It's official: We are in the thick of the holiday season! For many, the worries are already piling sky-high: In-laws, turkeys, decorations, pies, finances and the potential collapse of the Euro-zone (just kidding on that last one… mostly.). Workouts tend to focus on caloric expenditure and that mentality alone can induce panic -- AAAGH!! WHY ARE THE HOLIDAYS SO STRESSFUL? Is this really what Santa intended? My guess is probably not.
We're obviously well aware that our primary job is to provide health and fitness resources to our clientele. But we should realize that we also moonlight as severely underpaid therapists! Sometimes, especially during high-stress times of the year, it becomes important to ditch the calorie talk and focus instead on stress management and helping our clients to use their workouts to alleviate some of their holiday stress. The message for your ride is an “Attitude of Gratitude”: When your sense of entitlement decreases, gratitude INCREASES! When gratitude increases, stress levels DECREASE! Amazing isn't it? Sign me up! ‘Tis the season to bust out the proverbial therapy couch and host a "session" that's less about caloric expenditure and more about giving up what you "deserve."
A couple of disclaimers before I share my ride ideas: This is not intended to be a set-in-stone ride profile. Why? Because your style of communication and general demeanor with your group play heavily into the direction this takes. Keeping in mind that although I thoroughly enjoy micro-managing metrics and wearing my Heart Rate Monitor to bed, I must implore you to drop that kind of thinking for this particular ride. Don't worry about the power meter, heart rate monitor, cadence or the number of calories expended. Think of this as the much needed opportunity for people to calm their minds, sweat a little bit, and receive permission from you to NOT destroy themselves physically or emotionally.
You may choose to use whatever gratitude-inducing songs resonate with you. Here are my playlist (also found on Spotify under Cameron Chinatti) and accompanying focus cues from this year's 45-minute Attitude of Gratitude session:
Pre-Game:American Land Bruce Springsteen 4:44 Thank You (Falenttinme Be Mice Elf Agin) Sly & the Family Stone 4:48
Warm-Up:Gratitude Earth Wind & Fire 3:27 You Are the Best Thing Ray LaMontagne 3:52
Ditch Your Entitlement:
Princess of China Coldplay Feat. Rihanna 3:59
At the top of every minute ask participants to add enough resistance that they can feel noticeable increase in load- the tugging in the legs gets stronger with each addition. For every nudge ask them to admit to themselves the areas of their lives where they feel a sense of entitlement towards something. Perhaps it's their health, a nice car, a holiday bonus…etc. By the end they'll have 3 situations/items in mind. At the start of the 3rd minute ask them, "Now, how would you feel if one or all of these entitlements were lost or taken away?" In the last 30 seconds, "Put those entitlements aside. For 30 seconds, as you surge forward, internally rattle off all the reasons you possibly have to be grateful for. The more the merrier!" This challenging yet very do-able 4 minute section provides the clarity necessary to come up with the good stuff.Thank You Dido 3:38
Establish an active recovery pace that would allow for total control over breathing and mental capacity. I usually start this section by telling the class that I have a tendency to exert a sense of entitlement over my health. When I'm feeling sick, having difficulties with my asthma or some other malady, I tend to throw a pity party. "But I deserve to be healthy!" whines Cam. Then I have to remind myself that I should be expressing thanks and gratitude for what health I do have and the amazing advancements in medicine that have allowed me to survive thus far. Not to mention all the lessons I've learned about my life during these illnesses. That's when entitlement morphs into gratitude.
Once they've collected themselves ask them to reflect on these areas of entitlement. "Now turn to your neighbors and share at least one opportunity you can take to turn your entitlement into gratitude." The first time I attempted this in a class I had apprehensions about people's willingness to share their weaknesses. Surprisingly, I could have used two "Thank You" songs to let them finish their conversations-- magic was taking place!
