Think Ahead, Use Your Head, Get Ahead, Stay Ahead

Looking ahead to what’s next is how we keep moving forward. I’d never suggest that you live in the future tense. We all do that too much as it is. We wonder about tomorrow, we lament on last week. We wander around distracted with no focus on today. No, I’m suggesting that you look ahead to your more immediate next step. When riding a bike, you look *through* the turn. When running, you judge the obstacles in the distance. Will you need to test your agility to make it past that couple holding hands on the narrow path? Will you run right through them and treat their arms like finish line tape? When performing any coordinated exercise, your brain stays engaged, thinking of foot/hand placement. Embrace that ideal of looking ahead to the next moment while staying present in this one. If that sounds contradictory, recognize that it takes some time to master this technique. (I am not an expert. However, I’ve watched people that are far better at this practice than myself.) Consider a juggler’s process. The hand is ready for the catch before the ball/knife/chainsaw falls to the ground. That happens by looking ahead to the next moment while staying present in *this* moment enough to toss the third/fourth/fifth item into the air. Please remember, thinking ahead is very different from multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is a myth. Multi-tasking is just doing many things, poorly, at once, instead of doing one thing well. Instead, I try to use the same logic as my cousin, the Navy S.E.A.L. “Think ahead, use your head, get ahead, stay ahead.”, he would say. I’m suggesting that you do the same in an effort to help your training. Think about your meals for the day so that you won’t have to *scavenge* for fast food. Think about your training attire and check the weather to see if they match. Think about the duration of the workout and give your best effort, without emptying your reserve tank in the first 15 minutes. (Be patient and your reserve tank will grow as your level of fitness improves.)

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Uplift Your Fellow Human (Instead of Judging)

Good morning, Friends! Call it a comeback. I haven’t been here for months. Consider this a gritty reboot (sarcasm intended) of Jet Noir Weekly. Thank you for your patience. Going forward, blogs will be posted on the 7s of the month. They will be no longer than 750 words. (I stopped writing for a while because I was convinced that no one reads anymore. People only forward/share blogs to prove/argue a point.) Many of the posts will be old blogs re-imagined until I can get back into the habit of writing fresh material. I once wrote a blog about how “everyone has their January” as in everyone starts somewhere. January in the fitness industry is overflowing with newbies. I chose to write a piece reminding the experienced people to be kind to the inexperienced and to help them out. You know, because they were once newbies and needed help. As I reimagine that message, I want to write this reminder to everyone that judgment of another person is toxic behavior. It’s human nature to be critical of the traits we see in others that we dislike about ourselves. So, while we are our own toughest critics, we tend to criticize others based on our own self-doubt. This is why body shaming has little to do with the recipient. The person that talks the shit sees the shit when they look in the mirror. The same can be said for abilities. Laughing at someone for their inability to do a push-up? There’s a good chance that your push-up form is shit. (There’s also a chance that you’re just an asshole.)

Here’s what I propose, the next time you catch yourself critiquing someone’s ability, question your right to criticize. Are you flawless in that maneuver? If not, shut it down! If yes, then perhaps you could offer some help. Unsolicited advice is a dangerous thing to offer because you may receive an adverse response. However, if you approach with kindness, humility, and await excited consent to deliver the advice, you may just help someone out and create the foundation of a friendship.

There’s a trend I’ve noticed among women who have suffered through partners/lovers that were inept kissers. I hear the complaints about the bad kisser and I ask, “Did you tell them?” Often, the response is something of the “it’s not my job to teach them how to kiss” variety. Well, whose job is it? What if it wasn’t a job/chore/task of yours? Instead, what if it was as simple as you being empowered to ask for what you wanted? Society (I’m including myself in that group) has done a stellar job of socializing women to not ask for what they want. It may be due to the fear of male fragility and a violent response. It may be because of years of being talked over by people in positions of privilege. It can be a number of things. But, what would kisses feel like if you (anyone, not just women) asked for what you wanted? Let’s help each other out.

I love baseball. When I was in high school, there were Baseball tryouts. I went to the coach, before the tryouts, and asked him, “what if I’m not sure if I can play, I’ve never played.” He just laughed at me and walked away. I never went to those tryouts. Not because I was afraid, because I didn’t want him as my coach. In a lot of environments (not just fitness), there will be a lot of people trying out for the team. Many of them are not sure what to do or how to play. Imagine a world wherein we all made an effort to express compassion and patience with those who needed help. Who knows, we might find an all-star in the crowd. As a fitness coach, I’ll never laugh at someone that wants to try out. I’m happy to support the person working hardest to bring up the rear. Let’s all agree to help each other out.

