Recently I saw an incredible story of gold medal sprinter, Jasmine Blocker.
Apparently in middle school she tried out for volleyball but was too uncoordinated and was immediately cut from the team. So she joined track instead.
Track was a better fit but she still wasn’t great to begin with. But where she excelled was her grit and work ethic. She was always searching for more ways to push the envelope and get better.
“I was always the person asking for more workouts and saying, ‘What more can I do?’- Jasmine Blocker
(this led to eventually picking up strength training and Olympic lifting, which made a huge difference in her running times)
Throughout her journey (even before she stood out performance-wise), she mostly focused on bettering her best. And she would find a way to train even when her studies got in the way.
For example, in college she told her coaches she couldn’t make it to practice because she was working on her theses. So she’d make up for it by doing a harder morning workout alone instead.
All these workouts and focus on constantly improving eventually accumulated to becoming an All-American in indoor and outdoor track… turning pro and then winning a gold medal in the 4x400 relays.
Today she’s ‘passing the torch’ of her experience by helping others on their journey in fitness and mental health. In fact, she shared an interesting quote on the intersection of these two:
“It [exercise] allows you to focus in on one thing so that you’re completely and totally present.”- Jasmine Blocker
While there are a ton of lessons packed into Jasmine’s journey, this quote shares a powerful benefit that doesn’t get talked about enough.
When you are working out whether its pumping iron… bodyweight exercises… or doing a HIIT circuit — your focus is largely on the workout (unless you are goofing off or taking selfies). You are focused on doing the exercises properly… hitting the reps… or completing the set.
When your focus is engulfed in these details… other worries and concerns somewhat fade into the background.
In fact, you tend to get ‘psychological distance’ from them. And in some cases when you get back to them (if you even want to) they don’t look nearly as daunting or as stressful as before. You have a fresh perspective and sometimes even new insight on the situations.
In college, that was one of the biggest motivators for me to keep working out — even after I stopped playing football. In fact, the gym was somewhat of a ‘sanctuary’ for me. By being totally present with the lifts and exercises I was doing that day (instead of ruminating on my studies and stresses of the day) I was able to go back to my classes and relationships more grounded and recharged.
(And if I slacked on getting in my workouts, I noticed I didn’t bring my best to those areas)
Anyway, this is a hidden benefit of exercise that you’ll have to test yourself. And certain types of workouts work better for this than others. But I’m confident that taking 60 minutes (3–4x per week) could offer you huge returns in mental clarity and dropping stress levels.
It’s yet another positive ‘side effect’ exercise can bring to your life.
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One of my fondest memories was spending Christmas with two friends in Sarasota, Florida.
Especially laying on the white sand beach (where the sand is literally the consistency of flour) with a ‘snowman’ made of sand next to us. It was a wild experience.
(And a bit more enjoyable than being in Iowa during that time of year)
Anyway, I was reminded of this “tropical paradise” because Sarasota is hosting a Beat the Heat Fitness Race.
Instead of your run-of-the-mill 5k or ‘Fun Run’ it’s a series of exercises (such as rowing machine, pushups, bodyweight exercises, etc.). In fact, there’s no running at all.
Willie Thomas, one of the trainers of the program shared with Sarasota Magazine:
“Functional movements like these repeated over time will help you meet the goals you want to reach.”
This is a great concept because many people set their sights on slogging through long runs or training for a marathon when they decide to get in shape. And this is not always an ideal route to go.
Some people thrive with running, while others (due to past injuries or movement dysfunction) struggle with it and end up hurting themselves in the process.
That’s where fitness challenges like this can be a great fit — since it’s not nearly as repetitive on the joints and it challenges the body in many different ways.
Something else from Thomas:
“In sports, there’s always something to improve upon. There is never really a finish line.”
This brings up a very important point.
And it’s one difference between those who create long-term results from those who just get short-term results and then sputter out their routine (until the next New Year’s Resolution… birthday with a ‘zero’… or ‘eye-opening’ doctor’s visit.)
In fact, it’s a slight shift in psychology and focus.
See the people who play the ‘short-term’ game see fitness as a destination. They tend to see it as once they hit their goals — they are good to go (and then they can be “happy”). There are quite a few problems with this, one being it doesn’t integrate into a new lifestyle and the other being psychologically it’s not very motivating if you aren’t growing and expanding to new levels (whatever that means for you).
The ones play the ‘long game’, who create lasting transformation realize that there is ‘never really a finish line’. There is always a new mountain to climb. A new journey to embark on. Not because they have to but because they want to.
They want to expand and see what they can accomplish and more importantly, who they can become in the process.
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An interesting study came out that asked:
“Do ultra-processed foods change behavior?”
According to the International Food Information Council, ultra-processed food is defined as:
“Typically contain little or no whole foods. Durable, convenient, accessible, highly or ultra-palatable, often habit-forming. Typically not recognizable as versions of foods although may imitate the appearance, shape and sensory qualities of foods.”
(Little scary to see habit-forming as part of the description).
And the research on these Frankenfoods is scary.
Anyway, when it came to this small study by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers gathered a group of 20 subjects and housed them at a clinic so they could prepare every single meal for them and track exactly how much they ate.
Subjects were divided into two groups: One that was given an unprocessed menu and the other an ultra-processed menu. Both groups received three square meals and snacks in between. Both were instructed they could eat as much (or as little) as they desired.
(And even though one group was given ultra-processed food, they both were given a similar ratio of protein, fat and carbs.)
The ultra-processed group consumed on average 500 extra calories each day (causing body fat and weight-gain).
Here are a few thoughts:
Even though this was a small study, this was a very controlled study. The fact that they housed each person and measured what each person ate is impressive. Larger studies will need to be done to learn more — but the findings are interesting none the less.
Some will say ‘Of course they ate more calories processed foods taste better’. However, these sly researchers thought of this and surveyed subjects who rated both types of food as equally tasty and satisfying.
Something else in ultra-processed foods triggered more eating. Could it be the extra additives? Or excitotoxins (chemicals that overstimulate neurons in the brain)? Or preservatives?
But this is something to consider when you snack on these ultra-processed foods.
They may just be a little treat. They may only be a few hundred calories, but what’s that going to do for your hunger… appetite… and cravings later that day?
You’ll have to experiment for yourself and see.
And consider if it’s worth it or not.
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