I usually do some kind of New Year’s post and at the beginning of last year, I had set some really ambitious goals for myself. In addition to coaching lacrosse, cross country, a few throwers and lifters, and my usual gang of basement dwellers, I also decided to challenge myself to two rather ambitious physical goals. One was to train for and compete in my first ever aesthetic competition and the other was to return to the Scottish Masters International Highland Games as an open competitor (ie, not in the lightweight class). I did both. And as usual, I learned a lot about myself in the process.
What did I learn?
- That choosing to chase two rabbits is extremely difficult physically, emotionally, and mentally, especially when you are a busy 47 year old mom.
- Anyone can “dabble” in multiple sports, but if you really want to be competitive relative to your natural abilities, it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of focus, and a lot of sacrifice.
- I didn’t really like it.
In order to achieve these relatively divergent goals, I had to step out of my comfort zone, my fun zone, my family zone, my safety zone, pretty much all the zones. And I suffered for it. I was exhausted, my hair fell out, I was pretty much constantly sore, I may have done some semi-permanent damage to a joint or two, and I probably wasn’t very pleasant to be around for a lot of it. But I accomplished what I set out to do and for that, I am grateful I was able to push through and get it done.
Why did I do this to myself? For me, it was personal. I haven’t competed seriously in years and when I have, its just been for fun. I guess I just wanted to see if I still (or ever) had it in me.
But enough about me, here’s the wisdom I’ve been gleaning from all my adventures in the weight room and on the field over the last several years:
- There is such a thing as strong enough and once you’ve built a well of strength, its not necessary to keep grinding. I find most people can maintain that with a variety of activities that don’t involve heavy lifting. Every time I get back to barbell training, its all still there.
- Endurance training is good for all of us. No matter what we are doing. This year at worlds, I was able to compete well for two full days in the desert without running out of gas. I credit all the running I did to prepare for my figure contest with that. My stamina is much better than it was 4 years ago.
- The older we get, the more we benefit from our cumulative training over the past decades. Yes, we need to do more stretching and rehab as we pass 40, but we can continue to build that fitness base long into our twilight years without continuing to hammer the crap out of ourselves. Our bodies learn and maintain what we teach them.
- Feeling good, well-rested, and pain free is highly underrated to most of us gym rats. Make that your fitness goal from time to time, its easier to achieve than you may think. Getting better does not always mean torturing yourself.
Of course, I can’t leave a New Year’s post without addressing diet. If you need a little inspiration for this year in fighting the battle of the bulge, give this podcast with Tamar Adler a listen on why flavor, not macros, are the biggest problem we face in our food choices and our waistlines. And then imagine all the wonderful, whole, natural foods you can enjoy in the coming year. Understanding why you may be craving Doritos instead of a pot of beans is a good thing to know.
As for next year, I’m not really sure what I’m going to be doing. I’ve been enjoying doing close to nothing actually. I replaced one of my squat racks with a treadmill, replaced another one with a few more specific machines for legs, back, and shoulders, and I walk my dog a lot. Now that I have one teenager about to leave the nest and two more soon to follow, I have decided to dial back my coaching/training practice quite a bit so that I can spend more quality time with my kids and help launch them into adulthood. But, I’ll still be here from time to time and who knows, I’m sure I will come up with some other hare-brained plan as soon as I have a spare moment to distract myself.
Have a Happy New Year and be good to yourself.