PUSHING Yourself During Exercise [Competition Technique]

Competition brings out the best performance in us.

Competition is a technique to PUSH YOURSELF to the ultimate level of fitness.

This is the last article in the series. This technique can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking and running up steps. Those are the two exercises I do most frequently.
You might be thinking that I’m going to cover competition as in racing or joining friends for your exercise so you can push each other to greatness. That’s an amazing technique, but one that everyone already knows. In this series about pushing yourself past current levels of fitness, I wanted to give you some techniques you may not have heard of.

Pushing yourself through competition goes like this…

Usually, I use this technique when I’m feeling unmotivated or even a little down about the state of my run, step climbing, swim, bicycle ride or whatever I happen to be doing. I realize there’s no spunk in my effort and I need something to pick me up and get me up to at least a moderate pace.

In my mind, I assemble a group of my competition. My running competition? Nope. I blog in the motivational / life development area with Aim for Awesome so my competition (though really they are not directly competing with me) are people like Steve Pavlina; Yaro Starak; Albert Foong of Urbanmonk.net; Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net; Donald Latumahina at LifeOptimizer.org and others. There are so many more. Usually, I name a group of twelve. I know what they look like and I picture their natural running style and abilities based on how well their blogs are doing. Choose competitors from whatever area you are striving to excel in. For me, it’s blogging.

I guess the people I named aren’t really direct competition, but they are my role-models and those that I’m striving to equal and eventually surpass online. They’ve got far more readers than I have and they have a high standard for their writing – one that I aspire to. My writing is obviously different and I’m not sure if it has mass appeal yet – but, I’ll find out in a year or so. Anyway, back to the mind-trick.

I picture each person close to me and running with me at first. We’re all in a group and none of us is feeling all that great. This makes me realize, I can beat all of them today because as bad as I feel, I’ve been running all my life. I can crank it up a notch and drop some of them right now.

I go just a little bit faster and see who starts to drop away. I see who picks it up to match me. There are some fighters in the group and I know I’m going to be kicking my own ass to get going as fast as I need to in order to beat them. After the first couple slow slightly I devise a plan. I say to myself, “Around that corner is the slight upgrade. Pretend to go slow right now and then crank it up just around that corner to a 75% effort and see who drops!”

And so I do. I drop a few people there. Steve Pavlina, Yaro Starak, Darren Rowse, Donald Latumahina and a couple others are still with me. Damn they won’t give up.

Depending how I feel I’ll either map out a long-term run strategy where I gradually pick up the pace dropping off everyone except Steve Pavlina or I’ll do some mini-bursts of speed usually up hills to drop people. Steve is great at the high speed, long distance, but I use hills to wear him down – the up and down wear him out. I love the hills so that’s where I destroy him.

Ha, it sounds funny as I write it but! I’m not joking at all. This is a very powerful technique that I love to use. I combine this mental competition with both positive self-talk and with self-coaching to bring out the best in me on bad days. Almost always it succeeds in motivating me to go faster.  Sometimes Steve wins and I vow to break him the next time we run. Sometimes Darren Rowse pulls away and beats both me and Steve. Sometimes Donald comes from behind in a surprise pass that leaves me dumbfounded until I regroup.

Though I haven’t read about any top runners at the international level using mind games to push themselves to greatness like those I’ve written about here, I KNOW they must exist. I guess if you had some really good techniques that you could call on during your deepest moments of suffering during hard exercise that would make you crank even harder you’d keep those a secret. Top secret.

I don’t have many secrets, so I shared the few techniques I use that came easily to mind. As I experience more or as I remember more I’ll post them here to help you take your exercise to a new level.

I use this Competition technique for pushing myself harder about once a week on average. One key to using these techniques is not using them every time you exercise. I use each of these techniques maybe once a week on average. But, sometimes I plan stage races where I race the same group of people over 3 days. I might even include Lance Armstrong as a runner in the pack. I visualize snapping his persistence like a dry twig as we push up a long hill…  haha.

Eat my dust Lance!

So then, try this technique as you need it. Be creative with your own ideas and let me know if you come up with anything cool that I can try while I run or bike.

Best of Life!


My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise – A Series!

Boy getting out the door to start exercising, no matter what

Getting Out the Door to Exercise is the first and only real priority for the day, and the first article in the PUSHING YOURSELF during exercise series!

This is a series about pushing yourself (motivating yourself) while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise I guess, but in this series I’ll talk mostly about running and walking/running up steps. Those are two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.


1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

The first obstacle to getting started on a regular exercise program is just getting yourself out the door on a regular basis to exercise. There are a couple ways I’ve used in the past to get myself motivated to go exercise.

