Monday, July 27, 2009

A Week Out of the Box

Here I sit in the location where I truly believe God intended me to take up permanent residence: the Ritz Carlton Hotel. To say that I love the Ritz Carlton would be like saying that Brett Favre has committment issues. Like saying that Britney Spears has issues. Like saying that American Idol is a little played out. I do. I love it. A lotta lotta lot.

And I am also spending a week away from my real life, which is a good thing for me. We all need a break from ourselves once in a while, especially when your self is bossy and demanding and places unrealistic expectations upon you. So, even though I am here for work, I am going to do my best enjoy the temporary change of scenery and take full advantage of my little dip into luxury. And the turn-down service. And my marble bathroom. I'm not going to eat the chocolate on my pillows though.

I'm also going to take it upon myself to get back in the driver's seat and start navigating some of the (inevitable) changes in my life. Last week, change was thrust upon me in the form of news that Captain Awesome may have to change his schedule to one that doesn't include driving across town at 4:30 am to open the gym. Some hooey about grad school and I'll admit, I reacted badly to the information. Not in a throwing-a-fit kind of way....more in a sitting at the lat pull with my arms on the bar but staring vacantly into space for 20 minutes kind of way. I spent the rest of the day in a bit of a fog until I worked out a solution. Well, until I worked out my second solution, the first one being to somehow hide him away to a hypnotist where he was reprogrammed to believe that he could train me and only me for the rest of his career. But seeing that I only get an hour for lunch and usually spend that in Pilates, it just wasn't practical to think I could pull that off anytime soon. So I reverted to Plan B, which was to suck it up and deal.

That news, on top of some other things I would have rather not experienced over the span of three days, called for a time-out. I kind of believe that when a lot of bad things start happening all at one time, it means I need to step back and regroup. Obviously something was off, and the common denominator was me. So I took myself out of the equation. I pressed pause on myself.

I came to the Ritz.

Well, first I went to church. I sat alone in the quiet and listened to a message reminding me that I have never truly been left without a plan. I've never actually had the bottom fall out. I've always made it through, something always worked out, and it would this time too if I would just get out of my own damn way.

Then I came to the Ritz.

I'm out of my box, forced out of my routine. I have a new gym facing me, and more time than usual to workout each morning. I have solitude and quiet. I can work hard and focus and move this ship forward without the usual static of my everyday life.

And when I return, I will have three months left to train. I've mapped out a new schedule, had it blessed by Awesome, and am ready to get back to building up the callouses on my hands.

But first there is a down comforter calling my name.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Thing I Cannot Do

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt

I saw this quote in a work-related email last week and liked it. I find that I copy/paste most things that Eleanor Roosevelt said, so I was not surprised that this stuck with me. And, I had an almost immediate application to my training.

As you know, or should know by this point, I am about 18 months into training for a fitness challenge, which will take place this coming November. (For new readers - I meant to do it last November but backed out, mostly because I messed up my knee running but also because I didn't think I could do it.) I went and practiced on the course back in March at the Al Rosen Tri-Fitness Camp, and found out exactly what God thinks of me. Which is not much judging from my performance. Unless God plans for me to be a reliable source of amusement for genetically blessed athletes, in which case I am a huge success.

So anyway, I guess you could say that I am taking Eleanor's words to heart because I am still on the road towards becoming America's Next Top Model. Ooops, sorry. I am still on the road towards doing what I (thought) I cannot do.

But there's a hitch: I don't have the course in my backyard, or anywhere near me, where I can practice on the actual equipment I will be tackling. Instead, I do a lot of functional training. I do pull-ups, jumping, sprinting, rope pulls, and other exercises to strengthen the muscles I will need to accomplish the tasks in the course, which include scaling a 10-foot wall, climbing a cargo net, jumping hurdles, running through a grid, and other things you might expect to see on your average Japanese game show.

So, to do what I cannot do, I have implemented a technique used by high-performers everywhere: visualization. I do a lot of visualization. I always have, to be honest. From the early days of setting a personal goal as a kid and then putting my head down and barreling through to the victory, visualization has been a key part of my plan. I visualize myself where I want to be in the most graphic and realistic way possible, down to the minute details of texture, sounds, breathing, peripheral vision, and emotion, and then save that data in my mind and replay it over and over and over. If I truly believe that the scene can replicate itself in reality, I will work to achieve it. I am very rarely unsuccessful when I use this technique; it is that simple.

At the beginning of this training schedule, I would visualize myself going over the hurdles and consistently see my trail leg catch the hurdle and bring it down behind me. Or, I would consistently see my leading leg crash into the front of the hurdle and trip me up. I had a huge disbelief in my ability to clear that hurdle and I knew I had to get over it. I watched videos and learned techniques for building the skills necessary. Each time I practice, I visualize. The combination of functional training and visualization has resulted in an adaptation to that scene - I now see myself clearing the hurdle by jumping higher at the approach and bringing my leg up higher and to the side on the trailing end. As a result, I've noticed my trailing foot cocking up when I do my in-real-life practice drills. Just as perception is reality, visualization can become reality.

And soon, I will try to recreate that scene in reality and see how my training has prepared me for a regulation-height hurdle. I fully expect to clear it.

But the course is more than just a hurdle. There are a series of obstacles to overcome in quick succession. So, I frequently watch this video to aid in my visualization. It is a video of a newly-found friend completing the actual course I will be competing on in three short months. She is flawless (and fearless). And, having met her in person, I can attest that she puts in not only the hard work required but the positive attitude necessary to accomplish the course time and time again. Go Berna!

