Monday, May 09, 2011

Your Incredible Power To Change Yourself

Alice Bradley has a heartbreaking post on her blog Finslippy today. I suspect that many many people can identify with what she's going through. She feels uncoordinated, like athletic endeavors are not easy for her. She has flexibility issues, strength issues, and things like yoga, kung fu, bellydancing, and now Crossfit have defeated her best efforts over the years.

So she asks whether or not she should stick with Crossfit, try something else entirely, or just give up.

I started to type out an answer there, but it quickly got enormously long. And it seemed to me that the answer is really crucial to what this blog is all about: that the power of incremental change can occur for everyone. That doesn't just mean the athletically gifted, or those that things come easily for. That means everyone.

I want to share my perspective on this here, not just as a coach, but as a mother (after all, this blog is named IronMOM for a reason). With my son's permission, I am sharing his story of overcoming huge odds to persevere and transform himself  and his body via his sport.

Alice, I hope this answers your question. I hope it makes you realize that you have the power within you to make that same kind of transformation. And for all the Alices out there who are not as brave, who are still sitting on the couch and wondering if there's any hope for them, I hope this gives it to you:


Alice,  Oh, my heart hurts for you just reading all of this. But I do NOT think all hope is lost, and here is why:

1) I can assure you that the instructor is not laughing at you inside his head. I have coached a Crossfit-like class (as well as teach swimming, kickboxing, and karate conditioning) and I can tell you that there are many many uncoordinated people in this world. As an instructor I have an enormous amount of respect for any of them who show up in my class. You know why? They are the brave of the brave.
That's you.
Because most of the people who have these same issues are not showing up. They are at home on the couch where it is much safer and much easier. I am in awe of the folks who come to my classes and work hard to get where other people get so easily. I'm betting your instructor feels the same way about you. He should.

2) I have seen first-hand the amazing power of just sticking with one thing, and what it can do for your life. Not just from the people in my classes, but from my own son. He is 14 now, but he was born with Sensory Integration Dysfunction. This means that many things were very very difficult for him, from the first day of his life. The world was too loud, too harsh, too scratchy, too smelly.

And talk about uncoordinated? When he was four, he still could not cross the center line of his body with either hand. It was like his brain had a doorstop that it could not cross. He couldn't dress himself, or do any of the things a normal four year old could do. Lots of therapy later, he still had the motor skills of a child half his age.

He also had vision integration problems, his eyes didn't work together so he constantly ran into things and fell off of chairs just trying to sit down. His hand-eye coordination was non-existant, he couldn't read or write without a great struggle and effort. More therapy: Vision therapy this time.

On top of this, the sensory integration issues when he was a toddler had made him a toe-walker (even the carpet felt too weird to step on). His Achilles tendons shortened to the point that he could hardly put his feet flat on the floor. He had Barbie feet, like someone who had worn high-heeled shoes for decades.

At the age of nine, I took him to a karate dojo. I knew I had to find just the right one, because he was still a very sensitive kid. And you can imagine with all of those strikes against him physically, that if he was someplace where people would be harsh on him or make fun of him for what he couldn't do, his self-image would take a beating. I needed someplace where he would be pushed to excel, but where he would be supported in his journey. Luckily, I found such a dojo. He has now been studying there for five years.

Fast forward to today. He is a brown belt, in his last degree and preparing himself to take the black belt test. I watched him today perform a kata in front of the whole class, solo.

His stances were deep and steady, you could never imagine this kid's heels couldn't touch the floor at one point in his life. A deep karate stance takes a LOT of flexibility in the Achilles tendon.

His spinning side kicks were fast and accurate - could you imagine that his vision, balance, and coordination were once so poor that he couldn't figure out how to sit on a chair without falling off? That he ran into door frames just trying to walk through a door?

His punches are so strong and fast, you would never know that once his muscle tone was reported by a therapist to be "poor" and "floppy". Or that at age five, he couldn't stand on one leg, or hop with both feet together.

I am proud of my son, not because he's a gifted athlete, but because he's a determined one. He is living proof that no matter how weak, inflexible, and uncoordinated you are, if you just show up every day and TRY, it will get better.


You will get stronger. You will get more flexible. You will get more coordinated. It will happen. I know this. I wish I was there to give you a hug and tell you in person. But this will have to do.


Toni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toni said...

Yes, Robin's son totally rocked today - the transformation in the last year alone is amazing!

Liz in Seattle said...

My son is the same age as Robin's. And with only slight variation, he has dealt with the exact same challenges (what are the odds?). At the age of ten, he joined Boy Scouts. To earn his (required) swimming merit badge, he pushed himself through eighteen months of lessons, even though he would never be a fast swimmer. Then he took taekwondo, advancing eight belts. At this very moment, he's in Crossfit, where he's the youngest guy in the gym. The instructors are awesome...they work with all ages, levels, and capabilities. They love my son, he loves them, and he is immeasurably proud of his abilities.

Long story short...go for it. Isn't that what life's about? :-)

Marv said...

that the power of incremental change can occur for everyone. That doesn't just mean the athletically gifted, or those that things come easily for. That means everyone.

We are so "on the same page" here Robin. Great post.

Robin said...

Liz, I didn't know he was taking Crossfit now. That is so cool! In general, Crossfit is very supportive of working with everyone exactly where they're at. It's one thing that's really great about Crossfit.

Nirinjan said...

Oh Gosh Robin! I *SO* needed to read this today. I signed up (and paid a bunch of money) to take a kettlebell instructor certification and then I went to class today and couldn't get certain basic movements right. Doing kettlebells was a stretch for me when I started, I have left tears and sweat on the floor of that gym, but I have gotten so much better. All my old fears and tapes in my head came back to me today saying that I suck at physical stuff, I've always been so uncoordinated, etc etc. I was freaking out. You have helped me feel better and now I am going to e-mail my trainer and ask for a private lesson to get ready for the HKC. And try not to freak out. Thanks so much Robin! You have always been so inspiring to me.

Robin said...

Nirinjan, my hat is off to you. Kettlebells always make me feel like an uncoordinated freak. I would love to take a kettlebell instructor course, but they all look pretty tough. You'd be an awesome instructor. Go you!