The first and maybe best step is to make exercise part of your schedule. Make a list everyday in the morning or the night before that details exactly what you want to accomplish as a minimum for the day, but I also include some extras that I’d like to get to if possible. Extras are asterisked.

My Getting Things Done list for today is:

1. Check if all sites are running. Read RSS feeds. Read, respond, archive all email. Check Adsense. Check Google Analytics: all sites.
2. Deposit cash at Bangkok Bank.
3. Start new blog series – exercise – motivational topics. Write 1-3* posts, schedule publishing.
4. Approve Crank101 comments, respond to new comments. Post large comment response to Dave.
5. Change second column to add Mark Allen quote post-it.
6. Store HDD content on DVD.
7. 5 pm., climb the steps up the mountain!
8. Find decent raincoat.


When exercise is part of the schedule it cannot be changed.


It’s written in stone. There is nothing you can possibly do to change it and it must be crossed off the list for the day. It’s helpful for me if I make the list I do every morning required activities. There’s nothing on the list that isn’t going to get done. They are MUST GET DONES.

Notice that number 7, steps, is the only one that has a time next to it. Everything else is flexible, but the time I exercise is not. That’s because it isn’t going to be changed. At 5 pm. every day I leave to exercise. In the past when my schedule was less set in stone I’ve set an alarm to go off two hours before that reminds me I’m going running at a certain time. That alarm alerts me to get everything done that needs done by the time I go running and it also prepares my mind for the activity.

The second thing that makes exercising easier is that I don’t define much about what the actual workout will be. It says “steps” but, in reality it might turn into a run up the hill at a nearby park. There is an amazing hill that goes 4 km (2.5 miles) up this mountain and it’s really a great run and gives me an hour+ exercise. It’s shady and just ideal for a hard workout.

If I do the steps, how many times I climb is predicated on how I feel, nothing else. If I go to the top the first time and I feel great, then I’ll consider doing it again. I don’t plan on it until I get up and back down to the bottom to see how I feel at that point. Still great? Can you do another 1,237 steps up and back down? Have time? Do it again. I’ll repeat the process at the top the second time. Do I feel great? Good enough to do it again? I answer, but whether I do it a third time depends entirely on how I feel at the bottom after coming down the second time. Still feel great? Have time? Need to stay awake tonight for anything? (Doing it three times wipes me out pretty good and I sleep early as a result!) Do it again! Or not. I may do it once or three times – no telling by the schedule and it doesn’t matter since I don’t put any restrictions on what I do. I do a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise, but there’s no maximum. So if I feel good, I just keep going.

The third thing that makes exercising easier for me is that I am in the moment as I do it. I fully experience the exercise and I realize that it’s the most fun I could possibly be having at the time. I’d rather be exercising and fine-tuning my body for better health than anything else I can think of. I am aware of this the entire time I exercise. I really enjoy it. If I feel good and I’m really pushing – it hurts a lot more, but I’m getting a lot more done so the ego satisfaction makes it worth it. If I’m going slow – it’s easy and fun to be outdoors doing something instead of in the house not doing anything for my body.

Either way – it’s fun. Make it fun for you by not pushing when you don’t feel like pushing. Just make sure you GO and do something, even if it’s walking around a park. If you go to walk around a park then maybe after one time you feel great. Can you do two times? After two ask again – three? And so on. Next time maybe you’ll run one-hundred yards. Then walk for 600. Then run again for fifty yards. No matter WHAT you accomplish as you get started the main thing is you are accomplishing much more than sitting down at home.

Other things that may motivate you to get out the door and exercise:

Some people are motivated by the chance to meet someone of the opposite sex. This possibility does exist, maybe it’s easier at a park or along a river or boardwalk. Choose a place filled with people if that’s what drives you.

Others are motivated to start exercising among a group of people that are not competitive with them. Meaning, if you are thirty years old and overweight you don’t want to go to the local 400 m track and run circles with the high school and college kids training at the track. Better to head for a park or go where the seniors exercise. When you first start out you’ll feel much better as you’ll feel like a champ, not a loser! Make yourself the winner as often as possible.

I have a friend that loves to run in her new shoes. I don’t know what it is, but she buys new shoes often and really enjoys the whole routine of getting in her little short-shorts, tight running top and bright neon Nikes. For her running is partly about being seen. She runs at “Bayshore Blvd.” in Tampa. If you know it – there’s a sidewalk that borders over five miles of ocean and many beautiful old homes in South Tampa. I think she feels like a movie star to run there. If it works, do it!

