In April I had a Birthday. Some might call it a milestone. Somehow, I have managed to make it on this planet for an entire thirty years. I imagined I’d feel more like a “grown up” by now. That’d I’d have it all figured out. But really I feel like I just graduated from college...that is, until I hang out with someone that’s just graduated from college. Then I start feeling slightly more “grown up,” but not THAT much...not enough to be thirty already.
Turning thirty has been like the profound realization that you had as a child, when you realize your parents are mere mortals. They are not, in fact, all knowing and all powerful superheros. They don’t actually have all the answers. They are just trying to do the best with the answers they have. At first you might be a bit incredulous that they had you fooled for so long, but eventually you become a lot more compassionate and understanding toward them. You can forgive them for what they got wrong and respect them for all they were able to get right.
That’s what thirty feels like to me. By no means do I have it all figured out in the sense that I once imagined. However, I have figured out a few useful things in the last decade - namely that no one ever has it all figured out. No matter how hard you work your ducks will never be in one row, at least not for very long. Things will come together, then they will bust apart at the seams - sometimes spectacularly and sometimes it’s a slow unraveling - either way it is OK. That’s how it’s supposed to be. To expect or yearn for anything else is an exercise in futility.
The biggest difference is that I no-longer suffer that twenty-something angst over what I’m doing with my life. Thankfully, that anxiety has dissipated and in it’s place is a compassionate confidence; a realization that it doesn’t really matter what I’m going to do. All I can do is make the most of this exact moment in time. Live this moment to the fullest. Stop expecting to figure it all out, or become something. You already have everything you need. Be the best version of yourself now and you won't have to worry about who you are going to be in the future.
Maybe I have figured out more than I give give myself credit for after all. I'm sure there is much more to discover ahead of me. Regardless, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned in the last decade. So, without further ado:
1. You can’t out exercise a bad diet. Eating healthy all week and binge eating/drinking all weekend is a bad diet. Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. Don't fall into the trap of considering exercise as punishment for your dietary indiscretion.
2. Anaerobic training trumps aerobic training. Cardio is important, but long bouts of steady state cardio isn't the most effective way to improve your fitness. Weight lifting and interval training are your best bets.
3. Good posture is important for more than looking thin in pictures. Good form is everything, whether you are dead lifting a barbell or picking up your groceries - it's the same movement. Poor posture inside or outside of the gym can lead to injuries, or decreased functionality and longevity. The gym is the safest place to master and perfect the movements you use in your daily life.
4. Good mentors are worth their weight in gold. You are never too old to have a mentor or too young to be a mentor. Think of personal trainers as your mentors in the gym. A good trainer is well worth it.
5. Happiness is contagious. Surround yourself with happy people that you admire. Minimize your contact with people that bring you down. Unfortunately, a bad attitude, smoking, obesity, etc. are also contagious...socially speaking. So, avoid them when you can.
6. Fear is unavoidable. Start making yourself comfortable with it, because it’s never going away. You just learn how to deal with it better. Avoiding it is not the way to deal with it. The gym is a wonderful place to get acquainted with your old friend fear in a relatively controlled environment.
7. Seek out opportunities that capitalize on your innate strengths. In the gym focus on your weaknesses. In life you’ll be much happier if you focus on your strengths. Find partners whose strengths compliment your weaknesses and it will benefit you both.
8. Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.
9. You are the reason you are not where you wish to be. That is an empowering realization because you are the only one who can change yourself. You have control. You don’t need anything else to start, change, or become better.
10. The key to reinventing yourself is often uninventing yourself. Be humble, be grateful and remain present. Don’t waste time waiting to become the person you want to be. Be the best version of yourself right now.
So far, turning thirty has been pretty great. I'm excited to look back on this post in another decade and see how much has changed and what still rings true. Just like I learned that my parents don't have all the answers, I've stopped expecting that I need to have all the answers. I am much more compassionate and understanding toward myself. I am getting better at forgiving myself and acknowledging when I actually got it right. And that feels pretty awesome.
Joanna Meade (view bio) is a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She is a Level OneCrossFit instructor and competitor. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906 or click here for a Free CrossFit Session.