Raising the Bar - The Difference
When looking for inspiration to launch your dreams, where do you go? Would-be musicians attend concerts, soaking up every detail flashing out of that stage. Wannabe actors participate in school plays, do local theatre appearances followed up by acting classes and hopefully, roles. When you, the owner of that human machine called The Body, want to once and for all get zapped with a hit of super charged motivation, where do you go? The answer is, The World Fitness Expo!
This week I am appearing at the World Fitness Expo. It gets me excited just writing those words because it is a World Fitness Expo - that’s the world people! Everyone who is associated with fitness and health is going to be here and I am so pumped for this! I am similarly excited when I am finally standing in the vast fitness halls of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where the event is hosted. And I can tell you, these halls are going to rock and the walls are going to vibrate with down right, feel good, getting healthy fitness vibes!!
For four days I will be surrounded by the best of the best in fitness, motivation, inspiration and education. I will walk by muscular aficionados flexing their buff-ness, long lean athletes floating through the throng, stoutly built cross fitters and fit bodies of every description imaginable. I will see Goodlife guru, Dave Patchell-Evans, Canadian multi medal winning Olympian rower,Silken Lauman, David Wolfe, who first lit the light of nutrition in me and makes the best darn chocolate, Kai Greene - personal friend of my late husband Robert Kennedy and the People’s Champion in bodybuilding, and more. I will also see my friends and sisters in fitness, Mo Hagan and Nicky Coyne and ALL OF YOU!! I love it!
I feel totally at home in that milieu because underneath it all, there is an understanding. The understanding is that we are united in a sister and brotherhood of willingness to put ourselves to the task of creating a functioning, physically fit body, day after day, week after week, year after year. Exercise brethren accept that a body is built through fierce determination, and dedication to taxing that body physically, no excuses, thank you very much.
As I march through the venue I notice the assertive way in which fit folks own their space. They have a confidence earned from testing themselves against weights, water, iron, rubber, track and more. Trained bodies move the way they are supposed to. Toned limbs create a graceful gait accompanied by willing shoulders and muscular glutes. The confidence is palpable, but deserves it’s place in the fitness realm because confidence is won when failure has been met and overcome. What I mean here, is that to achieve physical fitness means to be willing to pit yourself against yourself and to break down your own conceptions of your limitations. You must be willing to meet your point of failure and go past it.
We face all challenge with a preconceived set of ideas about how we will meet and manage them. I believe that to meet them is one thing, but to meet and raise the bar on yourself is another. Your level of willingness to go there is what makes the difference.
For example, I have competed in triathlon and half marathon events. I thought I had built a resilient, high performing engine during my intensive, months long training. That’s the point of training - build up VO2 max, MHR, muscle tissues, tolerance for pain, and increased skill level. I have always been a strong swimmer. My father taught me how to navigate the rough waters, of Lake Ontario, stroke after freezing stroke, as a young girl. I have vivid memories of him throwing me in the deep end of the YMCA pool, where I felt certain I would drown. I fought the panic, wiped the water from my eyes and learned to swim and love it.
Fast forward to my first open water swim in a sprint triathlon event. Confidence streamed from my pores, knowing I had trained hard and long to get here. I wasn’t scared, just jittery from the adrenalin rush I was experiencing. Into the water I went and swam out hard. People all around me were forcing their path through the waves. I ignored that, focussing on my swim. All was going well. But no sooner had I reached the first buoy marker and my nerves betrayed me. I experienced panic, out there in the deep green waters of a Michigan lake, with only the bottom looming up at me. I heard myself gulping in air and felt my limbs grasping wildly at the water. Panic overtook me. I was disappointed beyond measure. I remember thinking how silly that this was happening to me. Me the strong swimmer! How was that possible? I had put in the hours. Had swum the distance. Had done it all and now I was failing.
With ragged breath and a heart slamming against my chest, I talked myself into a slow and steady breast stroke until I could recover from my oxygen deficit, to return to the faster, freestyle stroke I needed to make up lost time. What I learned on that day was not that I was a poor swimmer but that I could handle a difficult situation and bounce back. I went to the pain point and past it, fought back and overcame the challenge of that all too frightening, open water swim. I also learned that to train properly for this kind of contest, I needed to “train for panic.” That meant I had to include a different type of cardio in my blocks, cardio that incorporated sprints. Sprints that would leave me already somewhat oxygen depleted and then jump into the water and swim.
Each of us has been in this place at one time in our lives. We have found ourselves in the open water of excruciating challenge, not knowing what to do. The question is not about whether it will happen, but when it will happen to you. When will you feel the panic? What will you do? How do you come out of it? The old saying goes, “The true measure of a man is not what he does when things are easy, but what he does when things are hard.” If we are willing to place ourselves in uncomfortable situations, stay the course and paddle like mad, we will survive. I call this, “letting the song sing inside you.” What can be more joyous than feeling your true human-ness pulsing through every vein and cell in your body? Let the song sing. Let it rip. Let it soar. Let it fly. Feel the power. Feel the pain. Feel the resilience. The sum total of this is pure, unadulterated growth - life lived out at maximum potential.
Whether I step on stage or out in the venue itself at the World Fitness Expo, I will be there with that same song singing in my veins. It will pulse and throb. It will propel me to deliver my best. I will hear it over and over again - “Do your best Tosca. Be proud. Show the way. Light it up.” And this I will do because, like another open water swim I once knew, I am filled with adrenalin and ready to push out hard for the big win.
What experiences have you had, where you have to fight hard to maintain your composure, overcome your fear and you still came out on top? Tell me here or tell me at the Expo. I welcome your stories.
I am always listening.