Friday, November 13, 2015

Challenging all perfectionists: are you hurting your creativity and fitness?

“I’m a perfectionist,” you say with a touch of pride mingled with shyness. But is your perfectionism holding you back? Quite possibly. You see, a perfectionist won’t try anything new unless they can be ‘perfect’ at it. We are quite literally embarrassed by our own imperfections.
When we try doing a new type of exercise we’re thinking: “Oh heavens. Am I doing this right? Why is that guy looking at me? I’m making a fool of myself! Maybe I should just do what I’m good at”.

It’s even worse when it comes to creative projects. We stand poised, paintbrush, pen or musical instrument in hand and what’s going through our heads? “What if I mess up? Is anyone watching me? How should I even start this? What if it turns out mediocre?” Often, the fear overcomes us. We put the pen and paper, guitar or canvas aside and tell ourselves we’re waiting for inspiration. Yeah, right!
But we know that perfection doesn’t exist!
We’ll even say that perfection is boring. It is. So what’s with the fear of imperfection? We don’t expect others to be perfect – why should we be so unkind to ourselves? We’ll even have a preference for handmade items BECAUSE they’re a bit wonky and interesting. But when it comes to our own work, our desire for perfection paralyses us. We daren’t even try.
It’s good to aim high but…
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to aim high, but if things don’t come out just as you planned, you also don’t need to flog yourself. I battle with my perfectionism. And I see I’m not the only one. I found a research paper
on perfectionism that says we perfectionists get depressed and stressed out easily.
Once, I knocked off a quick mood painting with black watercolour. I was just messing around. The brush strokes are rough, the proportions are all wrong. I try to keep it hidden. One day, a friend was flipping through my sketchbook.
“I love this”! She cried.
“Say what?” I was incredulous.
Yup! My most imperfect effort was the single thing in my sketchbook that really impressed her. Why? Well here’s the odd thing. She loved it because it was imperfect. It had character, it had spontaneity. Perfection? No. Personality? Yes!
Wabi-Sabi: the art of imperfection
The Japanese celebrate imperfection in the creative philosophy known as wabi-sabi. The story of its origin goes like this:
A young man wanted to become a tea master, so he approached a master and asked to be his apprentice. The tea master said that the young man should tidy his yard and if he did a good job, he might be given the opportunity to learn.
The young man went to work, raking up every fallen leaf and tidying everything until it was perfect. When he was finished, he stopped to survey the results. It didn’t look right to him. So he went over to a blooming cherry tree and shook it so that some blossoms would fall randomly to the ground.
And so, legend has it, the art of imperfection known as wabi-sabi
was born. 

Wabi-sabi celebrates transience, imperfection and the incomplete. It’s a rebellion against perfection, and in that sense, it is a ‘perfect’ and beautiful revolution in the way we think.
Which brings us to this week’s challenge
Here’s your brief. Create something imperfect, transient and incomplete – or any one of these three things. Do it on purpose. If by some nearly impossible chance you create something that’s perfect, mess it up a bit.
Your project can cover a few minutes, a few hours or even a few days. The scale of what you do is up to you. Work with any medium: arrange a few flowers, make a wonky earthenware pot, go hunting for a twisted and gnarled piece of wood or a stained and rusted bit of metal, daub out a painting with a few exuberant brush strokes.
Don’t go looking at Japanese examples and try to emulate them (unless you want to). Be completely free and uninhibited.
As for your fitness program, try something new. Take on a class where others will see your imperfections and tell yourself you don’t care. Go to yoga and be the stiffest person in the class. Whatever you always wanted to try and were afraid to look bad at – tackle it. If you’re low on inspiration, go and turn some cartwheels in the back yard. Laugh at your beautiful imperfection!
Whatever your project, I challenge you to be perfectly imperfect. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Self-Imposed Limitations: Your Biggest Barrier To Achieving Your Creative And Fitness Goals

“One should never be nervous about being asked to tackle anything. One has all the power necessary to achieve everything within oneself. It is only necessary to remember the power. If people are nervous, it is because they forget their potentialities and remember only their limitations”.

