Bob Harper Needs a Cupcake! (What Happens When Competition and No Mind Merge)

Black Fire workout with Bob Harper,

I’m dying. Not like “buried in the ground” dying, but definitely at the end of my rope. I am exhausted. My heart rate is just barely faster than a bunny rabbit’s, and I’m in the cool down. I can’t hold my leg up for a quad stretch because my arms are too weak. Everything feels heavy, and I am covered in so much sweat that I am my very own swimming pool. My friend, Heather Santo, shared Bob Harper’s new Daily Burn workout site on her Facebook page, and I thought to myself, If Heather thinks it’s great, it’s gotta be a ton of fun, right?

I should have known better. Did you see the picture on top of this blog? Does he look like he’s having a “ton of fun” to you? Yeah, he kicked my A$$.

I unceremoniously collapse to the floor, and as I stretch my back a little and close my eyes, I think, Bob Harper needs a cupcake. He’d be nicer if he had some sort of sugar fix.

 If you don’t know who Bob Harper is, I won’t judge you (non-judgement site here): he was one of the most popular trainers in the NBC show The Biggest Loser, and he has four books that deal with developing good eating and workout habits.

If you do know Bob Harper, you know that not only would he be shocked and appalled at my very thought; he would probably order me to do ten more push ups, diamond-style for added effect. Cupcakes are to him what turnip greens are to me; repugnant. However, the fact that Bob is nowhere near me makes me very brave.

Plus, at this moment, I am simply too tired to care.

And I love it.

Sure, I just burned a serious amount of calories, and I will absolutely sleep like a dog later tonight. But I love this fatigue because right now, at this very moment, I am so tired that my brain is free. It is in its own zone, and thoughts simply do not matter at this moment. There is no to-do list nor a time limit. There are no problems that need solving, no agendas that need finishing, or emotions that need attention. My brain is simply releasing endorphins and other “feel good” chemicals into my body and emits a pleasant electrical pulse throughout my body as my breathing slows. It is here that I can reach my personal version of “no mind.”

For those of you who have no idea what I mean, the best movie scene I can think of is from The Last Samurai, with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise’s character, Algren, is captured by the Samurai and stays as their guest/prisoner for two seasons. He learns their language and their style of fighting. However, the Sword Master Uijo detests him, and beats Algren every time Algren tries to train. At one point, all the other warriors are watching, and Algren’s host Nobutada comes up to him and tells Algren he has “too many mind.” He points out that Algren’s mind is thinking about the sword he is using, fighting his enemy/trainer,  his gambling “audience” watching the fight, and even his own pride. Nobutada tells Algren that for Algren to win, he must have “no mind”: quit thinking so much about so many things. Find the one thing, the part inside that is true peace, and move from there. When Algren finally achieves this, he wins (OK, it’s technically a draw, but that’s beside the point).

banpenfugyo tumblr

This scene illustrates two things: 1) we constantly have multiple thoughts fighting for attention and demanding action in our minds, and 2) one must make a conscious decision to find her own “no mind,” which takes effort.

In the mornings, I find it easy to meditate (or pray) and find my state of “no mind,” but it is difficult for me to hold it all day; to be honest, I do not have the discipline. I tend to lose my quiet and peaceful mind as I go about my day and solve troublesome problems, make difficult decisions, interact with others who are not self-aware, and deal with stressful obligations such as deadlines. I get edgy and short-tempered when I have “too many minds” going on for too long. When my stress builds up, my body lets me know in multiple ways. I am tired, but I cannot sleep well. I have headaches. I cannot focus on one thing, because I feel restless or my mind reminds me of other, “more important” issues. All my ideas sound great until I put them on paper, then they fall apart. And the feeling that I am “failing” my task just amplifies all these sensations, which heightens my stress levels, and so the cycle repeats itself. Sometimes, when I try to meditate or slow my brain waves down, I am so hyper that my breathing technique does not help. Sometimes even listening to the original Silva Life System mp3  or one of the quick meditation tracks by Amish Shah and Dr. Puja Shah do not work, because I waited too late to “calm” my brain down.

