Three years ago, I made a vow to take radical care of my whole self – emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.
In April 2012, I joined a 6:00am “bootcamp” style class, where I was the fattest, most out of shape member of the crew. My lungs literally burned in my chest the first few times I went. My muscles ached and many times I thought my legs wouldn’t support my body weight through another round.
There were plenty of days that I loathed my instructor and a handful of times, whether from exhaustion, or frustration, or both I broke down crying on the mat. [I don’t cry anymore, even though there are still times I feel exhausted and frustrated.]
In addition to early morning workouts, I started to walk as much as I could. I walked to the store, on the trails, through the snow, and around the neighbourhood.
I dug a bike out of the shed and learned to ride confidently.
To combat my intense dislike for the routine of squats and lunges and burpees at bootcamp, I found a kettlebell instructor and signed up to learn the form, technique and philosophy of Agatsu kettlebell training.
Late last summer, I found myself getting bored of the routine in the early morning bootcamp, so I accepted an invitation from a friend to try out a new gym in town. I loved it. Like, LOVE-LOVED it. The classes are busy and varied and have cool equipment and new exercises and the trainers are positive and energetic and push me.
Surprisingly, there is a lot of joy in that gym. It was just the change I needed to stay connected to my own goal of living an active life.
Now, three years isn’t very long, especially as I lived all willy-nilly for the other 42. But, it’s long enough to know I NEVER want to go back to being a couch potato.
I’m still not the skinniest, fittest or most badass woman at bootcamp, but I’m THERE – I show up consistently – and that’s what matters.
With that in mind – if you’re reading this post, you might be on a fitness journey, too. [or want to start one]
I want you to feel like you are making progress and to know that you have the ability to stick with it!
So, for all you #fitlife newbies who are tired and sore – who question their sanity and their capacity – here are a few things I’ve learned in three years that might help you to stay the course.
If you’re truly making changes to your shape, size and strength – you’re going to be sore. You’re going to discover muscles that you never knew you had… in your calves, your thighs, your shoulders and your abs.
Sitting on the toilet will be a challenge. You will wince with pain to squat and give a hug. [Buy a giant bag of Epsom salts and soak in the tub.] Embrace this soreness and know your body is breaking through it’s soft and squishy limits and rebuilding muscle in the places that are sore.
And if you’re working hard in the gym, there will be times in your exhaustion and discomfort that you just want to wail and cry and scream and throw in the towel.
Push through it.
Get to the end of the session.
Feel the satisfaction of finishing.
Do your best.
Don’t let the challenge of one workout prevent you from showing up for you.
Just DON’T QUIT.
2) Pay attention to your body.
Your fitness journey is also a lesson in listening intently to your body.
You must pay attention to the messages your body is sending.
Do I push harder?
Or do I need a rest day?
Am I reasonably sore?
Or am I ignoring pain signals?
What is my body truly hungry for?
We are so used to ignoring our needs.
Blocking our feelings.
Stuffing down our emotions with food and booze.
We’re accustomed to living with chronic pain.
Your journey must include a new relationship with and respect for your physical self.
Learn to be honest with yourself.
Don’t push through and risk injury if deep inside you know that you need a day to rest your body. But be willing to call yourself on your excuses when you’re just feeling lazy.
Those who break through their fitness limits and reach the next level show up to exercise even when they’re still a bit sore from the previous day’s workout.
The trick is knowing what is what for you.
3) Get more sleep.
Here’s where most people roll their eyes and brush off the advice. We drink coffee and tea late in the day, stay up to work late after the kids are in bed.
We watch our favourite programs in the black of the bedroom with dark circles under our eyes before scrolling through Facebook one last time.
We complain about our insomnia and exhaustion to our friends and colleagues and we wonder why we don’t have enough energy to exercise.
If you’re living an active lifestyle, you need more sleep. Like WAY more sleep than you think you need.
Power down electronics early.
Soak in a hot tub.
Read a boring book.
And melatonin, if necessary.
But if you’re going to demand that your body work, reward it with sleep. And pay attention: if you’re sleepy, or feel wore out. GO. TO. BED.
[No less than seven hours a night. Ideally, eight or nine. #noshit]
4) Fell off the wagon? Get right back on.
[It’s called LIFE.]
Easter. Or Halloween.
Road trips and pub crawls.
Sore legs and a weeks’ worth of missed workouts.
Or maybe, you just self-sabotaged and said: Screw it.
Choose again. Start over.
Wake up and get your yoga pants on.
Call a friend and get your buns outside for a walk.
You know what to do, you just have to do it.
No two ways around it.
The best way out is always through.
Stop beating yourself up and hop to it.
The key to success is to keep showing up.
Somewhere, there is a crew of people who are just like you. They are beginners or were beginners and they know and respect and appreciate where you are in your journey.
Find your crew of people.
Change can scare people. Someone you love might not want you to change. Someone you’re close to won’t want you to get strong, or be healthy because if you improve you might point out all the ways they aren’t quite enough. [in their mind]
Finding people who share your enthusiasm and interest and commitment makes showing up way easier. You can car pool and high five and share successes and whine about the challenges.
My tribe are mostly strangers. They have no idea who I am away from the gym. They don’t know I own any clothes that aren’t stretchy. They don’t know my stresses or struggles, or my strengths and successes.
But they totally ‘get’ why I show up to the mat. They understand how good it feels to break through self-imposed limitations and we cheer each other on when doing another push up is the unthinkable. The mat is common ground. And here, I am among my people.
Look for your tribe. Or join mine. [cause we’re rad like that]
But mostly, keep kicking ass.
And showing up on the mat.
And loving your body, for all it does for you without asking.