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Fit People Can Feel Shitty About Themselves Too

Ugh.

I had a crappy weekend.

It started out good – I’m transitioning out of my diet, I’m feeling strong, and I had a few really cool things happen last Friday that caused a mini dance celebration in the break room and left me grinning like a complete goon most of the afternoon.

I’m working on a Top-Secret New Project (but as my Mom has told me, I’m not really good at keeping secrets – email me at Genevieve@theinertiaproject.org for details!) and had been planning to take some photos for the project this past Sunday.

No big deal – I’ve done shoots before and know how to approach them.

Or rather, I SHOULD know how to approach them.

AND I TOTALLY SCREWED IT UP!!

I psyched myself out.

In an attempt to fill my muscles out like I’ve done for my other shoots, I tried to do an emergency carbo-load on Saturday (read: ate my weight in fun party carbs like fro-yo, cookies, and Pad Thai - mmmmmm) to fill out more, with the thought that not drinking water until the photos were taken on Sunday would get rid of the inevitable carb bloat and I’d look great and tan and happy.

What actually happened was the opposite.

I woke up bloated, my abs were NOT defined, and I felt like I’d eaten a load of mopey antisocial wallflower carbs instead of fun party carbs. Exactly how I DIDN’T want to feel – and DIDN’T WANT TO LOOK!!

I was distraught. And what’s worse is that I had concrete proof my body had changed because I had taken progress photos four days before.

How I looked on Wednesday

 

How I Looked 4 days later - my literal Photo Bomb

Take a look at the difference in these pictures – the one on Wednesday is blurry and I’m pale as all get-out, but you can tell that my abs are better. I’m not retaining water. I look good.

And here’s another confession: I actually took the second set of pictures Monday night because I couldn’t bring myself to do it Sunday – this is what I looked like a full 24 hours later, after my meltdown.

(Note: I realize that my “bloaty and gross” pictures are what a lot of people would kill to have. It goes to show that regardless of your weight, you can still feel bad about yourself. This is not a post to make anyone feel shitty about how they look, or say “look at me, even when I feel bad I look good” – NO. This is about how each and every one of us has struggles with how our body looks, regardless of whether you compete in fitness competitions or avoid mirrors at all costs.)

There was an internal war going on, and it wasn’t pretty.

Here’s what was going through my mind on Sunday:

“Gen, you KNOW how to do this correctly, and that you weren’t doing it right. Why the fuck did you do this? How could you totally let go? Why didn’t you try cleaner carbs like oatmeal? Why did you think you could pull this off? The tan won’t save you, your abs look like complete crap. They are watery and soft and you can’t take pictures like this. They looked better yesterday. Why didn’t you do the photos last week when you looked super cut? What if you look WORSE later this week if you put off the photos?”
(For those who are wondering, if I had eaten no differently than usual, this never would have happened in the first place.)

There was more, but that’s a small sample of what I was saying.

But this isn’t my first rodeo. Basically what happened was I took on too much water too fast thanks to the fun party carbs. All I need to do was go back to eating normally and the bloat will subside in 2-3 days.

In the scheme of things, this is not a big deal AT ALL.

But I know myself, and I know what can happen when I let these thoughts get out of hand. I wrote an article previously about how I had a hard time with self-talk last year. I felt myself ready to fly off the handle and knew that I needed to get my head back on right.

I swallowed my pride, called up a good friend and talked through my thoughts.

This was SO HARD.

As a fitness professional, it’s so hard to admit to myself that I’m not treating my body or mind nicely, much less verbalize it to someone else. And, to be quite candid, writing this for the world to see is pretty terrifying right now!

It’s so hard to explain though – people automatically assume that because I have a six-pack that I am satisfied with how I look all the time.

THAT IS NOT TRUE.

I have good days, and I have bad days, just like everyone else.

I have days when I feel invincible. And I will admit that I do have more of them now that I have changed my body and mindset.