At these times, workouts are my salvation. I am not talking about a gentle walk with my husband through our neighborhood or around the mall, or lifting a few pounds for five reps and taking a two-minute rest. I’m talking about all-out, gut-wrenching, want-to-scream or cry but too freaking tired to do either. Some of the Beachbody workouts do this, but I like to change things up (or, as in the case of Shaun T’s Insanity: the Asylum, I said “to heck with this” and quit after injuring my wrist halfway through the plan—don’t judge). I know. You think I’m crazy. I’m OK with that. Remember, I’m just giving you ideas on things you can try when other things do not “work” for you. That’s how much I love you, Cupcake.

If you’ll remember, a few weeks ago I blogged about my weight (here). When Heather shared Bob Harper’s site, and it offered a 30-day free trial, I jumped. I needed something to get me going. The first day, we started out with squats where you touched the ground with your fingers and reached up high, lunges, and toy soldiers. That was the warm up. I wanted to quit. I told myself to go for ten minutes, then I could stop.

The first five minutes, I listened to every voice that came at me.

You shouldn’t have gained so much weight. Your body wouldn’t be so hard to move.

            You shouldn’t have stopped working out. You wouldn’t be breathing like a hippo in labor.

            You’re really too tired to do this. How about choosing another workout or do this later?

            You can’t keep up with those fitness models.

            A relative saying that “Liz talks a big game, but—well, you know” when discussing my workouts with another relative in front of me.

            Freaking Bob Harper yelling, “It doesn’t count if you don’t come all the way up. Make it to your lowest score. Come on, three seconds left!”

            Are you kidding me? What the hell did Heather Santo get me into?

             The worst part is not the physical weight I feel on my shoulders with each negative thought; the worst part is that when I try to banish the negativity, I become even more fatigued, because now I am paying attention to three things at once: negative thoughts, arguing with those negative thoughts, and moving my body. Take my word for it, it sucks. It’s like carrying a twenty-pound backpack around all the time, and I am not a Marine.

negativecommittee I was a successful athlete a million years ago. In high school, I was in the sports section of the local newspapers every week. In college, I ran the 100m in 11.85 seconds (back then, you had to run an 11.6 to qualify for Nationals). When I had back surgery several years ago, my main focus was to return to the tennis courts and compete. Less than a year after my surgery, I was almost undefeated in women’s singles (I lost one match–my team’s final match in our Regional tournament), and I was ranked third in the state (first in the Dallas-Fort Worth area). I know what it takes to succeed, and I know how to put in the work. The one thing I learned to find and practice during my high school days that moved to college and beyond? No Mind.

“No mind” happens when I get just a little past tired, and it usually takes about 12-15 minutes of hard work for me. Let me power through something, be it sprints or plyometrics or moving brand new heavy furniture into my study, and I can feel “no mind” start. My brain gets to the point where it doesn’t have the energy to focus on “too many mind,” because it now needs to concentrate on my body’s actions so I do not injure myself nor end up in the hospital. I focus inward, and this is how simple it becomes: breathe, do, breathe, do, breathe, do, STOP. Breathe.

In high school and college, it usually came during sprint workouts or repeated drills with very little rest. This may be what some people call “runner’s high,” but I can’t be sure because I never felt it when I went jogging. Some may think this is a “second wind.” I will not argue. Exercise stimulates the brain’s release of endorphins (natural pain killers), serotonin (which fights depression), and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF, which also fights depression as well as helps with memory and brain health).

For me, all of this happens, but there is a stillness deep inside, a quiet yet powerful force, a calm radiant energy the glows while the chemical reactions eradicate any negativity from each cell in my body.

During the first Black Fire workout, I felt the miracle start to happen. I was breathing so loud and fast that I could barely hear Bob on the TV. My head was pounding so hard with all the blood flow that all I wanted to do was FINISH. My brain pattern switched as I decided I wasn’t going through a measly ten minutes of this workout to feel like I did at the beginning and have to fight more negative jibes later. I was going all the way to the end of the video.

