Fitness as a Vehicle

I love working out.

Okay, maybe that’s an over-statement. I love the way I feel after I workout. I love the way I can keep up with my kids, I like the strength, and the energy that being fit and pursuing fitness affords. I am clear-headed and more me when I run and workout consistently. It also provides creative inspiration for my work as a writer; a benefit I never saw coming!

Over the last 3 months, I broadened my workout group from 2 people to roughly 20-25 on a regular basis. We are an accountability group. I design and lead workouts, but they continue to show up. They keep coming back for more. Sure, the group is free, but they are willing to be my experiment as I study for my certifications.

During this short time, I have been shocked, floored, and humbled by the comments, kind words, and crazy hard work by these fit friends. I recently received a message that a person was hesitant to join us because she didn’t want to feel weird because she wouldn’t know anyone.

I wanted to reach through the computer and hug her.

Seriously. It was like a window to my thoughts 3 years ago. I was afraid. Of everything. Fear of looking foolish, being out of my comfort zone, fear of what other people would think of me, and fear of failure. It’s so prevalent. We are afraid to reach out to our neighbors. We hesitate to chat up the other mom at the playground. We sit in the same place at church every week because sitting in a spot other than “ours” would mean we may have to meet someone new. It’s scary. Rejection hurts. It’s so much easier to just stay in our own little world and not risk anything.

What I have discovered, in part, over the course of the last 3-4 years is that being brave and stepping out is not only worth it, but it breeds just a tiny bit of confidence to do it again. And again. And again. Until it becomes who you are. What if I had never reached out to my neighbor across the street? What if I had declined invitations to parties and get togethers? What if my then aquaintence chose not to pursue a deeper friendship with me? What if she had never invited me to to join a crazy bootcamp workout class she’d heard about? What if another friend didn’t have the courage to ask if she could join us as we were sweating in my driveway? What if I had been too afraid to ask our community center if we could use the gym through the winter? What if?

The last 3 years would have been entirely different.

When people ask me, “I can’t seem to find the time/motivation to workout. What motivates you to keep working out?” I simply say that exercise and fitness has been the vehicle to so much more than I ever imagined. So much more than just physical. More than just being fit.

It has been the vehicle to cherished friendships, bravery, courage, risk, deep joy, true confidence, the desire to learn and grow, and more. It has changed me for the better. The ability to be in a position to share that gift with someone on their own path is something that overwhelms me.

It is a gift for which I will be forever grateful.

Daring Greatly

I’ve mentioned before how much I admire, and have learned from, the author of Daring Greatly, Brene Brown. I am watching her on an episode of Lifeclass and am reminded again about the power of vulnerability.

After receiving a call to interview for a Spin Instructor position at a local gym, I did my requisite freak out-happy-dance-squeal-high-five-my-friend-who-happened-to-be-here-when-the-call-came thing. But shortly after that, I began having the same doubts and negative thoughts, “Can I do this?”

In her book, Brene calls them shame gremlins. And oh boy, do they rear their heads at me when I’m scared, trying something new, or putting myself out there – as in getting up in front of people to lead them in a class.

Always, always I have to remind myself that every single time I’ve been vulnerable it has never returned void. Whether it is the creativity in my writing, opening up to new people, or teaching – it never returns void when I remember the following:

1. I have to be authentic. When I stop emulating others or putting on the “armor” of what I think people want – it works. And contrary to the gremlins, the world does not, in fact, end.

2. When people continually encourage you, it’s really good to start believing them. I’m not talking about flattery and “rah, rah you got this”-type cheerleading. It’s in the trenches, empathy, gut-wrenching, hand-gripping, awe-inspiring moments when people take the time to tell you how they really feel and what they really think about you. It’s thoughtful, true constructive criticism with a whole lotta love.

3. I can’t be comfortable and courageous at the same time. Brene spoke about the moment when our hand is on the arena door, we are about to step into some hard-core vulnerability by putting ourselves out there and being seen, and all the self doubt comes rolling. It’s uncomfortable, it’s gut-churning, I call it the “transitions”. I’m the type of person that just likes to know things before I know them. A to Z without the yucky uncomfortable process of the other letters.

The thing of it is, if I skip the transitions, shy away from the door, and decide to stay where I’m at, I never get to feel the joy, the exhilaration, and the victory of the arena. I’ll stay comfortable. It would be easier. It wouldn’t be so terrifying. (Read: vomit-inducing).

My hand is on the door. I’m walking through it. It’s scary to be sure. I will likely get my butt kicked in the transition-yucky-learning curve arena. But I’m going to get up and keep walking through that door.

It’s never returned void.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.”
― Brené Brown

“I can’t be paralyzed anymore by the critics. My new mantra is, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, then I’m not interested in your feedback. You don’t get to sit in the cheat seat and criticize my appearance or my work with mean-spiritedness if you’re also not in the arena. Now, if you’re also in the arena and you’re putting your ideas out and you’re owning them and you’re saying “I disagree with you about this and that, I think you’ve got this wrong” — then not only do I invite that, I freaking love that. I love that. I’m an academic. I’m hardwired for a good debate.”― Brené Brown