Monday, February 25, 2008

Fitness Update #3: Running a tight ship

Originally uploaded by eduardo.peiro

Since my last update, I've been swamped with studying for midterms after fully making use of Reading Week (March break for us Canadians) by reading :) The level of focus, clarity with what needs to be covered in my Consolidations and Corporate Tax courses has taken precedence of what would normally be training regularly for my half-marathon. But for anyone else during these times that require intense focus, you shouldn't drop everything that isn't related to my studies.

While I don't have my new running shoes that I ordered from eBay in my possession yet, I've supplemented some of my long and tempo runs by cross training with swimming. So far I'm up to 22 lengths consecutively, where I add an extra lap for each week.

Squeezing in a workout during midterms is challenging but not impossible. It doesn't need to be a full fledged workout. It can be a brisk 30 minute jog, a few laps around the pool to get the heart pumping or some core body work for the abs. You just need to keep in mind your priorities and stick to your schedule.

I've been experimenting with Parkinson's Law and Pareto's Principle (80/20 rule) just not just studying for midterms in order to increase my productivity but all areas of my life as well. So far, it's working great, but I need to be conscious of these principles as well as visual reminders of those principles. The results have been positive so far, and I'll explore these concepts further in a future post.

Why I insist on training during studies is that it keeps my mind sharp and my energy level up in order to what I need to get accomplished despite having a full day's worth of studying, and more... which reminds me - I have to go to the pool now. :)

I've got some awesome articles on cultivating charisma, leadership and improv coming down the pipeline. Stay tuned!

- Will

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

6 Hacks to Quit Smoking Once and For All

I Quit
Originally uploaded by adrianadesigner
If you’re a smoker, how many times have you tried to kick the nasty habit of smoking only to succumb to the supposed ‘pleasures’ or ‘enjoyment’ of nicotine running through your veins? Probably more than 3 times would be a conservative estimate. I’m sure all current and ex-smokers can relate through their struggles of kicking the habit.

As an ex-smoker myself, I have tried to kick the habit for a total of 6 times. At my heaviest period of smoking after starting at the ripe age of 19 until 24, I was going through a pack every two days. Needless to say, I didn’t feel that great after feeding my lungs with cancer sticks. It was that 6th time, I decided to try something drastically different.

Being sick of the disappointment of crawling back to cigarettes as my outlet for releasing stress., whenever I felt stress coming on, I’d immediately reach for my pack of cigarettes and if I didn’t have any on me, my eyes would automatically scan for any smokers in my vicinity in order to buy a smoke off of them. I found this behaviour to be extremely problematic and disturbing, and sought after ‘extreme’ measures to address this problem. I desperately wanted to reclaim my health and fitness back.

Here are the 6 Hacks of Effectively Kicking the Smoking Habit:

1. Undertake Hypnosis sessions - Yup, you read it right. Hypnosis. While hypnosis to many sounds hokey, creepy or is brushed off as an illegitimate science, bare with me for a moment. I decided to take hypnosis sessions. As I’m a highly experimental person and I use myself as a guinea pig for anything self-improvement related. Only after determining the safety risks are nil would I recommend it to anyone else. I knew of an acquaintance of mine, Luke Chao who is a Certified Hypnotherapist and runs The Morpheus Clinic, which happened to be steps away from my school.

Apparently his claim to fame was that he successfully performed hypnotherapy on a relatively well known Porn Actress named Sydnee Steele to kick her habit of smoking. Her testimonial is still on his website. Without going into too much detail, I determined it was a safe environment and most importantly it worked after 3 sessions for me. If you can afford the upfront costs (about $80 per session for students) it will save you your health a whole lot of money as the temptations of smoking are drastically reduced. Most importantly, however, you have to WANT to quit smoking and make a commitment to yourself. If you genuinely enjoy smoking, then you’ll be hard pressed kick the habit.

2. Gradually ease into it - For the heavier smokers out there, this here's technique that helped me drastically cut down my consumption - I simply refused to buy packs of cigarettes as I know having full access wouldn't be a constructive way of kicking the habit.

Take your time and don't beat yourself up if you cave in. Expect it, as it will happen and know that it won't happen another time as it may well be a bit of a struggle to quit smoking on hypnosis or willpower alone.

Perhaps taking resorting to nicotine alternatives such as Nicorette gum or the nicotine patch will help curb your cravings so you can wean yourself off of smoking altogether. Be sure to see if these methods poses any health risks to you before deciding to choose this as an option.

For any of this to work, you need to set a timeline for yourself, let’s say quit smoking within 3 months. You need all of your progress to be clear, specific and most importantly measurable. I had the help of my old blog at the time to keep track of my progress.

