Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What does Happiness mean to you?

What does Happiness mean to you? 

I was surprised, (in a good way) when I posted this question to my Facebook page, at the answers I received. 

Happiness is very specific and exclusive to each individual.  Not once did I receive the same answer.  Similar responses yes, but no two exact definitions. 

I think this is intriguing. 

According to Wikipedia:

“Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgments by a person about their overall well-being.”

So in other words, Happiness comes from within (well at least that’s how I perceived the definition).

I am reading The Book of Joy and here are a few passages from the Dalai Lama about happiness: 

“I believe that the purpose of life is to find happiness.  It does not matter whether one is a Buddhist like me, or a Christian like the Archbishop, or any other religion, or no religion at all.  From the moment of birth, every human being wants to discover happiness and avoid suffering.”

“The ultimate source of happiness is within us.  Not money, not power, not status.  Some of my friends are billionaires, but they are very unhappy people.  Power and money fail to bring inner peace.  Outward attainment will not bring real inner joyfulness. We must look inside.”

“We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy.  It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people.  When it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do.”

The above passages and the answers I received on my Facebook post gave me an inner look at what drives people.  Because according to the Dalai Lama, Happiness is something we set out to attain from the first day we are alive.  So much of our life, we aspire to be happy.  And not this fake bravado we can express outwardly or with materialistic objects; this is an inner peace and joy that only each individual can choose to experience.  

Here are a few good answers I received on my post:
(I will leave names off for privacy purposes)

“Happiness is not an emotion you feel.  It’s a decision you make.  You can choose to be happy in life no matter what is going on, or you can choose not to.  The choice is yours.”

“Joy is an outward expression of an inward state of being, whereas happiness is a temporary and fleeting emotional experience.  I believe that you can fool someone into thinking you are happy, but you can’t fool people about your joy.”

“Happiness to me means being content with what you have and where you are in life.  Not constantly wanting more material things, cooler car, etc.  Happiness is living in the current moment and appreciating today for the good or accepting that the bad could be something to learn and grow from.”

“Happiness, or joy, is not from something you get.  Not from attaining a goal or how others view you.  It is a choice.  You can be happy and find joy in every second, or moment or event just in a thought.”

“Happiness is the pathway to discovering that we are all perfectly imperfect which provides us with the gift to understand lasting joy.  Joy will look different for everyone but remain unaffected by temporary circumstances.”

“Happiness is doing what you want to do, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want.  It’s basically freedom or a state of euphoria.”

“Happiness is a state of mind.  It can be an “in the moment” type feeling such as joy.  But it can be an overall feeling that lasts longer as well.”

“Feeling a balance with the emotions of life equals happiness.  Although everyday will not be happy and jubilous, the same holds true for sadness and tribulations.  If we have the patience and balance, nothing can rock us one way or the other.  Balance, that’s where happiness lives.”

I have a good friend and client; his name is Bob.  Bob is 85 years young.  I started discussing this topic with him because I really wanted his perspective as he has been through 8 ½ decades of life. 

Here is his answer:

“Happiness to me is a philosophy.  We are all going to feel sad and have tough times in life, but when your personal philosophy is happiness, you will slide back into a happy state.  Some people build themselves into unhappy people.  And some people decide to be happy no matter what they face.  It’s a philosophy.” 

The answer makes sense and one I agree with.  Bob is a wise man who continues to learn and grow as an individual and I learn from him everyday I am with him.  

With that said, here is my answer…

Happiness can come from achievement, from accomplishing a goal or doing well in a particular subject or activity.  Happiness is being healthy and vibrant.   Happiness is being surrounded with positive and encouraging people.  The type of people you can trust and totally be yourself around.  Happiness is having positive relationships.  Happiness is being with my family.  Happiness is having fun, being spontaneous and taking advantage of the day.  Happiness is less worry and more smiling.  Happiness is nurturing your soul and believing in oneself.  Without faith, I’m not sure you can be happy.  Happiness to me, is living an optimistic life; to see the good; to pick yourself up when times are tough; to really be grateful for the life we get to live. 

Now I believe the above things need to be consistent.  Action is required to sustain this happy state.  I don’t think you can just cross your fingers and hope to be happy.  Just like the Dalai Lama said above, “When it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do.” 

We can make it a point to exercise.  We can get around the positive people.  We can read the positive books.  We can pray or go to church or meditate, whatever works for you.  We can build our relationships.  We can continue to put ourselves in a happy state.  To me, this will create this “happy philosophy”, which then turns into a habitual state of being, which then turns into internal happiness. 


Friday, February 17, 2017

How much strength training and cardio should I be doing?

I was asked a question recently regarding how much strength training and cardio someone should be doing. 
Here is my answer:
This all depends on the goal someone is aiming for.  I think we need to look at this beyond the dogmatic information that we see on the Internet.  Let's look at the facts.  

