My First Murph

This past Memorial Day Monday I completed the hardest workout of my life.  I did Murph.

For those that don’t know this workout starts with a 1 mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 air squats.  You then wrap things up with another 1 mile run.  Lt. Murphy used to do this same workout wearing body armor… I didn’t go as hard core as him but I did wear a 5 pound vest.

Mike shared the story behind this “Hero Workout” in his last article. Please check that out if you haven’t already done so.

I did the workout in my home gym with my wife, kids, and Mike there to support me.  It was pretty special.  I’ve thought about this Murph workout for many months and did my very best to prepare for it.

In fact, I can safely say I’ve never been more prepared for a workout in my life.  I was prepared physically.  I was prepared from a nutrition and rest perspective.  And I was prepared, as best as I could be, from a spiritual and mental perspective.

During the 1 mile runs a few of my kids rode their bikes and supported me.  My oldest son, Ryan, stayed close to me the whole time and kept encouraging me by quietly repeating, “Let’s go Dad.”  I can’t lie.  I have goose bumps thinking about this right now.  I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the way he stuck by me.

My oldest daughter, and main workout partner, helped me by counting all the pull-ups, push-ups, and air squats.  She also challenged me like no one else can since she’s worked out with me more than any other person and seems to know what to say and when to say it.  My wife, Genni, and all of my other kids were also all out there cheering me on.

And my brother in Christ, Mike, was also there to support me.  In fact, he ran with me even though he did this same workout a few days earlier and his legs were still hurting.  Having him beside me on that last mile run was pretty powerful and another moment I’ll never forget.

Now the point of this article isn’t meant to brag about how awesome I am.  Instead, I just want you to know that incredible transformation is possible for anyone willing to put the work in.

That first workout Mike gave me in December of 2015 consisted of 10 push-ups, 10 crunches (because I could barely do a real sit-up), and 10 air squats.  And I specifically remember “feeling the burn” immediately after I finished it.

And if you would have told me back then that I’d be able to complete Murph a year and half later I’d have laughed in your face.  But I did it.  And I fully intend to do it every Memorial Day for as long as the good Lord allows me to.

So no matter where you are right now, physically speaking, please know that with consistent hard work and dedication you can change your life physically and, most importantly, spiritually.  And we’d love nothing more than to help you through the process.  In fact, the exact “recipe” I used to start this physical transformation is available in the free eBook below this post.

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

Never Quit

Each year around Memorial Day, it has become a tradition in the CrossFit community for athletes to complete a high volume workout called The Murph Challenge. It is a REALLY tough workout, but is intended to be because of what it represents. The workout is named after Lt. Michael Murphy who was a Navy Seal that died in a fierce battle in Afghanistan in 2005. The story of the battle and Lt. Murphy’s heroic sacrifice has been recounted by the only brother in his unit that survived the encounter in a book and movie entitled the “Lone Survivor”.

The gym that I help run, called CrossFit Parati Omnibus (“Always Ready”), offered this workout to its athletes yesterday. The gym was designed to support the mission of emergency responders in helping to prepare them physically and mentally for the demands of their jobs as police and firefighters. During the introduction to the event, one of our coaches pointed to a picture of Lt. Murphy that he had displayed on the wall of the gym and stated “when you feel like you are ready to quit, look at his picture and the brother’s and sister’s suffering beside you…never quit”.

The picture of Murphy was displayed to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice that he paid in battle for the American ideal of freedom. He chose to join the US military forces which has taken the fight to Islamic terrorists in their backyard rather than fighting them on our soil in order to protect us back home and keep our society free. Whether you agree with the political decisions that were made to accomplish this mission, this is what Lt. Murphy signed up and died for.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the depictions of a man who paid THE ultimate sacrifice which are hanging throughout my house in the form of a crucifix. Just as the picture of Lt. Murphy is a physical sign which depicts a story of a man who laid down his life for his brother’s, a crucifix also points us to the story of Jesus Christ and his rescue mission to save us from the grips of sin and evil.

This is precisely why it is imperative for us to have these reminders close by, so that we don’t forget the story or lose sight of the mission of God’s battle plan, which each of us are called to participate in. The picture of Lt. Murphy was supposed to inspire us to dig deep when it got tough and make the intentional decision to never quit. In this same way a crucifix ought to well up within us a desire to move forward, regardless of the perilous storms that we will go through…and never quit.

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. (John 16:33)

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

Deadlifting Lessons

I recently received some excellent deadlift coaching at a local CrossFit box as I was working my way up to a one rep max.

