“At a plain, black well-pump in the small southern town of Tuscumbia, Alabama, one of the world's great miracles took place. It began one bright, spring day in 1887. Puffy white clouds floated overhead on a background of blue, while birds fluttered through oaks and maples and flowers burst forth from the fertile soil in an array of colors—all unheard and unseen by a pretty girl of seven.
Standing at the totally blind and deaf Helen Keller's side was a young woman, Anne Sullivan. Miss Sullivan was steadily pumping cool water into one of the girl's hands while repeatedly tapping out an alphabet code of five letters in the other—first slowly, then rapidly. The scene was repeated again and again as young Helen painstakingly struggled to break her world of silence.
Suddenly the signals crossed Helen's consciousness with a meaning. She knew that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the cool something flowing over her hand. Darkness began to melt from her mind like so much ice left out on the sunny March day. By nightfall, Helen had learned 30 words.” –Helen Keller Biography
But what about her life before that day at the well? I imagine the darkness and frustration she endured. She would have screaming fits, temper tantrums, and she’d throw and break things. Anne Sullivan would try to teach her, but it didn’t click. Again and again, it didn’t click. Helen remained stuck.
“People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.” – Anne Sullivan
I believe we all endure darkness and frustration when we are learning new things. It takes time to click, and there are many failures before that moment when it all comes together. Fitness is like that. There are so many pieces to it, and it is so personal. Yet the stuff we read would have us believe there is ONE answer, and if we only knew that, we’d have the moment at the well.
Fitness isn’t like that. It is learning, trying, failing, adjusting, quitting, restarting, binging, dieting, walking, crying, awakening, listening, honoring, believing, changing, growing, trying, failing. It is a lifelong journey of learning and healing and it takes perseverance to stick with it.
“Every renaissance comes to the world with a cry, the cry of the human spirit to be free.” – Anne Sullivan
When I first started on this path, I was so frustrated. I cried out to be free, but I was stuck. Then I learned about strength training. I kept at that. Awhile later, I learned about heart rate zones. I kept at that. I lifted, I walked. After a few years of frustration that my weight didn’t change much, I started learning about nutrition. I started taking responsibility for what I was eating. I started healing my compulsion to eat when I was mad or sad or alone or celebrating or bored. I added veggies, water and sleep. I let go of dieting. All the pieces started to come together. Instead of being overwhelmed by many disjointed pieces, suddenly it all worked like one machine. The pieces came together. I was standing at the well.
I had two clients experience this recently. Here are their testimonies:
“I have to say that I think I’m finally starting to get all this: the walking, eating better, the mental health aspect of my life. How long have I been training with you? 5 or 6 years? I know. I’m a slow learner. I’m here to tell the other women of Clear Rock that you can be a slow learner like me and still git 'er done! I came to Sue with constant pain in my elbow. I had been to PT for months and it hadn’t helped much. I thought if maybe I could just strengthen my arm, I could be pain free. I got that and so much more. I got muscles but I also found a place that I was accepted for me. I didn’t know that I really needed that even more. I found friends and am so thankful and blessed. I also learned how to walk in my target heart rate and found awesome people to walk with. The first time I walked at Highbanks, I was so far behind I could hardly see everyone. I felt kind of out of place but got over that when I realized that this was good for me and kept going. Now I go on those walks whenever I can. Walking my dogs is good but doing those longer, more challenging walks really makes me feel better. I had to get over my hatred of sweating and breathing hard. I still don’t like it but I tolerate it because I know I’m doing something good for me. We all need this! Don’t give up your strength training time! Go religiously! Walk religiously! I went to the seminar and learned how to eat correctly to keep healthy and what I was doing to sabotage that. Oh and I did get stronger and am now pain free. I’m not perfect but am on my way. It doesn’t matter how fast you “get it”, just that you keep going. You will get it eventually.”
“In today's class at your studio, I felt like I was reborn. After [6+] years of working out, it was like my back finally got it! For the first time, doing posterior chain [back of the body] exercises "almost" seemed effortless. My shoulders stayed back, I wasn't falling forward, and I actually was able to call on my abs for a little help. It was an amazing feeling. It was totally worth the wait! Thank you for your patience and for noticing!”
Fitness takes time and commitment. We must be willing to fail and keep going. That really is the key. There are going to be things that don’t work. The only way to find the things that do work, is to try. We must become willing to use these trial and error efforts as reasons to keep going, not reasons to quit. We really are strong enough to handle it. I don’t know how we’ve come to believe that we’re not. Think of everything we’ve done and been through. Of course we can handle this. We are divinely inspired ass-kicking warriors. Let’s remember that.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller