Remember when I said I wasn’t happy about joining the StrongFirst Tactical Strength Challenge because of my overwhelming fear of failure? Because I was afraid of falling on my face and having other participants think, “I can’t believe that chick who went SPLAT is actually a personal trainer!”? Because I was afraid I wouldn’t be perfect?
I took a look at the numbers that people had previously put up for this same challenge last spring and learned that absolutely no one had deadlifted under 200 lbs. Well, I’d stopped deadlifting for a little while to reestablish a strong foundation that would eventually allow me to get to that number but, after talking to Sean, we’d decided that 185 was probably a good conservative goal for October 4. I. Was. Gutted. How embarrassing would it be if everyone hit a number in the 200s+ and I was the ONLY one — a PERSONAL TRAINER — who was still in the 100s?
After some friends I’d opened up to said, “WHO CARES what other people put up as long as you do your best?”, I finally decided to listen. I decided that I would walk into the gym and just do my best every time. Of course the first few times I walked in, the recording in my head sounded very sarcastic but eventually the recording started saying, “Do your best and KICK SOME ASS!”
Here are 5 things I am mindful about as I try to dampen my perfectionist tendencies and get out of my own way:
I certainly work hard at all of the above as much as the next person. And I think that, thanks to this work, I’ve been able to hit my deadlifting goal of 185 lbs three and a half weeks before the Challenge date! I fully intend to hit 200 by October 4th but as long as I do the best I can personally do, I’ll be proud that I followed through and accepted the challenge.
I believe that every human being needs a coach of some kind. Someone to support you when you need it; to be called out on your s*$t when you’re full of it; to push you when you can’t seem to keep going (or can’t even start to go); to provide guidance when you have questions you can’t seem to find answers to. Did I mention someone to call you out on your bulls*$t?
It is without exaggeration that I say hiring my trainer Sean was the best decision I’ve made this year. He has done all of the above and then some. But, ugh, sometimes when he pushes me I just want to PUSH BACK.
Case in point: October 4th is the date of the Chicago-area StrongFirst Tactical Strength Challenge. Anyone can sign up for it and many have. Lots of people will gather at a local facility and will be tested on their maximum deadlift, the number of pull-ups they can do or the length of time they can hang out in a pull-up position and, finally, the number of kettlebell snatches they can do in 7 minutes. And I will be one of these people being tested on the above. Blarg.
When Sean first approached me to join the challenge I thought, Yeah, right, not in a million years. Competition is so not my thing. I politely avoided the issue for a week and then Sean calls. “You’re doing the Tactical Strength Challenge, right?” “Actually, I really don’t think I’m going to. I just don’t do this challenge thing. And I have so much going on in the Fall, I might be overcommitted.” “Ok. Overcommitment is one thing but tell me more about why you don’t do challenges.”
DAMN IT. Trapped.
I honestly do not remember exactly how the rest of the conversation went but I do remember how it ended. “FINE. I’ll do it. But I won’t be happy about it. You’re opening up a box of baggage here so you’re going to have to deal with it.” Yes, I really did talk to him that way. No, it wasn’t very nice. Baggage? What was that about?
Why was I reacting like an angsty teenager? What was it about this challenge that scared the trainer-pants off me? What is the worst that could happen? UM: THAT I COULD FALL FLAT ON MY FACE AND FAIL MISERABLY AND BE MADE A MOCKERY BY THE FITNESS COMMUNITY.
Failure and imperfectionism. I am SO. SCARED. OF. THOSE. MONSTERS. And, if you did not know, failure and imperfectionism pair well with an absolute and utter fear of vulnerability which, lucky me, I also have. I rarely asked questions in class because I didn’t want anyone to make fun of me. I didn’t take a class in college I wasn’t sure I could ace. I’m that girl. I mean… Was that girl. (Ooh, just felt some heart palpitations as I wrote that.)
So what made me say “FINE”? Like a filmstrip in my head during the conversation, I saw glimpses of times in my life I wish I’d been more brave, more curious, more OOMPH-y; times that could have been pivot points in my life where, had I taken greater risks, I could have been more enriched, smarter, been more of a leader, felt more alive. But, you know what: If I can face these fears now at almost 35, I might be on the right path. The process will probably be like having the chicken pox when you’re older, though, so it might be more difficult…
So what the heck is this post doing in my fitness blog, you ask? Do you know what a lot of individuals fear when it comes to starting out with personal training or working out on their own? Failure. Failure that they won’t be able to stick to their workouts; that they’ll quit; that things other than themselves will take priority; that they will make themselves “too much” of a priority; that they’ll work really hard and not lose weight; that they will reach their goals AND THEN WHAT? That, if the above happens, their loved ones will see them as failures (or, in the case of those who reach their goals, as traitors).
A gloriously fabulous woman named Saya Hillman* has built her company in Chicago around the (now-trademarked) mantra of living a “Life of Yes”. I met her two years ago and I, like hundreds, if not thousands of others, am a devotee. Thanks to her influence, and to the dismay of the “Just say no” people, I have found myself leaning into just saying “YES” (or “FINE”) and figuring out the rest later. All of my reasons for avoiding the fear-striking task at hand turn into pellets that, like Ms PacMan, I eat right up so I might be able to get to a higher level in life even though there’s a ghost riding my ass. Sometimes you just have to eat your way through the pellets, shove that baggage, those ghosts, aside and close your eyes and say, “YES.”
YES, my body is always sore. YES, my hands are now callused and rough. YES, I jump for joy when Epsom salts are on sale at Walmart. YES, I have learned to take better care of myself when it comes to bed times, food and alcohol consumption. YES, I have learned to be a little more compassionate to myself. YES, I have become even more tuned into my clients’ needs and fears and limiting factors than I was before.
I’ve been training the last 4 weeks and have 4 more to go before the challenge date. I feel like I have so much to share that I’ll be writing a series of posts. I hope they resonate with you and that you take something away from them. So please read, share with friends, like on Facebook and if you have anything to share, please do so in the comments :) Thank you for reading.
*For those of you in the Chicago area, Saya produces a show called Fear Experiment twice a year. All people involved have some kind of fear about the whole thing: From performing in front of an audience to making the time commitment to themselves to promoting a project they’re working on to others. I will be in the show on Friday, November 21, telling a story in front of 700+ people at the Park West as other brave souls show off their dancing and a cappella skillz. EEK. Keep your eyes out for how to get tickets but until then, save the date!