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How Many Belts Per Minute Can You Tie?

9 Mar

Hi, Transition Program students! I’m writing this for you, as well as for all of the other people who will look at this and read it. Hopefully lots of people read it because I need them to play along!

So guys, all of the other people reading this are asking, “Who or what are transition program students?” I’d better explain for them. In our case, right now, it mean teens between the ages of 14 and 18 years old who are blind, and who are students with us at the Lighthouse Center for Vision Loss. Blind includes visual impairment that qualifies as being legally blind; many of the students have vision of some sort. It might be something like looking through a paper-towel tube with only one eye, or seeing the world as if looking through a fogged-up shower door. Some of the students have been blind since birth and some have lost vision along the way. Some are totally blind and have never had any sight.

The student part relates to learning skills so they can live and work independently. That can include college success and it ultimately means success in a job. It’s all about being employable and being able to work effectively. In fact, our students may need to be able to do a job, or some parts of it, better than a sighted person might do it, just to get a fair shake. Custodian, store clerk, teacher, computer programmer, insurance agent, lawyer, chef and restaurant owner; name it, and we’ve got to help them get ready for it.

Getting ready includes doing stuff on a computer, walking around town, taking public transportation, being able to do laundry and dress appropriately, being able to cook a decent meal for themselves or their loved ones. These students don’t live with us. They live and go to school all over the state of Minnesota. They come into town for five weekends during the school year and then we do remote Zoom team meetings each week and support them in their daily living and home practice. They learn here and then they live and practice at home.

Ok, students, back to you. A lot of that is challenging stuff. Still, you’ve got to work at all of it to become capable in all of those areas. What choice do you have, right? What’s the alternative? I supposed you can live in your parents’ basement until you’re my age and your parents are, like, ninety years old and too old to throw you a box of Pop-Tarts down the stairs anymore, and then you starve. So, I guess the choice is to get good at all of this stuff or starve. Simple.

Two things happened over the past week that made me think of writing this post. The first thing is that you guys discussed starting a blog and being able to post your recipes, and maybe other stuff. Which is very cool, in my opinion. The second thing that happened is some Taekwondo students tested and promoted to their next belt rank.

The finale of our promotion testing was two guys testing for red belt, the rank just before black belt. David is twenty-four years old. He is strong, talented and has a good memory. He played rugby in college. He began training two years ago after being invited by another student to a “Buddy Week.” He had never thought of starting martial arts before.

Four men in white taekwondo uniforms and belts. Two are wearing red belts and are standing between two black belt instructors.

The other student who earned his red belt, Jeff, is sixty-eight years old. That’s right: SIXTY-EIGHT! He started Taekwondo four and a half years ago after he enrolled his grandson in classes. Jeff practiced Taekwondo a little while in college but he stopped after he got hurt and then graduated. Now he wondered if he could start again at his age. He has carried the idea of being a black belt with him all of these years.

Actually, Jeff and his wife, Mari, both joined class together. Mari had to stop training after a couple of years because of some physical matters. Just so you know, about ten years before that Mari had been driving and was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Her body was shattered in many ways and she had a long, painful recovery that took a couple of years. She still has lingering challenges. Then, lo and behold, she got to age sixty-two and started Taekwondo with her husband. Crazy!

Jeff has taken four and a half years to get to red belt because he had two big gaps in his training. The first gap was to get a hip replaced; that’s a big surgery. The other gap was to get the OTHER hip replaced! His orthopedic surgeon told him not to come back to training. He did, and he’s done great. Imagine going through all of that at his age and then still coming back to do Taekwondo! Talk about a challenge.

David has had some tough stuff to deal with in his own life. We’re talking big, rotten lemons. It’s cool to have him in class and see him be one of the most hard-working students, with one of the most positive, helpful, can-do attitudes.

Neither one of those two guys ever imagined training in Taekwondo, never mind testing for black belt. If you ask them how they progressed from their unexpected beginnings until now, I bet they’d say something that I have said. It’s this: Just one class at a time.

