e n t r y e i g h t :
mindset is everything.
last sunday was a day that required a big reframing from me. i had set out at 3:30am to participate in one of my favourite events in the queensland cycling calendar: the ipswich 100 – 160-km (100 mile) loop around the back of ipswich including about 20km of very challenging hills. it was my third time at this event.
at 45km into the ride, my left hamstring had other ideas about how the day should go. i slowed right down + dropped out of the peleton to assess the situation. my leg was sore, but just in a dull ache kind of way and not enough to stop me riding, so to cut a long story short, i had three choices:
- attempt what i had set out to do, despite the injury;
- attempt one of the shorter courses on offer during the event; or
- give up and wait for the “sag wagon” to pick me up.
i resolved to ride another 20km to the point where the shorter 100km course split off from the full 160km course + see how i felt.
it was very, very hard for me to not take option one + press on regardless. in the back of my mind though, was my wife’s cautionary advice, given many times, about the impact that a running or cycling injury would have on my ballet + barre participation! so, as i rolled towards the course diversion, i decided to own my choice + take the shorter route.
i completed the 100km, albeit slowly + headed home. i finished the day at ash’s mindfulness session at new farm + soon became aware that my sense of failure to do what i had set out to that morning, was now blocking me from relaxing fully into the meditation.
a trick i’ve learned to flip disappointment is asking myself “what is this better than?” so… completing the 100km event was better than not having ridden that morning. it was much better than having suffered a more serious injury + not being able to complete even the 100km. anyway, completing the shorter course had been my choice, hadn’t it? i didn’t have to; i could have thrown in the towel + gone home.
switching my mindset over to celebrating what had gone well for me that morning was all i needed to clear the block + sink down into the guided meditation + its boat ride to meeting a higher self.
so, again, mindset is everything. clinging to a sense of failure would not have added 60km to my morning’s ride + it would have wrecked the beautiful experience of the meditation as well. i’m grateful to have access to a tool that helped me flip it over so efficiently.
till next time,
e n t r y s e v e n :
one of the physical limitations i’m currently working with are short, tight hamstrings: i’m told this is common in people with very sedentary jobs like mine + also with people who run + cycle long distances, again like me. amongst other things, this makes certain abs exercises very difficult for me right now; specifically any time i’m on my back + need to have my legs straight + vertical — either i can keep my legs straight (in which case i can’t yet get them vertical) or i can get my thighs vertical (in which case my knees will be bent for now). either way, this turns the weight of my legs into a lever, pulling them down.
last week in barre, we did a set of abs exercises with a foam roller under our lower backs. now, with a tilt in my pelvis, my legs could indeed be straight + vertical. free of the lever effect, they seemed incredibly light to me + exercises that had felt incredibly hard were now… well, not easy… but definitely do-able. feeling this lovely freedom in my body has provided the impetus to investigate my alignment further + i’ve made a booking to see a chiropractor next week.
i liked this discovery on a metaphorical level too. i have a life-long geeky interest in nautical + aeronautical subjects. in those domains, the word for how a vehicle or vessel is oriented towards the horizon or some other reference point is “attitude”. for example, a plane might have a “nose-up attitude”.
as i was experiencing the difference in these abs exercises, i reflected happily how the change in the attitude of my pelvis had turned “almost impossible” into “easily possible”.
+ so it is in so much else in life, right? what other things become possible for us if we change our attitude?
till next time,
e n t r y s i x :
so, last night was my introduction to yin yoga.
if you’ve been following these blog posts, you know that i’m still very much a yoga newbie, having my mind stretched along with my body. you might also remember a resistance i had to a book (bella zanesco’s smart girls screw up too) that advocated developing a yoga practice + more specifically, the recommendation had been to develop a yin practice, but the significance of that little detail was truly wasted on me at the time i read it.
it turns out that yoga ain’t yoga + yin was significantly different from other styles i’ve tried. this will be old news for some readers, but for the uninitiated like me, the biggest difference i noticed was that in this class, every part of my body remained supported at all times. with a pillow, a roller + yoga blocks taking up the weight of my body, i was able to rest into the poses (some familiar, some not) very deeply + restfully. in this supported, weightless state, as i focused on my breathing, i became aware of a shift in consciousness; a strange, dissociated feeling. the only similar experience i’ve had has been in float tanks. like in a float tank, time eventually melted away + became meaningless.
i did not want this experience to end, but when it did i felt as rested as if i’d been asleep for hours.
i don’t have any big philosophical take-away to offer today. it was a beautiful experience + one that i hope to repeat soon. if you haven’t tried this form of yoga before, i suggest you try it + see if it did for you what it did for me. sorry for doubting you, bella!
till next time,
e n t r y f i v e :
i truly believe that one of the miracles of existence is that we get to recreate ourselves each day. for me, one of the biggest lessons of the recent past has been that we don’t owe anything to who we were yesterday, a year ago, five years ago, or more. if something from that past self doesn’t serve, we don’t have to keep embodying it.
