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Wired man


Creative Commons License photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

As a Type-A personality with an exercise addiction, I not only have a ton of things going on in my world…I want to be good at all of them. Not just good, but the best that I can be. I know this is, for all intents and purposes, pretty much impossible, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

One of the most challenging elements of trying to excel in multiple spheres is being able to balance your commitments across the board.  From personal to professional, and social to athletic, there are tons of different things you could have going on at anyone time. Learning how to manage these multiple areas is critical if you are to be remotely close to your best.

Here’s a not-so-quick review of how I manage my universe; I’d appreciate your feedback and comments at the end on how you do it (or how you suggest I improve my approach). Thanks!

The Problem
Mainstream planning approaches follow the notion that specificity solves the action dilemma. As initially drafted by David Allen in his seminal work “Getting Things Done,” knowing the Next Action is what frees the individual from thinking and puts them into doing.

Please note: This is not a knock on the GTD system. I have actually used it in the past on my personal management journey, and it is a quantum leap ahead of most other ways of working.

From personal experience, however, I know that the more detail I have or create doesn’t necessarily lead me to the right answer…or to any kind of action at all. The majority of my work is creative: writing, recording, editing, etc., and I have found that lists of things to do around my creative tasks only constrain and distract me from the actual work I set out to do.

Instead, the focus on exploring details became a huge time suck in and of itself. I worked hard to make sure I had the 25 steps to publishing an article in place; I reviewed the list. I put it into my planner. I assigned tags to relevant steps so I could batch phone calling in step 8 with my other phone-related tasks. I toggled items on and off the list as I progressed.

There was only one problem: I wasn’t any closer to having a written article.

I had essentially built myself a beautiful list of new stuff that now required management in addition to needing to write an article worth of publishing. I had also discovered that having a list to manage, for the Type A personality, is as addictive as crack cocaine. Not good.

Focus on What Matters, Details Are Secondary
When it comes to Type-A folks looking to succeed in multiple areas, I think it’s far more appropriate to focus on the big picture stuff. These are the action items that, when accomplished, will enable you to remain successful in all of your focus areas. If you are truly Type A, you’ll be able to hit all of the micro-steps to be successful as you dive into the project / task.

Let’s revisit the article publishing example. Making a list or process around the creation of an article ultimately takes away from what needs to be created:

  • If you review it from a linear perspective (Step A happens before Step B, then Step C), you place an inordinate amount of importance upon the sequence of your work instead of the content of the work.
  • If you have a list it’s easier to check off the easier things to show progress (create an outline, draft a tagline, etc) instead of doing the hard creative work that actually _is_ progress.

Instead of diving into a series of “article creation steps,” I have found it’s far more productive for me to keep a list of things that interest me, gathered as a surf the web. When I need to write something, it’s as simple as going to that list and finding something that interests me / syncs with my other priorities (marketing, events, etc). I dive in and start writing.

In other words, without the seminal act of writing the article, or at least starting to write the article, none of the other tasks really matter.

Of course, there’s a process here but it’s not one that I need to write down or check off:

  • There’s the collection of info / ideas as I surf.
  • There’s the picking of a topic based on relevant criteria.
  • When I write, I create a quick outline and then fill it in.
  • When I publish to the web, I do some content editing, fixing for SEO, adding images, etc.
  • Finally I make sure to distribute the final product through Twitter, Facebook and more.

You might consider this a list of activities, but for me it’s more of a weekly ritual that I go through. Putting it down on paper only serves to distract me, taking away from my final goal — a really good article.

When Details are Important: Confusion & Outsourcing
Details become important when there’s a lack of clarity or experience. Perhaps it’s a new task, one that you’re not sure how to complete. Or maybe it’s a very important task, say closing on a new home, that you want to get 100% right the first time.

Details are also important when you want to outsource any given task to someone else. I have a whole chapter on the concept of outsourcing in my forthcoming new book Train to Live, Live to Train: An Insiders Guide to Creating the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle (pre-order here). Basically your goal is to take something you normally do, give it to someone else, and make sure it’s done as well as if you had done it.

Aside from the instructions below, when it comes to outsourcing remember that the best time to do it is when you are (A) familiar with task, (B) know the desired outcome, and (C) are going to be able to monitor the results.

Here’s a quick list of how I suggest you prepare a task to be outsourced.

  1. Complete the task yourself, ideally several times.
  2. Break it down into a detailed list of steps.
  3. Test your list as you complete your task again.
  4. Create a screencast of you completing your list (I use Jing).
  5. Outsource the work for that task by presenting the list and your movie.
  6. Check on first results with great detail.
  7. Follow up at regular intervals.

I frequently get asked about outsourcing and when to make it happen. It’s very simple for me:
At the end of the day, if you can break a task down into clear, succinct steps, odds are you don’t need to be the one doing it. Outsource it.

Properly outsourcing a task is a skill you will need to develop.  It takes times to get good at it, but in general if you can master this skill, it will in turn allow you to focus more on the big picture items you need to be successful at in order to maintain forward progress in your multiple spheres of influence.

The Creative Opportunity
While getting things done is fun, and on some level rewarding, your ultimate goal should be to create value. Value is calculated differently according to your industry, focus, and goals, but  I think a general definition would be: Value is created when you have made something new, unique, or useful.

Simply put, your time is better spent involved in things where there is a lack of clarity, for therein lies the opportunity to create value.

My Personal Planning Process
So, how actually should you plan? Ultimately that’s up to you, but I will share my basic process here. If it helps you out, great. If you have feedback, please put it in the comments below.

I recommend a very simple system which identifies your critical spheres of influence and allows you to track activities across the year. This is essentially a big picture view of all the projects you are managing. I typically work with a rolling three month window, as that’s about the average time from inception to completion for most of my projects.

Macro Level Planning

You can see I have modified an Excel spreadsheet to track each area by month. Under each month put the big picture items. For example, launching a new book is a big process. There are big chunks like proofreading, sending to production, and launching on the web. Each of these might fall under a separate month.

