lisa BEE BLOG: Bringing it Back to the Mat
Consistency, New Year’s Priorities, and Bunny Abuse!
There are many benefits to making “Fitness” teaching and training your profession - but they probably aren’t what you would expect. I am assuming that you assume that I get to stay fit for free and that I can multi-task by working and training simultaneously. If I am correct in my assumptions about your assumptions, you would be wrong – which I think that makes ME right! Yay! ;)
I, like most fitness professionals, have to pay disproportionate amounts of money for my training and my on-going professional development. And, when teaching or training, I am rarely able to do the type of work-out or to train at the intensity level that I need because my needs very rarely dovetail those of my students. So instead, like all fitness enthusiasts, I must “work” on my students’ time and mostly maintain my own fitness on my own time.
The main benefit I have noticed from being a fitness professional is . . . consistency. I simply do not have the luxury of choosing not to do yoga when I am the teacher and studio owner. And, I don’t have the luxury of choosing not to train for my triathlons when, as a coach, I am expected to be setting an example for others. My livelihood depends upon other people being consistent with their fitness focus. The bad news is that this has made me rather unsympathetic to other people’s excuses. The good news is that it has also made me unsympathetic to my own.
I notice I often indulge in a type of “martyrdom” in which I convince myself that my commitment standards exceed those of everyone else. After all, I don’t allow a mere cold to stop me from teaching my yoga class nor do I allow each and every ache to keep me from training. And I certainly do NOT let the weather deter my fitness focus. I would love to believe that I am simply that much better than everyone else, but I think, in reality, there is a different truth. A “chicken and the egg” truth. Because I am the teacher, I am inclined to make canceling a class or a training session my very last resort. Consequently, I learn that my true tolerance threshold is much higher than my fickle “desire.” Once I force myself to actually do that which I don’t always want to do, I get the benefit of realizing that I am always happy that I followed through with my scheduled fitness activity. Consequently, when it comes to doing my own training, I am much more likely to follow Nike’s advice, as clichéd as it may seem, and “just DO it” because I know that I am not really sick enough to warrant the excuse I am trying to peddle to myself nor am I actually busy enough not to squeeze in SOMEthing that furthers the purpose of my training schedule.
Fitness is highly dependent upon consistency. And will power is highly dependent upon the momentum that this consistency creates. The more you practice yoga and/or train athletically, the stronger your base fitness. It is this base fitness which allows you to actually advance your athletic ability and evolve your yoga practice. When you practice/train inconsistently, each effort is spent rebuilding your base. The result is that despite putting in a lot of time and effort, you never seem to “improve.” However, when you practice/train consistently, you maintain a base from which you can improve if you are willing and able to push yourself to a new level. If, however, you are not willing to “push yourself” beyond this base fitness, you, at least, experience the benefit of training and practicing “comfortably” without undue risk of injury. Nothing is more frustrating and more conducive to injury than always having to “re-invent the wheel” of your fitness. As a fitness professional, it is this consistency dependent base fitness that I have the “built in” luxury of maintaining – no matter how much of my own training I do or do not do, I am always in “good enough” shape to maintain health, prevent injury, insure well-being, and to provide a springboard for improvement.
More importantly, however, the more you train/practice, the more you want to train/practice! If you only trained and practiced on the days you wanted to do so, you would be waiting around for a very long time to get going. However, when you let your rational mind insist upon what your mercurial will may or may not desire, you develop a momentum that serves you well on both good days and bad. Not only does this momentum make you actually want to train and practice more often, it also gives you the critical knowledge you need on down days – it lets you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you will be happy you did this and that it will begin getting easier the instant you begin! Many of my students are shocked when I admit that I don’t always want to practice or train. I have to insist, over and over, that the difference between us is NOT that I want to practice/train when they do not; the difference is that I practice and train regardless of my day to day desire.
