A week ago I was sick. Asthma. Stomach. Exhausted. I cancelled most everything. No ballet. No Inna. No training with Chelle, maybe one lesson at the end of the week with Ivan, and I think I did make it to the Tuesday training session with my trainer at the gym.
She’s leaving. I think I’m going for the Guinness Book of World Records for person who goes through the most trainers before reaching their goal weight (I’ve had 4 previously to the most recent 2).
So that will be another change. I’m doing my best to “audition” potential trainers but, sadly, I think it’s pretty slim pickings.
The deal is I walked into that gym on a day in which I was in a lot of mental anguish about my body and wanted to change. I’ve worked with trainers before and see value in it and I’m committed to changing this massive form of mine so I signed up for a year of sessions. 30 minutes, twice weekly, one year. I mean, it gets me in the door, it gets me doing things I’d not do on my own voluntarily. It serves it’s purpose. And with the financial hook, I’m going to follow through, you know? But that was with a trainer who told me “I won’t let you quit! I’ll come to your house!”
I was, and am, way more committed to my success than he was, which is right. It should be that way. I have no chance if I am not committed. But/And it kinda sucks to interact with people who give lip service to having your back when they really don’t. Anyways, that guy was out the door after I think maybe 3 weeks, and that is being generous. And anyways, I pretty much know that the committment of my trainers is kinda, sorta, maybe present for the 30 minutes I’m there in front of their face but it ends at the door and when the session is up.
Anywhoo, that’s why I hired the nutritionist and she is in it like no kidding. And I am SO grateful for that because nobody owes me nothing and what they are willing to give me is a gift! At the end of the day it is all on me.
But anyways, I am leveraging the fact that I know myself and that if I have an appointment with somebody, I will show up. If I don’t, I won’t. So at this stage, I haven’t internalized “the trainer” and I need some external help. But I have to say that I’m seeing the advantages of taking over the reins, especially with all the trainer musical chairs. I’m thinking that perhaps I will do one, one-hour session with a new trainer weekly instead of two 1/2-hour sessions (since I’m on a contract) and then come in on my own for an hour the other day and work out with Chelle the third day. Yeah, she ‘s awesome like that. We don’t just meet to chat about the meal plan. We now work out beforehand. Who is so lucky? Yep. You’re right. It’s me.
Even if I continue to have the mental toughness of a roasted marshmallow, and fall to pieces crying at almost every physical exertion, I’m still incredibly blessed.
Cause, yeah. That’s another thing I’ve realized about myself. Well, I realized it about myself a while ago in the context of dancing and now I’m just extending it to the rest of life and including the journey to recomposition and reshape my body. I have no training/experience/preparation/guidance for how to be “mentally tough.” I just don’t. It is an area I am horribly deficient in.
I mean, I have some sort of fortitude. I made it through college and pharmacy school. But you see, I have confidence and experience excelling in the “book smart” realm. I’m generally a capable, empathetic, reasonable human being. But not when it comes the the physical realm – the world of trusting my body or loving my physical self (and I’m a dancer? Ironic, no?). I’ve not learned my body’s limits so my brain imagines them up for me. I’ve not tested myself physically, I don’t have experience or confidence in what I can, or can not do. My default setting is to think that I can not do something. My default setting is to see all my physical imperfections and to never see the beauty. It hurts. I panic. I cry.
Tell me, “Stef do a squat with a 40 pound barbell,” and my knee-jerk reaction is, “I can’t do that! That sounds really hard! I don’t think I’m strong enough!” It is the same with dancing, too, by the way. Ask me to do a fouette turn or a grand jete and I already know I’ll suck at it. Ivan has managed to help me grow my comfort zone incredibly and I do more with him than I ever thought I would. But anyways, with both gym exercises and dancing when asked to do something that I perceive as impossible or difficult I try it and it is either easier than I expect, or harder than I expect, and usually I can perform some semblance the task being asked of me, even if it is ridiculously difficult. Many times this genuinely surprises me. It surprises me when I can do something I don’t expect I will be able to do. I feel comfortable when I get to do a physical exercise I’ve executed before and “know” that I can do. And I get royally, royally pissed off when I am not up to the task. I get frustrated with the struggle. I panic with the unknown. I would rather give up and give in when I think it will be safe than push the envelope. I think, though, that the challenges that the trainers have given me, even if horribly hard, at least I had some experience with, so I was willing to try to push. I push hard. I do. I am going to give myself credit for that. I push more than they usually expect, I think and I go for it until muscle failure if that is what is asked of me.
Because a weird thing happened. I don’t usually give up these days. I may pause and take a breath to find something more inside to complete one more rep or something like that, but it has been a long while since I gave up before my body gave up.
But it happened this Wednesday.
I worked out with Chelle. We did some exercises I wasn’t familiar with but I coped with okay. I even did “mountain climbers” which is like getting into that starting position of sprint runners before a race and switching legs as fast as possible for 30 seconds. That was one of those exercises I thought I’d have no chance at but I accomplished even if it was challenging. I’m okay with challenging.
Then Chelle had us do planks on a medicine ball.
Now I’ve done a plank on a physio-ball, on my elbows, on a bosu ball, and with my arms fully straightened.
The medicine ball was scarier. I was really unsure that I was going to be able to do it at all. I slowly placed both my hands on the ball, wrists touching, spreading my fingers over both lateral sides of the ball, and slowly, gingerly, straightened my legs, allowing the pressure to build up through my core, chest and down my arms.