As I was working through the sets this coach commented that I was trying to use my arms more than I should.  So he encouraged me to move my hands closer together.  I moved them a little and he replied, “more… move them more.”  Eventually my hands were MUCH closer than they’ve ever been during a deadlift.

But I decided to trust the coach and give it a go.  As an aside, this coach can deadlift close to 500 pounds and weighs around 190 pounds so, yeah, he knows what he’s talking about!  So I set my feet, took a deep breath, and pulled the weight with ease.  I quickly looked at him and he just smiled and said, “See? I told you so.”

My next attempt was going to be a new personal record (PR) for me by 10 pounds.  I chalked my hands up and approached the bar.  The coach then said, “Take your shoes off.”  I laughed and said, “Come on… how’s that going to help?”  He went on to explain how taking my shoes off would help me sit back on my heels and better engage my hamstrings and glutes.

So I thought, what the heck, why not?  I took my shoes off and approached the bar.  Again I set my feet, took a deep breath, and pulled the weight with ease.  It was a new PR and I was pumped!

At this point my faith in this coach was at an all time high and I wondered what his next suggestion was going to be.  The first thing he said was to add 15 more pounds to the bar… which we did.

And the last thing he said before I attempted the lift was that my mind was going to want to quit before my body would.  He said when you get to the point where you don’t think you can lift it keep going and just pull the damn weight off the ground.

Again, I chalked my hands… approached the bar… and set my feet.  I took a deep breath and pulled as hard as I’ve ever pulled in my life.  And you know what?  He was right.  I got to that sticking point in the lift where my mind wanted to quit but I decided to keep pulling.

The other folks in the box were now screaming and cheering me on and all I remember was the incredible feeling I had once I moved past the “sticking point” and slowly stood up.  I had smashed my old personal record by 25 pounds!

As I sit here tonight reflecting on how it all went down, and what we can learn from it, I think there are several take aways.

First, it’s good to have a coach helping you from time to time.  I still work out at home with my kids a lot… but having a coach watch me a few times a week has been extremely helpful.  Mike also continues to help me when we work out together on the weekends.

Second, technique and form matter big time when it comes to moving your body and lifting weights.  A small change in my hand positioning and taking my shoes off helped me more than I could have ever imagined.

And, most importantly, the advice this coach gave me about how my mind would quit on me before my body would just may have been the best advice I’ve ever received.  He was so right.  My mind did want to quit… but my body was able to keep going.

So the next time you’re working out and your mind wants you to give up just know your body likely has more in it.  Of course I’m not saying to be reckless and hurt yourself… but I am saying it’s OK to suffer a little and challenge yourself.

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

Your ONE Thing

Mine is alcohol. What is the ONE THING in your diet that you can change, such that by changing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

I’d like to apply the lessons from the number one Wall Street Journal best seller, The One Thing, to see how it can support our journey towards wellness in the context of what we eat.

“Gary Keller has identified that behind every successful person is their ONE THING. No matter how success is measured, personal or professional, only the ability to dismiss distractions and concentrate on your ONE Thing stands between you and your goals. The ONE Thing is about getting extraordinary results in every situation”.

Keller’s book does a great job of helping people in their path to identify their ONE Thing, so that they create change in their lives. He separates a person’s life into 7 basic categories and encourages a person to find their ONE Thing in each of them. These categories are ones spiritual life, physical life, personal, key relationships, job, business, and finances.

Using this concept, I challenge each of you to identify the ONE Thing in your diet that by changing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary. We all get overwhelmed or put off action because we want to get everything in order first before we begin to make a change. This mentality is played out weekly when we convince ourselves that we will begin to change our eating habits on Monday. The problem is that it never works. Monday may be pretty good, but what about Tuesday through Sunday?

If we can identify our major dietary fault…the ONE Thing that we know is not good for us and only focus on saying no to that pleasure, we can finally get a foothold in the epic journey towards freedom. I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I identified alcohol as my ONE Thing. I know how alcohol works on my body but when adding the stress of raising 5 kids, working 2 jobs and developing a side gig, alcohol has some ill effects on my physical well-being as well as the battle for freedom.

So what is your ONE Thing? Fast food, desserts, soft drinks? Take some time and pin point the singular crutch or attachment to food that you have acquired and slay it. David fought ONE Philistine warrior (Goliath), and when he had slayed him, the rest of the Philistine army fled with their tales between their legs. In this way, if we focus on our ONE Thing all the rest of our attachments and bad dietary choices will fade away.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

Gain Control with Disney Circle

By Ron PereiraI recently purchased a Disney Circle unit for my home as a way to ensure my family and I maintain control of the way we use the Internet and the many devices we own.  I cannot recommend this unit enough.