There are a lot of things we cannot do. But, if you seriously and consistently apply visualization to your training, that list gets pretty short pretty fast. Take Eleanor's advice and do the thing you (think) you cannot do - do it in your mind. Visualize yourself doing the thing you (think) you cannot do, over and over and over and over and over and over until you have every detail memorized. That visualization will lead to you doing what it takes to accomplish it, and then to real success.

I know I can do it; I have already seen it. Now I just can't wait to bring that scene to life.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mediocre Expectations

We all start a journey towards a goal with great expectations, right? Sure, we're going to be beach-ready by Memorial Day! We're going to sail through the holidays without even a nibble on a candy cane! So-and-so's wedding? Pshaw! I don't even like wedding cake. (It's true. I'm not just making that up to illustrate my point. I honestly don't like it.)

Great expectations are, well, great! I'm all for aiming high. And as long as those expectations are coming from the right place, I say the higher the better. Last week I promised more about finding a support network despite having less-than-supportive family, friends, or other immediate environment. That's where expectations come in. Ah, the tangled web we weave - our expectations of ourselves, others' expectations of us, our expectations of what others' expectations will be, our expectations of what our response will be to those expectations... you see where I am going with this.

I've fallen victim many times to proudly throwing my arms up and calling, "ta-da!" to an adoring audience of zero. I've heard the deafening silence of no one giving a $*&% if I ran my fastest time ever or maxed out the squat rack. I've put on my big blue ribbon and paraded around like a peacock and attracted a crowd of none. I was hurt and disappointed, but I've also learned that I was looking for positive feedback in the wrong places.

Some people just aren't going to get it. They won't cheer for you because they don't get it. It took me a long time to figure out that they don't need to get it.

My husband is an electronics geek. He's always working on some project, sodering and welding and doing all kinds of mad-scientist stuff until his creation beeps, blinks, lights up, and plumes smoke just the way he imagined it would. He calls me over to revel in the wonder of what he has done. And I try really, really, really hard to appreciate the time and effort that went into it and manage a, "that's really neat, babe." I don't get it. I get that he gets it, but I don't get it. Luckily for him, there are a lot of people on YouTube who get it.

I guess I am taking the scenic route to say something very simple - ignore the people in your life who don't get it and move on. Trying to convince someone of your ability to reach a goal is a waste of time because their belief has nothing to do with your ability. Tackling a fitness obstacle to prove something to a naysayer is likely to result in disappointment when they could not care less about your smashing success. Instead, seek feedback and encouragement from people who do get it.

It's hard to realize that the people who are closest to you might not be your biggest cheerleaders, especially when you need a cheering squad the most. But after I let go of the expectation that they would be, its been easier to not only own the goal, but shape it and direct it without the confines of others' mediocre expectations.

Once you let go of needing someone else to be impressed or even believe that you can, it becomes a lot more fun to do it - for yourself and on your own terms. So, free yourself from mediocre expectations, and start working on something great.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pressing Delete

Everyone has that special someone, that person who, despite all odds, regardless of the battle won or lost, no matter what, will rain on your parade. They might not intend to crush your soul, but they do.

"I just completed my first 10k!" you may jubilantly exclaim, sweaty and flushed and holding your hard-won t-shirt. "When are you going to do a triathlon?" they'll reply. Your great accomplishment is never enough.

"I'm getting closer to my goal size!" you may enthuse to your family. "Do you really think you'll lose that much?" They doubt your fortitude, and plant the seed of doubt in you, as well.

"No dessert for me, I'm full," you may share at a celebration. "Are you on some kind of diet now?" may be the accusation as they scornfully eye you as if you're some kind of traitor.

Yeah, you know who I'm talking about. They get inside your head and jumble up your plan and try to sabotage your efforts. We all have at least one.

I've been thinking about mine lately, and even more now that a fellow historian/writer/fitness fanatic (only he actually gets paid to be a historian/writer/fitness fanatic, whereas I am only a legend in my own mind) posted this on his blog, CrushPlay. It's about the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people and influences, and getting rid of the people who crush your soul.

I usually refer to it as, "pressing delete."

I've pressed delete on workout buddies who slowed me down, friends who spread negativity everywhere, routines that distracted me from my goal, and habits that slowly and quietly sabotaged me. I've pressed delete on people who aren't ready to work on their goal, aren't serious about changing their health, or just plain don't follow through on their action steps. It's not personal, it doesn't mean we can't be friends. I am just not going to spend a lot of time trying to convince you of one's ability to reach a goal, yours or mine.

I've found that soul crushers have different motives. Some work from a place of envy - they wish they had the discipline to live a healthier life and don't want you to have it either. For others, they may feel resentment over losing their drinking or late-night snack buddy and try to make you stop taking the "fun" out of indulging in unhealthy habits. Some are just plain miserable in their own lives and don't want to see anyone succeed if they can't. And there are those who just don't think you can do it and don't want to see you get hurt when you fail.

Either way, that's fine. Their response has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to reach your health goal. It's a lot easier when you have support, but you don't need it. At least, not from where you may be expecting it. You can do it, whether soul-crushers are trying to sabotage you through planting the seed of doubt, protecting you from what they fear is going to end badly, or just doesn't think you have it in you. It sucks when these people aren't on your team, but that doesn't mean you can't keep winning.

It makes me sad and angry at times when people who are important to me doubt my chances at success, but ultimately the energy it would take to "convince" them is not worth the difference it would make in my ability to do it - which is none. There is absolutely no difference in my ABILITY to meet my goals whether people support me or not. It's a lot easier and more fun if they do, but it is not impossible for me to do it without them.

So I'm sure that some of you who know me in person are wondering if I am talking about you. :) I'm not. It's just been on my mind lately. A positive support network is absolutely essential to success, but keep in mind that it might not be where or who you expect. More on this next week.