Monday, October 20, 2008

It's Good to Have a Goal

Last week, Captain Awesome and I started working on training the specific muscle groups and agility exercises I am going to need to not make a complete fool of myself at my competition. We've been doing a lot of leg work, working on lateral agility, and going back to basic things like jumping, balance, and core work. I kind of feel like I am back in phys ed class, only this time I don't have to create elaborate excuses for why I can't play volleyball, which is a nice change.

With this change of pace comes new realizations. For example, realizing just how uncoordinated and clumsy I am. I've always known I am a klutz (I walk into walls in my own house and have a permanent bruise on my leg from where I ram into the side of my office desk at least three times a week) but until I tried split-leg jumping squats, bent-knee walking lunges, or box jumps, I had been able to convince myself that my lack of grace was just me being distracted and moving too fast to keep up with myself. I now know that it is part of my DNA. I felt like a walking advertisement for America's Funniest Home Videos. Seriously, if someone had video-taped me last Friday trying to jump on and off of a 24-inch box without breaking my neck, they would have won the $10,000 grand prize. By even attempting to stay upright for an entire day, I am providing a valuable community service in the form of comic relief.

But anyway. When I completed ten feeble attempts at box jumps and Capt. Awesome said, "okay, you'll have to be a lot faster than that," I felt a glimmer of disappointment mixed with excitement. A project! We worked on the mechanics of jumping in general - focusing on balance, posture, and alignment - and I began putting together a plan to get better. A goal! I practically licked my lips in anticipation of that sweet victory.

I was disappointed in my skill level; I am not athletic but I expected more. But, I was almost glad that I had missed the mark. It feels good to have a goal to work towards.

That was Friday. Over the weekend, I visualized myself jumping on the boxes and coiling myself like a spring to maximize impact while minimizing the effort. And this morning, as I drove to the gym and listened to "Health Check" on the BBC, I wondered if everyone had a renewed sense of vigor once spotting a goal in the making, or if it was just me being an over-achiever as usual. Strangely, I got my answer in the form of a study on the effects of music on overall health.

I learned that a research group at Boston College School of Music had measured the impact of regular, sustained, intense involvement in mastering a skill (in this case, participating in a singing group) on mental health, physical health, and a social involvement for two groups - one who participated in the program and a control group that did not. They found that the group who participated in the singing group for at least two years had scored higher in every category than those in the control group. (Listen to the entire segment here.)

The researcher went on to say that people who work towards mastery of a goal and have a feeling of control over that goal also experienced an immune system boost. Now, I am no stranger to control issues. But this made me feel better about them. I might not be better at jumping on a box today, but the fact that I am working to become better will make me healthier in the long run. Even if I fall on my face on that obstacle course (which is very likely to happen regardless of my overall performance), I will be better off just for having tried.

So there you have it: control freaks rule, slackers drool. Set a goal today - it's what healthy people do!

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