Archive for the 'Fitness' Category


Training Confident Kids (part 1)

I had some people ask me questions regarding a past post discussing motivation and it’s relation to confidence.  Here is the first of a 2 part post on Confidence and how we get kids to be more confident.

As coaches, we always want the best for our athletes. We train them physically to be strong, flexible and powerful. We train them cognitively to know the skills, routines, and rules. And we train them emotionally to be strong, brave, and confident. Or do we?

For our discussion lets explain confidence in relation to our comfort level in doing things. Our comfort levels are depicted by a box. Within the box we have everything that we are comfortable with, things we do easily, people we know, experiences that range from typical to mundane. Right outside the box are new and different things.  Experiences that put us on edge, make us a little uncomfortable, new places, people, and things. Far away from the box are the things we are very unsure of; things we feel very uncomfortable with, things that make us stressed or nervous.

Confidence is developed by knowing we can perform or interact with the world in a way that is comfortable to us. Things we do that are within our comfort box can be done confidently and things outside might be done with less confidence.

While the majority of our lives occur within our comfort box, it’s only when we reach outside the walls of the box  that we can truly grow and learn. Our comfortable box is where we wish everything to be, but sadly, that is not reality. In the box, we often operate by rote memory, we do our routines and our day to day existence just seems to happen. Chicken or egg? Are we comfortable in that “box” because we do things there easily, or are things easy because we have the confidence to do them? The answer is both.

I remember as a young baseball player, I played 3rd base, shortstop, second base, and catcher. Our coaches rotated us, what seemed at times to be, randomly. It’s likely that they were trying to find our ideal position, the place where we were comfortable playing and where we would be the most effective for the team. But what it also did was allow us to “try” other positions; positions outside of our comfortable little boxes. This was imperative for expanding our proverbial comfort zone as players and as kids.

We are always being advised to “step outside the comfort zone”, or “think outside the box”. When we are confronted with occasional challenges, it allows us to expand our acceptable “zone” or, put another way, our “box” gets bigger and more of the world outside comes within.

When we are no longer afraid of stepping outside the comfort zone, we find that the space within, where we feel in control, becomes bigger. When our coaches moved us around, often unexpectedly, we found that we became a more confident team. I know personally that I gained a lot of confidence because I knew I could handle more than I originally had thought.

For another example, let’s take a gymnast learning a new skill. At first the skill is new and requires focus and a lot of effort. After practicing it for a bit it gets added to the repertoire and becomes “just another thing she can do.” It no longer causes her stress or discomfort, it has become “easy.” But, that same gymnast no longer trains that skill, it is possible for her to “lose” it. That’s obvious. But also, if that gymnast is not challenged with performing the skill in a new combinations, on a new apparatus, or in a performance situation, like a meet or a public demonstration, the skill again may equally be lost. Coaches have to allow that gymnast to perform the learned skills under pressure so that when that skill is needed in a meet performance  it falls within the skills in the comfort box. When it does, it reinforces confidence in performance and positions the athlete to seek more new skills and more growth.

Confidence come from challenges

Confidence come from challenges

Sometimes we can be asked to reach far away from the box; this is when we have greater discomfort over a task or skill. When we feel that we are over our head or incapable of performing, it manifests as a lack of confidence and the feeling can be so strong that we believe that we cannot be successful without the help of someone else.

When an athlete  has rarely been challenged to step outside their comfortable box and are then confronted with change or challenge, they often cannot adapt. Usually this person must rely on others to carry them or assist them through their tasks. I have seen this situation in several scenarios: kids who freeze up, suddenly cannot do more simple skills, or devolve progressions for new skills. There are other reasons that these outcomes may occur too, but it’s often the lack of confidence is the culprit.

Confident people have a larger comfort box and  it affords them a expanded ability to adapt and feel adept.  Also, by occasionally being challenged it allows for a greater tolerance for uncertainty, which means that the areas that cause panic are minimal. However, people with confidence are not fearless. They do experience fears but the fear is often mitigated by both feeling that they can accomplish things with a little  effort, and/or with minimal help. Confident people have either made choices to be challenged or had life throw them enough curve balls that they have learned that they have the capacity to hit any pitch. Or more easily put; they’ve learned, by adaptation, to figure out problems and conquer what once seemed daunting.

Next time: 5 things we can do to create more confidence in our kids.


Why we do what we do (My lunch with Ed.)

I had lunch with my old friend Ed the other day. We coached together over 20 years ago, I coached 2 of his daughters and in fact met my wife at one of his daughter’s wedding. The best part about reconnecting with an old friend is how you re-validate who you are, or possible the converse of that, maybe you realize how much you have changed. In the case of our lunch, I found re-connection to a kindred soul and met myself again in the conversation.

