I guarantee YOU, you’re NOT Stretching enough

written by john c ashworth

People still come to me for fitness advice and conversation. I’m a full-time salesman and marketing maniac now, but for the first twenty-plus years of my career, I was a clinical exercise physiologist, personal trainer, health coach and fitness expert. Before that, I was an all-american soccer player and high-level athlete. I have a little experience with this stuff. Today, I call myself a bohemian athlete.

Many of us experience back pain in a variety of formats. Especially right now as I’m writing this, and we are sequestered in our homes in the fight to stop the spread of covid-19, we are spending a lot of time sitting and being sedentary. More than usual. When we do this, our bodies not only get tight, but our chakras get locked-up and energy stops flowing freely.

You can probably feel it right now. Some area of your body that is bothering you in some way. Your back. Your neck. Your Shoulder girdle. Your hips. Your knees. You pick the spot and it’s OK to choose more than one 🙂

For me this morning, it’s some of the usual stuff I feel when I haven’t been able to get to the pool often enough. Along with a new thing I’ve been nursing along in my neck and right shoulder. All of which is manageable if I choose to stretch enough throughout the day, instead of ignoring it and spending a lot of excess mental energy trying to work through it and hope it goes away. Hope is NOT a strategy.

I’ve got news for you…it’s probably not going to go away unless you choose to do something about it. And one of the most transformative actions you can take on a daily basis is to stretch your hamstrings. In years of training people and working with them on their fitness, this axiom held true over and over again. Almost everyone experiences back pain and for many of us there is a simple solution. Stretch your hamstrings. YES! I’m also saying that you should stretch more often in general, but I also know from years of working with people in this way, that this blanket recommendation will do almost nothing to change your behavior and get you to take action. But if I say instead, “Just spend 5 minutes three times a day stretching your hamstrings.” Well, now that seems more doable, doesn’t it? And the reason I almost always start with this is twofold…

First, you will almost certainly be amazed at how this transforms not just your back pain but your body’t energy flow and your mental state every day. It really can have a meaningful impact in a very short amount of time and very often, almost immediately.

Second, if you can’t even implement this one simple strategy that takes just 15 minutes a day, then you’re not ready or willing to adopt the mindset of the bohemian athlete and I’m not willing to waste any more of my time with you.

OK, go! And if you want, feel free to report back to me here or on facebook with the results.

-John

PS When I turned 30, my body was beginning to seize-up as a result of years of abuse on the soccer field. That was when I discovered yoga and the cathartic and transformative effects of regular stretching. Call it yoga or stretching or whatever you want. Call it old school calisthenics if you have to. Just start doing it. Your 5-minute sessions alone might be enough. And once you begin to experience the benefits of this ritual, you’ll likely find just like I did that you will desire more and more.

The most important part of your fitness program

written by john c ashworth

The most important part of your fitness program

As a former fitness coach and personal trainer and currently a fit, healthy fitness over 50 cadre member, people ask me from time to time what it is that I do to keep myself in shape.  

My answer is always begins with a little context.  Because my fitness program is not overly impressive.  I’ve just had it going regularly without fail for thirty plus years now.

“I keep going…”  I say.

“I never stop.  I’ve NEVER stopped.”

How long have YOU been working at it?

Keep going…

Don’t stop.

Look for modes of progression and seek expert advice to aid your quest. A little goes a long way. Especially when you can find a real expert.

I admit it. There’s a lot more to it than just your consistency.  Expert personal fitness program design is an art that finds its roots in science. You and your path are unique and need to be treated as such in order for you to achieve your potential.

Consistency, though…

That’s really the key, because without your regular commitment, no fitness program can produce the results you crave.

Ready?

We start here.

Go!

-John

PS My current fitness program includes all of the following: swimming 5-6 days per week (350-500m). Strength training twice per week. Walking 4-6 days per week (1-3 miles). Walking is sometimes curtailed a bit in the winter and in those times, I swim more. When it snows, my snow removal duties also add to the totals. Just as yard work does in the warmer months. And, of course, right at this very moment, my ability to get to the pool has been thwarted by covid-19, so I’m doing my best to adjust and missing that experience terribly 🙁

Here’s a screenshot from January of 2020. I cleared about 6 inches of snow that day in addition to my swim. I love the apple fitness tracking system. In combination with the Apple watch this tracking system actually provides a lot of useful data and constant feedback if you want it about how well you’re doing with your exercise and activity each day. Will get into that more later.

