Week Two

Week Two: Strength – Enjoy it all day long, the bang for your buck.

Complete the Weekly Reflection


Week Two, Mindset…(Eleonora)

You are almost halfway through mastering the secret of life! If you missed or haven’t been able to read or practice Week 1 of the Mindset module, no worries, the secret of life is not going anywhere ;)… A number of years ago I read in a nutrition book that we are always just one meal away from the perfect meal. This saying leaves so much room for trying again, for endless second chances! Over time, I generalized that motto to other areas of my life: I’m always just one step away from adding variety to my workouts, from taking a breath and pausing for a few seconds, from trying to be patient with my teenage daughter, from reaching out for support when I need it but least feel like it. Endless second chances. So you can circle back to the content of week 1 anytime, even right now! The focus for that week was “Simple IS Good”. So it’ll take you just a handful of minutes to read through it and decide which of the practices you want to carry forward with you. 

The focus for Week 2 of the PoP Challenge is “strength”. Mental strength is not that different from physical strength: it’s built during the rest. When you work out, you wear down your muscles. This tells your body to direct nutrients to the used muscles to repair them and make them stronger in preparation for next time you’ll need them. But if you train more than your body is capable of repairing, rather than getting stronger, you get weaker and risk injuries. Developing mental strength is exactly the same. Short bursts of stress lead you to develop new skills and envision new solutions. Life experience yields wisdom. But again, growth takes place during the rest, as your nervous system is once again relaxed and able to take stock of what happened. Chronic stress, instead, quickly wears us down mentally and leads us to feel emotionally defeated. 

As you learned last week, our nervous systems respond to stress with reactivity (aka fight-flight-freeze strategies). And our world is full of triggers. The more reactive we are, the less resources we have to feel good about ourselves and connect with each other. Many of the social norms and systems we are embedded in unfortunately benefit from our stress. While we must continue working for social change, we must also unplug our nervous systems from “buying” into each and every trigger presented to us. How do we do that? Mindfulness practices are an exceedingly simple and useful strategy. They cost nothing and are very transportable. Research shows that even a few minutes of practice a day over time quiets the parts of our brain that react to the unrelenting input from the outside world, and strengthens our capacity to bring our nervous system back to a state of rest. To be sure, you will not become detached or dispassionate! You’ll actually feel more clear-minded and centered as you consider what is important to you. You’ll be less susceptible to what others (people, devises, environment) demand that you give attention to, and freer to focus on what you want to give your time and energy to and when. That is because mindfulness does not mean relaxing in the absence of triggers (as it’s often marketed as), it’s actually training to be less reactive in the midst of triggers!

To get started, you might use one or both of the following apps: headspace (for Apple, for Android) and liberate. Headspace offers a free “10-day basics” course, which gives you all you need to practice mindfulness for a lifetime! You can access additional courses for a fee, but you don’t actually need any other content, unless you want variety and more guided practices. Liberate is a mindfulness app designed for and by People of Color–and open to all. If you would benefit from a mindfulness practice grounded in diverse experiences, it’s a great option. There are plenty of free offerings there too (although as a white person using the app I like to contribute financially to it), and you can subscribe if you want to access more practices. I love all of their mindfulness meditations, and Sebene Selassie is one of my favorite teachers!

You can select the length of time of each practice in both apps. My suggestion is to start with a short 3-5min practice, and build from there only if desired and sustainable. The effectiveness comes much more from consistency than length. While longer meditations can add power and depth to our practices, consistency is what gets us to see results. Just like last week, try both apps for a few days to see what kind(s) of mindfulness practices and which teachers you like best. You can then continue hopping around or settle for the app/teacher you find most supportive.

To make this practice successful, attach it to something you already do every day. For example, you can do it while you are brewing your morning coffee; or as the last thing you do before you switch off the light at night; or right after you brush your teeth and before heading to bed; or before turning on your car on your way to/from work; or while you are commuting if you take public transportation; or right before or right after eating lunch; or as the first thing you do in the morning right before getting out of bed; or right before you lock up the gym for the day if you are a coach ;). Any time is a good time to meditate! And attaching it to an already established habit is the key to success.

Enjoy training for resting!


