I’ve been having a hard time articulating what happened at the gym this past Monday into written words.
In short: I had a complete breakdown.
I had completed one series of exercises and was about to start on round two when I just collapsed onto the mat. A wave of emotion bubbled up from the inside and spilled out all over my face.
I started hyperventilating, struggling to catch my breath.
The words “I can’t” were echoing in my head so loudly that they managed to escape from my mouth.
I blamed the bar-facing burpees.
It wasn’t the burpees.
Let’s go back in time to July 1st when I joined a six-week nutrition challenge with a goal of developing a healthier relationship with food. I’d started going to the gym back in April, and had steadily maintained a routine of going three days a week without fail. While my strength and stamina had been steadily improving, I was still stopping by the donut shop on my way home for a croissant sandwich and a muffin three to four days a week.
The challenge kicked off with an orientation that taught us just about everything we needed to know to calculate our Macros, and I hit the ground running. I got through the 4th of July festivities without going over my macro count. I got through my 41st birthday without going over my macro count. I got through the pre-planned distillery tour and tasting without going over my macro counts. July would have been the HARDEST outside of November/December to start a new eating plan, and I had DONE it. I got to the fifth week with zero trouble, and – along with my continued workouts – I absolutely have been seeing a change in my body.
But last week, a wave of exhaustion hit me and I missed the Wednesday workout. Maybe it’s my period. Maybe it’s that I’m struggling to hit my protein counts. Maybe it’s the heat. Regardless, when Friday’s workout kicked off with 100 situps in about 5 minutes, and moved up in intensity from there, I was feeling it. I was so tired by the time we got to the lifting that my form was off, and I woke up Saturday morning with intense pain in my abs AND lower back.
I had every intention of doing another workout on Saturday or Sunday, but just couldn’t get myself to do it. And then it happened.
I thought that after 5 weeks of clean eating I could handle having a box of RX Bars or a little bit of cheese in the house. That I could eat just one serving a day and not go overboard.
But between the exhaustion and the pain and the guilt of having missed a workout day, I caved and ate well over my daily allotment. I also dug into a carton of low carb ice cream that I’d bought with the express intention of measuring out each serving and only having one a day.
I just went straight to it with a spoon.
That brings us back to this past Monday. My lower back was doing better, but my abs were still on fire. It still hurt to sneeze or sit up, but I’m all about #makeitmonday where I just force myself to go to the gym no matter how much I don’t wanna.
And the workout included my LEAST favorite exercise: Burpees.
Now, over the last several months there have been many times when I’ve looked at the workout ahead and said something like “I can’t do that!” and my coach always says “Yes, you can.”
And then I do. I DO!
It feels amazing. I surprise myself constantly with what I’m actually capable of, but, like with most things (including kink), my pattern is to be so afraid of something the first time that it overpowers any feeling of joy that I might take from it in the moment. I don’t love it until after it’s over and I’ve had enough time to catch my breath. That’s when I feel the sense of pride in my accomplishment that keeps me coming back for more.
Just before we started the workout, I said to my coach “I’m going to trust you that I can do this,” but looking back now I know that was my inside voice saying “I don’t think I can, and I’m really nervous about failing.”
I was pushing past that voice and relying on the fact that for four months, I have not failed, and trusted that my body would get me through the workout as it had before.
But this time, with the weight of the weekend binge, and the missed workout Wednesday, the sore abs from Friday, and the looming pressure of the final week of the nutrition challenge where the winner will receive a portion of the pot we all bought into, I just …..broke.
I have never felt so defeated as I did in that moment.
Even two days later, I’m still feeling an apple-sized ball of emotions trembling in my guts as I type this. I feel that lump in my throat and the waterworks ready to leak out onto my face all over again.
I remember feeling a little bit of resentment that I’d reached the point of failure. I HATE failure. I hate it so much that I’d rather not try something at all if I don’t know for certain that I can achieve it, and here I went and tried despite my misgivings and I FAILED.
Why didn’t my Coach know that was too much for me? Why didn’t I listen to my guts telling me that this workout was too much?
And then I remember all the lessons I’ve learned through kink about not pushing myself beyond my own limits, about not making it my partner’s responsibility to know where those limits are, and about not feeling like a failure just because I have to call “red” on a scene.
My coach told me to be gentle with myself. She told me I could lay there for the rest of the workout, or…if I felt up to it, I could do 5 and 5 intervals of burpees and lifts instead of 15 and 9.
I spent a few more minutes laying there, crying, and then I got up and did 5 and 15, then 5 and 9.
I finished the workout, only 14 burpees short of the original goal, and I had so many feelings about that. Instead of being proud that I’d done what I could, that I hadn’t given up completely, I felt lousy because I couldn’t do the workout as prescribed.
I spent some time investigating that feeling and had a bit of an epiphany about how often I’ve held myself back from feeling this level of disappointment in myself by convincing myself that I don’t WANT to do something instead of suggesting that I CAN’T do something.
I realized how very few times in my life I’ve actually allowed myself to fail at anything.
And, even though it’s hard for me to admit – even now, two days later – I realize that I’m going to have to try failing a lot more often if I’m ever going achieve my goals on any level.
PS – I showed up at the gym today.