Motivation, Like Showering, Is Not Permanent: Practice It Daily

We are exposed to so much negative information daily throughout our entire lives. This exposure can program our minds into conditioned patterns of negative thinking. As we repeat these negative patterns, they become so ingrained that we are not even aware of them. But the same process works with positive thinking. Find information that lifts your spirits and motivates you. Read, watch and listen to positive, inspiring and motivating things. Expose yourself to positivity as frequently as possible. Instead of focusing on the depravity of the latest senseless crime on the news, notice the good people all around you performing acts of kindness. Instead of hating your body, marvel at the wonder of being in charge of such a sophisticated machine.

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Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretch therapy.

3 Things Transformation Pictures Do Not Tell You

 

This is me back in 2002. I made this transformation as part of a contest for a nutritional supplement company. Basically, I had to use at least one of their products and take before and after photos 90 days apart.  If I won, I would get $50,000 and they would use the pictures in their ads. These pictures are not altered in any way. There has been no photoshopping or airbrushing. These photos show what is possible if someone is willing to do some hard work and practice nutritional discipline. However there are three things that the photos do not tell you.

1. The before picture is usually and off-season bodybuilder or fitness model.

Despite my appearance in the before pictures, I was not a sedentary couch potato. I was an experienced bodybuilder. Physique enhancement had been my hobby, passion and obsession. I competed in drug tested bodybuilding as a teenager and even won a few trophies. I knew how to alter my training and nutrition to fine tune my physique. I was an experienced weight lifter with above average muscle beneath the layer of fat depicted in the pre-transformation picture. I knew how get the lean, defined look in a period of 12 weeks, and was willing to do the necessary work.

1. An impressive transformation can be staged in the same day by adjusting a few simple variables.

Tanned skin and skilled posing helped me look better in the post-transformation photos. Also, I knew how to manipulate the fluid levels in my body to enhance or worsen my appearance in pictures. Most fitness models and bodybuilders do this for photo shoots. In the before picture I was carrying about six extra pounds of fluid. This gave me a soft, bloated look. In the after picture, I purposely eliminated the fluid beneath my skin to give my body a more defined look. Basically, I was dehydrated. If I had tried to do much more than pose, I would have had severe muscle cramps.

3. After photos show a physique that is not sustainable for more than a few days.

Unfortunately the lifestyle that created the after pictures was not sustainable for me. I could not maintain that low level of body fat year-round. The extremes required to create that much physique change in such a short time were obsessive. I had a tendency to go to extremes back then. I was in treatment for alcoholism a year after this “transformation”, so obviously I found neither peace of mind, nor a permanent healthy lifestyle from this endeavor.

Compound Effect

What I have learned since then is that small, sustainable changes carried out over the long term are far more powerful than huge, radical changes which cannot be sustained. I try to live one day at a time as healthy as I can. I can honestly say that I look better than I did a year after those after photos. I am also healthier in body, mind and spirit. As the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu wrote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

 

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Author:Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretch therapy.

 

Zen Running: 3 Ways Running a Marathon is Like Zen Meditation

Marathon runners and Zen meditation practitioners are seldom compared. Sometimes yoga, Pilates and tai chi practices are termed “mind/body exercise” by the fitness industry because of the strong meditative component of these disciplines. In many ways though, running long distances such as the 26.2 miles of a marathon is just like Zen meditation. Here are 3 similarities.

1. Radical Acceptance.

During Zen meditation you cultivate an attitude of non-reaction to whatever arises. If a strong urge arises such as a desire to get up and do something else, your don’t ignore it. You simply notice the thoughts, feelings, and desires and decide to not act on them. Complete acceptance of how things are in the present moment is the target.

Similarly, there are many times in marathon running where you get a strong urge to stop due to extreme fatigue. To be successful your have to notice what is happening, yet not react. Deciding to continue with the practice despite the desire to quit–it’s common bond between running and meditation.

2. Mindfulness.

During sitting meditation the mind usually wanders incessantly. You notice this but bring your attention back to your breath and the body. By repeatedly noticing your breathing and bodily sensations, you develope concentration and stillness of mind. Your mind gradually begins to settle down. This method brings a deeper level of awareness.

During a  long run, the feelings in you body and your breathing become so strong that they begin to dominate the your awareness.  In this way, running induces a state of mindfulness similar to sitting meditation.

3. Intense Present Moment Awareness.

The object of Zen meditation is cultivate attentive awareness of the present moment. The typical human mind is usually jumping from memories of the past to projections of the future. The present moment is seen as an obstacle to getting to some future moment where everything will be just right.

