Director of Strength & Conditioning, Jay McWilliams
50/50 – Year 2
In January I wrote a piece about my first year with 50/50 and my experience getting back to fit, losing 65 pounds, and becoming a spin instructor. It has been 7 months since then and here’s the thing: the second year is so much harder.
In January I shifted from actively trying to lose weight and build my fitness to trying to sustain my progress. To be totally honest, I haven’t done very well. I did all the things I said I wouldn’t: taking one day off and then another and another, avoiding working out, eating way too much. Each week I would try to regroup, and then I’d slip in some way and think: “It’s ok. I’ll do it right tomorrow.” Except that each tomorrow turned into a few days into a week into a month of tomorrows.
At the same time, I was looking around at all of the active, fit adults I know and thinking about the ways they have sustained health and fitness routines for decades. The thought of having to maintain a workout habit throughout my entire adult life got more and more overwhelming. I started thinking “maybe I can’t actually do this.”
I was telling this all to Katie a few weeks ago, and asked her what she’d think of me trying to write about it. Her first reaction was “Love it!” and then she said something like ” but here’s the thing Ryan. You can’t make it seem hopeless.”
So just to get it out of the way, I don’t think it’s hopeless. I just think that maintaining a healthy lifestyle for forever is hard. Really hard. REALLY. But there are a few things that make it a little easier.
The first is vulnerability. To me this means not hiding from the ways I’m struggling. Telling the truth about the 15 pounds I’ve gained in the last 7 months. Showing up and being seen, even when it feels embarrassing or uncomfortable. Sharing what is going on with the people who I see on the bike every day, because I know I am not the only one who has a hard time. Brene Brown says that “vulnerability is at the core, the center, of meaningful human experiences.” I agree.
The second is accountability. Tracking. Personal training. Signing up for classes and not letting myself cancel. Setting up my workout schedule with a friend. Putting checks in place that make it harder for me to avoid the gym or my health until the next day.
The last is community. When I joined 50/50, I definitely was not expecting to feel like a part of something, but that is exactly what happened. I love 50/50 not just because I like telling people what to do on a bike; I love it because of the energy and warmth I feel with all of you. The fact that we are working alongside each other is special. The way folks cheer and whistle at each other when I’m teaching makes me happy. I see the way members stand in the parking lot talking after class, sometimes for hours, before leaving. I feel pride when new people try their first class, because I know they are going to be welcomed and encouraged by anyone they talk to. And because we have such a strong community I want to challenge us to really show up and let ourselves be seen. To start a conversation with someone new about how things are going and be honest. To share our hopes and goals. To try, to mess up, to come back and try again. To sign up for a class right now if it has been a while. I’ll see you there.
There’s no denying that we are creatures of habit. We are efficient and effective when we put routine systems in place for ourselves, at work and in everyday life. I have talked (sometimes incessantly) about the importance of setting goals, planning ahead, and following through by method of practice. The desire to put routines in place is natural and healthy, for sure, but it’s also important to remember that these routines get interrupted all the time. One thing that is constant in our lives is change, and over the past week, particularly, I’ve been contemplating what I’ve dubbed as “certain uncertainty”—the knowing and accepting of the inevitable transitions we endure. I was sifting through Katie’s Corners of yore and realized that I have never solely addressed the topic of change. Probably because it can be so effin’ scary.
Change is standard and tenacious, and yet, we can be so resistant to it. In my view, there are two types of change: that which we expect, such as a change in weather, and that which we don’t, such as getting into a car accident. And then there are those changes we expect but are still incredibly averse to, such as a decline in a loved one who has a terminal disease.
For all the many reasons we have for being resistant to change, our ability to adapt makes us beautifully human. And once we adapt, we become more equipped to mentally accept the changes present in our lives, no matter how daunting or overwhelming they may seem. We often think of change negatively, which is natural, as it “interferes with” the ability to accomplish our everyday tasks efficiently. But this negative view is not especially growthful.
My challenges for you this week are twofold. The first is to find small ways in which you can alter the environment around you. Choose the front row in spin class rather than the back, or try that new recipe you pinned on Pinterest last week instead of making meatloaf for the thousandth time. Note how these controlled, seemingly insignificant acts affect you. See if they vary your perspective and/or encourage you to learn something. Simple practices like these can help prepare you subconsciously for those big changes that are sure to come your way every now and again.
The second is to recognize and understand your patterns when dealing with change. Do you immediately get overwhelmed? Or maybe you become indecisive. Maybe you’re doing a helluva lot better than the rest of us, and you are flexible and easily adaptable. Whatever your specific pattern, gathering this knowledge will only help you to know yourself better and how to move forward.
Of course, it’s much easier to accept change when those things are new and exciting. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge—stay tuned, ya’ll!
In an age where we are consumed by and inundated with stimulation from ads, text messages, social media, news, (I mean, I could go on), we rarely take time to be fully present in a given moment. We don’t have time to do everything the day calls for, and many times we don’t take a second to look up from the whirlwind that is our life. Many of you might not know that I graduated with a degree in Religious Studies and took to meditation pretty eagerly during my college years. Vipassana meditation, in which the practitioner focuses on the breath, has helped me immensely with being in the present moment and to manage general anxiety, and it’s something I still practice today. I encourage you to take a break one or two times over the next week and quiet your mind in an effort to deal with daily stressors and general goings-on in your life by following this meditation guide below.
Chances are, you will feel lighter, taller, freer, and/or more aware than when you started!