It started even before Friday's disaster of a workout. On Thursday, I had a personal training session with Mat. Nothing out of the ordinary, except for a conversation in between sets. "We gotta talk about yesterday. You might be getting too comfortable." I couldn't think of what I had done at Wednesday's Outdoor Fitness Challenge that would elicit that comment. "Think. What did you say?" I thought hard. Oh, right. One of two things that will always get a rise, an immediate reaction from him: either 'no' or 'I can't.' I had said, "I can't" and when he'd growled "what did you say?" instead of taking it back the way clients usually do, or trying just a wee bit harder, I repeated it loudly and clearly: "I SAID I CAN'T."
Mat admitted that I don't do it often enough to be a pattern, so maybe it wasn't a matter of me getting so comfortable with him that I was sassing him or being disrespectful. It's been a trend he's noticed lately with many clients and others at the gym. Maybe it's because in summer we're in mental vacation mode. It's hard to give maximum effort when you're tired, when you're looking forward to time off, or when schedules all around you are in flux. And because he's seeing it everywhere, he zeroed in on it when I did it, too. I explained to him that it wasn't a personal reflection on his coaching. At that specific moment, I really couldn't do any more of what he was asking. We'd just finished a leg crank, it was nearing the end of boot camp, and he had us holding a squat for as long as we could. My legs were burning, my knees were aching, everything was shaking, and I stood up pretty quickly out of the squat and said, "I can't." What I meant was "I can't keep holding it." It wasn't "I can't, EVER." It wasn't "I can't do it at all." It wasn't "I won't." It was "I can't hold this pose without standing up and then going back down, but if you're asking me to hold for as long as I can, at this very moment I can't hold it any longer." But all I said, and what he heard, was just "I can't."
In our discussion of it the next day, I realized that there are specific times and activities where I'm more likely to say "no" whether it's to myself or to the person telling me what to do. I roll my eyes and shake my head a lot in spin class (especially when they say "hill climbs"). I allow myself to get annoyed and cut a swim short when the lanes are busy and someone comes into 'my' lane. When I try to run and the shin and knee pain kick in fast, I stop immediately and say "see? I can't run" instead of pushing through, or doing a run-walk combo to build up the skill. I am not putting in my maximum effort. It's not a reflection of Mat. But maybe it's more of a problem than I realized, because until he pointed it out, that "can't" was a total non-issue in my mind. I didn't even question it. Slump? What slump? There's no slump, here.
And then, well, Friday happened.
Sunday was a great day. I finally made it out to Grand River Rocks to try climbing. I'd only ever done it once, at camp. That was over a year ago. But in order to build grip strength, and really work the mind as much as muscle, there's nothing quite like rock climbing. Two friends had just done the belaying course and had a two-week pass where they could bring a friend for free. I got to be that friend, and it was awesome. I think I'm hooked. Captain Cautious was gentle with me, explaining everything, assuring me that I didn't have to make it to the top, I should just do what was comfortable. But in my mind, the challenge was to the top, or not at all. I didn't care how long it took me, I was just gonna make it. And, it was far easier than the first attempt at camp. We climbed in different ways, on different walls. I always did the easiest levels, but I could make it to the top each time. And each time, when I was about 3/4 of the way up, the thought crossed my mind "okay, you're good, you can go back down now." I had to decide to keep on going. When we tried bouldering, that's where the fear kicked in for me. You're not harnessed in, so if you fall, you fall off the wall. There's tons of padding and it looks like it would be hard to hurt yourself, but knowing me, and knowing my knees, just landing on them the wrong way could be disastrous. I went up that thing with the mantra in my mind that I could NOT fall, though near the top I started to think about what would happen if I did. It was in the coming down that the true fear kicked in, both because I was high up and because my body could feel that there was a slope down. Once I was climbing down backwards, it was better, but I couldn't see where I was going. It was not a debilitating fear, I never got stuck, but I'm not sure that the heart rate was due to the cardio and effort required. Pretty sure it was pure adrenaline. I trust the harnesses and the gear to keep me safe. I do not trust my own body! Still, the point with climbing is to make it to the top, to build strength, and especially to challenge yourself by trying harder and harder routes. Somewhere, each of us has a voice inside that will say yes or no to things. That will allow you to quit or to keep going. Climbing tested that, and I kept going.
The BadAss Dash is coming up quickly. It weighs heavily on my mind, as I see photos on Facebook of each weekend race, from Ottawa and York Region and across North America. I see what kinds of obstacles I may face. Truth be told, these are not elite or overly demanding tasks. Thousands of people participate every weekend. The goal of the race is not to be good, not to have the fastest time, but simply to finish. To just keep going and complete the course. There's far less pressure when you go in with that mentality.
