Changing My Mind

A few months ago, I let my coach choose my next goal. He knows me pretty well and I trust him. He picked fat loss, with a sprinkle of powerlifting to keep it interesting. We geared up, changing the focus of my training with him to metabolic conditioning. I checked in with an RD and had my actual base metabolic rate esti-measured (it’s high, at about 1400Kcal/day) and had her work up a diet plan I never followed. I hate diet plans. She’s a great RD, I’m a terrible RD client.

We did okay for a month or so. I started deflating. It was fun to deflate, even if the scale didn’t move much, and then I started a new job and all hell broke looser. There were blog posts about the anxiety I experienced, the uncertainty about training, shifts in focus, flat lifts, and eating school food at 51. I missed the magic of summer, working out five days a week, goofing, sweating, and cussing.

There was a failure in my line of thinking when I accepted the fat-loss goal. This is hindsight and I’m working at a low “B” average, but see if this is plausible. I shrank like crazy when we started lifting to prep for the first powerlifting meet in Atlanta. If not paying attention to how much I weighed could make me shrink, then surely I could become a “normal” sized person if that was the focus! This time I would have my coach, and he’s awesome, and everything would be playing-with-baby-goats awesome and I would finally, finally, finally reach My Goal.

You talk about it a lot.

@coach_cardigan

Fat loss has been a given-goal of mine since kindergarten when Charlie Louera told me, at age 4, I looked pregnant. I talk about fat loss a lot. I rant about fat loss being a woman’s given goal. I seethe with resentment when “fit folk” assume I’m only seeking fat loss and I’m new at this athleticism thing. Seethe. If they knew me as well as my children, the fit folk would run and go clean their rooms at that moment. It was only natural for my coach to pick “fat loss”.

There were a few snags, including the aforementioned anxiety, scheduling, programming, and school food, but most important snag of all was it didn’t excite us enough to pull through the anxiety, scheduling, programming, and school food. My coach isn’t a “get a beach body” kind of personal trainer. He is into increasing sport performance, preferably strength sports, but he was willing to play along and help me out. I learned all over again, stepping on a scale daily or weekly twists my psyche into a pretzel, and the effort required to prep and pack my lunches, take care of my recovery, do cardio, and stay away from the donuts in the breakroom is greater than any excitement over a shrinking hip measurement.

We suck at fat loss, and it’s okay.

me

Not so long ago, flailing at a goal would have meant concentrated self-recrimination, renewed vows of obedience to The Plan, and re-doubled efforts. I’m old now and beginning to see the wisdom of doing what works. We are good at tending to an aging female body and keeping it injury-free. I’ve lifted consistently for a year without new injury, fixed a nagging shoulder injury, crafted a legal squat out of I don’t even know what, added 80 pounds to my deadlift, and laughed a lot. Let’s do more of that. The size of my ass will have to take care of itself. I set a new goal. It’s ambitious. It suits us.

This is the thing, though. In order to reach the new goal and keep myself together body and soul, I will have to do everything for the fat loss goal plus more. Everything has to be on point. Nutrition, sleep, recovery, workout frequency and quality. All of it. I’m pretty excited. It was fun to hear my coach tell other people at the powerlifting meet about our goal. He sounded proud to mastermind the effort.

The red and the yellow, you’re going to pick up a red and a yellow. Visualize that.

@coach_cardigan

At the powerlifting meet Saturday, at the end of a very long day, I rounded the corner of the screen separating the warm-up area from the judging platform for my third deadlift attempt and nearly cried with joy. My coach had been going on about a red and a yellow for weeks and at some level I understood he was talking about plate colors, but didn’t realize what he meant until I spotted the bar. There they were. A red plate and a yellow plate on either side. He said they were going to be there and I was going to pick it up. The whole scene was like the end of a treasure hunt. Seek the red and the yellowwwwwwwww [cue creepy voice].

The bar weighed 234 lbs and the only person who lifted lighter than me was the 11-year-old, but it was a personal best for me by nine pounds and a relatively smooth lift. Every time we follow the plan and the plan pays out, we build trust in ourselves as individuals and as a team. He makes plans, I mostly follow them. Lunches and snacks for the week are packed, laundry is done. It’s time for bed.

Tomorrow starts the next mesocycle, the next plan, the new goal.

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Monday Morning Excitement – A Better Version of Me?

Monday morning begins a new phase of training. This will be an 18-month macrocycle of muscle and strength gain balanced with fat loss, which follows a 6-month macrocycle of muscle and strength gain introducing me to powerlifting. Will this lead to a better version of me?

I say no.

There is a difference between who I am, those stable internal characteristics, and what I do, unstable internal characteristics. Am I a better person at 35% or 30% or 25% bodyfat? If I’m a better version of myself at 25% then shouldn’t even lower bodyfat be better? One of Simon Sinek’s more famous quotes is

What you do simply proves what you believe.

Sinek, one of the world’s most sought-after figures in leadership today, did not say “What you do proves who you are.” Let’s do a little thought experiment. Substitute a bank balance, prestige, fame, or any other external marker of success for bodyfat. Does more achievement equate with a better version of myself? Does less achievement equate with a worse version of myself? Take this a step further. Does more achievement mean I’m a better person than someone with less achievement? Is the bank president a better person than someone with no home? I say no.

If you resist this idea, take a closer look. Are you trying to argue the person who is able to execute the processes necessary for greater achievement is a better or different person than the one who is not? The common meme from Pinterest looks like this

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Who am I, and how is who I am separate from what I believe? Self-image is collection of beliefs about the Self. These beliefs may or may not have any grounding in reality and influence how we see and respond to the world around us. The beliefs are layered on as we interact with people and the environment from the moment of conception. One of the most profound questions I can ask someone searching for personal growth is “How do you know any of this is true?” Think about how your behavior might change if a few key beliefs you hold were different. Does that change who you are?

One of the functions of asana and meditation practices is to separate who-you-are from what-you-do. The who-you-are is sometimes characterized as the sky and what-you-do, or emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, as the clouds in the sky. Who-you-are can watch the what-you-do, therefore they are not the same. With careful observation of what-you-do, it is possible to peel back the layers of belief to arrive at a more complete sense of Self and accept the present moment as it is, not create a better Self.

Nadia Bolz-Weber engages with this idea of self-image and ideal self in this 11-minute talk at the Makers conference. Go watch it now and come back.

What I believe to be important, my values, creates a fence around all of the acceptable versions of me. As long as I am inside the fence, I am in my integrity and am a valid version of my self.

There is this dark corner where the Inner Critic lurks. He tells me I will know I’m okay if my children are polite, my house is clean, I earn advanced degrees, teach more people, finish another project, or any one of an infinite list. The Inner Critic has all the time in the world to come up with new tests, new proofs, new “if-onlys” and “as-soon-as”. The Inner Critic can suck it.

When I was younger, what I believed led me to do things which deposited a heavy layer of adipose tissue on top of an otherwise capable body. The adipose tissue protected me from a variety of evils and uncertainties which no longer exist and it has to go. The 18-month arc is not about becoming a better, stronger version of myself.

I am, and that is enough.

Namaste.

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