Now, I do have children who access the Internet so this unit is definitely intended to keep them safe and to help them develop good habits.  The Circle unit allows parents to set limits on just about everything.  So, yes, we definitely have this working for our kids.

But, here’s the thing… I also need help with media so I’ve set controls for myself.  I’ve placed limits on how often I can use Facebook each day (once you’re over the limit Circle blocks access) and how long I can visit sports related websites.  I’m also using the “Off Time” feature from 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM (family time).  This feature disables the Internet across all my devices making it impossible for me to access the Internet.

Now, the only downside to the Circle unit is that it links up with your home WiFi.  So, all anyone has to do is turn WiFi off on their cell phone which then allows them to access the Internet using their cell service.

Luckily Circle Go exists to cover you here… this is a monthly subscription service that allows you to maintain control over your mobile devices even when they’re not connected to your home WiFi.  I also purchased this to ensure we’re all covered when we’re on the go.

This is our first week using Circle and Circle Go… but so far it’s working great. So if you’re interested in finding a way to manage the use of media for yourself and your loved ones I’d definitely encourage you to give Disney Circle a look.

Force Multiplier

This week I wanted to share a talk with you from a good friend of mine named Butch Steinle. Butch is a teammate on the SWAT team and we worked the streets together for years. He was recently asked to talk at a Men’s Conference in Wyoming and shared how we can become intentional Disciples of Christ.

Become Lethal

As SWAT operators we train daily to become the most lethal assets within our police family. This is accomplished through hours spent in the gym and on the range. Drawing, weapon manipulation and dry firing drills are completed daily to keep our skills sharp. Room clearing techniques and target discrimination drills are rehearsed in our heads throughout the day each time we enter a room or hallway.  We become proficiently lethal not in order to suppress the weak, but rather to protect them when everyone else has run away. We constantly train in order to be able to respond decisively when the call comes out. When summoned, we utilize our training and preparation to set the operational tempo in order to end the crisis with the most favorable outcome, which ultimately is to save lives.

I would suggest that as Christian men we are all called in a similar way to become more spiritually lethal every day. This may sound strange, but as Christians…Christian men especially, we are called to participate in God’s battle plan to redeem the world. We steadily become lethal by disciplining our will and sacrificing our time, talent and treasure for the glory of God. We can train with spiritual weapons like the Rosary, where we reflect on the life of Christ and study our Commander’s plan. Commit the time to a Holy Hour, where we put in the work in wrestling with the Master and learning submission holds over our distractions and interior laziness. Much like when a SWAT call comes out, we must prepare ourselves through training to respond to the temptation to sin and crush it. We train to be spiritually lethal in order set the tempo of suppressing evil and taking back His world.

Become a Force Multiplier

SWAT operators are also trained to be thinkers and thereby become force multipliers. When we arrive on scene to chaotic situations we are often looked upon for direction. By helping others see the mission more clearly and find positions for them to fill that are tactically sound, we become force multipliers through a cohesive effort and can change the outcome of the operation quickly.

In the same vein, Christian men are also called to be force multipliers by spreading the Faith where we are. Butch talked about decompartamentalizing our lives in order to allow God to work through us in the various encounters we have each day. We can help to show others the mission and find positions for them where they too can respond to God’s call. A spiritual force multiplier can change the culture our family. Our families can change the culture of our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods can change our community, and that change can continue to domino and radically re-orient the trajectory of the culture for the entire world.

As next week rolls around think of ways to become intentional and train to be a more lethal Disciple of Christ who is ready to crush the head of Satan and lay down our life for a friend. This training makes us force multipliers. By cutting through the chains of mediocrity and passivity we can help change the outcome of those we encounter by allowing God to work through us.

Put on the Armor of God (Eph 6:11)

Do You Have a Plan?

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. -Proverbs 16:3

As Mike and I have shared multiple times we believe our spiritual lives are closely linked to our physical lives.  Put another way, we have found that practicing self discipline and asceticism in our physical lives has helped our spiritual lives.  When we’re feeling strong and prepared physically we’re better prepared to fight off the many temptations of the world.

Here’s just one more example of how this is working in my life.  I recently redid one of the “CrossFit Games Open” workouts to see if I could improve upon my initial score.  This particular workout calls for 55 reps of various exercises including deadlifts and wall ball shots.

