Why Am I Working Out On The Range??

A few years ago a friend and I attended a very high energy, fun, and challenging shooting course. During the course we essentially did a CrossFit lite workout while shooting drills during each block of instruction. This was done in the form of various bodyweight exercises, sandbags, tire flips, sprints, and buddy carries which preceded each course of fire. I had a blast. Sitting in the car during the ride home I felt like I had been through fight prep workout. I was sore, covered in dirt, sunburnt, and mentally drained. I looked at my friend, and said dude this was a great class. He said, “What did we learn? All I could think is why am I working out on the range? I have a gym membership. I run miles every week. I came here to learn how to shoot better. All we did was workout, in between shooting. I didn’t really learn anything.”

At the time I chalked it up to him being a little salty because during one exercise he was having a hard time getting his hits. When he asked the instructor what he was doing wrong the instructor said, “watch your front sight. Sights and trigger man, that’s what you need to do.” My friend thought this was a less than stellar answer, and from that point forward he was just not into the class. Or so I thought. After some more conversation I realized he wasn’t butt hurt by the instructors lackluster coaching, he really wanted to know what I had learned? My response was that I can function well while in oxygen deficit, that if I execute my technique correctly I will still get my hits even if my arms, and/or legs have turned to mush. My biggest takeaway was to always trust my technique, the only times I struggled with making my hits was when I got ahead of myself, and didn’t focus on hitting my technical performance points. While he could see my points, he still thought he wasted his time at the class. I also could see his point which was; no amount of physical exhaustion would prepare one to perform optimally under duress. In his words, “it’s just not the same animal.”

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Burpees with a pullup at the top of the jump in between the course of fire? Sure, why not!

Fast forward a few years, and I’m talking to the same friend about a recent competition he participated in which involved a lot of running and gunning. He said, “I had a rough start but then I remembered your takeaway about trusting the technique, and focusing on the technique when you were tired. I started focusing on the front sight, trusting that it was where I needed it to be, and working the trigger. I did that, and ended up finishing in the top 5.” Sometimes when we take a class it might seem like we’re not getting much from the effort, and we might have to overcome a metric ton of internal resistance. We might even think this is a complete waste of our time and energy. However, sometimes we aren’t ready for the lesson yet. We need a little more experience, or the right circumstances to bring meaning, and value to the lessons we’re learning. Train and practice as often as you can, do the work, and trust the process. Educate yourself as much as possible through training and experience, which includes the classes or practices that feel like a waste. When the time is right, you’ll have the knowledge necessary to do what you need to do.

Changing Mental Habits

This is somewhat of a departure from the normal material I cover on this blog however, I think it’s as important if not the most important aspect of multidisciplinary work. Developing a proactive, adaptable, problem solving mindset. This is one way, of many ways, I’ve found to reach that objective.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to attend several events that featured fantastic pubic speakers such as Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, as well as other business leaders, self-improvement gurus, time management experts, and subject matter experts on every area of human performance. I still employ almost everything I learned at these events. One of the challenges we were charged with is the 7 Day Mental Fast. Essentially I was to go 7 days, (which was the duration of the course), without a negative thought, without complaining, and without gossiping. Any thoughts that would be considered negative or leading to negativity were to be abandoned. Now here is the catch; if at any time I reverted to negative thinking the 7 day clock starts over. That’s the subtle beauty of this challenge, there is a possibility it will never end. It’s structured in such a way that almost 17 years later I’m still working on perfecting this since every time I will eventually fail, and the clock resets. Learning to love and embrace the process is a post for another time. 

I know what you might be thinking; to walk around refusing to have a negative thought is unrealistic. Life happens, things happen, and we might have to think about negative things. I get it, and that’s part of the process. However, this is the challenge. Rather than dwell on the challenge or obstacle, and allow negative thoughts to overrun us we want to, as quickly as possible, recognize the negative thought pattern and direct our thoughts back towards solution based thinking. We want to start dwelling on a way up, over, around or though obstacle rather than spin our wheels talking about how much this sucks, this is bullshit, why does this have to happen to us, and all the other thought patterns we might be used to engaging. This challenge is about building new mental habits. As multidisciplinary trainees we are always striving to become more adaptable, and this is one of the tools we can use to develop the mental agility we might need to take on a life threatening challenge. I would encourage you all to pick up a copy of The 7 Day Mental Diet by Emmet Fox where he goes into detail on this process. It’s an old book, fairly short, and an easy read yet the message is powerful. I’ll post a segment of the book below.

