Have Your Progress and Own it Too

I have been noticing a terrible trend in the men and women around me, and it is time to address it. I apologize to my friends who will likely recognize themselves in the following examples—I write only out of love for you all.  But you are driving me crazy.  These are all real-life examples from friends and clients (male and female!) in this past week alone:

  • “A 105 squat isn’t that good, but it’s good for me…”
  • “This may not sound like much to the runners out there, but I ran 3 miles in 42 minutes!”
  • “I still can’t bench press very much, but it felt so much easier!”
  • “I can’t dead lift as much as [some random dude], but that was a personal record!”
  • “It’s not a lot, but three days in one week is good for me.”
  • “I put on ten pounds of lean mass! I know I’m still not very big, but it’s a lot for me.”
  • “I know I’m still fat, but I’ve lost six inches!”

STOP MINIMIZING YOUR SUCCESSES! Your journey is personal, and that makes your progress personal.  It’s yours, you earned it.  If you accomplish something, don’t downplay it! If it’s awesome for you, it’s awesome. Period.

strongforgirl

What I love most about power lifting is that it is ultimately an individual sport. And, to ensure fairness in competition, it is divided into multiple categories.  These categories exist for a reason!  I can’t bench press anywhere near the amount of weight my training partners put up, but they are men who outweigh me by well over 100 pounds!  It’s the same for runners–how could someone who has been running for three weeks possibly be expected to run as fast or as long as someone who has been running for 20 years?  We can apply this perspective to any sport or goal–it’s important to keep things in context.

Women have been taught to be humble, to be thin and weak, to be quiet about our accomplishments, to be unimposing and docile. To see so many women breaking past those boundaries to pursue strength, muscle, and endurance is absolutely mind blowing.  But it’s not enough to do it—we have to OWN it.  You may be new, face challenges, experience setbacks…but you are HERE dammit, and there is no reason not to claim your achievement.  If you do something awesome, let yourself have it!  No one is going to laugh if your progress isn’t in the same range as theirs.  The people who are ahead of you have just been doing it longer or have a different set of circumstances.  Men, you aren’t off the hook either—for you guys, it may even be harder because masculine ritual basically requires you to laugh at each other, but suck it up and keep your focus on what you’re doing.

You can own your accomplishments and be humble.  In the same way that health and fitness must be a lifestyle, not a short-term endeavor, change is a long-term work in progress.  This is why I urge clients to choose goals that don’t focus on weight loss—the weight loss will come, but if that’s your only goal you will eventually tap out your potential.  With healthy fitness goals, there is always room to be bigger, stronger, faster, and to have more endurance.  You can recognize that you’ve gotten stronger without suggesting that you set the standard for strength.

Powerlifters and Strongmen set a pretty good example, in my opinion, of what it looks like to have tons of pride but still be humble.  I have seen 250 lb men who can squat 800lb (and aren’t ashamed to tell you all about it…) get excited about a 120lb girl who can squat 135.  It is understood that “awesome” means awesome to you.  Surround yourself by true athletes and good trainers who see past what you’re doing to recognize your potential, and learn to recognize this in others.

Also, never underestimate the influence you have on other people!  I know two women, one a friend and one a client, who don’t know each other—each has talked to me about how the other has inspired her at different times and in different ways, as they are both at different places in their journeys.  Whatever shape you’re in, wherever you are in your goal, remember that there is someone behind you trying to summon the courage to go forward, and sometimes it’s more inspiring to see someone else struggling to “get there” than it is to watch others who make it look easy.  Even elite athletes, coaches, and trainers can be inspired by your progress! I am humbled and inspired daily by the progress of my clients and others in my gym.  Here are a few examples:

candice

  • A client who brings her baby to the gym just to get her fit on! While the rest of us whine about what a pain in the butt it can be just to drive over to the gym, she’s lugging a pack and play in one hand, gym bag in the other, with a baby on one hip!
  • A young strength athlete in the gym with a prosthetic leg.  Remind me never to make an excuse for giving up.
  • A friend who recently overcame self-consciousness and self-doubt, bit the bullet, and is now learning how to lift in her mid-30s.
  •  A young athlete, one of three 12 year olds on a team of 15-18 year olds (and the smallest girl on the team), who pushed herself through the same rigorous team workout long past when her body began to fail, far beyond when someone else would have given up, to the point of crying.  And kept going! 

 Who inspires you?  Who do you inspire? If you keep your accomplishments to yourself, or if you make less of them, you rob others of the inspiration you could be providing.  Marianne Williamson said it best:

As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.

Speaking of my awesome clients, one brought me cookies yesterday!  Big shout out to Candice, who gave me permission to share the recipe:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups old fashioned oats (instant will make the cookies a bit softer, I prefer traditional)
  • ½ cup white, almond flour
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup raw honey
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp butter
Bake @350 for 10-12 min.  When mixing, mix all wet and dry separate first, then combine.
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The Inspiration to Live, Learn, and Know

 

Writing a blog can be really creepy.  I write whatever is in my head, and then I send it into a vast, anonymous abyss.  I write to an invisible audience, and then wonder if it’s pretentious to even assume I have an audience.  So when people comment on it, subscribe, “like” it, or send me emails about it, I am reminded that people are indeed reading.  The feedback has been incredible, and I feel lucky for the reminder that my existence on earth can be inspiring to someone.

