Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Call me – call me now.

Friday 4th September – a phone call

So I was at home on Friday afternoon and I get a call on the mobile from Andrea. She told me that she had noticed that I hadn’t been spending a great deal of time at the gym, and wanted to know if there is anything she could do to get me in there.

Before I go over what I said, I think it’s important to know what kind of a week, and in particular what kind of day, I was having.

Earlier in the week I got an anonymous comment on the blog (here) which started something of a comments discussion, which continued “offline” with some co-workers, about motivation in general, but specifically my motivations. It also put my mind, which is quite introspective about this whole gym thing anyway, into full-on introspection mode. I started second, third and fourth guessing myself and my motivations.

When I say I am motivated by “x” am I really motivated by that, or is that something I just tell myself? Or do I just want to think that it’s just  something I tell myself? When I put on the blog that I think “x” do I really think that, or am I just saying it for entertainment value? What do I really think? When I said I was considering doing a non-mandatory gym activity just because I was curious about it, was that really the reason? Is curiosity enough of a reason? Didn’t that go against everything I had said in the blog? Or did it go along with everything this blog was about? Most importantly, who am I to judge?

That kind of thing. I think I need Leonardo DiCaprio to go in there and sort some shit out for me. If you've seen Inception you should click on the pic. It's funny.

So by the end of the week I had no idea what I was doing, or why. But I knew that I felt tired. Then on Friday my son had to go under anaesthetic for a tooth extraction. I watched him go under, and it was a very very odd experience. On reflection, I think it put me in a strange mood for the rest of the day, even after he came out fine.

It was the afternoon of that operation, while I was home with him, that Andrea rang. It was quite an uncomfortable conversation on both sides up until she asked that question:

“I’m just wondering if there’s anything I can do to get you down there?” Then it suddenly became clear to me what I needed to say.

“Not really,” I said. “Because I hate it.”

As you might expect, this threw her a bit. She told me that it can be difficult, and that she understood (although I seriously doubt that she truly understands what I mean when I say I hate exercise) but wanted to make sure I am getting my money’s worth, and didn’t want to see my efforts wasted. “There’s still three weeks to go” (there are four) “and there’s a lot we can accomplish in that time” but basically she wanted to end the call quickly, and she did.

I wasn’t trying to be difficult as such. I knew that it was a “being difficult”, and somewhat smartarsey, thing to say, but it is the truth. When it all comes down to it, I really don’t like exercising. And I know, pretty much for certain now, that doing stuff at the gym is not for me. So I don’t mind telling her that.

Having said that, this week has given me is pause to think about some of the positives that have come out of this experience. I was planning to go over this at the end of the 12 weeks, in a kind of wrapup, but it might be an idea to do this sooner. Not now, but soon.

A few days after the phone call Andrea sent an email to my work group all about motivation. The advice in the email is quite sensible, and obviously applies to anyone, but I don’t think it’s too conceited to think that the catalyst for her sending it out was our phone conversation.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Heart’s on fire

Monday 30th August – Monday Session Week 8 – Kettlebells and Sandbags

“There are about 60,000 thoughts that go through your head every single day.”

As soon as this guy opened his mouth I thought ‘this session is getting the "Bullshit" tag on my blog’.

“And 40,000 of those thoughts are about the past. Now, who here can control the past?” There were the usual non-commital mumbles of agreement. “Crazy isn’t it?”

This week’s session was advertised to us to be about kettlebells and sandbags. But our instructor, an ex-army Lieutenant Colonel whom I shall call LT, informed us that what he does with his sessions is actually train the mind. Because, after all, we’re the only ones who can control what happens to ourselves, and the way we do that is through the mind. And we have so many negative thoughts (40,000 is a lot!) that the we need to keep the mind in tip-top condition to fight these thoughts.

And apparently the way to do that is to move shit around.

This was weight training with a slight difference. I think the basic idea of this training, army instructor and all, was to make us feel like Rocky in Rocky IV. If you remember Rocky IV, Rocky was sent off to Soviet Russia to fight Ivan Drago. Drago, played by Dolph Lungdren, was training in a high tech facility, getting all the best science, equipment, training and performance enhancing Brigitte Nielsens that the commies had to offer. In the meantime Rocky was outside in the snow dragging around trees:

I've got to admit, that thing he does at 3:00 is pretty impressive

I think hauling sandbags and converted cannonballs around was supposed to put us in mind of a simpler time: a time before spandex, dance remixes of AC/DC and spin classes. A time when people would bake their own bread, tell each other stories and haul sandbags and converted cannonballs around.

LT told us that we should picture our mind like a news ticker which displays all our thoughts, and when a positive one comes along we should pause the ticker, grab onto it, and keep it for as long as we can before the next negative thought came along. “And they will come,” he said. I reckon he must have been on to something cos I was certainly noticing a lot of negative thoughts coming along.

The exercises themselves were arranged in various stations. We lifted things, swung things, and moved shit around. We also did pushups and step ups. Like I say, real old school stuff. He told us to start at the station we would hate the most, so that we could get it out of the way. That was a simple choice for me, and I headed straight to the pushups station. I was quite surprised there wasn’t a queue. We went around to all 8 stations with a few minutes at each (I’m honestly not sure how many, maybe two minutes, maybe three). Then we had a break where he gave us a pep talk, and we did some “fun” activity which involved dragging someone, as if they were a wounded soldier, up and down the square. Then we went back for a second, but very abbreviated cycle of the stations again (40 seconds per cycle). During the actual workout he was saying things like “push out those negative thoughts” but he also said “get angry, if that’s what helps you get the job done!” I wanted to ask him if he thought anger was negative, but decided that that in itself might be considered negative, and besides, it involved talking, which I find hard when I’m hauling shit around.

In the pep talk, LT told us that the Buddhists call the mind the “mad monkey”. (I was happy to see him pull out some pseudo eastern crap. I am surprised it’s taken this long into the 12 week program, to be honest.) In the middle of the workout he asked us who here had thought about a past event, replayed it in our minds, but played it out with a different ending. People put up their hand. He then asked, presumably rhetorically, “how crazy is that? We can’t change the past, and yet we always think about the past, and try to make it different.”

Now maybe it’s just my fancy university edumacation, but I happen to think that the past has a lot of valuable information in it. We call it learning. When we replay a past event, and fiddle with the particulars of it, we are playing a big game of “what if”. And games of “what if” feed directly into games of “next time I will”. But no, it’s the Mad Monkey in us, trying to mess with our heads, or at least fling poo at us.


Needless to say I’ve created a second bullshit tag just for LT.

Catch up

It’s only been a week since my last post, but it feels like it’s been quite a while (I was already behind on my last post, so I do have some catching up to do).

So I have a couple of posts on the go. I will stick them up over the next couple of days.