Monthly Archives: June 2012

Compassion for the Lazy-Ass Quitter

That’s right. Compassion and “quitter” in the same title. Allow me to explain.

Oooh today was a crappy ass day in the ol’ gym. I must have pissed my boyfriend off or something because he was not treating me right today. I was so tired, no energy. That probably is partly to do with the fact that I didn’t bring my music (note to self: ALWAYS bring your music).

I’m going to come clean here. I didn’t do my whole plan for today, which was legs. I have come to realize that I don’t like this plan, this LEG training stuff. It’s hard. Waaaa waaaa. I felt like a little whiny, bitchy toddler in the gym today.

I just kept saying to myself how much I hated this, how HAAAARD it is, blah blah blah, and I couldn’t seem to snap out of the icky mind mentality this morning and get in the zone.

Bleh.

I skipped over exercises I was supposed to do. I didn’t push it to my full potential. I gave up, in short. I really just threw in the towel today, probably did about 2/3s and called it good.

Here’s the thing about me. I’m a “recovering” perfectionist. What I like to think this means is that I am trying to give myself some flexibility to say that I don’t have to always perform at 110% in everything I do. And I believe this is a good thing, because everything I do includes a full time job, single mom raising three preschoolers, strict high-protein low-carb diet that is super shocking compared to my lifestyle just about a month ago, and then add in everything else we have to do in our daily lives such as dishes, cooking, laundry, and maybe, just maybe trying to read a magazine or book once in a blue moon… well, geez folks. I need to cut myself a break sometimes.

Usually when I give up or kind of cop out on something, I’m overly hard on myself. And I’ve realized that for me, that kind of reaction is totally counter-productive. Being hard on myself, beating myself up mentally because I didn’t/wasn’t able to/didn’t want to complete something at 110%, isn’t really effective in motivating me to change. No, basically what it does is make me feel inadequate and crappy about myself, which in turn generally makes me want to avoid whatever it was that I copped out on.

This cannot be with the workouts and strength-training diet.

No. I have to accept those days when I am only human and don’t work up to 110% potential. I know I talked about this last week too, good days and bad days. But I guess I’m going back to it again because it’s really a challenge for me. It’s a challenge for me to accept my mini-failures and letting myself down, and tell myself, look honey, you’re a human being, you’re not perfect, and therefore you’re not going to do everything at 110%—or even 100%—everyday, and in the end, that’s OK.

So instead of beating myself up today, I tried again to reinforce myself with the positive aspects of things I DID accomplish.

1) I DID go to the gym and DIDN’T give up on my 5-day workout plan as a new lifestyle.
2) I DID drink a lot of water and DID eat a healthy breakfast and DID drink my protein shake.
3) I DID remember to be compassionate with myself and DID remember that each day in the gym is a step towards more discipline and more consistency.

These are things I think everyone needs to find a way to deal with and manage in the beginning stages of starting a fitness lifestyle. Otherwise I can easily see why people give up. It’s simple, we’re human, and we might even revert to toddler-think in our decision: “It’s too hard….!!!” therefore, avoid.

But real results don’t come with avoid.

Shaken, Not Stirred

It felt really good to get back into the gym today, Monday, after a weekend away.

I actually took three days away from the gym: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I normally would have gone to a kick-boxing class for cardio on Saturday as my 5th day of the week, but this weekend I had to take a first aid class to learn how to help choking kids (I have three of them so it’s high up there on my priorities) and it took place at the same time as the class.

Today was a great day in the gym, which really goes to prove the point I was trying to make (to myself, more than to anyone else), that determination and persistence are the true keys to results in fitness. If it hadn’t been for me accepting the fact that the last couple days in the gym weren’t my best, and accepting that just like in life in general, we’re going to have good days and bad days, then I just might have thrown in the towel early, thinking I wasn’t doing a good enough job, it was too hard, etc. etc. — all that negative self-talk we use to give ourselves reasons excuses to not keep going.

On that note, I have to say how much I appreciate the mental training that this physical workout plan is giving me. And again I have to emphasize how amazed I am by the cliched “mind/body connection,” but it’s so incredible. The more I train my physical body, the more results I feel mentally. As my body gets stronger, my mind continues to get stronger and the tangible result is that my self-esteem is increasing at the most rapid pace I’ve ever experienced.