In Celebration Of You

This is the month of LGBTQ Pride and I’ve heard many people refer to it as a celebration of love or a celebration of freedom. While those things aren’t necessarily untrue, it’s important to know the history of LGBTQ Pride and the significance of June 28th, 1969. In my understanding of LGBTQ culture, I’ve learned that being (unapologetically) yourself is important. That’s a lesson that I’ve had to re-learn over the past decade.

It’s Worth Mentioning… When I use words like unapologetically, that is not the same as a self-issued license to be rude. You know that person that pre-empts their “feedback” by announcing that they’re direct so that they can say rude/horrible things under the guise of constructive criticism? Yeah, that’s just a shitty human being. I’m talking about something very different. I’m talking about that feeling you had of being the weird one in grade/high school being gone. No more weird feeling because you’ve decided to love who you are and others will either love who you are or leave you alone. Be. Unapologetically. Yourself.

It’s (Also) Worth Mentioning… There are a lot of humans in the closet and afraid of persecution were they to come out to friends and family. Some can’t be themselves out of (a well justified) fear. You can help to create a safe space by being an Allie for those that may need someone they can trust. Show the world that you love everyone, even the marginalized humans. You might find that someone trusts you enough to be themselves with/around you.

When I was young, I tried to be the person that everyone liked. I tried to accommodate for this person, make that person feel comfortable, help that third person, and I got beat up for it. All of this happened before I heard the old advice that you can’t please everybody. I learned that lesson the hard way, I stopped trying to please everybody. Eventually, I stopped being afraid of bullies and I decided that anyone not in my corner or “on my team” could fuck right off. I decided to celebrate being myself. I just decided to stop apologizing to the world for existing.

As a Fitness Instructor, I’ve been trying to make everyone happy and many people still take issue with my (no excuses) style of coaching. The conundrum is that my “no excuses” approach is what they praise about me that makes me a good coach. On the flip, some claim that my no excuses approach leaves them feeling judged. That’s called projection people! Own your shit and stop trying to blame others for the feelings which you carry around on your sleeve. One day, I watched a flamboyantly wonderful man teach a group exercise class. He was as sassy as they come, lip smacking and all! My take away from watching him perform (group exercise instruction is a performance, don’t let anyone tell you differently) was that he was being himself and using his truth as the foundation for a high energy class.

My truth is a call back to the days of growing up in Detroit with a big brother that was fresh off the plane from a tour of duty in Desert Storm. He was my first coach. There were no excuses. You either completed the challenge or you kept trying until you completed the challenge. I began teaching my classes that way, I make sure to keep every body moving and I won’t allow anyone to call themselves weak or to say the other four-letter word, can’t. This is what it means to be myself. I’m not trying to be an asshole. I want to be nice to people. If people can’t figure out that I’m being kind and attempting to help then oh well.

Now, it’s your turn. Before you can be yourself, it’s important to take time and consider who you are and how you want the world to remember you. Everything you do, say, and write will be remembered long after you’ve forgotten it. Know yourself first and then go out and show the world your best self!

Attitude = Vitality Level: Energy For A Busy Life, Part 6/7

Hello, Friends! As promised (weeks ago) here is part 6 in the 7 part series about keeping up a high level of energy to keep up with a busy/full life. When was the last time you put your attitude in check? Well, I try to do it on a weekly basis.

Before I type any further, I want to send respect, compassion, and love to those humans out there battling depression. For those that face depression daily, they are often told to “stay positive”, “cheer up”, or to change their attitude. Suffice it to say, it’s just not that simple when someone is depressed.

In my daily efforts, I try to be the person that I needed when I was a kid. As a young un’, I watched so many of the 80’s movies about the coach/teacher/janitor that inspired random kids to win big games and whoop the asses of bullies that I thought that person was real. I believed that one of my teachers/coaches was going to inspire me to great heights. But, that shit never happened. When I was in high school, there were Baseball tryouts. I went to the coach, before the tryouts, and asked him, “what if I’m not sure if I can play, I’ve never played.” He just laughed at me and walked away. I never went to those tryouts. Not because I was afraid to try, I didn’t go because I didn’t want that asshat as my coach. Over the years, I’ve accepted the fact that such a teacher/coach/janitor is a myth (or at least a rare occurrence). So, I decided to become the coach that inspires. In my efforts to boost people up, my attitude must sing in the key of positivity. I’ve found that doing so keeps my energy levels up. Because I’m human and my attitude isn’t always positive, I’m able to feel the significant difference when I have a bad attitude. I’ve spent enough time in Anger Management to know when I’m swimming in a bad attitude and splashing that gasoline on the humans around me.

