Consistency (Updated Post)

As a physician, I am as much a therapist as I am a physical healer, and am well aware of the vital connection between mind, spirit and body. I have also seen how closely linked emotional stress is to development and exacerbation of physical ailments. What concerns me is when people abandon healthy habits during times of adversity, because it is at those times that some structure would provide balance to their lives.

A common question I hear from patients, clients, and strangers I meet is, “How can you maintain a regular exercise schedule and pack your food all the time with your busy careers?”, to which I respond, “I just do it.” Working out and eating right are as essential to me as sleeping and brushing my teeth. It never occurs to me to abandon healthy habits during stressful times. I recently went through a particularly difficult month during which I took a rigorous board certification exam, went through a residential move, and traveled to four destinations (two for my medical career, two for fitness and bodybuilding) over a two week period. Though I didn’t work out my usual six days per week, I did manage to train four to five days per week, every single week. The regular workouts gave me structure and balance which helped me to burn off some of the stress I was under, regulated my sleep cycle, and just plain felt good. In addition, I traveled with clean foods and lots of water, packing them and making sure I stayed on track.

Why would I push myself like this? Because I know that consistency is key to maintaining balance in one’s life. When I am consistent with my workouts and food, I maintain structure and focus and do not allow excuses of an insanely busy schedule to deter me from my mission to live an optimally healthy lifestyle. I know that if I were to deviate from a healthy lifestyle, I wouldn’t have the energy to push through my to-do list, and I certainly wouldn’t be very happy either. No matter whether I am traveling, working, or enjoying a rare free day for myself, I make sure to invest in myself every single day.

When I worked the Arnold Sports Festival Expo in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, I made sure to drink plenty of water, filling up my one liter container 3 to 4 times each day. I also brought my Hot Logic Mini with me (https://youtu.be/GQltYTRLTC4) and had meals from Icon Meals with me, and I made sure to consume a meal every 3 hours to keep my energy levels up. If you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you will find ways to stay in line!

If you make an investment in yourself by being consistent with your exercise and meal habits, you will be rewarded with greater balance in your life and better health. Don’t you deserve that?

How To Visualize Your Body Transformation Goal

Body B&AWhenever I do initial consultations with weight management patients I make sure to ask them what their ultimate weight loss goals are.  Invariably my patients will mention a friend or relative who has the physique they desire, or they will mention a time in their lives at which they considered their own bodies to be ideal for them.  At the end of the evaluation, I instruct my patients to find at least one picture of that ideal body and post it in a prominent place, either on a desk, bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or car dashboard.  The whole point is to create a visual representation of the patient’s goal so that it becomes more tangible over time.

Another tip which I give to weight management patients is to take weekly progress pics so that they can monitor the subtle changes in their bodies over an interval period of time.  What they might not see from week to week can be very dramatic when they compare their baseline photos to photos taken many weeks or months later.  Over time it becomes easier to take these progress pictures.  Trust me, I used to do it regularly myself when I was competing. These days, though, I have hit a certain rhythm in which I stay at a specific set point.

Lori HarderThe tips I have just mentioned also work EXTREMELY well for people in the midst of contest prep.  I typically advise contest prep clients to take weekly progress pictures, because they provide a great way to monitor subtle changes week by week, as well as yield information which I can use in order to make small changes in a prep plan.  

When I first began competing in 2009, I quite randomly picked a couple of images of female competitors whose physiques I really admired, printed them, and placed them on my bathroom mirror.  I saw these images daily, and was able to visualize my goal on a consistent basis.  I did not remove these images from my mirror until I moved in October of 2012, and when I did so, I moved the images to bulletin boards in our den.

What is amazing now is that I have images of myself right next to the images of the ladies I had so admired, and you know what?  I achieved my goal of attaining IFBB Pro Status and the best physique of my life, at the ripe age of 47.    These days, I no longer look at the images of these ladies as something to aspire to, but instead look at them as peers.

In summary, there are two things you can do to visualize your goal:

1. FIND AN IMAGE OF THE BODY YOU WANT AND POST IT IN A PROMINENT PLACE.

2. TAKE WEEKLY PROGRESS PICTURES OF YOURSELF.

Visualize and make your goal materialize!

