Statements of reality

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I sat across the table from Sr. Carol, pushing my salad around the plate as she spoke about the upcoming weekend for the Sisters of Saint Joseph community in Erie, PA.

“We’ll be going over the statements of reality,” she said. “As we plan for the future of our work and our mission.”

Statements of reality.

“Twenty years ago, we had over 200 sisters,” she said. “Now, we have 72. That’s a statement of reality.”

She went on to say that the median age is 82 - and that nationally the number of nuns has declined from almost 200 thousand to less than 50 thousand in the past 20 years.

I was struck, during our conversation, by the stark admission of truths, and by the sisters' ability to so boldly stare down what must surely be an uncomfortable truth. These women have committed their lives to a community of like-minded people, and have seen little to no growth in the past 30 years.

I talk and write about my time in the convent as a punch line sometimes, simply because the idea of being a nun was and is, so counter-cultural. There are people who don’t even know what a nun is.

But it was these very kinds of conversations that drew me to them in the first place. A strong group of women who were smart, educated, and committed to promoting social justice, equality for women, and kindness. Yes, there were, and are, religious beliefs tied to those actions, but in the end, kindness and compassion are perhaps the most universal religion of all.

I like the idea of re-framing truths that you can’t change as statements of reality as opposed to brick walls that you bang your head against. In our conversation, I saw both Sr. Carol and Sr. Mary willingly leaning into a hard truth - that the community they have always known will not exist beyond their generation, and embracing that reality for what it is.

Not a failure on their part, or anyone else’s part, but an acceptance of the radical imperfection that we all have in one way or another, and that makes us the whole people that we are.

We cannot always fix and change everything.

There is a wisdom in acceptance. They were going to spend the weekend thinking about the hard things so that they could continue to get to the important things.

There are so many lessons here, especially for me. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think I spend a lot of time in denial, about aging parents, about aging pets, about my own mortality. It often seems so much easier to just ignore all of the truths in life and just live with a constant edge of low level (or high level) anxiety.

Perhaps what I’m looking for here is grace - the grace to lean into my own statements of reality and truth, so that I too can focus on what’s important, on being the whole imperfect person that I am.

And I wish you the grace to do the same.

The mountain doesn't care

Years ago, when I was in the throws of my hiking life as an employee in Rocky Mountain National Park, I spent every day off doing one of the many hikes the park had to offer.

This is me with Dave, who offered to battle mountain lines with Neil Diamond songs.

This is me with Dave, who offered to battle mountain lines with Neil Diamond songs.

At the start of every hike was a a sign exclaiming various truths about the mountain.

One truth was that a bobcat might eat you. My friend Dave always assured us that if he sang Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” at the top of his lungs, he’d keep any mountain lions at bay.

After hearing him sing, I agreed.

But the other truth proffered on every sign was that, quite simply, the mountain didn’t care.

You needed to get off of the mountain before the storms rolled in every afternoon.

The mountain didn’t care about your opinions, feelings or excuses. It didn't care if you started your hike late, as I did one afternoon, that you'd have to squat on one leg above tree-line to avoid the lightening strikes. Which was REALLYREALLYHARD.

You could offer all of the excuses you want, but the bottom line on the mountain stayed the same -storms would roll in above treeline in the afternoon because the mountain didn’t care.

And you know what? Fitness is no different.

You can’t buy fitness. You can’t steal results. You can’t fake effort and still get results. As much as I try to send out a message of kindness and compassion, I find this situation to be a case of both/and.

I want you to treat yourself with kindness and compassion and to be patient with your body, your mind and your efforts. But I want you to put forth the effort. Because if you don’t - fitness doesn’t care.

You absolutely, unequivocally, no bones about it, have to give something to get something. You have to. You have to show up and do the work. You either do the work or you don’t.

And if you are struggling to get results, are you being honest with yourself about your efforts?

I completely embrace your efforts to do the best that you can. I will cheer-lead you all day if you are doing a little more today than yesterday. I will be jumping up and down in your corner as you make the small changes, week by week, as you move towards your ultimate goals.

In the past five weeks, I’ve been doing my fair share of running, returning to the fitness routine that got me through my twenties and half of my thirties. And as I chugged my way up a hill today, I was reminded of an interview I saw years ago with Lance Armstrong, prior to his admission of drug use, where he talked about embracing the discomfort.

The only way to even participate in the Tour de France is to embrace the pain and discomfort that came with the ride.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer - but let’s face it, if you really want results, you need to expect some struggle.

