I have tried nearly every other form of exercise I can think of. Weight lifting. Boot camp. Running. Hiking. Walking. Yoga. Pilates. Swimming. Even Tai Chi!
I like them for a session or two. I think with that bootcamp workout, I actually stuck it out for a solid month, but that was a long time ago in a body far, far away.
People always talk about exercise as this thing that gives you a rush of endorphins that you can get addicted to. “Oh, I hated doing this or that activity until I started doing it regularly and now if I don’t do it, I get depressed.” In polyamory, they do the same thing when they talk about compersion, and I’ll see post after post of people thinking they’re doing polyamory wrong because they don’t feel compersion.
I never felt that exercise high, either. I would do the exercises and wait for the big rush of energy, but all I ever felt was exhausted and sore.
About two months ago, I saw a sponsored facebook ad for a crossfit gym in my area. “Six week transformation challenge!”
My brother and his wife did crossfit. They talked about it SO MUCH, the way people always joke about crossfitters always talking about crossfit.
I have driven and walked passed several crossfit gyms in my area, too. I see people jumping from the ground up onto these boxes, and running around the block, and pushing themselves to the limit with weight lifting that looks so scarily unpleasant that I felt I could safely say that was NOT the type of workout for me.
So for years whenever people would tout the wonders of crossfit, I’d just shake my head and jokingly tell them they’ve joined a cult, and that it isn’t for me.
I bet you can see where this is going….but the important part of the story is in the details.
First of all – the ad I saw? It didn’t feature super buffed models who looked like they were born at the gym. It seemed more inviting than that, though I now can’t remember why that was. What I do remember is that I clicked through to their facebook page and website and was met with photos of regular looking people.
Older people. Younger people. Bigger people. Slimmer people. Every gender, every color, every shape of people…and most importantly, women whose bodies looked like mine.
For the first time in a crossfit ad, I could see someone who looked like me doing it – and suddenly, the possibility that I could do it too seemed reasonable.
The other thing I liked? When I clicked through to learn more about the six week challenge, there was no immediate contract. Instead, it was “come in for an in-person interview and let’s see if this is right for you.”
Ooh. I liked that. No pressure. I could show up, tell them my concerns, and if I felt any push back I could just leave without signing up. So I completed the questionnaire, and shared some of my goals and concerns.
It was important to me that they understand my goal was not weight loss. As I have said time and time again, that’s a welcome side effect – but if my goal is weight loss and I don’t achieve it, then I will become disillusioned by the process and I’ll binge eat my feelings.
My goal, as I told them, was to build strength and stamina so that I could survive the apocalypse.
I’ll pause for laughter, because it’s reasonably laughable – but that’s sort of the truth. In our in-person meeting, I explained that “apocalypse” was shorthand for any major disaster – which, in southern California could mean devastating earthquake or fire or avocado shortage.
I worry a lot for a person who is as low-stress as I am. And I worry that in the case of an emergency, I won’t be able to outrun or defend myself from the looming post-apocalyptic nightmare that feels a lot less sci-fi than it used to.
I also explained that I have learned over 40 years of battling with my weight that I need to stop fighting it. I love my body. I’ve made my peace with it and I’ve FINALLY accepted that I am an amazing human being at any size, so I don’t have to tie my self-worth to my dress size anymore.
So what I needed was for them not to feel sorry for me if I got to the end of six weeks and didn’t lose an ounce. What I need was for them to cheer me on that I didn’t miss a single session in those six weeks.
Well, they agreed, and a few weeks later I showed up for day one of 18 days of crossfit training. I finished my timed mile at 19 minutes and 23 seconds, and immediately after, this pain in my hip flared up to the point where I thought my hip joint had come out of its socket.
And by the following morning I was in so much pain I thought….”holy shit, is this what it’s always going to be like….every day for six weeks?”
You should have seen me, walking like a slow penguin a Costco trying to pick up a few things for the house. It took me about three minutes to go up or down a flight of stairs because I was certain the muscles in my legs were going to give out on me.
But I went back on Wednesday.
And again on Friday.
And by the following Monday, it wasn’t that hard anymore. That’s when the really scary thing happened:
I realized that I actually liked the workout.
It took me another week before I was willing to admit it out loud, but sure enough – I’d started to feel that “high” that people were always talking about. And the soreness? It was never quite as bad as it was after that first session.
But something else happened, too. That hip thing, it got worse. And I talked to my coach about it and she modified the exercises for me. When everyone else in the group when out for a 800m run, I pulled out the rowing machine and rowed 1000m.
When everyone does 25 burbpees, I do a series of 25 pushups and 25 jumping jacks separately.
And last week, when my hip had flared up so badly that the weighted squats had become too much to bear, she had me finish out the reps with weightless air squats.
On Monday, my regular coach wasn’t there. She was taking the day off and there was a different coach there to lead us through the morning workout. I felt my anxiety levels increase. I didn’t know this guy. He didn’t know me. He wanted us to do a run and burpees and I was like “I don’t do runs and I don’t do burpees” and I worried that he would think I was being lazy or not pushing myself.
I mean, I’d built up a level of trust with Coach Pam. She knew my history and she would volunteer exercise modifications to make sure I don’t get hurt. Also, this guy? His playlist was different. It wasn’t motivating me like Coach Pam’s playlist did.
