Practice News and Calendar – September (2013)
EXERCISE YOUR POTENTIAL
Here is a funny thing about potential: by definition, it isn’t known. If you consider being able to run a half-marathon a realization of your physical potential, the second you cross the finish line, your potential changes. So aiming for your potential seems like archery practice in the dark with moving targets. How then is it possible to “exercise your potential”? How can you work with something that doesn’t exist? This is one of the miracles of practice, and something that, as trainers, we do every day.
Let’s say I have you try to do single legwork on the reformer with three springs on and it stops you dead in your tracks. “I can’t do that,” you say. And so we reduce the resistance, in order to make it do-able, but not easy. From the instructor’s perspective I know that you can do it…in time. The strength is in you, but as yet remains a state of potential. At that point, I am actually working with both the person you are today and the potential you that can do 10 repetitions with three full springs, and my goal is to bring the former to the latter. With a deliberate effort on your part over time, progressive incremental shifts in the spring weight, rest, and good nutrition, the day comes when you push with three springs loaded and the carriage moves.
Where did the strength come from? Some might argue that it came from all of the environmental variables – the progressive resistance, the sleep, etc. Others may argue genetics. Those taking the middle way will contend it’s a delicate interplay of both (I agree generally). But all of these arguments tend to diminish, or ignore, the primary cause: YOU.
You choose to take up exercise. You choose to pursue a goal that today you know you can’t do, in the hopes that one day you might. You get on the reformer and push. You go home and eat a healthy meal. You rest. You return and try again.
You are the common denominator in all of these events. You are the one who has the courage to go to a place of “I don’t know” in the pursuit being a little stronger, a little better than you are today. This sets you apart from all of the people in the world who choose to live out their lives within the seemingly safe confines of what’s known.
When I ask you, “do you think you can push the carriage out with three springs on?” and you say, “I don’t know, but I will try,” you become an active agent in your own process of discovery and positive change. What’s more, in the moment, you narrow the gap between the actual and the potential. “Bridging the gap” is a powerful and exciting moment, where the potential you vanishes, but for a split second the actual you does also, because the person who couldn’t do it is not entirely the same person who now can do it. Seeing the light of recognition in your eyes that tells me you know you are the person who can push three springs is a deeply satisfying experience for me and for all of my colleagues; it is one of the things we love most about our work.
Now, do I think that a person can become stronger simply by using the power of his or her own intentionality? No. When I noted that you are a primary cause, you are not the only cause. The belief made popular by “The Secret” that that you can attract whatever it is you want in your life solely through the power of your intentionality is an example of magical thinking. Children do this when they mistakenly believe that rain falls because they are sad. To get stronger, you need all of the other causes that I mentioned earlier, and there are many others beside (for example, all of the things that might have prevented you from pushing out with three springs, say getting hit by a car on your way into the studio, but which didn’t happen, are also causes for you being able to succeed – yeah, brain strainer, I know). But none of this negates the fact that without you there, without your choice and your willingness to step our of your comfort zone into the unknown, nothing would have happened.
Is your potential limitless? It depends. Do I think there is a limit to the potential for physical strength for an individual? Yes, we all have constraints, which are also a delicate interplay of genetics, environment and our individual psychology, but I find over and over again that people consistently undervalue what it is that they are capable of, whether it is strength, balance, endurance, flexibility, or coordination. Sometimes it is fear of the unknown that holds them back, but more often than not it is a product of distraction, where too much energy is spent in extraneous motion, talking, or mental chatter. This is one of the reasons why I am such a proponent of both awareness and focus during training sessions. Both are required to help you move toward your potential.
If your physical strength is constrained by certain variables, then what aspects of you might have limitless potential? How about your ability to learn new things? Or the capacity to love? Or the skill for remaining focused in the present moment, undistracted by thoughts and emotions that might otherwise be limiting? Do these likewise have constraints to them? You will never know unless you try.
There is so much more I could say on this topic, and it is safe to assume that in time I will try, but for now I will wrap up with two quick points:
1. The example of pushing the carriage on the reformer with three full springs may seems trivial in some ways, but it is important to recognize that the process you undergo to change your life for the better involves the same steps regardless of the goal, whether it be cessation of smoking, finding a romantic partner, or sailing a ship solo across the Atlantic. You can use your experiences at Practice as a template that you can apply to any other aspect of your life.
2. The process involves: establishing a vision of something you want to do or become; doing research, by finding out what others who have done such a thing before did both erroneously and successfully; establishing goals that help you get from where you are today to where you want to go; action plans with benchmarks for successes along the path; a process for reviewing your progress to make sure you haven’t lost the trail along the way; and courage, to go to those places, both within and without, that are currently unknown. Not easy, but deeply meaningful and rewarding.
Give some time to thinking about your potential this month and those things that you have always wanted to do or be. These may not include physical training per se, but I hope you will agree that a strong body and a focused mind are indispensible tools for helping you realize whatever aspect of your potential you choose to pursue, and these, as well as the process by which you become more than you thought previously possible, are things with which we can help you.
Have a great September,
Fitness for Life
Monthly Class Calendar and 2013 Rates
Classes are cancelled for Labor Day, Monday, September 2nd.
Yoga is cancelled on Sep. 12, 17 and 19, while Joy is on vacation, and will resume on 9/24/13.
The Group Reformer and Equipment class on Wednesdays will move back to 830a starting September 4th.
Welcome to Practice!
My apologies for failing to welcome the newest members of our community in our newsletter over the last three months:
Caryn Caldwell, Jessica Delaney, Dana Downs, Betsy Eldridge, Kimberly Harding, Camille Harlan, Beth Hirschbach, Melissa Hollingsworth, Gayle Ingram, Judy Lumby, Karyn Meeks, Nikki Meeks, Jean Midkiff, Pam Moore, Maddie Plunkett, Carolyn Porter, Vicki Portnoff, Janice Sudkamp, Bree Whalen, Audrey Wire, and Larry Yung
We are thrilled to have you with us. Welcome aboard!
Research: Why ACL Injuries Sideline So Many Athletes
From Gretchen Reynolds in the NY Times “Phys Ed” section:
“Tears to the anterior cruciate ligament sideline more athletes for longer periods of time than almost any other acute injury. Researchers are trying to understand why the injury is so slow to heal.”
Research: How Exercise Can Help Us Sleep Better
Also fro the NY Times “Phys Ed” section, Gretchen Reynolds writes on a new sleep study:
“If you habitually experience insomnia, exercise can help you sleep better, a new study found. But it can take up to four months before you see results, and you may sleep worse on days you exercise.”
TED Talks: Is the Obesity Crisis Hiding a Bigger Problem?
Check out this very compelling presentation by Dr. Peter Attia on the problem of our potential misunderstanding of the relationship between insulin resistance and obesity: