As I continue on this journey towards creating my strongest and healthiest self, I’m spending a lot of time rethinking food choices and what nutrition really means as far as fueling my body and my goals. After a year of and a half of following a low carb, no sugar, ketogenic way of life, I have a better understanding of what makes me feel good from the inside out, and have gotten into a great rhythm of tried and true recipes, go-to weeknight meals, and staying on my plan while on the road for work.
This journey hasn’t been perfect, though. Yes I have lost 80lbs, and yes feel SO much better than I have in years, but truth be told, I’ve been struggling with my workouts for quite some time now. And not just the physical aspects of moving my body, but the mental and emotional challenges as well. And I haven’t really talked about them, until now.
For years I have been a member of a group personal training gym that focuses on workouts based on high intensity interval training that I absolutely love.
I love the coaches. I love the members. I love love love the workout, the energy, the challenge, the atmosphere- all of it.
For years this place has made me feel stronger, faster, and was the first place to support me in becoming the person I am today. They have helped me follow my dream to be able to run, and push my body to do more and be more. And I’ve been grateful for those experiences.
But lately I haven’t been feeling this way.
Over the past year this workout routine has started to feel really hard on my body, and I’ve endured some injuries along the way. And it’s all on me.
As I continued to reduce my weight and get healthier, I wanted to do more. I wanted to go faster and go longer distances on treadmill. I wanted to use heavier weights. I wanted to do more and be more. But the more I pushed, the more I injured myself. My mind and its desire to do more was competing with my body- and my body couldn’t keep up. Feeling this way brought on a lot of pressure, and injuries pulled me away from workouts for long spurts of time while I healed. Sure I could have slowed things down in my workouts to be able to avoid injury, or to stay the path to continue working out while healing, but it wasn’t enough for me. I constantly felt internal pressure to do more and more, and working out became a burden. I no longer looked to it as a source of strength. It was a source of setback and disappointment instead.
I knew it was time.
I didn’t want to use that word that has so much guilt and stigma attached to it, but I knew it was coming.
I needed to quit and find something else.
I thought about this for weeks and weeks.
I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want to leave the gym that had given me so much life.
I didn’t want to quit.
And as I mulled over the bit Q word, I immediately felt like a failure. I couldn’t give up. Giving up would mean I was giving up on my dreams.
But the more I pushed myself toward these goals (of being a runner, for example), the more setbacks I faced. And eventually I asked myself “Why are you holding onto this goal? Why is it important to you?” and the answers I came up with were legitimate ones. I enjoyed the feeling, the whoosh and the high, the accomplishment, the excitement, the power and strength.
As I listed those things, I knew that there were now consequences attached to them all. Injury, setbacks, struggle. And those weren’t feelings that I wanted to continue to experience. They weren’t healthy. They weren’t safe. And most of all, they weren’t sustainable, especially moving into my 40th trip around the sun.
At that moment I asked myself an important question. “Were running and high-intensity workouts the only way to achieve those feelings and emotions? Could there be other things I could do without jeopardizing my wellness? Could I find something else to help me meet my fitness and health goals? What exactly was I holding onto and why? Was it the length of time I’ve talked about these goal that made it necessary for me to not give them up? Did I fear societal pressure? Internal pressure? Fear of failure? Fear of quitting? To be honest, I could answer “yes” to quite a few of those questions. And even one “yes” is an unhealthy reason to hold onto something- even if it’s attached to a goal.
I’m turning 40 in June, and I want my body to continue to get stronger, healthier, and leaner, and to be able to move fluidly, strongly, and flexibly as I enter this new stage of life. I knew I needed to find something new. Something safer for me. Something sustainable. I needed to be a learner again. All of these years of working out and running had me thinking I knew what was right for my body. But injury after injury proved me wrong. I needed to understand how to move and think in a way that supported my goals, instead of competing with expectations of what I thought I should be doing in order to feel strong. I needed to find something low impact, but still challenging, with a strong focus on stretching and flexibility to loosen up the muscles and tendons that I had been overusing repeatedly, leading me to injury. I needed something less intense, both physically and mentally. It was important for me to not only be able to prioritize my body’s needs, but my emotional needs as well.
A few friends of mine had been telling me about barre classes for a long, long time, and it had been in and out of my mind for a few weeks as I searched for something new. After about a month of thinking about it, I decided to try a class.
As expected, the typical thoughts of a plus-sized exerciser ran through my mind- would I fit in? would I be accepted? would I be laughed at for being “large”? would I be clumsy and awkward? would it really support my goals? would l it be enough of a workout to get my heart-rate up? what do I even wear to a barre class? etc.
Those thoughts went through my find for a while until I finally told myself “you’re still thinking about it, so just TRY IT.” So, I acknowledged those emotions as they surfaced, worked through each of them with a rational answer (which was usually a “we’re going to find out!”), and walked into my first class with a brave face and a smile.
And here I am, sitting here sharing this story with you, with FIVE barre classes under my leggings!!
And it’s freakin’ amazing.
From the moment I walked into the studio (wearing Old Navy running leggings, a form fitting dri-fit t-shirt, and grippy socks, by the way- which was all totally fine!) I have felt overwhelmingly welcomed. Everyone, from the instructors, to the desk staff, to the other members, has been SO supportive, encouraging, and, most of all, inclusive. Although I still have much to learn, nobody is shy about helping me out when I feel lost, need support in setting up equipment, or need a correction in my form.
I love, love, love barre class because it gives me a space that is calmer, more streamlined, focused, stiller, and with a greater attention to flexibility, all while still providing me with incredibly challenging and heart pumping movements that will continue to change my body for the better. Not only do I leave classes feeing looser and more limber, but I also leave feeling confident and strong. In class I don’t feel like I stick out or don’t belong. There are people there of all shapes, sizes, and abilities, and we are all there with the same goal in mind- to be kind to our bodies.
I will always love my previous gym family, and will continue to send people their way because I truly believe in the program. But for me, my time there has ended, and that’s ok. I quit because I knew it wasn’t right for me anymore. Quitting is never an easy thing to do, but we have to remove the fear, judgement, and guilt attached to it so that if there is something we know we need to quit (a workout, a relationship, or anything else not serving our goals and well-being), we can take those steps to move forward and do what we know is best for our body, mind, and soul.
I officially joined my barre studio, and said goodbye to my previous gym family. And while it was bittersweet, I’m excited to begin this new journey, and cannot wait to continue sharing my story with you all.