When I did this workout the first time I didn’t know what to expect.  As such, I didn’t really have a plan.  I just wanted to survive!  Once the workout was over I was able to look back and assess where I could have done better.  It was clear that my strategy during the wall ball shots needed some work since my legs were jelly after the 55th rep and I barely made it through the rest of the workout.

So, as I prepared to redo this workout I set out to make a plan.  I did some research to see how other athletes approached these wall balls and I came across some excellent advice from experienced CrossFitters.

Specifically, the advice was to break the wall ball shots up as follows: 12 reps, 6 reps, 10 reps, 5 reps, 12 reps, and 10 reps.  In other words, I would do 12 reps then rest for a few seconds… then 6 reps before resting for a few seconds, etc.

Once I read this I decided to give it a shot.  So, before the workout I used some chalk and wrote this rep scheme on my barn floor.  I also thought about how I’d be feeling at each interval and what I’d do.  I knew, for sure, the 12 reps towards the end would hurt but I committed to fight through it and not stop.  In other words, I prepared for the pain.

I’m happy to say that I followed the plan exactly as I set out to.  And, yes, those 12 wall balls towards the end hurt like I knew they would.  But I fought through it and didn’t put the ball down.

And while this workout still destroyed me… I was able to beat my initial score by 12 reps.  Now, I’d like to think my fitness level has increased a little since I first did this workout.  But, being realistic, I’m not sure it’s improved enough for me to beat my last score by 12 reps.  Instead, I’m quite certain it was the plan I made, and followed, that enabled me to improve.

So what does this have to do with our journey to heaven?  I contend it has more than any of us can imagine.  You see, one thing I’ve learned over the last year is that my Exodus brothers and I are at our very best when we have a specific plan of attack.  And, conversely, we’re at our absolute worst when we have no plan and simply attempt to go through the motions.

And, at least for me, if I don’t have a plan for when I will do my spiritual reading, or when I will work out, or when I attend Holy Hour it just won’t happen.

So, here’s my challenge for myself and for you.  Yes, you.

  1. Write down one specific action you want to accomplish in the next 7 days.  Be specific.  Don’t choose more than one action/task to start.
  2. Tell at least one other person of your plan to hold yourself accountable.  If you don’t have someone to tell you can tell me.
  3. Once you accomplish the task immediately let your accountability partner know.
  4. Repeat every week and add new tasks slowly and consistently while continuing to accomplish all previous tasks along the way.  Keep your accountability partner informed at all times.

If you’re consistent with this I’m supremely confident you’ll be able to increase self discipline and mastery.  And, God willing, you’ll be able to grow closer to our Lord which is obviously far more important than any workout!

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

Wasting Time

Carving out time each morning to pray with God has been one of the key components of my faith journey over the past several years. For many (I’ve been there), prayer is an elusive and often foreign concept. However, we all can understand the importance of a deep prayer life if we are to live the life of a disciple, but most of us don’t have any idea of what to do or how to get there. The purpose of this article is to allow you to eavesdrop, you might say, on my prayer life so that you can see how someone else does it.

I am not sharing this in order to draw attention to myself or get a pat on the back, but rather to provide you with a model of prayer with the hopes that you can take a thing or two from it and apply it to your own life in your personal journey of discovering God through prayer. My morning prayer routine has developed over time and is drawn from those who have modeled prayer for me and through time spent in building a relationship with Our Lord during the quiet early hours.

Prayer is simply communication with God. Communication connotes a relationship, a two way path of sharing between persons. It is important to begin here because we often can reduce prayer to that of a lucky rabbits’ foot in which we merely ask God our wishes and expect them to come true. Don’t get me wrong, God wants to hear your wishes and needs and desires, but if that’s all we do in times of prayer then we aren’t listening for what he has to say and often diminish the relationship to a transaction with a wish granter.

First Thing

Each morning before my feet hit the ground I say “Lord open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise” (Psalm 51:15). This is a simple prayer taken from the Psalms which immediately begins each day with acknowledging God and my intent to surrender to Him. Once I’m out of bed I shuffle to the coffee pot to grab a cup of Joe and make my way to the living room where my favorite chair and Bible are. Before sitting down to sip my coffee I kneel before an image of our Crucified Lord and say an unscripted prayer which in some form of words adores Him for his creative being, thanks Him for the blessings He has freely given me and asks for help with whatever intention I have that is keeping me from engaging as the disciple that He wants me to be.

