A fitness lesson from the convent

As many of you who read this blog and know me personally are aware, I spent my senior year of college living in a convent. 

I shared space with six members of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania during my senior year of college. If you click on the link above and glance at their homepage, it's not hard to see what drew me to them. These are strong women devoted to kindness, compassion, and service to others. 

This is the convent where I lived. My room was the cool round one on the third floor. Full disclosure - I am wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, because I've always had a soft spot for the Red Sox. But not the Patriots. Let's be clear..

This is the convent where I lived. My room was the cool round one on the third floor. Full disclosure - I am wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, because I've always had a soft spot for the Red Sox. But not the Patriots. Let's be clear..

Despite moving into the convent with the intention of becoming a novice, I changed gears and asked to live there as a traditional college senior. I took part in morning prayer and chores, but beyond that, I just happened to be renting a room in a convent.  

The story is much longer and more complex than that - there is a prologue and a very extensive first chapter - but for now, it's enough to say that I lived in a beautiful Victorian style house that was owned by the SSJ's.  

Sister Nancy was the most opposing of the six sisters - with her tight curly perm, ferocity for Notre Dame football, and a deep commanding voice that could bring a room to attention in seconds. In fact, she seldom needed to speak to command attention. 

Her mere presence scared the ever-loving shit out of me. 

But underneath the tough exterior, Sister Nancy was as kind and compassionate as anyone else. She worked in a men's shelter and in leadership within the community.

She was a blend of toughness and kindness - and while I mostly feared her for the toughness, I also knew she was compassionate and caring (even if the outer-layer seemed thicker. Much thicker…)

Sister Nancy came to mind a few weeks ago when a client came in and mentioned that her previous few weeks had been filled with too many parties and too little exercise. 

“I know you preach kindness,” she said. “But I really need to get my butt in gear.”

I was a little taken aback by the comment - I never saw the two concepts as separate.  

Kindness and compassion for yourself is NOT apathy. It is NOT throwing in the towel. 

I preach kindness to combat the self-judgment that so many of us are reigning down on ourselves. Most of us already have our own drill sergeant playing in our head - and as a coach, I’m not interested in adding to the punishment. 

But as I’ve said before, kindness is not separate from accountability. Kindness is not apathy. Compassion does not mean listlessness. It doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard or that you say **** it because you fell away from your exercise plan for a few weeks over the holidays.

I understand that we all are motivated differently. Some of us need a kick in the pants to get back in whack (I presume this is the opposite of out of whack). But I still believe you can be firm AND kind. 

Truth be told, I've worked out only a handful of times since mid-November. And I work in a gym for crying out loud.

I feel like a slug, plain and simple. I don't function very well when I'm not working out. But life has crashed on me pretty hard in these past few weeks, and while I'm disappointed that I lost my routine, I can't spend time focusing on what I haven't done. 

I'm focusing on today.  

Kindness and compassion can look a lot like Sister Nancy. A little (lot of) toughness on the exterior - but a lot of patience and kindness on the inside. 

We are at a time in the year right now where it's easy to say screw it. There are two days left in 2017, I'm going to blow it out of the water these next two days and then start in the new year. 

You don't have to do that. It is not all or nothing. You can have two things - you can have pizza and cookies for lunch and still eat within your nutrition plan for dinner. You can blow up your Monday at the office holiday party and still get back to it on Tuesday. 

Make a plan. Move forward. Find someone to help keep you accountable to your goals and that plan. But don’t judge yourself for what you haven't done. And don't confuse kindness with apathy. 

And if you need a Sister Nancy to get you fired up, I could probably give you a little of the tough Sister Nancy.

What is your struggle? Fitness or otherwise? Feel free to comment below.  

Teaser: I am both opening up six spots in my online coaching program AND releasing my first product in two weeks.