(Frank Lloyd Wright)

Do you remember that invincible feeling you had when you were just a kid? You drew, you painted and you never criticized yourself. As for physical challenges, you were ready to try anything, sometimes alarming your parents with your dare-devil feats. 

Then You Grew Up.
When last did you accept one of your own creative efforts as being ‘just fine’? When last did you so much as try to do a cartwheel? What happened? You’re stronger, more co-ordinated and your sense of aesthetics is more developed than it was back then, but a simple box-jump leaves you sweaty-palmed with the fear of failure, and when you look at a blank canvas, you find yourself afraid to make that first mark or brush-stroke on the pristine white surface.

What Happened?
Did your friends tell you to stop playing on the jungle gym and ‘grow up’? Did your art teacher at school critique your work after you put in a huge effort? Did your parents stop getting enthusiastic about your artistic efforts and resort to a brief glance and a bored “Uh-huh, that’s nice”?

But Who’s Holding You Back Now? 
Deep down, you already know who your fiercest critic is. That’s right, there’s only one person who limits your creativity and who makes you fear your fitness goals, and that’s you! Your biggest fear is ‘failure’ , your own imperfections scare you until you’d rather not even try. You look at that box-jump and say “I’m too old to do that”, you look at the canvas and say “I’m not creative enough”. The result? A self-fulfilling prophecy that prevents you from exploring your real potential for creativity and fitness.

Unleash Your Potential!
Of course, there will be things that you simply cannot do right now, but as long as they’re not physically impossible, you can work your way up and ultimately achieve your goals. For example, you may not be ready to run a marathon, but if you train regularly, you will reach the point where you can. You may need to work on your technique with watercolors, oils, or the simple lead-pencil, but if you allow yourself to try, and keep at it, wonderful things can happen. 

“I Can’t” or “I Won’t”?
We often claim that we want to achieve this or that goal, but then we add two little words: “I can’t”. These are powerful words. They’re almost like a magic spell, because they come true from the moment you say them. They’re born of fear. Either that, or maybe you don’t really want to achieve that goal after all. In that case, you should be saying “I won’t” or “I’d rather not try” instead of “I can’t”.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Not Wanting To Try Something. 
But there’s a big difference between lacking the desire to try and not being physically able to do something. If you have a fear of heights, you may not want to try bungee-jumping, but saying that you can’t do it is obviously not true. Bungee jumping is as easy as falling off a bridge with a line attached to you. What’s really stopping you? Fear!

Overcoming Fear
The first step to overcoming your fear of failure is to recognize that it’s there. Now ask yourself how much you really want to achieve your goals. The more you want to achieve a result, the more willing you will be to tackle the painful process of overcoming your fear. 
Don’t think that all it’s going to take is an Ah-Ha moment. You have created a “Can’t do” conditioning, and you’re going to have to overcome that. You will be outside of your comfort-zone. You’ll be sweating bullets at the gym or on your run, you’ll be making those first, hesitant brush-strokes on the canvas. You’ll pick up your musical instrument for the first time and it isn’t going to sound particularly good when you play.

Accept yourself and know that you can!
You won’t be a master at what you do the minute you begin, but know that you can achieve your goals, and accept the learning curve it may take to get where you want to be as an enjoyable part of the process. Try a lower box-jump: too easy? Now try that one that frightened you! You will find that you’re capable of a lot more than you ever gave yourself credit for – but you have to put your self-imposed limitations aside and take the plunge!

