Rant 68 September 2013: 80 Thoughts on 40

“When I turned 40, I realized I no longer had to give a shit. About ANYTHING.”
Sandra Shamas

Well, it’s September 2013. I’ve clung with my fingernails to this sticky ball we call Earth for 40 vertigo-inducing trips around the sun.

Now, I shall pass my wisdom on to you.

  1. Like what you like. Fuck the haters.
  2. Don’t like what you don’t like. Fuck the shoulds.
  3. But stay open to liking what you thought you didn’t like. Hey, maybe you need to cook it better. Or put a hat on it. Or try it 5 times. Or experience it with someone who can talk you through it. Or maybe — it’s what you really need. Cough cough posterior chain work shoulder mobility.
  4. Say no when you mean no.
  5. Say yes when you mean yes.
  6. In general, cut the bullshit. Think of bullshit as the smog of social interaction: omnipresent, neither wanted nor needed, and ultimately polluting.
  7. Learn to Say Difficult Things. Better to feel guilty yet relieved than resentful and blocked.
  8. 1003918_370809583022348_1876955750_n95% of your stress is about other people. Shoulds, expectations, “rules”, worries about what So-and-so might think, trying to live up to imaginary standards… Write down all the stuff you are stressed about, and for each one, ask yourself: Does this represent a genuine threat to my life, actual safety, and/or health? Or is this a threat to my ego, my sense of perceived security and “rightness”, and/or social order? If the latter, congratulations! You’ve found something NOT to be stressed about! When I turned 40, I vowed to no longer give a shit about most things. Guess what — nothing happened, except I felt about a million times more awesome.
  9. Think less, feel more. Put down the spreadsheet and rulebook, and sense in.
  10. Be IN your body rather than a floating head. What are your feet doing right now? What about deep in your belly? What is stuck in your throat? How are you breathing? What’s going on with your entire physical situation? Don’t let your mind answer this one. Wait for your body to tell you.
  11. Attention, empathy, focus, good listening skills, and truly being present with people and situations are very scarce commodities. Develop these and you will always be in demand. And put your goddamned iPhone down. I’m talking here.
  12. Being addicted to “a solution” is just as fucked up as being addicted to a substance. This is characterized by rigid all-or-nothing thinking (“If I eat one cookie, I’ve failed”); shame and guilt (“I hope nobody finds out I’m a bad ___ and a fraud”); cult-like devotion and fanaticism; self-righteousness and intolerance (“Diet X is good, and if you don’t believe that, you’re an idiot”); along with reductionism and over-simplification (“Everyone should do Workout Y”; “Food Z is the answer”). If you find yourself obsessively seeking, information-gathering, surfing blogs and websites, arguing your point of view on the interwebs, analyzing or ruminating over your “issues”, and generally in continual “self-helping mode”… your problem-solving behaviour is part of the problem.
  13. Don’t decide what to do with the rest of your day based on how you feel when you first get up in the morning. As the years progress, you’ll need a little more “engine idling” before you’re ready to rev. No biggie, that’s what a morning mobility sequence — or as I think of it, the patented MorningShamble ‘N’ FlailTM is for.
  14. Get moving every morning. Out of the entire day, most of us have the most control over our mornings. Years ago, I committed to morning movement and I rarely miss a day. Sure, some mornings I feel like the bar is moving through peanut butter, or the best I can do is the Thorazine Shuffle to the coffee shop, but I still try to move. Even 10 minutes — if you do it every morning — will pay off.
  15. “Training” and “working out” are good. “Movement” and “living actively” are better. If you focus too much on a single sport, or on a structured “plan”, then it’s easy to get overtrained and bitter, out of balance, and/or bent out of shape when stuff doesn’t go your way. Waah, I missed a scheduled PR on a bench press!! Waah, my foot hurts and now I can’t go on your scheduled run! Waah, doing the same exercise the same way for 6 months has given me tendonitis! Who gives a shit!? Fuck the plan and the percentages. You have a million other things you can do if your mantra is “live actively”. Plus then you don’t sit on your ass feeling smug for 23 hours of the day because, well, you “worked out” today. Magical things happen at a biochemical and spiritual level when you move your body. Mix it up, get out there into the big ol’ world, and just fucking move as much as possible.