Get Out Of Your Own Way

success-churchill-550x240Have you ever considered the possibility that you are standing in your own way when it comes to achieving success in your life? Yes, you heard me right. You might not have even known that there was such a thing as a fear of success, and if not, you probably aren’t aware of how a fear of success can sabotage your efforts at getting ahead and put you on a short course to failure.

Though we may crave success deeply and feel driven to set specific goals to get us there, we may cripple ourselves by harboring a feeling that we don’t deserve to have success, or we may question our own abilities. Self-defeating thoughts like, “What if I fail?”, or “Maybe I don’t deserve to be successful” may fester in one’s mind. However, some people entertain an even more frightening thought which is “What if I succeed?” and may be so paralyzed by that fear that they talk themselves out of pursuing a goal which gives them purpose, joy and passion. Suddenly, the lure of success sours in the face of one’s own fears.

The fear of success is more powerful than the fear of failure because the former can trap individuals into established patterns which are comfortable and which prevent the movement and growth necessary to achieve success. The road to success, after all, is unpredictable and forces people out of their comfort zones. It demands tireless efforts which at times may be stalled by roadblocks, and those obstacles may stack up or appear at critical times when the temptation to give up is immense. As daunting as such challenges are in the pursuit of success, they must be overcome if the goal is to be attained.

A fear of success can manifest as procrastination, whereupon projects may be put on hold and excuses made about why there is no time to complete them. Feelings of guilt may take hold if you happen to attain a certain level of success which eludes your peers, friends or family. You may worry that success will in some ways change you and your environment. Though you may lament your current situation and crave big changes that would serve as markers of success, you might find the idea of all those changes incredibly distressing.

The road to success is also often a lonely one in which you may feel lost, perhaps because others may not understand your journey, or because you may be traveling in uncharted waters with no one to lead the way or guide you. There may be haters who try to derail you from your master plan, which is usually a good sign since it is an indication that you are doing something which is perceived as a threat to your competition. You might also think that once you become successful, somehow that success won’t be sustainable and that the proverbial coach will turn back into a pumpkin.

Success will usually put a spotlight on you and you will get attention. Some of you may believe that the attention is great, but when all eyes are on you, scrutinizing every move you make, you may find that it is incredibly distressing. Success comes with responsibilities which may frighten and intimidate you, and you may feel incredible pressure to prove your worth as a result of that boost in visibility. Contrast that with being ensconced in a comfortable pattern which provides a predictable environment, and you can see why so many people chicken out and drop their big goals. Once you achieve your goal and become a success, the goal you were chasing after becomes irrelevant because the beast has been vanquished. The taste of victory may be sweet, but life may lose its meaning and purpose in the aftermath of such an accomplishment.

There are a number of things you can do to maintain your enthusiasm and focus while carving a path to success:

Keep sight of your goals and purpose – Not only is it important to write down specific goals so that you have a blueprint of how you will achieve success, it is also essential to review those goals regularly to make sure that you stay on track and remember the purpose which drives your efforts. I recommend reviewing your master goals list at least once a week.

Gain knowledge – If you sense that your knowledge base is lagging, invest in educational pursuits which will add credibility and push you towards your goals faster. For example, talk to experts in the field you are trying to excel in, read books on pertinent subjects and take courses. Remember that your heroes can eventually become your rivals if you learn from them and pattern your behavior after them.

Become inspired by the people who believe in you – Chances are that you have people around you (spouse, family members, coworkers, fans) who completely believe in you, are inspired by you, and want to see you succeed. Though you may feel pressure to succeed and a sense of obligation as a result of this, you can focus on the enthusiasm which they have for you and allow it to wash over you and motivate you.

Keep a gratitude journal – It can be so easy to complain about one’s situation and play the victim when things aren’t going as planned, but such behavior only does harm when trying to stay motivated in achieving goals. Shift the focus instead onto all the wonderful things, people and other blessings you have in your life and allow them to fortify your resolve to move forward.

Tips For Visualizing Your Body Transformation Goal

Body B&AWhenever I do initial consultations with weight management patients I make sure to ask them what their ultimate weight loss goals are.  Invariably my patients will mention a friend or relative who has the physique they desire, or they will mention a time in their lives at which they considered their own bodies to be ideal for them.  At the end of the evaluation, I instruct my patients to find at least one picture of that ideal body and post it in a prominent place, either on a desk, bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or car dashboard.  The whole point is to create a visual representation of the patient’s goal so that it becomes more tangible over time.