First of all, it's all good.  Low intensity workouts like walking, hiking, swimming, and biking are all great for cardiovascular (heart) health.  This is where you are exercising at a "conversational" pace. This is tremendous for heart health, blood flow, stress release and aerobic fitness and I think is needed for all demographics.  This is where we get the term "cardio".  But in the fitness world, cardio has been given a bad rap in the past 15 years because of the popularity of interval training.  There are many benefits to low intensity exercise, so let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater with this one.

Strength training supports the muscular system. We need total body strength and lack thereof can cause many problems like osteoporosis, joint pain, inadequate energy and a weak skeletal structure. All demographics need strength work in their program.

Interval training has been around for at least 70 years.  It's nothing new.  But has hit a massive popularity over the past 15 years.  This method is great for time efficient workouts where you can get in a quality workout and have a high calorie burn in a small amount of time.  You can do bodyweight intervals, conditioning circuits, high intensity intervals, sprints on a bike or treadmill or strength circuits.  These types of workouts will tap into your aerobic and anaerobic systems but can also put a lot of stress on the body so it's important to not overdo.

Strength training and higher intensity workouts will increase EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), or "afterburn". Following these strenuous bouts of exercise, you will continue to rebuild broken down muscle tissue thus increasing your caloric burn post-exercise.  That is why these types of workouts are recommended as a more efficient method for fat loss, especially if time is limited.

With that said, here are some guidelines to follow:
(Again depends on the goal)

If you were only working out 2-3 times a week, I recommend 1-2 full body strength workouts and 1-2 interval type workouts.
Workout out 4-5 days a week: 2-3 full body strength routines, 1-2 interval type workouts and 1 "cardio" workout.
Workout 5-7 days a week: 3-4 full body strength routines (or body part splits), 2 interval type workouts and 2 low intensity cardio days.

These guidelines are more for the general fitness enthusiast looking to stay healthy, burn some fat and build total body strength and stability.  The more specific the goal you are aiming for, the more detailed schedule you need to build. 

If you have any specific questions, please email me at justinlevine03@hotmail.com and I will answer in a timely manner. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Limits are made to be broken

My last "personal best" half marathon was December 2013.  I ran 1:22:30 (6:17 pace) at the Oxnard half marathon.  Since then, I have ran around 10 half marathons.  Different course logistics and terrain equates to different times but all of the times have been between 1:22 - 1:30.  I think that is my first point of this blog, MAINTENANCE has MERIT.  See once you reach a specific fitness level, your increments of improvement slows down.  In fact, there will be races where you just didn't run your fastest times.  But what I am most proud of over the past 12 years of training and racing is not my fastest times or best races, it's my consistency to keep going after my goals.  It's a no brainer that I always want to get faster and run PR's but I just know that's not how it works.  What's key for me is being obsessed with the process.  I love the journey and the growth I gain from the process.  I always want to be fit and I always want to challenge my physical limits.  To me, it's a lifestyle. 

Yesterday I ran in a local half marathon.  My time of 1:21:03 (6:11 pace) was by far my personal best half marathon.  I was able to shave 90 seconds off my former personal best.  Two years ago, I wrote down the goal to run a sub 1 hour 20 minute half marathon.  I have not yet achieved this goal.  But I am getting closer.  It doesn't just magically happen.  It’s a hard goal!  I set a goal that I knew would challenge my limits.  

See everyone has limits. I had a limit on my half-marathon that was hard to break.  I have been working on it for a few years.  And I finally did it.  I finally pushed into a new realm.  Not just physically, but mentally I have broken limits.  This gives me confidence to keep pushing my current physical and mental limitations.  But now I have a new limit.  Am I willing to dig deep and keep going after that outer edge?  HELL YES is my answer.  See for me, I truly get to know myself when I am challenging my limits.  When I get to my edge, how do I respond?  Do I give up?  Do I find a way to keep going?  Do I stay motivated?  Do I do the work?  How will I handle set backs and obstacles?

Internally it's a war.  Some days I will feel tired, drained and mentally and physically weak.  How will I respond?  My response: "GET THE FUCK UP, don't be lazy, go do what you need to do."   Yes I have said that to myself many times.  This internal dialogue happens.  And 99% of the time, I get up, I train, I do what’s needed to achieve my athletic goals.  It’s not sexy; it’s not fancy, just plain ol’ hard and consistent work. 

You may have goals.  You definitely have physical and mental limits.  Will you go after those individual limitations?  John C. Maxwell said it best, “If we are growing, we will always be out of our comfort zone.”  So life really happens when we are challenging our preconceived limits.  If you want to live a full and abundant life, you will not accept the status quo.  You will constantly be pushing yourself.  You will live life on the outer edge.  And you will do this till the day you die.  

Past writings