RIGHT REASONS FOR WORKING OUT – Part 1 of 2: The Abstract

“If it’s healthy or good for you, it must not taste or feel good”.  As silly as this sounds, many of us think this way much of the time.  We compartmentalize our junk food from our healthy food, and we set aside ‘penance’ time to drag our butts to the gym and sweat, before indulging and lounging guilt free.  We don’t view our activities as part of a complete whole, but rather the healthful parts as a means to an end, in order to have our ‘enjoyable’ time.  What if we could see all as the whole, enjoying both ends of the spectrum equally?  It’s all about yin and yang anyway; just like too much healthy food and too much working out are also bad for you.

Let’s look at this thing called exercise.  When most people think of working out, they think of the weight they need to lose, the cardiovascular health their doctor says they need to achieve, or working on the lack of muscle tone they notice in the mirror.  They then set out to ‘fix’ these things in order to get them done and over with.  This is a very limiting way of exercising your body and experiencing your body training sessions, as if there is a finite result or end destination of your working out.  This is akin to the ‘quick fix’ mentality of our society that we see when a scumlord or city are trying to meet their bottom line.  Let’s face it, patches and maintenance tactics only last for so long.  How many pot holes get filled in by half-assed efforts of the city, only to be back to being bigger pot holes six months later?  Or how about the scumlord who keeps patching the rusty pipes, allowing the corroded pipes to infect the water, until one day the whole plumbing system busts and floods the units.

The patches are equivalent to our intermittent efforts applied when we get desperate from back, hip, or knee pain, or are in dire straits because our extra weight is leading to complications, thus backing us into having to put in a paltry, ‘after the fact’, effort.  The thing that is being patched is inevitably getting weaker, corrupted, and structurally less sound as we are standing by watching.  Rather than occasionally filling in the pot holes, we need to keep the road well-paved, constantly renewing our body and mind.  Rather than putting electrical tape on rusting pipes, let’s keep the pipes shiny and clean through constant efforts of willful and aware exercise and exertion.  woman-working-out

These consistent efforts will entail being present with your mind while you are working out your body, experiencing your workouts psychologically as well as physically.  We fail to do this in many things in our lives, as we think of what we’re going to do over the weekend while we’re at work, or we rush to get done cutting the grass on Sunday so we can have a beer and sit on the couch.  This mentality of always doing something to get to a future activity, then shows up in our workout sessions as we are not consciously aware of what we are doing, but just going through the motions to get to the reward.  Because of this, our efforts will usually be temporary and the effects will be minimal.  ‘Do what you are doing’ – in other words, when you are working out, be there working out, and willfully live that reality at that time, rather than just getting through the ‘drudgery’ to a future time.

Most people’s desires when they go to the gym are purely superficial, as in, how will this make my body look better, or how will this make my back or hip hurt less when doing my normal activities.  These are fine and dandy, but they can be limiting and short-sighted if not accompanied by an inner awareness, more often than not.  When working out becomes a way of life through an awareness of what it brings to our life, and is not just a means to an end, then it won’t be seen as drudgery anymore.  When it is embraced as a part of who you are, it will have a real affect on your psyche, and the other activities of your life will be more enriching through better clarity and balance within.  Embrace the difficulty, don’t detest or begrudge it, for without difficult things to overcome we would be faint-hearted pansies with no heart.

Consistently working out as a way of life, and the discipline it entails and fosters, readies us for the difficulties of life.  The other obstacles aren’t so daunting when I have a sense of accomplishment physically, knowing I can push myself when low on energy, energizing and motivating myself in the process.  When I know I can control my actions and behaviors during that time, it creates a greater sense of self-confidence in my ability during other endeavors.  Working out supplies the texture of our life, something for the other parts to hold and attach onto.  One must have a solid foundation and base from which to grow, share, create, and interact.  It is easy to get scattered and disparate, and a sense of order in our lives starts with fostering singular focus and purpose through diligence in exercising our physical body.

The body and mind are not separate units, so stop trying to make them such.  Realize how they are infinitely intertwined and tied into one another, for there is  no lasting happiness until this is realized.  If I don’t experience my body while I am working it out, I am not truly connected to my body’s physical well-being.  You cannot be happy by just indulging and fulfilling the body, that will be short-lived and soon lose the appeal it once had.  Until you make physical awareness of your body a part of who you are, working out will be a laborious, necessary evil that you are only doing to affect a future health state.  Be present and thankful for the activity at hand, and feel what your body is going through.  When it becomes difficult, view it as a challenge designed to strengthen resolve and determination in all areas of your life.  There is no greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment than powering through a difficult workout when you feel you don’t have it in you.  When we find ways to tap into our power within at a physical level, the affects it has on our mental state are quite amazing, as we rise above the limitations of our inherent laziness.

