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Archive for the ‘Exercise’ tag

Success, Ambition, and Morning Routines (Sunday Reads #18)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of (mostly) weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Working Creatively

I found this post on LinkedIn by a fellow Amazonian to be particularly insightful about what the “secret to success” really is.  It’s not clear all of these are learned traits – but there isn’t a single one of them I disagree with.  Being tenacious, constantly observing and analyzing, having high integrity, and being predictable aren’t things you see on lists like these often enough.

Along those lines, the Six Habits of Ambitious People piles on.  One thing both articles have in common: you are the company you keep.

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Written by Mike Torres

August 29th, 2015 at 6:52 pm

Dark Chocolate for Focus, Exercise for a Long Life (Sunday Reads #15)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

This week I’m posting it on Monday because… well… Memorial Day.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Creativity and Focus

Creativity can reduce stress and become a habit.  “Productivity on meaningful work encourages engagement with that work, and this engagement fosters creativity.”

A new study has found that a Mediterranean diet with antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts was associated with improved cognitive function in older adults in Spain.  The control group ate a low-fat diet.

Dark chocolate can boost attention.  At least a few times per week I substitute an afternoon coffee or tea with some sipping chocolate (85%) – not only is it incredibly tasty, it helps me focus.

A new study has found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating.  I’m on Day 21 of the Headspace program and I already feel a noticeable difference in my overall stress levels, clarity of thought and ability to focus.  I really couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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Written by Mike Torres

May 25th, 2015 at 12:30 pm

The Power of Nuts, Routine, and Decluttering (Sunday Reads #14)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

Prelude: Two weeks ago I participated in the StrongFirst Level 1 Kettlebell Certification event.  It was three full days of learning, training, coaching, and being put to the test.  While I was pretty nervous going in, it turned out to be an incredibly rewarding experience – even the day of testing, which included a brutal 5-minute timed snatch test (100 overhead snatches with a 24kg kettlebell in 5 minutes).  It took me almost a full week to start training again – and when I did, it was with a newfound appreciation for the power of the kettlebell.  I’m now part of the StrongFirst family as a certified instructor and will start training for Level 2 later this year.

strongfirst-cert

At some point, I will likely write about my training protocol over the long months of preparation, along with some of the strange things I did that I found to work… including “straw breathing”, voodoo flossing, and regularly using a micropedi on my callused hands.  But that’ll have to wait.  For now, onto the links!

Nuts are a nutritional powerhouse according to a study conducted among more than 200,000 men and women in the Southern United States and Shanghai, finding that the more nuts people consumed, the lower their death rates from all causes.

In Why Exercising is a Higher Priority Than My Career, the author makes the case.  In my own life I’ve found that exercising is my master habit – it improves my mood, my energy levels, my work output, my relationships, and increases my confidence.  While I occasionally have to sacrifice it for work, I don’t let this itself become a habit that lasts more than several days.  Work will always fill the time you give it, so as the author says, “exercise must come first, or it’s unlikely to happen at all.”

Find focus with just 18 minutes each day according to Harvard Business Review writer and published author Peter Bregman.  This simple program takes 5 minutes in the morning, 1 minute each hour, and 5 minutes each evening.

Scientists find physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus or process information.  This is why I quickly straighten up my office at the end of each day.

Why you need the combination of grit, routine, and vision to live life as an adventure.  You are what you do most of the time, not some of the time.  The author references a few apps that may help you, and being the app geek that I am I’m listing them here: Way of Life, Full, and Balanced.

I also talked about a fun new meditation app a few weeks back (Buddhify).  And now that I’m regularly using Headspace, I can highly recommend it if you’re interested in learning how to meditate.  It’s fantastic.

Here’s a blog post on life that I really appreciated: The Days are Long but the Decades are Short.

If you’re not already subscribed to Refocuser updates, research shows you’ll be a much happier person just by reading more inspiring stuff.  Subscribe now.

Written by Mike Torres

May 9th, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Embrace Grit, Enjoy the Journey, and Always Be Reading (Sunday Reads #11)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

Getting Creative Work Done

If you struggle to declutter your magazine pile, a technique called ABR – Always Be Reading may be for you.  As someone who spends many hours a week focused on helping people read more (with a Kindle preferably) this approach sounds interesting, and is actually pretty aligned with what I personally do.

Are you a manager?  Your late-night or very early-morning emails may be hurting your team.  Being always-on hurts team results in a big way.  I’ve been in the habit for years of delay-sending the email I write after 6:30pm on Friday or over the weekend until late Monday morning.

