Day 66: Stay focused. You need to know that you can do this.

Granada, Nicaragua, strength training, planks, personal fitness

Bertina is constantly teaching me how to focus my mind on the task at hand. She will remind me to leave my outside life at the door when a workout begins because what we are doing requires my total commitment and attention.  When we begin a second or third set of an exercise she will tell me to commence the next set as if it were the first of the day with no memory of any other sets preceding it. This frees my mind from keeping count of either past grievances or victories that might detract from totally committing to moving through the present challenge.

There is a lot of noise that likes to appear on the periphery of our minds, ready to distract us from our goals at hand. When you are feeling fatigue or pain, or let’s face it, just doing anything that you don’t feel like doing, it’s easy to let distractions into your path to alleviate the immediate discomfort that pursuing your goal brings to you. Side conversations with others (or even in my own head!) can feel relaxing and soothing but in reality they are methods by which I am losing focus.  Why does that matter? When push comes to shove, and you are asking more of yourself than you are sure that you can do, it is that focused mindset that can help you come up with extra energy and delivery that your goal requires.

On a mundane level, when you think about it, our workout lasts no more than an hour; it’s not too much to demand that I stay totally present for that limited quantity of time (we do take breaks when changing exercises, say 2 minutes, but even then I try to focus on the session, my breathing and what’s next).

A tough physical workout is a classic scenario that your brain would much rather avoid in favor of anything that is easier and taxes less of our body’s energy. Chris and Bertina consistently remind me that my brain’s default when it come to my body is rest and avoiding exertion and pain. In our session, I am directly countering my natural instincts to do less in favor of seeking stress and fatigue. I aim to ask my body to level up and push past resistance to inevitably create more muscle as a response to the strain and effort. One part of my brain that makes conscious choices is aware of my personal goals and it is this area where I have to exert control to be stronger than a different area of my brain that is primitive (yet highly evolved) that wants me to hold back and conserve.

Isn’t all of life like that?

Bertina reminds me that the discipline that I take away from our sessions when we shut out the social chitchat, the folks that inevitable hang about to stare at the gym, or even the thoughts in our brain that create mental resistance (I can’t do it, I don’t see a change, what am I going to eat for lunch, why didn’t he write me back? etc, etc) is the same discipline that I need to complete any goal that is appears difficult or is easy to put off with distractions. A set that feels impossible to complete but is completed anyway by sheer will power gives me the self-confidence in my daily life that I will come through for myself when I need me to be at my best or most diligent.

It reminds me that I am tougher than I know and I can count on myself to break through mental barriers. I like that feeling that I can rely on myself. I also like to know that I can have faith in other people as part of my team, but there is something incomparable about knowing that I am who I think that I am and it is someone who can and will commit.  It’s a different kind of strength training exercise, somehow totally related to this physical fitness journey but with infinitely more applications.