So, life threw you a curveball? Your navigating your way through a lay-off, a divorce, a death? It’s kind of intense, huh?
As I sit here in front of my computer, drafting this blog in hopes that it reaches thousands of fitness enthusiasts who need some motivation, I can honestly say that I am right here with you. I’m in the muck and the mire. I’m at my lowest low and the lesson I have to share is a very fresh wound. Too fresh, perhaps, but I’m a fan of the raw, written word so why deviate from who I am this late in the game?
As I peck away at my keyboard I am exactly 106 days past losing my father to a horrific plane crash. As these words flow from me about fitness and how to get back to it after life hands you a steaming, hot cup of shit, I can tell you that his body has not been found, his plane is sitting on the bottom of the Puget Sound, just outside Seattle, and nobody is doing anything about it and…
IT IS UNFAIR.
I FEEL LIKE A VICTIM.
You know that old Neil Young song ‘Helpless’? I play that shit on a loop. So excuse me if I don’t really give a flying fuck about my squat max right now, ok?
So, I don’t know where you’re at, but I’m assuming that you’re reading this because you have lost the fire in your belly to voraciously attack your fitness goals. Welp, climb on into my boat: I have no oar and I don’t know where I’m going. I lack that same drive too and IT IS OK.
In case no personal trainer or coach has ever said that to you before, let me be the first. It’s ok to experience periods of time where you just don’t give a flying fuck about anything related to gym, macros and abs. But herein lies the lesson: this isn’t the time to throw in the towel and binge eat your way through life. There is something to be said about the grey. Not black or white, but grey. It’s beautiful in all of its shades from light dove to deep and ominous charcoal. White is the equivalent of not caring enough to get out of bed and black is the opposite- stepping on stage in a physique contest with a full 6 pack shredded. There are so many in-betweens that are worthy of celebrating and patting oneself on the back.
So enough of this, lets talk steps. Are you READY?
- Grieve/pout/feel– just do it. Own your emotions. Drink, smoke, eat some shit food. Its going to happen. I did this and it felt terrible. For 10 days after I received the call that shook my core, I skipped meals, drank booze and smoked so much weed I don’t think I was sober once in that 10 days stretch of pain. By day 11, I hated the way I felt. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Going to that place really makes you appreciate the strict fitness lifestyle that you are normally living with ease. Now, how do we get that feeling back?
- Take action, no matter how trivial- One foot in front of the other. You must move your body. This is where people get lost. They want to jump back “into their old routine” but It’s not that easy. You were a different person in that routine- different priorities ruled your world and whatever shit your going through right now has changed you and your perspective. Maybe even changed your priorities in life. LACK OF ACTION BREEDS ANXIETY. That statement is the one, hard, fast rule that I have taken with me from years of counseling. When you do nothing, your anxiety worsens. But it’s the DO SOMETHING that is so hard. So now what?
- Make an appointment– With a trainer, a friend, a meet-up group. It really doesn’t matter as long as you feel accountable to someone or something to show up. When I was in Seattle for three weeks, sifting through the wreckage of my new reality, there were days I COULD NOT get out of my goddamn bed. So one morning, I took action. I went to my google maps, typed in fitness/gyms and pulled up all gyms in the area. I found one that offered group classes and I signed up online. It was 730am and I made and appointment for 9am. I needed something to get me out of bed. I went, I got sweaty, I stayed the whole class. 60 mins later, I felt so much better. I checked that box. It quelled the anxiety and my actions made me realize that I was going to be ok. It wasn’t an earth shattering workout. I didn’t learn anything new or break records, but I was reminded of how strong I am, physically and mentally, and when you’re wading waist high in river of pain, you need to be reminded of that.
- Create new goals- even if they are acute and short term while in this phase. Divorce? Lost your job? Lost a relationship/pet/opportunity? THAT SHIT CHANGES YOU. Some of us bounce back right away and some stay changed forever. Whatever your reality, you need short term goals. Maybe training for the marathon isn’t even feasible anymore and that’s ok. You can always go back to it. For now, how about you just enjoy a 30 minute run in the morning because you love running? Remember those days where you just did stuff because it felt good and not because you had some lofty, hard pressed goal to achieve? Don’t beat yourself up because its not your prescribed miles for the day because it’s still SOMETHING. It is more than sitting on your ass and having a pity party. So, break a sweat, release endorphins and get grounded. Can’t lift like you were before? Thats ok. Sometimes our emotional anguish takes an immense physical toll on our bodies. We don’t see what is happening below the surface but research has shown that we have a strong mind-body connection and there is a physiological stress response to emotional trauma. Stop beating yourself up! The strength comes back. The deadlift max will be there later. Now is the time to honor your soul. Workout to feel good, not look good. Hit the pause button on those feelings for the time being.
- Log your activity- Nothing feels better than seeing your accomplishments in writing because it’s real, tangible and quantified. What your brain is telling you is the opposite. Your internal dialogue is usually influenced by emotions. It is saying “You’re being lazy”, “you’re not good enough”, “you’re slipping back into old habits” and in reality, none of that is true. Don’t believe that mean voice inside your head. Write that shit down and look back over it every week. If you’re taking action daily, then you’re gong to have some really great stuff written down in that journal. You will have gone on some great hikes, run a few miles, logged some weights lifted and had check-ins at your local Cross fit. Things will have been accomplished, boxes will have been checked and you can feel good about that.
- Embrace your season- life is a series of seasons. Summers of accomplishment and winters of hibernation. All seasons come to an end, so will this one. Be nice to yourself. If you are reading this, then jot this article down as an action. You sought out advice and help and hopefully it has sparked something in you to keep going. Now you have some advice to comfort you in knowing that you’re not alone and a plan off action to welcome change.
Life is a bitch. It chews you up and spits you out. It hurts and it’s unfair. But it is also a journey of transformation. Every time life peels a layer off of us, we have the opportunity to reinvent who we are and how we handle what is thrown at us. Fitness, and our discipline or lack thereof, is an expression and reflection of our relationship with the self. Lift yourself up and provide yourself with the tools for success.
In good health,
Proud daughter Of Lee Gordon Elliott
6/22/1947 – 5/27/2018