When I lived in Brooklyn I would go out for runs on Saturday afternoons. I really enjoyed these runs along the East River down by the Williamsburg Bridge, but on the way back home I would pass an outdoor beer garden where hipsters would be spilling out onto the sidewalk, steins in hand. The fun, laid-back vibe was palpable. I would think, "Man, that looks like a good time!". But then I would think, "Well, if I was doing that... I couldn't be doing this". It was the beginning of a question I had to answer for myself.
About a year later I had asked a woman out who I knew wasn't into the nightlife scene, so we took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. She was interesting and had a very active lifestyle that didn't include booze. As the sun fell, I had no game plan other than going to a bar. I realized I had nothing to offer her. That was a hard moment, but it motivated me. There's a saying, "We don't attract what we want. We attract what we are". I knew it was finally time to become the person I wanted to be.
Change happens in an instant... once we're ready. It's building up to being ready that can take time. We often try to numb ourselves from disappointment, but pain is a catalyst for growth, so don't dodge it. Let it hit you square in the face.
When I lived in NYC and decided to buy a bike I remember reading something about how on one hand riding a bicycle raises your risk of suffering acute trauma, but on the other hand it provides the health benefit of cardiovascular exercise. The piece went on to make the point that the benefit outweighs the negative... as long as you don't get hit by a bus. Haha.
If you do Crossfit or some other form of intense exercise long enough you will experience injury either on the acute or nagging level. Similar to the bicycle in NYC, I would argue that the benefits of exercise, community, and fun outweigh the occasional injury. But as any crossfitter will tell you, injuries can really mess with your mind and bring on feelings of depression. I had a string of injuries recently, and it taught me some important lessons.
Don't shut everything down
Avoid exercises that directly irritate the injury, but keep moving. Work around it. There is magic in movement - both physical and psychological.
Have a good support system
When I tried to throw myself a pity party my coach called me on my bullshit with something like, "At least that's the story you're telling yourself". But at moments when I was truly shaken he provided moral support - "Your body WILL heal itself".
We take our bodies for granted until we get hurt. Show your body some love. Take time to acknowledge all the parts that aren't in pain. Your body is a miracle, and it's gotten you through all kinds of shit. Return the favor by being patient.
Remember the pain
You will heal, and when you do... don't forget the pain. Harness the misery of being injured, and channel it into proactive mobility, stability, and strengthening work. Don't let that snake bite you again... at least not in the same spot.
I listened to an interview with CJ Martin recently. He has coached many high level Crossfit athletes and even went to the Games himself back in their infancy in 2008. What I found most interesting was when he discussed motivation - how it can either come from a negative or a positive place - and the difference it makes in pursuing the goal.
When he coached Camille Leblanc-Bazinet in 2014 she was motivated by a desire to see how well she could perform in the sport she loved. It was an internal desire based in joy. She won the Crossfit Games that year. But the following year he noticed that her motivation was coming more from a place of external pressure and expectation to repeat. Her emotional state and performance suffered.
We're taught to make goals and then pursue them, but it's important to look ourselves in the mirror to figure out whether the motivation is based on a positive desire... or a negative fear. Both will provide energy, but only one will result in a happy journey.
Our approach to nutrition is typically rooted in the question, "What am I missing?". What is the magical ingredient? This mentality drives the constant search for superfoods. The term is alluring. We all want to be superheroes... so give us the superfoods. I remember back when I got serious about fitness. I'd see the lists - salmon, blueberries, kale - and try to jam as many of them into my diet as possible.
By and large, the issue for most people is not one of deficiency... it is one of excess. After a decade of experience trying every diet under the sun, it's clear to me that there are no superfoods. All foods are super if they are whole and unprocessed. Why? Because a whole food diet is the most sustainable way to achieve energy balance... and energy balance is the most important aspect of nutrition. Simply put, when we eat whole foods we tend not to overeat.
Eating whole foods isn't sexy, and there isn't any way for the corporations to make money on it, so you will continue to get marketed all kinds of crap. Don't buy it. Just buy whole foods and make time to cook. That's the recipe to be a superhero.
Recently, a client shared with me the challenge she is having implementing a healthy diet for herself when her spouse is not interested in making changes. I quickly realized I had no experience in this area. What do you do in that situation? So I did some research. Short answer? It isn't easy.
First, you have to be very clear about your "why". Why are you doing this? To feel better, to move better, to get the most out of life. If you know your "why" you can bear almost any "what". Now it's time for a heart-to-heart. If your spouse doesn't support you at this fundamental level then, "Houston, we have a problem". Your spouse doesn't have to eat the same as you, but they do have to respect your decision to do so.
Once you clear this relationship hurdle there are some practical tricks you can implement. When cooking meals use common ingredients to produce individual dishes. For example, when making a stir fry remove your chicken and vegetables from the pan before adding the sauce and rice to your spouse's. Designate a separate space in the pantry for your foods so you don't have to sift through unhealthy processed stuff looking for yours... and tell him, "Hands off", so you know it's there when you need it.
Over time as your spouse sees how committed you are and the positive impact it's having on your life, he is likely to jump on the wagon. But be ready to pull that wagon by yourself for a while before he is ready to make the leap.
The other night I engaged in some Netflix binge watching... with absolutely no remorse. Wanna know why? Because Kimmy Schmidt is my freakin hero. I'm serious. In the show, Kimmy is rescued from a doomsday cult where she had been abducted as a teenager and kept in an underground bunker for fifteen years. Now, rather than return home to Indiana she attempts to reboot her life in New York City.
Kimmy is determined to be seen as something other than a victim. She will not allow an unfortunate event to define her. Unbreakable. Look, we've all had shit happen to us over which we had no control. Hopefully it didn't involve being held in an underground bunker. Ultimately, it is still your responsibility to create a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul. Either get busy living... or get busy dying. Kimmy Schmidt, I salute you.