Plan to run with other people at the same level as you are. This makes it tough to get out of because the other people will be going – and it’s harder to miss it because you’ll have social pressure to make it every day. Some people run well with others – I never have. I really enjoy running by myself but if I was starting out I think I’d find it fun to run with other slow people for a while.

Eat what you like! Part of the fun of exercising a lot – like cycling for four to seven hours or running for two hours is that you have the luxury of eating whatever you like. After a hundred mile bike ride I loved that I could eat a whole quart of coffee flavored Haagen Dazs ice-cream. Then I could have pizza for dinner. Spaghetti for a snack! If you run for an hour at a moderate pace you may burn anywhere from 450-800 calories. That’s a lot of food.

You can choose:

1. Eat just a little more and eat smart. This will cause you to lose weight gradually. Or,
2. Eat what you want to cover the number of calories you just burned. Remember, Greg Lemond, Tour de France Winner, loved his ice-cream!

The rest of this series is dedicated to motivating you to continue exercise or to push yourself while exercising. The mind needs to be overcome and sometimes tricked into pushing the body to do more. This series will deal with “PUSHING YOURSELF!”

Best of Life!

Find me at Twitter HERE >


1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

Running at the park

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Positive Self Talk]

Positive self talk - woman with wide-eyes.

Positive Self Talk is the fourth article in the series about PUSHING YOURSELF during exercise to help you get the highest possible benefit out of your session.

This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking/running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

This technique of pushing myself to go harder when I otherwise might not involves me talking to myself. Sometimes I talk to myself just in my mind. However, if nobody is around it’s much more motivational to talk to myself out-loud.

As I said in the last post, “Shaming Yourself,” I sometimes notice that I’m just cruising through my exercise. I’m good at pushing it at least once per session but when that push is over sometimes I settle down into complacency, just happy that I successfully pushed myself to do something I wasn’t really planning on.

One of the real keys to having fun while exercising is that I never plan on pushing. That’s something you might want to try as well. Put no expectations on your exercise session. Your only requirement should be – getting out the door and doing it. What happens when you’re out there is wide open for whatever happens. You might feel great that day, you might feel on the verge of injury and need to take it slowly. You might have a stomach cramp, but you might use that to your advantage by learning to push through it instead of going more slowly. You might use it to your advantage to learn what to do with a cramp during a race.

If the pace and effort of the exercise is left to be wide open you are surprised and happy when you go beyond what you might have normally done. This is a very positive motivator because there was nothing major planned, but you pushed it – even once – and made it a more beneficial session than you thought it would be.

Contrast this to pre-planning what your session will consist of. If you plan out every detail and make it a strictly followed formula the exercise won’t be fun. I’ve done this. I’ve planned out every sprint on the bicycle, 30 sprints followed by 5 miles of slow spinning followed by 1 mile of time trial followed by 2 miles of slow spinning… etc.

It’s boring to adhere to a tightly planned session. It’s so much more fun to keep the entire session wide open and push yourself to do as much as you can do. I’ve found that it works out much better. I enjoy the exercise way more and I usually push myself as hard or harder than I would have if I’d planned out the session.

Better too if you don’t plan because if you don’t feel 100% and the exercise plan calls for sprints that day you’ll feel bad about not doing them. You’ll feel worse when you try them and injure yourself. If you had an unplanned workout you’d not have considered sprinting when you weren’t 100% and instead you’d have done a slow-medium session and been happy you didn’t injure yourself.

Getting back to Positive Self Talk…

I start talking to myself during a run…

“Feels great. Man what a day to be outside when so many people are sitting at home watching the TV and filling their head with nonsense. How many people are outside right now exercising in this town of 460,000 people? A thousand? How many are running through a park like this one? 100? How many are in this park? Nope. Just four people. Man, you are one of four people able to enjoy exercising like this… Cows. Birds. Lots of shade. Nothing like that Coconut Grove 5-miler in Miami that morning after a fast 20-mile bike ride. Nothing like that. This is easy. It’s like the earth is moving and I’m just moving my legs to catch up to it. Effortless. What an amazing day today… I was able to edit those 120 web pages, optimize my Google Adsense ads, get to the bank, email mom, etc.”

I talk to myself about everything positive that I see around me and that I feel in my body. If I run out of stuff, I think about other positive things I did throughout the day that I was able to accomplish.

I talk about my breathing, my strength, my happiness, my dedication to exercising… the work I did that day, the good things that happened recently… I talk about short-term goals for that night or for the next day. I reason out the best thing to focus on next online… the Aim for Awesome blog needs to have a tighter focus… how could I focus it more? What do people want to read about daily? Can I keep posting such a wide variety of topics or should I narrow it down to exercise, mind, philosophy, meditation? Should I start the relationships series I was thinking about?

