It never crossed my mind that twenty minutes of 45K Overhead squats followed by 100 pull-ups for time arranged as some sort of scenic-overlook/rest-stop on the way to the airport was in any way a bad, bad plan. But when the adrenaline wore off and I gathered my pink flip flops as well as a collection of uncomfortably heavy bags spit out of the conveyor belt in security, I realized how closely ‘carry on’ sounded like carrion. I was now going to be separated from the herd on the way to N Gates. Had it been the Serengeti, I’d have been lunch.
As the tragically unfit scurried past me rolling over my toes with oxygen tanks and wheely luggage on the way from sedentary jobs to inert vacations, I was left vulnerable to whatever lurks in the dark corners behind the regional art displays nobody ever looks at. And though clever considering security procedures, flip flops are not a load-bearing shoe and in fact enforce speeds not to exceed a stroll. I had visions of walking up to the nearest security guard, throwing my arms up over my head, and pleading, “Up!” which I’ve seen work rather successfully with small children in supermarkets.
When I say it never crossed my mind however, I’m assuming that’s a lie. Lots of reasons, excuses and justifications run ticker-style behind my eyeballs but it’s about as significant to me as the S&P 500. In fact, as far as my mind is concerned this whole ‘get-off-your-ass and step away from the cupcakes’ lifestyle has always been a bad idea and an experiment destined to fail. That’s why I stopped paying any attention to it because as much as I adore my brain, it doesn’t seem to have my best interests at heart. It turns out there’s really just a fat girlfriend living in my head who’s trying to sabotage me so she doesn’t have to eat alone.
So I’d guess that at some point the words, ‘but you’ll be sitting on the plane all sweaty’, ‘but won’t that kick the snot out of you’ and ‘that could make this a very, very long day’ passed unheeded along with ‘pack appropriate underwear – you’ll be wearing skirts’ which, as it turns out, I didn’t take note of either. I realized that many people think the incessant internal debate will at some point go away ‘when they’re fit.’ Hmmm, let me know when you get there – I haven’t seen it yet.
The only difference with me is how unwilling I am to engage in any conversation with my brain about exercise because it’s clear that it’s a two-year old in the candy isle who skipped her nap. One measly twenty minute workout could consume four hours of foot-stomping internal misery while I whine ‘why!’ along with a bunch of silly reasons I’m not even buying. But that’s if I’m willing to pay any attention greater than the slightest note I make of elevator musak.
“No, I’m good. I’m flossed,” Aaron Hendon said at the ILP Weekend I was attending simply to point out how silly it is that we operate like something is ‘handled’ when it’s clearly a maintenance issue. In the world of wellness, there’s a meal to eat and a workout to do and right now that’s what your fitness looks like. Keep it up, and you can see a trajectory but no guarantees. So it comes down to a series of decisions that you make that are either consistent or inconsistent with you’re goals.
What’s funny to me is when clients argue that they should see results anyway because they’re ‘trying.’ That’s like going to a college graduation and handing out the diplomas followed by a bunch of ‘honorable mentions’ of equal merit because these are people who had unique circumstances that the rest of as couldn’t possibly understand. Good to know, but you either do the work or you don’t.
What’s even funnier is that I understand this so clearly in the gym and yet I’ve been unwilling to see the rest of my life the same way. Doesn’t everything start at a ‘Point A’ where you set out to get to ‘Point B’ and there’s a bunch of stuff that has to get done to get there. If you don’t do the stuff, you don’t see results no matter how much you whine that it’s not fair and that so-and-so didn’t have to do as much stuff and that this shouldn’t be so.
I see clients struggle through similar conversations in the middle of workouts and I say – thanks to the advice of Michael Street – shut up and work. It’s all very fascinating and yet nothing other than a muscle contraction will make the weight move. And since I was hired to help get weight to move and not to facilitate a support group of one, you can see where the conflict begins.
So I was in San Francisco in a leadership training program engaging myself in a non-stop whine-along about how I couldn’t do the homework while the coach side of me rolled her eyeballs and said, shut up and work. “But . . .” my mind would whine. Honestly, I was ready to break up with me. “Please, I’d like to see other cerebrums,” I’d say and then excuse myself to the restroom so I could ditch me. Can you lobotomize yourself with a coffee stirrer and expect a reasonable amount of accuracy, I wonder? Somebody please Google that. In the meantime, I got my own coaching right back at me yet again.
So what have I learned? I’ll never stop whining. So what. It’s never a good reason to stop what I'm doing. And when people whine to me, I’ll nod sympathetically but it’s all still a bunch of noise that isn’t going to make me budge because I'm familiar with all the unpleasant consequences either way.
For me, that’s evident with nutrition more than exercise. I spent the whole time in San Francisco eating at Whole Foods yet walking into every bakery, caressing display cases, smelling the sultry smells, reading the names and ingredients of all the baked goods and then walking out. It was neither heartbreaking nor brave that I chose not to eat anything – it was just the overwhelming desire to not feel like ass even as my mind whined about being ‘on vacation’. 98% of the time, the choices I made were consistent with my goals simply because one urge outweighed another.
What’s insane is when a client tells me how yucky they feel and still tries to debate with me why they should be able to eat crap anyway. Um, ok. I promise not to interfere with your efforts to lesson the quality of your life even though, inevitably, you paid me to do so. Please make all payments in advance.
Yes, you will always want to eat crap and believe me, I know what that feels like. Stop worrying about the wanting, choose the results you’d like to see and then do the stuff that gets you there. Feel free to be as neurotic as you’d like along the way, however. For instance, I once knew a bodybuilder who looked as spectacular as one could look while training that way and she always answered the question, ‘how are you?’ with a list of what she ate that day. That might be the answer to ‘what are you?’ and for those of you who are curious she was a lot of canned tuna. Though reflexive, I stopped asking after awhile and would just smile and nod hello whenever I saw her leaving the meal plan for someone else to sign off on.
As for me, I can see myself placing an ad in the ‘Seeking other’ section of ‘The Stranger’ that reads, “Please eat powdered sugar donuts for me while I watch . . .” and I’d only get a little weird about how they’d have to smear powdered sugar all over their face but not really creepy like they couldn’t have milk or something. It would be next to the ad asking for someone to throw luncheon meat at them. No, really. I actually saw that ad and I wondered if they meant Boar’s Head or Oscar Mayer. Thin sliced Boar’s Head in some classy Italian meat that’s cured or smoked and ends in ‘della is one thing but steamy Glad-bagged Wonder Bread sandwiches adhered with warm processed cheese foods and perspiring bologna is clearly twisted. On the other hand, it earns props if it’s unsliced and serves as a new dodge ball inspired game with Honey Hams. That would require skill, an ability to tolerate blunt force trauma and the courage to face down high glycemic glazes.
I probably had that entire conversation in my head while refueling from a brown Whole Foods box filled with a chunk of uninspiring hormone free meat from the hot bar. Well, at least it was keeping the fat girl in my head occupied while I was busy not listening.