By Jennifer Miramontes
This week I was training my client who is 82 years old. He had hernia surgery a few weeks ago so we were going “easy.” We started with our usual routine, stretching, followed by high knees and fast feet. We then moved into his core work, which started with a plank.
“What do you have in your tank?” I asked him.
“We will see. What did I do last week?” he asked.
“Two minutes,” I said. (A two-minute plank is challenging for many of my best athletes.) “But I feel good about today. I know you have more.”
With a little encouraging, my 82-year-old client did a 5:19 plank! And he has Parkinson’s disease.
I am asked over and over again how he does what he does. The answer is simple: He believes in himself.
As a trainer, my job is to understand my client’s inner voice. Some of us know no limits; others allow fear to limit them.
Our minds are powerful, so powerful that they may lead us to believe we can’t, when we can. If you believe you can, you probably can. If you believe you won’t, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t. Belief is what will launch you, whether it’s doing a five-minute plank or running a marathon. If you believe you can, you will.
I have been blessed with a diverse clientele, from elite and collegiate athletes, to the aging, to clients with severe medical issues. In working closely with these individuals, I find it as important to work on their mental strength as much as their physical strength. They have taught me this:
1. Your body is capable of more than your mind believes. I have seen it over and over again, the “I can’t do this” look. They are ready to stop, drop or give up, but given some simple words of encouragement they find their strength.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.” ~Henry Ford
People have all kinds of reasons to give into their minds. Often it is their history. It can be one simple incident in their youth. Getting picked last for the kickball team. Or maybe they were labeled a “bookworm.” And so it goes. They believe these labels. They underestimate the ability and potential they are created with. When pushed ever so slightly, they often find success. It’s incredibly exciting to see the light turn on.
In your training and in your life, remember this truth: You are always capable of more, and until your body decides it’s time to start shutting down, you always have more potential in you. Never settle for the expectations or limits your mind and environment can place on you. Trust your body and what it is capable of doing.
2. Learn how to override that inner voice that raises doubt. The monsters in our mind are so much worse than those that really exist. Fear and doubt will only hold you back. This can be very frustrating and can set up a cycle of self- defeating behaviors and thought patterns that affect our ability to grow, to reach, to try something new. We become our own toughest opponent.
The great news is it is never too late to slay the monsters. The true power of the mind, its impact on our health, future, outlook, and self-concept, is a mystery. I, however, believe that by using the power of suggestion and positive self talk, we can change our outlook on life.
For me, when doubt starts to creep into my mind, my mantra is simply “I got this.” Whether I am cramping up at mile 24 or serving match point, a simple vote of confidence is often all I need.
Like so many things, this takes practice. You are essentially retraining your brain to ignore the fear. First identify it. What are you afraid of…. failure, pain, injury, disappointment? Then come up with a mantra to overcome your fear.
3. If you love your body, it will love you back.
Would you call your best friend fat? Tell him he’s getting old? Suggest that she’s falling apart? Probably not. So why is it okay to say these things about yourself?
Change the way you think about your body. Love it, Use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, and please don’t worry about what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.
One day you maylook back on today and wish you still “had it.” The next time you say or even think a disparaging thought about your body, stop and make your words kind.
4. Find your inner child. Kids don’t have that inner voice yet. Because of this, their parents do their best to keep them safe. “Be careful,” “Don’t climb up there, you’ll get hurt,” “Slow down.” While our parents kept us safe, for some these words inadvertently create self-doubt. For some it creates rebellion … “Slow down? No way … I got this”.
The inner child is that part of you who wants to play, who wants to jump around and dance, who wants to explore the unexplored and venture into the unventured.
In our classes we have people playing tag, holding hands and jumping on one foot, back dancing — and the list goes on. Often they are having so much fun they forget they are exercising, but even better, they forget their fears.
I am not sure when we lose our inner child. But I find myself working hard to help my clients find theirs. We spend hours at the studio working on balance, agility, speed, strength and flexibility. If you go to a park and watch children play, you’ll notice they are doing exactly the same thing, but it’s play, not “work.”
Change your mindset the next time you head into a workout. Bring your inner child and be thankful that you can play.
Nourish your inner child. Laugh, play, sleep, eat, meditate, repeat.
When you do what you fear most, you open yourself to do almost anything.
— Jennifer Miramontes is a certified master personal trainer and medical exercise specialist, and the co-owner of FIT House in Davis.