Motivation

Good things happen when you show up

The story goes like this:

A former gang member trying to leave the gang life was assigned, among other activities, to a meditation group. Two weeks into the class, the instructor called his supervisor and complained.

“He doesn’t want to be here,” the teacher said.

“Where is he right now?” asked the supervisor.

“Here.”

Um…..

 Show up, laugh, learn what a bird dog is....laugh some more...photo by  www.leisejones.com

Show up, laugh, learn what a bird dog is....laugh some more...photo by www.leisejones.com

The student was in the class four months before he put his phone down and began to actively participate. I was struck, as I listed to the story, at how often that kind of situation occurs at the gym or with fitness related activities.

People come to the gym for a variety of reasons, and in a lot of different situations. Some folks show up because a doctor said so, some show up because if they don't change something in their lives, they'll have to go on medication, and still others come because a friend dragged them through the doors, metaphorically kicking and screaming (literally though, sometimes bitching and moaning). 

But I'll tell you right now, that showing up is the hardest part of adopting a new routine. 

In the past few months, I've fallen out of my meditation routine, so I spent the past week trying to reclaim that space. The best I could do was to sit on my meditation pillow for five minutes, which I did three times this week. 

I didn't meditate. 

I sat there, shifting around, thinking of everything I had to do that day, and then I got up when the timer went off. 

Sometimes, showing up is all we can do. Meditating feels hard for me right now. For others, being at the gym is hard - they don't want to be there. They don't love working out. Many don't even get the reward of feeling better at the end of the workout. They're just relieved to check it off the list.  

Some people fall in love with working out right away, but many folks don’t. I can think of one client who came to the gym for a full year and “tolerated” every minute of it. She openly hated working out, and it was always amazing to me that she somehow made herself get to the gym. 

I asked her once what her motivation for coming to workout was when she disliked it so much.

"I realized one day that I was the fat friend in a group photo," she said. "I don't know when it happened, but I suddenly saw a photo on Facebook and realized that was me." 

Somehow, despite her dislike of the workouts, she kept showing up. She didn't want to be at the gym, but she got there at least twice a week. 

Then something interesting happened. She missed a week when she got sick - and when she came back she realized how much better working out made her feel. Mind you, she'd lost 40 pounds through the process of showing up and putting in the work. But it took a year for her to want to come to the gym.

Even now, she doesn't love it. But when you're building a new habit, it's helpful to have a reward at the end of the behavior, and for many of us, the reward is that we feel better after the workout. She feels that now, but she didn't for the longest time. 

Maybe you’re showing up to the gym because a friend dragged you. Maybe you show up, do half of a warm up, and shuffle through the workout. You know you "should" do more, but you don't have it in you.  

I believe that if you keep showing up - if you keep putting in the effort - that one day you will realize that you don’t have to measure up to some abstract unattainable idea of who you should be. 

Let me repeat that last phrase one more time:

One day, you'll realize that you don't have to measure up to some abstract unattainable idea of who you should be. 

You just need to be you. 

Keep showing up. 

And good things will happen. 

Life lessons - you can let go but you can't give up

We sat at Cafe 21 in the heart of San Diego’s Gaslamp district and watched the marathon finishers file past, one small group at a time.

I pushed my omelette around on my plate and sipped my coffee. 

“That was supposed to be me,” I said to Sheila, watching yet another gaggle of runners stroll past the sidewalk cafe. Some looked less beaten down by the miles and the California heat than others, but they all shared a similar expression.

Satisfaction. 

They all looked satisfied. I saw it in their faces, in the finishers medal around their necks, and the way they all seemed to carry the lightness of the day ahead. Whatever they did for the rest of the day, they’d be wearing the satisfaction of having completed a goal. 

“There’s always next year,” Sheila said, and I cringed. 

Next year.  

Those words are meant to comfort but they've always felt hollow to me. 

Next year. 

I pushed away from the table and leaned back in my chair, sipping my coffee.