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GOLF SPECIFIC STRENGTHENERS

I’ve never known a golfer that hasn’t wanted more length on their golf shots, but of course as in all things in life, “Easier said than done”.  In a January article, ‘Hit the Golf Ball Further’, I talked about fast twitch muscle speed in order to increase club head speed, but this month I am focusing on pure tensile strength in order to form a stable base and strong foundation, from which to unleash that speed.

In order to build this strong, secure foundation, you’ll want to focus on strengthening your postural muscles, as well as developing the prime movers of the golf club.  Here are some exercises that will help solidify your swing’s base, and strengthen your dynamic ability, allowing for increased power and distance:  squat-woman

1)     Chair Pose – Squat with upper leg at a 90 degree angle to lower leg, as if sitting in a chair. Extend arms up and out, at the same angle as your torso, approximately 45 degrees to the floor.  Don’t let knees buckle in or bow out, maintain their position.  Hold for 5 seconds, 6 reps, 2 sets.   [Stabilizes the inner and outer leg, along with the shoulders and triceps.  If these aren’t strong enough to hold you in position and balance during the force of your golf swing, something will give and breakdown, and you will be unable to maintain your posture.]

2)    Medicine Ball Twists – Stand holding a 6 to 10 lb. medicine ball (or dumbbell) in your hands.  Bend down and twist, taking ball to outside of right ankle, stand up and twist ball to other side, above left ear.  Do 12 reps on each side.  [This functional exercise directly parallels the golf swing pivot and extension, rehearsing the range of motion, stretching the hips and sides, and strengthening the core.]

282_0 280 3)    Forearm Rotations – Grip 8 iron in one hand, stand and hold out in front of you with shaft parallel to shoulders, club face facing the ground or sky.  Rotate forearm and club back and forth.  Modification is to choke down on club if too difficult.  10 rotations each direction with each arm.  [With increased forearm strength you will have more club stability and will be able to release the club faster.]

4)    Swing Three Clubs – Grip 7i, 6i, and 5i together and swing.  Start slowly to warm up, and then gradually swing them a bit harder and faster.  [Builds hand strength as well as all the golf muscles used while swinging.]

side-plank
side-plank-twist

5)    Side Planks with a Scoop – Lay on side extended in a straight line, and put yourself up on one elbow (directly underneath shoulder) so that body is sloping at 30 degree angle.  From held side plank position, rotate non-supporting elbow underneath raised side.  10 reps, 2 sets.  [Your obliques and shoulders will be strengthened by supporting your body, and your lats strengthened with the underneath scoop - all important muscles for a tight and powerful coil-up in your swing.]

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QUIETING THE CRAVINGS

It is rare these days for adult Americans to have a profound nutrient deficiency, as most people have too much nutrition in the form of unused energy versus the energy they are expending.  Our body had to store the extra energy somewhere and it went to our abdomen, hips, and other lovely places as fat stores.  We don’t usually get disease because of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, we get them because of excess energy in the form of triglycerides on our overweight bodies.

Before the 1900’s, people died from deficiencies because they weren’t knowledgeable about nutrition, and didn’t realize the importance of certain foods in their diet to provide essential nutrients.  For instance, many sailors died on long voyages as late as the 18th century from scurvy, because it wasn’t known how important vitamin C is to one’s health and survival.  If only they had some citrus aboard those vessels in the early days, they could have avoided those deaths, and the term British ‘limeys’ never would have come into vogue.

Even if one doesn’t eat fresh fruit and vegetables these days, they can still survive, as many of our staple foods are fortified to give us the basic nutrients necessary for our body’s basic functioning.  Cereals that have been stripped of most of their vitamins and minerals through processing have been fortified with some essential nutrients, our salt is supplemented with iodine so we don’t get hyperthyroidism, and calcium is added to some orange juice in hopes of avoiding bone problems in our population.

It is through constant exposure to drink and food products today, and the sheer volume of our intake of them, that we get the necessary minimum vitamins and minerals that our bodies need.  When foreigners come to the U.S. they are stunned at how cheap our food is here, and how big the portions are.  Since 1960, our dinner plates have increased in size 36%.  Today, those who are deficient in a vitamin or mineral are usually at a life stage that requires more, i.e. pregnant women need more iron and older people need more vitamin D, or they have caused it through their chosen behavior, i.e. vegetarian women and women smokers can get iron deficiencies, and vegans can become calcium deficient as they don’t eat dairy.

It is our over-consumption of empty calories however, seen in processed, packaged, and fast food with little nutrition other than lots of the macronutrients of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, that leaves us overweight and unhealthy.  lions-drinking-water It can be argued that some become obese because their bodies are looking for more of what they need, left unfulfilled from eating these empty calories.  They get hungry quicker and aren’t satisfied for long as their bodies are looking for more micronutrients, as well as mistaking their unquenched thirst for hunger.  They eat twice what they need to get the proper nutrition, becoming overweight in the process.

We need to eat more nutritionally dense, whole, fresh foods, in order to quiet the cravings.  You can quiet your cravings by eating 3,000 calories of crap, or you can eat 1800 calories of nutritionally dense food that will satisfy you even better.