You Don’t Have To Be ‘Perfect’
Have you told yourself that you have to be perfect? Poor you! And yet you accept the imperfections of others. Sure, a handmade pottery bowl isn’t 100% symmetrical, but you are able to realize that this is part of its charm – unless you made it yourself! Then all you see is its ‘imperfections’. That’s if you were even able to bring yourself to try your hand at pottery. 
Be a little kinder to yourself. What are you really good at? What if someone else wanted to learn to do the same thing – what would you tell them? You’d tell them to keep trying and have fun while they’re at it! Your confidence will grow as you expand your physical and creative abilities – or you can stay just as you are – the choice is yours!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Daily Routines Will Determine The Following 24 Hours

Have you ever reached the end of yet another busy day only to find that you didn’t achieve any of the things that you really wanted to get done? Life’s like that. We get really busy, and the time just sleets past. Does that mean that you have to give up on your goals? Definitely not! Millionaires, successful entrepreneurs, serious athletes and the like always start their day the same way. The key to gaining control over your life lies in your morning and evening routines.

Routines make it easier to keep your decisions positive

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Every day is packed full of decisions: should I have eggs for breakfast or settle for just coffee? Should I answer my email or work on that report my boss wants? Psychologists say that all these decisions wear us out, making us more prone to take easy options. We lose out on will-power. But if the positive things we want to achieve become part of our daily routines, they happen on auto, and there are no pesky decisions to throw us off track. You don’t choose to work out in the mornings. You just do it because that’s how you start your day.

Staying sane
Not all routines are good for us. Lighting a cigarette the moment you wake up or routinely staying up too late at night are examples, but positive routines are liberating. They’re also comforting. It’s nice to know that we’re doing something positive for ourselves, and that we do it every day at around about the same time. According to psychologists, good routines help to reduce stress and doctors say that stress causes all sorts of ailments, so your positive routine will have multiple benefits.

Decide what’s important to you and incorporate it into your morning or evening routine
Most of us have pretty full days. Our only ‘quiet’ times are the times when we are beginning or ending off our day. Whether you decide to choose mornings or evenings for specific things you want to do for yourself depends on you, but most of us are pretty tired by the end of the day, so more energetic activities are usually best undertaken in the mornings.
Morning get-up-and-go
Let’s say you really want to work out and get fit, but you aren’t getting round to exercising. Get up an hour earlier and start your day with some exercise. Exercising in the morning has loads of benefits. The ‘after-burn’ of calories you get after exercising carries on through the day, and researchers say that morning exercise improves your sleep patterns at night and normalizes your appetite. Plus you’ll be much more alert than your co-workers or classmates!

Chilled out evenings
Evenings are good for the more sedentary activities you’d love to get around to. If you want to get creative with arts or crafts, keep a journal or read a book, make special times in the evenings that are devoted to these activities.
Tips for creating effective morning and evening routines
Are you ready to adopt a constructive routine? It’s what incredibly successful people
do, and you want to be incredibly successful in achieving your own goals too. Let’s get started!

  • Choose your activities by looking at your goals.
  • Prepare a schedule, write it down and stick to it.
  • Get up at the same time every morning and go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Have fixed times for the other activities you want to fit in.
  • Review your routine regularly and check that it’s still in line with your goals.
Now it’s just a matter of getting those things done! Using your ‘you’ time constructively is the first step towards achieving all the things you wanted to do, but never got around to!
Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Mindset and Motivation To Increase Your Drive For Fitness

Mind-set and motivation – the keys that unlock your fitness potential

Have you ever struggled to maintain your drive to attain your fitness goals? Whether your goal is to run faster, be stronger or get leaner - just like our friend Meathead, it's mindset that will help you reach it. Ok, admittedly you still want to keep the grey matter – but it’s actually the grey matter that helps Meathead stay so meaty. Ladies, increasing muscle mass is for you too. Lean muscle may weigh more than fat, but it’s a darned sight more appealing to look at! So how do you get that bundle of neurons that makes up your brain working in your favor? You know the saying “A healthy mind in a healthy body”. Let’s get hat brain working towards a healthier happier you!

Meathead mirin his gains
Meathead hitting the double bi flex!

Think about your goals: do you really want to achieve them?