And since self-esteem is such a cliched phrase as well, I want to try to articulate what I mean by that. I feel an appreciation for myself, a sort of self-love, self-admiration and self-confidence that I haven’t felt in a long, very long time. Coming through a divorce, from a relationship in which I didn’t feel I had a voice of my own, this aspect of self has been the hardest for me to rebuild, and I’m finding that the gym is putting in on a fast track, which is exciting and rewarding for me.

Other things are happening as well, both pleasant and annoying. For one thing, my clothes are starting to look like total crap on my body. Which, in a way I guess is good, because it shows that I’m reshaping and redefining my body into a healthier form. But it’s also really annoying because I don’t like the way my clothes look on me, they don’t fit properly, and it makes me feel bad to look at myself in baggy, ill-fitting clothes when I can’t simply go out and buy a new wardrobe.

On the flip side, this being conscious of the fact that “I don’t like seeing myself in baggy clothes” is kind of amazing in and of itself. The fact that I actually take notice now and care about how my clothes look on my body, and how my clothes either accentuate my body or take away from it, and this desire to want to actually have my clothes fit in a way that flatters my body’s shape and form. I never gave it much thought before, but now that I’m consciously working on my body and how it looks and feels, it seems perfectly logical and right to want to showcase it to make it look nice.

Which brings me to another topic I’m reflecting on lately: the idea of fitness-y people being “show offs.” I’ll be honest: I always thought people with nice physiques were show-offs by wearing their form-fitting workout clothes, “showing off” their sculpted and toned bodies. It was like, “Come on… give me a break!”

Now that I am working actively on my shape and feeling good about myself, I have a new viewpoint on this. I no longer feel that these people are show-offs. At least not the great majority of them, anyway. What I’m starting to realize is that, when you feel good about yourself, when you love yourself for who you are, and when you put in many long, HARD, EXCRUCIATING hours of work at the gym to ensure your health and your STRENGTH, then it’s only natural to want to dress in a way that puts it in its best light. And at the same time, the body becomes its own calling card for fitness. Why should people who are in shape and feel good about themselves and all the hard work and discipline they’ve dedicated to getting there, feel like they have to hide their accomplishments?

I wonder if a part of that way of viewing them wasn’t some sort of hidden jealousy on my part, or by chastising them inside I wasn’t just trying to reinforce to myself that “I” didn’t need to do that.

The biggest revelation I took away from my workout today was DISCIPLINE. It takes a real solid amount of discipline to continue to workout, day after day, rain or shine, good mood, bad mood, energy high, energy low. I don’t consider myself an extremely disciplined person. I start things all over the place: books, projects, ideas… and then never manage to finish them, because my interest gets sparked by something new. That can’t be the case with this lifestyle and it’s helping me to reshape my mentality, and helping me to learn how to pace myself, how to appreciate small progress, how to stick with a plan and see it through, especially since this plan is indefinite… if it works correctly, it won’t ever come to an end.

PS Why “shaken” in the title, you ask? Because today was the first day that my target area (I was working chest and triceps today) was shaking. I did bench presses (found the weight clip, by the way! small victories!) with correct form and had to really push it hard. I did incline DB presses and had to tell myself “you’re strong” to get through them all. My arms were literally trembling. That made me feel good, because I knew that meant I was working at a level of challenge and not wimping out, which doesn’t produce results.

I’ve Had It

Seriously. Today is the day.

Today is the day that every single muscle in my entire body is crying out for mercy.

It’s not even pain, really. I’m kind of sore, but I wouldn’t describe it as pain. It’s a different kind of feeling.

I’m not even sure exhaustion quite captures it. Tired is way too common of a word to describe it. Run over by a truck is too dramatic.

It is a truly indescribable mix of all of those things. I want to give up. I’m so tired.

This is hard work. Hard.

When I think about the road ahead, I feel defeated. I can’t take it all at once. I have to look at it in small steps or I’ll get overwhelmed.

Today at the gym on the TV there was a thing on the news about a breakdancing troupe. I was watching them do their incredible moves, spinning on their hands, holding their entire bodies up with just one hand, and suspending themselves there, in the air, like magic.

It’s not magic. Holy crap, people. Do you think they came out spinning like that? No. Behind that “magic” is a whole lot of plain and simple hard work, practice, and attempts. Good days and bad days. But … consistency through it all.

I have no energy left to even type. All I can say is that I am holding onto this quote I found yesterday:

Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.
Winston Churchill

Not My Best Day

I am tired. Tired, tired, tired, tired. Really, really stinking tired.

