The only thing you can control

02/16/2016

What is the one thing over which you have complete control?

There is only one thing.

You can’t control what others think. You can’t control what others do. You can’t control how others treat you. You can’t control what others say. You can’t control what happens to you. You can’t even control your thoughts!

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 6:7-15), Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray and then has instructions for them on forgiveness.

Who do you need to forgive?

Here are my thoughts on the Gospel and on control.

And maybe a word or two about eating a good breakfast.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read and listen to my thoughts. My commitment during Lent 2016 is to post a daily video reflection to help you and me on our walk through the season and toward Easter Sunday. I will also explore other matters of faith and also health and fitness to keep us fit for the journey. Click here for my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/davekwiecinski

I appreciate your help and encouragement. Please let me know how I can help you. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

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What Are You Looking For?

01/05/2016

As we wind our way through the Christmas season and toward the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord…

As we contemplate the year that has passed and anticipate the year to come…

Recall the very first words Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John…

“What are you looking for?”

Jesus speaks these words to Andrew and John. They follow Him after John the Baptist identifies Jesus as “the Lamb of God.”

In another translation, Jesus asks “What do you want?”

So, I’m asking…

What are you looking for this year? What do you want?

What are you willing to do to get it?

What are you willing to sacrifice?

Andrew and John answer Jesus by asking him where He is staying. Jesus said “Come, and you will see.”

Are you willing to follow? Are you willing to take a risk?

What are you looking for? What do you want?

How important is it to you?

Five minutes. Take five minutes to contemplate your answers.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention is to post regularly and to include comments on the Daily Liturgy. I will also explore other matters of faith that catch my attention. I have begun posting video reflections (and other stuff) on YouTube. Click here to take a gander: https://www.youtube.com/user/davekwiecinski

I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

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When is a Fitness Room Not a Fitness Room — Or — “How to Make Chicken Salad Out of Chicken…” WAIT! I Mean: “…Out of a Complimentary Fitness Room Breakfast”

08/11/2015

Spontaneous vacations are a ton of fun for Kathy and me. We love to drive. We also love to drive to wherever the wind — or road — takes us.

On the first day of our trip to Kathy’s sister’s new place in North Carolina earlier this month, we enjoyed a beautiful drive along the unbeaten path of western and southern Indiana. Early evening, we stopped for a milk shake just north of Louisville (hey, it was vacation). We contemplated where to spend the night as we half-planned our itinerary for the following day.

As we left the parking lot, the skies began to cloud up, but we had no idea what was in store.

The beauty and serenity day came to a screeching halt the second (and I do mean the second) we crossed the Ohio River. Buckets of rain and ferocious wind rocked us as we crept along Interstate 65. It was one of the nastiest thunderstorms either of us ever remember driving through. We exited the highway twice to catch our breath. After the second attempt to make meaningful progress, we were ready to find a hotel… STAT!

We landed at a La Quinta, courtesy of the Hotel Tonight mobile app. Wouldn’t have been our first choice, but it became our oasis for the evening. The room was decent enough. It was reasonably quiet, but best of all, we weren’t traveling down the road surrounded by a wall of water and wind.

And they offered a complimentary breakfast.

I approach these complimentary breakfasts with a grain of salt (no pun intended). Hampton Inn has clearly set the standard for the average traveler with a complete breakfast buffet — none of this “continental breakfast” stuff — and the other chains do their best to imitate Hampton, but most don’t even come close.

The La Quinta was no exception.

In their defense, the hotel was under renovation. Their breakfast bar area was completely closed off.

Fitness Room Breakfast 4

Fitness Rule #7: Only one stale, tasteless sweet roll per workout.

 

So they moved the fitness equipment out of the fitness room. That’s where they set up the breakfast bar.

The juxtaposition was priceless.

My photos are awful. I didn’t want to get other guests into the shots and I took them hastily.

The photo to the left shows one of the containers of sweet cereal, the sweet rolls and muffins, sitting under the Fitness Center Rules sign.

Rule 6: Unsupervised use of this facility by children is prohibited.

That’s just way too funny.

 

But the point is that you can make chicken salad out of… well, I can’t say that in a family setting… so… you can make good choices, even at a bad complimentary continental breakfast buffet.

And the good choices are not always as obvious as conventional health and fitness wisdom would lead you to believe.

