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Living With Purpose: A Challenge Fear Can Sabotage

I find the holiday season to be challenging mentally, emotionally and physically. I am sure many of you who are reading these words feel a similar pressure of the current year ending – and the uncertainty of the new one to come. During this time of the year I have found myself being repeatedly burdened by entertaining old, worn out, negative thinking which leaves me exhausted and prone to getting sick, frustrated and fearful of the unknown time ahead.

The mind-body connection

This year it has been no different for me as I seem to be facing a past challenge regarding my belief in myself, my self-worth – and my purpose. For the better part of the last week and a half I have been struggling with a bad case of what I believe is the flu. With this latest (rare) bout of illness I have been blessed with a large dose of coughing, sneezing, general weakness and a very substantial lethargy. I believe in the power of the mind to bring us health and well-being but I also believe our thoughts (and beliefs) can – and do – deliver to us the other side of life which includes illness, unease, a genuine lack of self-confidence, and a sense of what I will call “hopelessness” – a feeling of living without purpose.

This is how I have started to feel in December – that regardless of what I have done, written or spoken about in terms of my passion for healthy aging, that it matters little and that I am wasting my time. This thought has occurred to me many times before and I am sharing it with you now because I am going through this challenge in this moment in time. ALL of us at some point in our life (and in my case it has been more than once) have felt empty inside and afraid – fearful of the unknown, of not being enough, of having chosen our path in life badly – and much more “baggage” that we carry around with us every day! It is a burden we decide to carry. It is up to each of us to decide to stop carrying this extra weight – or it will remain a “drag” on our life well into the future! We don’t need negative thought patterns ruining our lives, do we?

Fighting negative thoughts

The point is that it takes courage and discipline to “fight” this negative “wave” of feelings and thoughts. The first step that we can take to address this important issue is to become AWARE that it is happening – and to STOP and THINK in order to increase the possibility of changing your mind in order to “reassert” your power over your training – but your life as well. I am grateful for these reminders as they spur me to make the choice again that I AM valuable and worthy of success. Even at 70 I am dealing with this very issue as Christmas approaches – again. I had a terrible Thanksgiving because I could not be with my daughter and grandson and tonight had a harsh exchange of words with her over the phone (frustration, anger, fear – whatever it may be.)

What this matter basically comes down to is a FIRM belief in ourselves – and our own unique purpose – that we are alive for a reason. It is incumbent upon each of us to maintain a vigilant and forceful awareness that CAN prevent negative thoughts from derailing our dreams from becoming fully realized. If we allow these negative thought patterns to remain in our subconscious minds over time they WILL harm us emotionally, mentally and physically. ALL life – and reality – begins with thought, so guard your thoughts well! I am sorry to report that we are never done with these challenges of the mind and they can – and DO repeat (sometimes – not always) for a reason: To REMIND us of who we are – and are becoming. The ego wants to regain control of our thought patterns and return us to an earlier status quo that never worked for us – and never will.

The antidote for this negative “cycle of thought” is an examination of what we are doing and how well we are doing it. Can we improve our behavior? Our discipline? Our planning? Our listening? What is it that we are seeing again – and why? My conversation (argument) with my daughter showed me I am still capable of entertaining past negative thinking with poor results showing up again in my life. What a DRAG! Low self-worth and self-esteem can raise doubt and fear in all of us. What I am experiencing right now is a reminder of the road I have travelled – and the miles I have to go. It is always incumbent upon each of us to be “self aware” and allow this awareness to guide us to take personal responsibility for our behavior – and thoughts – (all that any of us can control  and then, and only then, will we make it successfully to our goal and accomplish our mission.

Our fitness programming follows this same logic and if we believe we cannot make it – we won’t. Our thoughts determine our results and our belief systems determine everything else of importance in our lives. DON’T LET FEAR AND SELF DOUBT control your future destiny. DO NOT entertain thoughts that in and of themselves are self destructive. I don’t know how the distance with my daughter will be bridged before Christmas but it will probably include compromise and some serious mutual listening.

Conflict in itself solves NOTHING but it CAN promote growth and understanding so I am not shy about engaging in a good argument – if it leads to greater mutual understanding – and peace. It is in HOW we disagree that matters. I argue with my feelings leading the way sometimes and that CAN be hurtful, but in this hurting we may get the opportunity to expand our definition of ourselves – and expand our consciousness as well. This is what I would call a “win – win”. This potential outcome CAN help us grow into a new definition of ourselves and create new opportunities with those we love – and with those others we value in our lives. It is about taking some risk and exposing ourselves to being uncomfortable for a while. I feel it is worth the effort – just be smart about how you go about implementing this idea!

