Jelly Bean’s first attempt at tree climbing. What she lacks in technique, she makes up for in screaming!
“I DO IT!” has been Jelly Bean’s mantra of late. In classic two-year-old form she insists on doing everything herself, with varying degrees of success. Watching her attempt buttons, buckles and seatbelts is a lesson in tenacity. (Sometimes too much tenacity. Waiting for her to buckle her seatbelt before we can drive adds an extra ten minutes to our already complicated house-leaving routine. NASA space launches have nothing on the calculus it takes to get the Andersen family out the door with everyone wearing shoes and clean underwear.) Seeing her tiny legs trying to propel her tricycle is hilarious, mostly because for all her attempts to go forward at the moment she can only go backwards. And sometimes watching her I DO IT! moments is frustrating and heartbreaking because all I can do is stand to the side and watch while she can’t do it. For example, watching her try to run after her brothers to school every morning. In her mind she’s convinced she’s being left out of some great adventure. In her mind she’s just as capable as they are. In her mind she could do it if I’d just let her.
In her mind she can do anything, if I’d just stop holding her back.
The funny thing is that holding her back is one of the hardest things I do for her. It takes everything in me not to jump in and save her, to fix it, to do it for her. Watching my children attempt and fail at things is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as a parent – of course because it’s hard to watch these little beloveds hurt but also because it so accurately mirrors my own struggles. The only difference is that she’s not afraid to try and fail over and over again. But I am.
Failure has been on my mind a lot lately. That’s what happens when I take a lot of tests. (I told you I’m not a natural optimist!) Yesterday I took the “cardio point assessment” from Lifetime Fitness as part of my Experiment Experiment this month. It’s the Darth Vader test where you run on a treadmill with a mask over your mouth and nose to find out where you burn fat most efficiently, your aerobic threshold and your estimated VO2 max. The night before I was up several times with anxious thoughts. “What if I’ve regressed?” “What if I’m not as good as they think I am?” and my personal fave “What if I fail??” Um, it’s a metabolic test. The only possible way to fail it would be to be dead.
And yet perversely I love taking tests. I seek them out. After I finished the Cardio Point test, I eagerly awaited my results while the man who administered the test,Thom Rieck* a metabolic specialist and holder of three world records, looked at the charts. I couldn’t read his face. “Did I do well?” I asked, trying to keep the pleading out of my voice. Thom looked slightly amused. “There’s not really any ‘good’ or ‘bad’, we’re just finding out where you are at so we know how to help you train to be a rockstar.” Rockstar: yes, please. “Well how do I compare to other people?” He shrugged, “What matters most is how you compare to yourself over time. From here we figure out your training goals and then design a plan to best help you achieve them.” At which point I realized that my subconscious goal is to please everybody so that everyone will like me all of the time. Pretty sure they haven’t invented the cardio machine that does that yet. (And yes, I made a note to talk to my therapist about that one.)
So when I got home I did what any neurotic would do and looked up my AT and VO2 max on the Internet. What I found was a frustratingly variable range of normal that depends on everything from lung capacity to genetics to past experience and even whether or not you’ve taken cold medicine that day. How well trained you are is only one piece of it. I’d taken what is supposed to be just information and read a value judgement into it. When will I learn that I am not my numbers?
After seeing my results, Steve Toms*, my personal trainer who has trained everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (he currently trains the Vikings cheerleaders), laughed and said, “You’re going to hate this.” Why? Because my prescription is to slow down. Thom told me to stop running my Tabata intervals so much. Apparently I’ve neglected my base and so my body is not terribly efficient in the range where I spend most of my time. I may be good at sprinting but how often am I running at 12 miles per hour? Four minutes a day. Yeah. In addition, Steve told me I have a serious muscular imbalance – I blame childbirth and 10 years of always having a baby on my left hip – and so I have to relearn proper form before I’m allowed to add any weight. The funny thing about both training prescriptions is that if I can hold myself back and work on becoming more flexible at slower levels, it will end up helping me be better at the fast/heavy stuff too.
Story of my life.
After struggling with the tree climbing for a while, Jelly Bean eventually turned to me with her arms open (and eyes full of tears) and said “Help you?” (Cutest thing ever about toddler-ese: they parrot back what you say to them so when I say “Do you want me to help you?” she answers “Help you!” Also entertaining: “Carry you!” and “You sorry!”). She’s not afraid of failure. She’s also not afraid to ask for help. Because that’s how she learns.
People like to say “failure is not an option” but the reality of the human experience is that not only is it always an option, it’s an inevitability. We learn nothing from perfection.
Have you ever had to slow down to get faster (at anything)? Anyone else have a hard time not defining themselves by their numbers, whatever they are?
*How insanely amazing is it that I got hooked up with these people?? Don’t worry, I’m picking their brains dry and will share with you guys everything they tell me from training secrets to whether Kelly Clarkson is as sweet in real life as she seems on TV!