Item #1: If I were allowed only one piece of advertising for Woodshed, one thing and one thing alone I could wield to show the world what we’re about and why everyone and their mother should train here, I would take a picture of the group after class. Those smiles: achievement, pride, and enervation. I would show the world your happiness.
True Confession: This is not the easiest thing to write. But it’s not the hardest, either. I know that many of you struggle with your weight, with the number on the scale, the tag on the back of your jeans. I know you are listening to people talk about fitting into their dresses for the ball in town, or needing to be down to a certain size or make bathing suit. Or hearing your buddies make jokes at your expense. And maybe you think I’m about to tell you that you ought to be happy wherever you are, and that that is the big secret, and that everyone should always lift weights and not think about whether the scale is going up, not even once.
But I’m not going to say that. I know you can be happy, even ecstatic, about your progress in here and how much your squat has gone up, all while still feeling a little sling at the tightness of a pair of jeans or a stolen notch on your weightlifting belt. I know these things because I looked at the scale the first time it passed 200 lbs and instantly that morning’s squat PR (which was 300, actually…funny how that works) went out the mental window. I know what it is like to look at one awesome number in your own log and cut yourself down mentally because your waist size hasn’t gone down. I know what it is like to worry about getting your picture taken with your kids because, well, don’t CrossFit gym owners look more like Rich Froning and less like Rich Pastries for your carb-up meal? So…it’s not easy and I get that. This shit can mess with your head.
But Your Head: Your head is your place. This is precious real estate. People can say what they want, but ultimately you choose what you rent out to whom. We can’t be perfect here, but we can be better discerning.
Garbage Test: This is a pretty good test. We are all consumers; this is not news. Body composition, weight loss, shape and size…this stuff is feeling but also commodity. The stuff you see, the women in their sports bras sweating so very artfully into their “I Was Working Out While You Were Sleeping” text footer…ask yourself what you are being sold here. Is it a product? A magical potion or some piece of exercise equipment? Here’s the test–ask that ad or that salesperson if they can deliver you comparable results using another method. There are five million fucking ways to get jacked, shredded, skinny, etc etc and here’s where I get mad because this shit is usually craven and plays to fears and insecurities instead of speaking constructively adult to adult. If that product, advertisement, or salesperson doesn’t have an answer for you, is not knowledgeable or adept enough to recognize that this stuff happens on a spectrum…do you want to give them the final word on anything inside of your head?
The B #s: BMI is ideally a population metric, of course mishandled nowadays via infuriating letters home from school about your children’s individual measures. And adults…Goddammit. Three times over the last week, I’ve heard from perfectly healthy (skinny, in fact) folks whose doctors have arched eyebrows at increased BMI. And I am not the guy who will tell you to ignore your doctors to rub sassafras leaves on a seeping wound, but there is a huge disconnect here and at some point common sense and the notion that sturdy BMIs mean sturdy people who are ready to last into a good and long dotage need to come into play. How is your blood pressure? Your resting heart rate? Your triglyceride count? These are the #s that we need to look at, and adjusting your diet and training to better your bloodwork will almost surely result in the body comp changes you may be after in the first place.
Body fat %? Yeesh. Here’s a short list of folks who know what to do with bodyfat #s: some s&c coaches at a collegiate and professional level, and professional bodybuilders, and those may honestly be the only two groups of folks who really need to be talking about particular percentages. Here again, common sense does not often prevail. Women and men are pretty much two different species when it comes to bf, where it’s carried, where it leaves first when dieting, and so on, and the different numbers reflect that. If your bodyfat is a problem one way or the other, and really that is the only reason you need to let someone or something into your head to talk about it, you will know this without a percentage for confirmation. Something will be awry. You will move poorly or breathe way too hard, or you will be cold while standing at the equator. There are a million ways to feel like too much or not enough–these #s do not need to enter the equation.
There is all that but: In all this conversation, I also worry we throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is one thousand percent possible to have pristine bloodwork and rocking body composition by every single measure and conception–flawed or unflawed–and to be perfectly, blessedly happy with yourself and have every single right in the world to feel that way. When we talk about this, I think to a degree we are doing a little bit of historical scale balancing: so much fucked up marketing and mixed messages over so many years that yeah, it does need to be said that you don’t need to be a size two to be happy. But if you are a size two or you want to work out to look the best you can look, you have every right in the world to feel great about it and shout it out just as loud. That’s important and we can’t ever lose sight of that point.
Things Can Just Be: Sometimes things can also just be. Are you exactly where you want to be, are you ten pounds away, or is it just Tuesday and you’re whatever you are on Tuesday? There is this mad rush to make everything mean something or say something, and I see this in the gym sometimes. A missed lift doesn’t have to mean the end of your world or from the other perspective, confirmed proof that you are the baddest badass that ever assed because there’s so much weight on the bar: it can just be a missed lift because you loaded five extra pounds on one side or rushed into the descent. It can just be, without value or referendum. Let that voice into your head too. The one that sounds like grain and miles of flat land. It just is, whatever it is.
Item #1, redux: I know it is hard to just chill and be happy. That whisper in your head, that susurrant coil of what should be and how you don’t quite measure up…I know that voice. I know the joy of a successful attempt cut with the rainwater of supposition. But if I were going to tell the world about you guys, I would start with your smiles. And I would ask your classmates, your spouses, your friends, your partners: what does it feel like to see your loved one put the bar back down onto the ground with a yell and a grin? What does your loved one look like to you at this moment? How would the answer ever not be ‘wonderful,’ ‘awesome,’ ‘amazing’?
What makes you better? Really, appreciably better? What makes you happy? Find those things and listen to those voices, and chase that shit. Always chase that success, and always chase that happiness. Your head, your game, your serve.