I am convinced this time of year is challenging for all of us because there is much we need to learn – not only about ourselves – but about each other as well. After 45 years of being a father I am still learning about what that means and tonight I found out I am still NOT as patient or compassionate as I thought I was and so some “soul searching” will be required to bring me back to my best path of growth and understanding with those I love.

Take time today to reflect not only on your relationship with yourself but also with those you love and care about and see what emerges. You might be in for some amazing surprises and only YOU can do this work. Becoming a thoughtful listener is really the key to effective communication so practice that skill a lot! We have TWO ears and ONE mouth for a reason. I really find the holiday season to be about buying “STUFF” and not about appreciating our many blessings. This thought drives me crazy! However, this is the life we are living today so I either learn to live with it creatively or I will continue to hit the same “brick wall” as I have in the past – and I CHOOSE NOT DO THAT. All of this is to say that becoming unsettled, confused – or even angry – is probably a sign that we ARE ready for positive change to enter our lives and I TRULY BELIEVE that is a VERY good thing! Travel well.

Originally printed on HealthyNewAge.com. Reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop.


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach, a fitness professional with over 25 years of experience whose passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.

If you need help in designing a fitness plan, you can contact Nicholas Prukop via email at runningnick@sbcglobal.net or read his inspiring book Healthy Aging & YOU.

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10 Keys to Planning for Your Health and Fitness Needs

Being proactive beats reacting every time. With our nation’s level of fitness deteriorating with each passing year, I thought it important to highlight these 10 keys. I am evaluating what it is that I may want to change in my own world and by sharing these thoughts with you hopefully move you to such a review as well.

1.  Get a physical

As a nation we are not being proactive when it comes to our health and as a result we are over medicating ourselves and creating other significant health related problems as a result. Being on drugs is not an effective way to maintain our health – making healthy choices instead is a far better strategy for preventing illness and disease in the long run.

2.  Get “real”

Being “real” with yourself starts with an honest evaluation of where you ARE in your physical and mental – and emotional life. Dumping old behaviors – and attitudes – that are no longer serving you is a place to start. Another step we can take is to get moving – doing whatever you can to positively move in the direction of what I call “your highest good”. We all have something we are here to do in life so get going and don’t waste a single day. Writing these articles is part of what I am to do so I am writing them!

3.  Get moving

By way of reminder – we are meant to be active beings – not sitting beings. Find out what it is you enjoy doing and get moving. Your body will thank you every day you do this. I know how I feel after I run and lift weights and it is in one word “happy”.

4.  Get a handle on your stress

We are all stressed at some point during our day so why don’t we start working on strategies for dealing with the stresses – and stressors – in our lives BEFORE they happen. Being proactive in stress management means knowing we are going to have to deal with stress in our lives so why don’t we practice before the event or stress occurs? I have passed on some of my strategies in prior articles: Meditation, prayer, visualization work, focused breathing, running, quiet reflection etc. These and other techniques are readily available and can be learned through classes and other forums.

5.  Get excited

Getting excited about life fuels our imagination and creativity. The more I think about my potential to make a difference in the world the more excited I become about each day of my life. The same experience can happen to you if you are open and receptive to what your subconscious is trying to tell you. The world of technology is taking away our ability to “go into the silence” and discover what life has in store for us. The “noise” we face every day is keeping us from hearing anything that could be of help to us in planning for it is we may want to do – and accomplish. Take a moment and ask yourself “am I living up to my full potential and if not what can I do about it?”

6.  Get clear on your purpose

Purpose driven people are happy people and they are self-actualized – meaning they don’t need someone to tell them what to do, think, feel, say, or do. They approach life from a position of “real power” and at the same time are able to acknowledge the uniqueness of each one of us. I got an email today from a reader telling me I would go to hell if I didn’t believe what he did and my response is – “it’s a free country and we get to live our lives the way we choose”.  I am empowered and energized by this thought. I am free – as are you – to live a purpose driven life or stay on the path you are on. We are ALWAYS “at choice” so CHOOSE YOURSELF TODAY!

7.  Get close to “real” people

This key is important in today’s world. “Friends” are NOT on the internet – they are in our REAL lives. Be aware that we need each other. Make it a point to be kind to others – smile, acknowledge them when you can, call people by their names and look them in the eyes when you speak to them. People are what make life worth living – not the cyber world of “fake” experiences and relationships.

