When I first began the journey to reclaim my health, I struggled with daily feelings of personal failure and disappointment. Couldn’t run right. Couldn’t swim right. Biking was difficult. Everyone around me was bench pressing twenty reps with half a dozen plates on each side. But I couldn’t handle anything other than the tiny weights, without shaking or losing control. I had overwhelming feelings of inadequacy because I’d sweat uncontrollably and lose my breath when I would try cardio. And I was constantly angry. So I trained alone because I didn’t want anyone to see how bad I was. And I didn’t want anyone to hear me belittling at myself.
Then, one terrible, sweaty day on the track, an older woman who frequented the gym at the same time each day started to glide past me as I tried to grind through my workout. Then she matched pace alongside me. Her arms pistoning like an alpine skier. A huge smile across her face. She said, “Honey, you are trying TOO hard. Want to be a better you? Get a little better each day. You can’t do it all at once.” Then she accelerated back up to her pace and left me alone with all my sweat and angry thoughts.
Eventually I understood. She’d seen me in the weight room. And the spin room. And on the track. And she saw what I couldn’t. That I was measuring myself based on other people’s abilities. On other people’s performances. Instead of focusing on my pace as an individual, I was struggling (literally injuring myself in some case) to match the performance of people who had probably spent months (if not years) developing their abilities.
So I throttled back my efforts. Focused on fixing my form instead of maxing my power. Stopped looking at other people’s weights. Didn’t worry how my pace was compaired to theirs. And after a while, things started to suck less. Little by little. The sweating lessened. The breathing improved. Once, with a lot of practice and gradual improvement, I broke a six minute mile. (But just once.)
I’m me. I’m not anyone else. I can’t lift more than any of the twenty-something guys in my gym. Hell, I can’t lift half as much as some of them. But for a lanky, middle-aged nerd who never played a team sport in his life, I am happy with what I lift. I’m not the fastest runner, or second fastest runner in my age group. I’m probably in the bottom third. But I can run faster and run further than every guy sitting at home on the weekend.
Patience and a focus on personal improvement are all that is needed to get started. Then get a little better each day. Just get off the sofa and do something. Anything is always better than nothing. Always.