If you’re like me, the quest to be in shape and manage weight feels overwhelming. And, as if the quest to be fit isn’t hard enough, there’s often other obstacles to overcome: health issues, time management, mustering up courage or energy. Even if you’ve been exercising for a long time, there’s always new barriers to be broken. So, how to put all of this into perspective?
According to Tom Turner, executive liaison for the Spina Bifida Association that’s exactly it: Perspective. And also, according to him, there’s no mountain too high to climb. Tom would know. Paralyzed from the waist down since birth he’s now 35 and trains about three times a week. In fact, he tells me, he just couldn’t get along without exercise.
So in my quest for the last word on overcoming barriers in fitness, Tom sat down with me and together we came up with 3 basic principles that will help break-down fears and intimidations when striving to reach fitness goals. (After all, if he can exercise on a regular basis, shouldn’t that be encouragement enough for anyone to give it a shot?)
Principle #1 Move Into The Fear.
“Train you mind to believe no mountain is too high or any goal is too difficult to attain,” Tom tells me. Basically, it’s all about meeting your fears and facing them head-on. In this principle, aim to recognize your fears, acknowledge them and then move through them. Ask yourself what is it that makes you uncomfortable? Have you let yourself get out of shape and are afraid you’ll never get back? Do you have an injury that’s caused you to be afraid of your body? If you can visualize creatively, then you can put your fears in check. See your self as you’d like to be. Remember: your body loves you and has the potential to heal itself to perfection. Your only job is to trust it and listen.
Q: What is your body saying to you?
Principle #2 Trust Your Intuition.
It is important when overcoming obstacles and learning to break through barriers that you begin to listen to the still small voice of your body. In most cases, we all want the comfort of having someone telling us what we can and cannot do. However, our highest truth lies within us. This is not to say that the good opinion of others is not important, but ultimately the decision making comes from within.
When facing a challenge or an obstacle look to how you feel. What are your instincts telling you? Often it is simply your instinct that will move you into a new mindset and raise your consciousness. “I wasn’t about to let the wheelchair stand in my way,” Tom tells me. In fact, he says he had to merely change his perspective about it. He says he first had to learn about what his restrictions were then, create a boundary for himself. “We all have boundaries,” he tells me. "Regardless if a person can walk or not, obstacles are as unique as people themselves. Therefore, it’s first best to know your boundaries."
Next, Tom tells me he aims to meet those boundaries. “I first reach as high as I can within the confines of what I am able to do. Whether it be more sets, reps or greater endurance, I allow myself as much time as necessary to accomplish my small goals. It always surprises me, with small steps, how quickly I can reach a Big goal.”
Principle #3 Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.
What then, about fear? I wanted to know. If we move into the fear and meet it eye to eye what if fear meets us there? “So,” I asked Tom: “are you ever afraid? “After 19 operations in my life, I’ve really come to terms with fear,” he says. “It really comes down to our most primal fear; fear of death. Once you realize that death is all part of the divine plan, it’s liberating, you can let it go and, instead, choose how to live. So instead of being afraid of death I decided to choose how to live."
So what’s the take away message? Talking to Tom, I’m reminded of the poem by Dylan Thomas who said: “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” It seems appropriate here. The bottom line: Staying afraid often keeps us from truly living. Tom reminds me that a positive attitude is key, "Life is all about attitude." He also says he could let fear beat him down, yet he doesn’t. “I wouldn’t want to miss being part of tomorrow,” he concludes. That said, what fears are getting in your way? Make today the right time to face them.
In conclusion: Life Beyond The Boundaries.
When you’ve faced your fears and pushed your boundaries to the edges, what then? I wanted to know. Tom smiles. “Find a new mountain to climb,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s what makes life fun. I know I have considerations. I know that there will be days that I’ll need to stay in bed and rest while my braces are getting tuned up. It’s those times when I am with my thoughts that I decide what I am going to set my sights on.”
Author’s Note: In my personal quest to live beyond the boundaries I’ve chosen Tom as my role model (lucky for me, he's my brother). We so often look to the media for these sources and so often they are illusory. There are “real” people everywhere doing great things...look around you; angels are everywhere! Learn from them. Choose someone you look up to, admire or of whom you appreciate their values. Set goals, climb mountains! Set intention in motion and enjoy the healthy process.