Positive self-talk helps me take the focus away from the run, usually resulting in a long run and a very fulfilling run.

I’m always looking forward to my exercise time because I do some positive self-talk every time I run. I really enjoy being outdoors and recollecting all the positive things that have happened since I last talked to myself! I also enjoy it a lot because there are no expectations put on the session before it starts – and yet it might turn into the most amazing session just because I’m working myself up with the positive talk. It’s getting me psyched up and my adrenaline starts pumping!

Try this – and let me know how it goes!

Best of Life!


My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Using Visual Imagery!
2. Shaming Yourself!
3. Positive Self Talk!
4. Delay of Gratification!
5. Coaching Yourself!
6. Illusory Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Coaching Yourself]

Running coach watch

Coaching Yourself is the sixth article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series which is all about helping you reach your ultimate fitness level by pushing yourself beyond your normal best effort.


This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking / running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

I played soccer from the time I was six until I graduated high school. When I entered 8th grade I met my soccer coach, Mr. Richard Spolar at Springdale High, Pennsylvania. He was a physical education teacher at another nearby school and he’d been coaching soccer at my high school for six years already. Coach Spolar had an excellent history of creating great soccer teams. Our school, though small was renown for playing Quad-A soccer though we were only a Double-A school. Coach Spolar never smiled. Coach Spolar was my worst nightmare for four years.

We had a path that was 9/10th of a mile around our high school field. About four complete soccer fields could fit into this area. Coach would make us run around this loop not just on good days, but even if we were sick or had some injury that prohibited us from practicing but that jogging wouldn’t hurt. If someone had a stomach ache or headache coach would make them run around the field. If someone had a broken arm coach would make them run around the field.

He never looked up to see how many times they circled, he never gave it a second thought. After he told you to start running you ran until the end of practice. Sometimes that was two hours later. Sometimes three. One player ran around the loop 18 times over a three-hour practice. One dared not stop or the assistant coach would tell him and coach would blow the whistle and make the entire team run around the loop for the entire practice. Or worse, he’d make us line up for 100-yard sprints or suicides. The worst exercise in his repertoire was “hills” which is the topic of a whole new post if I ever want to relive them. One of coach’s primary beliefs was that the entire team got punished for any infraction of an individual. Of course, that individual later got the hell beat out of him so it didn’t pay to be the one causing coach grief.

Coach loved “three-a-days” in the Summer. You know how most kids have off for the summer to do as they wish? Coach made us practice three times every day during the peak of summer heat. We’d have two hours in the morning working on springs, suicides, hills and individual ball control skills. In the afternoon it was team skill building for two hours. In the evening we’d play small practice games offense on defense for three hours. Seven hours of practice each day rain or shine. We much preferred the rain.

Coach Spolar told us on numerous occasions:

“What you see here. Do here. Hear here.
Stays here when you leave here.”

Coach knew some of his tactics would cause outrage among parents, probably get him fired as a coach and teacher in the school system. So, nobody was ever to find out. None of us dared to tell.

When coach got in your face to gripe you out it was as if the blood in his head was boiling and he was going to explode. He would be one inch from one of your eyeballs and screaming and spitting as he did so. Spittle would cover your cheek, lips and even get into your eye. If you flinched he got angrier. He could fire that temper up in an instant and be jacking somebody up in no time if he saw them either

1.) Being lazy.
2.) Not doing what he told us to do.

One of his favorite tortures, he had many, was making a player hold a half-pushup position until, arms spasming they gave out. We had a couple guys that could hold that position almost indefinitely. He’d rest his foot on their shoulders as he talked to the team. When someone’s arms gave out before he thought they should he’d get in the player’s face and scream at them until they got back up and held it again. The second time he told them if they dropped again they were dropped from the team. Coach was going way beyond the level of being a bastard, but we did win the state championship in my senior year.

It was coach’s anger and seriousness in the back of my subconscious that created this form of pushing myself to exert more when I feel like I’m at the end of my resources. It seems to have just occurred naturally during my hard exercise one time. I realized I was yelling at myself in my mind to keep going, to push it harder. It wasn’t my voice though. Coach was STILL IN MY HEAD!

How this usually happens is just that, it happens on it’s own. It’s my self-talk that just pops up when I need it to push me a lot harder. Maybe I’ve already done a hellacious workout and I’m tired and don’t feel like pushing anymore. I start telling myself in a low growl like coach used to do.

“Get your ass up that hill and do it faster than anybody else or you’ll be sitting on the bench for the next two games. You understand me?”