If you’d like to form successful habits, you need to know what motivates you.

A recent study showed that heavy cellphone users report higher anxiety levels and dissatisfaction with life than their peers who use their phones less often – and another showed a correlation between stress levels and the barrage of alerts and notifications.  This app automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone or iPad each day and helps you set limits.

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Written by Mike Torres

March 22nd, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Boosting Memory, Perils of Diet Soda, and Getting Unstuck (Sunday Reads #3)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.

High-Performance Work and Life

Fantastic post on the differences between a high-performer and a workaholic.  In my experience as someone who could maybe appear to be a workaholic from the outside, the conclusion rings true: “The big difference isn’t how many hours are logged, but how the individual feels on the inside about who they are in relationship to their work.”

When it comes to creativity, the “myth of epiphany” is commonplace.

An amazing episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast with Pavel Tsatsouline on the Science of Strength and the Art of Physical Performance.

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Written by Mike Torres

January 17th, 2015 at 9:20 am

Your Microbiome, Bone Broth, and Fancy New Fitness Gadgets (Sunday Reads #2)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads #2 on Refocuser, a collection of my favorite weekly links from around the web spanning topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Speaking of which, join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.

On Moving, Eating, and Sleeping

The healthy human microbiome is the new frontier.  All the more reason why I’m surprised I didn’t know about uBiome (10% off with that link!) – it’s similar in spirit to WellnessFX and 23andMe.  They send you a sample kit for only $89 (!) so you can learn more about your body’s own bacteria in an effort to improve your overall health.  Don’t need to twist my arm to do this – I’m in!  We’re super early in this citizen science movement but I love it.  You can also learn more on Fast Company.

Mark Sisson challenges some of our common misconceptions when it comes to calories (part 1part 2).

How does exercise really affect our brains and how does it really make us happier?  Fast Company set out to understand the science.  Turns out addiction to exercise isn’t a crazy concept since BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) and those ever-popular endorphins have the same characteristics as nicotine, heroin, or morphine.  Big takeaway: Daily exercise of just 20 minutes is all it takes.

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Written by Mike Torres

January 10th, 2015 at 3:23 pm

The Unconventional Gym Bag Continued: 5 More Things

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Last year I wrote The Unconventional Gym Bag: 5 Cool Things You Don’t Use and a few months prior, I wrote about Building the Perfect Home Gym. As expected, my training has evolved over the past year – and will continue to evolve – and the contents of my actual gym bag (and home gym) have also been upgraded. I take my training seriously – more seriously every year – and making sure I’m up-to-date on the latest and greatest is part of the fun.

While I’m a strong believer in self-experimentation, I also “keep it real” with basics in every training session. Loads of bodyweight workouts for general physical preparedness, and of course moving big iron for strength skill work. My strength & conditioning sessions (the primary choice for my entire adult life) consist primarily of the basics: kettlebells, deadlift, squat, bench press, and military press variations. Depending on my goals at the time, I vary the sets, reps, tempo, rest periods, and “supplementary” work. Sometimes the goal is to get stronger or bigger, sometimes it’s to get faster, and sometimes it’s to get leaner. I enlist the help of an awesome, experienced strength coach every few weeks or months to make sure my form is spot-on, and that I’m constantly improving (something I shouldn’t have waited so long to do).

I’ve also evolved my programming and have found a pretty good rhythm. After tearing my right medial meniscus after a July 4th Crossfit workout last year, I realized the hard way that there is a big difference between exercising and training. As much as I loved Crossfit workouts, anyone will sweat and feel spent if pushed to the breaking point. Training is different. Training is personal. Training is about goals. Now, every time I enter the gym, I have a goal to hit. That’s what training is all about. No more random daily workouts with no structure or sound programming behind them.

So what’s new in my gym bag? Let’s get to it.

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Written by Mike Torres

July 7th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

The Unconventional Gym Bag: 5 Cool Things You Don’t Use

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After more than 16 years in the gym, I’m finally starting to train smart.  Quality over quantity, strength over mass, and health over ego.  Fitness is a lifelong journey, something I fully expect to be doing until the day I’m no longer around these parts.

Cat in gym bagI’ve learned a lot of great things through training, been (mostly) able to keep exercise as a habit over the years, finally created my ideal home gym, and even branched out and tried all sorts of new stuff like running, swimming, kettlebells, and different martial arts.  It’s been a fun ride to-date.

