I was thinking in the car this morning, as I often do, about the mental aspects of training and the effects that our environment have on us. Last night I made a thinly veiled attempt to work out but I just couldn’t manage the weight. I did what I usually would do if I didn’t feel like doing something, I would suck it up and do it anyway, making a deal with myself that if I try and it doesn’t go well, I can agree it’s not my day. 19 times out of 20 I will finish the workout, feel great and be grateful that I bothered to start since the beginning is 75% of the battle. Not last night. I managed a couple of sets of deadlifts, a set of hang cleans but once I did a set of presses I knew it wasn’t going to work. I was still weak from my sickness, I didn’t have the calories in me to do the work and it was borderline dangerous given I was working with my regular weight. So I threw in the towel which made me feel, for a second, frustrated and angry. I realized it was the right thing to do and made peace with my decision.Â Upon reflection today, I am glad I didn’t push too hard, I still don’t feel 100% and would probably have ended up either hurting myself or wiping myself out for a few more days.
This morning I have to admit it still nagged at me but knowing that I have to control what I can and ignore what I can’t I let it go. That got me to thinking about how to get the people I work with on a regular basis to do the same thing. With both kids and adults I hear the same things over and over about not having time, having challenges, having people around them who are not supportive, about not seeing results, about being frustrated with things they seemingly can’t master and much of the time it comes down to frustrations with things they can’t control. With the kids it’s school, their friends, homework or fear of performing (athletic or not) and for adults it’s lack of time, their own family demands, job issues, “getting old”, and once in a while, a glimmer of truth, not knowing the right thing to do. For the most part they have legitimate complaints and their frustration is real for them, but the unfortunate thing is that they are not looking at the problem the right way.
What’s under your control? That’s the big question.
Put yourself in a car. You control the environment in the car, you can have the heated seat on, the windows down, the sunroof open, or the stereo cranked. You have the ability to control your comfort level and are accustomed to doing so. But what if it’s raining outside and instead of turning on the wipers, you get increasingly frustrated about not being able to see until you pull over. That doesn’t make any sense does it? The exterior environment is beyond your control but that’s not the problem. You failed to control YOUR environment in response to the outside factors. It’s a simple example but it’s really just the same as saying that you can’t get to the gym because you have too much homework or you can’t work out because you’re not going to get home until 7pm. You are letting outside factors determine your course instead of adjusting your response to make time for what is important.
Don’t freak out, I am not saying homework isn’t important but I know from years of experience being at school that you have time to make it work. There are people out there who manage to do it all including the work, the workouts, the cheer practice, the choir, the homework and the chores. They are not supermen and women, they just have an efficient approach to getting things done. Anyone who tells me they don’t have 30 minutes to work out each day is kidding themselves and trying to fool me too. I have learned not to be offended by that, but rather to take it as an opportunity to help them find time. Adults are worse than kids at this. Tell them to go for a walk during their lunch hour or do 25 squats every time they go into the bathroom and they think you are crazy. Take the stairs 4 flights? Skip an hour of evening TV? No Facebook? Are you kidding me?! It’s all a matter of choices.
But back to the car. For younger people it’s a lot to do with peer pressure which has a bad rap. Peer pressure isn’t bad kids trying to get other kids to do bad things, it’s just as much friends trying to find common ground. Wanting to go to the mall with your friends after school provides just as much peer pressure on you as someone telling you to skip class so you can go and hide bacon in a vegan’s locker. Often the pressures come from individuals but out on the road, it’s the same. You are surrounded by people who have the ability to affect you as you drive along. Just as much as you have the ability to affect them to a degree. You can honk your horn, flash your lights, we have all seen the (usually) 18-24 year old male in the outside lane pretending he’s on the German Autobahn flashing his high beams at people and we all know he is an idiot. But what effect does he have on you? If you are the car in front, it may be different than if you are a casual observer but the reality is that it’s no different. He acts one way, you act another and whatever it is he is doing really doesn’t affect anyone other than to get somebody to change lanes. But what if you are the person in front and you allow that action to affect you adversely? Maybe you get angry and slam on your brakes (I’ve seen it happen!). Maybe you are the retaliatory type who pulls over and then immediately jumps on his tail and does the same to him in some misguided attempt at retribution. Either way, your response to someone else’s environment is inappropriate. what if that person isn’t a kid with a body full of hormones and a head full of angst? What if it’s a construction worker who just a few minutes ago severed part of his finger and is driving to the hospital to get it reattached? What if it’s a young man driving his incredibly pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth? You really don’t know, that’s why you need to deal with your environment not theirs. They could equally be drunk with a gun, so it’s worth thinking about just how much you are going to allow those people who surround you affect what you do and what happens in your life.
Point is that it’s not just outside factors, it’s not just other people, it’s everything outside your little bubble that you need to deal with and in order to deal with what is going on out there, you need to control what you can. You pick your speed, your lane, what roads you take, if you choose to avoid traffic or the highway, all of which will effect the outcome of your trip through life. You can’t control the construction on the 401, you can’t control the woman on her cell phone sipping her Starbucks skinny latte with her shih tzu on her lap as she tries to change lanes without signalling but you can choose to avoid her and keep your car pointed in the right direction. Failure to control what you can, and work around what you can’t will only lead to frustrations and anger. Over time that leads to bitterness and hatred for many things including the things that are closest to you. The ability to control your environment (mental, physical, emotional) is a skill that takes many years to perfect, but it’s practice that makes perfect! There are things that help, organization, time management, increasing efficiency and self-confidence but in the end it’s the recognition of the massive influence you can have over your own life simply by controlling what you can and being aware of, but not giving power to what you can’t.
Diet is the same thing. Nobody holds you down and crams chocolate chip cookies into your mouth, it’s your choice what you eat and what you don’t. Educating yourself is the first step but common sense tells you that a banana is better for you than a cupcake, so be smart. Life is about making choices that help you reach your goals and don’t take you on a detour away from your destination. You wouldn’t get in the car without first knowing where you are going, that’s why having specific goals or destinations in life is critical. Set your goal, and then act to assist in reaching that goal. I’m sorry to tell you that eating cookies and timbits isn’t going to get you closer to any goal unless you want to take part in a Typo 2 diabetes study!
I’m sorry for the long post, if you have made it this far then take this with you:
Decide where you want to be in a month, 6 months, a year, 5 years.
Control what you can to make sure you are always moving towards that goal.
Don’t let anyone else decide what course of action you should take. Avoid the dangerous drivers, go around the slow ones.
Do your best in every moment.
Remember, nobody ever says on their deathbed “I wish I’d watched more TV”, so choose things that are important and do them!
As a reward for reading this rant, I will leave you with this, brought to mind by promising to do your best… The Crossfit Mindset, AKA Do The Work!