The most important part of your fitness program

written by john c ashworth

The most important part of your fitness program

As a former fitness coach and personal trainer and currently a fit, healthy fitness over 50 cadre member, people ask me from time to time what it is that I do to keep myself in shape.  

My answer always begins with a little context. Because my fitness program is not overly impressive. I’ve just had it going regularly without fail for thirty plus years now.

“I keep going…”  I say.

“I never stop.  I’ve NEVER stopped.”

How long have YOU been working at it?

Keep going…

Don’t stop.

Look for modes of progression and seek expert advice to aid your quest. A little goes a long way. Especially when you can find a real expert.

I admit it. There’s a lot more to it than just your consistency.  Expert personal fitness program design is an art that finds its roots in science. You and your path are unique and need to be treated as such in order for you to achieve your potential.

Consistency, though…

That’s really the key, because without your regular commitment, no fitness program can produce the results you crave.


We start here.



PS My current fitness program includes all of the following: swimming 5-6 days per week (350-500m). Strength training twice per week. Walking 4-6 days per week (1-3 miles). Walking is sometimes curtailed a bit in the winter and in those times, I swim more. When it snows, my snow removal duties also add to the totals. Just as yard work does in the warmer months. And, of course, right at this very moment, my ability to get to the pool has been thwarted by covid-19, so I’m doing my best to adjust and missing that experience terribly 🙁

Here’s a screenshot from January of 2020. I cleared about 6 inches of snow that day in addition to my swim. I love the apple fitness tracking system. In combination with the Apple watch this tracking system actually provides a lot of useful data and constant feedback if you want it about how well you’re doing with your exercise and activity each day. Will get into that more later.

When you click on the swim workout that was recorded wearing the apple watch in the pool, you get even more specific data and information about your swim, including your average heart rate, which is extremely valuable data and information. Again, I plan to get into more about all of this in future posts about the Apple activity tracking system. I really like it.

swim workout on 011720
There are a number of things I really like about having access to this information for each workout, including average heart rate. An extremely valuable metric to track. -john c ashworth

PPS If I had to choose the second most important part of your fitness program it would be the tracking. In order to build a proper plan for safe and effective progression of your fitness program, you need to keep track of where you’ve been.

Want to feel good? Sleep MORE…

written by john c ashworth

I’m sitting here at my desk and wondering why in the world I feel so good today; and then it occurs to me…I got a lot of sleep last night 🙂

Sounds a little silly when I say it out loud, but that’s the truth and that’s why SLEEP is one of my three words for the year.

I know we all struggle with this, and that we all have good logical reasons why we struggle to get MORE sleep. Life is busy, especially for parents like Laura and I. Parents who work full-time and more, and who are devoted to providing our kids the kind of opportunities in life that should not be taken for granted. Sometimes you have to give up a little sleep to make all that happen.

But there are plenty of other times when sleep becomes elusive as a result of bad habits or loose organization in the evenings. I find that when I commit to it and make it a priority and focus my evening on turning out the lights at a certain specific time, that I can make it all happen a lot more often.

Sleep more this year. You’ll probably live longer, but more importantly, it won’t feel longer 🙂


You can’t play perfectly all the time

written by john c ashworth

Most forward thinking driven and self-motivated people are harder on themselves than they need to be. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is an important personality trait. Being driven to win and compete and measure-up to your competition and to the goals and aspirations you’ve set for yourself is important. Also important is to be realistic with yourself, especially in the face of your mistakes and shortcomings.

You can’t play perfectly all the time.

Most of us will discover that we are more loved in the weeks after our death, than in the weeks preceding it. As I’ve heard more than one funeral director say, “Everyone becomes a saint once they’re gone.”

To achieve success though, you need to feel you deserve it in spite of your mistakes, shortcomings, and misgivings. And probably more important, especially for those of us who tend to be more assertive, forward-thinking, and more than willing to make a bonfire of our reputation, you MUST stay strong in your belief that you deserve what you have achieved.

Often, this is tough, because in pursuit of constant improvement and growth, we must accept both our praise and the disdain that falls upon us from time to time.  The latter often arriving more often than we might expect.

Worthy accomplishment comes from both the clean and dirty work that must be done in order to get there.

This is not to say that you must break the law or defile your colleagues either.

What I’m trying to reinforce here is that in order to grow you have to be uncomfortable first and that discomfort often comes from the negativity pointed toward us from those that don’t like us, don’t like what we’ve done, or how we think, or that we got here first.

Should you let this discomfort stymie your growth and your pursuit of achievement, you might find success somewhat elusive at first.

Keep in mind that when your vision and your mission are true and worthy and worth pursuing, that this is often in stark contrast to what everyone else can see. Most don’t have the vision you do and that reality can get tough at times. Believe me.

Stay on the path and keep going and when things get rough just remember…

“YOU deserve every ounce of success and the wisdom that comes along with it because you have earned it!”


There is no such thing as auto-pilot when it comes to your goals and resolutions…

written by john c ashworth

Usually, by this point in the year, most have abandoned their new years resolutions.


Ideas are the easy part.

Most people don’t understand that in order to make changes that last, YOU also have to shake yourself out of the bad habits too.

This effort takes a combination of mental, emotional, and physical ACTIONS committed to and adhered to for as long as it takes.

If you’re faltering or you’ve already lost your mojo, the real question is whether or not you were on the right track in the first place. If the answer is no, then it’s time to re-configure your goals and aspirations for the year.

If you’re on the right track and simply stuck, it’s time to find out why.

The only way forward is to be present with yourself long enough and consistently enough to discover the answers so that you can take the right action and keep moving forward. You can’t do that when you’re too busy being busy.

Stop. Reflect. Write down your thoughts long-hand and then commit yourself to getting back to work. When it comes to your own personal success there is no such thing as ‘auto-pilot.


