Nothing is ever as it might first seem. So allow yourself to take a chance and mold the world to how you would have it be. Think of how you imagined your life a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, before you directed yourself to where you are. Did it all turn out the way you thought it would back then? Think back to what you thought it would be like to go through the various rites of passage before you went through them. Your fitness and wellness journey is no different, and will be no different in the future. Serendipity steps in. You learn more. You take the reigns or give them to others. And, truth be told, it can end up being so much better than you expected.
I'll give just two illustrations of seemingly impossible circumstances where the outcome was nothing like what one likely expects. In doing so, I want the reader to consider his/her own seemingly impossible roadblocks (not just in your fitness goals, but whatever struggle you may be having in life). However, reconsider them. If these two examples show you anything, it's that you too can get past your roadblocks to something unimaginably wonderful.
The picture above is of one of my clients who is the team lead for the American Men's Greco-Roman wrestling team on her trip to Iran for the 2014 World Cup. When she returned she regaled me with a hundred stories about how repeatedly pleasantly surprised she was at her interactions in Iran, and how the Iranians were repeatedly pleasantly surprised at the interactions with her. In a nutshell, each party underestimated the respectfulness, gentility, humility, piety and cultural sensitivity that would come from the other. And it resulted in her having a "media darling" week in the country of Iran.
As I listened to her debrief throughout the week, it kept occurring to me that her Persian expedition was not too dissimilar from a fitness journey. That is, with a little bit of guts and taking a chance, beautiful impossible things happen. Almost every part of her trip was historic, in that a woman had never been in various buildings and forums where she went. And "knowing" what she thought she did beforehand, she could've easily just forewent the tour, stood this one out, played it safe and stayed home. The Iranian government could've easily declined entry and the various concessions they had to make to accommodate her. Instead, both boldly proceeded and people's worlds changed.
Prior to my client's return, two weeks ago, I myself was overseas; and my son was standing on a canon outside the mansion once home to Laskarina Bouboulina (whose statue is next to him). Born in 1771 Bouboulina was the only woman in recorded world history to be named a full admiral until 2013. She had no female role model after whom to model herself. She could've easily said, "this is how things seem to be" and accepted her plight. But instead she challenged every imagined imposition in her path, amassing a furtive arsenal on the island of Spetsos, chartering the construction of one of the largest ships at the time, bribing Turkish officials to look the other way, and launching a series of offensives against the Ottoman Empire to ultimately play a pivotal role in the Independence of Greece. She was born to be just another Greek woman (in fact, she was born in a prison), quietly oppressed by the Turks; but she imagined and created something so much greater. Even when she had acquired a large estate, she was not content to stand back and enjoy retirement. Rather, she personally attended to brutal battles at the ripe old age of 50, which is REALLY saying something for a woman in the early 1800s.
Nothing is as it seems to begin with. And that's because you make things what they are. Holding back from a full commitment to your fitness is just like holding back from the rest of life. You think you know what it's like, so you shoot yourself in the foot before you take a step, and now you dare not put it forward because it could get hurt worse.
Yes, it requires doing what maybe no one including yourself thought possible. But you know what? EVERYTHING EVER DONE once seemed like it couldn't be.
One of my clients sent me this link to a very recent Times article. In case it's news to anyone, I thought I might share it, along with some notes.
Basically, these data gatherers found that the overall lower your blood sugar trends, the smarter you'll be and the more protected your brain will be forever. It's not news. There have been a number of studies finding that insulin resistance, thus neural cell death, occurs 10-20 years before you have any fasting sugars or A1c reading that trend high. By the time you have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or dementia your were pulling fasting blood sugars in the high 90s and low 100s for 30 years and never did anything about it because you weren't diagnosed with diabetes. Sugar and insulin cross the blood brain barrier and contribute to dysfunction of receptors within the cells of your central nervous system.
A fat burning metabolism, insulin sensitivity and controlled carbohydrate intake are absolutely essential to living the best life you can.
