Other than being a Super Noni Doni, I have a couple of unique super powers. One is gift-wrapping and gift basket-making, which is why I have an entire armoire in my office packed with wrapping paper, tissue, ribbon and gift bags, and a dresser full of tags, bows and shrink wrap.
If I didn’t have this online news magazine, I’d probably have a career in gift-wrapping.
My second super power is that 99 percent of the time I have the ability to know exactly which size Tupperware or food storage jar or container is needed, with just a little room to spare. I nail it almost every time.
But I’ve discovered that when it comes to my workouts at Align, I have other super powers, too.
Just as important as knowing my own super powers is avoiding a fixation upon others’ workout superpowers. It’s that “comparison is the thief of joy” quote I love. It’s how I get into trouble when I shift my attention from my own journey and put more focus on others’ aptitudes and successes.
When I compare, sometimes I feel good, and proud of myself.
Gosh, she can chest press 12 pounds, but I can do 25 pounds in each hand. I’m awesome!
But mostly, when I compare myself to others, I feel crappy.
Gosh, it took him just seven minutes to burn 75 calories on the bike, and it took me nine to burn that much on the rower. I’m a loser!
Take planks (please). When I started Align, I didn’t have the strength to do a full plank on the floor, so Matthew started me with my bent arms on a bench and my toes on the floor. I eventually graduated to the floor, but with my knees touching the floor. Finally, I grew strong enough to do a full plank on the floor in the traditional plank position, you know, body stretched out, like a plank. I held it 15 seconds and over the weeks and months to 30, then 45 seconds, and then 1 full minute, which was a red-letter day for me; a reason to celebrate. And then, last week I made it to my personal best: a 3-minute 15-second plank.
I felt pretty good about that, until I compared my record plank time to Andrea Charroin’s, which is a mind-boggling 12-minute-15 second plank.
To quote the dearly departed Miss King, my first grade (and, weirdly, second grade) teacher at Pine Street School: “Donielle, keep your eyes on your own work.”
I work out with a core group of fellow Aligners each week: Laura, Westley, Diane, Erin, and sometimes Sue and Andrea. Although we may work out at the same time, often, we’re not doing the same things, or working with the same weights or equipment. The training is individualized, depending upon everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Workouts that get the green light for some of us might receive a red light for others, depending upon individual issues.
Case in point, while I can do a hamstring stretch with my legs and butt against the wall (it’s my favorite stretch), it happens to be a challenge for every one of my workout buddies to do hamstrings the way I do. What feels good for me is actually painful for them.
Before I start feeling all superior about my impressive hamstring-stretch ability, I will acknowledge that I can’t do lunges as deep nor as far as Laura does, and I can’t burn 75 calories on a bike as fast as Westley, and I certainly can’t chest press 75 pounds of weight in each hand, like Erin does, or do single arm rows with as much weight as Diane. And then there’s 74-year-old retired school teacher Sue, who can hold a 2-minute plank without barely breaking a sweat.
The truth is, our little motley group is all over the map. What’s difficult for one of us is relatively easy for another. What’s simple for one of us is torture for another.
And don’t even get me started about Kyle, who is methodically going from his wheelchair to walking, who held a 90-second plank his week … with his child on his back.
I asked Matthew about our differences. I mean, what dictates who can do what, or who has the most potential to achieve certain successes? Can he tell?
“I think to keep people from comparing themselves with each other it’s important to make people realize that everybody is walking a different journey,” he said. “Everybody has different strengths, weaknesses, challenges and goals. Once you see that, you realize how different each and every path is.”
Matthew said that although every one of us has unique strengths and weaknesses, it’s crucial to understand that no matter what those strengths and weaknesses happen to be, our ultimate goal should be to keep fighting for optimum health and the best possible quality of life.
He used our little group as an illustration of how diverse one collection of people could be, all working out in the same space at the same time.
“Diane’s superpower is her ability to dead lift,” he said. “Doni, your superpower is your upper body strength and rows. Erin’s superpower is the ability to just press and row, because he has a lot of strength in his upper body. Laura can lunge like nobody’s business. Wesley’s superpower is his even-keeled temperament. He just cruises. That’s an asset.”
I wondered if Matthew could actually just look at someone when they walk into Align and have a hunch about that person’s abilities. Turns out he can.
“Your posture is the foundation of your capabilities,” he said. “When I look at posture I can know exactly what muscles are too weak and which are strong. That’s really going to guide our decision-making in the beginning.”
And, of course, this conversation begged the question: What about Matthew’s super power?
“My super power? My super power, while training clients, is my ability to intuitively read people,” he said.
“If you’re asking about me exercising, I would say I’m just an average Joe with my own challenges and hurdles.”
Matthew said the main thing is to keep moving, and continue making progress.
“It may be slow, and it may not be easy, but we can make progress.”
Meanwhile, as we work on our progress, what’s your super power?