Luck is important and so is discipline

writing journals

written by john c ashworth

Recently, the idea of self-discipline and self-management has surfaced in my daily reading and notes.

I read a ton down here in the the ash flash workshop. I have a multitude of notebooks jammed into bookshelves and into the corners of almost every room. All of them with some really great stuff; and I’m finally finding a way to focus my daily efforts so that I can share all of it with you.

You should see this place. It’s fantastic. A dream cave where I hide-away and pursue my passions, and especially my writing.

I still remember a conversation I had more than twenty five years ago with one of my favorite graduate school professors and mentors. We were discussing all the time I was spending in the library at San Jose State University researching and writing papers on topics related to exercise physiology. I absolutely loved that time.

In describing this pursuit of knowledge and the satisfaction gained from it with my mentor, Dr Greg Payne, he said something to me that I’ll never forget.

“Well, John…It’s a good sign you’re in the right place.”

Back then, daily trips to the library were necessary to gather all of the information I needed for the work at hand. Today, much of that can be done right here in heart of the ash flash workshop. In fact, today the process can be a lot more overwhelming and distracted at times, because from right here, I can travel anywhere and do almost anything.

More recently, I’ve been able to find more focus and discipline in the pursuit of sharing this knowledge and expertise I’ve accumulated over the years on a variety of different subjects; and also some new ones that I’ve begun to explore.

The trick is to find your thing, pursue it with passion, and then find your owned unique way of sharing it with people. Whatever that might be. For me, it’s here on the ash flash and in all my writing.

…but if I can establish a habit of writing every day. That’s it. One simple goal. One simple mission. That’s all I need.

One simple path that will lead me where I want to go.

Writing every day will take me there.

In his book on writing, Stephen King said that, “writing can bring you freedom.”

I think he might be right.


PS I hope you’re enjoying the ash flash. That you are learning from it as much as I am and that you find ideas and inspiration that help you improve your life and your business along the way.

writing journals
…a few of those journals full of gold I have lying around 🙂 -john c ashworth

Happy new year! This year, find the courage to be yourself…

written by john c ashworth

No one can build you this bridge for you. This year, find the courage to be yourself.

We are moving quickly toward another year.  Another decade.  Another opportunity to reflect on what we’ve done or not done; and on what we plan to do.

Before you embark on this journey, I have a few points of inner wisdom I encourage you to cultivate so that instead of simply racing forward blindly into another year and another time; you stop for a moment and consider your destiny.  Your presence.  The magnificent contentment of your solitude.  Otherwise, you race forward looking for answers and over-striving, and all that is you and your destiny becomes a forgotten myth.  A distant cry for help.

“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life.”  -Nietzsche

Somehow, this man who often cycled into a nihilistic despondency that left him believing that life was meaningless, found is way back to the real meaning of life often enough and inspired others in ways that benefit all of us.

One of those he inspired, Nobel Laureate Herman Hesse, drew from Nietzsche’s philosophy the best of his humanistic ideas, and then magnified them with his own transcendent humanity. (from Brain Pickings – a beautiful blog).

I believe it prudent to point to some of Hesse’s philosophy on the courage to be yourself, and to find your destiny in helping you shape your own thoughts and actions as we approach another new year.  A perfect time to bare witness to who you really are, and what it’s really going to take to achieve your goals and realize your fullest potential.  To live your own destiny.

Here is a little bit of Hesse on suffering, solitude and your destiny

“…True action, good and radiant action, my friends, does not spring from activity, from busy bustling, it does not spring from industrious hammering.  It grows in the solitude of the mountains, it grow on the summits where silence and danger dwell.  It grows out of the suffering which you have not yet learned to suffer.” 

…”Blessed be he who has found his solitude, not the solitude pictured in waiting or poetry, but his own, unique, predestined solitude.  Blessed be he who knows how to suffer!  Blessed be he who bears the magic stone in his heart.  To him comes destiny, from him comes authentic action.”

It is here on this point of authentic action that I want to leave you with something vital as we approach a new decade.  If you subscribe to the ash flash in 2020, you will be seeing a lot more on this idea of authenticity.  It is a very important idea, especially around the time we falsely pursue resolutions that produce almost nothing more than false and empty hope for a future we cannot see.  A distant star that has already lost its light.  Ideas that are not founded in the kind of resolve and courage it takes to be yourself.  To be with yourself so that you can in fact discover your destiny within.

You were made to be yourself, and to enrich the world with your voice and your presence.  Not to fall into bed at night exhausted and feeling like an incomplete human being. 

The goals you typically seek are only surface-level hints at something much deeper.  Fleeting symptoms of more fundamental struggle and suffering.  Find some time as you begin again to cultivate solitude and be with yourself and discover all that is lying in wait for you there.

Once again from Hermann Hesse

“In each one of you there is a hidden being, still in the deep sleep of childhood. Bring it to life! In each one of you there is a call, a will, an impulse of nature, an impulse toward the future, the new, the higher. Let it mature, let it resound, nurture it! Your future is not this or that; it is not money or power, it is not wisdom or success at your trade — your future, your hard dangerous path is this: to mature and to find God in yourselves.”

Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877 – August 9th, 1962)

The work of change is excruciatingly slow for those who really want it…

old mustang october 2019

written by john c ashworth

old mustang october 2019
Compare this old mustang to those on the road today. Certainly they’ve changed. But very slowly, year to year, and until you looked at this photo you probably had no real awareness of exactly how much.
photo by john c ashworth

The work of change is excruciatingly slow for those who really want it

Real change that lasts often comes in very small increments that are hard to see.

On an idle Friday afternoon halfway into November, you can either check-out for the day, or find a way to focus on something that will keep your own personal desired change moving forward.

What’s it gonna be?