If, however, you do succumb to the urge, you can buy a cigarette off someone for a dollar, and keep track of how much you’re spending through your buying ONE cigarette at a time. The amount that you spend will astound and appall you.

3. Avoid social smoking situations
- what I mean by this is that if you started smoking as a social activity, like myself, you might want to avoid these situations altogether. When your friends/colleagues invite you to join them for a smoke, politely say "No, I'm quitting smoking, I'm sure you understand where I'm coming from". No harm no foul. You didn't insult your friends/peer group and you saved yourself from falling into a situation where you're more susceptible to caving in due to peer pressure.

4. Join a quit smoking program - they’re FREE and they’re there to help and support your journey to kicking the habit and most likely they’ll have contests and prizes as an added incentive to join and follow through.

Throughout all of the province of Ontario (Canada), post-secondary institutions have what is called the “Leave the Pack Behind Program” (LTPB) which is launched at the beginning of each semester. They do regular checkups with breathalyzers that measure the amount of carbon monoxide in your breath and can detect minute traces of it to determine whether you’ve smoked or not.

I had joined this program and a won $200 tuition credit for my school, a ton of prizes and had a party for all winters just for following through on that commitment to my health. How freakin’ cool is that??

5. Get Accountability Buddies - If you don’t have a quit smoking program in your area, have Accountability Buddies. Make sure that they are super supportive of you, give you constructive feedback, will grill you if you don’t follow through and most importantly WANT you to kick the habit.

I had my friend Frank Whitestone support me through the LTPB Program, where he would check up on me regularly to see how I was doing. Having Accountability Buddies was actually one of the requirements to join, but having Accountability Buddies works equally well if you don’t have access to a similar program, where the only prize you get is your health back.. but you can't put a price on that.

6. Leverage through exercise – you can gain more leverage for your crusade towards destroying the habit of smoking by exercising regularly and working towards a specific outcome. While it certainly isn’t easy when you’re coughing and wheezing after running around for a few minutes, exercising can very well be be the final nail in the coffin to your quitting smoking.

It was my decision to train for a marathon that effectively nullified any thoughts of smoking. I took massive action and cut out anything and everything that was a detriment to my training as nothing would come between my focus and vision of crossing the finish line, healthy and smoke free. While training for a marathon may not tickle everyone’s fancy, taking up something that forces you work your lungs be it a sport or an activity – anything physical that gets your heart pumping and your lungs expanding should seal the deal in your quest to quit smoking.

As I mentioned in point 1, you have to WANT to quit smoking and give it everything you’ve got. Think about all the pain in the future you’ll have to endure when you’re suffering from lung cancer awaiting treatments in your hospital bed. If you imagine potential reality vividly as if it were REAL, I can guarantee it will scare the living daylights out of you and you’ll look at cigarettes in a different light.

Keep in mind, however, that the process to quit smoking will vary from person to person, whether you decide to take massive action to kick the habit like I did or combine any of the approaches I described above, you’ll be on your way to a much healthier future for yourself!

So to recap, the ways that you can effectively squash the habit are to:

  • Hypnosis
  • Ease yourself into it and measure your progress
  • Avoid social smoking situations
  • Quit smoking programs
  • Have accountability buddies
  • Exercise!

Let me know in the comments section of your experiences with quitting smoking. If you’re a non-smoker, share your experiences of your friends who smoke and how dealt with the situation and how you can a part of their support network!

If you learned anything or liked this article, please Digg it. I appreciate your readership :)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fitness Update #2 - Don't wish me to "break a leg"

Today was a painful experience. My long run is up to 10K's, but my shins gave out. The 'achilles heel' that led me to pull out after running 5K's in agony were ... my running shoes.

For every runner, the lowest common denominator and most important piece of equipment is a decent pair of technical running shoes. They take brunt and abuse of our running endeavours, so it would only make sense to check out whether your shoes have seen its days. I figure I had about two more months in them for running, but boy was I ever wrong. I had to get shin splints in order to numb the pain and decided to retire my Mizuno Wave Inspires. They've served me well, but I digress...

For all runners out there, dropping by a stores that focuses solely on running such as The Running Room is a great way to check out your options of what shoe is perfect for you. You can get a proper fitting of a decent pair of technical runners, to see what type of shoes were best for your foot type.

I eventually picked up a pair of Asics GT-2130's, which are supposedly the most popular running shoe in North America, but their cost was a bit of a turn off and since I'm on a budget, I'll be returning them to get an older model of an equally better if not superior running shoe. I found the Mizuno Wave Nirvana 2, their 2005 model on eBay for $55 USD, which is substantially cheaper, the only setback is the wait time, so I'll be doing some cross training to maintain my fitness level.

