The Essence of Change

I’m going to take a break from general exercise and nutrition tips to talk about what I feel is fundamental to making any kind of lasting change. It’s something that I have begun to realize about myself through my own transformation over time, and it’s my hope that you too can get some insight from it.

I firmly believe that all of us desire to be better versions of ourselves; to be better than we were yesterday. This requires change and changerequires time, effort and consistency.  Time, effort and consistency are things we are in short supply of in this day and age where we barely have time to breathe. Here’s the thing, though: the previous statement is merely an excuse. One of the many excuses that we force ourselves to believe each day. “I don’t have the time,” “I don’t have the energy.” Sound familiar?

The real issue: change is scary. Downright terrifying. Why? Because we must challenge and confront the one thing that we really fear – our true selves. To the outside world, we usually wear a mask that shows us in the best light possible: strong, confident, caring, generous, loving, hard working.  Often what’s hidden behind that mask is doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, and perhaps even a feeling of stagnancy in your life.

Wearing the mask for too long can lead to many different crises in our lives, self-doubt, anger, and pain. It can cause hardship and turmoil. This poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar sums it up nicely:

We Wear the Mask

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,   

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,    

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs?    

Nay, let them only see us, while  

We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries    

To thee from tortured souls arise.    

We sing, but oh the clay is vile    

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;   

But let the world dream otherwise,            

We wear the mask!

I know if you’re reading up to this point, you’re probably saying to yourself “Wow, this is kind of depressing.” I don’t blame you. But this is necessary. Introspection is required to begin making changes. It’s scary, and totally worth it.

Why is it worth it? Because it can bring us to the realization that the mask we are wearing is not necessarily a façade, but a part of what we truly are. Weuse it to hold back and suppress the darker side. The side we don’t want to show others. We can’t show thembecause that side is bad, it’s wrong…right?

As humans, we need to be able to fit into society, so we have to cultivate habits that allow us all to get along with one another. It’s an intrinsic survival mechanism, hence the mask – the mask that only shows our best qualities. If you can begin to look past this façade, and face the scary part of you – the part that isn’t what the mask makes you out to be – the one that isn’t perfect – you will find something great. You will find your true self.

The virtues that the mask extolled were not false, though most likely inflated. When confronted and ultimately forgiven by you, the imperfections and flaws which your inflated sense of self (ego) hid will lead to self-acceptance. It’s easy to accept the good, but in order to love yourself completely you have learn to accept the not-so-good. Once you do that, you may find that not much change needed, just self-acceptance leading to self-actualization.

Following this line of thought to its bottom-line, leads to truth – your own personal truth. Have you ever thought about what your passion is? What is your purpose in this life is? What mark you want to leave? Those answers are found when you face yourself- good and bad- and begin to embrace the real you. The truth comes forth and you can then really see what you want, and what you must do to obtain it. I know it sounds corny and cliché, but it’s the truth.

Now, exactly how does this relate to health, wellness, and exercise? Well,why do most people say they are going to go to the gym to get fit and healthy,wind up quitting before they reach their goal or do not even go? Why do so few people become fit? Why do even fewer maintain fitness? Because, typically, those who don’t succeed in the long run arefocused on making their mask look better rather than making themselves better as a whole. The emphasis is often placed on extrinsic qualities and rewards rather than intrinsic ones.

When we base this desire to improve on our mask only and we fall short, we quit for sake of preserving the mask. Essentially, that desire to improve yourself was no longer congruent with your mask because you were not able to keep up the best practices long enough. When we base the desire to improve ourselves intrinsically, learning to accept that we have flaws and that we won’t be perfect all the time, it will not become easier, but will be more congruent toour true self – imperfect.

So while you can still make temporary changes to your body, and perhaps look good for a little bit, you won’t feel whole until you’ve looked inside and confronted your true self, learned to accept it, love it, and ultimately act from that place in everything that you do. It’s not always about trimming the fat from your waistline so much as about trimming the fat from your life.