But I, too, still fall prey to ugly thoughts. I too have moments when I look in a mirror and see imperfections. I too struggle to love my body – and to be honest, I don’t think ANYONE fully loves everything about their body.

As I was venting to my friend, I acknowledged that what I was complaining about would seem ludicrous to 98% of the population.

But these feelings are real to me, and learning how to deal with these emotions in a healthy and constructive manner is a battle.

But if I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that while I don’t always have control of what my body is doing (helloooo, carb bloat and hormonal water weight!), I DO always have control of something FAR more important – MY MIND.

After throwing a little more of a pity party, I rolled up my sleeves and started weed-whacking away my invasive thoughts.

I GET TO DECIDE TO STAY CALM.

I GET TO DECIDE THAT THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

I GET TO DECIDE THAT JUST BECAUSE I FUCKED UP THIS PHOTO SHOOT, IT DOESN’T MAKE ME LESS LOVEABLE OR WORTHY.

I GET TO DECIDE THAT I WILL LET THESE THOUGHTS PASS INTO MY MIND, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN I SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO THEM.

I AM IN CONTROL.

I bet you’ve had similar thoughts –

  • You’ve walked past a mirror or caught a glimpse of your reflection in a storefront window and been less than thrilled with what you see.
  • You’ve eaten too much and feel like you need to compensate by not eating for the rest of the day, texting your best friend that you’re “such a fatty”. 
  • You decide that THIS TIME, you’re REALLY going to buckle down and exercise but you give up after three workouts when you’re sore, and label yourself “lazy and unmotivated”.
  • You step on the scale and your confidence is shattered because you’re three pounds heavier than you were yesterday.
  • You have a weak moment and go for that third (and then fourth) slice of pizza and then continue the food fest because you’ve already screwed up and might as well keep going.

Look, these things happen.

It’s easy (and common!) to freak out and beat yourself up.

I clearly struggle with this too.

But always remember that you’re the master of your thoughts. Take a deep breath. Resist the temptation to take your ugly thoughts seriously. Treat them like a troll leaving a stupid comment on a YouTube video and scroll on past.

I have a challenge for you all – this week, I want you to stop yourself when you start that downward spiral and send me a short email telling me the exact thought you had when you caught yourself. I promise it will be better than hating yourself for the next day or two or three.

Chances are you’re blowing things out of proportion.

Practice acknowledging that you are having the thought, but that this particular thought doesn’t define you. This is a toughie but it will get easier with time.  And just to let you know, I’m going to be doing this too – we are in this together.

Now go, stop those negative thoughts, and be a winner.


Have you ever had a meltdown over a fitness mishap that in hindsight wasn’t a big deal? I’d love to hear it - send me an email and share your story. And please feel free to pass this on to a friend who needs to hear this.

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“But I Don’t Want to Look Bulky!” Mythbusters, Part 1.

Ok, stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

“Cello lessons? Forget about that, I don’t want to turn into Yo Yo Ma.”

No? Ok – here’s another:

“I’m afraid of going to spin class because I don’t want to compete in the Tour de France!”

Still nothing? What about now:

 “I don’t want to learn how to sing because I’m afraid I’ll accidentally turn into an opera singer.”

If you think I’m totally nuts right about now, indulge me in just one more:

“I don’t want to lift weights; I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder!”

OOOHHH snap. I bet you’ve heard that one before.

I could go into the logical, rational arguments why that’s not the case. I can wax poetical about how women’s testosterone levels make it difficult for muscle growth, how it takes YEARS of 100% dedicated lifting AND dieting to get to that point, or how lifting generally makes you smaller, not larger (take me as a case study: Pre-lifting Genevieve was a size 10-12; lifting Genevieve is a size 4-6).

Picture time so I can prove it!

But I’m not going to do that.

I’m going to address what I hear when a woman looks me in the eyes with dread and utters those words.

I’m going to dive straight into the fear behind that statement.