8.  Get close to your family

My daughter is going through a difficult time in her life right now. She is facing challenges that are most uncommon and have her living “on edge” every day. She has a 7 year old son who needs her and a career in business to re-establish and beyond. I spoke with her last night and told her “I am here for you – whatever you need”.  As a father I sometimes feel helpless because she is a grown woman but she is still my daughter and I love her. It is my job now to just be her father and love her – tough as that may be for me. Take this step in your own life in the coming year and see what happens – you might surprise yourself at how your family responds to you.

9.  Get serious about your own health and fitness

Time has a way of marching on and to the degree that you acknowledge the passage of time you begin to appreciate what you have been given – and have in life. I am grateful everyday for my passion for training and running because I know it can be taken from me at any time. I live in the present when I am running or lifting weights and it is a practice I hope to continue until the end. I am serious about my fitness program because it gives me the energy and strength to do my work – teaching, speaking and writing on matters of healthy aging, fitness and exercise. Are your energy levels low? Get moving!

10.  Get to know yourself

This is perhaps the best thing we could do to prepare for the year ahead. Get to know yourself and start appreciating the magnificence that is you. Getting to know your self is a lifelong pursuit. The journey never ends.  I have learned during the course of my 66 years that I DID NOT appreciate myself at all – I had to learn the hard way through difficult and painful experiences that until I could love myself – and appreciate what it is I am here to do – that no one would ever appreciate – or love – me either. I spend time (each day) thinking about my life – and my contribution to life itself – and ask myself “is there more that I can learn or do today?” You should do this too – it will help immeasurably improve the quality of your life now and in the years ahead.

Final Thoughts

Why not take the time between now and the end of the year to see what you might want to work on in the year ahead and see how you can live more fully and completely.  Can you make a more expansive contribution to your own life and the lives of others as well? Of course you can! Isn’t this what the fitness lifestyle enables us to do in the first place? So get moving, be willing, be open, and appreciate who you ARE right now because you have only scratched the surface of your potential!

Reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop.


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach and fitness professional with over 25 years of experience. His passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii, where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.

healthy middle aged man workout at the beach

Healthy Aging & You: The 7 Keys to Fitness Achievement

What does it mean to be fit or “be in shape”? We set fitness goals for a variety of reasons that are important to us at the time but in the long run is really losing weight a lasting goal? Do we really ever regard the “real” point of becoming fit? Probably not. Getting older means losing “something” in most people’s minds (mobility, independence, freedom to do what we love to do etc.). It however doesn’t have to be that way. If we think in terms of performance based goal setting and being able to do all the things we love to do over time – regardless of age – we will find that getting older doesn’t have to mean “getting old”. I would like to share with you what I consider the seven keys to fitness that if we maintain over time we will be able to be not only functional but vibrant and healthy as well.

Discussion

I have always maintained that if I remained fit for life that I would be training every day toward becoming an “evolving athlete” – capable of “doing what I want, when I want – without getting hurt”. This is as good a definition of what it means to be fit to me given my track record as a fitness professional. Taking time today to evaluate what you REALLY want from your fitness activities is probably a good idea and worth the effort and time up front so that you can access the benefits that you TRULY want from your training program. Here are the seven keys to fitness that will make your efforts worthwhile:

#1.  Strength

Strength is a cornerstone of any fitness program. How we build strength over time is dependent on our effort and focus at being consistent in all we do. I started a weight training program in college with the help of the varsity football team at Syracuse University in 1965 and learned the basic principles of strength training with their help. I am still using those same methods and training principles today 50 years later and the secret to my success is clearly defined methodology and consistency of effort. I record all my results in a written log and am now in a training mode for my 70’s that will enable me to be able to run well into my 80’s thanks to my resistance training program. What do you want to be able to do as you age? Strength training is THE foundation for healthy aging.

#2.  Endurance

Endurance is being able to do an activity – any activity – over time without tiring and running out of fuel. Endurance is training for the heart and the cardiovascular system and enables us to be able to do more in our lives without tiring. Running is a key activity that I have engaged in since 1964 and has remained a cornerstone of my training program since then. I am doing 7 mile runs at a variety of speeds and currently have accumulated a body of work that has stretched over 70,000 miles. Since 2000 I have run 23,500 miles and I know these results because I have recorded each of my workouts in detail in a runner’s calendar and know where I have been, where I am in my training and where I am going. I want to be able to run a 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday in 2026 and current results say I will be able to do it – barring injury or illness. My book on healthy aging is simple but not easy. Pick what you love to do and keep doing it – and continue to learn more about yourself every day. Be a student of your own life and never stop learning!

