what seemed like an eternity for someone to help me. I was triaged as a lower priority I suppose. I can’t imagine if I was really having a heart attack. I’d probably have to pass out or writhe on the floor for help. I was finally admitted to a room and waited even longer. The doctor came in and looked at my history. I have had chronic back pain, so he didn’t even really diagnose me. He just gave me something for back spasms.

So I followed up with my own doctor and I was diagnosed with a gall bladder attack. My wife had already had hers taken out, so that’s the direction I was headed (only I kept it, more on that later). They ran my blood work and I had lipids out of control (not the good kind) and fatty liver disease.

What is strange about this is that I was active. VERY active! I ran ultramarathons. I was doing CrossFit on my own. I did powerlifting. I felt I had all my bases covered.

What I didn’t have covered was my diet. I figured, I ran 6 hours at a time; I could eat what I wanted. I was benching 315 pounds and squatting 405. I was the epitome of health for my age. And I thought I had good genetics. My grandpa drank and smoked all his life and lived to his late 80’s. When we had chili at his house, it came wrapped in butcher paper and looked like a slab of fatty meat. Then it melted in the pan as you cooked it. I was rebellious in thinking that I didn’t need to diet.

So my reason for writing is not to tell you what I changed. I am trying to tell you that I needed to change my way of thinking about diets. I see others in the same predicament. I see some who only diet and don’t do exercise. The two go together. Before something bad happens to you, please make the changes in both diet and exercise. The right changes. I saw this commercial yesterday for a device that you stand on and twist side to side. I see juicing diets and other fads. Believe me, that’s not that way to go. Educated yourself and do the hard work of finding what really works.

More to come on my journey. I keep learning and this process keeps changing. Do something for yourself before the Old Habits are broken for you.

Play with Fire (from the Old Fogey in me)

As we get older, we realize how precious life is. When I was 18 years old in Army Basic Training, there wasn’t much that I was afraid of. I just threw my body with abandon into any circus event I could find. Today, I consciously step up onto a curb and brace myself as I cross the ice.

As I sit indoors in the comfortable, flat plains of Illinois, the probability of me being attacked by a mountain lion is nil. But the times when I was pacing the Western States 100 mile race in California or running the Hope’s Pass portion of the Leadville 100 course in Colorado, I was keenly aware of those silent green eyes of the mountain lion lurking in the shadows. There is a plaque dedicated in memorium to a lady who was eaten by a mountain lion at mile 95 of the Western States 100 course. I saw a research article of a park outside of San Diego where they tracked mountain lions. All of their nesting places were nearly adjacent to popular hiking trails. The probability of an encounter greatly spikes in these locations.

Its getting darker sooner. And it is well known that darkness often brings out the worst in people. When I was a kid, we didn’t go to the clubs until 9 or 10pm at the very earliest. Most crimes occur in the darkness. When I drive home from teaching yoga after dark, I am very leery of the two-lane country roads with no line in the middle. It would take a drunk driver checking a text message a split second to veer into my lane and hit me head on. In fact, I choose NOT to drive in the dark as much as possible, especially on a Friday or Saturday night when people are partying.

True story: When I was on my way to Drill Sergeant’s Academy at Fort Knox in Kentucky, I stopped at this quiet little town off the highway. I had just gone to sleep when I heard sirens blaring for hours. I got on the road early the next morning to find emergency vehicles on the highway and a burned out church bus. Later, I found out that a drunk driver got on the highway in the wrong direction and hit the bus head on. He killed 27 people, mostly children, and injured 34 others. I was just miles from the place where so many lives had ended.

Not to be fatalistic, but you can die anywhere…anytime. But those who choose to go to the clubs at night shouldn’t be shocked if they are a victim of violent crime. Someone walking down a city street at 2 A.M. when they don’t need to be there is more likely than me to be attacked by evil. People who live promiscuous lifestyles are going to be more likely than me to get AIDS, HPV, or other STDs. Believe me, I’m no Angel and I don’t expect to be a Saint. And I know its cliche, but when you play with fire…