The only sounds I hear are Bob’s “Go,” my rhythmic heavy breathing as I jump on a box or push myself completely off the floor, and Bob’s “Rest.”  I do not care about phone calls, emails, or the fitness models behind Bob. My brain waves have changed. Instead of just one or two blocking the others, they are now all working together to help me finish in one piece. All I care about are the numbers in my head that I must obtain. “You are competing against yourself. Don’t drop below your lowest number.” I am going to keep the same number the whole time.

The first time I did this workout, I was just over ½ of what the twenty-something models did. Today was my fourth time to do this particular workout in two weeks. I managed to improve on everything except the damned burpees, which come at the end; but, as tired as I was, I did not go down in my original number of that hated exercise. I can be proud that I am only a few reps behind the little blonde in the back. I can claim that I actually tied G.I. Jane for 7 hand-release push ups the entire 8 rounds (yeah, baby, that’s 56 push ups done on my toes, all the way to the floor—boo-yah!). While I am intensely competitive, the irony here is that I did not realize I tied her until that round of exercise was finished and Bob was asking everyone for numbers.


“No mind” also means “more production.” If you look at the picture above, you will see two brains. The brain on the left is the brain of someone who sat “quietly” for twenty minutes. On the right is a student who went for a walk for twenty minutes. See how the right brain is all lit up like a Christmas tree? That’s a sign the chemicals I talked about earlier have been released. Can you guess which brain is more active with less effort? Here’s a hint: it is the one with more color.  According to Forbes, a person in a positive brain state is 31% more productive, 40% more likely to get a promotion, and almost 10 times “more engaged at work, live longer, get better grades, and show less acute symptoms.” And look, just walking for twenty minutes changed the brain. You do not have to be intense or insane, or insanely intense. You just have to move in a way that makes you breathe harder than normal.

So, Cupcake, get outside! Go for a walk! Hate the outside? Use a treadmill, a stationary bike, an elliptical! Get your oxygen pumping and get those brain chemicals flowing freely. Think about how much better you will feel, and think, and live life. Your brain will thank you.

My brain is now “empty” of stress and negative ideas. As the released chemicals flow through my exhausted body, creative ideas caress my head and easily glide into my consciousness. I am once again grounded and happy, so I can go on with my day. So, I freely admit that my friend Heather did me a favor when she posted Bob’s picture on my Facebook page. Maybe she deserves a cupcake more than Bob needs one. And just so you know, I went to the Daily Burn Facebook page, and found this for Mr. Bob Harper! Maybe he wouldn’t make me do the extra push ups, after all.

So, my darlingdailyburncupcake Cupcake, what do you do to stay grounded or change your negative frame of mind? What do you like to do to alleviate your stress? What activities do you enjoy that gets your oxygen and mind flowing freely? Remember to share if you can. You may be helping another reader, and that will be a karmic boomerang for you. Have a great day, and stay frosted!

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42 thoughts on “Bob Harper Needs a Cupcake! (What Happens When Competition and No Mind Merge)

  1. I really enjoyed your article and the engaging style of writing.

    The “no mind” coincides with a topic I recently talked about but from a whole different perspective. I used a technique to stop worrying about all the “to do”s I had and basically got the no mind effect along with it and found I became more productive!

    Love the science you included that explains that.

    1. Lori, Thank you for stopping by! I’ve noticed several people writing about increasing productivity while lowering stress levels in their minds, so I’m glad you liked this one. 🙂 I think the science is important for some people. The clients I teach usually don’t ask “why” unless they are fighting what I want them to do (which happens constantly), so it’s good for me to have a solid argument. 🙂 Thanks again, and have a Cupcake kind of weekend! 🙂

  2. Liz — what a great description of the post hard workout feeling of being completely spent!

    I’m just getting back to exercising on a regular basis and am reminding myself of this feeling — that it will come if I push myself.