Another benefit that comes from “just doing it,” is that you expand your range of abilities. Recently, to my extreme distress and disgust, I have been relegated to the age demographic for whom merely “sleeping” is a hazardous activity! I flew to Florida after Christmas to visit my family and had the audacity to sleep on the plane. I was thrilled with my “sleep protocol” – warm socks for my feet, ergonomic plane blanket (which I had confiscated from Delta back when airlines gave out such niceties), eye mask, neck pillow, and ear plugs. I stashed my luggage overhead and implemented my sleep tools with determination. Little did I know the price I would pay for their success. Later that day, I went to the grocery store and attempted to pick up a bleeping lemon when I noticed that my left arm simply would not move. Any attempts to move it with my right arm produced extreme pain. So indignant was I with this ridiculous ailment, which had manifested itself apropos of absolutely nothing, that my thought process went as follows: “if this isn’t a heart attack, I am going to be really pissed.” Unfortunately . . . I mean fortunately, the doctor at Urgent Care diagnosed me with a most undignified injury – “bicep tendonitis.” Basically, I “slept on it wrong” and caused the bicep tendon to inflame. It sounds silly and minor, but a week later when I returned to Kitsap County, I still couldn’t move my arm and yet, I had yoga classes to teach. Canceling class on the first day of Expansions Yoga new 2016 series, did not seem in sync with everything I never learned in Business School (having only English and Philosophy degrees). So, I taught anyway. But, in order to so, I had to radically change my instructional style. Instead of demonstrating the positions, I had to be much more verbal with my descriptions; instead of moving quickly through the poses, I had to slow the class down and focus for a longer period of time on fewer poses; and in a desperate attempt to seem useful, I used my “good” arm to make a lot more physical adjustments for the students. The result was that multiple students commented on how much they enjoyed how “different” the class was from usual. If I had assumed that not being able to move one’s arm was a “good enough” excuse to warrant canceling the class, my students would have missed out on a new and improved pedagogy and I would not have realized that my teaching “rut” needed to be refreshed.
If you want to reap the rewards of this consistency that my fitness profession forces upon me, then I, not so humbly, suggest that you realize that consistency is a function of your ability to prioritize your health and fitness each and every day. I think a major mistake people make is that they create a fitness plan based upon their ideal daily and weekly schedule. The problem is that this sturdy “ideal” is constantly crumbling. Each day, each week throws you curveballs which you need to “hit out” of your scheduled “park.” Like with most things, you need to raise your tolerance for restructuring and lower your threshold for intrusions. I actually had a triathlete whom I was coaching say that she couldn’t attend a workout because she found some wild bunnies in her yard and needed to make sure they were safe. (Pause for shocked gasp and derisive scoff.) This led to me utter the most implausible phrase of my entire life: “eff the bunnies, eff ALL the bunnies – and get yourself to practice.” Please note that I was not trying to channel my inner Glenn Close and advocate that she boil the damn bunnies. I was simply trying to point out that her responsibility to those bunnies paled in comparison to her responsibility to her fitness. She was acting as if she had no choice – the bunnies appeared, she had to save them. Or so she erroneously thought. In reality, she was deliberately choosing to prioritize something other than her own fitness. And, like most choices you make against fitness, it was a bad choice. These bunnies weren’t the beloved pets of her children; they weren’t farm animals that she was raising for her family’s profit. They were wild animals upon which she had accidentally stumbled. How great would their loss really be? I mean, if bunnies are known anything, it is for their ability to . . . um . . . reproduce quickly and easily! So, call me hardhearted, call me cruel, but I stand by my proclamation: “eff the bunnies, eff ALL the bunnies.” And, while you are at it, “eff” your manufactured rationalizations about why you are choosing to prioritize something other than your health and fitness.
As Agu from “Beasts of No Nation” observes, “you can be finding the ground is washing away beneath your feet. Nothing is ever for sure . . . and everything is always changing.” If you want to distinguish yourself from every other person who has listed “get healthier” as a New Year’s resolution, if you actually want to “keep” that fitness resolution, you will need to commit to prioritizing your fitness plans each and every day. When your day’s itinerary changes and goes sideways, you will need to strategize how you will maintain your fitness track. When life inevitably “washes away” the stability of your plan, you will need to rebuild an alternate one that allows your commitment to your health to stay sturdy.
LuLuLemon advocates that you “do something outside your comfort zone once a day.” Some days getting to your yoga practice may actually qualify as that “uncomfortable” effort. But, I promise that you will be better for that effort. So, this is Lisa Be asking you to please gather your priorities and “bring them back to your yoga mat” this New Year so that we can do some effing Rabbit Poses together!!!