You Are Stronger Than You Think

It seems that many of my posts have focused on the gym and fitness as of late.  I would apologize for this, except I really can’t because it would not be remotely close to sincere. The truth is, this is me. I live fitness. I live health. I live trials and triumphs, moments of weakness and feats of strength, and everything in between. This is my new found love and life force, and I would not trade it for anything.

That said, please come with me on another journey.

Late last night, I finished reading an amazing memoir Waking by Matthew Sanford.  Matthew is a man who, at age 13, was in a car accident that left him with a T4 spinal cord injury.  Matthew writes of learning to navigate life in his now “silent” body, and how his discovery of mind-body relationship led him to physical and emotional healing and his eventual practice as an adaptive yoga instructor in Minnesota.  Fitness friends, family, and all other readers: do yourself a favor, whatever your beliefs and practices, and pick up a copy of this book.

I went to bed feeling deeply touched and satisfied, but more than anything else I felt hopeful.

My alarm went off at 7:15 this morning for Saturday morning gym session. I could have rolled over and gotten a few more hours of sleep. I could have said I’d be going Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday next week because I’m off work. I could have said it was the holidays. I had 1, 000 excuses to choose from. I chose hope.

Today’s class was a challenge from go since I have been dragging it after being sick and making a slow comeback. Interval training followed by TRX training.  For those unfamiliar with TRX, it is a Suspension Training, full body workout system that uses gravity and your bodyweight to perform a variety of exercises.  You are in complete control of the difficulty of your workout simply by changing your body position. This is a confusing explanation, so check out this quick video. 

The class was instructed to do one specific move, that started out holding on to the ropes to do a low row (think pulling your chest up to an imaginary bar from a slightly slanted standing position…or don’t imagine it, I’m doing a horrible job explaining things in this post….just take my word for it!), then drop down into a squat, and pull themselves back up.  I did not have the balance to be able to drop myself into a squat without falling and potentially cracking my head open, so it was time to modify! Yay!

I started the exercise by sitting on the floor slightly leaned back and performed my row. From there I was to lift my body off the ground as dead weight with only my heels as the anchor point. Failed attempt after failed attempt began to leave me more than a little bit frustrated.  At this point, Janice came over and foot blocked me so I wouldn’t completely go sliding and I tried again.

Note: Everything from this point on might sound utterly ridiculous to some, but this is what I believe can happen and this was my experience. I closed my eyes and tried to connect my mind and my body in a way that I had read about only hours before. I needed to feel the energy of my heart, of my will, and somehow transfer that energy into my legs, into my core–to come together and achieve this small goal for the day. I inhaled deeply and I could feel the connection. With what seemed like unimaginable strength, I felt my arms start to strengthen and slowly lift by body. I felt my core muscles engage and noticed that the only physical point of connection I had was at my heels.  This was it. I trusted my mind and it got me through step one. Now it was time to trust my body. A 10 second hold of this position was what was being asked of all of me. Closing my eyes again, I hoped. I pleaded with my body to outlast the time. I know I beg a lot of my body on a daily basis, but I needed this one, because I knew I could.  Janice, standing above me, said “trust your body, you are stronger than you think”. And I believed before those 10 seconds disappeared.

Then I collapsed on the ground and started hysterically laughing because all I wanted to do was cry.  The tears came later on in the day, when my soul processed what occurred in the gym. Today, for the first time, even if for maybe only a total of 30 seconds, I fully trusted my mind and my body. The results were awesome.

Until next time…inhale hope, exhale strength…

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The Power of the Mind

I’ve always believed in the power of the mind. It’s power to get you through tough times, to unlock potential, to be strong when the body is weak.  Anyone who knows me knows this.  One of my favorite quotes is even “change your mind and your body will follow”. However, this is something I’ve always had a bit of a hard time seeing for myself, within myself. You know, one of those age old can’t take my own advice kinda things–I can tell people how important the mind is to achieving your goals, but casually seem to forget that when it comes to my own life. Whoops!!

Until this morning.  Saturday mornings have become my sanctuary since the semester started.  With my interning and class schedules, I’m lucky if I make it in for a class during the week, so I’ve started doing doubles on Saturdays. Drums Alive for the fun cardio and then Full Body Blast/Core Fit for the strength, cardio, and ass-kicking.  The format of FBB changes week to week, but we almost always start out with some variation of interval training: 3 rounds of 7 different exercises performed for one minute each with a one minute breaks between rounds.  The idea is to ramp up your intensity each round, giving all you have left for that last round.