Just one class at a time. One practice at a time. That’s the biggest secret to becoming a black belt. A white belt might walk in and say, “I’m not sure I can do this; I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time,” which seems a far cry from being a black belt. We had one new student who was so nervous that she visibly shook during class for a year! She’s a black belt now. New students join and they just keep showing up to practice, and one day they’re testing for black belt. They defend against multiple attackers and break boards and bricks with hands, feet and even while jumping and spinning in the air. That’s a lot more than chewing gum!

By the way, you guys can walk and chew gum AND also sweep a cane at the same time AND also listen for traffic cues. Give yourself a big pat on the back, and then keep working on it!

David and Jeff would tell you that not all classes are encouraging. David had some techniques he probably thought he’d never get the hang of. Jeff had many classes when he asked himself, “Am I too old for this?” and went home discouraged. Jeff struggles with remembering stuff, too. They’ve both been discouraged along the way and yet look where they are now. They kept showing up for practice and simply did their best when they were there. Sometimes it was great and sometimes it wasn’t.

You know, even more than one class at a time, improvement happens one technique at a time. In class, I’ve had many experiences that sounded like this: “Wow, that kicking combination went pretty well!” Then, “Well, that one stunk.” And then after that, “That one stunk, too.” And, then sometimes, “That one was even worse!” And then, “Man, the hardest part of Taekwondo is definitely the floor,” as I rubbed my elbow and tailbone. Now I avoid falling down; at my age it can be devastating.

I’ve been told that our Korean Great Grandmaster has said that the expression shouldn’t be, “Practice makes perfect.” The expression should be, “Practice IS perfect.” Sometimes practice works out well, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s fulfilling, sometimes it’s frustrating. No matter, it’s perfect; it’s perfect because you practiced, you did it, you stayed on the road to what’s ahead.

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll promote a blind student to black belt. They’ll get to black belt the same way.

So, guys, among all of the skills you are learning, you know our inside joke, right?  You have to practice touch typing. And, you know, it’s true! Just now, right in the middle of typing this, I took a three-minute touch typing test online and here are my results: 55 words per minute with 98% accuracy. When I got my first job after getting my master’s degree, it involved a lot of typing. I typed with two fingers while looking at the keyboard. I thought I was pretty fast, except my coworker, Betty, touch-typed and her fingers flew across the keyboard. She could finish a proposal four times a fast as me.

That was typing grant proposals to try and get money for programs that help people, kind of like the Lighthouse. It’s better to be able to finish one of those in a couple of days rather than in a week and a half. In the same time you can finish four of them, and that means maybe more money to help people. Typing faster also means being able do a school paper in a couple of nights instead of eight nights. If you’re a teacher it might mean you can reply back to all of the emails from parents in one evening instead of just a quarter of them; your students’ parents will be a lot happier to hear back sooner, and the student would deserve it, too.

Back on that proposal writing job, I ended up going to the library and checking out a book called, “Touch Typing Made Simple.” I started practicing for ten or fifteen minutes a couple of times a day at work. I had my work to do so I couldn’t do it for too long. So, I would steal time when I could. One day, a couple of months or so later, I realized that I could touch type well enough to start doing it for my work. It was actually slower than my two-finger method, but it was also extra practice. Then one day I tried typing again with two fingers and I realized that I could touch type faster!

Taekwondo students gain their black belt skills by practicing, just one class at a time. One class and then another class and then another. Good ones and bad ones. I picked up my touch typing ability one fifteen-minute session at a time. Fifteen minutes now, and then fifteen minutes tomorrow, and then again and again. It works; it didn’t always feel great along the way but it feels great now.