Temporary location or not, the breakfast fare at La Quinta was rather standard for a non-Hampton complimentary breakfast. So the excuse of not having their usual digs only goes so far.

A more complete view of the "dry cereal and starch bar."

A more complete view of the “dry cereal and starch bar.”

Three cereals. All sweet.

Really?

And if you really need to spike your blood sugar, not only do you get simple carbs with ultra-processed wheat flour, you also get a significant helping of sugar on your pastries.

At least one of the cereal choices was raisin bran (why the cereal makers find it necessary to add sugar to a cereal with raisins is beyond me). Adding milk gives you a nice dose of protein.

So there’s Relatively Nice Choice #1. If given the choice of three sweetened cereals, choose the raisin bran. Low-fat or no-fat milk gives you a decent balance of semi-decent-quality carbohydrate, some fiber, and lean protein.

If you can choose unsweetened Cheerios (or similar toasted oat cereal), either that or raisin bran. What you sacrifice with sugar in the raisin bran, you probably give up in a gram or two of fiber.

Don’t ever forget your fiber!

Fitness Room Breakfast 2

Water, milk, and juice, yogurt (in the container), fresh fruit.

Quick quiz. What’s the best choice here if you have to pick one — and only one — for breakfast?

Water?

Always important, but you need calories.

Juice?

Probably not. All the fiber is processed out of the finished product. You’re left with sugar. And once you drink it, a spike in your blood sugar. Prepare for a quick energy crash. (With the water, you don’t have to worry about an energy crash. You don’t provide your body with any energy to begin with!)

Fresh fruit?

A better choice, but probably not the best choice pictured. Bad: lots of sugar. Good: fiber, which will moderate the blood sugar crash. But no protein.

Yogurt?

Here’s the good: protein. Here’s the bad: added sugar. Fiber: likely minimal or nonexistent.

Leaving us with the best choice on the table…

Milk!

No fiber, but the sugar content is natural, not processed added sugar. You get healthy, lean protein. And if it’s low-fat, you get a little fat, which is also essential in the digestive process.

And then you get your fiber later.

(But… don’t forget your fiber!)

Fitness Room Breakfast 1

The delectable hot food selection, condiments, and some hard boiled eggs!

What do you do with this? Biscuits and gravy, baked or fried potatoes (not sure… probably microwaved), and hard boiled eggs.

Best choice by far: the hard boiled eggs. And yes, the whole egg, yolk and all. The fat and cholesterol content of the yolk is unfairly maligned and actually contains essential nutrients that comprise a healthy diet.

Here’s what I did with this table and the rest of the breakfast.

I started with raisin bran and milk and three hard boiled eggs.

The hard boiled eggs were hard as rocks. Likely overcooked and they tasted like they’d been in the refrigerator for … oh… a month or so (editorial note: just kidding!).

That was a turn-off, but I don’t throw away food unless it tastes like poison (or Brussels sprouts; or chickpeas). So I sauntered back to the hot food and ladled some gravy on top of the eggs, which I had cut into bite-sized pieces.

I was pleasantly surprised at how light the creamy gravy was. I’m sure it was packaged. But it was tasty. It improved the taste of the eggs and filled me up.

None of these items were my first choices. But it fulfilled my objective of getting:

  • lean protein (milk and eggs… oh yeah, and the gravy)
  • starchy carbohydrate (the bran flakes, raisins, milk, and gravy)
  • fibrous carbohydrate (the bran flakes)

I’ll say it again. Do not be fooled by the fat in an egg. It’s good for you.

Not pictured: the coffee bar, which also included some packets of instant oatmeal, loaded with sugar. If instant, plain oatmeal is an option, that is also an alternative to raisin bran and Cheerios. It’s processed, but will generally provide a couple grams of fiber.

All right… Kathy and I are back home again. We survived the Smoky Mountains and more heavy rain on our way there, but nothing close to that first night.

On our trip, we stayed at several Hampton Inns. They do breakfast right, providing a larger variety of food, including cooked old fashioned oatmeal, and some healthy options along with the usual fare. Could be the subject of a separate piece some day…

The big view of a Hampton breakfast buffet.

The big view of a Hampton breakfast buffet.

(Still, I couldn’t wait to fix my own steel-cut oatmeal this morning. I really missed it!)

 


The Cure for Insomnia. Guaranteed.

05/12/2015

Seems that every day, I hear someone talking about lack of sleep. Or a Facebook post: “Who else is up?” Another: “Why am I still up at 3:30?”

These people can’t fall asleep. They have “tried everything.” Nothing seems to work.

But…

They haven’t tried everything.

I have the solution!

It works every single time it’s tried.

Guaranteed or your money back.

No ups. No extras.

You don’t need sleep aids or pills. You don’t need chamomile tea or warm milk with butter and honey before beddy-bye, although these are fun and dee-lish!

NOTE: My solution is not intended to replace medical advice. If your doctor has prescribed medication for you, or if you are being otherwise treated for a specific medical condition, do not disregard his/her advice!  If you have any doubts or questions, consult your physician.

But… I’d still suggest you ask them if you should try my advice.

Are you ready for my guaranteed, no-fail cure for insomnia?

Have you read my disclaimer? Do you understand it?

Okay.

Ready?

Here goes…

Want to sleep this soundly?

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Try this…

Repetitive prayer.

That’s it?

That’s it.

It works.

Every single time you try it.

And just for kicks, let’s say it doesn’t work. What’s the worst that’s happened? You’ve constructively used time that you would have otherwise spent in misery.

But it won’t happen.

You will fall asleep.

Structured prayer works best.

Try a Rosary. Or a Divine Mercy Chaplet.

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It will work.

Focus on a particular need. Best if you focus on someone other than yourself. Lose yourself in thoughts of a friend, a co-worker, a loved one…

Someone who is ill. Someone who has experienced a death in the family. A caregiver who doesn’t get relief. Someone enduring a trying time.

What if I don’t know how to pray? What if I don’t know a structured prayer?

Being Catholic certainly has its advantages. The Holy Rosary is a staple in our spiritual diet. Besides the Divine Mercy Chaplet, there are various other chaplets. If you have a favorite, by all means, use it! It will work.

But let’s say you are unfamiliar with prayer.

The Rosary consists of five decades (ten prayers) of the Hail Mary, along with introductory and closing prayers and a meditation for each decade.

Don’t know how to pray the Rosary?

Start here:

Say the Hail Mary.

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

Think about the person or situation you are praying for as you pray.

Say it ten times. Or don’t count. Just continue to pray it.

Focus on the intention of your prayers.

How much good have you done?

And as you drift off to sleep, you are lifting up good intentions to God.

One more thing.

Don’t doubt me until you’ve tried it.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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#dadupdate – Back in the Hospital

01/13/2015

Dad is back in the hospital.

Not a fall this time. Not a new complication from the LVAD.

It’s an old issue. Fluid retention.

This is where we started last year. Summer of 2013, to be exact.

I’m pissed off. Pissed off at the pharmacy that didn’t grasp that a man with a weak heart couldn’t wait five days for a prescription to be filled. Pissed off that I wasn’t more proactive on Monday when Mom said CVS still hadn’t filled the prescription for Dad’s diuretic, called in on Friday. Why didn’t I insist that she call elsewhere? Why didn’t I call?

I’m pissed off at myself that I didn’t get more things done on the fitness project I’m working on. I let myself get derailed by a couple of financial matters that needed to get done, but maybe not in the order and at the time I addressed them.

I robbed myself of a couple of precious productive hours.

And pissed off that I couldn’t drag my sorry dupa (Polish slang for the backside) off the couch any sooner than now to put my thoughts down.

I’m pissed off that Dad is now likely to miss Emily’s Sweet 16 party on Saturday.

But amidst all the stress and anxiety, I’m still grateful to have my mom and dad here to talk to. To visit. To help. To have a meal with. To enjoy Mom’s cooking and baking. And her laugh. And Dad’s sense of humor.

How many people can say that their parents just celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary? They are still here — both here — to celebrate.

I’m a blessed, fortunate guy.

Had a discussion this evening with someone who is severely depressed. Recently lost a parent. Sees no joy whatsoever in this life. No feelings. No sense that prayer is important. No sense that life is important.

What do we own? What can we claim as ours, now and forever? Only our thoughts. Only our relationship with God. When all is said and done, that’s all we’ve got, folks.

Everything else besides how we touched other people, how they touched us, and our relationship with our Creator means nothing when it’s time to say goodbye to this life.

