This is not a post about that girl in the yoga class that is über-flexible and makes the rest of us look bad. I just chose the image because I wanted something that looks complicated. I still can’t achieve this move in yoga, so it wins.
I want to relate something that happened last week. But I should start by saying that although I do martial arts, and have been practicing for 11 years now, I can’t always train. Because of my MS and some of the side effects, there are times of the year (usually summer) when it’s hard for me to train because of the heat. I get really fatigued, and if my body overheats without some kind of regulation and immediate cooldown, I’ll go directly to relapse without passing GO.
It’s been a really, really warm winter here in Germany. For an idea, Germany is at the same latitude as Vancouver. It’s pretty far north, farther north than most of our readers live. It’s not as cold as, say, Chicago, since there are no open bodies of water nearby to add to the windchill. They don’t even calculate windchill here. But it’s consistently cooler, and milder, than most of the places in the US that I’ve visited. And it’s really, really great for my MS. The air is dry (once again, land-locked) and although we have all four seasons, it’s not as extreme as a place like Baltimore, where rats die walking in the heat in the summer, and the windchill is extreme in the winter.
But precisely because it’s been so warm here, it’s been harder for me to train in the winter months this year than usual. It’s been a warm year overall for us, and even if it’s not ‘warm’ by my friends’ standards, it’s warm to me because when I work out, my body gets hot. During the summer, if I can even get my ass out of bed to train, I have to train with a wet rag that is soaked in ice around my neck, and constantly re-wet it.
So that’s the background on training for me. I’ve been in and out of training because of this the past few months, because it’s just been TOO WARM for me to even bother. I was averaging about one class every week for a few months.
So last week was my first class back. I came in late to the class (because I’d been teaching) to see that they were doing bo (this is a 6-foot wooden staff. It is Napoleon Dynamite’s ‘bo staff’. Not even joking. Rokushakubo, if you want to look that up on google) and that we had a visitor, a pilates teacher from Frankfurt that is friends with my teacher. She’s somewhere in her 50’s, I think, and she’s a really, really great teacher. She’s got cred in Germany, is what I mean. She’s well-respected, and not just locally. I kind of have no idea why she was there, since FRA is about an hour away, but whatever. She was watching the class.
I suited up and joined in. My bo is the heaviest one in the class (and I like it that way), and I was out of practice. We were working on things that would be on my next test, although I’m not interested in testing yet. A lot of different strikes. I decided immediately that I’d rather be perfect than go at the proper speed, and so I was going kind of slow, making sure that I was stepping correctly, trying to wield the weight of this excellent weapon of mine. It’s important to do the technique as well as possible, rather than forcefully or quickly. Those two come later, with more experience. But for me, I’d rather be perfect (I’m going to write about that later, there’s a lot more to it than just seeking perfection).
When visitors come, it’s very easy to just ignore them or forget about them, unless they ask questions. Most don’t, they just watch. So I was working near our visitor, but I had my back to her to watch our teacher. I was doing my damnedest to only speak in German, even though some things came back in English (our entire dojo is a minimum of bilingual, English is the second language here) from the teacher.
I was kind of pissed at myself during the class, as I tend to be, for being so out of practice and for how weak my arms were feeling. I was busy thinking that I needed to do better, do the strikes more precisely, get those angles right. That’s really all that was going through my head for the entire hour. Nothing else, except for maybe footwork. The footwork is always difficult, because you SHOULD do it as it’s taught, but there are always exceptions based on size, distance, the speed of your attacker.
At the end of the class, we all changed, said ‘nice to meet you’ and ‘goodnight’, and that was about it. We went home.
So on Monday at our next class, my teacher and I were practicing a technique and he told me that his friend (the visitor) was majorly impressed by me. Not because I train and I have MS, but because of the length of time I’d been training, my rank, my precision while doing the techniques. (As a side note: my training for precision is quite different from the others, mostly men, in the group, who train for speed and power more often) I guess they talked about me afterwards. He told me that she really liked me and the way that I trained, and that she had asked him to tell me that she was inspired.
I shared this story because I think it’s important to mention that although you may think you look stupid working out, or running down your street, or at the gym, that there’s always SOMEONE watching who wishes they could do what you’re doing, or run like you, or have the balls to lift weights or do yoga.
We’re our own worst critics, always.
It’s important that we all remember that there’s always someone who is worse off than us, who has less ability than us, who wants nothing more than to do what we’re doing, even if it seems mundane and unimportant to us. While we’re busy looking forward at someone like Jillian Michaels and wishing we could look like or work out like her, there’s someone behind us, looking forward, hoping to one day look and train like us.
Keep that in mind the next time you think you’re not doing enough. You’re already doing great, just by doing, period.