  16. Any decision made out of fear is usually the wrong one. If it turns out to be the right decision, that was probably purely accidental. (Exceptions can be made, of course, for things like running away from a guy with an axe.)
  17. Don’t call yourself a warrior. Do not refer to anything you do in a gym — or not in an actual war — as war-related. In the gym, a “landmine” is just a piece of equipment. Real war involves real landmines. An MMA fight is not a “war”. You are not a “warrior” if you grit through a tough deadlift set. When you talk about your epic struggles with a medicine ball using military metaphors, you will just sound like an asshat, and any real military vet or war refugee should rightfully slap some sense into you. (However, “Beast Mode” is still amusing. Especially if you howl it after a tough yoga pose or Pilates set.)
  18. No matter how old you are, farts are funny. And boy does exercise know how to find ’em. As my gramma says, “A good walk really clears you out!” Bless her.

    Also, no matter how old you are, girl drinks at a cheesy themed venue are still the best way to get tipsy.

  19. Eat your colourful fruits and veggies. People tell me I don’t look 40. I say “Yeah, good nutrition works.”
  20. You’re probably going to live longer than you expect. Plan ahead.
  21. There’s a fine line between being a foodie and having disordered eating. There’s a fine line between “watching your diet” and having disordered eating. There’s a really fucking fine line between “I want to capture this magical food moment with Instagram” and turning into a complete nutcase about what you put in your mouth (or don’t).
  22. Toxic people are a health hazard. Eliminate them from your life. That includes nutrition and fitness gurus.
  23. There is no magic nutrient or food or diet, or combination thereof. Trust me, I’ve looked for it.
  24. There is no magic workout or exercise. Same deal. Squats come close, though. And as Dan John says, “If you can’t fix it with squats or fish oil, you’re probably going to die.”
  25. Good health is more important than just about anything else in the world. If you aren’t healthy and thriving (on all levels — physical, mental, and spiritual), then everything else in your life will be much harder to enjoy. (Which isn’t to say you can’t do it. It’s just a lot harder when you’re distracted by pain, dysfunction, and other limitations.) Good health is irreplaceable and should be your #1 priority.
  26. Sometimes you will be uncomfortable, and that’s OK. There is no fat loss program where you will never be hungry. There is no workout program that will never make you sore. There is no personal growth that doesn’t stimulate a bit of ickiness and resistance. Learn to tolerate a little discomfort sometimes. (But also see my next point and “Be sane”, below.)
  27. No lift is so awesome that you should do it if it causes you pain. Learn the difference between “discomfort in the service of growth” and pain.
  28. Don’t try to “prove anything”. Don’t try to be a hero. Tap out early and live to fight another day. You only get one body. Don’t fuck it up too soon. Save the heroism for the burning buildings, when you really need it.
  29. Most of the time, be “pretty good”. A B-grade effort is a lot better in the long run than A++ for a few months, followed by an injury, total hormonal collapse, or a nervous breakdown.
  30. “Consistent” is way better than “impressive” or “awesome”. Even though “consistent” is much less sexy.
  31. “Perfect” is just pointless. Let it go.
  32. Approval-seeking is a prison of your own creation. If someone doesn’t approve of you, you’ll never be good enough for them, ever. If someone does approve of you, it’ll never feel satisfying anyway. You will never win if you play the “please validate me” game.
