“You already have fans (or at least one: me),” one of my mentors wrote. “You don’t need permission anymore. Please, please publish.”
He wasn’t talking to me directly but he might as well have been. Like many gym owners and coaches over the last two years, I have been struggling with what to say and how to say it. The reality of running a business during the pandemic has provided some cover; it’s easy enough to say “well, I’m just hunkering down and getting my work done…the world doesn’t need to hear or see me.”
But I’m sitting at my laptop now, typing, so perhaps I needed to hear those words from my mentor at that exact moment. “I’m here,” he might as well have said, “you can come out now and talk to me.”
This isn’t about writing, of course. And it’s not about me. But it is about safety, and it is about something I think we can get so wrong about exercise.
Now more than ever, our bodies and minds are under an inordinate amount of stress. To use some well-worn imagery, our cups are usually running over–the pandemic, the job, the world, the family, the mind…it’s all one big giant mess sometimes.
And while it’s natural to think that exercise, particularly a new exercise program–particularly a HARD new exercise program–might be the very right first step, I would argue that your first high-stress workouts should be one or two steps down the chain…maybe even further. If you’re motoring through your days already operating at a high threat level, dumping ass-kicker workouts into your cup straight away will do more harm than good. Your body and mind aren’t operating from a place of safety and won’t respond positively.
So what’s the right first step? The right first part?
Let’s start with two ideas:
1. A conversation. Where do you want to be 3 months from now and how can we reverse engineer that process from your true starting point? If your north star is where you want to be, your starting point is the ground under your feet. Right here. Right now.
2. Some wins. There are things you want to do, and there are things you can already do that will move you towards your goals. We start there. When you win at movement, when you win your workouts, when you do things that gently nudge you forward every day–things you can build on–you’re telling the machinery “hey, it’s safe here…we can keep going.”
It’s natural to think that the first part should be the hardest part, the most ostentatious part, the one that gets you from point zero to point where you want to be.
And perhaps the first part is the hardest part. But it’s not what we think it is. It’s smaller and quieter and far more important than any new workout.
It’s sticking our head out, having that talk, moving around a little.
It’s saying, “I’m here.”