Only Have 4 Minutes to Work Out? Try Tabata!

TabataWhat if I told you working out for 4 minutes per day is more than enough to radically improve your fitness level… would you believe me?

Well, I’m here to tell you that such a workout style exists… it’s called Tabata and is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese physician who first studied this training style back in 1996.

During one study two groups worked through different exercise programs.

  • Group 1, the control group, performed one hour of moderate intensity workouts (cycling) five days per week totaling 1,800 minutes of training.
  • Group 2 performed 4 minute, extremely intense, Tabata style workouts totaling 120 minutes of training.

The results were startling. The folks in group 1 (1,800 minutes of training) saw no anaerobic capacity improvement, as in zero, while their aerobic performance (V02max) improved by 5 ml.kg.

The folks in group 2, the Tabata group, saw their anaerobic capacity improve by 28% while their aerobic performance (V02max) improved by 7 ml.kg.

Put another way… the Tabata group blew the control group away even though they spent far less time exercising.

What is Tabata Training?

So, obviously, Tabata training works. The question is what the heck is it?

Simply put a Tabata is an 8 round workout where each round consists of 20 seconds of “work” and 10 seconds of “rest.”

Here’s what a single Tabata may look like using the push-up as the movement.

  • Round 1: 20 seconds of push-ups followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • Round 2: 20 seconds of push-ups followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • Round 3: 20 seconds of push-ups followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • Round 4: 20 seconds of push-ups followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • Round 5: 20 seconds of push-ups followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • Round 6: 20 seconds of push-ups followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • Round 7: 20 seconds of push-ups followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • Round 8: 20 seconds of push-ups followed by 10 seconds of rest

These 8 rounds total 4 minutes and, let me just say, if you push yourself you’ll be smoked!

There are a few ways to score a Tabata. Most folks count their reps each round and then use the lowest rep count as the final score. So, for example, let’s say you did 15 push-ups in round 1… but only managed 5 in round 8. In this scenario your final score for the Tabata would be 5.

Now, others also promote totaling your reps across all 8 rounds while others do both methods (lowest and total), which makes a lot of sense to me.

Who Should Try Tabata Training?

So that’s what it is and how it’s done… the next question is who should try these workouts? I mean it’s only 4 minutes so surely anyone can pull them off, right? Not so much.

We definitely suggest you develop a strong fitness base first since a Tabata is no joke. If you need some help developing a strong base be sure to download the Intentional Wellness eBook at the bottom of this article and work through the 40-day program.

And, obviously, if you’re doing a Tabata and things don’t feel right please stop and look to scale it down to something like 10 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest.  You can then work yourself up to a normal Tabata.

Different Tabata Approaches

To be sure there are a number of ways to leverage Tabata style training. You can choose a single movement and focus the Tabata on that movement like the push-up example above.

You could also choose several different movements and work through them during a single Tabata. For example, during round 1 you could do push-ups, round 2 sit-ups, round 3 air squats, and round 4 mountain climbers. You could then repeat this cycle for the last 4 rounds.

Finally, yet another option would be to stack a few Tabata’s together focused on different movements.

In fact, here’s what I, along with 3 of my kids, and Mr. Andy Wheaton got after this morning. We did 4 different Tabatas of air squats, hand release push-ups, sit-ups, and rowing for calories (using a Concept 2 rowing machine).

Here’s what it looked like:

  • For the first 4-minute Tabata (8 rounds) we did air squats. We then rested for 1 minute.
  • For the second 4-minute Tabata (8 rounds) we did hand release push-ups. We then rested for 1 minute.
  • For the third 4-minute Tabata (8 rounds) we rowed for calories. We then rested for 1 minute.
  • For the fourth 4-minute Tabata (8 rounds) we did sit-ups. We then rested for 1 minute.

Actually, my kids replaced rowing with box jumps since Andy and I needed to take turns on the rowing machine. But, we all worked extremely hard and were very fatigued by the end!

Tabata Advice

Now, to be sure, the spirit behind Tabata is to give all out – max effort – for the 20 seconds of work. If you coast, or take it easy, you won’t realize all of the benefits the workout has to offer.

With this said, there’s nothing wrong with pacing yourself… especially if you’re just getting started. In other words, set a rep goal (i.e. 6 push-ups) and see if you can hit that across all 8 rounds.

Finally, I recently discovered these “Tabata songs” that help to keep time and also make it more fun. Here’s Mat Fraser (CrossFit games athlete) doing a Tabata with one of these songs playing.

There are also smart phone apps that can help you keep time. Just search for “Tabata timer” and you’ll be in good shape.

So if you’re looking for a fast, extremely intense, workout that’s been scientifically proven to work give Tabata a try!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Wounded

WoundedA part of being a police officer is responding to calls in which family members reach out to us in desperation because their loved one will not respond to their calls or other normal means of contact.

The time between when they summon our help and the moment that an officer contacts them to advise of our findings must be excruciating for the family. They call us to check on the welfare of their loved ones because they fear the worst, that they are gone, having taken their own lives. They fear that they can no longer console, or council. They can no longer joke or reminisce with the one they love.

When responding to these circumstances, officers often get a snap shot of the life of a person or family which is often filled tragedy and despair. People who take their lives sometimes leave notes or communication for those left behind to pick up the pieces which provides an insight into their darkest hour. These cases are interwoven with the common thread of despair: a total loss of hope.

In the brilliantly composed book “Fathered by God,” John Eldridge unpacks and describes stages of the masculine journey which were meant to lead us to the greatness for which we were made. All of these stages are meant to be developed and passed down to us by our fathers. However, wounds or simply unfinished initiation during these phases can often stifle our development as men which have long lasting effects.

One of the first phases of the journey described by Eldridge is labeled the “Beloved Son” stage. During this stage, boys are meant to be initiated and know that “You are noticed, Your heart matters, and Your Father adores you.”

For many of us this experience and lesson has been cut short, assaulted, unfinished, or stolen. “We were designed to experience belovedness and boyhood, soak in it for years, learn its lessons, have them written indelibly upon our hearts, and then pass through this stage to the next, carrying all its treasures with us.” (1)

The great news is that even if we carry wounds during this journey, God always provides a remedy and wants to initiate us where we are in order to make up for lost time.

The danger of not recognizing these wounds or lack of initiation during our masculine journey can perpetuate itself and can be seen in men who seek to be noticed and adored through what they do in their career or how much stuff they compile. A different and more tragic path is walked by men who never knew that they are beloved sons of the One who is so powerful that he creates without effort.

We are all sons of the One who breathes billions of stars into the sky and without effort creates incomprehensible beauty here on earth. The men that miss this critical lesson in their journey can find themselves questioning if their life is of any value, and while alone and lacking hope, they fall for the lie that they are worthless.

Christ knows our despair and our missing links. He wants us to come to know Him through His wounds. These unfinished parts of our lives keep us from starting new, and from becoming intentional. Pope Francis spoke about this eloquently on the feast of St. Thomas, who was the Apostle who doubted God’s greatness until he could see it for himself.

“Noting Thomas’ absence when Christ first appeared to the apostles after his Resurrection, Pope Francis commented that Jesus wanted him to wait a week before appearing to him. “The Lord knows why He does such things,” the Pope said.

“And He allows the time He believes best for each of us. He gave Thomas a week. Jesus reveals himself with His wounds: His whole body was clean, beautiful and full of light but the wounds were and are still there, and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, we will see His wounds. Before he could believe, Thomas wanted to place his fingers in the wounds. He was stubborn.

But that was what the Lord wanted – a stubborn person to make us understand something greater. Thomas saw the Lord and was invited to put his finger into the wounds left by the nails; to put his hand in His side. He did not merely say, ‘It’s true: the Lord is risen’. No! He went further. He said: ‘God’. He was the first of the disciples to confess the divinity of Christ after the Resurrection. And he worshipped Him.”

“The Holy Father went on to say that the Lord’s intention in making Thomas wait was not only to guide him to believe in the Resurrection, but also to affirm Christ’s Divinity. Drawing comparison to the apostles acting of touching Jesus’ wounds, Pope Francis told those present that the only path is our encounter with God.” (2)

The good news is the greatness of our God. Jesus comes to us, down to our level so we can touch and see His wounds which contain our wounds. Through His wounds, ours are healed. We can see that God works in our lives in ways that are mysterious, but timely. We just have to be open to listening in order to recognize Him. Just like the first apostles, we can come to know God through His woundedness. It is through His suffering that we can begin to make sense of our own and change direction in order to become His intentional disciple.

(1) Fathered by God Workbook. John Eldridge (http://store.ransomedheart.com/products/fathered?variant=7669159939)

(2) https://zenit.org/articles/pope-francis-to-meet-god-we-must-touch-the-wounds-of-christ/

How to Make The Most of a Holy Hour

Making the Most of a Holy Hour

Have you ever struggled to make it through an entire Holy Hour? In other words, has it been hard to keep your mind from wandering? Have you fallen asleep or dozed off? Perhaps you’ve caught yourself checking your watch every few minutes to see if it’s time to go?

