It's not often I ask someone for a blog contribution (in fact, this may be the first), but Maddy's transformation over the last year has been nothing short of epic.
Not only has she completely upgraded her mind-body hardware, but she's taken on principled learnings in a way that makes it undeniable she has a lot to teach others. I hope you enjoy her contribution, and find a few points of inspiration to take away!
My Epic Anime Transformation
- by Maddy Fletter -
I knew my leg was broken in multiple places because I felt it… and I heard it snap… twice. My Drill Sergeant didn’t believe me and ordered me to shut up and get off the mat. Eventually, when they realized I couldn’t physically move and my leg, now black and blue, was twice its normal size and jutting at an odd angle, that I wasn’t just being dramatic. My First Sergeant, Drill Sergeants, and platoon gathered around me as my leg was being splinted.
Four female soldiers in my platoon carried me from the gym, where’d we’d been practicing hand to hand combat, to the duty truck which took me to the hospital, the whole time telling me that it probably looks worse than it is. But I knew they were wrong. I knew my military career was over.
Minutes prior I was one of the top soldiers in my company and in charge of the females in my platoon. Now I was a patient in a military hospital wearing a cast so big I couldn’t get my uniform pants off.
A few weeks and a major surgery later my leg and ankle were put back together, now more metal than bone.
When I finally got my DD-214 and left Fort Lennard Wood, I had to decide what to do next. I had not planned on being out of service so soon and I had no backup plan. So I ended up going to flight school to be a pilot.
And while I thought my injury would be far more manageable in the seat of a cockpit, my leg, which the Army deemed “healed,” was in almost constant pain. I couldn’t walk 2 miles without starting to limp. Upon receiving shoe inserts designed to alleviate the pain, I asked the podiatrist if I could work my way out of them and learn to walk without their assistance.
He said no!
He said my feet would only continue to weaken with age and he recommended I buy specialized shoes to accompany the inserts. As you can imagine, I wasn’t happy to hear that, or willing to accept it.
A little over a year ago, at the age of twenty-two and fresh out of physical therapy for the second time as I relearned to walk, I discovered Weightlessness - both in training and in sensation. I first read about it in Tom’s book "In Pursuit of Weightlessness," and as I read stories of how he helped different people rehabilitate injuries, I wondered if he could help me heal from mine.
It’s also a personal ambition to master qigong, and this seemed like a one solution fits many… and it was.
I joined the Autumn Tribe of The Weightlessness Process in 2021. Tribe 12 :)
Tom said that normally those who go through the program are a bit older and more mature, but he gave me the opportunity to participate anyway.
I began the program super excited but extremely nervous. I was chunky. I had major imbalances in my legs, not to mention the constant pain. My left leg was strong but not flexible and my right leg was highly flexible but lacking strength. My mind-body connection to the muscles in my right leg was basically nonexistent.
My nutrition also needed serious adjustments. My aerobic performance sucked. The only thing going for me was that I could do full pushups thanks to the Army.
My first Weightlessness assessment was… bad. I couldn’t complete the physical test - the run, deadlift, and deep squats. Finishing 100 burpees took me almost 20 minutes, which is 8 minutes away from touching the low end of the intermediate level. It was the worst. But, in retrospect, that made my transformation that much more epic!
In 12 weeks I lost 40 pounds. I went from rather inflexible to doing the full front and center splits. I began Weightlessness doing assisted pullups - now I can do multiple full pullups in one set.
The imbalances in my legs are resolved.
The pain is gone.
For the first time since I shattered my leg, I began running again (gradually at first, and now at close to a 4.5 minute kilometer). These are just a few major changes since I began my journey with Weightlessness!
And, ironically, because I was training in a public gym, many regulars witnessed my growth and transformation, and I became the most requested trainer at my gym… by accident.
Looking back to who I was, in body in mind, less than a year ago, there are a few things I wish I knew… wish someone had told me, that may be of benefit to someone going through similar challenges. And maybe, just maybe, these three points will help someone else experience an epic anime transformation of their own!
1: You will look stupid!
This one is huge. A lot of people say they understand this point, but it is especially true in the fitness community. Most of the time people are not paying attention to you, but unwillingness to look and feel foolish in the beginning is a huge reason why people start their transformations and inevitably stop.