You have to, in the words of my former college lacrosse teammate Sandy, embrace the suck.

Because fitness doesn't care.

And I mean that in the nicest way possible...

Not yet

Over the weekend I was doing research for the upcoming seminar Doug and I are hosting on mindset and motivation.

If you’ve ever done any reading on mindset, then you’re likely familiar with Dr. Carol Dweck’s research on a growth versus a fixed mindset.

We are all works in progress. As long as we understand that we have the ability to MAKE progress.

We are all works in progress. As long as we understand that we have the ability to MAKE progress.

In this particularly talk, she highlighted a school in Chicago where, students had to pass a certain number of classes to graduate, and if they did not pass a course, they got the grade not yet.

(*insert mind blown moment here)

They got a grade that let them know that learning is not finite, but a fluid, continuing process and, as Dr. Dweck says, gives them a path into the future.

(*Insert second mind-blown moment here)

What a fantastic way to think about learning and doing and just being.

For the most part, I was an A-B student in school. I had subjects I loved, like English and Literature, and others I didn’t like so well, like science and math. But it wasn’t until I took Algebra in eighth grade that the material just flat out confused me.

Mr. Lambie stood at the front of the room saying things like “if X=10 then…”

And I sat there thinking, if X=10 why don’t we just say 10 and leave the letters to other classes. (I still think that…just sayin’).

I’m not proud to admit this, but because of the sheer panic I had of getting a failing grade, I cheated. My friend Amanda sat next to me and let me copy her answers on tests. I was ashamed of cheating.

But I was terrified of failing.

As I watched Dr. Dweck’s talk on mindset, I tried to think of how my experience (and opinion) of math might be different if I hadn’t felt as though I were hanging over the fire of failure. Because that’s really what we’re talking about here.

F=failure.

Smart or dumb.

Pass or fail.

Good or bad.

And while I cheated my way through eighth grade Algebra, for the next three years I barely passed Plain Geometry, Algebra II and Trigonometry. The only reason I squeaked through any of those classes was my effort. I handed in my homework and tried. But I was also convinced that I would never understood the material, so while I put in effort to pass the class with a D, my mindset was already firm - I wasn’t smart in math. So I quit trying.

I did what I needed to do to survive the class.

And decided that I hated math. Because we often hate what we’re not good at.

I am trying to imagine what my mindset now might look like if someone had told me not yet.

You don’t understand the material…yet.

It’s no wonder so many people come through the doors of a gym - or even sit in the parking lot of a gym trying to muster the courage to go in - if their experience of gym class or dance class or youth soccer was anywhere near my experience of Math class.

Yet I know that there are many people out there - heck many of you reading this post - that did have that experience of exercise of fitness. And perhaps you have a fixed mindset about the exercises, the workout, the movements, the process, the results.

As a coach, I’ve become a stickler about the language I use around clients, and the language that clients reflect back to me. Because there is so much power in the words we choose. Those of you who come to the gym know that you may never tell me that you only did three sets.

You may never tell me that you just lifted 15lbs.

And it seems only fitting to include not yet into our gym (and life) lingo as well.

I can’t do a push up……yet.

I haven’t dropped a pants size…..yet.

But you will. I’m telling you now that this process can be long and difficult and filled with road blocks but it doesn’t mean you can’t get where you want to go. You might not be there…. yet.

But you will get there.

And if you can’t believe it for yourself, then I’ll believe it for you until you can.

I'm not old and neither are you

My mom hanging out with me at BP practice before the Cleveland Indians game in July. She’s not too old to do anything, I promise you that.

My mom hanging out with me at BP practice before the Cleveland Indians game in July. She’s not too old to do anything, I promise you that.

A few years ago, in a conversation with an athletic trainer about my sore shoulder, he ended the conversation with:

It seems to me you have a case of O.L.D.S.

Nothing came out of my mouth, but in my mind I let loose a string of indignant profanities. Old? At 35? Really? That’s the best you can do?

In his defense, as an athletic trainer he worked largely with high school and college athletes, the oldest of whom was probably 22. So yes, in his line of work, I was old. And let’s face it, 42 year old Tiger Woods has looked very old in some of his recent golf matches as he deals with chronic back pain.

But he also won the Masters at age 42. And as much as it pains me to admit this, Tom Brady is re-writing what it means to play football into your forties. So while I’m not a fan (and you wouldn’t be either if he wasn’t on your team), I love how he is re-defining what it means to age.

