Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Surviving a Fender Bender

On September 9th, I will celebrate my fourth anniversary with Weight Watchers. Has it always been easy? No. Has it always been tough? No. Like all aspects in life, I had, and continue to have, ups and downs. To be honest, I am actually in one of the “downs” right now. What I decided to do to in order to combat the down was do what I do best- write a blog post. As I was formulating this blog post in my mind, I headed to my weekly meeting on Saturday. And wouldn’t you know it, the topic of conversation was “It’s a slip, not a slide.” With that in mind, I present to you “Surviving a Fender Bender.”

We’ve all been driving down the road and seen one, two or maybe even three cars in the median slightly banged up. There’s probably even a squad car there to assess the situation and hand out a ticket or two. As we drive by – in our damage-free cars – we say a little prayer of thanks that it’s not us standing there looking at the bumper hanging off our car. But what if it was? Would it be the end of the road for you? Would you proceed to drive your car completely off the road and into a tree then throw your hands up and say “that’s it, I’m through now. I’ll never be able to drive anywhere, ever again”? No, you’d get on the phone with your insurance company, explain the situation, deal with the consequences (a little higher premiums) and get your car repaired. Then you resume your life.

Why, then, do we punish ourselves so extensively when we have a little slip up and gain a few pounds? It’s a blip on the radar, it’s not the end of the world. Realizing that it’s happening and correcting the problem is key. After losing 150 pounds, gaining 5 of it back sucks. I’m not gonna lie. But that means that I’m still down 145 pounds. Why would I take a fender bender and turn it into a situation where I have to total my car? I won’t. I’ll call the insurance company (in this case, all my Road Trip buddies and WW crew) and I’ll face the consequences (a little higher numbers on the scale), but then, I’ll get my car repaired and I’m gonna get my butt back on the road. I’ve come too far and put in too much blood, sweat and tears to ram my car into a tree now.

So, the next time you find yourself up a little, don’t throw in the towel, use it to wipe some sweat off your face and get back on the road. There will always be peaks and valleys, and the measure of success isn’t how you handle the peaks, it’s how you navigate the valleys.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Take Your Own Journey

I’ve realized something over the last (almost) four years…no matter how well you succeed in striving to hit a goal, you are always comparing yourself to others who have “done better.”  But what does “done better” really mean? Does it mean that someone lost more weight than you? Does it mean someone lost it quicker than you? Does it mean that someone makes more money than you? Well, since we are all human and all in the habit of comparing ourselves to friends, family and co-workers who surround us (and in some cases, we find ourselves making comparisons with people whom we’ve never even met).

There are some good things that can come from these types of comparisons, but for the most part, comparing any accomplishments we make with those of other people is downright useless. I was talking with a neighbor at the grocery store the other day. I noticed that he has lost quite a bit of weight. I know he’s been working on it, as he was attending Weight Watchers meetings periodically and I’ve also seen him walking up and down the main road outside my neighborhood. But I hadn’t seen him in a while, so his weight loss was dramatic and noticeable. Now, I know it can be tricky to mention weight loss to someone, but given the fact that I knew he’d been working on it, I would be remiss not to say something. He thanked me and told me he’d lost about 50 pounds. I congratulated him. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave it there. He went on to compare his accomplishment to mine. I could tell he felt bad that he hasn’t lost as much as I have. He needs to take his own journey, and I told him as much. What he did is a huge accomplishment! He should be shouting it from the rooftops, he should be encouraging others – who are interested – to come along for the ride. He should not be bummed that he hasn’t done what I’ve done.

Now, I have a confession to make. I have to work on this problem with myself! I do look at others who have done more, done it quicker or done it better and I wonder what I could have done differently to change my path. But then, I get random Facebook messages out of the blue from a nationally known magazine and I realize that it doesn’t matter the road that others have taken, because I took the road that I was supposed to take and I am where I’m supposed to be. Sometimes that road was less traveled, but other times it was a full-on traffic jam, but the entirety of that road was mine to travel as I saw fit.

