Competition with Camaraderie: Reflections on RHF's 8-Week Challenge

Jennifer with her teammates Kim and Lynn

Jennifer with her teammates Kim and Lynn

by Jennifer Lopez

Prior to starting the autumn 2016 challenge, I was in a dark and desperate place. I was making poor and unhealthy choices in nutrition, my sleep was below the recommended 7 hours a night and I didn’t feel restful, my cardio endurance was severely diminished AND in September 2016 I topped out on the scale at a weight that was considered to be obese and unhealthy. I had really let my self-care slide since returning to school in 2013. Seeing my weight, I realized that I was the heaviest I had been since being pregnant with my sons over a decade ago. Recognizing all of these things at once was quite dismal, but it strengthened my resolve to make a change. The need for change brought me to finding the 8-week challenge. I wanted to find a local support network with a system that provided structure, encouragement and incentives. It was very appealing that the challenge allowed for recognizing individual accomplishments AND encouraged teamwork to meet our individual goals. 

Now is the Time    

 Once I fully understood that I had run out of excuses to “justify” my procrastination, I began to embrace the idea that “There is no better time than the present.” It was finally time and I felt motivated to act. Plus I knew that in that moment I had the ability to act intentionally and positively impact both my life and those around me. I couldn’t change the past, but the future had not yet been decided. I saw the importance of acknowledging my past experience to recognize my value and its significance in helping me develop future goals and aspirations along with an action plan to get me there. These ideas made me seriously consider my plan of action, and how it would potentially affect you and my loved ones; this made the decision to act obvious! I remembered that it was my time to LIVE MY LIFE OUT LOUD! 

Plan of Action         

As a warrior spirit, I most often think of things in terms of battles. In a battle, the strategy is to find the perfect strike as a combination of many factors that essentially allow you to take down any barriers. Some people do this with brute strength while others with superior technique.  Some can win with superior knowledge, wisdom or savviness. People can achieve victory in an infinite number of ways, but rarely do they win a perfect strike. It is the quintessential equivalent of a 'home run' or 'touchdown' in sports. It is the realization of all the hard training, the sacrifice and dedication that an individual has dedicated to a chosen endeavor. And in the world of science, there is no such thing as blind luck. At least one (or all) participants are partially responsible for the outcome. I was reminded of this as a member of my RHF challenge team. It became evident that it was beneficial for me as a participant to be as prepared as possible for every outcome.
These same concepts can be applied to daily life in how we approach opposition and problems. We can't always achieve success with raw power, technique or even with a superior mind. It takes the proper coordination of all three. The habit of winning is developed through proper training and preparation. It involves studying the problem or situation to discover the details of its strengths and flaws. This analysis determines what pressures are to be avoided at all costs. The plan of action requires discipline and patience. Often times it is prudent to remain consistent to the training effort and to advance at the proper time with correct technique and appropriate power. It requires reading your situation correctly, carefully avoiding critical mistakes and acting with attention to timing and details. I received support for all of these areas from my teammates, the RHF trainers, class instructors and volunteers. 

Moral of the Story              

Recently while training, I found myself thinking of the classic tale of the turtle and the hare. As a parent and educator, I was able to see each participant from dual perspectives much like I do with my own children. This brought out that different people take life at different speeds and that one way is not necessarily superior to another. This was apparent to me when I studied my peers that were participating in the challenge too. In the classic tale, it is the slower animal that ends up arriving at the destination first. Likewise, I’ve observed some who move through new forms, exercises and skill drills as if it was a race to a destination, but with slight regard to the process of learning. While others moved methodically and thoughtfully through each step ensuring that not a single detail is lost. The teaching and learning opportunity that emerged from the group condition of the challenge allowed me to share the story many times over. The moral of the turtle and the hare story was a reminder that we’ll arrive at a desired destination, together, eventually.

It was important to be mindful that we weren’t competing against each other, but instead challenging ourselves to meet or exceed our own personal best. It is often difficult to determine by appearances alone whether one person has made more progress than another. Whether you count yourself among the faster or more experienced participants or as one of the folks who find comfort in a more gradual pace, it is to all our benefit when we are able to respect the pace that those around us have chosen for themselves. By doing so, we can keep our eyes on our own journey, knowing that we will end up successful together in the end.

The Realization      

Around midway through the challenge, something really clicked for me. I weighed in and realized that I weighed over 20 pounds lighter. I was caught off guard. I had been “distracted” by the new friendships I gained and the camaraderie with my teammates. In fact, I even began to enjoy working out again. Far from being finished, I've become more intentional about my consistency in my efforts and have really thrived through the partnerships I have formed with my new found friends, Kim and Lynne. It means so much to have the consistent support of a team. I know I’m not done, and that my health and wellness will always be a work-in-progress, but I have regained a sense of hopefulness and renewed energy to continue on what I’ve started here at RHF. In fact, I’ve already decided to continue on and sign up for the next 8-week challenge. So to each one of you that has been a part of this journey... I praise you. I bless you. I thank you!