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Giving is receiving…

Title based on a Tweet[i] from Chief Rabbi Mirvis – @chiefrabbi – see link to his Dvar Torah[ii]

“The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.” – Tweet from @thereaIbanksy

Torah Parsha (Portion) Terumah in a nutshell from www.chabad.org

The people of Israel are called upon to contribute thirteen materials—gold, silver and copper; blue-, purple- and red-dyed wool; flax, goat hair, animal skins, wood, olive oil, spices and gems—out of which, G‑d says to Moses, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell amidst them.”

On the summit of Mount Sinai, Moses is given detailed instructions on how to construct this dwelling for G‑d so that it could be readily dismantled, transported and reassembled as the people journeyed in the desert.

In the Sanctuary’s inner chamber, behind an artistically woven curtain, was the ark containing the tablets of testimony engraved with the Ten Commandments; on the ark’s cover stood two winged cherubim hammered out of pure gold. In the outer chamber stood the seven-branched menorah, and the table upon which the “showbread” was arranged.

 The Sanctuary’s three walls were fitted together from 48 upright wooden boards, each of which was overlaid with gold and held up by a pair of silver foundation sockets. The roof was formed of three layers of coverings: (a) tapestries of multi-coloured wool and linen; (b) a covering made of goat hair; (c) a covering of ram and tachash skins. Across the front of the Sanctuary was an embroidered screen held up by five posts.

Surrounding the Sanctuary and the copper-plated altar which fronted it was an enclosure of linen hangings, supported by 60 wooden posts with silver hooks and trimmings, and reinforced by copper stakes.

“I’m crazy and I don’t pretend to be anything else.” –  Rihanna

 “I don’t do things for the response or for the controversy. I just live my life.” –  Rihanna

Over the weekend reading the newspapers I was very surprised to see to an article “Rihanna named Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year[iii]” – I thought RIHANNA, the crazy performer, the DIVA!!! – Yip it was her!

 “Rihanna has charitably built a state-of- the-art centre for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” Harvard Foundation Director S. Allen Counter told the Harvard Gazette. “In 2012, she founded the non-profit the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program [named for her grandparents] for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries, and supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which provides children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls, and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today.”

“My mother would kill me if I posed nude! My mother raised me with certain standards.” – Rihanna

At the commencement of Parashat Terumah, a mitzvah is given to the Jewish people – V’yikchu Li Terumah, ‘You must give a contribution to the Sanctuary’.

In Rabbi Marc Angel’s Dvar Torah[iv] he says that the underlying message of the “Terumah” offering: the more you are genuinely committed to participate in the project, the more time and effort you will expend. The value of your heart-felt gift is not calculated in dollars, but in the amount of loving devotion you put into your donation. He goes on to explain how we can give:

  • There are others who contribute by writing a quick cheque or giving a token handout;
  • There are others who are sincerely generous, and who give above and beyond what could be expected of them. They see their contribution as an investment in creating a better world; and
  • There are yet others who dedicate enormous time, skill, and effort to addressing the needs that they wish to alleviate. They not only give of their personal resources, but they volunteer their time and talent.

If we understand the challenge before us and if we genuinely wish to make our contribution, we will undertake our task lovingly, generously and with a full heart.” – Rabbi Marc Angel

img_3371I am continuously amazed by some unbelievable organisations that only survive from the funds that they can raise. But it is not only the organisations and wealthy celebrities that inspire me, it is people, businesses and representatives who give of their hard-earned money and time to make these organisations what they are. This week alone I have heard stories of what friends and businesses have, done helping travelling visitors with disabilities, organising charity fundraisers, helping a school & community and of a company that have shared their profits with a charity. All I can say to you is ‘Shkoyach(According to the Oxford Etymological Dictionary of Jewish Jargon, Shkoyach is a condensed version of the Hebrew phrase Yeyasher Kochacha, literally, “May your strength be directed forward.” Meaning – You have done something good, you should have the strength to do more.)

You’re here in this world to teach people who you are. That’s why you’re here.” – Tweet from @jack (one of the founders of Twitter)

My family and I were lucky enough to hear the remarkable stories of these amazing people brought to Australia by Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (ZDVO[v]) Beit Halochem Australia. These amazing people have overcome serious physical and mental trauma to lead such inspiring lives. Dan Layani was blinded by a mortar attack and he runs, cycles, swims, is married, works and has 4 kids. Moran Samuel is paralysed from chest down. Moran is an Olympic rower and works with disabled babies. – Inspiration 🌟

I mean simply to say that ultimately our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Book of Joy)

[i] https://twitter.com/chiefrabbi/status/836553993849561088 or http://chiefrabbi.org/article/dvar-torah-parashat-terumah/

[ii] http://chiefrabbi.org/article/dvar-torah-parashat-terumah/

[iii] http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2017/02/23/rihanna-named-harvards-humanitarian-year/98291958/

[iv] https://www.jewishideas.org/heart-felt-generosity-thoughts-parashat-terumah

[v] http://zdvo.com

LET’S GO – NO EXCUSES

1. Too cold 2. Too early. 3. My legs hurt. 4. I’m tired. NO EXCUSES” – @Sports_Greats

I’m Tired, it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s raining, it’s too late, LET’S GO” – @mindbodygreen

Torah Parsha (Portion) Mishpatim in a nutshell from www.aish.com

One of the most mitzvah-filled Torah portions, containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments. Included are laws regarding: the Hebrew manservant and maidservant, manslaughter, murder, injuring a parent, kidnapping, cursing a parent, personal injury, penalty for killing a slave, personal damages, injury to slaves, categories of damages and compensatory restitution, culpability for personal property damage, seduction, occult practices, idolatry, oppression of widows, children and orphans.

The portion continues with the laws of: lending money, not cursing judges or leaders, tithes, first-born sons, justice, returning strayed animals, assisting the unloading of an animal fallen under its load, Sabbatical year, Shabbat, the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot & Succot). 

Mishpatim concludes with the promise from the Almighty to lead us into the land of Israel, safeguard our journey, ensure the demise of our enemies and guarantee our safety in the land — if we uphold the Torah and do the mitzvot. Moses makes preparations for himself and for the people and then ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

* * *

Instead of a normal blog on a topic, I will share a few thoughts from blogs, podcasts, life and the news.

img_3321-lorenI hate to beat my chest especially after Rabbi Sendor shared a beautiful thought on humility[i] in last week in the Yavneh School Kesher (Newsletter), but it is amazing what some people can do in the morning. By 7:45am on Tuesday, Loren had gone for a swim, baked 2 banana loaves inspired by @OhSheGlows[ii] and prepared a #CafeatHome #stopboringbreakfsat – #NOEXCUSES

A lot of people mock and make jokes about the uses of App’s like STRAVA[iii]. Personally, I am happy to share my training on STRAVA and think it is a great APP. I noticed a nice quote from a guy Kevin Weil[iv] who has just joined the Board of STRAVA that sums it all up “Excited to join the board of @Strava. Everyone is an athlete, and exercise is inherently social.” – @kevinweil NOW, as an ex @instagram VP, he needs to get the STRAVA/ Instagram link working!!