I didn’t quite realize how tired I was until I was in the gym this morning. Today was day 3 of this week’s 5-day plan and I was working on back and biceps.

First during my warm-up, I realized I didn’t have the same energy as usual. But I thought, no big deal, it’s still early.

The beginning of my workout was good. I was doing some things that I know just a month ago I never would have been able to do. For example, this exercise called a ball exchange. Check this out. I was pretty happy with myself that I was able to do that with good form. My lower abs are a very weak area for me. I hadn’t ever thought about why, until my Coach asked me if I had ever had a C-section. Why, yes, yes, I have, as a matter of fact, I’ve had two. Oh right, forgot about that whole part when they cut through your entire abdominal muscle wall to get down to those babies underneath. Hmm. So, I did have some positive aspects to my workout today, that I should remind myself of.

Besides my feeling tired, there were a couple of exercises that I had looked up online so I would know how to do them, but once I got in the gym, I couldn’t seem to figure out which machines corresponded. The machine area of the gym has always been a big mystery for me. They all basically look the same to me. So when I had to find the “assisted pull up machine” and the “lat pull down” or whatever it was… I realized I had no clue. Then I got frustrated because I felt like if I skipped those I’d be cheating myself, and then I got even more frustrated because the early time I like to go in the morning, there’s no trainer on duty so I had no one to ask for help.

Ugh.

So I plowed through the rest of my exercises, and tried to keep a positive attitude. My arms are getting stronger and I can see and feel that. My cardio resistance is improving because the 10 incline on the treadmill doesn’t feel like K2 anymore.

All this to say, I came to realize yet another pearl of gym wisdom. Like in life, in the gym, you’re going to have your good days and your bad days. You’re going to have those days where you finish your workout and you feel like a f*?!@ing rockstar and you could conquer the world while leisurely drinking your protein shake and lifting a dumbbell with your free hand. Then, there are days like I had today. Just kind of “there.” Not great, not awful, just nothing special. I didn’t feel very strong today, I didn’t feel energetic, I didn’t feel like I did my best.

Every day, your best is going to change, and that’s ok. When you’re working towards your fitness goals, the important thing to keep in mind is persistence, perseverance, dedication. Not every day will be the same. Keep your accomplishments in mind, rather than focusing on what you feel like you’re not doing well. For example, I’ve been in the gym for a pretty intense 1-hour workout for 8 of the last 9 days. Plus, I have radically changed my diet overnight. I completely eliminated sugar, bread, pasta (I live in Italy, people, think radical)—I don’t eat anything that comes out of a box anymore either. I stopped drinking everything except water. I have to limit my carb intake, even fruit, to breakfast. It’s totally insane compared to the way I used to eat just a couple weeks ago, which was basically: whatever I feel like, I eat.

And yet, I’m doing it.

And despite the fact that I’m tired (I guess I have kind of a right to be, don’t I?), I’m not giving up and I’m not creating unrealistic expectations regarding quick results or perfect output. I’m only human, just like everyone else in the gym, even those who have the “perfect” bodies. No one got that way overnight, and nothing is ever perfect. Perfect isn’t realistic anyways, because there’s never a finish line and the standards keep changing.

Realistic fitness means it’s a lifestyle, which means that there will be off days and “on” days and yet, it’s just a part of your life like everything else, and so, it isn’t going anywhere.

Selling Yourself Short

Never has it become more apparent to me than in the gym, just how much mental willpower a person needs to get through a really intense workout.

While it is great to have a personal trainer by your side as you work, and can help you to achieve optimal results through monitoring your form, intensity, and providing on-the-spot motivation, the truth is that there will also be many moments where you won’t have that personal coaching next to you.

My Coach provides me a workout routine that is specifically designed for what we are trying to achieve with my body in a relatively short amount of time: however, he isn’t there with me when I train.

That means that it’s up to me to get the most out of my workout and not cheat.

I won’t lie: it’s damn hard.

There’s this part of me, that probably goes along with that mentality I have of wanting to always rush through things, that wants to hurry up and get it over with. I want to just push it all out and not have to “suffer through.”

Today was a very intense leg workout and as it is designed to do, it basically by the end almost had my legs at total exhaustion point. I mean, people—the workout FINISHED with 3 sets of 20 lunge jumps. LUNGE JUMPS! Do you hear me out there? In my workout that day I had ALREADY had the pleasure of doing a total of nearly 100 reverse lunges, so let me tell y’all, lunge JUMPS were not really the most pleasurable thing to have me do at the end.