SoBa sunrise on saturday was a deeply moving experience for me; watching the sun rise over brisbane from the mt coot-tha summit has become an important ritual for me at key turning points in my life.
just over twenty years ago, my mother died. the next morning, my girlfriend at the time and i stood on that summit before dawn + watched as the day began on a world that was, for me, forever changed. the first day of a new reality.
since then, i’ve kept this tradition around significant shifts in my world: farewelling my brother, welcoming my son. saturday was the first time i’ve watched the sunrise from mt coot-tha without marking any specific life transition.
but, in another sense, every day is a transition, an opportunity to begin new. to actively choose what we want to keep bringing into our new reality. yes, sometimes the universe forces these changes on us, but i am becoming more + more aware that as human beings, one of our superpowers is our ability to consciously + deliberately co-create our own universes.
what are you bringing with you today?
what are you choosing to create?
till next time,
e n t r y f o u r :
isn’t it funny when things in your life just seem to converge? because a yoga class that was heavy on the arms, was followed by a barre class with gabi that was… heavy on the arms. so heavy on the arms that i literally couldn’t get through that segment of the class without stopping repeatedly to rest. the experience made me reflect on four things from my journey over the last few years.
first: there really is no such thing as “fit”, there’s only “fit for something”. we say this of products all the time: something is “fit for purpose” or not + it’s true of our bodies as well. like i said in the first post in this series, endurance running + cycling have no bearing on my ability to do a pushup. although this wasn’t my first barre class (it was my 160th – yes, i count them, yes, i’m sad like that) the classes i regularly do don’t have such a demanding arm component in them.
but… it doesn’t mean anything more or less than: my arms aren’t strong enough to do this exercise without stopping to rest. it doesn’t mean i’m not fit, or not beautiful, or any lesser than anyone who can do it. a good reminder to not turn things into something they’re not.
second, i took the opportunity to build conscious awareness of where my limitations lay that day. the arms section of class contained a number of exercises + the level of difficulty varied a lot. the curls were easy for me. exercises with arms extended was a lot harder, and lifting the weights above my head for presses or triceps extensions was really difficult. the latter was especially interesting because the triceps kick-backs we did were so easy for me, suggesting that the weakness isn’t in the muscles that were being targeted, but in other muscles that gave out before the target of the exercise could even engage.
third, i used the class to feel into my fear of this kind of exercise. not only do i not get much arm exercise, but i know that i’m actually a bit resistant to seeking it out because i worry about it making my arms + shoulders bulky. i chose to focus instead on how much i was enjoying the class, enjoying being at the studio + enjoying training with people with a positive vibe. don’t all of those positives outweigh some vague, theoretical fear? answer is yes.
finally, i was reminded of the power of just starting somewhere. three years ago, i couldn’t run 5km, had never sat on a bicycle, or stood at a barre. the reminder to myself was to focus on what i would like to do, not what i couldn’t do today. if i start small + keep going, results will follow in their own time.
till next time,
e n t r y t h r e e :
the first lesson from my first yoga class at SoBa was to let go of expectations about being able to achieve certain poses or states of mind. instead, i tried to approach the class with the same sense of playful curiosity i’d learned from the teacher who’d recently changed my mind about yoga. i tried to stay aware of how my body was feeling throughout the class + also how my mind was reacting.
case in point: downward dog.
even if you don’t practice yoga, it’s impossible to escape it in the group fitness world. long before i did my first yoga class, i was acquainted with a few positions by name because instructors used them during stretching + warm downs after cardio classes. downward dog is something i’ve been doing for so long that i don’t even remember where i first “picked it up”. i deliberately use that term today instead of “learned”, because i’m sure it was just something i copied from people around me. for me, it was an easy, passive pose: a mild stretch to rest in after a fierce cardio class.
now i learned more.
leanne brought my feet closer to my hands + my chest down — just by a few centimetres in both cases. what was passive, was now very much active + what was easy, was not so easy after all. in particular, the latter adjustment brought my awareness fully into the upper body weakness i mentioned in the first post. i already knew from seeing my planks and push ups in the mirror that my shoulders roll forward when under load from the front, so it was no surprise that the same was the case here.
with my shoulders now rolled back, i feel like my upper body is being suspended between my scapulars. the stretch feels good (in a burn-y kind of way) + i’m having to put a lot of effort into staying in the pose. by the end of one of the sequences, i can’t actually do it any longer: something i would have found unbelievable the way i used to do it.
elsewhere in the class, leanne leads us in some poses that are new to me + require even greater arm strength. i try them to see what they feel like, allowing myself to explore the limits of what i can do today (practically nothing!). if i can’t get there yet, at least i want to know what the future might hold + i’m ok with hitting that barrier: ballet has stripped me of all fear of trying things currently beyond my reach.