So, I will work on making sure that I don’t try to hitchhike onto someone else’s Road Trip, but I will make sure that I support and encourage everyone along the way. And I hope that you will do the same, because when we all get to where we’re going, it should be one helluva party!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Xtreme Road Trip, Part 2

Many of you were interested in the story I posted the other day about my friend and co-worker, Amaury Dehez. Well, as luck would have it, I had the honor of writing a follow up piece for our company on Amaury's amazing journey to Swissman status. So, without further adieu, I present "An Xtreme Finish":

So, as you read last week, Amaury competed in the Swissman Xtreme Triathlon this past weekend. Well, I don’t know if “competed” is the right word…more like dominated! In a field of 352, he came in 7th, finishing in about 14 hours. He was the first in his age group and the first French competitor to cross the line. C’est magnifique! Il est incroyable! He had a strong support group all over the world cheering him on, many of whom were following along with the Live Tracking offered on the Swissman website (yes, I was one of them!!).

For the swim, he felt he could have been stronger, but he also knew that it would be possible to make up time during the bike and run. When it came time to get on the bike, he realized that he couldn’t push too hard right out of the gate and he would need to get in a good rhythm in order to gain position. The realization that this section is exceedingly difficult could have had an adverse effect on Amaury, but he was not only prepared physically, he was prepared mentally as well. The only wild card was the weather. The wind and rain (and sometimes snow) created additional challenges that can make this race so extreme, but rather than lament the conditions, he just decided that the weather is part of what made this race so special and epic. Early on – and during some of the most extreme conditions – he lost feeling in his hands and still had two summits to climb. The ups and downs of the mountains surely mirror the range of emotions that he experienced while he was out on the course. Just before the final summit, he grabbed an energizing snack which helped him pick up time and positions, as some of the others fell victim to the elements. By the time he got to the final portion, the marathon, he was in “Robocop” mode. He was able to overtake additional competitors during this phase. But as the end is nearing, his mental fatigue is kicking in, his coach/mentor picks up on this and pushes him to keep going. He does and finally, the end and he is a Swissman.  This brief recap does not come close to doing justice to his experience. Reading about his experience in his own words was amazing. I felt as if I was in the middle of the Alps right along with him. 

One would think that after completing this feat, that the next thing on the list would be to relax, but not Amaury! He will be competing in the Mallorca Ironman, which will help with World Championship Qualifications. He knows that, while he couldn’t take unnecessary risks in the Swissman, he will take some risks in Mallorca to help him learn, and push, his limits. His goal is to continue to improve and be an inspiration to others. After hearing him talk about this experience first-hand, I can say that he is truly an inspiration to me. He is not only a world-class athlete, but he is world-class person and I look forward seeing what his future holds!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Most Xtreme Road Trip

OK, so it's been a while and I truly apologize. I have been bogged down in traffic and just haven't been able to get out on the open road to enjoy my Road Trip. That being said, I was given the opportunity to speak with one of my friends and co-workers who is participating in, what I consider, the ultimate Road Trip! Below is something I wrote to share his story with our company. After thinking about it, I figured it was actually a perfect fit for my personal blog. While this is most certainly not my story, it is the story of perseverance, finding a goal, taking the steps necessary to achieve that goal and then getting your ass out there and doing it! His story is a literal representation of "no mountain too tall to climb and no river too wide to swim." So, sit back, relax and enjoy the story of a most extreme road trip. And, Amaury, bonne chance mon ami!

S-One’s very own Amaury Dehez will be participating in the SWISSMAN Xtreme Triathlon starting June 20th. It is a grueling, 12-hour swim/bike/run that covers some of the planet’s most treacherous terrain. Not only does he have the support of S-One behind him, but he will be wearing a jersey with the HP logo to raise brand awareness in the European market.

In case you want to know what his day will look like, he will get up at about 3 AM to head out for a 4 AM check-in. Then at 5 AM starting at the Isle of Brissago on to Ascona, is the 3.8 km (2.4 mile) swim. He expects to finish the swim with about 20-30 competitors ahead of him, but he knows that he will be able to make up time with the bike ride and run.