Here are some tips to quiet the never ending caloric wanting within:

1)      Drink a glass of water before you eat.

2)      Rest between bites and put your fork down, this way you will realize you are full sooner than you think.

3)      Stop eating when you are 75% full (Most of us have overeaten to 120% for so long, that we have a skewed version of full, and what seems to be 75% is actually 100%).

4)      If you are still hungry an hour after eating dinner, have a little dessert.

5)      Make 80% of your beverage consumption regular water (by greatly reducing your sugar and aspartame intake through drink, you will curb your cravings).  If you are going to drink bottled teas, sodas, or juice drinks more often than 20% of the time, add water to them so they are 1 part water, 1 part packaged drink.  To spice up your regular water, add lime or lemon on occasion.

6)      Eat more of these nutritionally dense foods:  almonds, eggs, yams or sweet potatoes, fish, basmati or brown rice, avocadoes, whole grain bread, carrots, meat, beans, walnuts, raw green and red peppers, chicken, broccoli, apples, seeds, peanut butter, whole grain al dente pasta (lower glycemic index), cabbage, blueberries, green beans, and hummus.

7)      Avoid fried and battered food, white and wheat bread and buns, white and wheat pasta, white sticky rice, over-cooked pasta and packaged items that say low-fat on them.

We all want to feel satisfied, but seek it in the wrong way.  We feel groggy and reach for a soda or coffee, but they actually play with our metabolism and moods, making us crave more and deal with restlessness and fatigue.  Yet because of never-ending brainwashing media campaigns, we now think we need certain products in our refrigerator.  We think that Coke or diet Coke are staples, as well as tea drinks like Snapple, and so-called naturally sweetened, zero calorie water drinks such as Vitaminwater.  The FDA isn’t very strict on labeling and a company can put naturally sweetened on their label while those natural items, such as corn, have been highly corrupted and processed.  Also, other man-tampered ingredients are added to make the water richer and fuller tasting.  Look at the back of the label, and if it has things that sound like scientific concoctions or chemicals, i.e. erythritol, crystalline fructose, xanthan gum, then they probably were created in the lab to make your taste buds yearn for their concocted formula.  Zero calorie, all natural, yummy flavored water that is full- bodied – come on now, a little common sense please.  Water is meant to satisfy our thirst, not to give us the sensation of the clouds parting for us so that a rainbow can alight onto our front porch to take us to the magic world.

There will be a little learning curve in all of this as we have to re-train our taste buds, and thirst mechanisms (which are virtually non-existent now).  We drink so little water and think we are satiating our thirst when we drink soda, alcohol, and coffee – but we are not, and we need to treat those beverages like the treats that they are.  Make treats a treat again, by having them only occasionally; don’t let them rule your actions and behavior for then other parts of your life may get out of your control as well.  To reclaim power over your life starts with carefully monitoring and choosing what you will put in your body, rather than being an unwitting pawn in a rich CEO’s scheme, who uses your eroding health to line his pockets.  It may take a while to retrain your taste buds, but you will through changed behavior and choices, and then you won’t be beholden to the same physical and emotional cravings.

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HARNESS THE POTENTIAL OF YOUR GOLF SWING

Many golfers watch the pros play on TV, and are stunned by how far they launch the golf ball.  They notice the amazing speed of the golf club as it is moves through the ball and strikes it with a tremendous force.  This leads the amateur golfer to go to the range and commit two main errors in their efforts to hit the ball far like the pros:

1)    They think they need to take the club back quickly in order to get it to come through quickly.

2)    In trying to hit it as far as possible, they try to wind up and gather power with their arms, taking them as far back and around as possible.

 These errors lead to:

 *Disconnection + Swing Breakdown* *Failure to use big muscles of the body properly*

The Body Initiates the Backswing

A concerted effort needs to be made to wind up with the torso rather than the arms, because the golf club weighs so little it tempts us to snatch it back with our puny little hands and arms.  To use the body properly, the core needs to be engaged and ready from the beginning, so that it starts the club back.  This entails having the stomach muscles a bit contracted at set up, as if someone were about to punch you, ready for action.

To remedy the problem of snatching the club back quickly, truck-loading we need to simulate a move in which we are taking back something heavier than a golf club.  The analogy I often use with my students is to pretend you are a manual laborer hoisting 50 lb. bags of flour onto a truck bed.  If I tried to swing that bag of flour back with just my arms in order to build momentum to throw it onto truck, I will either drop the bag or not come close to getting it up on the truck.  I need to get my center of gravity beneath that sack of flour and use my belly to build the necessary energy and strength back and through to get it to fly up on the truck.  It needs to be supported by my core muscles, just as my golf swing.

