The aquafit instructor told us to kick our legs to the side, alternating right to left. I am left-handed, which means I often do things the opposite way to most people.
We had a full class and the participants were crowded close together. When I started off on the wrong foot it was a challenge not to make contact with the person next to me. My kicks caused problems on both sides.
The only way to avoid this was to stop, pay attention to what those beside me were doing and coordinate my steps with theirs. Once I was on the right foot things went smoothly.
The phrase, ‘start on the right foot’ means to make a good beginning; to start off well. Despite my best efforts, this is not always easy to do.
Earlier this week my day started off on the wrong foot. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fight or withdraw from the world. I was kicking myself and it would have been easy to inflict my self-destructive behaviour on others.
What I was doing wasn’t working so I needed to do something different. Once I acknowledged I was tired and overwhelmed it was easier to accept my limitations that day and move on. My attitude improved.
I started my day over, on the right foot this time. Once I was back in step with the world around me my day became positive and productive. And even better – no one around me was injured!
I knew we were in for a tough workout when the instructor said, “Don’t listen to your brain. It will tell you to stop when you feel tired. Listen o your body and don’t stop until it can’t do any more.”
My first thought was of the times I’ve reprimanded for something with the sentence, “Why can’t you just use your brain.” I guess this wasn’t one of those times!
As the class progressed fatigue set in and I realized I had automatically slowed down. The earlier words of the instructor echoed in my mind and I paid more attention to what my body was capable of. With a little conscious effort, I was able to intensify my workout.
What a revelation! I was capable of doing a lot more than I thought I could.
How could this apply to other areas of my life?
I brought to mind times I was hurt by the words or actions of someone I trusted. My brain said to keep my distance so I wouldn’t experience the pain again. My heart told me to offer forgiveness and restore the relationship.
Another example was when I tried something new and didn’t achieve the success others had. My brain told me I couldn’t do it and would just fail again.
The fear of embarrassment held me back until I decided to listen to the positive voice inside. The voice of faith told me the more I worked at this, the better I would get. It was right and again I achieved more than I thought possible.
I have learned life works best when I not only listen to my brain but also pay attention to what my body and my heart are telling me.
I don’t fully understand why, but many of my story ideas come during exercise class. It may be triggered by something the instructor or another participant said. Sometimes it’s the completely random thoughts that seem to flow when my body is in motion.
This particular inspiration came from the instruction given in a class. “Don’t hold your breath when things get hard” we were told. She said the toughest part wouldn’t last long and we needed to know how to breathe through it. We were instructed to inhale when the going is easier and exhale through the most physically demanding time. Not only would this help us work through the exertions, it would build strength and endurance.
I think this hold true for more than just physical exercise. When times get tough I tend to hold my breath and hope the difficulty passes quickly. The end result is never what I hoped for. I end up feeling weaker and don’t have the strength to fight through the situation. Sometimes I get so tired I give up.
I’ve heard it said that without challenge there is no change. This is a good reminder for me to fight through the challenge and keep moving forward. Each deep breath I take will bring me closer to my goal. When I reach the other side I will see that the positive change experienced was worth the temporary discomfort.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” quote often credited to Albert Einstein
The exercise instructor added some new challenges to our water aerobics class. We had to keep our feet off of the bottom of the pool while moving them in a cross-country ski motion. In order to keep afloat, our arms were busy sculling at the same time.
When we were allowed to touch the bottom again the instructor told us to come up kicking. There was to be no pause. We went directly from fighting to keep our heads above water to kicking our legs up high.
After the class (I was too busy trying to breathe during it!) I thought about the come up kicking statement.
There have been times when the bottom seems to have dropped out of my life and I’ve had to fight hard to keep from going under. It takes everything I have just to stay afloat.
Eventually, I am able to put my feet on solid ground. The natural inclination is to rest. Far more beneficial is to come up kicking. It isn’t easy but the head start I gain will give me a much better chance of reaching my goal.
Past experience has taught me that what I achieve is directly proportionate to the effort I am willing to put in. In other words, how committed am I to what I say I want?
One morning, the exercise instructor gave us an unusually difficult workout. She then told us she’d be away for the next three weeks and wanted to make sure we got the most out of this class.
One woman close to me said, “Your goals are not necessarily my goals.” In other words, this particular trainer might be taking three weeks off but the majority of us would carry on exercising with another instructor while she was gone. We didn’t need to work harder because she was taking time off.
Later that day, the words, “Your goals are not necessarily my goals” kept coming back to mind.
I thought of all the times I’ve felt the need to be and do the same as someone else. It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted, but what I felt I had to do to fit in. I wasn’t being true to me.
Just as bad are the times I’ve expected others to keep pace with me and become frustrated when that didn’t happen. They might not have even known or cared what my hopes for them were.
We don’t all have the same aspirations and it is unfair to make those types of comparisons. When we know ourselves well enough to follow our own path, comparisons won’t become stumbling blocks. We are each responsible for our own experience. And that is how it should be.
“If pulled in one direction, the world would keel over.” – Yiddish Proverb
“Squat down like you’re going to sit in a chair,” the exercise instructor told us. “When you are almost there, change your mind and stand up again. Now repeat, and again.”
