I've never been so proud to break a New Year's Resolution.
I haven't updated "Spintastic" in two weeks (at the start of 2009, I vowed to update both this blog and my other blog about my medical training each once a week!). But it wasn't because I was lazy or distracted by that whole "being a medical student" thing. It was because I've been really "DOING" these past two weeks.
Doing what? A whole lot -- kicking off a small-group training program (another 2009 resolution), starting up a study on the psychology of HR training (yet another '09 resolution), doing some leg work for a big charity 6-hour Spinathon I'm helping with (and teaching at) in Burlington [time out: I'll write more about this eventually... and anyone who wants to come out for it from out of town, you can absolutely stay with me. We're going to have a big camp-out in my living room... if you're coming from NYC, there are several people looking for ride-shares and cost-splitting with rental cars and gas, etc!], getting hooked up with the coolest interdisciplinary medical clinic on the planet with whom to work on a non-fitness pet research idea, and... uh... that whole "being a medical student" thing. I won't bore you with the details (that's what the other blog is for -- the one that purports to be blind to concerns about an audience! There are plenty of boring details over there, if you're interested). But suffice it to say: it's been a pretty stellar two weeks.
That's not to say I haven't been motivated to write here. I've had lots of thoughts, lots of cool Spinning "moments," several flops of "would-be moments" (hey, you never know what doesn't work 'til you try it!), and a whole lot of general rewardedness.
But what has finally prompted me to sit down and reflect on THIS realm of my life is an epiphany I had tonight during my own training. One of the things I'm still reckoning with this blog, as there are suddenly more instructors who tell me they read it than my riders (who prefer bullet-point highlights of technical pointers on my listserv, I know...), is that I'm shooting right down the middle for my audience... and in so doing, I'm not really writing for either population very well. Until now: now I have a topic that will appeal riiiiiiiight down the middle... the importance of feeling inspired during your training, and accepting responsibility for inspiring yourself.
DO YOU FEEL INSPIRED IN YOUR OWN TRAINING?
When's the last time you broke out into a huge cheesy grin, having moved YOURSELF to the point of appreciating how truly awesome you feel?
When that happened, what was it about that moment that defined it for you?
Was it simply a physiological thing - heart-rate controlled, breathing and movement synchronized?
Was it more than that?
Was it your music?
Tonight, I had a fantastic training session. Yes, I was rested; yes, I was empowered by complete control over my heart rate. But I'll be honest: what seemed to make this one special was my music. I actually listened to just a few things different than "the usual suspects," different enough to get my brain to respond differently. I haven't made my brain respond differently during my training -- like I'd lead a class to do, for example -- in a long time. I get bored, even when I do alllllll the things I coach people to do when they're bored (i.e., close their eyes, think about their goals, remind themselves of the relationship between what they're doing and their goals, reflect on how what they're doing right then can contribute to some larger purpose).
People ask me post-class about music often. It's always flattering, since I spend way more time than I probably should in putting it together. I enjoy that people are looking to collect stimuli that inspire them. Great. These requests come in different flavors -- as I'm sure many of you can relate from either the "rider" or "instructor" perspective. And, as with most thing, the flavor absolutely determines the yield.
"What is that?"
"What is that? Where did you get that?"
"What is that? Can I have a copy of that?"
Note from that whatever you will. But I'm going to talk about the second flavor -- as I'd argue, the more adaptive flavor. It favors "process" over "content," a theme actually attended pretty intensely in medical school as it were.
Every instructor hows how challenging it is to find the right chords and beats and auras to capture the effect you want to have on your riders, to structure the experience you want to offer them. Every rider knows how great it is to feed off music that inspires him or her. Everyone knows how tedious it is when this goes awry. Of all the music I've collected over time, the most emotionally gratifying tunes have been the ones that carry with them the "process" that led me to them.
The music I find inspiring often is NOT what other people find inspiring. My tastes vary but my propensity for drama (in music, not in life) can be outright off-putting to some; I know this. The stuff I play in my classes is the stuff I literally conceptualize as the soundtrack to my life at various points in time. Is some of it worth sharing? Sure. So, sometimes I do. Sometimes I post playlists on the "Coach Yourself" Corner; sometimes I just randomly drop references to best-song-ever-in-life du jour [time out: You all MUST MUST MUST MUST stop what you're doing... stop reading this blog, actually. Go download "Paralyzer" (Workout remix, specifically). It will change your life.]. But when I do those things, it's not actually as helpful as I'd mean to be -- or as helpful as some people even THINK it is. More specifically: over the past year, I've entered the world of mentoring newer instructors -- and I make the points I'm about to make here. But I don't think I effectively "take it to the finish line" ALL of the time, so here's an attempt to do so now:
The way I see it, life cannot be about finding "inspiration on tap." If it were that easy, developing fresh music ideas wouldn't be such a challenge. For me, at least, it's about structuring your existence such that you ACTIVELY contribute to your own inspiration, whatever that entails. It's about ACTIVELY finding "your thing" -- and once you find it, to keep re-finding it.
"Your thing" can be lots of things. It may mean specifically soliciting people for ideas through active collaborations you develop -- your colleagues, your friends, random people you meet at the gym. It may mean spending hours reading different blogs collecting ideas from various sources, and then integrating them in a way that makes it your own. It may mean spending even MORE hours surfing Pandora.com, or amazon.com, or iTunes' "people who downloaded that also downloaded this" feature -- experimenting with what you like, fine-tuning your preferences, Googling whatever you can find on your prized acquisitions to find forums or message boards or reviews that give you ideas about similar search targets. It may mean finding something you "kinda" dig but holding onto it until you know exactly what to do with it. It may mean tucking it away, presenting and re-presenting it to yourself in different contexts -- on a bike by yourself, on an elliptical, on the subway, on the street. Rockin' out in your car blowin' out your ear drums, having a grand ol' dance party at 6:30AM en route to school because you're that damned excited by what you hear. Not that I know anyone who actually does that or anything.
It's a good thing I don't have New York plates.
My old life policy was that the "right" song had to feel like a fantastic movie soundtrack in the context of riding the NYC subway system. That obviously doesn't apply anymore. Somehow the stakes got MUCH higher: now, to earn inclusion in a Spinning class, a tune needs to make me cry in my car. I'm not talking "bawling" here; I'm only mildly crazy. But from a moderate "glistening" to all out "conquer the world" epiphany, I need to be profoundly emotionally affected in order to decide something's good enough. And an underappreciated point about what makes something rewarding to hear is everything that goes into the acquisition of that stimulus -- or a separate issue for another day, one's active efforts to EDIT a piece of music (but we'll revisit that) -- the time, the energy, the creative sleuthing. The "process."
If nothing else, consider investing a little time to surround yourself with the stimuli off which you can personally feed. Go through your music library, dust off some stuff you forgot about, put it a meaningful order consistent with whatever your training goals are for the day, and get excited about it. Get excited about SOMETHING. It doesn't need to be the best thing ever in life; just try to see if it contributes just a little bit more energy to fuel and inspire your efforts.
*UPDATE* Psychological Effects of Heart Rate Monitor Use Study
12/21/2010: Preliminary results were reported at Indoor Cycle Instructor in October 2010. Manuscript in preparation. Once published, results will be made available on this site and at ICI.