  33. Talking about your workouts, your body fat, your weight, and/or your food intake is very, very boring. Put the fucking iPhone away and have an actual unmediated experience with a meal. Nobody gives a shit if you’ve gained 3 lbs, what your Fran time is, whether you knocked a few minutes off your 5K, or whether you’re currently off grains. Mention it only if it’s crucial — like, if you have a peanut you’ll die, or explaining to your physiotherapist how you busted up your knee — and shut the fuck up about it otherwise. I apologize to all my friends for 2007-2010, during which I was deep in crazy exercise-compulsive/food-obsessive town and considered my diet/body fat/general neuroses an acceptable conversation topic for about 3 years straight. (See “good listening skills”, above.)
  34. If you have to write an article about how you are “totally over” your body issues, you are not over them. Especially if you get into details about the size, specifics, location, and comparative analysis. Process that shit with your therapist. It’ll be way more productive that putting a monologue out to the interwebs and then thinking that talking makes a difference. It doesn’t. “Getting over” your body issues presumes that there is something inherently shameful and misshapen about your body. There isn’t.
  35. The only way to “get over” your body issues is to live as if you are already over them… which means not ruminating over them, or posting apologetic approval-seeking selfies with the caption “I know it’s not perfect, but I’m OK with that.” Go have fierce and fantastic sex with the lights on. Go have an adventure. Go sit and listen to your wondrous immune or circulatory system humming and marvel at its orchestrated splendour. Go do anything other than navel gazing. Please. You are already perfectly fine and a testament to Nature’s brilliance.
  36. Also, the world does not need more articles by bourgeois educated white women whining about they’ve “come to terms with” their thighs. Jesus Christ people, there are bigger fucking problems in the world. Pull your head out of your privileged arse, toss your skinny jeans, and go help someone who actually has problems. Part of your social privilege blinders is thinking that everyone needs your public display of self-loathing narcissism. (And yeah, I can take this just as much as I dish it out. As Part of The Problem and the One Percent, I vow to never produce such an article. Every time I even think of writing that article, I will go and volunteer at a soup kitchen.)
  37. Show some fucking gratitude and compassion to yourself. Your body takes a lot of shit from you. Give back. Appreciate it.
  38. Be a grown-ass woman. Load your own bar. Have an adult relationship with food. Embrace life’s inconvenient truths instead of avoiding them. Stop waiting for the white knight, and kill your own dragons.
  39. Progress slowly. There is no substitute for time. No matter what “6-Week Beach Body Blast” or “12-Week Transformations” say, there are no shortcuts. Body change takes time. Skill development takes time. Recovery takes time. Learning takes time. Enjoy that time. There is no rush.
  40. Aim for “sustainable” rather than “fast”. Want to lose weight fast? Great, stop eating. Come back in a month. Want to lose weight… and keep it off… forever? Without going crazy? Totally different story. When considering a way of eating or training, always ask yourself: Could I do this for the rest of my life?
  41. Think you’re hot shit? Come back in a year and we’ll see how things are going. I’m not impressed by “overnight successes”. First of all, there’s no such thing. There’s only the tip of the iceberg and the frozen tons of backbreaking labour underneath it. Second, grandiose claims are what we call in the education biz “high verbal, low performance”. This means you talk a big line, and probably even believe it, but long-term results are lacking. Got an amazing new workout program? Great, come back in a year and show me that you are fitter, healthier, and uninjured because of it. Got an amazing new eating regime? Great, come back in a year and show me how you’ve maintained a healthy weight loss despite life’s ups and downs. Believe that fasting alternated with eating only the entrails of mountain goats is the secret to longevity? Cool, you know when to come back and see me for a follow-up.
  42. If you argue with reality, you will always lose.
  43. Get outside more. Sunshine and fresh air cure a lot of things.
  44. Orgasms release anti-anxiety and anti-depressant neurotransmitters. Just saying. Cheaper than Prozac. And if you’re a girlperson, you can have lots of ’em. Viva la evolutionary mystery! (See “Show some fucking gratitude.”)
  45. Don’t listen to young men, unless you’re absolutely sure they have a clue. If you’re female and of a certain age, 21-year-old male trainers who learn about women’s bodies from books and rat studies don’t know shit and can’t help you. (However, the few younger guys who take the time to learn and observe actual women’s health and experiences do great work — see, for example, Alwyn Cosgrove.)
