THE MENTAL GAME OF PHYSICAL FITNESS
I’m up at 4:30 am. Only the moon for company. My gym bag was packed the night before. I toss it into the car and begin the hour long drive into the city. Fuelled by Wake Well, an espresso shot topped with home made nut milk and chia seed pudding, I calculate drive time and where to find a rest room in a hurry if Large Intestine time arrives early. Getting caught short during the commute is no picnic!
My tummy is always highly activated from nervous energy, when I know I have to perform. “Perform what?” you ask. I’m heading to my personal training session and I know this work isn’t a Sunday drive, sun roof open, wind blowing through your hair. What’s going to happen during that hour may make me feel nauseous - yes, when you push yourself physically, you can make yourself sick. I have been there before when training for my first body building contest. Squatting with 500 pounds on your back can make you want to throw up, 5 sets in. I expect to feel something.
This hour long session can also break open my tough exterior, letting all my anxieties, worries, fears, criticisms, gush out like the flesh out of a cracked pumpkin smashed on a Halloween night. I never know what to expect, other than that I will get an a$$ kicking my body will remember for a few days afterwards. I welcome that result. I want it.
Whatever outfit I so carefully chose to wear for this a$$ kicking will not look cute anymore. I will not look cute. I will be completely drenched in sweat. My face will be red and I will puff and pant and, yes, even grunt. I laugh at myself when I think of this because what we so often see portrayed in the pages of fitness magazines, is so “not the truth.” I remember once doing a TV segment for Extra with Eat Clean® Ambassador Allison Earnst. We were both being prepped for our big moment with plenty of hair and makeup, a little tease here, a bit of blush and powder there. We hopped on the stationary bike when Action! was called and soon began to sweat. The producer had to keep stopping the cameras to touch us up.
That is a TV land illusion. You can’t exercise and not sweat in the same sentence, unless you are severely dehydrated. What happens in the gym, or wherever you take your training session, is a slow deconstruction of yourself, your preconceived notions of who you are and your limitations. Whatever and whoever you thought you were, there’s another lesson on the way, delivered by your moment of truth while working out. Allowing yourself to be fully present during the taking apart of you, is a growth experience, critical to your wellness journey.
When I train, I think about what happens to my physical and emotional self. After a gruelling cycle of full body movements, things often do fall apart. I have to be okay with letting myself be exactly who I am in that moment. Heart slamming in my chest, lungs frantically pulling for oxygen, I am deconstructed. It’s an episode of rawness. A vulnerability that gives me and my trainer a peek into what I am capable of. You need to be ready to see yourself there. You need to be okay with what you have delivered or could have delivered. What you have learned about yourself. Did I work hard enough? Could I have withstood the numbness in my legs longer? We know we could if a gun was pointed at our heads, but without the gun, would you still push beyond your notion of enough? The true test is, to be willing to linger in the pain a little while longer so you get the Cinemax view of Who. You. Really. Are.
Fast forward to my workout. We take it outside. It’s summer here in Canada and we take the good weather when we can, so training outdoors is a privilege. In the heat of the workout, I face myself. Not the stop watch. Not the rep count. Not the finish line. What I try to best is me. I try to get past my own ideas of what I can do. Deep into the 5th interval sprint around the track, sun burning my shoulders, sweat stinging my eyes, no amount of leg muscle is going to help me make it to the finish line in good time unless driven by my decision to push hard all the way. With arms pumping, lungs pulling for oxygen, eyes on the mark, feet bouncing from the track, it’s my unquenchable thirst to outdo myself that ignites this fury. I’m all in. I am not my limiting factor.
Don’t you want to know what is possible for you too? Are you comfortable where you are? Are you one of those folks who is fit for the glory but not for the guts? One of those who steps onto the treadmill year after year doing the same thing but never getting anywhere? Are you a complainer, never gainer, who accepts a comfortable level of movement but never welcomes the idea that getting fit might be uncomfortable? A thousand times I am told, “I just can’t do what you do! I can’t get results. I don’t have the genetics,” and waawaawaaa all the way home. What have you done to push past your limitations so that you can get to the heart of you?
Part of the way I have built resilience deep enough to withstand the challenges delivered to me lately, is through besting myself physically. I don’t go to the gym to build a better bicep, even if I like that look. I go to build a better brain, which builds a better attitude, which builds a better me, which builds a better life. I train hard because I won’t accept that at 56, it’s all over. I believe I am just beginning. I also believe most of my psychotherapy happens while I am deeply engaged in breaking down my physical barriers. Is that why I feel so good afterwards? Is that why I can solve the toughest problems after a workout? You know the answer.
Let’s put it another way. I urge you to get comfortable with working out hard in a committed, physically present way. I urge you to feel every part of you doing this. I ask you to welcome a little discomfort and then some more. I want you to challenge your own limitations because how do you know if you don’t know? I want you to feel something. You must feel to heal.
Listen. I truly deeply care for you. I am you. I was in a place where many of you are now or have been. Only by challenging myself have I continued to grow past my formerly narrow scope of what I thought was possible. Let me hear all about your sweat sessions. What is it that drives you forward? What stops you? How do you stay competitive with yourself? What’s your favourite whole body gym experience?
Loving life people! Bring it on,every day!
I am always listening.
- Oh by the way, keep coming back because there are so many wonderful and life changing things that are going to be happening right here. I want you to have a front seat, up here with me. See you again! xo Tosca