Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Exploring Creativity

I'm fascinated by what makes us creative. What motivates us to change things, create something new and improved? How do we become more creative at work, at play and in life? If we apply that creativity to everything we do - what happens? Does it increase our happiness and sense of fulfillment?

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition or a joke) or an original physical object (such as an invention, a literary work or a painting).

Creativity is something you produce which in turn creates value. Do you create more when you're incentivized? What are those incentives? What motivates you to create something? A pay check? The impact it might have on the world? 

Do you use your right brain, creative more conceptual side of your mind to solve problems or do you find yourself stuck in left brain mode, doing things out of habit?

For fun, google "creativity" images. Look at all of the colorful images that pop up. Does that spark something for you? If not, what sparks your creativity? What gets those juices flowing?

Friday, September 18, 2015

How to lose 37 years of bad habits

I love cycling: the beauty of a exploring the world by your own two legs, feeling the wind in your face, sprinting against good competition, the friends I've made and the community I've built fills me up. What's not to love?

One thing: wearing skin tight spandex. I don't mind exposing my arms and legs, but when it comes to wrestling my big-boned frame into a super tight skin suit, I get bashful.  I've always had a tummy - like wearing an inner tube around my middle - and I've always been self-conscious of it.

Let's be honest - I've struggled with weight all my life. As it turns out, I really like food. But what I didn't learn when I was younger, were the right types of food to eat.

Over the years I'll get to a breaking point and want to shed some pounds, only to try cutting myself off from all sweets, processed foods, and interior-grocery store aisles binges cold turkey. It'll last for a short time and then BAM! I'm right back to where I started, discouraged by not making in progress and succumb to eating more junk food.

I can make cookies at home and resist them, right? WRONG! At least it makes me feel better temporarily, right?

What I've discovered, as well as hundreds of thousands of other people trying to lose weight, is how difficult it is to change old habits. It doesn't have to be about eating. It can be about smoking, drinking, compulsions - whatever. If you've programmed your body and mind into doing one thing over and over, well, it can be hard, if not impossible to alter that behavior.

Needless to say, I knew I needed help. I knew that in order to really lose some weight, I was going to need to change things up. I will say it's not like I have a ton of weight to lose. My body fat is around 22%, which is slightly below average. But I'm not happy with where it is right now.

My boss has a saying: "What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

I'm an action taker. Once I'm ready to do something, I will dive into whatever it is. But this time, I want lasting results. I want long term change. I didn't want to find myself two months later in the middle of the grocery store binging on chocolate bars and ice cream.

So I signed up for a year long nutrition program: Precision Nutrition. Jennie Reed turned me onto the program years ago. And several years ago I bought a couple of their cook books, which jump started some weight loss. But I also started bonking a lot on rides and the next thing I knew, was back to my old habits.

But this time is different.

This time I have a support network of coaches, mentors and community backing my progress. And I am committed (and coughed up $1500!) and am held accountable, everyday with daily checkins and weekly measuring assessments.

I work on one lesson at a time, one workout at a time and one new habit at a time.

We started slow - with just taking a five minute action a day that had nothing to do with food. They were priming me for real change: to get ready to form new habits.

Then we moved onto eating slowly and mindfully and to only 80% full. I started noticing results immediately. And now we've moved onto eating more lean proteins and vegetables.

I've lost 4 kilos in two months and it feels amazing. My clothes fit well, I'm not ashamed to ride in tight fitting spandex and I'm making lasting lifestyle habits. And so far - I've avoided the middle aisles at the grocery store.

I know I'm human and know I'll slip occasionally. But I also know I can fall right back into my new habits and be okay. It's empowering and the simple act of change is starting to trickle into other areas of my life... like writing, creative thinking, starting new habits, etc.

As I continue on this year long journey, I'll continue to update you on my progress. I figure checking in here is also a part of my accountability.

What are you trying to change? And if you have changed something, what advice would you give to others who struggle with change?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I'm sorry, but sorry doesn't cut it.

Seeing someone respond to a death of a loved one with "I'm sorry" doesn't cut it.

I'm sorry.

What does that mean?

Why does our culture roll over grief and death with an, "I'm sorry" response?

The definition of saying I'm sorry according to Google: Feeling or expressing sympathy, pity, or regret.

