To ask the right question

Posted: September 21, 2011 in Exercise, Fitness, Health, Obesity, Weight Loss
Tags: , ,

As an educator, when I’d ask about the problem a student was having in one of  my community college classes, I’d be frustrated by their inability to articulate where they got lost along the way. “I don’t understand,” they’d say, and then be offended when I asked a fundamental question, trying to figure out wherein confusion lay.

So when I read Adam Bornstein’s recent post at LiveStrong, I was sympathetic to what he said in “The Most Common Fitness Mistake“:

So it should come as no surprise that asking the right questions is the spark you need to create the type of life transformation that seems improbable. But with fitness, nutrition, and health, most people always ask the wrong question to the wrong person. The catch?

Before looking outward, you need to ask one question of yourself. Is there more that you can do for your health?

You see, when it comes to how you eat and exercise, the questions you ask typically focus on if you’re making an effort— not how much effort you contribute.

Then I saw the comments. People complaining, most succinctly expressed by one who said it was “a whole lot of nothing.” Ironically (oh, let’s not get into an argument whether this is the proper usage), they were making Bornstein’s point for him. Implicity, it was “tell me what I want to know” without doing the harder work of figuring out what I need to do, or what questions I should ask. Where am I getting lost? What else can I do?

In a sense, no one teaches another; we all teach ourselves. Others can share their knowledge with us, but if we don’t have anything to hook that knowledge onto, something we already know, then it’s useless to us. My son and daughter-in-law are physics majors, and they’ll sometimes try to explain some cool new concept to me. I’m interested, but it’s hard for them to get it across to me in all but the sketchiest of terms. And then my daughter-in-law will say, wisely, that it’s hard to explain a concept it’s taken three years of classwork to be able to understand herself.

My husband has talked to me about CrossFit for years, but it never really made sense to me until I got out there and tried it. I still was easily overwhelmed with information. I can now take a little more information about where I’m going, but I often have to get him to “dumb it down” for my level of fitness, coordination, agility, et al.

Is there more I can do for my health? I’m going to get an MRI tomorrow; looks like I’ve got a torn meniscus. It’s gotten worse, sadly, and just walking around the house is starting to give me fits. I don’t know when it’s going to give out. I wasn’t working out now unless there was someone with me, and now they are all telling me I need to lay off.

But I figured out what the question was for me: Did I want to keep hoping it would work itself out or grit my teeth and go to the orthopedic surgeon? And when I asked that question, my husband had an answer. He had me talk to his friend who’d had both ACLs reconstructed and a meniscus tear repaired.  He said the ACL hurt like hell, but that it was pretty easy to recover from the meniscus surgery. Now, this guy is a lot tougher than I am, so I doubt I’ll bounce back quite so fast, but I had the answer. I just had to figure out what the question was.

If I have a tear, I’m ready to get in the chair/gurney/whatever the heck they want to prop me on to do the arthroscopy. Just give me drugs and let’s get this over with so I can get back to regular workouts.

And, if I don’t have the tear, I’ll have my next question: How do I get the damn thing stable enough to start exercising again (the orthopedic guy told me to stay off it for now)?

The question has to be asked, again and again, because you’ll be at a different place each time you ask yourself the question. Right now I’m injured. I started eating badly for a while, reflexively feeling sorry for myself, but I’m pretty much over that. How was eating badly going to help me, past a fleeting pleasure of the taste? I was enjoying feeling more healthy. I want to go to there. [nods to Tina Fey]

I’ve made my decision at some point during all my angsting and whining on this blog. I’m not giving up. I’m not giving in. I’m here until the journey ends. And even if I can’t get to where I would have been had I started down this path when I was young and trim, I can still get down the path some. Farther than if I’d never decided to take it.

It may sound trite, but it’s about the process, the journey, whatever cliched version you want.  It’s about asking yourself the hard questions. It’s trite and cliched for a reason: It is the truth.

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