Oscar the Grouch
You know the grumpy middle-aged auntie/uncle who will whip around with an accusing glare and ‘tsk’ you when you laugh aloud on the bus? This turned out to be oddly specific, but yes, that’s me during afternoon S&C sessions and between 8pm to 10pm on most weekday evening trainings. No joy can exist around me when my heart rate is above 150 bpm. I turn into a veritable Oscar the Grouch. When I’m drenched in sweat and panting, everything needs to be razed to the ground pronto, right now. Set it on fire, let it burn, and walk away. So many people have told me that I look so serious during training, while I was right in the middle of working out, to which I had to bite my tongue to prevent a hasty, rude reply. I remember there was a time when I was struggling to slam the battle ropes during a set, someone had wandered by and innocently asked, as if she had seen a rare and delicate butterfly, “are you working out?”. Wow, in that 1 second, I was granted access to an unknown reservoir of energy, except that it was molten fury and only usable with collateral damage.
I am truly apologetic though. I don’t mean to be so moody or let my grumpiness contaminate others. It is just that the workout is painful and I do not have sufficient energy to smile or entertain others. If you want to talk or chit-chat, I would love to do so! Just, maybe give me another 30 minutes? And then, I will be done with whatever it is I have to do and be physically/emotionally free to think about other things and be the normal, chirpy me again.
There is no excuse for this rudeness. For someone who works out nearly every day, you would think it gets easier. It doesn’t. I wish it did. Perhaps the way I have been approaching trainings has been wrong all this time. Maybe I have been taking things too seriously, as if taking 2 seconds off training to greet somebody would matter greatly (it probably doesn’t). It is how things have been since I was young: always doing what I was told, never complaining or trying to bargain with the coach (because you know there will be a mighty smackdown if you did), just doing and doing and doing. I joined a team sport in primary school, and from then, it has been complete obedience to figures of authority. So it is maybe from then, when the motivation to train is powered by an external source, rather than a flaming, innate desire. It is something that I know I must do, an obligation, a means to reach other ends, and not something I might seek out by myself otherwise. Hence, the stinkface.
All this is made more obvious next to the most cheerful teammates. My teammates tend to be really happy-go-lucky and cheerful people. Tell them 50 more push-ups, and they’ll pull an exaggerated grimace before buckling down to count, “Alright, 1! 2! 3! Hard work and dedication, babeh~”. They are the sort who can banter with coaches during water breaks, or they will mock-cry about how tough it is and joke about how they can’t feel their arms anymore. But you can still count on them putting in 100% during the sets, with a bright grin on their faces. They have learnt the elusive timing of when to relax and when to put in hard work.
So maybe it is that as well: not being able to let go of tension. I worry too much and harbour too many expectations about what training should entail. I need to learn how to relax. Treat it like playing and enjoy the process. There was a post by Humans of Fighting (link below) that struck a chord recently. The fighter’s trainer espoused for practitioners to be “relaxed and joyful” in order to fully express one’s style. And that, tensing up will slow down and tire people out. It makes so much sense. If the muscles are stiffened, there is no time for recovery. If I am stuck in a negative mindspace, it makes it much harder to clamber out and see that things aren’t so bad after all.
I have been trying to change by smiling more or cracking jokes at the start of runs. I try to manage a neutral expression now. It is something that requires daily practice and mental reminders to choose a new frame of mind. Getting more sleep the night before helps to improve moods too. It is surprisingly difficult to learn how to relax, a studied ease, so for now, I will take workouts one at a time, one exercise at a time, one set at a time. I don’t think I will ever be able to hold a full conversation while doing jump knees, but maybe a wan smile and a whisper of “talk to you later, okay?” will be doable soon.