No, what bothered me most about various interactions I’ve had with health professionals over the past seven or eight years is the language they use.

There is a danger in telling people they’re old. Because what if they start to believe it?

A quick google search will give you links to a number of studies demonstrating that attitude has everything to do with how quickly you do age.

One study by researchers at the University of Exeter asked 29 people between the ages of 66 and 98 about their experiences with aging to determine what impact their attitudes and beliefs had on aging.

Participants had varying degrees of physical health. Some lived in care homes while others lived alone. The majority of participants indicated that they were in good shape, even though there were others in better condition.

Two people identified themselves as old and frail, even though they were in better physical shape compared to other participants. Their negative perceptions of their age led to a marked decline in health through participants removing themselves from social activities and exercise.

If you are familiar with the idea of the self-fulfilling prophesy, then you know the concept that your attitude affects the outcome. If you believe you’re going to fail at something, you’ll probably fail.

If you believe that you are too old to play golf, go to a gym, or walk you’re dog then chances are you will age faster than if you believe that you can still do those things.

Don’t get me wrong – one of the challenges of aging is adjusting expectations. I’m in the beginning of a challenge that has me doing two 30 minute workouts per day. Eleven days into the challenge and I’m feeling every bit of my 42 years. So I’ll adjust my workouts today to include walking and stretching.

My body is cashing in on many of those checks that I wrote in my teens and twenties.

But that doesn’t make me old.

I look to my 73 year old parents as the best role models in this department. (If you see Dad on Monday, buy him a beer for his birthday…) My mom still gets down on the floor to play with my niece and nephew. Dad golfs every day, mows the lawn, and they both pull weeds in the garden. They are both incredibly active.

They both navigate plenty of aches and pains, but my mom said it best when she turned 70:

Don’t ever call me old.

In fact, don’t every call anyone old. Because they might just start to believe it.

P.S. If you'd like to pick up some Kim Lloyd Fitness gear, my webstore is once again open for business. You can get your own Be Strong Be Kind gear here.

The challenge with challenges

A few weeks ago, Doug sent around an email explaining to the team about the 75 Hard challenge that he started this past Monday. In case you missed it, the challenge is that for 75 days in a row, you do the following things:

Workout for 45 minutes twice a day, once outside.

Follow a nutrition plan with no cheat days

No alcohol

Drink a bucket of water

Take a progress picture

Read 10 pages of personal development material per day.

If you forget any of these, you start over again.

My first thought when I read this was…..

No.

In doing this challenge for the past 8 days, I have rediscovered play as part of my workouts.

In doing this challenge for the past 8 days, I have rediscovered play as part of my workouts.

The immediate hole I poked in it was the workouts. Aside from the time constraint because of my commute to work, there was also the hard cold fact that I’d hate my life for the next two and a half months. I’m willing to suffer through some workouts, but probably not 90 minutes everyday…

Then there was the fact that this challenge falls during my 20 year college reunion that I’m headed to in late September and I’m certain that we’ll do the middle aged version of the State Street Stagger at some point that weekend (the one that has us going out at 7 and getting home at 10).

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am in a place now where I’m ready for a sprint. Doug writes about that all of the time – in our training and nutrition approach we go through sprints and jogs. I’m ready to buckle down and do a bit of a sprint.

I often think about challenges like this as all or nothing, and I can get ridiculously competitive with myself and with other people. To a fault. One of the greatest gifts of aging is letting go of certain things.

And in the days leading up to this challenge, I embraced the fact that I didn’t have to do a challenge that had the potential to wreck my already well-abused body with overuse. I’m already prone to overuse injuries and I can’t afford another one. I know myself and I know what’s right for me, even if I struggle to practice it.

So I took a note out of Frank Sinatra’s book and decided that I would do the 75 day challenge – but I’d do it my way.

The only substitution I made is with my workouts – I’ve committed to two workouts a day, for 30 minutes each, one outside. I also added a box for taking my supplements, something that I’ve been trying to do everyday. I customized these 75 days to something that is challenging for me, but that also includes behavior changes that matter to me.

It is so freeing to realize that we don’t have to be beholden other people’s standards. You can modify the couch to 5K program and still run a 5k. You can still run a half-marathon if you miss a few training days. You can still make gains if you miss one workout a week. For those of you doing the MyZone challenge at the gym, you can compete against yourself to workout harder and earn more MEPS than you earned last month.

It’s certainly a balance, but you can fit these types of challenges around your needs. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

I’ll let you know where I’m at with my 75Firm challenge next week. :-)