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Embracing Fitness as a Training Ground for Building Better Character

Pain hurts. Struggle can be agonizing. Completing a project that is mentally or physically challenging can feel tedious and uncomfortable.

So, we avoid. We put things off. Procrastinate. Hire the hard work out to someone better suited than us. We stuff down our pain instead of opting for healing because it feels easier.

 

And even though we feel weak, ashamed, and like a complete fraud when we quit or avoid hard things, we keep trudging down the same path.

 

Some of us spend our whole lives avoiding struggle. We parent our children from the sole motivation of keeping them from heartbreak and pain. And we live our lives from the same goal.

 

And then we wish. We wish we had done the thing we always said we’d do. We wish we knew how to build this or play that. We wish we were more successful, healthier, stronger, better at relationships. We wish.

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All the influential and inspiring people in the world tell us the same thing. Embrace fear. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. The clichés ring in our ears like church bells at noon, but we know we’ll dismiss them as soon as we encounter a difficult situation. They’re right, we’re sure. But comfort is addicting.

 

What we don’t know, is that running toward pain and struggle and fear and discomfort isn’t just for accomplishing BIG dreams and finally checking that incredible thing off our bucket list. Nope. It’s necessary just to become better people than we are today. Right now.

 

To move forward at all, we have encounter at least some discomfort. It’s essential. We are either facing something hard head on, or we are stagnant in our character. It’s how life works. We are overcomers or we are succumbers.

 

It’s so daunting though, right? Facing the hurt and adversity in our path in order to become ourself. The real, whole, self we always wanted to be.

What if there was a practicing ground for doing hard things? A less daunting place for risking a little embarrassment in order to become more complete, more generous, more loving, and more alive versions of ourselves?

 

Fitness is that place for me. I get to choose everyday between comfort and struggle. Excuses and integrity. Shame and courage. Jealousy and generosity. Succumbing and overcoming.

 

Does that sound a little off-base? A little too small and easy? Well, hear me out.

 

I am an introvert to the core. I like to be home with coffee and quiet, and most days when I drop my kids off at school, I think to myself that the easy, comfortable thing to do would be to go home and drink my coffee in peace, read a book, or stroll around Target alone.IMG_2190

But, I have a choice to make. This is my prime time to take care of my body. I know if I don’t do it then, I will struggle to find time to do it later. So, I am cultivating a practice of embracing something that feels a little like a struggle some days to do the better thing. The thing that will bring me more benefit.

 

See, I know I am a better mother and wife and person when I take time to exercise my body AND I always feel really good when I finish my workout, physically and mentally. Of course, I take time to rest and read and enjoy quiet time regularly, but that is not a healthy habit for me to embrace every morning at the sacrifice of moving my body, so I have to risk discomfort to build my character and my health.

 

Now that I have been committed to this practice for a while, I have found it easier to do the other things that I used to put off and make healthy choices in other areas of my life. I will have the hard conversation with a loved one now because I know it leads to a better relationship. I know a messy house causes me stress, so now I fold the laundry instead of watching television. I call on a friend when I’m struggling emotionally instead of isolating, even though going inward feels more comfortable to me.

 

Do you see where I’m going with this? Using fitness as a training ground for life may sound silly and inconsequential, but it has made a real impact in my life. I know what it says about my character when I plan to do 5 sets of squats, but quit after 4 because I’m tired or it sounds too hard today. And I am taking that lesson into the rest of my life. I will play with my kids for 20 minutes instead of 5 because I know what that means to them and says about me.

 

When I feel jealous of another woman at the gym because she is leaner or stronger than me, I can choose to go home and pick her apart in my head or to my husband OR I can choose to notice my jealousy, go to her, and give her a compliment.

 

So, I aim for the latter. I am an introvert who approaches strangers in the gym to give

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them

compliments. Regularly. Because I would rather be an encouraging woman than a jealous one. And, you know what? I will probably never see that person again. It’s an easy way to practice. Way less threatening than approaching a colleague or school mom, but it’s a good lead-up for encouraging those women too.

 

Maybe even this feels overwhelming. So just start with one thing. Wipe down your yoga mat, or gym equipment when you’re done with it because you are not a lazy or entitled person. Be the person you want to be for just one hour at the gym. And then, watch how your life changes outside of it.

 

Fitness can be just about your body if you want, but there is so much more that you can gain. What if you tried embracing all of it to welcome more wholeness, strength, and joy into your life?

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Are you the 9 percent?

The following is a guest blog by my friend, Sarah Siders. Sarah is a licensed Master Social Worker and runs her own life consulting business and a client of Kim Ashford Fitness! If you’re interested in learning more about Sarah’s work, visit her website.

If you made a New Year’s Resolution this year and you’re reading this with your resolution still intact, congratulations! You are well on your way to becoming one of the mere 9 percent of people (in the United States) who articulate a resolution and follow through.

If this statistic seems painfully small, just think of all the times you’ve made other goals and quit almost as soon as you started. Some of the main reasons people quit pursuing their goals are the discouragement of not meeting their deadlines or setting expectations for themselves that are impossible.

So what sets the 9 percent apart from the 91 percent? Let’s get in the head of the 91 percent to see what people believe that makes them more likely to quit.

Myth #1: If I don’t meet my goal completely, I failed.

If you’re still focused on hitting your fitness and health goals for the year, chances are you fall into the category of a high-achieving person. While high-achievers tend to accomplish more, they often fall prey to a common thinking trap referred to as “All or nothing thinking.”