 I didn't run a marathon but I did see a few stellar sunsets. 

I didn't run a marathon but I did see a few stellar sunsets. 

What’s the difference between giving up on something I’ve always wanted and letting go of something I’ve always wanted? 

Both of them are attitudes.  

But one of those attitudes is throwing in the towel. It’s a mindset that says I’m never going to do this, I’m never going to get there, I’m never going to achieve my goal. I’m never going to meet someone, I’m never going to have a job I like, I’m never going to have a body I can appreciate. 

Screw it. If what I’ve been pursuing is never going to happen, then why bother? 

So you quit. 

That’s giving up. 

Letting go - ah that’s more complicated, isn’t it? Because letting go is also a mindset and an attitude. But letting go is more about embracing the circumstances. Accepting your situation for what it is and making peace with yourself. 

Making peace with yourself. 

Letting go means trusting that you are enough as you are, right here in this moment, and that the pursuit of whatever goal you’re chasing does not define you. I don’t believe that pursuing a goal and embracing yourself as you are, right now in this moment - are separate from one another. 

I haven’t given up on the possibility of running a marathon. But I spent the better part of these past few days in San Diego trying to let go of my own expectations. I spent time on the beach, at a baseball game, reconnecting with my partner, of whom I’ve seen so very little lately. 

Had I come out here to run the marathon, we’d have had some time together. But the pace would have been different. Less exploring, less walking, less connecting. 

Yes, I still moped around a bit on Sunday - mostly out of the frustration that my body can't always do what I ask of it anymore. 

But, as we walked around  San Diego and I looked at the marathon signs and banners hanging in the streets I tried to shift my self-talk from "that should be me" and "why can't I stay healthy for anything" to "I'm grateful for this time away with my partner." 

I tried to shift the soundtrack. Sometimes that's enough. 

How gratitude changed my mindset

kimlloydfitness.jpg

I have been working on a project for the past six months. 

I’ve spent almost ever waking hour, when not at the gym, working on this project. The process was a source of energy and light for me, a place where I could bring my creativity and a way to work through some of the grief I’ve experienced in recent months. 

I was cruising along, checking off boxes and getting things done, until my godfather unexpectedly passed away in April. I took a week off and went home to Pennsylvania for the funeral. I thought I’d continue to work on my project while I was home during my down time. 

But instead, I got nothing done. 

By the time I got back to Maine, my self-imposed deadline had passed and I found myself sitting down everyday, trying to force myself to finish. Then I found myself avoiding the entire process in ways that I hadn’t done before - I was watching Netflix, reading a book, checking social media - avoiding the entire thing. 

The soundtrack was playing in my head. I have always, always, always struggled to finish creative projects. All I could think was well, here I go again. 

And not in that good "Whitesnake" kind of way. 

I have a therapist I work with and whom I trust a great deal and out of desperation, I asked her for some advice. I didn’t need a pep talk, I didn’t need anyone to cheer me on or tell me I could do it. That wasn’t going to motivate me. I’m not wired like that.

So that’s not what she said.

She offered this quote from Nina Simone “You have to learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served.”

She suggested that sometimes it is us who is no longer serving love to ourselves - and she reminded me to not come back to the table until I could sit with love and gratitude for the process of creation I’d begun in the first place. 

It’s a nice thought. And while I could appreciate it intellectually, emotionally I was thinking something more like:

“Son of a *&^^%$%*&^^%*&(.”

I just want to finish what I set out to finish. But without a better idea, I followed her advice and stepped away from the process. 

I let go of my self-imposed deadline. 

I had to. 

And that was difficult. It took a great deal of energy for me to let go of my expectations. It hasn't been easy. I still felt awful that I'd already missed my self-imposed deadline; that I already let myself down.

But I stepped away from the process. Instead of avoiding the work - I let myself work on other creative things.  

I worked on gratitude - on being thankful for the process of creating. Sometimes I could genuinely be thankful. And sometimes I was begrudgingly thankful.  

