For this first post of 2018 I’m sharing my fitness journey, because I think it is important to understand that life is a journey and it is forever changing. What works for us at one point in our lives may not work for us at another.
Fitness for me began early. I don’t know why I was born so competitive but from as far back as I can remember I always had to win. I had to be better than everyone at school. Winning made me happy and feel validated. But that came with a downside because as much as winning made me feel important, losing made me feel weak, defeated and worthless. So I just made sure I didn’t do anything that I couldn’t win at.
This became harder to keep up as I grew older, as I found that as I surrounded myself with better athletes I wasn’t the best anymore. Sure, I was one of the best, but I wasn’t the best, and when I spent an entire volleyball game cheering on the team from the bench, I went home and questioned myself and whether or not I was any good. However, when I played an entire game and my coach would shower me accolades in front of the entire team, I was embarrassed and felt as though I wasn’t deserving of the congratulatory words. In college, after my first year of playing volleyball, which was my dream, I quit because I didn’t think I was good enough. I will never forget a few years later when the University Varsity coach said to me that it was a shame I never came out and played for them. If only I had just believed in myself a little bit more.
So that is what brought me to triathlons. In these races I only had to compete with myself. The only person that I had to beat was me and that voice in my head telling me I couldn’t do it. I would spend hours every week in the pool, on my bike and in my running shoes pounding out mile after mile so I could get just a little bit faster. Those races were filled with such highs and lows. Lows when I was passed by people who I knew I should be passing and highs when I would pass others who I felt should be passing me! But again, here I was looking for external sources to validate my efforts and to tell me I am good enough. When that stopped happening I gave up. As much as I was just trying to beat myself I was really searching for something to tell me I mattered.
Which brings me to my mid 30s (oh my god – I can’t believe I am in my mid 30s already!). I have learned through nearly 37 years on this planet that how well I do in recreational sports, or in a fitness class, really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make me a better person. Like I have said before, it is just sweating and really, what am I trying to prove? So now I like to find things to do that I am not good at. I took up mountain biking, skate skiing, Pilates and yoga. And I meditate. I do things that are good for my mind and my body. Sure, I still love to throw on my running shoes and get out for an ass-kicking interval session or hit the gym for an intense HIIT, but I won’t trade my shavasana at the end of my yoga class for anything. If you were to tell that to the Ironman I was in my 20s, she would have laughed at you.
“Yoga? That’s not a workout!” “Meditate? That’s for hippies!” Was she ever wrong.
Will I ever compete again? Sure. I’m not against it. But I think it will mean something different to me now. It will no longer be about finding validation.
So, my challenge to you for 2018 is to find something that not only challenges you physically but also challenges you mentally. To start to think of mental health as just as important a part of your physical health as sweating is. I have three meditation apps on my phone that I use daily: Headspace, Insight Timer and Calm. Try downloading at least one and make it part of your routine.
Make sure you keep all of your fitness questions coming to me at [email protected]. Let’s keep the conversation going around anything and everything health and make 2018 the best year yet.