Meditation cultivates a sense that everything is just right now, even though it is probably not exactly as desired. Long distance running is similar. The only way to get through it is one step at a time.

Complete acceptance of how the body feels right now coupled with attention to breathing and bodily feelings creates a state of blissful peace. The runner learns to make peace with every step of the journey.
“Only the present moment contains life.”
–Zen master Thich Naht Hanh s, Peace is Every Step

 

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Author: Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretch therapy.

 

Louisiana Marathon: May the odds be ever in your favor!

As I wake up this morning with the opportunity to run the Louisiana Marathon, I am thinking of the large amount of work it takes to make something like this come together. All the volunteers, race director, vendors. All of the people who will be inconvenienced by the roads that are closed. Thank you to everyone who contributed!

Author:
Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretch therapy.

Want Motivation? Try Gratitude!

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How can you stick with your exercise program whenever the inevitable lull in motivation comes? At some point we all have days where we don’t feel like doing things that are good for us, especially the physical effort of exercise. At that point maybe we try to buckle down and grind through it. We try to overcome resistance by force of will, or just give up and quit.

But if we look deeper, maybe we can see that our own outlook is creating the resistance. How we think about any situation will determine how we experience it. Sometimes we can view exercise as something we unfortunately have to do to maintain our fitness level and accomplish our individual goals. We get discouraged because the results take longer than we desire. The process is something we grudgingly endure to get to the outcome. There is a phrase that describes this mindset, self pity.

Several years ago I was stuck in self pity as I drove up to the YMCA to teach a spin class. I was tired, operating on a sleep deficit and just did not feel like doing anything. I glanced to the right and saw a tennis tournament at the YMCA tennis center. All of the athletes were in wheelchairs! I was amazed. A realization hit me. I was dreading doing something that some people can’t do. There I was with my two perfectly functioning legs feeling sorry for myself. I realized that my legs were a gift I received by being born. I did not earn them through my own efforts. I suddenly felt privileged to be able to teach a spin class, and walk, and run, and everything I was taking for granted.

Gratitude is the opposite of self pity. It is a key to motivation. The more I cultivate this attitude, the more I’m willing to do for myself and others. One way to develop gratitude is to write a list of everything, I mean every thing, that I am grateful for. This gets me focused on the abundance that is so prevalent in my life and the universe. When I review this list daily and add items to it, my attitude and outlook begin to transform. The universe becomes a place of infinite abundance rather than limiting scarcity. I become grateful, happier, and willing to do more.

 

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Author:
Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretch therapy.

SMART Goals (Not Resolutions)

People get very busy each year in January talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Here is what I propose instead. Make SMART goals this year. Put them in writing. Look at them each day, more than once a day. SMART goals are specific, measurable, action based, and realistic. They also have a time line.

Specific
“I’m going to get in shape this year.” What doe’s that mean? Effective goals have to be specific enough to carry real meaning. “I will exercise three times a week and complete my first 5k race this year.” Now this is a specific goal!

Measurable
“I’m going to exercise more.” This goal is not specific, nor is it measurable. A measurable goal gives you a way to know if you are falling short, achieving, or surpassing it. A measurable goal looks like this: “I will exercise three times each week for an hour accumulating three hours of exercise weekly.”

Action
“I’m going to lose 30 pounds.” Having a specific result in mind is a good thing. It energizes and motivates. Focusing too much on results can be detrimental. Why? Because it draws attention away from the process–those specific actions that bring about the desired results. Action based goals get you focused on the process, which is really where the results are produced. Most coaches and psychologists agree that process oriented individuals outperform those that are too focused on outcomes only.

Realistic
“I’m going to lose 30 pounds in January and climb Kilimanjaro. Oh, and I haven’t exercised in 10 years.” I will be the last person to tell anyone that something is impossible, but here are some questions to ask about your goals: Do I really have the time to do what’s necessary to accomplish this? Am I willing to make the changes it will take? Will accomplishing this really give me what I’m seeking? Is my timeline reasonable?

Timeline
Although it comes last in the acronym, the timeline is the first consideration. “Begin with the end in mind.” This is one of Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Imagine a year from today and write SMART goals for that timeline. Write three month SMART goals that get your closer to the one year goals. Then write weekly goals that bring you closer to the three month goals. Begin focusing on what you will do TODAY to accomplish the weekly goal.

SMART goals will bring your more progress than resolutions. And remember a goal that is not written down is merely a wish. Subject every decision and every action to this question: Does it bring me closer to my goal, or farther from it?

 

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Author:
Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretch therapy.