November 27, 2009

Rolling With It

(Photo: Xinem)

"Ugh! Not a line for coffee! What?! What do you mean you're out of half-caf-double-latte-malted-mocha-chino?! You cannot be serious! Where's the manager?! Heads are going to roll!! I need my coffee!!!"

And so begins another day in the life of Schotsie Volvo and her pampered existence of ridiculously high expectations of everyone and everything. Why, this morning's coffee episode was almost as devastating as that nail she chipped last week. Schotsie doesn't handle bad news very well - not that this is all that serious, actually. It's disappointing, of course. Even frustrating. But it doesn't really fall into the "bad news" category. Schotsie doesn't really roll with the punches - she throws them. And if you've ever been in line behind a person like her you might start to wonder how Schotsie would handle actual bad news. And not just actual bad news but one bad thing after another. My guess is she'd fold up like a two dollar beach chair.

Life isn't fair and never easy and there eventually comes a time when you begin to recognize just how little control you have over some events that shape your life. You can't control the waves that knock you down, that's for sure. But can you learn how to ride them better? And how is it that some people can deal with pretty much everything that gets thrown at them while drama queens like Schotsie dissolve like vapor at the mere whiff of trouble? In keeping with the fitness and well-being cornerstone that Cranky Fitness and its corporate headquarters are built upon, read on for the secrets of resiliency.

Many in our fitness blog universe have traveled light years to get here from their home planet of Slackonia. They arrive with bright eyes and big plans and begin their journeys of bettering themselves through exercise and eating right. Everything goes great for a while until one little injury starts to monkey-pile onto another and before you know it, they've been knocked quite a ways off plan because of this unanticipated detour. Some have even had to deal with serious illness or traumatic events which have sidelined them. By the time they recover, their goals are looking pretty distant and they wonder if they have the strength to press on. What about that first 5K they were signed up for? And how will they ever get back to training for that marathon? It's New Year's already and they didn't lose the amount of weight that they thought they would have by now. They've already been through so much - wouldn't it just be easier to quit - even if it was a goal that was once important to them before life got in the way?

Resiliency - the ability to adapt to change or misfortune - can vary from person to person, as noted in this article. There is actually a genetic component to it which accounts for how some people handle great burdens with so much more grace and dignity than, oh say, me. Oh yes, yours truly admits to coming apart like a tissue in a washing machine on occasion - even though my tough-as-nails parents have weathered every storm with steely resolve. (Apparently, the resiliency gene may have skipped a generation in this case.) Ah, but there's good news: resiliency can be a learned behavior like so many other things in our lives. And what better way to lean than from others who have mastered the art of rolling with it.

There are common traits among resilient people that we can emulate in our efforts to learn about bouncing back better from adversity. Staying connected to people and reaching out during times of setback or crisis can create a shared burden effect. Blogging, for instance, is a great way to stay connected to people sharing the same goals and trials as you in this fitness journey.

It is vital to remain optimistic. This is classic "glass half full" thinking. Resilient people put a positive spin on things, believing that whatever crisis they've been handed is something that is hopefully temporary and solvable. Those of us with the recessive resiliency gene can un-learn our negative thought process by becoming more aware of our perceptions and re-thinking things in a more positive light.

Having a spiritual life is another component to bouncing back more easily than others. A study at Duke University shows that people dealing with a serious illness were better able to cope with the accompanying depression if they had strong religious beliefs.

Having a sense of play and experimentation helps us ride things out. Staying playful and curious and enjoying life in general is another key element to bouncing back.

Giving back to others is the ultimate in karma. Giving of yourself to others enhances that feeling of well-being and people who do it live longer, research shows.

Knowing how to pick your battles, as in the Serenity Prayer, is a big help. Changing the things you can control but not obsessing about the things you can't saves you the energy to steer you way through whatever situation you're trying to navigate.

Taking as good care of yourself as possible will keep you strong for the road ahead. If you've been sidelined with an injury, focus on eating well and exercising to the extent you can. If you can exercise, it actually produces a reaction in the brain that repairs stress-susceptible neurons.