Ready to play? Here is where everyone reading this, students and others, can play together. Post a comment to this blog entry and tell us your typing test results. I went to; you can do it wherever and however you want. If your results are crappy, it’s just being honest; your results are what they are and that’s just the way it is. It’s called being a white belt, where everybody starts; tripping while chewing gum and shaking with nerves. If you’re another reader, then please play along with us; help support and encourage our students.

If you then want to keep playing (PLEASE DO!) practice touch typing a little bit each day for a week or two. Then, test again and come back and post your new results. Students, if you post your results, I’ll give you a dollar when I see you next month. Everybody else: you’ll get a big, heartfelt virtual high-five.

No one is going to earn a new belt promotion in just a week to two. The idea is to just practice. Because practice is perfect. The results and satisfaction will come later, guaranteed.

957 Words About Beginning and Staying

31 Dec

I recently unearthed from my personal library George Leonard’s Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. I purchased the book 15 or 20 years ago because I’d come across an article by Leonard, a precursor to the book, in the May 1987 issue of Esquire magazine as part of their Ultimate Fitness series. (Follow that link to the issue in the Esquire archives, if only to enter a Wayback Machine to 1987.)

I only started my current, serious round of martial arts training in 1993 (at age 33) and came across that article sometime thereafter while digging back for that Ultimate Fitness series. I wasn’t terribly fit and was grasping for any secret fitness leg-up I could find. The mastery article presented concepts pertinent to me at that point in my martial arts journey. With perhaps a year and a half or so of practice under my (Purple-Trim?) belt I was at the point where many students might drop out, due to the “Brown Belt Blues” phenomenon.

Getting to Purple-Trim belt — or Third Gup — means I had put in consistent practice and had progressed through six belt levels in that time, testing about quarterly. I’d done a lot, learned a lot, and realized that now things were about to get real. In a way I felt I’d survived but a lot more was yet to come. The students I’d observed from other, older schools who were at these three levels before black belt (Purple-Trim, Brown and Red Belts) were serious, talented and experienced. Now I was entering into that group?

I had a glimpse of possibility, but also a sense of getting out while I could. I’d come this far OK; why chance it? Get out while I was on top, be happy with getting to that point, and gracefully exit. That’s what I’d done in my younger years: four different starts and stops in two different Karate styles and Tai Chi. A couple of belts in (or the equivalent time in Tai Chi) and then convincing myself that I should stop with whatever was the excuse of the moment. Maybe the excitement of the brand-new endeavor was gone; maybe I was chickening out. Had I stuck with my training back then, I might have been a multi-level black belt in Karate by my mid-thirties, with the lessons and gifts that would have provided, rather than a Third Gup at thirty-five.

The experience at the senior Gup levels is not one of only learning more stuff and more difficult techniques; it is also an experience of further-developing in the techniques and principles learned so far. More time is simply spent practicing and working to get better. There is more time between those last promotion levels and then to Black Belt. It’s work and time.

I shared a copy of Leonard’s article with my instructor and we talked about it a number of times. I don’t think I ever told him that I was toying with a graceful exit; I’m not sure I was even fully cognizant myself of my inclination at the time. He and I talked about the three archetypes whom Leonard describes when referring to people who either drop out of their practice or who end up “treading water”, making no improvement. (The Dabbler, The Obsessive, and The Hacker.)

To whatever degree I was considering quitting, I never really considered it further after those discussions about the article. That was partly because I realized the degree to which I’d been a regular Dabbler and Obsessive; I didn’t want to leave and have my instructor think of me as a Dabbler!

More than simply avoiding those archetypes, I was reoriented to continue on by the mastery concept Leonard presented. Mastery means living on the plateau, the long times of no discernible progress while simply practicing for the joy of regular practice. The path of mastery is practicing. More than simply hacking or messing around, it is intentional practice, with the vision to improve over time. The reality is that much of the time there is no discernible progress. Until there is. Then there’s another long plateau. One must simply practice to practice.

