So, this used to be easy to write and lately it’s been really hard. As in last week. Last week it was really hard. That Ch. 4 post was super painful. Not because of the content. I don’t think that content was any more difficult than other posts of written. It’s just started feeling like pulling teeth. There was no flow. It was choppy. And so I’ve decided to try something new, and take a more positive approach this week.
You see, the truth is, my body story has not been 100% bad. But this series make it seem like that might be the case.
So I’m coming clean (any body keeping track of how many times this is?), my body story has had some pretty amazing upsides, namely thanks to the fitness side of the bargain.
Ahhh my fitness story. To be honest, I was never the most athletic person. Let’s call it a lack of hand-eye coordination. So when an ice rink opened up in Scottsdale right when we moved to Arizona, it seemed like a good time to take up a sport.
I proceeded to figure skate for seven years, the longest I ever stuck to any extracurricular activity (other than television, am I right?!). Although the sport had me moving for an average of an hour a day, I can’t say my body was showing any sign of the physical activity (as in it didn’t make me lose weight…THE HORROR). And now, as I write this, I’m realizing that’s exactly what fitness should be. It should be something you love to do, regardless of how it impacts your appearance.
After that, I didn’t do much regular physical activity until college. As I mentioned, during my summer internships I walked about 3 miles a day five times a week. That was mostly out of convenience…it took me a little longer to get where I was going than it did by bus, but I wasn’t reliant on a schedule…I could head to work whenever I pleased.
At some point in college, I started working out regularly with friends. At first, it was doing Insanity with a few of my friends in the mornings before class. Eventually I found my own regimen through something called BodyRock: 12-25 minute HIIT workouts. I loved these workouts: they were short, they were intense, I could definitely tell that my fitness level and my ability were increasing.
Eventually I needed to switch it up…my personal fitness didn’t not completely overcome my serious body-image issues and comparing myself to the hosts of BodyRock was noticeably impacting me. At this point I tried a few other fitness programs and was eventually asked by a friend if I would be interested in running a marathon with her in nine months time. That was January three years ago.
While I had dabbled with running off and on since my last year in college, I had never run even six miles at that point. I had never done any kind of training that had a goal in the end. I had never, ever in my life considered becoming a long distance runner. I jumped on the idea.
My first run over six miles was a week after that first break up that I mentioned in Ch. 3. I ran 6.7 miles. It was easy. I was amazed at the success of training. I was AMAZED at what training allowed my body to do. I finished that marathon. It wasn’t easy. I wanted to give up at mile 14. A guy collapsed next to me at mile 20. My hamstring cramped at mile 24. But I ran the whole thing and I had never been prouder of my body. Six months later I ran a half marathon with very little formal training. I cheated myself of the awe of training, but again I was in awe of what my body was physically capable of.
During my first round of training I started using weights to increase my strength. After running my second race I started focusing on strength training. If I had to guess I’d say I read somewhere that strength is actually more effective for weight loss than cardio (fuck, I know). Around this time, Beach Body’s 21 Day Fix came out. Then 21 Day Fix Extreme. Honestly, these two programs focus almost entirely on weight loss. But they were also my gateway into formal weight training. These programs only supported my body issues, supporting before and after pictures, supporting sticking to diets, selling supplements.
Eventually I did a solely weight lifting program called Body Beast. This was, I’d argue, more targeted towards men and focused more on bulking up rather than leaning out. The last Beach Body program I did was called Hammer and Chisel. And on that faithful day in February when I realized I continued to working out because of how much I hated my body, I stopped that too.
I stopped, but I still look back at all these trainings and programs and think about what my body was capable of doing: how many miles it ran, how many pushups it did, my heaviest squat, my fastest mile. The problem is, going into these programs hating my body, made me lose track of these amazing accomplishments and got me focusing on how my body looked as a result of them.
I hope to work out again soon. I hope to do short, concentrated HIIT workouts. I have visions of hill sprint workouts (I loved these when I started speed training). But I am also scared. I am scared that if I start working out before I’ve figured out my body image issues, I will just spiral into hate, into before and after pictures, into restricting and binging. So that’s why I’m not rushing myself. I’m working through the random loathing I’ve felt at how lazy I’m being. I’m working through the weekly random loathing of the little gut that I’ve formed. I’m celebrating the times I look in the mirror and see beauty regardless of the weight I’ve gained. And some day, I hope soon (but no rush, right?), I will put on my running shoes, and I will go to a track, and I will do a short workout, and I will come home and I will revel in knowing that I did something good for my body out of love, and not out of hate.
So what are some of my accomplishments? I have completed one marathon, one half marathon, a tough mudder, two 10k races, two 5k races, I’ve run a sub 8 minute mile, I’ve squatted upwards of a hundred pounds, I’ve deadlifted 95 pounds, I’ve done more push-ups and burpees than I can attempt to count. I can touch my hand to the floor in a forwards fold, my head to my knees in a seated fold, and I can touch my heels to the ground in a downward dog. Before I quit skating I had landed a double axel and all the jumps beneath it. I was very proud of my camel-to-sit spin to back sit spin, though I never got my back bed quite right. I’ve walked and run countless miles outside my races. I’ve hiked anywhere from easy to more challenging hikes all around the US. I’ve kayaked, played tennis, done stand up paddle boarding. I have swam (swum?) and done back flips off docks into rivers. I tried (and failed hilariously) at water skiing. I even faced my fear of heights and took a 15-20 foot leap into a river off my friend’s porch. I’ve rappelled. I’ve rock climbed (though not in a while). I took ballet and jazz for as long as I skated. I even tried to teach myself to surf once. These are all the things my body has helped me achieve, all while I’ve hated some part of it. I wonder what we can accomplish once I’ve learned to accept it!