And THEN, when we went to do the weighted press, he told me to shift my elbows forward which caused me to work a different set of muscles than I’d worked on before. So, even though I’d pressed 50lbs last week, this time I could only do 30lbs while maintaining the proper form.
So, of course, today I’m feeling a tightness in my shoulders and I’m sitting writing this post and blaming his music and methods and the fact that he doesn’t know me well enough for my tight shoulders, instead of recognizing the pain for what it is: day one of strengthening a new muscle in my body.
In fact, this new coach has done me a service, because he’s reminded me that when things start to get easy – it doesn’t mean “just stay there.” It means, “let’s tweak this now and level up!”
So, in reality this whole blog post wasn’t about crossfit. That’s just an apt analogy for what it really is about: overcoming the challenges of opening up relationships.
People are not one-size-fits all, and even though they all are all things I enjoy recreationally, as a long term committed workout – swimming and yoga and tai chi and hiking didn’t have the ability to keep me interested.
It’s like when someone you’re interested in looks so good on paper, but then in reality – it’s just not what you thought it would be.
The part of this revelation that often goes unsaid is that the opposite is also true sometimes. Sometimes the person you have an interest in just isn’t feeling the same way about you, and it sucks to be rejected, but that rejection shouldn’t make you feel like there’s something wrong with you.
There’s nothing wrong with yoga or all the people who get so much out of it. I’ve even enjoyed a session or two of yoga with the right yogi, but there were circumstances that made it difficult for my schedule to align with that particular instructor’s class offerings.
This is like connecting with someone where the sparks fly, but it’s long distance, or they are so busy there’s never any time to connect, or they’re polyamorous and you know you want sexual exclusivity with your future partner, or you enjoy going out for a drink with them from time to time, but then discover that they drink heavily every night and not just once in a while.
Some people are just not a good fit, and that’s what I think boundaries are for. Boundaries prioritize compatibility over attraction.
But I wasn’t attracted to cross fit. I thought it was 100% not for me. So, when I think about the difference between me joking about the cult of crossfit and me actually becoming someone who enjoys crossfit – I can pinpoint one very specific catalyst for that shift: I saw myself reflected back in those photos, and suddenly, the idea of participating in this activity seemed possible.
That’s it. I had to get out of my own way. I had to move past the idea that “crossfit isn’t for me” and past the “I hate exercise” and past the “my body doesn’t process that endorphin rush like everyone else’s does” lie that I’d been telling myself for years, and all it took was for me to accept that maybe it was possible that I could do it after all. I had to be willing to try, just like I tried with all the other types of exercise that didn’t work out.
In coaching school they teach us to work on visioning exercises with our clients. “Imagine what your life would be like a year from now if all of the things holding you back right now were gone. What would it be like?”
And in those photos, I had a tangible representation of that vision handed to me.
But the metaphor doesn’t end there, because even though I found this thing that made me feel good, it was still causing me some physical pain that wasn’t intentional.
And what happened? I communicated it to my coach, and she worked with me to modify the movements so that I could continue to build strength while not exacerbating an injury. So, yes…for the last three weeks, I’ve not been running, but I have been getting my cardio in. And I have not been burpee-ing, but I have been building up my arm strength with the pushups.
And you know what she told me last week?
“It’s time to go to the doctor and get that hip looked at, because five weeks is too long for that pain to still be bothering you.”
It’s a common theme: when people are first opening up their relationships …and especially in mono/poly relationships where one of the partners is challenged by their partner’s desire for non-exclusivity, we set up rules and agreements that are basically modifications to the exercises in order to avoid any pain or hardship.
But the source of that pain isn’t getting healed, either. It’s just sitting there, being left alone and unexplored and at any moment I might do something and cause more permanent damage to it because I *don’t* know what’s causing it or why walking and running exacerbates it.
She’s right. I should be making that appointment, and I haven’t yet – and I don’t know why other than I’m afraid to find out that it’s something that can’t be fixed.
And isn’t that why so many people resist digging into the things that make them uncomfortable in their relationships? What if they dig so deep they find out that what they’re working with is a fundamental incompatibility? What if they uncover a truth they don’t want to know: that the pain they feel will never go away? That the trust can’t be rebuilt? Or that the way someone is loving them is simply not meeting their needs?
What if I go to the doctor and the doctor tells me, “You can’t do this exercise anymore?”
What if I go to the doctor and the doctor tells me, “Oh…yeah, here’s a pill or a shot and that inflammation will go down and now you can start running and burpee-ing and continue working toward your ultimate goal of surviving the apocalypse.”
Cause, lemme tell you, I am not gonna outrun a zombie if I can’t even do ten burpees. Sometimes it’s important to remember what the ultimate goal is, and not let yourself get so comfortable with the modifications that you stop short of having achieved it.
Tomorrow will be the close of week five of the six week challenge and I’m sitting here trying to figure out how I can fit the monthly fee for this gym into my budget. It’s not cheap, but as my brother said, “Think of it like medicine. If your life-saving medication cost this much, you’d pay it without a second thought.”
And, like I told Coach Pam the other day when she talked about why investing money into your personal growth tends to have better outcomes than not, “The side walk was out there for free every single day of my life, and you didn’t see me running on it.”
But by this time next year, you just might.
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