Though the tide is (wonderfully!) turning, it’s not yet totally acceptable for women to lift weights. If you look at the popular magazines, the articles on “toning” and “shaping” tell you:

1.       Run on the treadmill and lift 5 pound dumbbells for a fartbillion repetitions.

2.       To be slim and pretty, you should run. Just run. Or elliptical, whatever, just as long as it's cardio.

3.       Stay far, far away from lifting anything over 15 pounds because you’ll turn into the Incredible Hulk and no man will ever want to date you.

They play on the basic fears that all of us have: societal norms, physical attractiveness, social belonging, and feminine ideals of beauty.

The discomfort, in real life, sounds like this: “I don’t want to be bulkier than my boyfriend. He likes me small and soft and petite. What if he stops finding me attractive?" Or “I’m losing weight and one of my guy friends told me that he usually doesn’t find muscular girls attractive, but he likes the way I look. I know he meant it as a compliment, but it made me question the way I look. Am I getting too buff? Is that a thing?”

I have no problem admitting that I, too, was scared when I started lifting. It was embarrassing and I did a ton of things wrong.

But NOT taking the leap would have been worse.

Why is that?

Because I would have been trapped, like so many women are, in a spiral of self-loathing.

We’re taught to hate things about ourselves (like this clip from Mean Girls). Every magazine tells you how to “Lose Those Last 10 Pounds”, as if you’re not already good enough. And the kicker is that their advice SUCKS and WON’T MAKE YOU LOSE THAT WEIGHT!!

So you never lose the weight, you hate yourself more, you tell yourself you’re lazy and why bother, and you give up and eat ice cream in a corner while blasting Adele. (Not from personal experience.)

Lifting weights changed all that for me.

By lifting, I became confident. Yeah, starting out I probably looked like the weight room equivalent of Bambi on ice. But once I started to get stronger and increase my dumbbells from the 10s to the 15s to the 20s and even further, I started to see my body change. I started to have physical, concrete evidence that I was improving. I was reaching my goals by giving Shape Magazine the middle finger and doing everything it said I shouldn’t.

(Actually, I will give the magazines credit. They say to stay away from the 10s and 15s. They’re right. When I loaded up on 25s and 45s, I saw drastic changes.)

But the most drastic change was that I started believing in myself. I saw what happened when I followed conventional wisdom – crying  at the thought of 30 more minutes on the treadmill for the umpteenth day in a row (this one IS from personal experience), and what happened when I took that leap of faith - walking tall with my head held high.

I get the fear behind “I don’t want to be bulky”. I really do.

But the REAL fear is the fear of change.

It’s the fear that we won’t be beautiful in the socially accepted sense.

It’s the fear of your friends making fun of you for eating “rabbit food” while they slam burgers like it’s their job.

It’s the fear of being given the side eye by those three guys piling the plates on the bench press while you’re trying to concentrate on not dropping the bar on your face.

Those fears are the silent fears that are publicly pronounced as “I don’t want to get bulky”.

If you’ve found yourself saying “I don’t want to get bulky”, here’s what I want you to do.

I want you to really think about what this means to you.

What are you actually scared of? Is it how you’ll look? Is it how your friends will react? Is it that your sister doesn’t understand what you’re doing? Is it that you’re realizing you don’t actually know how to lift?

Once you figure out the actual answer, that dragon will be easier to slay. We’ll go more in depth on each one of these topics because dealing with your thoughts is often harder than physically picking up those barbells. But that’s exactly why I’m here. I don’t want you to wallow in misery, chasing those last elusive 5 pounds. I want you to kick ass and take names.

For now, though, take a second and write in the comments below – have you ever said “I don’t want to be bulky”, or heard someone say that to you? What’s the fear behind those words for you? I’m going to base the next few posts on what comes out in the comments, so don’t be shy!

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Genevieve’s FAQ from the Quora Post!

Hello to all my new Quora subscribers!

First off, thanks so much for joining the Inertia Project!!