Another tip which I give to weight management patients is to take weekly progress pics so that they can monitor the subtle changes in their bodies over an interval period of time.  What they might not see from week to week can be very dramatic when they compare their baseline photos to photos taken many weeks or months later.  Over time it becomes easier to take these progress pictures.  Trust me, I do it regularly myself.

Lori HarderThe tips I have just mentioned also work EXTREMELY well for people in the midst of contest prep.  What I employ with my contest prep clients is the weekly progress picture ritual, as I have seen the high value of doing so in order to monitor subtle changes week by week and to provide information which I can use in order to make small changes in a prep plan.  However, when I first began competing in 2009, I quite randomly picked a couple of images of female competitors whom I really admired, printed them, and placed them on my bathroom mirror.  I saw these images daily and was able to visualize my goal on a consistent basis.  I did not remove these images from my mirror until I moved in October of last year, and when I did so, I moved the images to bulletin boards in our trophy room.

What is amazing now is that I have images of myself next to the images of the ladies I had so admired, and you know what?  I achieved my goal.    I no longer look at the images of these ladies as something to aspire to, but instead look at them as peers.

In summary, there are two things you can do to visualize your goal:

1. FIND AN IMAGE OF THE BODY YOU WANT AND POST IT IN A PROMINENT PLACE.

2. TAKE WEEKLY PROGRESS PICTURES OF YOURSELF.

Visualize and make your goal materialize!

Commit To That Date!

North American 2012I may upset a lot of people by saying this, but I cannot stand hearing a competitor talk about an upcoming contest they plan to do, only to back out at the very last minute.  I can understand how a significant family emergency, significant illness or a significant injury can undermine plans to compete at a specific event, but I have heard everything from a lack of financial preparedness, to going on a vacation in which all self-control is abandoned, to failing to follow a contest prep plan faithfully, etc., as reasons for pulling out of an event.  It is just one excuse after another.  Yes, that’s right, I said excuse.

I lead a very busy lifestyle which has me switching roles from physician to model to writer to contest prep coach to trainer.  My mother is in a skilled nursing facility and since I am her only child, the burden of monitoring her care falls upon me.  I train intensely and regularly five to seven days a week.  I pack my food daily.  Yet when I select a competition to participate in, I never, ever allow myself to back down from that goal.  I commit to it entirely.

What is involved in this commitment to compete in a specific contest?

  1. I research the show schedule thoroughly beforehand and determine which contests I plan to do.
  2. I establish a detailed budget for each contest.
  3. I coordinate financial resources, both my own and those of my sponsors so that I know how expenses are being covered.
  4. I compile a to-do list for each event which includes a timeline so that I am sure to stay on track with when show registration is due, deposits are due, and when flight reservations should be made.
  5. I follow my contest prep plan faithfully and do not sabotage my own efforts to be contest ready by the time of the event.

I honestly believe that fear and self-doubt are what jeopardize a competitor’s focus and generate the feeling that contest plans should be postponed.  By pushing plans back repeatedly, a competitor develops a cop-out attitude which flies in the face of the determination and fortitude that characterizes the world of competitive bodybuilding.  Let’s face it, life always throws challenges at us.  But there is no reason whatsoever to allow those challenges to discourage us from continuing to pursue that goal of stepping onstage and showing of the efforts of our determination and hard work.

Pick a contest date, commit to it and just DO IT!

Strike A Pose

It takes a certain amount of bravery to grace the stage, clad in a minimal amount of clothing which reveals your body shape and conditioning, while standing under glaring stage lights and the scrutinizing gazes of a panel of judges.  Some of us love the exhilaration of such an experience, while others cringe at the thought.  Let’s face it, being onstage is something that won’t appeal to everyone, and that is completely acceptable.  However, it is extremely empowering to celebrate the efforts of your training and discipline by holding your frame in poses which best display your hard work.  I find myself telling people constantly that having that awareness of self engenders a spiritual metamorphosis which affects every aspect of one’s life. 

