As I was studying for my personal training exam, I also was working with a friend, Alex, on a church-based exercise program that he designed (“wHoly FiTt” – you can see, he’s got a sense of humor). He had recently lost a hundred and sixty pounds with the help of a personal trainer. One of the defining moments for him in the process was when his trainer encouraged him to create a new “I am…” statement – to redefine himself. At over 300 pounds, Alex made the seemingly unlikely claim “I am a gym rat.” That statement allowed him to see the gym as a place where he belonged. From there, he was able to continue redefining himself until he was competing in Ironman Triathalons. Pretty amazing!
The more Alex and I talked about his experience, the more he became convinced that his trainer, Louise, and I had a lot in common. He introduced me to her; we hit it off, and as luck would have it, as soon as I was certified she asked me to start working in her studio subbing for another trainer on maternity leave. Louise introduced me to a lot of fabulous resources and workshops, and in the same spirit of redefinition that had helped Alex recreate himself, I started to head down a strength training rabbit hole. I spent hours reading articles on T-nation – that’s short for Testosterone nation. Yeah, me! A middle-aged mother of four following strength training gurus like Tony Gentlecore, Mark Rippetoe, Artemis Scantaledes, Dan John, and Brett Contraras. Watching youtubes of Olympic lifters and studying form.
Along the way Louise and I have had a lot of interesting conversations about the art of coaching, about habit, and about change. She has told me that words are like drugs; they are powerful. She pays attention to how I word what I say, because she believes that words matter. As a result, I am more aware of the way that words help shape our reality by first carving out a verbal space in our imaginations; once envisioned, we can then act to make those words real. Creating an “I am” statement, no matter how unlikely or tentative that statement may be, helps us to connect the next steps together into a path forward.
I’m frequently impatient (and so is Alex), so when I first heard his retelling of the “I am” phrase, I understood it to be a statement of what we planned to become, rather than a statement allowing us to perceive our present selves as something different or unexpected. For me, the “I am” statement felt like a bold declaration, something I’m often reluctant to do. So initially, I began by silently giving myself permission to pursue an interest in something seemingly uncharacteristic. From there, I began using the wording “I am training to be….” Somehow, for me, that phrasing created an extra step that slowed me down, took the pressure off of actually reaching the goal, and allowed me to focus more on the process.
Whatever the wording, the intent is similar. Rewriting our current life script, even in the quietest places of our imagination, allows us to envision ourselves differently – to see a different image, to experience a different vision of our reality. Once imagined, we can begin to see our next steps forward, to prepare a path for change, and to begin a process of recreation. “I am …” or “I am training to be …” What would happen if you finished the sentence?