As a thank you I want to address some of the more frequently asked questions on the Quora thread in this post and go more in depth on a few of them.

So, without further ado, here are my answers to the most common questions I received:

 

Q: Can you get these kinds of results without going to extremes with diet and exercise? Are you allowed to eat food that just taste good on occasions and go out to a nice restaurant and have a good meal with some wine?

A: There are two options, both with benefits and drawbacks. I've done both ways and will interject my personal experiences at the end:

1.       You are super careful and strict - This doesn't mean that your food is bland (omg I am the queen of spices, and my boyfriend loves it when I cook!), it just means that you measure and weigh everything. You pay close attention to your macronutrient ratios (the ratio of protein, fats, and carbohydrates in food) and don't eat just anything that comes across your plate. You are extremely consistent and limit cheats to very infrequently or never.

The benefit to this approach is you will lose weight faster. You'll be able to see daily/weekly progress and know that this is working. After a while your cravings for sweets goes away and the diet becomes easier.

The drawback to this is that you tend to be limited socially. Friends may invite you out for drinks but you don't drink. You don't indulge in a second helping at dinner. Friday lunch at your favorite burger joint? Probably not.

2.       You aren't as strict and allow cheats - This is generally how people start out. You are strict for a period of time and have cheat meals, or you allow yourself to have cheat treats here and there. If you’ve ever seen someone say “I lost 40 lbs and ate this entire pizza” you know they are using cheat meals (and not drawing attention to the 6 other days a week where they are eating well).

The benefit to this is that your social life is better and you can still sometimes eat your favorite foods. It's easier for you to say yes to friends and family at gatherings.

The drawback to this is that you won't see progress as quickly and one cheat meal / day often spirals out of control and lasts longer than you intended, so you feel guilty. Your cravings don't really go away and it gets hard at the end because you want what you can't have. Since your progress isn't as fast, you might become unmotivated and quit.

So, as I said in the beginning, I do both - While I’m preparing for a Figure competition, I am super strict. I'm going to be up on stage in a tiny bikini and everything that I put in my mouth will show up under the lights, so I have a lot of motivation to stay strong!

However, when I'm not preparing for a show, you better believe I eat pizza and have a few beers with my wine. But I've practiced it and know how my body reacts when I have that type of food so when I gain 4 lbs overnight (yes, that HAS happened), I know that it's probably bloat from my cheat meal and will be gone in a few days, no need to fret.

My I'd also like to point out that my "now" picture is 10 lbs heavier than my stage weight. I let myself have cheat treats and meals. So yes, that body is achievable with cheats and treats (candy and ice cream and burgers, oh my!). However, I have had enough time eating like I do to know when I can have cheats, and when I should lay off them.

So it all just depends on what trade-offs YOU are willing to live with; and one answer is not “better” than another.

 

Q: It only took you one year to look like that?!

A: Yes, it was just one year. But I was very determined to reach my goals!

When I started my journey, my only goal was to compete in a figure competition. I started out at a high weight and knew it would take me that long to whittle down to where I needed to be to compete with the fittest competitors. It was not easy and I went through my struggles – weight plateaus, not seeing results, being confused about all the different diet and nutrition information out there, having people make weird remarks to me (it’s amazing how people make remarks about my body shape TO MY FACE - positive AND negative), not feeling like I “fit in” in the weight room because I wasn’t a protein-shake guzzling dude – but I knew that I had to overcome those fears to make it onto the stage.

To be honest, shaping the body wasn’t the hard part - it was shaping my mind.

I had to learn how to mentally prepare for my workouts so I could produce visible results. I had to learn what “hard work” REALLY meant. I had to learn how to control my thoughts so I wouldn’t freak out and get overwhelmed.  I had to learn how to make achievable goals so I wouldn’t get frustrated and quit.