In an article on Michael Carr-Gregg,[v] (Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is a leading child and adolescent psychologist and a high profile media spokesperson in the mental health space.) titled “Michael Carr-Gregg on how to survive raising a nightmare teenager” he emphasises what parents need to worry about. He says that these are the issues that relate to their safety. “So, sex, drugs and alcohol. Sleep, diet, exercise, curfews. That’s the important stuff.” There is lots to worry about….

“Western society has long admired ‘the strong, silent type.’” – Mark Reason[vi] www.stuff.co.nz

In the last week or so we have seen the ‘meltdown’ of swimming great Grant Hackett and suicide of rugby great Dan Vickerman. Unless you have achieved what, these guys have, it is very hard for us to comprehend what life ‘post’ competitive sport is like. Much has been written on this, but I would like to share a few posts and articles, the overriding theme is COMMUNICATION:

  1. An article shared by a school mate of mine who was a professional golfer “5 THINGS ATHLETES WON’T ADMIT ABOUT LIFE AFTER SPORT[vii]
  • It is tough
  • It takes time
  • It is expensive
  • It requires planning
  • It’s made easier by talking about it
  1. A twitter post by Rugby Player Quade Cooper – “Goes to show that things may not be as they seem on the surface or social media.. check in & ask #RUOK u never know u might just save a life” @quadecooper
  2. In an article[viii], Former NZ rugby great Sir John Kirwin describes that in the same way you go to a physio for a tight hamstring you need to seek medical help for mental related issues “If it was still tight, I’d ice it and go see a physio. She said the brain was no different and that put it in a simple way for me – I thought ‘I’ve got a hamstring in my head‘.”
  3. Steph Rice who I mentioned last week has made a few comments on her Instagram[ix] account (See Below[x]). Steph says that she prides herself on her authenticity and ability to share openlyMy life has dramatically changed since being an athlete and in no way was the transition easy, but as soon as I changed my perception, my life changed..” – @itsstephrice

Reading the Book of Joy[xi] that I have previously mentioned, the Dalai Lama brings down a Tibetan saying: “Wherever you have friends that’s your country, and wherever you receive love, that’s your home”

Reading various Parsha sheets this week, there is a theme of caring for others – “Do not afflict or oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:20):

  • In Chief Rabbi Mirvis’s D’var Torah[xii] this week, the Chief Rabbi teaches us that we shouldn’t just be concerned with our immediate surroundings – it is our duty to be mindful of the interests of all members in our society.
  • In Rabbi Marc Angels D’var Torah[xiii] this week, Rabbi Angel brings down that the Torah needed to issue 36 commandments about caring for strangers. He goes on to say   – “And when we do fulfil the commandments of caring for strangers, we not only fulfil G-d’s commandments; we fulfil our own humanity.

Until you face your fears, you don’t move to the other side, where you find the power” – Mark Allen

Listening to Mark Allen[xiv], one of the greatest triathletes of all time on the Rich Roll Podcast, I was intrigued by some of his ideas and thoughts. Mark shared two points regarding implementing a positive lifestyle in his closing remarks:

  • Commitment to some form of exercise daily; and
  • Be aware of the natural world around you – watch a sunset and see colours, hike in the country or I suppose just look around your garden. I noticed a great post on Instagram from a fellow cyclist “I left the office late enough to miss the “Commuter World Cup” but early enough to enjoy the sunshine. Perfect Timing!” – @pbbraine . I was running home at the same time and loved my run on the Yarra trail. Walking from the station I noticed a poster at Federation Square offering free Wi-Fi, but loved what it said “Find a comfortable spot in the Square, settle in and soak up the buzz or zone out while you surf the web

To end a quote from the late great Arthur Ashe that I read in an excellent article[xv] from one of the rising stars of women’s footy Daisy Pearce – It is a reminder of the lesson Arthur Ashe[xvi] taught us some years ago. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

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[i] http://www.yavneh.vic.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Kesher-17-February-2017.pdf

[ii] Recipe inspired by – http://ohsheglows.com/2014/01/17/banana-bread-muffin-tops/

[iii] Strava, – lets runners and cyclers post maps of their routes, track their physical activity and connect with potential workout buddies

[iv] https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/20/spin-the-weil/

[v] http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/michael-carrgregg-on-how-to-survive-raising-a-nightmare-teenager-20170214-gucl9v.html

[vi] http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/opinion/89630838/mark-reason-cult-of-silence-is-killing-too-many-of-our-young-men

[vii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-things-athletes-wont-admit-life-after-sport-greg-mumm

[viii] http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/international/89651033/sir-john-kirwan-believes-open-discussion-on-suicide-the-key-to-curbing-statistics

[ix] https://www.instagram.com/itsstephrice/

[x] @itsstephrice – I was trying to find an appropriate picture to sum up my thoughts of today, but decided a quote was better.

Going through my transition after swimming was incredibly tough. It wasn’t until about a year after finishing my athletic career when all the dust settled, and the realisation of no longer being “current” and recognised for being the best at something set in.

Achieving such high levels of success in sport brings about wonderful opportunities which are usually all based on external gratifications. So when you take away the vehicle in which you receive this recognition it definitely takes a huge hit on your self worth.

I believe it’s incredibly important to take the time to develop and work on your self from the inside out.

Asking yourself the tough questions like:

What is my purpose?

What’s my worth?

What do I value?

Can be confronting and make you feel vulnerable, but once you can look at those demons of insecurity head on and dig deep within yourself, it opens up a whole new world.

Take the time to quieten your outside world and work on yourself. All the answers you seek can be found within. Learn to forgive yourself and trust that there are gems of wonderful opportunity that can only come from enduring and overcoming the hardest times.

Sending love and light to you all and I truly hope this post gives you a small insight to some of the struggles that top level athletes may go through. Please be gentle on yourselves and on others, as you never really know what’s going on inside someone’s else’s head.

@itsstephrice – It was an honour to share my post swimming journey on @morningshowon7

My life has dramatically changed since being an athlete and in no way was the transition easy, but as soon as I changed my perception, my life changed.

I always viewed my swimming career and Olympic achievements as the absolute pinnacle of my life and everything thereafter would be downhill. Going through those few years feeling like my life had no meaning and nothing to look forward to, compared to what I had experienced in the pool, made every day a battle to be positive.

Once I decided to view my Olympic Medals and athletic career as a platform to bigger and better things … as a vehicle to share my experiences to help others, it changed my mindset.

I pride myself on my authenticity and ability to share openly. I believe it allows others to truly see the real me in hope that it will help ease someone else’s inner struggles in some small way.

Thank you for all your loving comments, I’m truly grateful for my life and the ability to share my journey so openly with you.