Ed told me how he ran into a young woman that we coached so many years ago. They spoke for some time while in a store. As her children grew antsy waiting for the grown-ups to stop talking she shared with Ed how her life had some rough spots and that there was a time when she was very nearly homeless. At the time she was out of work and her first child was due soon. It was stressful for her but she overcame it; she worked tirelessly to finish her education, get a new position and establish some security.  The baby was born, 7 years ago, healthy and happy. She explained to Ed that she was so happy now and has a family of 3, a great job, a loving husband and a truly fortunate life. Ed, as any of us would, felt so happy for her that he got a little misty eyed even when relaying the story to me weeks after it happened. As they separated and went off to finish shopping, Ed had a fleeting thought. He called her back and explained to her that he was no longer coaching and was retired from his career job as well. Left to ourselves, guys like Ed and I, could wander into a belief of self-doubt that we ever had an impact, or a belief that we did when we didn’t. Introspective people like us are always seeking a sign of validation.  He wondered, again, as we all do, if he ever made a difference for her. Was there anything that he taught her that she found of value?  She responded, I’m sure with a smile, “Of course coach, you taught me to set goals and keep my eyes on them. Without that lesson I would have never made it through those hard years.”

When Ed shared this story with me we both had tears in our eyes because it’s short stories like this that remind us that gymnastics is only a vehicle that we can provide that gives these children valuable life skills. They learn so much from us aside from cartwheels and somersaults. I think that every once and awhile we need to check our perspective and remember why we have this job. We teach perseverance, determination, focus, and goal setting. We bring skills, strength, flexibility and healthy lifestyles to children. We teach physics, anatomy, bio-mechanics and psychology. Gymnastics is merely an activity that allows these lessons to be presented.

I’ve had champion gymnasts and champion teams, but the things I brag about most often are the wonderful children that turned into strong and healthy adults. I’ve coached scientists, therapists, business people, doctors, moms and all points between. I can confidently say that gymnastics; that I provided, helped them, one and all, be who they are; successful and healthy people. This is what fuels my day. What does it for you?


Resolve for a better life by moving

Another year and another reason to start working out. Right? Will it be another year where you do it a few times then you hear the siren call of extra sleep, or worse, the beckoning of the couch and TV remote? What you need is a good sound reason. A reason that resonates with you and covers the attraction of the couch’s lure.My son asked me the other day, why I was going for a run when it was so cold outside. Usually not at a loss for words I stumbled around to justify changing clothes, different shoes, and bracing for the cold to and sweat outside until little icicles form on my cap. I think I had a hard time because I too was wondering: “what the heck am I doing?” But now I have had some time to think and a chance to sit inside and warm up a bit: so here are some reasons for you. I am writing them as I should have said them to my son (s). Maybe visualizing talking to your children will help. Find one that motivates you and get yourself moving.Winter runner1. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside?  And I say “Well, you know how sometimes you still feel sleepy when you get to school? After a run, my body is awake and alive. I get so much more done on days when I run.”

In fact, research has shown that people who exercise are more productive than those who are sedentary. Whether you exercise early in the morning, in the mid-day, or even late at night; your body becomes a more efficient machine.

2. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say “Sometimes I feel like I need a little time to get myself feeling better. When I exercise I feel good about myself. Sometimes the best cure for feeling down is to get yourself up and workout a little.”

Exercising hold many benefits when it comes to enhancing self-esteem. Being more fit makes you feel good inside. Even if you lose a few pounds or inches, or maybe you don’t; internally hormones are triggered to provide a feeling of happiness. Just like some people find with a beer or a candy bar but this is free and it has a longer lasting positive effect. That’s win-win.

“There are sometimes when I also just need to burn off some steam. Maybe if I had a stressful day or it’s a rough week, it helps me to deal with feeling overwhelmed by stress. I don’t like feeling like I have no time to do everything I need to do, and weirdly enough, when I spend some time exercising it seems to make more time for me during the day. Then I’m not so stressed out.”

Exercise releases endorphins that not only make you feel better, but help your mind prepare for stressors that might arise later. One of the best strategies to alleviate stress is to get up and move. From executives to laborers, exercise outside of normal activity gives you the strength to deal with stress.

3.  Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say “You know I have to be sharp. I have a lot to know for my job and sometimes I have to make split second decisions. Plus, being your dad it’s important for me to stay on my toes. I always want to be there for you if you have questions or need help with your homework. When I exercise it keeps my mind functioning well.”

