Moving Forward: Using Your Past as a Tool

Yesterday I was looking through some files and came across a swathe of my old workout plans. These were plans for classes I taught about 4 years ago. Looking through them it was fun to see how I’ve evolved as a trainer. I laughed because I have exercises that were used over and over again and I don’t even know what the exercise IS! A froggie? What is a froggie? What is an Anna sit-up? And other questions, like why haven’t I used an Indian run in my class for what feels like 2 years?!


By nature I am a nostalgic person and love to think and look back at benchmarks in my life and this is no different: I am very interested in looking back to see how far I’ve come as a trainer. A few weeks back I was chatting with someone about this and how I’ve had one of the same corporate classes for 4 years continually (7am, I’m lookin’ at you!). I told her that if I were the trainer I am today, versus how I taught back then, that I feel like I would have retained more people from back then.

I realize that may or may not be true. I don’t think I was a horrible instructor back then by any means. And I’m not trying to be unreasonably hard on myself, either. You do the best you can with what you know. Only when you know better are you able to do better.

She replied to me “Well, that’s a very honest critique of yourself.”

I agree with her. And I think that it’s an important thing for all of us to do — how are we getting better if we don’t know where we’ve been? Or where we are going? I am not looking back on my workouts from 2010 thinking about what a lame class plan it was or how silly it was that I relied on resistance bands so heavily. I am thinking, wow, look how far I’ve come! Look at all the cool things I’ve learned in the past two years.

And…I think that’s a good thing. We are constantly told to live in the moment, the past is the past and to not beat yourself up about any past mistakes you’ve made. Which is true. You can’t change the past so you must be able to live with those consequences.

But how about not forgetting how far you’ve come and being able to celebrate that? How many of us get frustrated because we haven’t hit a milestone and then proceed to mentally beat yourself up tenfold? This past May I was struggling to do kettlebell snatches with 12kg and was constantly thinking how the heck was I ever going to do it with a 16kg? Which is a requirement for StrongFirst. Who was I to think I could do this? Obviously I wasn’t cut out for StrongFirst if I was struggling this much. When, in reality, I’d barely done kettlebell snatches prior to this spring, the fact that I was doing them at all was pretty bloody fantastic. (And it only took me until July to successfully snatch a 16kg multiple, so the proof is in the pudding.)

It’s okay to celebrate where you’ve been. Are you pissed at yourself because you didn’t knock that last 6 seconds off your mile time? That’s okay, I understand the frustration. But how about the fact that a year ago you weren’t able to run a mile without stopping? What would happen if you focused on what you’re doing right? That you are running at all?

Up to this point in time, you are the best you’ve ever been. Today is the sum of who you are. Despite your mistakes, the tragedies that have happened in your life and all. And isn’t that worth celebrating? To being alive today? To being the best you’ve ever been (so far)? So sit back, relax. Breathe. Keep pounding away at those goals. Celebrate your success, forgive your setbacks. You’ll get there, one step, one pound, one kettlbell snatch at a time.


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