Yesterday, I had a rude awakening. It occurred around 6:30, halfway through my first personal training session with a William and Mary undergraduate trainer. He was, as we like to say, in the process of kicking my ass, which I thought was in pretty decent shape.
Now, I’m a pretty healthy guy. I know my way around a gym, I played college athletics, and still play summer baseball. I’m in the gym working out 2-3 times a week. I eat well, I’m physically active, I am concerned about my body. I was under the impression that I was working myself pretty hard in the gym, and that I could hang with most people.
I was wrong.
By the end of the hour long session, I was a puddle. I haven’t had my butt kicked like that in a couple of years. I hurt up and down, and I knew that I’d be hurting the next day (I was right. I am.). It’s not that I wasn’t capable of completing the session, it’s just that, working out by myself, I had forgotten what a real workout felt like. I had grown complacent with the what I’d been doing for the past couple years. I knew that I’d been in a rut, since I hadn’t been meeting my goals, but I was surprised to find out that I had duped myself into thinking I was working hard enough, that I was putting in what I could.
This is the most subtle kind of self failure: the one where you think you’re pulling your weight, where you think you’re doing everything you should be doing, and at a high level. This doesn’t just have to be in the gym. It can be at work, it can be in the classroom. It could be in a relationship. What is so devastating about this is that it’s almost impossible to detect: you think you’re doing everything right, and to the best of your ability. In actuality, you aren’t.
So, here’s my thought: The only way to figure it out is to involve others in your process. This can be a hard thing to do. In the end, it comes down to how badly you want to be better at what you do. How badly you want to reach the goals that you’ve set for yourself? Is losing that extra 10 pounds important to you? Is getting that promotion, or that letter of recommendation, something that you really want? Trust me, I wasn’t excited about the possibility that I wasn’t meeting my goals because of something I was doing wrong, and certainly not happy that it was a product of me not working hard enough in the gym. This was the one thing I was pretty sure I was doing right. But, I had to make sure, and finding a personal trainer, an expert, was the way to do that.
So, swallow your pride, and take this opportunity to walk into your boss’s office and ask, “what is that I can do to be better at my job?” Or visit your professor or advisor, and say, “How have I been doing in this class? I feel like I’m doing everything I can, but what do you think?” I doubt anyone will turn you away, or be angry with you. Most likely, they’ll be impressed, and willing to work with you. That’s why they exist: to make you better at what you do.
Of course, there is a catch: you have to follow through. By putting yourself out there, you are not only saying, “I want to know what I can do to be better”, you’re setting an expectation for that person that you will work hard and take their comments and suggestions seriously. Sometimes, they might be hard to take, but give them the benefit of the doubt and try them out for a couple weeks. Perhaps you’ll start to see improvement.
Which is why, tomorrow, no matter how much my body hurts, I’ll be at the gym, doing my best to kick my own ass.