Using this sheet, I can see how those activities stack up with the other things I want to do in my other areas of influence. This has really saved me from over-committing (and consequently under performing) on many occasions.

The next level down, after the macro-level looks good, is to break each area down into weekly tasks. Again, on a weekly level as this is a good time frame for most tasks. Anything more granular really can get off track and derail the entire project. As I progress from week to week I can move tasks or cross them off as they are completed.

One sphere sheet

And that’s it. I review the macro level sheet once a month, and the weekly sheets at the start of every week. I don’t keep a traditional to do list, as this keeps me from having a million and one other small tasks to manage that affect my ability to create.

When you get into doing your work and wanting to manage your multiple spheres of influence, I encourage you to take a step back and look at all you are trying to accomplish.  Use this perspective as an advantage to getting more important and creative work done, the work that is going to help you succeed across the board.

Good luck!

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Discipline

What side of the river are you on?
Creative Commons License photo credit: WTL photos

Setting goals is one of the most powerful things that you can do as an individual looking to reach a new level of performance, be that on a personal or physical level.  But setting goals isn’t always the only way. Leading bloggers like Leo at Zen Habits and Seth Godin on his regular blog have recently brought their cognitive powers to bear on “goals”, and I want to explore that concept from the perspective of endurance athletics and our focus on lifestyle design here at the ELD Blog. Student first, teacher second…so let’s see what we can learn!

So first, over on Zen Habits in his post entitled “the best goal is no goal,” Leo talks about about not setting goals.  Instead, he suggestes living more passionately and focusing on the now…exactly where you are…and making the most of that. I think that’s a very powerful message, and it strikes me as one that is also somewhat advanced.

Case in point, even though I train and race triathlons and marathons just like many of you, I haven’t followed a training plan in years.  Instead, I use my experience to sync my daily schedule with my goals. This allows me to dial in a workout that both builds my fitness and is fun for me to do.  So, I benefit from that because I’m a more experienced athlete and coach than the average bear.  But, I still have goals.

I think that the type of no goals that Leo is talking about is something that we can all do in various spaces of our life.  I think his primary motivation, and I could be wrong, is that too many people spend a lot of time creating and managing lists of goals and things to do, and that management time sucks the life out of the desire to do things and also sucks your ability as well.

I suffer from the problem myself, and am working towards a much simpler management system. Because the truth is clear: You simply cannot do all the things you need to do if you’re spending your time managing the things that you need to do. Release yourself from this vicious cycle and instead focus your energy on what you can do with what you’ve got!

On the flip side, Seth Goden in the “Problem with Unlimited” talked a little bit about setting goals and what that meant in terms of limits.  So for example, his point was if you said you can only — if <Garbled> maxes out at 1,000 pounds for a bench press, then the odds of someone hitting that limit are pretty high because it gives them a goal to aim for and they can work towards it.  So, from Seth’s perspective, goals are more easily attained when they are defined.

To extrapolate this then, for endurance sports, just setting a goal is powerful because the odds of you reaching it are much higher now that you’ve actually physically stated it. It is worth considering that in Seth’s case he’s talking about external goals being set and achieved as opposed to intrinsic or internal goals. If you can have a defined goal and one that is perhaps even public, the odds of you hitting that goal are much higher than if you had not.

I think that the truly tough conversation is to define whether or not you are setting the right goals? Are you setting challenging goals that are really going to push you to achieve your limits? Are you in charge of achieving these goals or is your success dependent upon others?

Whether or not you subscribe to the “no goals” or “goals as new limits” approach to managing your progress, we are all on that same path of trying to find new means of having a breakthrough performance — whether it’s on the playing field, in the workplace, or at home. At the end of the day, the approach that most resonates with you will ultimately be the most effective.

So which are you:  No Goals or Goals Are New Limits to be Reached? Tell me in teh comments below!

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Make More Finish Lines

Posted by Patrick McCrann Aug 20, 2010


YOU ARE AN IRONMAN
Creative Commons License photo credit: basictheory

Have you ever watched a major event like a marathon or Ironman? Not the biased television coverage, but the real deal form the sidelines? It’s powerful to watch thousands of people from all walks of life on a similar journey to complete a physical challenge in one massive attempt to reach the finish.

Out on the course it can be quiet, sometimes quite lonely. I personally prefer to be out on the course. I think it’s inspiring and educational to watch people perform and execute when they aren’t aware of being watched. When they are still fresh and early in their day and have countless options. This is where the nature of their finish is created, far from any finish line.

Have you watched the same events from the finish line?

It’s a tale of two (different) races. Hundreds if not thousands of screaming fans. Signs, banners, lights and music. A steady stream of competitors becoming finishers, hustling down the finishing straight despite hours of suffering. People are transformed, replacing grimaces with smiles. Despite incredible fatigue most raise their arms while others muster a small victory dance or other celebration.

Regardless of the time on the clock, each of these people have successfully complete what they set out to do…and the fans, spectators, and loved ones are there to mark the occasion.

The finish line experience is one of the main reasons people keep coming back. They profess to love the toil of training, the ardor or early morning sessions, the daily rush of endorphins. But nothing is more rewarding than the sensory overload experience that is a race finish line. If you’ve ever completed such an event, you’ll most likely have those memories etched into your brain, into your being.

I think we need more finish lines. Not the massive celebratory ones from races (but that would be funny!), but ones where we can still throw our hands up to the sky and mark the end of a journey.

In a world full of things to do / read / learn / say / process, we are almost entirely focused on the act of doing instead of the state of being done. We are building a culture where action is rewarded, not completion. At some point the emphasis will shift from what we have accomplished to simply being rewarded for doing.

I can’t think of faster way to personal, professional, or social mediocrity.