“YES SIR.” I yelled. (Oh, I forgot to tell you – we had to address everything as YES SIR or we’d suffer for it.

“What did you say?” He’d ask menacingly.

“YES SIR!” I’d scream at the top of my lungs so anyone up at the school 300 yards away could hear it.

“That’s what I thought, now bust your ass up this hill and don’t let one person beat you. YOU GOT THAT?”

“YES SIR!” I yelped out, louder than before.

Reliving those episodes in my mind I’m able to push myself beyond what I ever thought once I start coaching myself just like coach Spolar used to do. I’m amazed that the old feeling comes back – the feeling that there is no chance to get out of what he just said. It must be done because the consequences are much worse than the effort to be expended.

This technique works magic on me. If there’s nobody around, I growl out orders to myself out loud and it works even better. This is the only technique that has the power to literally transform me and make me do something. It never failed. Not once.

I’m sure it can work for you too – even if you didn’t have an insane coach during your younger years. You could make it your dad’s voice. Or create a coach in your mind that is relentless and that will not accept failure to do exactly what he/she tells you. Start talking to yourself in a very forceful and unrelenting way.

“Pick up the pace now, you better be doing seven-minute miles over the next two miles!”

“If you walk now, you’re not coming back here to exercise for three days. You want to waste three days?”

“Reel that guy in that’s 150 yards away by the time you make another lap. DO IT NOW.”

“Don’t EVER say you can’t do something as simple as this. GET your A&& moving and don’t stop until I say you’re finished!”

Try those or be creative with your own. I get much more creative cursively but better not to have those here in the blog!

Try it!

Best of Life!



1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF While Exercising [Using Visual Imagery]

Mark Allen, one of the world's top triathletes in the 1980's, finishes a triathlon with a smile.

This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking or running up steps. Those are two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

Visual Imagery is the second article in the series. The entire series is linked below this article.

This is about Visual Imagery and how it can help you turn a mediocre run into a great run… maybe even an awesome run.

While I’m exercising I picture myself as the ultimate athlete. If I’m running I usually picture myself as Mark Allen, a triathlete of years gone by who was amazing at the Ironman distance triathlons. I visualize how Mark ran and then as I run I picture myself running just like that. Exactly like that. If you don’t have the perfect person as a role model go to Youtube and find video of someone doing the exercise you want to visualize. I have detailed memories in my head of a few runners and cyclists that I think had very close to perfect form that are easy to call on. You should have some of these in your mental database too.

Once I’m running just like Mark in my mind, I go another step further. I tell myself I’m running better than than Mark ever did. I visualize running more effortlessly. I breath more efficiently, smoother. I begin concentrating on every aspect of my running style and perfecting it.

I look at my neck and head – are they relaxed? Is my head pointed at the right angle – which, for me is level so I’m looking out into the distance about twenty yards or so. I notice when I look far ahead I think much less about whatever pain I might be experiencing during the run. I notice that I feel more positive. More optimistic. Is my head bouncing at all? If so it’s wasted energy I change my stride so it’s more horizontal without vertical bounce.

Are my arms more tense than they need to be? I loosen my arms and shake them out relaxed from my body a few times to loosen them up. I look at my hands, they should be almost closed and relaxed. I let the arms find their natural bent position and then I open up the angle just slightly and focus more on making them pump forward and backward in line with my forward momentum and without any side to side movement which is wasted movement. I want to feel the little bit of momentum that my arms can give me to go forward as it’s a mental boost that my legs can work just a little easier and go the same pace because the natural movement of my arms swinging is helping a touch.

I feel my breathing and my stomach. I relax my diaphragm and the muscles of my stomach. Once they are relaxed I can breath effortlessly with deep diaphragm breathing. It’s similar to feeling like you’re pushing out your stomach a bit but the result is that your inhalations can be deeper and smoother. You’re much less likely to cramp as well. I imagine that my VO2 max (ventilatory threshold) is greater than Mark’s, greater than Greg Lemond (who tests in the 90’s!) and fallen hero, Lance Armstrong.

Moving down to the hips and thighs and the muscles of the buttocks and lower back I let them go loose and see how it feels. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good if I’m not rested enough and I tighten them back up before I have an injury. Other times it’s amazingly smooth to loosen it all up and I can run for miles like that. I gauge what it feels like and then focus on my stride. I picture Alberto Salazar’s long legs transforming into my legs. My legs have morphed into those same awesome legs. Or sometimes I picture the Kenyans in the New York City Marathon. They glide like gazelles. I glide like that too. I’m a gazelle in my mind. I’m the smoothest gazelle on the planet moving over the concrete or dirt path where I’m running.