Well, if you’re anything like me you’ve probably experienced each of these challenges (and many more) during your time in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Obviously, we should all do our very best to focus in on our Lord while we visit Him during a Holy Hour… so, what I’d like to share in this article are a few ideas that have helped me.

Look at Him

A month or so ago, during a Guns & Rosaries meeting, I heard the story of an old man who used to make a Holy Hour every day.

The man would almost always be by myself and he’d have nothing with him. No books. No Rosary beads. No prayer cards. Instead, this man simply sat and gazed at our Lord.

One day, someone asked this older gentleman how he approached these Holy Hours. The soft-spoken man simply replied, “I look at Him… and He looks back at me.”

How beautiful is that? He looks at our Lord and our Lord looks back at him.

So, the first piece of advice I’d like to offer is to not make a Holy Hour more complicated than it needs to be.

Some of the most powerful Holy Hours of my life have occurred when I simply sat and stared at our Lord while listening to the trickle of the baptismal fountain mix with the Gregorian chant that’s softly playing in the background. Add in the faint smell of incense and you have one incredibly peaceful environment.

Break it Into Quarters

Next, another approach worth trying is to break the Holy Hour up into quarters.

For the first 15 minutes I suggest soaking in the realization of what’s going on. Namely, we’re in front of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is truly present.

My personal prayer for this quarter, which you’re obviously free to use as well, is simply, “Jesus, my Lord and my God… I love you. Please make me strong… please make me holy.”

For the second 15 minutes I like to focus on all the things I’m thankful for…. most especially my faith and my family.

And I try to be as specific as possible. If something went well for me at work I thank Him. If one of my children played great during their game I thank Him. And, even if I recently struggled with something I thank Him for the opportunity to suffer well.

During the third 15 minute quarter I like to focus on petitions. The bible tells us that those who ask, seek, and knock will be heard by our Lord. So don’t be afraid to pray for specific things or people.

Finally, during the final 15 minutes I believe it’s prudent to focus on atonement. Our world is a mess. And if you’re not sure what I mean turn on the news tonight and watch for 5 minutes.  So we should beg our Lord for mercy and forgiveness.

Of course, we should also atone for any personal sins or wrongdoings then, and most especially, in the confessional if the sins are mortal.

Many Other Approaches

Obviously, there are many other ways to approach a Holy Hour so be sure to do what works for you.

A slow, intentional, praying of the Holy Rosary is especially powerful as are other prayers like the Divine Mercy Chaplet so long as you respect the quiet atmosphere and pray quietly to yourself.

In the end, the most important thing you can do is be there with our Lord. And if things don’t go as planned don’t beat yourself up!

Oh, and if the trickle of the baptismal fountain mixing with the Gregorian chant music relaxes you to the point your eyes close for a moment or two don’t worry… you just may be a saint in the making!

The fact that I often fall asleep during meditation, or while making my thanksgiving, should appall me. Well, I am not appalled; I bear in mind that little children are just as pleasing to their parents asleep as awake; that doctors put patients to sleep while they perform operations, and that after all, “the Lord knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust. -St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Dear Mary

Dear MaryThis past Sunday I had the opportunity to witness my daughter, Mary, receive her first Holy Communion. She is the third child that I’ve witnessed receive this Sacrament, but for some reason this experience touched me more profoundly than ever before.

Perhaps it’s due to knowing the One whom she received more deeply now, or maybe it was seeing my only daughter dressed in a beautiful white gown like a bride in order to give herself to Jesus that moved me. It was a delightful occasion in which family and friends gathered to witness and celebrate Mary’s next stage of the Christian life.

I wanted to share with you a letter that I wrote to her as I tried to articulate the great adventure He has in store for her… and for you and me!


Dear Mary,

First off, I want to congratulate you and tell you how proud I am of your desire to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. On your own, you expressed how you wanted to receive Him and I pray that this heart felt desire will never grow tired or weary.

You have reached a point in your life when you are ready to begin a great adventure which has been hand-picked for you by God. This adventure will involve danger, temptation, and unexpected turns as well as untold joy and peace. If you choose to go on this adventure you will need a light to lead you through the darkness. That light is the Holy Eucharist.