  46. However, crusty older men are often your best gym buddies. Once dudes start to see the Grim Reaper in their rearview mirror, they get a little more pragmatic (but often no less foulmouthed, which is generally entertaining and usually contains deep life wisdom somewhere in the undergrowth of “fuck”s).
  47. In general, physique competition is a lousy goal. If you don’t already have the skeletal structure, metabolism, muscle development, and plastic surgery/drug fund for it, don’t bother. You’ll just make yourself insane. The notion that an average person can transform themselves into a top-level physique competitor simply through hard work is like saying you can play in the WNBA if you believe you can fly.
  48. Try to run fast, jump high, hit hard, move heavy shit, and become a supple leopard. This is a much better set of objectives and it’ll be way more useful to you in life and sport.
  49. Flat bench barbell bench pressing is usually a bad idea for most people. Try an alternating dumbbell press instead. Your serratus will thank you.
  50. Intermittent fasting is usually a bad idea for most people. However, it’s good to learn what true physical hunger feels like — and to learn that it’s not an emergency. So if you’re afraid of being hungry, fasting for a day might be just what the doctor ordered for your psyche.
  51. Heavy leg extensions are usually a bad idea for most people. Laws of biomechanics, I don’t make ’em up.
  52. Do not let an injury linger longer than a few days. If you have pain, and it lasts longer than 48-72 hours with no real sign of improvement, deal with it immediately. I’ve seen dozens of clients who had to have surgery, or who were off their favourite activities for months, because they ignored pain. Like, really ignored it. You can’t get to the phase of a biceps tendon tear without ignoring several weeks of serious shoulder pain. Stop screwing around and get yourself to a physio.
  53. You will recover. It’ll just take longer than you expect.
  54. Motion is the lotion. Just keep moving.
  55. Be creative. There’s a big world of delicious, nourishing food and exciting, interesting movement out there. Go find and enjoy every last morsel of it.
  56. Ask, don’t tell. Your body is full of potential, if you are kind to it, and respect its boundaries.
  57. You are already whole. You already have what you need. You are already amazing. If your pile of randomly assembled DNA pairs has gotten you this far, that’s a miracle. Celebrate it. Somehow a bunch of proteins made YOU, and gave you the ability to tap dance, juggle, or heck, just coordinate breathing. Like, wow.
  58. You’ll start to need more warmup time as you age. Eh, just go with it.
  59. Respect your body’s dignity and intrinsic worth. You probably think violations of people’s inherent humanity, emotional abuse, and/or nonconsensual intrusions are bad things. Well, every time you shit on yourself or force your body to do something it can’t or doesn’t want to do, you edge into that zone — even just a tiny bit — of being an abuser and violator yourself. Write down the self-critical voice in your head. You’ll be shocked at what a mean, vicious asshole that voice is. Log all the times you’ve forced your body to push through serious pain, put damaging crap into it, or told it to shut up and do its job. Yeah, not so far off from a real human abuser, eh? Think about it. Would you speak to or treat your own daughter the way you’ve spoken to or treated yourself? Stop reading for a moment and promise never to do that again.
  60. Periodize with your menstrual cycle, if you have one. Keep track of how you feel throughout your cycle. You will likely notice trends. Put your heavy workouts when you’re feeling strong, and take it easy on yourself when you feel shitty.
  61. If you don’t have your period, and you should, your shit is fucked up hormonally and you should deal with it. I lost my period for 4 years. It was a sign of something seriously wrong but I ignored it. Don’t be a dumbass like me.
  62. Your body probably doesn’t like all that abuse and you trying to be 11% body fat or some bullshit. Women’s bodies protect and defend bodyfat. That’s 2 million years of evolution. If you’re not naturally 11% bodyfat, don’t waste all your energy and kill your hormones trying to get there. Stop trying to swim upstream so hard. And stop trying to be Superwoman / Supermommy / Superperson. Your hypothalamus will thank you.
