Lessons Learned about Life from Working Out

Image. ©2015 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.
Image. ©2015 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.

Working out as part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been an integral part of who I am for quite a while. Whether I was doing aerobics in our tiny apartment with a VHS tape 19 years ago, or training for and running my first 5k three years ago, I’ve understood the importance of moving my body to stay in optimal shape. However, I had never really thought about how the way I work out could mean much more.

Until, I met Robert in 2007.

I had just joined a gym. I was looking to de-stress. He was looking for gym members to train. With much resistance, I agreed for Robert to be my trainer. Although he taught me a lot about where to position my feet when doing a proper squat or how to do a correct push-up, what I learned most from this trainer has remained with me well after I’ve finished my last rep.

Robert would consistently say that he could tell how someone lived his or her life based on how he or she worked out.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

He began to explain. “People who give up in the middle of their workouts are usually people who don’t finish other things in life. People who have gym memberships but never show up, usually don’t show up much in other ways in their own lives.”

Intrigued, I begged him to tell me more. Also, talking meant that he wasn’t counting out my reps.

You stop and do a little happy dance every time you finish a set,” he observed.

“Okay. I meant tell me more about what you see in other people, not me.” But as he continued, I realized he was right. I’m used to cheering myself on in life’s endeavors and finishing 20 assisted pull-ups with him was no different.

Here are three other observations that Robert made with my twist on how they relate to life:

“If you are texting, talking on the phone or reading, you are not fully engaged in the workout!” When I first began working out with Robert, I would prop my book up on the treadmill and proceed to walk, and there was no way you could tell me that I wasn’t “working out.” I was on the treadmill. Moving. Right? Wrong. Most workouts require undivided attention. If we are doing something else during this important time we’ve set aside, then we’re not giving it our full attention. Life also requires our full attention. If we’re not consciously participating in our own lives, giving ourselves 100%, then we may be going through the motions, passively existing. And who wants to just exist?

“Don’t wish it was easier. Wish you had the strength to get through it!” There were times when Robert would direct me to lift some unfathomable weight, and I would give him a defeatist look. But I had to learn to pull strength from inside of myself to lift some ridiculous poundage outside of myself. Just like our workouts, sometimes we wish life was easier so we could just do what we want or have what we want; however, reaching goals in the gym or in life just doesn’t work like that. Anything we desire requires work, and we are the only ones who will be able to dig deep to achieve whatever we set for ourselves.

Don’t worry about what the person next to you is doing! In the beginning, I would compare myself to the guy running 7.0 miles per hour for twenty minutes or the lady who could deadlift her own weight. I continued these comparisons until I learned that guy might be training for a 10k, or that lady is a professional bodybuilder. We often use similar and unfair comparisons in life. We look at people outside of our lives and wonder, “How did s/he get to that point?” “Why is it so easy for so and so to have fill-in-the-blank? The fact is we don’t know what that person’s journey or story is. We don’t know what he or she has had to endure or accomplish to do what you see now. We only see who that person is today.

These lessons have helped me beyond my training relationship with Robert. They’ve reminded me of a few ways that I can get through life. What would you add?

Four Ways to Invalidate Someone’s Emotions

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© http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-no-emotions-5/ I have no rights to this image.
I recently took the girls to see Inside Out. Dare I say, it seems to be a much better movie than Frozen, with a more relevant message: we need all of our emotions to be a whole person. But this is not a movie review. No. Over the past few months, I’ve noted how people interact with one another, and consequently, tend to attempt invalidating each other’s emotions.

#1 Manage the Person’s Feelings My Grannie does something I call managing my emotions. When I tell her about the coworker that upset me, she says, “Don’t be angry.” Someone hurt my feelings? “Don’t be sad.” She feels that I’m about to explode over some issue that’s trivial in her mind? “Don’t go off!” I resist each step of the way because emotions are a huge part of my personality. If I cannot express my emotions, then I might as well curl up in a ball and be invisible. Simultaneously, I see this as a way to not really see someone’s emotions. I know she means well. However, it is the number one way to invalidate someone’s emotions.

#2 Say, “It’s Not that Bad, Is It?” If someone has the cojones to tell you how they feel about a situation or to express how your actions have made them feel, the number two way to invalidate their emotions is to ask them if it’s that bad. If it wasn’t that bad, then he or she probably wouldn’t have expended the energy to pour out his or her heart to you. If it wasn’t that bad, then perhaps, he or she would have merely sucked it up, buried it deep and then held it against you for the rest of his or her life. But instead, he or she chose to tell you because he or she thought you cared enough to react. Let’s assume that it really was that bad.

#3 Ignore the Person’s Statement What if someone said, “I love you”? Would you ignore the sentiment? How about if someone said, “Hey, I think you’re a great person!” Would you think that deserved a response? The reality is that it’s way easier to respond to positive emotions. Oh my Gosh! You love me? I love you too! But if that same person announced, “You really hurt my feelings,” or “You’ve made me sad by being inconsiderate,” a lot of times, the recipient doesn’t understand how to relate to these negative emotions. And ignoring takes the place of responding. However, ignoring someone’s emotions is also a way to invalidate what the person just said.

#4 Deflect the Person’s Emotion Deflecting is interesting. It’s the opposite of reflecting. And everything that I’ve read so far suggests that if you notice someone else’s bad behavior then really it’s a RE-flection of something you probably need to work on. DE-flecting, conversely, is a way to not internalize the other person’s emotions, right? When I deflect, then I put it back on you. What’s wrong with you? Why do you feel that way? What are you saying? I’m not like that. I wouldn’t do something negative to someone. If you’re not reflecting, then you’re probably deflecting. And if you’re deflecting, then you’re probably invalidating someone else’s feelings.

Do you have other ways that you would add? How do you try not to invalidate others’ feelings? Would you re-order these?