My Body Doesn’t Define Me

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For so long my body defined who I was. At first it was as “the invisible woman“. Then I was the Girl Losing Weight. Then for a long time I was The Girl That Lost 110 Pounds! I got so much press and attention. I was defined by losing a lot of weight and keeping it off. Sure it was positive attention and the kudos were encouraging. But as the years went on and I continued to keep the weight off, the attention faded and I was Just Me.

For awhile I wasn’t sure what that meant. I didn’t know really where I was going with this blog, my book, my story–I had an agent but because I wasn’t famous publishers weren’t interested in my story, no matter how much leg work my agent did. It was definitely disappointing and I put my book away and walked away from the whole thing for some time. It hurt to think about it and relive the rejection whenever I thought about trying to get it published again.

What do I want to be my “thing”? What defines me? I really don’t know. I do know that it has to be something other than my body. As the years go on, my body will change. I’ll get older, will find wrinkles on my face and sunspots on my hands. I look at my 94 year old grandmother and think about her amazing life and realize–how much she weighed or what she looked like doesn’t define who she is. She’s an old woman–at one point she was a gorgeous, tall, dark-haired beauty. But that all fades. What remains is family, the friendships, the experiences.

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I was reading a fictional book recently where the main character was a second grade teacher. A quote struck me so profoundly I wanted to share it:

“…sometimes the first graders even, and by the time they get to my classroom, to the third grade, they’re well and gone–they’re full of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and French manicures and cute outfits and they care about how their hair looks! In the third grade. They care more about their hair or their shoes than about galaxies or caterpillars or hieroglyphics. How did all that revolutionary talk of the seventies land us in a place where being female means playing dumb and looking good?…We’re lost in a world of appearances now. [pg 4 from The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud]”

We are definitely lost in a world of appearances. Just look at the cover of all magazines. Plastered with plastic celebrities with distorted bodies–too skinny bodies with too big heads, plastic surgery faces, unrealistic body shapes. Reality has been morphed and the “norm” is no longer what is natural. So how DO you define yourself in a day and age when we’re held up to unrealistic standards? I don’t want to be defined by my body–I don’t want to be defined by what size my pants are or that number on the scale. For too long it’s been that way. For too long I’ve had my entire happiness wrapped up in what the scale tells. That isn’t healthy!

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Something else that has been bothering me lately…it’s bothered me for awhile because in general fads annoy me. But I find this particular fad difficult because it makes me feel badly about myself. I’m talking about Crossfit. It seems like EVERYONE does OMGCROSSFIT. And with a lot of fads, when someone gets into it, it’s all they talk about. My judgment is not about the friends that are doing crossfit and posting about it on social media ad nauseum…what bothers me is that the people that are really into it and do it every day of the week transform their bodies in amazing ways. The pictures I see are people with six pack abs, rock hard muscles, little to no body fat. Why does this upset me? Because it feels like it’s creating this standard and if you DON’T do crossfit and DON’T get OMGRIPPED, you’re somehow failing at fitness.

I know, I know, this is all pressure I am putting on myself. No one is putting this pressure onto me, it’s just the feelings that are evoked in me whenever I see these people with kick-ass bodies. It’s feelings of inadequacy, feelings of jealousy, and feelings of comparison when I shouldn’t be comparing! Why do I let these feelings bother me? Instead of admiring a fellow athlete’s dedication and strength, I compare my own body and wistfully think That will never be me...?

The truth is, no one can keep up with crossfit, or any intense fitness, for their entire lives. Hardcore fitness isn’t sustainable. Our bodies break down, we get injured, we age, we find other things to be higher priorities. So while doing something amazing and transformative NOW is a great accomplishment, will your body be the same in 20 years? 30? Probably not.

I let these feelings bother me because I’m currently allowing my self-worth be defined by my body. I don’t really know how to shut that off. Maybe none of us really know how to do that. I want to make peace with the loose skin, the stretchmarks, the muscular thighs and curvy figure. I do not want to define my self-worth by my body. Can we all get there? Someday?

Warrior Room

I bought a Groupon for the Warrior Room here in Portland. It’s a kettlebell gym and the reason I signed up for it was because I know my form isn’t great and I really want to improve that. A friend had also recommended I try it out because she knew the people.

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The First Class – “Fundamentals”

The first time I went was on the Veteran’s Day holiday because I needed to take the “Fundamentals” class first and the schedule wasn’t really working for me. That’s my biggest issue with a lot of these types of gyms–the classes are never at the time I can get there with work, etc. I went to the class thinking it would be a tutorial but it was a full-on workout that kicked my butt.

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It was basically Crossfit. I will admit that I was disappointed. I wasn’t looking for a Crossfit class. I wanted to learn the proper form for kettlebells so it could be something I can incorporate into my normal workouts without fearing injury. The hip tilt and snap are just something I cannot get! I don’t know why. The teacher was super awesome and worked with me individually to learn the form. She gave me a few different tricks for practicing at home.