  63. Your body is a mean motherfucker when you piss it off. Abuse your body and it will take its revenge. (And rightly so. See “Be your own best friend.”)
  64. Your body is smarter than you. Again, it’s had 2 million years of evolution to get its shit sorted out. Your body knows every trick in the book. I’ve only had 40 years of learning the ropes, and the first 13 of those were spent living in a totally different body anyway.
  65. On the other hand, your body is an amazing guide and caregiver when you trust its wisdom and give it love. Love your body and you’ll get that love back many times over.
  66. One of the best times to meditate is immediately after a workout. Sit down, set a timer for 5-10 minutes, shut your eyes, and focus on breathing out sloooooowly. If you suffer from monkey mind, immediately postworkout will often find you with a calmer brain, so you get a head start on chilling out. Perfect.
  67. Activate your parasympathetic “rest and digest” system as often as possible. Most of us are totally jacked up on stress hormones and spend our days in sympathetic fight-or-flight mode. You need to balance that with “calm down” time and activities — laughing, relaxing, deep breathing, chilling the fuck out.
  68. Recovery doesn’t happen accidentally. You have to go out and get it. Chase that motherfucker, follow it down a dark alley, turn it upside down, and shake the spare change out of its pockets. Recover like your life depends on it, because it does.
  69. Salt and dark chocolate are meant to go together. Your adrenals and neurotransmitters will thank you and do a happy dance. Warm up with some pastured meat and potatoes, and you’ve pretty much covered your feel-good bases.
  70. Fads come and go. I should know; I’ve tried just about every dumb fitness and nutrition thing starting in the late 1980s. No matter how great something seems — it probably ain’t. At best, it’s probably just a decent idea. Don’t get all crazy about it.
  71. Everything works for 6 weeks. This is a Dan John-ism but it definitely applies. Whether it’s your awesome new diet or revolutionary!!!! new workout plan, it’ll work. For a while. And then it won’t.
  72. No matter how good something is, it’ll eventually jump the shark. Low-fat cookies? Reebok Crossfit’s “Cheat on your girlfriend, not your workout” ads? Paleo Pop Tarts? C’mon now people.
  73. It’s a total cliché, but true: Happiness is inside you. No external thing will create it for you. Although having a roof over your head, enough money to eat decently, a relatively healthy and functional body, and good people around you makes a shitload of difference. But if you’re hoping those skinny jeans or personal best will make you happy, you’re gonna be seriously disappointed.
  74. Be sane. Once a day, step back and ask yourself, “By any objective standard, is what I am doing sane? Am I truly taking good care of myself here?” If you feel a twinge of anxiety in your soul when you ask this question, you are not being sane.
  75. Be caring and compassionate to yourself. It’s the only way. Trust me, I’ve tried ’em all.
  76. Be your own best friend. Love and protect yourself and your body with the ferocity of a momma bear for her cubs.
  77. Change and growth never comes from criticism, blame, or shame. So toss that shit out.
  78. Get over yourself. Nobody cares about your dreams. Except maybe 1 to 3 people. Love those people hard and try to see yourself through their eyes, instead of the tunnel vision of a harsh, impervious mass culture that has nothing to do with reality. As my esteemed colleague Craig Weller once told me, “The minute I start worrying about whether my eggs are cooked just right, I’ll put myself back on a plane to Somalia.”
  79. Remember to play. And it’s almost all play. When I competed in my first kettlebell comp, I was grinning like a fool. Yay! Everyone else looked like they were sucking on a battery-acid soaked lozenge. Guys. We’re throwing iron spheres in the air. That’s goofy shit, right? Am I the only one not acting like we’re at a final exam combined with a funeral?
  80. Have fun. For godsake. Lighten the fuck up. As I protested while getting booted out of a BJJ school for “choosing the wrong allegiance” (WTF?!), “It’s adult recreational sport!!


And now… onward, giant weird goat randomly placed at the top of a mountain!