It’s the sneaky belief that anything less than 100 percent doesn’t count. It turns out requiring ourselves to be superhuman only sets ourselves up for the very thing we fear: failure.

What’s worse, we can be led to believe that not achieving a goal perfectly indicates something is wrong with us.

Instead of the black-and-white view of achievement as either “success” or “failure,” use the 80/20 rule to evaluate your effort. If you’re not meeting your goals consistently, it’s likely that there something wrong with your expectations, not you.

If you’re meeting your goals for fitness and nutrition 80 percent of the time, this becomes the new success standard, taking into account that while life happened and it prevented me from keeping my commitment 20 percent of the time, I am proving my commitment to myself with the 80 percent.

Myth #2: I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

It may seem like rest, sleep or taking a day off are signs of weakness, laziness or lack of commitment. But the intelligent use of rest is an essential element to meeting your health and fitness goals.

During sleep or on a recovery day, your muscles are doing anything but resting. In fact, your body uses this time to repair and build muscle. Without this critical component of your workout routine, you will not see the results you want by your deadlines, and worse, you may get injured or burned out and quit all together.

So instead of telling yourself, “Rest is doing nothing,” try reminding yourself, “Rest is allowing my body to do a different kind of work.”

Myth #3: If I look like I’m having fun, I’m not working hard enough.

Really? What isn’t fun about getting fit, feeling more energetic and confident, making visible progress and proving to ourselves that we are committed? Everything about that is fun.

It doesn’t mean there isn’t pain and sweat involved. In fact, it’s the pain and sweat that make your progress worth celebrating. Talking about how much agony you’re in or telling yourself you’re miserable doesn’t prove that you’re more committed. In fact, it might actually limit what you’ll accomplish.

When you hit a milestone on your fitness journey, stopping to celebrate by acknowledging your progress to yourself and others around you is a way to encourage yourself to keep going.

Sure, it’s all about the destination, but the only way there is the process. You might as well enjoy it.

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Resolutions that get Results: How to set great goals.

img_5401-1Here we are in week one of January and you may already be struggling to keep up with your resolutions. Maybe you have a goal but it’s vague and uninspiring and has already left you wondering how you will ever achieve the end results you desire. Not to worry, we are expert goal setters here at Lynx Fitness, LLC and we’re here to help you create the kind of resolutions that lead to success.

First things first: What exactly is it you want to accomplish? Good, attainable goals are specific. “I want to lose weight this year” is not a specific goal. You need the what, when, where, how and why to get you to victory.

What? Instead of “I want to lose weight”, try “I want to lose 15 pounds.” That is a specific goal that gives you something to measure. Every goal should be measurable. If you can’t measure it, you will not be able to determine whether you have succeeded. Moreover, you won’t be able to track your progress, and progress is the MVP when it comes to sticking with a goal.

When? This is a dual purpose question. First, when do you want to have achieved your goal? One year from today? Before your beach vacation this spring? Determine an end date for your goal. This will keep you pressing forward instead of aimlessly meandering toward a far-off desire that isn’t really a goal, but a wish.

Along with an end date, you will need to decide when you will actually work toward your goal. Try something like this:  “I want to lose 15 pounds by March 1st. I will do so by exercising at 7 a.m. each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.” Now, you’re getting specific. You’ve got a goal with an end date and the days and times of when you will work toward that goal.

Where? Where will you be working toward your goal? Will you exercise at home, join a gym, or go jogging at the local track? These details will help you to be prepared as you move toward who you want to be. So, at this point, you’ll want your goal to look something like this: “I will lose 15 pounds by March 1st. I will do so by exercising at Home Town Fitness Center at 7 a.m. each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.”

How? Now this is where people seem to get off track. How exactly are you going to do this? If your plan is to exercise, you have to know how you will exercise. Do you need to hire a trainer, find a few exercise DVDs, hire a babysitter to watch your kids while you work out, sign up for a gym membership, buy running shoes? You have to think through all of the details because any one of them could send you off course if you have not planned well. What if you go out for a run only to find that your 12-year-old sneakers hurt your feet because they’re worn out? Or maybe you get to the gym (which is half the battle) but you have no idea what to do once you are there. The anxiety or boredom you feel at that point may overshadow your desire to work toward your goal. Make sure you have decided exactly what you will do and take care of all the details beforehand, so you can be confident when you begin.

“I will lose 15 pounds by March 1st. I will do so by exercising at Home Town Fitness Center at 7 a.m. each Monday Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, using the plan my trainer has put together for me. I have obtained a gym membership, purchased 12 weeks of personal training, and have appropriate apparel to wear while exercising.”

img_0160Why? This should actually be the first question you ask yourself. Why are you setting this goal? What will losing 15 pounds do for you? If it were easy to accomplish this, you would have done it already, which means you are going to need some powerful inspiration to keep you on track when things get uncomfortable. So what is it? Is your ‘why’ important to you?

“I will lose 15 pounds by March 1st because I want to fit into the cute clothes in my closet.”

Go deeper.

“I will lose 15 pounds by March 1st because…”

What is your why?

“I will lose 15 pounds by March 1st because I am borderline hypertensive and I don’t want my kids to become my caregivers because I haven’t taken care of myself. I will do so by exercising at Home Town Fitness Center at 7 a.m. each Monday Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, using the plan my trainer has put together for me. I have obtained a gym membership, purchased 12 weeks of personal training, and have appropriate apparel to wear while exercising.”

Now that is a good goal.

Make it specific. Make it measureable. Make it personal. This is YOUR resolution after all.

Attack your fitness. You are worth it.