Inspired by My Inner Champion

Courage is more exhilarating than fear, and in the end, it is easier.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

When I finally decided to join a gym a few years ago, the place felt like a foreign world. A foot injury had kept me relatively immobile for a several months, and I had gained weight. Since I’d always preferred to exercise outdoors, working out in a club was not familiar to me. I didn’t really know how to use any of the machines except the treadmill, the bikes, and the stair stepper. The one type of class I had taken previously was yoga, so I was grateful that the gentler form of yoga being offered would at least feel familiar.

The aspect of self that I call my inspired Champion was what stepped up and coached me to think about what I might be able to do in a gym rather than focus on all the classes and machines that I couldn’t use right away. Yoga, the bikes, and the weight circuit could all serve me, as long as I let the staff know my limitations. My inspired Champion also helped me to believe that my current weight would not be a permanent situation and that someday, with effort, I could graduate from my oversized T-shirt and yoga pants.

The job of the inner Champion is to encourage my evolution of being, to support me in becoming, and to tell me I can, even when I think I can’t. In an inspired state, my Champion aligns itself with the qualities I want to cultivate within myself. It always supports me in living in balance while integrating my body, mind, and spirit.

At the gym, it was important that I be able to visualize beyond my present situation. One of the intake requirements was a baseline evaluation with a trainer. Of course I got the trainer who looked like a crisply dressed, highly attractive Olympic athlete. Fortunately, I’ve learned that it really helps to laugh at myself when I make attempts at anything new. The image of me on the floor in my baggy clothes and unable to do one sit-up—while he observed me—will always be seared in my brain, but I managed to set a vision in my mind of soon doing sit-ups with ease.

When I asked someone for guidance in using the machines or inquired about procedures or schedules, it was clear I was a beginner. In moments like those, my inspired Champion pointed out that the people nearby were busy exercising; they were not all looking at me or thinking me foolish. It also gave me a pep talk whenever I considered trying something new. Before very long, what had once seemed foreign became familiar. I knew that, in the future, my inspired Champion would remind me how quickly such shifts can occur in many life circumstances. This would become an example for me to remember in my I Can file.

I’ve come to understand that any time I begin something new or different, the wonky side of my Champion will show up and use my past behavior to explain why I shouldn’t do it. I remember why I might not want others to see me as being vulnerable or inept. Or the wonky Champion might use memories of being the “new kid in class” or the “odd person out” as mental blocks to experimenting. It wants me to stay in my comfort zone and has no problem cheerleading me to be a couch potato. It supports me in finding excuses, giving up, or quitting.

When I make declarative statements about the present and future as if they were cast in stone, I again know my wonky Champion is talking. To say “I’m not good at follow-through” implies that I see myself as incapable of change. Then, if I don’t follow through, the wonky Champion is quick to give me an excuse or help me place the blame on a situation or a person other than myself to justify my behavior. At times when the weather is unfavorable, it keeps me focused on the poor conditions instead of suggesting that I might need to start a few minutes early in order to get to an appointment on time. My wonky Champion advises me to be fearful of new circumstances and emphasizes my lack of confidence.

In contrast, my inspired Champion reminds me that uncertainty is not the same as fear. Over time, I can strengthen my Champion by noticing and remembering when I have done something despite the odds. If physical activity is involved, I always call on Ginger from the Chicken Run movie, who symbolizes determination, tenacity, and follow-through. Her resilience encourages me to envision beyond the current situation the way I did on that first day with the trainer.

Consulting my file of I Can experiences helps me recall times in the past when I have succeeded despite obstacles or fear, the times I found a way to accomplish something I thought I couldn’t.  I celebrate each time I can include a new story in my collection. That I joined an athletic club and learned to enjoy it was one I was pleased to add to the catalog. Ginger has been with me all the way!

My Champion knows that my effort today represents only this moment in time, and it doesn’t believe in giving up.                                                                    Barbara A. Bernard

© Barbara A. Bernard