Thursday, 23 October 2014

Jumping In

This is a bit of a sequel I think to the last post I wrote about uncertainty.  This one is about operationalizing that idea in training, and perhaps life in general.  It takes as a proviso that life is inherently uncertain and uses that as a jumping off point for, well…jumping off.

I’ve tried to get at this before in other ways, and maybe it’s at the root of why I began writing this blog in the first place.  It seems to me that many people are always waiting.  Waiting until the time is right to finally get fit, finally start a new exercise program, finally start eating better, etc.  Waiting until all the stars align and all the ducks are in a row.  There’s a reassurance to that sort of procrastination because it wards off any opportunity to fail.  If you’re waiting until your job/schedule calms down a bit before you start incorporating a daily running habit, you can’t fail at running ….because you haven’t started yet.  Same goes if you wait until you can afford all of the ‘necessary’ gear and equipment to start a new sport or activity that interests you.  You can’t look like an idiot because you never have the wherewithal to just start and see what happens.  Any number of excuses can be seen this way.  If I only had a coach or trainer to show me; if I only had an extra hour in the day; if only I lived closer to a gym; if only I had a bit more money to take a course in whatever….

I’ve recently been reading the book, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, which is all about the power of embracing vulnerability. And to me, all of these delays stem from the avoidance of vulnerability.  They are all about avoiding the potential of looking like an idiot, or of failing at what we set out to do, or of not being good enough at something, or of getting hurt.  Brown defines vulnerability as risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure.  It’s not weakness at all, and in fact is a source of strength.

See, the thing is, conditions will NEVER be ideal.  You will never be 100% prepared.  You will never have 100% of yourself to devote to something.  You will never have 100% of the resources required to start a project or a new endeavour.  And if you wait for the ideal moment to materialize, you will end up missing all of the opportunities to just jump in and make the best of the situation…to try your best and see where that leads.

“The Perfect is the greatest enemy of the Good” - Voltaire

Giving 80% all of the time is better than giving 100% none of the time.  I see this kind of ‘perfectionist’ thinking all over the place.  People overwhelmed by dietary minutiae, so concerned that they get everything just right, that they end up throwing in the towel and eating like shit.  Why not just try to get it mostly right all of the time?  I can tell you from 20 years of self-experimentation that I look and perform consistently better when I allow myself the leeway to eat 80% great and 20% not so great…or thereabouts…the numerical details aren’t important.  The stress of trying to get everything perfect is far more of a killer than allowing yourself some flexibility and leniency once and awhile to be less than ideal.

It’s the same with training protocols.  Who do you think gets better results? The keyboard/forum warriors who quibble over ideal rep ranges and periodization schemes, equipment choices, free weights vs. machines, etc.?  Or the guy that gets up and gets out there consistently and does SOMEthing, ANYthing to move, to push, to struggle?  My money is on the latter…whether or not he has the latest fitness tracking gadget or the coolest gear or the best equipment.  He just jumps in and makes a go of it the best way he can.

But there’s great vulnerability in that approach.  If you try out a new sport, maybe you look like an idiot and someone laughs at you.  If you try some new type of training and you’re not quite ready for it, maybe you get a little bit hurt.  If you’re out for a hike and take some old overgrown path that no one uses, maybe you get lost.  But the possibility also exists that that path leads to some new vista that you (or anyone) has never seen before.

So this approach has a lot of risks inherent.  In training and fitness it probably means that you’ll occasionally get hurt and look foolish, but you’ll also excel in ways that few others will.  Taken into other spheres such as personal relationships, it likely means you’ll get your heart broken a few times, but it also means that you’ll meet some interesting people and have some good stories to tell your grandkids.  In business or professional life, you’ll likely make some mistakes and suffer some setbacks, but you may discover opportunities and talents that others would miss.

I’m not saying it’s easy, or that I make the daring choices all the time myself.  There is a seductive power in waiting and taking the safest approach…biding one’s time until all the conditions are ideal.  But there’s real beauty in failure.  There’s beauty in fucking up.  There’s beauty in the courage to let go of all the reasons why something might not work and instead just jump in and make it work as best you can.

Great song - not one that's gonna get you fired up for a set of deadlifts - but a damn good message nonetheless.  Listen to it after your workout with a cup of chamomile tea or some shit