Here’s how you can make your own finish lines happen:

  • Decide upon a final date to be done. Deadlines make things real.
  • Start with the end in mind. Know what “done” is so when you get there, you can celebrate.
  • Practice celebrating. Pick small achievable milestones. Add up the milestones and soon you’ll be at the finish line. Success is addictive; start training yourself early.
  • Work with others. Solo-preneurs are more likely (thank teams or groups) to just keep going. Even if you don’t have colleagues, share your work with others in your life so they can help you reflect on what you’ve done.
  • Consider scheduled finish lines. Some industries operate by quarter, others on an annual basis. Pick your own cycle and schedule time to step away from the WHAT and focus on the HOW.

Starting something is the hardest step, but it gets easier the better you become at finishing. Build success into how you manage your work / life / play and you’ll find that it’s not only more fun…it’s easier. I’m available for hi-fives and words of encouragement along your journey on Facebook. If you need someone to be at your finishline, just contact me.

Good luck!

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underneath a star
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaeWALK

Greetings from my summertime weekend base of Cape Cod, MA. This is our hot weather escape, where we crash with my outlaws (the in-laws) for almost every weekend of the summer. It’s a great chance to unplug from the hustle of everyday and tune into the things that really matter: the kids, our family, the kids, relaxing, and above all else…the kids.

It’s also a great chance for me to reflect on the business side of things, as I typically am not working overdrive after a pretty solid week. This post is part of a series, a weekend Sunday Store Update Series, where I write about the small business side of ELD.

Book CoverMost of this summer has been dedicated to the upcoming launch of Train to Live, Live to Train: An Insider’s Guide to Building the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle. The hard copy is done and is being converted into a nice PDF format. The audio case studies are done. I am working on the launch site and a few other videos to put into the higher-value packages. Many of you have pre-ordered the book (thank you!) and I promise I am working to get it to you as soon as possible…thanks for your support!

Ten Hours A Week SystemStrangely enough, this past week saw a massive uptick in the number of copies of my Competitive Triathlon in 10Hours A Week product. Even though it’s August, it appears quite a few of you are already beginning to think ahead to the winter and next season…good for you! The 10Hours System is a great way to build out a functional training cycle that instantly fits your life and keeps you focused on the other things (like kids!) that really matter. Remember that if you are buying the kindle edition you’ll want to email us to get the download too as the planning spreadsheets and free bonuses aren’t included from Amazon.

2008  CalendarI am considering a four-week long season planning session for September, the $100 Season Planning Group.

It would be a 28-day exercise where a small group of you work with me to walk through the 10Hours concepts and build out a full season for 2011. Each week will feature a conference call by me as well as a set of “tasks” to complete. You’ll be able to interact with the other members of the group and, by the end of month, you’ll each have a complete roadmap for 2011 with some really solid ideas on how to best manage your time for maximum fitness.

If you are interested in this concept, please post a comment below or leave a message on Facebook. If we have enough interested folks I’ll put up a registration slot later this month…I’ll try to keep the first class pretty small so I can be sure to meet all of your needs.

As always, thanks again for tuning in and have a great weekend!

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Make More Finish Lines

Posted by Patrick McCrann Aug 13, 2010

YOU ARE AN IRONMAN


Creative Commons License photo credit: basictheory

Have you ever watched a major event like a marathon or Ironman? Not the biased television coverage, but the real deal form the sidelines? It’s powerful to watch thousands of people from all walks of life on a similar journey to complete a physical challenge in one massive attempt to reach the finish.

Out on the course it can be quiet, sometimes quite lonely. I personally prefer to be out on the course. I think it’s inspiring and educational to watch people perform and execute when they aren’t aware of being watched. When they are still fresh and early in their day and have countless options. This is where the nature of their finish is created, far from any finish line.

 

Have you watched the same events from the finish line?

 

It’s a tale of two (different) races. Hundreds if not thousands of screaming fans. Signs, banners, lights and music. A steady stream of competitors becoming finishers, hustling down the finishing straight despite hours of suffering. People are transformed, replacing grimaces with smiles. Despite incredible fatigue most raise their arms while others muster a small victory dance or other celebration.

Regardless of the time on the clock, each of these people have successfully complete what they set out to do…and the fans, spectators, and loved ones are there to mark the occasion.

 

The finish line experience is one of the main reasons people keep coming back. They profess to love the toil of training, the ardor or early morning sessions, the daily rush of endorphins. But nothing is more rewarding than the sensory overload experience that is a race finish line. If you’ve ever completed such an event, you’ll most likely have those memories etched into your brain, into your being.

 

I think we need more finish lines. Not the massive celebratory ones from races (but that would be funny!), but ones where we can still throw our hands up to the sky and mark the end of a journey.

In a world full of things to do / read / learn / say / process, we are almost entirely focused on the act of doing instead of the state of being done. We are building a culture where action is rewarded, not completion. At some point the emphasis will shift from what we have accomplished to simply being rewarded for doing.

 

I can’t think of faster way to personal, professional, or social mediocrity.

 

Here’s how you can make your own finish lines happen:

  • Decide upon a final date to be done. Deadlines make things real.
  • Start with the end in mind. Know what “done” is so when you get there, you can celebrate.
  • Practice celebrating. Pick small achievable milestones. Add up the milestones and soon you’ll be at the finish line. Success is addictive; start training yourself early.
  • Work with others. Solo-preneurs are more likely (thank teams or groups) to just keep going. Even if you don’t have colleagues, share your work with others in your life so they can help you reflect on what you’ve done.
  • Consider scheduled finish lines. Some industries operate by quarter, others on an annual basis. Pick your own cycle and schedule time to step away from the WHAT and focus on the HOW.

Starting something is the hardest step, but it gets easier the better you become at finishing. Build success into how you manage your work / life / play and you’ll find that it’s not only more fun…it’s easier. I’m available for hi-fives and words of encouragement along your journey on Facebook. If you need someone to be at your finishline, just contact me.

Good luck!

