Friday, January 6, 2017

Fitness is a journey: Part The Third

Archived here from my FB page of Dec 22, 2016

There are whole sections, never mind shelves, of libraries dedicated to the concept of "motivation". Much of psychiatry addresses the ways in which humans motivate themselves in ways both healthy and un. Fortunately for us, we only need to take a passing glance at the complexities as our focus is on a very narrow application of the most fundamental of the ideas that make up human motivation.
Basically, it needs to be understood that motivation consists of two supporting, but not necessarily interacting, parts. I think of them as "internal" and "external" motivators.
An example of an external motivator that very much will be applicable to my friend Charynn McCurdy in the not-too-distant future, will be the physical requirements necessary to performing successfully on a working party during an underway replenishment evolution at sea.
In Navy-speak, unrep - underway replenishment of consumable stores and supplies - is probably the most fully worked out example of the concept of "organized chaos" known to human civilization. It seems a virtual certainty that, as one of her commands most junior members, she will be detailed to be a working party member during the regular unreps a modern warship requires to meet the operational demands we place upon them (and necessarily their crews). A typical working party requirement is to manually transfer cases of consumables (anything from beverages to preserved foods to lubricants to - pretty much anything that can be packaged in a cardboard shipping case for transport) from the pallets they are shipped on into any available storage space that can be free'd up to meet the demand for short-term storage. It isn't actually a requirement that this be in the most inaccessible location aboard the ship, it just seems that way when you're doing it.
The usual method is to form a "chain" of workers (who, if they are smart, stand on opposite sides of the passageway from each other alternately, so they can pass items from one to another with the least difficulty) and pass each individual case from the pallet to however far down a twisting passageway is necessary to get to the stipulated temporary storage space. A case of canned Cokes weighs 25 lbs as I recall; a case of #10 cans of preserved food can weigh in excess of 30 lbs (but the Navy is pretty good about keeping the case weight down to about that amount at most). So, here is an external fitness motivator that Charynn must be able to meet, prior to her first at-sea deployment, in order to not be THAT GIRL (the one who exemplifies the stereotype "girls don't belong in combat arms" to the assholes).
We will take a look at the training requirements to achieve this very basic fitness goal as a separate topic.
The internal half of motivation is always a personal choice, more idiosyncratic in nature. It can take almost any form, but the essential requirement is that it be a thought or idea that inspires you. Very commonly this takes the form of some imaginary standard of approval you are willing to work to achieve.
Lemme 'splain.
We all have someone whose approval we seek. It is common for athletes to imagine a physical goal (again, often appearance based) they wish to achieve that "Person X" would be ... fill in the space with your preferred adjective. It is important that this set of goals not be something a real, actually breathing-on-his/her-own person really wants you to do. I mean, think about it, that has to be a pretty creepy conversation no matter how intimate X is. More importantly, that removes you from control of the desired result and we are talking about your fitness.
So, an imaginary version of someone whose good opinion you desire is created in your imagination to give specificity to your otherwise pretty random fitness objectives. "X would really be happy if I looked like this when s/he walks in the room when I get back from this cruise." Whatever. This isn't about what X might or might not really want, but about keeping you engaged in your fitness pursuits when the inevitable distractions arise. Working to gain the approval of someone important to you personally is a very common technique for doing this.
For the more practical minded among us Charynn , next time you're in your quarters alone and get out of the shower, look in the mirror and take note of what you see. Notice your profile, face-on and sideways. Not in any kind of critical way, but simply as a baseline observation. Following a period of training (and this varies considerably for a lot of different reasons) you will subsequently observe that your waist will have reduced in circumference by an inch or more, your hip profile will have probably remained about the same overall measurement but the tissue placement will have altered (fat tissue tends to be more susceptible to gravity than does muscle, so your hips will be about the same size but shaped differently), your thighs will begin to display greater size and definition, especially above the knees, with more mass in the hamstring muscles and less fat tissue along the sides, and your calves will become more defined as well as simply larger (stronger). So too your shoulders and, less noticeably probably, your neck will gain in muscle density and visible size. Your bra cup size will remain essentially the same, but your chest diameter will increase by possibly as much as a couple of inches (this depends in part on how much muscle growth you experience in your back). There will be other changes as well, but they tend to be less obvious to the casual glance until very much further along the fitness path.
Your external motivations are in considerable part the result of factors you can't control. Your internal motivators are the result of factors you largely must create from your own experience of life. An added factor helps to coordinate these two impulses in my experience.
I can't say who, but I read somewhere that an English family "of yore" had as their family motto (suitably gussied up in properly declensioned Latin, I'm sure) the phrase, "Be as you wish to seem".
I've always found this to be profound enough to be useful in virtually any fitness application.
"To seem" is any aspect of appearance or strength or endurance qualification you can imagine. "Wish" is always a factor governing our choices. "As you" confines the choices and selections to those acceptable (or maybe just available) to the circumstance you presently, or anticipate to, inhabit. "Be" though, that's the magical bit for me; the successful culmination of two distinct but inseparable things. I must achieve a capability I do not currently possess by acting as if my possession of that capability is the normal standard of my existence.
To a large degree, physical fitness is an ill-defined standard we all pursue (or ignore) with very little practical reference to what and how others pursue that exact same goal. By actually being as you wish to seem in your own mind, soon enough you will seem as you will have become. You will know - and demonstrate - that you have the ability to master the physical demands placed upon you by the circumstances of your chosen life, and you will maintain this condition through motivating factors that have intense meaning only to you.

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