Because of this I believe that there is some utility in learning to pose.  It instills a confidence which changes your posture and your general attitude.  Think about the individuals who strike you as overflowing with self-confidence.  They walk with purpose and often have a bit of a swagger to their step.  They exude an energy which is attractive and inspiring.  You don’t even need a competitor-level physique to learn to pose in such a way that aligns the mind-muscle connection and enables you to celebrate the miracle that your body represents. 

This does not mean that I advocate boastful posing in front of the mirrors at the gym, though I find it acceptable to cast sly glances at your muscles while they are working through a challenging move.  By learning to pose, you can assess your progress if you are on a weight loss or muscle building program even if you never intend to strut your stuff onstage.

For some folks, standing in front of a mirror can be stress-inducing.  Yet it is this sort of visual feedback which can fuel your motivation and help you attain your goals more effectively.  I have patients and clients who dread taking standard front and back shots, yet when point out their strengths while also showing them how to stand and pose with confidence, they begin to experience a psychological shift.  This shift becomes more pronounced with time as their physiques begin to respond to proper nutrition and regular exercise.  I always love hearing someone say they notice muscles they didn’t think they had, or that their clothes fit differently.  I will often notice that the way patients dress and walk will slowly but surely change as they begin to accept themselves for who they are both inside and out. 

The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn how to pose and take full ownership of the abilities and strengths you possess.  So get in front of that mirror and show it what you have!

“But I Don’t Have Time To Work Out!”

It always amazes me when people insist that they have no time to exercise and list one reason after another to substantiate such a claim.  I completely understand that work schedules can be extremely demanding and exhausting.  Some individuals may have the best of intentions in planning to go to the gym after work, but this can be a major feat after working long hours.  So does one give up on such a pursuit?  Absolutely not!  There are numerous ways in which one can fit exercise into a hectic daily schedule.

I work at three different office locations and am constantly battling traffic which eats up a lot of my time.  Because of this, I make sure to PLAN AHEAD and schedule my training and cardio sessions around my work schedule.  A little extra planning, along with the determination to make exercise a daily priority, can ensure that regular workouts become an integral part of one’s schedule.

 

Keep Your Car Trunk Stocked!

From personal experience, I have found that keeping my car trunk stocked with all my gym equipment and an “emergency” gym outfit is an excellent way of ensuring that I will be well-prepared for a gym visit whenever it presents itself.  Another thing that I do is if I have a workout planned after work, I make sure to drive to the gym regardless of how tired I am.  I have counseled patients and clients who make the mistake of going home after work, convincing themselves that they will go to the gym after having a meal, settling in, but what usually happens is “…oh wait, there’s that great show on television…and I have laundry to do, etc…” thus killing any chance of them gathering the motivation to trek to the gym.

 

Set Your Alarm Early.

For people who consider themselves early birds, it may be more effective to set the alarm to go off earlier in the morning to allow sufficient time to get a workout in before the workday begins.  One of the benefits of going to the gym before work is the energizing effect which exercise confers.  Another benefit is that your workout will be complete, leaving your evenings after work open for other tasks.

Some people may balk at the idea of having to trek to the gym in the morning, stating that it takes extra time to travel to and from the facility.  If this is the case, there are two options:  either wake up earlier, or exercise at home.  You can even start your day with a brisk walk or jog before eating breakfast, then get ready for work.

 

Exercise During Lunch.

A third option which one might consider is to work out during a lunch break.  Although this usually poses more time constraints than the other options, exercise during the lunch hour may be a very effective means of staying in shape, provided the workouts are intense.  If you decide to grab a quick workout at the gym, be sure to bring a bag with toiletries so that you can shower before heading back to work.  You can also try to grab a decent workout while at work with resistance bands and plyometric movements.

 

Regardless of which options you select, you should definitely be able to fit regular exercise into your busy schedule.  You can even break up your workouts into segments in which lifting is done in the morning, with cardio performed either during the lunch hour or after work.

What about incorporating exercise into your daily routine while at work? You can take the stairs instead of the elevator, stretch whenever you rise from your chair, even throw in a couple of wall sits in the office while you are waiting for something to print. It’s those little activities which can really add up during the course of a day and give you a boost of energy.