I tried to flip the script from "here I go again" to "let it be." 

Because the Beatles. 

Easier said than done. 

We do what we can to move our own needle forward. 

Whether it's for a personal project, nutrition plan, or fitness. We do the best we can with what we've got. 

Even if it's only a little bit at a time. 

But if we can just let go, even a little bit, of those inner expectations, the world opens up for life to unfold naturally, in a way that isn't forced. 

Injuries suck

Originally this post was titled strategies for dealing with injuries. 

But I'm highly caffeinated and pissed off today. 

 Today's workout includes screaming with frustration, icing my foot, journaling, and a ton of upper body. No feet required for chin ups.

Today's workout includes screaming with frustration, icing my foot, journaling, and a ton of upper body. No feet required for chin ups.

On Sunday, I strapped my running shoes on and turned in my first long run on the way to training for the San Diego marathon. The marathon is my great white whale.*

Completing a marathon is on my bucket list and so in February I took the plunge and signed up to take a 26.2 mile foot tour of San Diego. I don’t run the way I did in my twenties and early thirties, when I logged 30, 40 and 50 miles per week and couldn’t be dragged into strength training.

In fact, I remember going into the weight room at Penn State Altoona with a friend of mine and struggling through two ugly reps of the bench press with a 45 pound bar. 

It practically pinned me.

I felt weak, inadequate, and completely out of my league. It would be another eight years before I went into a weight room and didn’t head straight for the treadmill.

Now that I include plenty of strength training in my workouts, I feel like I am better prepared to have a balanced approach to my marathon training.

(Meanwhile, back at Justice League headquarters...)

This past Sunday, I headed out on the country roads near my house and as I jogged past the farms and along the river I was reminded of why I fell in love with running in the first place. It’s meditative. It’s peaceful. It’s cathartic. 

I got home after 7 miles and felt great. My only goal with the marathon and training is to stay healthy. 

Less than 24 hours later, my right foot started to hurt. By Monday night I could barely put weight on it. By Tuesday I was limping around the gym floor spitting nails and cursing my body. 

I could have put my fist through a wall. 

I don’t know if the phrase is unique to Western Pennsylvania, but “I ain’t no spring chicken no more.” I get that. I’m not old. But I’m not young. And my body is coming to collect on every check I wrote in my teens, twenties and thirties. 

And every time I get a nagging injury my self-esteem takes a hit, I become petrified of re-injuring whatever body part has given up on me this time, and I get depressed. Exercise is my main form of managing my depression and when I can’t workout, it’s not good for me.

Not to mention we're running a challenge at the gym right now and I have a team full of clients I'm leading and I want to lead by example. My example is just going to have to be different for a few days. 

The great thing about aging though, is the wisdom that comes with it. As frustrated as I am right now, I have some go to strategies for getting me through. 

1. Writing

I write blogs now, but for years I journaled. Writing helps me process life events, make sense of how I feel and what I’m thinking and gives me a chance to really get my emotions out. Today’s journal entry looks something like this:

^%$%$*&^&$&*&*(%^%$%$#$^&^^$#^(*

Arrrrgggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2. Workout around the injury

I don’t know how long I’ll be limping around on one foot, but I’m obviously not going to put in four miles today. I am, however, going to set a timer for 15 minutes and deadlift my face off. Almost without fail, there is something you can do to work out around an injury. And in the past few months, I’ve seen clients come in with a broken leg, sprained knee, and eight weeks out of a double hip replacement to get in a workout. 

I’ve also seen clients come in and workout while going through chemotherapy. 

There is always something you can do. 

3. Stay connected

We encourage all of our clients to continue coming to the gym despite injuries. Even if they only get on a foam roller or do some light stretching, the community connection can go a long way in keeping your spirits up. When I was a college coach, injured athletes were never excused from practice. Social connection is critical, especially at times when we really don’t feel like it. 

I know the word tribe gets thrown around a lot these days, but I can promise you, I’m leaning heavy on my tribe right now as I negotiate this injury.