Endurance was my main focus on Monday as I swam. It was a civic holiday, so there were no classes at the Y and it was modified hours, but the pool was open for lane swims for 3.5 hours. I tried to time it so that I'd be there when the fewest number of folks were taking up the lanes. The last few times I'd tried to swim, I made it for about 20 minutes before getting annoyed and getting out. The lanes are not wide enough in the leisure pool for two people to swim in, the way they are at many of the City pools I'm used to, and you inevitably hit each other as you go back and forth. So, I was chagrined to see that all the lanes were taken up when I got there, and two of them were by walkers! No lie. At least they didn't have pool noodles, but if you're going to walk and lunge back and forth, you don't need a lane for it, you can use the parts of the oddly-shaped pool that are off to the sides. Fortunately, a lady called to me and said, "I'm almost done here, do you want this lane?" And, for the next hour, nobody else came who was lane swimming. There were a few more floaters and a family with kids who stayed in the shallow whirlpool area, but I had the lanes to myself. No excuses.
My goal was 100 lengths, or about an hour. When I got in, I negotiated with myself, "okay, minimum half an hour, then you can see." I already didn't want to do it. I should mention here that 100 lengths is not all that impressive; it's a 20 metre pool. At one time I was hitting 100 lengths of the more standard 25 m pools, in under an hour. But since I'd joined the Y and have been doing more dry-land exercise, I'm out of practice and out of the swimming habit, so it had been a long time since I've reached that number. This was going to be more of an endurance game than a cardio workout. If it was just about heart rate or speed, I'd do sprints in under half the time and get out and be on my way. No. This was mental preparation for the Dash, and to see if I could break the "no" habit I'd gotten into with cardio. This swim was all about not quitting.
The first 40 lengths were quick and easy. I'd been doing about that much all along. And that's usually the time when I'd tell myself I'd done enough and could get out. The next 30 were the toughest. I was tired. Bored. Had done the all different strokes I usually move between. Did some more legs-only. When I need a bit of a break I often do arms-only breast stroke, because it's slower than the full-body front crawl or back crawl, but after the day of climbing my forearms were sore so breast stroke was not much of a "break." The last 20 lengths are always where the magic happens, because you're nearing the end. I can picture the number of lengths going down. The finish line is in sight, and I get a second wind to push through and go just a bit faster. Where does the power and energy come from, and why isn't it there in the middle? I imagine that runners go through something similar. It's just one length at a time. One step at a time. One stroke at a time.
Endurance. I'm better at that than at speed. And that's what I was thinking about as I swam. When the goal is just to finish - whether it's to make it to 100 lengths, or to get to the top of a wall, or to cross a race finish line - I know I can do it. I visualize it. I can break it down into small parts. One length. One rock. One step. One obstacle. One at a time. I can do it because the goal is to keep going. And when you need that little break or slow down, you allow yourself to take the pause, because you're not stopping. You don't care if you're affecting your time. You simply catch your breath and then tap in to the energy you reserved. You just.keep.going. When it's about speed, I tire out and give up way too early. Very few of those 100 lengths were fast, at my full capacity to push.
When Mat and I talked about the times I say no to him, or to myself, we realized that it's mostly on steady-state cardio (boring! repetitive!) or things which I don't enjoy doing, which is the high-intensity maximum-effort drills. It's almost never with weights, because I like how I feel when I can do them. I like what I get emotionally out of it. And, while it may be hard in the moment, I know that as soon as I put the weight down, it's over. The pain or high heart rate or effort stops. Endurance-based activities which are all about finishing, period, I am less likely to give him grief over because I can slack or back off. I don't have to give maximum effort the entire time, I just have to get 'er done.
Crap. What does that say about me? I don't like to work hard? I don't wanna have to give maximum effort because it's uncomfortable when my heart is about to thump out of my chest and the sweat is pouring into my eyes? That's what it comes down to. And what I think contributed to Friday's meltdown.
There's still an inherent laziness that underlies all of this for me.
It's what got me to 270 lbs in the first place.
It's what is holding me back now.
I'll work, but I don't like to work THAT hard.
Is it possible to have some drive, some determination, a wee bit of willpower, or just enough mental strength to endure ... and to still be lazy? How do you learn to not quit? How do you find a true desire, a WANT to push yourself to a breaking point? I honestly don't know. And therein lies the tug-of-war struggle.
What Mat is seeing is the mid-point between old me, and potential me. The me I kinda think I want to be, but am not sure I *can* be. I'm past the point at the beginning of weight loss journeys, where the hurdles are habit and just showing up to try. I've got that. I try hard enough to get by. It's pushing myself into discomfort - out of that "comfort zone" - and doing it on a regular basis. That's the only way I'm going to get out of the stalled slump of a plateau I've been in for a year and to see continued change.
The real question is: how badly do I want it?
Enough to truly overcome laziness?
Or am I just going to finish the race?