I'm sure if you work hard at one of your goals, break it into small chunks, and make at least one step forward each day, you'd be amazed at what you can do. It's completely achievable. And that's why I'm excited you're here, so we can help you make goals and then totally surpass them!

 

Q: Were you unhealthy in the before photo?

A: I was overweight. I don't look like it because I'm super tall but I was carrying more weight than I should have.

On the left, I was the heaviest I’d ever been (around 187 at 5’10”) – I don’t actually know the exact weight because I was too self-conscious to step on the scale (in my own home!). I dreaded seeing the numbers go up and felt like if I weighed in heavier, I wasn’t good enough.

But more than that, I also just felt bad. I had always been active but I wasn't as confident in a bikini during summer. I didn't like the way my legs rubbed together when I walked. I kept having to go up ANOTHER notch on my belt. I felt embarrassed in my own body and knew that I had to make a change.

To be honest, my mental change was more drastic than my physical change. I went from being self-conscious (you see that look on my face in the "before"? I DIDN'T WANT TO TAKE THE PICTURE AT ALL!!!) to feeling confident and self-assured. I deal with anxiety and stress better. And I learned how to respect myself. I am more proud of my mindset shift than the physical transformation.

 

Q: Have you tried low carb/paleo diets along with your workouts? Any feedback on those?

A: No, I did not do a low carb diet. Carbs are the best energy source for your muscles, and I lift weights a lot, so I need enough energy to do my workouts.

There are a lot of diets out there and low carb diets are popular right now. But to properly fuel your body, carbs are necessary. You can get good results with low carb diets initially, but you'll eventually stall out and the workouts will suffer. Carbs aren't evil, they are just misunderstood.

 

Q: It’s all a camera trick! She is just standing further back in the second pic! ;)

A: Lol yeah, that and the Photoshop! Haha just kidding :)

 

Q: Can you comment on how your sleeping habits were? Before and after if any? I'm so busy with life and work that I don't get much sleep.

A: Yes, sleep is definitely an important part in losing weight. I found that when I got more sleep, the weight loss seemed easier. I noticed the morning after a good sleep, my body felt tighter. Sleep helps your body repair, restore energy, and (my favorite) it makes breakfast come faster.

 

Q: I am also a person who is currently doing a lot of cardio and almost no weights. I have a lot of belly fat. I don't understand how can lifting weights burn belly and ass fat.

A: Yes, I'll admit that it seems counter-intuitive. And I want to stress that it's not just lifting alone, it's paying attention to diet.

But to answer your question, here's a really brief overview of the benefits of cardio vs. weights:

Cardio, Pros: You burn lots of calories in a little bit of time. It doesn't require much, or any, equipment (think of running). You don't have to be trained to do it.

Cardio, Cons: After you stop working out, you don't continue burning calories. A lot of people overestimate how much they burn and then eat a lot, and then they don’t lose weight. Cardio doesn't shape or build muscle.

Weights, Pros: You build and shape your muscles by targeting specific body parts. You continue to burn calories after you're done working out. You can be in and out of the gym faster and there are more things to do. Compound movements (movements that use a lot of body parts, like a squat) burn more calories than isolation exercises (movements that use single body parts, like a bicep curl).

Weights, Cons: Though you can get effective workouts using bodyweight exercises, you generally need equipment. You need to know how to lift weights safely so you don’t get injured.

A mix of cardio and lifting will get you good results. But if you're looking specifically for fat loss, weights are a really good option because you keep burning calories afterward. When you do that, you lose fat.

 

Q: Could you tell us about your workout, when do you exercise every day? And what type of exercise do you use?

A: I usually work out 5 times per week for about 40-50 minutes. I mostly lift weights and follow bodybuilding-style workouts. I don't do that much cardio any more. I do a lot of compound movements that use a lot of large muscle groups (which is why I don’t need to spend two hours in the gym 7 days a week - Never, ever. I have a life too, you know).

I usually work out in the evenings on weekdays and in the morning on weekends because that is what fits best with my life, but it doesn't really matter when you exercise.