[xi] http://bookofjoy.org

[xii] http://chiefrabbi.org/article/dvar-torah-parashat-mishpatim-3/

[xiii] https://www.jewishideas.org/immigrants-strangers-and-us-thoughts-parashat-mishpatim

[xiv] http://www.richroll.com/podcast/mark-allen/

[xv] http://www.theage.com.au/afl/womens-afl/the-art-of-momentum-daisy-pearce-on-how-the-demons-ignited-their-aflw-season-20170216-gueigf.html

[xvi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Ashe

Ups and Downs!

“I’ve been on top, I’ve been rock bottom, but time heals everything and I will never give up. Everything takes time and this is going to take time” – The late great Joost van der Westhuizen talking about his diagnosis of MND[i] a few years ago.

Summary of this week’s Torah Parsha (Portion) Yisro/Yitro from www.aish.com

This is the Torah portion containing the giving of the Ten Commandments. Did you know that there are differences in the Ten Commandments as stated here (Exodus 20:1 -14) and restated later in Deuteronomy 5:6-18? (Suggestion: have your children find the differences as a game at the Shabbat table during dinner).

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro (Yitro or Yisro in the Hebrew) joins the Jewish people in the desert, advises Moses on the best way to serve and judge the people — by appointing a hierarchy of intermediaries — and then returns home to Midian. The Ten Commandments are given, the first two were heard directly from God by every Jew and then the people begged Moses to be their intermediary for the remaining eight because the experience was too intense.

The portion concludes with the Almighty telling Moses to instruct the Jewish people not to make any images of God. They were then commanded to make an earthen altar; and eventually to make a stone altar, but without the use of a sword or metal tool.

Walking home on Friday night from my parents my kids were commenting on the size of the full moon and how beautiful it looked.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of moments in my life that haven’t been reported correctly” – Shane Warne – The Age[ii]

We all have ups and downs. These may be emotionally, in our personal lives, in our professional lives and in our training.

cyclingaAccept the days when cycling feels impossible. Embrace the days when cycling feels effortless.” – @cyclingthought

The first Mitzvah in Parsha Bo that we read a few weeks ago says “This month for you shall be the first of the months.” This is the commandment to the Jewish court to establish the new month and to implement the lunar calendar system, which is the basic mechanism of tracking the Jewish holidays. Our Sages say that the Greek-Syrians (Yevanim) tried to uproot three basic Jewish commandments: Shabbos, Milah (Circumcision), and Kiddush haChodesh (Sanctifying the New Month). Why was the mitzvah of Kiddush haChodesh so fundamental that it was so important to abolish it?

I read a beautiful piece by Rabbi Frand[iii] who brings down an interpretation from Arugas haBosem[iv]. “The Arugas haBosem asks: Is it not peculiar that the G-d, who is the essence of that which is eternal and is the essence of Emes [Truth], should create a celestial body like the moon, which waxes and wanes. The moon is here, it gets smaller, then it disappears and then it comes back again. This is sort of “out of character” for a Divine creation. The sun is always present, the forces of nature are always present, and gravity is always present. What is it about the moon that it is present, it grows, it diminishes, it disappears, and then it reappears? Why would He make something like that?

The Arugas haBosem answers that there is something about the moon that is fundamental to the Jewish people and fundamental to every single Jewish person. The moon is a symbol to us that people go through life with periods of growth and decline. They go through periods in which they are ascendant and then they go through periods in which they are descendant. However, just like the moon waxes and wanes — it becomes big and diminishes and almost disappears, it always reappears — “HaChodesh hazeh lachem”: This rejuvenation cycle of the moon is crucial to what being a Jew is all about both collectively and on an individual level.”

It is interesting that two recent Podcast (Rich Roll’s Podcast[v] and Lance Armstrong’s Forward Podacst[vi]) that I have listened to, the guests have spoken about their ups and downs.

Thank you for life, and all the little ups and downs that make it worth living.” – Travis Barker

Travis Barker[vii] is a drummer and rock star from the band Blink 182. “But behind the tattoos, sold out arenas and dope rides lives a quiet, soulful artist with a prodigious work ethic. A sober consciousness birthed from pain. Etched from hardship, Travis Barker has survived some serious shit. But it’s our wounds that make us human. And it’s that humanity that interests me the most.” – Rich Roll on Travis Barker

“I was unfortunately homeless on two occasions, so when I started John Paul Mitchell systems in 1980, I lived in my car for the first two weeks.” John Paul DeJoria

It’s been a long way to the top for John Paul DeJoria, tequila tycoon and co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems hair care, one of the world’s leading salon-exclusive hair-care brands. This is a true rags to billionaire story of a serial entrepreneur.

It was interesting to read how personal some people get on social media, but often there are lessons that we can learn from their posts and honesty. “…It’s been an interesting week to say the least. Full of emotions (ups and downs) and an overwhelming feeling of not being satisfied with where my life is currently at. …. In times like this I have to remind myself that’s its ok to experience contrast and hard times, because it forces me to ask better questions of myself. Nurturing myself and doing things that make me feel good are of the upmost importance right now, so it’s an early night for me” – Champion swimmer Stephanie Rice @Itsstephrice in a Instagram post

I have just started reading an interesting book[viii] titled “The Book of Joy”. This book chronicles Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s visit to the Dalai Lama in India to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday and their conversations and discussions during this visit. In the first few pages the topic of my Blog was mentioned twice by the author/ facilitator Douglas Abrams.

“The week in Dharamsala[ix] (India) felt like an extraordinary and challenging peak in this lifelong journey to understand both joy and suffering” – Douglas Abrams

“They offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, courage, of joy that we can aspire to in our own lives….Suffering is inevitable, they said, but how we respond to that suffering is our choice. Not even oppression or occupation can take away this freedom to choose our response.” Douglas Abrams

Even if it’s MND, I’m in actually in a lucky position where I can fix my life with my belief, between me and G-d, rectify what I did wrong. Other people are not that lucky. If you get run over by a truck, you don’t have that time.” – The late great Joost van der Westhuizen

The power of “This New Moon is for you,” it is the power of the celestial sphere (an imaginary sphere of which the observer is the centre and on which all celestial objects are considered to lie.) that is emulated by the Jewish people over time. They are destined to renew like it. The capacity of rebirth, the capacity of rejuvenation, and the capacity of renaissance, define the Jewish people. We all have that capacity to change and rejuvenate over time.

cyclingbTo end a quote “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.” – @cyclingthought

[i] http://www.scotsman.com/sport/springbok-hero-joost-van-der-westhuizen-given-just-two-to-five-years-to-live-1-1777105

[ii] http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/shane-warne-promises-nothing-but-the-truth-in-tellall-stage-show-warney-uncut-20170207-gu78jt?deviceType=text

[iii] http://torah.org/torah-portion/ravfrand-5777-bo/

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arugas_Habosem

[v] http://www.richroll.com/podcast/travis-barker/

[vi] http://theforwardpodcast.libsyn.com/john-paul-dejoria

[vii] http://travisbarker.com/

[viii] http://bookofjoy.org/

[ix] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharamsala

Opposites still attract attention!