So what prompted the recent change in intensity?  I don’t really know.  But it’s been building for some time and, starting with the birth of my son last year, everything about my training got more… well, focused.  Could it have something to do with the fact that I’m now a role model for a little boy who looks kind of like me?  Maybe.  Probably.  I really don’t know.

One thing that’s clear is that my gym bag these days looks quite different from years prior.  My training itself has gone back to the roots.  I don’t use any sort of machines at this point; I stick to dumbbells, kettlebells, and fixed bars.  Yet I’ve become more interested in using toys like the ones below to help me progress, and I like to have them with me all the time at the gym.  It’s the geek in me.

In order to benefit from any of these items, you need to already have a base of both knowledge and fitness.  Don’t jump right into any fitness program without doing the obvious stuff first like talking to your doctor and ramping your training up over a period of months.

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Written by Mike Torres

April 16th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Form Positive New Habits Through Active Association

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Click for photo It’s probably no surprise that repetition influences the formation of new habits.  The time and way you brush your teeth probably doesn’t vary much night to night; it’s habitual.  Each night at 10:30pm (give or take a few hours) you probably grab that toothbrush, squeeze some toothpaste onto it, and go about your violent brushing ritual.  I can almost guarantee you don’t alternate quadrants of your mouth each night (unless you’re just a little insane) because it’s probably not something you think about anymore.  You just do it, and you’ll probably always do it that way unless you make a conscious change.

Do something enough times and it becomes a part of you – perhaps to a fault – and from that point on, it can be harder not to do something at all than to do it.  In truth, most of our lives consist of habitual action each day.  Have you ever been driving along and realized (too late) that you’ve gone in the completely wrong direction, because you habitually started driving to work even though you were originally planning to go to a friend’s house?  Your conscious mind shut-off the second you got into that car and was on auto-pilot until you realized you were heading in the wrong direction.  I don’t know anyone that hasn’t happened to.

Forming positive new habits (and replacing negative old ones) is the only foolproof path to achievement there is.  Your habits “accumulate up” to your goals – there can’t be real triumph without small wins along the way.  You don’t just wake up one day as the president of your company, or as someone who exudes positive energy and contentment, without taking individual small steps to get there.  This is the subtlety that’s lost on those people we all know who insist that good things don’t happen to them; not everyone realizes that it’s not just handed to you 🙂

One interesting thing about habit forming is that recent research has shown that each time you repeat a behavior, the context in which it occurs is linked in your mind to the activity itself.  Context in this example refers to the things happening around the activity – the time of day, the music that’s playing, whether you’re in your car or sitting in your favorite chair, and so on.  As explained by psychologist Wendy Wood and her team in Changing Circumstances, Disrupting Habits, an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “habit associations are represented in learning and memory systems separately from intentions, or decisions to achieve particular outcomes. Thus, walking into a dark room can trigger reaching for the light switch without any decision to do so.”

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Written by Mike Torres

September 28th, 2009 at 7:56 am

Posted in Goal Setting,Productivity

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Your Master Habit: Get One Thing Clicking, Watch Others Follow

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Click here for photo For many people, forming and keeping positive habits is a real challenge.  Each habit can sometimes require a different mindset or a slightly different approach in order to make it into a routine, and that can make it awfully difficult to stay consistent.  It turns out that our happiness is a direct result of how much control we have over our environment, and control is directly correlated with how well we’re able to form and maintain positive habits.  If you’re able to identify changes in your current behavior that align to your values and bring you closer to your goals, and then keep those positive changes going on a regular basis, you’ll find that you’ll have a comfortable level of control over your life.

Think back to a time when you felt everything was in order in your life; you felt great in your relationships and with your family, your job was something you looked forward to each day, your finances were on a positive trajectory, and you were getting regular exercise.  Heck, you were even flossing every day, making your bed, and staying on top of the laundry.  Every night as you drifted off to sleep the only thing you were thinking about was counting sheep.  Minimal stress, maximum smiles.

Compare that to how you feel right now – do you have that same sense of control over things?  Do you find one or more areas lacking?  How many things would you change if you could?  If you’re sitting there thinking that something’s lacking, this post may help get you back on track.  Yet thinking about the level of effort involved in getting everything going at once can be pretty overwhelming.  Where to start?

The key is to stop beating yourself up about all the small things you’re not doing, and focus on getting just one habit back on track first. 

In a series of studies performed by a social psychologist named Roy Baumeister, it’s been suggested that “improving self-regulation operates by increasing a general, core capacity. That is, as the person performs exercises to improve self-regulation in one sphere, he or she becomes better at self-regulating in other spheres.”

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Written by Mike Torres

July 12th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

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