God loves you so much that he has chosen a hand crafted journey just for you, but you must choose to go on it. Jesus is the consummate gentlemen, he never makes you do anything that you don’t want to do. Instead, He wants you to freely allow Him to guide you on your adventure. While the Holy Eucharist is like a lantern which will provide light along the path, it is not magic, you must freely choose each day to allow Jesus into your heart so that He can work through you on your great adventure.

Until my last breath I will always protect you and be there when you get hurt, but sometimes I can fall short. There are times when I don’t hug you enough, or express how much I love you in the ways that you need. Mary, whatever I lack, Jesus makes up. He desires to be your best friend and will always listen to you. He always has something to tell you if you will listen. He never grows tired and is always seeking to be close to you.

Even if you choose to not to go on the adventure and to try and make up your own, Jesus is waiting for you to come back and can’t wait for your return.

Mommy and Daddy will always help you on your adventure, but you must also know that you have great friends in heaven who are watching and cheering you on during your journey.

Imagine a stadium full of great Saints like St. Rose of Lima or St. Faustina screaming at the top of their lungs as they watch your adventure on the field. With their cheers they want to change the outcome of the game, they want to help you do things you didn’t think were possible by yourself.

You are ready for this exciting journey. The best thing about this adventure is that you are guaranteed victory! Jesus has gone before you and won, but you play an important part in allowing others to see this victory through your great adventure.

I love you Mary!
Daddy

How to Eat Clean at Work

How to Eat Clean at WorkEating clean at work isn’t always easy. It takes planning and self-control… especially when your co-workers don’t all share your clean eating lifestyle!

So, in this article I’d like to share what’s become my secret weapon to eating clean at work… I call it the Intentional Salad!

Intentional Salads!

Here’s my process. I head to the grocery (normally Sprouts for me but any will do) at the start of the week and buy enough “stuff” for a week’s worth of salad.  In fact, here’s what I recently bought for the current week.

  • (2) 5 oz. plastic containers of baby kale, chard, and spinach
  • (1) Dry pint of grape tomatoes
  • (2) Bell peppers (various colors based on what’s available… I also had some left from the previous week so I only bought two this week)
  • (2) Cucumbers
  • (3) Avocados
  • (3) Green Apples
  • (1) Bag of dried cranberries
  • (1) Bag of Goji Berry Power Mix
  • (1) Bottle of Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing
  • (2) Packages of nitrate free sliced chicken breast… around 1.25 pounds total

I spent around $37 for all of this and it will last me the week meaning my lunches essentially cost me $7.40 per day.  I do buy some organic produce which does drive the cost up a bit more.  But, I can tell you, for sure, I used to spend this much, many times much more, when I used to stuff myself with greasy, hyper-poisonous (yes, that’s a word), fast food!

Now, once I have all of the supplies I usually cut it all up on Monday and store what I don’t immediately eat in Tupperware bins.

I’m fortunate to have a fridge at my office, which definitely makes it convenient. If you don’t have this luxury you may not want to cut everything up right away allowing you to just store your veggies in your fridge at home.

You could then make your salad in the morning before you head to work and store it in a small portable cooler if needed. You can find a way… just be intentional!

How to Assemble

Intentional SaladOnce everything is cut up and ready… I grab an empty plastic container and start throwing stuff in it. I don’t measure. I just grab and throw!

Today my salad (see image) consisted of the baby kale mix, some bell peppers, some grape tomatoes, 1 avocado, some cucumber, some of the sliced up chicken breast, and some dried cranberries.

Finally, I poured a little (not a lot!) of the Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing over it all and, bam, I had an amazing, totally Intentional Salad!

Always Different

What’s fun is finding ways to make the salad taste different each day so you don’t get sick of them.

Yesterday I featured some green apples and that Goji Berry candy, I mean POWER mix! Then, today I didn’t go for the apples and, instead, did an avocado and the dried cranberries. I also have a few different salad dressings to keep things varied.

Next week I may buy some different veggies and meat allowing me to make totally different salads.

One note worth mentioning… there is a fair amount of sugar in the cranberries and goji berry mix… so I don’t use those in every salad. And if I were still trying to lose weight (I’m not) I wouldn’t use these.

Eating Out

Lastly, there are times when I do eat out for lunch with co-workers. When I do I am just very intentional about what I eat. For example, if we go to a Mexican restaurant I get fajitas with extra guacamole and just don’t eat the tortillas!

I’m almost always able to find something relatively clean and I never go hungry. I just avoid grains and sugar to the very best of my ability.

You Can Do It

Obviously, everyone has a different situation at work and I know my exact process may not work for you… but I also think it’s very safe to say where there is a will there is a way.