So that’s where the whole selling yourself short comes in, and the mental part of training. I’ve just started out on this intense program, and I’ve never trained SERIOUSLY in my life, at least not in such an accelerated way with such determination to reach a goal. That being said, my mind is taking two steps forward, one step back.

For example, the first day I trained, I had to finish out my workout with UPHILL SPRINTS on the highest incline of the treadmill, for 30 seconds, alternating with a 1 minute “break” to walk at the same incline, and then do this ten times. Yes, ten. Needless to say, I was sure I was on the verge of death around, oh, number 7 or so, and so I just literally threw in the towel.

“It’s too hard!” my mind told me. “And anyways, 7 is pretty close to 10. And besides that, it’s hard. And I might just die, who knows, if I keep going. And, did I mention that this is HARD?”

Then and there it’s easy to cop out and give up. Because truly, let’s not mince words, that’s all it is, plain and simple: giving up, giving in. Giving in to that voice that says “I can’t.”

My Coach always says that he doesn’t accept “I can’t.” He says he’ll take “I’ll try” or “This is hard” or even if you have to “I hate this/you/the world in general” but never “I can’t.”

Today I’ll be honest. Those last 3 lunge jumps… I can’t even remember if I did them or not. I do remember it was a mental game. I was fighting against myself. I kept thinking: don’t sell yourself short. It was like the angel/devil on the shoulders that you see in those old cartoons. One was saying “push it out” and the other was saying “enough is enough!”

In your workouts, you’re only competing against yourself. But really think about what your motivation is for being there in the first place, because if you haven’t clarified your specific goals as to why you’re working so hard, then you won’t have the base to fall back on when your mind tells you it’s ok to stop before you’ve done all the work.

Just like your physical muscles have to have minor tears and repair themselves in order to grow bigger, so your brain has to have a few setbacks and struggles and then you come back with even greater resolve to never let yourself come up short.

Going It Alone

Today was my first day of week two of my new, intense workout plan. The no-holds-barred stuff. The “I’m going into the gym to destroy myself, but in a good way” stuff.

It’s really something because there are several things I never realized about working out. I mean, really working out.

1) Cheap workout clothes basically suck. I think they are mostly for decoration or for people like the person I was just 10 or so days ago. Trust me people, if you’re working out the way you should be, these clothes are crap. They don’t absorb sweat, they get uncomfortable, they ride up, the material sucks, the bras don’t give decent support. You get what you pay for. Apparently this means that I now have to invest in quality workout clothes. Meaning brand-name clothes with the proper technology—yes, you heard me, I said technology and clothes in the same thought—to allow me to have optimal workouts. I’m not kidding. My cheap clothes were so NOT up to the task during my first kick-boxing class two days ago that I actually developed a sweat rash, also known as prickly heat rash. That’s when your sweat glands get blocked in a particular spot from sweaty or humid conditions. At first I had no idea why it would be exactly where it was: basically two stripes around my neck and a round spot on the top of my chest. Then when I was back in the gym today after my one day (Sunday) off, I realized that it directly corresponded to where the straps of my shirt and bra came into contact with my neck and chest. As with so many things in life, and as my Coach is always saying, “Quality over quantity.” If I can only afford one decent set of clothes now, that’s what I’ll have to start out with.

2) I hate to sound esoteric, but I’m not kidding you: so much of my experience in the gym is a metaphor for theories and experiences in my life in general. For example: I’m the kind of person who gets what they want and gets where they want by doing more, working harder, being smarter, doing better, going faster.

Do you think this works in the gym?

The working harder part? Check. Being smarter? Ok, you can focus on form, performance nutrition, etc. Doing better? Practice makes perfect. But what about doing more and going faster, the two elements that I have always relied upon to get me ahead in everything in life?

Doing more? In the gym that could actually be counter-productive.
Going faster? Could mean actually cheating yourself out of results.

Just like when I had to learn Italian. I wanted to rush it. I wanted to speak perfectly, from day one. I was afraid to even try because I didn’t want to make mistakes. My Italian wasn’t getting better, and I was getting stressed and frustrated. I was beating up on myself, because no matter what I did, using my normal techniques for success, I wasn’t able to get that Italian fast, like I wanted.

I had to work at it, day by stinking day, hour by hour, minute by minute, flub by embarrassing flub.