Then I’m better than the smoothest gazelle. I’m the ultimate running being, gliding effortlessly over small hills and large ones. My head doesn’t bounce in the slightest. My stride is fluid and strong, yet relaxed. My upper body is helping my run, not wasting effort in any direction. Each foot is landing perfectly on the ground from heel to toe in a perfect rolling movement. I’m pure energy running forward with perfect momentum, perfect timing… My breathing is strong and is powering me forward, creating more energy as it mixes with the blood, oxygenating it with powerful and pure O2 in the lungs.

Running in this state, fully visualized and lost to the outside world propels me into a state of flow that can last the entire run. For me it’s nearly impossible to think about outside problems when I run, but it’s easy to visualize that I’m something else. I can be any runner as I run. Any cyclist or triathlete. I can be any animal that I think mirrors the movements, the grace I need to possess as I exercise with perfect form. Even better I can morph into something that beyond that. I can be better than any person or animal or computer program simulating running. I can be pure running. Or, be pure cycling. Once that happens exercise becomes not something I’m doing – but something I am. The exercise flows like a perfect, seamless movement.

The ‘pushing’ part happens without really trying. Once flow starts, it naturally changes you dynamically into a smoother, faster, and more energized exerciser.

Try some creative visualization as you exercise. Over time you’ll develop a number of visual body-in-motion clips that you become as you exercise. These will help you push it to the next level – usually without conscious effort about it. Pushing results naturally as your mind becomes more involved in the process of visualizing the perfect dynamics of your exercise. Perfect breathing. Perfect flow.

Best of Life!



1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Shaming Yourself. Seriously.]

Vern and daughter running on the beach in Thailand.

Shaming Yourself! is the third article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series about helping you get the most out of your self during physical exercise.

This is a series on motivating yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking or running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

Some psychologists say that “shoulding on yourself”, saying “I should have…” is not a good strategy to go through life. But, this is different. This is shaming yourself, it can result in pushing yourself harder during exercise.

How it works is this…

At some point during a run or a bike ride, I might notice that I’m in a comfortable spot and just sort of going through the motions. I feel good, there’s no injury that’s holding me back. It’s just that the body and mind can get to this equilibrium state that is just too comfortable. If you don’t notice it you might go through a whole hour like that. If you really are clue-less you could go through a whole month of runs like that.

Running in an equilibrium state is OK and you’ll still benefit over the course of doing it. But, why not push it if you’re feeling really comfortable?  For myself, when I notice I’m feeling really good, relaxed, and steady I start to compare myself to other runners – usually older people or kids. Here’s the way it happened the other day.

I was on the second time up the 1,237 steps at the temple. The first time was amazing, I ran up 1,000 of the steps and walked about 200. There are some steps that are too steep to run safely and a fall might mean serious injuries. So I ran up in groups of 50, 70, 100, 80 steps and stopped to catch my breath after each run. I was doing 4 steps a second and by the time I did 80 of them I needed a breather. It was like interval training. I haven’t done it before but it went really well. I was surprised I had the energy to run up them like that.

Then, at the top I was even more surprised that I felt good. My legs were pumped up more than they’d ever been after climbing the steps. I went quickly to the bottom and re-assessed. Yep, still feel great. I started up again at a slow pace. My thinking was, “If I can just do one more up-down that’d be my hardest workout on the steps in 6 months.” Well, I went mindlessly up to step 500 when I realized. You’re way too comfortable. You ran these steps last time – can’t you run them again?

My mind doubted I could.

I shamed myself. My self-talk went something like this…

Man, you’re climbing these steps slower than some middle-aged Thai women do it. What the hell Vern? It was true – I’d seen some 40-year-old women go up faster in certain sections than I was going. You’ve been up this thing 270+ times, you can’t pick up the overall pace and go faster than this? I realized I was too comfortable during the first 500 steps and just happy to go up and down at a slow, meaningless pace.

Run up the next 60 steps to that next level.  You’re a *$$&@! (bad word for wimp) if you don’t. Did you come here to exercise or coast through the last 30 minutes up and down?

I ran up the next 60 steps and stopped to catch my breath. The next group was only 45 steps. Run up the next 45 and see how you feel – hell, you just ran up 1,000 of them, what’s 45 more?

I ran up the next 45 and caught my breath. By then my heart was going strong, my legs were pumped and I felt really good. I kicked myself into high-gear again after the first 500 slow paced steps and now I was ready to see how far I could push it again. I ran up the next 85 steps. Caught my breath. Ran up the next 120. Caught my breath… and so on. I ran up the rest of the steps (737) except the 40 dangerous ones.