They don’t want to look stupid.
They see the buttery boys with perfect form and realize how little knowledge and skill they have. This is where some say it’s not for them and give up. Looking stupid is not a good excuse. Everyone at the gym has looked stupid at some point.
Tom convinced me (it literally took convincing) to start practicing the deadlift. The beginning did not go well. I not only had to learn a new skill, but I also had to do math (not my fav) to measure my efforts and calculate adjustments to the set/rep structure. Tom explained how the percentages worked to me multiple times, but it took weeks before it ‘clicked.’
A few weeks later I figured out how to load and unload heavy weights from the bar, which I’d previously fumbled. I’ve learned to control and coordinate abdominal breathing with max effort lifts. And my form improved so much that I now regularly receive compliments from professional trainers, and multiple people have asked me to teach them to deadlift.
I had to look foolish for a time to become awesome. And that’s ok. Lol.
2: Your biggest obstacle will be YOU getting in your own way!
This one is a constant struggle for me, mainly because it isn’t always obvious, and I needed it pointed out to me. I struggled with self-doubt and/or not wanting to leave my comfort zone. Self-doubt was a part of my fixed mindset.
Tom helped me shift from a fixed mindset, which I was largely unaware of, into a growth mindset, by constantly asking “Is this a growth mindset question?” He repeated it so much that now I catch myself when my thoughts are limiting my approach.
Another regrettable example was when Tom told me to practice kicking up into a handstand… I didn’t. I thought my way was easier so I did that instead, and now I still can’t kick up into a handstand AND struggle to progress with my technique. I both stood in my own way AND missed a valuable coaching/growth opportunity.
I was also encouraged early on to run on a treadmill to keep track of progress. I decided to run outside because I liked it better. After, say… four weeks or so, I asked him if I was progressing. He asked me, as you can imagine, “What are your numbers? There’s no need to speculate.”
I had no detailed records of the first few weeks of my sprinting efforts.
I HAD NO IDEA IF I HAD IMPROVED!
I didn’t want to leave my comfort zone, and it bit me in the ass.
And regarding my passion - Qigong. I want to be a proper master - the real deal - not just another average practitioner. In one of our zoom calls, while troubleshooting, Tom asked me if I was watching TV more than I was practicing Qigong. At the time I was, and it made apparent what I thought was a normal, innocent compromise of a few hours here and there might be the greatest compromise of all – of my goals and dreams.
As important as putting in the work is, it’s equally important to train your mind to become aware of when you’re standing in your own way!
3: You must make yourself a priority!
An epic transformation takes time and a lot of work. It’s not a 30-minute-long Anime episode with hype music.
Physical training takes time.
Meditation takes time.
Flexibility practice takes time.
Meal prep takes time.
Many people underestimate how much time. During the Weightlessness Process Tom stressed scheduling our training times each week with enough leeway to accomplish everything. That doesn’t just mean the hour of effort, it means the space on the front end to transition from life to beast (or monk) mode, and space on the back end so as not to preoccupy your mind with ‘what next,’ and mentally check out before the work is done.
The training window is time is for you to become who you want to become.
If you are serious about it, then this time will become very important to you, not just in ‘feeling,’ but in scheduling. This will mean sacrificing time elsewhere. But it will be worth it.
Getting good at time management in this domain doesn’t just lead to results in mind-body transformation but carries over to greater ease in managing all your other priorities.
The trick is to figure out when you’re wasting time on less productive things, and then spend it more productively. While waiting for an appointment I’ll read and take notes instead of being on my phone. I don’t use social media now, and this keeps time spent on my phone minimal. If work is slow, I’ll do pushups or pullups or squats (I work in a place where that’s not unacceptably weird).
Make time for yourself… BECOME one of your priorities!
Epic anime transformations require a pathetic “before”: you first must be unfit, have terrible performance, fall down, fail, get hurt, hit the wall, or all the above. I had to lose a fight, break my leg, and get chunky to have mine.
But my point isn’t that you should fight someone and break your leg!
My point is you can truly begin wherever and whenever you are!
NOW is the time of change, and you’re in just the right place!
Cue the anime hype music.