If you’ve ever taken any type of group fitness class, you will hear instructors spouting dogmatic clichés like: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” and “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Now, there certainly was a time that though I may have heard someone say this, I did not have the courage to listen to them say it. What’s more is, I have also taken too many classes where these phrases are disingenuously talked at participants. For me as an athlete, trainer, yogi, English teacher, and fitness instructor these phrases are personal, deeply personal. I take them seriously, not just in the capacity of offering a kick-ass fitness class to break people down only to build them back up. For me, the concept of challenging myself to catapult towards success in any arena is what fuels me. Motivates me. Shouts to my soul. So when I tell students or participants in any of my classes to get uncomfortable, I mean it because I live it.
I guess to really understand what I mean, it’s important to look at my relationship with my physical-self. My relationship with my physical-self has been [and shall remain] a tumultuous one. Stemming from my early youth I always struggled with my weight. I yo-yo dieted, flitted from one diet pill to another, never really gained any sort of footing with anything other than my interests in softball, lacrosse, and later soccer. Even during my collegiate years while playing lacrosse, I was still unfocused and overweight. I ate poorly and drank, a lot. That said, I lacked the mental capacity to push myself in team runs and workouts, and ultimately I didn’t get much playing time. However my lack of playing time didn’t seem to bother me so much as I felt entitled to playing without really earning it. I felt that I deserved to play. Now looking back, I recognize my need to place blame and my sense of entitlement were a projection of my inadequacies. While I played a college sport, my life really hinged upon my close circle of friends, my job as a hostess at a steak house, and partying. I partied with reckless abandon. I experimented with bleaching my hair blonde [and a bad shade of blonde at that], cutting up my clothes, and wearing every conceivable color of eye shadow one could buy at Sephora (probably all at once, eeekk!). Nightly, the pre-gaming began, music vibrated throughout Grove Street and I looked in the mirror. Not only did I like what I saw gazing back at me—I LOVED IT. That’s right. At a hefty size 12 and only 5’0, tipping the scales at upwards of 160-165 pounds at times, I thought I was the hottest gal in town. Simply put, I owned my awesome for all of its tubby glory.
But as years wore on, this self-confidence would be squelched by my desire to whittle my waist to fit in and be accepted in the fitness community in Los Angeles. My self-worth became [and sadly in some respects is still] associated with how fit I can become, how much weight I can lose, how much faster I can run, and so on…And then something hit me. I suppose you can say it literally hit me [there’s a pseudo long digression here, but I’m going somewhere…]
In an effort to take on something new in my life, to push myself beyond anything I already know, I have started boxing with my personal trainer. First things first: I know nothing about boxing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Tantalized by the heavy bag hanging in my trainer’s home-gym, I asked her to teach me.
Thus far it has only been a few short weeks. Boxing is sweaty and deliciously frustratingly fun because it’s SO DIFFERENT than anything I’ve ever done. Nothing like yoga, nothing like lifting weights, nothing like indoor cycling–my body feels awkward. My feet are heavy, I forget to protect my face, I’m not turning out enough, I’m still not staying on my toes, and at times I feel like I have no body awareness. My trainer says the same things to me over, and over, and over again. And while the process is slow, I am learning and loving every bit of shaking up what I thought I knew about my body and myself. Breathing new physical strength into my body is what I think it means to really live.
Sweat dripping down my face. I lick my lips and taste the delightfully salty reward for my efforts hitting the bag. I step back, heart racing and reflect:
While I don’t love myself as much as I would like physically, I sure as hell do LOVE the woman I am today. I am fearless. I try new things without hesitation. ‘NO’ has absolutely zero place in my vocabulary. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t anything I can’t do. So unlike when I was in college and I peer into the mirror and my reflection doesn’t quite love me back yet, I see that this body and mind are pillars of endless strength. And despite my life’s trials, and dark periods filled with negativity, like the Phoenix, I rise again because in my life there is only room for I CAN, I WILL, and I AM.
So the next time you are in my class, or anyone else’s fitness class for that matter: Listen to the person nudging you to push a little harder. Look a litter closer and listen to your authentic-self. Are you really pushing yourself in all arenas of your life? Ask the hard questions and know that you won’t get the answers right away. Relish the process of self-discovery, for something new is waiting up ahead to teach you something about yourself.