I’d like to say that today was the first time I’ve cried during a workout, but that would be a lie. I actually learned early on that it is really hard to run while crying. It takes a level of pulmonary coordination that I just don’t have. But I digress.
Today, I got a one-on-one session with a trainer at the gym because I was the only person to show up. (Score points for me, right?) I’ve worked out with this trainer before and he always gives me a run for my money. Today was absolutely no exception.
The 17 minute warm up started to beat me up as I was already tired from yesterday’s workout. I knew things weren’t going to improve when he asked me to “inch worm” across the gym.
An inchworm is a movement where you start in a standing position then walk your hands out in front of you until you are in a plank, and then walk your feet back up to your hands before standing again. It takes a lot of core and upper body strength. I watched him do one rep and immediately felt overwhelmed.
I imagine weight bearing upper body exercises to be like putting a potato on two toothpicks. My arms aren’t very strong yet and they suffered mightily from the bilateral mastectomy. I’m already so heavy that the weight plus weakness is a recipe for disaster. Add to this one more critical factor and, Huston, we have a meltdown.
When you inch worm and you are fat, your gut gets in the way- big time.
Not a fun feeling. Talk about a shame crisis. I lugged my body across the floor with ever weakening arms as my fat stomach got caught between my chest and thighs. Every movement reminded me how fat and uncomfortable I am. The frustration of the difficulty of the move, added to the deep shame I felt for letting myself go, resulted in tears as I inched my way from one end of the gym to the other.
I kept going as the tears streamed into the droplets of sweat on my face. My emotional pain became indistinguishable from my physical pain as I dripped in anguish onto the floor.
I completed the exercise, found a place to sit, and I cried in earnest. I explained to my bewildered, yet kind-hearted trainer the journey I was on, and how fighting out of the pit is the hardest thing my body has ever done. I told him about shame and about feeling overwhelmed. He thoughtfully assured me that I was brave and strong for the mere effort. At the end of the good cry, we went on with his torture for another 40 minutes.
It took me six months to start back at the gym for this reason. While I had attempted to go before, I wasn’t ready to face the reflection in the mirror. I wasn’t able to make peace with the loss. I wasn’t in a position to find strength in a new identity. I was no longer the capable athlete. I was a recovering survivor who was weak and heavy and who had a long row to hoe before feeling “normal” again.
Even though I ended up crushing the workout, more importantly, I was able to access strength I wasn’t able to only a few short months ago. I found my way through the pain and I rose again. Today wasn’t about being tough or rigid in the face of a setback. Today was about letting that pain in, giving it its space, and then moving on.
The strongest thing I’ve done since coming back to fitness is to give myself grace- To be patient and kind to myself even when I don’t want to be. Today, a different kind of strength took over and I am renewed, redeemed, and resolute.
Give ‘Em Hell