Urban Dictionary's definition: A phrase carelessly thrown about by people who want to lessen their guilt. Does not actually show that they care about the person they hurt.

A friend recently posted about the sudden death of their climbing partner and nearly every response said, I'm sorry.

Let's change this rhetoric. If someone you know loses someone, express yourself in a more thoughtful, caring way. It will go a lot further than a careless, "I'm sorry."

Monday, August 03, 2015

Digging Into the Pain Cave

Last week, Alison and I attended the TrainingPeaks Endurance Coaching Summit held at Colorado University in Boulder. The Summit brought together over 150 coaches, physiologists, psychologists, business and thought leaders based in the field of endurance sports. During the break out sessions, attendees could choose between different lectures, depending on their interest. While there, I attended Carrie Cheadle's The Psychology of Suffering lecture. Carrie is a certified consultant through the Association for Applied Sports Psychology and is passionate about educating others on sports psychology. The following are my observations from her talk, broken into three parts. (Part 1 is below.)

Pain is complex because it's a subjective experience. Your pain differs from your teammate, from your spouse, from your kids, from the person sitting next to you. Everyone experiences their own unique reaction when it comes to pain.

So what is pain? Pain is a signal from your brain that you're suffering (either a real physical danger or that you're pushing close to that edge) and our brains try to shut down the source of pain. It's a warning signal our brains excrete that as athletes can prevent us from preforming to our potential. But there's a difference between pain and suffering.

If you examine pain in the form of fatigue, it's experienced as a limiter, which affects your brain to make decisions.

When we have expectations of pain, it can change our behavior. How hard or how easy something is will affect what we experience. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you think it's going to be hard, then guess what? It's hard. 

When we're afraid and have fear it's often that we're weary of burning all of our matches. And therefore we always hold something back, which can mean not racing to our full potential. 

Think of your pain threshold as a combination of body and mind experience. Your body sends a message to your brain and your brain sends a message back to your body. How you deal with pain is up to you. Some athletes can push their pain thresholds to the extreme, while others struggle with it. And if you struggle with it, you're not alone. 

Ready for the good news? You can increase your pain threshold using mental skills training. 

Want to learn more? Stay tuned for the additional five tools you can use to grow your pain threshold. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Getting down to the why...

Do you know why you do what you do? Do you know why you like to ride your bike, do intervals, work where you work, and live where you live? 

Can you really get to the root of why? What if you could get in touch with the why's? If you could work from the inside out of what and how you do what you do and align yourself with the why? 

I'm assuming most of you are reading this post because you have some connection to cycling - you race, you're thinking about racing, or maybe you just like to pedal your bike. We like to ride our bikes. But why?

I love the wind in my face.

And why do you like the wind in your face? 

Because it symbolizes freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

And why is freedom and the pursuit of happiness important?

Because we have one shot at this life and I want to live it to the fullest.

And why is living life to the fullest important?

So I wake up each day and end each day knowing I am happy, content and inspired.

And why is being happy, content and inspired important? 

Because that's how I choose to live my life. 

Suddenly riding a bike isn't just about riding a bike. It's a way of life, a lifestyle, a choice. When we get in touch with the why's of what we do, we strike a chord into what motivates us, what gets us out of the bed each morning, what keeps us doing what we want to do. It's empowering. And now those intervals have more purpose. I am more in touch with my values of why I do what I do and it inspires me to do more.

So I challenge you - figure out your why's. Whether that be with cycling, racing, life, a job, friendships, relationships, etc - ask the why's. Then ask the why of that, and the why of that, and the why of that, and finally, the why of that. 

Because when we get in touch with the why's, it makes the how's and what's easier. 

Interested in learning more? Watch this TED talk that inspired me to get the the why of why.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Crow Feet Wrinkles and No Regrets

It hit me in waves. A sense of undeniable grief I haven't felt in awhile. I had to lay down. Moonli wagged his tail to console me. After sobbing and feeling the hole in my heart open, I pulled myself up and reached over to dust off the memory book with Ryan's face on its cover. He's been on my mind a lot lately.

I started leafing through its pages, photographs from years gone by. Memories unlocked with the glance of a smile, the curling of lips, the beginnings of my crow feet wrinkles I wouldn't trade for anything. All of those trips, all of those experiences we shared - I don't regret a single one. I don't wonder what if we had done something different. No way. We lived life exactly how we wanted to, rich beyond our wildest dreams.