Here are a few things I noted while going through this process. Much like when we physically diet, our cravings are a clue. When we start paying attention to our inner dialogue as well as what we allow our thoughts to dwell on we start to pick up on patterns, and pitfalls. There will be negative patterns we “crave”. For some reason, beyond my pay grade, we all find a bit of comfort in the normal or the usual even if that normal or usual is a negative self defeating thought pattern. Recognizing this pattern is the first step to breaking it, and establishing better more productive patterns. One of the things I noticed in my mental patterns was a tendency to say this is bullshit, and just accept that because things have always been a certain way things will continue to always be a certain way. This is simply not true however, addressing the things that needed to change to make sure things don’t remain this way was a lot of work, and extremely uncomfortable. It was comforting to just accept that things can’t change. Once I recognized this pattern, now that I was paying attention to any negative thoughts, it became easier to see this pattern coming and shut it down before it built too much momentum.

This practice of a mental diet becomes increasingly important as our training load increases due to competition or some other deadline. Everything becomes a struggle between the diet, S&C work, skill work, getting your sparring sessions in, and attempting to maintain some semblance of a home life the negative starts to creep in. Stay on your mental diet, and refuse to allow yourself a mental cheat meal. It’s just not worth it. Keep yourself in a proactive positive mental state. You’ll find dealing with the nagging injuries and fatigue that accompanies competition prep easier to deal with if you refuse to allow a negative thought to gain a foothold.

As promised here is a segment from the book. The language reflects the time in which the book was written but the truths in the book are timeless. I hope you enjoy it, and consider starting your mental diet today.

The Seven Day Mental Diet

by Emmet Fox

The subject of diet is one of the foremost topics of the present day in public interest. Newspapers and magazines teem with articles on the subject. The counters of the bookshops are filled with volumes unfolding the mysteries of proteins, starches, vitamins, and so forth. dust now the whole world is food-conscious. Experts on the subject are saying that physically you become the thing that you eat — that your whole body is really composed of the food that you have eaten in the past. What you eat today, they say, will be in your bloodstream after the lapse of so many hours, and it is your blood-stream that builds all the tissues composing your body — and there you are. Of course, no sensible person has any quarrel with all this. It is perfectly true, as far as it goes, and the only surprising thing is that it has taken the world so long to find it out; but in this article I am going to deal with the subject of dieting at a level that is infinitely more profound and far-reaching in its effects. I refer of course to mental dieting.

The most important of all factors in your life is the mental diet on which you live. It is the food which you furnish to your mind that determines the whole character of your life. It is the thoughts you allow yourself to think, the subjects that you allow your mind to dwell upon, which make you and your surroundings what they are. As thy days, so shall thy strength be. Everything in your life today — the state of your body, whether healthy or sick, the state of your fortune, whether prosperous or impoverished’, the state of your home, whether happy or the reverse, the present condition of every phase of your life in fact —  is entirely conditioned by the thoughts and feelings which you have entertained in the past, by the habitual tone of your past thinking. And the condition of your life tomorrow, and next week, and next year, will be entirely conditioned by the thoughts and feelings which you choose to entertain from now onwards.

In other words, you choose your life, that is to say, you choose all the conditions of your life, when you choose the thoughts upon which you allow your mind to dwell. Thought is the real causative force in life, and there is no other. You cannot have one kind of mind and another kind of environment. This means that you cannot change your environment while leaving your mind unchanged, nor — and this is the supreme key to life and the reason for this article — can you change your mind without your environment changing too.

This then is the real key to life: if you change your mind your conditions must change too. Your body must change, your daily work or other activities must change; your home must change; the color-tone of your whole life must change, for whether you be habitually happy and cheerful, or low-spirited and fearful, depends entirely on the quality of the mental food upon which you diet yourself. Please be very clear about this. If you change your mind your conditions must change too. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. So now you will see that your mental diet is really the most important thing in your whole life.

This may be called the Great Cosmic Law, and its truth is seen to be perfectly obvious when once it is clearly stated in this way. In fact, I do not know of any thoughtful person who denies its essential truth. The practical difficulty in applying it, however, arises from the fact that our thoughts are so close to us that it is difficult, without a little practice, to stand back as it were and look at them objectively. Yet that is just what you must learn to do.

You must train yourself to choose the subject of your thinking at any given time, and also to choose the emotional tone, or what we call the mood that colors it. Yes, you can choose your moods. Indeed, if you could not you would have no real control over your life at all. Moods habitually entertained produce the characteristic disposition of the person concerned, and it is his disposition that finally makes or mars a person’s happiness.

