Monday, May 3, 2010

Your Best

"I don't know about this, Stan..."
"Just do it. It'll be OK."
"I'm not sure..."
"You're going to do it or I'm going to leave. Which one do you want?"

That sounds like date rape. I didn't realize it until I typed it out but actually the conversation took place a week ago as I trained a friend at her request. Setting the weight, and I told her to pull down as hard as she could. She protested saying "I'm going to hurt myself." "I'm nervous. I don't want to attract attention to myself." and "I don't know if I can." To the last one I replied "I'm asking for effort. If you can't give me your best effort, then you've wasted hours of my life."

For this past week, I couldn't help but to review the training session in my mind over and over again. I was dissatisfied with what I perceived as the effort my friend gave. But I thought on it, I realized a stain of hypocrisy in my words. I criticized her effort but for months I've seethed at my own lackadaisacal attempts to work out. I don't know how many times I've finished a workout and smashed my fist into a wall in frustration. I've not been giving my best. The results will show on the day of testing. As days fly off the calendar, my desperation grows, but my body never seems to respond in kind.

Am I out of my mind?

Perhaps. But more critically, my perspective is flawed. I've been feeling a reservoir of hidden power in my workouts but for whatever reason I can't tap into it. It drives me insane to think that such potential is there so tantalizingly out of reach. I've called myself "lazy," "pathetic," "a spineless, gutless worm that deserves to be ground into shit." as a result. But if I stepped back and gazed upon the broad history of my personal transformation, a glaring inconsistency stares back at me.

People ask me "Stan, how did you lose all that weight? What did you do?" I tell them the plain and honest truth "Willpower and determination." When I died inside my chrysalis, I chanted a mantra like "Doesn't matter how much it hurts, just keep going." "It's better to die than to live fat." But all runs came to an end. The pain always got the best of me and I slowed to a walk. It never failed to defeat me, but the pain that made me quit yesterday is simple rust that I dust off in the morning today. I really have grown.

And how did that growth happen? By going to what I perceived as my limits each time. Back in the training session, she eventually acquiesced. Grabbing ahold of the bar she pulled down and the weight moved swiftly. Once, twice, three times, now five, now eight... finally twelve times. At half her bodyweight. She looked tired but she did it. I didn't specify a rep range for her. I only expected 3 or 4 reps. The weight could have been set much higher at around 75 or 80% of her bodyweight. But she had never done this before. I take for granted the fact that I've been working at a (relatively) high intensity in isolation for 2 years. My body knows what to do when exerting a maximal effort and feels little hesitation in doing so. Prior to this, I spent many years playing around in a weight room where insecure boys tried to one up each other by pushing more and more weight. It provided a stable foundation for strength training, if not maturity. That psycho-physiological foundation is key for future gains. The body and its soul desire security for going hard. You give ithem that security with constant training and exposure to hardship. I've pushed 200 pounds and it hurt, but it wasn't too bad. Now I can do 205. Little by little, the old self and more importantly, the old standards are sloughed off and a new self emerges. Everyone salivates at the goals but it's much more important to heed the process.

When I work out today, if I were to describe my effort, I could only give it an honest 30% There's so much more I can be doing that I'm not. So what does that make the effort of last year or the year before or 5 years before? It took me a long time to work up to what now seems like 30%. Before I thought I was at 100% effort because I only had my previous work as a comparison. Now that I know myself more, I know that my spirit is sorely lacking.

Practically, this means two things for me.  The first is that I need to prepare my spirit to go at 100%. It's not so simple as slapping yourself, beating your chest and yelling at yourself. It only works for so long. I need to do more work purifying my spirit of unnecessary things like sleeping late, candy, TV, facebook, idle banter. My body isn't in race shape yet but it will never be if my mind is not in race shape.

The seocond is that I need to give more grace when I train others. I, myself am not at 100%. But I am further ahead than where I was a year, 2 years ago. It's the daily increase that matters, the daily ritual of purification and renewal. No matter where anyone starts, they may grow.

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well neither does bathing -- that's why we reccomend it daily." -- Zig Ziglar

"To not give your best is to waste the gift." -- Steve Prefontaine

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