At last I'm just back from 4 weeks on the road, seeing friends, family, and taking care of some Kenzai business in the US. This trip has been planned and replanned so many times, it was great to finally get it done. But it got me thinking about how your mind works when it undertakes a journey.Just after college I had been accepted in the Peace Corps for an assignment in Central Asia. I was hoping for Mongolia, and did a lot of excited research on the country. I ended up being posted to Turkmenistan (um... yay?) and never made it to Mongolia. Still, I've always wanted to go there and see the open steppe, especially the Orkhon Valley, some epically beautiful landscapes with a fascinating mixture of Mongol and Tang Dynasty culture.
Sitting here now, I can say to myself, "One day I'm going to backpack through the Orkhon Valley."
As statements go, that one is almost pure vapor. It represents nothing more than a few flickers of desire in my brain. It's foggy and unreal.
When I say I want to visit the valley, there's no actual planning happening, no research, no logistics, no real thought. It's just a thing I said. And the way I think about Mongolia is shaped by that lack of clarity. In my mind it's a faraway place with wide open spaces. It might as well be Mars.
Now, let's say I finally decide to make the trip. There's suddenly a lot of stuff to figure out. How does one get from Japan to inner Mongolia? Some googling tells me I get a flight from Tokyo to Ulaanbaatar via Beijing, and then a short 8 hour bus ride gets me to Kharkhorin, and from there I can go north into the valley. Do I need a visa? Research reveals that as a US citizen staying less than 90 days I don't, but if I stay longer than 30 days I need to tell the Mongolia Immigration Agency within my first week of the visit or face a fine when I try to exit the country.
Finding out the answers to those very basic questions has done something odd in my brain. It's blown away some of the fog surrounding my idea of the Orkhon Valley. It's still quite a fuzzy idea, but the edges have some definition. There are air-tickets on sale right now for people going to Mongolia. This is a real place that real people are packing real suitcases for as I type this. It turns out Mongolia is a place that you can actually go to.
Getting there is only the tip of the iceberg. Where will I stay? What kind of clothes do I need to pack? How will I get around? What foods should I try? What are some common phrases I'll need? What should I watch out for? As I started nailing down the specifics of my trip, the image of Mongolia becomes more and more clear, and my brain gets acclimated to the fact that this is actually happening.
Finally, the day of my trip arrives, and from the moment I step on to the bus to the airport I've entered a new stage in the process. Things shift from the broad strokes of thinking and planning to the minutiae of doing. What time is the flight? Which terminal? Which gate? Do I need to take my shoes off at security? The trip will proceed in a whirlwind of activity, and when I get back, I'll be a different person. I'll be a person who knows that Mongolia is a real place. I'll know how the morning air feels on the steppe, the tang of yak cheese, and the general character of the people who live there. I may even know I hate Mongolia and will never go back. But I'm still a more informed, more interesting person for the experience.
What occurred to me as I traveled last month, is that the journey of fitness is exactly the same.
People say "One day I'll get in shape" all the time. And they really mean it, in the same way I mean it when I say "I want to visit Mongolia." But there's no oomph to the statement. There's no planning or logistics. It remains in the someday-maybe file year after year, never a high enough priority to take any direct action on.
The truth is most people will never make the journey towards real fitness. They might lose a few kilos here and there, but they never get to see the open vistas that being truly well has to offer. The energy, the clarity of thought, and sheer confidence that comes when your diet and exercise are on point for month after month and year after year.
But a sliver of people will hear the call, and take those first tentative steps towards true fitness. And somewhere in there that magical moment happens, when the person's brain starts to conceptualize fitness as a place that you can actually go to. Yes, you can get off the horrible foods that make you fat. You can shed the mass that's been accumulating across your body for years. You can make new muscle and see your abs, and look in the mirror with amazement at the person staring back. In fact, people are doing this everyday, all around you. And they aren't special or unique, they're just other people who've already had that crystallizing moment, packed their bags, and started out on the journey.
This moment where you truly believe that this is something you can do is actually the hardest part of getting in shape. The rest of the trip, the diet and exercise and discipline, that's just details. Very important details of course, which if you ignore will ruin your trip as quickly as not having the right visa to enter a country, but details nonetheless. When you look back it won't be the steamed vegetables and push-ups you remember, it will be that transformational moment when you realized it was all possible.
I don't tend to actively push Kenzai in these weekly blogs; my goal truly is to just make people better informed and do my part to nudge forwards the public's awareness of how their bodies actually work.
But if you've had that crystallizing moment where you truly know you have it in you to change, sign up for Kenzai Body and we'll take care of the rest. We're your travel agent of fitness, we take care of all those details, and give you the motivation to get through those dark times when you want to quit and go home to your comfort foods and lazy mornings. We're pretty damn good at it. But you have to turn that mental corner first. When you do we'll be here, happy to book you a one-way trip to a new life of sustained wellness. Once you see how good the living is here you'll never go back!