The first thing you need is the right mind-set. Just thinking “That sounds cool” isn’t enough. You need to be hungry for those achievements. So what are your fitness goals? A beautifully toned body? Extra energy and get up and go? Improved immunity from illness? Washboard abs? Be real about your goals. Own them. Choose goals that you really want to achieve rather than going with something someone said you ought to want. 
So before you get up and start working out, do a bit of a brain workout. What do YOU want to achieve? What will you have to do to get there? Be realistic. You aren’t going to get bulging biceps or perfect pecs in a week or two. You aren’t going to shed excess flab just because you went for a run. It takes commitment. It takes patience, and it will take hard work. Sometimes, you simply aren’t going to be ‘in the mood’. What can get you through the mental block? Commitment. Dedication. And you’re not going to get there unless you take 100% ownership of the goals you’re striving to achieve.

Your goal can be as big as you like, but getting there will be a journey. Let’s say you’re doing a long road-trip. How do you measure your progress? There will be towns along the way, won’t there? Every time you pass through one, you feel a sense of achievement. You’re getting closer to your destination. 
Your journey towards your fitness goals is very similar. If you’ve set an ambitious goal, you need milestones to measure your progress, or you’ll soon become discouraged – even if you have been making great progress.

Goals should be SMART:
Specific: Define what you want to achieve.
Measurable: How far do you want to run? How much weight do you want to lose? What percentage body fat are you aiming for?
Achievable: Setting an impossible goal is like setting yourself up for failure. If you’re only 5ft tall, you’ll never be 6 footer. If you’re an endomorph, you’ll never be an exomorph. Choose goals that you can achieve.
Realistic: Maybe it isn’t going to happen in two weeks, maybe weighing 110lb would actually be bad for you – even if you could achieve it. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
Time bound: With realism as your guideline, what can you achieve by when? What milestones will you pass on route to your destination and when can you realistically expect to reach them? Remember to celebrate those achievements, and be ready to move your goalposts if you see that you haven’t been realistic!

Staying Motivated
Once you’ve set your SMART goals, you should already be feeling more motivated. You’ve planned your journey, and you know how long it will take you to reach your destination. You really want to achieve those goals, right? But you need something more if you want to stay motivated. There are going to be days when you just don’t feel like making the necessary effort, and when your goals aren’t going to be enough to keep you going.

Be mindful: Try and determine where your mental block is coming from. Is it time-pressure? But your workout doesn’t take all that long to complete – how much difference can that time really make in the scheme of things? Are you feeling tired and worn out? Perhaps you haven’t been eating or sleeping properly, or you might even be overtraining. Find out why you feel demotivated and discover ways to eliminate these negative factors.

Be your own cheerleader: Having a conversation with yourself might sound a bit nutty, but it can really help. Remember how the encouragement of your friends, coach and team mates kept you motivated on the sports field? Become your own cheerleader: tell yourself that you can do it. Demand that little bit of extra effort: just two more reps, just one more set, just that little bit of extra exertion. You’ll thank yourself for the positive self-talk later on!

Stay positive: If you’re not reaching your milestones, you may become discouraged, but perhaps the problem isn’t you as much as the goals you set. Are they really realistic? Perhaps they could use a little revision. If you’re finding it really hard to set realistic goals, you may want to consult a fitness professional to get them back on track.  It’s all too easy to ask the impossible of yourself and then give up altogether when things don’t work out as planned. Taking a bit longer to get where you want to be is better than giving up altogether.

Set a routine and stick to it: Remember, it’s going to be 20% inspiration and 80% perspiration. The best way to develop stick-to-it-ness is to give yourself a schedule to stick to. Your run, walk or workout happens on certain days of the week and at certain times. Get into the routine, and you’ll soon notice a sense of unease – something ‘missing’ – when you break your routine.