~ Patrick

355 Views 0 Comments Permalink

Discipline

 

What side of the river are you on?
Creative Commons License photo credit: WTL photos

Setting goals is one of the most powerful things that you can do as an individual looking to reach a new level of performance, be that on a personal or physical level.  But setting goals isn’t always the only way. Leading bloggers like Leo at Zen Habits and Seth Godin on his regular blog have recently brought their cognitive powers to bear on “goals”, and I want to explore that concept from the perspective of endurance athletics and our focus on lifestyle design here at the ELD Blog. Student first, teacher second…so let’s see what we can learn!

So first, over on Zen Habits in his post entitled “the best goal is no goal,” Leo talks about about not setting goals.  Instead, he suggestes living more passionately and focusing on the now…exactly where you are…and making the most of that. I think that’s a very powerful message, and it strikes me as one that is also somewhat advanced.

 

Case in point, even though I train and race triathlons and marathons just like many of you, I haven’t followed a training plan in years.  Instead, I use my experience to sync my daily schedule with my goals. This allows me to dial in a workout that both builds my fitness and is fun for me to do.  So, I benefit from that because I’m a more experienced athlete and coach than the average bear.  But, I still have goals.

I think that the type of no goals that Leo is talking about is something that we can all do in various spaces of our life.  I think his primary motivation, and I could be wrong, is that too many people spend a lot of time creating and managing lists of goals and things to do, and that management time sucks the life out of the desire to do things and also sucks your ability as well.

I suffer from the problem myself, and am working towards a much simpler management system. Because the truth is clear: You simply cannot do all the things you need to do if you’re spending your time managing the things that you need to do. Release yourself from this vicious cycle and instead focus your energy on what you can do with what you’ve got!

 

On the flip side, Seth Goden in the “Problem with Unlimited” talked a little bit about setting goals and what that meant in terms of limits.  So for example, his point was if you said you can only — if <Garbled> maxes out at 1,000 pounds for a bench press, then the odds of someone hitting that limit are pretty high because it gives them a goal to aim for and they can work towards it.  So, from Seth’s perspective, goals are more easily attained when they are defined.

To extrapolate this then, for endurance sports, just setting a goal is powerful because the odds of you reaching it are much higher now that you’ve actually physically stated it. It is worth considering that in Seth’s case he’s talking about external goals being set and achieved as opposed to intrinsic or internal goals. If you can have a defined goal and one that is perhaps even public, the odds of you hitting that goal are much higher than if you had not.

I think that the truly tough conversation is to define whether or not you are setting the right goals? Are you setting challenging goals that are really going to push you to achieve your limits? Are you in charge of achieving these goals or is your success dependent upon others?

Whether or not you subscribe to the “no goals” or “goals as new limits” approach to managing your progress, we are all on that same path of trying to find new means of having a breakthrough performance — whether it’s on the playing field, in the workplace, or at home. At the end of the day, the approach that most resonates with you will ultimately be the most effective.

 

So which are you:  No Goals or Goals Are New Limits to be Reached? Tell me in teh comments below!

367 Views 0 Comments Permalink

29tipscovermini.png

 

As  many of you know, I appear in several other places on the web outside  of this blog. One of these areas is a relatively new community called  Marathon Nation (www.marathonnation.us).

 

This is an online community for everyday runners lookingto have  breakthrough performances without injury, sacrifice and ridiculous  training protocols. We’re crazy about running, but we aren’t crazy  runners. Get it?

 

Anyway, we just published our first free eBook, 29 Tips to Transform Your Run (more here).  It contains over 50 pages of insight and guidance on a variety of  different ways you can improve your running. Some tips are  fitness-oriented, other pointers are motivational; one or two might be  downright controversial…but they have all helped at some time, in some  way.

 

If you or someone you know are looking to become a better runner, please download and read a copy of this FREE eBook. Even if just one of the tips helps, it could  mean the difference between an average season and something much more.  And besides, it’s free.

 

If you have feedback or tips of your own, please find me online over on the Official Facebook Page of Marathon Nation.

 

Thanks for your support!

 

~ Patrick

358 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, running, tips, marathon, endurance, run, 5k, coach, ebook

Contador framed

Creative Commons License photo credit: Arjan Almekinders
What type of rider will Contador turn out to be?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and you’re a sports fan, you know that on Monday in the Tour de France, Alberto Contador assumed the yellow jersey after Andy Schleck had a mechanical where his chain fell off his derailleur. Even though Contador was behind Schleck and quite possibly saw the mechanical, he still chose to attack as did the other competitors. The net result is that Andy Schleck is now eight seconds behind Contador in second place.

One of the unique things about the Tour de France and the sport of cycling–when compared to many other modern day sports–is the prelevance of what people call chivalry or a code of conduct. In this case, typically the wearer of the yellow jersey is afforded a great deal of more respect and consideration than the average cyclist. When, for example, the leader has a mechanical issue, the competition will often not attack: it’s simply better to take victory as achieved with strength and their fitness, not by virtue of a mechanical issue.

There was most certainly some unhappy fans at the end of the day when Contador put on his yellow jersey. Contador brushed them aside at the time, but later on Monday night he published a video to YouTube where he apologized for his actions. And this leads to my point today: the power of conscience.

Whether you are a professional athlete or simply someone who enjoys sport, you’ve probably had an opportunity in whatever race or event you participated in to take a shortcut or get a head start on someone. Not through sheer athleticism, but by finding an easier way. The split-second choices you make in that situation both define and reveal your character.

Whether or not Contador saw the chain, he could see that Andy Schleck had trouble. There were plenty of chances over the last 20k to hear what had happened…but he still didn’t ease up. The fact that he made the video later on Monday night tells me that regardless of what he knew at the time, Contador now knows what he did wasn’t right.

In today’s age of social media, it’s very easy to apologize. But I don’t think it really has the same effect as taking an action to fix what’s been done. When you’ve said something damaging in person or done something wrong, it’s very easy to get on Twitter and Youtube and set up a message saying hey, I’m sorry for what I did. But if you really fix what you’ve done, the most important thing to do is to take action.