Ben came to check on me. I had shut my door, something I never do. I just wanted to sit, to be sad, to live, to breath. His hug a welcome oasis in a storm of tears.

The next morning, the storm cleared. I got up, I pinned on a race number. Puffy eyed and a little numb. I had no expectations for the day. Nothing to lose. When I took a corner hot, had a gap from the group my mind eased. I wanted to feel empty. I wanted to put everything out there. I road without emotion, without connection to what my mind was telling my body. I stopped looking at my power meter. I just concentrated on the road and the terrain 10 feet in front of me.

And my gap grew. Miles flew by. I was off the front for 3.5 of 4 laps. I didn't care where I placed. This ride was for me. To feel alive. To feel human. When the group caught me, I was empty. And I loved every minute of it.

Later that night I found out Dean Potter died. I wonder if there's a connection between the two - missing Ryan and feeling the deep sense of loss I haven't felt in a while. We have this one life - and I'm living it to the fullest.

And then the next morning I learned Susie Dillar from work passed away this weekend. When it rains, it pours.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happiness Watts

Snapshot from my TrainingPeaks account....
3/30/15 - TSS - 228.6 (Rode the Parkway in Tennessee Smoky Mountains) Acute Training Load: 195.4 Chronic Training Load: 113.9 Training Stress Balance: -78.8.

That's called a training hole, ladies and gentleman. Benjamin and I put in some solid riding over the past five days - tallying 360 miles with 10,468 meters of climbing. That's 34,343 feet. Whoa. That's higher than Mt. Everest. Dang.

So, what are you doing next March? Want to come to Tennessee and get your butt kicked? We're planning on doing the big daddy ride (120 miles with 11,000 feet of elevation gain) twice. Go big or go home. An excellent way to bring in another birthday and kick off a new year.

What's next? A little rest, some speed work and we'll be FLYING!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dealing with lemons since 1978.

Sometimes life gives you lemons.

Working in the coaching industry, my job is reliant on people. They come in all shapes and sizes - not just physically but mentally too.  I advise them on certain workouts to set them on a path to obtain their goals. And I help them carve out a balanced life approach, listening to their dreams and goals and encourage them to stretch and reach. I use a progressive periodized coaching principle - where successful completion of workouts means a little bump in load each week. Each workout builds on the previous one. Fitness is gained from week to week, day to day, interval to interval.

And then life gives you lemons.

Injuries happen. Accidents happen. Life happens. Shit happens. Whatever you call it - happens.

So we adjust plans, we move things around and calmly talk to clients letting them know what no matter what - we will deal with it together. A coach is a champion for their clients, holding their best interests in mind. Letting them know you really care about their success happens on many levels. Whether that's from day to day, week to week, race to race. No matter what, as your coach, I applaud your efforts because through each effort, each intention you set and complete or attempt to complete means that you are growing. And that is some cool shit.

I love my job.

Dealing with lemons since 1978. :) 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

What's your bliss?

A woman from the car dealership picked me up today so I could retrieve my car from the shop. She was in her mid-fifties and had a ginger red bob haircut with pink lipstick. We started talking about cars and how nice it would be to know how to fix them.

"Guys have it easier, usually their fathers will teach them," she told me.

"Huh, that's interesting. My dad was a car salesman. And the only thing he taught me was how to wreck them," I responded. It's true. By the time my dad was 21 years old, he had totaled a handful of cars by reckless driving. I have him to thank for my love of speed and pushing the edge on rubber wheels.

Our conversation drifted from there. At one point I told her I could work on bikes.

"Well that's easier. Bikes are more unisex," she said. Are they?

Our conversation drifted further, and I told her about my cycling background and riding down by the river in Eugene as a kid. How sports were ingrained in my being from very young and how I enjoyed school and studying, but what I really lived for was recess. Dodgeball and basketball with the boys? You bet. I was often the last one in once the bell rang.

"Your dad must have taught you all of that," she assumed.

"Actually, I credit my older brother. I had to keep up with whatever he was doing," I said.

"Let me ask you this, did you always know? When you were little did you know you wanted to be an athlete?" she asked.

"I didn't think I had a choice."

She admitted to me she was curious about people who are passionate about what they do and figure out how to make a living from it. She had recently divorced and was now on her own, forging her own way. Except now she has no idea what that looks like.