Rediscovering Gratitude:Mirror's Edge Nitrous Oxide 6:14
Let your participants know what to expect by informing them of what's to come. In this section our collective entitlement will morph into overflowing gratitude. Over the course of 6 minutes not only will we think of our own opportunities for gratitude, but we'll ponder our neighbors”™ thoughts. At the top of every minute we add noticeable resistance back on, and at the same time we proclaim to our neighbors what we are thankful for. In following the example above I would say, "I'm so thankful that I've only been sick once this year and that it didn't turn into a chest cold. Yay!" After this statement my neighbor and I both add gear. At the top of the second minute, it's now my neighbor”™s turn to tell me how she is shifting her entitlement towards gratitude. This pattern of sharing and adding resistance continues until we reach minute 6. Depending on how aggressive the gear changes/nudges of resistance happen to be, more than likely some pedal mashing is taking place. Remind participants to keep their leg speeds brisk (notice: I'm not going for any specificity here) and that from a cardiovascular standpoint, the last time they share with their neighbor should be tough to do. Simply saying, "My lungs!" requires a good deal of effort.
An Attitude of Gratitude (Comedy Break): Jimmy Buffett 2:28
Confession: I really dislike Jimmy Buffett, but this song is short, sweet and generally gets people smiling-- this is perfect for setting the tone of the next working segment. Take this recovery as a chance to chill. Or if you're like me, poke fun of Jimmy Buffett… gratefully of course!
Gratitude for Fuel:
Titanium (feat. Sia) David Guetta & Sia 4:05
This song is one of those rare gems where the use of verse/chorus can actually be rather handy for measuring time and task. Typically, I'm not one for mapping my ride to my playlist, but this song works perfectly for this type of effort. Be creative in how you choose to describe these attempts. I personally enjoy the 'sling-shot' analogy.. "From the beginning of this song to 1:15, imagine yourself stretching a sling-shot to its absolute limits. All that potential energy will be ready to be launched into the stratosphere from 1:15-1:30. 15 seconds”™ worth-- that's all I'm asking of you." Essentially you're building good resistance for an effective sprint-like effort. The 2nd and 3rd attempts will be essentially the same (use verse/chorus as your guide), but now our focus goes into what's actually in the sling-shot. Is it an abundance of gratitude ready to be spread into the world or a flaming bag of you-know-what?! How's that for an honesty-check?
Taking It All In:
Beautiful Day Mozez 2:44
"You'll find your own in life and bring a smile to someone's heart." What fantastic lyrics! If this song isn't your style find one that suits you. It's important that you enjoy listening to it because your challenge --should you choose to accept it: Be talk-free for 2:44. This is harder than it seems for us instructor types. Introduce the intent and enjoy the space. "For the next 2:44 take this opportunity to get back into your head. Give yourself permission to be comfortable, however that may be. For the remainder of this track think about the people in your life that would be positively impacted by your thankfulness and gratitude."
Giving It All Away:
Beautiful Day U2 4:08
It's so easy to "take" because it's what we feel we deserve. We work hard at life and play hard during workouts. We impose expectations on those around us and assume entitlement for ourselves. These can be positive and wonderful motivators when balanced with a sense of thankfulness and gratitude! "To provide balance and give back what we received from this session today, my final request is that you commit to letting others know how you feel. This last working segment will be identical in structure to the very first. Rather than ditching entitlement, we're committing to the individuals that we're going to appreciate. At the top of every minute, make a decision: "I will hand-write a letter to Mom and Dad, telling them how I recognize and appreciate all the sacrifices that they have made for my brothers and me over the years." Come up with 3 actions that you can take to show gratitude. From minutes 3-4 as you surge forward with your last burst of effort, seal the deal. These are the ones that matter."
Cool-Down and STREEEEEEEETCH:I Will Not Take These Things for Granted Toad The Wet Sprocket 5:48 Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World Israel Kamakawiwo'ole 5:08 This class is a great one to provide a lengthier cool-down. I love the word stretch because it can mean so many things. When stretching physically, I enjoy presenting stretching as it compares to self-improvement. "Sure, it's scary to put yourself out there and show someone else how thankful you are for all that they do. But why? Why are we afraid to tell people nice things? Especially the ones that constantly do nice things for us. That doesn't make sense! When was the last time someone got upset or laughed at you for showing kindness. This shift in thinking will greatly impact your approach to everyone and everything.”
As an instructor, this does take some courage on your part. This isn't a hammer-fest, smack-down kinda ride. You won't be congratulated for slaughtering them with "the hardest class ever." This takes even more bravery to do during the holiday season when the calorie obsessions are strong. So perhaps you can think of this as your personal stretch. Does this push you outside your box of comfort? I know it certainly did (and still does!) for me. Take note, as a lovely side-effect, you may even have sling-shots full of gratitude fired your way.