#3.  Power

Power comes from being able to retain “explosive” ability over time. Old people lose their power and never regain it because they may have known they had it in the first place. Power is both mental and physical. It resides in the mind as well as the body. Many forms of exercise help us retain our power from yoga to dance (yes dance) to tai chi – and of course weight training. I use several exercises in my own programming for this purpose – from pushups, dips, bench press, leg press, weighted ab work, lunges, squats and other exercises that allow me to retain the power in my body. My “mindfulness” work is embodied in my meditation and visualization (imagination) work that I am committed to doing daily. I also use sprint workouts in order to increase my anaerobic threshold which determines my ability to engage as many of my “fast twitch” muscle fibers as I can. So far I am doing 250 pushups, 1000 crunches, and running sub 6 minute miles while still bench pressing 250 lbs. for my “power set”. If I maintain these results over time I WILL retain my power as I enter my 70’s next year.

#4.  Speed

Most of us lose speed after we leave our 20’s. If we have struggles with health issues we most likely never thought of speed as a part of our lives. Injured joints, soft tissue damage and other debilitating issues will prevent us from ever being fast but it is still worth our time to try and improve our speed of movement. I love to run fast and I will always have this aspect of fitness in the front of my mind as I train my body in the future. I love sprint workouts and will most likely keep the track in my sights going forward. Right now running indoors suits me and I am making real strides in developing leg speed and maintaining a “rhythm” that I positively love. What will you do to address speed in your programming? Seek to rise to a higher level of achievement and see what happens to your confidence!

#5.  Agility

Agility is an elusive quality and many of us never really train for it because it is hard to simulate agility in a training program. Athletes must all have some form of agility or quickness to play their sports at the highest level so they routinely add agility drills to their off season programming. It takes effort and desire but can be a real asset to any training regimen. Seek out new ways of addressing this skill set and see how you might incorporate some agility training into your program and see what happens. Personal trainers and group fitness instructors can – and do – use agility training as a part of their instruction. I am thinking about this aspect of fitness as well and have not yet decided on a course for myself yet so I am still an “evolving athlete” too.

#6.  Balance

Balance is a key to becoming fit and implies not only physical balance but mental and emotional balance as well. Being balanced means that we can more easily respond to life’s challenges and roll with the punches as change enters our lives. Being physically capable of balancing our bodies is a worthy goal. Yoga is a great way to learn to balance the mind and body. The poses help you acquire a “sense of self” in space and time. I use yoga as a part of my stretching routine to “release” tension from my joints and muscles following my training. I find breathing exercises to be useful in calming me and balancing my mind with my heart and is also a soothing way to address stress in my life. Use basic principles of achieving balance in your life and you will go far and be healthy along the way.

#7.  Flexibility

I saved flexibility for last because it captures for me the essence of health and fitness. Being flexible in our thinking and in our physical being is a reward for all our hard work. I am more open to change in my life than I ever thought possible. “Change is the only constant in the natural order” is one of the important lessons I learned from a favorite teacher over 30 years ago and only now am I finally beginning to truly understand this concept as change accelerates in my own life. “Feeling in control” of our lives is important but when we realize that what we love today may change in our lives tomorrow we become more adaptable and willing to change so that we can continue to grow and expand in consciousness. Life is bigger than we can imagine and if we become flexible in body we can save ourselves from injury and if we become flexible in our thinking we can become healthier – and happier – grateful for all that we have been given.

Conclusion

The seven keys to becoming – and staying fit are: Strength, endurance, power, speed, agility (quickness), balance and flexibility. Where do you fall short when it comes to your own fitness? Where do you feel you need to improve your training? What do you REALLY want to accomplish with your training? Looking good is fine but what do you want to DO with your training? I want to travel, water ski, play with my grandson and teach him to be active, empower and inspire audiences to make positive changes in their lives, write more books and articles on healthy aging and live a fulfilling and rewarding (and meaningful life). Time is precious so use it well and gain your freedom to be all you were meant to be!

Reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop.


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach and fitness professional with over 25 years of experience. His passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii, where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.