Opposites still attract attention” – Title of Greg Baum’s column in the Sunday Age before the Federer vs Nadal Aus. Open Final

Torah Portion (“Parsha”) Bo in a nutshell from www.aish.com

This week we conclude the ten plagues with the plagues of locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born. The laws of Passover are presented, followed by the commandment to wear tefillin, consecrate the first-born animal and redeem one’s first born son. The Torah tells us that at some time in the future your son will ask you about these commandments and you will answer: “With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God killed all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike. I, therefore, offer to God all male first-born (animals) and redeem all the first-born of sons. And it shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes (Tefillin), for with a strong hand the Almighty removed us from Egypt.” (Ex. 13:15)

* * *

img_3187We live in a world of contradiction, conflicts, opposites and many other things that don’t always make sense.

In last week’s Parsha, Rabbi Allon Ledder spoke about the plague of hail and what we can learn from the hail. YES, inside each hailstone was fire. How can hail and fire go together? Thus, if something wasn’t damaged by the hail, it was burnt by the fire! (See link to Rabbi Ledder excellent Blog below[i] )

A few weeks back I noticed that my former triathlon coach was starting a Barbells and Beers class[ii]. I thought does this combo go! Everyone knows that coffee goes with cycling or for some people without quoting names, “I am only cycling for the coffee!”

There are many conflicts and opposites again in this week’s Parsha. The opening of this week’s Parsha G-d commands to Moses: “Bo el Paroh”. All too often this is translated (or rather mistranslated) as, “Go to Pharoah.” But in fact, “Bo” clearly means ‘come’, not go. I read a beautiful piece from Chaya Lester’s on her explanation of this paradox[iii] that I will share.

“Thus, in our parsha, one paradox is that coming and going are essentially joined. The Zohar, playing off of the word Bo, portrays G-d ushering Moses from chamber into innermost chamber, until he comes face to face with a mighty serpent, the inmost symbolic core of Egypt. The message is that in order to leave Egypt, Moses had to fully come to, enter and encounter Egypt’s very heart of darkness. There is no leaving without first fully entering.

But even more paradoxical than that is the very fact that G-d calls Moses to ‘Come to Pharoah’ as if G-d Himself was somehow there with Pharoah….sitting on Pharaoh’s sleeve – nay, within his very skin. The implicit message of “Bo” is thus G-d’s alluring promise that when you come to Pharoah, you are coming to Me.  

And so it is in our personal lives. When we face Pharoahs, then we find G-d. I see it daily in my own life and in my work as a psychotherapist. Our Pharoahs are more often than not, ruling our most intimate interactions with our partners, parents, children and friends. We are all in some way enslaved by poor communication and misunderstandings. When we avoid these conflict areas then resentments fester and love and intimacy are slowly bled out of our lives. But when we engage the conflict, finding ways to courageously talk through the misunderstandings, then our relationships flourish. When we face our fears, our foes, our fiends, we find their very opposite – freedom, release, G-d”

But there are some combo’s that I do not think go, like!

  • Democracy and discrimination Mr Trump. I don’t normally delve into politics, but I recently heard a quote that sitting on the fence is like supporting the oppressor, so I won’t sit on the fence. I fully agree with the words of Chief Rabbi Mirvis “President Trump has signed an Executive Order which seeks to discriminate against individuals based on their religion or nationality. We, as Jews, more than any others, know exactly what it’s like to be the victims of such discrimination. It is totally unacceptable.”
  • Naked Workouts???[iv] The Trainer argues “For example, if you are doing a plank but wearing baggy exercise clothes, it is hard to tell if you have the correct form or not.”
  • Then there’s the title to another – It’s been described[v] as “the marriage of two great loves – beer and yoga“. Not sure what Guru Singh who I mentioned in my last blog would say, but as the article says “…this cocktail of dexterity, strength, trying not to spill your beer (of course) and partner poses, is a definite departure from traditional yoga…”

I think the opposites I mentioned in my title attracted us all to a very memorable final, possibly these other weird combos’ may attract us to do more and there are lessons to be learnt from the paradox in the Parsha. Not sure of the attraction to Trump’s Executive Order as the Dow dropped[vi] and there seem to be some very unhappy sportsman and business owners.

BUT, these gimmicky ideas for exercise are all well and good if they attract people to participate in an active lifestyle, but as Roger Federer says – “There is no way around the Hard Work. Embrace it!” 

…. There is one combo that does not sit well with me in this day and age when there is a move away from sugar? Tennis player Maria Sharapova has launched a range of chocolates and lollies (which are Kosher certified) Sugarpova. To quote Maria “I’ve been an athlete pretty much my entire life, where the intersection of work, play and training has often found a little something sweet mixed in…” Should such a sports icon be prompting SUGAR? BUT you do have to commend her as she has applied the drive and commitment that she’s developed as an elite athlete to all her projects off court, too. Sugarpova, is sold in over 30 countries in stores including Macy’s in New York….

I loved this quote in a review of the Movie Moonlight  of two images that do not seem to go! – “A gangster, who wears fake gold teeth — or grills — but remains a vulnerable, insecure person inside

Not sure if I have ever mentioned a movie in my Blog. Loren and I watched Moonlight. Why I am mentioning it is I felt that it dealt with a lot of personal and family conflicts which kind of fitted in with the blog. There is the conflict between the image you portray and what you are and the conflict within yourself to accept who you are. “So much is left unsaid in Moonlight. But nothing is left unfelt.” – LEIGH PAATSCH (Herald Sun)[vii]

To end a quote from Roger Federer that continues the theme of contradictions – “I fear no one, but respect everyone,” from a great article[viii] on the Five lessons in success from tennis champion Roger Federer.

[i] http://www.divreitorah.net/darchai-noam/vaera-5777-lessons-from-the-hail/

[ii] http://www.eatplaythrive.com.au/barbells-and-beers/

[iii] http://www.chayalester.com/blog/category/parshat-bo

[iv] http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/757726/naked-workout-personal-trainer-buff-nude-exercise

[v] http://www.theage.com.au/business/bottoms-up-its-not-for-the-purists-but-beer-yoga-is-now-a-thing-20170113-gtrbll.html

[vi] http://www.forbes.com/sites/antoinegara/2017/01/30/trump-travel-ban-stirs-u-s-stock-selloff-fitbit-and-tempur-sealy-plunge-on-weak-earnings-guidance/#41c74b1646cd

[vii] http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/movies/leigh-paatsch

[viii] http://www.smartcompany.com.au/people-human-resources/leadership/81939-five-lessons-in-success-from-tennis-champion-roger-federer/

Holiday Vibes – That is GOOD!

img_2549Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous

Summary of this week’s Torah Parsha (Portion) Va’eira from www.chabad.org

G‑d reveals Himself to Moses. Employing the “four expressions of redemption,” He promises to take out the Children of Israel from Egypt, deliver them from their enslavement, redeem them, and acquire them as His own chosen people at Mount Sinai; He will then bring them to the land He promised to the Patriarchs as their eternal heritage.