You cannot be healthy; you cannot be happy; you cannot be prosperous; if you have a bad disposition. If you are sulky, or surly, or cynical, or depressed, or superior, or frightened half out of your wits, your life cannot possibly be worth living. Unless you are determined to cultivate a good disposition, you may as well give up all hope of getting anything worth while out of life, and it is kinder to tell you very plainly that this is the case. If you are not determined to start in now and carefully select all day the kind of thoughts that you are going to think, you may as well give up all hope of shaping your life into the kind of thing that you want it to be, because this is the only way.

In short, if you want to make your life happy and worth while, which is what God wishes you to make it, you must begin immediately’ to train yourself in the habit of thought selection and thought control. This will be exceedingly difficult for the first few days, but if you persevere you will find that it will become rapidly easier, and it is actually the most interesting experiment that you could possibly make. in fact, this thought control is the most thrillingly inter’ interesting hobby that anyone could take up. You will be amazed at the interesting things that you will learn about yourself, and you will get results almost from the beginning.

Now many people knowing this truth, make sporadic efforts from time to time to control their thoughts, but the thought stream being so close, as I have pointed out, and the impacts from outside so constant and varied, they do not make very much progress. That is not the way to work. Your only chance is definitely to form a new habit of thought which will carry you through when you are preoccupied or off your guard as well as when you are con’ consciously attending to the business. This new thought habit must be definitely acquired, and the foundation of it can be laid within a few days, and the way to do it is this:

Make up your mind to devote one week solely to the task of building a new habit of thought, and during that week let everything in life be unimportant as compared with that. If you will do so, then that week will be the most significant week in your whole life. It will literally be the turning’ point for you. If you will do so, it is safe to say that your whole life will change for the better. In fact, nothing can possibly remain the same. This does not simply mean that you will be able to face your present difficulties in a better spirit; it means that the difficulties will go. This is the scientific way to Alter Your Life, and being in accordance with the Great Law it cannot fail. Now do you realize that by working in this way you do not have to change conditions What happens is that you apply the Law, and then the conditions change spontaneously. You cannot change conditions directly — you have often tried to do so and failed — but go on the SEVEN DAY MENTAL DIET and conditions must change for you.

This then is your prescription. For seven days you must not allow yourself to dwell for a single moment on any kind of negative thought. You must watch yourself for a whole week as a cat watches a mouse, and you must not under any pretense allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic, kind. This discipline will be so strenuous that you could not maintain it consciously for much more than a week, bur I do not ask you to do so. A week will be enough, because by that time the habit of positive thinking will begin to be established. Some extraordinary changes for the better will have come into your life, encouraging you enormously, and then the future will take care of itself. The new way of life will be so attractive and so much easier than the old way that you will find your mentality aligning itself almost automatically.

But the seven days are going to be strenuous’. I would not have you enter upon this without counting the cost. Mere physical fasting would be child’s play in comparison, even if you have a very good appetite. The most exhausting form of army gymnastics, combined with thirty mile route marches, would be mild in comparison with this undertaking. But it is only for one week in your life, and it will definitely alter every’ thing for the better. For the rest of your life here, for all eternity in fact, things will be utterly different and inconceivably better than if you had not carried through this undertaking.

Do not start it lightly. Think about it for a day or two before you begin. Then start in, and the grace of God go with you. You may start it any day in the week, and at any time in the day, first thing in the morning, or after breakfast, or after lunch, it does not matter, but once you do start you must go right through for the seven days. That is essential. The whole idea is to have seven days of unbroken mental discipline in order to get the mind definitely bent in a new direction once and for all.

If you make a false start, or even if you go on well for two or three days and then for any reason “fall off” the diet, the thing to do is to drop the scheme altogether for several days, and then to start again afresh. There must be no jumping on and off, as it were. You remember that Rip Van Winkle in the play would take a solemn vow of teetotalism, and then promptly accept a drink from the first neighbor who offered him one, saying calmly: “I won’t count this one. Well, on the SEVEN DAY MENTAL DIET this sort of thing simply will not do. You must positively count every lapse, and whether you do or not, Nature will. Where there is a lapse you must go off the diet altogether and then start again.

Now, in order, if possible, to forestall difficulties, I will consider them in a little detail.

First of all, what do I mean by negative thinking? Well, a negative thought is any thought of failure, disappointment, or trouble; any thought of criticism, or spite, or jealousy, or condemnation of others, or self-condemnation; any thought of sickness or accident; or, in short, any kind of limitation or pessimistic thinking. Any thought that is not positive and constructive in character, whether it concerns you yourself or anyone else, is a negative thought. Do not bother too much about the question of classification, however; in practice you will never have any trouble in knowing whether a given thought is positive or negative. Even if your brain tries to deceive you, your heart will whisper the truth.