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The Fitness Lifestyle & the Path to Healthy Aging

Technology really has changed our lives for the better – and for the worse. The implications of our emerging and overwhelmingly sedentary lifestyle are now only beginning to become apparent to us as we see the obesity crisis emerging as the first “real” medical and health emergency of our time. The long term consequences of this evolving – and expanding – process will be a challenge that we will ALL be affected by on some level in the years ahead. Diminished life expectancy and quality of life, the increasing numbers of people who will suffer from a wide variety of preventable chronic diseases, and finally, the premature loss of life WILL be significant if we can’t find a “way out” of this complex predicament.

Being physically active was always a part of our societal makeup in the first two hundred years of our history due to the nature of work and the lives we had to lead just trying to survive in a world without conveniences and support networks that eventually came into being in the second half of the 20th century. In the last twenty years of my lifetime, the world has turned into the “sitting of America”. What are the underlying problems we will be facing and how can we address them in order to effectively solve them? That is the question, isn’t it? The answers will emerge over time in the “dialogue” that WILL eventually occur among the parties that CAN help bring about permanent and positive change to people’s lives. Part of the answer lies with each of us in the fitness profession. We MUST define for ourselves how to “translate” what we love into “doable” solutions for those we train and teach. We have to become the change “we wish to see in the world” – one person at a time.

Discussion

The world is complicated by different and opposing points of view. The “post Bush years” have shown us conflict and anger on levels never before seen in our political discourse. We now call it “gridlock” and throw up our hands at the very mention of healthcare and reform. The truth is that approximately 80 million people born into the “baby boomer” generation will be reaching 60 years of age (including my daughter who was born in 1971) in the two decades ahead.

I see the need to have community based “conversations” about the delivery of healthcare to people and how to make it affordable and accessible – and most importantly – understandable. I became a personal trainer in 1990 with my first client and during the period of 1988 to 2011 I did NOT have health insurance because I couldn’t afford it due to the nature of my uncertain and fluctuating income – AND the cost for coverage for those over forty.

I never made a “comfortable” living as a trainer because I was always struggling to build my client base, which as we all know, tends to expand and shrink depending upon a wide range of variables including the state of the economy (and jobs), people’s motivation to hire a trainer, personal finances, and other related challenges. I was in my mid forties by the time I transitioned to the fitness profession and was already “old” and a part of the higher risk age groups that tend to pay significant percentages of their income to cover their health insurance costs. I am NOT informed – even today – as to what I will do in the future regarding this issue even though I now have Medicare and a companion program through Blue Shield to help cover me in the event something unexpected happens to me.  I am now covered by health insurance and relatively well informed on health and fitness issues and that still DOES NOT qualify me to be a primary resource for solving this problem. However, I WILL make it my business to be a “part of the solution” and this time I am counting on the fitness profession to NOT be an “afterthought” in the discussion! How does that sound to you? It will take, as Hilary Clinton said a while ago in one of her books, “a village” to tackle this massive challenge.

Conclusion

In my book, I describe (what I BELIEVE will work) a concept whereby we bring the “major players” to the table in order to “seize the moment” and save lives in the process. First, we ALL have to agree that it is NOT OK to just “let people die” because they lack health insurance. Second, we have to agree that prevention means MORE than “testing” for diseases and that learning to make better choices (and establishing new priorities) in our daily lives, becoming conscious of our challenges, and FINALLY taking responsibility for all of them is CRITICAL. Third, we have to understand the MAIN ISSUE to be handled WILL be about MONEY (and how to pay for medical services) and we will have to always remember that lives will be at stake with whatever we decide. Fourth, it will take a “cooperative effort” on all our parts – and compromise – among the major “players” (the insurance industry, medical profession, government at ALL levels, the pharmaceutical industry, business and corporate America, health related non-profit agencies, and finally, each of us in our own communities) to decide what it is we are going to do “to fix the system” so that it works for ALL of us – not just a few of us.

My health insurance program over the past 45 years has been my exercise, fitness, and running program – even when I was covered at work during my corporate years. In the intervening years from college to the present time, I have NEVER been in the “system” because I stayed healthy. I am the EXCEPTION – not the rule. What do we DO with all the aging people who aren’t like us – or me – when the time comes to treat them for “whatever ails them”? This is the BIG question we will be facing in the years ahead as we age and I AM betting on my approach with HEALTHY AGING as being one of the KEY components of the solution! Will YOU commit yourself to this journey with me today? NOW is the time and THIS is the place! We ARE the ones who truly CAN make a difference – and save lives in the process!

Reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop.


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach and fitness professional with over 25 years of experience. His passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii, where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.