Why it’s okay to Suck at Cross-Training

17 Jan

I almost cried at personal training today. I didn’t happen to glance out the window and watch a kitten get hit by a car either. (okay, hang on a second, that thought made me tear-up a little too… yeesh, I’m a mess!) My old, hard-core trainer who threatened to throw me out of a second story window is still safely out of state. My new trainer is super encouraging, so that wasn’t it either.

I signed up for twelve personal training sessions and a cardio/core-strength boot camp class at our local YMCA. I’ve been trying to tell people for some time that I’m not really all that “fit.” People always give me a bit of an askance look when I say this. If they had seen me at the gym for boot camp or personal training today I think they would understand what I mean.

Yes, I run far. I’m moderately fast for a very long time. BUT, I have a weakness I’ve been hiding for some time. I woke up one morning to find that someone had surgically removed my abdominal muscles to sell them on the black-market. I’m not sure why—I doubt they got much of anything for them.

Tapping into Insecurities

I didn’t realize just how much I hate others to see me when I’m weak. I said as much to my trainer as I burned-out in a mere matter of seconds doing plank-crunches. I lay there on my stomach feeling absolutely awful about myself. I talked with my trainer about it. There wasn’t any way to hide my feeling of dejection anyway.

She gave me salient advice and encouragement.

“Do you think anyone in this gym is counting or is judging you for how many reps you just did?”

No. It was an easy answer. Sometimes to get to the truth you have to ask the right question. When you’re afraid to question where your floating anxiety lives and what’s at the dark heart of it, you doom yourself to a life of self-doubt and paralysis. I still have a mailing address in that world. I guess it’s becoming more of a P.O. box these days, but I still know where you’re coming from my friend.

Real Men Share Their Feelings

Manliness doesn’t keep you from talking to other people about what’s bugging you, fear does. Fear is not manly. Well, actually fear is fine, but real men do not let fear dictate their actions and in fact we often move right into the very face of our fear to find our greatest triumphs.

My friend didn’t judge me when I told them I really struggled in a fitness class the other day. I felt dejected and deflated the rest of the day and much of the next. In fact, I need a quick rabbit trail to tell you the story of that class. I promise to cut to chase soon thereafter, but you need a laugh first, so here you go:

[Women’s?] Boot Camp

I never gave it a thought when I signed up for a midweek, morning boot-camp class at the YMCA that most men have day-jobs. I’m a wedding photographer. I work weekends and at flexible and other random times during the week. All that said, the tally of the class read 14 women, 1 man. I’m pretty sure the instructor has slipped a few times and yelled, “C’mon girls!” When I walked up to talk about how crazy hard the class was afterward they were swapping labor stories. I promptly left to shoot some hoops to shake off the estrogen and weirded-out-ness I felt after that.

These women are fitness machines. There were two women in the class that I have seen in EVERY SINGLE FITNESS CLASS I’ve ever taken at the Y. So why did I feel like I should and had to stack up to their core strength prowess? The answer will surprise you.

It wasn’t about gender. Really. The problem is I’m a decent runner. I try to tell people that in spite of that fact, I’m not really all that “fit.” When I walked into the gym with those 14 women the instructor introduced me as an “ultra-runner looking shape up their routine.” Great.

I already feel self-conscious in exercise groups, now I had a reputation to defend. Or at least it felt that way. In anything running during the 40 minute class I excelled. In everything else I was a sweating, panting mess. I was last to finish everything but running. I was first in that category, but that was just one of many categories.

A Friend’s Perspective

Okay, I was trying to make that story funny, but it came out a lot more melancholy. :-/ Sorry. I guess I’m still not to make a joke of it yet. I’ll get there yet. Friends help.

“It’s understandable that when you have kids and work/writing and ultrarunning long runs to fit in (and holiday travel and prepping for baby), you won’t be the best at everything.”

That was the message I got back via facebook from my friend. They were the impetus for this post in fact; they were so true and encouraging that I had to pass them on to all of you.

It’s Okay to Suck

At anything in fact… not just cross-training. Don’t let the fear of looking foolish at something stop you from something you think may be beneficial to you. I know I need exactly these classes. I knew they would be hard. I didn’t expect to be crushed by them though. That really surprised me.

But you know what? This week I did SO MUCH BETTER. 1 week later. Last week I was hobbling everywhere. This week I was so jacked with energy after class. Stick with things. There is reward when you push through the initial pain/embarrassment. You can’t excel in everything. It’s okay. Really. It was tough for me to really digest these words myself this week… so chew on them a while till you think you can stomach them.

Lastly, I heard someone say recently that it’s a good idea to bring a friend into a cross-trainer venture that NEITHER of you have experience with. I wish I would have thought of that sooner. Next time I’ll find someone to drag along. It could be any one of you, so don’t get comfortable. Next week’s post I’ll talk about the value and super secret key to cross training. Cheers!

16 Responses to “Why it’s okay to Suck at Cross-Training”

  1. roy pIrRUNg January 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Remember, you probably sucked at running long distances too! The journey begins with the first step. Get fit and don’t take anything but the best away from your training. I used to knock out 25-50 pushups and haven’t done ANY for a few years. I managed 7 the first time I tried, but I know there are more in those runner’s arms of mine! Keep building and don’t look back! See you in a few miles….roy P.S. Are you still in the FdL area? I thought you were moving for some reason.

    • Brandon January 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

      I did! I really did. I couldn’t run a mile without my shins screaming. That was a mere 3.5 years ago. We only get today in which to live. Transformation doesn’t take nearly as long as we think it does. In fact, it’s instant, the moment we decide to act and move in the direction of our dreams and ambitions. Thanks for your advice and encouragement along my journey. I’m sure I’ll have more questions for you soon! When it warms up we’ll have to get a few runs in.

      Oh, and yes, still in Fond du Lac. Probably will be for a while yet. Perhaps I shared our eventual dream/goal of buying a parcel of land in the La Crosse area?

  2. Emily January 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    “It’s ok to suck.” I will repeat that to myself countless times, I’m sure. And you’ve almost got me convinced to start selling plasma to pay for personal training :) cheers to you, Real Man!

    • Brandon January 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      It’s kind of a sad mantra, but I think it’s probably a good one to start with… especially with new activities (or recovering after having a child?). Selling plasma scares me. I actually tried it when I first started running again in order to fund my gear obsession. I couldn’t do it. I hope you find an alternative. :-/ Look into a small group session perhaps? If you find some peeps with similar goals, it’s a great way to cut the cost. Talk to Maria… she takes down info and tries to pair people up with similar goals. I can’t afford ongoing personal training, but every now and then I drop the money on it to help set me in a different trajectory training, or nutrition-wise.

  3. Benjamin C. Stegeman January 17, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Well I am feeling a pretty decent amount of anxiety about finally biking with you this spring (or when it warms up and thaws out). I have been out of my prime biking shape for a number of years now, and I just hope that I will actually be able to keep up with you. Though I have been planning on going out by myself at least once before I go with you to make sure I will not be crying as climb up the first steep incline.
    ///TRUE STORY///
    So that is all for now…

    • Brandon January 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      I won’t tell anyone if you cry. We will get through it buddy. Truth be told all the spinning I’ve been doing is because I’m afraid to bike with YOU. I haven’t been on a bike in 12 years. And besides, when mt. biking I really only like to go down fast…. so how about a truce on the climbs. :-)

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