6 Secrets to Achieving your “Big” Goals

May 26th, 2013 by Joan Maiden

Like most people, I’ve set goals and failed time-after-time–I’d eat healthier, I’d finally lose those last 10 pounds, I’d exercise every day without fail, I’d stick to my budget–the list goes on and on.

I’ve accomplished some big goals and one of my biggest was the first time I ran a half marathon. I need the reminder at times that if I applying these same principles to other goals, I can accomplish anything if I want it badly enough!

My daughter called me one day and said “Mom, you’re in good shape,” “why don’t you run a ½ marathon with me”. “Well, it would have to be a really cool one,” I replied. “How about Big Sur?” she asked. “That sounds cool.” I said hesitantly.

Almost immediately she posted on her Facebook “WOOHOO, my mom is running the Big Sur ½ Marathon with me!”

“Crap”, I thought, “how will I ever manage to run 13 miles?” I haven’t run on a regular basis in over twenty-five years, my knees are a mess and I’m 59 years old. I sent in my registration anyway, paid the entry fee–and I was committed.

Of course, just my luck, the summer I started training for the Fall run happened to be one of the hottest in history—and I HATE hot weather. I got up at the crack of dawn started out. “What the hell was I thinking?” was a constant thought as I trudged around the track. I was so slow at first people probably wondered if I was even moving, but I kept at it throughout the long, hot summer.

I started to find that I enjoyed competing with myself and trying to improve my time. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and I actually started to enjoy the running. I slowly kept increasing my distance until one day I decided to see just how far I could run—I did the full 13 miles and even in under the time allotted for the race! “I can do this!”

On the way home I realized that if I could run 13 miles, I could accomplish ANYTHING! What was different about this goal than all of the others I’d attempted and failed?

1. I had a definite goal—a specific distance I needed to achieve.
2. It was a BIG goal…it would push me beyond what I thought I was capable of doing. It challenged me to reach a place inside I had let remain untapped for too long.
3. There was a firm date set by which I needed to achieve my goal. To achieve this goal, I couldn’t procrastinate. If I wanted to accomplish it, I had to start today. There was no putting off until tomorrow or waiting until the last week. This wasn’t a final exam that I could cram for at the last minute.
4. I had a commitment to other people (my daughter and all of our Facebook friends). It was important to me not to disappoint my daughter.
5. Achieving the goal was totally up to me. I couldn’t blame anyone else or use anyone as an excuse. I had to do the work. I couldn’t make excuses, or let outside circumstances waylay me—even the hot weather, and
6. Failure was never an option. I never considered not finishing the race.

The day of the race finally came. The forecast was for rain, but just before the start time, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day. I thought I would be nervous, but I KNEW I could do this. I never had any doubt. I knew I wouldn’t set any time records, but decided to enjoy the beauty of the waves crashing on the shore and the cool ocean breeze.

Yes, it was tough…about mile 8 going uphill, it got very rough, but I kept telling myself “just keep putting one foot in front of the other”. Stopping was not an option. At mile 12, I realized I REALLY was going to do this and felt like I was running on air. Nearing the finish line and seeing my daughter cheering me on with a look of pride on her face, made all the hours and miles worthwhile. There were tears in my eyes as I received my medal. Achieving my goal gave me a sense of accomplishment, but reaching a place deep inside and achieving a potential I never knew I had, gave me a sense of fulfillment I’d not experienced before.

Lost in the Land of Oz

May 4th, 2013 by Joan Maiden


I don’t watch Dr. Oz very often because when I do I always end up pissed off.  If you follow the advice on the show, you’d be taking hundreds of pills a day, spending lots of money and still have no idea  what to eat and what not to eat. Every week there is a new “miracle” diet, “secret” fat burner, etc, etc—come on, really?  How many “new miracles” can there be?

I happened to catch it last week when he featured Biggest Loser trainer, Bob Harper, and his latest lose- weight-quick book, Jumpstart to Skinny.  It could be more aptly titled, The Auschwitz Diet.  His claim is that you can lose 20 pounds in three weeks on his diet by consuming just 800 calories per day.  I agree, you will lose weight on this diet—unfortunately most of the weight you lose will be water and lean muscle.  He claims you only need to exercise 15 minutes a day—you’d be hard pressed to have enough energy to get through your day let alone exercise for any more than that on such low calorie consumption.