It’s easy to live our lives pretending that no one is watching—but someone always is, and that is a great reminder of the responsibility we have to each other.  Moods and outlooks on life can be contagious, so I am reminded to be careful of the kind of mood I’m projecting.  Anger begets anger, pessimism begets pessimism, but a smile and positive outlook are also really catchy.  My goal–and I humbly fail regularly–is to affect positive change in the world by simply living in it and contributing my talents and assets in a meaningful way.

The emails that I have received have served as reminders not of my own success but of the people who have been most influential in my life.  I wonder if they really know how many people they reach just by planting a seed in one person.  While my list of inspirational people is a mile long, the most inspirational people in my life are the women who taught me (and some are still teaching me) how to overcome anything life throws my way.  And in this post I want to honor them.  I don’t know if any of them read my blog, but if they do I hope they recognize themselves.  I hope I can do them justice with my words so that they can also inspire anyone who reads this blog.

I like to think that my life didn’t start until my daughter came along.  So I’ll start there, with a woman who showed me what a mother’s unconditional love looks like (five kids of her own and countless “adopted” children, and each with a uniquely headstrong personality!).  Fresh from a divorce and scared to death, I met her at a time when I really needed a mother; she became an amazing source of strength and nurturing that helped me through one of the toughest times of my life.  She taught me about what it meant to keep going even when you don’t think you can.  She encouraged me to finish college when I didn’t think I could, and helped me to find the resources to make it happen.  She taught me to slow down and enjoy the present while remaining open minded about where the future might take me.  I’m not sure I’d be here, in GA, finishing up my MA in Women’s Studies if it weren’t for her.  What’s truly remarkable is that she has a long trail of others who have been similarly influenced by her; she is someone who affects positive change in the world by her very existence.

The next one on my list is a woman who, according to my memory, taught me the word “empowerment.”  She was my boss at the worst job I’ve ever had in my entire life, and she actually fired me!  But during my time working for her, she shared with me a wisdom and a patience that I have rarely encountered since.  I was working three jobs and struggling to make ends meet as a young and terrified single parent.  Every day seemed to get worse and I wanted to just give up, but with a child I had no choice but to keep trying.  She taught me how to take control of my situation by sharing the story of how she put herself through school with two children and a severely limited income.  The story of her sacrifices and triumphs kept me humble and driven throughout my own struggles.  She gave me practical advice on how to get on my feet and she impressed upon me how important it was to get back in school.  But most of all, she taught me what it means to be a survivor.  There are many different kinds of victims, many different kinds of pain, but no excuse not to survive and seek fulfillment no matter what life throws at you.  To this day we are still in touch, and over the years we have watched each other struggle and win.  I am so lucky to call her a friend and mentor, and I am still inspired by her.

I could go on and on—there is no limit to the number of women who have inspired me over the past six years.  But there are two more who deserve mention in this blog.  I think we can all think back and remember a teacher who made an impression on us.  I am lucky because I have had a lot of great professors in college.  But there are two who deserve special mention.  The reason I list them together is actually the very reason they are so inspirational—they are best friends who many years ago started as student and advisor.  They value their students and each other so much that they learn as they teach, and they grow lifelong friends in the process.

 

The wisdom and understanding they impart on their students is above and beyond what can be expected of any professor. Their combined credentials are diverse and impressive, and they somehow find a way to bring them together even when teaching in totally separate classrooms.  If I ask a question of one, she reminds me to also consider asking the other.  They are well-read and are never at a loss for the kind of knowledge that the University expects them to share with their students, but their workdays are not limited to the classroom.  In fact, I think they do more teaching outside of the classroom than in it! The first time I asked for a book recommendation, I was invited to meet for coffee!  Soon after, I realized that my professor was going to become a lifelong mentor.  To this day, I turn to them both for wisdom and advice.  They teach many subjects at the university, but now that I have graduated they continue to teach me patience, understanding, compassion, appreciation, joyfulness, and the responsibility that we all have to each other.  And they have a great way of catching me red-handed when I’m not getting a very good grade in peaceful living!  They have taught me (and are still teaching me) two of life’s most important lessons: how to learn, and how to know.  Neither is easy, and I still haven’t mastered them yet, but I am humbled by each lesson I am taught.

For anyone who has been inspired by this blog, I wanted to share with you the women who deserve the credit.  I am so fortunate to be surrounded by intelligent, strong, and successful women.  Some have passed through to teach me the lessons I needed at the precise moment that I needed them, camping out in my heart but not making a permanent home in my life.  Some pitch a tent from time to time, coming and going as necessary and always with the unspoken invitation to return.  Others have laid down foundations and are beginning to build houses, and I look forward to being neighbors for quite some time.

Another strong single mother I was lucky enough to meet in college. 🙂