When everything around us is hopeless or when we encounter a person who is in hopeless despair, what’s our most powerful method of combating the enemy?

Prayer.

It’s better than sending a check. Or a box of chocolates. Yeah, sometimes the money comes in handy for things that make us more comfortable or for necessities.

But when the need for all of those things are gone, what do we have left? What do any of us have?

Our relationship with our Creator.

And we better be prepared.

In the meantime, we have to live our lives. We should function at the highest level possible, given our station in life, given our income level and skill set.

And yes we need prayer and a strong spiritual life in order to do those things. But we need something more basic, more fundamental for our temporal world.

Take care of your body.

Yes, we need to take care of our minds. But if we neglect this vessel of flesh and blood, it will betray us as we grow older.

We only have so many years on this Earth. Some of what determines that is our genetic predisposition.

But our health and functionality as human beings also depends on lifestyle.

How do you treat your body?

Are you taking care of it?

Are you doing everything you can to keep it operating as efficiently as it can and should be?

How many years do you have left?

Are you prepared for what comes next? After this life?

Are you prepared for the years you have left? Has your lifestyle increased your risk of heart disease or diabetes? What about fluid retention?

What about functional fitness? How prepared are you for a slip on the ice? Could your body hold up against a sudden thud to the ground? How sturdy are your bones? How strong is your heart? How efficient is your cardiovascular system?

Let’s ponder and answer these questions together. For the benefit of the people whose lives we touch. And who touch our lives.

And with that, bedtime. Still exhausted after too little sleep yesterday. Hopefully, these words make sense.


It IS Your Fault!

12/01/2014

I have HAD it! ENOUGH with the commercials telling me that it’s not my fault.

IT IS MY FAULT.

And…

IT IS YOUR FAULT.

Does anyone take responsibility for anything any more?

This is crazy!

You can’t lose weight but it’s not your fault.

You can’t find a job and it’s not your fault.

You’re addicted to junk food and it’s not your fault. It’s the potato chip’s fault. Oh. And advertisers. And the evil manufacturers. Probably even the president of the company!

You can’t perform in the bedroom and it’s not your fault.

Your child’s behavior is not your fault.

Your divorce is not your fault.

Your crappy password is not your fault.

Neither is your lousy golf swing.

Even being buried in credit card debt is not your fault.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to blame you for everything that happens to you. Don’t confuse me with the guy who blames the woman who is raped or abused. Don’t think I deny medical evidence of uncontrollable weight issues or physical incapacity. Don’t discount what I have to say because you know people who had ‘this condition’ or ‘that misfortune’…

That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about being willing to take a little personal responsibility.

Sometimes, when you can’t lose weight, it’s because you don’t really want to lose weight.

Sometimes, when you can’t stop overeating, it’s because you don’t want to stop eating.

Sometimes, when you’re unhappy with the way your body looks, it’s because you’re really not motivated to do anything about it.

Sometimes in life – and I dare say, quite often – it IS your fault!

It’s not because you can’t. It’s because you won’t.

We live at a time when culture and society want to explain away any and every negative experience as just another injustice done to us. We can’t help our reactions. We can justify our actions by what it happening around us or to us.

And none of it is our fault.

Bullshit.  (pardon me)

I’m sick of it.

If you haven’t noticed, we live in a world of propaganda. You have to search for real news. You need to dig deep to evaluate whether what you’re hearing is fact, or someone’s interpretation of what happened, or has been deliberately skewed to make you think a certain way.

Children cannot be trusted with the facts any more. They have to be taught how to think, what to think. Powers of reason are trampled in favor of popular thought.

And when I say children, I’m not limiting the definition to preschoolers and early grade school. Middle school, junior high, high school curricula are peppered with propaganda.

Even colleges and universities trample honest reason and debate.

What’s wrong with us?

Being taught what to think. Personal responsibility takes a back seat to being taken care of… because we can’t take care of ourselves?

Is it possible that we can’t lose weight because we eat too much?

Is it possible I eat too much junk food because I enjoy it?

Is it possible I could learn how the body works and make changes to my lifestyle that can help me get and stay healthier than I’ve ever been in my life?

Can you?

I challenge you to try.