a few days later, as i write this post, completely by coincidence, my ballet teacher has posted a photo of her downward dog on her instagram feed. (go google “baader-meinhof phenomenon”!) in particular, now that my awareness has been brought to the pose, it’s her shoulders that i notice. i try to memorise the image as a reminder to myself.
till next time,
e n t r y t w o :
i’m still a relative newcomer to yoga. my first few encounters with it were in the context of wellness days, where the yoga class was just part of a bigger series of activities + i have to confess i didn’t like it much. from the popular perception of yoga, i had picked up the idea that i would (or even should) find it relaxing + soothing. but it wasn’t; it was awkward + frustrating, it didn’t bliss me out at all. over subsequent attempts in similar settings, i could feel that the exercises were beneficial; that they were activating or stretching muscles in ways that i wasn’t getting in other activities i do. but it still wasn’t giving me what i thought i should be getting + i never sought yoga out.
things did change for me a few months ago, when i found a teacher with a more playful style than i had experienced up to that point. i have two young children + probably like most parents with children that age, i routinely have to deal with their pronouncements that they don’t like or don’t eat some food that they haven’t even tried, or tried once six months ago. one of the big surprises for me in my health + fitness journey over the last years, was the degree to which our tastes stay malleable, even in adulthood. i’ve discovered food i love + movement i love that i would never have expected + some passions did take a while to develop. i certainly didn’t love running or cycling straight away, but now they’re a huge part of my life. i learned that i can like yoga more than i did in those other contexts.
at the moment, i’m working my way through an amazing personal development book by bella zanesco: smarter girls screw up too. (guys, don’t be put off by the title; 95% of what’s in here is applicable to all genders). in it, she devotes a whole chapter to the benefits she’s found in yoga. as i read it, i felt myself resisting the words, even though i love everything else i’ve read in her book so far. “that’s ok for you, bella,” i thought, “but i think i’ll stick to barre for my bliss.”
but then i chose to open my mind + made a decision to explore + play more.
so i’m trying more yoga + in my first SoBa yoga class last wednesday, leanne led me to a new insight. i’m sure that more experienced practitioners picked it up in the third sentence of this post: i came into yoga with expectations of what it would do for me. as she introduced the class, leanne encouraged us to let go of any ideas about what we could or should be able to do. a light bulb came on for me. it’s freeing to let go of expectations.
next time, i’ll go deeper into what else i learned that morning.
till next time,
e n t r y o n e :
hi to all other SoBa creatures! ash has kindly invited me to share some of my journey over the next few weeks.
i’m a relative newcomer to fitness. three years ago, i led a completely sedentary existence + weighed 143kg. my desire to change my life was originally motivated entirely by unhappiness with my appearance, without any health or fitness goal at all. my original strategy couldn’t have been more unhealthy: highly restrictive dieting coupled with highly regimented exercise — doing stuff i hated. by that, i mean: 3am visits to a 24-hour gym to work out on machines, seven days a week. i had grown up believing i hated exercise, and this experience totally reinforced that view!
fortunately, various friends convinced me to try other things, + i soon fell in love with running, cycling, + dance (zumba led to barre, barre led to ballet). i had done a 180-degree turn, from only doing exercise that i hated to now only doing exercise i loved. i became convinced that long-term success + transformation relied on tapping into healthy things that i never have to motivate myself to eat or to do, because i just love them so much. maybe i even became a little spoilt.
so where am i now?
one of the biggest surprises through this journey has been discovering that reshaping my body didn’t suddenly make all my body image issues go away. i mean, that’s what’s supposed to happen, right? it’s the implicit (or explicit!) story behind every before + after photo. but it didn’t. there’s still ongoing inner work i’m doing on accepting + valuing my body + shedding embarrassment + self-consciousness about how i look.
on the outer work, i’m conscious that sticking only to movement that i love has created weak spots. most particularly: the three things i love all train my lower body but do almost nothing for my upper body. so, although i ran three marathons in 2017 + did five cycling events between 100km + 170km, i’m hard-pressed to do a single push up with good form. while it would be nice to have something i loved to build my upper body strength, i’ve also started to wonder whether such a thing exists, + if it doesn’t, whether i need to suck it up + commit to developing upper body strength even if the movement to do it isn’t my favourite.
secondly, i’m also keen to improve my lower-body flexibility. years of inactivity have left me with a lot less flexibility than i would like for dance.
while we journey together for a while, i’ll be sharing my exploration + discoveries in each of these directions. i’d love to make this interactive too, so if you have any questions, please go ahead + ask; if you want to know more, please feel free to friend or follow me as ruediger landmann on any or all the social platforms (i’m on most of them!)
till next time,