It’s the totally same thing in the gym. It’s cumulative effort. It’s day by day butt-kicking effort. It’s not about overnight results, quick fads, miracle cures. It’s about getting up in the morning, putting on the clothes, the shoes, getting the protein powder ready, packing the gym bag, and going in. Step by step by step.

Nothing I can do is going to get me results besides just slow and steady progress, patience and persistence.

That’s how the gym is transforming me physically and mentally. You can’t rush good results. You just have to develop a certain kind of mental resolve and toughness. And that’s precisely how it becomes a LIFESTYLE change. Learning Italian wasn’t going to be something I did, and then once I learned it, I stopped practicing or forgot about it, or didn’t use it anymore. Even to this day, 11 years later, I still get corrected on certain words and I still am learning new things, new rules, new ways to pronounce things.

I fully expect that’s how my experience with fitness is going to be. For the rest of my life, it’s going to be a process. 10 reps this week? 12 reps next. Burn-out on a particular exercise? Back to the drawing board to find a new one.

3) And now, for going it alone. In life, I’ve always been raised and taught to do everything myself, because you’re “not supposed to burden people with your problems” and because if you don’t do things yourself, that’s just lazy. You know, all this conditioning all my life, so I would just take everything on my shoulders until I would quite literally just collapse, mentally and physically, from the strain.

Here’s me today in the gym. I’d never done bench presses before last week. So day 1, I started out with just the bar. I looked up how much a bench press bar weighs: 45 lbs. The first day I practiced my form without any weight, but the next day I added 5 kilo weights. I kept increasing until today I was at 7.5 kilos and everything was going fine, until I thought about the name of the exercise. Chest press. Meaning, the bar should be coming down to your chest? I started doing it that way, and at a certain point, I kid you not, the bar just got STUCK. It wasn’t going to move. I felt so embarrassed, one because I wasn’t expecting it to happen, and two because my Coach had told me not to be afraid to ask the trainer on duty to spot me, being there in case the weight got too hard, to help me out.

I had a minute of mini-panic. Holy shit. Here I am, with a barbell on my chest, and I can’t move it. It’s not even that heavy! I mean, I’m the only woman in the weight room, and to do my chest presses, I had to remove the 20 kilo weights that the previous user had left on the bar. How freaking embarrassing. What am I going to do now? I felt like everyone was going to look at me. And I swear that damn bar wasn’t going ANYWHERE. I was literally stuck. I can’t explain it.

So I just awkwardly tried to sit up. The damn bar started to slide. The gym doesn’t have any clips to hold the weights on (maybe you’re supposed to bring your own?) so the little 2.5 kilo weight slid off the side and started rolling.

This is a situation for which I believe the word MORTIFIED was invented.

I had my earphones in, but some of the men turned to look. Luckily it was early morning when the old retired guys work out, not the hot, muscular guys that come in later in the evening. Sigh.

And that, folks, is the precise moment that I realized, in the gym, like in life itself, you can’t really always go it alone. You have to learn to ASK FOR HELP. It’s humbling but it’s true. Nothing good ever comes from going it alone. In order to be successful, the people around you have to support you. Whether that means your family respecting that your time in the gym is sacred, and therefore your partner helps you with the kids, or makes dinner, or whatever, while you’re there. Whether that means you need a specialized training plan from a Coach, like I have, to whip you into shape and get you into the mental and physical zone you want. Whether that means you need to ask the really hot muscular guy to help spot you for a “measly” 7.5 kilo on each end bench press.

Everyone starts from somewhere, and nothing good ever comes from thinking you can do it alone, completely alone. Everything is connected: mind, body, and those around you. It’s a learning journey. Each day something new. Embarrassment doesn’t mean giving up. It means: I tried, and now I’ll try it differently next time.

Come Out Kicking Ass

There’s a story that means a lot to me right now, because it reflects so accurately my inner state, in this period of getting back into the right shape and dedicating myself to my health, my body, strengthening my mental resolve and in turn fortifying my sense of self-worth and value.

I want to tell you this story as a metaphor for explaining where I’m at in this journey. Storytelling is so important and in today’s technology it’s a tradition that is all too often lost and forgotten.

This story is from the book “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and is called The Little Match Girl.

***
There was a little girlchild who had neither a mother nor a father, and she lived in the dark forest. There was a village at the edge of the forest and she had learned that she could buy matches for a half-penny there, and that she could sell them on the street for a full penny. If she sold enough matches, she could buy a crust of bread, return to her lean-to in the forest and sleep there dressed in all the clothes she owned.

