determination

Nevertheless she persisted

I love that quote. 

It stems from the story of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who stood up to read a letter written by Coretta Scott King as she opposed the nomination of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As the story is written, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell tried to cut her speech short. 

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Cheryl has had her share of injuries. But rarely misses a day in the gym. 

Cheryl has had her share of injuries. But rarely misses a day in the gym. 

Politics aside, the moment became a rallying cry for women everywhere. There were memes and t-shirts and jewelry with the phrase. 

This is the quote that came to mind when someone asked me what to do when you hit a plateau in your training.

My best answer? 

You persist. 

I know. I write that like it's easy. It's not. 

I might re-write the phrase from above to “She was tired. She was frustrated. She couldn’t see the horizon, only the dusty, rocky ground beneath her feet. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

The fitness journey has peaks and valleys. Signs of progress at the beginning are often motivating. We start to feel better, move better, drop pant sizes and we actually feel like working out. We’ve got momentum and we don’t want to lose it. 

We feel the progress.

But what happens when we stop feeling that progress? 

We go two months without seeing or feeling any changes. 

Ah, now we lose patience. I might mention that along with persistence comes patience. I don't think you can have one without the other. 

We get frustrated. We doubt the process. We question our approach. We must be doing something wrong if change isn't happening. 

So what do we do?

We persist. 

Because the only way out is through. 

Even as I write this post this morning, I am drawing on my own patience and persistence. I get antsy when I write. As much as I enjoy writing, I don’t always enjoy the process. If I’m not thoughtful, I will write a sentence, think of something I need to do, and jump up to do it. I’ll send that email, check Facebook, remember to post to Instagram. 

If you want me to clean the house, ask me to write a blog post. Or give a presentation.  

What I’ve learned to do is set a timer and commit to the either/or strategy. I will either write, or do nothing, for 20 minutes. I’m allowed to not write. I’m allowed to look around the room. But I’m not allowed to do anything else. I can’t pick the dog up for a cuddle, I can’t open any other windows on my laptop. 

I can’t look at my phone. 

I can get another cup of coffee, because coffee. But nothing else.

Webster's dictionary defines persistence as such:

“Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”

Obstinate continuance. I love that. I imagine that was what drove Thomas Edison to continue despite failing the first 9,999 times with the light bulb. 

He was determined to keep moving on.

Persistence is the running back whose legs keep churning upon running into a pile of lineman. 

You keep moving. 

I want to have profound advice. I want to stand up on a chair in front of all of you and deliver my best Knute Rockne impression. (Google him if you don't know him. Doug...)

But the best I can tell you is to keep moving. You're only reward might be the knowledge that you put forth a dogged effort, despite everything in your life pulling on you to call it quits. 

Satisfaction is in doing what you thought you couldn't. What you thought you wouldn't. 

If you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, find someone with a flashlight. Reach out and take a hand. 

Grab your tribe. Lean heavy on them. 

Keep your feet moving. 

Drive the pile.

It will feel hard. It will feel futile. It will feel like there is no point. 

Persist. 

And if you need help persisting, please don't hesitate to reach out and ask. 

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Success is grit

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Last summer, I spent ten days traveling around the east coast with a good friend. We camped on the beach in Maryland, saw a couple of MLB ballparks, and wrapped the trip up with a meditation workshop in D.C. 

And we saw a man with a goat. :-)

There was also some excellent craft beer, though by the end of the trip, both Heather and I concluded that Maine has some of THE best craft beer out there. 

I digress.

At the workshop, I took a lot of notes, even when I was supposed to be meditating, (because meditating is hard), but my favorite line from the day was:

Success is grit - it is the willingness to stay with it.

Grit is defined as “courage and resolve; strength of character.” Also tenacity, determination and perseverance, among others. 

If any of you have tried meditating, you understand the challenge of just sitting still for five minutes. Most of us would like to do it, but shutting the mind off for even thirty seconds is like figuring out what all the buttons on a Sony Playstation controller do after learning video games on Atari.

In meditative practice, they call the constant stream of thoughts the monkey mind. And people who have practiced meditation regularly for years still have monkey mind when they sit down to meditate. But as the instructor on Saturday reminded us, success with meditation comes from staying with the practice. 

The same is certainly true with fitness. 

We all hit a plateau at one time or another in our fitness practice. The first five pounds come off quickly, we add weight to the bar as we get stronger, we feel like we’re knocking it out of the park and then…..

We plateau. Our body adapts. The results don’t come as quickly. 

We get discouraged. And that’s where the grit comes in. Because showing up feels harder. Motivation slips further away. And it becomes easier to skip the workout because the scale hasn’t moved in six weeks anyway.

Only you can define what success looks like in your fitness goals. Going down a pants’ size, doing a body weight chin up, deadlifting your own bodyweight - whatever it is you’re setting out to achieve - it’s the willingness to stay with it - to find the grit - that will help you get where you want to go.