There is no excitement of the new endeavor (what attracts The Dabbler) and no rush of new techniques or new belts or regular, noticeable improvement (what keeps the Obsessive). There is no hacking, just showing up and going through the motions. There IS intentional, regular practice, with lots of time of nothing: no improvement, many bad days, no new techniques, no belts or awards. Just practice.

I realized all that was required of me to go wherever it is I might go with Taekwondo was to show up and give it my best shot that day. I had instruction, I had support, I had opportunity to push it to my edge. Most of all my part was to simply show up and train. Again, and again and again. Roundhouse kick, roundhouse kick, roundhouse kick again. I was to train with whatever intention I could bring that day, each kick, each class, each time — and to enjoy those cool new techniques when they are presented!

I’ve still slipped into dabbling, obsessing and hacking in different endeavors since then, including in my Taekwondo. Still, the path of mastery has remained in me, in Taekwondo, in my marriage, in my spiritual life. I have it in mind as I continue with yoga practice, and as I try to follow each breath in meditation sessions, and as I take intentional small, regular actions to improve situations I am in with people, in my work, at church, in community service: show up, take action with intention, accept the place, repeat, repeat, repeat, appreciate the gift when it comes, then keep at it some more.

Master Po and Mad Eye Moody Meet Up in Minnesota

30 Jul

I’ve noticed it a lot more the past three years or so. I’ve noticed people talking to me and not looking directly at me, in the eye (well, they are, but they’re not). I’ve realized people whom I’m not looking at sometimes think that I am (and I can sometimes tell they may find it disturbing). I’ve noticed people, mostly younger, not looking at me at all after looking at me; something seems to bother them.

What’s up? My eyes are messed up. My right eye tracks off to the side. I’ve been blind in that eye since birth. It’s always been off-kilter but as I’ve gotten older it’s gotten worse, particularly when I’m tired. I’m in a perfect position to be that old, creepy-looking Walmart greeter guy in fifteen years. Heck, I could be Mad-Eye Moody by then. (I should be so lucky!)

I’ve even got a friend of many years who seems to not as often look right at me when we talk, and who definitely spends more time glancing over his left shoulder where my Mad Eye is pointed. (Actually, Mad Eye Correia sort of has a ring to it.)

These things also happen in Taekwondo classes, particularly with younger students and newer students. I can be talking to one student and they think I’m talking to some other student to their left.

The vision in my “good” eye is really poor, and I also have bad astigmatism. About three years ago I needed bifocals for the first time. I’d always worn a contact lens for athletic activity, and sometimes for daily wear, but since the need for bifocals arose, I wear my large, thick, expensive glasses during normal activity, and wear the contact lens only for Taekwondo class or other aggressive athletic activity, but it kind of sucks; when I wear it I never see anything quite right.

If the eyes are the window to the soul then my window has mud on it. As I have adapted to seeing more poorly and with greater inconvenience, I’ve also more often felt disengaged with others because of the sometimes change in eye contact. Here’s the thing: I have lost confidence these past few years because of this. Yes, the mature Taekwondo master has lost confidence. It’s the thick bifocals. It’s the self-consciousness of the Mad Eye. It’s age. It’s change.

When I was a kid growing up, I was totally into the David Carradine Kung Fu TV series. As a very husky kid with bad vision, I was particularly taken with Shaolin monk Master Po who was old and blind, but amazingly capable, and wise. I felt maaaaaybe it was possible for me to be a master someday. Really, I did think that.

As a kid I was neither capable nor confident in the physical and sports realm: overweight, poor vision, blind in one eye, no dad or other male role model to mentor me, no siblings. I was on my own. Couldn’t hit a moving ball, couldn’t catch worth a crap, couldn’t shoot a basket, slow, always picked last.

At least as I grew, some of those skills came along as my body and brain figured it out better, but I was years behind the curve. I became passable, and occasionally competitive, in the recreational realm, particularly once I lost some weight. I learned to drive a car, I did different jobs that required some physical skill (some were even risky, given machinery and such), I tinkered with martial arts a couple of time, and then started serious — meaning I never quit — Taekwondo training at age 33. Why had I quit those earlier times? I didn’t have the confidence to stick around until I might hit the tough stuff, or maybe fail. The irony is that I usually seemed to do well.

