September 1, 2019

Becoming Strong

“The softer you are on yourself, the softer you will become.” – David Goggins

Back in 2012, I ran a half marathon. I’d gradually worked my way up from nothing to 5K, then 10K, then 21.1 k (for non-runners, that’s a half marathon). I was darn proud. However, I messed up my body in the process because I was missing a key element: strength training.

So I stopped running. The pain of injury had taken its toll on my brain. But as time went on, I yearned for the days when I felt fit and wasn’t anxious. Running was better than any pill I could take.

To get back to those glory days, I joined the gym, a great gym: Naturally Fit (NF). The first time I walked in, I thought it looked like a big garage. The sound of heavy metal music filled the air. Not a place I would usually hang out, but the wonderful staff soon won me over.

There was Doris Ward, personal trainer extraordinaire, who got me set up on an exercise program (and another and another). Then there were Jason and Dawn, the owners. The first time I walked in and Jason was there, he shook my hand. I told him my name and that I was training with Doris. He said, “I know.” What I didn’t know then was that Jason knew everyone who walked in the door. There were other great instructors I trained with. I loved working with them all.

With dedicated effort over a period of time, I got stronger, fitter. I had my ups and downs, for sure. I slacked off here and there, but in general, I was pretty steady.

After a couple of years (give or take), Doris left to branch out on her own. I continued training with her while still going to the gym. Then things started to go awry. It was no one’s fault but my own. I haven’t really analyzed why, but I lost my focus. I forgot how good it felt to be in great shape. Eventually, it got to the point where I was doing next to no physical activity.

At one point, things really started to go downhill. I gained weight. I burned out at work. I started having anxiety attacks. I knew the answer was to get active again, but I was still content to sit on my couch like a bump on a log.

Then I started having back pain and stiffness. Enough was enough so when I saw one of the NF instructors (Stephanie) advertising a Tuesday and Thursday 6:00 a.m. exercise class for eight weeks during the summer, I decided to sign up. I had always liked Stephanie’s classes.

That first session was awful. I, the queen of flexibility, couldn’t even bend down and touch my toes. I hurt the whole time and felt like I was an out-of-shape seventy-five-year-old. I was ticked off at myself.

But I was also proud. I’d taken the first step to get back in shape. Stephanie was kind and encouraging. For example, when I couldn’t lift both legs off the floor at the same time, she told me to lift one.

I worked hard at those 6:00 a.m. classes two mornings a week, and within two weeks, my back pain and stiffness was gone. I was also starting to feel better, but I knew I had to do more so I started going to Jason’s morning classes as well. (He gives free hugs – even when you’re all sweaty – which is a great start to the day.)

Then a funny thing happened. I started looking forward to those early morning classes. Me, who doesn’t like to exercise! But by working out, I was burning off stress. I was feeling a sense of  accomplishment. I was starting to have more energy and feel stronger. I was feeling renewed!

When I first joined the gym a few years ago, Doris asked me about my goals. I said, “When I turn 50, I want to be able to do 50 push-ups and 5 pull-ups.” I didn’t reach that goal because I slacked off. I’m back to doing push-ups (from my knees for now), and I couldn’t do a pull-up to save my soul. But I’m recommitting. I WILL do it!

I want to be an example. For my kids. For anyone who thinks that fifty-something women don’t have what it takes. For myself. I want to demonstrate that you can do anything you put your mind to. I want to strengthen my body because the process strengthens my mind.

On the recommendation of my son Max, I read Can’t Hurt Me, a memoir by David Goggins, U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes.

It’s a book full of macho, alpha male bravado, but it touched a nerve in me. I never believed I was strong, physically or mentally, but David Goggins made me realize that’s bad thinking (read the book).

I may not be as strong as I want right now, but I’ll get there. It’s simply a matter of consistently working at it even when the lazy part of me throws up obstacles. I’m no longer content to settle for less. I want to be the best I can be so I need to push past my comfort zone.

I can do this. In fact, I AM doing it. What a mighty fine feeling it is.

Reflection: Do you have a goal? Are you working towards it? If not, what are the obstacles, internal and external? How can you overcome them? Think about it. Then act.