So I am now a couple of weeks into my journey to fitness and resilience, and boy, I had no idea this journey would involve so many physical, emotional and spiritual rollercoaster rides. In just 2 to 3 weeks, I have been challenged to move beyond old fears, work muscles I didn’t know I had, and experience both elation and depression as I found my body managing to accomplish feats I never thought possible, and then failing miserably at challenges that others made look easy.
After the first week at CrossFit, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the entire month. My muscles ached in every which way. I thought I was in better shape than I was. It seemed everyone else was capable of doing so much more than me—faster times and heavier weights. Even though I had signed up for this journey knowing that I was not in the best of shape and that this was indeed a “journey” not a race, I felt frustrated and sometimes dejected.
You see, like many of you, I don’t like to do poorly in anything, which is probably why I often stick to only doing things that I am relatively good at and avoiding everything else. Interestingly, I have never felt the same way about academic challenges. The harder the task, the more excited I become about the chance to wrap my mind around the complexity of a problem and figuring it out. The resilient attitude of my mind, however, does not match that of my mind and body together. Rather, fear of not being good enough, failing or looking stupid has been the more prevalent feeling throughout my life. As a child, I worried that I would be picked last in group games or that I would never meet up to what was expected of me.
When I was 15 years old, I was severely injured in a car accident, leaving me limping for half a year and unable to resume my position on the Varsity swim team in high school. At the time, the coach knew it would just be a matter of time for me to recover and get my strength back, and she suggested I swim with the Junior Varsity team for a while. I couldn’t do it. I could not suffer such a set back or in my mind, the thought of the humiliation of being set back. I quit the team instead.
I look back now and I wonder, would I still have those same fears if I had allowed myself to be patient and slowly get myself back to shape? Why did I not believe in myself, in my ability to push through and make it despite my suffering?
I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know that being at CrossFit has wonderfully brought these fears to the surface so that I can deal with them once and for all. I get to do this because this exercise program is all about taking your time, working at your own pace, listening to your body, paying attention to form and technique, and not pushing yourself beyond what your mind and body are ready for.
And so, even though I was feeling dejected and frustrated after my first week at Crossfit, I kept with it, mostly because I liked the people so much. I looked forward to the chats and camaraderie, more than the workouts, if truth be known.
And then…wouldn’t you know, I did something right! I accomplished a “double under,” involving jumping up higher than usual while swinging a jumping rope twice under your feet. I was so shocked at my accomplishment I shrieked with joy. This little triumph sent endorphins and dopamine flying through my brain and body and suddenly, I found myself believing anything was possible to do. Go me!
I wish I could tell you the euphoria lasted. A few days later, even though I started out feeling good about myself as I practiced my “double unders,” I soon became discouraged. This time, we had to do some exercises involving squats and heavy weights. I didn’t quite understand the technique but tried the exercises anyway, because everyone else was. You would think I would know better. You would think that I would have signaled the instructor, asked for help and used very light weight until I got the technique down.
Nope, my ego led the way. And when I pushed myself to squat holding 93 pounds, rather than the 83 pounds I had just lifted with difficulty, I indeed felt my lower back muscle pull.
I dropped the weight immediately and started stretching, working hard not to cry.
The problem now was not that my back was hurting so much yet, but the fear that I found myself experiencing. “No, not again. Not now. No. I just started working out again. No. I don’t want to be in pain. No. How could I have done this to myself? No. I am such an idiot. Why???”
I was practically in tears. But then, the folks in the gym came to the rescue. I don’t think a single person there had not experienced back problems or had back surgery because of some bad accident at some point in their lives. They all had to start out slow. They all understood the fear. In the end, they helped remember to be patient and be part of the process not ahead of it.
Thankfully, my back never went into spasm. Love, ibuprofen and yoga stretches likely prevented it. Hopefully, I have also learned my lesson to pay attention to my body, to love it and not to push it. I am determined to keep going to Crossfit, more than ever now—not only to be physically strong, but to work through and move beyond the fears that have limited my mobility and flexibility in the past.
Until next time, don’t forget to stretch!