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Perseverance

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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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