Keeping in check your running shoes or whatever fitness equipment that is crucial to your success should be taken into account as we often take them for granted and don't consider the consequences should they fail on us.

For now, it's back to the gym for me, while I'm patiently waiting for my shoes to arrive...

- Will

Here's the route I was supposed to take. I made it half way and had to take a streetcar for the trip back home. Next week, I'll be back at it, but until then.. cross training :)

Friday, February 15, 2008

9 Tips on Becoming a Better Public Speaker

Time and time again, public speaking or presenting in front of an audience lists as one of the top fears or phobias held by people around the world. Why can some people speak effortlessly and with ease, while others fall flat on their faces or don't even bother? The truth of the matter is, to speak in front of an audience is not a natural thing to do. We all had to start from somewhere. No one is really naturally inclined, because public speaking is an art and as such, it takes consistent practice and refinement.

You ever wonder how Sen. Obama Barack got to the level where he is today? I bet you that it was through consistent practice and refinement that he was able to get to the level where he is today in swaying millions of people to relate and buy into his new vision for change in America.

It's not surprising that people aren't scrambling for opportunities to speak in front of an audience. The fear of being judged, being in the spotlight or being seen as an authority can stop anyone dead in their tracks. You have to acknowledge that the fear, pain and anxiety associated with public speaking is self-created, which is insane. The key is to face your fear, acknowledge it and just do it! You grow and learn so much by pushing your comfort zone.

Public speaking is one of those skills that helps develop your character and gives you that unshakable confidence in order to interact and communicate with people in an effective and confident manner. But in order to get better at anything we often look for guidance.

Here are a few realizations after reflecting on my first speaking engagement in front of close to a hundred people at the Ryerson Tri-Mentoring First Impressions Gala on behalf of Social Relations Institute.

1. Research your audience - find out or think of all the reasons why they're attending the event you're speaking at, what sort of value you can provide to them, why they're there and what they want to get out of the event, and what your message to them will be. Once you've answered those questions, try and weave your findings and ideas around the theme of the event and cater it to your audience. PREPARE and KNOW what you'll be talking about!

2. Brief notes and timing - have some brief notes or cue cards that you can refer to so they serve as reminders for you to stay on track and within your given time slot. If you're a Powerpoint savvy presenter, keep in mind that you shouldn't be reading your slides to your audience - any knucklehead can do that. A Powerpoint presentation should serve as signposts of what you'll be talking about. Also, you should be wary of cramming so much information that you get overwhelmed; you will also in turn confuse your audience with too much information.

3. NEVER memorize! - this is probably one of the most common ways of preparing for a speech in a class presentation, for work or at an event. When you're speaking to inform or persuade, memorization will come across as rehearsed or inauthentic. The purpose is not to remember your speech, but make a connection with the audience in order to get their attention and build a strong rapport with them.

4. Your mindset - Go in with the mindset of imparting a simple message that your audience can remember, relate to or implement in their own lives. The more the audience can relate and make sense of what you're talking about, the more effective you'll be able to inform and persuade people in changing their behaviours.

5. Visualize your success! - if possible, scope out the venue you'll be speaking at and familiarize yourself with the environment. When you do that, visualizing your success will be made much easier. You can imagine the entire audience applauding, the thundering of their clapping with hoots and whistles, and ultimately praising your speech/presentation. When you envision something to the point of it feeling real, you'll feel like you've done it and rehearsed it in real life many times before. It can give you that added confidence in order to deliver a high impact and outstanding speech.

6. Don't beat yourself up - if you don't do well as you originally envisioned, don't beat yourself up over it. You took action and did what the majority of people can't do - speak in front of an audience who see you as an authority in your field or topic.

Reflect on the things that need to be worked on taking into account your thoughts and experiences in a blog, journal or even with supportive friends/colleagues so you can learn, grow and deliver an even better performance the next time! Remember, becoming an effective public speaker is a process and journey - not a destination.

7. Measure your progress - you can do this two ways: as I mentioned previously, journaling or blogging, and videotaping your speeches.
Although the thought of watching yourself speak can make you cringe (as it happens to me), there are a lot of things that can be gained by watching yourself. It allows you to see yourself from the audience's perspective. You can pick up on little nervous ticks you may have, improve how you express emotion, and your body language to the audience.

Only 7% of our communication is done orally, the other 93% is done through body language and emotion. Since we can fully control our body language and emotions, we can tweak it so we can improve the way we communicate instantly.