Imagine troubleshooting and coaching a client to get solid sleep when she has a specific disorder. The relationships within physiology are so complex that the sharpest sleep disorder medical professionals typically throw up their hands even after data gathering in a sleep study. They might put a patient on a CPAP and/or a sleep aid drug. But imagine your client wants to re-instruct her body on how to sleep solidly naturally. No drugs. No machines. Try the usual suspects: black out curtains, white noise, breathing techniques and meditation, melatonin, 5-HTP, theanine, licorice root, tea, elimination of night time alcohol, mineral balance and hydration issues, reduction of stress, elimination of inflammatory foods, balance of estrogen dominance, etc. Would you have stricken the ratios just right or figured out that pre-bedtime consumption of modified slow-absorption carbohydrates would be the linchpin? I wouldn't have either, until about a year ago. But I've been getting smarter.
Understanding extremely complex relationships and problem solving within them is the product of many things. There is a baseline of knowledge needed, an inquisitive nature, but also a handle on how to fit various abstractions in their "proper place." Believe it or not, spatial intelligence plays a major role.
Now I wouldn't say I was a spatial relationship idiot who has become a savant. I built things when I was a kid; and I've always been able to perform the abstract version of spatial intelligence: logic, reasoning, argumentation. But the quintessential measure of concrete spatial intelligence
(http://www.iqtestexperts.com/iq-rubik.php) always eluded me.
I could never crack the Rubik's cube. I just couldn't quite get a handle on how to move what out of the way in order to achieve symmetry and completeness in a finished design. I'd get a side or two, maybe three or more. And I wouldn't want to mess it up to get to the next place. And I wouldn't understand how to temporarily "mess it up" to un "mess it up."
I tried the cube a few times as a child and once as a teenager. After quitting, I presumed I was born without that particular capacity, which suited me just fine, since I was an artist and musician.
However, in my heated endeavor to expand my brain over the past 7 months, I decided I needed to take on mental skills which I just never seemed to have. Well, solving the Rubik's cube was one of them.
So, I bought a standard Rubik's brand 3x3x3 cube and committed myself to getting a handle on the darn thing without ever removing and replacing a single sticker.
Yes, I did consult tutorials, which, by the way, do not do a bit of good for someone who hasn't played with a Rubik's cube in 18 years. The tutorials made no sense. Even watching videos in slow motion didn't help... at first. You've got to figure, most of these things are made by people for whom the skill is intuitive. So their teaching method sucks; and their ability to make this foreign language into something native is more or less worthless.
But then... something happened. As I studied this impossible matrix of colors, the relationships eventually became transparent. Moving a piece several times through an x axis, y axis and z axis in order to reach a new pattern of organization just became fluid.
So how long does it take to acquire the skill? I'd say prepare yourself for 20-60 minutes a day for a week or two. But then, it's a cinch. And you will notice that your mental faculty for abstract spatial relationship does improve. I can reason better than I did before getting into cubing; and I can certainly look at physical configurations and much more rapidly get a handle on their relationship.
Hold yourself to realistic standards, recognizing that the world record holders for cubing have spent over 10,000 hours on this; and a cube solve for them has converted to pattern recognition followed by involuntary finger dexterity. It pretty much isn't even an exercise in spatial relationship intelligence anymore for them.
Once you "get it," initially you'll find that your solve times vary, until you learn how to attack different "problems." When I finally thought I had a good hold on things, it might take me 10 minutes once and 15 the next. Once I finally was consistently getting 90 second solves, I moved onto the Rubik's revenge, which is a 4x4x4 cube. Unlike every doofus on the internet says, it is not "pretty much" like the 3x3x3. You have to learn a whole new set of skills. Some transfer over. When I consistently was getting sub 5 minute solves on that, I moved onto the Professor's Cube, which is 5x5x5. It also has a few parities which muss things up a bit. I could solve it consistently around 15 minutes, and have now moved on to the 7x7x7 and up and the Gigaminx, which is not a cube at all but a 12 sided dodecahedron with layers of odd shaped pieces.
Again, I want to impress upon the reader that I had never solved a simple cube before the age of 31. Now I work on the big ones. We are able to build new neural pathways and change ourselves dramatically.
Want to find out how else you can expand your mind and self? Stay tuned for Get Smarter, part 3 and on.