Moses and Aaron repeatedly come before Pharaoh to demand in the name of G‑d, “Let My people go, so that they may serve Me in the wilderness.” Pharaoh repeatedly refuses. Aaron’s staff turns into a snake and swallows the magic sticks of the Egyptian sorcerers. G‑d then sends a series of plagues upon the Egyptians.

The waters of the Nile turn to blood; swarms of frogs overrun the land; lice infest all men and beasts. Hordes of wild animals invade the cities; a pestilence kills the domestic animals; painful boils afflict the Egyptians. For the seventh plague, fire and ice combine to descend from the skies as a devastating hail. Still, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened and he would not let the children of Israel go, as G‑d had said to Moses.

“It’s no coincidence that the word ‘holiday’ suggests a holy day, or that the longest book in the Torah concerns the Sabbath. If you wish to advance in any sphere, the best way is to take a retreat.” – Pico Iyer[i]

I have just returned from a family holiday with my parents and family. My holiday has enabled me to reflect on life in general. In last week’s Parsha Shemos, it says “A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Yosef” The Rabbi learn that the Jews living in Egypt began to integrate into Egyptian society. Historically, attempting to emulate other nations and integrate into their cultures has not improved our relations with our host nations, on the contrary, it has caused a backlash of catastrophic consequences. This may be true, but there are always lessons that we can learn from other cultures and our experiences. I Will try share some of my thoughts:

  • Patience – My family know that I am not always the most patient person, which is not the best character trait, but it is a trait I am constantly trying to improve. While in Bali I went for a daily run, the sidewalks are not great, so I ran on the roads amongst the cars, motorcycles and busses. (not sure if I would bike ride?) Loren thought I was crazy, but I kept commenting that people did not hoot and get impatient. I was just another ‘vehicle’ on the road and felt totally relaxed. Loren was also convinced that people entering the traffic had the right of way! Yip this would never go down in Melbourne. There is a lesson in the patience of the drivers and the people in general. To end I bought a RELAX t-shirt! I think this is a reminder tip, to relax and be more patient!
  • Smoking – Throughout the holiday we were so surprised how many westerners were smoking. My kids were having an ice cream and there were some guys smoking that my Dad was talking to. Not sure how smoking came up in conversation, but these Australians mentioned that they were making the most of being allowed to smoke in public places. Every morning when I went out for a run there was a guy sitting on his balcony in our resort smoking – The questions I am asking – Why???
  • Never too old – As a family we were always amazed by my late Grandmother’s enthusiasm for life and how she inspired us. On this holiday, I realised that it runs in the family. My Mother, Granny Tof was always game to do whatever was on offer from swimming under a waterfall, to daily walks & hikes and to climbing rocks to get to a beach for a swim (I stopped her from swimming as I said it was dangerous). She never wanted to miss out on an opportunity to explore! (maybe it was FOMO) In a note from Loren to my parents, Loren said “…Your energy and willingness to engage in every opportunity is an example that teaches us and our children more than any school can teach….”
  • Reading – One of my holiday highlights is reading. I love to read, but normally I don’t have or make the time to read enough “Reading (learning) is the ultimate meta-skill and can be traded for anything else.” (from “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Timothy Ferriss). On this holiday, I read two books in which the authors questioned their faith. (Elie Wiesel in “Night” and “The May Beetles: My First Twenty Years” in which the author Baba Schwartz talks of her husband and her own faith) I cannot comprehend what life must have been like during this period, but it was very interesting to read and get an understanding of their feelings. For me it was interesting to talk to the Hindu Balinese about their faith, they all have a very strong connection to their faith, which is always tested. The fundamental principle underlying Hinduism is that there is order in the cosmos, known as dharma. There is also a disordering force, adharma. Hindus seek balance and harmony between these two forces of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ or ‘black’ and ‘white’.
  • img_2686Family – We all have busy lives which has an impact on the time that we can spend with our children and spouses. Holidays without doubt give us more time to spend with our family. I have often read about people who have said that they have tried to individually do something with each kid on a holiday which I thought is a great idea. I took Michaela for an ice cream one night and had a good heart to heart chat and I took Sam for a drink at a stadium bar that he wanted to go to (for the record he had a coke) overlooking the hustle and bustle of Seminyak. It is always good to spend time with Loren away from the household chores and we love being together. I noticed a brilliant quote[ii] from Andre Agassi talking about his relationship with Stephi Graf “Our relationship works because we constantly make an effort, we communicate and prioritise each other in our lives”
  • ‘Special’ – In an article on Optimism by Rabbi Berel Wein he comments “Part of the joy of seeing generations in one’s own family is the sense of optimism that there is continuity…” Loren and I decided to invite my parents to join us on our holiday. We thought it would give them the opportunity to spend more time with the kids and us and to go to Bali. “…We’ve loved Bali but especially sharing this special experience with you all...” – Granny Tof. Speaking to many of our Balinese drivers, waiters and other people that I had met, I sensed that the Balinese people have a very strong link to their family and that this was an important part of their lives. From what I understood often the youngest son once married would live with his parents to help them as they get older!
  • Yoga – I have never tried Yoga as I think that I am too inflexible and uncoordinated, but decided to join Michaela and Loren for a few sessions at our resort. I honestly enjoyed these classes. They were beginner classes, but it is a start. There is so much that can be learnt and achieved doing Yoga. Listening to a Podcast this week with Guru Singh[iii] he made the following statement that applies to Yoga and to life in general “Yoga is not an Olympic contest—we’re not here to prove what we can do, we’re here to improve what we can’t do.”
  • Holiday exercise – As I mentioned on a social media post that I love my holiday runs. img_3086They give me an opportunity to tour, exercise in different conditions and to search out cafe etc. But one highlight was on a run, I passed these magnificent rice fields. I stood there staring in utter amazement. I never carry my iPhone, so could not take a pic, but I did try stop a few motorcycles to ask them to take a pic for me without success. These moments allow you to reflect! Another quote from Guru Singh “These are always options — like beauty being in your eyes when you see it — like all the more conscious sensations in your being as you exercise your freedom of choice. …. make these conscious choices to find the beauty within each encounter; that you discover the options that maintain your power, and enjoy the perspectives of your moments . . . appreciate what’s really going on.”
  • Get the look – One of the highlights for me on this holiday was seeing some of the architecture, store design & fit outs and the homeware stores. I was totally blown away!
  • Breakfast – I would say that most Balinese are not over weight. This may change with people swapping home cooking and the local ‘Warrung‘ for other fast food chains and for swapping the more natural & healthy red rice for the cheaper & higher GI white rice. Why breakfast? Loren and I were totally amazed on how much food some people put on their plates – the bigger the person the more food on their plates. I know that holidays may be a time to let loose, but your health needs to be something you always think about! – “A Good Diet Matters More Than Bad Genes” by @SHBergquistMD[iv]
  • Pigs – in Bali the national food is suckled pork, but most people cannot afford much meat and this is something of a treat. Not sure why I mentioned this? One of the highlights of my trip was seeing how friendly the Balinese people are. Balinese unlike their Indonesian neighbours are Hindu’s, and trying to learn about their religion was very interesting. Arriving back in Melbourne and waiting for a bus, we were 1st in line, but others sneaked their luggage on the bus so my family had to catch the bus without me and I had to catch the next bus – WTF, people are pigs! Having just read Tim Ferriss’s book “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers”, one of the takeaways was that when things go wrong you should just say “GOOD”. This he learnt from a Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink. Jocko, when asked how do he deals with setbacks, failures, delays, defeat, or other disasters? He said “I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with these situations. There is one word to deal with all those situations, and that is: “”” He goes on to say that when things are going bad, there is always some GOOD that will come from it, so no need to get frustrated. Take this situation and turn it into something GOOD and go forward.

