Reflecting on Strength

Image: Jonathan Mak

I’ve reflected on my life goals more this week than I have in a while. I’m sure the confluence of creating goals for ROW 80, and Steve Jobs’s death had a lot to do with that.

As I connected the dots backward in my life, I thought a lot about times of great change in my life, and the events that precipitated that change. Steve Jobs’s commencement speech was one of those dots, a moment of change, where I felt my whole universe shift toward What Could Be. Shawn Phillips was another one of those dots, specifically his article on high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in Muscle Media magazine (1996) (and later in his book, ABSolution, where he expands his perspective).

Phillips was the first person I encountered who taught a holistic view of strength and its role in your life. He didn’t cherry pick a specific food or exercise or some other magic pill. He stated consistently back then (as he still does today) that the One Thing you can do to build a healthy body is Everything. Or, like he said, “Everything we do affects the way we look and feel.”

The Power of Perception

I know it seems like a small thing, but growing up, I never thought of myself as athletic or physically fit. The only reason why I felt that way? I didn’t like to run. At all. Sure, I was one of the only girls in my gym class to do any chin ups in those physical fitness tests (the other girl was a gymnast), but in my mind, running was THE exercise, and if I didn’t do it, I must not be physically fit.

Flash forward to my junior year in college. I just transferred to a new school without the full support of my parents. I wasn’t confident that this new school would meet my educational needs better than my previous one. I was in a new state, and didn’t have any friends or family nearby. And, I was the most out of shape that I’d been in my whole entire life (keep in mind, I was 20 at the time, so my perceptions may have been skewed).

My then-boyfriend-now-husband attended the same university for a master’s degree program in Kinesiology, and he introduced me to the beauty of HIIT. Through him, I had private access to the faculty fitness labs after hours, and I slowly incorporated HIIT, in the form of sprints, into my training routines. The more I sprinted, the more addicted I became to them, like a self-sustaining feedback loop. Along with weight lifting, my body eventually became leaner and stronger. And, the stronger I became physically, the stronger I became mentally and emotionally.

The concept of intense bursts of activity followed by periods of rest before another burst, etc, is not a new concept. But, the principles of intensity came at a time when I needed to hear it.

One Strength Feeds Another

“No Pressure, No Diamonds.” Thomas Carlyle

Years later, while reading ABSolution, Shawn Phillips put into words exactly how HIIT changed my perception of fitness and life in general. He said,

“One of the most powerful benefits of [HIIT] is that it will force you to develop your inner strength–your tolerance for intense exercise. When you’re performing interval training with true intensity, your ability to tolerate physical pain is expanded. Rather than doing the opposite–jogging at a low-intensity level, sitting on a stationary bike for an hour without ever pushing yourself…teaches you to exercise within a certain comfort zone.

“HIIT training works on a physical level, and it helps on a mental and even emotional level by helping you build inner strength.”

Pushing for more intensity allowed me to not only expand my tolerance for physical pain, but also my tolerance for mental and emotional pain.

I look back on college and recognize it as the best years of my life. I loved my classes, I loved interacting with my professors, I loved talking to my peers about literature. But, I realize that most of that love resulted from pushing myself out of my comfort zone in the first place. Before then, I had trained myself to believe that I was only capable of a certain level of achievement, of thriving in a certain kind of environment, of living a certain kind of life.

HIIT not only revolutionized my view of Exercise, but it also allowed me to embrace the idea that I can create the change that I want to see in my life if I was willing to push beyond my comfort zone.


There have been others who have shone brightly along my path as I’ve connected the dots backward, those who have empowered me to take control of my life and shifted my sights toward the goal I have now. One of these days I’ll be able to thank them all individually. Today, I thank Shawn Phillips.

“The thoughts that occupy your mind from moment to moment either elevate your energy and provide you with a sense of power or drain you, adding stress and bringing you down. Your ability to feel appreciation and find the positive is strengthened through regular training, just like your muscles. So go ahead and flex your gratitude and positive focus each day.” ~Shawn Phillips


Across the Twitterverse: The Retweet

This post is part of my Across the Twitterverse series, and is dedicated to Debbie Burns (@DB_Smyth), whether she likes it or not 😉

If Twitter is a Micro-Blog…

Though Twitter is set up more like the chat rooms of yore, it is essentially a microblogging site which just happens to be very useful for real time social networking.  When we blog using traditional platforms like WordPress or Blogspot, we tell people what’s going on in our little corner of the universe.  Usually, the posts tend to run long, and so blog posts are generally sporadic, usually revolving around the blogger’s Important Events or Momentous Thoughts.