The exercise was effective but I couldn’t help laughing at the thought that came to mind. If changing my mind is exercise, I should be way more fit for all the years of practice I’ve had!
Do you ever second-guess your decisions and keep changing your mind? Questions such as; What if I made a mistake? Why did I agree to do something so challenging? Will I look like a fool? go through my mind.
These would either paralyze me or turn me into someone who only made decisions to please others. It all came down to a lack of confidence. I wanted you to like me and thought I had to be and say who you wanted me to be in order for that to happen. In other words, I didn’t believe in myself.
Moments like this still occur in my life, but not to the same extent. It wasn’t easy but I have learned to voice my opinions. Just because someone doesn’t agree with me doesn’t mean they reject me. The more I practice this, the more confidence I gain.
This allows me to make a decision and stick with it. It looks like changing my mind will no longer be enough exercise for me!
Five minutes into the exercise class our instructor said, “We need to warm up your hearts.”
I turned to my friend and told her I didn’t think I was cold-hearted to start with.
We laughed but I knew there have been circumstances in my life when my heart definitely needed warming.
It wasn’t cold to everyone, just those who had hurt me by what they had said or done – or maybe it was something not said or done.
I hung onto bitterness and anger like it was a prize. I knew I had every right to be upset and was exercising that right to the fullest.
It didn’t matter if the offending party was even aware of the issue. I had been wronged and a sincere apology had not been offered. Forgiveness was out of the question.
I thought forgiveness meant I was saying the offence was acceptable. It took me many years to understand the one suffering from my unforgiveness was me. I heard someone say that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Only then did I see how cold and hard my heart had become.
Since then I have been learning to keep short accounts. Some transgressions require a continuous effort to forgive. It is not a one-time thing but something to be repeated over and over until I can look at the situation and not have any negative emotion.
Forgiving others allows me to let go of the negative thoughts I’ve been holding onto. This is what sets me free from the past so I can fully embrace the life before me. Only then will my cold heart become warm and loving again.
“Next, we’re going to do something called the conga.” It didn’t take long before I figured out this wasn’t a fun dance the exercise instructor was referring to.
We were to do the same exercise for three minutes. It was broken into segments with the first twenty seconds being easy, the next twenty seconds being harder and the final twenty going full out. Then we would repeat the sequence.
We were to think of it as, life is good, life is not so good and yikes! It was the intervals of varying intensity that would give us the most benefit.
I can see how this cycle is repeated in everyday life. As much as I would like to stay in the life is good phase, this is a period of rest and not of personal growth.
When life is not so good, I need to work harder to keep a positive outlook. There are lessons to be learned if I take the time to look for them.
Then come the periods when I’ve been knocked down and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get up again. Everything seems to be fighting against me. It takes every bit of energy I have just to put one foot in front of the other. It hurts to stay in this place and I have to find a way out. This is when I need to dig deep and find strength and courage to forge ahead.
Each cycle will eventually flow into the next and contribute to a higher purpose.
“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor the man perfected without trials.” – Chinese Proverb
Our aquafit instructor asked us to do a cross-country ski movement with our arms and legs. The added twist was we had to do this without letting our feet touch the bottom of the pool.
She said, “The resistance will be felt in your whole body, from the neck down.” While completing the exercise I thought, “My resistance is normally felt from the neck up!”
I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this. My mindset controls what I am capable of achieving.
Years ago I clipped a cartoon out of the paper and had it displayed on my fridge. One character said, “I’ve realized that I’m the only one keeping me from reaching my full potential.” The other replied, “And a mighty fine job you’re doing of it.”
This served as a powerful reminder to get out of my own way. Too often the resistance I face doesn’t come from outside sources but from myself.
I read an excerpt from the book, Trade Your Cares for Calm by Max Lucado that addressed this very well. He said the widest river in the world is not the Amazon or the Nile. It is a body of water called ‘If Only’. He talked about the number of people who stand on its banks wanting to cross but never doing it. They are convinced the ‘If Only’ river is what separates them from the good life.
We all have a choice to make. Are we going to let the resistance in our minds stop us or are we going to cross the ‘If Only’ river?
“The good life begins, not when circumstances change, but when our attitude toward them does.” Max Lucado
The aquafit instructor was adding a few new exercises for our class. At one point she told us, “Kick one leg up at a time. Pretend you are doing the can-can.”
I found it amusing to think of myself as a can-can girl. I’m a little – OK a lot – too old for that!
Then I remembered a magnet I have on my filing cabinet. It says Successful women come in cans not in can’ts.
Living this way is a choice. I can be committed, gentle, loyal, thoughtful, loving and kind. These are only a few of the positive traits I want to focus on.
The can’ts should be limited to the negative characteristics I sometimes struggle with. I imagine how much better life would be if the bad habits were eliminated. To lead a happy, productive life I can’t be harsh, critical, complaining, and uncaring. This can be a lot easier to follow through on with others than with me.
I can wish and want but until I am committed to change nothing is going to happen. My goal is to get the most out of life, and not merely exist. If I want to make a difference in the lives of others I first have to start with my own.
When my attitude changes so will my life. Who else wants to join me as a can-can gal or guy? Together we can change the world.