Change on the Blue Highways

bluemapWhen I was 18 years old I read the book Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon – a book that would greatly influence the next 10 years of my life. Blue Highways is an autobiographical book named for the cross-country journey by its author, limited to the small highways indicated by Rand McNally’s drawings of these tiny roadways in blue on the author’s atlas. Heat-Moon’s tale of his circumnavigation of the United States is wrought with rich stories of characters he encounters along his journey and a sense of delight in the journey, paying no mind to destination.

For me this spurred several years of trekking around the country and, ultimately, the world. There was never any destination or capitulation, just a simple: where to next?

So what the hell does this have to do with thrusters and wall balls? I was listening to a very successful personal trainer discuss her touch-points with clients the other day. She said that the most common frustration that her athletes have when they first start or after several months of training is that they’ve yet to see immediate results. The interviewer asked her to discuss how she approaches the question. Here’s a brief summary:

Client: “How long till I __________ (get a 6-pack/lose 20 pounds/squat 500/etc.)?”

Trainer: “How long did it take for your health to decline to the point where you decided it was time for drastic life change?”

Client: “I don’t know. 10 years.”

Trainer: “Good news. It won’t take that long.”

You see the body is an amazing machine. 20-year tobacco smokers begin to see improvements in cardio-respiratory function after just one month of cessation. We’ve had members (and coaches!) go from 10 years of sedentary life to a complete 180 in just a year! The body’s ability to adapt and respond to a healthy lifestyle is astounding.

While the body is uniquely suited to undo all the crap we throw at it, the brain remains in the driver’s seat. Your brain tells you that 10 years of abuse can be undone in 2 months. You brain beats you up when you slip and convinces you to white-knuckle your next yo-yo of diet and exercise.

How to you stay on your journey? Embrace it. Obsess over the process, not the destination. You see, lasting change is found on the Blue Highways; meandering, slow at times, and full of construction. The road may wind opposite your destination at times but you’re always steered in the right direction, trusting your atlas. There’s no silver bullet of fitness. No special diet, no magic ratio of cardio and weight training. It’s a day-by-day journey on meandering highways. And, unlike the author, you’ve got a class full of fellow travelers and a coach in the backseat.

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