To your health and wellness,

Martin Arroyo, CPT

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Slow and steady always wins the race

It’s the beginning of a new year and there are quite a few new faces at the gym I frequent. I go there, but I don’t spend a lot of time IN there. I like my workouts how I like my women, short and sweet! When I workout at the gym, I’m in and out in about an hour. This includes changing in the locker room, warm up and workout, cool down, shower (and brush teeth!). There is a trend that I notice among exercise newbies though – they spend a WHOLE lot of time in the gym. I’m talking 1-2 hours a workout, sometimes 5 days a week. That’s 5-10 hours a week exercising! The more the better though, right? Not necessarily.

Exercise is simply a stressor which stimulates our neuromuscular system. It activates our fight or flight response, which has three phases: the alarm, resistance, and exhaustion phases.

Alarm Phase – In terms of exercise, this is when you’re working out and your heart rate increases, blood vessels expand, and your body starts series of chemical reactions to provide energy for these movements.

Resistance Phase – You’re finished, and you’re a sweaty, stinky mess. Now your heart rate begins to return to normal and you start healing from that workout (i.e. returning to homeostasis.)

Exhaustion phase – You’re feeling sluggish all the time. You’re tired. You feel weak. You’re much more likely to get sick. Your performance in the gym has decreased and you find it hard to want to do it anymore. YOU ARE TOO STRESSED. Welcome to the exhaustion phase. Your body is having a hard time returning to normal, and things are starting to break down. One of two things typically happen here with newbies – they keep pushing to the point of injury, or they stop for a few days to recover and those few days turns into a week and just snowballs from there. Then poof! All those gains are gone and you have to pass go again, but you don’t collect $200.

What you want to do is stay within the first two phases, alarm and resistance. To do that, you have to find a balance. You do that by starting slow and not trying to push yourself too hard at first. Keep it to 40 minutes tops at first (listen to your body, it knows what’s best for you!) For a complete newbie, going from almost no working out to 1 – 2 hours is only giving you a one-way ticket to exhaustion phase. Same holds true if you’re not a newbie, but have been off for a while (more than a month of no activity.)

Don’t buy into the hype that more is better when it comes to exercise. Quality is king. Quantity can make you sick. Ease into things and you’ll have much better results. Promise.

To your health and wellness,

Martin Arroyo, CPT

If you have any questions related to this post or health, wellness and fitness please contact me! I love talking to others about my passion!

The One Lifehack that Will help you Eat Less (without dieting!)

I’m a clean plate eater. Have been that way since I was first able to eat without my mom having to make airplane noises while feeding me. Coming from a Latino family, eating EVERYTHING in front of you is expected (you can seriously catch some hell if you don’t finish!) While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this mindset (who wants to waste good when people are starving elsewhere?), but if you couple this with our tendency to eat fast, it can easily do damage to your waistline. I know, if I feel like it and it’s in front of me, I could eat an entire Dominoes pizza quick, just because it’s there and I feel hungry.

Have you ever been so hungry that you grab the easiest meal you can get your hands on, scarf it down and feel bad about it afterwards? Worse yet, do you feel hungry about an hour later? They say that it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. So here’s my lifehack to help you listen to your stomach, feel fuller, and eat less. Benefit: It could help you lose weight and keep it off.

Here’s how to get started with the 20 Minute Rule today:

-Set aside the time to eat your food. The rule here, of course, is 20 minutes. If you’re crunched for time, say, at work (15-30 minute break only) try to prepare your food ahead and you won’t have to worry about the hassle of going out to grab something.

– On your phone, set the timer for 20 minutes (Pro tip: Start the timer AFTER you Instagram your food)

– Once the timer’s set, EAT. Important: Chew slowly, and savor the flavor of the food. Put the fork/spoon down every so often. (Pro tip #2: Take a deep belly breath every so often. You’d be surprised how that can make you feel fuller faster.)

The MOST important part to doing this successfully: There must either still be food on your plate when the timer goes off, or you’re just about finished with the entire meal. If you have leftovers, great! Save it for later (can you say “budget hack“?)

There you have it. An easy rule of thumb that you can start doing today to feel fuller longer and potentially lose weight. No diet added here.

To your health and wellness,

Martin Arroyo, CPT