When I tested for Fifth Dan in 2010, I’d recently turned 50 and the two guys I tested with had both just turned 30 or so.  They were testing at an age that was younger than when I’d even started training. I peaked around age 50, while those two guys were complaining that they were past their prime. We did the same test and accomplished the same challenges, with them 20 years younger and each with two good eyes!

During these past 24 years I’ve had to train in fast action, turning action, turning to my blind side; I’ve had to hit and break boards and put out candles with turning and spinning kicks; I’ve had to judge distance and hit small moving targets, such as the wrist on opponents in Kumdo sword arts; I’ve had to wield a sharp sword to bare torsos; I’ve had to do a version of this. I’ve done all kinds of stuff with no acknowledgement, never mind preferential treatment, of anything being different. Just like Master Po!

I’ve done quite OK. So why the heck would I be losing confidence now? Granted, I’ve had a tough three years with all kinds of life and livelihood challenges and changes, stuff that made me tired and shook my inner self deeply for a time. I’m also less practiced in Taekwondo technique and have let my conditioning slip as well; so now I’m now older, slower and suckier.

Still, there has been something uniquely discouraging and disorienting in the vision changes. In both the athletics and overall life, seeing, judging, and adjusting is harder and less reliable than it used to be. I’m not as confident in doing things as I used to be. Further, not insignificant is the entire change in engagement with others related to the Mad Eye situation, be it their posture or my self-consciousness.

So what? Well, I’m not sure. Maybe I just want that all off my chest, to write it so I can better process it.

What’s next? Well, I’m beginning to take on some new challenges, physical and professionally, which will push me out of my comfort zone and which, achieved or not, will lead to growth and development. Regardless of vision, age, physical capability, or Other People’s Reactions (now to be known as OPR), I’m stepping it up, pushing forward, taking control, and choosing my attitude. We’re rolling into new territory and making new commitments with our new business. I’m preparing to take on a promotion test for 6th Dan (in New Jersey, for heaven’s sake!). I’m getting reengaged in physical training. I’m focusing on personal and spiritual work in new ways. I’m starting a new Rotary Eclub; we’re going to do great things together and have some fun in the process. (Interested in finding out more? Email me!). I’ve committed to being an ambassador as part of Real Men Wear Pink (click to contribute, please!).

Maybe that’s the So-What point: regardless of challenges and circumstances, regardless of things outside of our control, regardless of other people’s reactions, we can always choose our attitude; we can always take action in the realm of what is in our control; we can always respond to other people in a positive and supportive manner; we can always be grateful for what we can do and for what we have. And, we can always stretch ourselves beyond where we are, because without stretching we don’t grow.

Ya think this all explains why I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for the underdog Taekwondo student? And just so you know, I own the entire Kung Fu series on DVD.

Fly Like an Eagle . . . If You’re An Eagle

28 May

A couple of weeks ago I came across reference to “The Tortoise and The Eagle“, one of Aesop’s Fables. (It’s really short; read it now!) It got me thinking about my fitness mindset that’s been evolving over the past year or so.

Beginning last Fall I started paring back most of my other fitness activity and started concentrating more solely on yoga. This focus is the funneling of a number of considerations, all filtered through one primary lens: I’m 56 years old. Before you think, “Oh, aging Taekwondo master starts wimping out” let me explain.