It was an awesome, awesome day on the steps. Twice up and I ran up 1,700 out of 2,474 of them.

I sometimes catch myself going at a pace that a grandmother could hold. Sure it’s after I’ve already done something intense and that I felt great about, but still… the idea that any old woman or little kid could run at the pace I am, climb steps at the pace I am, cycle at the pace I am is totally unacceptable for any amount of time. I shame myself into kicking it up a few notches. Almost always this puts my body into a state where I can really push myself further, much further than the mind had resigned itself to.

Try shaming yourself! It works!

Best of Life!



1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Delaying Gratification]

Boy not thinking of delaying gratification as he pushes himself to run on the beach in the heat.

Delaying Gratification is the fifth article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series which is designed to help you get the most possible benefit out of your exercise session.


1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking/running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

Delaying gratification is something I use whenever I feel really strong and I know my exercise session is going to be a heroic effort. You know those days when you feel on top of the world as you start exercising and it doesn’t get worse – it just gets better? So you push, and it still feels great. You push more – still great.

I use this technique of delaying any gratification I allow myself to feel on days just like this so I can keep the level of effort high and stretching out as long as possible.

What this means is – I don’t let myself feel happy about what I’ve already accomplished. I stay level-headed and rational about it. I recognize that I’ve done well so far, but I concern myself more with the next push and what it will entail than focusing on the how great the effort I’ve already made was.

In this way I’m able to stop the mind from saying, “Ok, good enough! Wow, that was great… let’s take it easy and call it a day. We did a good job.”

On those days when I have an abundance of energy, strength, and endurance I want to get everything possible out of my session. This happened on the steps about three weeks ago. I usually have my notebook computer, battery, charger, camera, phone, some shirts and sweatpants as shock padding for the notebook, water and a carton of milk for the mangy dog that’s at the top of the hill some days. On occasion I have a kilogram of rambutan too – if you haven’t ever tried rambutan fruit you must see if the asian market in your city has some. It’s the most delicious fruit in the world…  I digress.

So I’m usually on the steps with a backpack that weighs ten to thirteen pounds. I can go up the stairs with the backpack twice with no problem, but I’ve only done the steps three times if I didn’t have the bag with me. On this day I had the bag but I felt good at the top the first time. I went down to the bottom and I still felt good – so I went up again. I rested about ten minutes and went back down. I still felt great. I had some time so I thought, ahhh, do it again. I did it the third time and I STILL felt good but had run out of time.

I don’t think I would have gone a fourth time anyway, better to do 3x a few more sessions before I try four times up and down. The problem with steps is that it’s easy to pull a muscle going more than twice. Usually it happens on the way down I notice a little twinge of pain in my foot or behind my knee cap.

The reason I was able to do three times that day (3,711 steps up and 3,711 down) is because I didn’t let myself feel the satisfaction of doing it the first or second time. Even after the third time when I thought I might give it a go the fourth time I still hadn’t let myself feel good about the effort yet. Once I feel good about what I’ve done I notice that I’m less inclined to push myself much more.

Delay the gratification by not letting yourself feel the satisfaction that is due until you are completely done with the session. Then – bathe yourself in compliments for pushing it so hard!

Best of Life!



1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

Happiness Life Tip: 1 Way to Instantly Get Optimistic

Life is all about being as optimistic as possible. Being optimistic leads to success.

If you’re not happy 90 mornings out of 100 when you wake up, you are missing out on so much. I know that’s the reason a good portion of you are reading personal development blogs – for tips on making yourself happier and more optimistic when you’re down or not feeling quite up to par. Though I am almost always in a good mood, I notice that sometimes – for just a half-hour, or maybe for a few hours – I catch myself in a mood that’s “less than great”.

Happiness can be defined in terms of financial success, emotional well-being, spiritual connectivity, physical energy and wellness, success of projects you’re doing, both personal and work-related, family happiness and cohesiveness… or all of those together.

Optimism, which is about your future state of happiness and about the control you might have over events in the future, flows from happiness.

There are many areas of success and happiness that lead to optimism. If you are successful in one area of life, that can carry over into other areas or it may have nothing to do with your happiness in other areas of your life. It can go either way.

So, during the moments I catch myself in a mood that is too pessimistic and not positive, I might do this exercise I’ve outlined below. I find myself doing it about one time each week, but it’s good for every night before you go to sleep if you need it! I think you’ll find it easy enough.

Step 1:
Take out a clean piece of paper or a large notecard. Start writing everything you can think of that is a “positive” that is going on in your life since the last time you did this exercise. Write anything that has the power to make you happy – even if it’s just a little bit.