Second, you must be quite clear that what this scheme calls for is that you shall not entertain, or dwell upon negative things. Note this carefully. It is not the thoughts that come to you that matter, but only such of them as you choose to entertain and dwell upon. It does not matter what thoughts may come to you provided you do not entertain them. It is the entertaining or dwelling upon them that matters. Of course, many negative thoughts ‘will come to you all day long. Some of them will just drift into your mind of their own accord seemingly, and these come to you out of the race mind. Other negative thoughts will be given to you by other people, either in conversation or by their conduct, or you will hear disagreeable news perhaps by letter or telephone, or you will see crimes and disasters announced in the newspaper headings. These things, however, do not matter as long as you do not entertain them. In fact, it is these very things that provide the discipline that is going to transform you during this epoch-making week. The thing to do is, directly the negative thought presents itself — turn it out. Turn away from the newspaper; turn out the thought of the unkind letter, or stupid remark, or what not. When the negative thought floats into your mind, immediately turn it out and think of something else. Best of all, think of God as explained in The Golden Key. A perfect analogy is furnished by the case of a man who is sitting by an open fire when a red hot cinder flies out and falls on his sleeve. If he knocks that cinder off at once, w without a moment’s delay to think about it, no harm is done. But if he allows it to rest on him for a single moment, under any pretense, the mischief is done, and it will be a troublesome task to repair that sleeve. So it is with a negative thought.

Now what of those negative thoughts and conditions which it is impossible to avoid at the point where you are today? What of the ordinary troubles that you will have to meet in the office or at home? The answer is, that such things will not affect your diet provided that you do not accept them, by fearing them, by believing them, by being indignant or sad about them, or by giving them any power at all. Any negative condition that duty compels you to handle will not affect your diet. Go to the office, or meet the cares at home, without allowing them to affect you. (None of these things move me), and all will be well. Suppose that you are lunching with a friend who talks negatively — do not try to shut him up or otherwise snub him. Let him talk, but do nor accept what he says, and your diet will not be affected. Suppose that on coming home you are greeted with a lot of negative conversation — do not preach a sermon, but simply do not accept it. It is your mental consent, remember, that constitutes your diet. Suppose you witness an accident or an act of injustice let us say — instead of reacting with pity or indignation, refuse to accept the appearance at its face value; do anything that you can to right matters, give it the right thought, and let it go at that. You will still be on the diet.

Of course, it will be very helpful if you can take steps to avoid meeting during this week anyone who seems particularly likely to arouse the devil in you. People who get on your nerves, or rub you up the wrong way, or bore you, are better avoided while you are on the diet; but if it is not possible to avoid them, then you must take a little extra discipline — that is all.

Suppose that you have a particularly trying ordeal before you next week. Well, if you have enough spiritual understanding you will know how to meet that in the spiritual’ way; but, for our present purpose, I think I would wait and start the diet as soon as the ordeal is over. As I said before, do not take up the diet lightly, but think it over well first.

In closing, I want to tell you that people often find that the starting of this diet seems to stir up all sorts of difficulties. It seems as though everything begins to go wrong at once. This may be disconcerting, but it is really a good sign. It means that things are moving; and is not that the very object we have in view? Suppose your whole world seems to rock on its foundations. Hold on steadily, let it rock, and when the rocking is over, the picture will have reassembled itself into something much nearer to your heart’s desire.

The above point is vitally important and rather subtle. Do you not see that the very dwelling upon these difficulties is in itself a negative thought which has probably thrown you off the diet? The remedy is not, of course, to deny that your world is rocking in appearance, but to refuse to take the appearance for the reality. Judge not according to appearances but judge righteous judgment.

A closing word of caution: Do not tell anyone else that you are on the diet, or that you intend to go on it. Keep this tremendous project strictly to yourself. Remember that your soul should be the Secret Place of the Most High. When you have come through the seven days successfully, and secured your demonstration, allow a reasonable’ time to elapse to establish the new mentality, and then tell the story to anyone else who you think is likely to be helped by it. And, finally, remember that nothing said or done by anyone else can possibly throw you off the diet. Only your own reaction to the other person’s conduct can do that.

Look First, part II

In part one of Look First we talked about seeing into a space before entering. In this post let’s check out some exercises we can do to increase our ability to see everything we need to see.