Before starting Taekwondo at age 33 I’d never been an athlete or fitness enthusiast of any sort and, beyond practicing Taekwondo, I really didn’t start any broader physical conditioning activity until age 42. That’s when I had my first opportunity to take part in a training trip to South Korea, along with a team of other black belts of various ages. We were led by our Korean Grand Master, about 60 years old at the time, former competitive athlete and military veteran, a true phenom. Our invitation letter welcomed us to “Hell Training” and stories from those who took part in earlier trips affirmed the accuracy of that expression. I had less than four months to get ready (crazy-short time) so I got to it: running (in fifty-below wind chills), training with weights, dropping fat (nearly 20 pounds). I went to Korea and did pretty darn well, actually, surprisingly. I returned home and kept up the training in good measure (not nearly so the running).

These past several years I haven’t kept up with the weight training on nearly the same basis; likewise, my dog walks largely have become only walks, without the running/sprinting part quite as frequently. This easing-off happened because I was finding that I had to keep myself fresh for Taekwondo classes in case I was the guy who had to lead training and set the pace. I had to keep some gas in the tank. I couldn’t find a balance of activity that worked for me for all contingencies. Age seemed to be weighing in on the matter.

About a year ago I heard an interview with Christopher Sommer, former U.S. Junior National Team gymnastics coach. He talked a lot about people’s tendencies to go at things too hard, particularly before setting a proper foundation. These quotes came out as Sommer talked about easing into training and small steps of progress over time: “We need to go slow now in order to go fast later” and “If you want to be a stud later you have to be a pud now.” The bottom line: don’t let ego screw things up.

I was particularly struck by something Sommer said: “I like yoga.” In 2017 many of us know a lot more about yoga’s challenges and benefits than the years-ago impression of skinny dudes from India folded over backwards.  A lot of it  seems similar to gymnastics and a lot of it is hard. You can get stronger doing yoga, and do so in a way that adds to, rather than subtracts from, other qualities such as flexibility and mobility.

In my prime of weight training and conditioning work I never really hit the results I’d hoped for. That’s because I either wasn’t clear on my goals or had competing goals.  I was doing both too much and not enough of different stuff. As Confucius (maybe) said: “The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” Why would someone even try to catch two rabbits? Because they think they can. Back to ego. Perhaps I simply needed to be smarter, know more, but my ego kept me from using information in front of me. Others’ information and experience. Because . . . I knew better.

Five to ten years later I have new goals to consider and a new balance to find. I need to think about the one rabbit I need to catch in order to eat tonight, and get clear on how to do that. I have to drop the ego so I can see the smart choices and take the right actions.

My goals are to be able to move well for many years to come — even Taekwondo level, as best I can — and be strong enough to allow me to do what I want to do, in the dojang, at home, on the trail, with kids and grandkids. I want to be THAT grandpa, the one who can still move smoothly, crawl around, hop across rocks, climb trees. I want to be a role model of an older Taekwondo practitioner, or of a former one. I want to fix or strengthen weaknesses I have, still undergirding for the future. The comprehensiveness — and requisite patience — of yoga seems to be a tool to get me there, one of them at least. Still, Chris, remember: one rabbit. Remember: pud now, stud later.

This doesn’t mean I won’t add in some other goals or training tools at some point. It doesn’t mean that I won’t do something competitive and push things to a limit (hopefully, with smarts, to avoid injury). But, since I’m beginning to stretch toward THIS and THIS, that’s more than enough for quite a while, combined with yet-improving my Taekwondo abilities. That, and some occasional sprints that leave Eko behind when I’m walking him, and hopping rock to rock up and down the trails around Enger. And an occasional tree climb (don’t tell my wife).

Perhaps most prominent for me going forward are two truths that have formed in my heart during prayer. One is the importance of joy being a motivation, in this case, doing physical activity that meets my needs and challenges me, yes, but which brings me joy. I shouldn’t work at something I don’t like, or go about something in a way that steals the joy of doing it. I don’t want to let ego take me places or lead to results where my motivations are somehow rooted in impressing or appeasing others, or to pat my own ego-self (sometimes known as younger-self or master-self, in my case) on the back. Find the way of joy and freedom.