The next leg of the race is a mountainous bike ride through three of the tallest summits in Europe. With varying altitudes from 303 meters (909 ft) at Biasca to the tallest peak of Furkapass (2436 meters, 7969 ft), the bicycle portion will end 180 km (112 miles) away in the town of Brienz. At this point, Amaury says his strategy is to be smart and think like a fox, outsmarting his closest competitors. He knows that he will be able to make up some time on the bike that he may possibly lose in the water.

As if completing those two challenges weren’t enough, the final stage of the SWISSMAN Xtreme is the marathon (42 km, 26 mile run) from Brienz to Kleine Scheidegg. The completion of this competition will be a testament to the dedication of mind, body and soul that Amaury puts into everything he does.

The one thing he has learned during the extensive training is to not push his body too hard in the beginning. Then, with the start just a few weeks out, that’s when he goes hard and gives everything he’s got. The biggest reason for this training strategy is so as not to get hurt and then not be able to train at all. With months of rigid diet, exercise and mental preparedness behind him – not to mention the loss of about 9 kg (20 lbs) – it is these last few weeks that are the key to his plan of attack, as he is currently at the peak of his strength and conditioning.
If you want to check out the course and the different altitudes that he will encounter along the way, you can click HERE.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Starting with a Clunker, Ending with a...

So, here’s what I've been thinking: we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder (thank you, Shakespeare and countless others) but did you ever stop to think that the beholders have extremely different views? Look at the lineup of European cars versus American.You will see what’s important. In Europe, it seems that size matters, but so does functionality. In America, it’s all about the appearance. Who cares if you siphon gas off the neighbors, as long as you look good doing it, am I wrong? Which school of thought is right? There doesn't appear to actually be a “right or wrong” answer! The answer can only be given by the driver of the car. Initially, vehicles were created to get people from Point A to Point B without any additional flash. Now, however, it seems it’s all about the flash. But that’s OK, if that’s what you want. For me, I want to be functional, with a dash of flash. What that means is that I need to be able to have a routine that is sustainable but fun, easy to do but challenges me and keeps both my mind and my body in top form.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the reason for starting this blog (and the subsequent Facebook Group), was to prove that large, seemingly impossible tasks could be achieved by simply taking it on a little at a time. If you go all gangbusters at the start, without easing in, there is a higher likelihood of getting burned out before reaching your goal. All flash…most people don’t learn to drive using a Maserati (I’m sure they are out there, but us normal folk sure don’t!). No, we learn on our parent’s cars or a clunker that is already well on its way to the junk yard. The reason being, with the learning period, there are always rough patches and why would you want to do damage to a piece of art like a Maserati? Start with the clunker, get the feel of it, and learn how it drives, brakes, the intricacies of the machine. Then, when you’re a bit more experienced, you move on to something reliable like a Ford, Toyota or something equally functional, but a little flashier.

Eventually, you will have figured out what is the most important characteristic you need in your vehicle. It will vary over the course of your road trip. When you started, you may have thought that at the end of it you would definitely be getting the Maserati. But maybe, as you go along and learn about yourself, you will realize that it really wasn't about the type of vehicle you took on the journey, it was just that you decided to take the journey in the first place. That beauty that you are beholding can – and will – change. Don’t be afraid of that change. Hell, if you go through you’re journey and don’t change, then you haven’t made it to your destination yet.

Remember, each person has to take his or her own journey at a personal speed. Don’t look at someone’s Maserati and envy it while you drive your clunker. You don’t know what it took for that person to finally get to that point and you won’t know until you've arrived. Support others and let others support you, but don’t compare yourself to them. It can only lead to a pile-up on the expressway.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Driving A Stick Shift

Have you ever tried to drive a stick shift? It’s a craft that is not practiced much these days, as automatic transmissions clutter new car lots across the nation. Well, at least here in the States. I’m sure it’s different around the globe where driving is still considered an art form, not merely a means of getting from point A to point B. Anyway, I personally do not know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, I mean I guess I could figure it out if I were in a dire situation where that knowledge was needed, but I haven’t mastered the technique. Once, I had someone try to teach me, but I just couldn't get it. It’s not that he was a bad teacher– he was actually very patient – and considering we were using his vehicle, it could have turned ugly. The fact is, I was a bad student. I wasn't ready to learn what he wanted to teach. I just was not in the right mindset to learn the intricacies of driving a stick shift. Now, had I been in the right frame of mind, I bet I would have thoroughly enjoyed the lessons and the experience. Whenever you are going to do something outside of your comfort zone, you have to be both mentally and physically ready to accept the challenge and I just wasn't.

