les mills pump

Strength

ImageApparently I’m in a definition exploration mode these days. Badass, space, and now strength. I’m sure a psychologist might have fun with both the obsession with definitions AND the words I’m zeroing in on.

The word came to me when I was (duh) lifting weights the other day. When I first did Les Mills Pump, a barbell-based program, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. There is something about lifting weights on a bar, in my living room, that just tickles my imagination and pushes the limits of what my self-image is. Barbells are for those strong guys at the circus, the ones with handlebar mustaches and veins popping out of their biceps. Doing a clean and press with a 3 row chaser, keeping form right and the bar even? Better than coffee as a way to start my day.

So strength is clearly about physical strength. It’s about how straight you can hold a plank, or how much weight you can lift safely, with good form. It’s about how many miles you can run. What you can lift, carry, or keep doing physically.

It’s also about mental toughness and fortitude. The ability to keep moving forward when someone you love dies. It’s holding someone’s hand when he or she’s getting a shot, even though the sight of needles makes you feel woozy. It’s figuring out how to do one more day of a bad job, or get through one more meeting with an unsympathetic co-worker. It’s about doing the dishes at night when all you want to do is crawl into bed with a book.

The thing with physical strength is that it’s external. Someone else can look and say, “Wow, you’re strong.” There are objective measurements to this one. When you can lift more weights one day than you could the day before, you’re getting stronger. You can write down the weights, or someone else can, and you have proof.  If you want to get stronger, you lift more weights (safely, please. Always safely!)

Mental strength isn’t so easy to quantify. The parameters, the measurements, are softer, less precise.

What I’ve found is how much the two complement each other. Being physically stronger makes it easier for me to be mentally tough. The image of lifting barbells gives me something to wrap my brain around, a touchstone, if you will, of possibility. Being mentally tough gives me a reserve to tap into when I’m in the middle of a hard workout.

Feeling strong lets me feel like a badass. You?

 

Charlottesville, VA, October 12, 2013

Perspective

ImageMarch 12, 2013

We've had the gamut of weather here lately, from a dumping of snow last Wednesday that left us without power until late Friday evening, to 60 degree sunshine on Sunday, and now enough rain falling that our backyard looks like a western feeder lake for the Chesapeake Bay. Snow showers are predicted for tomorrow. I am very ready for those red buds on the maple tree and the yellow peeks on the forsythia to fulfill their promise of impending spring.

A friend of mine, Karen Nourse (more info about her work here), gave me a great gift last week - a detailed critique of some of my Tasty Thursday videos. Her comments included down-to-the-second “this worked and this didn’t” as well as links to vlogs I might like to follow for educational purposes. I was blown away by the time she took, unbidden, as well as the things I learned from her. Small things, like how different perspectives can lend depth and interest to even a short video, and how mixing the shots up keeps a viewer watching. I’m anxious to put my learning into practice.

I spoke about practice in an earlier blog. My challenge groups are practicing daily, working to improve their exercise consistency and healthy eating. One woman, who is doing incredible work fitting in exercise around a very full life, posting about her struggles and reaching out for guidance and support, expressed some disappointment to me yesterday. “I feel like I’m not doing enough,” she said to me. “Everyone else posts about running 10 miles or lifting 100 pounds. And the scale is not moving and I’m getting depressed. I hate running but I feel like I should be running.” I did my best to show her that every single person in this challenge is in a different spot, exercise-wise. One person’s 10 miles is another person’s 20 minutes of ab work. “If the posts inspire you to push yourself a little further, to try something you didn’t think was possible, then that’s great. If the posts are making you think you aren’t doing enough, then maybe stop looking at them. Look at how far you have come. When you started, your goal was to exercise 5 times a week. You are getting in something every day. Your eating is in a better spot. And it has only been 3 weeks!!!” She said this morning that the little pep talk helped her, for which I am glad.

Jeremy and I are talking about putting our house on the market. This involves a lot of prep work, painting and taking care of small issues that need attention. Last night, fumes from the freshly-primed walls in our room drove us to the guest room, where we will set up shop until the room is finished. Sleeping in that room is a revelation. First of all, it’s a nice room. Soothing colors, a comfortable bed. I don’t feel bad about putting guests in that room. It did make me think about the noise I make in the morning, grinding coffee and clinking away dishes. And I didn’t do my workout this morning in the wee hours as is my preference.

Many family dinner conversations right now are about how people see the house. About how, when you sell a house, you aren’t selling YOUR home – you’re selling someone else a possibility of a life they might want. Selling the dream, baby, selling the dream. We have to make it as simple as possible for someone else to see themselves in this house.

All of these vignettes are linked in that they are about perspective. Looking at videos, or exercise, or a house from the eyes of someone else can help us see things more clearly. Sometimes that takes a conversation, and sometimes it takes literally moving into a different spot.

Whose perspective might you take on today?