If you're looking to build muscle tone fast, heavier weights are the way to do it.

And don't get scared you'll get bulky!! In the “before” picture, I was size 10-12 and lifted occasionally. When I started lifting more and eating right, I went down several pant sizes - I'm a size 4-6 now. Lifting made me smaller!

Here’s a sample of the types of workouts I do and how I break them down. I usually follow some sort of push / leg / pull split (and then repeat). Here are some exercises to give you some ideas of what I do:

Push Motion: Pushup, Bench Press, Chest Fly, Dips, Incline Bench Press, Push Press, Military Press, Dumbbell Press, Arnold Press, Shoulder Raises

Leg Motion: Squat, Lunges, Leg Press, Hip Thrusts, Glute Bridges, Leg Extensions, Hamstring Curls

Pull Motion: Bent Over Row, Deadlift, Seated Row, Lat Pulldown, Pull Up, Single Arm Rows

 

Q: I know that your diet was customized for you specifically but I was wondering what you might eat on a typical day?

A: I'd love to share my eating habits! I worked with a company called Renaissance Periodization to really nail down my diet. They are FANTASTIC and I highly recommend them. If you're interested, send me an email and I can give you a discount code.

First off, watching your diet doesn't mean depriving yourself of all joy for being alive. Or that you're automatically confined to chicken and rice and broccoli for the rest of your human existence. Eating healthy foods instead of microwaving Lean Cuisine every night for dinner didn’t take that much more effort and I noticed a huge difference. I actually felt fuller because I prioritized healthy foods that fueled me for longer.

Here's a (non-comprehensive, but extremely accurate) list of the types of foods I eat:

     Healthy carbs - Contrary to the fads, carbs aren't the devil. They are the most efficient energy source for your body and keep you moving throughout the day. I ate sweet potatoes, oatmeal, rice, pasta, quinoa, and fruits to keep up my energy levels.

     Lean meats - Protein is great for keeping muscles repaired. I eat chicken, lean beef, steak, turkey, eggs, seafood, and greek yogurt.

     Vegetables - Basically, anything and everything :)

     Healthy fats - These are probably my favorite but it's easy to overdo them! I choose avocados, nuts, nut butters (might have a slight peanut butter addiction), and olive oil.

     Spices - Even though the list above is full of good stuff, it's easy to think "wow that sounds so boring / restrictive / bland / whatever". THAT'S TOTALLY NOT THE CASE!! Use spices and blends to make things tasty. My personal favorites are fennel, rosemary, lemon, sage, thyme, ginger, chili powder, cumin, pepper, savory, lavender, and garlic (pro tip: you might not want to include all these at once). I also like to "cheat" and get spice blends at grocery stores that are already pre-mixed.

Of course, I like to have treats here and there (think: everything), just like everyone else. I just plan for them and try not to go overboard.

 

Q: What do you think about a glass of red wine every other night or so?  And what about bread?

A: Here's my take on wine and bread:

Bread: This is fine, and delicious. Of course, watch portion sizes but I consider whole wheat bread in the "healthy carbs" category. I just don't eat much bread, so I forgot to include it above.

Red Wine: If you're looking to lose weight, I'd say to be careful about alcohol intake because 1. your body processes it differently and it can be harder to lose weight 2. in general, drinking leads to food indulgences (let's be real, Taco Bell runs and late night pizzas generally sound like a great idea only after a few beers!) and 3. it's not an essential nutrient like protein, fats, or carbs for your body to have to stay healthy.

If you're ok with your weight, go for it! I'm preparing for a figure competition right now so I am not drinking, but I have my eye on a few lovely reds from Oregon that I'll have once I'm done.