"How do you follow your bliss?" she asked.

"That's an interesting question. I've been doing it so long, I don't know what it's like not to," I said.

I didn't tell her that I experienced tragedy and that it made me not want to live another minute not doing what I loved. Life is short. We have one shot so we better live it to the fullest. Bucket lists, dream goals, living it up and enjoying each moment is a top priority for me.

"I will say that you should surround yourself by people who are doing what you want to be doing," I mused. "Don't settle. Take little steps and set a goal, always striving toward. Until one day you wake up and realize you're doing exact what you want to be doing."

"Thanks, Jennifer," she said.

"Thank you - and follow your bliss!"

Monday, March 02, 2015

New name, new life.

I'm getting used to my new name: Jennifer Sharp.

And there are things I miss, things I long for and things I said good bye to when I decided to make the change.

An identity, a connection to someone, a previous life.

Triplett was my married name. Ryan and I met when we were teenagers. We grew up together, navigating through life and experiencing more than most. Mountains, rocks, trees, hikes, wandering the western United States, National parks, getting stuck on 7,000 foot granite faces, outdoor playgrounds... a life I miss when I see photos of climbers with their torn skin and strong hands.

To love someone that much and then lose them was a gift I was given. One that cut a deep, deep scar. One that made me see the true beauty in life and appreciate more, love more, smile more.

I embrace my new name, my new loving husband, my new life. My passions are still strong, though evolved from before.

Last week I ventured into the mountains with the puppies in the backseat of the Subaru. I left in the afternoon as big snow flakes covered the road. I escaped the Denver metro area an hour before it shut down, before white snow encased it. The roads looked foreign - unrecognizable from the storm. The freeway shut near Copper Mountain and traffic diverted through Leadville. I sensed danger, I could feel the mountains reclaiming their passes. The Subaru fishtailed down a slick road, causing mild alarm and yet I drove on until I couldn't anymore. Traffic stopped.

And it reminded me of a time when I was by myself. When I had to forge my own way. When I rediscovered my own identity. In some strange way, I loved every minute of it. I needed to feel, I needed to process, I needed to be alone in the middle of a blizzard on a 11,000' mountain pass.

I called Benjamin to let him know I was alright. He was thankful to hear from me as he had seen photos of the jack knifed semi trailer that blocked west-bound lanes. I was more than alright - I felt alive.

Ryan's dad passed a little over a month ago. The original Triplett. He death was painful and somewhat quick. He died within a few months of his diagnosis. I went to his memorial service last weekend and gave a heart felt eulogy. He was like a father to me. And I miss him.

Standing in the middle of the storm made me shout, "IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT?!?"

And I wonder if the storm was, in its own way, screaming back at me, "YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT!"

So then I played the next four days in its snow covered mountains. They're good for the soul, you know.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TEDxSeattle Update

I parked in downtown Seattle with an extra 20 minutes to spare. I sat in the car, practicing my four minute speech out loud. With five minutes to go, I got out and headed up the busy street to the lobby of the Cosmopolitan Condos. Nervous, excited, curious, thrilled, petrified.

Although on time, I was the last to arrive. We headed into an elevator to the top floor where a group of 12 people greeted us. The TEDxSeattle curators introduced themselves and then let each person in the room explain their connection to the show and what to expect.

A hundred and eighty people applied, forty people made an audition, and a total of twelve people would make the cut. We auditioned in groups of four, each given a four minute time slot to sell our ideas. Afterward the curators and audience would ask questions.

The woman sitting next to me volunteered to go first. She had a kind and gentle soul. But I had a hard time following what she was trying to share. What she started her talk with had nothing to do with the supporting facts and she ran out of time before she could complete them. The curators stopped her, asking her to summarize what she wanted to share in one short sentence. She couldn't do it.

"Who's next?"

I immediately volunteered. I had practiced, reminding myself of when to pause for greater impact. To read the audience, to let them help me tell my story. I made eye contact with everyone in the room. But I couldn't stop my tears. I couldn't compartmentalize the weight of the subject and my emotions took over. Talking about Ryan's sudden death even seven years after the fact still leaves me in puddle.

"Grief is a gift."

I started to get my resolve back. The more I focused on the change I want to create, the more powerful my voice became.

"Our culture does a poor job acknowledging that part of living is dying. And I want to start a conversation that changes that."