The Nazis discovered that prisoners lived longer than they anticipated on just 800 calories per day.  This is because when deprived of enough nutrition, the body, being an efficient machine, slows the metabolism down to conserve energy.  It’s known as the Starvation Syndrome.  Since muscle uses a lot of calories, the body tries to conserve as much energy as possible by getting rid of the muscle.   The body cannibalizes the muscle to use it for energy and to reduce the energy requirements, since each pound of muscle burns 40-50 calories per day.

So now you have lost 20 pounds, what happens next?   You’ve now been set up for the Yo-Yo Dieting Syndrome.  Once you go off the diet, which you will, unless you have a severe eating disorder (if so, please seek medical/psychological help immediately), and go back to your normal eating habits, the weight is going to come back more quickly and easily then it went away.  If you lost 20 pounds according to the scale, approximately 6 pounds of what you lost is lean muscle.  You have now lowered your daily calorie requirements by almost 250 calories.  Now you’re wondering “What did I do wrong?  Why can’t I keep the weight off?”  It’s not your fault!  You have fallen prey and have become a victim of the $20 billion dollar per year diet industry.  Out of your frustration, you are now more susceptible to the next “Miracle Diet”  “Secret Fat Burner Pills” as touted by the charlatans like Dr. Oz to put more money in their pockets.

The real “Secret” “Miracle” to permanent, healthy weight loss is to get off the scale and away from the numbers that really don’t tell you very much.  The scale tells what the package weighs, not what’s in the package.  If you want to be toned, healthy and fit–concentrate on losing body fat.  It’s not very glamorous and it is hard to sensationalize, but for permanent fat loss, you need to eat a healthy, balanced diet, build and conserve muscle with strength training and burn calories by getting off your butt and moving more—there you have the real “miracle”, “secret” “fat burner”.   It’s time to take back your power and stop being a victim of the diet industry.

Don’t F**k with My Food

April 4th, 2013 by Joan Maiden

When Katherine first came to work out with me, she could barely make it down my basement stairs and then had to sit down to catch her breath.  Katherine was in her early 50s and weighed over 350 pounds.  One of the first things I asked Katherine was what her diet was like.  She looked me straight in the eye and emphatically said “don’t f**k with my food”.  “Well,” I thought, “there are definitely some issues here.”  I decided that the best thing I could do for Katherine was to help her become stronger, more mobile and functional.

Katherine was a loving, giving person, and as a nurse, had put taking care of everyone else ahead of taking care of herself.  She was doing administrative work at the hospital because she could no longer handle the rigors of working on the hospital floor.  When she needed to fill in on the floor, the task was almost too much for her.  Katherine had already had both knees replaced and was petrified of falling down because she knew she wouldn’t be able to get up if she did.

The first time I had Katherine step off and on a 3” step, she was so terrified I thought my fingers were going to turn blue from her gripping them so hard.  As she became stronger physically, I saw Katherine’s confidence increase.  Before long she was on and off that step like it was nothing, but the one big fear remained “if I fall down, I won’t be able to get back up”.

Weight benches are not made for a wide girth.  One day Katherine went to sit down on the bench, missed and landed squarely on her butt on the floor.  Katherine looked at me and I looked at her and I knew we were both thinking “now what?”  The next thing I knew Katherine started giggling.  We both sat on the floor and laughed until we cried.  “Ok,” I said, “let’s try one of the techniques I learned in one of my personal training classes for getting up.”  I showed Katherine the technique.   I don’t know who was more shocked, me or Katherine, when she turned over and hopped right up.  After that, she wanted to do floor exercises as part of her workout because she could!  “It’s not pretty,” she would say, “but I can do it!”

When I put the risers on the step and told Katherine it was time to climb higher, I saw the fear come back.  Once again she was petrified of that step.  After I got the feeling back in my fingers, I told Katherine “you conquered the first step and you were just as afraid—I know you can conquer this one as well.”  And she did!

One day my phone rang, it was Katherine calling me from her vacation.  “Thank you,” she said with tears in her voice.  “I was able to walk up a hill today without getting out of breath.  I can finally enjoy my vacation.”