Not only does exercise prevent memory loss but it aids in production of cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning. You could say that exercise not only reduces memory loss, it reverses it. Also, research has shown that your chances of dementia are drastically reduced. Exercise is a “smart” thing to do in more ways than one.

4. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say ” Exercise makes me happy. What do you do to be happy? Maybe your Legos or playing with your friends makes you happy, and running just makes me feel good.

As I mentioned; exercise releases happy juice in your body. This creates a feeling of euphoria and can make you feel pretty good.  When you feel good, your days are better and you get through life with more smiles on your face than frowns. There is great research that shows the correlation of exercise and feeling fulfilled in life.

5. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say ” Well, I want to be healthy so I can be with you a lot longer.  If I make sure my body is healthy and working like it should I won’t get sick as much and I will live a lot longer. Maybe I can be around long enough to see your kids and I’ll get to hear how you answer these kinds of questions.”

Regular exercise is shown to reduce the amount of cellular damage to tissues and organs that lead to many chronic diseases and even many acute sicknesses like colds and flu. A system of regular exercise makes you less likely to have heart disease, Type II Diabetes, Hypertension, and a myriad of other ailments that our US sedentary lifestyles have blessed us with.

There are studies that link extended life expectancy to exercise (This is just one study, there are literally thousands).  So out of all the reasons that I stated here: feeling energized, reducing stress, better self-concept, better brain function, and a happier life, this one may be the most important. Whether you have kids or not, the fact that you could contribute to our world for a longer period of time is paramount to a fulfilled existence.  Knowing that I may someday see grandchildren, or that I will get to see my team kids grown up and be successful, makes the temporary discomfort of a cold weather run well worth it. 30 minutes of exercise and icicles on my hat is a small price to pay to feel good, think better and still be around to play human for another 50 years. Honestly, is it too much of a price for you?  


Every moment is a teachable moment

I was a nerd in school. My mother was a librarian and so any books that were assigned by teachers were read. Cliff notes were not an option. Now as an adult, I utilize book summaries, and sadly am addicted to audio books (while working out). My mother would cringe and ask if I forgot how to read a “real” book.  So with apologies to my mother, I will offer the “cliff” version of a parenting/management manual. I have always felt that whether I am managing my team athletes, my staff or my own children that these axioms are invaluable. So here is the abrev. vers. of my manual.

We are the teachers of children: Understand that your child is in fact, a child. They are made from experiences that you have provided. Whether they are frustrating or a generator of great pride remember that you had a hand in it. Every time I have to “direct” my children I have to remember that I am the parent and they are the children. I have an obligation to teach them from every experience. If every moment is a teachable moment than it is up to me to be the instructor.

Attaining Mindshare: Our kids are hit with so much input every day. (see the post “The Battle for our Children” August 27, 2014). If we just throw input at them they will eventually callus over and all that effort on our part ends up falling on closed ears. I always remember that in marketing the rule is to get what’s called “Mindshare” a message must be seen 8 times. With that as my guide I set out to repeat the most important messages several times knowing that eventually I will attain Mindshare. Messages of lesser importance often fall away after being said and/or acted on immediately. “Clean your room” is a direction that calls for action, as opposed to “picking up your floor makes it safe for me to come in at night and kiss you goodnight.” The latter message might need several deliveries, but because kids are so overloaded with messages from all sides, I have to be patient enough to repeat myself…..a lot.

Me and the boys (vintage picture: 2010)

Me and the boys (vintage picture: 2010)

Look for Common Ground: Every day, seek a common areas of interest. My kids might find it very important to tell me about how their Lego guy makes pizza in the same room where he parks his laser guided hover-cycle and though I may not have a lot of interest in the Lego-verse,  I need to find the interest because it’s important to my kids. I feel that finding common ground is laying a framework for communication skills both now and in the future. This, finding the DMZ, exercise is an investment for tomorrow that takes a little effort today.

Talk to them like little adults, not children: Every day, try to have a conversation with your child that illustrates how “people” talk. It is a pet peeve of mine to hear adults baby-talk to their children. Children learn language skills by listening to you and emulating your speech. When we dumb down our conversations or change our speech patterns we are doing a dis-service to the widdle cutey wooties with our big BIG words that widdl-ums can’t understand. Honestly, isn’t this nauseating? Would you talk to any adult like this?  Also by having real conversations you can reinforce behaviors or implement changes if their behavior is not what you want. Either way, a conversation, just like you talk with your friends, will incorporate the concepts of Instruction, Mindshare, and Common Ground.