Limited Arm Backswing:

Less skilled players always try to use the arms too much on the backswing, bending and breaking them all over the place, disconnecting them from the body.  dancers1 This leads to a dissipation of power and an unsolid strike of the ball.  Once you learn to initiate the backswing with the body, you won’t feel the need to take them back quite as far, as your body will now be coiled properly with your back facing the target. However, your arms will probably still be too scrunchy and behind you, rather than extended, and in front of you with your hands up high and arms taut – feeling like you’ve only made a 1/2 to 3/4 arm swing.  I liken this to the structure that a ballroom dancer has, as they don’t let anyone into their space, arms firm and creating a structured boundary.

Free Not Loose

Some of the excess arm swinging on the backswing is a reflection of people thinking they need to be loosey goosey in order to be relaxed and hit it hard.  boxing-man However, the pros are never loose and noodle-like, but rather are free and purposeful.  You want to be relaxed, but swing with defined structure.  I liken this body sensation to that of a boxer in the ring, as he throws powerful, controlled punches with muscles engaged, dancing around lightly on his feet, bobbing and weaving.  He is relaxed and free, yet has defined, contained movement.  He is not wispy and jello-like, for if he were he would go down pretty quick.  Likewise, in our backwings we want some pressure and tightness in the right places (right inner thigh, right lat, last three fingers of left hand, left underarm/upper left tricep), and yet a freedom to coil up and release the club with speed on the way through.

- – -   When in time you learn to put it all together through the trial and error of your practice, you will see improved golf shots that are more consistent, accurate, and longer.  When one becomes a better player, they learn how to swing more efficiently and use their big muscles properly so they don’t have to work as hard.  They use all their parts more effectively, leading to more easily repetitive and dynamic moves.  You too can get rid of the power drains in your swing, and harness your true power to unleash onto the ball!   – - -

 

 

 

 

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DON’T FEEL RUSHED ON THE GOLF COURSE

During my golf instruction the past 11 years, I’ve heard a consistent theme from my novice students in that they often feel rushed out on the golf course.  They don’t feel they can take their time, as others are waiting on them to hit their shot.  They aren’t as skilled and proficient, and feel like they are holding up play.  Then in their worry to play faster, they wrongly swing faster and hit a bad shot.

Exacerbating this issue is the fact that these golfers are nervous and don’t want to embarrass themselves, feeling as though they are in the spotlight. It is natural to feel this way, but don’t worry, the other golfers in your group are much more concerned and worried about what their own ball is going to be doing, and they aren’t judging you for they were all beginners at one point too.

[TID BIT:  Pace is surprisingly john-daly an issue on Tour. Occasionally PGA Tour play will slow to molasses but the officials don’t act. LPGA Tour officials enforce stricter rules and give warnings to the players if their group is out of position, putting the whole group on the clock. They then have 30 seconds for each shot, to get their distance, pin location, assess the wind, pick a club, read the green, go through their routine, etc. They also have an extra 10 seconds at the end of the hole to apply if need be. If they go over their total allotment of 30 seconds per shot for the hole, they can be assessed a 2 stroke penalty. On occasion this has cost players prize money and better tournament placement.]

There are some things you can do to feel less overwhelmed out on your local links, enabling you to keep up with the pace of your group.  This however entails using your time wisely and preparing ahead of time, so here are some keys:

  • If you can’t find your ball, or have hit it a few times and are still in trouble, pick up and move on.  When you catch up with your group, throw a ball down where they are.
  • If using a Rangefinder, don’t use it when it is your turn to hit, either use it before or after (if after, you can write down the distance from a particular landmark for the next time you play that course, and then run to catch up with your group).
  • Know the order of play, who is hitting right ahead of you, or if you are up first.
  • Before it is your turn to play, tim-clark-throwing-grass figure out your approximate distance to the hole, assess the wind, and pick what club you are going to hit.
  • Before it is your turn to play, get your grip on the club, determine your swing thought, and start visualizing and lining up your shot from the back of the ball, if you’re not in someone’s way.  Right after the person before you hits their shot, start moving into your pre-shot routine (access my Feb. 8 article in Feb. 2012 Archives for info on this), and then hit your shot.

For the beginner it takes a long time just to get their grip on the club and to find their stance and posture, so therefore they should practice those things before going on the course that day.  See how fast you can get your hands into the correct position on the club and how quick you can find the correct posture and ball position in your set up on the driving range beforehand.

Plan out and size up your shot and swing thoughts well before you get to the ball, even while 50 yards away and walking up to it.  By the time you get to the ball and are standing over it, you’ve already done all the prep work, so now you can relax and take your time as you swing it back and through with a nice, smooth tempo.

Just remember, as long as you don’t dilly dally in between shots, but keep walking, you should be fine.  There are always going to be the unpleasant, grumpy old men out there who never seem to be in a good mood while playing golf, and whose only goal is to play as fast as possible.  Luckily they are usually done playing by 11 a.m. so that they can get to their Dewar’s and Bridge.  However, for the enlightened modern day player, the main purpose is to enjoy their time on the course and the challenge of the game, for as they realize, life is too short to be grumpy about speed of play!