I often tell new clients that we have very few truly healthy people with whom we work. Almost without fail, we have some nagging injury that crops up from time to time. That includes us coaches. And not just the ones over 30. We all deal with injury at some form or another. 

Lean on your tribe. Ask a coach what you can do. Let yourself be emotional. But don't give up on yourself. 

*Please tell me you all know the reference to the great white whale...

Harder isn't always better

In May of 1998 I boarded a plane for just the second time in my life, a non-stop flight from Pittsburgh to Denver. I packed a pair of suitcases and my guitar, off to spend the summer working in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

 When I finally got to the "real" mountains. 

When I finally got to the "real" mountains. 

Despite growing up in Western Pennsylvania and having never been there, I was obsessed with going to Colorado and living in the “real” mountains.

In Pennsylvania we said we have mountains but that's pretty generous. 

For the most part, we have hills.

I spent a few days in Estes Park, which sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains (and is home to scenes from Dumb and Dumber)  before making my first trek into the park. I remember having to put my face face on the dashboard of the car just to see the snow covered peaks as we wove our way up Trail Ridge Road. 

I was lost for words trying to take in the beauty. 

Over the course of that summer I hiked close to 300 miles of trails in the park, taking each day off from my work at Trail Ridge Store to pick a new hike.

It wasn’t until I hiked the mountains of Colorado that I discovered and understood the beauty of the switchback trails. 

A switchback, if you’re not familiar, is described as an 180 degree bend in a road or path, especially one leading up the side of the mountain. Rather than hiking straight up the side of a mountain, you zig zag your way up however many miles of trails until you get above tree line and to the summit.

I thought of switchbacks a few weeks ago when a client came in after a very busy, packed weekend filled with tons of physical activity. The more she described her weekend activities the more I was re-thinking the best workout for her that day. 

“Oh no,” she said, reading my thoughts. “That doesn’t mean I want you to take it easy on me!” 

We haggled back and forth for a bit before meeting in the middle with some active recovery work added at the end of her workout. 

Sometimes we equate hard core suffering with work. We feel that we're only getting results if we're nose down in the turf, sucking wind and drowning in a pool of sweat.

No.

The path to getting results isn't always charging straight up the North Face of a steep mountain. Sure that's one way to do it, but the chances of losing a step and falling backwards increase dramatically when you take that approach. 

You can still get to the top of the mountain using the switchbacks, and hopefully not rolling 200 feet down the mountain when you miss a step. 

 I don't recall which hike this was, but once we got above tree-line, the switchbacks ended and we were walking straight up the side of the mountain. Also this was before digital cameras. No need for an instagram filter here...

I don't recall which hike this was, but once we got above tree-line, the switchbacks ended and we were walking straight up the side of the mountain. Also this was before digital cameras. No need for an instagram filter here...

(As a side thought, aren’t you impressed with anyone who has reached the summit on Mount Everest? Or are you only impressed if they did so without oxygen? Sure doing it with no oxygen is much harder, but I would argue that both are impressive.)

Switchbacks don’t mean that you don’t do the work. They just make the journey more accessible and manageable. Hiking eight miles of trail, switchbacks and all, is plenty of work. But they allow you, hopefully, to slow down every few bends, stop and look around and enjoy the view. And then, after a short rest and a long drink of water, you tighten your backpack and tackle the next part of the trail. 

I hope you're stopping every now and then to appreciate where you are at on your journey. That you can see the good views and truly absorb what you are doing well. 

I know what it feels like to want to make yourself suffer. To punish yourself with a workout because of the self-loathing you feel for yourself. To feel like you're an awful person and that beating the hell out of yourself is justice for everything you hate yourself for. 

No.

You don't have to make everything you do as hard as possible. 

I'm not saying you don't have to work hard. This journey can and will be difficult. 

I'm just saying you don't have to climb Mount Everest without oxygen.

Or a sherpa :-) 

Ok? 

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