The winter came and it was very cold. She had no shoes, and her coat was so thin she could see through it. Her feet were past the point of being blue, her toes were white; so were her fingers and the end of her nose. She wandered the streets and begged strangers, would they please buy matches from her? But no one stopped and no one paid her any attention.

So she sat down one evening saying, “I have matches. I can light a fire and I can warm myself.” But she had no kindling and no wood. She decided to light the matches anyway.

As she sat there with her legs straight out in front of her, she struck the first match. As she did, it seemed that the cold and the snow disappeared altogether. What she saw instead of swirling snow was a room, a beautiful room with a great dark green ceramic stove with a door with iron scrollwork. The stove emanated so much heat it made the air wavy. She snuggled up close to the stove and it felt heavenly.

But all of a sudden the stove went out, and she was again sitting in the snow, shivering so bitterly the bones in her face chimed. And so she struck the second match, and the light fell upon the wall of the building next to where she sat and she could suddenly see through it. In the room behind the wall was a snowy cloth covering a table, and there on the table were china plates of the purest white, and on a platter was a goose that had just been cooked, and just as she was reaching for this repast, the vision disappeared.

She was again in the snow. But now her knees and her hips no longer hurt. Now the cold was stinging and burning its way up her arms and torso, and so she lit the third match.

And in the light of the third match was a beautiful Christmas tree, beautifully decorated with white candles with lacy ruffs, and beautiful glass ornaments, and thousands of little dots of light that she couldn’t quite make out.

And she looked up the trunk of this enormous tree, that went higher and higher, and stretched farther and farther toward the ceiling until it became the stars in the heavens over her head and suddenly a star blazed across the sky, and she remembered her mother had told her that when a soul dies, a star falls.

And out of nowhere her grandmother appeared, so warm and so kind, and the child felt so happy to see her. The grandmother picked up her apron and put it around the child, held her close with both arms, and the child was content.

But the grandmother began to fade. And the child struck more and more matches to keep the grandmother with her … and more and more and more … and together she and the grandmother began to rise together up into the sky where there was no cold and no hunger and no pain. And in the morning, between the houses, the child was found still, and gone.
***

I’ll level with you. Coming out of my ten-year relationship and going through a divorce with three small children, I was that match girl. I was searching, searching, searching for warmth and light anywhere I could find it, because I felt cold, broken, and poor in spirit and mind. Sometimes I would find a spark and like the match girl, I’d imagine it into fantasy-land, thinking now all my problems would be solved, and then my fantasy bubble would pop and I’d find myself right back where I started: with my poor, sad self.

Anytime we’re trying to escape ourselves, we’re most likely avoiding some issue that hurts. None of us wants to be in pain; it’s not natural to the human spirit to crave painful experiences. I think that’s why a lot of people are afraid of the gym and workouts too. They think it’s going to hurt physically, it’s going to be too tough mentally, and so, they just avoid it.

I’ve come to a place where I’m realizing that I have an impulse to “light a match” every time I meet a man who intrigues me, and I instantly create a vision of the lovely feast in front of me and how it is going to satisfy my every hunger, only to find that the match light fizzles out when I realize that it was all about me wanting someone else to fill me up, and it didn’t materialize.

The hard reality of my first true week of “kicking ass” in the gym is just that—a cold, hard truth: it will never materialize.

My worth is never going to materialize through someone else, or outside of myself. I’m not saying that we don’t need others to survive and thrive—of course, we do. But at the same time, we have to find a way to make ourselves understand first that we are already whole as an individual.

It’s a bittersweet pill to swallow, because the mentality that someone else will make me happy—if I could only be “lucky” enough or smart enough or pretty enough or whatever enough to find and keep him—has kept me “safe” in a twisted sort of way. By allowing me to imagine that others were somehow responsible for my happiness, it gave me the ability to blame others if I didn’t get what I wanted. If others didn’t respond to me the way I wanted them to, then that was “their problem” and “their loss,” when what my soul was really crying out for was for me to feed it and stop looking for others to nourish it.

The author of this version of the story says: “The child is in a situation where she has resigned herself to her ‘place’ in life. If this has happened to you, unresign yourself and come out kicking ass.”

Well folks, that’s it. Although it’s a mighty struggle, and I feel about as lonely and sad sometimes as a divorced mother of three young children can rightfully feel, I’m pushing through it. I’m hitting the gym five days a week for me and to avoid wasting my precious light for a discount price.

