I wanted to follow up on the email about my backpack (and laptop) getting stolen a few weeks ago. As I have been telling the story to those closest to me, I've realized there is a key part of it that didn’t make it into my email to you. It might be the best part of the whole story.
In this post, Coach Hannah shares her experience of redefining fitness goals based on her own desires, rather than blindly adhering to cultural norms. Enjoy!
For a long time I was running the race to be THIN.
(For most of my life, it didn't feel like there was any other choice.)
As a woman in America, it comes at you from all angles:
Thin is healthy.
Thin is attractive.
Thin is achievable (if you aren't thin, you aren't trying hard enough, and you're probably lazy).
Thin is the only worthy goal for your female body.
Thin is measurable (by the number on the scale, by calories in and out, by the size on your clothing tags.)
...And you'll never know if you are thin ENOUGH, so keep hustling.
And hustle I did.
To be honest, I started strength training as part of my pursuit of thin-ness.
But luckily there are are some key differences in the pursuit of strength, that helped me widen my perspective.
Strong is healthy
Strong is attractive
Strong is achievable (this is actually true, any body can get stronger, whereas not every body is meant to look like our cultural standard of "thin")
Strong is also measurable. (By how much weight you lift. By how many reps and sets you do.)
But here's my favorite part:
Strong is relative.
Strong is not one size.
It certainly is easiest to think about fitness in bold cateogries. You know the kind I mean: "Get RIPPED!" "Lose 12 pounds in 6 days" "12 Weeks to Huge Arms".
You'll notice that the one thing in common is that the result being offered is always a superlative, somewhat shocking, "over there where the grass is greener" kind of goal. In fact, they are all characterized by their END-goal. That's a big problem.
Now, I don't doubt that some of those programs might get you the results if followed to a T--they might. And of course, those results might stick (or not) at the end of said program. But that's not what I'm writing about today. Today, I want to call out how backwards that kind of thinking is when it comes to helping people improve.
We can all agree that life happens in an up-and-down way, with some days feeling great and some just feeling like dogshit. Some days start well, and get worse; sometimes it's the opposite. And sometimes, everything is just normal (not that often, though). In fact, the only constant is the change.
But when someone decides that it's time to dig back into fitness, or get started for the first time, they are usually pretty adamant about rejecting where they are currently, their personal status quo, and they're ready to disrupt that status quo. Honestly, that desire to break things, smash the status quo, might be the ONLY thing they are sure about.
They don't really know what to do--exercise? cardio? weights? yoga? how much? when? how long? are you my mother?!--which is why they need a coach! But they are damn sure that they want to change.
"Coach, make me better."
As a coach trying to integrate with this amorphous collection of experiences and knowledge and wants and needs, my first job is to tune-in to their ups and downs. More than understanding what makes them "tick", I am trying to empathize with when they're feeling good, and when they're down. I'm trying to understand their status quo.
As I start to understand their personal, unique undulating pattern of good/bad (their own personal wave), I start giving them little nuggets that are appropriate for where they are, that day, month, or year.
Change is a process, not just another, greener pasture. Until you tune into where you are, you'll never get started in earnest.