On the last day, I noticed a grown lady who was covered in henna tattoos, had her hair img_2867braided and was wearing the compulsory Bintang t-shirt and I commented to Loren that she must be re-living a childhood fantasy. Over the holidays I did not shave much, as I guess I was lazy and I dropped a blade from my electric razor down the drain!  In an article[v] by Matt Holden[vi] that I read on my return, Matt said “Maybe a holiday beard is the Dad equivalent of getting your hair braided in Bali: it looks great on the beach in Seminyak, but you feel silly about five minutes after you clear customs…” Somethings may look silly on your return, but there are lessons, thoughts and ideas that can be learnt from your holiday experiences. Remembering to say GOOD on my return with the bus mess-up, reminded me of the lessons learnt, to let those “holiday vibes” continue, to be more patient and to just RELAX!

To end a thought from the Guru Singh Podcast[vii]. Guru Singh was questioning his 82-year-old teacher while taking their daily hike on how the old teacher could do the hike so quickly. The teacher answered “When I walk the mountain, all I do is walk the mountain, when you walk the mountain, that is only part of what you do.” I think that with focus and determination we can do anything, but on a holiday, we need to slow down, focus on our family, the beauty, the sites, the atmosphere, the experiences, other cultures and on relaxing. That is GOOD!

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pico_Iyer

[ii] http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/sex-and-relationships/what-i-know-about-women-20170118-gtu81u.html

[iii] http://www.gurusingh.com

[iv] Dr. Sharon Bergquist – Emory physician, researcher, speaker specializing in #lifestylemedicine and #healthyaging; inspiration, tools, resources for increasing healthy years of life

[v] http://www.smh.com.au/comment/when-are-you-going-to-shave-that-off-20170118-gttthy.html

[vi] https://mattlholden.com/home/

[vii] http://www.richroll.com/podcast/guru-singh/

“How not to suck at cooking” – Matt Frazier the No Meat Athlete

“There are now millions of people who spend more time watching food being cooked on television than they actually cooking it themselves” Michael Pollan – Cooked

Torah Portion (Parsha) Vayechi in a nutshell from www.chabad.org

Jacob lives the final 17 years of his life in Egypt. Before his passing, he asks Joseph to take an oath that he will bury him in the Holy Land. He blesses Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, elevating them to the status of his own sons as progenitors of tribes within the nation of Israel.

The patriarch desires to reveal the end of days to his children, but is prevented from doing so.

Jacob blesses his sons, assigning to each his role as a tribe: Judah will produce leaders, legislators and kings; priests will come from Levi, scholars from Issachar, seafarers from Zebulun, schoolteachers from Simeon, soldiers from Gad, judges from Dan, olive-growers from Asher, and so on. Reuben is rebuked for “confusing his father’s marriage bed”; Simeon and Levi, for the massacre of Shechem and the plot against Joseph. Naphtali is granted the swiftness of a deer, Benjamin the ferociousness of a wolf, and Joseph is blessed with beauty and fertility.

A large funeral procession consisting of Jacob’s descendants, Pharaoh’s ministers, the leading citizens of Egypt and the Egyptian cavalry accompanies Jacob on his final journey to the Holy Land, where he is buried in the Machpelah Cave in Hebron.

Joseph, too, dies in Egypt, at the age of 110. He, too, instructs that his bones be taken out of Egypt and buried in the Holy Land, but this would come to pass only with the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt many years later. Before his passing, Joseph conveys to the Children of Israel the testament from which they will draw their hope and faith in the difficult years to come: “G‑d will surely remember you, and bring you up out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Without the assistance, advice, and inspiration of others, the gears of our mind grind to a halt, and we’re stuck with nowhere to go.” (from “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Timothy Ferriss)

I often get asked about all the cookbooks that I mention in my posts, why I buy all these cookbooks and where I get all the ideas for the food that we cook in our kitchen. In a recent podcast, I was listening to with the Flynn twins who have written the Happy Pear cookbooks. They were asked why write a cookbook. Their answer was, not for the recipes as they said you could find any recipe you wanted on the web, but for the ‘story…’ People want something more from a recipe book. What is this ‘story…’?

“In an ideal world, we’d all cook our food from scratch. But the reality is, for most of us, that doesn’t happen everyday” – Jackie Damboragia

There are many reasons why I love cookbooks, even though Loren is the main cook in the family:

  • Every cookbook or its author has their own story on how they got to be writing cookbooks:
    • Oh she glows – from Blogger to best-selling author;
    • Deliciously Ella – her path from sickness to health and beyond with a change of diet
    • The Happy Pear – Their story, their happy go lucky ways, simple recipes and their community involvement
  • Pictures tell a 1000 words – Yip we all love to see delicious looking food – This is inspiration to try something new (My photography and plating is not that good, but I am happy to try and learn)
  • Techniques – recipe books teach you techniques – I have learnt to cut Tofu in a million different ways, peel garlic in a bottle amongst other fine cooking skills. I’m reading this book and wanted to share this quote with you.

My goal is to learn things once and use them forever.” (from “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Timothy Ferriss)

  • Ingredients – I am always learning about new ingredients – There are products that have not been easy to find that are kosher or that are available in Australia, but always fun investigating – I remember searching for Agave syrup and steel cut oats several years ago! Health shops had never heard of steel cut oats? Now Uncle Toby’s make…

“…the time and expense looking for that rare Middle Eastern ingredient for an Ottolenghi recipe…” – Benjamin Law

  • Learning to cooks – recipes teach you to cook – Method and order, look sometimes the recipes are not that easy to follow, but it is all part of the process of trying to become a better cook.

in cooking, every breakthrough comes from making myriad mistakes – kind of like life…” – Benjamin Law

  • Substitutes – Loren and I love to substitute ingredients to make the healthier option – Often recipes do give substitutes, but sometime you need to investigate substitutes
  • Cooking at Home! – In a recent column in the Age newspaper by Benjamin Law titled “Home Cooking”, he talks about the arguments he has with his partner about home cooking. His partner would rather go out.. Benjamin provides some nice quotes on why he loves home cooking:

“Yet I love how cooking turns your kitchen into a domestic laboratory: Every day you get to perform a science experiment if you like”