Apply your mental muscle
Who’s really driving that body of yours? You are! Take charge. Be masterful. Know what you can and cannot do, and understand why you sometimes develop a mental block that threatens to derail your efforts. Most of all, have fun. Isn’t it great being able to walk, run, bend and stretch? Don’t you love that feeling of having challenged your body? That feeling of drive, motivation and energy you get after exercise is worth maintaining, and when all’s said, you’re the boss.

Thanks for reading. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

What Led To The Creation of Sleeping Otters Studio

Since childhood I have always had a love for art and sports.

Throughout school art and sports were the only subjects that held my attention, but instead of going to college right after high school and pursuing art, I joined the Army. 

Now I played a ton of sports up until that point but it was during bootcamp where I was first introduced to regimented running and calisthenics. Through eye-squinting heat waves in the day, blistering cold brisk air at night, or even (my favorite) spa days full of rain and slick mud. I pushed myself and loved minute of the physical challenges. All of this led to my search for more. 

At first I would just go to the gym and walk from machine to machine, thinking that I was doing something effective. Boy was I clueless. Still, I enjoyed putting in the time and I felt good doing it. Then in 2008, I was introduced to this thing called CrossFit. “Whoa bro, WTF just happened?” T-Rex arms (a guaranteed side effect of your first week doing CrossFit) and all after my first WOD (workout of the day), I couldn’t resist coming back. There was something about the extreme physical exertion and shared pain with those around me, that made it worthwhile. In fact it made it great. As with many newbie CrossFitters who have no real weight training experience, you don’t question anything.

Fight Gone Bad....actually terribly wrong.
Fight Gone Bad... or well...? 

You just do. And "do", I did well. I even went through the CF Level 1 certification and started preaching CrossFit to whoever would listen. I wholeheartedly enjoyed doing it, and showing others how to use it to achieve their own fitness goals. I helped numerous soldiers succeed in the battle against obesity. This allowed them to return back to the workforce and become an effective part of the military again. The camaraderie that was built between each client and I is something that I hold dear to my heart till this day. 

As my journey through fitness continued I wanted to try new things. Not that CrossFit didn’t change everyday but I wanted to see if I would enjoy something else. I tried bodybuilding and competed in my first figure competition in October 2010. For my contest prep I hired a trainer and it was during that time that my eyes were open to the intricacies of what it truly meant to be a bodybuilder. The amount of time someone puts into working towards a competition is ridiculous and I admire all those who compete regularly. 

Lastly, for now, I tried powerlifting. Where have you been all my life? First off if you know me then you know that I love to lift heavy things and put them down. Lift, down, repeat. So it didn’t surprise me that I fell in love with the sport. I competed in my first competition in December 2014 in Pennsylvania and walked away with a state record! Woot Woot! The reason I haven’t competed again since then is because I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant at the time! Yea pretty nuts. My son was born late June and I am now working my way to getting my strength back. As any mom knows, it is a daunting task but I’m loving every minute of the work, sweat, and exertion. I will be back in shape asap! 

At my first meet!

Now it's been a couple years since I've been out of the military. Since my release I have been going to school for my other passion, art. I decided to dive right in and see if I could really make what I love into a career. But don't think I've forgotten about my other love, fitness... Are you kidding me? Never. Which brings me to my third-most loved baby.


Through Meathead I was able to combine both my passions. I wanted to create something that people could enjoy no matter what type of fitness they participate in. 

Throughout my fitness journey I have encountered numerous examples of the stereotypical meathead as I'm sure you have as well. I've seen things they do in the gym that I can't comprehend. Meathead thinks he's a force to be reckoned with. A tier one bodybuilder and guru of all things fitness. According to him his bro science is guaranteed to produce results. In his mind no amount of scientific fact will out rule grueling hard work and endless training. 

But there is just something about him that draws people to him. Wherever he goes people flock. Maybe it's his type A personality, or his charismatic smile. He probably wants to think that it's his 22 inch biceps. Either way, he is someone that you want to follow. 

Join me next time to find out who Meathead truly is. 

Thanks for reading.