So, find what works for you and have fun with it. Eating clean doesn’t have to be painful or a major drain on your time or finances. In fact, it may just save you time since you won’t have to waste all that time running to your favorite fast food joint!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Strength Overcomes Passivity

By Mike Short
Strength Overcomes Passivity

The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. – St. Maximilian Kolbe

Indifference. Passivity. Failure to engage. These are all terms which describe disordered masculine inclinations since the beginning. The other side of the same coin shows itself as aggression and domination.

The book of Genesis describes this age old masculine problem when Adam failed to protect his bride from falling for the lies of the Serpent. The situation is described in the NAB as Adam was present with Eve, and stood by to allow the Serpent to engage her instead of protecting her from harm and lies. When he fails at his masculine duty, the fall occurs.

We all tend to struggle with one end of the spectrum or the other, but rarely encounter what true sacrificial masculinity looks like, unless of course you spend time gazing upon a crucifix. I have battled with the inclination of passivity in relationships within my family and with others. I can easily bury myself in distractions like my phone or just want to be left alone after a long stressful day at work.

Over the past 10 years, fitness has helped me slowly reclaim proper masculine tendencies. When I joined the SWAT team my perspective on fitness changed and I found the desire to continually improve my level of physical preparedness because my teammates relied on me and I needed to give myself the best chance of coming home to my family after high stress operations.

Besides making improvements physically, this decision had an unexpected change in the underlying struggle with my tendency towards passivity. By making a decision and becoming intentional about my health, my will began to be reshaped.

I can remember when I began my wellness journey I would often do really intense workouts in my garage gym by myself. I would draw the attention of neighbors as I ran down the street with both arms extended overhead while holding a barbell, or would be seen doing sprints up and down the sidewalk only to be interrupted by a series of burpees.

I had to confront the decision and make an act of the will before I walked out to the garage and turned up the music to start a workout. As I continued to repeatedly make this decision to enter the battle in my garage it became easier to engage as a leader within other parts of my life.

Through a decision to get to the gym or throw on some sneakers for a run, we are helping to unite our will with our intellect. We know that taking care of our bodies is good, but conforming our will and acting on that knowledge is where the rubber hits the road. I was able to build a habit of fitness in my life which helped foster the ordered masculine traits of commitment, strength, and sacrifice.

The enhancement of these traits seeped into the relationships which needed that nourishment. I began to be able to avoid hiding in my phone and other distractions and encounter my family who are in desperate need of my strength and sacrificial leadership.

So, if you find yourself in the rut of indifference and passivity or aggression and domination, decide today to begin your wellness journey and see for yourself how physical strength can translate to true masculine strength.

A real man is one who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously, and expects the greater reward, God’s reward. – Dr. Robert Lewis

My New Pre & Post Workout Meals

Pre & Post Workout MealOne of my goals with this blog is to share the things I’m learning as I continue this Intentional Living journey.  And I’m happy to say I seem to have made some enhancements to my early morning diet… especially my pre and post workout diet.

Pre Work Out

What I’ve discovered is I am far better off drinking a cup of coffee before my morning workout.  I also blend in (literally with a blender) some MCT Oil and a little heavy whipping cream.

The caffeine gives me a boost and I can definitely feel the difference in my workouts.  And, as it turns out, there is an incredible amount of research that seems to support drinking a cup of joe before tackling that next MetCon!

Post Work Out

Then, immediately after my workout I mix 1 cup of frozen fruit with around 30 to 40 grams of whey protein.  The protein helps build my muscles back up and the fruit helps replenish the glycogen my muscles lost.  I also add in around 5 grams of creatine which is also shuttled into my muscles along with all that good glycogen.

I may also eat some eggs and veggies if my kids haven’t gobbled them all up before I finish my shake!  If I don’t eat any actual food, aside my shake, I typically grab a handful of unsalted nuts once I get to my office.  I also start to drink water once I get to work.

I’ve been following this process for the last few weeks and I’ve definitely felt a difference in strength, endurance, and recovery time.

Afternoon Workout?

With this all said, if I worked out in the afternoon, or early evening, I’d likely do my best to consume some protein and carbs an hour or so before working out.  I’m not an afternoon coffee drinker so I’m not sure I’d drink it before working out… but you could definitely experiment with this if you exercise in the afternoon.