So, how is your attitude affecting your energy levels from day-to-day? I could write about it or you could read about what’s been written about 100 times over. Read here about the science of happiness.

Tune in next week when WhoTF knows what I’ll post about! Just know that part 7 in the series is coming sooner than later. (Spoiler: It’s about goal setting.)

 

 

Energy For A Busy Life, Part 3: Sleepy Time (A Seven Part Series)

Greetings! This is part three in a seven part series about how I keep high energy levels for a full life. [IWM…When it occurs to me, I try to avoid using the word “busy” as that sounds like an annoyance. My life is far from an annoyance. I love my life and I am responsible for creating the life that I have. I chose this job, this apartment, these friends, these lovers, this car, these pets, and all of the other magic that makes up my life. In some cases (friends, lovers, pets, jobs, et al.) they chose me as well, but I can assure you that there is mutual love and my life is not busy, it’s full.]

When some people get a glimpse of my calendar they ask, “how do you do it” and my reflex response is “I take naps” and (100% of the time) their response has been, “Oh, I can’t do that!” It makes me laugh when people claim they can’t do something they’ve only tried once. I hear that some cultures have embraced the mid-day rest and it’s totally a thing. Perhaps you’ve heard of a *obnoxious air quotes with silly raised eyebrows* SIESTA!? Well, let me tell you that taking a siesta is the shit! But, first let’s address this issue of people that can’t take naps.

It may take a bit of work (read: practice) but, keep trying and you can take naps. When I was a little kid, I have a distinct memory of running into the living room to report to my mother… “Mama, Mama! I can’t sleep!” In her typical, no-nonsense, matter-of-fact way, she responded with a rhetorical question. “Do you know why you can’t sleep?” She paused briefly to let the question sink in  before continuing on to say, “…because you’re in here talking to me! Now take yo’ ass in there and go to sleep!” My young (yet pragmatic) mind found that to be the most logical reason I’d ever heard for not being able to sleep. So, I took my ass in there and went to sleep. That’s been my attitude towards sleep ever since. I know, I know, I know… Not everything falls under the Just Do It problem solving methodology. But, here are some steps you can take to take yo ass to sleep (read: nap).

When people tell me that they can’t nap, they often divulge that they’re unable to quiet their mind long enough to nap. When I ask about what’s going on in their sleeping environment, they describe all sorts of chaos like phone notifications, easily accessible TV remotes, sex toys, and internet porn just waiting to be used. I’ve already written about how to remove the noise from the bedroom in order to maintain the sanctuary that is sleep. (Click < that link to read the post from 2013.) But, sometimes a little chaos (read: discomfort) is what’s needed in order to not sleep too long. A twenty minute disco nap does me right. I set the timer on my phone for 21 minutes and put the phone far enough away from the bed/couch/yoga mat so that I have to walk to it to shut it off. (I make sure it’s close enough to be within earshot.) Once I hit start on the timer, that extra minute affords me the time it will take to get into position for what my brother (the former Marine) refers to as combat sleep. I’ve been known to sleep with my eyes open. It’s not intentional and I don’t know how to replicate it. But, that’s the idea behind combat sleep. Get just comfortable enough to sleep without getting so comfortable that your sleep gets deep. To learn more about what it means to be in a deep sleep, click this hyperlink. But, the distilled version of the sleep cycle is [copied/pasted from the Google machine] “Usually sleepers pass through five stages: 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. These stages progress cyclically from 1 through REM then begin again with stage 1. A complete sleep cycle takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes.” There’s all sorts of wearable tech these days to afford a better understanding of your personal sleep cycle and how long it takes. But, it’s safe to say that napping less than 45 minutes will keep you from reaching REM sleep. (IWM… The human body is amazing and you may be the outlier that can reach REM sleep in 40 minutes. The confidence in my words is based on personal anecdotal evidence as well as statistical averages.) At any rate, back to combat sleep… Once you’ve chosen your comfortable/uncomfortable position, set your timer, place it far/close enough from your spot. Lay there and just “switch off” your brain. I once read that the average American of 2016 has the level of anxiety equivalent to that of an average patient in a 1950s psych ward. Since they considered homosexuality a mental illness at that time, we can all roll our eyes at the aforementioned comparison. However, if you think about it for a moment, all of the beeps and blips we get as notifications for the multiple means of contact that the world has to reach us are sure to cause some level of anxiety. So, when people tell me that they can’t nap, the message I perceive is that they have trouble shutting their brain off. You can start by repeating your intention for the nap. I intend to refresh my mind with stillness. *repeat* I intend to refresh my mind with stillness. Continue repeating that phrase until you drift off or until the timer goes off. I know, I know. You’re going to want more sleep. Just get on up, drink some water and start doing something that requires minimal brain power (like washing dishes or brushing your teeth). You’ll shake it off sooner than later and be able to go on with your day, energized!

