Though, I feel compelled to point out that if you don't have the patience to read a slightly longer-than-normal post, then the whole point of "KEEP GOING" may be lost on you in the first place.
Friday's Personal Training: when I said NO.
We were playing Hit the Deck in personal training, Captain America-style. Every suit was a different exercise, and the number on the card told us how many of each I had to do. Mat let me suggest some of the exercises, even though he adjusted them, made them more difficult and complex and tied them in to the new Captain America movie. (Bosu ball = the shield!). I deliberately requested push-ups, because a few days prior I was struggling with them. I seemed to have lost my strength, and my usual response is that if there's something that is hard, or something I don't like, that's exactly the thing I should be doing. But, half way through that game, a push-up card came up, and I said "no." Mat stared at me. "What do you mean, 'no'?" he demanded. I shook my head. "No." Next card. Push-ups. I got the look from him. He got a look back from me. The next few cards were all push-ups, and it became a standoff. He was trying to figure out what was going on. "Is it your shoulders?" Nope. "Your chest?" Nope. "Then do your push-ups!" Nope. In that moment, I couldn't articulate what was going on in my head, why I was digging in my heels and refusing to do pushups. I saw the wheels spinning in his brain, having never truly come up against my stubbornness before. It's like trying to pull the sword from the stone: not humanly possible unless I decide you're the person who can do it. Most of the time, I don't resist what Mat asks of me, even if I don't feel like doing it, because he's doing exactly what I've asked of him : he's coaching and training me. He finally kept going until we got a non-push-up card, but he set the ones I'd said "no" to aside. I was running out of steam through the whole thing, but was at least able to do the Russian twists and medicine ball slams and Bosu burpees. Sort of. He finished with the last card, then looked down at the ones he had set aside. "So, what are we going to do about these?" he gently asked. The sword budged a little.
"Mat, it's my gut," I said. We'd done measurements at the start of the session. He knew how bad things were, how many inches and pounds I'd put on. "I don't have the strength in my arms and chest to do all the pushups from my feet, and when I go to my knees, all I can see is my gut hanging down. I can feel it touching the ground. The tears were THIS close to the surface, and I just didn't want to cry in front of you." Deep breath.
Him: "How can you see your stomach? Why are you looking that far down?"
Me: "Peripheral vision."
Him: "Close your eyes!"
Me: "I did! I could still FEEL it."
Him: "Do you think you can do them from the Bosu ball?" he asked. I got into position to try. As I psyched myself up, he suggested that I could also do them off the wall. In other words, there were options and modifications. He just wanted me to DO them and finish. One card at a time. I did a card, using the Bosu ball. "Do you think you can do six more?" I did. Next card. "How about four?" Card by card, push-up by push-up, we finished the deck together. Mat pulled the sword from the stone.
He had a little bit of time before his next client. Now, most trainers would probably have said, "the hour's over, we're done" or "I need to grab a bite to eat and take a break." Instead, he said, "I have some time if you want to chat. We can go down to the consult room." When he asked what happened, I said, "do you know how long it's been since I've had to drop to my knees for push-ups?"
Mat told me, "It happens. It's okay!"
"No, it's not." (Stubborn stubborn stubborn).
"Yes, it really is."
And that's how we ended the session, with the understanding that it's okay to not be able to do something today that you were able to do yesterday, or last month. With a promise to come up with an action plan, and a check in of "are you really okay?" No shame, no guilt. Just one single reproach: "Next time, don't just tell me 'no.' Tell me why."
Given how Friday had gone, I had little motivation to make it to the Saturday classes I had promised people I'd attend. I was up three hours early, and still only left myself ten minutes to get to the gym, rushing in fairly late. Kept putting it off. I did not want to be there. A lot was riding on having a good workout, mentally. Fortunately, I'm comfortable with the Group Core routines, and it was a familiar and friendly instructor. By the end, I felt back in the groove of things. I hadn't done the lateral pushups as cleanly as in the past, and I kept my feet down for half of the Russian twists, but it didn't matter. The scripts for the Group Core and Group Power classes include "options." The instructors give you options and let you know which one to take if you want more of a challenge, and which ones to try if you want less, and they leave it up to you. Because it's part of the script, there's no judgment and no shame, and really nobody is watching what you're doing, anyway. The modifications are slight, and are similar enough to what everyone else is doing. I left the class starting to feel like I was getting back to my old self.
I probably should have stopped there.
Saturday: Boot Camp
Twenty minutes after Group Core, the noon-hour boot camp started. I'd seen this class run, but had never taken it. Between work, personal training, or my social life, it just wasn't a class I could make it to. With other friends having announced they'd be there, it seemed like a good week to give it a shot. It was, unfortunately, also a week which was not representative of how it's usually run. The three volunteers who are known for that class were off. It was a pity, because they offer three levels of physical ability and therefore provide options to follow. As an observer, I thought the class seemed like one that could be taken by almost anyone, at any level of ability. On this day? Not so much. It was running. Like, a LOT of running. And when we weren't running, we were lunging, squatting, and generally doing high impact or knee-intensive motions. It only took about 20 minutes into the 60 minute class for my knees to start making their displeasure with me known. "We are not happy that you are torturing us! We are going to retaliate with pain! If you do not cease and desist, retribution will be swift!" I wanted to bail. I really really did. I just ... I couldn't. I had to keep going. I thought, "you've been in enough classes, you've been trained, you can figure out your own modifications, even if they're not providing suggestions." So, when the group ran back and forth from one side to the other, I thought "what is it they're wanting us to get out of this? Heart rate up? Okay. I'll do half-Jacks, the low-impact version of Jumping Jacks." Only, it was humiliatingly obvious that I was taking an option. I stood out like a sore thumb. As I walked in a circle, as quickly as I could while most of the other participants ran past me, another guy caught up to me and said, "this feels a lot like gym class." And I knew that he didn't mean it in a good way.
It was an eye-opening experience, because it had been a long time since I'd taken a class where I felt that way. Overly visible. Embarrassed. Other. It went against everything I've said about classes at the Y: that nobody is watching you, nobody is judging you. Whether they were or not, I sure felt like all eyes were on me. Not a good feeling.
After the Saturday boot camp, my knees were killing me. Like, old-lady-needs-a-walker creaking and cracking KILLING me. I needed something low impact. I needed something I was good at. I needed to feel successful and invisible and confident all at the same time. So I went back to my roots, and got into the pool. It was lane swimming that got me going on the fitness journey, and it's my go-to at times like this when I need a re-set. Back to the basics. But I was reminded of how swimming got me over some big hurdles, both physically and metaphorically. One lane at a time. Don't think about how long you have been in the water, or how many lengths in total you have to do. Take it one lap at a time until you get to ten. And another ten. And another. And so on.
Come on, let's get to the point already!
On Friday, I resisted the idea that it was okay to take the option. I felt weak for even needing to. By Saturday, I was wishing that options were provided. In both cases, it was my pride that got in the way. All mental. And in both cases, the key was not whether I could do the entire class at full intensity, it was to finish. To keep going. To do my best with what I had in that moment. It may not have been my all-time best, but that doesn't matter. Mat knew it. He didn't care how well I did or how many I did, I think he just knew that it was important that I finish (or else he'd be facing some much bigger mental hurdles to have to coax my butt through in the future).
If you want to change, you have to put one foot in front of the other. The only alternative is to stay stuck.