“I love how cooking makes every cookbook a restaurant menu…”

I love how cooking – unlike most of my professional work – affords me almost instant gratification”

  • #LoveHealthyEating – In a recent Column[i] by Theresa Cutter (The Healthy Chef) – She says “The Key to healthier eating is to keep it simple and make it yourself”
  • Eating good, tasty food – I am sure many of us have read the story of the Potato Man, Andrew Taylor and his decision to eat only potatoes for a year. His story is amazing and what he has achieved is unbelievable, but in a recent article he made the following statement that I am not sure that I agree with – “I’ve got a saying now: Make your food boring and your life interesting” Why can’t both your life and the food that you eat be interesting?
  • #FamilyTime – Nothing better than searching a recipe book for an idea, going shopping for the ingredients and then spending time with Loren in the kitchen or seeing #KaylaGoesCoconuts enthusiasm to make and photograph something that we have made
  • Social Media – There is the excitement of posting a successful dish on social media and getting a response or re-post from the author and getting recipe requests from family, friends and followers
  • Charity – There is always the recipe book made for charity by schools, community groups and now I have just ordered a recipe book in aid of the crisis in Syria which I am looking forward to receiving in the mail

img_2276This weeks Torah Parsha fit in so well with this Blog. When Jacob on his deathbed blesses his sons, he highlights characteristics that are unique to each of them and to the tribes of their descendants. According to Rashi[ii], five of these blessings focus on the agricultural specificity of each tribe’s territory in the Land of Israel. Interpreting the blessing to Issachar, “He saw a resting place, that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant,” Rashi writes, “He saw that his part of the land was blessed and would produce good fruit.” Issachar, whose tribe’s destiny was traditionally understood as immersion in Torah learning, rejoiced in a portion where ready-to-eat food grew in abundance and devotion to study would be practical.

In the same way as using fresh, local produce enabled the tribe of Issachar to focus on their learning, so too using fresh produce cooked at home allows us to focus on our health and well being.

“Rashi’s description of a localized, personal agriculture may serve as a model for how to grope our way back from the tortured complexity of the industrial food chain towards a healthier relationship with what we eat.” – Rabbi Julian Sinclair[iii]

I had thought about doing a blog on resolutions, but decided not to, but I did see a brilliant quote from Dr Frank Lipmann website[iv]:

“Of the many resolutions we can make this year to improve our health, spending more time in the kitchen is one of my top recommendations. As numerous studies have shown, increased home cooking correlates directly with healthier dietary patterns. Thanks to the food industry’s sugary, salt-laden, factory-farmed foods, home-cooked meals are almost always healthier than prepared and restaurant meals.”

Yip from both a spiritual and health perspective, there are no excuses not to go out and buy beautiful cookbooks or to look up recipes online and to Cook Good Food. Nothing beats a home cooked meal.

[i] Teresa cutter http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/home/adopting-a-healthy-lifestyle-shouldnt-be-reserved-for-the-new-year-20161214-gtazj4.html

[ii] Based on an idea I read from Rabbi Julian Sinclair – http://canfeinesharim.org/parshat-vayechi-eating-holy-food-in-a-holy-way/

[iii] Rabbi Julian Sinclair is an Orthodox rabbi living in Jerusalem. He is co-founder and Research Director for Tikkun Olam – Jewish Initiative on Climate Change. He recently served for four years as campus rabbi at Cambridge University in England. Rabbi Sinclair holds a BA from Oxford University, an MPA from Harvard and is completing a doctorate on the thought of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the 20th century philosopher-mystic.

[iv] https://www.bewell.com/blog/cooking-more-at-home/

YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO STRONG

I am currently reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography Total Recall. He talks about practicing a speech and makes the following statement “Each stick at the top of the page represents one time I rehearsed delivering the speech. Whether you doing a bicep curl in a chilly gym or talking to world leaders, there are NO shortcuts – everything is reps, reps, reps … No matter what you do in life, it’s either reps or mileage….if you have done the reps, you don’t have to worry, you can enjoy

Torah Parsha (Portion) Vayishlach in a Nutshell from www.chabad.org

Jacob returns to the Holy Land after a 20-year stay in Charan, and sends angel-emissaries to Esau in hope of a reconciliation, but his messengers report that his brother is on the warpath with 400 armed men. Jacob prepares for war, prays, and sends Esau a large gift (consisting of hundreds of heads of livestock) to appease him.

That night, Jacob ferries his family and possessions across the Jabbok River; he, however, remains behind and encounters the angel that embodies the spirit of Esau, with whom he wrestles until daybreak. Jacob suffers a dislocated hip but vanquishes the supernal creature, who bestows on him the name Israel, which means “he who prevails over the divine.”

Jacob and Esau meet, embrace and kiss, but part ways. Jacob purchases a plot of land near Shechem, whose crown prince—also called Shechem—abducts and rapes Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi avenge the deed by killing all male inhabitants of the city, after rendering them vulnerable by convincing them to circumcise themselves.

Jacob journeys on. Rachel dies while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, and is buried in a roadside grave near Bethlehem. Reuben loses the birthright because he interferes with his father’s marital life. Jacob arrives in Hebron, to his father Isaac, who later dies at age 180. (Rebecca has passed away before Jacob’s arrival.)

Our Parshah concludes with a detailed account of Esau’s wives, children and grandchildren; the family histories of the people of Seir, among whom Esau settled; and a list of the eight kings who ruled Edom, the land of Esau’s and Seir’s descendants.

ballarat-screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-10-39-39-amOn the weekend, I competed in the Ballarat 70.3 Triathlon (Half Ironman distance). I always try to give a bit of an update on my day and some lesson I have learnt along the way.

Instead of giving a detailed account of my race, I will make a few points. The last few days before a race are always a bit crappy. The tapering, the worry, the nerves, the weather, the tiny aches & pains and the big question – Why am I doing this? This was the big question sitting and freezing in Ballarat on Saturday!

blog-banksyBut then I thought “suck it up princess” – I noticed a quote from Bob Marley that sums this up – @therealbanksy posted “Some people feel the rain, others get wet.” – Bob Marley

My race in a nutshell – The swim was cold (water temp was 16 degrees Celsius and weather was about 8 degrees – Yip its meant to be summer!), I started the cycle freezing and we had a very strong headwind back to Ballarat, the run was tough as the day heated up (yip I got very burnt and Loren rightly so is very cross with me). This is all the negatives – I knew I had done the hard work in training to prepare and I did enjoy my day out. I tried very hard to go under 5 hours. Starting the run, I knew I needed a brilliant run to reach one of my goals, I missed it by 2 minutes, but I do think I achieved a lot in completing my 1st triathlon in over 1 ½ years, having a good swim,  I was still very happy with the result and the way I performed on the day.

