Cool as it would be, I’m not auditioning for the never-ending (and addictive) dance movie series. Of course, I’d love to move as deftly as the talented people who grace my TV screen every Wednesday night (I’m so happy it’s summer So You Think You Can Dance season!). I don’t anticipate cultivating quite that level of skill at this point in my life, but I can let them inspire me.
So You Think You Can Dance Season 11 runner-up Jasmine Harper and All-Star Neil Haskell (photo courtesy of Small Screen Scoop).
I know that it’s possible to improve my mobility, strength, agility, and endurance. Most of us can, to some degree, and at any stage of the game. Knowing where I want to go is a good idea, as is imagining what’s feasible. I may never be able to do everything those SYTYCD youngsters do. And yet, by letting go of preconceived limitations and longstanding insecurities, I could achieve more than I might initially let myself consider.
By opening my mind and developing a plan, I can chart a different path than the “inevitable” decline of physical health and capabilities that so many people think is their fate.
Do you even lift?
Until my mid-30s, the answer to this question – ubiquitous in today’s fitness industry – was a definitive “no.” I was diagnosed with asthma at age 6 and what I most loved to do in the world was to read; for these and various other reasons, I was a pretty inactive child and teenager. I dabbled with exercise in my 20s, mostly via cardio DVDs, but nothing really stuck. I lived almost exclusively in my head, paying attention to my body only when it ailed me or when I noticed my clothes getting a bit snug.
I first lifted weights in 2001 after someone told me about Body for Life. I didn’t achieve any prizewinning results (no matter, since I never officially entered any contests), but I learned that I enjoy strength training. After a few more on-and-off years, I developed a fairly regular exercise habit about a decade ago as I approached my 36th birthday.
Since then, I built a small (and growing) home gym, discovered yoga, and did something I wouldn’t have thought possible even a few years before: Warrior Dash. (Twice. No, I didn’t develop a lifelong love of mud runs. I was just so astonished and proud of myself for completing every obstacle that I rode the post-event high right over to the following year’s registration page.)
Meanwhile, I read as much as I could about training, health, nutrition, and mindset. As I built my knowledge base, I met dozens of smart, accessible fitness professionals online and eventually traveled to meet some of them in person at the 2014 Fitness Summit in Kansas City.
That experience left me more excited than ever: to get stronger, learn more, and share as generously as the trainers and coaches I’m so lucky to know.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve trained in any consistent, progressive way. I had good cause to take a break: a da Vinci® hysterectomy in September 2013. Surgery required healing and patience, and I did my best to get the rest I needed while moving around as much as possible to prevent atrophy and complications.
As my recovery progressed, I gradually reintroduced more activity. Meanwhile, fatigue evaporated more slowly than expected. Plus it was sometimes tough to figure out the right training prescription across the spectrum of variables: frequency, duration, and intensity. I knew (and my doctor gently reminded me) that I couldn’t just dive back into what I was doing beforehand, but beyond that, I was at a loss.
I played with a few programs, but they were either too easy or, more often, too overzealous. By turns uninspired and overwhelmed, my consistency suffered. I could hardly manage to string together three strength sessions in a given week, much less gain momentum across a series of weeks or months. Some minor but aggravating health issues (residual effects of my surgery, perhaps) have kept me from feeling my best; my energy still hasn’t quite returned to pre-op levels.
In order to make strides – to maximize my energy and get stronger and healthier inside and out, perhaps more so than ever – I need to train with consistency and progression. I’m ready to put everything I know, and every resource I can find, to use.
Plan of action
I have a tendency, in many areas of my life, to get mired in thinking, dreaming, planning: the dreaded “paralysis by analysis.” It’s finally sinking in that I won’t get anywhere if I never get out of my head.
It’s time for action. Without it, even the best plan is not just unrealized, it’s untested. In the spirit of accepting life’s messiness and its penchant for evolving, I’m breaking up with perfectionism, that age-old impediment to progress. I know I’ll face obstacles, tweaks, and reassessments along the way. It’s only natural. I’m just happy to be stepping up and giving myself the chance to do so.
A week into my new program, it’s a rather nice fit so far. After three strength sessions, I feel good, neither restless nor exhausted. I’m getting stronger and building a solid foundation for continued growth – of body, mind, and vocation.
I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.