 

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Health and Fitness: COMMIT TO YOUR INNER STRENGTH

Well it is that time of year again, you know the one, time when the new gym members begin fading away, and the diets start slipping by the wayside.  About 8 weeks ago people made resolutions to lose weight, strengthen their heart, and get in better shape; all in an effort to improve and change their lives for the better.  However, when most made these resolutions, they really only wanted to change the physical manifestation of the behavior that got them into their needful situation in the first place, they didn’t really want to change their behavior.

They thought they would change their behavior temporarily, as a necessary evil, in order to produce the results they wanted to see, and then get back to their normal lifestyle.  You see, many feel they are living the grand and good life when they are stuffing their faces full of crap, or vegging out for hours upon hours at a time, numbing themselves out to life rather than living it.  rainbow-in-sky Most only want to change some outside circumstance, such as losing weight or lowering cholesterol level, but these are just temporary goals that don’t have any real effect on our lives.  At best, the person will lose 20 pounds, only to gain it back within a year or two.  They haven’t decided to make a real change within – which is where change comes from.

Our society is very result-oriented, and neglects to place attention on the process and journey, or to find merit in the minutae.  Many don’t stay motivated or stick to their goals, because they are looking for instant, superficial results.  So in setting out to attain their resolutions, they are still trying to satisfy that need for constant stimulation and reward that got them in trouble in the first place; rather than noticing and enjoying their inner transformation and newfound awareness taking place in the change.  In order to make a real change, one needs to break free of the compulsion to be constantly gratified, stimulated, appeased, and fulfilled.  People don’t stick with their resolutions because they aren’t interested in making true changes at their core, as their resolutions are limited and external.

To make true change, you need to make a commitment to yourself.  You have to be willing to go without, and navigate through scary territory, realizing that there are better things on the other side waiting for you that you never could have imagined.  Our emotional lives have been stunted and repressed because anytime we feel bad or depressed, we feel we must escape those feelings and indulge in something.  It’s alright to be depressed or down sometimes, allow it to be, for as we find out anyways, none of our indulgences offer escape either, only temporary distraction on our way to getting fatter, unhealthier, and sicker.

There are many articles out there on how to make goals, how to stay committed to your goals, how to be goal oriented, so on and so forth; but they don’t take the real issues of the person into account.  The missing ingredient is, “What is going on within you that has got you to this place of ill-health to begin with?” There is a reason we gained all that weight, got weak cardiovascularly, or are always grumpy.  What are the conditions and roots of our behavior?  Most likely it started somewhere along the line when life wasn’t giving us what we thought we deserved, so we figured we’d take things into our own hands.  This is rampant among our youth with their undeveloped brains, as they seek fun and escape in alcohol, drugs, and sex.  During all those school years they have expectations that their life should be on the path to success, that they should look, feel, and act a certain way, as well as being popular, smart, witty, funny, etc.  With all that peer pressure, many of them need an outlet.  This is when the self-medication of giving into bodily gratifications begins, and when our emotional growth stops.

However, as adults we can escape this cycle and rise above, realizing that pain and sadness should not be feared, but seen as a normal part of life.  This is where the importance of making a commitment, rather than goal-setting, comes in; for in order to commit to ourselves, we must actually learn to love ourselves.  woman-in-lotus-position A commitment means wanting to make real changes within and get in better touch with ourselves, so as to heal ourselves from the inside out.  Have faith in yourself, you are stronger than you think, and you can do this.

In order to feel the energy and life force within, and experience more than you had ever thought possible, the indulging needs to subside as you make a commitment to be good to yourself.  Let’s stop pleasing the alcohol, toxin, and processed food industries for a moment, those multinationals who love to prey on our weakness and vulnerability.  What better way to escape our horrible lives for a while, they tell us, than to have some fleeting bliss with Captain Morgan, Marlboro, or a bag of greasy Lays.  How about just sitting with your life, sensing and feeling it, allowing yourself to be scared, bored, sad, or unhappy; let those feelings be there without need to cover them up.

This will be difficult and take time, but next time urges come over you to overindulge or to be unnecessarily lazy, don’t give in to your wanting – for every time you do you are harming yourself and taking yourself further away from your life.  Make a commitment to start feeling your life as it is, good and bad, and stop continually numbing it out with harmful distractions.  Reclaim your life and treat yourself with the respect you deserve.  True commitment is a journey without a destination, there is no pot of gold at the end, so enjoy the gold specks that line a beautifully lived life.

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CHANGE OUTLOOK TO IMPROVE GOLF SCORES

One of the main things I noticed in the countless pro-am’s I played on Tour, is that most amateurs have unrealistic expectations. That is to say, they either think they are better than they are, think this game is easier than it is, or don’t understand the concept of scoring in golf.

When Jack Nicklaus was in his prime, years ago, and was asked how many shots he hit the way he wanted to during a tournament when he was playing his best golf, he replied, “7″. After Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he was asked how many shots he hit exactly the way he had envisioned them on the last day. His response to this was, “1″.

