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A Definition of Personal Responsibility

people being personally responsibleWhat is your definition of Personal Responsibility? Being responsible can mean many different things, depending on your circumstances and your world perspective. Is your world centered on a desperate street where more is spent on drugs than on food? Or, maybe, your world revolves around high finance, board room politics and country club society. Where you come from does not matter. What matters is how you see your world and what you want to achieve in that world. That will define your sense of Personal Responsibility.

Born in poverty with no family structure to guide you through your early years? Struggling to survive where gangs rule and violence is the norm? What you choose to do can mean the difference between escaping to a better place or drowning in the desperation that surrounds you. Your choices can send you in one direction or the other. Own your choices and you might, just might, make it to that better place. Taking Personal Responsibility for your choices will give you a decent shot at success.

Wealthy parents, elite education, surrounded by comfort and privilege? Sounds good on paper but what are you going to do with it? Make smart choices and a productive and fulfilling life can be yours. More important, you will have an opportunity to be of positive benefit to others, either by supporting programs that help the less fortunate or by being a role model for someone who has not yet developed positive habits. Did I say, “opportunity?” No, it is an “obligation.”

Make bad choices, however, and all that you have been given will melt away to nothing. The traps are out there. A heavy party scene and an indulgent life style, can lead to physical deterioration and decline. Even worse, it is easy to become complacent and let each day slide by without goals and direction (see the letter “G” in our Workbooks). This lack of motivation all but guarantees failure and mediocrity. Who wants that?

The details will differ but there is one common theme: your choices have consequences. If you live in a wealthy community and have all the security and comfort that comes with that life, your choices are no less consequential than those of someone living in back alleys, scratching for food every day.

A Lesson Learned – Or Not

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  (George Santayana (1905) Reason in Common Sense, p. 284, volume 1 of The Life of Reason).

In September of 2010, Christine O’Donnell stunned the political experts covering the Delaware State primaries by defeating Mike Castle to become the Republican Party’s nominee for special election to fill the Senate seat vacated when Joe Biden joined Barack Obama in the White House.

Castle had been hugely popular as Delaware’s Congressional Representative and former Governor.  O’Donnell was a virtual unknown and had no national political experience.  But she did have the support of Delaware’s Tea Party.  No one anticipated the impact that such support would have on the outcome: O’Donnell’s 53% to Castle’s 47%.

The outcome of the subsequent special election was less of a surprise.  After a chaotic and ineffectual campaign, O’Donnell was easily defeated by Chris Coons: 57% to 40%.

At the time, there was much hand wringing amongst the Republican establishment with vows to never let such a thing happen again.

Choices have consequences.  Today’s Republicans have made a choice and consequences will follow.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Bug Off —- “Plan A”

The dog days of summer are here but you are still a runner.  You have just set out for a relaxing recovery run (see my Blog “Hill Training For Runners,” posted 4-Dec-14).  It is late in the day and still hot; so you turn off the main road for the shade of a quiet side street.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, they attack.  Dozens of tiny black bugs swarm around your head.  You swat at them to no avail.  Then, ughh, you inhale one.  Swat again but another flies into your left eye.  Not good.

Then, miraculously, a breeze picks up.  The bugs disappear.  But your respite is only temporary.  The breeze fades and they are back with a vengeance, more annoying than ever.

Being the person that you are, you don’t accept defeat.  You are a problem solver.  You analyze the situation and come up with a plan: create your own breeze!

You crank it up, leaving your leisurely 8:00 minute per mile jog.  In a matter of six strides you hit a blazing 5:00 minute per mile sprint.  It works!  The bugs fall in your wake!

Only one problem: in the next four strides, your body totally rebels.  You fall on your face, unable to keep up that ridiculous pace.  The bugs swarm around you, sensing road kill.

Time for “Plan B.”  You do have a “plan B,” don’t you?  My plan “B” would be to limp back to my car, slam the door on any trailing bugs and crank up the ac.

Things do not always go as planned.  It pays to have a “Plan B.”

Identity II

Do you know who you are?

You are not what you say

Do you really know who you are?

You are what you do

Who are you?

Identity

I looked in the mirror

and saw myself

You looked at me

and saw someone else

You saw what you wanted to see

but what you saw wasn’t me

The Housler Effect

When I was younger there was a group of runners who would get together for training sessions and races.

The training was organized by one of the more experienced runners.  We would meet at a local high school track.  After a two mile warm up, we would hit the track to do the prescribed workout. It was fun.

The racing was also great because we knew each other and had our own rivalries to keep things interesting.

One of the runners in our group was Cal Housler (not his real name).  What a runner!   He seemed to glide around the track while the rest of us would plod along, huffing and puffing. Without a doubt, he was one of the most graceful runners of the day.

When it came to racing, however, Cal had a problem.  He never seemed to perform up to expectations.  Oh sure, he would start out fine, often leading his age group.  But then, within half a mile or so of the finish line, Cal would tie up.  His fists would clench, his shoulders would bunch up, his face a grimace of sheer agony.  His pace would drop and he would often be passed by less gifted runners.

We began to notice that this was a consistent phenomenon.  The race distance did not matter.  Put Cal on the starting line of a 10 K (6.2 mile) race and he would fade at around six miles, just two tenths short of the finish line.  The same for a half marathon:  blazingly fast for the first thirteen miles but the anchor would come out within the last tenth of a mile.

More often than not, Cal would fall apart within sight of the finish line.  We called this The Housler Effect.

Do you fade as you near your finish line?  The reality is, it is never as bad as you think it will be.  Cal’s reality was, it always was as bad as he thought it would be.  What is your reality?

Read my blog, “Where Is The Top Of The Hill.”  Had Cal been able to do that, the Housler Effect would never have been born.