    Oh, and then I can feel good about having an occasional cupcake! 🙂

    1. Cathy, I’m so glad you’re here! I freely admit that I work out so I can eat the “occasional (ha!) cupcake,” so it’s nice to know I’m not alone! Keep exercising on a regular basis and you won’t have to deal with soreness or crankiness (like I did the first week back). Thanks for commenting, and have a great week! 🙂

  3. Wow– I’ve never seen these stats: a positive brain state is 31% more productive, 40% more likely to get a promotion, and almost 10 times “more engaged at work…” And only 20 minutes.

    You’ve done a great service today, Liz. 🙂

    1. Sharon, “Wow” is what I thought when I read those stats, as well! I knew any kind of movement made a difference in brain waves (the releasing of its “happy” chemicals), but I didn’t know to what extent. Funny how research can make things more important, huh? Thanks for commenting, and have a great cupcake kind of week! 🙂

  4. we walk 5k a day and about halfway through the walk, creative ideas start pouring in. So that’s where my hubby and I do our creative meetings along with our dog 🙂 great article, thanks for sharing the information!

    1. Gisele, I love taking walks with my dogs, but I usually take that time to do my “gratitude walk” as I don’t have anything to write on and I usually can’t remember my “great ideas” later. It’s good that you have someone to bounce ideas back and forth; I find this always helps focus on the meat of creativity. Good for you, Cupcake! Keep it up! 🙂

    1. Michelle, you are quite the Diva Cupcake if you take a slow-paced jog at all! I can only go for short distances with plenty of short breaks, because neither my brain nor my knees like the long tedious runs, so I’m jealous of you! Each of us is different, which makes our experiences, strengths and weaknesses different as well. However, the more we can help clear our heads, the better off all of us are. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Interesting article. There are so many outside factors in maintaining. Ugh, everything can be so complicated. I don’t think I can keep all those balls in the air at the same time. I think I”ll just quietly go about my routine.

    1. Beth, don’t be overwhelmed. 🙂 Silence (quietly) is golden, right? This is just what I do to get my brain to quit thinking, because it gets overloaded with too many thoughts in too many directions. From what I know about you, it sounds like you’ve got everything under control just fine in your life. 🙂 This is for those who may be looking for other things.

  6. I’ve always been one that has to move to think. If I am stuck at a desk all day my brain just shuts down. At the first sign up being unproductive, that’s my cue to get up and get moving. I clear my head and inevitably, this is when great ideas will start to explode. Of course there are wonderful benefits to being still, to being quiet, but do that for too long and then there are consequences both mentally & physically. And now I’m off to go workout! Thanks for the article, great info!!!

    1. Lisa, thanks for the feedback! I agree with Carol Rundle that too much of anything is not a great plan, and I find that I have to do both workouts and quiet bum time so that I can stay balanced. Hope you had a great workout, with many more to come!

  7. Absolutely wonderful article. Loved it! I was never an athlete like you, but I can see how the activity brings “no mind” — it’s too tired to operate! I have Ladies Who Walk, a group of three women who motivate each other to walk every weekday for 20 minutes. This week…eh, not so much, between appointments and projects. But I’ll get back into it. I swear, Cupcake. 😉

    1. Heyyy, Cupcake! This is a non-judgment site! As long as you get up and move every so often (like once every 60 mins or so), and take some time to breathe, you’re golden. Just remember to take care of yourself, so you can be your best as you help clients and the rest of us! 🙂

  8. For me, working out to the point of exhaustion is counter-productive. It will not motivate me to continue, it will have the opposite effect; I will quit. It helps to know yourself, not everyone feels this way. Because I have an “all or nothing” personality, I need to learn more moderation in everything.

    1. Carol, I completely understand where exhaustion can be counter-productive. It’s just what I have to do sometimes to get my brain to stop “thinking” and stressing itself out. Anything, even a nice stroll around the park, is just as good if you can relax and breathe deeply. 🙂 By the way, love your Aristotle/Ralph Waldo Emerson allusion.

    1. Delia, as long as you are getting “Delia only” time and letting your brain relax so it can rejuvenate, it’s all good! Social time is a great way to unplug, too, and smiles always make the heart warm and the brain release happy drugs, lol. Sounds like you got it goin’ on!