The second sentiment is that my current body and its potential are gifts and I am to use them in service to others, both now and in the future. When picking an activity or setting a goal, when doing an honest, ego-free assessment of the potentials and risks to my body, the benefit or drain to my spirit, my commitment of time, I should ask myself, “Will this allow me to better serve others?” The alternative is to let myself become wrapped up in some ego narrative and rationalize away all kinds of conditions and consequences. With the gifts and opportunities I’ve been given, I want to make it about being able to better love and serve others.

It’s 12:50 on a Sunday. Time for this turtle to move along and work on that stud thing.

PS: As always, visit our North Shore Taekwondo site and ask yourself (not your doctor) if Taekwondo might be right for you.

One small step — for man, and woman

21 Aug

I started dieting yesterday. I’m going to drop 10 pounds in 10 weeks. I’m not following any particular diet. I’m just eating less, eating more sensibly, and making sure I get  a bit more exercise each day.

It’s hard not to notice the number of people who have jumped onto the nutrition shake band wagon. The shakes are pretty low-calorie and while folks are using the shakes they drop weight really fast. That surely excites them, so they stick with it a while and lose an even more remarkable amount of weight (I won’t go into whether they are likely losing mostly fat, or losing too much muscle as well). So, I see some such folk after six weeks and see a remarkable change.

Skip ahead two months. I see the same folks, with the extra weight back on.

Why does this happen? It’s simple: They don’t just eat an apple.

I’ve learned/am learning the hard way that small changes maintained over time have a much bigger and lasting impact than crash approaches. Big diets rarely make it a month. Even if they last longer, one’s return to regular eating is, well, a return to regular, not-so-good eating, which leads back to square one.

I’ve generally stunk at push-ups. When I’ve tried to work them hard in certain rep/set schemes, I never got better at them. Do you know how I got better at them? Just doing a few here and there throughout the day. It started with five: before breakfast, after lunch, returning home from an errand, during a commercial. Never more than that. Easy. Just frequently. Then it was ten at a time. Then sometimes more. Even though I never pushed it hard, it helped me to be able to do an easier twenty, and then past that to twenty-five or thirty. Just a gentle, regular pushing(up) forward.

What do most people get with a big, hard exercise push? A crash: overdoing it, then too many recovery days, then no habit, then stopping. Maybe injury, which postpones everything. Usually discouragement.

Back to eating that apple. When folks have asked me what I suggest to eat better and lose weight, I tell them two simple things:

1) If you tend to eat french fries (or potatoes/hash browns/whatever), don’t. Just don’t order them. Substitute fruits or vegetables if possible. Nine out of ten times is fine.

2) Eat an apple. Get in the habit of eating an apple a day, anytime, but particularly with good timing, such as a between-meal snack when hungry, rather than eating some crap, or before a meal, to help avoid eating more of other stuff that’s probably not as good for your waistline. Heck, eat an apple before a couple of meals.

I can guarantee that if you have some extra fat to lose, just doing those two simple things will take you there. Not overnight. Not this week. Maybe not a whole lot this month. But the small change of eating an apple (and not eating fries) will take hold. It will be a positive habit with good LASTING effect and benefit for months and years.

Whatever you’re thinking you want, or need, to do for betterment in your life, don’t go crazy for a big, immediate sea change. Just take one small action, on a day-by-day or instance-by-instance basis. Let it develop and work its magic over time. Once that small change takes hold, usually after a month or two, then make another, and keep at that one. Over the course of a year, that’s anywhere from six to twelve changes that are part of your life that weren’t there before.

As I’ve matured as an instructor, I don’t tell students more things to work on or change; I tell them less. Often it’s only one thing. Until they start to get that one thing, I resist telling them a different thing.  It doesn’t overwhelm them or make their head spin. It helps them focus. It teaches patience. It makes it do-able. It helps them improve and succeed. That one thing, combined with the multiple other one things I tell them over time, gradually and eventually lead to the most remarkable change.

Just eat an apple.

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