Future Experimentation

In the future I may try to consume some whey protein before working out as this has been shown to help… my fear is I’ll feel a bit bloated and that whey protein could end up on my barn floor after that last round of burpees!  If nothing else it will prove to be an interesting experiment!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

IE Success Story: Brian Squibbs

Note from Ron:  Today’s article was written by our Brother in Christ, Brian Squibbs.  I’ve known Brian for years and he’s nothing short of amazing.  He’s an incredible man of God, husband, father, and friend.  He also helps lead the Troops of St. George at the national level which is an incredible amount of work.  Also, it’s taken me a few weeks to post this and I’m proud to say that Brian and his Exodus brothers have completed their 90-day Exodus and have now begun the next phase of their spiritual journey!  Well done Brian and thank you for all you do!

Brian Squibbs

Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. – Pope Benedict XVI

BrianBrothers and sisters, my story is one of a great awakening in my life, a reversion to my Catholic faith that I have been raised in since birth.

As Pope Benedict has been quoted in some way or fashion for years, look past the comforts the world offers, as God made us in His likeness and for Him. It is only through active listening in spiritual mediation of recent months that this has hit home like a 2 x 4 across the skull (yes, I am a man, so I suppose it is a thick skull).

Where it all began…

I’m not going to bore you how it took 39 years of “getting by” and not breaking any of the world’s laws, but muddling through plenty of sin, to now, but I am going to share when I first truly listened to God’s call and the path it has taken.

The call came as I was struggling to connect with my eldest son, as unlike me in my youth (and I will try and tell you still today), I was a pretty good athlete.

As I explored avenues for ways to connect and spend that much needed quality time with my first son, I landed on the Troops of Saint George. Who doesn’t like the outdoors (ok, so maybe primitive tent camping is not for everyone, but trust me, you can persevere through that for all the other good God’s nature and beauty has to offer), and an outdoor adventure that centers around Christ and His Sacraments….bonus!

I answered the call and Alex and I joined. Right off the bat, I liked the touch that I too was joining as a member, quickly taking away the possibility of me being lazy and asking my loving wife to take him to meetings or activities.

Snip20160606_3After the first campout where we literally built an outdoor Chapel out of trees in the 100 degree September Texas heat (much like the fish that I have caught, it may have been nearing 110), the love for this time with Christ, my son, and other like-minded Catholic men was ablaze. I remember listening to Alex describing that first campout to Lisa as we got back Sunday like it was yesterday. Going to the sports analogy that I can easily relate to….Home Run!

Keeping with the baseball analogy, the curve ball was quickly behind. After a couple of campouts, I volunteered, well you can say, was elected as our patrol’s Lieutenant. Next thing you know, I am partnering with other leaders of the troop on recruitment and communication for Troop 5 of Keller, Texas.

Where is the curve ball come in to play you ask? Remember, I had become a member to have a place to relate and spend quality time with Alex, and while this was happening, something else started to take shape. I started to meet men that I saw, maybe smiled and nodded to at Mass each Sunday, but never went out of my way to speak to or get to know.

Some of these men were just like me, muddling through, and some were on fire for Christ far ahead of me. Now, pride could have kicked in and I stayed away, but I continued to listen to Christ’s subtle hints, and showed up at Mike Short’s house one evening for what was titled “Guns and Rosaries.”

The name was enough for me to come to at least one gathering, but man, it has led to so much more. This G&R, as we like to call it (maybe trying to relive our youth and the other G&R many of us used to listen to), was a men’s group where we show up with our favorite 6 pack, quickly drop it in the community ice chest for sharing with others, pray a Rosary together, listen to a talk by a great shepherd in the Catholic Church and then share in fellowship.

Before the Irish, storytelling, side gets away here, and this blog post becomes a novel, let me get to the point. Through this G&R group, Mike is constantly sharing ideas, his calls from Christ, with others, and he and Ron Pereira began the Intentional Encounter project. As I have tried many workout / diets along the way, as I have a fond love for food, I quickly gravitated towards the “40 Day Challenge” posted on this new blog.

A friend, Jeremy, and I decided this was going to accompany our Lenten Journey, kicking off the so apt “40 Day” challenge on Ash Wednesday. It had all the right makings with practicing asceticism in some of the food I love, getting a workout ritual up and running, and most importantly, a spiritual component, with daily Bible reading and reflection.

At the same time Mike and Ron were getting this blog up and running, Mike shared a post by Those Catholic Men about a program called Exodus. I am reminded today of Mike’s email, and I quote, “…seems a little radical, but I think together we can do it. Our families and the world need us to be radical!” Fresh off reading “Into the Breach”, a powerful exhortation from Bishop Olmsted, Heaven needs us men to step up and Hell is afraid!