 

[This isn’t a question, but this is probably one of my more favorite comments that I think bears repeating. I love how this gentleman took the time to dig into the deeper aspect of aesthetics and how we interpret it. I thought a LOT about it and it is in line with my feelings, and I want to share it again here:]

Q: I caution young people, especially young women, do not let society or your peers impose upon you a vision of physical perfection that becomes a vehicle for terrible self-criticism and judgment. You are so much more than your abs! Be happy, be fit, eat well, but don't follow a sad path followed by too many young women and men. Skinny, beauty and healthy are not moral issues.

A: Beautifully said. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Beauty is self-confidence, and vice versa.

 

And so we’ve come to the end of my Quora Q&A!

 

Again, thank you so much for being a part of the Inertia Project. My transformation was dramatic but is very achievable for every single one of you and I’m so excited to help you get there!!

Ok, now it’s your turn to talk! What’s your biggest struggle in the gym? Time? Huge dudes taking selfies and crowding the bench press? Looking at the weights and having your “perfect workout” plans escape your brain as you totally go blank?

Leave a comment below and I’ll respond with my best tips to get over your insecurities.

 

 

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Square One and a Half

Disclaimer: If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, please spare us both the inevitable heartache and unsubscribe yourself immediately.

Ok, now that I’ve culled the non-nerd herd, on to my post.

One of my favorite parts of Harry Potter is Platform 9 ¾. As a kid, I loved reading this part. I mean, seriously – how cool would it be to go into some mundane place and then – BAM! – be transported to a magical land full of people waving wands in weird clothes holding toads and eating treacle (full disclosure – I’m still not quite sure what this is)?

And the fact that it wasn’t a whole number always made me smile. I don’t know why, but there was something charming about the fraction thrown in. Like it’s a magically ambiguous place that semi-exists and semi-doesn’t. It’s the Schrodinger’s cat of transportation (huge shout out to the nerds who get this one!).

So, in honor of Harry Potter, I’m going to introduce a concept I like to call Square One and a Half.

We’ve all heard of Square One.

That’s the dreaded place that you go to when you fall off the wagon.

You missed your workout for a week? “I’m back at Square One!

You were eating well and then the weekend wine fest with the girls happened? “I’m back at Square One!

You *insert whatever setback you had and aren’t where you think you “should” be*? “I’m back at Square One!”

But are you REALLY?

Think about it – if you missed your workouts for a week then you’ll probably lose some strength and stamina. But you’re not starting completely over. It’s a slight setback but you’re going to be back where you started in no time.

If you fell off the wagon with food, congratulations, you’re a human being! Give yourself a round of applause that you have friends and a social life. Get back to your normal healthy habits and the bloat will subside after a few days – you’re NOT back at Square One, and you shouldn’t think that just because you had some pizza you might as well make out with a fro-yo machine too (pro tip: toppings are where it’s at, anyway).

Ladies and Gents, I’d like you to consider a lovely concept called Square One and a Half.

Square One and a Half is a magical place where you may have slipped or tripped or meandered away from your goals a bit and you aren’t where you think you should be. But if you look back on where you actually started, you’re ahead of that “old” you.

You’re not at Square One.

Last summer, one of my friends made a goal for herself: she could do three pushups and wanted to be able to do ten by her birthday, which was a few weeks away. We put together some workouts and progressions and before too long, the moment of truth arrived.

It was a pretty amusing moment of truth.

We were at a Young Professionals’ Networking event and may or may not have had a few drinks before I remembered (very excitedly, of course) that she needed to test her strength. After a little convincing, we went to the back on the venue (so as to avoid baffled looks) and did pushups. She hit all ten, and there were lots of hugs and excited squeals to celebrate her accomplishment.

It was fantastic to see the look in her eyes and excitement about accomplishing something that had been a far-off goal just a few weeks previously.

But even more interesting was the conversation we had a few weeks later.

She hadn’t kept up with the pushups and – you guessed it! – lamented that she was back at “Square One”. But the funny thing is, when I asked her how many she could do, she said, “only six.”

Six… SIX?

How the heck is that back at Square One when she could do DOUBLE what she started with?