And finally, resilient people know how to find the lesson in any given experience and use that knowledge in bettering themselves; sort of in the vein of "whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

My personal point of view is that I need lots of help with becoming more resilient. I need to remind myself that whatever pit I have fallen into on any given day will not be the pit that I necessarily have to live in for the rest of my life. Looking forward, past the difficulties of the moment, has helped me greatly as in, "this too shall pass."

Are there any adversities you've had to overcome in reaching your fitness goals? And if so, what made the biggest difference to you in getting through it?


  1. Fitness Adversity, thy name is Sugar. And Caffeine. But mostly sugar. I have what you might call an addictive personality and more sweet teeth than are available in my mouth. This makes the losing/maintaining hard. But, it's now been 10 weeks since I last had a Red Bull, my drug of choice. No soda in 8 weeks. Just water. Every once in a while some juice, but mostly water. It's better for me to quit cold than to try the phase out method; that just doesn't work for me.


  2. Gigi- THANK YOU. What a powerful prose. My adversities have been MANY. 40 years of being on the obese side of the BMI. Emotions and food have gone hand in hand, forget the exercise. My most powerful tool for getting through any of those has been my attitude.

    My resolve changed this year. I took it slow. I started the year out, going to the gym for the upteenth time and starting a weight management class through Kaiser. I ended up with plantar fascitis. I continued the WM class, learned about portion control,gave up Coca-Cola and fast food. I began to read labels.
    During the summer, I started blogging, took 10 minutes a day to focus on me, and went forward with my plan. I started to learn about food, trying one new thing a week.
    I started to learn to cook healthier.
    In September, I joined WW not for some miracle, but to support what I was already working on AND to get out of my isolation of the computer.
    2 weeks ago, I added exercise. I started the Wii Fit Program at home and CANCELLED my gym membership. I realized that I had to treat it as learning to walk all over again. My fit test showed I favored my right side, 70% - 30%. I was out of balance BIG TIME. So each day, I focus on my balance and my posture, I stretch those muscles to wake them up, and I play a few games so I can laugh at myself.
    No wonder I got hurt all the time.
    Thank you again for this awesome post! Keep up the good work!

  3. Like Joshua, sugar has a grip on me...currently working on that one by eating more veggies and other nutrients and drinking a lot of water.

    SLEEP DEPRIVATION is a big adversity towards my fitness goals. Some days when I can't think straight or feel like working out, I tell myself, "Just do a ten minute stroll even if you do nothing else." That often helps.

  4. I know exactly what you meant when you wrote "Everything goes great for a while until one little injury starts to monkey-pile onto another and before you know it, they've been knocked quite a ways off plan because of this unanticipated detour. ...By the time they recover, their goals are looking pretty distant and they wonder if they have the strength to press on. "
    I wistfully remember running 6-7 Km 3 times a week. I was in thebest shape of my life-a long fitness and weightloss struggle ahd come to fruition. Then my knee went kaplooey in May...and after being forced to do nothing while it healed I got's taken a lot to get back to things. Admittedly I've only really gotten serious about it this last week. Lifestyle changes I made in food kept me from regaining weight, which is great, but fitwise? Not evne close.
    It's odd to say, but I find the way I feel is the reward I need...and to get it I have to work out. Period. I can whine and moan and come up with lots of reasons not to get up at stupid oclock to workout, but I know I can do it. Because I *have* done it. And I can, if I think I'm worth it. And in the end a little adversity brings me a great feeling all day. I don't know if I could work out all the time if I didn't get a bit of a "fix" from it, but I find changing things a bit at a time has ended up with a lot of big changes a few months down the road. And they're the kind that stay. There's still things I need to fix...cut back on caffeine and keep drinking more water, but I'm in this for life. :)

    That's what changed it for me. When I realised I'm in this for the long haul and 1 day of bad can't kill it all. Every little bit I can do makes my life better :)

  5. I was very injury-prone in my first few years of running. I've also had a couple bouts of bronchitis and for the last few years some of my bigger goals, like Ironman, have been put on indefinite hold due to chronic hip pain that PTs charge me money to treat without actually fixing it.