Even with all of this ammo and a strong reason, looking at my loving wife and three sons, I put this call to the side. A couple of weeks later, on a Troops of Saint George campout at the Black Family farm, a friend, Chris, made a plea for me to join him on the Exodus journey.

Out of respect, I heard him out, threw out “jabs” about how Lebron is getting old, and this could be the Cavs last stand for an NBA title, and how baseball would be kicking off, and my Tribe have a solid young team (see a theme here?), and I need to keep up with our next ex-quarterback on the Browns. Even with all of that, Chris set my mind into “think through mode,, and after a well written last plea email he sent Sunday evening as we got back from the campout, who was I to deny this journey?

The reason for the “jabs” above, and beyond being a helpless sports fanatic from northeastern Ohio that is used to “sports suffering,” I have an obsession to sports, watching them, and well, the computer, phone, and throw in work for good measure. When your son Luke says, “Dad, why are you always on your phone or the computer, and your only reply is, “son, I’m busy” well, God is calling for a change.

The Exodus program, as described on this blog several times, is one on of great prayer and devotion to our Lord, coupled with a life of asceticism. When paired with the Intentional Encounter program, that Mike and Ron continue to add to, and cutting out TV, computer, and all other areas the Exodus program calls for, this last 76 days have been an enlightening, albeit persevering through many struggles with my fellow Exodus brothers in Chris, John and Andy, and amazing journey towards God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

As the journey still continues, and through God’s call that I listened to, even if begrudgingly, I can actually hear the Holy Spirit as I have reduced the “noise” of this world and the evil one!

Back to the start…

This journey God put me on started with a way to connect with my eldest, and here I am, a son of God, listening to his call to lead my family, those around me, and myself towards Christ. After all these years of calling myself Catholic, I truly believe I have engaged in a personal relationship with Christ, and am listening to how he wants me to be great by modeling Him for others. That thick skull referenced earlier still comes into play, but I trust in Him, and will continue to do so.

In Listening to Catholic Answer’s guest Steve Ray recently, he talked about how he challenges himself to engage others to share his love for Christ and the Holy Catholic Church each and every day. As mentioned to my Exodus brothers, our weight loss is not why folks are talking to us, it is simply a conversation starter, as we are carrying ourselves differently as we work towards modeling Christ, and He wants us to evangelize the Catholic Church through sharing our journey.

I am blessed to be able to share my journey that will continue until I pass from this life, but all thanks be to God for calling his son home!

The Story of the Golden Carrot

The Story of the Golden CarrotThere comes a time in our lives when we must take a step back and evaluate if we’ve allowed things, created inherently good, to take such a central role in our lives that they in effect become a god. It is my hope that you, my fellow men have begun to do exactly this in all aspects of your life.

God has given us a body and since we are made in the image and likeness of Him, our body is good. He’s given us enjoyment and pleasure, and all of that is also very good. But it is when we take these goods and make them into a deity that we can become prideful, leading to a certain snobbishness towards those who do not hold our high standards. I want to tell you the story of one such instance in my life.

Once my wife and I began learning about clean eating, we enthusiastically commenced the exciting but tedious journey into whole, local food. We found local farms, CSA’s, and co-ops and devoted a good portion of our budget to local farm-fresh meat, veggies, eggs, and raw milk.

My wife would drive to 3 farms every week to provide wholesome food for our family. In an attempt to rid our home of toxins, we threw out our plastic, threw out the junk food, and dove head first into this new lifestyle. The deeper we got, the more prideful we grew. We began to think not only was our way good, but it was the only way. Nutritional pride was creeping into our hearts.

It was about that time almost 6 years ago when my wife became pregnant with our 4th son. Our first three children were born perfect, healthy and robust. Surely this next child would be the same, perhaps even healthier seeing as he was getting the best nutrition and least toxins out of all of his siblings.

To our shock however, Dominic was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder which profoundly affected most of his body’s systems. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t eat, his heart had holes, his brain was under-developed. He was “broken” as the world saw it.

As the weeks and months passed we would wonder how we could have prevented this, what we could have done differently to avoid his genetic mutation and suffering. After all, my wife had been taking great care of herself through optimal nutrition before and during the pregnancy. All that work, all that careful preparation were met with the words of the doctors “take him home to die.

We saw Dominic not as a mistake, a poor outcome from an otherwise meticulous planned pregnancy, but a specific will of the Father to call our family, and many others, to greatness. We looked at this child, with all his tubes and lines, all that is formed wrong with wonder at the goodness of our Lord. In the instant of his birth, God seized our pride and instead gave us supple hearts, completely relying on Him.