Actions speak louder than words. Your actions caused the issue. Your actions can fix it.

So, here is my proposed solution, assuming Contador and Schleck ride into the final time trial still in first and second place, respectively. When Contador is on the starting block, I say that he sits there for an additional 39 seconds. At the end of those 39 seconds, he begins riding.

I think that would be a huge demonstration of his commitment to making things right and to racing clean. More importantly it would really show personal growth, as a lot of people have doubted Contador’s emotional ability to handle the leadership of being the greatest cyclist in the world.

Like you, I’ll be curious to see what happens over the next few days of riding. I do believe that my proposed Start House Solution will be, perhaps, the most single powerful signal that Contador could send to the cycling world and to Andy Schleck that he made the wrong decision on Monday, that he knows he made the wrong decision, and that he’s going to race the race as it stood before the incident.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below!

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HLD Banner

There’s no doubt, friends, that we are all on a journey. Those of you who follow this blog are more of the endurance-minded kind. You are addicted to endorphins, long training miles, and huge personal tests of endurance. Together we work to bring that passion for living athletically in alignment with your other personal commitments; our lifestyle perspective means that we take a long-term view on success as opposed to looking at individual events. In our world, the longer we play the game, the more we win.

But there’s more to a fit lifestyle than just training.

Underlying all that we do is the need to create a ridiculously healthy foundation from which we can pursue all of our goals. As you can probably attest, pushing too much in any single area can lead to over training, deep fatigue, or injury. It can also mean you are neglecting some of the fundamentals of what makes you who you are. There are no shortcuts in this game.

Healthy living first, Fitness second.

This is why I am really excited to let you know about a great free resource my colleague Matt Gartland over at the Healthy Lifestyle Design blog just published: Fearless Health: How to Thrive In An Unhealthy World. Matt has broken down the building blocks of a modern healthy lifestyle and presented them in a simple, thoughtful manner.

To quote directly from Matt himself…

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So, What’s This Report All About?

Well, imagine a life where you…

* Are rarely, if ever, sick
* Have health care costs totaling only your preventative exams
* Embody the physical ability and energy to do whatever you wish
* Possess the mental courage and creativity to bring your dreams to life

This is not a dream world. This is the reality of those with unconventional and remarkable health. And it can be your reality too.

That’s the purpose of this manifesto – to inspire you to pursue and train you to achieve FEARLESS HEALTH.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

It’s a great read, and it’s FREE, so download it here and take it with you to review the next time you have a few minutes. You’ll be really glad you did!

Thanks again and have a great week!

Patrick

302 Views 0 Comments Permalink

Contador framed

Creative Commons License photo credit: Arjan Almekinders
What type of rider will Contador turn out to be?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and you’re a sports fan, you know that on Monday in the Tour de France, Alberto Contador assumed the yellow jersey after Andy Schleck had a mechanical where his chain fell off his derailleur. Even though Contador was behind Schleck and quite possibly saw the mechanical, he still chose to attack as did the other competitors. The net result is that Andy Schleck is now eight seconds behind Contador in second place.

One of the unique things about the Tour de France and the sport of cycling–when compared to many other modern day sports–is the prelevance of what people call chivalry or a code of conduct. In this case, typically the wearer of the yellow jersey is afforded a great deal of more respect and consideration than the average cyclist. When, for example, the leader has a mechanical issue, the competition will often not attack: it’s simply better to take victory as achieved with strength and their fitness, not by virtue of a mechanical issue.

There was most certainly some unhappy fans at the end of the day when Contador put on his yellow jersey. Contador brushed them aside at the time, but later on Monday night he published a video to YouTube where he apologized for his actions. And this leads to my point today: the power of conscience.

Whether you are a professional athlete or simply someone who enjoys sport, you’ve probably had an opportunity in whatever race or event you participated in to take a shortcut or get a head start on someone. Not through sheer athleticism, but by finding an easier way. The split-second choices you make in that situation both define and reveal your character.

Whether or not Contador saw the chain, he could see that Andy Schleck had trouble. There were plenty of chances over the last 20k to hear what had happened…but he still didn’t ease up. The fact that he made the video later on Monday night tells me that regardless of what he knew at the time, Contador now knows what he did wasn’t right.

In today’s age of social media, it’s very easy to apologize. But I don’t think it really has the same effect as taking an action to fix what’s been done. When you’ve said something damaging in person or done something wrong, it’s very easy to get on Twitter and Youtube and set up a message saying hey, I’m sorry for what I did. But if you really fix what you’ve done, the most important thing to do is to take action.

Actions speak louder than words. Your actions caused the issue. Your actions can fix it.

So, here is my proposed solution, assuming Contador and Schleck ride into the final time trial still in first and second place, respectively. When Contador is on the starting block, I say that he sits there for an additional 39 seconds. At the end of those 39 seconds, he begins riding.

I think that would be a huge demonstration of his commitment to making things right and to racing clean. More importantly it would really show personal growth, as a lot of people have doubted Contador’s emotional ability to handle the leadership of being the greatest cyclist in the world.

Like you, I’ll be curious to see what happens over the next few days of riding. I do believe that my proposed Start House Solution will be, perhaps, the most single powerful signal that Contador could send to the cycling world and to Andy Schleck that he made the wrong decision on Monday, that he knows he made the wrong decision, and that he’s going to race the race as it stood before the incident.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below!

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As always, I just wanted to thank you for subscribing. This blog is a success because of you and your support. Here’s to your fitness!

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Thank you so much!

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Getting Ready For A Hot Summer Day
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kuzeytac

 

 

In the past I have written about reducing your training to the basics (Going Commando) and learning to focus on the basic week as a building block (here).

 

Setting massively audacious goals is fun, but not achieving them is, well, not fun. Sometimes even more granular detail is needed. Sometimes it’s necessary to begin with the fundamental building block of a single day.