Katherine’s life partner, Pat, was a huge Jimmy Buffett fan.  Katherine knew how much it would mean to Pat to go to a concert but Katherine was afraid she would not be able physically to attend because it was at an outdoor venue with lots of walking and bleachers to climb, but Katherine bought tickets anyway hoping she would be able to get handicapped access.

Things didn’t work out the way Katherine planned and they ended up having to park across a field and climb half way up the bleachers—and she DID IT!   She was so proud of herself, but more importantly she was glad to be able to share that special event with someone so dear to her.

Shortly after that concert, Pat was diagnosed with cancer and only had a few months to live.  While she was building strength, Katherine had no idea how she was going to need it.  Because of being physically strong, she was able to care for Pat during her illness.  Katherine continued to work out because she found out how much it helped her deal with the stress of Pat’s illness.

Losing Pat was very difficult for Katherine but she gave herself permission to feel her grief and was working through it as she continued to work out to take care of herself.

Katherine loved babies.  When her cousin had a new baby she was so excited.  She decided to take a vacation to enjoy her family and love on that baby.  She was so proud and happy when she told me she was able to get on the floor and play with the baby and to take him for a walk in his stroller.

The last time Katherine worked out with me she wasn’t feeling very well and thought she’d caught a bug on vacation.  Two days later I got a call that Katherine had suddenly passed away.

No, Katherine never got a body beautiful, but she had quality put back into her life by becoming stronger physically.  She had no idea how she was going to be called on to use her strength, but when the need arose, she had what she needed to step up to the task.  You may be thinking how sad it is that Katherine’s years were cut short.  I think it is sadder how much life was taken from her years by the limitations of her body.  Fortunately, she was able to reclaim some of that life.  Katherine was a warrior—she conquered the fears that were self-limiting. I still have the Christmas card from Katherine with a simple note saying “thank you for guiding me back to myself.”

Everyone Needs a Five Year Plan

April 4th, 2013 by Joan Maiden

“What’s your five year plan,” the doctor asked Helen.

“What do you mean, my five year plan, I’m 80.”

“Everyone needs a five year plan.  I think you need to start strength training.”

“WHAT!  I’m 80!”

“No excuses–let’s find you a trainer.”

That’s how I came to do strength training with 80-year-old Helen.  Helen had accepted that frailty, disease and disability were a natural part of the aging process, but Helen had a can-do attitude and was willing to give strength training a try.  I came to love and admire Helen’s spirit.  Helen and her husband traveled the world.  She had gotten to the point that if there were stairs on a tour, she would sit on a bench and wait for the others and bypass the cathedral or whatever site was on the agenda.  It was  a shame she had to always be on the sidelines and miss so much beauty because of the limitations of her body.

Helen had also given up going places by herself because if there were stairs, she wasn’t able to manage them.  As Helen became stronger, she lost her fear of going places by herself and became much more independent.

After strength training for two years, Helen slipped and fell and broke her hip.  The doctors were amazed how much muscle she had in her hips and legs.  In fact, they said any other 82 year old would probably be dead from such a fall.  But Helen was a warrior—when life knocked her down, she got right back up.

Helen called me one day very upset.  “They kicked me out of therapy,” she said.  “What do you mean–they kicked you out of therapy?”   I replied.  “The doctor approved me for twenty sessions and they kicked me out after only two sessions.  They said I met all the criteria of activity for an average 82-year-old.”  I had to laugh, “Well, Helen, they don’t understand that you’re not the average 82-year-old.”

When Helen was 84, she and I and two of my friends went and stayed at a villa in the south of France.  Helen was concerned that she would slow the “girls” down”, but Helen was the life of the party. There was no more sitting on the sidelines for Helen on this trip!  She kept right up with the rest of us.

The trip also proved to be an opportunity to learn more about Helen’s life.  She was full of wisdom and grace.  She shared with us that she had lost her son to AIDS.   We all wondered how a mother survived such a loss.  “I kept myself busy—I even started taking piano lessons to keep my mind occupied.  On the advice of a friend, I set aside one day a week to cry and grieve.  I found out it was hard to cry all day—life went on.”

“Thank you,” Helen said at the end of our trip, “I never thought I could have so much fun again at my age.”

No, Helen, thank you.  You proved that even at the age of 80, a warrior doesn’t give up.

At 85, the doctor once again asked, “OK, Helen, what’s your five year plan?” This time Helen had an answer.

Everyone needs a five year plan—what’s yours?