    Throughout the physical setbacks, the thing I've kept in mind was that you have to get out there and do what you can. Even with bronchitis, you can usually do a little yoga or lift some weights.

    Now, obviously I don't do any kind of exercise during a severe short-term illness, but if something is wrong that's going to take a few weeks or months to get over, it's a good idea to seek out the things you *can* do without compromising your recovery rather than give up good habits altogether.

    There are those (like my husband) who set conditions for their workouts, ie: I only run at the park, deep-water running is boring, I don't swim, etc. If there is no compelling physical reason for these terms and conditions, then it's all just excuse-making. Find a workaround and go to it!

    To me, resilience is simply another name for creativity. There is a lot that happens in life that you can't control, but you can choose how to respond.

  6. Great post! I really like your blog!!
    Common Cents

    ps. Link Exchange?

  7. Excellent post! I began my fitness journey a year ago and your blog has helped me get past the adversity and those days where I loathe exercise and eating healthy!

    The biggest issue I have is allowing myself to spend the time on myself! That I don't have to feel guilty about time away from family and work just so I can exercise! You would not believe how many times I feel guilty about that! Working moms (moms in general, really) have a hard time making time for themselves. And doing that without guilt....difficult indeed! Martyrs we are!

    Thanks for the really great and fun writing! Keep it coming!!

  8. What a great post, Gigi!

    I was rolling right along with my fitness goals until gallbladder surgery hit - and I'll admit, I was really worried that I would turn into my old self and use that as THE excuse to not go back to my workouts.

    Thankfully, through being open about it on my blog, I got a ton of support and that helped so much. I went back after a few weeks and you know what? It WAS hard - but I kept going and got myself back up to speed.

    So now I have this experience to fall back on if something else puts up a stumbling block on my journey.

  9. Funny how all the cheerful fitness magazines assume that it's all just a matter of willpower and nothing ever goes wrong to keep one from staying fit!

    But I think you've hit on something really crucial: it can feel almost impossible to get back on course when injuries, ailments, etc, force you out of your hard-won good habits.

    Love the practical tips on resiliency! My first instinct (and 2nd and 3rd and 4th) is to whine and feel sorry for myself. But I've discovered it's SO worth it to try to adapt and be flexible and get back on track however I can.

  10. Great post!!! I have not had many injuries along the way thank goodness but the few I have had kept me out maybe 2-3 weeks. What I did, change my food plan for my less active weeks & found things the doctor would let me do that would not impact the injury. Yes, I might have been bitc*ing all the way BUT I still kept going.

    Thx for the great post!

  11. I think resiliancy skipped a generation in my family as well. I'm so not the resiliant person my mom was. I fall apart fairly quickly. Thanks for the tips!

  12. I have something for you all on my blog!!!

  13. Hang on, does the US have a two dollar bill? We used to have one, but now we have Twonies.


  14. Thanks Gigi :D

    I'm just back to fitness (day 2 at the gym) after a lapse of several months. Between a breakup, the swine flu, and my dad in town to get a hip replacement-fitness took a major side road! Sometimes you just steel your shoulders and plow through, and before you know it you can see the light at the end of the tunnel again.

  15. Great post and fun blog! After a supposedly habit-forming 21 days with virtually no (ok minimal) sugar to speak of, I fell off the wagon over the Thanksgiving holiday with an insulin spiked thud. Here's to the redetoxification process!

  16. Fantastic post. We've all been in the position of moving forward only to have something stop us dead in our tracks.That ability to pick yourself up really requires the support of others. So often I think that those who have trouble getting back on the path are the people without support. That is the beauty of blogging.Support is just a click away.

  17. The biggest adversity I had to overcome in reaching my fitness goals was learning that I don't have to use food to deal with my emotions. It has been a whole relearning process. Reaching out for support and assistance have been the two biggest things that helped me overcome my emotional eating.


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