Following his birth, the pendulum swung in the completely opposite direction. We literally lived in the hospital for 4 months, eating greasy hospital food and getting fat. We were in stress-overload, just trying to survive. We felt awful, looked awful, but our spiritual lives had never been more vibrant, more alive, or more trusting. We experienced God in a real, tangible way. His presence was thick, comforting, and steadfast. Our baby received the expert medical care he needed to survive and though our bodies were broken, our souls were really living for the first time.

The plumb has returned to the middle now these days. No longer does my wife have the time or energy to drive to 3 farms a week to gather our fresh meat and veggies. A child with profound disability pretty much cures you of that. But we do we can. We buy good, whole, real foods. We eat clean. We severely limit junk, though we do indulge on special occasions and feast days. My wife prepares real food for our meals most of the time, but if we’re running out the door for a doctor’s appointment or daily mass, we sometimes use prepared breakfast foods when necessary.

My point is this: no matter how much we try, suffering is an inevitable, and I would add necessary, part of the Christian life. All the clean eating in the world is not going to prevent suffering if God so deems it good for our soul. While we do have a responsibility to avoid preventable diseases, we should not be surprised that optimal nutrition doesn’t always guarantee a healthy old age.

We should be eating clean however to give honor to the One who created our bodies, to give thanks for the gift of our body, and to show Him we do not take this gift for granted. We eat clean to be able to perform well and give our all to others. We eat clean for our families, to give our bodies the fuel to be the husbands and fathers for which we were created.

We must all analyze our lives, our particular circumstances and decide what is doable for our families. Perhaps farm runs are within reason for your family. That’s great! But if adding just one more thing will send your family into stress overload, do what you can. Make your changes small and incremental, and build as you are able. But remember, beware of the pitfall of pride and thinking that you are the master of your destiny.

3 Tips to Improve Your Sleep Quality

3 Tips to Improve SleepIf you hope to improve the way you look, feel, and perform diet and exercise are extremely important. But, unfortunately, they’re not enough.

In fact, it could be argued they aren’t even the most important thing you should focus on. Instead, there’s an aspect of our lives that doesn’t get talked about enough which may hold the key to things like weight loss, strong immune systems, and even depression… and this aspect is sleep.

We all know that lack of sleep makes us feel sluggish and definitely impacts our day.  But studies have also shown how sleep impacts weight gain, athletic performance, and may be associated with things like depression.

To be sure, sleep is extremely important. So, in this article I’d like to share three practical steps anyone can immediately take to improve the quality of their sleep.

1. Block Blue Light in the Evening

Our cell phones, tablets, and computer screen may be the biggest problem we face as it relates to getting quality sleep. Numerous studies have shown that the blue light emitting from our various “devices” may impact our sleep more than we ever realized.

So, the best option is to put these devices away several hours before we plan to go to bed. But, if this isn’t feasible you should install free software called f.lux on your computer.

iPhone users can also enable “Night Shift” in the Display & Brightness section of their phone which also blocks blue light. My iPhone is set to block all blue light from 8:30 PM to 7:00 AM. And this app seems like it may do the trick for Android users.

There are also special blue light blocking glasses available… but I’ve yet to try these so don’t feel comfortable recommending them just yet.  But many folks I respect swear by them.

2. Remove all Artificial Light from Your Room

Next, if you have an alarm clock that lights up half of your bedroom you should get a new one or find a way to block the light. I actually set books in front of mine since I haven’t gotten around to buying a new one.

And if you have a TV in your bedroom with a bright power light on the front you should also try to cover it up since any sort of artificial light has been shown to disrupt sleep.

Black out curtains can also be helpful in making your room pitch black which is so critical since we must let our body know it’s time to sleep and any sort of artificial light has the ability to trick our body into thinking it’s time to wake up.

3. Turn the Temp Down

Finally, once you’ve blocked all blue light before bed and made your room as dark as possible the last tip I’d like to share is to cool your room down.

In fact, most studies have shown keeping your room less than 70 degrees is optimal. And if you can keep it around 65 degrees you may sleep better than you have in some time.

As it turns out, my family recently stayed in a hotel room and we turned the temp in the room down to 67 degrees and we all slept great! My wife commented that she slept better than she had in some time.

Summary

So, if you’re not getting good, quality, sleep for 7 to 9 hours each night I’d encourage you to give these tips a try. There are many other things you can experiment with… but, at least for me, I’ve found the three tips I’ve shared in this article to be quite helpful.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!