Welcome to the second installment of the BKB blog. It's been a while since the last post and over the past few weeks I've had the privilege of working with some really great people in the classes. Everybody has been coming in ready to work and to learn and it really is an honor to feel the trust I've been given as instructor. That trust, in the form of the money paid and the work being done, is something I don't take lightly. In fact, that responsibility is one of the main reasons for this particular blog. I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas on living a healthy lifestyle that I think are important, not just for people in the classes, but for everyone in general. Good instruction doesn't end at the door, it's something you can take with you and continue to learn from. So, with that thought in mind, let's begin.
Why the $*#! can't I do this?
So it's been a few weeks into classes, and I've been able to observe people as they're learning the foundational moves of using a kettlebell. For most people in the classes this is the first time they've ever picked one up. Now, I'm not picking on anyone in particular, because the problem I’m about to go over is one I'm intimately familiar with myself. So, what is this problem? It's the "Why the #*&! can't I do this" frustration some people feel when first learning a new skill, like how to use a kettlebell. To further reinforce the idea that I'm not picking on anyone (because, really, everyone in the classes is doing a great job) I'll tell you a story of one of the many times I've experienced this problem.
Has anyone ever heard of a slackline? It's a sort of tightrope you set-up between two trees and then adjust the tension on. A couple years ago I was introduced to them by a friend who had purchased one. We set that sucker up, watched a couple videos on how to use it, and said to ourselves "well, that doesn't look so hard". I stepped up, wobbled for just a moment, and was then promptly tossed right onto my a** . So I got up, tried again, and guess what? I was tossed right on my a** once more. Then again, and again, and again, and...well you see where this is going. Forget complicated kettebell moves, this was seriously just walking in a straight line. How hard can it really be just to walk in a straight line? But it was impossible, or maybe I should say impassable. At one point or another, I threw my arms up in the air and shouted "Why the @#&! can't I do this!?"
Why couldn't I do it? Because it takes time to learn a new skill. Who could possibly believe that walking a tightrope would be as easy was walking a straight line? I did. This was partly due to a bit of over-confidence I think many people experience as a result of watching online videos of people making something look easy. The reality is that learning something takes time...maybe even a lot of time. It was over a few months of practice before I was able to cross the slackline, but when I did I really felt like I had accomplished something. You have to earn a new skill, you don't just get it by watching someone else do it. You've got to put the reps in. That's the first take away from this post and one I've really been trying to drill into everyone in the classes. Learning something takes time. You need to teach your body how to do it, imbed the movement pattern into your neurological pathways, and practice, practice, practice before it becomes natural. This can be frustrating to many people. It certainly used to be for me. We live in a culture of 'get it now' and if something takes too long many people won't bother doing it. This is not the way the kettlebell, or any new skill, will work. It takes time, reps, and commitment, but when you get it you will have earned it. Remember, you've got to put the reps in.
I workout all the time so why am I not seeing results/hitting a wall?
Onto the next topic: rest. Another thing I've noticed with many of the people in the class is that they love to workout. This is awesome! I love to workout too. Exercise is empowering, it makes me feel like I've accomplished something, helps clear my mind, and makes me feel better than I've ever felt before. However, there can be too much of a good thing and people can easily fall into this trap with exercise.
My partner, Erin, used to suffer from this problem. Working out is something she loves and it made her feel good to do it as much as possible. Even though most people believe that always working out more must be better than working out less, that’s just not the reality of how our bodies work. Gains are not made during the workout, but during the recovery. When you workout, you're putting stress on your body. The body's adaptation to this stress results in the changes people want to see in their bodies. When we get stronger, leaner, and faster it's the adaptation to stress that gives us those results. Exercise is like a catalyst for those changes, but it's the rest days where we recover and adapt to those stress demands we put on our body. This is so vitally important I'm going to just bold the heck out of it - We need REST days to make gains - whatever they may be. If you go hard one day, take the next one off. If you're following a specific program, don't add anything extra to it. When your body is telling you to take it slow, listen to it. If you push yourself too far you're not going to end up healthy and resilient, but tired and frustrated. Let yourself rest, relaxation is really one of life's great pleasures (especially when you earn it).
These days Erin is much better about resting and in her own words, "Rest is restorative. I feel better now than I did two years ago and I'm really seeing more progress in my training." Also, a rest days doesn’t have to be (and shouldn't be) a sit on your butt day. Active recovery is a great way to spend a rest day. Try a long walk or a nice hike, go to a yoga class or take a ride on the bike trail. It's important to stay active, but everyday doesn't need to be a 'go hard or go home' day. If you push too hard for too long you'll just burnout and that's the opposite of what living a healthy lifestyle is about...which brings us to the final topic of this post.
Living the life - Fitness as a lifestyle
What does it mean to live a fitness lifestyle? Up until the age of about 21 I was perfectly content to watch television all day, play video games all night, and have my only exercise consist of walking downtown for late night pizza. Clearly, this is not living a fitness lifestyle. When I finally decided to reclaim my health (which will be a topic for a later post) it wasn't easy. I wanted results right away. I bought a bike and some kettlebells. I rode my bike from Williamstown to North Adams and it kicked my butt. I used my bells without a good foundational understanding of how train with them and ended up frustrated and sore. I jumped on an elliptical machine for thirty minutes once or twice a week and was puzzled when I didn't start losing some weight right away. It would have been very easy to say “forget this” and slip right back into my natural state of perpetual laziness. But I didn't. Now, about six years later, I've done a century ride on my bike, I'm an RKC kettlebell instructor, and I finally understand how someone can run for fun.
Although I was motivated by wanting results, I was also motivated by the notion of living a healthy life for the rest of my life. Yes, I wanted to drop a few pounds, get stronger, and be able to ride my bike around town without having to walk it up hills. And yes, I wanted all of that right away (that 'get it now' culture). But despite my initial frustration, I realized that if this was going to be how I wanted to live then I had to stick with it. I didn't just imagine what I could look like in six months, but rather what I could be doing in ten years. Did I care more about dropping a few pounds right away (and then most likely gaining them right back) or did I want to feel better at the age of 30 than I ever did at 20?
There is no such thing as get it now. If someone is trying to sell you that, they might as well be offering complimentary snake oil. You can't make huge gains right away and you shouldn't try to, you'll just end up undoing any positive change you initially see. It is also important not to get too frustrated about missing a workout sometimes. This is a common issue people have. A person plans for a specific workout program, they miss a day here or there, and all of a sudden they’re completely derailed. It’s OK to miss a day or two. What matters is forming a lifetime habit of health. Make your program focus on the long term so you don’t get frustrated by the short term.
Fitness as a lifestyle means dedicating yourself to your health, not the way you look or how much you weigh. It means being committed to putting in the reps, allowing yourself to rest, and living everyday with your highest priority being a lifetime of health and well being. We allow ourselves to relax, don't punish ourselves with our workouts, or for missing a workout, and stay active and interactive with the world around us. Fitness as a lifestyle is a sustainable path toward a healthy and resilient body for the rest of your life. You can start any day...how about right now?