Patience / by India Choquette

IT IS INCREDBILY IRONIC THAT I AM WRITING THIS POST. Mostly because I’m the least patient person. When I was little, my stepmom used to say, “Thank goodness your name isn’t patience!” because I loathed waiting. For anything. For the subway. For the microwave. For people to show up for a casual lunch (it’s casual but still). For my toast to toast. For my pencil to sharpen in those pencil sharpener machines (seriously).

But patience is one of the many things I’ve learned from training. Our bodies are incredibly complex. In order to progress, when must make neurological advances to master technique, neuromuscular advances to apply that technique, skeletomuscular advances to get stronger or stretchier, respiratory and circulatory advances to support our work load, and psychological and behavioral advances to continue down our path. In the era of steroids and “6 week six packs,” it feels WRONG to invest in slow change. We are trained to assess experiences by results. We are trained to feel inadequate.

However, the complex adaptations that occur in training are just that: complex. It does not help to fixate on the end goal. Like most things in life, there actually isn’t an end to it. Especially with fitness: the hope is that we keep training and moving and learning our whole lives. So what is the point of being frustrated? It’s not a race.

I struggle with this frustration, especially when I lack technique. I’ve gotten to a fitness level when I expect to be good at most things. But if I’m new to something technical, I obviously haven’t doing the neuro training to get it together. Even something little like double unders makes me bananas. I am absolutely strong enough to do them, but I fail to string them together in any consistent fashion. There are two ways to approach this frustration: either to use it as validation that you are a failure, or have fun with learning double unders. So I’ll put on The Spice Girls (I have terrible taste in music and won’t apologize for it), and get hopping.

That being said, I know it is awful when you feel like you are hurtling along towards some impressive goal and your coach comes up and tells you have to fix your squat. Not loaded squat, just your air squat. Maybe they tell you your mobility is lacking, or your chest is falling forward, or anything basic issue, and all the sudden, you have to go way back to learning to squat. Is that frustrating? Yes. But you have, again, two basic choices: you can allow yourself to “decondition” slightly and focus your training efforts on correcting mechanics, or you can push ahead and ignore your form. Pushing through will not correct it. You will get stronger, but you also will likely get injured. And even if you avoid injury, you aren’t fixing the problem with your squat, so any gains you make will be limited by technique.

Which brings me back to fun. If you think of this as a life long puzzle, or even a life long game, then learning new skills or improving old ones becomes fun. You physical ability says nothing about your value as a human. It is simply a way to enjoy and experience the world. I don’t know if Mother Theresa could do a freestanding handstand (probably), but that didn’t make her inadequate. Keep training fun, and you will do it forever. Because the truth is time is the only way to achieve mastery.