Compassion is a taught skill: Look for every opportunity to teach it. The best way to teach it to another person is to demonstrate it. There will be times when things don’t go right and your child is feeling bad, sad, or mad. Our job is to not discredit the sentiment but to be the shoulder they cry on. Compassion is basically allowing a person to feel and trying to see things from the perspective of those feelings. “All moments are teachable moments”, I said that earlier, but sometime the lesson is simply, “I know you are down. I feel for you.” Children learn from this and will eventually emulate your compassion with others. This makes them invaluable as friends, admirable as adults, and definable as good people.

There is a reverse to this suggestion too. If you are one to complain about people, speak negatively about them, or belittle them: you are still teaching, and you will see the pay off of those lessons too. And that payoff likely won’t make you proud, but still you need to understand it was you that taught it to them. Well done Jerk Face, you are so stupid. (awkward isn’t it?)

“Dad, I’m not you.”: One of the hardest things for me to understand sometimes is that my child is not me. Everyone always says, “Oh he’s just like you.” But I have to remember that they are not me, nor will I ever want them to be. They will arrive at who they are by experience and learning. I got where I am the same way. I can’t expect them to love gymnastics because I do. I can’t expect them to take over the business one day, or love cauliflower casserole just because I do. That is so unrealistic. So the perspective is that they will do, say, and think things differently than you do. That has to be OK because it’s the differences in people, even our kids, that makes them special.

Making kids feel smart guarantees that they will become smarter: Every day I try to say something to make my kids feel smart. Compliments are great and reinforcing good behavior is important, but complimenting intellect is essential. It’s so simple: “I forgot how much you knew about the Statue of Liberty”, “You really made a cool Lego house, I love the combination pizza oven/hover cycle parking room. How did you think of that?”, “You know how to use the lawn mower, can you help me out?” These are all statements that point out that the child is a smart, thoughtful and creative person.  The old teaching adage of What we notice gets repeated, really applies. When we notice good brain power a child strives to provide us more impressive traits to recognize.

In the beginning I said that these are suggestions work for team kids and children in general. They apply, with some tweaking to building and maintaining a staff of employees too. Like a team gymnast who is training for higher levels, or a staff person who seeks more responsibility or a pay adjustment, training is required. I see children as adults in training, and every interaction is a potential lesson on how to be a good grown up. I see adults as teachers and like it or not, we are, in fact, always teaching. My suggestions are axioms that I aspire to live by, they are not for all people, and some you may even disagree with. OK. I can learn to live with that.




lucky we made it

You know how every once and awhile you get an e mail or Facebook post that compares how simple things used to be to how problematic they are now. They are usually ironically titled something like “remember when things were tough” or “We’re lucky we made it”. They go on to demonstrate by list or pictures how things were different when we were kids. They tongue-in-cheek say things like “we never wore seat belts and we survived” or “we ate candy made with  sugar, and we grew up healthy.

I classify these posts the same way I classify the ones that show something “old” like a TV antennae and ask “Who remembers what this is?” Oh nostalgia you make me feel so grown up.

Seriously, you should know what this is.

Seriously, you should know what this is.

But c’mon. A lot of people remember a TV antennae for cryin’ out loud. So they are not around anymore, neither is polio but no one is pining for the simpler times by posting pictures of wheelchairs. Times have changed and we have all grown up. We have learned, and our most valuable lessons have always come from failures. We wear seatbelts now because too many people needlessly were damaged by not wearing one. We control our sugar intake because we have learned the repercussions of consuming too much of the stuff. Our advancements came at a price, but looking back and proudly claiming how we survived doesn’t make the state of our past ignorance any easier to swallow (unless it’s coated in sugar).

I love to watch old television shows like I Love Lucy or Dick Van Dyke and I am always baffled how, at the time, so many people were smokers. Truth be told, we didn’t know how bad it was back then and tons of people smoked. Then the studies were made public and laws were enacted and restrictions laid, and finally people changed their habits. It took fighting past kicking and screaming resistance but we finally advanced our behavior. Do I want to look back and say, “everyone smoked back then, and they turned out just fine.” NO! Lucille Ball died a withered and cancer-ed lady with a voice that sounded like a frog with TB. Were those the good old days when everyone lit up? I should say they were days when we didn’t know any better.

One of few pictures without a cigarette

One of few pictures without a cigarette

I was running with a friend a while back who was on medication for a health condition and was complaining that he had to take pills. He said when his grandparents were his age they weren’t made to take all this junk to be healthy. I responded by telling him that the average life expectancy of his grandparents generation was less than 64 years old, today it’s 78.7 years. Shut up and listen to your doctor.