These statements are indicative of two important lessons:  1) That to win a tournament against the best players in the world, you don’t need to play your best possible golf.  2)  When the top players are scoring their best, they don’t need to hit lots of great, beautifully struck shots.

So in other words, the primary objective and the only thing that counts at the end of the day, “scoring low”, does not mean hitting lots of impressive, gorgeous shots the way we would ideally want to hit them.  If you are waiting to score better, until your swing is more full proof, iron clad, and synced up in perfect rhythm to deliver pre-packaged great shots on demand, you’ve got a long, endless wait.

‘All or Nothing Mentality’ = Bad Scores

The revered sports psychologist of the Tour players, Bob Rotella, wrote the book, “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect”, because there is no such thing as perfect golf and thus one must learn how to manage their missed shots.  What really constitutes playing the so-called, ‘perfect round of golf’, is using the swing you have that day, to get the ball in the hole in the fewest shots possible.

For better or worse, golf is a game of errors in which our human limitations are greatly exposed and exaggerated. Most amateurs don’t realize or accept this, and instead of working with their mediocre shots and imperfect swings in order to make them work that day, they foolishly search for just the right swing in hopes of hitting a stellar, great feeling golf shot.  golfer-dude Even if they do hit that one amazing shot, their mental approach is so far off base during their 4 hours of play, that their score will reflect their ridiculously flawed ‘all or nothing mentality’.

I often had my best tournaments on Tour when I was not striking the ball well. The acceptance of this reality seemed to prepare me for the rigors of the day. I knew not to expect much from my physical skills, and thus had to summon the discipline necessary to stay even- keeled, tough, and mentally strong.  I made my ball striking work for me that day, as crappy as my swing felt and as far off the sweet spot I was hitting them.

I didn’t get sad, mad, or pity myself, although it could have been very easy to succumb to the frustration over the fact that all the years and years of swing practice seemed all for naught.  What I finally came to realize, is that all of that practice got me in touch with my swing, its intricacies, my tendencies, and the cause and effect at work.  It didn’t reduce my swing to a unerring robotic motion, but it taught me to learn about myself and my swinging motion.  I could never fully avoid untimely bad shots, but I could minimize the horrible ones and make the bad shots not so bad.

To summarize, when you are on the course, accept your abilities that day, be creative as you wield the club, and find a way to get the ball in play.  There are no pictures on the scorecard, so get over your desire for perfectionism.  Concentrate on getting your ball to intermediate targets any way that you can, provide yourself a cushion for error, shoot away from tucked pins, take more club if you need to, and don’t try to be the hero.  Anyone can shoot well when their physical game happens to be going well, but it takes a savvy, smart player to shoot low when their mechanics are in disarray!

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TAKE YOUR DRIVING RANGE SWING TO THE GOLF COURSE

I often hear golfers complain that they can’t hit the ball on the golf course the way that they do on the driving range.  They spend time practicing and working on their game, getting to where they can hit decent shots, but then when they get on the golf course the ball seems to have a mind of its own.

So how can you and others rein in those wayward shots on the course, bringing them more in line with your driving range ability?  Before you even start to take the club back and swing it, you’ve got to regularize your movements leading into hitting your shot.  You’ve got to create a consistent process and procedure for yourself, otherwise known as a pre-shot routine.

Your routine should entail walking up to the ball the same way every time – standing directly behind the ball as you look at your target, golden-arrow picking a spot a foot in front of the ball as an intermediate target, aligning your club to that, and then aligning your feet to the imaginary line in your head you have drawn from the ball to the target.

From that point, in the same manner each time you will want to visualize your shot in your mind, have the same amount of waggles and looks to the hole, and have some foot shuffling added in the mix so you don’t get frozen over the ball.  When you get under the gun in a high pressure situation you don’t want to have to think about what moves your body should be doing at that point.  They need to be pre-determined, well-rehearsed, and an unconscious habit.

Having a pre-shot routine is an important part of playing well on the golf course because it helps one deal with an elevated heart rate from the pressure of playing well in front of others, and the fear of hitting a bad shot. It sets the body in motion for you, without you having to figure out what to do in that moment when you’re nerves are inhibited with anxiety.

Next time you watch an LPGA or PGA Tour event, watch the pros go through their very calculated routines, those that they have consciously learned, rehearsed, and made habit.  Think how frayed those nerves get when a guy is playing the back nine at Augusta for the green jacket, or struggling to shoot 1 under on the back nine Friday to make the cut and feed his family, or standing over an 8 foot putt for $50,000.  Each player has their own signature style and movements they have developed in order to deal with those nerves.  Some players may hold their head to one side every time when lining up, hold the club in a specific hand, have a certain gait speed, a certain waggle, or maybe even a little butt shake.  tiger-lining-up They have done these moves methodically and precisely, over and over again thousands of times, in the same way every time.  They don’t have to think about them anymore because they are ingrained habit.

