For many years I was a fitness instructor/trainer for different YMCA’s in the Midwest, actively teaching various fitness or aquatics classes three to five times a day for 18 years. My job was to help others achieve.
I can hear myself now, “up”, “down”, “in”, “out”, “faster”, “hold it”, “you can do it”, “one more rep”, “breathe”… the commands go on and on. Always coaching, encouraging, cajoling, inspiring, whatever it took to get others to achieve their goals. I was the living example of a healthy life style, spouting my well-meaning platitudes and getting paid for it!
Often, I had to listen to all the reasons why my charges were unable to achieve their hard fought goals… to proudly display their six-pack, lift that sagging bottom, drop those pounds, look good for the reunion. As a trainer/teacher/instructor my goal was to help them succeed. But, how? After all, the statistics are pretty dismal: you can lose it, but you can’t keep it off; you may reach a goal, but you can’t maintain it.
Diets (always a new one), fitness DVD’s, exercise equipment (let’s not forget the rub on creams), they all are huge money makers designed to help you create and achieve that poster perfect look. They parade the “body beautiful”, and we want it!
Despite the mixed motives of many of my clients, and the dubious benefits of some fitness products, I was usually successful in helping most of them achieve their goals.
Now that I’m a ‘mature’ adult, I’ve had to stop and consider exactly what it was that was behind the success of my teaching methods so I can apply it to myself.
I’ve realized that I taught others to focus on mental fitness instead of obsessing about the body. So maybe I need to drop some mental weight if I want the body to follow suit.
Instead of thinking about how hard it is to move, and complaining about it, or looking to some fitness product as a silver bullet, I need a renewed sense of joy and gratitude for the fact that I can and do have the freedom to walk, bend, stretch, dance no matter how limited. The discipline to change my lifestyle starts with the mental willingness and desire to do so. I can get tired, or bored with walking the same route, on one level, or I can keep my thinking fresh and inspired. The gratitude I feel actually makes me lighter and joyous when I work out.
Heading for the fridge? I ask myself if I’m hungry or just frustrated, fearful, or secretly rewarding myself for doing something that I didn’t want to do? I stop and rethink my motives. I have to decide that I want to exercise mental dominion over this limited, lazy, depressing ‘self’ talk.
My basis for doing so goes beyond willpower to recognizing my relationship to a higher power, which is the source of my ability to resist undisciplined thoughts and acts.
That’s what I did with so many people as their instructor. I acknowledged everyone’s right to use these spiritual ideas to bring the body under control.
Now I’m doing it for myself, and in the hope that other ‘seniors’, or those at any age, can experience the benefits of this approach.
Join me! The mental journey is truly a wonderful workout.
Lin Paporello is a Christian Scientist living in Boise, Idaho.