A couple of times a week, I teach a spin class. You know the drill—a bunch of bikes that take you nowhere and make you sore where you never wanted to be.
I like to set aside two songs in every workout just for arms. At the beginning of class, I have the participants grab a set of weights, and I always tell them to choose dumbbells that are lighter than the ones they would normally lift.
“No more than 3 to 5 pounds!” I tell them emphatically.
Do you want to know what happens every class? There is at least one person strapped in and ready to go with 15 pound dumbbells in hand! Every class, without fail, that person drops their weights before the first song is finished, but it’s not because they don’t have enough muscle. It’s because it’s a new movement.
A quick lesson on the muscular system: You have two different types of muscle groups, agonist and antagonist. The simplest way to understand the difference is that the antagonist muscles are the agonist’s cheerleaders. They are smaller and usually at rest, while the big guys (agonist) are doing all the work.
Certain movements will trigger one group over the other. Think of movements like flutters and pulses versus curls and squats. All this means is that even though someone could easily curl 15 pounds (engaging those big, agonist muscles), it does not mean they could pulse 15 pounds (engaging our little friends, the antagonists)!
Curls and pulses are two very different movements in which the same weight cannot be used. Similarly, life will give you a new movement to perform, and you won’t be able to lift what you previously could. It’s not that your strength is gone, but it’s just being utilized in a new way.
Life will give you a new movement to perform, and you won’t be able to lift what you previously could.
Grief is a new movement. Parenting is a new movement. Job change is a new movement. Trauma is certainly a new movement.
The solution is not to grin, bear it and power through—insisting that you should be able to lift what you typically do. The solution is to grab a new set of weights, one that is suited for the new movement.
Maybe for you this means volunteering less or adding in a daily nap. Maybe it means treating yourself to a nice meal or ordering takeout more often than you normally would. Maybe it means skipping the workout to watch Netflix.
Yes, you can absolutely do it all. You can hit the gym, complete your gratitude journal, wing that liner like Picasso and eat a balanced breakfast all before your 8 a.m. conference call.
You can run the business and counsel your best friend on your way to the bus pickup line. While you can, sometimes it’s kindest not to. Don’t be afraid to ease up on that to-do list when life is shifting beneath your feet. You’re not getting weaker. You’re just learning to play smarter.
Don’t be afraid to ease up on that to-do list when life is shifting beneath your feet.
When you trust that little voice that says, “That’s enough,” or “I can’t take any more,” you start to embrace a life that is not only sustainable but enjoyable. It won’t stunt your growth or block your progress. It will guard you from burn out and help you learn to create both boundaries and balance.