Step 2:
No step 2, that was it!

When you write – don’t write straight down the page or on every line. Turn that paper or notecard every which way and write large, write small, just write, write, write. It’s like braindumping all your happy moments onto that card.

When you’re really thinking about it – there are so many things that go well that we tend to gloss over. Write the smallest things that you can think of… something like, “I saw a sign for gasoline that was 2 cents lower today and filled up, saving me 26 cents.” Or, “I almost tipped backward on my chair and fell over, but I caught myself in time.” Or, “I had pizza yesterday, WOW that was so mind-blowingly delicious!”

There are so many things you could write down if you give yourself some time. I usually don’t need more than ten minutes before I find myself in a great mood remembering all things I’d already forgotten from the same day and the days past.

Write it all! EVERYTHING COUNTS. Don’t eliminate something because you think it wasn’t positive ENOUGH. If it was on the right side of the negative – positive balance beam then it was positive and write it down.

See how many you can come up with in ten minutes. If you don’t have twenty examples, no matter how small or large, keep going! EVERYONE has ten. Probably you can think of more. A positive might be that you didn’t come down with a cold or have an accident in the last five days – right? These are things we don’t normally think about when we’re depressed, but these are definitely positive things in our lives. Or, think about the fact that you didn’t lose your job, your wife, your kids, your wallet, your car keys, your mind! Or maybe you remember helping someone with some good advice. Anything you choose counts just so you can jot it down and remember the good feeling you had as you experienced this positive thing in your life.

Now, here’s something I did only a couple times – when I was in a really bummy mood that came and went for a few weeks (after a break-up). I saved all of my notecards and put them up on one wall where I could see them constantly every time I sat down to my computer on the desk. Invariably, I’d be thinking about something and glance up at the notecards and something would catch my attention -and I’d remember some of those positive things again. It really has the power to pick me up and help keep me in a consistently happy state of mind. That’s a priceless tool you should duplicate if you think it will help.

My Example
As I sit here really frustrated because my hosting account dashboard at Godaddy.com is loading each page over the course of about 17 minutes and I’ve even turned off images so all it needs to load is text – This might be a good time to write my own notecard.

For me – this was all it took to get me feeling good again. It’s really difficult to be pessimistic or angry or sad about life when you have a notecard full of things in your life that recently happened that were positive. It works for me everytime. Try it!

Send photos or photoshop creations of your paper or notecard / index cards and I’ll edit this post and put them in here along with your name, email or whatever you wish. Or, let me know you’d rather keep them private and I won’t publish them.

Best of Life!


31 Reasons to Smile Big!

Thirty-One Reasons to Smile Big Today!

Songkran water throwing celebration in Thailand1. Burger King strawberry milkshakes are still being made on another planet and imported.
2. You woke up hungry. And, there’s food available you just have to go get it.
3. You’re not doing hard-time in jail.
4. If you have been to jail you learned a lot about yourself and life and the good news is –
it’s behind you!
5. The world is still spinning causing the sun to rise in the east again today just like the last few million days.
6. You don’t have shingles.
7. TVs can still be turned off.
8. Gas isn’t so expensive that you sold your car. Yet. And bicycling to work. Yet.
9. Trump will be out of office in a few long months.
10. Air is still breathable.
11. Water is still drinkable.
12. You can choose to call in sick today if you want to go have fun.
13. You’ve probably got some kind of health insurance.
14. No matter which major grocery store you shop at, chances are they stock your favorite flavor of Haagen Dazs.
15. Starbucks anything.
16. My 22-Day Meditation Course (without religion) e-book in pdf format.
17. UFO’s haven’t taken over the planet yet.
18. You’ve got at least one friend. 🙂 (Hopefully more)
19. You’re smart enough to know coffee in a Styrofoam cup handed to you through the drive-thru was recently boiling.
20. You have Crank101.com.
21. These comics. >
22. Trump cannot destroy the entire environment in just 4 years. Let’s not give him 8.
23. You can choose to learn about any topic that exists today by surfing online.
24. A can of your favorite soda is still under $1.00.
25. You’ve got a child, a brother, a sister, a mom or a dad. Or a combination of these, and chances are – they love you.
26. Creative Commons at Flickr.com. (photos to use on your site for free!)
27. Time is still going at the same rate. One second per second. If it speeds up – THEN you’ll know stress.
28. Aliens are probably not going to take over, they’d have done so by now!
29. Artificial Intelligence still hasn’t attained consciousness!
30. You don’t live in the Arctic where the sun doesn’t rise every day.
31. You’ve probably never contracted flesh-eating bacteria!