Scripture

Once I plop myself into my recliner, I begin first with breaking open Scripture. It has been said that prayer is you talking to God and Scripture is God talking to you. I typically read from the Gospels which is the New Testament and is framed around the life of Christ and his Apostles. I am no Scripture scholar, but as I continue to learn the context and continuity from the Old Testament, each reading reaches knew depths. I mention this because it is important not to get paralyzed from beginning because you don’t understand completely everything that is said in the Bible.

Lectio Davina is a model for meditation on Scripture which has been around for centuries and is a great way to unpack Scripture. One image that I’d like to share which may be helpful is to imagine a photograph from your childhood or early adult life. Pictures help to take us back to that time and place. We can almost smell again the aroma, hear the sounds and feel the emotions of an experience of the past. Our minds do this by using our imagination which God created in us.

When reading a Scripture passage imagine that the words are painting the picture for you and as you spend time reading and re-reading it, you can engage your imagination and allow the Holy Spirit to engage your senses and put yourself into the scene.

Saints

Once I have spent time with Scripture, I turn to the words of the Saints for encouragement for the day. The Saints are the men and women who have fought to good fight and were victorious and provide a wealth of knowledge and experience in how to live out the life of a Christian. There are short reflections from the Bible and Saints or Fathers of the Church in the Office of Readings which is a part of the Liturgy of the Hours. This is the daily prayer of the Church and a way of sanctifying the day with prayer. It is amazing to read the texts that some of the early Christians wrote which reveals that you are not alone on that path to God. Rather it is a path paved by the blood and devotion of Christians over the past 2000 years.

Spiritual Reading

Lastly, I finish my morning offering of time to God by reading a spiritual book. I am currently reading The Life of Christ by Venerable Fulton Sheen. I don’t get through books quickly this way because I only spend a little time reading parts of them each day, but it is a helpful way to tie things together for the spiritual journey.

I usually spend 45 minutes to an hour going through what I have described above. This has grown over the years and I certainly couldn’t have started where I am now. You can see that the time spent each day requires me to sacrifice time I would normally be sleeping. I have adjusted my schedule to make prayer in the morning a priority and the fruit that has come from this sacrifice of time is indescribable.

I hope that you can draw some encouragement from this model. It is important to understand that just as you wouldn’t expect a marriage to be healthy if spouses didn’t share their life with each other, so it is with your relationship with Christ. We all desire to waste time with the one’s we love which allows the relationship to grow, so waste time with Christ and a connection will sprout.

Put on the Armor of God (Eph 6:11)

Finding Your Why

By Ron PereiraHave you ever been part of a corporate wellness program?  You know… where everyone has Fitbits, or something like that, and if you meet your goals you get some prize?

Well, my company is doing our own version of this.  We also have a “prize” that can be won if certain accomplishments are met at the end of the year.  We started the program in January and it’s going OK.  Not great.  But OK.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to improve the program.  You see, right now we’re using “extrinsic” motivational methods in hopes of getting our team members interested in improving their health.  We have this prize waiting for everyone if they complete the mission.

Well, as it turns out, extrinsic motivation isn’t always the best way to go about motivating people.  Instead, a far better approach is to help folks develop intrinsic motivation.

Dan Pink wrote an excellent book called “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.”  In the book Pink explains that intrinsic motivation requires three things – autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy means we need to be allowed to think and act on our own.  Put another way, we aren’t going to be micro-managed and told what to do.  Instead, we’ll be allowed to think and figure things out.

Mastery is developed when we’re able to work on something challenging but doable.  Think about an exercise like pull-ups.  You may not be able to do one but you’re working on it and getting closer.

This is mastery in action.  There’s a challenge, you’re working on it, and you’re getting closer.  And then, when you finally get that first pull-up you’ll be able to set a new goal like 10 pull-ups in a row.  Put another way, mastery is never fully achieved but you still experience victories along the way.

And, lastly, there’s purpose.  In order to be intrinsically motivated we must know why we’re doing what we’re doing.  And we have to believe in the cause.  In other words, I may know why someone does what they do… but if I don’t agree with the choice I’ll never be intrinsically motivated to follow along.

Sadly, this “purpose” piece of the formula is where I believe corporate wellness programs often fail.  Most companies, mine included, get so caught up in the prize we fail to help folks reflect on their why.

So that’s where I’m going to direct my focus with my company’s wellness program.  I want to help folks discover their why.  And, sure, we may still have a prize at the end of the year if things go well… but it’s my hope that this extrinsic motivator will simply be, metaphorically speaking, icing on an already perfect cake.

I’d also encourage you to remind yourself of your why.  Why is living a healthy (spiritually & physically) life important to you and what are you willing to do in order to turn your why into action and results?

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