Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stages of Grief and Sprints

Just a heads up; this is a pretty personal email, I am letting you guys know what is going on in my life and how I am dealing with it.

I am back in the USA right now, this should be a good thing, going back home is always cause for joy and celebration, or at least it should be. I am back in the U.S. because my mother is losing her battle with cancer and I want to be near her as the end comes. She has been fighting for two and half years, throughout this emotional roller coaster she has never once given up fighting, even when she has been exhausted, and painfully sick from chemo she has never given up. And as the end approaches she stubbornly refuses to bend to the disease. I could say more about the situation, and her disposition, but that is not the point of today’s post. The point of today is to talk about the stages of grief and how I hold onto my mental clarity and work through crippling emotions by pushing my body.

In terms of grief I would say that I am in the “Anger” phase, my emotions run a bit higher than others, so most of the time this translates to incandescent rage. This morning was one of those mornings when I woke up ready to fight an angry rapid badger, I tried to get a handle on my emotions, I called my wife, tried to write and eventually I gave up, I was too pissed off at the whole situation that I could not function. I decided to swing home, I have a cold and I have to stay at a buddies place until it goes away, to see mom and check how she was doing.

I talked with her for a while and made her a couple of smoothies (about all she eats now). She got tired and fell asleep. I left the house, sad and angry. I had to do something to regain myself again, so I went to the high school football field to rock a sprint workout. I have always found that physically working helps me to get a handle on whatever emotions are overwhelming me. Sprinting is far healthier than sitting in a chair and letting my sadness and anger tear me apart from the inside out.

I pulled up to the football field and jogged down the hill, it was one of those crisp and sunny November days that seem to be unique to New England, the air is clear and feels like it could heal anything, but if you turn into the wind it has a bite that cuts into your lungs and reminds you that winter is cold and right around the corner. I went through a quick warm-up and broke my workout up like this:

5x20m--- Sprint, walk to the start, sprint again.

5x60m--- Sprint, walk to the start, sprint again.

2x100m—Sprint, walk around the field, sprint again.

I sprinted hard and fast, I relished the wind biting into my lungs and ripping through my throat. It felt like the act of sprinting was cleaning out all the negative thoughts and the indecision that had gripped me the last couple of days. My head began to get clearer and I started working through the specific issues that were troubling me; My mom’s wasting sickness, my inability to help her, my wife’s inability to be in The U.S. right now (teaching contract), the intense difficulty I have focusing and getting work done. I addressed these things and started working through them while I forced my body to work hard and move fast.

I know that this is only a quick fix, an adjustment that allows me to focus for the rest of the day. But over the course of weeks and months I will be able to work through the burden that this places on me, and soon I will be functional and happy again. Other people that go through this sometimes languish for years. I have no desire to be debilitated by the natural passing of my mother. Yes the situation is shitty, and I would change it if I could, but to spend my time railing against the injustice of it only serves to keep me in a vicious loop of self-pity and rage. I hate what is going on, yet I have spent enough time getting to know how I work to know how to help myself. I go outside and I push myself hard, I use that time to work through my troubles and over time I will become healthy again.

This is not the last word on the subject, the next couple of months will be hard, and I may miss posting for a while. Know that I will be back. Remember to examine how you cope with difficult situations, when the shit really hits the fan you need to know how to get healthy again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Comfort Zones

I have found that most people (myself included) need to be in their comfort zone in order to function at their optimal level. This is fine, I really have no problem with that, live isn’t about constant conflict. What I find is a problem is when people shut down completely when they move beyond the borders of comfort. I am back in the US right now, and since being back I have been able to assess how much my comfort zone has expanded.

As I stated above there is nothing wrong with being comfortable, that is when a teacher gives solid lessons, the carpenter creates dependable buildings, and the mason builds solid walls that will last a hundred years. In comfort zones life is solid and dependable, what needs to be done is obvious and life is a comfortable routine. This is not a place where innovation happens, where conventions are destroyed and where we are forced to raise above who we are and what we are comfortable with. Once we force ourselves beyond what is normal and safe we are given amazing opportunities to improve our lives and those lives whose lives are tied to ours.

Before I moved I was comfortable in my routines, as vigorous as they were, and I was happy with my surroundings. When I moved to Norway I was not that comfortable, Norwegians are a bit closed off, I didn’t speak the language, and I couldn’t work until I got a visa. I had two options; close myself off and hope that things work out, or put myself out there and actively pursue the life that I wanted. When I look at it that way, I only had one choice. Fortunately for me the gym that Anna and I worked out provided the catalyst for expanding my comfort zone while challenging it’s boundaries. Ganddal AK is filled with a great group of men, some that I train, and some that have become supportive friends.

In this environment I was able to expand my understanding of Norwegian cultural and physical culture, it was within that gym that I got a bead on what I want to do, and how I want to do it. I was being challenged to integrate with the culture in the gym and expand that culture. I did the only thing that I could, I rose to the challenge. I began training a great group of young men, and bringing in the tools that I know leads to functional fitness I was able to expand the gyms training spectrum. In the beginning a lot of the guys wondered what the hell I was doing; some even thought I was a dumbass. I stuck to my guns, explained how I train and why, now I have a reputation for doing “crazy monkey stuff”, but it is monkey stuff that works and people get behind. By moving beyond my comfort zone I have been able to carve out a place for myself while expanding on my abilities as a trainer and a man, and now that I am back in the States I am more confident in myself and my interactions. My abilities and technical knowledge as a trainer and coach came under question, by guys who know when something is bullshit, and I was able to move beyond my comfort zone, and show by example that I know what I am doing. Now the gym has a great mesh of Powerlifting, Strongman training, and Athleticism.

I know now that I can move beyond myself and influence the environment to better myself and the people around me. If I had just sat in the house, waiting to work and crying about it I would not have solidified my goals and come to know and understand an amazing group of men. I know I have learned a lot from them, about training and life, and I feel as if I have taught a lot. Only when we move beyond the normal range of our interactions do we get the opportunity to see who we are and to alter that for our and others betterment. Challenge your comfort zones, move beyond what is normal and start forging your own path. Change usually doesn’t happen all at once, it is the result of thousands of alterations, start now, and move onto something better.