 

Step One: Start Eight Hours Earlier

 

Summary: The best part of any great day is starting physically and mentally fresh. The best option for this is a great night’s sleep, not a really strong cup of coffee or some fancy supplement.

 

Advice:

 

  1. Focus on Closing: The only way you are going to get to bed at a reasonable hour is putting down the stuff you are watching/reading/doing and closing it out for the day. Nothing, including a race or some kind of final exam, will benefit from you staying up all night to think about it (especially if you have been preparing for some time!).
  2. Use A Ritual: This needs to be a physical one, as just saying you are going to chill out is way easier than doing it. My personal favorite is a shower. This helps me to relax, is a very simple yet soothing task and a place I can’t really bring anything else to do.
  3. Plug Into Another World: It’s hard to deny the power of a great book, one that takes you away from where you are and focuses your attention elsewhere. Studies have shown that the flashing lights and sounds of TV, and even the bright light and familiar face of your laptop can have a stimulating effect on your brain that will prevent easy sleeping.

 

Step Two: Identify & Frontload the Important

 

Summary: There are somethings each day that are more important than others. Some you’ll want to do, others you would prefer to never see again. But they need to be done regardless, and the best way to get them done is nice and early.

 

Advice:

  1. Keep A Weekly List: Forget trying to plan your work down to specific hours of the day. That works for meetings and appointments, but not for work. Add in all the typical interruptions and unexpected events that make up our daily lives and it’s clear to see your best laid plans are doomed. Instead, keep track of what needs to happen this week, and make it happen by Friday. Done.
  2. Keep Things Black & White: Apply very rigorous standards to what needs to be done. Either it’s critical or it can wait. Put 3-4 critical things on your list and get them done first thing.
  3. Know What Can Wait: While it’s tempting to check email and surf the web for the deal of the day, chances are there’s nothing there that you truly need to execute your most important tasks. This can be really hard to do since we are a culture of multi-taskers, but learning that the world won’t end if you don’t check your inbox every 5 minutes is an important first step.

 

Step Three: Build In Extra Time

 

Summary: The hardest part of and day, much less your ideal one, is the fact that it’s not your own. You have a boss, friends, family, competing commuters and forces of God to deal with. And some days it seems like they are all stacked against you.

 

Advice:

  1. The Rule of Fives: If you think something is going to take 20 minutes, add 5 minutes on the front and back. This goes for working out, work, travel, etc. Being slightly early means you are relaxed and *gasp* maybe even prepared. Plus it makes you look really good.
  2. Consistently Plan: A well-oiled machine is easy to operate. If you have a good cycle of planning and execution that you review monthly (macro-level stuff) and weekly (the work), you can avoid the need to plan and do at the same time. Ideally, Monday through Friday work hours are for work, not for planning and thinking big picture. I personally save my weekends for the big reviews.
  3. Avoid the Unnecessary: There are lots of things you can simply not do and still be okay. This goes from meaningless meetings at work to food shopping (think Peapod). If it’s not critical to your personal or professional bottom line, assert some authority. It’s hard to argue with someone who is trying to be more effective!

 

Conclusion: Review & Improve

 

Many of the things listed above are hard to do. Hard enough that you will most certainly run into difficulty, if not outright fail at your first attempt. If you can expect this from the outset, and plan for some resistance, you’ll be much more likely to succeed. After all, you’ve been operating a certain way for quite a while, and old habits die hard!

 

Note #1: If you are looking for more similarly scheduled goodness, consider downloading the FitLife eBook which will give you equal parts inspiration and opportunities for action. Get it here.

 

Note #2: This post was inspired by an article by Chris G over at the AONC blog. Thanks man!

 

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As always, I just wanted to thank you for subscribing. This blog is a success because of you and your support. Here’s to your fitness!

 

Become a Fan of Endurance Lifestyle Design on Facebook to join the conversation and check out my free Fit Life eBook for more insider tips. Thanks!

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The return
Creative Commons License photo credit: Vincepal
It’s a long road. Longer if you don’t know where you’re headed.

I have been consciously working on looking at the positive outcomes of my bicycle accident (now over 7 weeks ago!); lots of glass half full type stuff. This gets easier every day as my body continues to heal and bounce back at an amazing rate. It’s probably normal stuff — this isn’t some super-human tale! Since my initial expectations were so low after the accident, the fact that I can actually ride my bicycle again right now is just amazing to me.

On some level this recovery trajectory has really been one of the biggest reasons why keeping a positive outlook has become easier: it’s hard to be down when lots of things are pointing the way up.

 

Finding the Silver Linings


That’s not to say that all signs point to the easier, or higher road. It’s easy to walk through a day, week or even a life with gloom-filled glasses on, missing out on all the incredible things that go on around us. We’ve all woken up on the wrong side of the bed. And we know people who spend seemingly every day of their lives focusing on what hasn’t happened instead of what can.

 

I think that being able to focusing on what CAN happen is an incredibly powerful skill.

 

The Rebuilding Process


One of the really cool things about coming back has been the opportunity to rebuild myself from the ground up as an endurance athlete. I’ve only been away from the game for about 7.5 weeks now, which is not a long time when you step back far enough. But in terms of where my fitness was at the time of the accident and where I am at right now, I’m still a long way away from that level.

 

Since my season is effectively over, this is an opportunity for me to re determine how I want to approach my fitness. There’s no schedule, there’s no pressure. I’ve been working with my physical therapist on some fundamental building blocks, such as core strength and flexibility, things that I’ve been ignoring for a long time.

 

But as I mentally sketch out a plan to get back to running, and become a better cyclist, there’s something missing. The who I am right now, after the crash, is fundamentally different that who I was before. The recovery process has given me the chance to reconnect with my family and friends, and to learn a great deal about who I am as a person, not just as an athlete. Simply going back to basic goals around physical fitness, as important as activity is to me, almost feels like an emotional step back on some level.

 

The Really Big Question


We all have the capacity to come back from our accidents. In fact, we all have the capacity to change who we are at any point in time. Accepting this, then it ultimately comes down to one….big…question: Who do you want to be?