  9. i feel like I’ve done a workout with you the writing was so engaging *deep breaths*

    I used to think I couldn’t exercise indoors, then I thought it had to be in a gym, then my husband bought me a treadmill and wow it changed my life. I love it! He’s recently made it into a walking desk for me so now I get to walk and work at the same time LOL my life is complete.

    My real love are the hills though. To be outdoors in all weathers with the dogs, walking the Pennines near our home – it doesn’t get more “no mind” than that for me. There’s no internet or phone reception and it’s an hour or two of silence except for the sounds of nature.

    1. Jane, the treadmill is great, since it has inclines and different speeds (and hey,there is something to be said about being indoors when it’s pouring or freezing outside), but you’re right; it’s not quite as great as the outdoors. It’s amazing how easy it is for us to go “no mind” when we totally unplug and do something simple as breathe and hang out by ourselves. Thanks, Jane! Now I’m jealous that you have hills!

  10. I liked the engaging style of your post. Since my second business is linked to Greek dancing, I start to dance whenever I need some exercise. Funnily, I always hated all kinds of sports, I was never able to do them for more than 10 minutes, but when it comes to dancing, I can do it for hours non-stop. It’s just important that everyone finds the kind of sport they love doing and seems so effortless…

    1. Erika, Thank you for stopping by and commenting! Dance is exercise! It takes a great deal of coordination and balance, and it gets the heart rate up! It’s great that you have an outlet for your stress.

  11. My brain never shuts down, it’s always going no matter what. There’s always so much to do and going on that I can never stop. Probably would be good for a shut down now and then!

    1. Michael, I know just how you feel. Grad school at this age, having a family, a business that I’m trying to keep afloat while I also keep up with my “pinky promise” obligations keeps my brain going nonstop. I’ve noticed, however, if I can actually get it to relax, I always get better ideas and more creative ways to accomplish some of my goals. If nothing else, BREATHE!

  12. I used to work out like that – (when I was much younger). Since I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I can only work out a little at a time or go for brisk walks or hikes. I have found though – that even the short walks I take my dog on every day along with the short work-outs I do make a big difference. Little movement is better than no movement and the effect it has on mind and body is huge (for me at least).

    1. Knikkolette, Hey, girl, this is not a competition. 🙂 Anything you can do that helps you take deep breaths is a good thing. Your last statement is absolutely correct: “Little movement is better than no movement….” Think of anything that you do to take care of your mind and body is a massive hug for you, and be happy with what you do. <3 hug, sister!

    1. Ginny, just a 20-minute walk with a buddy, my friend, and you’re good. And you don’t need Bob for that, lol. Thanks for commenting, and have a great week! 🙂

  13. Our mind and our brain are very different. The thoughts that spin around constantly are always going to be there, the key is to stay unattached to them. I often have multiple thought streams travelling through my head at the same time. What do we pay attention to and what do we thank and let drift on by? Another key is to always be kind to yourself. For me, as you know, that means proper nutrition and supplementation. All the exercise and all the kick ass workouts in the world will not combat the lack of care and concern for what you put in your body.

    You’ll see this in the article I shared this week too. The brain is fascinating and this new research that shows simply walking for 20 minutes a day, says it all. We can do a great service to our brains just by being out in the fresh air, walking and getting our “minds” off all the craziness constantly going on in our heads. Each of us is on our own individual journey and we have to experience what we chose to experience in order to learn and grow. Sounds like you are on warp speed ahead in trying things on for size and seeing what works for you and what doesn’t. Keep going. The only way is to keep moving forward. Trial and error. Isn’t that what life is all about? Thanks for sharing your journey with us all. Here’s to healthy cupcakes for all!!

    1. Beverley, This is how I am, believe it or not. I have to force myself to slow down sometimes and allow my brain to empty, because it gets loaded with ideas for work, my classes, and my writing. Meditation always makes me feel better, but I notice that I can maintain the positive energy if I can get in an intense workout to force my brain to focus on movements and balance (even a short one, and I have a few that are under ten minutes). I’m in the open air for so long that I take it for granted. I would be miserable with an indoor job, even though I would love the air conditioning in the summer and heater in the fall (I get reallllllllly tired in the winter with all my layers, lol).