Week Two, Movement…(Pamela)

All movement is strong. Yours might look different than mine, but what we have takes us where we need to be in that moment. I like to think about daily movement being joy to the soul. Eleonora already mentioned this but our body is working long past the actual time we spend working out. It’s part of the reason why post workout nutrition is important, more on that in the Mess section. It’s also important to recognize that just because we were able to do one exercise with a specific weight on Monday, doesn’t mean that we will be able to do that same exercise with the same weight on Thursday. 

I find myself needing to remember this myself, especially if I’m going for a really heavy lift. Just because the program is written to do so, doesn’t mean it’s meant to be exactly the way it’s written on that day. This is part of the reason why strength programs do not have max testing more often than every 8, 10 – 12 weeks or more. We aren’t designed to be at our true max efforts for every single workout. The strength comes in knowing I’m doing something good for myself by moving that day, in the capacity that my body allows me to. This is also why, at Urban Athlete, we are so adamant about modifying/adjusting workouts when needed. The version of a workout that works for you is better than a workout that works for someone else or no workout at all. Reframe your focus to know that you are focusing on you, every step of the way. 

As we get into week two, and continue working toward your goals, keep reminding yourself that you are doing this. You are doing this every day! I know it might sound a little “rah-rah” but there are so many folks who are not moving the way we were meant to, or even making an attempt. You are and that should be celebrated. 

Exercise: Each day think about your individual goals and how you are moving closer to them by completing the movement plan you set for yourself for that day. It might be two push ups a few times throughout the day, an outdoor walk, or simply showing up for a workout. When you have completed the daily goal, congratulate yourself. 

Use the Urban Athlete number-gram and color in the number for each day of movement starting Monday through the end of the challenge. Consider Monday to be 1, Tuesday to be 2, etc. If you have a day without intentional movement, leave that number blank. Let’s see how colorful we can be!!

It is also important to share what strength training really is and that comes in the form of resistance training. Did you know that resistance training really means any external resistance? The tools range from bands, to dumbbells, to kettlebells, to barbells,  to medicine balls, to kids and pets, and more – the external resistance on the joints helps build strength not only within our muscles but also for our bones. Which is exceptionally important for aging and bone health.

Earlier I mentioned, daily movement being joy to the soul. Keep moving your body throughout the day and week. You will feel better, sleep better and ultimately be working toward better health even when you aren’t doing the actual workout.  


Week Two, Mess…(Pamela)

When you start off on a health quest, initially it feels as though the exercise piece is the most challenging. Your muscles are sore from the workout and you’re carving out time a few days a week to be consistent in your exercise efforts. As I’m sure you’ve uncovered yourself in previous quests, nutrition can actually be the more daunting of the two. When you consider the impact, exercise is on average an hour a day, 3-5 times a week. Nutrition is every day, several times a day, even when you aren’t exercising. 

I heard a phrase years ago and it’s likely you’ve heard me say it before, “Nothing tastes as good as lean and fit feels.”

I should clarify that I don’t take the phrase as a rule, like only eating broccoli and chicken for every meal and/or depriving yourself of all the flavors. I know there are so many options when it comes to making food fun, tasty, and healthy! Just look at some of the recipes. 😉 Instead the phrase reminds me that if I’m going to put in the effort with my exercise consistency, I should make similar efforts with the fuel (or food) that will both prepare me for and assist me in the recovery of my workouts. 

The strength of Mess, comes in the discipline of creating the habit to food prep and stock the cabinets/refrigerator with supportive foods rather than less supportive foods. This doesn’t necessarily mean full elimination of less supportive foods. Think more about shifting your focus. 

Exercise: Where can you make one adjustment this coming week in your nutrition? Pick either a meal to focus on being more supportive, or select a less supportive food to eliminate. 

Here are some ideas of places to make adjustments. 

Less supportive foods tend to be those that are processed, items that have more than five ingredients on the nutritional label. When considering food labels, if there are ingredients that are hard to pronounce or if you don’t know what it is – those would be foods to also skip. This could also be foods that have an excess amount of sugar or are excessively high in saturated fats. 

Focusing on one meal to improve, can be as simple as adding in breakfast each day this week, or making a more supportive breakfast decision. Consider starting with a breakfast option that can be prepared for the week that is an easy go to for a hectic and busy morning. If you are preparing a healthful dinner, you could make enough for lunch the next day. Simple steps to make one meal each day a little easier.