We have routines so that we don’t have to re-create our way through our pre-shot activity every time, expending precious energy, brain power, and time.  You don’t want to have to be conscious of your body movements when under lots of pressure, because anxiety will be inhibiting your ease of motion and fine motor skills.   In having routines, it takes the thought out of it and makes it second nature, so that we are just reacting as we let all of our previous efforts and actions take over.

If you want to play better golf, figure out your routine beforehand, and rehearse it over and over and over again, until it is habit.  In this way, you don’t have to decide when to pull the trigger or how long you’re going to stand over the ball when on the course, as it has already been determined.  For although you may not be able to feel your arms and legs on the first tee in front of everyone, and it seems as though you are going to swallow your larynx, your body still knows what to do to save you and your score!

 

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MAKE YOUR GOLF PRACTICE SERVE YOU

After spending tens of thousands of hours on the driving range over my life, and watching many amateurs practice, I’ve seen lots of ineffective practicing.  Most golfers go out there with high hopes for their practice session, only for it to end in frustration.  They spin their wheels, beating range ball after range ball, not seeing any improvement.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you and other golfers could spend that time wisely and constructively, getting in quality practice with results?  Think how much happier that would make you on the golf course, not to mention less grumpy when getting home.  Here are some ways to get the most out of your practice time, have your efforts pay off, and to see your skills actually improve:

1)      Smart Practice – Misalignment is one of the biggest problems golfers have on a consistent basis.  There is no excuse for this while practicing, as you imag0332 have the wherewithal to put a club or other alignment device down so you are aligned correctly when working on your swing, pitching or putting stroke.  If you practice while out of alignment, you are wasting your time.

2)      Five Physical Aspects of the Game – The game of golf is comprised of long game, pitching, chipping, sand, and putting.  Most people neglect to practice these 5 aspects, preferring to just practice their long game.  However, on the golf course only one third of their shots are long game, and none of those shots are the ones that get the ball in the hole.  Split your time up:  If you have an hour, spend 1/3 with long game, 1/3 with pitching and sand, and 1/3 with chipping and putting.

3)      Be Creative – When practicing your long game don’t just try to hit the full, long, straight shot over and over again.  This limits your familiarity, feel and creativity with your clubs, that which you will need in your arsenal in order to execute shots in demanding situations on the golf course .  Include specialty shots like the low punch, hooks, fades, and half shots in your practice.  And when practicing your pitching and chipping mix it up as well, giving yourself different lies, different distances, different angle, trying to hit it higher and lower, as well as with more or less roll.

4)      Different Types of Practice – Separate mechanics practice from course ready practice.  There is a time to build your swing, and then there is a time to practice feel, routine, and visualization.  Split your practice time up to do both, perhaps spending 2/3 of your time on mechanics, and 1/3 on making yourself and game ‘course’ ready.  When working on mechanics you do drills and look at different positions of your club and body in your swing, analyzing and evaluating your moves.  Whereas when practicing to make your game playable, you try to create golf course circumstances on the range, making mock situations, and reacting to them like you would on the course.  Get behind the ball to line up your shot and go through your whole routine in real time, just like you would for the approach on say hole #7 of a course you are familiar with.

5)      Don’t be ‘result of shot’ oriented – That is, do not react subjectively to what the ball does, but rather objectively, trying to feel, sense, and notice what went wrong with your swing, routine or mental play.  Good or bad, don’t react in an emotionally charged way (excited, sad, gleeful, or angry), but rather be calm and even-minded if you want to get the most out of your practice and not waste time and energy.

6)      More Starts for Quicker Results – If you want to see results sooner, you’ve got to get out more often.  This doesn’t necessarily mean spending more aggregate time out there, or having to spend 10 hours a week practicing.  This means spending a spare 10 minutes in your day making putting strokes on the kitchen floor lines, swinging in front of a mirror, practicing your grip while standing and watching TV, doing a pivot drill with basketball in between legs, watching and working on your footwork while making dry swings at the office, or doing my club on belly drill in your backyard.  Often I see people who don’t practice all week, come out once every couple weeks for 2 or 3 hours to practice on a Saturday or Sunday.  They could get more out of their practice if they would have had more little starts each week, rather than one long session on the weekend.  The more starts the better, as the more times you wake up the neural pathways the more chance for habit change and remembrance.  So instead of one long session on the range, mix it up and have a few 10 to 30 minute sessions sprinkled throughout your week as well.

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PIECES OF THE HEALTH PUZZLE – 3 Part Series / Part 3: Freedom Within

Have you ever wondered about that very rare person who you’ve read about, heard about, or know, that can smile in the face of tragedy?  I think we look at them as freaks and can’t really associate because the tragedy was so horrific that our minds protect us from conceiving of such a thing.  You know, kind of like the Christopher Reeves experience, and how he went on with a good, upbeat nature, trying to serve and help others despite his horrific accident.