I held the plank for the entire time one the first go, but on the second round, as she was counting down, with 3 seconds left, something within me broke and I let go. Honestly I can’t remember the last time I did that during an exercise.
And she called me out on it afterwards.
“You had more in you. I could see it. You didn’t have 3 more seconds? Really?”
It is a big knot of confused resistance/acceptance inside me.
Instinctually, reacting, I explain. I rationalize. I defend. I am disgusted with myself, “Great, Stef! Argue for your limitations! Awesome!”
Because inside…I am still trying to understand what this was all about.
I feel – neutral – about it.
I was at a limit. I very much feel that. And yet, what was the limit? If my life had depended on holding onto that plank position on a medicine ball for 3 more seconds, would I have let go like that? Nope! Could my body have tolerated 3 more seconds, yes. I think it could have….but I’m not sure. So, why did I, in that instant, let go? It is an enigma to which I have not yet discovered the answer. But a question worth asking.
The reason I feel neutral about it all is that there is no point in punishing myself about it. At first the reason I was reactive and felt the need to explain my action was because I felt like Chelle was saying I was just arbitrarily giving up. But I knew that I had pushed through a lot already to get to that moment. I was already digging as deep as I normally do to find that extra power to get myself through the challenge, I was already panic breathing and holding on through that….to the point that I let go. I was upset to hear through my mental filters that what I’d done wasn’t enough. (That’s not what she said, at all but that is how I heard it initially and it stung). And extrapolate that to “I’m not enough” and even to “I’ll never be enough” because dang, how can I work out like I do and it is still not enough? And I’m still unable to do X, Y, Z. I’m telling you the mental mess is the most difficult to suss out, the most difficult to weather. Anyways, I want to acknowledge that I went right up to the edge of some internal barrier and that I am willing to entertain the idea that it wasn’t a physical limit but rather a mental one. That, my friends, is good work and not something to punish myself about. Yes, I let go and let up…this time. It’s part of the process and discovery. And, it opens the door to pushing my boundaries a bit further out once I figure out what exactly it was that I gave into.
Anyways, I’m doing all this stuff because I’m obsessed about getting my body smaller, hitting that particular target, and I’m demolished every day when I see the non-results in the mirror. And I come to understand this Buddhist parable I learned about.
A neophyte went to train with an archery master. The archery master set up the target along the rim of a canyon. He expertly strung his bow, pulled back on the arrow, turned around, and proceeded to shoot the arrow off into the canyon.
As with most Buddhist anecdotes I was initially confused, ha ha, but the point of the story is that the archery master no longer needed to hit the target. It was the practice, the day in and the day out habitual practices, that made him a master. The seeking of the target became superfluous to becoming a master. Being able to expertly hit the target became a side effect of becoming the master.
So what I take from this is that I am in pursuit of a target – a lean, toned body with a fat percentage of under 20%, and I’m not after that at all. I’m actually after mastering myself, integrating my self with my physical body and loving all of me/it, and being the dancer I could be. The result of that will be hitting the target.
And I can’t seem to let go of the damn target! Seriously. For that reason I think I’m going to smash my bathroom scale into tiny shards. What satisfaction it will be to throw that torture device with all my anger onto the cement!!!! I relish the thought and will film it if I do it!! That will really tell my subconscious I’m serious about this – that I’m going for the authentic core of this – that I am going to refuse to engage in the game of shame, berating, loathing based on a number but rather let my flesh tell the story as it will as clothes loosen, bone protrudes, and skin tightens over muscle…..even if it moves as slowly as a glacier flattening the earth….
In any case, this week has been better. Back on the meal plan, back to ballet, back to some lessons with Ivan. I ended up with a bad migraine on Tuesday that included odd visual changes and numb fingers (don’t fret! “Normal” prodromal symptoms for me when I have migraines) so I skipped ballroom on Tuesday but other than that I’m 100% back. And good thing because Desert Classic is a week and a half away.
I’m at such an odd place right now because I am indeed on my way, working diligently toward my goals, and yes, there has been some change. But sadly, it is not as dramatic as I would like. I am lighter and fitter, but still miles and miles away from actually being “light” and “fit”. It’s more like I’m still “big and fat” but less “big and fat.” It’s slow. I doggie paddle in place for months at a time and I don’t know why and it sucks. And yeah, I’m better off than I was, but I still have a boatload of not feeling good about myself I’m dragging around behind me.
I’m kind of like in that stage when you grow your hair out between bangs and no bangs. It’s awkward. It’s not quite right. It’s too long but too short at the same time. I’m in the limbo, the space between where I was and where I want to be.
Well there’s nothing for it but to dance through it. And so I will. I’ll dance as “In-between-bangs” but I will dance the best damn “In-between-bangs-stage” there ever was.
So much deep, internal work isn’t it? Your muscles didn’t fail you but your brain or your mind or your emotions or all three said you had had enough. Then you are stuck with the questions and the self-examination for hours, days, weeks. I had a senior yoga teacher come to me one day when I was struggling with something challenging, bend close to my ear and say “you are stronger than you think you are.” My reply was, “I know. I just have to find it.”
Great post and glad you are feeling better:-)
I thought of you and this quote from Dr. Jonas Salk “it was the year that initated a process- that was what was important. It was not the product of that year, but the initiation of a process, setting out on a path. It’s important to recognize that sometimes at a turning point, what’s important is to let go of the way your were going or the way you are- to explore a new direction”. Error making and error correction turns into evolution!
Thanks, Mary. This is inspiring. 🙂