 

In some ways, that exercise is more challenging than physical therapy, or re-learning how to walk. It requires patience to reflect, vision to project, and ultimately the focus and ability to connect that future vision with your daily reality.

 

I understand that stretching 30 minutes a day will get me back to being more flexible, and that’s great. But it begs the question: where else can I put 30 minutes a day to make something really great happen? Something that captures the changes I have experienced and makes them part of the new person that’s evolving?

 

I personally am starting to look beyond “what’s next” and am focused more on “what’s possible?” As Derek Sivers wrote last year: “No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.

 

The Real Challenge


While I’m reminded daily of the power of the human body to change I have also learned that the true challenge lies in the strength of your mind.

 

The power to envision a positive change, despite what fills your world, and to start working towards that outcome every day.

 

Some people call them silver linings, those hints of positivity that allow you to stare at that big cloud of doom without flinching. I think they are everywhere; it’s just that we look a whole lot harder in the bad times to find them.

 

The secret to finding them isn’t in some fancy set of glasses; it’s in realizing that each of us carries our own silver linings inside us. It typically takes a crisis or problem to make us reach for them for support, but I think we don’t need to wait that long. I think looking inwards to find our silver-lining-capacity and putting that to action today, and every day, will go a long way to making each of us into a better person.

 

 

Next Steps
So, the next time you think about losing 20 pounds or getting fitter or getting faster, I want you to think a little bit about what it is you’re creating. You are more than a project. You’re a piece of art. It’s up to you to determine what it is you want to be. Once you understand what it is you want to be, only then can you really begin to create a means of shaping your desired outcome.

 

Good luck to you in your next steps. I will keep you posted on mine.

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Student as Teacher

Posted by Patrick McCrann Jul 2, 2010

Kids in the classroom
Creative Commons License photo credit: chrissuderman

People have always wanted to learn; it’s part of human nature. Despite what you read about video games and adult website usage statistics, people still want to learn. In fact, now probably more than ever, as the web has effectively eliminated any barriers that used to exist in the traditional learning model: money, connections, experience, geography, etc.

But despite the spread of ideas and technology and increased access, learning is not one bit easier. Why? Because we don’t know who the teachers are anymore.

Think about it. Back in the day this used to be really easy. Teachers had their own schools. Wise men lived on mountain tops. There were apprenticeships and academies and road maps.

As the world gets flatter, information is more accessible. It moves faster and is potentially more unreliable. Those old school grand masters are drowned out by tech-savvy web masters, video logging junkies, and twitter-wielding tweens.

In the currency of today’s web world, it’s about who’s the most current, most popular, more vocal or most chosen. Some or all or none of which might have anything to do with the best. Or most interesting. Or most inspiring.

So, in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to identify who the teachers are, something else must assume even more importance: the individual. Think about it.

The web is like a TV with infinite channels full of everything that you always/never wanted to see or hear or learn that’s always on. If you can find any message or guru at any time, anywhere, for free, then the biggest deciding factor today is simple: does this message work for YOU?

We used to pick schools because they did the work of finding and organizing teachers and creating a “learning experience” for us. But today things are different. Now YOU are the administrator, the principal, the guidance counselor and the student all rolled into one. What teacher would you pick?

  • Do you need to be challenged?
  • Do you need to be made to laugh?
  • Do you want daily interactions or less frequent but higher impact contact?
  • Does it need to be an individual or can a community teach you?
  • Do you need to pay or are you involved enough on your own?

Technology is forcing us to rethink our filters: this person looks like a teacher, therefore she is a teacher. We need to throw away our expectations: I will sign up for this course and do 8 weeks of homework, take a test, get a certificate and become an expert.

Instead we need to focus on knowing ourselves better; on what will work and more importantly, why we want to engage this process. In an increasingly self-focused world, you have to take charge of charting your own course because no one else will do it as well as you can.

I see the teacher-centric model being crushed on a daily basis – and for the better – in my online interactions with others. I think this is one of the most powerful intellectual changes of the internet.

Learn from everything and every one. Be hungry, but selective. This is not an all-you-can-eat contest, but a what-you-have-eaten. It’s about quality, not quantity. It’s not about getting full, it’s about getting your fill.

It’s not about the outcomes, it’s about the process.

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Fear Naming

Posted by Patrick McCrann Jul 2, 2010

Moebius life
Creative Commons License photo credit: anguila40 / Alejandro Groenewold Very busy . Sorry

As many of you know by now, I recently had a serious bicycle accident that left me with a fractured pelvis and clavicle (learn more). This article is part of a series of reflections prompted by the experiences I have had in processing, dealing with, and recuperating from the accident. I have emerged a changed person, and hope that by sharing some of my insights I can help others.

Endurance sports, like any other large-scale personal undertaking, have multiple layers of purpose.  Athletes train to new levels of personal excellence to build strength, develop fitness and to  overcome their fears.

  • The drive to be our best is, at the same time, an effort to avoid failure.
  • For everyone who trains hard to get better, there are those who train out of fear of becoming unfit, or overweight.
  • For everyone who races for a personal best, there are those who race for approval from their training partners, friends, or family.
  • For everyone who upgrades their equipment, there are those desperately seeking an advantage that hard work and training alone can’t deliver.

Yet while we celebrate the accomplishments of milestones reached, there is little to no dialogue about the oppositional factors that drive us towards our accomplishments.

Discussing & The Racing Effect

I recently created a post inside Endurance Nation entitled “What is your (Secret) Fear?” To my surprise, more than 30 folks have responded in less than a few days — and over a weekend!
The answers ranged from the simple (going fast down hill!) to the more profound (being mindful of my safety because I am a mother/father) to the soul searching (out to conquer a demon from a previous DNF, etc.).

The funny thing is, most of us are head down training so hard we doing realize the power of these forces until we start to taper. In that last 14 days to your race, with more time on your hands and little training to do, your mind starts to wander.