If you want to go further with this, you can put your videos up on Youtube and share it with friends and colleagues so they can give you constructive feedback that you can take into consideration for future speaking engagements.

8. Turn public speaking into something enjoyable - instead of framing public speaking in fear, turn it into something enjoyable. For myself, whenever I feel extremely uncomfortable (as when I first started public speaking), I conditioned myself into knowing that there is a breakthrough to be had in my public speaking. It both excites me and pushes me to express myself fully, authentically, and passionately in order to capture an audience's attention to engage them.

9. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! - I can't stress this point enough. I believe it takes theory, skill and practice in order to be truly masterful in anything. Public speaking/Professional Presentation classes in school can be a great first start (for students, you can get credit towards yourdegree) to break you out of your shell and push you outside of your comfort zone. This is how I started out when I had taken by taking Professional Presentations at Ryerson University. It served as a great starting point and put on me this path of improving my communication to not only audiences but everyone in general.

Additionally, Toastmasters is another great way of honing the art of public speaking. I found out about Toastmasters through my Professional Presentations class, and I never looked back!
Toastmasters an International organization focused on developing communication and leadership skills in its members. As it is international, you most likely have a few hundred Toastmasters clubs in your area if you live in a major metropolitan city.

What are your thoughts and feelings on public speaking ? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fitness Update #1 - Cold Weather Running!

So I've bumped up my long run from 8K last week up to 9K this week. The challenge for this week wasn't the distance, it was the temperature! I completed my run in about 58 minutes and 24 seconds, which could have been done faster had it not been for the treacherous terrain. Running through unshoveled piles of snow/ice aren't really that of a concern for me, what really concerned me were the patches of ice while I was going DOWNHILL on Avenue Road.

I have to say that I have a lot of respect for people who run for longer distances in sub -10 degree Celsius weather WITH windchill added! I am so glad that my friend Beverly, who is also training for a marathon had given me the tip of putting Vaseline on my face when I'm running in particularly frigid weather.

I finally got to test the limits of my midweight running tights that I picked up from Mountain Equipment Co-op ( probably -7 degrees Celsius is the limit to which it can sustain any reasonable amount of warmth for my thighs. By the time I got back to the Ryerson gym and had taken off my tights, my thighs were red as lobsters. Note to self - pick up a pair of heavyweight tights for these crazier days.

Below is the course I took with the use of the handy-dandy runners companion, :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Importance of Sickness Prevention and Challenges of Becoming an Early Riser

It's been quite some time since I've been waking up early. I was inspired through the different personal development programs I had finished, and reading great posts by found on and on the benefits of waking up early.

During the time, I was able to keep it up for about 3 weeks straight back when I trying it out in late Dec '07 up until Mid-January 2008. That was when I caught the cold and had confined myself to bed for a few days.

Whatever momentum I had built up over the past few weeks of waking up at 5:30 AM, I felt I had lost. It was like having the wind being knocked out of me while running full-speed ahead.

While I thought it was something minor where I could recover on my own, boy was I wrong. It taught me an important lesson that when you build up so much momentum - a routine that you feel is working for you - becoming sick can just throw everything you've worked for up to that point into turmoil.

By day 4 after I had caught the cold, I took some DayQuil medicine in order to alleviate the symptoms, which helped me feel better, but I didn't feel I was my same 'great' self a day prior to becoming sick. What it boils down to is that being proactive about your own health is something that needs to be addressed immediately so you minimize the loss our most precious resource - time. I'll be adopting the use of ColdFX - a daily cold/flu prevention medicine available in all major Canadian Drug stores.

I have to admit at this point of my life, it's a constant struggle and battle to sustain that positive change especially when you're coming from toxic cycles of waking up to an erratic schedule.

I'm going commit myself to waking up at 5:00 AM for about the 2nd time now, and I'll report my progress and what make use of the time I have to myself in the morning, within a week.

- Will

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The webtool that every aspiring Marathon runner should have -!

After a brief discussion on the phone with my dear friend Beverly, she had told me about this awesome website by the name of With MapMyRun, you're able to track the distance of your run in both km's or miles (which is useful for Canadians :) and measure your progress according to your own regimen. Also you could find a tightly knit community of runners that have various running groups or clubs in this area.

Below is a run that I completed earlier this afternoon to see how much further I could push myself. Here I chose my school, the Ted Rogers School of Management right beside Eaton Centre as the destination, where I'd swing around down along Bay St. and back east along Queen St East back home.

I'm excited to measure my marathon training progress here. I think I'll bump up my distance up to 10 km for next Sunday (weather pending). See you on the street or on the trails!

- Will