To make change, you have to move. You have to get up and move: mind, spirit and body. They all work together, and not necessarily at the same pace, but one thing is for sure: if you move body, mind is going to start moving along with it, and it might be painful and it might be pretty, but it definitely will not be easy. That’s the part that I think scares people. They must somehow know this, that in taking a step for themselves, to love themselves and take care of their physical bodies, they are going to have to face some of that invisible emotional baggage that’s been weighing them down too.

But, as I look ahead to week two, which is going to be even more intense for me and each and every day is going to be a struggle to the finish line in the gym, at least I can say I am coming out kicking ass, and, I am training my body to get into shape while I teach my mind that I am already whole, and I don’t have to ever look outside of myself again to gain my sense of self-worth.

The day I met Gym

Hello, Shelley, meet Gym. I think the two of you will make a lovely couple.

I wasn’t particularly convinced, but I was willing to give it a shot. Coming through a divorce with three small children (a boy age 4 1/2 and twin girls 2 1/2), I was tired of feeling stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, and, let me be frank: desperately needy for male attention and affection. I won’t lie to you, my self-esteem was shot, and I was supposed to keep going in spite of it all, with a smile on my face? I felt like a mess inside, even if everyone kept telling me how amazing it was that I was managing it all.

I’m the last person you’d ever expect to have become an advocate for physical fitness, working out, hitting the gym, and whatever else you normally hear from people who are so high on themselves that they feel like they need to convert you to the Holy Church of Fit. No, folks. That is not me. If you are looking for a conversion, a baptism, or any other sort of fanaticism, you will not find that here.

I am simply a woman who had always been relatively fit and active. A former soccer player, dancer, cheerleader, and casual weight lifter, I knew about the importance of movement and staying in shape. But then, as it tends to do, life happened. “Life” was three kids in two years, and I pretty much figured: well, that was that. My body had now performed its sacred duty for womanhood and all of mankind, and the fact that it had left me with lots of places that were super squishy was, in my mind, just the way it worked out. I don’t know why I assumed that once you have kids your body is “shot,” but that’s definitely what I figured after having stretched my skin to unbelievable proportions by carrying a twin pregnancy to term (38 weeks) and having gained a healthy 50 lbs. in the process.

But, despite my best predictions, I learned that life has its own way of leading you to where you’re supposed to be.

Yes, despite all the twists and turns, the Weight Watchers, the caramel lattes, the fried goodness, the endless hours sitting lethargically in front of the computer, the ice clinking in the glass, the dabbling in smoking to try to soothe my shot nerves, and the strain of raising the kiddos through an overseas move, fit was coming back for me. I felt like crap, physically and mentally. I knew my lifestyle habits weren’t good for me, but I had lost even the strength to care. And yet Gym, my new boyfriend, was in fact waiting just around the corner.

Little did I know what he was going to do for me. All the things I had always hoped a man would do for me, but didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t.

My dearest Gym is all that the others never were and never could be.

He’s always there for me, on good days and bad.

He never lets me down, and even though he makes me put out a decent effort for his rewards, he always makes me feel tough, secure, healthy and confident.

He shows me how strong I can be and pushes me to be even better.

He makes me sweat like no other man ever has, and gives me a sense of self-worth, accomplishment, and satisfaction that I know I’ll never find in any partner.

In short, Gym is “the one.” He’s the sure thing.

Why didn’t anyone tell me this before? Where have you all been hiding that secret? Certainly not under your pre-packaged preservative-corn-syrup-filled foods! OH no! All of you fit people, to me, were always those holier-than-thou people who had to flaunt to the rest of us mere mortals just how incredible you all were, with your super-human strength and your iron will to resist living a “normal” life like the rest of us.

And so, I march bravely forward to let you know that there’s hope for the rest of us. Not everyone who falls in love with Gym started out that way. That means if I can do it, God knows you can too. If you aren’t convinced, then I invite you to peek in on my adventures with Gym and see for yourself. It won’t always be pretty but I promise it will keep you mildly entertained and you can even have some laughs at my expense. But not for long. You just might fall in love along the way.

PS I’m not advocating actually doing anything as drastic as leaving your current partner for your very own Gym. Oh, no, my friends! Just think of me as that friend that gives you permission to cheat now and then. Actually more now than then. Gym is worth it. You’ll see.

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