Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Getting off my "but," with some help from Rachel Cosgrove

Even fitness professionals have moments of self-doubt. Lately I've been having lots of them.

Partly I think it's been because I've been feeling a bit under the weather physically. I picked up a bug of some kind while I was traveling to Chicago for my grandfather's funeral, and I've been having trouble shaking it off. I've been trying to keep up with my workouts, but the energy and focus hasn't been there, and my performance has been lackluster as a result.

The other part of the problem-the real part-is mental. I've been wondering: is the RKC a realistic goal for me at my age, with my lack of a fitness background? My brilliant career (hah!) as a ballerina was cut short by a badly broken ankle at age 15, and after that the only exercise I got on a regular basis was the mental gymnastics required to come up with a convincing excuse for getting out of gym class. It wasn't until I was in my late 30s that I began anything remotely resembling a fitness program, and even then my goals we pretty much limited to fat loss, stress reduction, and avoidance of some of the health problems (diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure) that run in my family. It never occurred to me that I might one day make fitness my career, or even that I might turn out to have an aptitude for strength training.

True, there are athletes in my family-- a cousin who danced professionally, a grandfather who boxed his way through graduate school--but my parents themselves have never valued physical accomplishments. My mother in particular has very poor balance and coordination due to a congenital inner ear problem, and has never liked to exercise because she is convinced she will hurt herself. Without meaning to she taught me to think of myself in the same way, as someone incapable of vigorous physical activity.

Of course that was then, this is now, and I'm pretty much over it. Pretty much. Until I start to struggle. Really struggle, as in not being able to follow through on the commands of my "inner coach," the one who's telling me to drive down through my heels (or big toes if I'm in ballet class), lock out my knees, contract my glutes, pack my shoulders, straighten my wrists, lock out my elbows, breathe, yadda yadda yadda. Way too soon, the inner coach walks away in disgust and all that's left is my inner playground bully telling me "You suck," and even worse, "You can't."

So what's a girl to do? (I bet Pavel asks himself that all the time :)) I wouldn't be posting about this if I couldn't end on at least somewhat of an upbeat note, although I frankly admit that this awful negative inner voice/self-doubt thing is probably always going to be an issue for me. So here are my strategies, imperfect as they are:

1. Recommit: This is where I remind myself of the reasons why failure is not an option for me. When it comes to kettlebells, I want to be able to share the physical benefits of Hardstyle kettlebell training with as many people as possible, and the RKC certification is what will best prepare me to do that. Therefore I must do what it takes to get myself in "elite athlete" condition so I can get RKC-certified.

2. Regroup: This is where I look at my training. If I'm not making the strength and endurance gains I feel I should be making, there probably is something about my program that's at fault. First I try to pinpoint the problems with my performance, and then I try to come up with the appropriate corrective strategies. If I can't figure it out on my own, I enlist the aid of another trainer.

3. Be real: This is where I look at everything else going on in my life that might be interfering with my accomplishment of my physical goals. These obstacles are genuine and nontrivial for the most part. But they are not insurmountable. This is where Rachel Cosgrove helped me. In a recent blog post, "No More 'Buts' To Get Your Butt In Gear," she demonstrates the power of changing "but" statements to "and" statements.

Note the difference between these two statements:

1. "I am preparing for RKC certification but I have a lot of bad workout days due to the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause;" and

2. "I am preparing for RKC certification and I have a lot of bad workout days due to the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause."

In the first sentence I'm essentially giving myself an out, whereas in the second I'm posing a problem to be solved. And let me tell you, it's astonishing how quickly your mind gets to work devising solutions once you start seeing your problems as soluble!

I guess the takeaway message here is: the mind is an incredibly powerful thing. It can be your biggest enemy or your greatest ally. I recommend the latter. It's more fun that way unless for some reason you like abuse, in which case call me. (No, don't. The "Mistress Laura" thing is a joke, except maybe to the people who take my Tuesday lunchtime cycling class. And maybe a few others. Maybe :))