Ideals To Live By

Am I going to tell you what ideals to live by?  No ….. not my job.  It is your life; so you pick the ideals.

What I can do, however, is suggest how to use your chosen ideals to guide you throughout your day.  After all, what good are ideals if you don’t live them?

This is not complicated.  Try these four simple steps.

First, pick two or three ideals that have meaning to you.  There are many to choose from.  Think of things that you might want to be known for: honesty, integrity, kindness, trustworthiness … the list is very long, indeed.

Second, tag each of your ideals with a person or a character.  This could be a relative, a celebrity, an heroic figure, or even an animal that in some way has inspired you.  For example, if you had chosen “Compassion” as an ideal, you might tag that ideal to Mother Theresa.  Or, if you felt that “Determination” was an important ideal, you might tag that one to Winston Churchill

Third, identify something that you do at the start of your day.  It can be a simple act that you perform every day …. stretching when you first get out of bed, brushing your teeth, pouring your first cup of coffee.  The act itself does not matter, as long as you do it consistently at the start of each day.  This will be your trigger point to activate the process.

The fourth, and final, step is where you bring it all together.  Let’s say that you have decided to use the moment when you pour your first cup of coffee as your trigger point.  As you pour that first cup, say the words, “Mother Theresa is Compassion.  Winston Churchill is Determination.”  This will bring your ideals to the forefront of your mind.

Follow these four steps and there is a good chance that your chosen ideals will be there to guide you throughout your day.

Responsibility Workbooks

Teaching “responsibility” to young people is not easy.  Most mentors and teachers employ a two-step process.

First, the basic principles must be defined and discussed.  What constitutes responsible decision making?  Where have you seen an individual acting in a responsible manner?  What public figures have demonstrated a lack of responsibility in their conduct?  Asking these questions and discussing the findings is a good way to define responsibility.

Defining “responsibility” is important but it would be impossible to tell young people how to be responsible in every instance they might encounter.  It is equally important to equip the individual with the instinct to manage new choices in a responsible manner.  Thus, we have the second step in the process.

The second step is engagement.  Once the basics have been established, it is important to engage the person who is being taught.  Our workbooks have been designed to do just that.  Yes, the workbooks do comment on aspects of “responsibility.”  But next to each comment is a blank page.  The workbook user is then challenged to come up with his, or her, own “responsibility word” and write about it on the blank page.  The cognitive process of creating that responsibility word engages the user and increases the likelihood that the lesson will be retained.

Simply put, we strive to start a conversation which will lead to reflection.  Our workbooks allow the user to reflect on various aspects of responsibility in a benign, non-intimidating, environment.  By doing this the user gets to practice making responsible choices.  With enough practice, this will become habit.  Over time habit will become ingrained and will shape real life decision making.

 

Hill Training For Runners

Hill training should be an integral part of any serious training program, for both runners and cyclists. This blog will focus on hill training for runners.

Cyclists will use hill workouts differently. Indeed, by varying the structure of the workout (length and intensity), the cyclist can achieve a variety of training objectives. Because of this variety, we will cover hill training for cyclists in separate blog.

As with anything, it is important to understand your objective before beginning. Your objective for hill training is to gain strength and confidence.

You need to find a moderate grade, preferably where there is little vehicular traffic, of between 50 and 200 meters in length. Mark the start and end point. If possible try to find a stretch of road where there is a peak and mark your end point just beyond that peak. This is important. The end point must be ten to fifteen meters beyond the topographic peak. (see my earlier blog for an explanation of this)

Cross your start point at a comfortable pace, slightly faster than your normal running pace. Hold that pace to the end point. This is a strength building exercise. You want to be thinking “strength” not “speed.” Try to maintain form from start to finish.

This hill interval should take between forty five and ninety seconds. Circle back at an easy pace. You want full heart rate recovery. (Wearing a heart rate monitor will insure precision on all of your workouts; more on that in another blog). When you first start hill training, opt for the shorter length.

The first time you do this workout plan to do four repetitions. You want to feel progressively more tired on each one, but you do not want to be so wasted that you cannot maintain form and pace on the last rep. Maintaining form from start to finish is important. As you gain in strength, you will be able to increase your reps to six or even eight.

Be sure to allow recovery days after hill training. Doing so will maximize muscle adaptation and will insure that your next hard workout will be productive.

Remember that your objective is to build both strength and confidence. As you become stronger, you will become more confident. (See my earlier blog, “What is Hill Training?”)

Hill Training

Hill training? What is that? If you thought that it meant obedience training for your hills, you would be wrong. Hills cannot be trained to sit, to woof, or to roll over. If you thought so, please skip this and go to my next blog.

In fact, hill training embodies the spirit of what I wrote for the letter “E” in the Youth Version of my workbook.

Hill training is a training regimen that uses an uphill grade to achieve a targeted training objective. It is a vital component of any decent training program. It is a tremendous strength builder and it works for cyclists as well as for runners.

As with anything, it is important to understand your objective before beginning. For both runners and cyclists, it is pretty simple. Your objective is to gain strength and confidence.

Don’t skip over that “confidence” thing. It can make the difference between 1st and 2nd place.

Have you ever run with a group on a hilly course? Did you notice how it got quiet just before hitting the hills? Why? Hills suck; that’s why. No two ways about it and everybody knows that.

By doing effective hill training, you will gain strength and confidence. Having done effective hill training, you will start any uphill section knowing that you are strong, that you have done this many times before.

Of course, your training will not make the hill less steep. It will not be shorter. But if you approach each hill with an attitude of strength and confidence, you will soon gain a reputation for being dominant on what most people fear. The edge you will have gained through your hill training will live not only in your own mind, but in the minds of those around you. You know it and they know it! How sweet is that?

We will examine the details of hill training for runners and cyclists in separate blogs.

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