When you click on the swim workout that was recorded wearing the apple watch in the pool, you get even more specific data and information about your swim, including your average heart rate, which is extremely valuable data and information. Again, I plan to get into more about all of this in future posts about the Apple activity tracking system. I really like it.

swim workout on 011720
There are a number of things I really like about having access to this information for each workout, including average heart rate. An extremely valuable metric to track. -john c ashworth

PPS If I had to choose the second most important part of your fitness program it would be the tracking. In order to build a proper plan for safe and effective progression of your fitness program, you need to keep track of where you’ve been.

Want to feel good? Sleep MORE…

written by john c ashworth

I’m sitting here at my desk and wondering why in the world I feel so good today; and then it occurs to me…I got a lot of sleep last night 🙂

Sounds a little silly when I say it out loud, but that’s the truth and that’s why SLEEP is one of my three words for the year.

I know we all struggle with this, and that we all have good logical reasons why we struggle to get MORE sleep. Life is busy, especially for parents like Laura and I. Parents who work full-time and more, and who are devoted to providing our kids the kind of opportunities in life that should not be taken for granted. Sometimes you have to give up a little sleep to make all that happen.

But there are plenty of other times when sleep becomes elusive as a result of bad habits or loose organization in the evenings. I find that when I commit to it and make it a priority and focus my evening on turning out the lights at a certain specific time, that I can make it all happen a lot more often.

Sleep more this year. You’ll probably live longer, but more importantly, it won’t feel longer 🙂

-John

Luck is important and so is discipline

writing journals

written by john c ashworth

Recently, the idea of self-discipline and self-management has surfaced in my daily reading and notes.

I read a ton down here in the the ash flash workshop. I have a multitude of notebooks jammed into bookshelves and into the corners of almost every room. All of them with some really great stuff; and I’m finally finding a way to focus my daily efforts so that I can share all of it with you.

You should see this place. It’s fantastic. A dream cave where I hide-away and pursue my passions, and especially my writing.

I still remember a conversation I had more than twenty five years ago with one of my favorite graduate school professors and mentors. We were discussing all the time I was spending in the library at San Jose State University researching and writing papers on topics related to exercise physiology. I absolutely loved that time.

In describing this pursuit of knowledge and the satisfaction gained from it with my mentor, Dr Greg Payne, he said something to me that I’ll never forget.

“Well, John…It’s a good sign you’re in the right place.”

Back then, daily trips to the library were necessary to gather all of the information I needed for the work at hand. Today, much of that can be done right here in heart of the ash flash workshop. In fact, today the process can be a lot more overwhelming and distracted at times, because from right here, I can travel anywhere and do almost anything.

More recently, I’ve been able to find more focus and discipline in the pursuit of sharing this knowledge and expertise I’ve accumulated over the years on a variety of different subjects; and also some new ones that I’ve begun to explore.

The trick is to find your thing, pursue it with passion, and then find your owned unique way of sharing it with people. Whatever that might be. For me, it’s here on the ash flash and in all my writing.

…but if I can establish a habit of writing every day. That’s it. One simple goal. One simple mission. That’s all I need.

One simple path that will lead me where I want to go.

Writing every day will take me there.

In his book on writing, Stephen King said that, “writing can bring you freedom.”

I think he might be right.

-John

PS I hope you’re enjoying the ash flash. That you are learning from it as much as I am and that you find ideas and inspiration that help you improve your life and your business along the way.

writing journals
…a few of those journals full of gold I have lying around 🙂 -john c ashworth

This idea that you don’t like to exercise has NEVER made any sense to me…

john c ashworth pullups october 2019

written by john c ashworth

This idea that you don’t like exercise, or you don’t have time, or you just can’t find a way to get it done has NEVER really made any sense to me.

Here’s why

To me, this is the equivalent of saying, I don’t want to feel good, and more powerful. I don’t want to feel stronger and more energized. I don’t want to age well. I don’t want to look good. I just want to curl up in this little corner over here and pretend that it’s easier to avoid it.

Three to four days per week, I go to the gym at lunch time. Most of the time, I go for a swim. Sometimes I lift weights. No matter what, I go. And I’d go every single day if I didn’t have dog duty one or two days per week when my wife is at work and Allie is home alone.  

One day per week is devoted to my weekly pilgrimage to the chiropractor. Another essential ritual of recovery. Usually on Mondays following a weekend of yard work, more exercise and strength training, and lots of walking. But even on Mondays, I go for a walk after I get adjusted. My blood needs to move. I want to thrive and this is how I do it.

Every single time I go, the experience is cathartic. I walk in one way, and walk out in a completely new dimension of time and space. My own little twilight zone where I emerge as a superhero. An energized human being firing on all neurons again.  

Feeling more alive. More alert. More powerful. More effective. And more influential.

Yeah…I just really don’t understand that idea that you just don’t want to do it.  

Can you see why?

-John