The workout itself was an ass-kicker for sure. I was out of breathe, getting fatigued but I modified a lot of things in consideration for my knees. I wasn’t going to push it too soon and end up crippled. Still, check out my numbers:

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It was a circuit type workout. Lots of squats, sumo squats, jumping jacks with thrusting the kettlebells above the head, running around the block, burpees, high knee jumps, side-steps, Russian Twist, push-ups, crunches…It was a whole lot of hard work!

I knew I was going to be sore the next day and I was. Surprisingly, it wasn’t my quads and hamstrings like I thought it would be. That’s usually where I’m sore! Instead, it was my triceps, abs and calves! My calves were SO TIGHT. Ouch ouch.

The Second Class – “Isolation”

A week later I went to my next class. This time I signed up for the “Isolation” class. We warmed up with some jumping jacks, squats and push ups and then got started with the kettlebells. I was trying my best to keep up so I don’t remember all the moves we did. This workout was mostly upper body.

We did four sets of the workout: chest press, fly, rear fly, bicep curls and then the kettlebell press. You can see pictures of the press here. My shoulders and arms were burning! There was another set of four that included squats and lunges and side lunges. Since lunges are kind of a no-no for me (knees), the instructor, Ashley, had me do something different with the TRX for obliques. It was sort of like this video. I also did deadlifts instead of the lunges.

The class was small and intimate. I really liked it and the camaraderie of the group. There wasn’t any snobbiness or elitism. Everyone worked at their own pace, doing the amount of weight appropriate for them and no one was judging.

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I woke up the next day sore in my shoulders, upper back and lower back.

The Third Class – “1/2 Tabata, 1/2 Isolation”

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this type of class but I have to say I enjoyed it. We alternated tabata workouts with isolation workouts. Tabata  is like HIIT–basically doing intervals/bursts of cardio then resting.

The workout was formatted like this: warmup, isolation workout, tabata, isolation, tabata, isolation, tabata, abs, cool-down. An example of the isolation workout from this evening was this:

10 deadlifts

20 sumo squats

30 kettlebell swings

We did that set 3 times, rested and then did the tabata which meant the workout was PUSH IT REALLY HARD for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, then do it again. An example of the tabata workout was an overhead press with the heaviest kettlebell we could hold–even if we only pressed once, the point was to do something out of our comfort zone.

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Another isolation set was chest press, pushups and then hammer curls. Boy oh boy was I struggling! I don’t know why–maybe it was the combination of workout types, but around the 35 minute mark I was hitting the wall and those pushups were near impossible for me to do!

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I liked the variety of this style of workout. The tabata training was FUN, HARD and different. And in some ways it was easier because you knew you only had to do the workout for 20 seconds then you could rest.

The Fourth Class – The “Warrior Workout”

I didn’t know what to expect with this workout. There wasn’t really a description online, so all I new was that it was a 90 minute class instead of 60. The class was packed when I got there. It turned out that it was a lot more like crossfit and we were working with partners.

The partner workout meant that for 20-30 seconds one partner would do the kettlebell swing and the other would do mountain-climbers, and then we’d rest for a few seconds and switch. There were 2-4 rounds of each workout depending on what we were doing. It was pretty fun doing the workout that way.

Then they split us into two groups. One group was doing a certain kind of kettlebell workout (the more advanced people) and then my group of “beginners” was doing the simpler workout. Basically, learning the proper form of the various moves. It was nice that they did this because I really wanted to get some tips on my kettlebell form. This gave me the opportunity to work directly with a trainer that was watching all of us and then she’d give me some pointers and I’d get to practice what she said. I appreciated this part of the workout!

Then the two groups did a competition. We all had to do wall squats as one team member from each team ran to the center of the room where the TRX straps were set up and do either the “lawnmower” or a row. The lawnmower was FUN!! I will try to incorporate this one into my regular gym sessions. So each team member would run up there and do 12 reps, then run back to the wall. I liked this a lot!

Now we get to the part I was not a fan of: the “Snake run.” The two teams went outside for a run in opposite directions. The snake run was where we all ran in a single line and the person in the very back of the line would sprint to the front of the line and then set the pace for the group and then the new back of the line person would do the same. I didn’t like this because obviously I’m a little nervous about pushing it too much with knees and running. Sprinting is definitely not what I’m doing YET. It also made me anxious because I was so much slower than everyone else. Even the pregnant lady in front of me! It was too much pressure! I hate organized sports and competitive things like this. I am so not competitive!

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Despite that, the class was pretty good and I had fun. I liked the sense of community in the class. That was a nice change from the solo gym sessions I do!

I have four more sessions left on my groupon deal for the Warrior Room. Michael recently bought one and so did my friend Debby and they are going to join me for some of the classes. I’ll write another post on those workouts and the results I see when I’m done. Overall, I’m really enjoying the Warrior Room. It’s a step out of the norm and gives me good ideas for other workouts on my own. If I could afford it, I’d buy a membership!
Stay tuned for the follow-up…