I listened as a client of mine, Dan, shared how he sees his care for his body. Dan has been down the road of getting older, developing pain, resolving his pain, and getting his body fitter than he ever has before. I thought what he was saying was so rad that I invited him to write an essay for FFRL and share his perspective with all of you. Here is Dan Chmura, training client, dad, husband, and improver of himself…
’77 Buick Electra and Your Only True Possession
On May 29th, 1997 the state of Illinois issued me a driver’s license. I don’t remember performing my driving test, having my picture taken, or any of the DMV employees.
However, I distinctly recall the car I drove away from the Department of Motor Vehicles in. I bought “Big Blue” from an 86 year old friend-of-the-family who had only put 24,000 miles on it.
“Big Blue” was in pristine condition!
It was through an after school job, birthday money, and some bonds that I was able to save the $3,000 needed for my very own baby blue 1977 Buick Electra.
Driving away from the DMV parking lot in that 20 foot long cruise ship of a car was magical.
At that point in my life, my car was my ticket to freedom. I was determined to keep it in tiptop shape.
The first course of action I took to care for my car was learning how to drive it. I made it to every single driver’s education class. The course required me to study text books, take notes, and watch poorly made low budget instructional videos.
When I received my permit, all of my newly acquired driving knowledge was put to practice “behind the wheel”. With surgical precision, I signaled to switch lanes, came to a complete halt at every stop sign, and mastered the art that is parallel parking.
Because the price of a barrel of oil was so cheap in the late 90s, often times I would fuel up with “premium.”
I knew the engine would last longer with regularly scheduled maintenance. So of course, I did oil changes every 3,000 miles or less.
I always kept a close eye on the little sticker in the upper left corner of the windshield that reminded me when my last oil change was.
But why did I take such meticulous care of a new-to-me 20 year old car? It’s not because I’m a “car guy”. Even now I just drive your run of the mill Ford Fusion.
Neither is it because I’m well versed in car mechanics – I tried once (and failed) to change my brake pads.
The root cause of the level of care I dedicated to that car can be boiled down to two goals: Perform reliably and mitigate failure.
Making things you enjoy work nice
I have friends and family who own items that they care for in much the same way. My business owner friends are regularly paying attention to balance sheets, market forecasts, and competitive advantages.
To one degree or another, they enjoy that process, because in the end what is the result they’re hoping for?
A business that performs reliably and mitigates failure.
Some of my “green thumb” friends have access to their own garden plot. In order for their garden to be high-performing, they need to water it regularly – even if it’s after an exhausting day at the office.
And in order to mitigate failure in their garden, they must put their yard work jeans on and start pulling weeds – even though a summer cocktail in the hammock sounds more pleasurable.
We take good care of the things we care about.
Like my old Buick, or the gardener in his yard, you have possessions you fastidiously care for as well. Maybe it’s your house, lawn, boat, or investments. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I care for my golf clubs, sneakers, and beard in much the same way.
Whether the process is enjoyable or not, most of us can think of a possession that we manage in such a way that produces two results:
Perform reliably and mitigate failure.
Recently, I’ve been having conversations with friends and family about the activity on my Instagram account. They’ll say, “Have I gone crazy, or did I just see a video of you doing strange hip gyrations on your kitchen floor”?
One friend even inquired, “So, what audience are you targeting with that picture of you sticking your butt way up in the air?”
After a good laugh, these comments lead to me explaining that those “hip gyration thingies” and the “back bendy booty extensions” are actually drills that allow my body to perform reliably and mitigate failure.
I haven’t always seen my body through that lens.
When I was 16, I observed and maintained my car with much more diligence than I did my body. Through years of instant gratification eating habits, repetitive sports motions, and lots of sitting in front of the TV, my neglected body eventually started wearing down.
By 26 years old I was 40lbs overweight and suffered through 12 months of serious low back pain. At that point my attention shifted. I realized something critical:
My body is the only asset that I truly own.
Even after all of the tender love and care I showered on “Big Blue” I no longer own that car. In fact, I’ve owned 5 cars since then.
How many bodies have I owned? Just one.
Everyone inherently knows that ownership of cars, businesses, gardens, golf clubs, and sneakers will come and go throughout the course of a lifetime.
Yet the body, the only item in your possession from birth until death, often gets neglected.
Our bodies are the only asset we truly own, and yet so many of us struggle to maintain a state of high performance and failure mitigation. To help you adjust how you’re seeing your own possession – your body – here are three mindset shifts I made that will help you too.
Make it your mission to prioritize reliable performance and mitigate the risk for failure with your body.
Attitude Adjustment 1: Get Rid of the “Not Broke, Don’t Fix It” Mentality
Sticking with the car analogy, automobile manufacturers design cars with warning lights. The onboard computer tells you when fluid levels or tire pressure is low.
These act as warning signals so that the car performs reliably and mitigates major failure.
Your body has similar feature – pain. If your brain is registering pain in your shoulder it’s a warning sign. What it’s telling you is, “Hey! Pay attention! Things aren’t working well over here!”
Not paying attention to these acute warning signs is how many people end up with chronic pain.
Stop playing through the discomfort or assuming it will go away on its own. Take stock of how your body feels every day. Slow down enough to listen to the “not broken…yet” warning signs.
Attitude Adjustment 2: Humbling Myself Enough to Seek Out an Expert
When it comes to taking care of your car, most of us will put the pride of “doing it ourselves” aside in order to have a car mechanics expert do the work.
I had to learn to do the same for my body.
Many people have a favorite mechanic they know and trust. Those folks have been trained to assess and fix automobile problems.
Oddly, some people are too prideful to seek the help of a fitness professional.
I was there too…until aches and pains outweighed my ego.
By letting an expert assess your strengths and weaknesses, and design a solution for you, it’s one less item for you to worry about.
Let them push you out of your comfort zone. Staying comfortable never produced reliability or mitigated failure for anyone.
An expert coach is worth the investment, especially when you consider the emotional and financial costs of an injury.
Attitude Adjustment 3: I Got Curious…Enough
Though my car analogy courses through the entirety of this post, cars just aren’t my thing.
However, because I’m a car owner, I’m curious enough to have learned a few things. I can change a tire, jump start an engine, and re-fill the wiper fluid. I’m sure as time goes on I’ll pick up more odds and ends.
As the owner of a body, it makes sense to also be curious about it.
You can dip your toes in to learn the basics, just like I did with cars. Or, you can create a major passion for learning more about your body.
Personally, my curiosity about the body is definitely categorized as a passion. I go to seminars, read blogs, and annoyingly bombard the abovementioned experts with questions. It’s true – just ask Kate!
When I went to Kate’s Fit for Real Life workshop, I met a lot of nice people attending the workshop, and only one of the other attendees was a coach.
The rest of the group was compiled of everyday people, curious to know a little bit more about how to take care of their bodies.
So where does your body fall on the list of things you care for?
Are you ensuring your body gives you reliable performance and is mitigating the risk of failure?
Are there items you own that get maintained with more purpose? If so, what can they teach you about how to care for your only true possession?
The body you possess is a gift. Treat is as such – it’s the only one you get. If it’s running like a well-oiled machine you’ll enjoy it (and your replaceable possessions) that much more.
Dan Chmura lives in Holland, MI with his wife and two children. Exploring the holistic function of humans is his passion. A few of his interests include hiking the North Country Scenic Trail, swimming in Lake Michigan, and conversations laden with analogies.