Twitter, on the other hand, was designed to fill in those gaps between the Important Events and Momentous Thoughts.  It’s to tell your friends/ family/followers what you are doing on a more daily, run of the mill basis; perhaps, what led you to write about Momentous Thoughts or Important Event.  Plus, it helps to get the word out to more people when those bigger events happen in your life.

…Then, What is The Retweet?

The best description that I have come across for The Retweet is from one of my favorite Twitter Friends, Tina Kingston:

If tweets are mini blog posts, then to Retweet another Twitter user’s tweet is essentially like having a guest blogger post something on your blog.  You invite guest bloggers because you WANT to write about a particular subject, but feel that this other person can write about that subject better than you can (for a variety of reasons).

That is what The Retweet is: you are using another tweep’s words to encapsulate what you would have said, but since they’ve said it so well, you have decided to just quote them and give them credit for it on your profile.  You have Retweeted his/her tweet.  (WordPress now has a “Reblog” feature.  Think of it like that.)

There are two ways to Retweet: The Classic way and The New way.  The New Retweet is kind of annoying because you really don’t see or know if anyone has Retweeted a tweet of yours unless you deliberately look for it (under the “My Tweets, Retweeted” tab on Twitter).  The plus side is that New Retweet prominently credits the original tweep for his/her words.  And, it also breaks up the monotony of your profile’s timeline.

On the other hand, Classic Retweet is denoted by an “RT.”!/KimberlyKinrade/status/9445337987022848

I prefer Classic Retweet because 1) the Tweep knows that I’m Retweeting and 2) I can add a comment to the Tweet, making it a more streamlined way of following conversations, since not all Twitter platforms show conversations easily.

Either way, I find the Retweet complimentary because it tells me that other people find value in my tweets, enough that they want to share it with their own followers.  This practice allows other people to find me and perhaps follow me, too.  (Remember, just because your profile is public doesn’t mean that people will automatically find you based solely on your tweets. Except for spambots.  They’re always there.  Lurking.  *cringe*)

At the same time, I use The Retweet to find new tweeps with whom to connect.  (Think of it like a “word of mouth” referral: when you find something you like and just HAVE to tell your friends about it, you do so without prompting, because you love it so much.  That’s how I see Retweets by my friends: they must like this person/tweet, so therefore, this tweep must be worth following, or at least, this blog post they’re retweeting must be worth reading.)

I personally find Retweets with comments (RT) encouraging, and I want to be able to spread the love and encourage others.  I mean, one of the very first RT with comment I received was from one of my favorite fitness heroes, and I will be honest, I was beaming all day when I saw it*:!/Shawn_Phillips/status/24009676893

What It Means to Me

I look at Retweets as just another way to encourage others and spread the knowledge, laughter, quirkiness that I have found in the original tweet.  I love being able to Retweet @KierstenWhite’s auctions, and help raise money for a deserving person.  I love Retweeting any of @NatalieWhipple’s posts on her writing journey.  I love Retweeting fitness or writing articles/quotes that I have found informative and/or helpful in some way.  I love spotlighting anything that has improved my life or helped change my level of thinking, in the hopes that someone else may find it useful as well.

To me, Twitter, with all its functions, is just another way to spread joy, and honestly, have lots of fun.  And, maybe, with this mindset, you will be able to delight in it as well.  Join the conversation.  That’s all that Twitter is and the more you share and interact, the more you will get out of it.

Speaking of Interaction

Do you have any thoughts on Twitter?  Please share!

Up Next: Keep the Conversation Going

*Shawn Phillips’s articles on high-intensity interval training, and book, ABSolution, helped to spark and flame the fitness fire in me almost 10 years ago, and it’s still going on strong now.  To be able to connect with someone who has been so influential in my life is one of the reasons why I am so happy and grateful for Twitter.  Plus, he likes Maui almost as much as I do! 😉