I talk to myself. A lot. I make lists, I do lots of mental what-ifs… When I walked into Dragonfly for my first class, I was working on a list of reasons I didn’t want to be there.
I’m a teacher and being anywhere at 6:00 am in the summer was offensive.
I had jury duty coming up all day, hence the 6:00 am, and I was worried about being sore.
It was already ridiculously hot.
Also on my list were all the regular reasons like being nervous, not knowing anyone, not having worked out since before my daughter was born, etc. etc. But I went in and we did full Turkish Get-Ups with kettlebells. What. Had. I. Done?!?! Somehow I made it through. I was committed to doing 8 classes a month at the time, and I really pushed myself to get those 8 classes in. I started getting to know some fun people. The coaches didn’t kick me out for not being perfect. I was still nervous, feeling out of my depth, and listing reasons not to work out, but I knew this was important for my health and to set a good example for my daughter. About 6 months in, I was talking to Renah and she said she had noticed I was only doing cardio or specialty classes, and I should consider trying to get in at least one lift session a week. I’d never lifted real weights. Machines at the gym, sure, but not dumbbells and certainly never barbells. But I took a deep breath and tried it.
It was about then that something clicked. No, I didn’t know how to do the lifts and I certainly wasn’t lifting much, but other things started to change when I took that chance. My cardio got better. I was hitting harder in my boxing classes. I could quickly add numbers to 35 so Missy wouldn’t give me the lecture about not trying to pick up something without first knowing what you are trying to pick up!
My growing confidence in the gym started to spill over into other parts of my life. When I started working out, I thought it was something I “should” do for my own health. The motivation was all external because it didn’t initially occur to me how it would impact the people close to me too. The first time I realized that my choices were impacting others was when my daughter started asking what I did at the gym and showing me what she was doing in her PE classes. (BTW, elementary school gym is totally different than when I was a kid.) I started hearing my friends complain that they could no longer pick up their kids because they were getting too big. But I could still pick up Amelia no problem. Heck, I could put her under one arm and her friend under the other and suddenly I was the fun mom at the pool! Putting away the laundry was easier after all those stand kneel stands. Groceries came in the house in just one trip, and loading luggage was no big deal. I was… capable! And suddenly the motivation to push forward became part of me.
As I realized I was more physically capable, I realized I was also presenting myself as more capable professionally. I put myself out there in my work and was recognized by being invited to participate in some important committee work. I took on leadership roles in my grade level teams. I stopped focusing on what I wasn’t and trying to hide from anyone looking at me too closely. I started recognizing what I was and found ways to share that with others.
Two years in and I can truly say that Dragonfly has had an impact on my daily life. My co-workers and I commiserate about tough gym sessions that leave us achy. I sleep better and have more energy during the day. I even WANT to work out when I’m on vacation! My husband and I are negotiating schedules all the time so I can get in my workouts. My daughter and I practice “workout moves” together at night and try to make stretching a habit. And just recently I was able to help her through a tough moment because I have experienced it before. She was frustrated that she couldn’t do as much as the older kids in her workout class and shut down. As we drove home, we talked about what it feels like to be the least experienced. I told her how much I thought about quitting the gym when I started. She was surprised that I had ever thought about quitting because she sees where I am today and doesn’t remember the struggle that came at the beginning. We made a deal that even if we weren’t the strongest or the fastest, we were both going to keep giving it our best. It meant a lot to her to know that I had faced some of her same challenges but pushed through.
Most of all, that internal monologue has changed. I used to focus almost all of my self-talk on the negative. I was too fat. Too slow. Too uneducated about gym stuff to try that new class or pick up that heavier weight. But as evidence mounted, I had to take that into account and change my conversation with myself. I’m no wisp of a woman, but I’m strong. My body works for me and does more than I ever thought it would. So what if that’s not society’s definition of what it “should” be? It’s mine, and I can show my daughter what it looks like to be strong and happy with myself as a person.
I still make lists, but now they are goals and reasons why taking myself seriously is important. I also still have those days where I am just not feeling it and make that list of reasons why NOT. But when push comes to shove, I know that I am a strong woman because it is part of who I am. I am strong for my family, I am strong in my career, but most of all, I am strong for me. If you see me standing in front of the bar or the bell and just pausing for a moment you can bet I’m giving myself a pep talk, but that voice that made the list about why I can’t has changed its tune and the list is now reasons why I can.