I myself can’t really relate to such a thing, as I get bent out of shape if I have run out of milk for my cereal, or if someone is getting in the way of my work out at the gym.  Where I really get my panties in a bunch is on the freeways of America, as these other drivers are purposely trying to tick me off and ruin my day.  You see, I create all these tragic mini dramas in my mind every day, but I don’t have any real pain or drama, and surely no tragedy.  I have the luxury to internally whine, moan and feel wronged, expecting others to act how I want, and to be unrealistic in my own little bubble of life.  This pits me against myself, and is harmful to my psyche, leading to less enjoyment and more frustration.

However, when tragedy happens to someone they no longer have this luxury, as almost everything they have ever known or enjoyed has been taken away from them.  Little mini dramas about nothing, no longer register on their radar.  Then what you see is what kind of person they really can be, what they stand for, and what is important to them.  Some would not react well to tragedy, throwing in the towel, giving up and giving in, whereas others would rise up, face the situation, and utilize all that they have left to make the best of it.  Which one would you be?

I think it’s an important question, because our reaction would be a reflection of the way we try to live our life each day.  And that is why I have chosen emotional balance and how we deal with stress as the fourth component.  tree-reflection It is in trying times that our true inner selves are revealed.  It is then that our priorities, openness of heart, and concerns are exposed.  What is it that separates the two categories of people, the ones who fight to go on and those who succumb in the face of bad breaks?  According to Paul G. Stoltz, author of ‘Adversity Quotient’, we all have a certain AQ, just like we have an IQ, and this determines how we will react to adversity in our life.  It really is all set up by our belief system that we are creating and molding all the time.  Some people re-iterate self-defeating prophecies to themselves every day, whereas some are set on being positive no matter what happens.

The key is to form a beneficial belief system, one in which we’ve already answered the question of how we will react when difficulty comes, (because it will, it always does), and in which we have already decided our outlook on life, rather than it being dependent on our ever-changing external landscape.  We need to create our own meaningful paradigm of life within, so that we know what is important to us, and can be discerning yet trusting, protective yet open, smart yet loving, brave yet soft, astute yet vulnerable, and realistic yet seeking the best in others.  A system in which we live our truth and don’t need to defend ourselves, where we are calm within and listen to our heart.   Of course, most of us need help to get to this healthy and loving perception of ourselves, for it is difficult in our high-charged society.

Here are a few things you can do to help guide you through all the worldly static, onto a better direction of aligning yourself with the flow of life and finding your true inner essence.  You can read books such as HeartMath Solution by Doc Childre, The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, “The 100/0 Principle” by Al Ritter, or Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle.  There are different emotional freedom techniques you can pursue, through counseling, dvd’s, and a free ‘eft’ video here: http://eft.mercola.com/.  A good way to get to a feeling of calm within is to focus on your breathing, making it deeper and longer, aware of the in and out breaths.  This is a good starting place for meditation, which helps you to know and trust your intuition, and get out of your thinking mind for a while.  There are free online meditations at http://www.fragrantheart.com/cms/free-audio-meditations.

Life is what we make of it, and this once again was driven home for me a few weeks ago on 60 Minutes as I was watching a segment on the ‘Homeless in America’.  They interviewed this very precocious girl, maybe 13 years old, who was living with her dad and brother in a beat up old truck, as their father had lost his job sometime back.  They asked her how that was, with the other kids at school finding out, and how hard that made things for her.  This brave girl stood there and responded with words well beyond her years, “Oh it’s alright, it’s fine, it’s only life”.  I was stunned by her answer, and so proud that she had that kind of intuitive wisdom at such a young age, knowing right then she would be more than fine in life.  The family managed to get second hand clothes, attended free community and after school events, and found new places to park the truck to sleep at night.  While much of America goes on worrying about losing their home, lifestyle, and jobs, those fears have already come to fruition for this family – and it is okay.  Even in the most dire of situations, life usually goes on.

It’s just a perception that things are great or terrible, because life is life, and doesn’t change.  Circumstances change, and are an unending reality of life, yet it is your perception of them that shapes you.  As Gnarls Barkley sings in his song ‘Crazy’, “And I hope that you are having the time of your life, but think twice, that’s my only advice.”  If things seem too good to be true, or too bad to be true, they most likely are just that – not truly that good or bad.  When we are having great pleasure all seems well, but of course adversity is just around the corner.  And when things seem so gloomy and bad, a smile from a stranger or a gesture from a friend is there letting us know we are not alone.

So remember, it’s just life, and as you go onward realize that everyone else is just like you, looking for a way to be happy.  Anything they seemingly do wrong to us, we have already done to others in some form, with or without our knowing it.  If people are mean or inconsiderate to you, it is because of what is going on in them and their own problems they are dealing with, so don’t take it personally.  Live in this world, but don’t be of this world.  Cherish the pure consciousness you’ve been given in human form, but don’t lose yourself and the ability to hear the beat of your own drum.

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