However, yesterday, I didn't just step outside of my comfort zone, I took a giant leap beyond it! With all the walking I do, I felt that it was time to push my limits and do a half-marathon. The longest distance I’d walked while “training” for this monumental goal was 9.5 miles. I was nervous going into the Sarasota Music Half Marathon since I hadn't actually walked 13.1 miles yet. Was I prepared for this mentally? Was I prepared for this physically? I wasn't sure. Not knowing what was in store for me, I anticipated finishing around 3 hours and 45 minutes or averaging about a 16 minute mile, and I would have been happy with that. As it turned out, I exceeded my own expectations! I finished in just under 3 hours with an average pace of about a 13.50 minute mile. I absolutely shocked myself! If I had not been in the right frame of mind and had not taken the right steps to be physically prepared, I probably would have given up just as I did when trying to learn how to drive a stick shift. Sometimes, your brain is even more prepared than your body even realizes. I fully intended on walking the majority of the race, after all, that’s what I do on my long Sunday walks. I had no idea that I would be so physically and mentally prepared for the challenge. Not only was I more than prepared, but I am determined that when I do it next year, I’ll do even more running! Now that I know what to expect, I will be able to do proper training. 

Taking on a challenge is all about timing. No matter what it is that you are looking to do, if your heart and your head aren't in it, my advice is to not begin. If you’re not properly prepared and you don’t see signs of success (or the only thing you think you see is failure), chances are, you will grow discouraged and quit. Being able to overcome the fear of the unknown and interpreting failure as merely an obstacle on the path to success, that’s when you know you are ready to take on the greater challenges. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, I know that. Life has setbacks, but it’s how we deal with those setbacks that allows us to achieve greater things than we could have ever imagined.

Don’t be the bad student with a good teacher, like I once was. Dig deep and find that higher gear that you never knew you had and achieve greatness. You are worth the effort it takes to be awesome!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I am Exactly Where I'm Supposed to Be

So, recently, I had a writing epiphany while driving. I know, it seems with a title like “Road Trip”, all of my ideas for posts would come while I was behind the wheel. Actually, most of them occur while I am walking and I have time to let my mind wander. Usually, when I’m driving, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing while operating a motor vehicle: paying attention. Not that having a figurative light bulb go off is going to actually disrupt my driving ability. Truthfully, it was because I was paying such close attention to my actions on the road, I realized that in that moment in time, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The green light that I made, the red light I didn't, the slow car that I’d been behind, the Starbucks pit stop – everything. Every step along the way put me at a certain place at a certain time.

Most days, we don’t think about all those little actions, in fact, usually there’s not a reason to dwell on them. That is, until one day when you hear that there was a bad accident at an intersection that you've already crossed because you are ahead of schedule. But knowing that on a normal day, given the time of the accident, you would have possibly been right in the middle of it, had you not made that extra green light or left a minute or two earlier than usual. So yes, all of us are where we are because of the steps we take.

Where we are in our metaphorical Road Trip is just as dependent upon the steps we take every day. This journey started because of a conversation. At a restaurant. On the water. There, that’s a green light, a yield sign and probably getting behind a slow poke, figuratively, of course, but for whatever reason, we chose to go to that restaurant, sit outside and enjoy the weather, and my Mom and one of my Aunts decided to have the conversation with me that changed the course of my life. Every step along the way has put me where I am right this moment.

Yes, there are the things that have slowed down my progress at times, but I don’t consider them stop signs or U-Turns. I look at them as learning opportunities, so that when I’m back up to full speed, I will be a better driver after gaining experience. The most important thing that I have to remember is that there is no time limit on this journey. I will be doing this for the remainder of my life and I know that I will have others along with me for the ride. Some of them will speed ahead of me and others may slow down, but since we are all traveling in a pack, so we can learn from what others experience along the way.

I know that it’s been a long road trip – almost 3 ½ years – but I’m not ready to get out of the car anytime soon. I hope you aren't either!