For the first exercise we need two post-it notes or a comparable small, yet colorful object to use as a point of focus. For the first exercise we want to work on our eye speed moving horizontally. We need a wall, and three to five yards of space. On the wall place two post-it notes at the same height, (I would suggest head height), approximately one yard apart. Standing 3-5 yards away from the wall focus on the post-it on our left, now move our eyes quickly to the second post-it, and focus on the center of the post-it. Once we are focused, shift our eyes back to the first post-it. That’s one repetition. Repeat for 25 repetitions. Let’s start with 25 repetitions, and work our way up to 50 or more.

Our next exercise is to work on vertical scanning speed. Everything is the same as the first exercise except we are going to place the two post-it notes in a vertical line approximately one yard apart with the first post-it note being about chest high from the ground and the second post-it note being about a yard above the first.  Repeat the steps as above moving only our eyes vertically for 25 repetitions, and gradually working our way up to 50 or more repetitions.

A word of caution with the eye speed exercises, take you time. The first time I worked on these I gave myself a wicked headache by trying to push too fast for too long. Progressive Overload is the key here.

The third exercise I want to share with you all is difficult to explain via text but here goes! Place one post-it note on the wall we used for the drills described above. Head or chest height will work for this exercise. Focus intensely on the post-it. Now we extend our arms straight out to our sides at shoulder height. Turning our hands so our palms face the same wall we are looking at, begin to move your fingers. The objective is to maintain visual focus on the post-it note while still seeing our fingers move in our peripheral vision. If we need to adjust our arms forward to see our fingers move do so however, our goal is to move our arms as far to the rear as possible while still seeing our fingers move, and still maintaining a laser-like focus on the post-it. Attempt to broaden your vision as much as possible.

The fourth exercise is similar to the third except now we are trying to see as high and low as possible vertically. Focus on the post-it note on the wall, now we’re going to raise one arm straight above our head, and keep our other arm straight down. Moving one arm at a time we are going to move our arms forward until we can pick up the movement of our fingers while still maintaining focus on the post-it. Again, attempt to broaden your vision as much as possible.

With the third and fourth exercises do one minute repetitions with a one minute rest. During the rest period close our eyes and relax the eyes as much as possible. Do three to five 1 minute repetitions.

Again, we should be cautious and ease into these exercises. Eye fatigue, the accompanying headache, are no joke. When I first learned to do these exercises I went all in, doing them everyday multiple times a day. In retrospect I don’t think that’s the best approach however, with the way I’m wired moderation isn’t exactly a strong point. For someone just starting I would recommend three times a week to start, and don’t be afraid to back it down to two times a week until you adapt. Ultimately our objective is to be able to do exercises three and four while moving. Sidebar; If there is one thing I would have changed about my training journey it would have been to take my time, aim for consistent incremental progression toward long term goals rather than trying to conquer everything RIGHT NOW!! That’s material for another blog post…

Look First

William Aprill of Aprill Risk Consulting advises us to look into a space before entering. While this might seem to be a simple action how many of us apply this in everything we do? I know I don’t practice this simple preventative technique as often as I should. When approaching our vehicle do we look through the windows into the interior of the car before we open the door and enter? When we are approaching a place of business do we look into the space we are about to enter by looking through the exterior windows to include the windows found in the entry doors? Doing this can gives us a glimpse into the space we are about to enter. It only takes a moment to look first, before entering however, this moment might just save us from an unwanted surprise. Surprise equals deficit, and we want to avoid ever being in a deficit.

Make it a habit to look into doorways you pass as you walk down a hallway or as you mover through a room. In the beginning it might seem a little slow, and take quite a bit of conscious effort however, over time it will become second nature. As you become more aware of your environment, and adapt to processing more information you will find yourself able to more rapidly respond to various stimulus. Practice the “what if” game as you go about your day. Think about what you will do if a situation presents itself. This is part of looking first as you are mentally “looking first” at a possible situation, and working your way through various contingencies.

Physically we have to get into the habit of practicing our wide-angle-vision, attempting to gather as much data as possible mentally and physically to best prepare ourselves for whatever we may encounter. We have to do this in as relaxed a manner as possible since walking around with a wild-eyed look might attract some negative attention… One simple exercise I was taught to develop this skill was to stand in a doorway facing into a room. Take a small step into the room so that you are just barely breaking the plane of the door frame. Without turning your head, keeping your eyes forward, attempt to widen your vision so that you can see the corners of the room to your left and right. It might take a little work, learning to relax your vision and widen your focus from whatever is in front of you but you can do it. With a little effort you will be able to see the entire room without moving your head or eyes. The next step is develop this skill to the point you can do this while walking at your normal pace, or driving your car, moving up and down stairs or across an open space. Really challenge yourself, and let’s find out just how far into a space we can be mentally and visually before we physically enter that space.

More to come on this topic.