You and I have at least one thing in common: we find ourselves in a human body, creating a home inside it for as long as we are alive, experiencing the joy, the pain and the surprise that comes with this incredible state of being at every single moment.
When teaching, not only do I want to remember that we share this profound experience, but I equally want to remind you to listen to your body without judgement.
There are a couple of really important things that I believe in when training and teaching, values or core beliefs if you will. See if you can get on board with them!
There is no use in being judgemental towards your body and movement patterns (or those of others).
Try to criticise from a neutral point of view, simply stating what you see (the legs are slightly bent, the shoulders aren’t elevated, the elbows are locked, the feet are neither in a flexed nor a pointed position and so on) instead of negatively talking to or about a body, reinforcing the belief that you (or others) are simply not strong/good/young/flexible/whatever enough.
Your body becomes what you tell it to become. It will develop not only according to your training but also according to what you internalise at any given moment.*
Become aware of and accept exactly where you’re at.
Much as you wouldn’t set the GPS in your car to start navigating from a location that you are currently not at, you can’t start your training process from where you were a year ago or where you see yourself a year from now. You cannot even start from where you were yesterday!
Being alive means constant change and some days, you will find yourself tired and sluggish, others motivated, light, airy and others again perhaps volatile and shaky.
Try your best to accept where you’re at, even if it means that you felt stronger yesterday or that you used to be a more advanced practitioner of a certain discipline.
Tricking yourself into believing that you are at a different point in your journey than you actually are will, in the best case, lead to a plateau and in the worst case to injury and damage.
Your body will always remind you of where you are: If you are injured, it will tell you. If you have certain weaknesses, it will tell you. If you find yourself in a state of muscular imbalance, it will tell you.
We can close our eyes to this information, metaphorically driving around the same block over and over as the GPS tells us to go right (unfortunately the right turn was still 2km ahead because we didn’t put in the proper starting point) or we can deal with it right now to move beyond it, even if it seems tedious and we feel like it is slowing us down – quite the opposite!
Your body remembers. Everything it has experienced can have an impact on your training, your wellness and your health.
Scientists have long since found out that our bodies hold on to trauma (physical and psychological trauma alike): it alters our brain chemistry, has a long-term impact on our immune system and can render us more susceptible to becoming injured and/or traumatised again!
There is mounting evidence to the mind-body connection everywhere and a lot of research has been done on the psychological impact of physical trauma in athletes as well as the impact of psychological trauma on physical performance!*
Sometimes we may have to deal with old emotional trauma coming up when learning new physical skills. It may be something as simple as having been humiliated in PE class once upon a time and now fearing to go to any exercise class, ever, it may manifest as a deep-rooted fear of inversions, go back to a physical injury you once sustained or show up suddenly when doing partner stretches.
Don’t ignore it. Become aware of it. Find out why it’s there and what you can do to stop it holding you back.
Again, don’t judge any physical symptoms of emotional baggage – they very likely manifested to protect you once, because our bodies are amazing like that and do all they can to serve and protect us. Let’s cherish them!
Talent! Starting young! Being naturally gifted/flexible/dynamic/strong! Ok, maybe it’s not a lie per se but it’s heavily overrated.
My personal journey as well as years of coaching children, youths and adults have led me to believe that the so widely spread idea of “talent” or “innate physical advantage” is extremely overrated and physical development is largely influenced by nurture over nature.
I have known people who started their handbalancing journey around 50 years old and are now stronger handbalancers than I am.
I know that when I started stretching aged 21, I could not touch my toes with my legs straight and not even a year later I started working on oversplits (>180° angle to the floor/plane of reference).
In ultrarunning and triathlons, comparatively late starts (well into people’s thirties and fourties) are almost becoming the norm.
Please don’t say “I will never be able to do that” or its incredulous little brother “yeah, right!” (when watching a demonstration of a skill) – your body is listening. Do acknowledge that it may be a long way and take a few years to get there but if you truly prioritise it and give it your all, you might just be able to do it.
And I? I will do my utmost to help you get there.
* If you cannot find scientific research related to the points I’m making, feel free to reach out and I am happy to send a handful of studies on the subject that interests you your way!