I realize that I have posted about running and injuries lately, but not actually “training”. I’m quite sure that I drive my trainer nuts. For me, “training” is not about having him shout commands at me (this rarely happens, actually) or me saying that I want a bigger this or a smaller that (which never happens, mostly because it doesn’t occur to me to ask). When I started my “training” late last summer (right before school started), I didn’t really know what I wanted, except to get fit, be healthy and have some balance in my life.
I did want to lose weight, but I did not want that to be the focus of the training. I have exercised for the purpose of losing weight before and succeeded. Sort of. My weight plummeted to unhealthy levels and I was less healthy, it seemed, than when I carried extra pounds.
This time, I wanted to learn about health and lifelong fitness, which is quite different from exercising like a fiend to be skinny.
As this academic year draws to an end, it occurs to me that not only is it Year One of the Ph.D. but that my physical training could be considered an extra course. We could call it Workout 101. I spent the year learning basic principles, practicing regularly, logging results (and “journaling”, so there’s a mix of both quantitative and qualitative results there), and various other activities. The biggest challenge in the first semester was overcoming my fears about actually being in a gym… especially one populated by young, buff muscle boys (some of whom grunt in the most inhuman manner). Ew. Thank God for iPod, is all I can say!
I also re-discovered a love of running in the fall… and went forward with such zealous enthusiasm that by Remembrance Day, I was beginning to feel the first twinges of what would go on to become a nagging knee and leg injury, lasting through the rest of the winter (and continues…)
Around the same time as the injury, I began to worry about if (or how) I could make this a lifestyle change over the long term. I realized that my ignorance about how a human body (MY human body) works was holding me back. I had led such a cerebral existence for such a long time, it’s like I wasn’t even connected to my body. This was evidenced by my own lack of being able to “feel” certain things during workouts, my awkwardness and general lack of skill. I figured out that in order to “get connected” that I would have to bring a cerebral element into my workouts.
Hence, I became the only person in the entire gym (that I noticed) whose trainer walked around with a basic anatomy book, pointing out what muscles were being used in which exercise, naming them, explaining how they’re all connected and how they worked in relation to other bits. I was being a geek… but I was getting it.
I managed to stay active over the holidays and moved on to the on to second semester, where I began to explore how exercise related to my life values. Since “fitting in” with the muscle heads was not exactly one of my life aspirations, I had to figure out why all this was important to me.
I must say… doing that was fairly ground-breaking… Things have felt different… better… since then.
I (usually) didn’t need anyone to stand next to me and bark at me, “Three more! Two more!... OK, fourteen million more!” I am ferociously diligent and nauseatingly dedicated all on my own.
What I did need was someone to help me figure out what it can mean to be fit and healthy in a general, long-term sense… learn how my own body works, what it can (and can not) do, how to push it and when to back off. Just for fun (because I can’t help it) I had to go and explore things like how exercise relates to spirituality and life callings and other “out there” stuff. Of course, I told my trainer about all this. I’m not sure he quite knew what to do with me.
As the semester ends, my training sessions are also coming to an end. I had a 10-pack of sessions that pretty much took me through the term. My trainer will only be at his current job for a few more months and then moving on to bigger and better things. And I am not feeling particularly inspired to train with anyone else at the moment and so, I figure it is time to try this out on my own for a while.
Signing up for swimming lessons was part of a new quest to be independent, learn new things and also, to drag myself out of a bit of a mental rut I was in about not being able to run (still!)
I have tried my hand at putting together my own training plan, too. I talked it over with Chris. He wrote down some pointers for me and then sent me on my way to go try it, saying he would review it if I wanted, and give me some feed back.
Well, after spending two hours reviewing all the notes from every single training session since last August, doing some research on the Net and writing out and subsequently trashing three different workouts before I came up with a plan that I thought was reasonable, of course I wanted feedback! E-mailing it to him felt a bit like I was handing in a final assignment after a year-long course in “Basic Workout”.
On Friday I got my feedback: “Pretty good.”
At first, I felt kind of deflated. “‘Pretty good?’” I thought to myself. “After an entire academic year of working on this and two hours researching and drafting for this 3-week plan alone, I come out with a ‘pretty good’? Hell, he may as well have just said, ‘Passable…. but really rather mediocre.’”
Then I remembered that this trainer, for whom my term of endearment is “Sadist!”, doesn’t exactly gush forth with “warm and fuzzy” type feedback. (And really… what trainer does? That's not what we pay them for.) And so, I re-adjusted my perfectionist attitude and decided to be OK with it.
And so, I will end the academic year with letter grades in my Ph.D. courses that are respectable and what would appear to be a passing grade of “pretty good” in Workout 101.
Still though… the thought of working out on my own scares the living daylights out of me... much more so than doing a Ph.D. thesis!