This week, Miss Strong wants to introduce Zen Barbell at http://www.zenbarbell.com, a blog devoted to “freeing your mind and strengthening your body.” Kara Silva, the writer and creator, is a Crossfit coach, a personal trainer, and a nutrition consultant. She’s created a “30 Days to Stop Hating Your Body Program” and discusses what she’s learned from past experiences, struggles and successes. Like all women featured on Miss Strong, she writes about what’s real and relatable. But that’s not all. Kara is also known for her Tedx Talk (RVA Women) “The Power of The Scale” and for her zen approach to lifting, health and fitness. Kara has written an article for Miss Strong to help highlight the mistakes she’s made in her past towards getting in shape, and how to avoid them. As Zen Barbell would tell us, “Let’s have a present mind. A strong body. And, a better life.” So let’s learn from Kara, what she would tell her 20-year-old self, and find that little bit of Om inside of us. For all you young adults, you 20-something-year-olds, you fabulous women in your fifties and those of you saying hello to your beautiful 80’s and up…let’s back track a little. Here’s a letter to your 20 year old self. It’s never too late to change.
Zen Barbell: I love using the start of a new year and birthdays as purposeful times of reflection. As I am celebrating another birthday this month (September), I have been reflecting back over my life and in particular my struggles around food and exercise. These two areas have dominated so much of how I see myself and what I have struggled with for so many years. I pondered what advice I would give to my younger self, given what I know now. Of course like most lessons worth learning, these things usually have to be learned the hard way through time, trials and experience and not just told to you by some one who has been there. All the same, here is what I would have love to have told a 20 year old me:
Dear 20 year old me,
I want to give you some advice that will save you countless hours (days? weeks? months?) of your life. These lessons, learned sooner rather than later, will save you from spending so much time hating who you are and how your body looks, and chasing things that really won’t bring you happiness.
1. Find a good trainer to teach you the big lifts – Squat, dead lift* bench and military press. *(Hip hinge movements! They are the key to every power movement. Learn to squeeze your butt!! TRUST me, learning them at 20 is so much better than in your late 30s! You might even find you actually have some fast twitch muscles there!!), Master these basics early. Learn what heavy is now. Spending all that time doing three sets of 10 for every body part didn’t really take you too far. While you do gain some muscle mass, you never end up truly challenging yourself. If you are really lucky, you will find a trainer who will teach you the snatch and clean and jerk. Power, speed and beauty contained all in these lifts. Finding the right trainer can take time but don’t worry, its worth it.
2. There are no magic pills. Stop looking for them. Seriously. Stop it. No one supplement, pill, diet plan, shake, food, trainer, or exercise will solve all your problems, give you the body you want and make you happy. Eat mostly food that isn’t processed, move daily, manage stress, and get quality sleep. That combination is more magical than anything you will be convinced to buy.
- Learn to love your perfectly imperfect human body. Figure out what you need to do to love your life. Happiness is not over there with size X jeans, a number on the scale, after plastic surgery to fix “imperfections” , with flat abs, more money, another partner, better job, etc. I know that feels impossible when you are so uncomfortable in your body and you desperately want to be different. Start with focusing on what you love about you. Next tell that inner voice that tells you “you should be different” to shut the fuck up. What you focus on grows. Grow the positive things and kill off the negative. With practice, it brings enormous change. You might feel afraid about this as you think happiness right now means complacency, it does not. When you love something, you want to take care of it, nurture it and allow it grow in all kinds of beautiful ways.
- Your worth is not determined by the scale. You cannot let an inanimate object dictate how you feel about yourself or how your day will go. Throw the damn thing away. You know if you are getting bigger or smaller based on your clothes. The number on the scale does not tell you anything about the amazing person you are. Throw the damn thing away.
- There is more to life than what goes on in the gym. Our bodies crave and need movement (and joy!) and there are things that happen inside the gym that make us better people outside of the gym. However, logging the most hours on a cardio machine or feeling like you HAVE to spend two plus hours lifting weights to be ok in the world doesn’t get you anywhere. Jim Laird (a fabulous trainer you will meet many years from now) once told me that it takes very little effort in the gym to have good health. You need to decide what you are going to do with your life when you realize no longer have to identify as gym girl. You are not your treadmill time. You are not your squat reps. You are not the number of classes you take at the gym each week. What else do you have in your life makes you happy? That needs nourishing attention? How do you want to make an impact in the people, community or world around you?
Now that we have all that covered:
Go and breathe, move well and LIFT HEAVY!!!