  • You begin to doubt your training, wishing you could have done more.
  • You look at your gear and wish that you had upgraded.
  • You talk to your competitors and realize they are lighter, faster, stronger than last year.

Everything Is Fine
All of this is, of course, entirely natural.

A large part of striving for a big goal means taking risks. Leaving our comfort zones is part of this process. While your journey started with smaller changes like getting out of bed early to train, there are much larger forces at work here.

You might have been a little queasy riding down that busy highway, now you know that’s a visceral representation of your fear. You are on high alert riding on a busy road, fingers on the brakes and close to the shoulder. You think twice about sudden movements and plan a few steps ahead.

In other words, these little signals are a large part of what keep you safe.

Fear-Facing
But the macro-level fears, such as fear of failure, are often so big as to be intangible. This means we are largely unaware of them, even as they influence large parts of what we do.

A fear of failure could lead us to:

  • Not training with a faster group for fear of getting dropped.
  • Not trying to push ourselves when the going gets tough.
  • Not trying something new as you have’t mastered it yet.

While I don’t have an action plan or success story for you hear, I do think it’s really important that each of us take the time to start a dialogue that really engages our fears.  You can do this solo or with your spouse or your friends. It needs to be a safe space so you can say anything. It might take you several tries to get deep enough to see what’s really in those dark corners…so bring a flashlight and wear clothes you can get dirty!

Moving Forward
It’s one thing to say I want to be a good father for example, that sounds nice and vague and safe. But when you talk about the fear of  losing your children, well, that’s something you can feel. That’s something you can act on. And it’s something that will literally change your actions.

My bicycle accident forced me to face a lot of fears in quick order. My thoughts went to my family and my long-term health. I had to deal with being alone in a hospital in a new town (thanks friends!). I had grapple with my own self-image of being fit and active. I think that I have come out the other side a better person for this journey, and I think you can experience the same benefits without needing a crash to force the change.

If you want to share your fears, feel free to do so anonymously in the comments below.

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Into the sun
Creative Commons License photo credit: James Jordan

Despite my recent setback, I have had a very fortunate streak of athletic success. From three trips to the Ironman World Championships to multiple Boston qualifications and lots of solid racing in between, you might have a hard time believing I was the chubby kid picked last for kickball.

But it’s true.

I hear all the time how I have been lucky. How I have genes that are predisposed to endurance sports. I get the notes, all nice, explaining how the writer can’t be as good at triathlon or running as me.

It’s not offending at all, more so than it is revealing. I think that we all have a certain amount of inherent talent; without a doubt being born with a club foot, for example, could hinder your future running career. But significant challenges aside, the only thing standing between where I am now and where you are now is a lot of work.

I spent the better part of my adolescence a healthy kid, more than my fair share of activities. But my love of food was equal to, if not greater than, my love for exercise. I wasn’t obese by any means, but I still carry some of that chubbiness with me today (around the midsection!).

I was cut from my middle school soccer team, twice, and spend two years going to the track with my mom on weeknights and running laps around the field after everyone else went home. She counted by putting rocks in a pile so I couldn’t cheat — although I tried.

I attended pre-training sessions for the high school team, building critical relationships that allowed me to survive a disastrous try out. But on the last day of try outs, my appendix almost burst, and I missed all but the last game of the year (I was put in for 5′ and took a ball to the groin…seriously).

Things got better, as I worked hard and make JV as a sophomore, then varsity as a junior and captain as a senior. Unfortunately I suffered a stress fracture and missed most of the varsity year as well.

College got off to a bad start, where I was lost in the freshman fog and just lifted weights with no direction after years of organized sports. Fortunately, I was recruited to the crew team (I was tall) one day when swimming at the pool, and I feel in love with the sport instantly.

I was on the 2nd freshman boat (since I was a Soph), survived a car crash with some broken ribs, but mand an impression. In my Junior year got some varsity time and my senior year was Captain again. Tons of extra sessions and hours spent running, lifting, and rowing, all allowed me to become good at the sport.

After college I was off to the Peace Corps for two years, where I could run and do core, but little else. I tried training for a marathon, but kept overdoing it. On a trip home for a wedding, I jumped in a local triathlon with my brother and had a blast. I returned to Uzbekistan on a mission to train, adding some swimming (with 6-yr olds) to my regime.

But instead of returning home, I transitioned to Azerbajian for 15 months, where I did community development work. Again I could run, but no longer than an hour (too many bad dogs and kids with rocks). I bought an ergometer to row indoors, and enjoyed some good hard training. I was able to do the Valencia Marathon on a long run of 13 miles, and suffered horribly but loved it.

When I finally came back to the US (left in 97, back in 2000), I had been only marginally active. In grad school, however, I was able to focus more on the training, doing Eagleman and then Ironman Florida, both in 2001.

  • I did one or two Ironmans a year between then and 2007, a full five seasons later, when I was finally able to qualify.
  • I quit my job and started my own company.
  • I got married and went to watch the Ironman for our honeymoon in Hawaii (M is a triathlete).
  • We started a family.
  • I tried training 25 hours a week until it nearly killed me.
  • I missed a Kona slot by less than 5 seconds.
  • We bought a house.
  • Then, 5+ years later, I qualified at Ironman USA.

Five years after my first Ironman (8th IM overall). Seven years after my first marathon. Eight years after my first triathlon. Almost twenty years after being cut from the middle school soccer team, where I learned that I could go out on my own to train, and get better, and come back stronger than the competition.

My point is this: the only thing separating you from me is work. And an inflection point. I had my epiphany at age 13, and it fundamentally changed the way I have approached almost every single challenge or obstacle since. It took a supportive parent, hard work and a dash of good fortune. And lots of repetition — no one gets it right the first time.

So before you go blaming genes, or putting limits on your own potential, understand that it’s not the shape of your foot, or length of your legs, that determine your ability. It’s your capacity to work, and ability to understand why you are working that will set you apart.

Are you ready to outwork the competition?

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