  14. I love your energy! And I totally get the “after party” feeling of working out despite the fact that I have been very unmotivated lately. I blame menopause…yep, that’s my story but I can’t stick to it and need to find the right program or group to get back on track. I don’t think Bob’s would be it for me since I’ve tried working out at home and realized I truly thrive on being around others. Orange Theory here I come!

    1. Beth, gyms have a ton of group sessions of all kinds. The classes are kind of addicting, as well. I’m sure you’ll find one that’s perfect for you. Happy socializing as you improve your health and brain patterns! 🙂

  15. Yep, I think I love you! LOL I loved that. I HATE burpees with a passion, too.. .and I just don’t see the point.. except that they are done and over. lol I can’t workout at home… too much motivation, but I CAN go TO the gym.. and I still think he, Bob, needs a dozen cupcakes, just sayin. I am a competitive beast too and I get it… but even when I work out, I am thinking.. 24/7. I DO “constantly have multiple thoughts fighting for attention and demanding action in our minds”… like ALL the time. Folks say I need to have peace with myself, be still and no background noise and all that stupid stuff.. nope, can’t do it. I will have trouble with this “no mind” bit.. just saying. BTW blog tip.. when you link to other sites (OFF your page) be sure they open into another window or you just lost your audience.

    1. Kristen, I love you. Thank you for the advice (I actually have it checked as another window)! And I struggle so much with the “no mind” aspect of thought that I have to have an intense workout, or something that is harder for me to focus on, so my mind actually gets too tired to multi-task. Yet another reason we get along so well! <3 love ya, sista!

  16. I use the Beachbody on Demand app (which is sorta like Daily Burn but specific to Beachbody programs) and workout in the mornings; I switch it up based on what I “need” that day. Some days I need more cardio, but other days maybe strength training is the right path for me…Then there are days when pilates or yoga or stretching is what my body is crying out for! Doing my workouts in the morning is what clears my mind of the “fluff” and gets me pumped and positive for the day! I am right there with you sistah!!! In the evenings, I read (or listen to) some personal development, and then I do focused breathing and meditation before bed. My sleep has never been better since I started this kind of schedule — I am gonna go ahead and recommend the app Omvana RIGHT NOW for anyone who needs help focusing or sleeping…Heck they have lots of tracks for all sorts of things. It’s an app that has different meditation tracks you listen to, and it helps you get in the right mindset for whatever goal you need to accomplish. I have really enjoyed the “laser focus” and “deep rest” tracks 🙂

    1. Hey, Natalie, great feedback! Let’s remind everyone that the Omvana app is free up to a certain number of tracks, which makes it a no-brainer (bad pun, I know)! I like them, too. Did you get my comment on your last blog: since you’re quite the BeachBody junki and you’re doing this awesome reset of yours, you should enter one of their contests! I think you’d do great!

  17. Oh yes, I am very familiar with good ol’ Bob and also with all the feelings you described. Good for you for making it happen. Sometimes all we can do is just keep pushing towards those goals, one day at a time. I do try to find things that inspire me and keep me motivated towards my goals and keep those things in front of me at all times, especially if I’m feeling weak or like giving up. It helps.

    1. Lisa, finding something that or someone who inspires you is always a good plan. They make us feel like we can do better, and we usually can! Good for you for having the strength to pursue your goals! Keep it up, and have a cupcake kind of day! 🙂

  18. Wow, had not seen this Bob Harper video on Heather’s page, but perhaps it’s something I should try out.;-) Even though I am not that into such hard training. And just looking at this guy with tattoos all over, to me is a sign he would make you work hard.:-o However, it is true, you need to relax and let all the thoughts go…be it then with a hard workout or something else.:-)

    1. Katarina, you should try it, lol. Go for the Gymnastics 1 workout with Anja. Handstands and donkey burpees have a whole new meaning after this workout, but it’s a great “recovery” workout after one of Bob’s killer workouts, believe it or not. Funny what these people think of! Let me know how it’s going, and have a great day!

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