It is true that we live in a culture of fear and everyone is trying to scare us into acting one way or another. If your kid rides a bike without a helmet he will have a major brain injury. If you let you kids play in the park they will be abducted. If you don’t re-post this you will have bad luck for 10 years. The fact is that some people did smoke without getting cancer, some biked without helmets, some drove without buckling, and some ate sugar and kept their teeth; but the research is out there. You are more likely to experience a negative outcome than a person who takes precautions, and precautions are easy. We grew up and we learned. Remember when we were young and dumb? Would you really want to go back to that time, knowing what you know now? Me neither, and it’s an antennae, geesh they haven’t been gone that long.



why you should slow down on fast food

Look, gloves off, here is the straight scoop about fast food. I have written before how fast food is more a function of economics over taste or preference. I myself am not a total stranger to the drive through window, but I know that I indulge in that only once or twice a month.  Also, I am under no illusion that I am getting real food, I know I am filling my gut for a short term solution to a time crunch, period.

We all know that a regular diet that includes fast food will lead to  weight gain and can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes. That’ s a fact, and if you didn’t know that…..well, now you do.

Her’s another fact: let’s start with breakfast. Fast food eggs are made of dimethylpolysiloxane (found in lubricants and silly putty) and gycerin (found in soap). Though it might be better to just eat the soap and lube because other menu items might be surprising too. For instance, most fast food burgers contain only about 2 to 14% real meat. Most of the patty is chemical filler, that’s why they don’t spoil. When something doesn’t rot, you can bet it’s not organic or natural.  So forget the beef, get the chicken.

looks harmless

looks harmless

Maybe not. “Dad, which part of the chicken is the nugget?” Great question. It’s actually from various parts. In fact it’s from a process called mechanical separation: which is made from a slimy soup created from processed bones and other unusable carcass parts. (Mmmm right?) So, skip the chicken and go for a salad.

Hold the fork because even the salad choices are suspect. For example, a BK salad is 500 calories with 28 grams of fat and a day’s worth of sodium. But sadly still, probably your best choice. But often the salads are loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup, a cheap sweetener (definitely in the soft drinks and desserts) and a study from Princeton showed HFCS as a major cause of obesity.

Did you also know that fast food can be addictive? Yup, a study by Garber & Lustig shows a correlation of addictive behavior and fast food consumption. The CDC explains that obesity has gone up 100% in children and 300% in adolescents since 1984. So let’s connect the dots: HFCS causes obesity, HFCS is in many fast food menu options. Obesity is in a raging increase. Draw your conclusion.

For a healthy choice for your kids see: Our gym page at


the battle for control of our children

I was a health teacher in a middle school. I said the same thing to my health students, boys and girls, as I do to my team kids and my own children today. “Losing control of yourself is the worst thing that can happen to you. Whether you lose control to another person, like a boyfriend or girlfriend, or to a thing like alcohol or a drug; not being able to determine what you do is the worst position you can be in.” I believe that we should be empowering children for their life.

I feel that we are fighting an uphill battle. Not in regard to drugs or drink, though that could be argued. I feel that we have to realize the impact of what our kids see in marketing messages. Girls particularly have so much to overcome to get to a point where they can feel OK about themselves. From the get-go, they hear that they are not attractive and attractive is all that matters. They are not fashionable, and fashion is matters. They are not strong, and strength only comes with satisfying your man.  These are all wrong.

We need to unite as A.A..C’s (Adults Affecting Children)* in teaching children that they are OK just the way they are; and despite the advertising world trying to make them feel inadequate, they are just fine. They need to understand that no matter what they wear, where they go, or who they see, it is the person inside that people should know. It is only by letting others know who we are inside that we can find if they are friends or not. If not, then too bad for the lost friend, you didn’t need them anyway.

So when we see a company advertising to our children that they are somehow not good enough or incomplete without a given product, we need to understand that the company is trying to control our children’s minds. They are forming those kid’s thought realities.  When you are school shopping, watch the messages that your kids hear. Explain to them that the first day of school is just another day, it’s not a pageant and it’s not to judge the other kids by what they have or don’t have, wear or don’t wear.  Lets empower them to be strong, independent, and unaffected by high pressure marketing. We need to be there to bring our kids back to the truth. Can we all agree on that? Please. I can’t do it alone.

* Yes we do all have an effect on children but A.A.C. is not a real title or organization, it’s just me being hilarious**

** I often feel that I am funny, and I am really quite funny in my own mind. When I write things like that it’s best to  just smile and nod.

See also: Our gym page at

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