Sure, it might not be all ten any more, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t work her way back. It’s totally achievable. Since she’s accomplished it once, she KNOWS she can do it again. It will just take a bit of time.

You might not be at your best, but you sure as heck are farther than when you started.

That’s Square One and a Half.

Next time you fall off the wagon and are nursing your bumps, change your internal dialogue around the situation. You’re rarely starting from scratch.

Embrace the journey ahead, realize you’re at Square One and a Half, and start working again.

You’ve got this.


Have you ever fallen off the wagon? What helped you get back on? Leave a comment below to help other Square One and a Half-ers out!

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The Power of "Yet"

Once upon a time a few years ago, my preschool neighbor was learning to ride a bike.

If you haven’t watched this process, it is hilarious and endearing.

He was 4 years old at the time, but he carried himself with an air of expertise. His loose curls poked through his helmet as he studied the two-wheeled vehicle before him.  He put his hands on the handlebars, swung his leg over the bike and plopped down on the seat. His little shoes found the pedals and he started on his maiden voyage down the driveway, his mom standing to the side.

He was upright for about 3 seconds before he wobbled and fell over. His serious façade cracked and the first tear slid down his cheek. His mom came over, said something to him, and sent him back to try again.

And again.

And again and again until finally, he was getting the hang of it.

SUCCESS!!!!

So tell me, what do you think his mom said? That since he fell once, he probably shouldn’t try again? That he’d never be able to do it? That it was too risky and he should probably give it up?

If you’re reading this and thinking those options sound ridiculous, that’s because they are. You and I both know it was probably along the lines of to keep going and eventually he’d get it.

Have you found yourself in a similar spot, when you weren’t able to achieve something? What did you say to yourself? Probably something along the lines of “I’m not good enough / I’ll never get it / This is stupid and I’m wasting my time / *insert mopey and possibly self-loathing statement about giving up*.”

When did it become ok to fail and just stop trying? We are SO quick to give up on ourselves. We try it once. When it doesn’t work out, we think that’s it, we can’t do it.

We started putting a period at the end of the phrase “I can’t” instead of a comma and the word “yet”.

When did we stop saying “yet?”

When did we stop seeing ourselves as malleable?

When did it become ok for us to settle for things?

It’s a subtle shift that I think everyone experiences. We look up to our idols as incredible people whom we think we can’t measure up to. We attribute their success to awesome genes and lament the fact that we couldn’t choose our parents. They had more time. They had more money. They went to a better school. They knew the right people. They were in the right place at the right time. Life is inherently unfair, right? This is just another example!

We don’t see the YEARS of work, grinding, discomfort, discouragement, and stumbles. We don’t see the mindset of someone who sees the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that whatever obstacle is in her way will pass. We don’t see that she believed in herself when no one else would.

But you know what the awesome part of all this is?

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

You, and only you, are responsible for the thoughts that go through your brain. YOU have the power to say, “Hey, I can’t do this now, but if I keep working at it, I’ll get it.

You don’t have to succeed today. You don’t have to succeed tomorrow. Hell, it might take you a year or more to get your goal - I trained for 3 years before I got my first pull up. Yes, 3 years.

Next time you go to the gym and you feel like you’re failing, remember this. Your goal should be to get used to the movement, perfect the technique, and keep progressing. You should be focused on doing the best lift YOU can do, not competing with the person next to you and feeling like you’re never going to get there.

So what if you’re not lifting as heavy as others? I hate to break it to you, but really, no one cares if you can only bench press the bar. As a lifter, I actually respect people more when they know their limits and focus on expanding their own boundaries. If that means starting with the lowest weight possible, so be it. Keep chugging and plugging and before long, you’ll be stronger and lifting more anyway. You just have to give it time.

The key is to never give up.

Don’t close the door on your future success.

Don’t stop saying “yet”.


What’s something that you think you can’t do in the gym? What’s something you can say to encourage yourself to keep it up? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear your ideas!

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