In my early forties, I changed the way I ate. I studied, evaluated, and experimented with every popular diet and “eating plan.” I learned that what and how I ate made a difference. I learned that I could eat what I wanted to eat, within reason, but I also discovered that choosing to eliminate certain types of food from my diet made a significant difference in how I felt.

I changed the way I approached fitness. No more run around the racquetball court for an hour and think I’m in great physical condition. I learned that my concept of cardiovascular exercise as a fitness tool was all wrong. I learned why strength training was not just for meat heads and egomaniacs, but an essential part of long-term health.

I eliminated post-lunch drowsiness, my chronically cold hands and feet, and many minor physical ailments. I didn’t get sick as often. I ate more and felt better than ever. I actually even liked the way parts of my body looked that used to disgust me.

I learned that certain people weren’t born with a good metabolism and that I could even change mine.

And I can change yours, too.

Don’t want to change?

Then maybe it IS your fault.

I’m not always this cold. In fact, ask my clients. I never come across like this working one-on-one with them. But I heard “it’s not your fault” one too many times today.

And I snapped.


Mouth Clamped Shut: the Anguish of a Responsible Personal Trainer

01/09/2014

It’s a recurring theme. 

To speak or not to speak?  To be a Buttinsky or keep my mouth shut?

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced since becoming a personal trainer is maintaining my own fitness.  Between maintaining balance between scheduling appointments, travel, administrative and personal obligations, I also had to deal with what was for me a new phenomenon.

Celebrity?!?

Okay, so that may be slightly overstating things, but there’s no question that I became a popular and sought-after figure on the fitness floor.  Consistently completing an intense, focused workout became more and more challenging in my “home” fitness center.

So many people stopped to chat — fitness center members, staff, my clients — that I couldn’t follow my usual routine: maintain an intensity that I was used to or complete all the exercises I wanted to do in the time I had to do them.

Oh, I know.  I could have politely but firmly excused myself and continued my routine.  I could, and did, wear headphones (didn’t help).  But that’s so against my nature that I almost always allowed the interruption.

So, for this and other reasons, I’m a member of more than one club.  I need my space!

That presents its own set of challenges.  Not the least of which is learning to keep my mouth shut.

And not interrupt my workout!

(I mean, how true is the expression “Life Imitates Art?”)

Well, life imitated art as recently as this morning.  A young lady — who I’m certain was doing her fair share of courting (that’s a polite, old fashioned way to say flirting) — was asking her buff, male companion for help as she performed a series of strength training exercises.

I cringed as I watched her do the first exercise.  Dumbbells overhead, sitting on a flat bench, her lower back arched too far forward, shoulders rounded back, and emitting a cute little grunt as she heaved the weights heavenward.

She was imitating her musclebound companion, who was performing the same exercise right next to her, on a chair with proper back support.  He tossed the much heavier dumbbells above his head with such ease that they could have been plastic toys.

They both finished their set, she on the bench and he in the chair.  Then he sat her down in the chair and gave her instructions as she performed a second set.

Back still arched unnaturally forward, negating the benefit of sitting in the chair, shoulders molded around the top and back of the chair.  Same cute little grunt as she heaved the weights high above her head.  That is, when she wasn’t telling him “I want to look like youuuuu!”

I finished my set of chest presses and I need a stretch.  I’m watching her lift as I walked directly behind her chair, the words screaming in my head, “pardon me; may I make a suggestion?”

But I can’t bring myself to open my yap.

Just like driving past a traffic accident, I had a hard time looking the other way.

I see this scene repeated virtually every time I’m in a gym or fitness studio.

What to do?  Where does my responsibility begin and end?  Do I have any?  It’s like knowing CPR and not offering assistance.

But… she was getting assistance.

How did I know the guy wasn’t her paid personal trainer?

How would my friendly advice have been perceived?  Would my interruption have been any different than those friendly interruptions I get during my workouts?

It was getting late.  I finished my workout and headed for the locker room.  There were my two new, unnamed friends, behind me now at the leg press machine.  She was on the seat, a couple light weight plates on either side of the machine.  He was offering instructions.  Her head off the bench, neck muscles straining, shoulder blades rotated forward, teeth clenched, as she drove her legs forward.

Heading toward the shower, I had visions of shoulder and cervical spine issues in this lady’s future.

Should I have been a Buttinsky and said something?

Would she have listened?

What do you think?


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