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Life Lessons From my Sensei

January 14, 2021

Remember a couple months back when I spent a few days crafting a life plan. Of course you do, I wouldn’t shut up about it.

That tomfoolery resulted in me setting the goal of getting in the “best” shape of my life. Specifically, I would like some muscles.

Writing that statement down was dangerous. It stares me in the face every morning while I sip coffee and read through my ambition list.

The personal trainer I’ve enlisted to help me turn this aspirational declaration into a reality. My husband had seen him at the gym. Said he seemed hardcore. Huge muscles. Knuckle tattoos. Callouses. This is not a man who dabbles. He’s serious about the iron and has been refining his craft for decades.

“Train me like a real athlete,” I said. “I’m your Karate Kid, you’re my Mr. Miyagi!” I almost said.

Fast forward 4 weeks, working with the Sensei has taught me more than correct form and rope pulls.

Here’s what I’ve been learning through this process:

Mimic the Master
Be willing to learn from an expert in the area where we want to see growth. Not the person posing as an expert on the internet or someone with strong opinions. But from a teacher who’s got a track record of success achieving the very thing in which we want to excel. Watch what they do, how they do it, take notes. Ask questions. Be humble. The Sensei knows more than I do. Which is why I follow around with a notepad.

Do my Homework (+ give it my all)
Be about it, don’t talk about it. Once the Sensei’s developed my homework, it’s my job to come prepared for each session … early, alert, warmed up, and ready to lift heavy things. Ugh, I need to eat the amount of protein I’m told to eat. I learned this week that I can’t make up 70 grams of protein in one sitting by choking down a protein shake sludge. Oops. This is where I apply the knowledge, not just grow more knowledgeable.  

Keep Perspective
On days when I wake up sore but otherwise don’t see any progress, it’s wise to remember that results take time. As James Clear suggests in Atomic Habits, when we’re tempted to be discouraged with where we’re at, “look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.” Trajectory is all that matters.

Discover new Limits
When I want to reach for the pink, Jane Fonda dumbbells, the Sensei hands me monster-sized ones, waaay heavier than I think I can lift. He always starts me at a higher load to test how much I can do—even if for only three reps. Each time, I’m surprised at how many I can do before my twitchy, wobbly arms scream surrender. And when I silently question why I’m training my forearms, (hello, who cares whether they’re bikini-ready), he informs me that these first six weeks are just a warm up. That I’ll need these particular muscles for our next block of work.

Yes, Sensei!

+ Happy Thursday,

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