Take a journey with me: it’s the last exercise of the last round. Jumping jacks. Side note: I do regular jacks in terms of the lower bosy, just holding on to my walker for balance. We’re 21 minutes in at this point and everyone is just ready for it to be over. Timer goes and we’re all moving through our final for 60 seconds.  I have a tendency (in everything I do) to come out of the gate insanely strong, too strong for my own good, and then end up having to take a break or two within the minute.  Today started out no differently.  I was beasting through those first few seconds in both speed and accuracy.  Janice, our amazing instructor, was going around the room keeping everyone on track and all the sudden she stopped right in front of me, mirror image.  Janice has been an amazing asset to my life in the past few months since joining the gym and going for certification and has truly supported my goals from the get-go.  She started talking to me telling me things like “I know you want to go faster than me so do it” and that if I stopped and took a break at all in the next minute we’d all be starting over.  It wasn’t the fact that  I was slightly terrified of her in the moment that sparked my motivation, but what she was actually saying.  It was like she tapped into my own mind and knew what I was thinking. I did want to go faster than her. I am a competitor at heart. But my mind was stopping me from getting there.  And then something crazy happened. Janice looked at me and said “I know it’s hard, but do it anyway.” Those words not only unlocked my emotions and almost made me start crying, but unlocked my mind and body together to give me what I needed to push through until the end and do those jumping jacks for a minute without stopping. I have acknowledged that things are hard before, but hearing that acknowledgement from someone else is not something that happens often.  In that moment it was as if our minds synced.

It’s hard. Do it anyway. Do it because you want to better yourself. Do it because your dreams don’t take breaks or days off. Do it because your body does not define you. Do it because you can.

Heading to AFAA, Continuing to Grow

I head to my AFAA Group Exercise Certification workshop in less than 36 hours.  It has been a long 4 months of studying, hours upon hours at the gym re-choreographing what should be the simplest 8-minute cardio routine, practicing, worrying…you get the point.  I’ve spent so much time over the past 4 months doubting my abilities, what right do I have to be getting certified as a fitness instructor?

Over the past week or so though, my mind and my heart started to have a shift. I began to let go of the nerves. I began to tell myself that of course there are going to be things that are more difficult for me because of CP, like making my movements stay on the beat of the music. But that’s not all that teaching is about. And that’s certainly not all the fitness is about.  I began to tell myself that I will try my best, and I will show what I know how–my determination, my physical and mental strength, my ability to modify, and my desire to make a difference and show others, okay myself too, that anything is possible.

Tonight I made the executive decision to not attend one of my grad classes so that I could take some time at the gym to do a final run through in front of the mirrors and then stay for my new found love: kickboxing.  I’ve really come to like this class because of the huge physical challenge it provides me.  It’s one of the only classes I take that is spent entirely on my feet and almost entirely having to balance on my own without holding on to my walker for support (except for kicks because, well, I’m pretty sure we all know that’d end with my face meeting the floor).   We were doing front kicks at one point and these are always the hardest for me because of the muscle control needed not only to lift for the kick, but the whole concept of actually pushing the kick out.  Well, tonight I kicked higher than I ever have before.  Almost a foot higher. And it was a pretty damn good kick if I do say so myself.

After class, I was completely overcome with emotion. I was so happy that I actually got to see some serious physical improvement for the first time in a while, and was so proud of myself for continuing to keep at it even on the days when progress seems like it will never come.  I was so emotional over the fact that I have finally found a way to keep myself active.  Most importantly, I am so ready to share these feelings with the world.  I’m ready to step out and say “I can do this and I want other people to know that they can too.”

Almost 6 months ago, I got my second tattoo. I got it on my wrist so that I could see the words every day and remind myself how important they were.  Today I am proud to say that these words have brought me here: to a whole new world of possibilities waiting just ahead of me, to being proud of myself, to kicking higher, and to being ready to own my place and my purpose in this world.

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These 4 months preparing for AFAA have provided me with some amazing opportunities for physical, emotional, and spiritual growth and I absolutely cannot wait to see what’s next!

Thanks for reading and wish me luck! 🙂 I’ll update this weekend about my experience.