In part four of this series (in two weeks) I’ll write about what I do for energy that could replace coffee! *gasp*

A Problem With The Fitness Industry

Greetings! Last week, I promised part two of the seven part series on how I keep my energy levels up. That will show up next week. First, something significant happened on Monday and I needed to write about it before my trip this weekend. I wanted to write about a problem shared by most trainers and most gym members. A problem that many of them share is their attitude towards appearance. In their desire to make good soldiers, the US Government has been suggesting that we move our bodies and stay active for at least 20 minutes a day since the 1940s. It wasn’t until a capitalist figured out a way to monetize this suggestion by opening a gym that the current culture of fitness was born. [An early public gymnasium started in Paris in 1847. However, the history of health clubs for the general public can be traced back to Santa Monica, California in 1947.] They’ve been called fitness clubs, health clubs, gyms, etc. [IWM… “Fitness” and “Health” are not interchangeable words. One can be fit with high cholesterol. One can be healthy and unable to do basic exercises.]

During this week’s post, I’ll be using words like “obese”, “fat”, and “overweight” (these words are not interchangeable either.) These words have very different meanings and I’ll try to respect those meanings in the context of my message. I’m mentioning the use of these words in case they may be a trigger for any of you reading this post. I understand that many people have experienced trauma with these words being used as weapons from parents and peers.

Trainers and Fitness Professionals, when a new client shows up for their first session and complains of knee pain, listen to their request and make sure they feel heard. Please don’t overlook their pain and see that person as overweight. Further, don’t look at their body fat as a problem that is your duty to fix. That client came to you to get stronger and live a pain-free life. “Well, if they lost some weight, their knee wouldn’t hurt so much. Bones weren’t meant to carry that much weight!” While there may be some validity to that statement, the client came to you with a knee problem, they didn’t ask you to fix their weight. Let them be fat and encourage them that they’re fine with the body they have. Find ways to help them love a fit lifestyle. Find ways that they enjoy moving their body. (Just because you like Burpees doesn’t mean they will/should.) If you can show them exercises to strengthen the muscles around their knees to relieve pain, teach them how to maintain good posture, and build core strength while connecting with the human in front of you, they won’t be seen as a fat problem that needs to be fixed. Leave the Savior complex in your locker and train with compassion.

Fitness clubs, Health clubs, Gyms, and other such places, what if your business model was NOT based on ridding the world of obesity? What if you did NOT encourage people to workout just to lose weight? What if you encouraged people to play because it improved quality of life? [Encouraging all bodies to play is why I’m a fan of the Athletic Playground in Emeryville.] What if there were no scales or body fat calipers in the entire building? In this Netflix and Chill society, I’d love to see a gym that D(idn’t)GAF about any body’s weight. I only care that you move your body and have fun doing so. A former gym regular sent me a flyer for a new gym opening here in the Bay Area. She was suggesting that I apply to work there, so I went to their website to see what they’re all about. I found the following on their About Us page: “A heart pumping, calorie burning full-body workout layering intense plyometric movements with strengthening isometric holds to build lean muscle and sweat away excess fluff.” Sweat away excess fluff!? WTF!? Are they marketing to humans or cappuccinos!? With that statement as part of their manifesto, I decided that I didn’t want to find out more about this place. I don’t want to train people in the name of de-fluffing them. I’m proud to say that I work in a gym that focuses more on movement than fat burn. We’ve never held any contest to see who can lose the most body weight or reduce the most body fat percentage in an arbitrary time period. We’re not perfect. But, in general, our approach is about creating a lifestyle around fitness and physicality for all bodies. (This post isn’t a Valentine to my employer, so you can do your own digging to find the name of my gym.)

