Don’t Be The Frog!

There’s a scary phrase that has grown some legs in the last year or so and I gotta admit, it resonates so much with me that I catch myself using it probably way too much.  “The New Normal” …. hmmm. Sounds innocuous enough.  Not nearly as bad as “the slippery slope” but they essentially mean the same thing. amazon-horned-frog_443_600x450 In a nutshell, the analogy is the frog in a pot of water.  If you heat the water up slowly enough, the frog won’t notice the change and will eventually perish.

DON’T BE THE FROG!

For several decades, my coaching was directed almost entirely to young people.  I love working with motivated kids, particularly teens who have gotten enough of a handle on life to realize that someone more than three times their age probably has been through a few things that would be useful for them to know.  I also have often been able to draw the less engaged kids (for whatever reason…) out and help them down a more positive path.  But honestly, at the end of the day, kids are pretty easy.  They have a natural affinity for learning and more often than not, take suggestions and direction quite well.

These days, though I still find working with my younger athletes extraordinarily rewarding, I’ve turned much of the energy toward helping folks in my own age peer group (give or take a decade or so….) fight the temptation to become the frog.  As we move through points in our life when current activities dictate our schedules — moms and dads with active kids, you especially know what I’m talking about but family life isn’t the only thing that pulls us down the rabbit hole — we often allow a few things to happen that we’ll pay for later.  Whether you fought that battle already and won, are fighting it now and the momentum goes back and forth or .. arghhhh… you’re on the other side and thinking maybe you won a few battles but lost the war, let’s make a few things clear.

There are a number of symptoms that are awfully common, but in general need NOT become the new normal.

1.  Pain.  Yeah, let’s lead with the elephant in the room.  Those aches and pains you start feeling in your late 30s and then just starting living with in your 40s are very often a result of your behavior, not the automatic product of your date of birth.  Particularly in western culture, we have collectively become addicted to sitting.  At your desk. In a waiting room. In your car. In front of a television. Even at your kids’ soccer games. Sit, sit, sit.  We pay dearly for all the sitting in the form of lot of aches and pains. Legs, back, shoulders, neck.  It creeps up on you.  But it is not normal and often not necessary to put up these pains!  (note — there are other sources of pain, some of which are beyond our control, but let’s fix the stuff we CAN control!)

2.  Low energy.  This manifests in all sorts of ways but in broadest terms, comes out in a general lack of enthusiasm for life. We struggle to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning. We limp through the afternoon.  The thought of having to walk a distance in a parking lot is daunting .. and on and on and on.  Vitality and enthusiasm for living your life should not be proprietary rights of the young! I’d argue that as you approach middle age (I’m 51 so well down that path….), you have much greater reason to love life than you had a couple decades ago.  You know stuff. You’ve done stuff.  You know HOW to do stuff.  And if you haven’t, you perhaps are moving quickly toward a day when you find yourself with extra time.  Get up and do something!  And object at rest tends to stay that way …. don’t be the frog.

3.  Lack of flexibility/agility/mobility/etc …. I never could bend over and touch my toes, even as a reasonably high level high school athlete. I also love yoga but if you watched me doing yoga, you probably wouldn’t call it that.  However, into my 50s, I’m comfortable doing those same things I was doing in the 70s when, as a cross country and middle distance track runner.  I enjoy stretching. I enjoy sprinting (hey, I know it isn’t very fast, but it’s fast for me!). I enjoy knowing I can put my body through exercises like burpees and it will respond like I’m still a teenager. These things are not like riding a bike.  You stop moving, it gets harder to move again.  Stay sedentary long enough and you’ll not just find it hard to move well, you’ll exhibit all sorts of other symptoms as well.

4.  Gaining weight.  This one is different for everyone and quite frankly, your weight is not nearly as important as your body composition. If you are carrying a lot of body fat, sure, you may not like the way it looks, but should be worrying more about the impact it has on your overall health. By most standards you find on charts these days, I’d be considered obese.  I neither look nor feel obese.   What I do feel is strong.  As a fellow trainer likes to say, strong fixes everything.   If losing weight is your goal, get strong.  Getting strong will get you to a good weight — maybe not to the number you are seeking, but that number is a measure of your relationship to gravity. It is not a very valid measure of your health.

5.  Out of shape … now, I’m not talking out of shape as in having low energy, I mean your body has taken on a shape that makes you unhappy. Most of the time, this is the product of body fat being vastly out of proportion to muscle.  The fix … get strong.  We have very little control and people differ greatly in how and where body fat gets stored.  But in general, we have enormous control over the muscles beneath the fat.

6.  We just feel blah.  Maybe it isn’t pain, but just a general feeling that you don’t feel “right”.  Complicated bunch of factors produce this and the combination is different for everyone. A few common threads that we can all work on though.  Stop eating junk.  We put a lot of stuff into our bodies that it either doesn’t know what to do with, or worse, is damaging.  Replace with real food and starting putting some stuff into your gut to get things back in balance down there.  Get more sleep.  Most adults are sleep deprived. This one can be challenging but we need to make it a priority.  Drink more water and less of everything else.  Most of us walk around mildly dehydrated.  That doesn’t sound good and well, it isn’t.

These are the easy lifestyle things … we also need to work on a couple that are harder for many.  Most of us need to consciously exercise. Not nearly as many of us as even when I was a kid get enough exercise simply from our daily activities.  Even if it is just getting out for a brisk walk several times a week, we need to get vigorous activity back on the radar.  And last (well, there’s much more, but these are a good starting point), work on your relationships. We are not islands. We need community. We need to nurture the relationships with those closest to us in order to feel centered in a world which seems to work awfully hard to kick us when were down.

The most important of those relationships is the one with our Creator.  We need to spend time with that one to.  Matthew Kelly calls this the “classroom of silence”.   Call it prayer. Call it contemplation. Call it meditation. Call it what you need to call it to get it to be part of your life. When you get this one right, many other things become easier.

Most of us lead lives that are more complicated than would be optimal and the items above can seem overwhelming if you’ve let things slide for too long.  The road back is filled with potholes and is anything but straight.  We’re on a journey though and it is important to remember that we are the product of that journey.  You’re not a tree. If you don’t like where your journey has taken you so far, learn from it .. and move on!

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