The audience clapped, I wiped my face, thankful for the opportunity. Thankful I was brave enough to stand up in front of a room of strangers.

"You know, this could just be a really sad, emotional story. But what intrigues me is that the stages of grief haven't seen change in over 30 years," one of the curators commented.

Yes! Exactly.

"I remember you. I remember when your husband died. It rippled through the climbing community," the intern who was 16 at the time of Ryan's death, commented.

"I remember seeing you on TV, and how angry you were," said the other curator.

Except I never went on TV. And I wasn't angry. I didn't want to correct her in front of these people.

"Are you prepared to be the spokesperson for this?"

"Yes. There's a reason this happened to me," I immediately responded.

"Why not write a book?" Already did.

"How about a blog?" Been there done that.

"Why TED?" the curator asked.

"Because TED is a conductor for change."

I sat down shortly thereafter. I knew I had a good chance. I had a hard time listening to the next women's speech. And then a film maker, the last one in our group, went.

"Pardon my visual cues," he started. "I'm hoping to be coached so I don't need to rely on such."

The following is my recollection of his story....
Twenty years ago, he freight train hopped around the states. (He looked to be in his late thirties, maybe early forties.) While on the east coast, he went to a punk rock show and listened to a woman sing with such raw lyrics and emotion, he was naturally drawn to her. He approached her during the intermission and asked where she drew her inspiration from. She admitted to him that she had been molested as a child and singing was her form of therapy and expression. The film maker wanted to know more.

"We're headed to the west coast next. To Seattle. You should come," she offered.

So he did. He hopped on a series of trains, finding himself in Spokane, Washington. From there he hitch hiked, getting picked up by two men in a two-door hatchback Honda Accord. They let him into the back seat on the driver's side and the driver started asking him questions. Within an hour, they pulled off the main interstate, turning up a desolate road.

"We're just stopping for gas," the driver said.

The film maker noticed the gas gauge was nearly full. When they didn't see a gas station for miles, the driver told him they were headed to pick cherries. Except this wasn't cherry picking season. Sensing danger, the film maker started to beg them to let him out of the car. The driver pulled out a gun and shouted at the film maker to shut up or he would shoot him.

Carefully, he pulled out a pocket knife out of his backpack and opened it on the seat next to him. Tension built in the car.

The driver pulled the Honda over, telling the passengers he had to pee. He handed the gun to the passenger and told him to watch the film maker.

Not knowing what kind of mood the passenger was in since he hadn't said a word this whole time, the film maker started begging with him to let him go, that he was a good kid, that he wouldn't say a word.

"SHUT UP! HE SAID YOU SHOULD SHUT UP!!!" the passenger was pointing the gun at him.

The film maker took the pocket knife and jabbed it as hard as he could into the back of the seat, compressing the vinyl enough so that it barely grazed the passenger's back. It was enough to scare him, and he jumped out of the car. Acting instinctively and quickly, the film maker opened the driver side door and ran as fast as possible into the woods, escaping the kidnappers.

He ended his story. The room sat speechless. Then what? How did you escape? A master storyteller of suspense!

"My job as a film maker is to show perspectives," he continued. And he wants to show perspectives that are less known. Like from the view of the attacker. Why did those men pick him up? Why did that punk rocker get molested? His TED talk would be about the importance of seeing different perspectives.

The room exploded in applause. It was incredible.

The curators told us they would talk on Monday and let auditions know their decision shortly thereafter. I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with old friends and mustering up courage to deal with old strings, like selling my old wedding dress and sorting through Ryan's old climbing magazines left in the basement of my old house that my sister now occupies.

Monday came and went. By Thursday, I still hadn't heard. No news is good news, I figured. And then an email came.

"We truly enjoyed meeting you and hearing your story.  We know you've been patiently waiting to hear back from us.  Unfortunately, we have some difficult news to share that impacts your application.
We have decided to cancel TEDxSeattle 2015.  This was an incredibly difficult decision for us to make, and we did not do so lightly.  A host of factors, both event-related and personal, have made it clear to us that we will serve everyone best by making this decision now.
We trust that you will find other forums to tell your story, as you wouldn't have made it as far as you did in our process if we didn't already believe in you."

Lame sauce! But it beats rejection, I guess. And that's not going to stop me in getting my word out there...