A few weeks ago, my coach Brock complemented me on how far I had come in my ability to squat. He could see a clear difference in my form and depth from when I first started. As someone who has struggled so much with the movement, it was one of the nicest things someone has ever said to me.
Then, this past weekend, the owner of my gym, Teddy, was working with me one-on-one and had me squat with my fingers intertwined and my hands over my head. While the progress was clear, Teddy still identified that there was an issue that needed to remedied. He prescribed that I do 3 sets of 10 squats everyday with a band while holding onto a door frame to keep my chest upright to drill the correct form. Here I thought I had come some far, yet was so quickly deflated to learn there was still so much more work to do. It is frustrating.
“Patience you must have, young padawan.”
While thankfully Teddy didn’t spout any Yoda quotes at me, I couldn’t help but think about Luke Skywalker’s training in The Empire Strikes Back – a movie forever ingrained upon my memory thanks to a constantly watched VHS copy I had growing up. The middle film in the original trilogy is often cited as the best of three and I think it’s mostly due to the introduction of Yoda, the master who is stronger and wiser than he looks. Despite talking backwards, he often speaks great truths and finds himself having to teach Luke the importance of patience, which he lacks:
Yoda: Why wish you become Jedi?
Luke: Well, mostly because of my father, I guess.
Yoda: Ahh… father. Powerful Jedi was he. Powerful Jedi.
Luke: [suspicious] Oh, come on! How can you know my father? You don’t even know who I am. Oh, I don’t even know what I’m doing here! We’re wasting our time!
Yoda: [Looking away from Luke] I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.
Obi-Wan: [voice-over] He will learn patience.
Yoda: Much anger in him… like his father.
Obi-Wan: [voice] Was I any different when you taught me?
Luke struggles with patience throughout his training with Yoda. He wants to be a Jedi and to be able to use the Force immediately. He gets fed up easily and Yoda must constantly remind him to have control and keep working. These things just don’t happen overnight.
But then again, it runs in the family. I hate to reference the prequel trilogy, but throughout Anakin has similar struggles:
Anakin wants to the most powerful Jedi of all time, which is a problem in itself, and he wants it to happen right away. He always thinks he is ready to graduate from his apprenticeship. Obi-Wan, acting as his instructor, tries to instill in him the value of patience. Unfortunately, Anakin was too much of a whiny teenager to really stop from turning to the dark side.
Star Wars might seem like a too-easy metaphor for my own training, but I highlight it because of its familiarity to us all. Luke is often impatient and because of it he makes mistakes and is unhappy. He doesn’t appreciate at first the amount of time and energy he needs to put into making a true change in his life – the ability to properly use the Force.
Almost three years into doing CrossFit, I sometimes sully my thoughts with questions about my own lack of progress. Why can’t I lift more? Why can’t I do burpees more easily? Why is my chest not bigger or my abs more defined? Why am I still in the middle of the pack? These questions are dismissive of all the hard work I have put in and the progress I have made.
We all know in our gut that the hardest things in terms of our health and wellness, like getting stronger or losing weight, do not happen instantly. There are no pills or secret formulas or quick fixes that will take us from flab to fit. Instead, the real key to our success is patience, coupled with hard work and the right attitude.
Patience is my friend Maia who lost 90 pounds and is now the most confident she has ever been in her life. Patience is my friend Tracy who went from a size 22 to a size 8 and is now training to compete in a powerlifting open. And Patience is Arthur, a disabled veteran of the Gulf War who was told for 15 years by his doctors that he would never be able to walk on his own unassisted ever again and is now doing yoga and running everyday.
Trust that change will come. Trust that if you eat a little healthier and workout a bit hard every week that you will see the difference. Trust that if you have the patience to see things through you will achieve your goals.
I need to be more patient and I’ll start by working on my squats.