A few lessons from my training and the day…

In the pro Facebook, live panel discussion[i], the pro Kirra Seidel (she came 2nd in the female pro’s) talked about her move from ITU racing to longer course racing and describes why she prefers long course triathlon more than ITU. These are some of her preferences with a few of my own comments:

  • It’s an individual sport – this is not an understatement and especially applies during the bike leg when you need to keep 12m away from the next competitor. This gives you time to think, suffer and to try enjoy the scenery of a different place (yes not Beach Road). It was so nice to ride through the countryside and under the Arch of Victory on the Avenue of Honour in Ballarat;
  • You need to pace yourself as it is a long day – This is true to an extent, but as you get more experience you learn where you can and can’t push your body harder. Knowing that I had a run target, I would have to pace myself very well, but push my limits – I think I pushed too hard early in the run – but from a mental perspective I just tried to keep going even though when it was very tough to keep up my pace;

 “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” DEAN KARNAZES

  • There is a mental side to it – There is no doubt about the mental side especially on the run when you are getting tired, but also on the swim when concentration is needed to keep your line and from getting kicked etc. by fellow competitors and on the cycle in maintaining the gap to avoid penalties and to keeping focus and speed for close to 3 hours; and
  • Strategy is important – You need a strategy and goal for the day, but you also need little contingency plans during the event to manage unexpected issues. This was a factor in Ballarat with the cold swim and the very windy ride. Strategy also applies to your training plan and preparation for the day.

I just watched the movie Hands of Stone. This is the biography of Roberta Duran and his trainer Ray Arcel. Arcel becomes a mentor to the ferocious fighter, convincing him that winning ultimately comes down to technique (Arcel describes this as the SHORT Term – It covers every move and in boxing every punch) and strategy (Arcel describes this as the LONG Term – The plan for the Fight – You apply your technique to achieve your GOAL). His comments don’t only apply to boxing! “The minute the day is set for the fight, then the fight is on, right there. And Ray Arcel amplifies that ability that Roberto Duran already had rooted in him, of understanding the importance of the psychological warfare, psychological strategy and tactics that are pivotal to the sport. I mean, boxing is a sport that you lose or you win in your head already, and he understood it very well.”

In this week’s Torah portion shows Jacob as a man of action. Jacob has a STRATEGY in preparing for possible hostilities from his brother Esau, Jacob took all practical measures possible. He prepared in three separate ways — by praying to G‑d for deliverance, by appeasing his brother with gifts, and by planning for war if it should become necessary. His byword was action. Jacob took every practical measure possible to safeguard the lives of his children and the continuity of the Jewish nation. He did not make any surveys of the situation, nor waste time on statistical analysis.

Up above I mentioned that triathlon is an individual sport, which it is, BUT there is also a team element that includes family, friends and the people that I train with. These people are your support. When I was young and I watched the Comrades Marathon, I loved seeing Bruce Fordyce chasing down a fellow competitor and then going past them, but as a competitor I did not like going past a friend and training partner who I could see was suffering. The thoughts that went through my mind – Please stay with me, should I slow down and help him to the end and am I going to hit a wall!

I heard a brilliant quote from 5 times Beach Volleyball Olympian (YES) Kerri Walsh Jennings on the Rich Roll PODCAST[ii] – “I don’t want to be better than you or her or him—I want to be better than I am right now.” – KERRI WALSH JENNINGS

Professional triathlete Clayton Fettel posted on Twitter “Thanks to everyone’s support, the triathlon community can be a very supportive network and should be. Well done to all that raced today.” One of the amazing things about going to races is all the people you meet and the stories they tell. Met an amazing guy before the race who had done 5 events in 4 weeks including a full Ironman. I said that it is an expensive exercise and he said his Mum had just passed away and he was doing it in her memory with a tear in his eye. I was so happy to see him on the run course and give him a pat on the back and have a few words. These are moments of inspiration that make competing so good…

At the back of my mind during the race I was thinking about Craig Percival who had just passed away. Craig was a 45-year-old father, triathlete and coach. I have never met Craig, but some friends were coached by him and I had heard him talk on various Podcasts. Craig had recently completed 8 Ironman’s in 8 days in 8 states (8in8in8) for charity which was amazing and very inspiring.  After a knee operation[iii], a blood clot (embolism) which travelled to his lungs, caused multiple heart attacks. He then went into a coma for six days and his life support was eventually turned off. Such a fit guy…. I think the message is that we need to treasure our lives, the people in our lives and do the things that we love! As my Mom says – “Forget the crap”.

This year we parked very far from our car, walking to the car pushing my bike I enjoyed cheering on fellow athletes who were yet to finish and thank the volunteers who had to work for long hours as the day got warmer. It was so nice to see a smile when you say “Go Max, Louis or Nicole” to an athlete or try motivate them to carry on running, knowing that they did not have far to go.

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-2-14-43-pmWalking in the City last week I noticed an advert outside George Jensen with a picture of Norwegian Boxer Cecilia Brækhus. Cecilia holds numerous world titles and is undefeated in 29 fights. The advert featured a quote “You can never be too strong”. (Watch the ad[iv] )

I noticed an article[v] in The Age, the article mentions a new book, How to Create Hunger in Paradise. The author Rasmus Ankersen heads a chapter: “Principle #1: Never Trust Success.” The article discusses how teams that have done so well one year (example Leicester winning the EPL), fall from grace.

I think that both the quote and article resonate with me. I always believe that I can get better, I try improve my performance, I never rest on my laurels and I always try to take my training seriously. Rich Roll who I often quote, talks about making every workout count! In an article[vi] by Lionel Sanders who I have mentioned in previous Blogs says:

“There are three crucial areas that you can improve endurance in when preparing for an Ironman:

    A long run.

    A long ride.

    A long day.”

I can say I did them all – The long run, the long ride and the big BRICK session!

“I have a big 2017 planned, taking a few days now to regroup, re focus and go all guns blazing into the new year.” – Clayton Fettel

 “What’s on your 2017 Fu#kItList?  Commit a challenge to paper. If you fail to plan…you are planning to fail“! (Ben Franklin said that) – Jesse Itzler @the100MileMan – Author of Living With A SEAL

 I think that Goals and Challenges are very important – I say to myself that I don’t need to do these organised events – they are stressful, often inconvenient, expensive etc. – BUT they do provide you with a goal and an impetus to train and keep fit. This year I have had a busy year with an ultra-marathon, 2 marathons and an Ironman 70.3 – Now I need some good REST and then I will think about 2017.

I think @thebodycoach sums up my training and my day “Work hard, play well and make other people happy

[i] https://www.facebook.com/IRONMANAsiaPac/videos/1335626316501852/

[ii] http://www.richroll.com/podcast/kerri-walsh-jennings/

[iii] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3998520/Ironman-father-two-dies-knee-surgery-complications-caused-multiple-heart-attacks.html#ixzz4SakwqmZR

[iv] http://www.georgjensen.com/en-au/campaigns/cecilia

[v] http://www.theage.com.au/sport/soccer/no-mystery-in-leicesters-fall-from-grace-20161205-gt4ps6.html

[vi] https://lsanderstri.com/2016/11/25/imaz-lessons-part-1/