“Do you know the best way to lose six pounds in 3 weeks?” That question was asked of me by a 13 year-old figure skater! I wish I were making this up. I was astounded! I knew that any answer could create a trajectory for the rest of her life, but I was also so caught off guard by such a question from such a lean and muscular young woman that I fumbled the answer. I told her that it was a big question and I encouraged her to seek out scientific approaches and to avoid any diets. (My hope was that she would not find any scientific approach to weight loss for someone with such a low body fat percentage.) I went home and drank some whiskey that night. I seriously considered quitting my job and hanging up my coach’s whistle indefinitely. I was reminded a few days later, as I told the story to the club owner, that such an occurrence was precisely why I shouldn’t quit, people like that need coaches that will point them in the right direction. Even days later, I don’t know if I could ever be ready for such a question. She’s 13 fucking years old!

“My boyfriend said he wouldn’t marry me unless I lost weight.” Those were the words of a victim of societal conditioning. She relayed the message through a friend and wanted to hire me as her trainer. I refused. Someone will take her money. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I did.  I cared more about whether or not she was able to see the life of abuse she was about to embrace. That was about two years ago. I don’t know whatever happened with her, but I hope that she woke up and left that person for a life of self-love and a partner that likes her just the way she is today.

Once and Future Clients, please cancel your magazine subscriptions. Please be honest with your parents and tell them that their lack of acceptance (as they criticized your weight and food choices) hurt you. Please find and nurture a supportive group of friends that accept and celebrate your body just the way it is and above all else… Love yourself before you begin any fitness program. An exercise that I give to most of my clients is to stand naked in the mirror, armed with a dry erase marker. Write (a minimum of) ten things you love about your body on that mirror. Use that self-love to fuel your motivation to improve your quality of life. “But, Jet, if I love my body, I won’t want to workout and change it.” Right, you won’t want to change it, the hope is that you’ll be motivated to make it stronger and more capable. To put it bluntly, *presses caps loCK* DON’T WORKOUT TO LOSE WEIGHT! Exercise to improve your quality of life. Improve your blood volume and blood flow, decrease aches and pains, improve balance and reduce fall hazards, increase bone density, improve mental acuity, and just be ready for life. Losing weight should not be your only goal for embracing a fit lifestyle. Think long-term as in LIFE style, not just about the wedding dress. “Jet, please! My Gram-gram lived until she was 97 and she was still walking and talking shit! She was strong and she didn’t exercise!” Well, I bet she didn’t sit at a desk and fuck around on Tumblr all day when she was in her 20s, either. The point that I hope you takeaway from this post is that fat is not a problem to be fixed. No one gives a fuck if you’re fat or fluffy or whatever TF pop culture is calling it these days. No one can body shame you without both your permission and acceptance of such shame. I’m grateful for being teased and bullied as a child. By my peers (read: black people) I was told that I was too dark, my nose was too big, and blah blah blah. What was I to do? My own friends, my own “people” ridiculed me for the way I looked. I made no efforts, nor had any desire to lighten my skin or change my nose. I adopted a simple manifesto for friendship. “Either they’re in my corner or fuck ’em!” I will always be comfortable in my own skin. I will always love myself, despite the fact that I’ll never meet the societal standard of beauty.

For the people in your world that don’t accept you, for the magazines, or gyms that are over concerned with your fluff when you’re trying to make strength gains and move beyond pain, fuck ’em. For all of the significant others that have ever told their partner to lose weight… Fuck you! For all of the coaches that have told 13 year-old girls to lose weight… Fuck you! For all sports/activities (looking at Ballet and Football with equal ire) that condition children to have anxiety-ridden relationships with food (so that they may lose or gain weight to make the cut)… Fuck you!

Why do I sound so angry? Wouldn’t you be? I became a trainer 11 years ago, because I wanted to help people move their bodies efficiently. I want to help people get stronger while staying injury-free. I DGAF about anyone getting a six pack and I think that’s a dumb goal to have. I just want people to have a better life through fitness and healthier habits. But, all I get are men that want to gain weight and get “swole” and women that want to lose weight because society has convinced them that something is wrong with their bodies. Yes, I’m angry. Yes, this is a problem with my industry. We (fitness professionals) can fix this problem as soon as we stop trying to fix people. Let’s help the people. Let’s teach the people how to workout instead of just taking them through a workout. Let’s explain the benefits of those compound movements. Let’s coach the humans instead of training the dollar signs.